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Saturday Feature
President of Ukraine strives to end divisions
Stefan Wagstyl and Tom Warner

          Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine's president, has made a public peace offer to Viktor Yanukovich, his bitter enemy in, the Orange Revolution, indicating their parties could work together after next March's parliamentary elections.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Yushchenko went beyond a recent political agreement he signed with Mr Yanukovich, which mainly addressed short-term pre-election issues such as the 2006 budget.
Speaking in his gilt-and marble office in Kiev's presidential administration building, Mr Yushchenko said he wanted to end divisions between a pro-Yushchenko west and eastern regions that voted for Mr Yanukovich in last year's presidential elections.
"Europe has shown us what can be achieved with solidarity, tolerance and mutual understanding," said the president, referring to the continent's post-1945 history. "I have not been talking to Mr Yanukovich. I have been talking to 13m people who represent principally eastern Ukraine."
Mr Yushchenko was aiming to reassure investors who have expressed concern about the disruptive effects of disputes between supporters of the Orange Revolution and industrial barons largely based in the eastern part of the country who benefited from links to former president Leonid Kuchma.
The comments were also aimed at putting pressure on Yulia Tymoshenko, Mr Yushchenko's firebrand ally in the Orange Revolution, whom he dismissed as prime minister last month. Mr Yushchenko said he still hoped his Our Ukraine party could agree to run jointly in the elections with Ms Tymoshenko and her supporters, but only if she "demonstrated wisdom" and avoided "back-stage politics".
Asked whether a coalition between Our Ukraine and Mr Yanukovich's Regions party was possible, Mr Yushchenko would not rule it out.
Mr Yushchenko indicated he was most inclined to link with a centrist bloc being formed by Volodymyr Lytvyn, the speaker of parliament, which is backed by prominent industrialists including Viktor Pinchuk, Mr Kuchma's son-in-law.
Mr Yushchenko said Mr Lytvyn's bloc might beat that of Ms Tymoshenko for third place in the elections after Our Ukraine, which the president said would win, and Regions.
Recent polls have shown the political groups of Mr Yushchenko, Ms Tymoshenko and Mr Yanukovich with roughly equal support of about 20 per cent of eligible voters, while Mr Lytvyn's group is far behind with support of 5.0 or 6.0 per cent.
Mr Yushchenko spoke on a wide range of domestic and international issues. While his face is still scarred from last year's poisoning, he seemed otherwise unaffected by the attack which almost killed him.
While he talked, he drank from an orange coffee mug emblazoned with last year's presidential election slogan "Yes! Yushchenko". But his mood was far removed from the heady atmosphere of the Orange Revolution. The president talked bluntly of the damaging economic effects of the political arguments that have divided the Orange Revolution's supporters. He agreed that an opportunity had been wasted and said "mistakes" had been made, particularly in economic policies.
The Tymoshenko government had disturbed business people with "populist" promises to spend public money and to review "several thousand" Kuchma-era privatisations. After gross domestic product (GDP) data showed an increase of 6.5 per cent in January, when Mr Yushchenko took power, it has since decreased to 1.6 per cent in August.
The president pledged the new, largely technocratic government of Yuri Yekhanurov, who replaced Ms Tymoshenko last month, would restore investors' confidence by acting in a transparent, professional and "apolitical" way.
He brushed aside questions about corruption claims levelled at some of his closest supporters, saying no evidence of corruption had been found. He explained his recent decision to extend legal immunity from MPs to local council members as a "shortcut" that avoided a wasteful battle in parliament while he referred the issue to the constitutional court.
Mr Yushchenko said the proposed sale of Kryvorizhstal, Ukraine's flagship steel mill, would go ahead as planned this month. The sale, expected to fetch more than $2.0bn, follows court action to recover Kryvorizhstal from its previous owners, including Mr Pinchuk, who bought the mill for $800m last year.
Mr Yushchenko said the state retained the right to review other past privatisations but indicated he would seek compromises.
He reiterated a pledge to end the long-standing domestic deadlock over Ukraine's bid to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and secure membership by the end of the year.


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President of Ukraine strives to end divisions

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