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Prez to PM: Hands off foreign minister
Journal Staff Report

KIEV, Nov. 13 – President Viktor Yushchenko warned Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych on Monday that plans to dismiss Foreign Minister Boris Tarasiuk would undermine cooperation between the president and the government on key issues.

Tarasiuk, a pro-Western figure, may be dismissed on Wednesday during a scheduled no-confidence vote in Parliament, Yanukovych has said. Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko, another pro-Western figure, may also be dismissed.

“This is aimed at weakening the pace of Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration,” Yushchenko said, according to the presidential press service. “In political terms, the dismissal of Tarasiuk would deal a major blow to the cooperation between the president, the government and Parliament on key issues.”

The warning shows that Yushchenko has been apparently threatening to use his power of veto on the government-drafted legislation, including the draft 2007 budget, which would be a major setback for the government.

The development underscores a bitter standoff between Yushchenko and Yanukovych on key foreign policy issues, such as accession to NATO and closer ties with the European Union. Yanukovych, a pro-Russian figure, has been seeking to reverse the accession to NATO in favor of closer cooperation with Russia.

Yanukovych has been using controversial amendments to the constitution, enacted earlier this year, that reduce the powers of the president in favor of the powers of the prime minister.

But Yanukovych has been aggressively moving further and now also seeking to take control over Ukraine’s foreign and defense policies, the two sectors that had been left in control of the president.

The clash between Yushchenko and Yanukovych may result in a constitutional crisis that would have a negative impact on the country’s economic growth next year, analysts said.

As a further evidence of Yanukovych’s hidden foreign policy agenda, the government has so far been refusing to disclose to the president its plans for the prime minister’s visit to the United States early next month.

Yanukovych is due to visit Washington between Dec. 3 and Dec. 7 for talks with Vice-President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, but Yushchenko has not been informed about the visit’s agenda.

This forced Yushchenko on Monday to issue a special decree ordering the government to immediately disclose any initiatives that Yanukovych may pursue at the talks.

Yushchenko apparently seeks to prevent an embarrassment had taken place in September, when Yanukovych, while visiting NATO headquarters in Brussels, has unexpectedly declared that Ukraine would suspend its accession to the alliance. The declaration sent shockwaves through Ukraine dashing Yushchenko’s hopes for the country to join NATO in 2008. (tl/ez)




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