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PACE chief to visit Ukraine as mediator in ongoing crisis

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MOSCOW, May 17 (RIA Novosti) - The head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will visit Ukraine May 21-22 in a bid to help end a feud between the president and the prime minister, the PACE said Thursday.

President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych failed to agree on a date for early parliamentary elections Wednesday, prolonging a political crisis in the ex-Soviet nation.

Speaking on the eve of his visit, Rene van der Linden said: "I will be encouraging the parties to continue trying to find common ground to defuse this crisis, including an agreement on a future election and further constitutional reforms, as recommended by the assembly in its resolution last month."

Van der Linden will meet with the president, premier, parliamentary speaker, foreign minister, and members of the Supreme Rada's factions, the PACE Web site said.

Yushchenko disbanded parliament, dominated by the premier's supporters, in late March and called snap polls, accusing Yanukovych of "usurping power." The premier earlier opposed polls, but eventually agreed.

But the factions have not yet coordinated laws to allow the vote, and its date. They had earlier planned to announce the date on May 16.

Yushchenko, who defeated Yanukovych in a 2004 presidential election re-run, has pushed for European Union and NATO membership for the ex-Soviet state. The Moscow-friendly Yanukovych, who returned as premier in August, has taken a more cautious approach to joining the Western military alliance.

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