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BC-AP--AP Europe News Digest at 1200 GMT, AP

February 6, 2014

TOP STORIES IN EUROPE ON THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 06, 2014

RUSSIA-ANTI-GAY LAW

MOSCOW — When the Sochi Winter Olympics begin Friday, many will be watching to see whether Russia will enforce its law banning gay “propaganda” to minors if athletes, fans or activists wave rainbow flags or speak out in protest. A look at who has been targeted since the law took effect in July. By Laura Mills. SENT: 1100 words, photos.

VATICAN-UN-ABUSE

ROME — One of the main criticisms of the Vatican in a U.N. report on sex abuse was the Holy See’s failure to investigate the arbitrary placement of girls in church-run workhouses in Ireland, where their out-of-wedlock babies were taken from them and put up for adoption. Philomena Lee speaks to reporters Thursday about her meeting with Pope Francis a day earlier and the Oscar-nominated film based on her story of trying to find a son taken from her 50 years earlier. By Nicole Winfield. UPCOMING: 400 words by 1300GMT.

NETHERLANDS-ANTI-EU

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The most popular Dutch politician Geert Wilders puts forward arguments for why exiting the European Union would benefit the Netherlands. Wilders’ performance should provide a foretaste of the anti-Europe campaign platforms far-right politicians across the continent will likely adopt ahead of the elections for the European Parliament in May. By Toby Sterling. SENT: 500 words.

UKRAINE-PROTESTS

KIEV, Ukraine — A senior U.S. diplomat has arrived in the Ukrainian capital to try to help find a resolution to the protests and political crisis that have gripped the country for more than two months. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland is to meet President Viktor Yanukovych and leaders of the opposition during her two days in Kiev. SENT: 130 words. Developing.

RUSSIA-SQUIRREL-SENSATION

MOSCOW — One by one, the bushy-tailed residents of Moscow’s parks have been disappearing. The problem: Russians have gone nuts for squirrels. City official Alexei Gorelov says he has received multiple reports of squirrel poaching in local parks. In response, municipal authorities on Jan. 31 ordered bolstered security for all of Moscow’s green areas. SENT: 130 words, photos.

BRITAIN-ART-AUCTIONS

LONDON — A Paris streetscape by Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro has sold for double its top estimate in a week of strong sales at London auction houses. “Boulevard Monmartre, Spring Morning” from 1897 was bought for 19.9 million pounds ($32.1 million). It had been estimated at 7 to 10 million pounds. SENT: 130 words, photos.

SLOVAKIA-OBIT-BILAK

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Vasil Bilak, a former hard-line communist leader who paved the way for Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, has died, aged 96. Slovakia’s Communist Party said Bilak died Tuesday in the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava, where he lived. No cause of death was given. SENT: 250 words.

BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL

BERLIN — The 64th edition of the Berlin International Film Festival opens. It’s the first of the year’s major European film festivals. Through Feb. 16. Story in mobile-friendly format by 1730 GMT.

BRITAIN-CORONATION-STREET-ACTOR

LONDON — A longtime star of British soap opera “Coronation Street” has been cleared of multiple charges of sexual assault against young girls. A jury at Britain’s Preston Crown Court on Thursday found 81-year-old William Roache not guilty of four counts of indecent assault and two counts of rape. SENT: 130 words, photos.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE

EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK

FRANKFURT, Germany — The European Central Bank is weighing conflicting signals from the economy as it considers whether to cut interest rates again for the 18-country euro bloc. The bank’s 24-member governing council meets Thursday in Frankfurt, Germany. A number of economists think it will hold off cutting rates or taking other measures that might stimulate the economy, which is growing more slowly than people would like. By David Mchugh. SENT: 510 words sent, to be updated at rate decision 1245 GMT and after presser at 1330 GMT, photos.

GERMANY-DAIMLER-EARNS

FRANKFURT, Germany — Automaker Daimler AG finished 2013 strongly after a rough start to the year that included a profit warning. Fourth-quarter operating earnings jumped 45 percent to 2.53 billion euros ($3.41 billion) from 1.74 billion euros, excluding a one-time gain from the sale of a stake in aerospace company EADS, the company said Thursday. By David Mchugh. SENT: 340 words, photos.

GERMANY-ECONOMY

BERLIN — Industrial orders in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, have shown an unexpected decline despite a rebound in demand from other countries in the eurozone. The Economy Ministry said Thursday that orders were down 0.5 percent in December compared with the previous month. That performance was well short of economists’ predictions of a 0.2 percent increase. However, it followed a 2.4 percent rise in November — revised upward from the initial reading of 2.1 percent. SENT: 130 words.

BRITAIN-EARNS-VODAFONE

LONDON — Vodafone, one of the world’s largest cellphone companies, says third-quarter revenue dropped 4.8 percent as conditions across an economically struggling Europe remained challenging. The decline in organic service revenue — excluding currency fluctuations and mergers and acquisitions — was biggest in southern Europe. Things were brighter in emerging markets, with India posting revenue growth of 13.2 percent. SENT: 130 words.

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