News in Brief

U.S. Faces Tbilisi Protest



TBILISI, Georgia -- Some 2,000 opposition supporters protested near the U.S. Embassy in Georgia's capital Tuesday, criticizing the United States for accepting presidential election results that opponents of the country's U.S.-allied leader say was rigged.

Protesters also criticized what they called open U.S. government support for President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was inaugurated Sunday for a second term as leader of the former Soviet republic after winning the disputed Jan. 5 election.

The demonstrators stood in an open area about 80 meters from the embassy.

"If not for the support of the U.S. administration, the falsification of the presidential election in our country would not have succeeded," said protest organizer and opposition leader Koba Davitashvili. (AP)




Kiev Gets NATO Warning



Russia warned Ukraine on Tuesday that joining NATO would have serious implications for relations between the two former Soviet neighbors, days after Kiev launched formal moves to join the Western military pact.

The Foreign Ministry said Ukraine's leaders -- linked to the pro-Western Orange Revolution that sought closer integration with the West -- appeared bent on creating a new relationship with NATO to replace close traditional close ties with Moscow.

"In this context, the possible integration of Ukraine into NATO will seriously aggravate multi-dimensional Russian-Ukrainian relations. We will be obliged to take relevant measures," a ministry statement said.

There was no official comment in Kiev. (Reuters)




Ukraine Fight Investigation



KIEV -- President Viktor Yushchenko has ordered prosecutors to investigate a fight between Ukraine's interior minister and the mayor of Kiev that sparked a furor about post-Soviet business and political ethics.

Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko and Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky, generally allies of Yushchenko, accused each other of corruption at a session of the National Security and Defense Council devoted to land use.

Officials present said that during a confrontation after the meeting, Lutsenko struck Chernovetsky in the face at least once.

In an unusual move, Yushchenko's chief of staff Viktor Baloga told reporters Monday that the general prosecutor's office "must produce complete and objective conclusions with no political bias" in his report into the clash. (Reuters)




Alpine Asylum Seekers



ZURICH -- A Ukrainian family seeking asylum in Switzerland was rescued from a mountainside near the border with Italy, from where they were trying to cross the Alps, Swiss media reported.

A mother and her five children, from 9 to 21 years old, were rescued Sunday from the slopes of the 1620-meter Monte Lema peak, Swiss news agency SDA said.

The family, lightly clothed and with some of the members barefoot, had probably been wandering around in the heavily snowed-in area since Friday evening.

Police are investigating whether the six had been brought across the border by a smuggling gang.

Rescue workers, who saved the six as dusk fell, said they would not have survived another night in the open. (Reuters)