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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 April, 2005, 01:23 GMT 02:23 UK
Yushchenko's warm US welcome
By Jonathan Beale
BBC State Department correspondent

Washington has rolled out the red carpet for Viktor Yushchenko. Few leaders are received with such warmth or given such high-level access.

President Bush and President Yushchenko
Mr Yushchenko wants stronger ties with the US
The Ukrainian president has already had talks with President George W Bush and over the next few days he will meet Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

On Wednesday he addresses both houses of Congress. It is an honour reserved for only America's closest allies.

In that Viktor Yushchenko joins a small but revered group that includes British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.

So why all the fuss for a leader of a former Soviet Republic?

Well, quite simply, Viktor Yushchenko and his rise to power - in the bloodless "Orange Revolution" - symbolises the hopes of President Bush's foreign policy agenda.

He is the living example - often cited by Mr Bush - of the world's desire for democracy and freedom.

Or in the president's own words when he welcomed Viktor Yushchenko to the White House: "You are an inspiration to all who love liberty...an example of democracy for people around the world."

Awkward Iraq issue

Yet despite being the new darling of the Republican Party, Viktor Yushchenko has made clear his independence.

Ukraine has contributed around 1,600 troops to the coalition in Iraq.

Viktor Yushchenko claims victory in the presidential poll
Mr Yushchenko: Sticking to pledge to pull troops out of Iraq
Mr Yushchenko is keeping his promise to the Ukrainian people to pull them out.

The White House has done its best to hide any disappointment - just as it has with another key ally, Italy.

Instead President Bush has paid tribute to Ukraine's efforts in Iraq and says that he "understands" Mr Yushchenko's decision.

Mr Yushchenko shows no sign of changing his mind, saying that "the Ukrainian contingent has demonstrated its peace keeping commitment in a very effective manner".

In other words, he is leaving Iraq with a clear conscience.

Future favours

Even if the US feels let down on Iraq, it will still support Ukraine's efforts to tackle corruption and introduce political and economic reform.

You don't have to choose between the EU and friendship with the United States
President George W Bush
President Bush has pledged $60m to the Ukraine - not a vast sum of money, but a sign at least of its continuing commitment.

The United States is supporting Ukraine's membership of the World Trade Organisation and Nato - though President Bush warned that membership of the North Atlantic organisation was "not a given".

As for President Yushchenko's attempts to join the European Union, Mr Bush said that America would not stand in the way: "You don't have to choose between the EU and friendship with the United States ... You can be both a member of the EU and a friend of the United States."

But the US does expect the new Ukraine government to clamp down on illegal arms exports in return.

The White House says that Mr Yushchenko's ministers are acting in a responsible manner to investigate the sale of strategic cruise missiles to Iran and China during the rule of the ousted leader, President Leonid Kuchma.

Future relationship

President Yushchenko is unlikely to let this week's adulation in Washington go to his head.

He has already shown pragmatism in his dealings with a potentially hostile Russia and his desire for membership of the European Union.

He is not just reaching out to America for help.

And although the Ukrainian president has proved a useful ally to the United States, President Bush is now looking to the Middle East and Syria to bear the next fruit of his push for freedom.

President Yushchenko's week in Washington may mark the high point of this relationship.




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