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Top 4 Political Stories of the Day

German Chancellor Angela Merkel threw her weight behind Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday as the leading conservative candidate in May's European Parliament elections, a potential springboard to head the European Commission. It was her first public endorsement of the veteran former prime minister and ex-chairman of euro zone finance ministers and it appeared to dim the prospects of French European Commissioner Michel Barnier, the only other declared candidate. As leader of Europe's biggest economy and most powerful conservative party, Merkel wields strong influence in the center-right European People's Party (EPP). "It is no secret that I have a lot of sympathy for Jean-Claude Juncker," she said at a joint news conference with new Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who ousted Juncker after a general election last October. According to Syria's state-run TV, the Syrian government reached an agreement with the United Nations on Thursday to secure the evacuation of hundreds of trapped civilians from besieged parts of the central city of Homs. The talks failed to achieve any concrete results on the evacuation of civilians and humanitarian aid convoys to the area. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said at a briefing Thursday that Moscow was encouraging the Syrian government to "cooperate constructively" with international humanitarian agencies to help improve conditions for civilians and to reach agreements on local truces and prisoners releases. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich told a senior U.S. official on Thursday that "dialogue and compromise" were the only way out of the political crisis gripping Ukraine. Yanukovich met U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland to discuss a solution to anti-government protests which have swept the ex-Soviet republic since November last year. They also discussed political reform and possible further negotiations between the President and opposition leaders. In talks with Nuland, Yanukovich said he supported opposition demands for reform of the constitution though this had to be carried out through a process involving the constitutional court and further hearings in parliament. Protests began when Yanukovich spurned an EU trade agreement last year in pursuit of closer ties with Russia. The Bharatiya Janata Party and Communist Party of India-Marxist blamed the Congress Thursday for the repeated disruption of parliament, as both houses lost another day over Telangana and other issues. BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said, "The onus of non-functioning of both the houses is on Congress Their chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy is sitting on a protest. CPI-M leader, Sitaram Yechury, said the Congress party needed to put its own house in order to make parliament function.

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