Oil flowed through a pipeline from Russia to European customers Thursday, ending a three-day cutoff caused by the former's trade dispute with Belarus. A spokesman for OAO Transneft, the Russian pipeline company, said the flow resumed after Belarus began compensating for 87,000 tons of crude that it had siphoned off illegally. Belarus, whose economy is tied closely to that of Russia, had complained bitterly about a new $180-a-ton tax on the oil. But it faced a full-blown trade war if it did not back down in the dispute, reports said. Most of the affected European customers – Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic – confirmed that they were receiving oil again.
Citing a "grave" threat to public security and the economy, the caretaker president of Bangladesh declared a state of emergency, following weeks of violent political protests and a threat to disrupt the national election 10 days from now. The decree suspends citizens' rights and imposes an indefinite curfew on more than 60 cities. Privately owned TV stations were ordered to carry only news generated by the state broadcasting agency.
For the first time, the value of shares traded on China's stock market topped $1 trillion Thursday, the Bloomberg.com news service reported. It said the milestone means that the economy has grown tenfold since China opened itself to foreign investment in 1978. Bloomberg quoted analysts as forecasting that within three years China will overtake Germany as the world's third-largest economy. At $4.8 trillion, Japan's stock market remains the largest in Asia, however, Bloomberg said. Hong Kong's is No. 2, at $2.1 trillion.
Two-term President Jacques Chirac of France used his traditional New Year's session with journalists to hint that he still might seek reelection. "You are asking yourselves about my calendar," he said Thursday. "When the time comes, I will make my decision known ... according to just one demand: the national interest." Analysts said the move may have been aimed only at ensuring that he isn't written off as a lame duck in his final four months in office. But its timing also causes problems for Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who is due to become the ruling party's official candidate Sunday. Relations between the two are not close, and another run by Chirac almost certainly would drain support from Sarkozy's campaign, the analysts said.
Leftist President Evo Morales appeared to cave in to demands by Bolivia's opposition leaders on his goal of rewriting the Constitution to give increased power to the poor. His government agreed that any change to the charter must win a two-thirds majority in the Constituent Assembly, or legislature. Previously, he insisted that a simple majority would be sufficient, since his Movement Toward Socialism Party controls slightly more than half of the assembly's 255 seats. But the concession comes with a catch. The government said it needed "a commitment" by the opposition not to delay passage of any proposed change beyond July 2 or it would renege on the agreement.
Exiled former dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam and 11 aides were ordered to prison for the rest of their lives Thursday by a court in Ethiopia. The defendants were found guilty in the deaths of as many as 150,000 opponents during Mengistu's iron-fisted rule from 1974 to 1991. But Mengistu, who now lives in Zimbabwe, is considered unlikely to serve any of the sentence, since the latter government has said it won't deport him as long as he refrains from political activity.
Ten pieces of a downed airliner, but no survivors, were found in the sea off northeastern Indonesia, more than a week after the plane disappeared while on a domestic flight. An intensive search had been under way since the pilot of the Adam Air Boeing 737 radioed twice Jan. 1 that he was changing course due to stormy conditions.