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GUUAM SUMMIT POSTPONED. The planned meeting of the presidents of the five member states of GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova), which was scheduled to take place in Batumi on 16 June, has been postponed indefinitely, Caucasus Press and Russian news agencies reported on 8 June. ITAR-TASS cited the Georgian Foreign Ministry as saying that the date was not convenient for some members, while Caucasus Press cited Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin as saying that Batumi is not a suitable venue because the situation in Georgian remains unstable. Announcing the date and venue of the planned summit, Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania told journalists in Tbilisi on 17 May that the choice of Batumi "proves that Georgia is more stable and developed than before," Caucasus Press reported. LF
BELARUS SECURES GAS SUPPLY FOR 2004. Beltranshaz, Belarus's state-owned gas transport company, and Russia's Gazprom signed a contract on 8 June for the supply of natural gas to Belarus and gas transit via that country in 2004, Belapan reported. Under the deal, Belarus will buy 10.2 billion cubic meters of gas from Gazprom at $46.68 for 1,000 cubic meters and collect $0.75 in transit fees for 1000 cubic meters per 100 kilometers for gas pipelined through Belarus by Beltranshaz's network, as well as $0.46 for gas transported by Gazprom's Yamal-Europe pipeline. The Belarusian government originally wanted the transit fees to be $1.02. In 2004, Belarus is expected to pump to Europe some 32 billion cubic meters of Russian gas, including 23 billion through the Yamal-Europe pipeline. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, who visited Minsk the same day, said that Beltranshaz and Gazprom "untied a difficult knot in our relations." He stressed that the contract creates preconditions for establishing a joint gas transport company that could control the Beltranshaz network. Minsk and Moscow have long been at odds because of differences in their estimations of Belatranshaz's value (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 2 March 2004). JM
UKRAINE SIGNS FIRST IRAQ-RECONSTRUCTION DEAL. Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Markiyan Lubkivskyy said on 8 June Ukraine has signed its first contract within the framework of the U.S.-funded reconstruction of Iraq, Interfax reported. "This is an economic secret, so I won't go into details," Lubkivskyy added. The U.S. Department of Defense reported on 27 May on its website (http://www.pentagon.gov) that the U.S.-based ANHAM joint venture was awarded a $120 million contract to equip 15 Iraqi battalions and "six brigade headquarters sets" of the Iraqi Army and security forces by the end of September 2006. The contract will involve several countries, with Ukraine's portion amounting to 65 percent of the deal, or $78 million. JM
CONTROVERSIAL PRIVATIZATION OF UKRAINIAN STEEL GIANT STRUGGLES ON. The privatization of the Ukrainian steel manufacturer Kryvorizhstal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2004) underwent two notable twists on 8 June, as one district court in Kyiv ordered its suspension and another ruled that it may go on, Ukrainian news agencies reported. The Holosiyivskyy District Court, following a complaint by lawmaker Valentyna Semenyuk who sought better protection for Kryvorizhstal employees against layoffs, ruled to postpone the privatization. Later the same day, however, the documents of the case were transferred to the Pecherskyy District Court, whose jurisdiction was deemed more appropriate for the State Property Fund, which oversees the privatization on behalf of the government. The Pecherskyy District Court rejected Semenyuk's complaint and said the privatization may continue. The State Property Fund reportedly obtained six bids, three from domestic and three from foreign investors. The government is offering for sale a 93 percent stake in Kryvoryzhstal at a starting price of 3.8 billion hryvnyas ($713 million). Kryvoryzhstal's 56,000 employees have reportedly urged the government to sell the company to a domestic investor. JM