Portuguese Leader Named to EU's Top Job

BRUSSELS -- European Union leaders on Tuesday formally named Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso of Portugal to serve as the next president of the European Commission, diplomats said.

The appointment ended an acrimonious debate over the job. Durao Barroso, 48, will succeed the current president, Romano Prodi of Italy, in October.

As the European leaders met in Brussels, diplomats said they had also extended the term of Javier Solana, the EU's foreign and security affairs chief, for another five years. Solana, a former NATO secretary general, is to become the EU's foreign minister under a constitution adopted this month by the leaders of the group.

The charter must now be ratified by each EU nation's legislature or in a referendum.


* STRASBOURG, France -- Banning Muslim head scarves in state schools does not violate the freedom of religion and is a valid way to counter Islamic fundamentalism, the European Court of Human Rights said.

In what could be a precedent-setting decision, the Strasbourg-based court rejected appeals by a Turkish student barred from attending Istanbul University's medical school in 1998 because her head scarf violated the official dress code.

The court decision, which takes precedence over national court rulings, could help the French government face cases it expects to be filed in September against a disputed head scarf ban it plans to impose in state high schools.

* THE HAGUE -- A U.N. court sentenced Milan Babic, the former leader of a breakaway Serb region of Croatia, to 13 years in prison for inflaming an ethnic cleansing campaign that killed hundreds of Croats and expelled tens of thousands.

The judgment, coming as former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic is set to begin his defense in his own trial, sought to strike a balance between punishing what the ruling called the "savagery" of the crime and rewarding Babic's willingness to testify against Milosevic and other former allies.

The Middle East

* SDEROT, Israel -- Palestinian militants rocketed this Israeli border town during a visit by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, underscoring Israel's helplessness in stopping the crude projectiles launched from the Gaza Strip.

Five rockets hit Sderot, even though Israeli soldiers had reoccupied parts of the northern Gaza Strip earlier in the day to prevent such barrages. One Sderot resident was hurt. Sharon was more than a mile from where the rockets struck. A hospital in Gaza said 17 teenagers were wounded by army fire during the Israeli operation in the town of Beit Hanoun.


* ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, the head of Pakistan's ruling party and a loyal ally of the nation's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, was elected caretaker prime minister by Parliament. Hussain is expected to stay in office for only a matter of weeks, until the completion of political maneuvering that will allow Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz to assume the job.

* PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- The leaders of Cambodia's two main political parties, Prime Minister Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranariddh, signed a power sharing agreement Wednesday to form a coalition government, signaling an end to 11 months of political paralysis. Cambodia has been without a formal government since elections last July 27 failed to give any party a two-thirds majority required to govern alone.

-- From News Services