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UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAYS COUNTRY FINALLY HAS TRANSPARENT GOVERNMENT. Leonid Kuchma said in his New Year's message on 31 December that for the first time in its independent history, Ukraine has finally got a "transparent power system that is comprehensible to everybody," the "Ukrayinska pravda" website reported. Kuchma was referring to the parliamentary majority and coalition government of Viktor Yanukovych formed in November and December. The Ukrainian president also suggested a shift in responsibility for state affairs under this new power system. "[Now] the president will interfere [in state affairs] in the event of political necessity, but the primary responsibility will rest upon the [parliamentary] majority and its government," Kuchma said. He said he has great expectations for the coming year: "All political conditions have been created to improve the economic situation of every Ukrainian; to put it simply, [to enhance] the prosperity of each of you." AM

NEW UKRAINIAN CENTRAL BANK CHIEF VOWS TO BE TOUGH ON MONEY LAUNDERERS. Newly appointed National Bank head Serhiy Tyhypko has threatened to use tough measures against Ukrainian banks involved in money laundering, UNIAN reported on 3 January. Tyhypko pledged to issue official warnings to banks suspected of money laundering and to withdraw their licenses if they fail to heed such warnings. He did not name any banks suspected of facilitating money laundering. AM

MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS COUNTRY SHOULD NOT JOIN NATO. Defense Minister Victor Gaiciuc recently said that Romania's invitation to join NATO and Ukraine's announced intention to join that organization must not lead Moldova to change its neutrality, which is stipulated in the country's constitution, Flux reported on 2 January. Gaiciuc said Moldova's chances of becoming an EU member will not be negatively influence by its non-membership of NATO, since the EU does not regard NATO membership as an obligatory condition. He said Moldovan soldiers will continue to participate in Partnership for Peace activities and that 11 such joint exercises with Moldovan participation are planned for 2003. MS