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UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VISITS GEORGIA. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze welcomed Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to Tbilisi on 18 December, the Civil Georgia online news agency reported. In comments following the one-day talks, Kuchma said he is prepared to "participate in settling the Abkhaz conflict" and offered to deploy Ukrainian peacekeepers to the conflict area "if the United Nations supports" such an operation. Both presidents also stated that they hope a third wave of NATO expansion will include Georgia and Ukraine. RG
UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION CONTINUES TO BLOCK PARLIAMENTARY PROCEEDINGS. The four opposition parliamentary groups -- Our Ukraine, the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc -- have continued to protest what they consider illegitimate voting on 17 December by the parliamentary majority to replace the head of the National Bank and reappoint parliamentary committee leaders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 2002), UNIAN reported on 19 December. Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn closed the session on 18 December after some 20 minutes because of angry protests from opposition deputies and was not able to proceed the following day either. "We think yesterday's vote is illegal," Reuters quoted Socialist Party lawmaker Stanislav Nikolayenko as saying on 18 December. "Nobody has shown ballots to us. Four opposition groups demand annulment of the results. Until our demands are met, the session will not work." Meanwhile, lawmaker Volodymyr Zayets from the pro-government majority has accused the opposition of stealing all the ballots from the contested vote. JM
ANOTHER LAWMAKER ABANDONS OUR UKRAINE. Volodymyr Maystryshyn has quit Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine parliamentary caucus, thus reducing it to 102 deputies, UNIAN reported on 18 December. Maystryshyn told journalists that Our Ukraine "is not planning its actions" and is therefore losing ground in the Verkhovna Rada. Maystryshyn said he is not going to join the pro-government majority for the time being. "It is better not to join anybody today, since one cannot figure out what will be next," he added. JM
NEGOTIATIONS OVER TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT RESUMED. Negotiations to settle the Transdniester conflict were resumed in Moscow on 18 December, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. The sides met in the presence of representatives of the three mediators -- Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). They agreed on an agenda for continuing the parleys. The agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov as saying the negotiation process must be intensified and the sides must display "more political will" to reach a solution. MS