The bitter infighting between Ukrainian leaders is "bad for the dignity" of the country, parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn has warned, The Parliament reported.

President Viktor Yushchenko and prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko have been bickering since they started sharing power following the 2004 Orange Revolution.

The fraught relationship between president and prime minister was highlighted during the recent gas crisis, with Yushchenko claiming that Tymoshenko had agreed to a deal ending the gas crisis with Russia that had been detrimental to Ukraine.

Visiting Brussels for the first time since being appointed speaker in December 2008, Lytvyn told that Ukraine`s leaders must unite and resolve their differences to tackle the economic crisis effectively.

"Today as never before we should be united in expressing ourselves," he said. "I`m talking about the Ukrainian authorities and powers.

Lytvyn added that "Ukraine is going through a very complicated and difficult time", and he warned that the effects of the recession were "being enforced by political contradictions".

He argued that the disputes between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko were "directly related" to the presidential elections, due to take place in 2010.

"I would say that this electoral campaign gets into its active phase a long time before the official electoral campaign will start," he said.

Lytvyn, who holds the third most powerful position in Ukrainian politics, refused to rule himself out of the running.

Asked whether he would stand as a presidential candidate, he said, "Today I see my main and the most important task to give Ukraine the framework of stability.

"I think that any sort of early declarations will complicate the problem. I`m talking about my efforts to ensure the stable and predictable and reliable work of the parliament which will bring stability to society."

Lytvyn met with foreign affairs chief Javier Solana on Tuesday, as well as representatives from the European parliament`s main political groups.

However, he would not be drawn on his political allegiances, saying: "My task here is to establish cooperative relations with all the political groups within the European parliament.

"I am trying to do my best to achieve the goal that all the political groups will treat Ukraine nicely and change their attitude towards Ukraine into something very positive."

Lytvyn was set for meetings with Committee of the Regions president Luc Van den Brande on Tuesday evening and parliament president Hans-Gert Pöttering on Wednesday.

The Parliament