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EU EXCLUDES BELARUS FROM 'NEW NEIGHBORS' STRATEGY. The European Commission on 12 May made public a strategy document on developing closer ties between the EU and its "new neighbors" to the east and south, an RFE/RL correspondent in Brussels reported. "We want to create a 'ring of friends,'" EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said in presenting the document. "We want to create a neighborhood in which we can develop the same level of political and economic stability that we have already achieved in the enlarged European Union." The document envisages "action plans" for the quick development of ties with seven governments -- Ukraine, Moldova, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia -- but leaves out Belarus. "In the present situation there is no way to discuss with Belarus an action plan," Verheugen said. "What we have to do is to support initiatives which would finally lead to political reform and political change in Belarus." Verheugen rejected suggestions that the Polish government does not support the commission's tough stance vis-a-vis Belarus. He said the commission is in constant contact with Warsaw and that "there is no contradiction." JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT STALLS OVER IRAQ-PULLOUT DISPUTE. Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn on 13 May closed the morning session of the Verkhovna Rada, accusing Communist Party deputies of obstructing the debate, the "Ukrayinska pravda" ( website reported. As was the case the previous day, the Communist Party caucus demanded a vote on their motion to put the issue of the withdrawal of Ukraine's military contingent from Iraq on the agenda. "Are we going to start each morning session with this issue?" Lytvyn asked. The legislature rejected the motion, which received 59 votes of support from the Communist Party, 40 from Our Ukraine, 20 from the Socialist Party, 17 from the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, and one from the pro-government Regions of Ukraine caucus. After some Communist and Socialist deputies demanded a repeat vote and blocked the rostrum, Lytvyn terminated the debate. JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER SEES MEDVEDCHUK'S HAND BEHIND CONTENTIOUS MAYORAL ELECTION. Anatoliy Matviyenko, a member of the ad hoc parliamentary commission that investigated the controversial mayoral election in Mukacheve in April (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 28 April 2004), told the Verkhovna Rada on 12 May that presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk organized and coordinated the falsification of that ballot. The Ukrainian parliament was hearing reports on the results of official investigations of the Mukacheve election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 2004). "The election in Mukacheve became a rehearsal of the [upcoming] presidential election for the regime," Matviyenko said. "Medvedchuk wanted to show to both the president and the prime minister that only he is able to secure their victory in the presidential election." The same day, Verkhovna Rada passed a resolution calling on President Leonid Kuchma to fire some local officials over the Mukacheve controversy but failed to introduce an amendment urging Kuchma to sack Medvedchuk as well. JM