WASHINGTON (AP) - Ukraine's foreign minister on Friday rejected criticism by the United States of recent parliamentary elections and of the government's prosecution of political opponents.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Kostyantyn Gryshchenko, also said U.S. concern about Ukraine's adherence to World Trade Organization commitments is unfounded.
Gryshchenko was in Washington for a conference organized by a Ukrainian-American group. On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sharply criticized Ukraine in a broad speech about U.S. relations with Europe. She called October's parliamentary elections, which were deemed unfair by Western observers, a step backward for democracy. She said the U.S. was deeply concerned about Ukrainian prosecution of opponents.
The U.S., as well as European countries, have been particular critical of the prosecution of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was jailed last year on charges of abusing her office.
But Gryschenko denied the prosecution was politically motivated. He also said the election results matched the will of the people.
"We are hearing the criticism," he said of Clinton's speech. "We understand the importance of changing the perception that was created lately, which _ and I would like to stress _ does not reflect fully, or even in large part, the reality of Ukraine."
Gryschenko said the trade dispute reflected ongoing discussions about Ukrainian tariff rates. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk's office said in a statement that he expressed strong U.S. concern in a meeting with Gryschenko on Friday. He called a Ukrainian request to increase tariff levels beyond World Trade Organization commitments unprecedented, and noted that over a third of WTO member countries had already complained.
Gryschenko said that Ukraine would listen to the concerns, but that it believed WTO rules allow for the changes it is proposing.
Gryshchenko said that the relationship with the United States was better than the recent criticism made it seem and that the two countries are cooperating on a broad range of issues.
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