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News stand: What the papers say

FINANCIAL TIMES

Costain is set to reach its 2003 profit targets, bringing to a close its period of financial recovery.

The Foreign Office is considering spending tens of millions of pounds re-siting many of its Middle East and North African embassies in the light of recent terrorist attacks.

Changes would include protecting embassies from truck bombs by locating offices further from roads and putting in bollards.

THE INDEPENDENT

Train and bus operator FirstGroup is considering pulling out of bidding for the Scottish rail franchise after the Office of Fair Trading referred its bid to the Competition Commission. The OFT fears FirstGroup would damage competition in passenger transport if it won the contract.

Plans for renewable energy expansion could create up to 35,000 jobs, according to a government Renewables Advisory Board report last week. New wind, wave and biomass power stations worth up to £20bn could be built.

Plans for the high-speed rail link between London and Scotland have been postponed indefinitely after concerns about escalating costs and government public spending.

THE SCOTSMAN

Torness nuclear power station in East Lothian, Thornton Colliery in Fife and a distillery in Edinburgh are all up for listed status as examples of important 20th century design, says the Royal Incorporation of Architects Scotland.

THE TIMES

Consultants have told the water regulator that huge mergers between water companies would not be beneficial. Such deals would reduce the regulator's ability to set price controls, according to the report by Stone & Webster.

The government announced plans for a £63M network of country parks and green spaces in south east England last week. The spaces will provide leisure and recreation areas for new housing developments in Ashford in Kent, Milton Keynes in the South Midlands, the London/ Stanstead/Cambridge corridor and the Thames Gateway.

Insurers could demand that homes be certified flood-proof before providing cover for new homes in flood-prone areas. The Association of British Insurers, the Council of Mortgage Lenders and building research body BRE are in talks to consider the deal.

THE OBSERVER

Amec has failed to win $2bn (£1.25bn) worth of reconstruction contracts in Iraq. The work on offer from the US Army Corps of Engineers has been split between US company KBR in the south and a partnership between Parsons and the Australian Worley Group in the north.

THE IRISH TIMES

Urban growth and prosperity appears to be directly linked to the level of infrastructure available, according to a study by the Central Statistics Office last week. It showed that cities and large towns with good roads, ports, railways and airports did better economically.

THE GUARDIAN

Fears persist over water shortages despite copious new year rainfall because there has not been enough drizzle, according to Jacob Tomkins of Water UK. Underwater stocks remain low and rainfall of 30% over the seasonal average is needed to prevent shortages.

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