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Ukraine government resigns, retains acting role

Ukraine's president has accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his government. The largely procedural move follows five weeks after parliamentary elections, but could herald a change in leadership.

President Viktor Yanukovich on Monday accepted the resignation of the prime minister and cabinet following elections late in October. The president's office published a decree saying that the government would continue its work in an interim capacity until replacements were appointed.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and several members of the cabinet had won parliamentary seats in the October 28 vote, meaning they were constitutionally obliged to step down.

Azarov, previously a finance minister, was prime minister for two and a half years - and may be reappointed to the role. Another name mentioned in connection with the prime minister's post was central bank chief Serhiy Arbuzov, a close ally of the president. The AFP news agency also reported on Monday that Azarov's deputy Serhiy Tigipko und Economy Minister Petro Poroshenko might be considered for the prime minister's post.

Parliament is to debate a new government when it meets on December 12. Yanukovich and Azarov's party, the Party of Regions, is the best-represented at the assembly in Kyiv.

The 64-year-old Azarov has been trying to revive Ukraine's debt-ridden economy while also struggling to negotiate new rates on natural gas prices with Russia, the country's main supplier of energy. The government in Kyiv says these prices are above market norms and are a drain on the economy.

msh/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)