GERMANY

Party sets stage for Merkel's reelection

Germany's main center-left party cleared the way on Saturday for Angela Merkel to start her third term as chancellor, announcing that its members had voted by a large majority to join the conservative leader in government.

The ballot of the Social Democrats' nearly 475,000 members capped post-World War II Germany's longest effort to form a government. It set the stage for Parliament to reelect Merkel on Tuesday, ending nearly three months of postelection political limbo.

About 76 percent of members who took part approved a deal to form a "grand coalition" government of right and left under Merkel.

Merkel's conservatives won Sept. 22 elections but fell short of a majority and saw their previous pro-business coalition partners lose their parliamentary seats - forcing them to reach across the aisle for new allies. - AP

IRAQ

12 killed in Baghdad

Attacks killed 12 people in the Iraqi capital on Saturday, officials said. Police officials said a car bomb went off in western Baghdad near a tent serving Shiite pilgrims heading to the holy city of Karbala, killing six people and wounding 15 others. Earlier in the day, police said, three people were killed and 11 wounded when a bomb exploded at an outdoor market in the suburb of Nahrawan. Three more were killed in two other bombing. - AP

SPAIN

Run-up to Christmas

About 6,000 people dressed as Santa Claus and his elves raced through the streets of Madrid to promote festive cheer as the country tries to emerge from a two-year recession. Grown-ups dressed in red costumes and, children donned green elf outfits to run the 3.4-miles course. The race Saturday was organized by one of Spain's leading department stores, which contributed 1 euro ($1.34) for each entrant to a charity that buys presents for deprived children. - AP