Prospect Of Bush Visit Puts Pressure On Kiev Parties

KIEV, Ukraine -- A possible visit to Kiev by President George W. Bush in June or July is causing consternation in Moscow and putting pressure on Ukraine's quarrelling pro-western political parties to agree quickly on a coalition government.

George W. Bush

The White House is hoping the Kiev visit could be combined with a US-European Union summit in late June or with the Group of Eight summit in Moscow in mid-July.

A Kiev visit timed closely to the G8 summit would allow Mr Bush to stress US support for the western-oriented democracies on Russia's perimeter that have come under economic pressure from Moscow.

Mr Bush would also use the visit to promote Ukraine's accession to Nato, which his administration is suggesting could be launched at the alliance's summit in Riga in November and completed by 2008.

The aggressive schedule was outlined by William Taylor, Mr Bush's nominee to take over as US ambassador in Kiev, in a Senate confirmation hearing last week.

At a conference on Nato in Moscow yesterday, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the alliance's secretary-general, defended proposals for Nato to take in Ukraine and Georgia, which he said were "not directed against Russia".

Russian speakers warned that Nato-Russia relations would change for the worse if Ukraine was invited to join.

However, Mr Bush's mission in Kiev depends on there being a government to greet him. A newly elected parliament is not due to convene until next Thursday, two months after the March polls.

The three parties that led the 2004 Orange Revolution and together won the largest share of parliamentary seats continue to argue over the sharing out of key jobs, including the prime min-ister's.

Viktor Yushchenko, president, added impetus to the talks last week when he said that he did not object to the candidacy of Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime min-ister, with whom he has had a somewhat rocky relationship.

Ms Tymoshenko leads the largest of the three groups in the prospective coalition and her bloc insists she be premier.

Mr Yushchenko's spokeswoman said Mr Bush was likely to visit this year but no date had yet been set.

"Thank god that in Ukraine the government is formed without outside influence," she said.

"But the president is optimistic that we will see a government by the middle of June."

Source: Financial Times