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RUSSIA: Putin's website backfires

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin launched a website for his presidential campaign Thursday, only to see it flooded with comments from detractors demanding he not run. The negative responses, which were followed by a freezing of the site that saw many of those critical comments vanish, illustrated the growing sense of discontent with Putin, whose centralized, top-down rule has faced historic street protests in recent weeks. Shortly after the launch of the website, several visitors said it was time for Putin to get out of politics altogether. "This step will be the most useful thing you can do for the country," one user wrote. The online daily said other users quickly voted such comments the most popular on the website.

JAPAN: Iran oil imports face curb

Japan agreed Thursday to reduce its dependence on Iranian oil, bolstering the U.S.-led effort to choke off funding for Iran's nuclear development program. The pledge, made during a visit in Tokyo by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, stood in contrast to resistance this week from China, where officials say Iran's uranium program and its energy sales should not be linked. Japan imports roughly 10 percent of its oil from Iran, making it the Islamic republic's second-biggest oil customer, behind China. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told Geithner he shared Washington's concern about Iran's nuclear program. But he expressed worry about targeting of Iran's oil sector, saying the sanctions "could cause serious effects on the Japanese and world economies."

ISRAEL: Citizenship ban upheld

Israel's top court has upheld a law denying citizenship to Palestinians married to Israelis, with one judge saying it helped the Jewish state fend off "national suicide." Late on Wednesday the Supreme Court voted 6-5 to reject petitions against the 2003 ban, which civil liberty groups denounce as racist for potentially forcing members of Israel's 20-percent Arab minority who wed Palestinians to emigrate.

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