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White smoke rising from a Sistine Chapel chimney and the pealing of Vatican bells signaled the election of a new pope to succeed John Paul II as head of the Roman Catholic Church. He was identified as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, who will take the name Benedict XVI. Ratzinger, who was considered a favorite for the post, served as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The successful vote came on the second day of deliberations by the 115 members of the College of Cardinals.

The already tense relations between China and Japan took a new turn for the worse as members of the latter's Diet, or parliament, announced plans to visit a shrine on Friday that's considered a glorification of a militarist past. A Diet source said the visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan's war dead, was planned long ago and had nothing to do with the anti-Japanese violence in some of China's largest cities. But the announcement was matched by a Chinese request for "world heritage" status to be conferred by the UN on a germ warfare laboratory used by Japanese occupation troops.

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Her arrival in Moscow diverted because of a bomb threat, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice nonetheless sharply criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin's behavior in office and urged him to keep his pledge not to seek another term after 2008. Rice, a specialist in Russian affairs, is on a two-day visit, her first at the head of the State Department. She told journalists that Putin's centralization of power is "very worrying," although adding that her comments were meant in "a spirit of friendship and discussion." She and Putin are scheduled to meet Wednesday.

The new prime minister-designate of Lebanon announced the formation of a government and pledged to seek the immediate removal of security chiefs who are pro-Syrian. Although he himself has close ties to Syria, Najib Mikati said that as a private citizen he demanded the ouster of the security chiefs and as head of government he'd "relay my point of view to the cabinet, and I promise it will agree with me."

Tens of thousands of people jammed the largest city in Ecuador Monday night, demanding that unpopular President Lucio Gutierrez resign. The protest, led by Guayaquil's mayor, followed by less than 24 hours the approval by Congress of Gutierrez's dismissal of the entire Supreme Court.

By a narrow margin, members of Kuwait's parliament extended the right to run and vote in local elections to women. The measure, OK'd by 26 of the 49 legislators present, does not extend to parliament itself, although a bill to that effect is pending. Although they hold numerous senior roles in business and may serve as diplomats, Kuwaiti women have watched in frustration in recent years as their counterparts in other Persian Gulf states won the right to vote before them.


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