Former U.S. President Clinton praises reforms in Ukraine, calls for patience

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton on Sunday praised the reforms undertaken in Ukraine since last year's Orange Revolution, and called on Ukrainians to have patience.

"It takes time to build the kind of vibrant, progressive, forward-moving nation that you are all working to build," Clinton told journalists after meeting with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko in the capital, Kiev

Clinton came to Ukraine to offer his foundation's help to this ex-Soviet republic in its struggle against HIV and AIDS.

The Western-leaning Yushchenko came to power after last year's mass protests against election fraud. The United States played an important role in condemning the fraud-marred vote and calling for a revote, which Ukraine's Supreme Court ultimately ordered and Yushchenko won.

"I see a more vibrant democracy, freedom of speech, a more aggressive, free press and freedom of political assembly and the kind of disagreements that characterize any modern democracy," Clinton said.

Asked what advice he had for Yushchenko, whose approval ratings have plunged after a split with his Orange Revolution partners and allegations of corruption against some of his closest aides, Clinton said swiftly that "it's not my business ... (and) it looks like he doesn't need any advice."

The Clinton Foundation will provide training for medical professionals who deal with HIV patients and help Ukrainians get access to HIV medicine at discounted prices.

Ukraine has one of the fastest growing HIV rates in the world, with some experts suggesting that as many as 500,000 people _ 1 percent of the population _ are infected.

Yushchenko has made tackling HIV/AIDS a major focus for his administration.

Clinton said he was also proud of the advice that his fund was able to give to the new Ukrainian government about how best to organize the president's office and its dealings with other branches of government and the public. "The future of your country will have a big impact on people far beyond its borders," Clinton said, AP reported. V.A.

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