Dmitri Medvedev - Russian President Vladimir Putin's hand-picked successor - has won a landslide victory in Sunday's presidential election. Medvedev earned 70 percent of the vote - far ahead of Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov with 18 percent, and ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky's 10 percent. Nearly all the votes have been counted. Mr. Putin claimed victory for Medvedev and congratulated his 42-year-old successor. The two men joined an outdoor celebration under snowy skies late Sunday in Moscow's Red Square.
Israeli ground troops withdrew from northern Gaza before dawn today (Monday) after a five-day offensive that left more than 100 Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers dead. Israeli air strikes and Palestinian rocket fire continued today, even after the troop withdrawal from congested Jabalya where fighting raged in recent days. An Israeli government spokesman (Mark Regev) says the Israeli troops could return at any time. Hamas militants call the pullout a victory.
IRAQ-IRAN: ranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in Baghdad today (Monday) for the second and final day of his landmark visit to Iraq, two decades after the nations ended a bloody war. The Iranian president met with his Iraqi counterpart, Jalal Talabani, on Sunday. The two leaders declared a new chapter in neighborly relations. Mr. Talabani said he discussed cooperation in economic, security and oil matters with his Iranian counterpart. Mr. Ahmadinejad described Sunday's meeting as very positive. He said a developed, powerful and united Iraq will benefit the region.
Venezuela and Ecuador moved their armies to the Colombian border and shut down their embassies in Bogota amid rising tensions about Colombia's cross-border raid against FARC rebels in Ecuador. The Colombian government says (Sunday) it was necessary for Colombian troops to enter Ecuador Saturday for a military operation against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The raid left 18 people dead, including FARC leader Raul Reyes.
CHINA POL: Chinese state media say more non-communists will be given top government posts following last year's appointment of the first two ministers from outside the Communist Party since the late 1970s. China's eight non-communist parties are reported to have a combined membership of 700-thousand. The media cited Wu Jianmin, who is spokesman for the first session of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. The meeting opens today (Monday) ahead of China's legislature.
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