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GERMANY

State election deals new setback to Merkel

BERLIN | Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition suffered a new setback and Germany’s main opposition parties celebrated gains in a state election Sunday that came as Mrs. Merkel’s unpopular government grapples with the eurozone debt crisis and other challenges.

The vote in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, a northeastern region where Mrs. Merkel’s parliamentary constituency is located, was the sixth of seven German state elections this year - most of which have gone poorly for the chancellor’s center-right coalition.

The center-left Social Democrats, who lead the state government but are in opposition nationally, won nearly 37 percent of Sunday’s vote - a gain of more than 5 percentage points compared with five years ago, according to ARD and ZDF television projections based on exit polls and a partial count.

The other winners were the opposition Greens, who have been riding high in national polls. They were projected to win more than 8 percent and enter the state legislature for the first time, which national leader Cem Ozdemir called “a true sensation.”

Mrs. Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, however, was seen sliding to below 24 percent from nearly 29 percent in 2006. And its partner in the national government, the Free Democratic Party, was set to score just 3 percent - losing two-thirds of its support and its seats in the state legislature.

SYRIA

Two dozen die in anti-government protests

DAMASCUS | At least 24 people died in violence across Syria on Sunday, reports said, as the visiting Red Cross chief sought access to those detained in more than five months of anti-regime protests.

As more bloodletting gripped the country, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said Syria has agreed to allow him to visit to help push for a peaceful outcome to the crisis.

Activists said security forces cracking down on protesters killed 12 people on Sunday during operations in northwestern and central Syria.

The state news agency SANA said 12 others died when an “armed terrorist group” ambushed a bus in central Syria.

JAPAN

Typhoon Talas kills at least 20, leaves 50 missing

TOKYO | Heavy rains and mudslides from powerful Typhoon Talas left at least 20 people dead in Japan on Sunday as it moved slowly northward past the country’s western coast. At least 50 others were missing, local media said.

Evacuation orders and advisories were issued to 460,000 people in western and central Japan. At least 3,600 people were stranded by flooded rivers, landslides and collapsed bridges that were hampering rescue efforts, Kyodo News Agency reported.

The typhoon dumped record amounts of rain in some areas. It was the country’s worst storm since one in 2004 that left 98 people either dead or missing, the Yomiuri newspaper said.

NIGERIA

Family of eight killed in Christian region

JOS | Unknown gunmen stormed a mainly Christian-dominated central Nigerian community overnight and hacked eight members of a family to death in the latest violence to hit the region, officials said Sunday.

Plateau State Information commissioner Yiljap Abraham, who took reporters to the residence of the victims in Tatu, north of the administrative capital Abuja, said the murders were part of a rising spate of sectarian killings in the state.

The victims were a father, mother and their six children, he said.

Jos, the state capital, and the surrounding area have been hit by waves of violence between Christians and Muslims that have left hundreds dead in recent years.

IRAN

Nuclear power plant connected to electrical grid

TEHRAN | Iranian state radio said Sunday that the country’s first nuclear power plant has been connected to the national power grid for a test run.

The report quoted Mohammad Ahmadian, Iran’s deputy nuclear chief, as saying the plant began to generate 60 megawatts of electricity about midnight.

Mr. Ahmadian said a ceremony marking the connection to the power grid will be held Monday. He expressed hope the plant would feed the grid at full capacity in coming months.

The power plant in the southern Iranian port of Bushehr has a capacity of 1,000 megawatt power generations. Iran built the plant with Russian help.

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