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Ukrainian President Says He Will Not Back Down From Order to Dissolve Parliament

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko says he will not back down from his order to dissolve parliament, despite opposition from lawmakers and massive street protests.

The president Thursday reasserted his plan to hold an early election during an emergency meeting of the country's Security and Defense Council.

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych Thursday reaffirmed his opposition to the plan, urging the government to ignore the president's order until the country's Constitutional Court has ruled on its legality.

Mr. Yanukovych Thursday also said he has asked Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer to help mediate the conflict and said he may later invite mediation from Russia and Poland.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana telephoned both the Ukrainian president and the prime minister urging them to show restraint.

Mr. Yushchenko ordered the dissolution of parliament Monday after accusing Mr. Yanukovych of illegally persuading pro-presidential lawmakers to join the ruling coalition.

Tension between the president and the pro-Russian prime minister has been simmering since 2004, when the two men were rivals in a controversial presidential election. That crisis was settled with the assistance of Polish and Lithuanian mediators.

Mr. Yanukovych won that election, sparking huge street protests by Yushchenko supporters, who called the vote fraudulent. A court ordered a new election, which Mr. Yushchenko won.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.