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INTERFACTION GROUPS PLAYING GREATER ROLE IN DUMA. According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 31 October, interfaction deputy groups are playing a greater role in the legislative life of the Russian parliament. It noted that there are now more than 30 of these groups, including ones supporting energy, business, border defense, and union with Belarus and Ukraine. PG

UKRAINIAN PREMIER URGES U.S. TO LIFT TRADE RESTRICTIONS... "We are sure that trade and economic relations between states should be based on equal cooperation and transparent market competition, and that the Jackson-Vannik amendment, which restricts Ukrainian-U.S. trade and economic cooperation, is a relic of the Cold War. We are also sure that it is time to consider the issue of granting Ukraine the status of a market economy," Inter television quoted Premier Anatoliy Kinakh as saying at a news conference in Washington on 31 October. Kinakh held talks with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell earlier the same day. Kinakh said both sides agreed to deepen cooperation in combating terrorism, including money laundering, Interfax reported. JM

...SUGGESTS LIMITED PRIVATIZATION OF GAS PIPELINES. Kinakh also told journalists in Washington that he does not rule out the privatization of Ukraine's gas-transit system provided that it remains under state control and management. According to Kinakh, Ukraine's gaspipeline system, which has a capacity of transporting 170 billion cubic meters of gas per year, now delivers 120 billion cubic meters of gas to Western Europe annually. Under such circumstances, Kinakh added, Kyiv regards any intention to build gas pipelines bypassing Ukraine as "an attempt at political pressure." JM

U.S. OFFERS UKRAINE $14.5 MILLION TO SUPPORT LAND REFORM. The United States has offered $14.5 million for Ukraine's program to issue state certificates for private ownership of land, Ukrainian Television reported on 31 October. A memorandum to this effect was signed in Kyiv on 31 October by Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Leonid Kozachenko and Christopher Crawley, the director of the USAID mission in Kyiv. The program is expected to issue 1.8 million land certificates over two years. The State Committee for Land Resources reported on 29 October that to date, 1.8 million out of 6.8 million Ukrainian farmers have received state certificates for ownership rights to land plots they were allotted under the country's ongoing land reform. JM

UKRAINIAN SOCIALISTS SAY VOTE ON LAND CODE RIGGED. Socialist Party (SPU) leader Oleksandr Moroz and SPU activist Valentyna Semenyuk on 31 October said the 25 October vote on the controversial Land Code, which contained a clause to allow the buying and selling of farmland after 2004, was rigged. To support their claim, Moroz and Semenyuk showed journalists copies of the ballots that were used by lawmakers on 25 October. The Land Code officially passed by a vote of 232 to two, but Moroz and Semenyuk claim that one vote was invalid because the "yes," "no," and "abstained" categories were all checked. In addition, four deputies cast votes with notes saying that they voted for the code in the second reading only, not on the final version of the bill. Moreover, 10 votes were not signed by the deputies personally, and eight signatures do not resemble deputies' signatures that are contained in the registration documents. "It surprises me...that [deputy Hanna] Antoniva, who is in a maternity hospital right now, also voted. Being in Kyrovohrad, she managed to cast her vote in Kyiv," STB television quoted Semenyuk as saying. JM

TEMELIN LEAK FORCES SHUTDOWN. Milan Nebesar, spokesman for the troubled Temelin nuclear power plant, announced on 31 October that tests at the plant have been halted in order to repair a leaking circulation pump, CTK and international agencies reported. He said the pump will be fixed "within days," but further maintenance work will take about three weeks, after which tests will be resumed. Austrian Environment Minister Wilhelm Molterer said the "new failure at Temelin shows that further and serious talks on the safety of the Czech nuclear power station are absolutely necessary." Earlier on 31 October, Austrian antinuclear activists organized a symbolic one-hour blockade at the Wullowitz-Dolni Dvoriste border crossing between the two countries, CTK reported. The activists said they staged the blockade to mark the 1 November All Saints Day, in memory of the children who lost their lives as a result of the Chornobyl catastrophe. MS

ROMANIAN DIPLOMATS END ROUND OF NEGOTIATIONS IN MOSCOW. On 31 October in Moscow, a delegation headed by Foreign Ministry State Secretary Cristian Diaconescu ended a two-day negotiation round on the pending basic treaty with Russia. Upon his return to Romania, Diaconescu said "serious progress" has been made and that he has found a "political will" on the Russian side to find ways of coping with the treaty's "sensitive aspects," among which he mentioned the denunciation of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact and the issue of returning the Romanian state treasury, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In his press conference, Micula said the signing of the treaty "may create the premises" for dealing with the state treasury issue after an agreement is reached on the treaty itself. He also said the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact is less important for this treaty's purpose than it was for the treaty signed with Ukraine. Micula added that, "according to information thus far received," Russia does not intend to block Romania's bid to join NATO. MS

TRANSDNIESTER HALTS ALL TRAINS BOUND TO MOLDOVA. Extending the blockade instituted earlier this week in Bendery-Tighina, the Transdniester separatists have halted all trains bound for Moldova transiting the province's territory from Ukraine, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Infotag cited Deputy Premier Andrei Cucu as saying the separatists have "impounded" the 400 freight cars in Bendery-Tighina, and are illegally interfering with international commerce. MS