French President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday appointed Dominique de Villepin , a loyalist who was France's voice against the Iraq war, as prime minister to head a new government. Villepin, a poet, politician, and statesman, has never held elected office and has an aristocratic air - two potential drawbacks for a prime minister, especially as the new government tries to reconnect with the people following Sunday's defeat of the EU constitution.

Oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, was convicted Tuesday of charges including fraud and tax evasion and sentenced to nine years in prison after a trial widely denounced as politically motivated. The declaration of guilt and sentence came on the 12th day of the verdict-reading process in the most closely watched case of post-Soviet Russia. The former head of the Yukos oil company, Khodorkovsky has already spent 583 days in jail.

The US military acknowledged it had made a "mistake" by detaining Iraqi Islamic Party leader Abdul-Hamid, whose 12-hour detention on Monday did little to help American efforts to entice Iraq's once-dominant Sunni community back into the political fold. Few details were available on why the Americans arrested the Sunni leader, but it appeared to be related to the ongoing Sunni-led insurgency and fears of a broader sectarian conflict starting up.

Libya's highest court on Tuesday postponed for six more months a decision on the death sentence appeal of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor. The medical workers were convicted in 2004 of infecting more than 400 children with the HIV virus said to cause AIDS while conducting an experiment to find a cure. Libya says 50 infected children have already died. Human rights groups allege Libya concocted charges to cover up unhygienic practices in its hospitals. The court's decision to postpone the ruling comes after Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov visited Libya and met with the medics.

China refused a Japanese request Tuesday to suspend work on exploiting disputed gas fields in the East China Sea. Thus two days of talks on the issue ended without a settlement at a time of tension between the Asian giants, Japan, however, agreed to consider a Chinese proposal for joint gas development and the two sides promised to arrange more talks later, explained officials of both governments.

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