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Briefs (right)

Russian Group to Buy
Oregon Steel Mill

By Andrew E. Kramer


The Russian billionaire Roman A. Abramovich offered $2.3 billion on Monday for an Oregon steel mill in what would be the largest Russian investment to date in the United States.

The Evraz Group, controlled by Abramovich and Russian partners, offered $63.25 a share in an all-cash bid for Oregon Steel Mills, a maker of the rails used in railroad tracks and of large-diameter pipes; it is based in Portland, Ore. The board of Oregon Steel endorsed the deal on Sunday. It was a 7 percent premium to the company’s closing share price of $58.96 on Friday on the New York Stock Exchange.

If approved, the takeover would plant another Russian business flag abroad as Russian companies, flat on their backs a decade ago, make a strong comeback, helped by high commodity prices.

Also on Monday, Norilsk Nickel, owned by the billionaires Vladimir O. Potanin and Mikhail D. Prokhorov, offered $408 million in cash for the nickel-producing assets of the OM Group, based in Cleveland, Bloomberg News reported.

The Oregon offer is the latest evidence of a global trend toward consolidation in the steel industry. Steel makers in India, Brazil, and Russia are buying plants in Europe and North America, shifting power in the industry away from first world companies and showing the clout of commodity-based economies. This spring, Arcelor of Luxembourg merged with Mittal Steel, owned by the Indian tycoon Lakshmi N. Mittal, after rejecting a rival offer from Severstal of Russia.

Yes, He Lost Mexico’s Vote,
So He’s Swearing Himself in

By James C. McKinley Jr.

Don Quixote, move over. The losing leftist candidate for president swore himself in on Monday as “the legitimate president of Mexico” before a huge crowd of his avid fans, ignoring rulings by federal electoral authorities and the courts that he narrowly lost the election last July.

The candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor who took on Mexico’s entrenched oligarchy, chose the anniversary of the Mexican revolution for the event. He has continued to assert that his opponents used fraud to deny him victory.

Appearing on a stage in the historic Constitution Plaza, with Mexican flags and an enormous eagle banner behind him, he promised to goad the government of the president-elect, Felipe Calderon, a conservative from President Vicente Fox’s National Action Party, into adopting Lopez Obrador’s proposals.

About 100,000 people crowded into the square and roared with approval when a copy of the traditional green, white and red presidential banner was placed across his chest.

“We are assembled here to confront a fraudulent election,” he said, “and to take on a regime of corruption and privileges, to start the construction of a new republic.”

Syria and Iraq Restore Ties
Severed in the Saddam Era

By Sabrina Tavernise

Iraq re-established diplomatic relations with Syria on Monday, agreeing to restore an embassy in Baghdad after more than 20 years with no formal avenues of communication.

The step came on the second day of a two-day visit by Syria’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, who met with the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri Kamal al-Maliki, in the international Green Zone here.

As the United States undertakes a broad review of its role in Iraq, the neighboring countries of Iran, Turkey and Syria have stepped forward to try to position themselves in case of a major change in policy, leading to a recent flurry of diplomatic efforts. The countries are also concerned about the possibility of a political collapse as the Iraqi government sinks into paralysis with its two main sects stuck in a deadlock.

A government spokesman said President Jalal Talabani would travel to Iran for meetings with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the weekend.

Syria cut off relations with Saddam Hussein’s government in 1982 after siding with Iran in that country’s war with Iraq. The break was complete: Iraqis could not travel to Syria, nor call on the phone. The countries re-established trade relations in 1997, and Iraqis could visit.

News Corp. Cancels O.J.
Simpson Book and Interview

By Bill Carter
and Edward Wyatt

Bowing to intense pressure both outside and inside the company, the News Corp. on Monday canceled its plans to publish a book and broadcast an interview with O.J. Simpson in which he was to give a hypothetical account of how he might have murdered his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.

The company was responding to a week’s worth of ferocious criticism that included threats of boycotts of advertisers who might sponsor the television broadcast on the Fox network, refusals by stations to carry the program, open opposition from television hosts like Bill O’Reilly, on the Fox News Channel — which, like Fox, is owned by the News Corp. — and statements by stores that they might not stock the book, which was titled “If I Did It.” The book was to be published by HarperCollins, also owned by News Corp.

Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp., issued a statement Monday announcing that the television show would not be broadcast and the book would not be published.

“I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project,” Murdoch said.