US rejects Ukrainian election results
The United States rejected the results of Ukraine's presidential election, marred by allegations of fraud, while warning of unspecified "consequences" if Kiev does act.
"We cannot accept this result as legitimate, because it does not meet international standards and because there has not been an investigation of the numerous and credible reports of fraud and abuse," Powell told reporters.
"We call for a full review of the conduct of the election and the tallying of election results," Powell said of the vote, in which pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich on Wednesday was declared the winner over pro-Western opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko.
The opposition has rejected the results and called a general strike, while tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Kiev and other major cities.
Powell insisted there was still time to correct the result without violence.
"It is still not too late for authorities to find a solution that respects the will of the Ukrainian people," he said.
"If the Ukrainian government does not act immediately and responsibly, there will be consequences for our relationship, for Ukraine's hopes for a Euro-Atlantic integration and for individuals responsible for perpetrating fraud," he said.
Asked about those consequences might be, Powell said: "At the moment, we're not taking any actions. We want to see what the ultimate results are. So I would not get into any specifics."
Powell said the international community was watching the events in Ukraine, noting that both Yanukovich and Yushchenko have suggested that a solution could be reached.
"I have spoken this morning with the president (Leonid Kuchma) to press him to take advantage of these openings and to caution him against the use of any kind of force against the demonstrators," he said.
Powell also "encouraged him to use legitimate means available to him to examine these election results and these allegations of fraud and abuse."
The opposition has been massing by the hundreds of thousands in Kiev and western Ukrainian cities that are the bastion of Western-leaning Yushchenko's support since Sunday.
As the declared winner, Yanukovich offered talks to ease the crisis gripping Ukraine. His bitter rival Yushchenko urged civil disobedience and supporters said they would take their case to the supreme court.
Ukraine's central electoral commission said Yanukovich had won Sunday's run-off election over the West-leaning Yushchenko by 49.46 percent compared to 46.61 percent, a difference of nearly one million votes.
Opposition supporters promptly marched on the commission, where Yushchenko, for the second time in two days, warned of a potential for "civil conflict."
He claims the government rigged the vote and is demanding a re-run of the second round or for the results to be annulled in disputed regions.
The crisis over Ukraine's disputed weekend election highlighted the undeclared but unmistakable battle for influence in former Soviet republics between former Cold War foes United States and Russia.
Powell said he spoke with the Russian foreign minister about the situation in Ukraine and "underscored our strong support for a fair investigation of the election." He added that the situation was sure to be on the agenda at Thursday's EU-Russia summit.
"We're not looking for a contest with the Russians over this," he said. "We're looking for a way to make sure that the will of the Ukrainian people is respected."
The crisis in Ukraine left President George W. Bush's administration in a difficult position, urging respect for democracy in country whose regime supported the US campaign in Iraq.
Even before the contentious second-round elections on Sunday, the White House was warily keeping an eye out for fraud, and Bush sent Senator Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, to monitor the elections.
In a letter addressed prior to the second-round vote to the outgoing Kuchma, who did not stand in the elections, Bush thanked him for his support in Iraq but warned against fraudulent attempts to secure a Yanukovich victory.