Ukraine Leader Bars Chemical Selloff For Third Time

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, at odds for months with his prime minister, has barred for a third time the government's bid to privatise a leading chemical plant, the Odessa Port plant.

Viktor Yushchenko

A presidential decree issued late on Friday, after a meeting of Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council, ordered a stop to the government's scheduled May 20 selloff of the plant.

But Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko ignored Yushchenko and said the privatisation would go ahead.

The plant near the Black Sea port of Odessa has been one of the flashpoints of confrontations pitting Yushchenko against Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko -- his on again-off again ally from the 2004 "Orange Revolution" that swept him to power.

The president had twice before halted the sale on grounds that the plant is of strategic importance.

He also said the sale must not include an adjoining pipeline and export terminal, saying any buyer would secure control over it and could exclude other producers.

Tymoshenko told an investment conference held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development: "We will conduct the fairest privatisation in 17 years on Tuesday."

Ukraine's privatisation agency, the State Property Fund, this week said three companies - Yevrokhim from Russia, Nortima from Ukraine and Nitrofert from Estonia had completed applications to take part in the auction.

The government has set a starting price of almost $600 million for the fertiliser producer.

The State Property Fund has been another focal point of rows between the president and his premier.

The government dismissed the Fund's head, who opposed the Odessa sale, and installed its own chairman, but the president over-ruled the move.

Under a new law on the cabinet passed by parliament on Friday -- restoring some of the president's powers lost since he took office -- decisions adopted by the National Security and Defence Council are binding on the government.

Source: Guardian UK