UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES WORLD BANK LOAN... Lawmakers on 23 March approved a $200 million loan from the World Bank to modernize Kyiv's heating system. The Communist-dominated parliament had voted down the loan deal earlier this month, arguing that foreign loans do more harm than good to the Ukrainian economy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 1999). JM

... FAILS TO APPROVE 1999 PRIVATIZATION PLAN. The same day, the parliament fell 52 votes short of the required majority to approve the 1999 privatization program submitted by President Leonid Kuchma last month. Lawmakers also failed to muster enough votes to reject the program, which means it will go into effect if the legislature does not reject by the end of this week. The program envisages revenues totaling 800 million hryvni ($228 million) from the privatization of 455 large and medium-sized companies and 5,500 small firms. The parliament also rejected Kuchma's proposal to impose a new tax on cellular phone users. JM

UKRAINIAN CABINET WITHDRAWS TAX BREAKS FOR JOINT VENTURES. The Ukrainian government on 23 March revoked tax breaks that allowed joint ventures with foreign partners to import goods without paying customs duties, AP reported. "We simply do not have a choice," Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko commented, adding that duty-free imports by joint ventures are "drawing the blood out of the economy and causing us to lose budget revenues." JM

ARMENIAN HEALTH MINISTER OFFERS TO MAKE AIDS DRUG AVAILABLE. Addressing a medical conference in Yerevan on 23 March, Hayk Nikoghosian invited people who are suffering from AIDS or are HIV-positive to participate in clinical tests of the Armenicum drug, which has cured 14 persons who had contracted the disease, Reuters and AP reported. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health said that foreigners wishing to travel to Armenia for treatment should apply to the Armenian embassy in their country of residence. She added that a number of Russians and Ukrainians have already contacted her ministry to request treatment. LF