Ukrainian president backs court ruling

President Leonid Kuchma has said he will honour the Supreme Court's call for a repeat presidential runoff election.

    The 66-year-old leader has governed Ukraine for 10 years

    Kuchma's comments on Monday, delivered at a meeting of key economic ministers, were his first public reaction to the court decision on Friday. 

    In another sign that the situation was stabilising, more government workers ventured into their office buildings past opposition blockades. 

    The easing of tension came days after Ukraine's Supreme Court invalidated the result of the 21 November presidential runoff election and ordered a repeat vote on 26 December.

    Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich had been declared the official winner, but opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko complained fraud robbed him of victory and many Western nations refused to recognise the results. 

    Ready for compromise

    Signalling he was ready for compromise, Kuchma said he was prepared to accept the court's ruling and reform the 15-member Central Election Commission, according to his spokeswoman, Olena Hromnytska. 

    "The High Court has made such a decision and it must be fulfilled," Hromnytska quoted Kuchma as saying. 

    "The High Court has made such a decision and it must be fulfilled"

    Olena Hromnytska,
    Kuchma's spokesperson

    Kuchma also said he was ready to sign legislation to reform the Ukrainian Constitution to implement electoral reform - as soon as parliament adopts the measure. 

    The 66-year-old leader, who has governed Ukraine for 10 years, has been pushing for changes to the constitution that would weaken the presidency and strengthen parliament - a campaign observers see as an effort to hang on to power in case Yushchenko wins the presidency. 

    Parliament session

    Parliament broke off a session on Saturday and adjourned for 10 days after opposition lawmakers refused to link electoral reform - designed to combat fraud - with the constitutional changes. 

    Many Western nations refused
    to recognise the poll results

    As passions cooled, dozens of government employees walked past Yushchenko's supporters to return to work - the largest number of bureaucrats allowed into the building since protesters blockaded the entrance late last month to demand a repeat runoff vote. 

    Protesters in orange hard hats and ponchos stood shoulder to shoulder to create a corridor for about 60 low-ranking employees to pass through.

    Self-appointed security personnel among the demonstrators checked identification badges and other documents before allowing the group to enter the building. 

    Solana attends talks

    Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was to travel to Kiev on Monday to attend new mediation talks called by the Ukrainian presidency on the country's political crisis, his office said. 

    "He is leaving this afternoon for Kiev," said an official in Solana's office. He wants to continue the negotiations he participated in during two previous trips to Ukraine over the past fortnight.

    She added that it was not clear whether the talks would be a
    full so-called round table of international mediators. "It's only when he arrives that he will know," the official said. 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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