...WHILE IRAN, CHECHNYA REMAIN SKEPTICAL. Iranian Foreign Ministry press secretary Makhmud Mohammedi on 30 October deplored what he termed the "politicization" of the choice of the Caspian export pipeline, Turan reported. Mohammedi said that the pressure currently being exerted on the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia over the optimum pipeline route is counterproductive, adding that raising the funds to finance the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline will hinder those countries' economic development in other spheres. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov stressed that he agrees with the Russian argument that the BakuNovorossiisk pipeline, which transits Chechnya, is the most economical route, according to Interfax. Meanwhile in Kyiv, Stephen Sestanovich, special aide to the U.S. secretary of state on the Newly Independent States , said that U.S. support for Baku-Ceyhan does not preclude the export of some Caspian oil via Ukrainian territory. That oil would be shipped by tanker from Supsa to Odessa. But Sestanovich added that Kyiv must convince potential investors of its attractiveness as an alternative export route. LF

IMF APPROVES LOAN TRANCHE TO UKRAINE. The IMF on 29 October approved a $78 million tranche of the $2.2 billion three-year credit to Ukraine, Ukrainian News reported on 2 November. A statement issued by the IMF's Kyiv office on 30 October says the Ukrainian government remains committed to the IMF's loan program and that the recent restructuring of Ukrainian short-term bonds to foreign creditors enables the authorities to concentrate on economic and financial reforms. An IMF mission is currently in Kyiv to analyze and monitor the implementation of the loan program by Ukraine. President Leonid Kuchma on 30 October said that Kyiv wants to discuss with the IMF a possible money emission to alleviate an acute shortage of cash. JM

KUCHMA ADDRESSES UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN BUSINESS FORUM. The Ukrainian president told a meeting of Russian and Ukrainian businessmen and industrialists in Kharkiv on 30 October that Ukraine and Russia must undertake joint actions during the current crisis, ITAR-TASS reported. Kuchma stressed that while political contacts between the two countries are "full of mutual understanding," it is very important to develop economic relations. The Kharkiv forum spoke out against the "politicization of economic relations" and urged the Russian State Duma to ratify the Ukrainian-Russian treaty and the Ukrainian Supreme Council to approve accords on the Black Sea Fleet. JM