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Main news of December 19

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RUSSIA

* U.S. magazine Time declared Russian President Vladimir Putin "Person of the Year" for bringing stability to his country and raising Russia's role on the global stage

* Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with the Time magazine:

- If he is appointed prime minister after he steps down as president in March 2008 he will focus on the economy and welfare

- He hopes there is no hidden agenda behind a recent report released by U.S. intelligence services saying there was no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program

- He calls on the United States to set an exact date for pulling out U.S. troops from Iraq

- The United States divided the Ukrainian people into "pro-Western" and "pro-Russian" sides

- The Russian radical opposition was an instrument used by some countries to influence Russia, which provoked the authorities into taking tough measures against its activists

- He praises the U.S. leader for organizing an international meeting on the Middle East in Annapolis in November saying it was a positive example of considering others' interests

- Low wages for state and government officials who make financially significant decisions are a factor in the country's rampant corruption

- He praises the professional skills, competence and integrity of his U.S. counterpart George W. Bush

- Russian authorities will do everything possible to complete the investigation into the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, but there are some "problems with the evidence"

- Russia's revival is the main focus of his life, the goal for which he is ready to sacrifice his personal interests

* A new multiple-warhead missile system armed with Topol-M multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV) will go into service in Russia's Armed Forces soon, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said

* Russian opposition leader Garry Kasparov said the Person of the Year 2007 title awarded to Russian President Vladimir Putin by U.S. magazine Time was no compliment

* Russia put the details of 255 suspects or convicted criminals wanted by Russian law enforcement bodies on Interpol's wanted list, Timur Lakhonin, the crime organization's Russia chief, said

* Russia's Federal Security Service terminated the activities of 22 staff members and 71 agents working for foreign intelligence agencies in 2007, FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev said

* Russia's Constitutional Court refused to consider an appeal from supporters of Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky against a ban on presidential candidates holding dual nationality

* Russian investigators have concluded that there are 35 sect members holed up in a cave in the country's Penza Region, a spokeswoman for the region's top investigator said

* A group of Orthodox Christians in northwest Russia have accused Coca-Cola of offending their religious beliefs with adverts that use distorted images of Orthodox churches, including inverted crosses

WORLD

* At least 58 people were killed and over 100 injured when an express train full of passengers travelling home for the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha derailed in southern Pakistan

* The EU and NATO will decide on the status of Kosovo after the UN Security Council failed to reach a compromise between Belgrade and Pristina, EU and U.S. representatives said

* The Turkish Army has conducted a major operation in northern Iraq, killing at least 35 Kurdish militants and wounding 20, national media reported

* Former Seoul mayor and businessman Lee Myung-bak won a landslide victory in Wednesday's presidential election in South Korea, national media reported

* Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged to continue "hunting" Palestinian radicals and praised air strikes which left at least ten Gaza militants dead in the past two days

* Muslims all around the world have celebrated Eid ul-Adha, which marks the Prophet Ibrahim's readiness to sacrifice his son Ismael for Allah

* Latvia will buy two long-range air surveillance radars from the U.S. Lockheed Martin Corporation in a deal worth $44 million, the company's official website said

* Estonia's parliament voted 53-29 in favor of extending the country's military deployment in Iraq until the end of 2008, the parliamentary press service reported

* Moldova's breakaway republic of Transdnestr will seek independence from Moldova, if the Kosovo issue is resolved in favor of Albanian separatists, the Transdnestr parliament speaker said

BUSINESS

* Angola's Oil Ministry has granted an oil and gas prospecting license to a consortium involving the Russian diamond producer, Alrosa, the company said

* Russia's environmental regulator said it is fining the operator of the Sakhalin II oil and gas project in the Far East more than 390 million rubles ($15.8 million) for deforestation

* Belarus will continue negotiations on the price of Russian natural gas in 2008, a Belarusian deputy prime minister said

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