(CNN) -- Argentina star Lionel Messi has cemented his status as the greatest player on the planet by becoming the first player to win FIFA's prestigious Ballon d'Or title on four separate occasions.
The Barcelona forward, who broke a number of records in 2012, beat teammate Andres Iniesta and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo to an award voted for by national coaches, captains and journalists.
The 25-year-old polled 41.60% of the votes, ahead of Ronaldo on 23.68% and Iniesta with 10.91%, to win his fourth title in a row.
Messi's fourth FIFA crown elevates him above the two players with three titles apiece: former Brazil forward Ronaldo (1996, 1997, 2002) and Frenchman Zinedine Zidane (1998, 2000, 2003).
"To tell you the truth, this is really quite unbelievable," he said at Monday's awards ceremony in the Swiss city Zurich. "The fourth award that I have had is just too great for words."
"I would like to recognize my other colleagues from Barcelona: Iniesta, it has been great to train and play alongside you. I would also like to recognize all of my friends in the Argentinian national team.
"Everyone that has worked with me coaches and staff and my family and my friends. Also my wife and my son. Thank you."
Messi ended the year with 91 goals to his name as he beat the previous record mark of goals scored in a calendar year -- the 85 converted by Germany's Gerd Muller in 1972.
In addition, the diminutive forward set a new record for the European Champions League by scoring 14 goals during the 2011-12 campaign, a period when he became the first man to score five goals in a game in the competition (against Bayer Leverkusen).
2008 FIFA World Footballer of the Year Ronaldo had to settle for second place for the third time, after runner-up finishes to Messi in both 2009 and 2011.
Meanwhile, Vicente del Bosque -- whose Spain side became the first team to successfully defend the European Championship -- was named Coach of the Year.
The 62-year-old won 34.51% of the vote, with Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho second (20.49%) and Messi's former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola third (12.91%).
It was a good night for Spain, which not only swept the major awards but whose La Liga provided every single member of the FIFA FIFPro World XI following a poll of 50,00 professional players from all over the world.
The FIFA Puskas award for the year's best goal -- which was voted for by more than five million fans in an online poll -- was awarded to Galatasaray's Slovakian striker Miroslav Stoch for his superb volley against Turkish league rivals Genclerbirligi.
United States striker Abby Wambach won the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year award for the first time while her former coach, Pia Sundhage, who led the U.S. to its second Olympic gold medal at London 2012, was named Women's Coach of the Year. Sundhage is now in charge of Sweden's women's team.
The FIFA Ballon d'Or was awarded for the third time following the 2010 amalgamation of the FIFA World Player of the Year award with the France Football Ballon d'Or, which was popularly known as the European Footballer of the Year award.
FIFA Ballon d'Or: Lionel Messi (Argentina/Barcelona)
FIFA Women's World Player of the Year: Abby Wambach (U.S./MagicJack)
FIFA Puskas Award: Miroslav Stoch (Slovakia/Galatasaray)
FIFA Coach of the Year: Vicente del Bosque (Spain)
FIFA Women's Coach of the Year: Pia Sundhage (U.S.)
(CNN) -- The United States braced Friday for a fourth day of protests targeting its diplomatic facilities in the Middle East and elsewhere as furor in the Islamic world continued over a film that characterizes Prophet Mohammed as a womanizing buffoon.
Worries, in particular, stemmed from fears that calls for large, peaceful demonstrations on Friday, the traditional day of protest following the weekly Muslim prayer, would turn violent.
"We are in a full-court press at every single one of the posts in the Middle East and anywhere else there is any chance of demonstrations after Friday services to make sure nothing bad happens. And to have the security in place in case bad things do happen," one senior administration official said Thursday. The official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the issue, spoke on condition of anonymity.
The ongoing unrest centers on an obscure 14-minute film trailer that mocks the Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and ruthless killer. Posted in July on YouTube, the clip received attention after it was aired on Egyptian television and anti-Islam activists promoted it online.
On Tuesday, the same day people protesting the film stormed the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was attacked -- leading to the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, State Department computer expert Sean Smith, and security officers Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, both former Navy SEAL commandos.
As word of video spreads, so do protests
People have taken to the streets in 11 nations and territories, including Egypt where protesters squared off Friday with security forces for a fourth day of protests near the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
The film permit for "Innocence of Muslims" has been withdrawn at the request of federal authorities, who cited public safety concerns, according to Film LA, Inc., the non-profit agency that oversees production in the Los Angeles area.
By withdrawing the permit, copies of the film cannot be released by the agency.
Federal authorities have discounted as false a producer's claims to news outlets that he was an Israeli -- an assertion Israel's government denies -- who made the movie with financing with help from more than 100 Jewish donors.
The protests abroad and the false claim by the producer about Jewish donors caused the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to warn in a joint bulletin of a risk of an increase in violence both "at home and abroad as the film continues to gain attention."
Four days of unrest
Outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, riot police sporadically clashed with protesters for a fourth straight day after a failed attempt to disperse the demonstrators shortly after dawn on Friday.
Police armed with shields and batons, backed by an armed personnel carrier, rushed a group of several hundred protesters, a move that came after U.S. President Barack Obama warned that relations with Egypt will be shaped by how the country responds to the violence.
"I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy," Obama told Telemundo in an interview that aired Thursday night.
If Egypt takes actions, Obama said, that "indicate they're not taking responsibilities, as all other countries do where we have embassies, I think that's going to be a real big problem."
Authorities have arrested 37 people in connection with the violence, according to Egypt's state-run news agency.
A see-saw battle that began Thursday between protesters and the police raged through most of the night, with demonstrators throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks and authorities responding with tear gas.
Sporadic gun fire could be heard in the area around the U.S. Embassy.
At least 224 people were injured, according to Egyptian state television, Nile TV. Among the injured were 31 police officers, according to the Ministry of the Interior.
Here are the details about various protests:
--In Syria, hundreds gather outside the U.S. Embassy in Damascus. Protesters waved placards that condemned the film and blamed the the U.S. administration for allowing the production and broadcast of the film, according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency
--In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood called for a large, peaceful protest to denounce the film.
--In Iran, the Islamic Propagation Coordination Council called for nationwide rallies on Friday to protest against the film and what it is calling a U.S.-backed plot against Muslims, according to state-run news IRNA.
So far, the violence has not spread to Afghanistan, where there is a high potential for outrage to erupt into destabilizing chaos. Obama and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, have expressed their commitment to prevent that from happening.
The Afghan government has ordered an indefinite block of YouTube to prevent people there from watching the clips and staging violent protests. YouTube has already restricted access to the video.
Four arrested in Libya
Sources tracking militant Islamist groups in eastern Libya say the attack that killed Stevens and three other Americans was most likely carried out by a pro-al Qaeda group. Obama has vowed "justice will be done."
The first of two U.S. warships, carrying guided missiles, has arrived off the coast of Libya, and unmanned drones have been sent to help search for the killers.
A group of Marines called a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team was deployed to Libya to help secure U.S. facilities, said two U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
About 50 Marines arrived in the country Wednesday, the officials said.
Four people have been arrested in connection with the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that left U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead, the president of the parliament's top aide said Friday.
Those arrested were not directly tied to the attacks that killed Stevens and the others, Monem Elyasser, the chief aide, told CNN by telephone.
Elyasser did not release the identities nor did he detail the allegations against the four people in custody.
During an interview on CNNI's "Amanpour" on Thursday, Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur said there had been one arrest earlier in the day in Benghazi and three or four others who were being pursed.
"The evidence itself is based on mostly pictures that were taken around the compound at that time, and also through some witnesses," he said.
CNN's Arwa Damon, Ben Wedeman, Hamdi Alkhshali, Brian Walker and Elise Labott contributed to this report.
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- An Afghan woman imprisoned for adultery after a relative raped her has been freed after President Hamid Karzai intervened on her behalf.
The woman, identified only as Gulnaz for her own protection, had been sentenced to prison for 12 years after she reported that her cousin's husband had raped her two years ago. Wednesday, she was free at a women's shelter in Kabul, with her daughter.
Her plight gained international attention when the European Union blocked the broadcast of a documentary about her ordeal, saying it would further jeopardize her safety.
Afghan Justice Minister Habibullah Ghaleb and a judiciary committee both proposed a pardon. Karzai then ordered authorities to decree Gulnaz's release.
Raped woman gets reduced sentence
After the attack two years ago, Gulnaz hid what happened as long as she could. She was afraid of reprisals. But soon she began vomiting in the mornings and showing signs of pregnancy. It was her attacker's child.
In Afghanistan, this brought her not sympathy but prosecution. She was found guilty by the courts of sex outside of marriage -- adultery -- and sentenced to 12 years in jail. She was only 19.
As shocking as it may seem, Gulnaz's case is far from isolated.
Last month, CNN asked a spokesman for the prosecutor to comment on the case. The reply was that there were hundreds of such cases, and the office would need time to look into it.
Reported cases of violence against women, from domestic abuse to rape to honor killings, are on the rise, according to the Afghan Women's Network.
One problem is that Afghan law fails to clearly distinguish between rape and adultery, which is a crime under Shariah, or Islamic law. The courts say Gulnaz was to blame for having sex with a married man.
In conservative Afghan society, Gulnaz faces considerable pressure to marry her attacker, soothing the rift between the two families, restoring her honor and legitimizing her daughter.
She was willing to do so in order to end her incarceration, she told CNN last month from Kabul's Badam Bagh jail, though she does not want that option. She would like to marry an educated man, according to her attorney, Kimberly Motley, in Kabul.
"A woman having to marry her rapist in any nation means we are living in a world where humanity has been abandoned," said Azita Ghanizada, an ambassador with Women to Women International, an organization that since 2002 has been supporting socially excluded Afghan women.
Gulnaz's choices now are stark. Women in her situation are often killed for the shame their ordeal has brought the community.
In the women's prison in Kabul, most of the inmates were convicted of rape or adultery, Ghanizada said.
A United Nations human rights document on Afghan women said they "are perceived as receptacles of family honor, their opposition to family dictates about marriage often puts them at risk of brutal physical punishment. So-called 'honor' killings recognize a man's right to kill a woman with impunity because of the damage that her immoral actions have caused to family honor."
Gulnaz could still be at risk from her attacker's family.
"Creating attention globally created enough pressure to allow Gulnaz to be pardoned," said Ghanizada. "But she will continue to raise the child (she) bore out of this rape and hide in a shelter, hoping that the attention won't create any more harm for her."
Behind bars, Gulnaz's convicted rapist denied raping her. Her life would probably end if she were freed, he said before her release. But it would be her family, not his, that would kill her out of the shame she has wrought.
How Gulnaz will be able to re-assimilate into the life she once had remains a difficult question. She is free from jail but not from her ordeal.
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reported from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Moni Basu from Atlanta. CNN's Masoud Popalzai contributed to this report.
New York (CNN) -- Police hauled away protesters in various cities Sunday as Occupy Wall Street rallies continued for the 30th day.
In Washington, D.C., 19 people were arrested by Supreme Court Police, a spokeswoman said.
New York authorities arrested 14 people for violating a midnight curfew by sitting in a fountain with no water at Washington Square Park. The number was in addition to 78 arrested Saturday in citywide protests.
"It was a classic peaceful sit-in," said Paul Browne, the deputy police commissioner.
Comparing Occupy to Tea Party
Occupy Wall Street goes global
Occupy Rome turns violent
Occupy Wall Street in London
In Chicago, a police spokesman said there were "multiple" arrests early Sunday for disorderly conduct and violating an 11 p.m. curfew.
And in Minneapolis, a woman was arrested for trespassing, CNN affiliate KARE reported. City police officials declined to comment.
About 150 people were camped out under a canopy near city hall after police took away their tents, a Minneapolis protest organizer said.
"It's cold. We don't have any protection from the elements," said organizer April Lukes-Streich.
In New York, where the Occupy Wall Street movement started, authorities had warned protesters they would be arrested if they defied the curfew. Police stood guard at the entrance of Washington Square Park, sending protesters spilling out into nearby streets.
They chanted anti-Wall Street slogans and banged drums as they wandered into the night.
The arrests came hours after thousands marched to New York's iconic Times Square on Saturday night, hoisting signs and chanting. Browne described the Times Square rally as orderly.
As police cleared the street, protesters chanted, "We are peaceful" and "The whole world is watching."
In another part of the city, another group of protesters made their voices heard.
"Banks got bailed out, we got sold out," chanted a crowd meandering east of the city's Zuccotti Park, considered a home base for the Manhattan protesters.
Columns of police on patrol and atop scooters monitored the march, but as dusk fell, it appeared largely peaceful.
In addition to the nationwide rallies, demonstrations have picked up steam, culminating in a global day of protests Saturday in Europe, Asia and Australia.
The Occupy Wall Street movement started last month as a backlash against the economy and what demonstrators say is an out-of-touch corporate, financial and political elite.
Organizers say they are inspired by the Arab Spring that led to the toppling of regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.
The founding movement in the United States has spread to other major cities in the nation.
CNN's Maria White, Susan Candiotti, Ross Levitt and Logan Burruss contributed to this report
(CNN) -- Thailand's devastating floodwaters are draining southward towards Bangkok Friday, and residents have been told to prepare for the worst when the spring high tide and a huge volume of water flowing down the Chao Phraya River merge over the next couple of days.
Workers in the city are rushing to shore up barriers and warnings have been posted for the northern suburbs.
"Between seven and eight billion cubic meters of water a day is being released from the Bhumibol Dam in the north of the country, which is heavily affecting provinces like Nahkon Sawan and Ayutthaya," government official Wim Rungwattanajinda told CNN.
"From that, about one to 1.2 billion cubic meters of water is reaching Bangkok every day."
So far, 283 people have been killed and two people are missing in Thailand, according to the government website Thaiflood.com. Some 61 of the country's 76 provinces have so far been affected, impacting more than eight million people.
More than 500,000 square kilometers -- an area the size of Spain -- are affected by the floods in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, according to CNN meteorologist Jenny Harrison.
About 100 kilometers north of Bangkok, the UNESCO-listed historical city of Ayutthaya has now been submerged for 10 days, CNN's Paula Hancocks reports.
Residents evacuate from Thai floodwaters
Stranded elephants in need of food
Floods bear down on Thailand's capital
Bangkok braces for more flooding
Thai map shows flooded areas
Shops in Ayutthaya are mostly flooded and closed, and people unable to leave their homes are waiting for help to arrive. Roads have become rivers, with people having to swim or use boats to get food and water.
"Doctors are patrolling the flooded areas in small boats and are making house-calls to residents to those incapable of moving," Hancocks says. "It's one of the worst hit areas in the country. Even if there are no more storms, one government estimate says it'll still take a month for the floodwaters to recede."
Temples and monuments are unable to keep the rising waters at bay, and there are fears that the longer the city's treasures are covered by water, the more likely it will be that the damage could be permanent.
"This is the worst flood in our historical site in 16 years," said Somsuda Leeyawanich, from the Thai Fine Arts Department. She said the water level in the park is almost three meters, compared to levels of around 80-90 centimeters during the floods of 1995.
"We are very concerned that if the site is under water for more than 30 days it may cause serious damage," she added. "The temples are over 400 years old."
Along with people and historical sites, animals are also are being severely affected by the floodwaters. Fifteen elephants, including seven mothers with babies and a nine-year-old known for its painting skills, are stranded on top of Ayutthaya's Royal Elephant Kraal.
The elephants climbed on top of the building last week and are going hungry now that food can only be brought in small quantities via rowing boats. Elephants can swim but it's feared the babies would drown in the floodwaters if they attempt to escape.
Meanwhile, the country's economy may be badly affected from the floods. Manufacturing areas just north of Bangkok have been particularly hard hit hard, including a Honda factory that has been submerged, ruining hundreds of cars.
The giant Rojana Industrial Park has also halted operations for the time being, director Amara Charoengitwattanagun told state-run news agency MCOT, and the facility may be further damaged if the flooding worsens. One plant in the park, Single Point Parts, evacuated all workers from the premises and built flood prevention embankments around its building.
"The Thai finance ministry says overall damage from the floods could be more than $2 billion, with the worst yet still possibly to come," Hancocks says.
CNN's Paula Hancocks and Kocha Olarn contributed to this report