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Published: Saturday January 25, 2014 MYT 11:15:09 AM
Updated: Saturday January 25, 2014 MYT 11:15:11 AM

Ukraine's president promises to reshuffle government next week

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, in what appeared to be an offer of major concessions to the opposition amid mass protests against his rule, pledged on Friday to reshuffle the government next week and to amend sweeping anti-protest laws.

In comments to church leaders, reported by Interfax news agency, Yanukovich said key decisions would be made at a special session of parliament scheduled to take place next Tuesday.

"We will take a decision at this session. The president will sign a decree and we will reshuffle the government in order to find the best possible professional government team," he said.

The dismissal of the government of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has been one of the main demands of the opposition in two months of unrest.

Referring for the first time to the need to work closely with the opposition, he said opposition leaders would be brought into an anti-crisis team which he would lead.

"I will do all I can to stop this conflict, to stop violence," he said.

But he added that if this was not possible "all legal methods" would be used to tackle the situation.

Yanukovich sparked the first mass rallies against his rule last November after pulling out of a free trade deal with the European Union in favour of closer economic ties with Russia, Ukraine's former Soviet overlord.

They have since spiralled into protests against misrule and corruption among Ukraine's leaders and officials and there have been violent clashes with police in the city centre in which three protesters were killed this week.

(Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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