KIEV, June 13 - President Viktor Yushchenko urged Parliament on Wednesday to stop meeting and officially dissolve itself so that early parliamentary elections can be held in September.
Yushchenko and his main political rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, agreed on the date of the vote last month in a bid to defuse a political crisis that had threatened to escalate into clashes between troops loyal to both leaders.
More than 150 lawmakers who support Yushchenko have since resigned their seats, according to their parties, which means the 450-seat Parliament can no longer legally operate. But Parliament Speaker Oleksandr Moroz has refused to formally dissolve the Rada, citing technical reasons, and legislators loyal to Yanukovych have been attending Parliament sessions, keeping Ukraine in political limbo.
Technically, the Rada only has to be dissolved 60 days ahead of the vote, but Yushchenko is eager to put an end to the crisis. On Wednesday, he accused Moroz of seeking to break the agreement and prevent the vote. "The parliament is illegitimate," Yushchenko told reporters. "The elections are inevitable."
Moroz did not respond to Yushchenko's call Wednesday. Yanukovych issued a statement urging the president to allow the Rada to work on Friday to vote on a series of economic bills.
Long-standing confrontation between the president and prime minister escalated in April when Yushchenko ordered Parliament dissolved, accusing Yanukovych's majority coalition of trying to usurp power.
Yanukovych later agreed to the early vote, but the two leaders agreed on a date only after Yushchenko raised the stakes by sending several thousand troops to the capital in defiance of the Cabinet.
Ukrainian politics have been riven by a power struggle between Yushchenko, who has pledged to bring the former Soviet nation of 47 million closer to the West, and Yanukovych, who is seen as more friendly to Russia.
The two were bitter rivals in the 2004 presidential election. Yanukovych was initially declared the winner, but Yushchenko won a court-ordered revote after weeks of mass protests against electoral fraud, which became known as the Orange Revolution.
Yanukovych staged a remarkable political comeback last year when his party received the most votes in parliamentary elections and formed the ruling coalition. (ap/ez)