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Morning Brief: Israel’s election has just begun

Top Story The final results have been released, but its still not exactly clear who won this week’s Israeli elections. Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party holds 28 seats while Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud holds 27. This has opened the possibility of the two rivals joining in a unity government, a scenario that Livni herself proposed on election ...

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Top Story

The final results have been released, but its still not exactly clear who won this week’s Israeli elections. Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party holds 28 seats while Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud holds 27. This has opened the possibility of the two rivals joining in a unity government, a scenario that Livni herself proposed on election night. It now falls to President Simon Peres to charge one of the two with forming a government.

Far-right leader Avigdor Lieberman, whose fifteen seats make him a potential kingmaker in the gridlock, is under investigation by Israel’s tax authorities. This development could potentially undermine Netanyahu’s attempt to form a right-wing coalition.

Meanwhile, a long-term truce with Israel may be announced within days, says a senior Hamas official in Cairo. The group may now be willing to sign a deal for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held since 2006. Strangely, the electoral gridlock may offer a unique opportunity for outgoing PM Ehud Olmert to negotiate without political constraints.

Middle East

A female suicide bomber killed at least 30 in an attack on a Shiite pilgrimage south of Baghdad.

Dubai has begun making arrests in a nationwide corruption and bribery investigation.

Asia and Oceania

The U.S. failed to keep track of 222,000 weapons entering Afghanistan, leaving them vulnerable to theft.

China’s economic growth projections for next quarter are encouraging.

Australia has charged a man for causing the country’s deadly brushfires.

Europe

Germany’s economy shrank more than it has in 22 years in the fourth quarter of 2008.

One of Britain’s top bank regulators resigned after tough questioning by parliament.

The G7 Finance ministers will meet in Rome to discuss the financial crisis today.

Africa

Darfur peace talks have been overshadowed by the International Criminal Court’s possibly imminent arrest warrant against leader Omar al-Bashir. FP‘s Elizabeth Allen spoke with the ICC’s lead prosecutor about the case yesterday.

A senior opposition politician was arrested in Zimbabwe just as he was about to be sworn in to the country’s new unity government.

The Ukrainian weapons ship freed by pirates arrived in Kenya. The Kenyan government is investigating where the weapons are headed.

Americas

Republican Senator Judd Gregg has withdrawn his name as Obama’s Commerce Secretary nominee.

With a referendum on term limits coming this Sunday, Hugo Chavez’s supporters are demonstrating in the thousands.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet is in Cuba where she met briefly with Fidel Castro and described him as “in very good shape.”

GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images

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