Top news: After just two days of balloting, the cardinals gathered in Rome selected Jorge Mario Bergoglio, former archbishop of Buenos Aires, as the next leader of the Catholic Church. The first pope from Latin America -- and the first Jesuit -- Bergoglio has taken the name Francis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. His election is widely seen as a reflection of the church's ascendance in Latin America -- where 40 percent of all Catholics reside -- and its relative decline in Europe. As the new pope put it in his first address, "My brother cardinals have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am."
Though he is considered less aloof than his predecessor, Benedict XVI, Francis is not expected to push the church into new territory when it comes to controversial doctrinal issues like the ordination of women as priests or support for gay marriage. Francis did, however, break with tradition in his first act as pope, declining to bless the crowd gathered at St. Peter's and asking them to pray for him instead: "Let us say this prayer, your prayer for me, in silence," he said.
Libya: President Barack Obama named Deborah K. Jones as the new U.S. envoy to Tripoli, replacing Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, who died in the Sept. 11 consular attack in Benghazi. The president also met with Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan at the White House, urging him to help identify and bring to justice the attackers behind the Benghazi attack.
- Tunisia's parliament on Wednesday approved a new cabinet proposed by Islamist Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh.
- Kurdish militants released eight Turkish captives on Wednesday, signaling progress in negotiations between the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Turkish government.
- The United States extended waivers on Iran sanctions to Japan and 10 European Union countries on Wednesday.
- A court in Malawi charged former Foreign Minister Peter Mutharika and 11 others with treason for allegedly attempting to prevent Joyce Banda from succeeding Bingu wa Mutharika as president.
- Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan pardoned Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, a former state governor convicted of corruption and money laundering in 2007.
- South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said that at least 28 percent of the country's school-age girls are HIV positive, as opposed to 4 percent for boys.
- Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., the top American commander in Afghanistan, advised his forces to take additional security measures after President Hamid Karzai made a series of anti-American remarks.
- A suicide bomber killed at least 10 people at a traditional game of buzkash in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz.
- Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng said his family remains under surveillance almost a full year after he fled to the United States.
- Acting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro backed off his earlier statements, suggesting that the body of the former president Hugo Chavez would be embalmed.
- A court in Chile ordered the remains of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda exhumed on April 8 as part of an investigation into the cause of his death in 1973.
- Acting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused "far right" actors in the United States of plotting to kill opposition leader and presidential hopeful Henrique Capriles.
- French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called Wednesday for Europe to drop its ban on supplying arms to Syrian rebels.
- German authorities outlawed three Salafist Muslim groups Wednesday on the grounds that they are "incompatible with our free democratic order," in the words of Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich.
- A Bulgarian man set himself alight in Sofia Wednesday, marking the country's fourth self-immolation this month.