Ukrainian President Says Relations With PM Worsening, Calls For Compromise

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said Thursday that his relationship with PM Viktor Yanukovych, his Orange Revolution rival, is worsening and he called for compromise.

The odd couple of Ukrainian politics - Yanukovych (L) and Yushchenko (R)

He and Yanukovych opposed each other in a 2004 presidential campaign which triggered the Orange Revolution protests that propelled Yushchenko to power.

Yanukovych bounced back less than two years later to win parliamentary elections and form a governing coalition. The two have frequently clashed over foreign policy, Cabinet appointments and other government business.

"A new team has come. They have the impression that the whole world lies at their feet, that they can rule from morning to evening as they want," Yushchenko said.

Under constitutional reforms that took effect this year, Yushchenko canot fire Yanukovych and Yanukovych cannot ignore the president.

The law provides little guidance over how power should be divided.

In many ways, Yanukovych already holds the upper hand. As head of government, he controls the country's finances.

His party also heads a 246-seat majority in the 450-seat parliament, ensuring that his initiatives have support.

Even though the constitution has declared the president responsible for foreign policy, Yanukovych declared that Ukraine must put its bid for NATO membership on hold and made improving tense relations with Russia as a priority.

Earlier this month, the parliament fired the foreign minister, a Yushchenko appointee who is a strong supporter of Ukraine's pro-western course.

Yushchenko said Thursday that "Ukraine's foreign course toward the EU and NATO is inevitable" and he called the minister's dismissal illegal.

The president called on the government to join his office in elaborating a law on the Cabinet of Ministers that would clearly define the functions of the two branches of power.

"Ukraine needs a more carefully thought-out constitutional reform ... The best way will be to have a political dialogue, to hold a round table," Yushchenko said.

Meanwhile, Yushchenko praised the government's and parliament's efforts to complete the adoption of bills needed to bring Ukraine's laws into line with the requirements for membership in the World Trade Organization.

The president said that the country has a strong chance to gain membership early next year.

Source: AP