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The Ukrainian opposition will halt its obstruction of work by parliament
The Ukrainian opposition will halt its obstruction of work by parliament only after the announcement of a referendum on the former Soviet republic joining NATO, an ex-prime minister said on Monday.

"We demand that a resolution be made stating the necessity to draft a law on Ukraine joining NATO. This could take place only after a national referendum. Should such a resolution be issued, we will unblock the Supreme Rada," Viktor Yanukovych told journalists.

In January, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and parliamentary speaker, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, sent a letter to the alliance's Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer expressing their hope that the country could join the action plan for joining NATO at a summit scheduled for early April in Bucharest.

The opposition Party of Regions, led by Yanukovych, and the Communists blocked the rostrum demanding a referendum on NATO admission.

Yanukovych said any steps toward Ukraine joining NATO should be made after a referendum.

While commenting on the letter, he said: "It's unclear how this decision was made. It should have been considered at a Cabinet session."

Prime Minister Tymoshenko had previously stated that a decision on whether Ukraine should take up any future NATO offer to join the alliance would only be taken after a national referendum.

A recent poll carried out by Ukraine's Democratic Initiatives foundation reported that over 50% of Ukrainians would vote against joining NATO. In the survey, 51.9% of respondents said they viewed NATO as an "aggressive imperialist bloc that would draw Ukraine into military conflicts."

Russia has expressed concern over its neighbor's intention to join NATO, saying on January 26 that, "The desire to accelerate [Ukraine's] accession to this military-political bloc, expressed by the Ukrainian leadership, will entail serious consequences for the development of Russian-Ukrainian relations and will harm European security in general."

Russia's upper house of parliament voted last month to cancel an agreement with Ukraine on early warning and space monitoring systems, citing inadequate technical support by Ukraine for radar facilities.

However, Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov said the decision was not politically motivated. "There is no politics in our decision - only common sense, expediency and national security considerations," he said.

Participation in the NATO Membership Action Plan does not automatically mean a country will be admitted to the bloc, but is the first step toward membership.

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