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Google Spoils Microsoft’s Yahoo Bid

Microsoft and Yahoo were pushed to the brink of a multibillion-dollar marriage and then to a sudden break-up this weekend by the same player.

It was Google, in the odd dual role as both unwitting matchmaker and self-interested spoiler.

Google’s phenomenal rise, after all, prodded Microsoft, the dominant technology company for more than two decades, to court Yahoo. And Google’s success also weakened Yahoo enough to give Microsoft the sense that it could buy the company at a good price.

A combined Microsoft-Yahoo would create a powerful competitor, and Google early on indicated that it would fight the merger on antitrust grounds in Washington and Brussels.

But Google played a part in killing the deal, for now at least, by acting more as friend than foe. It offered to let Yahoo use its more sophisticated search advertising technology, which by some estimates would have meant $1 billion more revenue a year for Yahoo. The partnership would also bring Google more revenue.

The prospect of such a partnership emboldened Yahoo’s board to demand more money for the company and eventually caused Microsoft to rethink its strategy.

Steven A. Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, cited the proposed Google partnership as the main reason for not pursuing a hostile bid and instead walking away on Saturday.

In Sichuan, Protest Cites Pollution Risk Of New Plant

Residents took to the streets of a provincial capital over the weekend to protest a multibillion-dollar petrochemical plant backed by China’s leading state-run oil company, in the latest instance of popular discontent over an environmental threat in a major city.

The protest, against a $5.5 billion ethylene plant under construction by PetroChina in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, reflected a surge in environmental awareness by urban, middle-class Chinese determined to protect their health and the value of their property. A similar protest last year, against a Taiwanese-financed petrochemical venture in Xiamen, in China’s southeast, left that project in limbo.

The recent protest, which was peaceful, was organized through Web sites, blogs and cell phone text messages, illustrating how some Chinese are using digital technology to spur civic movements, which are usually banned by the police. Organizers also used text messages to publicize their cause nationally.

Iran Rejects More Talks On Iraq With U.S.

As American strikes on Shiite armed fighters in Baghdad have widened, Iran has suspended talks with the United States on Iraqi security, citing the continued offensive as the reason, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said Monday.

American forces were responding to fire from Shiite militias in the Amel neighborhood in western Baghdad, and in eastern Baghdad, they hammered both the nearby district of New Baghdad during the day and the Shiite ghetto of Sadr City on Monday night.

“The focus of discussions with the U.S. is Iraq’s security and stability,” said Mohammad Ali Hosseini, the spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry in Tehran, according to IRNA, the official Iranian news agency.

“We are witnessing indiscriminate bombardment of Iraqi residential areas by the U.S. occupying forces,” Hosseini told reporters at his weekly news conference.