World Briefs / EU budget fight begins

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BRUSSELS -- The leaders of Britain and France staked out starkly different visions of Europe's future Thursday as talks began on how much the European Union should be allowed to spend, setting the stage for a long, divisive and possibly inconclusive summit.

While British Prime Minister David Cameron is seeking to keep payments into EU coffers down as low as possible, French President Francois Hollande called for sustained subsidies for farming and development programs for poorer nations.

With each of the 27 nations having the power of veto over the 2014-20 budget, the summit negotiations could stretch over the weekend, perhaps without result.

The EU budget primarily funds programs to help farming and spur growth in the bloc's less developed, and it amounts to about 1 percent of the EU's gross domestic product.

If there is no deal up to 2014, there would be a rollover of the 2013 budget plus a 2 percent increase accounting for inflation.

Sarkozy testifies

PARIS -- Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy spent the day Thursday being quizzed by investigating magistrates in the city of Bordeaux over allegations he received illegal campaign donations from a billionaire cosmetics heiress.

Mr. Sarkozy is alleged to have received cash-stuffed envelopes toward his 2007 election campaign from L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

The donations allegedly amounted to nearly $192,000 -- far more than the approximately $5,900 in individual contributions permitted under French law.

Pakistan suicide bombing

ISLAMABAD -- A Taliban suicide bomber struck a Shiite Muslim procession near Pakistan's capital, killing 23 people in the latest of a series of bombings targeting Shiites during the holiest month of the year for the sect, officials said Thursday.

The bomber attacked the procession around midnight Wednesday in the city of Rawalpindi, located next to the capital, Islamabad, officials said.

Earlier Wednesday, the Taliban set off two bombs outside a Shiite mosque in the southern city of Karachi, killing one person, senior police official Javed Odho said.

Madonna suit dismissed

MOSCOW -- A Russian judge Thursday dismissed a lawsuit against Madonna for actions during a concert in St. Petersburg in August that anti-gay groups say violated a local law against propagandizing homosexual behavior.

Madonna could have had to pay significant damages: The anti-gay groups suing her sought $10.7 million. Her spokeswoman has had no comment about the case.

Mexico name change?

MEXICO CITY -- Mexican President Felipe Calderon, whose six-year term comes to an end next week, said Thursday he's sending Congress a constitutional amendment to change the nation's name to one that reminds people less of the U.S.

Mr. Calderon proposed shortening the official name to Mexico from the United Mexican States during a speech in Mexico City. The decision in 1824 to adopt its current name was based on the example of the United States of America, and the name is outdated because it's used only for formal occasions, he said. The name Mexico comes from the Nahuatl indigenous term for the heartland of the Aztec Empire of the 15th and 16th centuries that once included the nation's present-day capital.

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