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BELARUSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER HAS NO UNEASE REGARDING POSSIBILITY OF UKRAINE JOINING NATO... Defense Minister Leanid Maltsau said on 2 November that Belarus "feels easy" regarding Ukraine's efforts to join NATO, Belapan reported. "There will be no sharp movements on our part," he said, adding that the Belarusian government correctly forecast in 2001 the possible consequences of the accession of its Baltic neighbors to NATO, and adjusted its military reform and development plans accordingly. Maltsau also said that Belarus, owing to its involvement the Partnership for Peace program and its partnership program with NATO, is ready to reach "a new level of relations" with the alliance, but he excluded the possibility of joining NATO itself. AM

UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER SAYS U.S. MIGHT GRANT UKRAINE MARKET-ECONOMY STATUS IN JANUARY... Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov said on 2 November after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the United States might grant Ukraine market-economy status in January 2006, Interfax reported, citing an unidentified government source. Yekhanurov described his meeting with Rice as "intensive," adding that their talks focused on bilateral relations, Ukraine's efforts to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the possibility of the U.S. granting Ukraine market-economy status. According to Yekhanurov, Rice stressed the necessity of transparent governing in Ukraine, further democratization, and fighting corruption. Rice reportedly called Ukraine a country of strategic importance to the United States. AM

...AND SAYS WTO ACCESSION IMPOSSIBLE IF RUSSIA JOINS FIRST. Prime Minister Yekhanurov said on 2 November in Washington that Ukrainian accession to the WTO will be "virtually impossible" if Russia joins the organization ahead of Ukraine, Interfax reported. Russia has set a target of 2006 for accession to the WTO, while Ukraine hopes to join this year. AM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE REPORTEDLY STUDIES ORIGINAL MELNYCHENKO TAPES. U.S. citizen Yury Felshtinsky, a witness in the trial of the murder of Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, has passed the original tape recordings purportedly made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko to the Prosecutor-General's Office, Interfax reported on 2 November. The recordings consist of "10 CDs that I received from Melnychenko," Felshtinsky told the agency, adding that the discs "are believed to carry [Melnychenko's] fingerprints." Melnychenko made public in November 2000 recordings allegedly made in the office of former President Leonid Kuchma. The recordings suggest Kuchma's and several other senior officials' involvement in pressuring journalists, parliamentary deputies, and judges over Gongadze's killing, and the sale of Kolchuga radar systems to Iraq. AM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS AGREEMENT WITH NATO ON AVIATION USE. The Verkhovna Rada did not ratify on 2 November an agreement between Ukraine and NATO regarding the use of Ukrainian strategic aircraft in NATO operations and exercises, Interfax reported. The agreement, signed on 7 June in Warsaw, provided for the creation of legal grounds for the use of Ukrainian aircraft in such situations, and was intended to be a step toward active cooperation between Ukraine and NATO in the context of Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic aspirations. AM

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SAYS TRANSDNIESTER TALKS SHOULD NOT HARM RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA. Vladimir Voronin said he does not want talks on the future of the breakaway Transdniester region to harm relations with Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 November. "We were with Russia in most serious situations," Voronin said, adding that he hopes relations with Moscow would prosper. "Our main formula for resolving the problem is to settle the conflict entirely by peaceful means," he added. "We conduct our monitoring of the situation; we know what is happening there." Talks along an expanded "five plus two" format -- with Ukraine, Moldova, Transdniester, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as full participants and the United States and European Union as observers -- resumed in Chisinau on 28 October. BW