WASHINGTON (AP) — Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko asked Congress to help the former Soviet republic make democratic progress by supporting its entrance into international organizations including NATO and ending Cold War-era trade restrictions.

“Please make this step toward Ukraine. Please tear down this wall,” he said yesterday, echoing President Reagan’s 1989 call for Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev to reunite Germany.

Yushchenko, addressing a joint meeting of Congress, said U.S. support is crucial to put his country in “the forefront of prosperous democracies.”

Speaking through an interpreter, Yushchenko said his three-day U.S. visit was meant to ring in a new era of relations between Ukraine and the United States.

“We seek a new atmosphere of trust, frankness and partnership,” Yushchenko said. “The time has come to make real steps toward each other.”

In that vein, he sought U.S. support for a host of initiatives.

He asked the United States to back his country’s entrance into the European Union, the World Trade Organization and NATO, which he said would spur democratic progress and economic reforms.

Yushchenko, who has pledged to end corruption and is working to loosen Ukraine’s historic links with Russia, also pressed lawmakers to exempt his country from restrictions that tie U.S. trade with the former Soviet states to emigration rights and democratic advances. A bill to do that was introduced in the Senate shortly after Yushchenko took office in January.

He also asked the United States to cancel restrictions on Ukrainian goods in the U.S. market and to classify his country as having a market-based economy, a move that could ease Ukrainian entrance into the WTO and would make it harder for U.S. companies to win antidumping cases against Ukrainian companies. “The time has come to restore fairness,” he said.

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