- The Washington Times - Monday, February 15, 2010

UKRAINE

Yanukovych declared presidential winner

KIEV | Election officials named Russia-friendly Viktor Yanukovych as the official winner of Ukraine’s presidential election Sunday, thwarting Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s hopes of overturning the vote.

Mrs. Tymoshenko’s last recourse is now with the courts, after the Central Election Commission also dismissed her complaints of fraud and misconduct during the Feb. 7 balloting.

Mr. Yanukovych won the contest by just 3.5 percentage points — or some 888,000 of the nearly 25.5 million ballots cast, the commission said. It said he won 48.95 percent in an election that saw nearly 70 percent turnout. Mrs. Tymoshenko garnered 45.47 percent, while 4.36 percent of voters backed neither candidate.

“The commission names Yanukovych the winner,” Chairman Volodymyr Shapoval said in a televised meeting with other commission members, who applauded. “This applause is for the newly elected president.”

The announcement appeared to have been rushed, coming three days before the deadline, even as complaints of fraud poured in from Mrs. Tymoshenko’s staff. One Tymoshenko representative on the commission refused to read out the results from her districts, forcing a commission secretary to read them out in her place.

Late Saturday, Mrs. Tymoshenko broke six days of silence since the election to ask Ukrainians to support her in challenging the election results in court. She said the vote had been rigged.

BRITAIN

Far-right party ends whites-only rule

LONDON | The far-right British National Party voted Sunday to drop its whites-only membership policy, following a threat of legal action.

Party leader Nick Griffin said he expected a “trickle, rather than a flood” of applications after race-relations laws forced the party to amend its constitution to allow black and British Asian people to join.

“Anyone can be a member of this party. We are happy to accept anyone as a member, providing they agree with us that this country should remain fundamentally British,” he told Sky News television.

The leader said he expected to welcome the party’s first nonwhite member, a Sikh named Rajinder Singh, soon.

A London court had ordered the party to amend its constitution or face legal action from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, an independent body set up by the government.

BRITAIN

Party ousts lawmaker for anti-Israel remark

LONDON | A British lawmaker was fired from her job as her party’s health spokeswoman after she said that there should be a probe into claims that Israeli relief workers were harvesting organs in Haiti.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said Jenny Tonge was dismissed from the role for her “unacceptable” comments.

Ms. Tonge told the Jewish Chronicle last week that the Israeli Defense Force should set up an inquiry into claims made in the Palestinian Telegraph, a news Web site, that members of the team were harvesting body parts in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.

AUSTRIA

Skier trapped in chairlift 6 hours

VIENNA | A 22-year-old German skier was hospitalized with hypothermia after being trapped for six hours in a chairlift that had been closed down for the night, police said Sunday.

The man got on the lift 20 minutes after closing time Saturday evening to descend to the Kaltenbach-Hochzillertal ski resort in the Austrian Alps, police said. At that time, the lift was still running for maintenance, but it was shut down shortly afterward.

Police said the tourist unsuccessfully tried to draw attention to himself in the darkness by burning a bank note. He was finally found around 11 p.m. after a friend had reported the German missing.

ITALY

Heart-shaped Ecstasy seized in Valentine’s raid

ROME | Rome police overnight seized more than 2,000 heart-shaped Ecstasy tablets designed for Valentine’s Day lovers, a news report said Sunday.

The pink pills were part of a haul that also included nearly a pound of cocaine and some hashish, the ANSA news agency reported, adding that two suspected drug dealers were arrested.

Ecstasy, an illegal mood-enhancing drug that produces intensely pleasurable effects, is sometimes called “lovers’ speed.”

MACEDONIA

Official offers Greece talks on name flap

SKOPJE | Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said Sunday he was ready to meet his Greek counterpart “any time, anywhere” to discuss solving the 19-year name dispute between Skopje and Athens.

“I am ready to meet and talk with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou any time, anywhere,” Mr. Gruevski said.

He added that officials in Athens have hinted that his proposal for talks “was accepted, with the date and place yet to be determined.”

Mr. Gruevski’s comments came ahead of a visit by the United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz to Skopje and Athens, in the latest attempt to solve the ongoing row.

For nearly two decades, the two neighbors have been at loggerheads over the use of the name Macedonia.

Athens considers the name to be part of its heritage because of the northern Greek province of the same name.

Greece has blocked international recognition of its northern neighbor under the name of Macedonia since it became an independent nation in the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991.

Macedonia joined the United Nations in 1993 under the provisional name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM, but U.N.-led negotiations on the name dispute have yet to find a solution.

Macedonia has been an official EU candidate nation since December 2005, but has not yet begun any of the detailed negotiations required prior to membership.

In December, the EU announced it had pushed back a decision to allow Macedonia to enter membership talks to the first half of 2010. Such a decision requires unanimity from the EU members, including Greece.

Last year, Greece also blocked Skopje’s membership in NATO.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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