Yanukovych Sees Ukraine WTO Delay

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- Ukraine's government is committed to joining the World Trade Organization but may delay talks to ensure membership conditions meet producers needs, Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said Friday.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko set a government task to join the bloc by the end of this year. But Yanukovych said more time to study all conditions might be required.

"Certainly, we have a huge interest, and the government set itself a task to join the WTO as soon as possible. But the main issue for us is the conditions for joining," he told reporters during a visit to the Crimea. "If we manage to do it in 2006, then it will be 2006.

But our task is to resolve this issue in a clear way and within national interests. If we need to extend the term to do it, then we will extend it," Yanukovych said. Yanukovych was appointed prime minister earlier this month after he promised to try to secure WTO entry this year. He is due to visit Moscow on Tuesday in his first foreign trip since his appointment.

Ukraine wants to cut its dependence on energy imports by participating in gas and oil extraction projects in Russia, Central Asia and Libya, Yanukovych said Friday, Bloomberg reported.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko pledged Friday to continue his fight against graft in the Cabinet led by Yanukovych, whose associates he has investigated on corruption charges, The Associated Press reported.

Also Friday, NATO countries sent ships to the Black Sea port of Sevastopol for a naval exercise, the first after an anti-NATO protest forced the cancellation of U.S.-Ukrainian maneuvers, the AP reported.

Source: The Moscow Times