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Ukraine's speaker proposes 3 month delay on NATO vote

RIA Novosti

11/02/2008 15:26 KIEV, February 11 (RIA Novosti) - Ukraine's parliamentary speaker proposed postponing for three months a referendum on the sensitive issue of Kiev's NATO membership Monday, and urged the Supreme Rada to resume work.

Work by the Supreme Rada has already been blocked for a few weeks by the Party of Regions and the Communist Party, which are demanding a referendum on the country's accession to the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP).

"Nobody has signed an application for NATO membership, nor has a decision on joining the MAP been made. We should wait for a decision at the Bucharest summit, which means that any discussion is pointless," Arseniy Yatsenyuk told a conciliation board.

The NATO-Ukraine commission is due to hold a meeting during the alliance's summit in Bucharest, Romania, on April 2-4, 2008.

In January, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Yatsenyuk sent a letter to the alliance's Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer expressing their hope that the country could join the action plan for NATO membership.

The speaker urged parliamentarians to consider holding a referendum on the issue within the next three months saying that the alliance was highly unlikely to make a decision any earlier.

The suspension of parliament has prompted a number of leading politicians and political analysts to suggest that the country could soon hold early parliamentary polls again.

However, Vyacheslav Kirilenko, leader of the Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defense faction in the Supreme Rada, said on Monday there were no legal grounds for holding snap elections in Ukraine.

"Let early polls be initiated by those who want them, and let them give their reasons," the MP said.

Commenting on a recent statement by former premier Viktor Yanukovych, leader of the opposition Party of Regions, who said the parliamentary coalition could be reformatted, Kirilenko said, "Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defense is unlikely to make a decision to form a coalition other than democratic [with the Tymoshenko bloc].

A recent poll carried out by Ukraine's Democratic Initiatives foundation indicated that over 50% of Ukrainians would vote against joining NATO. In the survey, 51.9% of respondents said they viewed NATO as an "aggressive imperialist bloc that would draw Ukraine into military conflicts."