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Ukraine PM Offers To Quit To Form New Coalition

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko
KYIV (Reuters) -- Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko issued a fresh appeal to Ukraine's politicians on November 20 to form a new "grand coalition" in parliament and offered for the first time to step down if that would help end a deadlock.

Ukraine has been without a governing team since September when a coalition linked to the pro-Western "Orange Revolution" collapsed and politicians have shown little interest in trying to form a new, viable combination of parties.

President Viktor Yushchenko, the premier's ally turned rival, called a snap parliamentary election to break the deadlock.

But he has abandoned the election for now in the face of opposition from Tymoshenko and a refusal by the government and parliament to finance it as officials turned their efforts to easing the effects of the world financial crisis.

Tymoshenko, under pressure from blows dealt to Ukraine's export earners, steel and chemicals launched a fresh attempt to forge a coalition able to command a majority inside parliament.

"I have issued a proposal confirming emphatically that I am ready to change the make-up of this government if that is needed for the sake of unifying everyone in this parliament," she told regional governors in remarks broadcast on television.

"If anyone among us, including the prime minister, is not deemed suitable for this cause and replacements are proposed, please feel free to vote accordingly after unity is achieved."

Tymoshenko said the magnitude of the crisis, which has also sent the hryvnia currency into sharp decline, was "nudging" all parties to find a way to make parliament work.

She made a similar proposal to form a broad-based government last month, but had never suggested that she would quit.

Most groups ignored her appeal. There is little indication now a "grand coalition" is workable after four years of constant upheaval since the mass 2004 rallies against poll fraud.

Parliament managed, after several days of complicated debate, to approve a package of laws late last month to secure an International Monetary Fund loan of $16.4 billion.

But matters have been compounded by the dismissal last week of chairman Arseniy Yatsenyuk, an ally of the president.

His departure further weakened any remaining influence from pro-Western politicians and left parliament paralysed. Deputies on November 20 put off any discussion of a successor until December 2.

The president has twice named Tymoshenko prime minister. The latest "orange" coalition collapsed when the president's Our Ukraine party left its alliance with Tymoshenko's bloc. Attempts to recreate an "orange" government team have since failed.

But the leader of the largest group in parliament, former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, main rival of "orange" protesters in 2004, said in Moscow that talks on forming a new, broader coalition were proceeding. But he gave no further details.