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Jubilant supporters of opposition leader Viktor Yuschenko danced in the streets of Ukraine's capital at word that parliament had approved changes to the nation's electoral laws and outgoing President Leonid Kuchma had signed the legislation. Yuschenko said the measures clear the way for him to win a second runoff Dec. 26 against Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich. Under the changes, parliament may appoint all cabinet members without the president's OK except for prime minister, defense minister, and foreign minister.

Amid ever-increasing terrorist attacks in Iraq, US officials formalized a deal with neighboring Jordan for tighter security at the border to help stop infiltration by those who want to work with the militants. Meanwhile, Iraq's Electoral Commission suggested it would consider a voting plan for the Jan. 30 election that would begin on schedule but would stagger balloting over as many as 20 days so that security could be maximized as each ethnic or religious community goes to the polls.

Hinting at weariness, the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland offered details of their joint peace plan for Northern Ireland, insisting that an accord between Catholics and Protestants is inevitable. Among other points, the plan calls for full disarmament by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) by year's end, followed by reconvening of a power-sharing Protestant/ Catholic home-rule assembly next month. But as they spoke, an IRA spokesman said a requirement that documentary photos be taken of the disarmament constituted humiliation and "Humiliation doesn't work."

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Price hawks in OPEC are expected to push for easing production and maximizing revenue as the cartel meets in Cairo Friday to set strategy for the first quarter of 2005. Led by Iran, some members reportedly will seek to scale back output - currently 1 million barrels a day over the official ceiling - and to raise the pricing range from the current $22 to $28 a barrel to between $30 and $38. Crude for future deliveries was trading at a four-month low on commodities markets Wednesday. The hawks are motivated by the weakening US dollar and the mild start to the heating season in the Northern Hemisphere, analysts said.

Saying, "The people have begun to free themselves from the dictatorship of the private media," leftist President Hugo Chávez signed a new law that gives his government immediate control over Venezuela's TV and radio programming. It provides for huge fines or the closure of stations found to be in violation of tough rules on violent, sexual, or other content. Critics argue that it will be used to silence criticism of Chávez, who has feuded with broadcasters for years, and to muzzle coverage of antigovernment protests.

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