KIEV, Sept. 19 â€“ Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovychâ€™s Regions Party, the largest group in Parliament, joined forces with two small leftist groups on Tuesday to approve a resolution that rejects Ukraineâ€™s quick accession to NATO.
The move shows the extent to which Yanukovych has been throwing legislative support behind his recent controversial statement seeking to postpone the accession, a position that clashed with that of pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko.
The resolution, which was quickly called â€śa confrontationâ€ť by Yushchenkoâ€™s office, will probably undermine talks between the Regions Party and Our Ukraine, Yushchenkoâ€™s party, for the creation of a more broad-based ruling coalition.
â€śThis resolution is entirely political and is not legally binding,â€ť Viktor Baloha, Yushchenkoâ€™s newly appointed chief of staff, said after the vote. â€śThe approval of such a document does not help in conducting effective foreign policy.â€ť
The vote, approved by 242 lawmakers from Regions, the Communists and the Socialists, suggests that the confrontation between Yushchenko and Yanukovych is extending to a broader standoff between the president and Parliament.
The vote was quickly criticized by Our Ukraine, the third-largest group in Parliament, making it exceptionally difficult for the party to join the ruling coalition.
Our Ukraine has been increasingly considering the option of joining forces with the group led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to create a major opposition for the government of Yanukovych.
Meanwhile, as the standoff intensifies between Yushchenko and Yanukovych, the presidential office has scheduled a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council for Wednesday.
The council, a body that advises the president on strategic issues and that includes such pro-NATO figures as Ukraineâ€™s defense minister and foreign minister, as well as law enforcement officials, will focus on cooperation with NATO.
The council is the last remaining tool at the disposal of the president in the NATO dispute with the prime minister, analysts said. Yanukovych, as the prime minister, is also a member of the council.
â€śThe president has enough political leverage to make sure that the foreign course stays unchanged and to oblige other branches of power to conduct it,â€ť Baloha said. (tl/ez)