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By Steve Scherer and Paolo Biondi ROME (Reuters) - Italian lawmakers elected Sergio Mattarella, a constitutional court judge and veteran center-left politician, as president on Saturday, handing a welcome political victory to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Mattarella, speaking at his office in the Constitutional Court after the vote, said: "My first thoughts are of the difficulties and hopes of our citizens." The election shows the 40-year-old Renzi in firm control of both his famously fractious party and his allies in the ruling majority as he seeks to pass reforms aimed at underpinning an economic recovery in Italy, where unemployment is soaring after six years of on-off recession. As the ballots were counted out loud in the Chamber of Deputies, the 1,009 parliamentarians and regional officials eligible to vote burst into applause when Mattarella's name surpassed the 505-vote threshold, making him Italy's 12th president since World War Two.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and its allies carried out 27 air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria since early Friday, the Combined Joint Task Force leading the operation reported on Saturday. Ten of the 17 strikes in Iraq hit near the oil city of Kirkuk, it said. In Syria, Islamic State targets near the border town of Kobani were attacked in eight of the 10 raids, the statement said. (Reporting by Washington newsroom; Editing by Louise Ireland)