World briefs 1/11/05

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Yushchenko announced official winner of election

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's Election Commission late Monday declared Western-leaning reformer Viktor Yushchenko the winner of the presidential election over Kremlin-favored Viktor Yanukovych. The commission announced that the final official tally of the Dec. 26 vote -- which was a rerun of the Nov. 21 election that was annulled because of fraud -- showed Yushchenko with 51.99 percent of the votes and Yanukovych with 44.2 percent. Yanukovych, who stepped down as prime minister last week, had been declared the winner of the Nov. 21 election, and he has vowed to use all possible legal avenues to overturn the revote. Also in Ukraine, President Leonid Kuchma on Monday ordered the foreign and defense ministries to develop a plan for withdrawing Ukraine's troops from Iraq within months, his office said. Ukraine's 1,650 troops are the fourth-largest contingent in the U.S.-led operation in Iraq. That order came a day after eight Ukrainian soldiers died in an explosion at an ammunition dump in Iraq, which was reported as an accident.

Indonesia urges aid groups to make lists of workers

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia -- Indonesia's military asked aid groups in tsunami-stricken areas Monday to draw up a list of international relief workers -- and to report on their movements -- as fears arose for the safety of foreigners helping survivors in a region wracked by rebellion long before the waves hit. The request underlined the unease with which Indonesia has faced the growth of the biggest aid operation in history, replete with foreign soldiers and civilian humanitarian workers. Indonesian authorities have long been wary of foreigners' presence in the tsunami-stricken Aceh province, where separatists have been fighting government troops for more than 20 years.

Smoking ban takes effect in cigarette-loving Italy

ROME -- Office workers took their cigarette breaks on the street Monday after a strict law banning smoking in bars, restaurants, offices and other public spaces came into force in Italy. Minutes after the law went into effect after midnight, a young man was fined for smoking in a bar in Naples, TV stations showed. The man's plea that a cigarette was only normal after a coffee won him no reprieve, and he was fined the minimum penalty of $36. The law, which bans smoking in indoor spaces unless they have a separate area with continuous floor-to-ceiling walls and a ventilation system, is one of the toughest in Europe.

Israeli parliament approves new Sharon government

JERUSALEM -- Israel's parliament narrowly approved Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new coalition government Monday, providing a solid Cabinet majority that favors a plan to remove all 21 settlements from Gaza and four from the West Bank. After a 3 1/2-hour debate, the parliament voted 58-56 in favor of the government.

Cuba: Formal ties with all of Europe re-established

HAVANA -- Cuba said Monday it was resuming formal ties with all of Europe, ending a deep freeze in relations following a 2003 crackdown on dissidents and the firing-squad executions of three men who tried to hijack a ferry. Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told journalists that official contacts had resumed with the Havana-based ambassadors of the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and the Netherlands, as well as with the European Union mission. Although diplomatic ties with the European countries were never severed, high-level contacts between Cuba and many EU members were limited for more than 1 1/2 years.

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