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Thursday, January 20, 2005; Page A19

Yushchenko Victory Is Official in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Western-leaning reformer Viktor Yushchenko's long and tension-filled drive to become Ukraine's president cleared its final hurdles before dawn Thursday when the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the losing candidate and government newspapers printed election results.

After deliberations that stretched to 2:30 a.m., the court announced it had rejected the appeal of Viktor Yanukovych, the former prime minister who was seen as likely to bring Ukraine closer into Russia's sphere of influence.

Parliament planned to meet later Thursday to set an inauguration date. Yushchenko's camp wants it to be Friday or Saturday.

Yushchenko won a Dec. 26 election that was a court-ordered rerun of a fraud-ridden ballot in November in which Yanukovych was declared the winner. The court annulled that result after Yushchenko's camp appealed and as tens of thousands of pro-Yushchenko demonstrators massed in downtown Kiev.


• PARIS -- Commuters crammed aboard the few trains left running and surgeons operated only on emergency cases as strikes over job cuts and pay disrupted French rail service and hospitals Wednesday.

The strikes were part of consecutive protests this week by trade unions against changes in France's welfare system, public sector and labor laws being pursued by President Jacques Chirac's government.

The suburban rail network in Paris was hit badly by the strike, which started Tuesday and was to last until Thursday morning. Unions were protesting the network's budget for 2005, which includes plans to cut 3,290 jobs through retirements.

Chirac's government, trying to control its deficit in line with European Union limits, wants the French to contribute more for health care. It has also trimmed pensions and plans to alter the 35-hour workweek.


• BRASILIA -- Brazil, one of the Latin American countries hit hardest by the AIDS epidemic, will hand out a record 11 million condoms to prevent the spread of the disease during its erotically charged Carnival.

With the pre-Lenten celebrations two weeks away, the "Dress Yourself" campaign is to remind revelers that a condom should be part of their outfit, no matter how little they wear to parades and parties.

The safe-sex campaign hits Brazilian TV next week, with grinning celebrities waving condoms as they dance to the popular Carnival samba tune "What Will You Wear?"


• CONAKRY, Guinea -- Guinea's ailing leader, Lansana Conte, 70, survived an assassination attempt, his security minister said after men in military uniforms reportedly fired on his convoy. Conte appeared on state television late Wednesday. Military sources said Conte's guards returned fire and foiled the attack, although several were hurt.

-- From News Services

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