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Putin Says Russia Will Never be a 'Dictatorship'

Russia will never become a dictatorship, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Wednesday, as he continued his bid for a third term as president despite unprecedented protests against his rule.

"We have an open country and no matter what they say or write, no matter what scary statements they make about some sort of dictatorship, we don't have that and -- I hope -- never will," he told students of Tomsk Polytechnic University in Siberia.

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Deadly Unrest Shakes China’s Tibetan Areas

Police in China shot dead more protesters in Tibetan-inhabited areas as unrest spread, official media and an advocacy group said Wednesday, amid signs of a physical and virtual lockdown on the region.

China's Sichuan province, which has big populations of ethnic Tibetans, many of whom complain of severe repression, has been rocked by violent clashes this week -- some of the worst since huge protests against Chinese rule in 2008.

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6 Soldiers, 17 Taliban Killed in Northwest Pakistan Clash

Six Pakistani soldiers and 17 Taliban militants were killed in an overnight clash in a northwestern tribal district near the Afghan border, officials said Wednesday.

Some 50 Taliban fighters attacked Pakistani troops during a search operation in Jogi village of central Kurram tribal district late Tuesday, officials said.

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Obama Says Peaceful Outcome on Iran still Possible

U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday that a peaceful resolution was still possible in the international showdown with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

But Obama vowed in his annual State of the Union speech that he would "take no options off the table," including the military option, in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

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Bus Rampage through Crowded Indian Streets Kills 9

An on-duty bus driver went on a rampage on the crowded streets of a central Indian city Wednesday, killing nine people and injuring more than two dozen as he mowed down pedestrians and rammed other vehicles.

Police chased the bus for an hour through the streets of Pune, with traffic officers firing on it in an attempt to stop it, before they managed to arrest the 30-year-old driver. He is being held on murder charges.

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U.S. Raid in Somalia Frees American, Dane as Obama Hails Courage of Special Forces

U.S. Special Forces troops flew into Somalia on a nighttime helicopter raid early Wednesday, freed an American and a Danish hostage and killed nine pirates in a mission that President Barack Obama said he personally authorized.

The Danish Refugee Council confirmed that the two aid workers, American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Hagen Thisted, were freed and "are on their way to be reunited with their families."

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Iran Summons Danish Envoy to Protest EU Oil Embargo

Iran on Tuesday summoned the Danish envoy, whose nation currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, after the 27-nation bloc moved to impose an embargo on Iranian oil exports, media reported.

A statement carried by official media said the Iranian deputy foreign minister in charge of Europe and American affairs, Ali Asghar Khaji, expressed Tehran's "strong protest to this illogical decision" in his meeting with the diplomat.

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Juppe Rules Out French Withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2012

Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday that France would not give in to "panic" and pull its troops out of Afghanistan this year after four of its soldiers were killed there last week.

"When I hear talk of an immediate withdrawal, such as at the end of 2012, I am not sure that this has been thought through and studied," he told the French parliament.

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Australia Will Follow EU Ban on Iranian Oil Imports

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said on Tuesday his country would follow the European Union in banning Iranian oil imports, after talks with his British counterpart in London.

"The actions taken in Brussels yesterday on sanctions by the European Union, we in Australia will undertake precisely the same parallel action for Australia," Rudd said after talks with William Hague.

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Turkey Slams France’s ‘Racist’ Genocide Bill, Warns of Retaliatory Measures

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday slammed as discriminatory and racist a bill passed by the French Senate making denial of the Armenian genocide a crime.

"The proposal adopted in France is tantamount to discrimination, racism and violates freedom of thought," Erdogan said in the parliament during an address to his fellow deputies.

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