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UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VISITS GEORGIA. Visiting Tbilisi on March 1, Victor Yushchenko discussed with his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili bilateral relations and cooperation, their respective countries' bids for NATO membership, and regional cooperation, including within the GUAM group, Georgian media and kavkaz-uzel.ru reported. Speaking at a subsequent joint press conference, Yushchenko reiterated earlier offers by Ukrainian leaders to contribute a contingent to an international peacekeeping force to be deployed in Abkhazia under the UN aegis. The two sides signed several bilateral agreements, including one facilitating the permanent residence of citizens of one country in the other, and a second on facilitating the export to Ukraine of Georgian wine and mineral water, Caucasus Press reported. LF
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS IDEA OF EARLY PARLIAMENTARY, PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. President Viktor Yushchenko said in Tbilisi on March 1 that he does not approve of the proposal to hold simultaneous early presidential and parliamentary elections this coming fall, UNIAN reported. Yushchenko was commenting on the initiative of a lawmaker from the ruling Party of Regions to submit a draft bill to that effect (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 1, 2007). According to Yushchenko, the potential early elections would reinstall the same political forces in parliament that are there now. "The answer [to the current political standoff in Ukraine] is in a dialogue of mutual understanding. All the rest is provocation, blackmail, and psychological pressure, and won't give any result," Yushchenko noted. The Ukrainian president believes that the Party of Regions could find a lot of unifying points with the opposition Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc and Our Ukraine if it wanted to discuss "challenges" faced by the country. Meanwhile, Yuliya Tymoshenko, who is currently in the United States, said in an interview with "The Washington Times" published on March 2 that early parliamentary elections could prevent Ukraine from sliding into autocracy and halt Russia's growing influence in the country. "If this government is in power until , there would be nothing left of a democratic Ukraine. The territory would still exist, but it would not be Ukraine any longer," the newspaper quoted her as saying. JM