Ship passengers to fly past pirates

BERLIN - A German cruise ship planned to evacuate passengers in Yemen and fly them today to the next port of call to avoid possible encounters with pirates off the coast of lawless Somalia.

Several other cruise operators said they also would shift or cancel tours that would have taken clients past Somalia, as nations and companies around the world debate how to confront the piracy. The European Union said its anti-piracy mission would station armed guards on vulnerable cargo ships, the first deployment of military personnel during international anti-piracy operations. That deployment will not cover cruise ships.

After the German ship drops off the 246 passengers in Yemen, they will fly to Dubai and spend three days at a five-star hotel before rejoining the ship in Oman.

- AP

Ukrainians forge a ruling coalition

KIEV, Ukraine - Ukrainian lawmakers have forged a fragile three-party governing coalition after months of political deadlock that paralyzed the country as it faced its worst financial crisis in a decade, a top legislative leader said yesterday.

The new coalition reunites the fractured alliance of President Viktor Yushchenko and rival Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, plus a smaller party. A formal coalition agreement will be signed within days, said Volodymyr Lytvyn, who was reelected parliament speaker.

The last governing coalition collapsed in September when Tymoshenko backed plans to trim Yushchenko's presidential powers and over disagreements about how to approach Russia's war with Georgia in August. The two are expected to face off in a presidential election in 2010.

- AP

Man gets life for suitcase bombs

DUESSELDORF, Germany - A Lebanese man accused of planting suitcase bombs on two German trains with an accomplice was convicted yesterday of attempted murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Youssef Mohammed el-Hajdib, 24, was one of two main suspects accused of planting the bombs on two regional trains at Cologne's main station in July 2006. The explosives did not detonate and no one was harmed.

Hajdib said suspect Jihad Hamad planned the attacks as revenge after some German newspapers reprinted caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Hamad was arrested in Lebanon and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Britain's Home Office

says asylum-seekers who say they are from Afghanistan will undergo tougher interviews, including tests on dialects and customs, to ensure their claims are true. An estimated 250 applicants a year fraudulently claim to be from Afghanistan.

French officers

moved into Kosovo's northernmost border post with Serbia as the European Union took over policing the tiny new country from the United Nations. The EU mission, delayed for months by protests on both sides of Kosovo's ethnic divide, will still rely on NATO's 16,000 peacekeepers for protection.