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Briefly: Europe

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FRANCE

Socialist Hollande wins primary to face Sarkozy

PARIS — French Socialist leader Martine Aubry conceded defeat Sunday in France's left-wing opposition primary, hailing rival Francois Hollande as the Socialist candidate to beat President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Mr. Hollande will run against Mr. Sarkozy in next year's two-round election in April and May and, according to opinion polls, will start as favorite to defeat the conservative president, who has had a difficult five-year term.

Sunday's election was France's first U.S.-style primary that was open to any voter who pledged support for the Socialist Party.

Oct. 9, a bigger-than-expected 2.66 million voters turned out for the first round, which Mr. Hollande won with only a narrow nine-point lead over Ms. Aubry.

VATICAN CITY

Pope utilizes wheeled platform

Pope Benedict XVI began using a wheeled platform Sunday to navigate the long aisle of St. Peter's Basilica, adopting the device employed by his ailing predecessor to reduce fatigue.

As the platform, pushed forward by aides, glided up the marble floor toward the main altar, Benedict gripped his pastoral staff with one hand and the device's support bar with the other.

The 84-year-old pontiff occasionally took his hand off the bar to wave to thousands of faithful flanking his route in the basilica, where he celebrated a Mass dedicated to encouraging missionary zeal.

Benedict walked steadily around the central altar and up and down its steps but appeared less sprightly Sunday than he usually does.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi insisted the platform wasn't being used for any "medical reason."

"The sole purpose is to ease the effort of the Holy Father, to reduce the fatigue," Father Lombardi said.

RUSSIA

Fasting activist returned to jail from hospital

MOSCOW — Supporters say a Russian opposition activist on a hunger strike has been sent back to jail without receiving proper medical attention.

Sergei Udaltsov, the leader of the Left Front movement, has been on a hunger strike for three days. He fell ill Saturday in a courtroom where he was appealing a 10-day arrest for disobeying police orders.

The Left Front said on its website Sunday that supporters called an ambulance and sent him to a hospital. It says medical authorities did not examine him properly and refused to admit him.

Mr. Udaltsov was detained Wednesday when he tried to lead a march to the presidential compound in Moscow following an authorized rally. He has been detained at least 10 times this year.

ITALY

Historic square turns into battlefield

ROME — A Rome square turned into a battlefield Saturday as riot police fired tear gas and water cannon jets on hundreds of stone-throwing protesters in clashes that left 70 injured and led to 12 arrests.

Groups of peaceful protesters could be seen huddling on the steps of St. John Lateran basilica for shelter as the urban battle raged in front of them.

Adding to the chaos, the flow of traffic through the busy hub was not blocked off and cars could be seen driving erratically through the square.

Stones were thrown at a Ferrari and a Mercedes stranded in the clashes.

In surrounding streets protesters torched cars, smashed banks and set fire to a military building, forcing a retired general and his wife to evacuate.

Between 200 and 300 riot police officers were then seen running from the square.

At least 70 people were injured, including three in a serious condition.

One man may lose two fingers after his hand was injured by a powerful firecracker in an altercation with the violent fringe of the protesters.

Police later Saturday said they had arrested 12 people and confiscated Molotov cocktails, metal bars and wooden clubs.

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