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EU foreign policy boss Solana praises Ukraine
Updated: 2005-01-22 00:54

KIEV - The European Union's foreign policy chief met Ukrainian president-elect Viktor Yushchenko on Friday and said it was up to him and his people to work hard to achieve their objective of moving toward the West.

Javier Solana, speaking as officials compiled lists of guests for the liberal leader's Sunday inauguration, said it was even conceivable one day for Ukraine to join the trade bloc.

Yushchenko, elected after weeks of turmoil in the ex-Soviet state, intends to turn the ceremony into a national holiday -- including an address to crowds in Kiev's main square.

Among the guests is outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell. The presidents of Poland and Romania, two of Ukraine's neighbors committed to European integration, are also coming.

Solana was one of several mediators who tackled the impasse over November's presidential election, won by Yushchenko's rival but annulled by the Supreme Court on grounds of mass fraud.

"We think Ukraine is making a tremendous effort and is a good friend of the European Union," Solana said after three hours of talks at the president-elect's home.

EU membership, he said, was "a possibility for the Ukrainian people. You have to do the job. You have to have the energy and the mobilization of the country, the reforms necessary to get as close as possible to Europe. Nothing is impossible for Ukraine."

Yushchenko is walking a tightrope over his intention to move Ukraine closer to the rest of Europe and the need to maintain good relations with traditional ally Russia.

The EU was often critical of outgoing President Leonid Kuchma and any notion of membership was all but inconceivable.


In Brussels, a Yushchenko ally vowed to push ahead fast with reforms with no great concerns about upsetting Russia.

"We are going to apply (to join the EU) in a written request," Oleh Rybachuk, likely to be named minister for European integration, told reporters.

"I am talking about a very short period ... Going slowly is not the key word of Yushchenko's policy. We have to be responsible, to understand that we have to get supporters. But that is not a synonym for going slowly."

The man expected to be named his foreign minister, Borys Tarasyuk, said agreements with Russia stood to be reviewed.

In comments posted on Yushchenko's Web site www.razom.org.ua he said Kuchma and his team "either had no notion of national interests or they put their own interests before them."

Kuchma, performing the final acts of his 10 years in office dismissed his chief of staff, Viktor Medvedchuk, reviled by liberals as the key decision-maker with links to big business. He has also fired about half of Ukraine's 27 governors.

Yushchenko accepted an invitation to attend a session next week of the European Parliament in Brussels -- one of many events crammed into a program spanning the continent.

Immediately after his inauguration, he fulfils a longstanding promise to make his first foreign trip to Moscow, which initially backed his opponent, Viktor Yanukovich.

Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Yushchenko on his victory on Thursday, nearly a month after the contest. Moscow will be represented at the inauguration by Sergei Mironov, speaker of parliament's upper house.

Yushchenko is also to address the Council of Europe, a rights body, in France and attend ceremonies in Poland marking the 60th anniversary of the Soviet army's liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, breaking off briefly to visit Brussels.

He ends the week by meeting dignitaries at the World Economic Forum (news - web sites)'s annual meeting in the Swiss resort of Davos.

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