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Japan's premier survives a vote

SEOUL, South Korea - Vowing to stay in office only a few more months to guide the response to the nation's nuclear crisis, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Thursday survived a parliamentary no-confidence vote aimed at driving him from power.

Kan, who assumed his job last June, cut a backroom political deal with members of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan only hours before the parliamentary vote. "I want the younger generation to take over my duties after I fulfill the role I should play in handling the disaster," a somber Kan, 64, told legislators.

He said he needed the time to help rebuild the nation after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan, leaving 25,000 people dead or missing and causing a major meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

The final tally of the no-confidence vote, sponsored by the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, was 293 against ousting Kan and 152 supporting the move. Still, Kan's critics say the lame-duck prime minister will be unable to inspire any consensus in a divided parliament.

- Los Angeles Times

Iranian president gives up oil post

TEHRAN, Iran - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad withdrew as the caretaker chief of the country's vital oil sector and named an ally to run the ministry, state TV reported Thursday.

A day after Iran's parliament voted to take Ahmadinejad to court for taking over the ministry, the president handed the job to Mohammad Aliabadi. He has served as head of Iran's national Olympic committee, vice president in charge of physical education, and head of the fishery organization.

The threat to take Ahmadinejad to court reflected the escalating power struggle between the president and the hard-line establishment that has turned against him in advance of parliamentary elections in March and the presidential vote in mid-2013.

- AP

Ex-banker wins Latvia presidency

RIGA, Latvia - A banker-turned-politician won Latvia's presidential ballot Thursday, defeating the incumbent president who derailed his reelection bid at the last minute with a move to dissolve the parliament.

Challenger Andris Berzins, 66, triumphed with a simple majority of 53 votes in the second round of voting in the 100-seat assembly. The first round of voting earlier Thursday failed to produce a winner.

He will take over as head of state in a country whose economy was wrecked in the global downturn, with gross domestic product falling 18 percent in 2009 - the steepest drop in the 27-nation European Union. - AP


A series of bombings ripped through Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's western Anbar province Thursday night, killing nine people and injuring at least 25, Iraqi officials said. The blasts in what was the heartland of the al-Qaeda in Iraq insurgency are a reminder of the danger still facing Iraq as it prepares for the departure of the remaining U.S. troops.