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Yushchenko Offers More Time To Solve Ukraine Political Crisis

President Viktor Yushchenko

President Viktor Yushchenko

KYIV (Reuters) -- President Viktor Yushchenko says he is offering more time to Ukraine's political parties to resolve a crisis over restoring or replacing the "Orange" coalition underpinning the government.

Yushchenko held last-ditch talks with political leaders to try to piece together a viable coalition in a country gripped by political turmoil since he was swept to power by mass "Orange Revolution" protests in 2004.

Long at odds with his estranged ally, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the president had earlier suggested should no deal be reached he would dissolve parliament and call a new election.

"I will give you this time," Yushchenko's website said he told parliamentary leaders at the meeting. "It is important after today's consultations to take an initiative so that leaders in parliament can find a way out of the stalemate."

But he said that holding what would be the third election in as many years was "another mechanism and no less democratic."

News agencies said Yushchenko then left on a trip to Italy.

Abandoned Hope

Yushchenko has paid scant heed to calls by Tymoshenko to patch up differences and reinstate the coalition.

Participants in the meeting, which lasted no more than an hour, suggested Yushchenko had abandoned hope of forming a coalition and would issue a decree on dissolution.

Volodymyr Lytvyn, head of the smallest faction in the chamber, said all present were resigned to an election campaign.

"These were consultations essentially noting that there was no coalition and therefore we are into an election," he said. "We did not initiate this election and don't want one. But as the process appears unstoppable, a decision must be made."

Mykola Tomenko, an ally of the premier, said a decree on dissolution would be "issued in the traditions of our country's old and new leaders -- once the president has left Ukraine."

The "Orange" coalition collapsed last month when the president's Our Ukraine party quit its alliance with Tymoshenko's bloc. Tymoshenko says she has met all conditions set by the president for reinstating the governing team.

A parliamentary race, probably in December, is unlikely to bring much change to the political landscape.

Polls give both Tymoshenko and ex-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, adversary of "Orange" protesters, about 20 percent support. Yushchenko's support is in single figures.