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India blast kills two policemen on election day

An explosion killed two policemen Monday in north India, police said, on the same day that national elections kicked off in the world's largest democracy with security high across the country. The policemen were killed in the explosion of a bomb they were trying to defuse in Aurangabad district, 150 kilometres (93 miles) from Bihar state's capital Patna. The region where the blast occurred is known for its Maoist insurgency. "Two security men were killed and nine injured when an IED (improvised explosive device) exploded," police official Ravinder Kumar told AFP.

EU Chief Barroso says admitting breakaway states to EU 'extremely difficult'

LONDON (Reuters) - European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Sunday it would be nearly impossible for the European Union to agree on granting membership to newly-formed states that elect to break away from an existing member country. Barroso's comments were made after he was asked if an independent Scotland would be welcome to join the EU, although he said he did not want to comment specifically on that scenario. Scotland is due to hold a referendum on independence in September.

EU considers action against Ukraine over handling of protests

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union could take action against Ukraine after reports that at least three demonstrators died there during overnight violence, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Wednesday. Barroso said the European Union was shocked by the deaths, deplored the use of force and called on all sides to immediately halt violence.

Greek lawmakers to approve tentative growth budget

Greece's parliament prepared Saturday to approve next year's budget, which forecasts an end to the recession that has gripped the country since 2008. The coalition government has a four-seat majority in parliament, and the budget is expected to pass, notably since more controversial legislation covering property issues will be debated separately next week. "I do not expect (a setback)," Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said Friday in reference to the budget vote.

British police interview 'Maoist slave' women for first time

British police were Wednesday for the first time interviewing three women allegedly held captive by a Maoist couple in London for 30 years, as fresh details of their secretive commune emerged. An elderly Indian-born man and his Tanzanian wife -- believed to have led a small Marxist splinter group in the 1970s -- were arrested last week accused of keeping the women as "slaves" in a south London flat.

Nepal Maoists demand postponement of vote counting

Nepal's Maoist party demanded a postponement in vote counting early Thursday, alleging conspiracy after tentative results showed them trailing in polls seen as key to cementing a post-war peace process. "Due to the conspiracy and unusual activities during the constituent assembly elections, counting did not go ahead as per people's expectations and opinions, therefore, we demand that the vote counting be postponed," the Maoist party said in a statement. dee-amu/st

EU's Barroso calls France's 2014 budget 'satisfactory'

PARIS (Reuters) - European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called France's 2014 budget "satisfactory" on Monday, but said the euro zone's second-largest economy still needed to do more to reduce unemployment. France is seeking to maintain its deficit reduction pledges to the European Union despite a sovereign credit rating downgrade by Standard & Poor's last week that underlined fears the government will fail to push through structural reforms.

EU's Barroso leans on France to step up reforms

PARIS (Reuters) - The European Commission and rating agency Standard & Poor's piled pressure on France on Sunday to overhaul its finances more rigorously after the EU gave the Socialist government more leeway to meet targets. French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici has said the euro zone's second-biggest economy cannot be reformed any faster, fending off criticism that it is dragging its feet on measures its European Union partners consider vital.

French minister says Barroso useless after row with EU

A French minister said Friday that Jose Manuel Barroso had achieved nothing as European Commission chief, in the latest attack in a bitter war of words between Paris and Brussels. Asked if she thought Barroso had been a bad choice for the job, Trade Minister Nicole Bricq told LCI television: "I think so. I think he has done nothing during his term." Harlem Desir, the head of France's ruling Socialist party, said the commission "ran contrary to the European dream," adding that the tiff between France and the body would run "until the next European elections are held."

France steps up verbal war with EU's Barroso

By Luke Baker and Nicholas Vinocur BRUSSELS/PARIS (Reuters) - France cranked up criticism of the European Commission on Wednesday with one official calling its president Jose Manuel Barroso a lame duck and suggesting he should never have been appointed. Stepping up a war of words that has rumbled for two weeks, the Socialist speaker of France's lower house of parliament dismissed Barroso, a former center-right prime minister of Portugal, as a "casting error" who could not be relied upon.
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