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Ecuador's Lasso seeks 'national agreement' in August elections

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso on Wednesday described coming early elections as an opportunity to unite the country as it grapples with gang violence and political instability after Lasso dissolved the legislature earlier in May.

The embattled leader is governing by decree after invoking a constitutional mechanism on May 17 that dissolved the National Assembly and cut his presidency short, with Lasso citing a political crisis and internal turmoil as justification.

Voters will pick both his successor and a new legislature in an election on Aug. 20, with a presidential runoff on Oct. 15 if needed.

"This time also offers us a new opportunity to move towards a national agreement," Lasso told supporters as he delivered an annual report of his presidency in an auditorium south of the capital Quito.

After taking office in 2021, Lasso, a former banker, faced consistent pressure from the opposition-controlled unicameral legislature, which was holding an impeachment trial on corruption allegations when he dissolved the body.

Lasso on Wednesday asked Ecuadoreans to vote for the best candidates in the August election, claiming that a majority of citizens supported his decision to dissolve the 137-member National Assembly.

"Never again will a president of the republic be at the mercy of an assembly that devotes its time to conspiring and preventing a government from advancing in the country's development agenda," Lasso said, without saying whether he would run in the elections.

The president's press office confirmed on Tuesday that he would travel to the United States for a medical procedure after presenting Wednesday's report and will return to the country on May 28.

Earlier on Wednesday, Lasso made his first cabinet shuffle since dissolving the legislature, naming Cesar Rohon, a politician and businessman, as the new transport and public works minister.

Those elected in the early elections will be in office until the current term is completed in 2025, when originally scheduled elections will be held.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Editing by Bill Berkrot)