NATO DELEGATION VISITS AZERBAIJAN. Prime Minister Artur Rasimzade and Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov met with representatives of NATO's consulting group on Euro-Atlantic policy in Baku on 26 May, Interfax and Turan reported. ITARTASS quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov as saying after the talks that Azerbaijan should develop direct relations with NATO, as Ukraine is doing. He noted that Azerbaijan's concept of relations with the alliance defines those relations as "an integration partnership," which, Azimov said, is the preliminary step to NATO membership. He added that Azerbaijan wants to cooperate with NATO in guarding the oil export pipeline from Azerbaijan via Georgia and in preventing illegal arms trafficking in the Caucasus, according to Reuters. LF

BELARUSIAN PARTY OF COMMUNISTS DENIED REGISTRATION. The Justice Ministry has denied registration to the opposition Belarusian Party of Communists (PKB), one of the country's two communist parties that emerged after the dissolution of the Soviet-era Communist Party of Belarus (KPB), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 26 May. The Justice Ministry explained its refusal to register the PKB by saying that the party cannot claim in its charter to be a successor to the KPB. According to PKB Chairman Syarhey Kalyakin, the Justice Ministry's move is "absurd." Kalyakin said the other communist organization, the pro-government Party of Communists of Belarus, is composed of "impostors." Under a presidential decree, all parties and public associations in Belarus must re-register by 1 July (see also "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," Vol. 1, No. 1, 25 May 1999). JM

UKRAINE DENIES SHIPPING OIL TO YUGOSLAVIA. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on 26 May denied U.S. allegations that Ukraine is delivering oil to Yugoslavia in violation of the oil embargo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May 1999). "Ukraine does not provide oil deliveries to Yugoslavia, does not offer its vessels for such deliveries, and does not possess any information concerning oil transit through Ukrainian ports to Yugoslavia by a third party," dpa quoted the ministry's statement as saying. JM

KUCHMA SIGNS DECREE ON LOCAL TAXES. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has signed a decree on local taxes, which will take effect on 1 January 2000, UNIAN reported on 26 May. The decree establishes mandatory taxes on advertising and foreign tourism as well a hotel tax for those staying in hotels and camping areas. The decree also legalizes the collection of fees for operating trade outlets and service facilities. Under the decree, towns may impose parking fees, charge for holding auctions, sales, and lotteries, and collect payment for crossing the territory of Crimea and border regions. JM

COUNCIL OF EUROPE TO SUSPEND UKRAINE. Citing a poor human rights record, on May 20 the Monitoring Committee of the Council of Europe endorsed a measure to suspend Ukraine's membership in the Council of Europe. Next month, the parliamentary assembly will vote on the matter. Ukraine was warned in January that the suspension would take place unless it made progress in human rights.