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Main news of December 4

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RUSSIA

* Russia expects Iran's nuclear programs to be transparent and fully monitored by the United Nations nuclear watchdog, President Vladimir Putin said

* Vladimir Churov, Russia's top election official, said the United Russia party, the winner of Sunday's parliamentary polls, will have 315 seats in the 450-legislature

* Russia's strategic bombers have carried out since August over 70 patrol flights over the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans, as well as the Black Sea, a senior Air Force official said

* Russia's Foreign Ministry said it hopes the head of LUKoil Overseas in Libya, arrested in Tripoli on November 25, will be released soon

* The construction of the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline managed by state-run pipeline operator Transneft could be delayed for six months, the president of the Republic of Yakutia said


WORLD

* Iran welcomed a U.S. intelligence report on its nuclear program which concluded it was for peaceful purposes and that Tehran had halted weapons production in 2003

* The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said Russia had failed to meet press freedom commitments during the recent parliamentary election campaign

* Myanmar has granted amnesty to 8,552 prisoners as a gesture of cooperation with the United Nations and to mark progress on writing a new constitution, state media announced

* Gillian Gibbons, the British teacher jailed in Sudan for 15 days for insulting religion, insisted that she bore no hard feelings towards the country, saying that she had had "a fabulous time"

* Washington should compensate Iran for the damage caused by years of lies about its nuclear weapons program, a senior government official in Tehran said

* The date for the start of a new round of six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament, earlier expected to begin in early December, has not yet been set, a Chinese official said

* An Israeli airstrike killed at least three Hamas fighters in an attack on one of the Islamists' positions in Gaza's coastal town of Deir el-Balah, local television reported

* Estonia's parliament extended the country's military mission in Afghanistan, the parliament's press service said

* Armenia's parliament voted to extend the country's military presence in Iraq by 12 months

* Polish Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki will arrive in Moscow next week to discuss the possibility of ending Russia's two-year meat ban, the Russian agriculture minister said

* Belarus's president said he was set to pay his first ever visit to Venezuela in the next few days to advance agreements on joint oil production in the Latin American state

* The Serbian Foreign Ministry has submitted to the country's government a plan of action in the event of Albanian authorities declaring unilateral independence for Kosovo, Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said

* At least 230 Islamic insurgents were killed in northwest Pakistan last month, an Armed Forces spokesman said

* U.S. President George Bush said the U.S. was not ruling out military action against Iran, despite a report saying the Islamic Republic may have no plans to build nuclear weapons

* Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for the creation of a Persian Gulf security pact at a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

* The troika of international mediators on Kosovo - Russia, the United States and the European Union - has completed its status report on the province, Russia's representative said

* NASA confirmed that the U.S. Atlantis shuttle would take off on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on December 6

* Russia will begin to make contributions to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in 2008, a deputy foreign minister said

* Moscow and Kiev have agreed that as from January 1, 2008, the price of natural gas on the Russian-Ukrainian border will be set at $179.5 per 1,000 cubic meters, energy giant Gazprom said

* Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Iran was committed to cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog and had confirmed its adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty

* A hike in natural gas prices for Ukraine in 2008 could hit the country's economy hard, Ukraine's former prime minister and a leader of the pro-presidential bloc said

BUSINESS

* Russia's environmental regulator will sue a pulp mill for damages of over 475 million rubles ($19 million) for dumping waste into Siberia's Lake Baikal, the Natural Resources Ministry announced

* Altimo, the telecoms arm of Russia's Alfa Group, said it had honored a U.S. court decision on a Ukrainian mobile operator and hoped for an end to a shareholder row with Norway's Telenor

* Mikhail Prokhorov has proposed selling a blocking stake in Norilsk Nickel to aluminum giant RusAl for $3 billion less than he offered to his former business partner, a Russian daily said

* U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil refused to transfer to Kazakhstan part of its stake in a project to develop a massive oil field on the country's Caspian shelf, the Kazakh energy minister said

* British companies invested $20 billion in the Russian economy in the first nine months of 2007, making the U.K. the leading investor in the country, the Russian ambassador to Britain said

* Russia's economics ministry has raised its official forecasts for the country's GDP growth until 2010, a ministry official said

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