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Sarkozy's Best Man Charged in Kickback Probe

Fresh sleaze claims hit French President Nicolas Sarkozy's re-election hopes Thursday when the best man at his wedding was charged with graft by judges probing alleged kickbacks on an arms deal.

Just seven months before the French leader is to go to the country to seek another five-year mandate, Nicolas Bazire became the latest in a string of close allies to be confronted by a criminal investigation.

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France to Withdraw 200 Troops from Afghanistan Next Month

France is to withdraw around 200 troops from its 4,000-strong force fighting as part of the NATO coalition in Afghanistan before the end of next month, the military said Thursday.

"France will pull out the equivalent of a combat company and its support elements," Colonel Thierry Burkhard, spokesman for the French military staff, told reporters in Paris, confirming part of a previously announced plan.

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French Court Issues First Fine for Face Veil-Wearing Women

A French police court on Thursday issued its first fines against two women charged with wearing the full-face covering Islamic niqab.

Police have issued several on-the-spot fines since the ban came into effect in April but these are the first court-issued fines, with the women vowing to appeal their case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.

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5.6-Magnitude Quake Rattles Turkey

A moderate earthquake rattled the province of Erzincan in eastern Turkey on Thursday without causing damage or injuries, according to initial reports.

"Based on early observations, there were no injuries or damage," provincial governor Selman Yenigun told the official news agency Anatolia.

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NATO Claims Killing of Afghan Linked to U.S. Helicopter Crash

The NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan said Thursday it had killed a Taliban commander who was the target of an operation in which 30 U.S. troops died when their helicopter crashed last month.

Qari Tahir was killed by an air strike Tuesday in Wardak province, central Afghanistan, the military said.

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Troy Davis Executed in U.S. Despite Controversy over his Conviction

The southern U.S. state of Georgia executed Troy Davis on Wednesday despite doubts over his 1991 murder conviction that made him a poster child for the global movement to end the death penalty.

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Pope Benedict XVI had all weighed in on his behalf in a racially-charged case that spanned two decades, becoming a cause for death penalty opponents.

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Bomb Kills 5 in Pakistan Tribal Belt

A powerful roadside bomb targeting an anti-Taliban militia ripped through a pick-up vehicle in Pakistan's tribal belt on Thursday killing at least five people, government officials said.

The blast badly damaged the pick-up in a remote village close to the Afghan border, in the northwestern district of Bajaur, where Pakistani troops have been fighting for years to dislodge Taliban militants.

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Chavez Completes Fourth Chemo Treatment in Cuba

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is feeling well after completing a fourth round of chemotherapy in Cuba, the leftwing leader said in a telephone call to supporters broadcast on state TV.

"I am finishing up here in Havana on the last day of the fourth round of chemotherapy and I hope it will be my last (round)," Chavez said Wednesday to socialist supporters who were holding an ecumenical mass for him in New York.

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Twin Blasts in Russia Kill Policeman, Injure Scores

Twin explosions killed a police officer and injured dozens of others as well as civilians in Russia's southern city of Makhachkalay, officials said Thursday.

The explosions within meters of each other rocked the capital of the North Caucasus region of Dagestan after midnight and went off about 500 meters from the offices of Dagestan's interior ministry, a representative of Makhachkala police told Agence France Presse.

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Typhoon Kills 10 in Japan, Spares Nuclear Plant

A powerful typhoon that barreled through Japan and threatened the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant killed at least 10 people including a woman aged 101, officials and reports said Thursday.

Typhoon Roke, which churned across the main island of Honshu and through the already disaster-ravaged northeast, caused flooding and triggered landslides in an echo of a vicious storm earlier in the month that killed around 100 people.

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