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EU Urges Ukraine to Delay Announcing Vote Result

The European Union says Ukraine should refrain from announcing the final results of Sunday's contested presidential election pending a review of the vote, which international observers say was not free and fair.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso told reporters the European Union is deeply concerned about the situation in Ukraine. He says there is no doubt that the elections there failed to meet international democratic standards.

Ukraine shares a border with the European Union and several of its newer member states, notably Poland, have urged Brussels to reach out to Ukraine and help it build democracy and a market economy so that it can eventually join the Union.

But Mr. Barroso says the controversy over the election could have an impact on that issue.

"We consider there is a place in the European family for a democratic Ukraine," he said. "We regret that Ukranian authorities have not taken the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to democracy. This could affect our relations in the future. We hope that, in the meantime, a political solution can be found, and we call for restraint from all sides to achieve that goal."

EU diplomats say the Union hopes the two factions in Ukraine, one pro-West the other pro-Russian, can work out a power-sharing arrangement to avert a continuing crisis.

Mr. Barroso warns that, unless there is a review of the election results and procedures, there will be unspecified consequences for EU-Ukraine relations.

"What exactly those consequences might be, it is too soon to elaborate on that, precisely because we hope and are working for that not to happen," said Mr. Barroso.

The situation in Ukraine is also threatening to strain already cool relations between the European Union and Russia. The European Union made no secret of its support for pro-western candidate Viktor Yushchenko, while Russian President Vladimir Putin backed Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich. The European Union and Russia are to hold a one-day summit Thursday in the Netherlands, and Mr. Barroso, switching to his native Portuguese, says the Union will express its concerns to the Russians.

He says the European Union has the duty to say that it is not satisfied with the way the elections in Ukraine were conducted. And he says the aim of being frank and forthright is to find a solution that will avoid polarization and violence.

One EU official who monitors Ukraine says it will be difficult to deny Mr. Yanukovich the presidency. But he suggests that early parliamentary elections, which the opposition has a good chance of winning, should be called to give it a chance to share power.