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Top Tymoshenko ally sentenced to 5 years

KIEV — A Ukrainian court Thursday sentenced a top ally of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to five years in prison for abuse of office.

The Pechersk district court in Kiev found former acting Defense Minister Valery Ivashchenko guilty of abusing his office during the sell-off of a state shipbuilding plant in 2009.

Ivashchenko denied any wrongdoing, calling the verdict unjust and politically motivated.

Tymoshenko, the country’s top opposition leader, is serving a seven-year prison term on charges of abuse of office after a verdict that has been condemned by the West as politically driven.


New interim president sworn in after coup

BAMAKO — Mali’s new interim civilian president took office Thursday, vowing to keep the chaotic country intact even after rebels declared an independent state in the north following a military coup three weeks ago.

Dioncounda Traore, who heads the country’s national assembly, is to serve as Mali’s president for 40 days following an agreement between West African regional mediators and the leader of the junta that seized power last month.

Amid the political upheaval, separatist rebels in northern Mali declared an independent state that is larger than France. The power vacuum also has allowed an Islamic faction that wants to impose Shariah law in the area to flourish.


Palestinians spurn call to resume talks

JERUSALEM — The Palestinians on Thursday spurned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest invitation to resume peace talks, insisting the Israelis freeze settlement construction first.

Mr. Netanyahu on Wednesday proposed to start direct talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, without any preconditions. The call followed an appeal from international mediators.

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