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Dispute Over Electoral Reforms Continues in Ukraine


Ukraine's electoral dispute continues following Friday's Supreme Court order for a new presidential runoff vote with the opposing sides now sparring over electoral reforms. President Leonid Kuchma has called for a new roundtable meeting on Monday involving international mediators.

International mediators from the European Union, Poland and Lithuania are expected in Ukraine Monday for a roundtable session aimed at resolving changes to electoral laws that parliament failed to pass on Saturday.

President Kuchma called for the new talks after he accused the opposition of reneging on last week's agreement to approve certain reforms.

The reform would transfer many presidential powers to parliament, and have been under discussion since earlier this year.

But opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko says the government wants to make too many changes because they fear he will win the presidency in the new runoff vote ordered by the supreme court on Friday.

Parliament adjourned for a 10-day break without passing electoral reforms intended to ensure the election on December 26 will be free and fair.

Thousands of Mr. Yushchenko's supporters say they will remain in their tent city in the center of Ukraine's capital city of Kiev until the situation is clarified.

Mr. Yushchenko has called on the international community to help insure the new vote will be fair, saying the it will determine Ukraine's fate "for decades and centuries ahead."

The European Union, Canada and other countries are making plans to send foreign observers to monitor the new election.

Many will come with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which strongly criticized the last vote.

But a very different reaction has come from Russia, which openly backs Prime Minister Yanukovich and accuses the West of "interfering" in Ukraine's internal affairs.

Russia has singled out the OSCE for what it calls "clear bias" in its election monitoring and focus on human rights issues.

In another development, Mr. Yushchenko says that his family is now in hiding due to the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine.

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