Yushchenko vowed to withdraw Ukrainian troops from Iraq

Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych said Monday he was ready to talk to his rival &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/cis/2001/04/20/3779.html ' target=_blank>Viktor Yushchenko, Interfax-Ukraine news agency said.

"I am ready for a constructive dialogue, I will think about it," Yanukovych, the country's prime minister told a press conference, wrote Washington Times.

According to Reuters, the election, the fourth since independence from Soviet rule, will determine whether Ukraine deepens ties with its former master in Moscow or pursues liberal reforms that many of its neighbours are developing in the &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/18/89/356/9937_WTO.html ' target=_blank>European Union.

After a bitter campaign of political mud-slinging and recrimination, European monitors said Sunday's first round had failed to meet international standards.

With 94 percent of the votes tallied, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, candidate of the establishment, led his liberal rival Viktor Yushchenko by less than a single percentage point -- 40.11 percent to 39.16. The run-off was set for November 21.

Mr. Yanukovich also promised to end the country's flirtation with NATO and with European Union membership, emphasizing its historic ties with Russia instead. His campaign has received high-profile support from Russia's president, &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/accidents/ 21/96/382/14169_assassination.html ' target=_blank>Vladimir V. Putin.

Mr. Yushchenko, in contrast, has promised a more balanced approach, even as he vowed to attack what he called the corruption of Mr. Kuchma's government. He has campaigned as a Western-style democrat who would cultivate closer ties with Europe, though not at the expense of Russia.

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