German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on Wednesday welcomed a political compromise aimed at ending a tense
standoff between Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and the pro-Western opposition and smoothing the way for a new presidential vote on December 26. "The compromise is welcome to break the threat of an escalation of the tense situation in Ukraine and to allow a settlement of the crisis," Fischer said in a statement. He said that Germany would send up to 100 observers to Ukraine as part of an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission. Ukraine's parliament earlier Wednesday passed a controversial plan to weaken the presidency. The vote was hailed in Ukraine and abroad as a breakthrough in the political crisis that has split the nation in two polarized camps and fueled Cold War-like rhetoric between Russia and the West. By a majority of 402 to 21, deputies in the Upper Rada approved the Kuchma-backed amendment, which transfers many of the president's powers to parliament, along with electoral law changes demanded by the opposition.