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Main news of January 9



* Russia started full-scale production of the Su-34 Fullback fighter bomber at a Siberian aircraft plant, plane maker Sukhoi said

* The British Council office in Yekaterinburg resumed its activities after the New Year holidays on Wednesday, despite a Russian Foreign Ministry statement that it had closed down its regional branches

* A local lawmaker escaped uninjured when his car exploded in Russia's North Caucasus Republic of Daghestan, a spokesman for the regional prosecutor's office said

* Russia's anti-monopoly watchdog said it had filed two lawsuits against Austria's Raiffeisenbank and nine Russian insurance companies for breaches of laws on competition protection

* Police detained and later released members of the pro-Kremlin youth movement Nashi as well as the group's head for holding an unsanctioned rally near the EU office in Moscow  

* At least seven people, including a child, died in a household gas blast in a residential building in Kazan, the capital of the Russian Volga republic of Tatarstan, a local rescue team spokesman said

* A court in St. Petersburg ordered former WBA Heavyweight Champion Nikolai Valuyev to pay 130,000 rubles (about $5,300) for assaulting a 61-year-old security guard in January 2006

* Inflation in Russia stood at 11.9% in 2007, despite forecasts that it would exceed 12%, the country's statistics service said

* Russia's Stabilization Fund stood at 3.85 trillion rubles ($157 billion) on January 1, 2008, compared to 2.35 trillion rubles ($89.1 billion) a year earlier, the Finance Ministry said



* Democrat hopeful Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain won the New Hampshire presidential primary in the U.S.

* A private U.S. intelligence agency, Stratfor, said Russia is now more powerful than at any time since the fall of the U.S.S.R.

* Mikheil Saakashvili won a new term as Georgian president following Saturday's polls, the head of the Central Election Commission confirmed

* United States leader George W. Bush started an eight-day Middle East tour designed to build on goals set at the U.S.-sponsored Annapolis conference in November

* The Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa, arrived in Lebanon to offer a plan to tackle a protracted political crisis in the country

* A senior official in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards said the U.S. video recording of Sunday's alleged confrontation between Iranian and U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf was a fake

* Serbian Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac said Belgrade would not use military force to thwart Kosovo's drive for independence

* Turkish television said Iran would resume natural gas deliveries to Turkey within a few days following a halt in supplies earlier this week

* Belarus set up a state-controlled directorate to oversee a project to build the country's first nuclear power plant, a deputy energy minister said

* Police in Brazil recovered two paintings by Pablo Picasso and Candido Portinari worth an estimated $56 million which were stolen last month from the Sao Paulo Museum of Art, local officials said

* Excavations at the Kerala state in southwest India suggest that its ancient habitants may have had maritime links with the Mediterranean and China over 2,500 years ago, the Hindu newspaper said

* Medical scientists in Egypt found that shisha smoking poses a greater health threat than cigarettes, contrary to popular belief among water pipe smokers


* Russian-American joint venture International Launch Services (ILS) received $1.5 billion in new launch orders in 2007, the company said on its Web site

* Severstal, Russia's top steel producer, acquired 100% of Baracom Limited, consolidating 71.1% of U.S. - based company SeverCorr's shares as a result, the company said in a statement

* Global economic growth will slow down to 3.3% in 2008 from 3.6% in 2007, the World Bank said in a report

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