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In talks on Greek bailout, hope shifts to central bank

BRUSSELS — The European Central Bank may forgo future profits on its Greek bonds as efforts remain under way to fill a financial hole that has been obstructing a second bailout for Greece.

Talks among senior European officials in Brussels ended Tuesday without any commitment from the central bank but with hopes still alive that the bank will agree to the deal.

Because the European Central Bank bought Greek bonds, with an estimated face value of 50 billion euros, at a discount to their market price, it could enter into a deal that would cause it to give up future gains without taking a loss, said a European official, requesting anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The precise financing gap needs to be filled even after private-sector investors agree, as expected, to take losses in excess of 50 percent on their bonds. Their losses alone will not be enough to allow Greece to hit its target ratio of debt to gross domestic product of 120 percent by 2020.

The issue of how to fill the gap must be resolved before Greece can qualify for a second bailout, expected to total around 130 billion euros ($170 billion).

—Stephen Castle and Jack Ewing, The New York Times

Repeat breast cancer surgery guidelines found unclear

Some women who have lumpectomies for breast cancer may then undergo second operations they do not need, because guidelines for deciding who requires repeat surgery are unclear, a new study finds. It also hints that some women who might benefit from further surgery may be missing out on it.

The additional operations are done when pathology reports on tumor specimens suggest that the first operation may have left behind some cancer cells. But surgeons differ when it comes to interpreting those reports.

Such uncertainty about a cancer operation that has been in use for 30 years is “a shame,” said Dr. Laurence E. McCahill, the first author of the study, and a surgeon and assistant director of the Lacks Cancer Center in Grand Rapids, Mich.

McCahill’s study, published online Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association, is based on the medical records of 2,206 women who had lumpectomies at one of four hospitals in different parts of the country. Overall, 22.9 percent had more than one operation.

—Denise Grady, The New York Times

Divers suspend underwater search of stricken Italian liner

FLORENCE, Italy — The Italian Civil Protection Agency said on Tuesday that deteriorating safety conditions had forced divers to suspend the underwater search for missing people in a wrecked cruise ship off the island of Giglio.

The ship, the Costa Concordia, struck a reef on Jan. 13, keeled over and foundered just offshore, with the loss of at least 17 lives.

A formal decision to call off the search is likely on Wednesday, rescue officials said.

Sixteen people are still listed as missing from among the ship’s complement of more 4,200 passengers and crew. But the agency said that conditions in the submerged parts of the vessel, which is lying at a steep angle on rocks in relatively shallow water outside Giglio’s tiny port, were too dangerous for rescuers to continue work there.

However, the agency said in a statement, rescuers would continue searching parts of the wreck that remain above water.

Divers were also investigating whether objects in the sea surrounding the wreck were human remains. Last week, Italian navy divers identified 16 objects in the water surrounding the half-sunken ship, but it was not clear whether they were bodies or other objects from the ship.

—Gaia Pianigiani and Alan Cowell, The New York Times

Communist official in Tibet orders increased security

BEIJING — The top Communist Party official in the Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, has urged security personnel to step up surveillance of monasteries and along pivotal roads through the region during what he warned would be a period of heightened social turbulence.

“Strive to realize the goal of ‚‘no big incidents, no medium incidents and not even a small incident,”’ the official, Qi Zhala, said in comments published Tuesday in the state-owned Tibet Daily.

The comments came at time of increasing tension in ethnically Tibetan parts of China, especially in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

Last week at least three people were shot and killed by Chinese forces during protests in the remote, mountainous portions of the province bordering Tibet, according to Tibetan exile groups outside China. Scores of others were reportedly wounded, although the reports could not be verified because the entire region is off-limits to foreign journalists.

The government-run news media have vacillated between censoring accounts of the episodes and blaming the Western media for exaggerating the violence. Many of the injured, government-run news outlets said, were actually police officers wounded after Tibetan protesters attacked police stations or opened fire.

The episodes, the most serious outburst of unrest since anti-Chinese rioting killed 18 people in Lhasa in 2008, follow a spate of self-immolations that have bedeviled the authorities. In recent months 11 people, most of them Buddhist monks and nuns, have died after setting themselves on fire.

Exile groups say the self-immolations, numbering at least 16 in the past year, are desperate acts of protest against Beijing’s heavy-handed policies; the Chinese government says they are orchestrated by the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader, in an effort to gain international sympathy for his cause.

—Andrew Jacobs, The New York Times