UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES BUDGET RESOLUTION. The Supreme Council concluded its session on 24 July by passing a 1999 budget resolution, Ukrainian Television reported. The legislators granted the government the right to set a budget deficit, providing it can find funds to cover all social programs. During its three-month session, the parliament rejected two economic presidential decrees and failed to consider another 12, thus allowing them to go into force automatically. Another 17 decrees signed by President Leonid Kuchma in June will go into force if lawmakers fail to veto or consider them after reconvening on 1 September. JM

FRANCE PLEDGES TO EXPAND TIES WITH UKRAINE. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said in Kyiv on 24 July that France wants to expand ties with Ukraine both on a bilateral basis and within the sphere of European policies, Ukrainian Radio reported. Vedrine stressed that France "is convinced of Ukraine's strategic role in Europe" and pledges to support Ukraine's bid to become an EU associate member. According to Reuters, Vedrine backed Ukrainian efforts to win a muchneeded $2 billion loan from the IMF. President Kuchma and Vedrine agreed that during French President Jacques Chirac's visit to Ukraine in September, the two countries will create a new mechanism for top-level bilateral consultations. JM