Ashton to meet Ukraine leader in fresh push to resolve crisis
Kiev: EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was set on Wednesday to meet Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych amid opposition accusations the embattled leader was dragging his feet over proposals to resolve a crisis.
In a fresh bid to try to overcome the two-month stalemate between the government and the opposition, parliament was to debate constitutional amendments to curb presidential powers.
In a major concession to the protest movement, Yanukovych is also considering calling an early election to resolve the ex-Soviet country`s worst political crisis since it gained independence in 1991, according to a senior lawmaker.
But the opposition accuses the Ukrainian leader, who faces an election in 2015, of seeking to win time rather than put an end to a turmoil that left several people dead and turned parts of the capital Kiev into a battle zone.
After meeting Yanukovych for another round of talks, boxer-turned-politician Vitali Klitschko said the president told him that constitutional reform could take up to six months.
"I told him we don`t have time," the 42-year-old pugilist said, noting that the president did not appear to be willing to solve the crisis.
"This is an irresponsible position for a state leader."
Ashton dined with opposition leaders after arriving in Kiev yesterday.
"The European Union`s high representative Lady Ashton assured us that Europe is ready to delegate high-level mediators for negotiations with the authorities," said Klitschko.
Ukraine`s protests erupted in November after the 63-year-old leader rejected an association agreement with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Moscow, and the turmoil has now become an all-out movement to oust him.
The pro-EU protest leaders are demanding constitutional amendments that would cut presidential powers and unconditional freedom for arrested activists.
But Yanukovych`s ruling party has insisted this can only happen if occupied government buildings are vacated.
The president has already scrapped controversial anti-protest laws and dismissed the prime minister and the entire cabinet but protestors on the streets are demanding a wholesale "reset" of power.
US Vice President Joe Biden urged Yanukovych yesterday to pursue dialogue and compromise as he called for the "immediate" pulling back of riot police.
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