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AROUND THE WORLD

Changes welcomed in new government

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) -- Many Tunisians on Friday welcomed the new interim government that dropped most ministers from the former ruling party, a sign that its concessions to protesters may calm down the daily demonstrations that have disrupted life for two weeks.

But holdouts remained in this North African nation, which was celebrating two weeks without the iron-fisted leadership of its longtime strongman.

About 1,000 people gathered Friday in front of Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi's office in the capital of Tunis, facing off against police.

Protesters have demanded the removal of ministers left over from the government of ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 14 after 23 years in power.

On Thursday, Ghannouchi appointed independents to three key posts in the country's new interim Cabinet, removing ministers from the former ruling party. But some are angry that Ghannouchi, a longtime crony of Ben Ali, is staying on despite calls for his ouster.

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Medvedev signs START ratification

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian President Dmitry A. Medvedev on Friday signed the ratification of a nuclear arms reduction pact with the United States, the centerpiece of President Obama's efforts to reset relations with Moscow.

The New START agreement limits each country to 1,550 strategic warheads, down from the current ceiling of 2,200, and re-establishes a system for monitoring that ended in December 2009 with the expiration of a previous arms deal.

In a statement to his security council, Medvedev said the pact will take effect when the ratification documents are exchanged by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov and American Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The U.S. Senate approved the pact last month.

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Mandela goes home after hospital stay

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Former South African President Nelson Mandela was whisked home Friday from a hospital after treatment for a respiratory infection.

Officials said Mandela, 92, would be cared for in hospital-like conditions at home.

Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president after serving 27 years in prison for his fight against racist rule, largely retired from public life in 2004. He has made even fewer appearances in recent years.

Army Surgeon-General Vejaynand Ramlakan said Friday that Mandela's condition was stable and that he takes medication for a chronic, unnamed condition and needs help to walk. Officials said he was joking with his wife and nurses, and in good spirits.

A dearth of updates since Mandela was admitted Wednesday afternoon had led to speculation and concern about his condition. Officials said Friday that Mandela's office has received more than 10,000 messages of support and well wishes, including from President Obama.

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