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TAJIKISTAN, UKRAINE SIGN ECONOMIC-COOPERATION AGREEMENT. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and his visiting Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, signed an agreement in Dushanbe on 9 April on economic cooperation for the period 2003-12, ITAR-TASS reported. Among possible fields in which economic cooperation could be expanded, Rakhmonov specifically mentioned hydro-engineering and the processing of agricultural produce, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 9 April. During talks on 8 and 9 April, the two presidents discussed bilateral relations; regional issues, including the situation in Afghanistan; the war in Iraq; and cooperation within the framework of international organizations, including the UN, the OSCE, and the CIS. Representatives of the two governments signed on 9 April several bilateral agreements on cooperation in science, health care, banking, mutual protection of confidential information, and combating drug trafficking. LF

GERMAN CHANCELLOR BACKS UKRAINE'S ASSOCIATE EU MEMBERSHIP. Gerhard Schroeder assured Ukrainian Premier Viktor Yanukovych in Berlin on 9 April that he backs associate EU membership for Ukraine in the near future, dpa reported. "We fully support the process of bringing Ukraine closer to the European Union," Schroeder said at a joint news conference with Yanukovych. "In the not-too-distant future, there must be the possibility of associate EU status for Ukraine." Schroeder's comment follows a blunt rejection by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer last month of Ukraine's hopes of becoming a full-fledged EU member "now or in the foreseeable future" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 March 2003). JM

UKRAINE, POLAND CONFER ON COMMEMORATING 'VOLYN MASSACRE.' Polish National Security Bureau Secretary Marek Siwiec, accompanied by Ukrainian presidential-administration head Viktor Medvedchuk, visited Volyn Oblast in northwestern Ukraine on 8-9 April, Interfax reported. Siwiec and Medvedchuk discussed with local authorities and activists from cultural, educational, and religious organizations ways to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the so-called Volyn massacre (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 4 March 2003). Polish and Ukrainian Presidents Aleksander Kwasniewski and Leonid Kuchma agreed in February to organize joint commemoration of the massacre (see RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February 2003). In particular, Poland wants Ukraine to let Poles to visit sites of the tragedy in July. PAP quoted Kwasniewski as saying on 9 April that he and Kuchma are planning commemorative events and preparing political declarations for the occasion. JM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION ARGUES AGAINST KUCHMA'S CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS. During a hearing in the Verkhovna Rada on 9 April, leaders and representatives of the Our Ukraine, Communist Party, Socialist Party, and Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc parliamentary caucuses spoke out against President Leonid Kuchma's draft bill intended to reform Ukraine's political system (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 11 March 2003), Interfax and UNIAN reported. "Isn't it strange that the political-reform proposals were made by the authority that won a mere 6 percent of support in the [2002 parliamentary] elections, and has 17 months until the end of its term in power?" Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko said. He added that the real aim of the proposed reforms is "to illegally prolong [Kuchma's] mandate." "These amendments to the constitution practically destroy the parliamentary system, [and] tame the government and judges," Yuliya Tymoshenko noted, asserting that Kuchma's real aim is to prolong his term until March 2007. Meanwhile, Leonid Kravchuk, head of the Social Democratic Party-united's parliamentary caucus, said constitutional reform needs to be implemented before the next presidential election. Kravchuk argued that if this is not done, the future head of state might refuse to restrict his powers. JM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTORS PROBE MEDIA FOR ALLEGED DEFAMATORY PUBLICATIONS. Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun on 9 April confirmed to Interfax that he has ordered "several investigations" into publications considered "defamatory" toward the president and other politicians. Piskun was commenting on presidential spokeswoman Olena Hromnytska's statement of 4 April, in which she said a criminal case has been launched against a number of media outlets that publicized "defamatory materials aimed at creating obstacles to the president's execution of his duties and at undermining the president's reputation." Piskun pledged to provide details of the investigations in the near future. JM

NATO READY TO CONTRIBUTE TO RESOLUTION OF TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT. NATO Deputy Secretary-General for Political Affairs Guenter Altenburg, meeting on 9 April with Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin on the sidelines of the annual South East European Cooperation Process summit in Belgrade, said NATO is prepared to participate in the settlement of the Transdniester conflict, Infotag and Flux reported. After Voronin reviewed the problems his country is currently facing, Altenbourg told him that NATO will soon border Moldova and is therefore interested in eliminating instability in the vicinity of its frontiers. Voronin also met in Belgrade with European Commission President Prodi, who promised to back Chisinau's efforts to prevent smuggling from Transdniester by setting up joint Moldovan-Ukrainian customs posts on the Ukrainian side of their common border. Voronin also held talks with Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov and with Mirko Sarovic, the former Serbian member of the tripartite Bosnian presidency. MS