Ukraine PM says government ready to talk with protesters

A protestor holds a flag as he stands in front of a police line during a demonstration in support of EU integration in Kiev December 3, 2013. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

KIEV - Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said on Tuesday he was ready to talk to demonstrators protesting over the government's U-turn on Europe, but he wanted them to end their blockade of the main government headquarters and other official buildings.

"We are open for criticism and are ready for dialogue with the representatives of the protesters, and the opposition parties," he said in a statement.

But there was one important condition, Azarov said. "The protesters must end the occupation of government buildings and stop preventing the state administration from working," he added.

Meanwhile, NATO foreign ministers condemned the use of "excessive force" against protesters in Ukraine on Tuesday and urged all sides to refrain from provoking further clashes.

"We urge Ukraine...to fully abide by its international commitments and to uphold the freedom of expression and assembly. We urge the government and the opposition to engage in dialogue and launch a reform process," NATO allies said in a statement during a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels.

Ukrainian police used batons and stun grenades over the weekend to break up pro-Europe protests after President Viktor Yanukovich failed to sign a landmark European Union integration agreement on Friday.

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