Top news: The Supreme Court of Venezuela ruled Wednesday that the postponement of President Hugo Chavez's inauguration is legal and that the president and vice president can remain in office. Chavez, who has been in Cuba receiving medical treatment for nearly a month, was unable to return for his Jan. 10 inauguration ceremony. The ruling represents a major blow to the opposition, which had called for National Assembly leader Diosdado Cabello to take over as caretaker president and for new elections to be held within 30 days. Chavez has said that Vice President Nicolas Maduro should be his successor.
The Obama administration, meanwhile, has made an effort to open backchannel communications with Caracas in order to plan for a future without Chavez. "Regardless of what happens politically in Venezuela, if the Venezuelan government and if the Venezuelan people want to move forward with us, we think there is a path that's possible," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. "It is just going to take two to tango."
Syria: Syrian authorities freed more than 2,100 prisoners Wednesday in exchange for the release of 48 Iranians who had been in rebel captivity since August. The swap was orchestrated by Turkey and Qatar and possibly indicates Iran's growing influence over the embattled Assad regime, analysts say. Also Wednesday, international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi told Reuters that Assad could not be part of a transitional government. The comments were the closest he's come to calling for Assad to step down.
- The private American delegation led by Bill Richardson and Eric Schmidt urged North Korea to halt missile tests and widen Internet access.
- Chinese exports rose by 14 percent last year, as opposed to the 4 percent that was forecast.
- A court in Vietnam sentenced 14 bloggers, writers, and activists to jail terms that range from 3 to 13 years.
- Sudanese rebels took control of two towns in the Darfur region Wednesday amid heavy fighting.
- Seleka rebels and the government of the Central African Republic began peace talks Wednesday, but neither side appeared ready for a ceasefire.
- South African police dispersed striking farm workers with rubber bullets in the town of De Doorns, roughly 60 miles east of Cape Town.
- Opponents of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki demanded he appear before parliament for questioning Wednesday in an attempt to force a no confidence vote.
- Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas met with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Cairo in an attempt to heal the rift between the two factions.
- Egypt's ultraconservative salafi Al-Nour party elected Younis Makhyoun as its new leader.
- Mexico's new government introduced a new law to keep track of drug war victims and compensate their families.
- A prosecutor in Brazil agreed to analyze testimony tying former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to a corruption scandal that led to several convictions last year.
- Grenada's prime minister dissolved parliament on Wednesday, paving the way for a new general election.
- Greek police arrested 100 squatters in Athens Wednesday, setting off protests across the city.
- Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon urged Britain not to distance itself from the European Union.
- Four Polish soldiers who were previously acquitted of killing eight Afghan civilians in 2007 went on trial for a second time in Warsaw.