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BC-AP--Europe News Digest, AP

June 20, 2014

TOP STORIES FROM EUROPE AT 1100 GMT

UKRAINE

YANAKIYEVE, Ukraine — Seven Ukrainian troops were killed in overnight fighting in the restive east, Ukrainian officials said Friday, as clashes between government forces and pro-Russian rebels flared two days after the president said he would soon call a unilateral cease-fire. Rebels were operating tanks in the region, a particular sore spot for Ukraine, which accuses Russia of letting the vehicles cross the border. By Marko Dobrnjakovic and Nataliya Vasilyeva. SENT: 410 words, photos. UPCOMING: 480 words by 1130 GMT.

BULGARIA-FLOODS

SOFIA, Bulgaria — At least 12 people have died and an unknown number are missing after heavy rain and floods hit parts of northeastern Bulgaria, officials said on Friday. Police in the worst-hit Black Sea resort town of Varna have confirmed that 10 bodies have been recovered from floodwaters. It was unclear how many more people were missing after torrential rain flooded large parts of the coastal town. SENT: 210 words, photos.

ALBANIA-MARIJUANA

LAZARAT, Albania — Albanian police say they have seized huge amounts of marijuana and heavy weapons used by drug gangs, a day after taking control of a lawless southern village. A police statement Friday said they checked 130 houses and other buildings in Lazaratt, and seized and destroyed 23.4 tons of marijuana and 81,300 plants, four drug-processing laboratories. They also report seizing many weapons including rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and a sniper rifle. SENT: 130 words, photos.

DENMARK-SYRIA-ABDUCTION

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A Danish freelance photographer who had been held captive for 13 months in Syria has been released and has been reunited with his family, officials said Friday. Denmark’s Foreign Ministry said Daniel Rye Ottosen, 25, had been held since May 17, 2013, in Syria where he went to photograph the conflict and the civilian population’s conditions. By Jan M. Olsen. SENT: 240 words.

BRITAIN-SAVING-PRIVATE-SMITH

BARNARD CASTLE, England — Carved into the simple obelisk commemorating the fallen are the names of five sons of Margaret and John McDowell Smith. There’s a story behind the name that isn’t there — a sixth brother, Wilfred — and a century after World War I a local historian has dug out the details from archives. Wilfred Smith’s survival is a story of sacrifice amid a war that demanded so much of it from virtually every family in Britain, and of a plea which touched the heart of a queen. By Danica Kirka. SENT: 1,340 words, photos.

BRITAIN-LLOYDS

LONDON — State-backed Lloyds Banking Group PLC has increased the number of shares it is selling in its TSB unit amid strong investor demand. The bank, which was bailed out during the 2008 financial crisis, is now selling more than 35 percent of the unit, rather than the 25 percent initially planned. The opening price was put at 260 pence, valuing the company at 1.3 billion ($2.2 billion.) SENT: 210 words.

GERMANY-FRANCE-ALSTOM

BERLIN — The international race to take over France’s engineering company Alstom SA entered its final stretch on Friday, with Siemens and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries responding to General Electric Co.’s sweetened bid by raising their own combined offer. Alstom is due to decide by Monday what offer to accept, after the French government had solicited improved bids for the company, which builds turbines for power stations and pioneered the high-speed TGV trains, later exported around the world. The government is concerned over a loss of jobs and sensitive energy technology from France. SENT: 260 words.

AP Photos XJB103-0617141014.

EUROPE-TAX EVASION

BRUSSELS — The European Union is closing a loophole that allows companies to shift their profits between different country divisions to avoid taxation. European Union finance ministers in Luxembourg on Friday agreed on the reform after months of squabbling because some countries feared losing business from multinational firms. SENT: 130 words.

IRAN-NUCLEAR TALKS

VIENNA — Diplomats familiar with the progress of Iran nuclear talks say some differences have been narrowed between Tehran and six world powers. But they report little progress on the main dispute, with Iran resisting U.S.-led attempts to place strict constraints on its uranium enrichment program. By George Jahn. SENT: 130 words, photos.

VATICAN-POPE-POT

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis condemned the legalization of recreational drugs as a flawed and failed experiment on Friday, lending his voice to a debate which is raging from the U.S. to Uruguay and beyond. Francis told delegates to a drug-enforcement conference in Rome that even limited attempts to legalize recreational drugs “are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects.” By Nicole Winfield. SENT: 200 words.

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