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ukraine-related news stories from RFE

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ASKS PARLIAMENT TO APPROVE TROOPS FOR IRAQ. President Leonid Kuchma has requested that the Verkhovna Rada approve sending a Ukrainian peacekeeping contingent to the Polish-administered stabilization sector in Iraq, Interfax reported on 2 June, quoting parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn. Kyiv reportedly wants to dispatch a brigade of 1,600-1,700 troops to Iraq that would include two motorized infantry battalions. The agency added that Ukraine's 448-strong anti-nuclear, -biological, and -chemical (NBC) battalion currently deployed in Kuwait might be included in the Ukrainian contingent in Iraq. JM

OPPOSITIONIST TYMOSHENKO SIGNALS BID FOR UKRAINIAN PRESIDENCY. Yuliya Tymoshenko, the leader of the eponymous opposition bloc, told the 31 May-6 June issue of the Kyiv-based weekly "Zerkalo nedeli" that she might consider running for the post of Ukrainian president in 2004 if the opposition fails to agree on a single candidate. "I never tire of asking [Our Ukraine leader] Viktor Andriyovych [Yushchenko] when we will start full-fledged talks [on a single, opposition-backed presidential candidate]," Tymoshenko said. She said Yushchenko and Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz refused to discuss the issue during their joint visit to Germany last month. JM

POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH URGES FAITHFUL TO VOTE IN EU REFERENDUM. In a letter read aloud in Roman Catholic churches throughout Poland on 1 June, bishops called on the faithful to vote in the 7-8 June EU referendum, Polish media reported. The bishops said Poles are facing a vital decision on joining other European countries to build a fuller community and a new social, political, and economic reality on the continent. The letter also said Roman Catholics and all people of good will should be guided in their choices by the voice of the pope. Pope John Paul II gave a clear signal in May that he is in favor of Poland's EU entry (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 20 May 2003). JM

EU RESEARCH INSTITUTE PROPOSES NEW SCHEME FOR MOLDOVA'S FEDERALIZATION. The European Union's Research Institute for Security on 30 May proposed its own model for a settlement of the Transdniester conflict through Moldova's federalization, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The plan envisages direct EU participation in the solution of the conflict. It proposes the creation of a regional "working group" including -- in addition to the three mediators (the OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine) and representatives from Chisinau and Tiraspol set out in the OSCE plan -- representatives from the EU, Romania, and international financial institutions. The working group would be jointly chaired by the EU and Russia and exert its influence on both Chisinau and Tiraspol to accept federalization as a solution. Under the institute's proposed scheme, Russia should abandon its plan to have Russian peacekeepers remain in the Transdniester and reduce its military presence in the separatist region. Instead, a new team of "military observers" subordinated to the working group would be set up, with the participation of the OSCE and EU soldiers. The working group would also supervise the elimination of depleted Russian ammunition in the Transdniester and the withdrawal of Russian troops, and oversee the disbanding of Transdniester paramilitary formations. The plan does not represent an official EU position, but will be discussed by the EU Council of Ministers. MS