KIEV Jan 24 Ukrainian President Viktor
Yanukovich, in what appeared to be an offer of major concessions
to the opposition amid mass protests against his rule, pledged
on Friday to reshuffle the government next week and to amend
sweeping anti-protest laws.
In comments to church leaders, reported by Interfax news
agency, Yanukovich said key decisions would be made at a special
session of parliament scheduled to take place next Tuesday.
"We will take a decision at this session. The president will
sign a decree and we will reshuffle the government in order to
find the best possible professional government team," he said.
The dismissal of the government of Prime Minister Mykola
Azarov has been one of the main demands of the opposition in two
months of unrest.
Referring for the first time to the need to work closely
with the opposition, he said opposition leaders would be brought
into an anti-crisis team which he would lead.
"I will do all I can to stop this conflict, to stop
violence," he said.
But he added that if this was not possible "all legal
methods" would be used to tackle the situation.
Yanukovich sparked the first mass rallies against his rule
last November after pulling out of a free trade deal with the
European Union in favour of closer economic ties with Russia,
Ukraine's former Soviet overlord.
They have since spiralled into protests against misrule and
corruption among Ukraine's leaders and officials and there have
been violent clashes with police in the city centre in which
three protesters were killed this week.