Yushchenko called on parties engaged in coalition talks to work harder to reach agreement

Yushchenko's party has said that it wants to reunite with its 2004 Orange Revolution allies - the bloc of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the Socialists - to keep Ukraine on its reformist, pro-Western path. However, the talks haven't produced a deal yet largely because to deep-seated mutual distrust between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, whom he fired as prime minister in September.

Iryna Gerashchenko, the president's spokeswoman, said the president remained optimistic that an agreement would be reached by month's end. Yushchenko would like to host a meeting between the three parties next week, but only on condition they have agreed on a single coalition proposal.

Talks began seven weeks ago after no party won a majority in the March 26 parliamentary election. On Tuesday, Yushchenko's party announced that it was taking a time-out, accusing its partners of issuing ultimatums over jobs in the new government. But the party's spokeswoman Tetyana Mokridi insisted Wednesday that it hasn't interrupted coalition-building efforts.

One of the main stumbling blocks has been Tymoshenko's demand that she be returned to the prime minister's job. Her party received more votes than any of its other coalition partners, which she says entitles her to the job.

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