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PUTIN: RUSSIA MIGHT 'CHANGE ITS POSITION' ON IRAQ Speaking to journalists in Kyiv on 28 January, President Vladimir Putin said Russia might change its long-standing opposition to military action against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein if Baghdad hinders UN weapons inspectors, Russian and Western news agencies reported. "If Iraq resists inspections or makes difficulties for inspectors, I cannot exclude that Russia might change its position," Putin said. "We will work together with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council, including the United States, on new resolutions...much tougher than the existing ones." Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who said the same day that Moscow will not alter its position on Iraq, was probably unaware of Putin's position, commented. VY

AZERBAIJANI, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTS MEET ON CIS SUMMIT SIDELINES. Heidar Aliev and Leonid Kuchma met late on 28 January to discuss the export of Azerbaijani oil and gas, bilateral cooperation within international organizations, GUUAM, and the proposed CIS free-trade zone, Interfax reported, quoting Kuchma's spokeswoman Olena Hromnytska. Aliev also met with his Georgian counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze and with the U.S., French, and Russian co-chairmen of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group. But he did not meet separately with Armenian President Kocharian. The three South Caucasus presidents met collectively late on 28 January with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Caucasus Press reported. Aliev told journalists on his return to Baku on 29 January that those talks focused on the situation in the South Caucasus, security issues, and economic cooperation, Turan reported. Aliev added that he will meet on 30 May in St. Petersburg with the Armenian president on the sidelines of the 300th anniversary of that city's founding. LF

CIS SUMMIT FAILS TO RENEW MANDATE OF PEACEKEEPING FORCE IN ABKHAZIA. CIS presidents failed during their informal summit in Kyiv on 29 January to extend for a further six months the mandate of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed since 1994 in the Abkhaz conflict zone, Russian and Georgian news agencies reported. As on previous occasions, Russian President Putin told journalists on 29 January that Russia will not insist on the peacekeepers remaining in Georgia if Tbilisi demands their withdrawal. The Georgian National Security Council on 26 January listed three conditions that Russia must meet before Georgia will agree to renewing the mandate, which expired on 31 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January 2003). U.S. envoy for the South Caucasus Rudolf Perina told Shevardnadze on 28 January that Washington does not recommend terminating the peacekeepers' mandate at this juncture, according to Caucasus Press. Shevardnadze for his part told journalists upon his return to Tbilisi on 29 January that a bilateral commission will study the National Security Council's demands and the expediency of extending the peacekeepers' mandate. LF

UZBEK, UKRAINIAN PREMIERS VOW TO STEP UP COOPERATION. Meeting in Kyiv on 29 January on the sidelines of the informal CIS summit, Utkir Sultanov and Viktor Yanukovych pledged to reverse the decline in bilateral economic cooperation registered over the past two years, reported on 30 January. Yanukovvych suggested that the intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation should prepare specific proposals on priority areas for such cooperation. Sultonov expressed his support for efforts to expedite the creation of the planned CIS free-trade zone. LF

U.S. SAYS LIFTING FATF SANCTIONS ON UKRAINE CONDITIONAL ON INDEPENDENT MONITORING. The absolute political independence of Ukraine's State Financial Monitoring Department is a key condition for the removal of anti-money-laundering sanctions imposed on Ukraine by some Western countries following recommendations by the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2003), Interfax reported on 30 January, quoting Ukraine's Economy Ministry. This condition was reportedly communicated by the U.S. side to its Ukrainian partners at ongoing deliberations of the Ukraine-U.S. Economic Cooperation Committee in Washington, D.C. The other conditions mentioned by the U.S. side include amendments to Ukraine's Criminal Code and the law on banking, as well as a reduction of the maximum transaction sum that is not subject to monitoring. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT URGES CREATION OF CIS FREE-TRADE AREA. President Leonid Kuchma called on the informal summit of leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Kyiv on 29 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 2003) to make every effort to create a "full-scale free-trade zone" in the CIS, Interfax reported. "A common [CIS] market will help us feel safe in the rough sea of globalization," Kuchma asserted. Kuchma's appeal was supported by Belarusian President Lukashenka, who said in Kyiv that "a free-trade zone in the CIS would initiate the liquidation of all those economic and semi-economic formations like the Eurasian Economic Community or GUUAM, etc.," according to Belarusian Television. The CIS presidents signed an agreement pledging to create a CIS free-trade zone in April 1994, but that agreement has not been systematically implemented. Then-CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii resurrected the idea in 1998 (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1998). JM/LF

POLISH OPPOSITION PARTY WANTS PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE OVER EU-ACCESSION CONDITIONS... The League of Polish Families (LPR) has requested that Sejm speaker Marek Borowski call a parliamentary debate on 31 January at which the government will present the "true results" of its EU-membership negotiations at the EU summit in Copenhagen in mid-December, PAP reported on 30 January. According to LPR leader Roman Giertych, the information presented by Premier Leszek Miller immediately after the EU summit (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine," 17 December 2002) was either untrue, or Miller "did not understood the content of the agreement he initialed," or "the EU is now cheating and introducing other provisions than those agreed-upon in the negotiations." The latest controversy pertains to EU direct subsidies to Polish farmers. According to Minister for European Affairs Danuta Huebner, Poland was assured at the EU negotiations that Polish farmers will get 55 percent, 60 percent, and 65 percent of the full EU farm-subsidy level based on farm size in 2004, 2005, and 2006, respectively. Meanwhile, Polish media have recently reported that Brussels is working on an accession treaty in which these subsidies to Polish farmers during those years will be paid to levels of 25 percent, 30 percent, and 35 percent based on farm size, while the remainder will be paid, if ever, based on productivity. JM

EU BACKS RESUMPTION OF NEGOTIATIONS ON TRANSDNIESTER. The European Union said in a statement released in Athens on 29 January that it supports the renewal of negotiations aimed at easing tensions between Chisinau and the separatist Tiraspol authorities, AP reported. The statement made no direct reference to the talks, which have centered on the OSCE's proposal for solving the conflict through the federalization of Moldova, stating only that "the EU looks forward to significant progress in finding a solution to the conflict, in full conformity with the territorial integrity of the Moldovan state." Greece currently holds the six-month rotating EU Presidency. President Voronin and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin met on 29 January in Kyiv, where they attended the informal Commonwealth of Independent States' summit. Among other things, the two leaders discussed the stalled negotiations on the Transdniester conflict. MS