World Briefs / Change sought in Ukraine

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KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's opposition set up a clash with the ruling party over a proposed Cabinet shakeup, bolstering demands for the ouster of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov after the biggest street protests in almost a decade.

While opposition leaders said they'll continue talks today with President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions, they want the government to step down after Mr. Azarov survived a confidence vote in Parliament Tuesday. The premier said Wednesday that he'll draw up proposals for Mr. Yanukovych on reshaping his Cabinet.

Demonstrations have escalated against Mr. Yanukovych's snub of a pact to cement ties with the European Union in favor of closer relations with Russia.

Far-right tied to killings

BERLIN -- Hundreds of unsolved killings and attempted killings in Germany over the past two decades may have been committed by far-right extremists, officials said Wednesday.

The admission comes two years after police acknowledged that a series of murders they had initially linked to immigrant criminal groups was likely the work of a secretive neo-Nazi group.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said authorities have completed an initial review of more than 3,300 unsolved cases. "In a total of 746 cases across Germany there were leads in that direction," Hendrik Loerges told reporters in Berlin. Currently, some 63 killings during the 21-year period are classified as far-right "politically motivated crimes."

Sex trade curb in France

PARIS -- The French Parliament's lower house Wednesday took the first step in criminalizing the purchase of sex, approving a package of legislation to discourage prostitution.

The proposed legislation, in a country usually associated with more liberal attitudes toward sex, elicited vocal and often angry views over the measure. It brought prostitutes into the streets to condemn what they saw as a damper on their business.

But by the time the bill came to a vote, President François Hollande's government, which had supported the measure as a step toward abolition of prostitution, had easily gathered the necessary support. In France, prostitution is tolerated but soliciting is illegal.

Mandela 'courageous'

JOHANNESBURG -- Former South African President Nelson Mandela is not "doing well" but is continuing to put up a courageous fight from his "deathbed," his family has told the South African Broadcasting Corp.

His daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, said: "Tata is still with us, strong, courageous. Even, for a lack of a better word ... on his 'deathbed' he is teaching us lessons; lessons in patience, in love, lessons of tolerance."

Mr. Mandela spent three months in a Pretoria hospital after being admitted in June with a recurring lung infection. The 95-year-old liberation struggle icon was discharged in September and has been receiving home-based medical attention.

Prisoner writes to Obama

WASHINGTON -- An American man who is marking four years in prison in Cuba has written a letter to President Barack Obama asking the president to get personally involved in securing his release.

Alan Gross, 64, was arrested four years ago Tuesday while working covertly in the Communist-run country to set up Internet access for the island's small Jewish community, access that bypassed local restrictions. At the time, he was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. government's U.S. Agency for International Development, which works to promote democracy on the island.

-- Compiled from news services



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