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    Main news of December 24

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    RUSSIA

    * Boris Gryzlov, a leader of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, has been reelected speaker of the new State Duma, the lower house of parliament, following the December 2 elections

    * Russia's arms and military equipment exports in 2007 could exceed $7 billion, Sergei Ivanov, a first deputy prime minister, said

    * Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi successfully completed the Russian phase of in-flight tests of a new engine for its SuperJet 100 regional aircraft, a co-designer said

    * Russia will become the world's fifth largest economy by 2020, if its GDP continues to grow 6-7% per year, the Russian economics minister said

    * Moscow regards U.S. plans to deploy missile defense bases in Central Europe as an attempt to weaken Russia's nuclear deterrent, the official Foreign Ministry spokesman said

    * First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov said Kosovo's independence would not make it an automatic solution for other breakaway regions and warned that new tensions were looming

    * Alexander Funin, a top expert at Russia's leading VTB bank, was found dead at the weekend marking a second death among staff at the state-controlled bank in the past month, police said

    WORLD

    * Iran has turned down demands by the United States to halt its uranium enrichment program as a precondition for direct negotiations with Washington, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said

    * Nepal's government reached a political deal with former rebels to abolish the country's 250-year-old monarchy and establish a democracy after general elections in April 2008, local media said

    * Iran will carry on with uranium enrichment operations despite nuclear fuel supplies from Russia, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry said

    * Japan's Cabinet endorsed a review of emergency missile defense rules giving Self-Defense Forces (SDF) the discretion to fire missile interceptors without the premier's go ahead, the Kyodo agency said

    * Russia will have a good chance of participation in the construction of new nuclear power plants in Iran if it completes the Bushehr nuclear power plant on time, a top Iranian official said

    * Libya's leader Colonel Muammar Qaddafi met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Tripoli to discuss bilateral relations and international issues

    * At least five people were killed when a 12-storey residential building collapsed in Egypt's Mediterranean city of Alexandria, the local governor said

    * According to preliminary results posted by Uzbekistan's Central Election Commission, incumbent leader Islam Karimov received 88.1% of votes in Sunday's presidential polls

    * Georgia's top prosecutors accused the head of billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili's campaign headquarters of planning to stage a coup in the Caucasus state after presidential polls on January 5

    * Fifty nine people from Russia's Chechen Republic have been detained in Poland as they attempted to illegally cross the country's border with Germany, a border guard service official said

    * The Kyrgyz parliament elected a new prime minister and speaker, following parliamentary elections December 16 which saw a landslide victory for the presidential Ak Zhol party

    BUSINESS

    * Companies in which foreign investors hold a controlling stake could gain access to Russian deposits of national importance, Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev said

    * Gas exports from Russia's Siberian and Far Eastern regions to Asia and Pacific countries could eventually top 50 billion cubic meters, a Gazprom official said

    * A subsidiary of Russian energy giant Gazprom has asked permission from the Federal Antitrust Service (FAS) to buy a 50% stake in Tomskneft from oil company Rosneft, the Kommersant business daily reported

    *  Armenia is not ruling out extending the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline to Europe, the Armenian energy minister said

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