U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday Washington is ready to work with any political coalition in Ukraine that might emerge in the wake of the country''s political crisis.

Gates and his Ukrainian counterpart, Yuriy Yekhanurov, held bilateral talks on the sidelines a meeting of southeastern Europe defense ministers in Macedonia.

"It is a time of political transition in Ukraine and I assured the minister that we stand ready to work with whatever new coalition may appear," Gates told a news conference after a meeting with Yekhanurov.

Political turmoil in Ukraine restarted last month when the president''s Our Ukraine quit the ruling alliance with the Tymoshenko bloc. The move followed a vote by lawmakers from the pro-Russian opposition, backed by Tymoshenko''s party, to slash the president''s powers and over the premier''s refusal to support the president''s condemnation of Russia''s military operation in Georgia.

President Yushchenko held talks with political leaders on Wednesday offering them more time to put together a new coalition but many experts believe he is determined to dissolve parliament and announce early elections.

Speaking about U.S.-Ukraine military cooperation, Gates thanked Kiev for its support of U.S-led operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and said that the countries were holding talks on transferring U.S. warships to Ukraine.

He also said Washington would continue to support Kiev''s accession to NATO.

Pro-Western President Yushchenko has sought Ukraine''s integration with NATO and the European Union ever since he came to power in 2004 on the back of the "Orange Revolution."

At the Bucharest summit in April, NATO refused to grant Ukraine and Georgia candidate status due to French and German opposition, but the possibility could again be reviewed at the Alliance meeting in December.