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Digest

French election a clear choice: Left or right

By TIMES WIRES
Published April 23, 2007


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PARIS

French voters Sunday chose ruling party candidate Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Segolene Royal to compete in the French presidential runoff in two weeks, with a huge voter turnout backing a generational shift of the country's leadership. Sarkozy, the tough-talking former interior minister and candidate of the Union for a Popular Movement, won 30 percent of the vote, and Royal, who has cast herself as a maternal protector vying to be France's first female president, received 24 percent, according to preliminary official returns. Eighty-four percent of the 44.5-million eligible voters cast ballots, reflecting the urgency of an election that centered on the country's fear of economic decline at home and diminishing influence abroad. The May 6 runoff will pit the hard-line, probusiness, pro-American Sarkozy, 52, against Royal, 53, who advocates social welfare programs and supports more multipolar global relations.

LAGOS, NIGERIA

Widespread fraud plagues elections

The ruling party's hopes that a weekend election in Nigeria would be accepted as credible were dampened Sunday when local observers and the main opposition parties condemned what they said was vote-rigging and called for a repeat of the balloting. Associated Press reporters witnessed ballot-paper shortages in opposition strongholds and open rigging favoring the ruling party of outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo. Local media reported intimidation by thugs with knives and guns. The elections were seen as a test of Nigeria's development as a democracy, the first transfer from one civilian administration to another in a country ruled predominantly by the military since in 1960.

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN

Suicide bomber kills nine civilians

A suicide bomber blew himself up Sunday in an east Afghan city, killing nine civilians and wounding 40 others, officials said. Acting on a tip, police tried to stop a suspicious-looking man in the city of Khost, provincial police chief Gen. Mohammad Ayub said. When the man tried to flee, police chased him and opened fire on him, at which point he detonated his explosives, Ayub said.

NEW DELHI

Eight tigers vanish from preserve

Eight tigers are missing from a reserve in western India, raising new concerns about the country's dwindling big cat population, a news report said Sunday. The rare adult tigers have vanished from the Ranthambore National Park, which covers 60 square miles in the western state of Rajasthan, the Indian Express newspaper reported, citing the Wildlife Institute of India. Indian law imposes severe punishment on wildlife violators but lax enforcement, high prices for tiger skins, and the use of their bones and claws in traditional medicine in China create a thriving trade.

GAZA CITY

Hamas calls for revenge on Israel

Hamas militants called Sunday for a fresh wave of attacks against Israel after troops killed nine Palestinians in weekend fighting, straining a 5-month-old cease-fire. In response to the bloodshed, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' more moderate Fatah movement urged him to consider breaking off contacts with the Israeli government, despite his pledge to the United States to hold regular meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

[Last modified April 23, 2007, 01:36:26]


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