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Top of the Agenda: Italian Court Upholds Berlusconi Prison Sentence

Italy's supreme court rejected former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's appeal against a tax fraud conviction (Guardian), upholding a four-year jail sentence that marks the first time Berlusconi has been definitively convicted after numerous trials during his twenty years as center-right leader. A Milan appeals court will to review, however, a five-year ban on holding public office (NYT). The verdict comes after three days of intense speculation and concern that the outcome could collapse the fragile coalition government (Bloomberg) of Prime Minister Enrico Letta, formed with Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, after a hung election.


"Politically, the more explosive part of the sentence is the ban from public office. It would need to be endorsed by parliament. It must be assumed that, if the PdL's lawmakers have not already walked out of parliament in protest, as some have suggested they will, they will launch a last-ditch attempt to keep their leader in politics," writes the Economist.

"His party is in a coalition with the centre-left. A collapse of an already fragile government could have plunged the third-largest economy in the eurozone into instability. Early indications are that Berlusconi does not want to bear the responsibility of damaging Italy when it is struggling to emerge from its worst recession since World War II," writes Gavin Hewitt for the BBC.

"But pundits said the greatest danger for the wobbly coalition might come from left-wing parliamentarians, who refused to work with a centre-right party run by a convicted criminal," writes Michael Day for the Independent.



Taiwanese Parliament Brawls

Taiwanese lawmakers brawled in parliament (CNA) on Friday over a bill on the fate of a controversial nuclear power plant in construction. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party opposes the plant, citing safety concerns, while the ruling Kuomintang party warns of energy insufficiencies.

JAPAN: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will not visit (JapanTimes) the controversial Yasukuni Shrine on the anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II, a decision that could help ease tensions with China and South Korea.



Kerry Expresses Optimism in Ending Drone Strikes

U.S. secretary of state John Kerry, on a trip to Pakistan, said Thursday that the United States hoped to end drone strikes shortly (NYT), although he did not specify a timeline. The remarks follow President Barack Obama's speech on drone policy in May, in which he asserted the reduced need for drone strikes.

INDIA: India on Thursday relaxed foreign investment rules in the retail sector in a renewed push for economic reforms (Bloomberg) aimed at attracting global supermarket chains.



China Opposes UN Sanctions on Iran

China, Iran's largest trading partner, reiterated on Friday its opposition (Reuters) to harsher U.S. sanctions on Iran after the House of Representatives approved a bill seeks to cut Iran's oil exports by a further one million barrels per day. China is Tehran's top oil customer.

CFR's Ray Takeyh discusses Hassan Rouhani's burden in this op-ed.

EGYPT: Supporters of Egypt's deposed president Mohammed Morsi urged new rallies on Friday (al-Jazeera), extending weeks-long protests two days after the interim government authorized police to clear demonstrations.

Economist Farouk Soussa outlines the limited options facing Egypt's interim government in this new interview.



AU Releases Mixed Report on Zimbabwe Vote

The African Union gave a mixed report (WSJ) on Zimbabwe's election, saying the election was free and fair but carried a number of caveats including the inability of a large number of voters to vote because they were not on the election roll.

CFR's John Campbell calls Zimbabwe's election a sham in this newest blog post.

MALI: The results of Mali's presidential election (France24) last weekend will be released on Friday after a two-day delay, with former prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita confident of victory.



US Criticizes Russia's Decision on Snowden Asylum

Russia awarded Edward Snowden, the fugitive former NSA contractor, temporary asylum in Russia despite pressure from the U.S. government in a decision immediately criticized (FT) by the White House. The one-year visa allows Snowden to live and work in Russia.



Samantha Power Confirmed as UN Ambassador

Samantha Power, an author and foreign policy advisor to President Barack Obama, won confirmation Thursday as the new U.S. ambassador (LATimes) to the United Nations. Her nomination completes the administration's foreign policy team for the second term.

UNITED STATES: The United States is closing its embassies (AP) and consulates throughout the Muslim world on Sunday after receiving an unspecified threat, saying some facilities may stay closed for more than a day.



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