Former President Mikhail Gorbachev said Friday that the fall of the Soviet Union, which he helped bring about, ushered in U.S. imperialism responsible for many of the world's gravest problems.
"The Americans want so much to be the winners. The fact that they are sick with this illness, this winners' complex, is the main reason why everything in the world is so confused and so complicated."
The USSR's collapse put the United States into an empire-building mood, the former leader said. Ultimately, he said, that has led the United States to "major strategic mistakes."
Washington "ignored the Security Council, international law and the will of their own people," said Gorbachev, who shared Putin's opposition to the war in Iraq.
"No one, no single center, can today command the world. No single group of countries ... can do it," he said.
Former French leader investigated in smear
Political leader Dominique de Villepin, the impassioned voice of French opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq, was formally accused Friday of complicity in a campaign to smear his rival Nicolas Sarkozy's reputation.
A silver-haired intellectual who has served as foreign minister, interior minister and prime minister, de Villepin was hit with preliminary charges that include "complicity in slanderous denunciations," according to one of his lawyers. De Villepin, who denied the charges, could face up to five years in prison if convicted.
The charges filed by investigating judges stem from an alleged attempt in 2003-04 to discredit Sarkozy. The scandal began when a judge received a disc accusing Sarkozy and other top ministers of hiding kickbacks. The charges proved baseless.
Taliban: S. Korean hostages may die
A purported Taliban spokesman warned Friday that some of the 22 South Korean hostages were in bad health, saying hours after the kidnappers' latest deadline that the captives were crying and worried about their future.
Qari Yousef Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the kidnappers, told the Associated Press that the group still insisted on exchanging Taliban prisoners for the captives, who could be killed if the demand was not met.
In eastern Afghanistan, two NATO soldiers were killed and 13 wounded in a clash with militants in an area where U.S. soldiers do most of the fighting. Twenty-five militants reportedly died.
In southern Helmand province, meanwhile, as many as 50 suspected militants and 28 civilians were killed when international and Afghan troops clashed with insurgents and called in airstrikes, a district chief said.
RAMALLAH, WEST BANK
Palestinian Authority rebuilds its security
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ordered an overhaul of his security apparatus Friday after an inquiry panel held 60 officers responsible for the collapse that gave Hamas control of the Gaza Strip.
U.S. officials have pressed for such changes to advance the prospects for peace talks that Abbas and his secular Fatah movement are seeking with Israel.
About 40 Fatah officers have already resigned, taken early retirement or been fired, Palestinian officials said.
Also Friday, one of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's closest confidants, Vice Premier Haim Ramon, said that Israel should withdraw from most of the West Bank in a negotiated deal with the Palestinians.
BEIJING: China's premier ordered vigilance over food and drug safety Friday as the Cabinet announced a regulation that mandates stronger supervision and outlines hefty punishments.
LONDON: An Indian doctor in Australia was freed Friday after the government dropped a terrorism charge against him arising from the botched London bombing plot. The doctor, Mohamed Haneef, had been in custody since July 2. Australia's chief prosecutor described the terrorism charge as a "mistake."
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL: Authorities reopened the main runway at the country's busiest airport Friday where a TAM jetliner crashed 10 days ago, killing 199 people. The airline says it will use the airport only when it is not raining.