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Ireland may OK $112 billion bank bailout

DUBLIN _ Ireland is in the final stages of negotiating an international bailout for its banks before markets open on Monday as workers march to protest budget cuts.

Euro region finance ministers may seal an agreement with Ireland today at a meeting slated to start at 1 p.m. in Brussels, European Union officials said on condition of anonymity. Prime Minister Brian Cowen estimates it may amount to $112 billion.

Irish police estimate 20,000 people took to the streets of Dublin as bailout talks focus on the interest rate charged to Ireland and the fate of senior bondholders. A finance ministry spokesman said the rate will be "sustainable" after state broadcaster RTE reported that nine-year loans from the EU and the International Monetary Fund may cost as much as 6.7 percent.

Pope calls for more respect for human life

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI called Saturday for politicians, the media and world leaders to show more respect for human life at its earliest stages, saying embryos aren't just biological material but dynamic, autonomous individuals.

Benedict made the comments during a vespers service to mark the beginning of Advent, the period leading up to Christmas when the faithful mark the birth of Christ. This year, the Vatican urged bishops around the world to make the service a vigil for "nascent human life."

Benedict stressed the need to protect human life from the moment of conception in his homily Saturday.

The service came amid continued fallout from the pope's remarks about condoms and HIV contained in a book-length interview published this week.

Benedict said people who use condoms are edging toward a greater morality because they're aiming to protect their partners from HIV — even when a pregnancy is possible.

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