- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Ukraine will stick to its pro-Western, pro-market reform program despite an escalating political feud between the leaders of the Orange Revolution, acting Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk said in an interview yesterday at the Ukrainian Embassy.

Mr. Tarasyuk, in Washington for talks with Vice President Dick Cheney and senior administration and congressional officials, said the basic thrust of Ukraine’s foreign policy has not been an issue in the recent upheaval in Kiev.

“Naturally, it is a question that has come up in all my meetings, but what you are really seeing is a democracy working through its problems,” Mr. Tarasyuk said.

“There will be no changes in our foreign policy. We want good relations with our major partners, with the United States, with Europe, with Russia, and we still have a goal of joining the European Union and NATO. These policies are not being held hostage to our internal differences.”

But even as Mr. Tarasyuk was speaking, Ukraine’s sharply divided parliament rejected President Viktor Yushchenko’s choice to replace as prime minister his former Orange Revolution ally Yulia Tymoshenko.

With Mrs. Tymoshenko’s faction abstaining, nominee and acting Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov, an ally of the president, fell three votes short of the 226 needed in the 450-seat assembly, despite heavy lobbying from the president against what he called “a cynical plot to destroy” his government.

Ukraine plunged into crisis and gridlock earlier this month when Mr. Yushchenko abruptly fired the charismatic Mrs. Tymoshenko amid intense governmental infighting. Adding to the embarrassing feud were charges of corruption, a halting reform program and a slowing economy.

Mr. Yekhanurov remains in charge of a caretaker Cabinet, and the president’s options include seeking another parliamentary vote on the nomination.

Mr. Tarasyuk, a close ally of the president, called the upheavals in Kiev a “catharsis” for Ukraine.

“There was a necessary self-cleaning among the government team in order to come back to the principles of the Orange Revolution and to regain the trust of the public,” he said.

He expressed confidence that the government would be able to push through the remaining parts of a major economic reform package strongly supported by the Bush administration and the European Union.

“I expect that as soon as the new prime minister is appointed, the drafts will be considered and passed” in parliament, he said.

Full approval of the reform measures is seen as critical to Ukraine’s hopes of winning U.S. and European backing for its bid to join the World Trade Organization by the end of the year.

The foreign minister said Ukraine’s longer-term hopes of joining the European Union and NATO remain on track despite the political standoff.

The Bush administration strongly backed Mr. Yushchenko in the Orange Revolution standoff late last year over a fraudulent election that originally favored a pro-Moscow rival. U.S. officials said they stand by the new government as it works through the political crisis.

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