Ukraine Ex-PM Optimistic On Coalition After Talks

KIEV, Ukraine -- The parties behind Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" will next week announce a draft deal on forming a coalition government, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said on Friday after the latest round of talks.

Opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko talks to the media after her meeting with Ukraine's President in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, May 5, 2006. President Viktor Yushchenko's former Orange Revolution allies on Friday emerged upbeat from one-on-one talks aimed at forming a governing coalition, but the president's party members said no breakthroughs had been made.

Negotiations have been dragging on for more than a month since a parliamentary election that weakened President Viktor Yushchenko and left no party with enough seats to form a government on its own.

But there was no indication after the talks, hosted by Yushchenko, whether the main stumbling block -- Tymoshenko's demand to get back her job -- had been resolved.

A beaming Tymoshenko told reporters to expect an agreement on a coalition next week with three parties -- her own bloc, the president's Our Ukraine Party and the smaller Socialists.

"We have had a wonderful meeting with the president of Ukraine and Socialist Party leader Oleksander Moroz," she said.

"We agreed that at the very least on May 10 or 11 we will announce a draft coalition agreement. I think this meeting brought us much closer than we have been for weeks to an understanding on creating a coalition and making it work."

Yushchenko said the meeting had shown that Ukraine "can have a fully functional parliament with a majority and a government".

But he added: "Of course, I will not idealize the situation. There are plenty of nuances which must be settled."

Both he and current Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov predicted the new parliament would sit for the first time on May 24.

Liberal "orange" parties have been trying to restore unity shattered by the president's dismissal last year of Tymoshenko -- who stood alongside him during 2004 mass protests against election fraud which came to be known as the Orange Revolution.

The Regions Party of Viktor Yanukovich -- who lost the 2004 presidential election to the pro-Western Yushchenko after the revolution -- took first place in the March poll.

But the combined score of "orange" parties was greater and between them they command 243 seats in the 450-seat chamber.

The "orange" groups have agreed in principle on a coalition. But a formal deal is being held up by Tymoshenko's insistence that she -- as leader of the liberal group with the most seats -- should take over again as prime minister.

Yushchenko dismissed her after less than eight months in office to end infighting between ministers split into competing camps. Western analysts were critical of her attempts to control markets and calls for a mass review of privatizations.

Under new constitutional provisions, parliament names the head of government. But the president, still a key figure, is clearly uncomfortable with putting her back in the job.

Tymoshenko has accused some of Yushchenko's allies of plotting to scuttle an "orange" coalition and join forces with Yanukovich. Our Ukraine denies any such plans.

Yanukovich, whose party holds 186 seats, also met Yushchenko on Friday and said party members were holding talks with various groups to determine how to build an alternative coalition.

Source: Reuters