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Ukrainian President Calls For New Constitution

Viktor Yushchenko (file photo) (epa) 9 February 2006 -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko used his annual address to parliament to call for a new constitution.

Yushchenko, who has been locked in a legal conflict with parliament, proposed setting up a commission to draft a new version of the constitution that would then be submitted to the electorate in a referendum. Yushchenko said, however, that he will not attempt to force any changes before parliamentary elections are held on 26 March.

Constitutional changes that came into force earlier this year greatly increased parliamentary powers at the expense of the presidency. On 11 January, parliament voted to fire Yushchenko's government over a controversial gas deal with Russia. Yushchenko has, however, ignored the vote.

Yushchenko today also appealed to lawmakers to end their internal battles and work together for the good of the country. He called for a consolidation of Ukrainian society which he said was under threat from both political and economic crises.

Before the address, scuffles broke out in parliament between Communist lawmakers and Yushchenko's supporters.

(Interfax-Ukraine, Ukrayinska pravda, Reuters, AP)

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