Ukraine's Yushchenko meets party leaders

President Viktor Yushchenko met one-on-one Friday with political leaders to boost efforts to form a governing coalition.

The talks have shown no progress since the March 26 parliamentary election, in which no party won a majority of seats in the 450-member legislature.

"Unfortunately, the status quo remains as it was," said Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov, who heads Yushchenko's bloc and is hoping to keep his job in the next government.

He blamed back-to-back holidays, the Orthodox Easter, May Day and Victory Day holidays, for bringing political life to a halt in this nation of 47 million. The holiday period ends on May 10.

Three parties that were allied during the 2004 "Orange Revolution" protests, which forced a rerun of presidential elections and that Yushchenko won, together tallied a majority of seats, but they are now split.

The single largest vote-getter was the Party of Regions, headed by Viktor Yanukovych who was Yushchenko's opponent in the disputed election.

Yushchenko has repeatedly suggested he wants to reach out to Yanukovych, whose party won the heavily Russian-speaking eastern regions of Ukraine. But many in Yushchenko's support base remain suspicious of Yanukovych and have called on Yushchenko to make peace with Yulia Tymoshenko, his estranged former prime minister.

Tymoshenko's bloc won the most votes out of the so-called Orange Team parties, but Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party has resisted her demand that she return as prime minister. When Yushchenko dismissed her last year, he complained Tymoshenko wasn't a team player, and that her populist and interventionist policies contributed to the country's declining economic health, reports the AP.

I.L.