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Ukraine rivals in key talks.

Byline: ED JAMES

THE rivals at war over the Ukrainian presidency sat down and talked last night with the man they both hope to succeed, and European and Russian envoys.

Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma hosted the talks in Kiev with reformist opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko and prime minister Viktor Yanukovych.

The long-awaited talks came after six days of massive street protests in the capital against alleged election fraud, which the opposition says robbed Yuschenko of victory in last Sunday's presidential run-off.

European envoys arrived in Kiev yesterday in an effort to help solve the political crisis which has threatened to erupt into violence.

Kuchma's government certified pro-Moscow Yanukovych as the winner, but Westernleaning Yushchenko claims he was victorious.

The result was frozen by the Supreme Court following an opposition appeal and it will rule on Monday.

Also at last night's meeting was EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski, Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus, Boris Gryzlov, speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament, and Jan Kubis, the current head of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Kuchma thanked the envoys for ``making every effort so that these negotiations take place not on the street, but around a negotiating table. ''

Yushchenko had previously said he would negotiate only with Kuchma, and that the main condition for holding talks was the president's acknowledgement that the election was invalid.

But Kuchma -- who wants his pro-Moscow premier to win -- showed no sign of backing down. ``Any revolution must end in peace, '' Kuchma said. ``The sooner this so-called revolution ends, the better it will be for the Ukrainian people.

In Chernihiv, about 80 miles north of Kiev, police fired smoke charges over the heads of a pro-Yushchenko crowd after someone threw an ``explosive packet'' at a police cordon outside the mayor's office, police said.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 27, 2004
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