UKRAINE OPPOSES U.S., BRITISH STRIKES AGAINST IRAQ. Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said on 17 December that it cannot agree with U.S. and British military strikes on Iraq and expresses regret over civilian casualties as a result of those strikes, Reuters reported. "Ukraine, which has consistently pronounced for resolving any conflict situations by peaceful political means, cannot agree with force methods of tackling this issue," the ministry said in a statement. The statement warns against "unpredictable consequences [of the strikes] for the region and whole world" and expresses the hope that the UN Security Council will do "whatever is possible to avoid further escalation of tension around Iraq." JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT MOVES TO STOP ENERGY SECTOR PRIVATIZATION... The Supreme Council on 16 December gave preliminary approval to a resolution imposing a moratorium on the privatization of the energy sector, AP reported. The resolution orders the State Property Fund to stop selling energy companies until the parliament approves an appropriate law. Deputies argue that many government officials make illegal profits from energy privatization by selling stakes to companies linked to them. The parliament will take a final decision on the moratorium next week. JM

...HALTS TELECOMMUNICATIONS MONOPOLY PRIVATIZATION... The previous day, the parliament rejected a government bill providing for the privatization of Ukrtelekom, Ukraine's telecommunications monopoly. Deputies argued that the bill violates the constitution and agreed to debate an alternative bill next week. Ukrtelekom and Ukraine's oil and gas pipeline network are widely believed to be the only state assets that could attract large-scale foreign investments into the country. According to Ukrtelekom officials, Ukraine could raise some $2.4 billion by selling a 25 percent stake in the company. JM

...GRANTS TAX BREAKS TO COMPLETE NUCLEAR REACTORS. Ukraine's legislature on 16 December approved three-year profit tax breaks for companies financing the completion of two nuclear reactors at the Rivne and Khmelnytskyy nuclear power plants. A legislator from the parliamentary Nuclear Safety Committee told AP that the reactors are 80 percent finished and the bill on tax breaks will allow construction to be completed within two years. Ukraine wants those reactors to compensate for the loss of electricity after the planned closure of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant in 2000. JM

STRIKING MINERS SEEK TO STORM ADMINISTRATION BUILDING IN LUHANSK. Some 200 miners on 16 December attempted to storm a regional government building in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, after months of demonstrating outside that building to demand unpaid wages, AP reported. Police managed to stop the miners after they pushed down iron barriers in front of the building. The incident occurred two days after one of the protesting miners set himself on fire in Luhansk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 December 1998). Ukraine's miners are owed more than 2 billion hryvni ($580 million) in back wages. JM

NATO WARNS MILOSEVIC ON MONITORS' SAFETY. U.S. General Wesley Clark, who is NATO's supreme commander in Europe, told Reuters in Skopje on 16 December that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is "fully responsible for the safety of the [2,000 unarmed OSCE] verifiers. Should he not be able to fulfill those responsibilities, NATO knows what to do and how to do it," the general added. He noted that "you can be sure that NATO has all the required capabilities to accomplish its extraction mission under whatever conditions may arise." Elsewhere in the Macedonian capital, President Kiro Gligorov and his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, agreed that the only solution for Kosova is autonomy within Yugoslavia. Gligorov also called the situation in Kosova "complex and worrying." PM