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WORLD IN BRIEF

Saturday, January 1, 2005; Page A20

Yanukovych Resigns, Doubtful About Appeal

KIEV, Ukraine -- Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych resigned Friday, acknowledging that he had little hope of reversing the presidential election victory of his Western-leaning rival, Viktor Yushchenko.

Yanukovych announced his decision in a televised New Year's Eve address, but said he would pursue his appeal of the election results to the Supreme Court. "We are still fighting, but I don't have much hope," Yanukovych said.

Yanukovych has lost the backing of outgoing President Leonid Kuchma, and many of his top advisers have deserted him. He returned to work as prime minister this week after taking leave, but opposition demonstrators blockaded his offices, refusing to let him convene a cabinet session. The meeting went ahead in another building without him.

On Thursday, election officials rejected his complaints of fraud, upholding Yushchenko's victory. It appeared Yanukovych's resignation was effective immediately.

THE AMERICAS

BOGOTA, Colombia -- The most important rebel commander ever captured by Colombia was sent to the United States to face drug and kidnapping charges.

Colombia's president authorized the extradition of Ricardo Palmera, alias Simon Trinidad, after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the Spanish initials FARC, failed to comply with an ultimatum to free 63 hostages, including three Americans.

Palmera is wanted in federal court in Washington on charges of cocaine trafficking and involvement in kidnapping the American hostages. Palmera, arrested in Ecuador in January, was handed to U.S. officials at a Bogota military airport and put on a plane.

No FARC rebel of the rank of Palmera -- a 54-year-old former banker born into Colombian high society but radicalized by a murder campaign against leftists in the 1980s -- has been sent to the United States before.

Palmera has denied the U.S. charges, telling an interviewer recently: "I am not a drug trafficker or a terrorist. . . . I will continue my political struggle."

-- From News Services


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