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Appearing at his last annual news conference as president of Russia, Vladimir Putin repeated a threat to "retarget our missiles" at Poland and the Czech Republic if the US builds a planned defense shield there. Ukraine also could be targeted if it joins NATO and allows its soil to be used for Western military operations, he said. But Russia isn't "interested" in a return to cold war-style confrontation with the West, Putin said, contending that "the solution of social and economic problems" are "our main tasks." Russians are to vote March 2 on his successor. Above, a Moscow appliance store clerk watches Putin on a flat-screen TV set.

At Iran's request, a fourth round of meetings on improving security in Iraq will not be held Friday, the US Embassy said. No new date was set. An embassy spokeswoman said, "We're happy to sit down for the talks, but it's increasingly clear that Iran is not." The US has used them to press Iran to stop arming and training Shiite militants in Iraq. Iraq's government announced, however, that Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will make his first visit to Baghdad March 2-3 for talks with senior officials.


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