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Ukraine's prime minister says parliament to convene despite protests, economy to improve

Ukraine's prime minister said Tuesday that the newly elected parliament will convene as planned, even as opposition parties challenge the election results.

The Central Elections Commission has announced the results for 445 of the 450 seats in the Verkhovna Rada and called for a repeat of voting in five disputed districts.

Three opposition parties won a total of 178 seats, with the rest going to President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions and smaller parties or independents likely to be allies, including 32 seats for the Communists.

The West has called the vote unfair, and the opposition has refused to recognize the results and plans to contest them in local courts and the European Court of Human Rights.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said parliament will begin work in mid-December, while new voting the five disputed districts will take place later. The elections commission says voting was flawed in those districts; the opposition says its candidates won those seats.

"A line has been drawn," Azarov said in a meeting with foreign reporters. "The session will open on Dec. 17, lawmakers will take an oath and parliament's formation will start."

Azarov also invited all political parties and lawmakers in the new parliament to form a broad governing coalition. "We are ready for the broadest possible dialogue," Azarov said. "It is time to sit down to talk."

However, the opposition was unlikely to heed his call, accusing the ruling party of rigging the vote and robbing their candidates of victory in over a dozen districts across the country.

Azarov sought to allay concerns about the economy, promising that growth will resume in the second quarter of next year.

The Ukrainian economy is heading into a recession as global demands decline for metals, the country's key export commodity. The national currency is under strong pressure, as Ukraine must repay foreign debt and International Monetary Fund lending is frozen.

"Yes, the situation is crisis-like, but it is not fatal, not tragic," Azarov said. "It is manageable, it is under control and we will calmly solve it."

"There will be no collapse of the hryvna," the premier said of the Ukrainian currency.

Azarov laid partial blame for the recent depreciation on the hryvna on the media, claiming reports on a decrease in the National Bank's dollar reserve prompted Ukrainians to rush to convert their hryvna savings into dollars.

"Had you all been silent about it, I guarantee you, we would have sailed through it in a completely calm way," he said.