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Ukrainian Parliament Offers Opposition Dialogue

Ukraine's pro-Western parliamentary coalition is asking the largest opposition party to join talks aimed at resolving the political stalemate. Legislators have been unable to meet, or vote, on new Cabinet members, after the opposition staged a four-day blockade of Ukraine's parliament.

Ukraine's parliamentary coalition says it is prepared to start a dialogue with the embittered opposition Monday. At the same time, officials from the fragile coalition, grouping former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko's bloc, President Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine Party and the Socialists, say the offer is conditional on the opposition ending its blockade.

In the words of one coalition official, "we do not accept ultimatums as a way of communication in parliament."

The opposition made no immediate moves to accept the offer, saying only that its demands remain the same. Namely, the opposition would like to see the coalition, made up of former Orange Revolution allies, agree to hold separate votes on the post of prime minister and parliamentary speaker.

The opposition pro-Russian Party of Regions is also seeking more political muscle. It failed to find any allies in parliament, but its leader, Viktor Yanukovych, says it did win the most votes in the March election. As such, he says, his Regions party should be offered better committee leadership positions.

At present, the parliamentary coalition is offering a vote on returning Yulia Timoshenko to the prime minister's post, with presidential ally, Petro Poroshenko, tapped for the speaker's job. The Socialists are in line for first deputy prime minister.

Mr. Yanukovych says Regions will never accept being cut out, and is prepared to stand firm as long as it takes.

Under Ukraine's Constitution, lawmakers have four weeks to form the new Cabinet. If they fail to do so, President Yushchenko can dissolve the legislature and call new elections.

The March elections failed to give any one party enough seats to form a government alone, and there is no sign a new election would yield a more definitive result.