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Reuters World News Highlights at 1400 GMT, Feb. 25

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Feb 25 (Reuters) - TOP STORIES

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ROME - Italians voted for a second and final day in a general election on Monday with a surge in protest votes increasing the risk of an unstable outcome that could undermine Europe's efforts to end its three-year debt crisis.

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MOSCOW - Syria is ready for talks with its armed opponents, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Monday, in the clearest offer yet of negotiations with rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

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NICOSIA - Cypriot president-elect Nicos Anastasiades faces weeks of difficult talks with foreign lenders on a financial rescue for the island nation after sweeping to a resounding victory in a run-off election.

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LONDON - Britain's most senior Roman Catholic cleric resigned on Monday following allegations he behaved in an inappropriate way with priests, and said he would not take part in the election of Pope Benedict's replacement.

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PRAGUE - Czech inspectors have found horsemeat in meatballs made in Sweden for IKEA Group, the world's biggest furniture retailer, the Czech food regulator said on Monday.

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MADRID - The former treasurer of Spain's ruling party, at the heart of a corruption scandal that has politically damaged Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, appeared in court for questioning on Monday about millions of euros he deposited in Swiss accounts.

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TOKYO - Japan's prime minister is likely to nominate an advocate of aggressive monetary easing - Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda - as the next central bank governor to step up his fight to finally rid the country of deflation.

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JERUSALEM - Israel's homeland security minister voiced concern on Monday that a surge in violent Palestinian protests in the occupied West Bank could erupt into a new Intifada (uprising) if confrontations turned deadly.

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SEOUL - South Korea's new president Park Geun-hye urged North Korea on Monday to abandon its nuclear ambitions, and to stop wasting its scarce resources on arms, less than two weeks after the country carried out its third nuclear test.

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LOS ANGELES - "Argo" stormed to Best Picture victory at the Oscars on Sunday on a night of surprises that ended in disappointment for frontrunner "Lincoln" and handed the most overall wins - four - to "Life of Pi."

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BARCELONA - Nokia launched a 15-euro ($20) phone to shore up its position in the basic handset market, where it has lost share while it focused on developing expensive smartphones.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130225/reuters-world-news-highlights-at-1400-gmt-feb-25