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Heads Of State

December 14, 2008 | Associated Press
Raul Castro on Saturday began his first international trip as Cuba's president with a visit to Venezuela, a symbolic choice aimed at strengthening ties with the island's socialist ally and main benefactor. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has long been a close ally of Raul Castro's older brother Fidel Castro, who in February ceded power to Raul because of illness. Chavez's support for Cuba's communist government and his fierce criticism of U.S. policy have irritated officials in Washington.
November 7, 2008 | From Times Staff and Wire Reports
Italy's famously impolitic Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi described U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on Thursday as "young, handsome and even tanned." Berlusconi appeared to be joking about America's first black president at a news conference after talks with Russia's president. It wasn't the only perhaps unwelcome comment about Obama's victory. In a rare conciliatory gesture, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a letter of congratulations.
September 29, 2008 | Henry Chu, Times Staff Writer
Only a year ago, Asif Ali Zardari was best known as the husband of Benazir Bhutto, a highflying businessman with a taste for fine living, polo and, his critics allege, bribes. He was a man who spent 11 years in jail while awaiting trial on unproven corruption charges, the stress of which, according to court papers filed by doctors last year and viewed by a British newspaper, induced bouts of dementia and depression. Today, Zardari is the leader of this nuclear-armed country, a nation crucial to the security of the United States but one beset by an internal crisis whose outcome could, some say, determine whether Pakistan stands or falls as a modern Muslim state.
August 23, 2008 | Mubashir Zaidi and Laura King, Special to The Times
The senior party in Pakistan's ruling coalition inaugurated a push Friday to elect its leader, Asif Ali Zardari, as the country's next president. A spokeswoman for the Pakistan People's Party, Sherry Rehman, said the party's decision to back Zardari was unanimous. Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 military coup, resigned as president Monday rather than face impeachment. Zardari, who took over the People's Party after his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated in December, is a divisive figure in Pakistan.
July 31, 2008 | From Times Wire Reports
Paraguayan President-elect Fernando Lugo has received unprecedented permission from the pope to resign as bishop, Papal Nuncio Orlando Antonini said. Church officials earlier insisted that Lugo, 57, would always be a bishop under church law. Lugo made history in April with his presidential election victory, which ended the 61-year rule of the Colorado Party. The former "bishop of the poor" takes office Aug. 15. Church rules bar priests from political office.
July 26, 2008 | Paul Richter, Times Staff Writer
Barack Obama's electoral rival is John McCain, but Obama's overseas trip this week has given heartburn to another Republican -- President Bush. In stop after stop across the Middle East and Europe, Obama was embraced as the man whose promise of change meant a change from Bush: on Iraq, Mideast peace, the treatment of terrorism suspects, climate change, alliance relations and more. The tour has brought into focus how world leaders already are positioning themselves for a new American president.
July 19, 2008 | From Times Wire Reports
President Alvaro Uribe has scrapped his plan to rerun the 2006 election in which he was reelected, the government said, a move that could set the stage for him to seek a third term in 2010. Uribe said last month that he would try to repeat the vote after the Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional amendment that allowed him to run for and win a second term was tainted by corruption. He has now dropped that plan. Uribe's popularity shot up to 91% after this month's dramatic rescue of 15 rebel-held hostages, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt.
June 30, 2008 | From a Times Staff Writer
As Robert Mugabe was inaugurated Sunday to a new five-year term as Zimbabwe's president, critics and analysts warned that his pattern of violent revenge against opponents could be repeated in coming months in an attempt to destroy his chief rival's party. The announcement of Mugabe's inauguration at the State House in Harare and the issuing of invitations were so hasty that both came several hours before the results of Friday's one-man presidential runoff were released.
June 10, 2008 | From Bloomberg News
South Korea's entire Cabinet, including Prime Minister Han Seung-soo, offered to resign today to take responsibility for the government's handling of beef imports. Han and the other 15 Cabinet ministers told President Lee Myung-bak that they would step down, said Kim Wang-ky, a spokesman for Han. Lee agreed in April to lift a ban on American beef to win support from U.S.
May 31, 2008 | From Times wire reports
The main opposition group declared itself Zimbabwe's new ruling party and convened what it called a session of parliament in defiance of President Robert Mugabe. Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai asked his party's lawmakers to stand for a minute's silence for the more than 50 people who have died in violence since March elections. He promised "a new and different era of governance." The opposition won 110 of the 210 seats in parliament. Tsvangirai faces Mugabe in a June 27 runoff for president.
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