Top news: With elections in Italy approaching this weekend, the country's politicians are in an all-out sprint to the finish, as the most recent polls indicate that Italians are likely to vote into office a center-left coalition that may leave Silvio Berlusconi out of power.
Berlusconi, who was ousted from power to make way for the technocrat Mario Monti, has in recent months made a brief political comeback, exploiting a weak economy to cast himself as a tax-cutting savior of the Italian economy. So far, that pitch has fallen on deaf ears, and the most recent polls show the no-drama center-left candidate Pier Luigi Bersani in the lead, a scenario that will likely result in a coalition government with Monti.
But two upstart political movements make the outcome of this election difficult to predict. The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, a group led by a former comedian named Beppe Grillo, and the Northern League, a group seeking greater autonomy for the country's north, a relative newcomers to Italian politics, and if they slightly exceed expectations at the polls they may torpedo the expected outcome of a center-left coalition that would include Monti.
If the center-left fails to cobble together such a coalition, the most likely outcome is a grand coalition, one that would in all likelihood include Berlusconi in some role, returning Il Cavaliere to European politics.
U.S. military: Marine General John Allen said that he plans to retire and will decline his nomination to serve as the supreme allied commander in Europe, one of the military's most prestigious posts. Allen, who has most recently served as head of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, said he planned to step down because his wife is suffering from a severe illness. Allen had been under investigation for emails sent to Jill Kelley, a Florida socialite connected to David Petraeus, the disgraced former CIA director, but Pentagon investigators cleared Allen of any wrongdoing.
- Tunisia's prime minister resigned after failing to form a new government amid ongoing turmoil in the country on the heels of the assassination of a leftist opposition leader.
- A large rocket attack on the rebel-controlled city of Aleppo killed at least 19.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu added his first coalition partner as he seeks to form a new government, tapping Tzipi Livni as his justice minister.
- Visiting a the site of the 1919 Amritsar massacre, British Prime Minister David Cameron laid a wreath for victims and called the episode "shameful."
- China rejected a request by the Philippines to seek U.N. arbitration over disputed island claims in the South China Sea.
- Japan posted a record trade deficit in January as the government carried out aggressive monetary expansion to jumpstart the country's sluggish economy.
- The Bulgarian government resigned amid nationwide protests over government austerity and high electricity prices, making the government the latest to fall in the eurocrisis.
- Continuing protests over government cuts, Greeks poured into the streets for the year's first general strike.
- BMW has recalled 720,000 cars worldwide over an electrical problem that may result in unexpected stalling.
- Islamist militants abducted a French family of seven, including four children, in northern Cameroon.
- The French defense minister said that his country's troops will begin their withdrawal from Mali within weeks.
- Police claimed to have found testosterone in the home of Oscar Pistorius, the legless sprinter accused of killing his model girlfriend.
- Interpol said it had arrested nearly 200 people in an operation aimed at combating illegal logging and timber trafficking across Central and South America.
- A U.S. congressional delegation met with Cuban President Raul Castro and were told they would receive access to an imprisoned American, Alan Gross.
- Amid an ongoing investigation into the country's war with Maoist rebels, officials in Peru returned to their families the remains of 26 people caught in the crossfire between Shining Path rebels and government forces.
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