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Experts to review evidence in Knox case

PERUGIA, Italy (AP) -- Independent forensic experts will have 90 days starting next month to review crucial evidence linking American student Amanda Knox to the murder of her British roommate, an appeals court said Saturday.

Knox, 23, was convicted in 2009 of sexually assaulting and murdering Meredith Kercher. She was sentenced to 26 years in prison. Her co-defendant and ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito was also convicted and sentenced to 25 years.

Their lawyers have disputed DNA traces used to back up the convictions and obtained an independent review at the start of the appeals trial.

The experts, from Rome's Sapienza University, were appointed by the appeals court and formally sworn in Saturday. They will begin their review on Feb. 9 at a university lab, conclude by May 9 and report their findings to the court on May 21.

Kercher, 21, was stabbed to death Nov. 1, 2007. Her body was found the next day in the apartment she shared with Knox. They were both exchange students in Perugia.

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Prime minister resigns as party leader

DUBLIN (AP) -- Prime Minister Brian Cowen announced Saturday that he has resigned as leader of Ireland's dominant Fianna Fail party but intends to keep leading the government through the March 11 election. The opposition demanded his immediate ouster as premier.

Cowen's surprise move capped a week of political crises that brought his coalition government to the verge of collapse. Never before in Irish history has a politician sought to remain prime minister without being leader of the main governing party.

Cowen -- unpopular because of Ireland's stunning slide to the brink of bankruptcy -- pledged that the short-term split in power would not "in any way affect our ability to do our business."

But opposition leaders decried his maneuver as an affront to democracy and vowed to expel Cowen from power in a no-confidence vote this week in parliament.

Even some Fianna Fail lawmakers said Cowen should have admitted defeat now and dissolved parliament for a mid-February election.

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Refusal of requests for lethal drug urged

BERLIN (AP) -- Germany's health minister is urging the nation's drug companies and distributors to ignore U.S. requests for supplies of a key drug used in lethal injections.

A spokesman for Philipp Roesler confirmed Saturday that the minister had written a letter to the pharmaceutical companies "urgently" appealing to them not to respond to requests from the U.S. for the drug, sodium thiopental.

Supplies of the drug are growing short after the sole U.S. manufacturer ceased production. It is still marketed in Germany as an anesthetic.

Although German law does not prohibit sale of the drug abroad, Roesler urged drug companies to understand that its potential use in the U.S. is against German values.

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