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Ukrainian Premier Seeks WTO Backing

Prime Minister Yekhanurov meeting with Secretary of State Rice on 2 November (AFP) 3 November 2005 -- Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov says Ukraine's accession to the World Trade Organization will be virtually impossible if Russia joins the organization first.

Yekhanurov made the comments yesterday on the final day of a two-day visit to Washington to seek U.S. backing for his country's bid to join the WTO.

Russia plans to join the WTO in 2006, while Ukraine wants to join by the end of this year.

Yekhanurov was quoted as saying Ukraine is concerned that if Russia joins while Ukraine's bid lags behind, Moscow would use its influence to keep its western neighbor out.

He also said that the United States may give Ukraine market-economy status in January. That's seen as an important milestone toward eventual WTO membership.

Yekhanurov met on 2 November with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who he said stressed the need for transparent governance in Ukraine, further democratic reforms, and fighting corruption.