Yanukovich Promises Stability

KIEV -- Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's nominee for prime minister promised Tuesday to bring stability to a country buffeted by corruption charges and allegations of arms sales to Iraq in breach of UN sanctions.

Viktor Yanukovich, the tough governor from eastern Ukraine's coal-producing Donetsk region, said in an interview that if he was approved by parliament as prime minister Thursday he would try to boost cooperation between bitter political rivals.

Having wide experience of ironing out differences between rival business groups in his region, Yanukovich is seen as Kuchma's only hope to bring order to Kiev's political landscape and thwart opposition calls for his resignation.

Kuchma, who is currently visiting China, has come under pressure to step down after Washington alleged he had approved the sale of a Kolchuga aircraft detection system to Iraq in a move that could complicate any U.S.-led military action there.

"I see my role as stabilizing the work of the government and developing cooperation with the parliament. We need stability. Everyone is sick of instability," Yanukovich said during a visit to parliament to meet different political groups. "If I can convince deputies not to look for enemies but rather work together to solve concrete problems, then that would be a victory which could secure stability across Ukraine."

A fractious parliament and weak government under the current prime minister, Anatoly Kinakh, has made Kuchma more vulnerable to calls for his resignation. Kuchma has criticized Kinakh for failing to adequately finance cultural and social policy.

Kuchma sacked his government and nominated Yanukovich to head a new Cabinet on Saturday.

Yanukovich, 52, is seen as a surer pair of hands than Kinakh and has been touted as a potential successor to Kuchma. Yanukovich said Ukraine, a country fearful of losing much-needed foreign economic aid over the arms sales allegations, needed new economic and financial personnel. Government and parliament have clashed over economic policy, holding up approval of the 2003 budget and much-needed reforms.

"The economic block in government must change," he said. "I have my own criteria for assessing professionals and if they [the incumbents] cannot meet that criteria then we will not be able to work together."