- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 25, 2006

FRANCE

De Villepin presses negotiations over jobs

PARIS — French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said yesterday he wanted to find a solution through dialogue to the two main objections from student organizations to his planned new law for youth jobs.

“I want to respond to the two main preoccupations of the young about the CPE — the period of two years and the conditions of ending the contract,” he said after he met with three of seven student organizations. The other four boycotted the talks.

The CPE is a planned labor contract for people younger than 26 years for a two-year period, during which the employer may end the contract without stating a reason.

Protests over the measure by university and high school students, sometimes drawing crowds numbering in the tens of thousands, have surged in recent days and tested the strength of the conservative government before elections next year.

VATICAN

Pope celebrates mass with new cardinals

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI celebrated mass with his 15 new cardinals on the steps of a sun-drenched St. Peter’s Square yesterday, welcoming them as his new partners in running the Catholic Church.

Tens of thousands of people — family, friends and supporters of the new “princes” of the church — packed the square, waved flags from the cardinals’ homelands and toted banners with their pictures on them.

During the mass, Benedict placed a golden ring engraved with a crucifix and the papal seal on each man’s right hand. The pope said the ring was a symbol of their commitment and fidelity to the church, like the rings exchanged by a bride and groom.

Among the 193 members of the College of Cardinals, 120 are under age 80 and eligible to vote for the new pope.

UKRAINE

Hard-liners poised for big election gains

KIEV — Ukraine’s efforts to move closer to the West could face a setback in parliamentary elections today as an opposition leader advocating closer ties with Russia is poised to win the most votes.

The results could allow Viktor Yanukovych, who lost the contested 2004 presidential elections that led to the so-called Orange Revolution, to alter the former Soviet republic’s pro-Western course and seek improved ties with Moscow.

With public disillusionment over the sharp slowdown in economic growth, President Viktor Yushchenko’s party is in the doldrums, and Mr. Yanukovych’s fortunes have dramatically recovered since he was accused 16 months ago of rigging the presidential vote.

Mr. Yushchenko’s job is not at stake, but those of his prime minister and Cabinet are, and the vote followed constitutional reform that trimmed presidential powers and gave broader authority to parliament.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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