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Ukraine: more horsetrading as new parliament sits

Ukraine's newly elected Parliament is meeting for the first time following September's early election. Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich has formally resigned with the pending formation of a new government.

A political crisis was triggered by claims Parliament had violated the constitution by giving itself greater powers.

President Victor Yushchenko dissolved Parliament and called early elections, accusing the Prime Minister's Regions Party, led by Viktor Yanukovich, of acting unlawfully.

However, the election changed little. The parties supporting Yushchenko and Yanukovich remain neck in neck, suggesting more deadlock in the new parliament.

After listening to the national anthem, the MPs will form factions and elect their leaders.

During the session Yanukovich has formally resigned as required by the legislation in force. The outgoing cabinet will will stay in office as acting ministers until a new government is formed.

According to the constitution, a coalition agreement must be drafted within 30 days of the first session of Parliament. The new Prime Minister has to be chosen no more than 30 days after the coalition is formed. Only then will new head of the government choose new ministers.

In theory the Orange parties – Yulia Timoshenko Bloc, Our Ukraine Party and People's Self-Defence movement – could form a coalition on Saturday. They promised to do so as soon as possible. However, at least three of their members have not signed the agreement yet. They are closely linked to President Yushchenko.

Some political analysts suspect Yushchenko may be holding secret talks with his main rival and outgoing PM Yanukovich. His Party of Regions insists that the post of the Head of Cabinet cannot be allocated without its approval.

The situation could resemble that of last year when the government was formed two months after the first session of the parliament.