Bonn: US secretary of state Hillary Clinton arrived here for international talks on Monday aimed at charting a course for Afghanistan after Nato combat troops withdraw, as her aides played down a boycott by Pakistan.

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai addresses the delegates during a dinner one day ahead of the Afghanistan conference to be held in Bonn , Sunday. AP

The chief US diplomat will also meet her German and other counterparts from 100 countries and international organisations, but not from Afghanistan’s key neighbour Pakistan, which announced a boycott after a deadly NATO bombing raid.

US officials have stopped short of offering an apology pending an investigation into the November 26 raid that killed 24 Pakistani troops on the troubled border. (PTI)

India’s fuel exports likely to touch 70 million tonnes by 2014

New Delhi: India’s fuel exports are likely to touch about 70 million tonnes by 2014, a government statement said on Monday, compared to 50 million tonnes in the financial year ending March 2011.

India’s fuel exports will rise as the country has been expanding its refining capacity which is expected to rise 20% to about 4.65 million barrels per day at the end of the current fiscal year in March.

India has a surplus refining capacity but it still imports fuel as private firms, controlling over a third of current capacity, prefer to export.

“With Africa’s economic development picking up momentum and its energy demand increasing, India is poised to become a dependable supplier of petroleum products to Africa," the government statement ahead of an India-Africa Hydrocarbon summit this week. (Reuters)

Sarkozy, Merkel kick off week of crisis talks in Paris

Paris: French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel meet in Paris on Monday under pressure to align their positions on centralising control of euro zone budgets to stem a debt crisis that threatens Europe’s currency union.

After individually outlining their views last week on closer fiscal integration, the two leaders must overcome remaining differences in order to fine tune proposals they want to present to EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday, on the eve of a summit.

The duo, increasingly dubbed “Merkozy" as they intensify bilateral efforts to restore confidence in the battered euro zone, will meet over lunch at 1:30 p.m. on Monday and are expected to hold a news conference afterwards.

They aim to agree proposals for more coercive budget discipline in the euro zone, likely via treaty change, which they want all 27 EU leaders to approve at Friday’s summit. (Reuters)

China slowdown spreading, HSBC services PMI shows

Beijing: China’s services sector cooled in November to its weakest growth in three months, an HSBC purchasing managers’ index showed on Monday, the latest data portraying an economy slowing quickly and in need of policy support.

The index fell to 52.5, a sharp decline given that October’s reading was 54.1 — the highest in four months — though the index remains above the 50 level that separates expansion from contraction in the sector.

Expectations for new business dropped to their lowest level in three months too, but remained firmly above 50.

“With price pressures easing further, Beijing can and should use policies that are targeted on small businesses and service sectors to keep GDP growth at above 8 percent for the coming year," Qu Hongbin, HSBC’s chief China economist, said in a statement.

China’s official PMI for its non-manufacturing sector, released on Saturday, fell to 49.7 in November from 57.7 in October, the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said.

The readings mirror similar weakness in the country’s giant manufacturing sector and underline expectations that Beijing will ease monetary policy further to cushion the blows of the global economy. (Reuters)

Swedish Automobile in talks with a Chinese bank

Amsterdam: Swedish Automobile, owner of Sweden’s cash-strapped car maker Saab, said on Monday that it was now in talks with an unnamed bank in China about taking a part share in the ailing carmaker.

The firm also said it continued discussions with China’s Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile.

Swedish Automobile sale the discussions included a short-term solution to enable Saab Automobile to pay the November wages and continue reorganisation.

Saab has lurched from crisis to crisis in the past year and has not produced any cars for several months as its main factory in Trollhattan, Sweden, has been shut down because of unpaid salaries and bills. (Reuters)