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UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REAFFIRMS EURO-ATLANTIC ASPIRATIONS. President Viktor Yushchenko assured NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in Kyiv on 19 October that Ukraine will diverge from its course toward Euro-Atlantic integration and sees NATO membership as a strategic foreign-policy goal, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. In his turn, de Hoop Scheffer said staging free and fair parliamentary elections in March will be "a very important milestone" in judging Ukraine's progress toward NATO membership. He also cited the need for judicial reform, rule of law, and the fight to eliminate corruption. "NATO's door was, is, and remains open," he noted. "Because NATO is a performance-based organization, these reforms...are essential, and they have to be done by Ukraine, and NATO will help." JM
UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT GRINDS TO A HALT. Nine judges of Ukraine's Constitutional Court retired on 18 October, bringing the number of vacancies in this body to 13, "The Kyiv Post" reported on 20 October. The Constitutional Court, which is made up of 18 judges appointed to nine-year terms -- six chosen by the president, six by parliament, and six by the Congress of Judges -- determines whether laws and acts of the president and Cabinet of Ministers and international treaties conform with the constitution. Parliament now needs to appoint four judges and the president needs to appoint three, with the remainder chosen by the Congress of Judges. JM
DETAINED AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITIONIST RELEASED IN UKRAINE. Former Azerbaijan parliament speaker and opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA) Chairman Guliev has been released from detention in Ukraine, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reported on 20 October. Guliev was detained in Simferopol on 17 October after his chartered plane landed for refueling en route to Baku. A judge in Simferopol rejected both a request by local authorities to prolong his detention and an extradition request from the Azerbaijani authorities. Guliev, who left Azerbaijan in 1996 but has registered as a candidate in the 6 November parliamentary election, faces charges of large-scale embezzlement dating from the early 1990s, when he headed Azerbaijan's largest oil refinery. DPA First Deputy Chairman Sardar Djalaloglu told journalists in Baku on 20 October that Guliev has been invited to visit Kyiv, where he will hold "a series of meetings." Djalalologu declined to specify if and when Guliev might make a second attempt to return to Baku. In an 18 October interview with foreign journalists, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev branded Guliev "the head of an international mafia" and said Baku will continue to seek his extradition, according to "The New York Times" on 19 October and ITAR-TASS on 20 October. LF