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UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR NEW POLITICAL-REFORM PLAN... Speaking on 23 August, the eve of Ukraine's Independence Day, President Leonid Kuchma said he is ready to support a new constitutional-reform plan that has been agreed upon with the opposition, Ukrainian news agencies reported. "Despite certain drawbacks, I think that this draft should be approved by the Verkhovna Rada," Kuchma said. "The support of the constitutional majority of votes [300 votes] has already probably been secured for it." The previous day, Kuchma withdrew the political-reform draft he submitted to the parliament in June (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine," 25 June 2003). On 21 August, Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko and Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz said the presidential administration and the opposition are working on a joint bill of amendments to the constitution intended to reform the political system in Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2003). JM

...WHILE SOCIALIST PARTY LEADER REVEALS SOME DETAILS. Socialist Party leader Moroz told journalists on 23 August that the new political-reform draft that is currently being discussed by the Communists and the Socialists with the presidential administration suggests that parliament propose and confirm all cabinet ministers except for the defense minister and the foreign minister, both of whom are to be nominated by the president, Interfax reported. The draft reportedly drops President Kuchma's previous proposal that presidential, parliamentary, and local elections be held in the same year. Moroz said he is in favor of holding direct presidential elections. On 21 August, Moroz divulged that a key innovation in the political-reform draft is the presidential administration's proposal that the Verkhovna Rada elect the president. Meanwhile, Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko told the 23-29 August issue of "Zerkalo nedeli" that a presidential model of government for today's Ukraine is more efficient that a parliamentary-presidential one. JM

U.S. PRESIDENT SENDS LETTER TO HIS UKRAINIAN COUNTERPART. A group of U.S. congressional representatives led by Representative Curt Weldon (Republican, Pennsylvania) met with President Kuchma on 24 August and passed to him a letter from U.S. President George W. Bush, Interfax reported. Weldon subsequently told journalists that in his letter Bush thanked the Ukrainian people for their support in combating terrorism. Kuchma reportedly said at the meeting that Ukraine is ready for broader cooperation with the United States in all areas. Referring to Ukrainian-U.S. relations in his speech on 23 August, Kuchma said, "The logic of mutual interests, coincidence of strategic interests, and common values of democracy and humanism, have inevitably gained the upper hand over emotional and sometimes overly emotional perceptions of ambiguous and sometimes non-existing circumstances." JM