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Ukrainian President's Party Wants Coalition With Other 'Orange Revolution' Groups

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko's party says it wants to form a coalition with other "Orange Revolution" groups. But actually coming to agreement with its former allies may still prove difficult.

Mr. Yushchenko's "Our Ukraine" party says its leadership has agreed to hold talks with the Socialists and the bloc led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Both were allies of Mr. Yushchenko during the massive street protests now known as the "Orange Revolution" that brought him to power a year and a half ago.

The announcement ended speculation the president might make a deal with his pro-Russian rival Viktor Yanukovich, the man who was defeated during the Revolution, but whose party came in first in the March 26 parliamentary election.

There have been signs the two men might reach across Ukraine's traditional east-west divide, especially after Mr. Yushchenko's party fared poorly in the vote, due to voter disillusionment and economic hardship.

Because no party won a majority of seats in the vote, the major players have been forced to negotiate in order to form a new government.

Tymoshenko says she is willing to enter talks, but they are likely to prove difficult.

Her party's second-place showing in last month's poll boosts her demand that she again be made prime minister, something Mr. Yushchenko resists.

He fired her last September over disagreements about her policies, which were blamed for an economic slowdown.

The highly-publicized split between the two most charismatic "Orange" personalities took its toll during the campaign for last month's election.

In comments to reporters, Mr. Yushchenko said a coalition has a good chance to bring stability to Ukraine, adding that just eight months ago such a coalition was active and functioning.

The stakes are high because new rules give parliament the power to appoint not just the next prime minister, but the rest of the cabinet as well.

The combined total of seats the so-called Orange parties won is clearly larger than those won by Yanukovich, who also demanded to be named prime minister if a coalition could be formed with Mr. Yushchenko.

The pro-Russian leader will remain a formidable opponent to whatever coalition may form, as he commands solid support in largely Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

He also has the backing of the Kremlin, which was humiliated by the Orange Revolution and accused the West of "meddling" in its backyard.

Russia has also been angered by Mr. Yushchenko's expressed desire for Ukraine to one day join the European Union and perhaps even the NATO military alliance.