NATO MAY CONSIDER INTERVENTION IN ABKHAZIA. Mikhail Machavariani, secretary-general of the ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia, has told journalists in Tbilisi that NATO would "definitely consider" intervening to impose peace in Abkhazia if the UN and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe requested such action, Caucasus Press reported on 28 January. Machavariani headed a Georgian delegation that met with Deputy Secretary-General Sergio Balandini and other senior NATO officials in Brussels on 20 January. Machavariani added that the two sides discussed the possibility of a more substantive cooperation program than provided for within the framework of Partnership for Peace. He said that such a program would be modeled on the one agreed by NATO and Ukraine. Georgia has also discussed with Armenia possible joint projects within the Partnership for Peace program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1998). LF

COUNCIL OF EUROPE DEMANDS END TO EXECUTIONS IN UKRAINE. The Council of Europe has approved a resolution demanding that Ukraine pass legislation banning the death penalty, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Strasbourg on 27 January. After a long debate, the council's Parliamentary Assembly agreed to allow the Ukrainian delegation to continue its work in the assembly but urged Kyiv's soon-to-be elected parliament to abolish capital punishment. It also demanded that President Leonid Kuchma pardon the more than 250 prisoners on death row in Ukraine. Kyiv has repeatedly violated a moratorium on the death penalty, which it proclaimed on joining the council in 1995. A Ukrainian Foreign Ministry statement the same day said an official ban on executions would be handled by the legislature in "priority order." PB

WAGE ARREARS PROTESTS INCREASE. More than 1,500 people demonstrated for their unpaid wages outside a government building in Simferopol, Crimea, during a special meeting of the Ukrainian cabinet, Reuters reported on 27 January. Ukrainian Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoitenko told the crowd that the autonomous republic's disastrous economy is due to the "independent policy" it has pursued. In Kyiv, workers from coal mining regions protested wage arrears for the second straight day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January 1998). PB

At a summit of 11 mostly Eastern European presidents in Levoca, Slovakia, on 23-24 January, some of Slovakia's closest neighbors announced they will support that country's bid to enter the EU.

"We cannot imagine Europe without Slovakia," Austrian President Thomas Klestil said. "We're going to support Slovakia," he said, adding that it is one of the "core countries" in Europe. Hungary and Poland expressed similar positions.

EU officials in December decided Slovakia would not be among the first countries to begin accession talks. The EU and other Western institutions have criticized Slovakia for not respecting democratic principles. But, Slovak President Michal Kovac, trying to remain upbeat during the summit, said those gathered are "interested in Slovakia becoming an integral part of Europe." That shows Slovakia is "not shunned and ignored and that there is no international conspiracy against Slovakia," Kovac commented.

Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov said the main significance of the meeting was that the participants have the "same philosophy--the philosophy of a united Europe."

Hungarian President Arpad Goncz said Europe "cannot be complete" without Slovakia. "Slovakia has its place in Europe," he added.

Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski said Slovakia has confirmed its desire to be part of European structures. "From the Polish position, we will support Slovakia wanting to be part of EU and NATO," he added.

Discussion at the summit concentrated on the integration of all Central European countries into Western structures such as the EU. The theme of the summit was "Civil Society--the Hope for a United Europe."

Romanian President Emil Constantinescu warned that a civil society "has to be on its guard." He singled out corruption as a problem. And he also emphasized the need to reach harmony with ethnic minorities.

Among those attending the summit for the first time was Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, who said his country's long history of totalitarian domination left it farther behind other countries. Kuchma said the transition process will be more "painful" in his country than in others and will "take more time." Referring to his Moscow meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Kuchma said he would deliver "greetings" from the 11 presidents to the Russian leader. We all want to have "normal relations" with our eastern neighbor, Kuchma said.

Although Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar was invited to the summit, he chose not to attend. His absence only served to highlight the strained relations between Meciar and President Kovac, the summit's host. Kovac, who has fewer than 40 days remaining in office, was praised by the summit participants.

Hungarian President Goncz reminded summit participants that this was the last such conference with Kovac. "We see in [Kovac] a person of great determination. His personality is closely linked with the spirit of Europe," Goncz said.

With Slovak presidential elections due on 29 January, those attending the summit said they will be closely monitoring the situation. Czech President Havel took time during his visit to meet with Slovak oppositionists, including representatives of the ethnic Hungarian minority. Havel told reporters that Czechs are interested in having better relations with their Slovak neighbors.

Hungary is also hoping to improve relations with Slovakia. President Goncz met with his Slovak counterpart one day before the summit began for unofficial talks. On that same day, the Slovak and Hungarian foreign ministers met in Budapest to discuss ethnic minorities and the Danube dam dispute.