Main news of December 22

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A roundup of what has happened in the past 24 hours

WORLD

* Russia has condemned the terrorist attacks in Iraq that killed at least 49 people, the Foreign Ministry said

* Representatives of the Syrian opposition will gather for a meeting proposed by the Arab League at the beginning of 2012, Arab media reported

* Moscow criticized UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for defending the NATO operation in Libya and ignoring data on civilian casualties collected by a number of UN member states, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said

* France’s lower house of parliament passed a bill making denial of the Armenian genocide a crime punishable by a 45,000-euro fine and a year in jail

* A series of bombings struck the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, killing at least 49 people and leaving many more wounded

* A court in New York turned down convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout's appeal that argued the impartiality of at least one juror in his conviction last month was in doubt

* Human Rights Watch called on Kazakh authorities to investigate allegations of torture of Zhanaozen protesters while the top Kazakh prosecutor invited UN experts to help with investigations

RUSSIA

* Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s proposals for reforming the country’s political system are not linked to recent protest rallies against unfair elections, the speakers of both houses of parliament said

* The head of the liberal Yabloko party was skeptical about prospects for implementing the political reforms proposed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

* MegaFon, one of the "big three" mobile phone operators in Russia, began offering the BlackBerry, a leading wireless platform, to mobile customers in Russia

* Rescue workers concluded a search of the waters around an oil rig that overturned five days ago in Russia's Far East, officials said

* Outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev proposed a sweeping reform of Russia’s political system, including direct elections for regional governors

* Dmitry Medvedev appointed former deputy prime minister Sergei Ivanov head of the presidential administration

* Medvedev proposed setting up public television in Russia whose policy would be governed by the public rather than by the state or the channel owners

* Medvedev called for curbs on contracts involving companies headed by relatives of government officials

* Russia’s chief election official has proposed making ballot boxes fully transparent to prevent fraud at the presidential election next March

* Medvedev said Russia would not accept interference in its internal affairs

* Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has $179,612 in the bank and has earned just over half a million dollars in the past four years, Russia's Central Election Commission said

BUSINESS

* The Moscow city government has sold National, a posh hotel and a historic landmark in the heart of Russia's capital across the street from the Kremlin, at Thursday's auction for 4.674 billion rubles ($148 million) to Smart Finance Group, a firm close to Russian B&N Bank co-owner Mikhail Gutseriyev

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