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GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SEES NO DANGER OF DICTATORSHIP. Speaking in Kyiv on 23 April, Eduard Shevardnadze excluded the possibility that Georgia could revert to dictatorship, saying that democratic values have taken root in the country, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze recalled that he resigned as Soviet Foreign Minister in 1990 warning of such a danger in the USSR, but that he does not perceive any such threat in Georgia today. Parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze argued on 21 April that Shevardnadze's policies are leading Georgia back to dictatorship (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2003). LF

KAZAKH DEFENSE MINISTER URGES COLLECTING FEES FOR USE OF MISSILE-TEST SITE. Kazakhstan's Defense Minister Colonel General Mukhtar Altynbaev was quoted in the 23 April issue of "Ekspress-K" as saying that air-defense specialists from a number of countries, including some outside the CIS, have asked to use the formerly top secret Saryshagan missile-test site. He said he believes allowing foreign specialists to use the site for a fee will bring in tidy sums. He added that the 2001 shooting down of a civilian aircraft during military exercises in Ukraine could have been avoided if the Ukrainian military had used the remote Saryshagan site. A Belarusian air-defense specialist was quoted as saying that Kazakhstan has managed to organize the training process at Saryshagan even better than was the case in Soviet times when he trained there. The head of the Kazakh air-defense forces, Major General Kopen Akhmadiev, said that so far only CIS military specialists have been trained at Saryshagan. He cited 17 Kyrgyz and seven Tajik officers who have recently completed training and practice missile launches. He noted that the CIS users of the site have not been asked to pay so far. Noting that the CIS militaries are equipped with old missiles that often have faulty guidance systems,

UKRAINE, RUSSIA, GERMANY MULL GAS CONSORTIUM. Ukrainian and Russian government officials met with German representatives in Kyiv on 23 April to discuss the formation of an international consortium to upgrade Ukraine's natural-gas-pipeline system, Interfax reported. The consortium was registered in Kyiv in January by Ukraine's Naftohaz and Russia's Gazprom with $1 million in capital. Germany's Ruhrgas is expected to participate in the consortium. The trilateral meeting in Kyiv, which reportedly did not touch on "issues of principal importance," decided that corporate-level representatives from the three countries will gather for another round of talks in Kyiv on 7-8 May. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaliy Hayduk and his Russian counterpart Viktor Khristenko said they will begin preparing a business plan for the consortium in June. The Ukrainian gas-pipeline network, through which some 90 percent of Europe's gas imports flow, consists of 35,200 kilometers of pipelines, 122 gas compressors, and 13 underground gas-storage facilities. Russia's involvement in the Kyiv-based gas consortium is seen as a sign that Moscow has abandoned its earlier plans to build new gas pipelines to Europe that circumvent Ukraine. JM

...AS MOLDOVA STILL PLANS TO WORK WITH THREE. Moldovan Reintegration Minister Vasilii Sova said on 23 April that it had been agreed in negotiations that each side would appoint three representatives to the commission and that the number could later be increased to up to seven representatives, Flux reported. "I do not know why the Transdniestrian side has suddenly decided to appoint seven people. The commission will, however, work using the 3+3 formula. The rest [of the Transdniester representatives] can stay home or act as assistants to the others," Sova said. Matti Sidoroff, spokesman for the OSCE mission in Chisinau, refused to comment on the appointments and said only that the three mediators -- the OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine -- will meet with the two sides' representatives on the joint commission in Chisinau on 24 April. Sidoroff did not explain why the new round of negotiations that began in Tiraspol on 23 April was moved to Chisinau. MS