Category Archives: Information

Greece will do 'whatever it can' to reach deal with EU: spokesman

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (R) arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels February 12, 2015. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (R) arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels February 12, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Yves Herman

(Reuters) – Greece will make every effort to reach an agreement with its euro zone partners at Monday’s meeting of euro zone finance ministers on how to transition to a new support program, its government spokesman said on Friday.

“We will do whatever we can so that a deal is found on Monday,” Gabriel Sakellaridis told Skai TV. “If we don’t have an agreement on Monday, we believe that there is always time so that there won’t be a problem.”

Athens agreed on Thursday to talk to its creditors about the way out of its hated international bailout in a political climbdown that could prevent its new leftist-led government running out of money as early as next month.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, attending his first European Union summit, agreed with the chairman of euro zone finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, that Greek officials would meet representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF on Friday.

“The aim is for the negotiating team on technical issues to finalize a proposal which will be taken to the euro working group at noon on Monday and then in the afternoon to the Eurogroup to find a solution,” Sakellaridis told Greek Mega TV.

He said discussions on technical issues would begin on Friday but Athens remains opposed to implementing reforms that intensify austerity and weaken the fabric of the social state.

“What we have been saying is that by Feb. 16 (Monday) we want to reach a mutually beneficial agreement with our partners and we are moving in this direction,” Sakellaridis said.

(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos and Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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Myanmar says 47 soldiers killed in clashes with rebels near China border

(Reuters) – Forty-seven Myanmar soldiers have been killed this week in fighting with ethnic minority insurgents near the border with China, the military said in a statement issued on Friday.

The fighting and heavy casualties are a setback for government efforts to forge a nationwide ceasefire and end a patchwork of insurgencies that have bedeviled Myanmar since shortly after its independence in 1948.

The clashes in Shan State in the northeast between the army and a group called the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) have alarmed China which fears an influx of villagers fleeing violence and called this week for peace on the border.

The military said 73 soldiers were wounded in clashes from Monday to Thursday.

It gave no more details of the fighting but the state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported on Thursday that the military had carried out five air strikes against the rebels.

Officials from the MNDAA were not available for comment.

Myanmar’s reformist, semi-civilian government, which took power after 49 years of military rule, wants to implement a nationwide ceasefire agreement with all rebel factions.

The government has struck truces with almost all of the groups but clashes do occasionally flare up.

An official in an alliance of ethnic minority factions which has been discussing the nationwide ceasefire with the military said the clashes near the Chinese border did not bode well for the talks.

“Because of the fighting, negotiations will have some difficulty,” said Nai Hong Sar, vice chairman of the United Nationalities Federal Council, which represents 11 minority factions.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China supported efforts to resolve their dispute peacefully so that the refugees could return to Myanmar as soon as possible.

“We hope that all sides in Myanmar can work hard with China to quieten down the situation and return the border as soon as possible to peace and tranquility so these border people can go home,” she told a daily news briefing.

The MNDAA was formerly part of the Communist Party of Burma, a powerful China-backed guerrilla force that battled the Myanmar government until the group splintered in 1989.

Fighting between the rebels and the army in 2009 pushed tens of thousands of refugees into southwestern China, angering the government in Beijing.

(Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Jared Ferrie and Robert Birsel)

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Eight Ukrainian servicemen killed in past 24 hours despite peace deal

A local resident points at a house damaged by a shelling in the town of Dokuchayevsk, south of Donetsk, February 12, 2015. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

A local resident points at a house damaged by a shelling in the town of Dokuchayevsk, south of Donetsk, February 12, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

(Reuters) – Eight Ukrainian service personnel have been killed and 34 wounded in fighting against separatists in eastern Ukraine in the past 24 hours, a Kiev military spokesman said on Friday, despite a four-power peace deal worked out in Belarus.

“In the Donbass (eastern Ukraine), this night was not a calm one. The enemy shelled positions of the ‘anti-terrorist operation’ forces with the same intensity as before,” a statement by the military said.

Fighting had been particularly intense around Debaltseve, a key railway junction linking the two main rebel areas, where separatists had used rockets and artillery to attack government forces holding the town, the statement said.

“Following military action and shelling … Ukraine lost eight service personnel and 34 others were wounded,” military spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov said.

(Writing By Richard Balmforth, Editing By Timothy Heritage)

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Hopes of agreement after Ukraine peace talks, source says

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko (R), Russia's President Vladimir Putin (2nd L), Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (C, front), Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (2nd R) and France's President Francois Hollande (front L) walk as they take part in peace talks on resolving the Ukrainian crisis in Minsk, February 11, 2015.  REUTERS/Mykola Lazarenko/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters

Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko (R), Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (2nd L), Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko (C, front), Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel (2nd R) and France’s President Francois Hollande (front L) walk as they take part in peace talks on resolving the Ukrainian crisis in Minsk, February 11, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Mykola Lazarenko/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters

(Reuters) – The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France may be close to agreement following all-night talks on resolving the Ukraine conflict, diplomatic sources said on Thursday.

Details remained unclear after more than 12 hours of peace talks in the Belarus capital Minsk, with one source saying there was hope agreement could reached and another saying a document would be signed.

But the document, which may be a joint declaration rather than a full agreement, may be signed by lower level envoys rather than by the leaders themselves, the sources said.

The sources said any agreement would however be sent to a “contact group” which includes representatives of the pro-Russian rebels, whose involvement could be crucial.

The discussions came as pro-Moscow separatists tightened the pressure on Kiev by launching some of the war’s worst fighting on Wednesday, killing 19 Ukrainian soldiers in assaults near the railway town of Debaltseve.

Fighting has already killed more than 5,000 people, and Washington is now openly talking of arming Ukraine to defend itself from “Russian aggression”, raising the prospect of a proxy war in the heart of Europe between Cold War foes.

The summit was held in neighboring Belarus under a Franco-German proposal to try to halt the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande joined Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko and Russia’s Vladimir Putin for a longer-than-expected meeting that began early on Wednesday evening and continued well into Thursday morning.

A Ukrainian presidential aide, Valeriy Chaly, had earlier described the four-way talks as “a battle of nerves”.

As the talks began, Poroshenko said that without a de-escalation of the conflict and a ceasefire the situation would get “out of control”.

The outcome of the talks is expected to influence discussions at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, when sanctions against Moscow will be on the agenda.


The talks were taking place while an International Monetary Fund mission was negotiating a bailout to save Ukraine from bankruptcy.

Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Wednesday he hoped for a deal in the next 48 hours and IMF chief Christine Lagarde said she would make a statement early on Thursday.

Kiev and NATO accuse Russia of supplying separatists with men and weapons. Moscow denies it is involved in fighting for territory Putin calls “New Russia”.

If the French and German leaders hoped their peace initiative would be met by conciliatory moves on the ground, the prospect of talks appears to have encouraged the pro-Russian rebels determined to drive home their advantage.

Armored columns of Russian-speaking soldiers with no insignia have been advancing for days around Debaltseve. Last week they captured the small town of Vuhlehirsk next to Debaltseve.

On the Russian side of the border, Moscow announced war games on Tuesday on the eve of the talks.

The United States has been openly discussing arming the Ukrainian government, a move that is opposed by European allies who say it would escalate the conflict while falling far short of giving Kiev the firepower needed to win.

President Barack Obama says he has yet to make up his mind on the question of sending weapons. He spoke by phone to Putin on Tuesday, and the White House said he warned the Russian leader that the costs would rise if Moscow kept aiding the separatists.

(Additional reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic, Alessandra Prentice, Margarita Chornokondatrenko, Gabriela Baczynska, Alexander Winning, Vladimir Soldatkin, Aleksandar Vasovic, Lidia Kelly, Richard Balmforth and Andrei Makhovsky; editing by Giles Elgood)

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Greece, euro zone fail to agree on debt, to try again on Monday

A woman holds a Greek flag as she takes part in an anti-austerity pro-government demonstration in front of the parliament in Athens February 11, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

(Reuters) – Greece’s new leftist government and its international creditors failed to agree on a way forward on the country’s unpopular bailout and will try again on Monday, with time running out for a financing deal.

In seven hours of crisis talks in Brussels that ended after midnight, euro zone finance ministers were unable to agree even a joint statement on the next procedural steps. Both sides played down the setback, insisting there had been no rupture.

But Greek stock prices, which whipped higher after hours in New York on talk of an accord, sagged with disappointment when it emerged that Greece’s laconic new Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis had walked away from a draft deal to extend current credit terms after conferring with fellow Greek officials.

“We had an intense discussion, constructive, covering a lot of ground, also making progress, but not enough progress yet to come to joint conclusions,” Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the chairman of Eurogroup finance ministers, told a midnight news conference.

“We didn’t actually go into detailed proposals, we didn’t enter into negotiations on content of the program or a program, we simply tried to work next steps over the next couple days. We were unable to do that.”

Greece would have no further contact with experts from the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank before Monday, he said. That was the opposite of how other EU ministers understood they had left matters when they headed home an hour or so earlier.

Looking as casually confident as when he had arrived at his first such talks, Varoufakis said: “Now we are proceeding to the next meeting on Monday. We hope that by the end of that one, there is going to be a conclusion in a manner that is optimal both for the perspective of Greece and our European partners.”

Spelling out how Greek voters had rejected the “toxic” austerity dictated by international lenders that rescued Greece after the global financial crisis, he said he hoped for a “healing deal” on Monday and stressed that, while much remained undone, “not finding a solution is not in our rationale”.

Diplomats said efforts to clinch a joint statement, as it went through drafts, were aborted after Varoufakis consulted government colleagues. A text seen by Reuters showed that the Eurogroup had wanted to agree on “extending” the present loan program – a phrase that is anathema to Athens.

Hard-left Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose close ally Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis sat beside the academic economist Varoufakis in the Eurogroup, has stuck to his guns. He knows those who voted him into office last month are insistent he end a bailout deal Greeks blame for worsening poverty.

Tsipras, who will meet fellow EU leaders at a summit in Brussels later on Thursday, rejects any extension of the 240 billion euro package, which expires on Feb. 28. He refuses to cooperate with the “troika” of EU/ECB/IMF officials overseeing Greece’s finances and demands a “haircut” reducing its debt.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said that if Greece is not willing to request an extension of the current bailout – the biggest in financial history – “then that’s it”, appearing to rule out further assistance or debt forgiveness.

Financial markets have been on edge over the Greek crisis because of fears that failure to reach a deal soon could trigger a Greek default and a disorderly exit from the euro zone, possibly setting off wider market turmoil.

Asked whether a so-called “Grexit” was on the cards, Varoufakis told reporters on arrival: “Absolutely not.”

He set out the new government’s thinking on interim steps toward a negotiated debt restructuring but presented no formal document, to the surprise of some ministers, participants said.

“Positions are now a bit clearer, but there is a very long way to go in the coming days,” said one EU source.

Keeping a close eye on a problem that could reprise some of the banking and financial market turmoil of three years ago, ECB chief Mario Draghi was present throughout the talks.

Athens’s partners have warned that time is short since any changes to the current bailout may require ratification by several national parliaments in creditor countries.


Varoufakis and his delegation had a prior meeting with International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, who flew to Brussels to join the talks in a sign of the IMF’s concern about the Greek crisis, which is weighing on global financial markets.

“They are competent, intelligent, they’ve thought about their issues. We have to listen to them, we are starting to work together and it is a process that is starting and is going to last a certain time,” Lagarde told reporters. 

In Athens, a Greek official said Varoufakis had discussed with Lagarde and Dijsselbloem some form of “bridge agreement” for funding the state once the current bailout deal expires.

Meeting his counterparts collectively for the first time, Varoufakis worked the room before talks started, shaking hands first with Schaeuble, then others. He looked relaxed in a designer checked scarf and his trademark open-neck shirt.

Economists polled by Reuters this week estimated a one-in-four chance of Greece leaving the 19-nation single currency area this year – the highest reading since the start of the Greek debt crisis in late 2009.

Most analysts believe the odds still favor an agreement between Greece and the euro zone emerging later this month after lots of sound and fury.

“We think that the European community and Greek authorities will reach a compromise such that there will not be an exit of Greece from the euro zone,” said James McCormack of credit ratings agency Fitch Ratings.

European Union leaders will take up the issue at their first summit with Tsipras on Thursday. EU officials said they would be briefed on the Eurogroup talks but there would be no room for debt negotiation at a summit mostly devoted to the Ukraine-Russia conflict and fighting terrorism.


At least 10,000 Greeks took to the streets of Athens and other cities on Wednesday to demonstrate support for Tsipras’s government in the Brussels negotiations. Smaller leftist satellite rallies were planned in Brussels, outside the European Central Bank in Frankfurt and in London.

Protesters outside parliament in central Athens unfurled banners proclaiming “Bankrupt but Free” and “Stop Austerity”.

Tsipras tweeted a picture of the rally, with the message: “In the cities of Greece and Europe the people are fighting the negotiation battle. They are our strength.”

Varoufakis has proposed a six-month transition in which Greece would be allowed to issue more short-term debt, receive the proceeds of ECB holdings of Greek bonds and tap unused bank rescue funds while renegotiating its debt. Athens would swap its euro zone loans for GDP-linked bonds and its ECB-held debt for interest-bearing perpetual bonds with no reimbursement date.

EU officials have said the most Greece can expect is a further extension of the repayment deadline for its euro zone loans, a lower interest rate and perhaps a prolonged moratorium on debt service payments, in return for continued reforms under some form of external supervision.

(Additional reporting by Lefteris Papadimas, Angeliki Koutantou, Jeremy Gaunt, Costas Pitas and Deepa Babington in Athens, and Foo Yun Chee, Robin Emmott, Tom Koerkemeier, Ingrid Melander, Barbara Lewis, Adrian Croft, Philip Blenkinsop and Alastair Macdonald in Brussels; Writing by Paul Taylor and Alastair Macdonald; Editing by David Stamp, Giles Elgood and Ken Wills)

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Brent holds near $55 after big fall on record U.S. crude stocks

A pump jack is seen at sunrise near Bakersfield, California October 14, 2014.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

A pump jack is seen at sunrise near Bakersfield, California October 14, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

(Reuters) – Brent hovered near $55 a barrel on Thursday after data showed U.S. crude stockpiles set a record for the fifth week in a row, renewing fears that supply is still far outpacing demand.

March Brent futures were up 62 cents to $55.28 a barrel at 0713 GMT, following a 3-percent loss in the previous session that saw prices break below $54 at one point.

U.S. March futures were trading up $1.09 at $49.93, after falling more than 2 percent in the previous session.

“For today, we should expect some recovery considering prices have been dropping,” said Daniel Ang of Phillip Futures in Singapore in a note, adding news of industry restructuring and lower oil rig counts had been temporarily pushing up prices, but crude production still hadn’t actually declined.

Brent prices have gained as much as 30 percent from a mid-January low of $45.19 a barrel, but the benchmark has been pulling back this week as evidence of a continuing glut mounts.

“It is difficult to declare with conviction that oil is back in a bull market,” Nomura analysts said in a note dated Feb. 11.

“It will probably take a few months for the reduction in energy capex budgets to be fully reflected into business activities,” the analysts said, referring to cuts in capital expenditures that would eventually reduce output.

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister met with the chairman of Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom, Saudi state media said, and discussed cooperation between oil producers belonging to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-members like Russia.

Under Saudi guidance, OPEC decided last November not to cut output, allowing oil prices to plunge in an effort to protect its market share against higher-cost producers. Russia would prefer to see much higher prices because cheap oil has put its state finances under heavy pressure.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian peace talks on Wednesday were met by a surge of fighting. Washington is now openly talking of arming Ukraine to defend itself from “Russian aggression”, raising the prospect of a proxy war in the heart of Europe between Cold War foes.

Elsewhere, Saudi Arabia will keep March crude supply to Asia steady, industry sources told Reuters on Thursday.

(Editing by Tom Hogue and Michael Perry)

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Time Warner profit beats as revenue rises in Turner, HBO units

A woman walks past the Time Warner Center near Columbus Circle in Manhattan, New York July 16, 2014. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

A woman walks past the Time Warner Center near Columbus Circle in Manhattan, New York July 16, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Adrees Latif

<span class="articleLocatio

n”>(Reuters) – Time Warner Inc reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit, helped by higher subscription fees for channels under its Turner Broadcasting and HBO units.

Revenue from Turner, which owns channels such as CNN, TNT and Cartoon Network, rose 2.3 percent in the fourth quarter. Revenue from HBO, whose popular shows include “Game of Thrones” and “True Detective”, increased 6.2 percent.

The two businesses together account for more than half of Time Warner’s total revenue.

The company’s shares were little changed at $80.76 in afternoon trading.

“Subscription revenue growth will slow materially this year before re-accelerating well into the double digits in 2016 and beyond,” Chief Financial Officer Howard Averill said on a conference call.

A stronger dollar is expected to hurt subscription revenue to some extent, he said.

Time Warner cut jobs in its Turner unit last year to reduce costs and spun off its publishing business Time Inc to focus on its more profitable broadcasting businesses.

Time Warner is now a “much leaner, faster, quicker organization,” Topeka Capital Markets analyst David Miller told Reuters on Wednesday.

As a result, the company’s margins are expected to grow through 2016, he said.

Time Warner reported margins of 23.4 percent for 2014, adjusting for the separation of Time Inc, compared with 24.3 percent for 2013.

The company is also foraying into video-streaming, with a standalone product for HBO that will make the channel available to people without cable subscriptions this year.

The company forecast adjusted profit of $4.60-$4.70 per share from continuing operations for 2015. Analysts were expecting earnings of $4.66 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Macquarie Research analyst Timothy Nollen said the company’s profit forecast was good, given the negative impact of a stronger dollar.

Net income attributable to Time Warner shareholders fell 27 percent to $718 million, or 84 cents per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31.

Excluding items, the company earned 98 cents.

Revenue fell 1 percent to $7.53 billion, mainly due to a 4.5 percent fall in revenue in its Warner Bros movie studio business.

Analysts an average had expected earnings of 93 cents per share and revenue of $7.55 billion.

(Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila, Savio D’Souza and Kirti Pandey)

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NYC cop charged for stairwell shooting of unarmed man

New York City Police (NYPD) officer Peter Liang arrives at criminal court for an arraignment hearing in the Brooklyn borough of New York City February 11, 2015.   REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

(Reuters) – A New York City rookie police officer was charged during a Wednesday court appearance with manslaughter in the second degree and five other offenses for the fatal shooting of an unarmed man while the officer patrolled the darkened stairwell of a housing project last November.

Officer Peter Liang was patrolling with his partner in the Brooklyn apartment complex about 11:15 p.m. on Nov. 20 when his gun fired a single bullet, killing Akai Gurley, 28, who was in the stairwell a flight below with his girlfriend.

(Reporting by Sebastien Malo; Editing by Christian Plumb)

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Costa Concordia captain sentenced to 16 years jail for disaster

Captain of the Costa Concordia cruise liner Francesco Schettino walks in court during his trial in Grosseto February 11, 2015.  REUTERS/Max Rossi

(Reuters) – An Italian court sentenced the former captain of the Costa Concordia cruise liner to 16 years in prison on Wednesday for his role in the 2012 shipwreck that killed 32 people off the Tuscan holiday island of Giglio.

Francesco Schettino was commanding the vessel, a floating hotel as long as three football pitches, when it came too close to shore and hit rocks off the island, tearing a hole in its side.

Schettino was convicted of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his passengers in one of the highest-profile shipping disasters in recent years.

However, he will not actually go to jail before the end of Italy’s long appeals process, which can take years after the court said he would not be imprisoned or put under house arrest until the whole appeals process is complete.

Investigators severely criticised Schettino’s handling of the disaster, accusing him of bringing the 290 metre-long vessel too close to shore. The subsequent shipwreck set off a chaotic night evacuation of more than 4,000 passengers and crew.

He was also accused of delaying evacuation and abandoning ship before all the 4,229 passengers and crew had been rescued.

Prosecutors had asked for a prison sentence of 26 years for Schettino, who has admitted some responsibility but denied blame for the deaths that occurred during the evacuation.

The court sentenced Schettino to 10 years for multiple manslaughter, 5 years for causing the shipwreck and one year for abandoning his passengers. In addition he received a one month civil penalty for failure to report the accident correctly.

He was left alone in the dock to answer for the disaster after the ship’s owners Costa Cruises, a unit of Carnival Corp, paid a 1 million euro ($1.1 million) fine and prosecutors accepted plea bargains from five other officials.

He and Costa Cruises were jointly ordered to pay a total of 30,000 euros compensation to each of the ship’s passengers as well as millions of euros in compensation to Italian government ministries, the region of Tuscany and the island of Giglio for environmental damage.

Earlier on Wednesday Schettino had rejected prosecution accusations that he had shown no sense of responsibility or compassion for the victims, saying “grief should not be put on show to make a point.”

The massive hulk of the Costa Concordia was left abandoned on its side for two-and-a-half years before it was towed away in the most expensive maritime wreck recovery in history. The last body was not recovered until last year.

Schettino’s defence team argued he prevented an even worse disaster by steering the ship close to the island as it sank. They said the sentence that was sought by prosecutors went beyond even sentences sought for mafia killers.

(Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Susan Fenton)

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Obama administration weighs Afghan request to slow withdrawal of U.S. troops

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about his plan for free community college education and middle class economics during a visit Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, Indiana, February 6, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about his plan for free community college education and middle class economics during a visit Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, Indiana, February 6, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

(Reuters) – President Barack Obama is considering a request from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to slow the pace of the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, a senior administration official said on Wednesday.

“President Ghani has requested some flexibility in the troop drawdown timeline and base closure sequencing over the next two years, and we are actively considering that request,” the official said, speaking on background.

Ghani will travel to Washington next month to meet with Obama. Last month, the Afghan president spoke publicly about the U.S. plan to halve the number of troops in Afghanistan in 2015 and cut them further in 2016. He made clear he would prefer a longer timeline and said: “deadlines should not be dogmas.”

The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan ended its combat mission after 13 years of war at the end of 2014. About 13,000 foreign troops, mostly Americans, remain to train Afghan forces.

Afghan troops continue to fight Taliban militants. Last year was the most violent since the war began, the International Committee of the Red Cross has said.

U.S. officials are looking for ways to support Afghanistan.

U.S. General John Campbell, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan, has developed recommendations on ways to train, advise and assist Afghan forces and maintain counterterrorism capabilities, the official said.

The White House has already twice adjusted its plans to cut U.S. troops to about 5,000 by the end of this year and draw down to a “normal” U.S. embassy presence in Kabul at the end of 2016.

Ashton Carter, Obama’s pick to lead the Pentagon, told Congress last week that he was open to adjusting the drawdown plan.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by David Storey and Jonathan Oatis)

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