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KAZAKHSTAN DISCUSSES WTO MEMBERSHIP WITH U.S., CANADA. At the end of April A Kazakh delegation headed by Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Galym Orazbakov visited Washington and Ottawa in late April to discuss Kazakhstan's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), reported on 7 May, quoting the official news agency Kazinform. Talks at the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade reportedly focused on Kazakhstan's access to markets in goods and services; technical barriers to trade and investment; standardization and certification issues; and the "unified economic space" being developed by Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Belarus. The countries participating in this scheme expect that it will not affect their chances of joining the WTO as individual states. Discussions in Washington focused on protecting intellectual property and on Kazakhstan's accession to a number of international trade agreements. According to the report, the Kazakh delegation left U.S. officials with an understanding of the issues hindering Kazakhstan's accession to the WTO, and both sides agreed it is time to move from general discussions to talks on commercial interests. BB

WASHINGTON REPORTEDLY WANTS TWO UKRAINIAN BATTALIONS IN IRAQ. The United States has proposed that Ukraine deploy at least one command-center brigade and two troop battalions to Iraq to join the coalition's stabilization effort, Interfax reported on 7 May, quoting Anatoliy Hrytsenko, head of the Kyiv-based Razumkov Center for Economic and Political Studies. Hrytsenko was part of a Ukrainian delegation in Washington recently for talks with the U.S. administration. "The U.S. considers it a real step toward America, a chance for later serious political support to Ukraine on the path to NATO," Hrytsenko said. "The Americans put the questions like this, 'If you are willing, then seek opportunities.' If we do not use this chance, no one knows when the next one will come." Ukraine's Foreign Ministry confirmed on 6 May that Kyiv has been invited to contribute troops to the stabilization forces in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 2003). JM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR SENTENCED, AMNESTIED IN CASE OF SLAIN JOURNALIST. A court in Kyiv on 6 May sentenced Serhiy Obozov, a former public prosecutor in Tarashcha Raion, Kyiv Oblast, to 2 1/2 years in prison for abuse of office and forgery in connection with the case of slain Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, whose headless body was found near Tarashcha in November 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 2000), Interfax reported. The court found Obozov guilty of violating proper procedure and falsifying documents connected with the case. Simultaneously, the court excused Obozov from punishment, saying he was protected by an amnesty law at the time he committed his crimes. JM

LATVIA ENDS REQUIREMENT TO PROVE POSSESSION OF HEALTH, LIFE INSURANCE AT THE BORDER. The cabinet issued a directive on 6 May ordering the halt to the requirement that foreigners prove at the border they possess valid health and life insurance before entering Latvia, BNS reported. The practice, which was implemented on 1 May as part of a new immigration law, attracted the attention of the government after the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry formally protested that Latvian border guards were refusing to recognize policies issued by Lithuanian insurance companies and were demanding that travelers take out insurance with Latvian companies. Prime Minister Einars Repse said the immigration law does not stipulate how the existence of such insurance policies should be checked, and that doing so is "irrational and impossible." The requirement did not apply to citizens of Finland, Sweden, Estonia, and Ukraine, as Latvia has signed reciprocity agreements with these countries. SG

SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER SAYS EU WILL LISTEN TO LITHUANIAN PROPOSALS. Gorran Persson held meetings with Prime Minister Brazauskas, parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas, and President Paksas during a brief visit to Vilnius on 6 May, BNS reported. The premiers stressed the need for greater cooperation among the Baltic and Nordic countries, saying that the small countries in the EU can accomplish more if they work together. Persson said Lithuania's voice in the EU will be heard if it presents constructive and well-grounded proposals. He said it would be a tragedy if Lithuania failed to approve EU membership in its upcoming referendum, as enlargement is needed both for current EU members and for those slated for accession. Persson also said Lithuania could play a key role in the EU's "New Neighbors" initiative in relation to Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldavia. SG

POLAND WANTS UN MANDATE FOR STABILIZATION FORCES IN IRAQ... Following his talks with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington on 6 May, Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz told journalists that Poland will need a UN Security Council mandate to participate in the stabilization forces in Iraq, Reuters reported. "We believe that we need that kind of resolution. I understand that in the days ahead there will be some initiatives opening the way to such a resolution," Cimoszewicz said. He stressed that Poland also wants as many European countries as possible to join Polish troops in the stabilization effort in Iraq. "We need to invite and encourage as many as possible of our foreign partners to join us in Iraq, and Poland is very interested in arriving at such a situation," Cimoszewicz said. Cimoszewicz's statement appeared to significantly modify Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski's earlier proposal that Polish soldiers in Iraq team up with German and Danish troops (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 6 May 2003). Cimoszewicz also confirmed reports that U.S. President George W. Bush will visit Poland on his way to Russia later this month. Polish Radio reported that Bush will be in Krakow on 30 May. JM