World briefs: Putin greets Chinese leader

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MOSCOW -- China's new president received a lavish welcome Friday as he made Moscow his first foreign destination, joining with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a pointed attempt to counter U.S. influence in Asia.

Xi Jinping, who became president just last week, urged Russia to improve its foreign policy coordination to protect the two neighbors' joint security interests -- comments that appeared to seek Russia's backing for his eagerness to reduce U.S. influence and challenge Japan over a set of disputed islands.

After the talks, Russian and Chinese officials signed agreements on deliveries of Russian oil and gas to China.

Lawmaker's daunting task

ROME -- Pier Luigi Bersani, the ex- communist and leader of Italy's biggest political party, was given a mandate Friday by President Giorgio Napolitano to seek lawmaker support for a new government.

Mr. Bersani lacks a clear path to the parliamentary majority needed to install a government and implement a program of economic stimulus to pull the country from recession.

Italy is under pressure to come up with an administration as the 18-month recession drags on and the crisis in Cyprus renews speculation of a euro breakup.

India, Italy standoff eases

NEW DELHI -- Two Italian marines who had been refusing to return to India to stand trial for murder were flown back to New Delhi on Friday evening, ending a diplomatic standoff that threatened to derail relations between the two nations and test international law.

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone are accused of killing two south Indian fishermen from the deck of a passing oil tanker in February 2012, allegedly because they mistook them for pirates.

Sarkozy faces probe

PARIS -- Allies of former President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed shock and "incomprehension" on Friday after he was informed Thursday that he would face a formal investigation into whether he abused the frailty of Liliane Bettencourt, 90, the heiress to the L'Oreal fortune and France's richest woman, to get funds for his 2007 presidential campaign.

Mr. Sarkozy has denied accepting illegal campaign money from Ms. Bettencourt, either personally or through his party treasurer at the time, Eric Woerth, as alleged by Ms. Bettencourt's former butler.

Mr. Sarkozy's lawyer, Thierry Herzog, said he would appeal.

Fabricating evidence?

A top Dominican Republic law enforcement official said Friday that a local lawyer has reported being paid by someone claiming to work for the conservative website The Daily Caller to find prostitutes who would lie and say they had sex for money with Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

The local lawyer told Dominican investigators that a foreign man, who identified himself as "Carlos," had offered him $5,000 to find and pay women in the Caribbean nation willing to make the claims about Mr. Menendez, according to Jose Antonio Polanco, district attorney for the La Romana region, where the investigation is being conducted.

The Daily Caller issued a statement Friday saying that the information allegedly provided by the Dominican lawyer, Melanio Figueroa, was false.

The videotaped claims of two women, made with their faces obscured, were posted last fall on The Daily Caller.

-- Compiled from news services

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