BELARUS SEEKS COOPERATION ACCORD WITH NATO. Valyantsin Rybakou, head of the department for international security in Belarus's Foreign Ministry, told journalists on 23 March that Belarus is seeking a cooperation agreement with NATO, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Rybakou noted that Minsk proposed signing such an accord more than two years ago, but Brussels has not responded. He proposed that NATO sign a charter with Belarus similar to those the alliance has concluded with Russia and Ukraine. Rybakou noted that the Partnership for Peace program does not fully suit Belarus's interests since, he argued, it is intended for countries that want to join the alliance. JM

UKRAINE ASKED TO RELEASE TURKISH FISHERMEN. The Turkish Foreign Ministry on 23 March summoned the Ukrainian ambassador to Ankara to protest the killing of a Turkish fisherman and the sinking of a Turkish boat the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 March 2000), AP reported. "An intervention that leads to the loss of life is not an acceptable matter within international law," the ministry said in a statement, calling for the immediate release of the fishermen and their boats. The statement noted that Foreign Minister Ismail Cem and his Ukrainian counterpart, Borys Tarasyuk, have agreed to cooperate to prevent such incidents in future, according to Reuters. Interfax reported that Tarasyuk proposed to Cem that Kyiv and Ankara hold "immediate consultations in connection with the violation of Ukraine's exclusive economic zone in the Black Sea by Turkish fishing boats." JM

POLAND TO ASSIST UKRAINE WITH REFORMS. Ukrainian Deputy Premier Yuriy Yekhanurov and Polish Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz have signed a declaration whereby Poland will share its experience with and provide training for Ukrainian experts in implementing reforms, Interfax and PAP reported on 23 March. Balcerowicz told journalists in Kyiv that the areas of assistance include the reform of the state administration, privatization of key branches of the economy, the reform of the pension system, as well as consultations on the development of small and medium-sized businesses. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES AMNESTY, TAX EXEMPTIONS FOR SLAVE LABORERS. The Supreme Council has passed in the first reading an amnesty bill that paves the way for the release of some 33,000 Ukrainian short-term convicts. The bill, proposed by the president, primarily applies to juveniles, those with children under 16 years of age, the elderly, war veterans, disabled persons, and those suffering from tuberculosis. The parliament also passed a bill granting tax exemptions on compensation payments to Ukraine's Nazi slave laborers and victims of Nazi persecution. It is expected that some 600,000 Ukrainians will receive $2,500-$7,500 each from Germany's government and industries under a deal concluded between survivors' groups and Germany the previous day. JM