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HAITI: 2 to vie in president runoff

Electoral officials dropped a government-backed candidate from the upcoming presidential runoff Thursday, ending a standoff with the United States and other international supporters over the results of a first round of voting that was marred by fraud and disorganization. The electoral commission said the March 20 runoff would feature former first lady Mirlande Manigat against Michel Martelly, a carnival singer. The announcement means government-backed candidate Jude Célestin is out of the race.

MEXICO: 17 tourists abducted briefly

Authorities say leftist Zapatista sympathizers held 17 tourists for one day after clashing with government-aligned farmers near the Agua Azul waterfall tourist area in the southern state of Chiapas. The tourists, including Argentine, Canadian, French and Mexican nationals, were freed by the abductors Thursday after negotiations with the government. Prosecutors say farmers administer the area, but Zapatista sympathizers have been fighting for control.

ITALY: A victory for Berlusconi

Parliament backed Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday, rebuffing a request by prosecutors to search some of his properties as part of a prostitution investigation. Prosecution requests were rejected in a 315-298 vote in the lower house. The premier has denied wrongdoing. Milan prosecutors allege that Berlusconi paid for sex with a minor and used his office to cover it up. The vote is likely to have limited impact on the investigation, but it was a significant parliamentary victory for Berlusconi.

NEPAL: New prime minister elected

Parliament elected a prime minister Thursday in its 17th attempt, seven months after the last government resigned amid sometimes violent protests. The Maoists, former rebels who laid down their arms to join a peace process, won the most seats in 2008 elections, and had previously run the government. Thursday, Jhalnath Khanal, leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist), secured 368 of 601 votes to become prime minister.

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