GEORGIAN PRESIDENT EXPRESSES CONFIDENCE IN GUUAM. Eduard Shevardnadze told the Asaval-Dasavali newspaper on 22 June that he had confidence in the viability of the association of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova, ITARTASS reported. The Russian news agency described GUUAM as an "unpronounceable acronym," but the Georgian leader said that it would survive even as he expressed doubts about the ability of the CIS to do so. He said the latter organization could flourish only if the CIS "does not turn into an instrument to preserve Russia's influence" in this region. PG

POLITICAL CRISIS KEEPS KAZAKHSTAN PREMIER AT HOME. In the face of a mounting political conflict between the parliament and the government, Kazakhstan Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbaev did not leave for Kyiv on 22 June as was expected, Interfax reported. Balgimbaev had been scheduled to meet with senior Ukrainian officials to discuss a variety of cooperation measures. PG

UKRAINIAN CABINET LOOKS FOR NEW LOANS TO REPAY 2000 DEBTS... Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov told a government-sponsored conference on the 2000 budget in Kyiv on 22 June that the government needs 15.3 billion hryvni ($3.9 billion) to repay its debt obligations in 2000. Mityukov added that in order to pay this sum Ukraine must borrow another 11.1 billion hryvni. The cabinet have ordered to set up a special commission to prepare a list of sources for drawing money for next year's debt payments, but Mityukov declined to name prospective lenders. JM

...REMAINS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT ECONOMIC PROSPECTS. Economy Minister Vasyl Rohovyy told the same conference that achieving a no-deficit budget in 2000 is a realistic task. The Economy Ministry predicts a 2 percent increase in GDP in 2000--the first projected economic-growth year in independent Ukraine--and an inflation rate of 10 percent. According to Rohovyy, the exchange rate in 2000 will remain "below 4.6 hryvni to $1," the "Eastern Economic Daily" reported on 23 June. JM

KUCHMA TOPS LATEST POPULARITY POLL. A poll held in June by the independent Democratic Initiatives Fund and Socis-Gallup showed a sharp increase in President Leonid Kuchma's popularity, AP reported on 22 June. Of those respondents who want to cast their ballots in the 31 October presidential elections, 25 percent would vote for Kuchma. Natalya Vitrenko, who has so far topped popularity polls, would receive 19 percent of votes. Petro Symonenko and Oleksandr Moroz followed with 11 percent and 7 percent backing, respectively. The poll offered no explanation for the boost in Kuchma's rating- -which stood at 18 percent last month. JM