Greece is close to securing a €206 billion debt restructuring after many private-sector bondholders said they were backing the deal, the Financial Times writes. Banks and insurers holding €81bn in Greek debt have agreed to exchange their bonds, leaving them with losses of about 75%. The Daily Telegraph counts down to the deadline for Greece's creditors to accept the bond swap, which is vital for Greece to secure its second international bail-out. De Volksrant, a Dutch daily, writes that it remains uncertain how many private lenders will take Greece up on its bond refinancing offer before today's 9pm deadline. Greece's largest banks and pension funds, and some 30 large European banks, have already agreed to the deal. Greece's private creditors are the lucky ones, the economist Nouriel Roubini writes in the Financial Times. The official sector will suffer most of the huge additional losses.
Syria's deputy oil minister has defected to the opposition, write Israel's Ha'aretz and the UK's Guardian – the first member of the government to do so. Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group in the European Parliament, has called on the EU to arm Syrian rebels, reports Belgium's De Morgen. He said that what is happening in Syria today can easily be compared to atrocities carried out during the Yugoslav war. Barack Obama, the US president, has asked his defence department to draft military options for intervening in Syria, reports Belgium's De Standaard. Some members of the US Congress, including Senator John McCain, Obama's rival for the presidency in 2008, have called for the US to arm opposition militias and to introduce a no-fly zone over Syria. Senior US defence officials in the Senate hearing stressed the risks of Western military action against the regime of Bashar Assad, writes the New York Times. Meanwhile, the UN's top humanitarian official was yesterday allowed into Homs, a rebel stronghold that fell to government forces a week ago, according to Lebanon's Daily Star. Valerie Amos described the neighbourhood of Baba Amr as “completely devastated”.
Poland is threatening to veto the EU's low-carbon roadmap, Gazeta Wyborcza reports. Environment ministers meet in Brussels tomorrow.
Prosecutors at the UN's war-crimes court for former Yugoslavia in The Hague have asked in their final statement that Vojislav Šešelj be jailed for 28 years for his role in wartime violence in Croatia and Bosnia, writes Nezavisne novine, which is published in Banja Luka, the Bosnian Serb capital. Šešelj, an ultra-nationalist academic-turned-politician, leads the Serbian Radical Party, which holds 57 seats in Serbia's 250-seat parliament. The court's verdict is expected later this year; Serbia will hold a general election in May.
The UK's Independent writes about the “bloodiest day” in the conflict in Afghanistan. Six British soldiers were killed in a blast on the border between Helmand and Kandahar provinces, taking the British deal toll in Afghanistan to more than 400. The Independent calls for the end of the Afghan war to be accelerated. The UK is due to withdraw its troops in 2014.
Die Welt reports that Joachim Gauck, Germany's president-designate, has not been invited to the leaving ceremony of Christian Wulff, who has had to resign as president over accusations of receiving illegal gifts. Other leading politicians have been left off the invitation list in a sign of the political divisions that the affair has caused.
On International Women's Day, Gazeta Wyborcza provides a snapshot, through numbers, of the lives of Polish women.
My International Women's Day thought? We should act more like a football team and less like synchronised swimmers, writes a commentator in the UK's Guardian. As feminists, united we fall apart - divided we may yet succeed.
Der Standard writes in a commentary that the public debate about the integration of immigrants has pushed consideration of social and educational factors into the background.
Ireland's version of the ‘Occupy' protest movement has been dismantled by police, the Irish Times writes. The Occupy Dame Street camp was set up in October outside the central bank.
The Air France-KLM airline group has reported heavy losses for 2011, reports the Dutch daily De Telegraaf. It says the French-Dutch company posted a loss of €809 million. It reported a loss of €46m in 2010. The company blamed high fuel costs, the eurozone's debt crisis and instability in the Arab world for its poor showing. The airline has already introduced cost-cutting measures.
Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that strikes by public-sector unions in a number of German cities have brought local transport to a standstill and left rubbish uncollected. FT Deutschland reports that Hanover in northern Germany is one of the worst-affected cities, with visitors to the CeBit IT show suffering major disturbances. Unions are striking for a 6.5% pay increase.
The Dutch have a reason to celebrate...a victory in the World Champion Cheese Contest. Judges at the artisan cheese competition, held in Wisconsin in the US, named Vermeer, a low-fat gouda made by a company based in Wolvega, as the best cheese in the world. The UK's Daily Telegraph has details.
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