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Efforts Continue to Break Ukraine's Electoral Deadlock


International mediators have managed to get Ukraine's political rivals back to the negotiating table, after a newly formed working group broke up earlier in the week. Ukraine's parliament and Supreme Court also held sessions Wednesday, but made little progress in finding a way out of the two-week-old electoral deadlock.

During an evening news conference, Ukraine's outgoing president, Leonid Kuchma, appeared with the two rival presidential candidates and international mediators to say political negotiations aimed at ending the electoral stand-off were back on track.

Mr. Kuchma said all parties agree that peace, not force, will provide the only way out of the crisis, which was sparked after widespread claims of electoral fraud following last month's presidential elections.

The outgoing president held up a one-page document he said had been signed by all the parties to Wednesdays talks. Mr. Kuchma twice referred to the agreement as a, quote, compromise.

In it, he said opposition supporters of Viktor Yushchenko had agreed to unblock state institutions to allow Ukraine's government to get back to work. The opposition has led two weeks of the largest anti-government protests Ukraine has ever seen in the capital, Kiev, as well as other cities.

As for the pro-government forces of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, Mr. Kuchma says they agreed on the need to protect Ukraine's territorial sovereignty. This, after pro-government leaders in the east earlier threatened to break away from central control, if Mr. Yanukovych's declared win was annulled.

According to President Kuchma, the parties also agreed that the working group will consider changes in Ukraine's electoral law after the Supreme Court rules on the opposition's claims of electoral fraud.

President Kuchma says the working group will not meet again until the Supreme Court has rendered its ruling. The court is due to convene again on Thursday.

Wednesday, red-robed justices presided over another nearly nine hour session, the third in as many days, hearing both pro-government and pro-opposition claims.

And Ukraine's parliament, or Rada, passed a non-binding resolution dismissing the government of pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

Opposition deputies cheered as the motion of no-confidence passed by a narrow margin, as did tens-of-thousands of opposition demonstrators watching the debate on wide-screen video screens in the street.

Mr. Yanukovych later dismissed the decision as invalid, saying it was made in the face of what he called outside pressure. His supporters also rejected the vote, saying the only person who can fire the prime minister is the outgoing president.

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