World briefs 12/26/04

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Ukraine judges throw out some anti-fraud changes

KIEV, Ukraine -- On the eve of Ukraine's hotly contested presidential vote, the nation's highest court on Saturday threw out some of the election law changes aimed at battling fraud, a possible setback for opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko. The Constitutional Court ruling poses a last-minute logistical challenge to election officials and could provide grounds for a protracted dispute over the results of the vote -- a repeat of a November vote that was thrown out because of fraud. The court ruled that amendments allowing people with only certain disabilities to vote at home were unconstitutional, and it ordered that all who were unable to reach polling stations because of a disability or ill health be allowed to vote at home. The ruling could benefit Yanukovych, who pushed for the restrictions to be lifted. Yushchenko supporters had pointed to home voting as one of the tools allegedly used to commit widespread fraud in the Nov. 21 run-off between Yanukovych and Yushchenko.

Palestinian leader vows to uphold Arafat's legacy

RAMALLAH, West Bank-- Mahmoud Abbas kicked off his campaign to succeed Yasser Arafat, pledging on Saturday to uphold the late Palestinian leader's legacy and deliver on his promise of Palestinian statehood. Abbas, the interim Palestinian leader and front-runner in the Jan. 9 elections, plastered Arafat's picture on his campaign posters and peppered his campaign announcement with references to the iconic Arafat, hoping that their decades-long relationship -- rocky though it was -- will propel him to overwhelming victory. Addressing a hall of hundreds of supporters, Abbas called on Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem -- which Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War. Abbas said he favored a negotiated peace settlement and promised to respect the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Russian cargo ship takes food to space station

KOROLYOV, Russia -- An unmanned cargo ship on a vital mission docked early Saturday at the international space station, carrying badly needed food for a U.S.-Russian crew that has been forced to ration dwindling supplies. The Progress M-51 -- also carrying Christmas presents from families and friends -- moored at the orbiting station at 5:58 p.m. Central time Saturday, officials at Russian mission control outside of Moscow said. The spaceship, which lifted off Friday from the remote Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, was carrying about 2.5 tons of food, water, fuel and research equipment for Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov and U.S. astronaut Leroy Chiao.

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