ITALIAN PREMIER UNDER INVESTIGATION After weeks of rumors that shook the Italian financial markets, it was confirmed Premier Silvio Berlusconi is under judicial investigation for corruption. Milan daily Corriere della Sera says the probe involves bribes paid to the Guardia di Finanza tax police by Mr. Berlusconi's Fininvest company on orders of the prime minister's brother. Berlusconi maintains his innocence. The probe has exacerbated tensions within the right-wing ruling coalition. It also followed sharp losses by his Forza Italia party in Nov. 20 mayoral elections; the results reflect discontent with the government's failure to meet campaign promises, Richard Wentworth reports from Rome. Stocks at nine-month low

The Tokyo Stock Exchange's key index fell below 19,000 points Nov. 22 for the first time since February, while the dollar edged down against the yen. Disappointment over slow recovery from recession and the yen's rise against the dollar have dragged down stock prices.

What's the beef?

Australian beef worth millions of dollars is stranded on docks in the US, Canada, Japan, and South Korea awaiting proof it is safe to eat. Bans were put into effect by these countries, Mexico, and Taiwan in recent days after tests showed the beef was contaminated by an insecticide.

Microsoft probe deepens

The US Justice Department has deepened an antitrust probe into the plan of Microsoft Corporation to buy for $1.5 million Intuit Inc., the Wall Street Journal reported Nov. 22. The purchase would give Microsoft the most popular personal finance, budgeting, and bill-paying software and enable Microsoft to move into on-line services like home banking and stock trading.

OPEC to extend ceiling

Organization for Petroleum and Exporting Countries oil ministers agreed Nov. 22 to extend current oil-production limits for a year, and they elected compromise candidate Rilwanu Lukman, a former Nigerian oil minister, as the cartel's top administrator. The extension is expected to boost prices.

France-Saudi sale

France has signed a $3.6 billion contract for the sale of two frigates, their defense systems, logistics, and training for hundreds of interns to Saudi Arabia. The contract was announced Nov. 21.

Airlines suspended

The Russian Transportation Ministry suspended 46 air companies for safety violations this year and stripped 11 more of flight permits, Interfax news agency said Nov. 22. 3,000-year-old bracelet

A gold bracelet found on a North Wales beach could be more than 3,000 years old, an archaeology expert said Nov. 22. The Bronze Age bracelet, estimated to be worth several thousand dollars, may be of Irish origin dating from between 1500 BC and 1200 BC.

Protesters to accept asylum

Twenty-nine East Timorese protesting on US Embassy grounds in Jakarta for 10 days said Nov. 22 they will accept asylum in Portugal, which ruled East Timor before Indonesia annexed it in 1976. Protesters were demanding independence for East Timor.

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