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Protesters Remain In Kiev

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Supporters of opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko kept up their siege of government buildings Sunday after pro-government lawmakers blocked election law changes designed to ensure fair balloting in a rerun of the country's presidential runoff.

Yushchenko's fiery ally, lawmaker Yuliya Tymoshenko, warned that the opposition must not assume the repeat vote will be free and fair. But she insisted Yushchenko will prevail against Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who is favored by outgoing President Leonid Kuchma and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We are confident of a colossal victory by Yushchenko," she told journalists, adding that fewer officials are now willing to falsify the vote. "Something has changed, thanks to the people," Tymoshenko said.

Thousands of orange-clad protesters — many grimy after living for two weeks in the opposition's sprawling tent camp on a Kiev main street — have vowed to remain until the election laws are passed. Protesters on Sunday also filled out questionnaires in the camps to sign up as polling station monitors.

Meanwhile, in Moscow, rival activists held back-to-back rallies outside the Russian Foreign Ministry on Sunday. About 100 people showed up for a rally organized by the liberal Union of Right Forces to protest the Kremlin's attempts to influence the situation in Ukraine, and about the same number, led by hard-line communist Viktor Anpilov, came to demonstrate their disdain for Yushchenko, whom they consider a lackey of the West.

New campaigning officially kicked off Sunday, three weeks before the vote, which was ordered by Ukraine's Supreme Court in a landmark decision to toss out the results of the Nov. 21 runoff. Yushchenko on Saturday urged international observers to return in full force despite the Christmas holiday to help Ukraine hold a clean election on Dec. 26.

"That will be the day that will determine Ukraine's fate for decades and centuries ahead," he said.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will again deploy a full-fledged mission for the rerun, Chairman Solomon Passy pledged. More than 1,000 monitors are planning to travel to Ukraine from Canada, home to many people of Ukrainian origin, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress said.

As the tent camp, bedecked in the opposition's orange campaign color, came to life on a cold Sunday morning, a lone man stood nearby waving a white and blue flag — Yanukovych's campaign colors.

"I am here to remind them that there are others in Ukraine who do not share their beliefs," said Hryhory, a middle-aged worker from Pereyslav-Khmelnitsky, not far from the capital. He refused to give his last name.

Yushchenko's supporters said they regard Hryhory as kind of a mascot. "He's a pleasant man and he was with us from the very beginning," said Andriy Zolotkov, an opposition activist.

Parliament has adjourned until Dec. 14 without passing opposition-backed legislation that would amend the election laws and reshuffle the Central Election Commission, which Yushchenko's supporters accused of covering up official fraud.

"This parliamentary break will cause the situation to further deteriorate and also increase resistance," pro-Yushchenko lawmaker Yuriy Kluichkovsky said, adding that opposition lawmakers were trying to negotiate to bring parliament back earlier.

Communists, socialists and pro-government factions in parliament refused to back the electoral changes, saying pro-Yushchenko lawmakers had backed out of a deal to also pass constitutional reforms that would transfer some of the president's powers to parliament.

Yushchenko accused his government foes of trying to trim presidential powers because they feared he would win the rerun. He also said President Leonid Kuchma, who anointed Yanukovych as his preferred successor, was blocking changes in the electoral laws.

But the dispute showed the trouble that Yushchenko still faces from Ukraine's fractious parliament and called into question his alliance with Oleksandr Moroz, the Socialist Party leader. Moroz's support is seen as important in helping Yushchenko win votes in eastern Ukraine and urban areas where many voted for Moroz in the Oct. 31 first round.

Tymoshenko, however, rejected allegations of a rift on Sunday.

"There is not any big conflict that would affect the coalition. We'll win the election together," she said.

Kuchma blamed the opposition for reneging on a compromise agreement brokered last Wednesday by international mediators. The agreement called for parliament to vote for the electoral and constitutional changes all at once.

Kuchma and Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski have tentatively agreed to hold another round of European-sponsored talks Monday.

BC-EU-GEN--Britain-Ukraine, 1st Ld-Writethru

Ukraine opposition leader warns other countries against taking sides in presidential vote

Eds: UPDATEs with more quotes

By MICHAEL McDONOUGH= Associated Press Writer=

LONDON (AP) — The opposition candidate in Ukraine's disputed presidential elections said Sunday that foreign leaders should refrain from backing any candidate in the rerun of the vote.

Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko said other countries should only intervene to help ensure the Dec. 26 ballot is free and fair.

The vote is a rerun of the runoff between Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who got campaign support from Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of his fraud-tainted victory on Nov. 21.

"The election of the president of Ukraine is exclusively an internal issue for 47 million Ukrainians," Yushchenko told British Broadcasting Corp. TV.

"I'm calling on all our international partners and neighbors to recognize one thing, that only the people of Ukraine could resolve this issue, and their opinion should be respected," he said, speaking through an interpreter.

"It is not about giving personal support. I wouldn't recommend to anyone in the international community to try to lend such a support to any one candidate."

Buoyed by a landmark Supreme Court ruling tossing out Yanukovych's victory as fraudulent, Yushchenko has urged international observers to return in full force despite the Christmas holiday to help Ukraine hold a clean election.

The disputed ballot and the mass protests that followed have highlighted the deep cultural and political divisions in Ukraine between the pro-Yushchenko west with its nationalist and pro-Western leanings and the Russian-speaking, industrial east, which favors Yanukovych and feels reassured by closer ties with Moscow.

In the BBC interview, Yushchenko emphasized the importance of forging strong links with the European Union.

"We believe that the European Union is a strategic partner of Ukraine. Ukraine's strategic interests are in that area, not only in terms of economy, trade and investment, but also in democracy," he said.

But he dismissed a suggestion that Ukraine was facing a possible split.

"I think that it is a completely wrong view to think that Ukraine is divided into west and east. Ukraine is not divided either by geography or language or religion," Yushchenko said.

"No one should even think that Ukraine is losing its territorial sovereignty or integrity. Those are speculations, nothing more."

Yushchenko also said he believed any attempts to kill him would fail. He has previously accused the Ukrainian authorities of poisoning him.

"I know what country I live in, I know what the authorities here may try to do," he said. "Regarding my poisoning, I was expecting something like that. For me it was just a matter of time.

"But I don't believe that any of the numerous threats against my life, which I hear or receive in the mail, will be successful."