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Kuchma, Putin Discuss New Election in Ukraine


Ukraine's outgoing President, Leonid Kuchma, has met Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time since last month's disputed presidential election. The political crisis in Ukraine has threatened to split the country between the pro-Russia east and pro-reform West. President Putin, who made two visits to Ukraine just days before the second round runoff, agrees with Mr. Kuchma that a new election would be the best way to end the standoff.

In an interview broadcast on Ukraine's independent television, President Kuchma and President Putin are shown meeting in what is said to be a Moscow airport.

During the talks, President Putin offers Russia's help in finding a possible way out of Ukraine's electoral stand-off.

Mr. Putin also criticized the political opposition's calls for the recent presidential election to be annulled and a third round runoff vote to be declared between Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko.

Mr. Putin asks what happens if the next round does not satisfy the opposition. He asks, "Should we just keep holding elections until one party gets the result it wants?"

Mr. Putin's visit with the Ukrainian leader comes one day after a high-level European delegation visited Kiev to push the two parties toward a negotiated settlement. Mr. Putin, who made two high-level visits to Ukraine during the electoral campaign, has said outside parties are trying to unduly influence what he says is ultimately a decision for Ukrainians.

President Kuchma says an entirely new election needs to be called that would include other candidates in the race.

Mr. Kuchma also says any decision that is reached must take into account both the opposition and pro-government positions.

Ukraine's political opposition insists it will not agree to holding the elections from scratch, and has accused the government of using any means it can to keep Mr. Yushchenko from being declared the new president.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's parliament met again to create a multi-party commission to change Ukraine's electoral law, once the Supreme Court issues its ruling on the opposition's appeal to annul the second-round run-off.

The Supreme Court met for a fourth day in a tiny cramped room and spent hours reviewing claims and counter claims about the election from both pro-government and pro-opposition representatives.

Many Ukrainians hope Friday will prove to be the decisive day in the election stand-off, after justices adjourned again without issuing a ruling.