Top story: As Xi Jinping, China's vice president and leader-in-waiting, made his rounds in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, U.S. leaders focused on one issue in particular: trade. Vice President Joe Biden raised concerns about intellectual property theft and China's currency, noting that cooperation "can only be mutually beneficial if the game is fair." President Obama expressed a similar desire for everybody to play "by the same rules of the road." Senator John Kerry pledged to tell Xi the story of an American company whose technology was sold to China.
Xi, for his part, argued that any issues between the two countries should be resolved through dialogue and "not protectionism," urging the United States to lift restrictions on high-tech exports to China.
U.S. officials also discussed human rights and China's veto of U.N. action against Syria with Xi. After a State Department lunch, the Chinese vice president explained that China had made progress on human rights in the past three decades, though he added that there was "always room for improvement."
Syria: President Bashar al-Assad has ordered a referendum on a new constitution on Feb. 26, according to Syrian television, as Syrian government forces launched offensives against the opposition in Homs, Hama, and a district of Damascus.
- Greece's finance minister has promised to clarify the country's austerity package today as eurozone officials demand more detail and commitments from Greek leaders.
- New economic data suggests that Italy and the Netherlands have fallen into recession while France enjoyed unexpected growth at the end of last year.
- Italian prosecutors are seeking a new trial for Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito four months after an appellate court overturned their convictions in the murder of a British student.
- Israel's ambassador to Thailand says bombs seized by police in Bangkok resembled devices used against Israeli diplomats earlier this week in India and Georgia, while Thai authorities also say they may have found a link.
- North Korean officials are pledging loyalty to Kim Jong Un and unveiling the first bronze statue of Kim Jong Il ahead of the late leader's birthday on Thursday.
- NATO has admitted killing eight young Afghans in an air strike.
- Iran is poised to unveil new uranium enrichment centrifuges and load domestically made nuclear fuel rods into a reactor, according to state-run news outlets, which are also reporting that the government has halted oil exports to six European countries.
- More than 120 protesters have been wounded in clashes with police during the anniversary of Bahrain's uprising this week, according to activists.
- Egyptian state media is reporting that presidential elections will be held by late May.
- Mexican police say they've arrested a Sinaloa operative who's one of the country's main producers of methamphetamine.
- Government officials and state media in Venezuela have launched blistering attacks on President Hugo Chavez's challenger in the upcoming presidential election, as the Supreme Court demands voting records from Sunday's primary contest.
- A fire at a prison in Honduras appears to have killed hundreds of people.
- African Union troops have launched an offensive against al-Shabab strongholds near the Somali capital.
- A Ugandan minister raided a workshop for gay activists days after a legislator reintroduced anti-gay legislation.
- Congo has suspended the licenses of two airlines following a plane crash that killed a top advisor to President Joseph Kabila.
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