By Alison Daniels for CNN
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(CNN) -- In 2007 the world's attention will remain focused on a number of big questions:
What is the future for Iraq, how can the Arab-Israeli conflict be resolved, how can tensions over Iran's nuclear program be defused? Can there be a new deal on debt for Africa and how will Indian and Chinese growth re-shape the world order? And what about climate change and world's insatiable need for energy?
All these questions will have to be tackled by the men and women at the top. In the words of former U.S. president Harry Truman, "Men make history, and not the other way around."
So here's our guide to who's going to be in and out in 2007.
Change at the U.N.
Out: Kofi Annan
After 10 years as Secretary-General, Ghana-born Kofi Annan finally bows out at the end of 2006.
Annan was educated in the U.S. and joined the U.N. in the 1960s, working his way through the ranks to the top job.
Commentators have described his style as non-confrontational and his expertise as that of a peacemaker, which won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.
During his tenure Annan attempted to reform the U.N. -- a task complicated by the conflicting expectations of developing countries and industrialized nations.
His tenure has been marred by a series of U.N. failures. U.N. troops stood by during the massacre of Srebrenica in Bosnia and the organization ignored warnings of genocide in Rwanda.
Annan was also criticized in a report for the mismanagement of the oil-for-food program, which Iraq -- under sanctions -- was allowed to sell oil for food and medicines. The report found that Saddam Hussein had used the program to amass illegal profits.
He has been a fierce critic of the Bush administration and the war on Iraq, describing the invasion as "illegal."
In: Ban Ki-Moon
South Korean Ban Ki-Moon, 62, is a career diplomat of 36 years experience, including 10 years working with U.N.-related missions.
He was educated in Seoul, going onto postgraduate studies at Harvard. He is the son of rice mill worker from a poor rural area of South Korea and has a reputation for being mild-mannered, hard working and energetic.
He too has pledged to reform the U.N., vowing to make it leaner and more efficient. He has promised to focus some of his attention on the divided Korean peninsula, and hopes to visit isolated North Korea.
An expanding European Union
In the first half of 2007, Germany will hold the presidency of the European Union. During this period the EU celebrates the 50th anniversary of the signing of its founding charter, the Treaty of Rome.
That treaty was signed by six countries -- France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. Half a century later there are now 25 member states. In 2007 the EU expands further to include the ex-communist countries of Bulgaria and Romania.
The 27-nation EU will have a population close to half a billion and -- according to some observers -- economic growth rivaling the U.S.
And who's not?
It could be several years before countries like Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia are allowed to join the European club.
The biggest question mark however hangs over Turkey. In December, EU foreign ministers agreed to partly freeze talks on Turkey's membership as a punishment for Ankara's failure to honor an agreement to open up its ports to Cyprus.
Several EU countries, including France, Greece and Austria are skeptical about Turkey's suitability for membership in the near future -- or ever. Aside from Cyprus there are concerns over Turkey's human rights record.
A new prime minister for Britain
Out: Tony Blair
After almost a decade as Britain's longest serving Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to step down within the next year.
Blair came to power in 1997 after modernizing the British Labour Party by repositioning it in the middle ground and promising the electorate an end to sleaze in politics. However he -- along with other government figures -- was recently questioned by police in connection with a "cash for honors" scandal.
His government's achievements include the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland, reform of Britain's antiquated upper chamber, the House of Lords, and devolution for England's neighbors, Scotland and Wales. He has also presided over a strong economy and instituted a number of successful social reforms.
But commentators say his legacy will always be seen through the prism of his response to 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq where British troops continue to fight alongside their American allies.
In: Gordon Brown?
Gordon Brown, Blair's finance minister throughout his period in office, is widely expected to succeed him as Labour Party leader, pitting the experienced Scot against the youthful Conservative opposition leader, David Cameron.
Brown has managed an economy characterized by low interest rates and falling unemployment, cultivating and earning a reputation for prudence. But he has increased taxes to pay for public services such as the country's National Health Service.
Commentators describe him as cautious, grumpy and lacking the charisma of Blair -- but so far he continues to perform solidly in polls against Cameron.
A new President for France
Out: Jacques Chirac
Jacques Chirac -- nicknamed the Bulldozer -- has been a major political player in France for 40 years and president of the nation for the past 12. Assuming the 74-year-old doesn't spring an unlikely surprise and decide to run for re-election in May, the French will get a chance to elect a new face.
Gaullist Chirac began his career as junior minister in the 1960s before becoming Prime Minister under President Valery Giscard D'Estaing. He made three attempts to secure the presidency but was defeated twice by Socialist Francois Mitterrand before finally making it to the Elysee Palace in 1995.
There are plenty of challenges for whoever takes the reins; France has been plagued by public debt, slow economic growth and racial tensions.
In: Nicolas Sarkozy or Segolene Royal?
The most likely contest will be between the Nicolas Sarkozy (currently interior minister of the governing center-right UMP) and Socialist Party contender Royal.
If Royal were to win she would become France's first ever female president. She is a former education minister and a regional government head but has never held a major cabinet post.
Royal claims to be a real, old-fashioned socialist rather than a Tony Blair-style reformer. But she has shocked some on the French left with her tough stance on crime -- she suggests young offenders should be sent to boot camps. She has also questioned the sacrosanct 35-hour working week -- one of the biggest legacies of the last Socialist government led by Lionel Jospin.
Sarkozy -- the son of Hungarian immigrants -- has taken a tough stance on immigration and famously described last year's rioters in Paris as "the rabble." But he has also positioned himself as man of reform and national renaissance, promising to revitalize the country by ditching job protections and better integrating minorities.
Commentators describe him as an ambitious workaholic. He has been a critic of the war in Iraq and is a strong opponent of Turkey's campaign to join the EU.
Can Nigeria hold peaceful elections?
Out: Olusegun Obasanjo
Obasanjo has been president of Nigeria since 2003 but won't be standing for re-election in 2007. If all goes peacefully, the vote should mark the first time a democratically elected president has handed power to another since the west African nation's independence from Britain in 1960.
Obasanjo, a Christian, has led the religiously divided country twice before, as a military leader in the 1970s and as a civilian leader in 1999 before being elected president. His main challenges have been weaning Nigeria off its economic dependency on oil and tackling corruption.
However he presides over a country plagued by religious divisions and facing worse levels of poverty than in the 1960s. Oil wealth has barely impacted on three-quarters of Nigeria's 143 million inhabitants. The majority live on less than a dollar a day.
The most likely contenders are Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and former military rulers Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Babangida.
In the autumn Obasanjo accused Abubakar of appropriating funds -- a charge his deputy vigorously denied.
The men's relationship has deteriorated since Abubakar opposed the president's unsuccessful attempt to change the constitution so he could stand for a third term in 2007.
And some of the rest
Argentina's Nestor Kirchner won an uncontested Presidential run-off in 2003 and hopes to win a second term in 2007. He took over a country still suffering from economic meltdown in 2001. He has set about overseeing recovery and addressed the legacy of military rule by overturning amnesty laws which protected military offices accused of abuses.
Sierra Leone's President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah will not be eligible for re-election when the African country holds its first elections in July 2007 since U.N. peacekeepers left in 2005.
South Korean Ban Ki-Moon is the new man in charge at the U.N.
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