Main news of March 16



* The Russian government will allocate 1.5 trillion rubles ($45 billion) for anti-crisis measures this year, the prime minister said

* Russia has proposed that compulsory international standards for macroeconomic and budget policy be adopted in a new document to the G20 addressing the global financial crisis, the Kremlin website said

* A faulty ejection cartridge was responsible for the failure of the latest test launch of the Bulava sea-based ballistic missile, a Russian Defense Ministry source said

* Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Kabul on Monday to discuss preparations for an international conference on Afghanistan due to take place in Moscow on March 27

* Russia's largest truck-maker KamAZ said on Monday it has restarted its main assembly line after a 10-day break due to weak demand for vehicles amid the financial crisis


* European Union foreign ministers agreed on Monday to extend the suspension of a travel ban on the president of Belarus as part of moves to encourage progress in democracy and human rights

* A Taliban suicide bomber killed 12 and injured at least 26 in an attack on a police compound in southern Afghanistan on Monday, a provincial government spokesman told journalists

* Monday's launch of a Russian 'Rockot' carrier rocket carrying Europe's first GOCE satellite has been postponed for at least one day, an official from the European Space Agency said, without giving a reason for the postponement

* The U.S. space shuttle Discovery lifted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) early on Monday after numerous delays due to technical issues, NASA said

* Mauricio Funes of El Salvador's former Marxist revolutionary FMLN party has won presidential polls in the Central American state

* South Korean opposition parties called on Monday for fundamental changes to the government's confrontational policy towards the North, a South Korean newspaper reported

* Former Waffen SS veterans and their supporters held a demonstration in the Latvian capital on Monday despite a ban by the Riga Duma, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported

* Lebanon officially opened its embassy in the Syrian capital of Damascus on Monday for the first time since the countries gained independence in the 1940s, a RIA Novosti correspondent said

* The trial of Josef Fritzl, accused of imprisoning his daughter for 24 years and fathering her seven children, began in the Austrian town of St. Poelten

* Mohammad Khatami, the Iranian reformist leader and former president of the Islamic Republic, has officially withdrawn from June's presidential elections, Iranian media reported

* Israel's prime minister has postponed until Tuesday a cabinet session to debate a Hamas prisoner swap aimed at securing the release of a soldier seized by militants almost 3 years ago, his press service said

* Ukraine's national energy company Naftogaz has over $4 billion in debts, with two-thirds of this sum due to be repaid by the end of 2009, a Ukrainian business paper reported


* The Russian state-controlled banks Sberbank, VTB and Vnesheconombank (VEB) have granted over 2 trillion rubles ($57 billion) in loans to core enterprises, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said

* Russia's Magnitogorsk metals producer (MMK) said on Monday it had increased by 50% the total amount it is owed by the second largest automaker GAZ to 1.5 billion rubles ($43.2 million)

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