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Appeals trial begins for ex-prime minister

PARIS | French former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin’s appellate trial on charges of smearing his fierce political rival, President Nicolas Sarkozy, during the 2007 election began Monday.

Mr. Villepin, a suave diplomat best remembered for leading the charge against the Iraq war at the United Nations in 2003, was cleared of all charges in a first trial that ended last year.

Two co-accused - Jean-Louis Gergorin, former deputy boss of aerospace giant EADS, and Imad Lahoud, former EADS employee and mathematician - were jailed for 15 months and 18 months, respectively, and fined $60,000.

Mr. Villepin made no comment on the trial as he arrived at court wearing a dark blue suit, saying only that he was thinking of the victims of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, killed in an overnight raid by U.S. forces in Pakistan.

The three defendants stated their names and monthly incomes before taking their seats for a hearing under presiding judge Christiane Beauquis.

Mr. Villepin was not questioned further in Monday’s hearing.


Gbagbo urges supporters to seek peace

KORHOGO | Ivory Coast’s deposed former leader Laurent Gbagbo urged supporters Monday to drop political quarrels for now and help the West African country revive its economy in peace.

Mr. Gbagbo was ousted from power on April 11 by forces loyal to his successor, Alassane Ouattara, backed by French and U.N. troops deployed to help end a four-month power struggle that killed thousands.

His supporters have continued to battle government forces in pro-Gbagbo areas of the main city Abidjan.

Mr. Ouattara has promised to launch a South African-style truth and reconciliation process but was urged by a delegation of senior international officials on Monday to ensure it was impartial and balanced.


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