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UKRAINIAN COURT SAYS KUCHMA MAY RUN FOR PRESIDENCY IN 2004. The Ukrainian Constitutional Court ruled on 30 December that President Leonid Kuchma is not prohibited from running for the post of president in 2004, Interfax reported. Article 103 of the Ukrainian Constitution, which was promulgated in June 1996, forbids anyone from serving two consecutive presidential terms. Kuchma was first elected president in July 1994 and was re-elected under the new constitution in November 1999. The Constitutional Court said Article 103 may not be applied retroactively, thus opening the way for Kuchma to take part in the presidential election that is expected in November. AM

POLISH PRESIDENT RULES OUT THIRD TERM. President Aleksander Kwasniewski has said he has no intention of asking Poland's Constitutional Tribunal to rule on whether he is banned from running for a third term in office, PAP reported on 1 January. According to the Polish Constitution, no individual may serve more than two presidential terms. However, the current constitution was adopted in 1997, during Kwasniewski's first term. "For me the rules are clear, and a two-term presidency, regardless of the kind of constitution, means a two-term presidency," Kwasniewski said in an allusion to last week's ruling by the Constitutional Court in neighboring Ukraine (see Ukraine item above). Kwasniewski said Ukrainian President Kuchma is also convinced the principle of a two-term presidency must be maintained, but the Polish president added that the Ukrainian "political base failed to prepare a suitable successor for him." Kwasniewski added, "Any attempt to trick or act on the borderline between law and disorder cannot be accepted, and will only move Ukraine away from the European structures." AM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT CALLS MOLDOVAN LEADER'S ATTACKS 'DELIRIOUS ABERRATIONS.' Romanian President Ion Iliescu on 30 December called accusations directed at his country and at himself by Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin "delirious" and "aberrant," Romanian Radio reported. Iliescu was reacting to comments Voronin made in a 27 December interview with Russian-language NIT television (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 2003). He said Voronin's claim that the historically Romanian provinces of Moldavia, Transylvania, and Dobruja are under "Romanian occupation" and that Romania is the only surviving empire in Europe amount to an "inadmissible, irresponsible and disqualifying statement." Iliescu also described Voronin's references to the events of December 1989 and the alleged refusal by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev -- on Iliescu's urging -- to grant landing rights in Ukraine to a plane allegedly carrying communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu as "ridiculous" and "an aberration." Iliescu said Voronin has embarked on a "dangerous race" against Romania that is likely to harm both Moldova and relations between that state and Romania. Iliescu expressed hope that the statements might prove nothing more than "a passing accident" on the "common future in a united Europe." MS

...AND EXPERTS PREDICT RUSSIA WILL CLASH WITH EU AND U.S. OVER INFLUENCE IN THE CIS. Institute for Political Research Director Sergei Markov told on 30 December that in 2004 Russia's new assertive policy toward the former Soviet republics will very probably conflict with the interests of the United States and the European Union. These interests have already collided in Georgia and Moldova and could do so in Ukraine and Kazakhstan, as Russia carries forward its policy restoring its dominance in the region, Markov said. Fedor Lukyanov, the editor in chief of "Russia in Global Policy" told RosBalt on 25 December that although President Putin's pro-Western policy survived differences with the United States over the war in Iraq, there are clear signs that Russian relations with West will deteriorate. At the end of last year, Russia faced the united position of the EU, OSCE, and the United States, all of which rejected Moscow's unilateral peace plan for Moldova. On the whole, Russia has failed to find a common language with the EU bureaucracy on many issues, and tensions will be exacerbated when 10 new members join the bloc in May. Many of those new EU members will be former Soviet republics or satellite states with which Russia has enjoyed privileged trade relations. Russia will lose this economic status in these countries after they join the EU, Lukyanov said. VY