Outgoing President Leonid Kuchma on Wednesday said the rivals, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich and opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko, agreed with the help of foreign mediators to let the court pass judgment on the 21 November vote and then jointly figure out how to resolve independent Ukraine's worst political crisis.

  

European Union's troubleshooter Javier Solana, forecasting another election, said that a month would be needed to set a date for it - the third since 30 November.

  

"As for the date of the election, the sooner the better ... for political reasons, for economic reasons," Solana said.

  

"The longer the process takes, it will harm the economy, that doesn't benefit anyone," said the EU foreign policy chief.

 

'Victory stolen'

 

Yushchenko (L) and Yanukovich
decided to wait for court's ruling

The talks on Wednesday brought together Yanukovich, the declared official winner of the 21 November presidential run-off, and Yushchenko, who claimed victory was stolen from him through government-organised fraud.

 

Yushchenko camp followers had earlier said they were breaking off talks President Kuchma and Yanukovich on grounds of "cheating", but appeared to have changed their position following a parliament vote in their favour.

  

The talks were attended by Kuchma and a group of European mediators: European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana; Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski; the secretary-general of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Jan Kubis; and Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus.

  

The talks came after parliament passed a vote of no-confidence, bringing down Yanukovich's government.

 

Kuchma can, however, allow the government to continue to exercise its powers until a new cabinet is formed, but not for longer than 60 days.

The Ukrainian parliament voted
out Yanukovich government

Anxious wait

  

Both sides are anxiously awaiting a supreme court decision on an opposition appeal to declare some of the ballots cast for Yanukovich void because of fraud.

Yushchenko's supporters hope the court would then declare him the winner of the elections. Yanukovich also filed an appeal asking the court to invalidate results in several districts which were won by Yushchenko.   


Kuchma, meanwhile, has pushed for a new election in an apparent attempt to win a respite and sideline Yushchenko, who has led hundreds of thousands of supporters to set up tent camps on Kiev's main avenue and blockade official buildings.

   

Deputies on Wednesday also voted to create an interim "government of national trust".

 

Key demand

 

President Kuchma (L) is counting
on new polls to provide a respite

Kuchma had earlier made clear he would not easily give up his battle with the opposition, rejecting its key demand that the presidential run-off his protege won be held again.

   

"Any re-run would simply be a farce. I cannot see it in any other way and I will never support it as it would be unconstitutional," he told a meeting of economic officials.

   

But the European Union's Dutch presidency said a re-run was the only way out.

 

Acceptable

   

"I don't see how all the complaints that have been filed on the second round of the elections can be solved in such a way that the outcome of this round of elections is ultimately acceptable to all," Dutch Europe Minister Atzo Nicolai said.

 

"In such a case a new second round of elections may be the only way out"

Atzo Nicolai,
Dutch Europe Minister

"In such a case a new second round of elections may be the only way out. We then have to ensure they are conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner," he told the European Parliament.

 

Meanwhile, the Ukraine supreme court was sitting for a third day to decide whether the election was fraudulent.

   

If it rules in favour of the opposition, the central election commission will have to revoke the victory it handed to Yanukovich and can then either set a repeat vote or a completely new election which would take up to three months to complete.