BBC News with Marion Marshall
The internationally recognised winner of the presidential election in Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, has called on the West African regional grouping Ecowas to send in special forces to remove his rival Laurent Gbagbo from power. Mr Ouattara said Ecowas must take the necessary measures which included legitimate force.
"During the month of January, Laurent Gbagbo will no longer be in power. Before the end of the month, he will leave. He will leave one way or the other."
Mr Ouattara was speaking from a hotel where he's under UN protection, but surrounded by Ivorian military checkpoints. The American Treasury has, meanwhile, said it's banned all US citizens from financial dealings with Mr Gbagbo and his inner circle.
The American Defence Secretary Robert Gates says he wants to make cuts of nearly $80bn in the military budget over the next five years. He said the action was required to help bring the country's ballooning fiscal deficit under control.
"A major objective beyond creating monetary savings is to make this department less cumbersome, less top heavy and more agile and effective in the execution of its responsibilities. My hope and expectation is that as a result of these changes over time, what had been a culture of endless money, where cost was rarely a consideration, will become a culture of savings and restraint."
As part of the plan, military manpower will be cut to 47,000 from 2015, with 200,000-strong Marine Corps losing 15,000 to 20,000 and the army accounting for the rest.
President Barack Obama has chosen a new chief of staff at the White House. He's Bill Daley, who comes from a powerful political family in Chicago, Mr Obama's political base. Bill Daley served as commerce secretary under President Clinton and is currently a top bank executive with JP Morgan Chase. His father Richard Daley ran Chicago in the 1960s and 70s. The BBC Washington correspondent says his appointment will please financiers and big business, with whom Mr Obama needs to mend fences. Our correspondent says the choice suggests that President Obama is moving to the centre politically.
The medical charity MSF says it's extremely concerned about the town of Fizi in eastern Congo, where most people have fled into the surrounding area following an attack on New Year's Day. Thirty-three women were raped, and MSF has treated the women for their wounds and provided them with drugs to reduce the risk of infection from HIV. The MSF operations manager in Congo is Katrien Coppens.
"Our team in South Kivu, Baraka, heard rumours that there was major rape happening in the town an hour down the road in Fizi. What they told the team is that they had been restrained with ropes or beaten often in front of their kids, and they made a reference to armed men in uniform."
World News from the BBC
Coptic Christians in Egypt are attending services to mark their Christmas Eve, surrounded by heavy security, following an attack last week. Twenty-one people were killed in a New Year bomb attack at a Coptic church in Alexandria, and some of today's worshippers wore black rather than their usual festive clothes as a mark of respect. Jon Leyne reports from Cairo.
Worshippers entered the churches for Christmas Eve Mass in a ring of security. Most roads outside churches were blocked off. Metal detectors were installed at the gates, and those arriving were asked to show identity. In some churches, Muslims came to show solidarity. Egyptian state TV broadcast a message of national unity. And so far, it seems to have worked. Despite incitement to new attacks on some extremist websites, there have been no reports of trouble, though one small crude explosive device was found and made safe at a church in southern Egypt.
President Obama's special envoy to Sudan has told the BBC he believes Sunday's independence referendum in southern Sudan will take place successfully. Scott Gration said both the north and south of Sudan had pledged not to destabilise each other. He said the south had promised President al-Bashir that it would not support rebels from Darfur.
Police in Brazil say they've taken control of three poor districts in the city of Rio de Janeiro from drugs gangs. Two hundred and fifty members of an elite police unit moved into the shanty towns which have been virtual no-go areas for the security forces.
Scientists in France and the United States say they've discovered an important clue as to why ammonites, the prehistoric marine creatures, died out with the dinosaurs, despite having survived previous mass extinctions. The study, published in the journal Science, suggests that the ancient invertebrates' main diet was zooplankton, which are tiny ocean surface creatures. The production of these is likely to have been damaged by the comet strike, believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs.
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