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Protesters, police clash as Putin takes office

MOSCOW (AP) -- Vladimir V. Putin took the oath of office in a brief but regal Kremlin ceremony Monday, while on the streets outside thousands of helmeted riot police prevented hundreds of demonstrators from protesting his return to the presidency.

Putin, 59, has ruled Russia since 2000, first as president and then during the past four years as prime minister. The new, now six-year term will keep him in power until 2018, with the option of running for a fourth term.

Dmitry Medvedev, who served as Russia's president for the past four years as Putin's junior partner, wrapped up his term with a short speech. Putin, as promised, began his new presidential term by formally nominating Medvedev as his prime minister.

The demonstrators, separated into several groups, were met by helmeted riot police. At least 120 were detained.


Opposition boycotts 'reform' elections

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- Syrians voted in parliamentary elections Monday that the government praised as a milestone in promised political reforms, but the opposition boycotted the polls and said they were designed to strengthen President Bashar Assad's grip on power.

The fact the regime and the opposition are pushing such divergent views is a sign of the chasm separating the two sides, more than a year into a conflict that has killed more than 9,000 people and raised fears of a regional conflagration.

There were scattered reports of violence Monday, including witness accounts that security forces launched deadly attacks on villages in central Syria where opposition supporters were refusing to vote.


22 killed, 25 seized in al-Qaida strike

SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- Al-Qaida militants staged a surprise attack Monday on a Yemeni army base in the south, killing 22 soldiers and capturing 25 just hours after a U.S. drone strike killed a senior figure in the terror network wanted in connection with the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.

It was not immediately clear if the predawn attack on the military base in the southern Abyan province was in retaliation for the killing of Fahd al-Quso, an al-Qaida leader on the FBI's Most Wanted List.

The militants managed to reach the base both from the sea and by land, gunning down troops and making away with weapons and other military hardware after the blitz attack, Yemeni military officials said.

Yemen's Defense Ministry said in a statement that the attackers killed 22 troops and wounded 12. It did not mention captured soldiers.

Government forces later shelled militant positions elsewhere in Abyan, killing 16 militants, said the officials.