World Briefs: France OKs Alstom deal

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PARIS -- The final obstacle to GE's $17 billion takeover of Alstom's power division was overcome Sunday after the French government agreed to terms with the French engineering company's main shareholder.

Economy minister Arnaud Montebourg said on French television that the government will buy a 20-percent stake in Alstom from construction giant Bouygues SA.

The move fulfills his pledge to ensure that the French government would retain a say in jobs and decision-making at the company, which builds power plants and France's famed high-speed TGV trains. He did not comment on the final price of the stake to be bought.

The deal is part of GE's new focus on building and servicing industrial equipment such as aircraft engines, power-plant turbines, and drilling equipment. The U.S. company sold its remaining interest in NBC Universal last year as part of the shift.

Fugitive, troops skirmish

SEOUL, South Korea -- A South Korean army sergeant who fled his unit on the border with North Korea after killing five fellow soldiers engaged in a shootout with troops chasing him Sunday, military officials said. His unit brought his parents to the scene, asking them to persuade their son to surrender.

South Korean news media reported that an officer was hit in the arm by one of the bullets fired by the fugitive soldier. By Sunday evening, the shooting had apparently stopped, and before dusk, the military evacuated 540 people from three villages to nearby schools as it prepared for a possible shootout with the renegade sergeant.

The episode highlights the challenge South Korea faces in keeping a largely conscript military, which is on guard against North Korea.

Thai protesters detained

BANGKOK -- Police in Thailand arrested eight people Sunday for demonstrating against the nation's increasingly repressive military junta, including a man who was dragged away by undercover officers for reading a copy of George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" outside one of Bangkok's most luxurious shopping malls.

The arrest was the first known case of anyone being detained for reading as a form of protest since the military seized power last month.

More Wprost tapes out

WARSAW, Poland -- The Polish magazine that sent the government and zloty reeling by publishing secret recordings of key public figures is set to create further difficulties for Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Wprost on Sunday released a partial transcript of a conversation purportedly between Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and former Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski, in which the former allegedly said Poland's alliance with the U.S. is "worthless" because it fosters "a false sense of security" and breeds conflict with Germany and Russia. The discussion took place in late January or early February, Agnieszka Burzynska, a reporter for the magazine, said on TVN24.

BNP to pay up to $9B

NEW YORK — BNP Paribas SA will pay $8 billion to $9 billion, plead guilty and accept other sanctions under broad terms of a settlement with U.S. authorities over claims it hid transactions that violated U.S. sanctions, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unidentified people close to the probe.

The penalty would make BNP Paribas the second major European bank to plead guilty in the U.S. this year. In May, Credit Suisse Group AG agreed to pay $2.6 billion, the largest penalty in an offshore tax case.

-- Compiled from news services



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