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The European Union took a historic leap towards greater integration just hours ahead of a summit Thursday, with a deal on a banking union aimed at preventing a repeat of the eurozone's crippling crises of the past. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, just beginning a fresh four-year mandate, will be closely watched at the summit for her reaction to the agreement, which marks one of the biggest transfers of national sovereignty to the bloc since the creation of its single currency. The deal is expected to bolster her pledge ahead of the summit to, together with key partner France, build a stronger Europe. Invigorated by a third term as leader of Europe's biggest economy, she has also signalled her determination to push through unpopular reforms to ensure the financial stability of the 28-nation bloc.
South Sudan rebels seized a key town Thursday as days of fierce fighting sparked fears of a descent into civil war, with regional countries scrambling to kickstart peace efforts. Rebelling troops loyal to fugitive former vice president Riek Machar seized the town of Bor late on Wednesday, army spokesman Philip Aguer said, as fighting continued following an alleged failed coup bid against South Sudan President Salva Kiir. "Our soldiers have lost control of Bor to the force of Riek Machar late on Wednesday... there was shooting last night," Aguer told AFP. He confirmed that some 450 people had been killed in Juba since battles broke out late on Sunday, including around a hundred soldiers, but added that troops had "restored calm" in the capital of the world's youngest nation.