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Yushchenko -- before and after (AFP) 13 December 2004 -- The United States and the European Union say they are disturbed by reports that Ukraine's opposition leader and presidential candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, had been poisoned.

Yushchenko's Austrian doctors announced 11 December that he had been poisoned by dioxin and that this was the cause of a disfiguring illness that struck him in September.

EU external relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said those responsible should be brought to justice.

And U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said during a news conference today that there must be a full investigation.

"First and foremost, we wish Mr. Yushchenko a speedy and complete recovery from the problems that have faced him," Boucher said. "Second of all we are deeply disturbed by the physicians report. The physicians have now said that he was poisoned with dioxin. We support a full and complete transparent investigation into that matter into how it happened, who did it, what the cause was."

Yushchenko faces a repeat election runoff against Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in two weeks. Ukraine's Supreme Court ordered a new vote after it declared invalid a 21 November runoff because of widespread fraud.

Yushchenko has accused Ukrainian authorities of being behind the poisoning. He has said he wants an investigation into the poisoning to take place after the new vote.

Yanukovych today denied any involvement in the poisoning.

(AP/AFP/Reuters)

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