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Ukraine delays no confidence vote

yushenko
Yushchenko delivers a speech in front of boxes containing pro-reformist petitions  

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian parliament has postponed setting a date for a no-confidence vote in reformist Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko.

Leaders of the major political factions are now expected to meet on Monday to try to schedule the Communist-sponsored vote.

Yushchenko, the country's main champion of liberal economic reform, has said he believes his government will lose the vote.

"This government should be retained because of its value and effectiveness. But I am convinced that it will not be retained," he said.

The decision to hold the vote was decided during a stormy debate where parliament condemned the premier's policies and economic reforms.

The no-confidence vote, to be held before April 26, is likely to have wider implications for Ukraine.

Reforms pursued by Yushchenko, a former central banker, are regarded as crucial to keeping Western investors and the International Monetary Fund active in the country.

Yushchenko, speaking immediately after the 450-seat parliament approved a resolution critical of his government by 283 votes to 65, said he feared for democracy in Ukraine.

Yushchenko was appointed in 1999 by President Leonid Kuchma to spearhead economic change, but it is unclear whether he has the support of the president, who has so far failed to back his prime minister publicly.

The visiting European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, warned Ukraine that it must stick to economic and political reform if it wanted to maintain close ties with the West.

The no-confidence vote is the latest crisis to Ukraine's political leaders -- Kuchma is under pressure over the scandal of a murdered journalist which has brought thousands of protesters onto the streets of Kiev.

His opponents accuse him of involvement in the death of Heorhiy Gongadze. Kuchma denies the allegations.



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