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PRESIDENT CITES PROGRESS IN PROBE OF POISONING

President Viktor F. Yushchenko said Thursday that investigators are closing in on those who poisoned him with a massive dose of the industrial pollutant dioxin during last fall's campaign and that the suspects served in the highest circles of the government of his predecessor, Leonid Kuchma.

"The circle of suspects is narrowing. Prosecutors are now receiving information about the poison itself, its chemical features, and the way of its possible application," Yushchenko said in an interview.

"When it comes to who did it -- it was the regime itself. The people in power. No doubt about that," he said.

Yushchenko, a pro-Western reformist, defeated Kremlin-backed Viktor Yanukovych in last year's bitterly contested election. Kuchma had handpicked Yanukovych as his intended successor.

The poisoning left Yushchenko seriously disfigured. In the interview, he appeared tired, but aides said that it was the result of a long meeting to work out details for a trip to the United States that begins Sunday.

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