Ex-leader will challenge Sarkozy

PARIS - Dominique de Villepin, the former French prime minister who gained international renown for speaking out against the war in Iraq, has shaken up France's presidential campaign by announcing he will run as an independent in the spring.

The announcement is likely to complicate life for both the Socialist candidate, Francois Hollande, and President Nicolas Sarkozy, who runs the conservative UMP party that Villepin served under.

By positioning himself as a centrist, Villepin could siphon votes from both candidates, but the move is being seen primarily as a finger in the eye of Sarkozy. The two are bitter rivals.

Villepin was acquitted in September of charges he took part in a smear campaign against Sarkozy. On Sunday, he criticized Sarkozy for not protecting France's interests at a European Union summit on budget cuts. - AP

Pakistani leader still in hospital

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will likely need two weeks to rest in Dubai after medical treatment there before he returns home, the prime minister said Monday. The comments add to speculation about the leader's health and whether he is losing his grip on power.

Questions about the president's future come as Pakistan is navigating a rough patch in relations with the United States after NATO air strikes last month killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The attack has pushed the U.S.-Pakistani relationship close to the breaking point, imperiling Washington's efforts to get Islamabad to cooperate on the Afghan war.

Zardari flew to Dubai last week for treatment related to a heart condition, setting off rumors he was fleeing army attempts to oust him. - AP

Top Filipino judge is impeached

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine House of Representatives impeached the Supreme Court chief justice Monday over alleged corruption and favoritism toward the country's former president, now under hospital arrest for alleged election fraud.

A majority of the 284 members of the House signed the resolution to impeach Chief Justice Renato Corona, who will be tried by the Senate in an impeachment tribunal.

Corona, believed to be the only Supreme Court chief to be impeached in Philippine history, vowed to fight back.

The impeachment complaint accuses the Corona-led court of ruling improperly in ex-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's favor when she sought to leave the country last month before she was arrested. The surprise move is the latest twist in the Philippine drama pitting Arroyo against her popular successor Benigno Aquino 3d.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Pope Benedict XVI confirmed plans to travel to Cuba and Mexico before Easter next year. He said he hoped his visit would strengthen the faith. Benedict has visited Latin America once before - Brazil in 2007 - but the 84-year-old has focused his travel mostly in Europe.