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German defense minister visits Afghanistan

BERLIN — German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere arrived in the Afghan town of Mazar-i-Sharif early Sunday for a visit aimed at preparing his country’s gradual troop pullout.

“The most important thing of course is to talk with our soldiers to get an idea of how they see the situation on the ground,” he told reporters on the plane taking him to Afghanistan.

The minister is expected to discuss the phased pullout of Germany’s troops from Afghanistan, which is expected to be completed by 2014.

He also is expected to hold talks with U.S. officials and other members of the International Security Assistance Force deployed in Afghanistan.

With more than 5,000 troops deployed in the comparatively quiet north of the country, Germany is the third contributor of troops in coalition operations, behind the United States and Britain.

Germany plans to pull its first soldiers by the end of the year, but Mr. de Maiziere would not provide specific numbers.

RUSSIA

Tycoon punches fellow billionaire on TV

MOSCOW — Russian tycoon Alexander Lebedev punched a fellow billionaire on a television panel show after a discussion on the financial crisis degenerated into petty name-calling.

Mr. Lebedev, a former KGB operative and owner of two major newspapers in the United Kingdom, wrote on his blog that property developer Sergei Polonsky had earned the clobbering by behaving abusively throughout the recording of the program.

In a preview clip posted on the NTV channel’s website ahead of the show airing Sunday, Mr. Polonsky is seen saying that he sometimes felt like “bashing [Mr. Lebedev] in the face,” prompting the newspaper owner to jump to his feet.

After sitting back down, Mr. Lebedev then swiftly delivered a sucker punch, sending Mr. Polonsky tumbling to the ground.

Punch-ups and heated exchanges between guests are a common on Russian political discussion shows.

ITALY

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