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Last Updated: Friday, 4 May 2007, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Ukraine rivals agree early poll
Ukrainian PM Viktor Yanukovych
Mr Yanukovych has now agreed to elections he originally opposed
Ukraine's president and prime minister have agreed to hold early parliamentary elections in a bid to end weeks of political deadlock, reports say.

The pair reached an agreement "in principle" on holding early elections, but there was no word of a date.

PM Viktor Yanukovych had previously denounced plans by President Viktor Yushchenko to hold elections in June.

Mr Yushchenko sparked a crisis last month by dissolving parliament and calling a snap poll.

He originally said the vote would be held in May, but later moved the date back to 24 June after thousands of protesters from both sides took to the streets.

'Major victory'

It was not clear immediately after Friday's announcement whether the June date would stand.

Those who like elections, who initiated them, will get an answer... about who today must be in power
Viktor Yanukovych
Prime Minister
Instead a working group would be set up to discuss legal issues and set an election date. Mr Yushchenko said the group had been told to report by the start of next week.

Both men confirmed their decision, reached during a face-to-face meeting.

"We have reached an agreement in principle on holding an early parliamentary election," Mr Yushchenko told reporters.

This political crisis is one of the most serious to confront Ukraine, says the BBC's Helen Fawkes in Kiev.

The decision is a major victory for Mr Yushchenko, but the prime minister could emerge as the ultimate winner, our correspondent says, with the president's party likely to take the largest share of seats in the vote.

'No other way'

Speaking to a large crowd of supporters in Kiev's Independence Square, Mr Yanukovych said it was the right decision to agree to elections.

"We have reached the same conclusion that there is no other way to resolve this crisis than to organise honest and democratic elections," he said.

President Viktor Yushchenko (l) and PM Viktor Yanukovych
The two men have been jockeying for political power since 2004
"Those who like elections, who initiated them, will get an answer from you about who today must be in power in Ukraine."

Mr Yanukovych and his supporters had opposed Mr Yushchenko's call for elections since he dissolved parliament on 2 April.

The president had accused the prime minister of trying to usurp his power by illegally luring pro-Western lawmakers over to his coalition to increase his parliamentary majority.

The pair have been bitter rivals since Mr Yushchenko successfully overturned a disputed presidential election result in 2004 after mobilising thousands of supporters in central Kiev to protest against Mr Yanukovych's claim of victory.

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