Ukraine Leaders Inch Towards Coalition Deal

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's president, Viktor Yushchenko, and the leaders of three pro-western political groups were yesterday edging towards a coalition pact that would set the stage for the return of his rival Yulia Tymoshenko at the head of a new "Orange" cabinet.

Yushchenko meeting with the parliament election winners

Mr Yushchenko, who last September fired Ms Tymoshenko after a seven-month term as prime minister that was marked by constant cabinet infighting, held back yesterday from endorsing her return.

But he made clear he would not stand in the way if his Our Ukraine bloc agreed to back Ms Tymoshenko, an outcome that looks increasingly likely.

"I don't have any objections to any candidates. My position will be formed not on the basis of my emotions, but on the extent to which we have a clearly defined plan of action of the future coalition," Mr Yushchenko said.

Ms Tymoshenko's return has been widely predicted since a March 26 vote made her Tymoshenko bloc the largest of three pro-western Orange groups - so-called because they supported the 2004 Orange Revolution - which together will hold 243 of parliament's 450 seats.

Talks were scheduled to continue today with a meeting between Ms Tymoshenko, Socialist lead-er Olexander Moroz and Roman Bezsmertny of Our Ukraine.

Yosyp Vinsky, deputy leader of the Socialists, said the three partners would sign a preliminary coalition agreement today.

Mr Yushchenko said he also wanted "constructive" ties with the opposition, made up of the pro-Russian Regions and Communist parties. He said he would "take into account" opposition victories in eastern and southern regions when appointing regional governors.

The new parliament is expected to have its firstsession in mid-May. But the opening could be pushed back by a court challenge to the election results brought by the People's Opposition, a radical pro-Russian group that narrowly missed the 3 per cent minimum needed to enter parliament.

Source: Financial Times