UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST "CONSTITUTIONAL COUP." Leonid Kuchma on 19 July vowed to thwart a bid by his opponents to seize more power for the parliament and weaken his position by making changes in the constitution, Ukrainian Radio reported. Parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz had said the previous day that lawmakers will meet in late August to push constitutional changes that would alter the balance of power between the president and the parliament. Kuchma accused the speaker, a Socialist, and his anti-reform allies of plotting a "constitutional coup." He said that in his capacity as president, he has "sufficient means" to block the proposed amendments. Kuchma charged the parliament with destructive self-interest, saying lawmakers "would do better to work on real problems and the creation of a legal base for concrete work."

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES HUMAN RIGHTS CONVENTION. The parliament on 18 July ratified the European Human Rights Convention, RFE/RL's Kyiv bureau reported. The convention is aimed at safeguarding human rights. Legislators, however, did not vote on a protocol that would abolish capital punishment, an issue that is the subject of an ongoing debate in Ukraine. Kyiv pledged to abolish the death penalty when it joined the Council of Europe in November 1995, But according to the Interior Ministry, the death penalty was carried out some 170 times last year. No convicts have been put to death so far in 1997. Local media report there are currently about 135 prisoners in Ukraine who have been sentenced to death.

ROMANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REJECTS APPEAL AGAINST TREATY WITH UKRAINE. The Constitutional court on 18 July rejected an appeal against the treaty with Ukraine submitted by half of the judges at the Supreme Court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 1997). The Constitutional Court said the appeal was made after President Constantinescu had promulgated the law on the treaty previously ratified by the parliament. Also on 18 July, the Constitutional Court rejected an appeal by a group of deputies and senators against a law recently passed by the parliament on the reorganization of the judiciary system. The court ruling that the law was in line with the basic document.

CHISINAU ACCUSES TIRASPOL OF PROCRASTINATION. Anatol Taranu, the head of the Moldovan delegation to negotiations with the breakaway region of Transdniester, has accused Tiraspol of procrastinating on reaching an agreement based on the memorandum signed in Moscow in early May. Taranu told Infotag on 18 July that the Transdniester authorities are attempting to circumvent the basic principle of the memorandum, which recognizes Moldova's territorial integrity. He also said that while Chisinau has agreed that negotiations be based on a draft proposed by the presidents of Russia and Ukraine and by the OSCE representatives in June, Tiraspol has "still not given a clear answer" on that issue. He also said Tiraspol's representatives rejected Chisinau's proposal that the two sides' experts meet twice a week, instead of once, in order to step up the negotiations.

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT IN U.S. Eduard Shevardnadze met with U.S. President Bill Clinton in Washington on 18 July and discussed Georgia's role in the transportation of Caspian oil. Clinton expressed support for routing a major export pipeline from Baku to the Turkish port of Ceyhan via Georgia, according to the "Financial Times" on 21 July. U.S. officials told Shevardnadze they want part of the oil transported to the Georgian port of Supsa to be shipped to Ukraine for pumping to Western Europe. Clinton praised Shevardnadze's role in furthering democratization and market reform in Georgia and the country's commitment to the defense of human rights. The two presidents issued a written statement pledging "to work together actively to expand cooperation throughout the foreign policy, security, economic and commercial spheres."