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Yushchenko Picks Arch-Rival as Ukrainian Prime Minister


Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has joined forces with his arch-rival, pro-Russia Regions leader Viktor Yanukovych, in the first sign of a break in the more than four-month political stalemate.

In a nationally-televised address overnight, President Yushchenko said the country could not withstand months more political conflict, but rather needed political compromise.

In an ironic reversal of fortune, he announced that he had decided to approve Viktor Yanukovych's nomination as prime minister.

That is the post his rival gave up in order to run against him in the widely flawed and much disputed presidential election of 2004, which led to the massive streets protests that swept Mr. Yushchenko to power.

Mr. Yushchenko said he takes comfort in the fact that Yanukovych has just signed his national unity pact, which commits him to agree to keep Ukraine on the pro-Western reform course favored by the president.

Full details of the pact have not been officially revealed. But it is also widely believed to support Ukraines bid for NATO membership, as well as call for equal status for both the Russian and Ukrainian languages.

Yanukovych earlier balked at the idea of signing the pact, saying it would mean a disavowal of his partys fundamental principles. But, in the end, it would appear his desire to return to the post of prime minister won out.

Had an agreement not been reached in the 11th hour, President Yushchenko had said he would dissolve parliament and call new elections, a costly move reportedly opposed by more than 50 percent of Ukraines population.

But society's apparent apathy at this point, and worries that Mr.Yushchenko's party would fare even worse in a new poll than it did just three months ago, appear to have led the president to team up with his former arch-rival.

Due to new constitutional changes agreed to during the Orange Revolution, Mr. Yanukovych will assume the post with stronger powers than ever before, powers once held by President Yushchenko.

President Yushchenko also said he hopes to see the other parties of the new coalition sign the unity pact on Thursday, therein setting Ukraine on the road to a new government nearly five months after the elections.

Meanwhile, hundreds of special troops and police are ringing the streets of Kiev overnight, surrounding parliament and Independence Square, in a bid to control any possible protests following the president's decision.