WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama has regained the top spot in Forbes magazine's list of the world's most powerful people, edging out Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and last year's winner, Chinese President Hu Jintao, who slipped down to third.
Obama, who topped the list in 2009 only to be dethroned by Hu in 2010, has had a difficult year at home as the American economy struggles to emerge from a crippling recession, but he did enjoy a number of foreign policy successes.
"Sure, his jobs bill was gutted, his debt-ceiling negotiating was derided and his popularity has plummeted, endangering his reelection, but Obama regains his position as the most powerful person on the planet this year," Forbes said.
"Why? Despite faddish American declinism, the US remains, indisputably, the most powerful nation in the world, with the largest, most innovative economy and the deadliest military.
"Plus, Obama's only legitimate rival for the title, last year's number one, Chinese President Hu Jintao, is diminishing in influence as he gives up political office."
Forbes lists Obama's 2011 highlight as a Navy SEAL raid the president ordered inside Pakistan that killed the world's most wanted man, Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
"In second place is Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is poised to regain the Russian presidency this year from his loyal underling President Dmitry Medvedev," Forbes said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was ranked fourth, followed by Microsoft chairman and philanthropist Bill Gates, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, Pope Benedict XVI, US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron nailed down the number 10 spot, followed by Indian National Congress President Sonia Gandhi, the European Central Bank's Italian president, Mario Draghi, and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France.
Among those dropping off the top 70 list were WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned to fight sexual assault charges.
Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey also fell off the rankings after her retirement, and the deaths of Steve Jobs and bin Laden took them off the list.
The Dalai Lama dropped 12 spots this year to 51st place after announcing that he plans to give up his position atop Tibet's government in exile, Forbes said.
Two criminals made the list: Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzman Loera of the Sinaloa cartel was 55th and Mumbai organized crime figure Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar was 57th.
The complete list is available at www.forbes.com/power. Here is the top 10:
1. US President Barack Obama
2. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
3. Chinese President Hu Jintao
4. German Chancellor Angela Merkel
5. Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
6. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
7. Pope Benedict XVI
8. Ben Bernanke, chairman of the US Federal Reserve
9. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook
10. British Prime Minister David Cameron