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President Leonid Kuchma
18 May 2004 -- The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine today warned that relations with Washington could suffer if presidential elections scheduled for October are unfair.
Ambassador John Herbst made the comments in Kyiv. Pro-western opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko is currently favored to win but his main competition will likely be current Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.
Incumbent President Leonid Kuchma says he will not run again, having already served two terms.
Meanwhile, Ukraine's prime minister today said he was confident the European Union would soon grant his country market economy status, a key step for it to be considered for membership of the World Trade Organization.
Yanukovych, talking to reporters after meeting EU officials in Brussels, suggested the decision could come in the next two months.
EU Commission President Romano Prodi also said an agreement was close. He said that only problems concerning pricing and Ukraine's bankruptcy laws were holding up the decision.
During a visit to Brussels, Yanukovych also visited NATO headquarters. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer encouraged Yanukovych to press ahead with reforms of Ukraine's armed forces. He also stressed the need for strong democratic standards and media freedom.