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Friday, November 5, 1999 Published at 01:17 GMT

World: Europe

Move to unite Ukraine opposition

Natalia Vitrenko's political ambitions are not extinguished

The political party of the defeated Ukrainian presidential candidate Natalia Vitrenko has said it will back Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko, if he agrees to make her prime minister.

Peter Morgan says Ukraine has fallen on economic hard times
The Progressive Socialist Party's statement said the move was vital to "save Ukraine" and gave Mr Symonenko until Monday 7 November to respond.

The final result of the first round of Ukraine's presidential election, published on Thursday, gave incumbent Leonid Kuchma 36.49% of the vote, followed by Mr Symonenko with 22.24%. Ms Vitrenko came fourth.

The second round of the election on 14 November will be contested by Mr Kuchma and Mr Symonenko.

Olexander Moroz, the moderate leader of the Socialist Party which came third, has already given his support to Mr Symonenko, but has warned him that his party's backing might not be enough.

[ image: The Communist candidate is in need of allies]
The Communist candidate is in need of allies
"Symonenko should overcome the bounds of party interests, move not only towards the leftist opposition...but consolidate all democratic and patriotic forces," he said.

Mr Symonenko has vowed to reverse President Kuchma's economic reforms and fight bureaucracy. He is also committed to reunification with Russia.

The radical socialist, Natalia Vitrenko, says she wants to stop repaying foreign debts in order to increase pensions.

"Symonenko could win"

If both Mr Moroz and Ms Vitrenko decided to back Mr Symonenko, and turnout in the second round of voting is low, then Mr Symonenko could win the presidency, according to one political analyst.

[ image: Second round of voting will be on 14 November]
Second round of voting will be on 14 November
Mr Kuchma has so far steered clear of any strong criticism of Mr Symonenko or Ms Vitrenko, but correspondents say that he is now expected to warn Ukrainians that they risk again coming under Communist rule.

His campaign has been dogged by accusations of stifling the media and blocking his opponents' campaigns, and his economic record is poor - but at the last election in 1994 he defied all forecasts to beat Leonid Kravchuk.

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