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Ukraine's Parliament Starts Passing New Election Laws

Ukraine's parliament has begun passing election reform laws needed for early parliamentary elections set for September 30.

The lawmakers Wednesday are expected to consider authorizing funds for the early vote and a law banning parliamentarians from switching political factions.

Parliament voted unanimously Tuesday to make changes in the Central Election Commission.

The early election is part of a deal reached Sunday between President Viktor Yushchenko and his rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

The agreement eases Ukraine's political crisis which erupted in April, when parliament ignored Mr. Yushchenko's order to dissolve. The president accused the prime minister and his supporters of illegally luring 11 lawmakers to join their opposition coalition.

The U.S. State Department said Tuesday it welcomes the political deal in Ukraine and says it looks forward to fair, transparent, and democratic elections in September.

Tensions between the Western-leaning Mr. Yushchenko and the pro-Russian Mr. Yanukovych have been simmering since the 2004 presidential election. Mr. Yanukovych won the vote, but Ukraine's Supreme Court threw out the results as fraudulent. The court ordered a new election, which Mr. Yushchenko won.

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