Rada Fails to Vote on Bills Needed to Join WTO

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian parliament on Tuesday failed to vote on a package of bills necessary for the country's admission to the World Trade Organization, handing an embarrassing defeat to President Viktor Yushchenko who had made a personal appeal for support.

Lawmakers seized the rostrum and shouted "Shame" as Yushchenko watched dejected members of his government file out of the hall at the end of the evening parliamentary session.

The package of 14 bills had been considered a necessary step for Ukraine to join the world's top trade body.

"It is a little test if we can accept these rules," Yushchenko said, addressing the parliament.

But lawmakers refused to put the measures up for a vote to protest against members of Yushchenko's government who refuse to surrender their parliamentary seats. Ukrainian law prohibits a person from holding a post in more than one branch of government and the issue was one that Yushchenko railed against when he was in the opposition. Under his government, the practice is even more widespread.

As Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, a Yushchenko ally, tried repeatedly to coax the lawmakers into setting the WTO bills up for a vote, the lawmakers shouted in protest.

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who had predicted last week that the government had enough support to pass the package, sat next to Yushchenko, whispering in his ear.

The session later broke up with faction leaders agreeing to meet to discuss what to do.

Foreign investors had urged Yushchenko to ensure the bills were passed before parliament breaks Friday for its summer recess. The request was one of the top proposals to emerge from the World Economic Forum investment conference held in Ukraine last month.

Oleksander Moroz, leader of the Socialist Party, said that by adopting the bills, "we would be destroying our own economy."

Yushchenko had earlier said he hoped Ukraine would be welcomed into the WTO this year - citing it as one of the top goals of his administration. Yushchenko came to power after last year's "Orange Revolution," pledging to push this nation of 48 million closer to the West.

Source: AP