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Ukraine's prime minister urges factions to unite

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko urged rival political forces Sunday to unite in the face of the global financial crisis and abandon plans for early parliamentary elections.
Ukraine's PM Tymoshenko speaks during her televised address in Kiev
Ukraine's Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Sunday urged political parties to form a new government, draft a plan to shield Ukraine from the world financial crisis and abandon an election called by the country's president. Pool / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko urged rival political forces Sunday to unite in the face of the global financial crisis and abandon plans for early parliamentary elections.

Tymoshenko, who is battling to keep her job and torpedo President Viktor Yushchenko's plan for new elections in early December, called on parliamentary factions to create a broad governing coalition and a new Cabinet.

In a televised appeal, Tymoshenko warned that the third parliamentary election in as many years would "destroy the country" and said its leaders must cast their differences aside and rescue the economy.

The global financial crisis "is already knocking on our doors, but we can refuse to open the door," Tymoshenko said.

She said a new government based on a broad parliamentary coalition should work to keep the country from economic disaster until the threat has passed. "And after that you can have any elections you like," she said.

Ukraine's government has had to rescue two top banks, the national currency's rate has fallen around 12 percent in recent weeks, the stock market went into a free fall and the country is seeking a multibillion loan from the International Monetary Fund to help stabilize the financial sector.

The global financial meltdown's impact on Ukraine has been exacerbated by political turmoil in the ex-Soviet republic — Tymoshenko's coalition with 2004 Orange Revolution ally Yushchenko collapsed last month amid mutual recriminations.

Tymoshenko's call for a broad coalition appeared to be an invitation to Yushchenko and opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych, whose Russia-friendly party hold the most seats in parliament. It also suggested allies in a new coalition would have to agree to her terms.

Tymoshenko has said she would like to revive her shattered pro-Western coalition with Yushchenko, but has also said she would be prepared to strike an alliance with Yanukovych for the sake of rescuing the economy.

Tymoshenko is the most popular politician in Ukraine, according to many polls, and her faction is the second biggest in parliament, so she would be unlikely to accept any other job than that of a prime minister in a new Cabinet.

The coalition fell apart after Tymoshenko moved to adopt legislation trimming Yushchenko's powers. Yushchenko also accused her of selling out to the Kremlin and hurting Ukraine's chances of joining NATO by going easy on Russia over its August war with Ukraine's ally Georgia.

Tymoshenko has continued working until a new Cabinet is appointed following an election.

In a bid to portray herself as above a dirty and damaging political fray, Tymoshenko said she and her party were "unilaterally" taking themselves out of the standoff and would concern themselves only with saving the economy.

If her call for a new coalition goes unheeded, she said, "Then our team will counter the crisis on its own and defend the people."

Yushchenko has set a Dec. 7 date for new elections, but Tymoshenko's protests and court appeals have hampered preparations. Election officials said the vote will have to take place later because they are running behind on organizing it.