Vatican hails U.N. Palestine vote, wants guarantees for Jerusalem

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The Vatican hailed the United Nations’ implicit recognition of aPalestinian state on Thursday and called for an internationally guaranteed special status forJerusalem, something bound to irritate Israel.

The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s observer status at the United Nations from “entity” to “non-member state,” the same status as the Vatican.

“The Holy See welcomes with favor the decision of the General Assembly by which Palestine has become a Non-member Observer State of the United Nations,” a statement said.

But it also said it was a “propitious occasion” to recall a “common position” on Jerusalem expressed by the Vatican and the Palestine Liberation Organisation when the two sides signed a basic agreement on their bilateral relations in 2000.

Thursday’s statement called for “an internationally guaranteed special statute” for Jerusalem, aimed at “safeguarding the freedom of religion and of conscience, the identity and sacred character of Jerusalem as a Holy City, (and) respect for, and freedom of, access to its holy places.”

The Vatican’s re-stating of its position on Jerusalem, which has remained mostly dormant for years, was bound to irk Israel, which says there is no need for an international status for Jerusalem because those guarantees already exist.

Israel declared Jerusalem its “united and eternal” capital in 1980 after annexing East Jerusalem in the Six Day War in 1967. World powers have not recognized the annexation.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of an eventual state.

Israel has always resisted the concept of any form of international mandate over Jerusalem.

It has been some time since the Vatican re-stated its position on the city so forcefully, and Thursday’s statement was bound to be received negatively by Israel, a diplomat with direct knowledge of their relations said.

Israel has always maintained that it already guarantees the city’s special nature as sacred to the three great monotheistic religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Thursday’s statement called on both sides to seek an “effective commitment to building peace and stability, in justice and in the respect for legitimate aspirations, both of the Israelis and of the Palestinians.”

The Vatican and Israel established full diplomatic relations in 1994. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict visited the Jewish state and Palestinian territories.

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EU Budget Summit Fails in Echo of Debt-Crisis Stalemate

European Union leaders failed to agree on the 27 nation bloc’s next seven-year budget, replaying the clash between rich and poor countries that has stymied the response to the euro debt crisis.

National chiefs plan another summit early next year, when northern countries including Britain and Germany may have the upper hand in seeking to cut subsidies to lesser-developed southern and eastern economies clamoring for EU investment.

“Anything short of admitting that our talks have been extraordinarily complex and difficult would not reflect reality,”Jose Barroso, head of the European Commission, which manages the subsidy programs, told reporters after a two-day meeting in Brussels.

Britain’s defense of its cash-back guarantee and France’s clinging to farm aid gave the summit the flavor of EU negotiations in the 1970s or 1980s, diluting efforts to equipEurope with a budget to make it more competitive. Eastern and southern countries said reduced financing for public-works projects would condemn them to lag behind the wealthier north.

The euro rose to $1.2977 at 7 p.m. in Brussels from $1.2880 late yesterday. The Euro Stoxx 50 index rose 0.9 percent to 2,557.03.

In the EU’s last budget round, it took two summits, in June and December 2005, to strike a bargain. No date was set for the next negotiations. In the absence of an accord by late 2013, the EU would roll over its annual budget.

One Percent

At stake is a spending plan for the years 2014-2020 that would total about 1 percent of EU-wide gross domestic product. While that sum is paltry compared to the average 50 percent of GDP that each country spends inside its borders, the political resonance is far larger.

Wealthier countries such as Germany, the U.K., Denmark,Sweden and the Netherlands banded together to cut what they pay to the collective pool, pounding away at the original proposal of 1.033 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) that came out in mid-2011.

Germany has led a bloc demanding austerity in Greece and three other bailed-out euro countries in exchange for rescue aid.

By the time the leaders convened yesterday, the figure on the table was 973 billion euros. It was soon trimmed to 971 billion euros, still too much for financially stronger countries that pressed for another 30 billion euros in cuts.

“For the upcoming weeks and months, my feeling is that we can go further, but it takes some preparatory work and it has to be balanced,” EU President Herman Van Rompuy, said.

Cameron’s Rebate

The alliance of spending cutters unraveled, when it came to the financing side of the budget. While U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron defended a rebate won by Margaret Thatcher in 1984, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden sought better terms for their own refunds and Denmark made a bid to join the money- back club.

French President Francois Hollande, for example, paired his farm-aid advocacy with calls for savings elsewhere, since France is among the 11 countries that pay more into the EU budget than they get out. As a result, agriculture was the relative winner as the leaders strengthened some budget lines and pared others.

The latest proposal added 8 billion euros back to the farm budget, taking it to 372 billion euros. Cuts elsewhere left infrastructure at 460 billion euros and immigration and border control at 17 billion euros. The biggest cuts came in foreign policy, down by 5 billion euros to 60.7 billion euros. The proposal left staff costs untouched at 62.6 billion euros.

Hollande’s Check

Taking aim at Cameron’s rebate, Hollande said: “France pays more than Britain; I could ask him for a check.”

For Britain, the summit was about more than euros and cents, testing Britain’s EU influence at a time of mounting pressure for a national referendum on whether to stay in the bloc.

Demanding spending cuts at home, Cameron made a special target of the 50,000 civil servants at EU institutions ranging from the commission and European Parliament, to the Court of Justice and agencies that regulate sectors from fishing to medicines.

“More than 200 Brussels staff earn more than I do,” Cameron said. “Brussels continues to exist as if it’s in a parallel universe.”

Aid Multipliers

Led by Poland, defenders of EU financing pointed out that spending at the European level goes further than money that stays within national borders, since EU subsidies back international projects like pipelines, bridges and airports.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz countered the wealthier countries’ insistence on paying less with the contention that it is cheaper for them to promote European projects, since contracts in Latvia or Slovenia go to companies in places like Germany and Sweden.

“Every euro invested by the EU attracts an average of between 2 and 4 euros in additional investment,” Schulz said. “The EU budget is not a zero-sum game in which one country wins what another loses. Synergies are generated which benefit the net contributors as well.”

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Islamic Terrorists Bomb Egyptian-Gaza Border Base

Terrorists destroyed part of an Egyptian base at Rafiah, challenging Cairo’s control over the Sinai after the ceasefire with Israel.


Islamic terrorists destroyed part of an Egyptian security building at Rafiah Saturday night, challenging Cairo’s control over the Sinai after the ceasefire with Israel. No one was injured in the explosion at the base, under construction n the Egyptians side of Rafiah, the smuggling capital of Gaza.

The attack came 48 hours after Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi granted himself extensive new powers, which were challenged by Cairo’s judiciary.

A separate explosion injured three people further south in the Sinai, where Egypt is building a facility to help it protect the pipeline that ships natural gas to Israel and Jordan. Terrorists have bombed the pipeline more than a dozen times the past two years in an effort to scuttle the agreement to sell gas to Israel.

Saturdays night’s bombing underlined Egypt’s difficulty in re-asserting control over the Sinai, where Hamas terrorists from Gaza, along with Bedouin allies and Al Qaeda-linked terrorist cells, have carved out regions of authority. They have staged increasingly frequent terrorist attacks on Israel. Several Israelis have been killed in the attacks.

Maintaining peace and quiet in the Sinai is a primary task for Egypt, experts said; the new government needs to prove to the United States, Israel, and Hamas that it can carry out its promise to protect Israel from terrorists.

Attacks from the Sinai could undermine the truce, moving the field of battle into the Sinai and eventually spreading back into Gaza, even if Hamas abides by the ceasefire that ended the eight-day Pillar of Defense counterterrorist operation

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Egypt’s Brotherhood calls for protests, judges urge for strikes

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood called for protests across the country on Sunday to support President Mohammed Mursi, while the country’s judges urged for a nationwide strike against a decree they saw as granting Mursi new, extensive powers.

The Brotherhood’s protest requests came as Egypt’s Judges Club, a body that represents judges throughout the country, called for “the suspension of work in all courts and prosecution administrations,” after several hours of emergency talks in response to what they called Mursi’s “ferocious attack on Egyptian justice.”

On the ground, clashes erupted outside the High Court between supporters and opponents of Mursi’s new constitutional declaration while the Judges Club held an hours-long emergency meeting inside.

“Some supporters of the declaration shot off fireworks at the gates of the court, and police fired teargas at protesters after they attempted to storm the building,” reported Egypt Independent.

Protesters favoring the declaration started chanting “the people demand the execution of Abdel Maguid,” according to the newspaper, in reference to former Prosecutor General Mahmoud Abdel Meguid, who was sacked after Mursi’s new declaration and was attending the meeting inside.

During Saturday’s meeting, defiant Egyptian judges demanded the president retract a decree granting himself sweeping powers that put him beyond judicial oversight.

As the judges met, civil groups led former U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei, and former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabbahi, Amr Mussa and Abdelmoneim Abul Futuh, said there could be no dialogue with Mursi until he rescinded the decree.

“We refuse any dialogue with the president until he cancels the constitutional declaration,” according to a joint statement read out at a news conference.

Several judicial bodies have condemned Mursi’s decree, with the Supreme Judicial Council, denouncing it as “an unprecedented attack on the independence of the judiciary and its rulings.”

Earlier on Saturday, the Judges Club of Alexandria announced a strike in the provinces of Alexandria and Beheira and said they “will accept nothing less than the cancellation of (Mursi’s decree),” which violates the principle of separation of powers, club chief Mohammed Ezzat al-Agwa said.

In the same vain, Egypt’s Shura council (upper house of parliament), dominated mainly by Islamists, said it will hold a meeting Sunday morning to discuss the repercussions of the declaration, according to Al Arabiya.

The president already held both and executive and legislative powers, and his Thursday decree puts him beyond judicial oversight until a new constitution has been ratified in a referendum.

The decree also means that the Islamist-dominated panel drawing up a new constitution can no longer be touched and gives it a two-month extension until February to complete its work.

Rallies by Mursi supporters, foes

A hard core group of opposition activists spent the night in Tahrir Square — the epicentre of the anti-Mubarak uprising — where they erected some 30 tents, an AFP correspondent reported.When others attempted to join them in the morning, police fired volleys of tear gas and forced them to retreat into surrounding streets, reported AFP.

The mainly secular liberals say they are determined to keep up the momentum of protests against Mursi’s decree and have called a new mass protest in Tahrir onTuesday.

The Muslim Brotherhood called on its own supporters to take to the streets on Tuesday in Abdeen Square, just streets away from Tahrir, to show their support for Mursi.

“Egypt is at the start of a new revolution because it was never our intention to replace one dictator with another,” activist Mohammed al-Gamal told AFP, showing his broken spectacles and hand in a plaster cast than he said were the result of police action.

Washington, which only Wednesday voiced fulsome praise for Mursi’s role in brokering a truce between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers to end eight days of deadly violence, led international criticism of the Islamist president’s move.

But a spokesman for the Freedom and Justice Party, headed by Mursi before his election, said the president’s decree was necessary to cut short the turbulent transition.

“We need stability,” said Murad Ali. “That’s not going to happen if we go back again to allowing the judges, who have personal reasons, to dissolve the constituent assembly in order to prolong the transitional phase.”

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Pakistani Christian Girl Imprisoned for Blasphemy Acquitted by Court

The 14-year-old Pakistani Christian girl who was charged with committing blasphemy against Islam has been acquitted, after an Islamabad court found evidence that a Muslim cleric who accused her of tearing up pages from the Quran may have been the one to plant the evidence.

The girl, known as Rimsha Masih and said to have mental difficulties, was arrested in August after she was accused of burning pages from the Quran, the Muslim holy book. Such an offense is recognized as blasphemy in Pakistan, which has a 97 percent Islamic population. Blasphemy is punishable by imprisonment and in some cases even death.

Rimsha was released on bail in September, but only now where the charges against her dropped, with the court saying that the accusations were “based on heresy and incriminated material that was planted in the girl’s possession,” according to defense lawyer Abdul Hameed.

Rimsha’s case sparked global outrage with many in the international community asking how a 14-year-old girl could be imprisoned, and the U.N. calling on Pakistan to consider changing its strict blasphemy laws.

“Blasphemy laws unjustly presume guilt. This girl should not have been let out on bail, but rather on the principle of justice that she be treated as innocent until proven guilty,” Tina Ramirez, director of International and Government Relations at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, previously told The Christian Post.

“These laws are destroying the foundation of religious freedom for all envisioned by Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and unless they are repealed once and for all, they will forever overshadow the dignity Pakistanis deserve to live under,”‘ Ramirez added.

Authorities in Pakistan have said that Rimsha will continue receiving protection when she returns to her poor neighborhood in Islamabad, as there have been reports that her neighbors are still angry for what they believe was an insult to the Quran.

“We saw what happened. We know she’s guilty but the court has let her off,” one unnamed Muslim man is said to have shared with BBC News.

Human rights activist Tahira Abdullah said that the girl and her family will need all the protection they can get.

“They will never be able to go back to their community. They will never be able to go back to their city. Her immediate family may not ever be able to visit their extended family because someone may be lying in wait for them and I am afraid for her life,” he said.

Prosecutors still have the right to appeal the decision before Pakistan’s Supreme Court, but it was not immediately known if they will take the case that far.

Another human rights campaigner, Xavier P. William, said that even though the case highlights the harsh laws in the South Asian country, many who are accused of blasphemy don’t have the fortune to be released from prison.

“In Pakistan, even being accused of blasphemy is equivalent to being sentenced,” William told BBC News. “This is the irony that justice comes only under international pressure. The lower courts have completely surrendered to extremists’ pressure because of the state’s inability to protect them.”

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Israeli government websites under mass hacking attack

More than 44 million hacking attempts have been made on Israeli government web sites since Wednesday when Israel began its Gaza air strikes, the government said on Sunday.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said just one hacking attempt was successful on a site he did not want to name, but it was up and running after 10 minutes of downtime.

Typically, there are a few hundred hacking attempts a day on Israeli sites, the ministry said.

Attempts on defence-related sites have been the highest, while 10 million attempts have been made on the site of Israel’s president, 7 million on the Foreign Ministry and 3 million on the site of the prime minister.

A ministry spokesman said while the attacks have come from around the world, most have been from Israel and the Palestinian territories.

“The ministry’s computer division will continue to block the millions of cyber attacks,” Steinitz said. “We are enjoying the fruits of our investment in recent years in developing computerized defence systems.”

Steinitz has instructed his ministry to operate in emergency mode to counter attempts to undermine government sites.

Both sides in the Gaza conflict, but particularly Israel, are embracing the social media as one of their tools of warfare. The Israeli Defense Force has established a presence on nearly every platform available while Palestinian militants are active on Twitter.

“The war is taking place on three fronts. The first is physical, the second is on the world of social networks and the third is cyber,” said Carmela Avner, Israel’s chief information officer.

Last month, U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said cyberspace is the battlefield of the future, with attackers already going after banks and other financial systems. U.S. banks have been under sustained attack by suspected Iranian hackers thought to be responding to economic sanctions aimed at forcing Tehran to negotiate over its nuclear program.

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Study: U.S. power grid vulnerable to terrorist attack

As if Hurricane Sandy’s blackouts weren’t worrisome enough, a new federal study warns the U.S. power grid is also vulnerable to terrorist attack. Yet it says fixing the problem won’t be easy.

6:46PM EST November 14. 2012 – After Hurricane Sandy left millions in the dark, a long-delayed federal study Wednesday says the U.S. power grid is also vulnerable to terrorist attacks that could cause months of blackouts and billions in economic damages.

The nation’s grid is spread out across hundreds of miles, and many key pieces of equipment are either unguarded or so old they lack the sensors to limit outages from cascading, according to the study by the National Research Council (NRC), a private independent agency operating under a congressional charter.

“We could easily be without power across a multistate region for many weeks or months, because we don’t have many spare transformers,” says M. Granger Morgan, engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and chairman of the NRC committee that wrote the report. He says a terrorist attack could cause disruptions worse than Sandy and rack up “hundreds of billions of dollars” in damages.

“Most of the report is as relevant today as when we wrote it,” he says, adding the power industry changes slowly. The NRC completed the report in 2007, but the sponsoring agency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), decided to classify it entirely. In August 2010, the NRC requested an updated classification, and in August 2012, all but a few pages of the report were cleared for publication.

“It was very frustrating,” Morgan says of the delay. He says the committee understood the need to protect national security and was careful not to provide a “cookbook” for terrorists, relying instead on widely available data. He says the authors are now “pleased” the report is public.

The report focuses partly on high-voltage transformers, saying they’re vulnerable both from within and from outside the substations where they’re located. It says they’re huge, difficult to move, often custom-built, and hard to replace, because most are no longer made in the United States. It recommends developing smaller portable ones for temporary use to reduce delays in restoring disabled power systems.

Morgan says DHS has “done a little” to develop and test spare low-voltage transformers but says “there’s a long way to go.”

DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard acknowledged threats to the grid, but added that the agency”continues to work every day with private sector and government counterparts to adapt and strengthen our security and resilience against an ever changing threat.”

The report says the federal government faces difficulty in addressing weaknesses in the nation’s power grid, because more than 90% of the grid is privately owned and regulated by the states. Still, it calls on DHS or the Department of Energy to study where the U.S. is most vulnerable to extended blackouts and to develop cost-effective strategies for reducing their length and their impact on critical services.

“The NRC is right to call for more investment in making our grid both more secure and more resilient in the face of attacks,” says Richard Caperton, an energy expert at the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning think tank. He says a terrorist attack is unlikely but, as Hurricane Sandy shows, “Anything that disrupts power supply can have catastrophic consequences.”

Morgan says many of the steps that could protect the grid from terrorism would also protect it from extreme weather. He points to smart meters, saying they disconnect damaged properties so power can be restored more quickly to the rest of a neighborhood without fear of explosions. He says much of Long Island and New Jersey lacks such technology.

DOE estimated Wednesday that 6,000 homes and businesses in the Mid-Atlantic region remained without power because of Hurricane Sandy or the Nor’easter storm. The number, which reached nearly 9 million, was down from 25,061 on Tuesday and 63,821 on Monday.

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Report: Majority Of Americans Still Not Prepared For A Major Disaster

According to a report by YouGov.com, a research and consulting organization, 64 percent of Americans are woefully unprepared for a major natural disaster, even after the events of Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, and a series of other major natural disasters smacking us around in recent years.

The report finds that people making disaster-readiness plans has slightly increased from 31 percent to 36 percent since 2011, showing that the majority of Americans have failed to adequately prepare themselves in the event of another major disaster. This is the breakdown of YouGov’s numbers,

Of the 36 percent who said they were equipped for natural disasters, their preparations included the following:

  • Emergency supplies (for example, flashlights or first-aid kits): 89 percent
  • Food stocks: 74 percent
  • Creating an evacuation or an emergency plan: 50 percent
  • Disaster insurance: 22 percent

Of the 89 percent who had emergency supplies, their supplies included the following:

  • Flashlights:  97 percent
  • Water:  92 percent
  • First-aid kits or medicine:  92 percent
  • Sleeping bags or blankets:  83 percent
  • Face masks: 18 percent
  • Iodine pills:  15 percent

While general preparedness is low, concern and fear over another natural disaster has increased, especially across the Northeast, where 31 percent report that they are “very concerned” following Hurricane Sand, doubled from the previous year’s report of 17 percent concern in polling done after Tropical Storm Irene, the highest percentage in the country.

A lot of people have prognosticated in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy that this was finally the storm that got everyone’s attention, and that in the future, people will be more prepared for the advent of another natural catastrophe. I’m not so sure. While Sandy’s devastation was massive and destabilizing, only time will tell how New Yorkers will prepare and respond, both personally, and politically, should another superstorm come to wreck our city.

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Giant Sun Eruption Captured in NASA Video

The sun unleashed a monster eruption of super-hot plasma Friday (Nov. 16) in back-to-back solar storms captured on camera by a NASA spacecraft.

The giant sun eruption, called a solar prominence, occurred at 1 a.m. EST (0600 GMT), with another event flaring up four hours later. The prominences was so large, it expanded beyond the camera view of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which captured high-definition video of the solar eruption.

In the video, a colossal loop of glowing red plasma erupts from the lower left of the sun, arcing up and out of frame as it blasts away from the star.

“The red-glowing looped material is plasma, a hot gas made of electrically charged hydrogen and helium,” officials with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which oversees the SDO mission, explained in a description. “The prominence plasma flows along a tangled and twisted structure of magnetic fields generated by the sun’s internal dynamo. An erupting prominence occurs when such a structure becomes unstable and bursts outward, releasing the plasma.”

Friday’s solar eruption does not appear to be aimed at Earth, so will likely have little effect on our planet. But that was not the case earlier this week when a powerful solar flare erupted on Monday (Nov. 12). That flare registered as an M6-class eruption, a moderate but still intense solar event.

On Tuesday and Wednesday (Nov. 13 and 14), space weather conditions sparked a geomagnetic storm that supercharged the Earth’s auroras, creating spectacular northern lights displays for observers at high latitudes.

When aimed directly at Earth, the most powerful solar flares and eruptions can pose a threat to satellites and astronauts in orbit, and also interfere with communication, navigation and power systems on the ground.

The sun is currently in the middle of an active phase of its 11-year solar weather cycle. The current cycle is called Solar Cycle 24 and is expected to peak in 2013.

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EU in fresh trouble as budget summit faces collapse

The European Union looks set for fresh trouble this week as an extraordinary summit called to agree a long-term trillion-euro budget heads for an ugly showdown, possibly even failure.

Already weakened by three years of economic crisis, the 27-nation bloc of half a billion people faces new trauma at the two-day summit starting Thursday after weeks of talks that have exposed stark divisions between pro- and anti-austerity nations, as well as between the haves and have-nots.

“It’s a lose-lose summit,” said a senior EU diplomat. “Absolutely no one will leave this summit content if by chance we reach a solution.”

“We don’t exclude a breakdown,” another diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Europe’s leaders begin the talks on the EU’s next seven-year budget at 1900 GMT Thursday, with Britain’s premier David Cameron in the role of leading spoiler though most governments are putting national interest well above shared concerns.

“Cameron will come with a big knife to get spending cuts and to defend the British rebate,” said an EU diplomat.

In the face of Britain’s austerity-minded determination to secure a cut of up to 200 billion euros in the 2014-2020 budget, EU president Herman Van Rompuy, who will broker the talks, last week suggested a 75-billion-euro cut to the proposed 1.047 trillion euro ($1.3 trillion) budget.

But that made no one happy.

Spain said it would lose 20 billion euros of EU aid, Italy complained of losing 10 billion euros.

And a group of Nobel laureates flew to Brussels waving a petition signed by dozens of Nobel winners urging Van Rompuy and other EU officials not to strip funds for research and innovation.

“Fortunately, we only have these summits every seven years,” Van Rompuy said Friday after coming under fire from all sides.

His plan left Britain having to pay in part for its cherished yearly rebate of 3.6 billion euros, while diminishing Sweden’s rebate, and failing to address Denmark’s demand to have a discount too.

The three are among the 11 net contributors to the EU budget who in times of economic strain and domestic cutbacks are tired of bearing the brunt of the financial burden.

Eight of the net contributors — Austria, Britain, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden — have banded together to demand spending cuts, though they are far from being on the same page on what should go or by how much.

France for instance, along with Italy, is refusing any decrease whatsoever in the budget’s biggest item, the subsidies paid to farmers, big and small.

“There can be no question of withdrawing even one euro from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP),” said French Premier Jean-Marc Ayrault, whose government is pushing for the EU to raise new revenues through new taxes, such as one on financial transactions.

In the other corner are 15 nations from Europe’s east and southern fringe who are net recipients, most often of the so-called “cohesion funds” used to help poor regions catch up economically and socially with the rest. This is the second biggest budget item after the CAP.

Chaired by Poland and Portugal, the group includes Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia — and most recently, once mighty Spain.

Cameron, who is under intense euro-sceptic pressure to wrest an agreement in Brussels, has been shuttling back and forth to raise support, travelling to the Netherlands, Italy and Germany in search of allies.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, which is the biggest contributor to the EU budget, has promised to do her utmost to ensure the summit would not end in collapse.

“Even if we are net contributors and people could perhaps think that we can live with a non-agreement, that is not our goal,” Merkel said. “We want an agreement and we will talk exactly in this spirit with all countries.”

Meanwhile, there is a growing exasperation with France, whose recently elected Socialist President Francois Hollande has urged Brussels to push for growth, rather than austerity, but whose obsession with maintaining the CAP will lead to cuts in programmes to help growth.

“He wanted to re-orient Europe towards employment and growth. It’s a political choice. He must be consistent,” said an EU official who asked not to be named.

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