Ukraine leader wants feuding parties to talk on govt

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KIEV, Oct 3 (Reuters) - President Viktor Yushchenko today ordered Ukraine's three bickering parties to strike their own deal on a post-election government, a move likely to aggravate a deadlock that has stalled economic reforms.

That appeared to reverse a pledge in the campaign to back a coalition composed of his pro-Western allies from the 2004 ''Orange Revolution''. He later went further, saying his rivals should be given top government jobs in the national interest.

As the vote count drew to a close, the pro-Western president said stability could be reached only through a political understanding including both his ''orange'' allies and his arch rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich.

The president had made a reconciliation with former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a key figure in the 2004 upheaval, just before Sunday's poll, aimed at ending a year of political bickering.

''We can achieve political stability from a political understanding between the three key political players -- the Regions Party, the Tymoshenko bloc and Our Ukraine,'' the president told reporters outside his office.

With all but 0.2 per cent of the vote counted, ''orange'' parties have the edge and one independent projection shows they could command a wafer-thin majority in the chamber.

The Tymoshenko bloc had 30.8 per cent and its pro-presidential ally Our Ukraine had 14.2 per cent. Yanukovich's Regions Party scored 34.3 per cent and its Communist Party ally a further 5.4 per cent.

Yanukovich, more sympathetic to Moscow, welcomed the president's proposals as a step towards a long-touted ''broad coalition'' between the two rivals' parties to bridge the gap between Ukraine's nationalist west and Russian-speaking east.

Tymoshenko, clearly irritated, said she would have nothing to do with any coalition involving Yanukovich. Her bloc, she said, would form a coalition with Our Ukraine or go into opposition.

JOBS FOR THE PRESIDENT'S RIVALS Later, while visiting Berlin, the president told reporters that while it was clear ''orange'' parties had enough seats for a coalition, its links with other groups should be constructive.

''If, in order to do so, opposition representatives must be given the chance to work at jobs in parliament to find a balance between the government and opposition, those jobs must be provided,'' he was quoted as saying on his Internet site.

''The same applies to opposition representatives in government. I am certain such proposals will be considered.'' This could apply to jobs as deputy prime ministers or other ministries, Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted him as saying.

As votes were being counted, Russia threatened to cut gas to Ukraine, a move analysts said sought to back Yanukovich as best placed to handle the issue. Gazprom denied any political link.

Yushchenko had long discounted the notion of a ''broad coalition'', but never ruled it out. It was up to the three groups, he said in his initial statement, to decide the make-up of the government and the opposition.

Tymoshenko became prime minister after the president's 2004 victory in the aftermath of weeks of ''orange'' protests, but was sacked less than eight months later amid infighting.

Yanukovich came back to become prime minister after a parliamentary election last year, but first signed a deal with Yushchenko intended to protect the president's pro-Western goals.

Some analysts said the president's latest move was typical of his penchant over two years in power to seek compromises.

''The President has decided to show that he is above the fray, that the formation of a coalition is a matter strictly for parliament with him as supreme arbiter,'' said Oleksander Lytvynenko, an analyst at the Razumkov think tank.

REUTERS SBA AS0203

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