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Victorious Merkel looks to new coalition

BERLIN, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel claimed victory and a second term Sunday, telling supporters though troubles lay ahead it also was time to "celebrate."

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"I would not tell anyone to remain sober, but we don't want to forget that there are many problems in our country to be solved," The Washington Post reported Merkel telling a cheering crowd in Berlin. "I think that tonight we can really celebrate, but I would say that after that there is work waiting for us."

Merkel for the past four years had been forced to maintain a governing "grand coalition" with the Social Democrats, a left-of-center party supported by labor unions, the Post reported. But the Social Democrats ended up Sunday with their worst electoral showing since World War II.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is the leader of the Social Democrats. "The voters have decided," Steinmeier said. " ... It is a bitter defeat."

The Post said Merkel's Christian Democrats are expected to form a new government with the Free Democrats. The pro-business party has called for lower taxes and a slimmed-down bureaucracy, and historically enjoyed close relations with the United States.

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In early returns, the Christian Democrats had a plurality of about 34 percent of the vote, slightly less than in it garnered in 2005 but one of its worst showings ever, the Post said. The Free Democrats received about 15 percent, one of its best showings, and the two parties should have enough seats to take control of the parliament, the newspaper said.

The Free Democrat leader, Guido Westerwelle, is expected to become Germany's foreign minister.

Meanwhile, security was tight in Germany Sunday as voters went to the polls under the threat of terrorism from al-Qaida.

The terrorist group has issued video threats warning Germans not to vote for candidates who favor keeping troops in Afghanistan, CNN reported.

Voters were choosing members of the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, who in turn will pick the head of government.


Gordon Brown vows not to quit early

BRIGHTON, England, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he has no intention of stepping down as head of the Labor Party and will lead it into a tough election fight.

In an interview with The Sunday Times (London), Brown insisted he is the right man for the party, saying, "I've had to fight through all kinds of difficulties. A setback can either be a challenge or you roll over. I do not roll over."

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In Brighton, England, for the Labor Party conference, Brown dismissed suggestions that he could cite his deteriorating eyesight as an excuse to resign from office early as the party continues register low voter approval numbers.

"My eyesight is good," Brown said, adding that he's up to the task of what he admitted will be an uphill battle for Labor at the next general election.

"I accept there's a suspended judgment," he told The Sunday Times, adding, "We know we have to fight for the future. This party has had to fight for everything it's got."

Brown signaled a shift in his thinking by revealing he would call for tough new rules on the banking industry at the Brighton conference this week, the newspaper said.


At least 75 dead in Philippines floods

MANILA, Philippines, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Torrential rains subsided a bit Sunday in Manila as residents mourned at least 75 deaths and tallied damage from weekend flooding, Philippine officials said.

More than 80 percent of the Philippines capital was underwater after record downpours delivered by Tropical Storm Ketsana, CNN reported.

Manila, on the island of Luzon, and the province of Rizal were hardest hit by the storm. People stood on the roofs of their homes waiting to be rescued by army helicopters while others reportedly waded through floodwaters while tethered to ropes, the U.S. broadcaster said.

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Richard Gordon, the chairman of the Philippines National Red Cross, told reporters: "Right now the challenge is to find out how many people have actually died and how many people we have to take care of in terms of people who've been displaced. We're really talking about maybe hundreds of thousands of people."

CNN said initial estimates of people displaced by the floods hovered between 280,000 and 300,000 on Luzon alone.

Meteorologists said nearly 13.5 inches of rain fell in Manila Saturday, breaking a record for most rainfall in a 24-hour period.


Jones: Obama has no Afghan deadlines

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama will take his time in determining whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, a top White House official says.

Obama's national security adviser, retired Gen. James Jones, told Sunday's Washington Post that the president has not set a deadline for making any decisions despite an urgent request by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, for between 10,000 and 40,000 more troops.

Jones told the Post that while Obama is encouraged by some signs of progress in the war against Taliban insurgents, he is also troubled by the evidence of fraud in the country's Aug. 20 presidential election and remains uncertain of its outcome.

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Jones said the president is going to meet with his national security team repeatedly this week.

"I don't have a deadline in my mind," Jones told the newspaper. "I think the most important thing is to do it right. But it is going to have a high priority in the administration to do this pretty relentlessly. We have a lot of other things on the table as well."

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