TURKMEN PRESIDENT EXPLAINS AVERSION TO CIS FREE TRADE ZONE. Meeting with foreign ambassadors to Ashgabat on 27 June, Saparmurat Niyazov explained that Turkmenistan declined to join the proposed CIS free trade zone because it stands to lose some $500 million by doing so. He admitted that not all goods produced in Turkmenistan would find buyers in other CIS states. Niyazov added that he does not plan to attend the informal CIS summit to be held in Crimea on 18 August. Also on 27 June, Russian President Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, discussed by telephone the draft agenda for that gathering, Interfax reported. LF

IMF MISSION ENDS 'PRODUCTIVE' VISIT TO KYIV. An IMF mission led by Julian Berengaut is wrapping up its one-week visit to Kyiv, where it discussed the possible resumption of the fund's $2.6 billion loan package. The IMF suspended that loan in September 1999. Berengaut noted after his 27 June meeting with Premier Viktor Yushchenko that the mission has had "productive" meetings and talks with Ukrainian officials. According to the "Eastern Economist Daily," the main obstacle for the resumption of the IMF loan is the too wide gap between Ukraine's budget expenditures and revenues. Yushchenko said he hopes that the IMF may restore its loan program to Ukraine by this fall. Berengaut did not comment on the issue. JM

UKRAINIAN PEACEKEEPERS GO TO LEBANON. Fifty Ukrainian peacekeepers departed to Lebanon on 27 June to defuse mines left in the area vacated by Israeli occupation troops last month, AP reported. Following last month's UN appeal to Ukraine to send a sappers' battalion to Lebanon, the Ukrainian parliament swiftly approved the deployment of such a battalion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 2000). The Ukrainian troops will join the UN peacekeeping troops in southern Lebanon and operate from their own base. JM