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Rival Ukrainian Leaders Present Europeans Their Views on Ending Political Crisis


Ukraine's two rival leaders, President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, are lobbying separately in Europe seeking support for their competing views for settling Ukraine's political crisis.

Tuesday's efforts came as Ukraine's Constitutional Court opened long-awaited hearings in Kyiv on the legality of a presidential decree to dissolve parliament and call new elections.

President Yushchenko met in Brussels with European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, while Prime Minister Yanukovych addressed the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

The president vowed to find a democratic solution to the stand-off triggered by his order. He also repeated a vow to avoid using force to settle the dispute.

Prime Minister Yanukovych, whose allies dominate the Ukrainian parliament, told European lawmakers that early elections will not change Ukraine's political landscape.

In Kyiv, Constitutional Court deliberations began with several hundred supporters and opponents of the president holding vigils outside the court. Experts say the hearings could last a month.

All 18 constitutional judges were present as the hearings opened. However, at least five of the jurists have complained of political pressure and had threatened to boycott the hearings.

Mr. Yushchenko - an advocate of closer ties with the West - and the prime minister, who favors closer ties with Russia, have said they will abide by the court's decision.

Tensions between the two leaders have been simmering since 2004, when they were rivals in a controversial presidential election. Mr. Yanukovych won the 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.