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KYIV COMBATS BIRD-FLU OUTBREAK IN CRIMEA. President Viktor Yushchenko on 3 December declared a state of emergency in five villages in the Crimean Peninsula after the Agricultural Ministry had identified the H5 subtype of bird-flu virus that reportedly killed more than 2,500 domestic birds in the area, Ukrainian and international media reported. The government sent Interior Ministry troops to the area, which has been subject to quarantine. Soldiers wearing plastic clothing and masks culled domestic birds in the affected villages and trucked them away for disposal in specially excavated pits. According to local villagers, a mysterious disease has been killing their birds for more than a month, the "Financial Times" reported on 4 December. The infection outbreak occurred near the Syvash Bay, a marshy lagoon next to the Azov Sea where birds stop over each autumn as they migrate between Russia and Africa. JM

MAJOR UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION PARTY PUBLICIZES ELECTORAL PLATFORM. Former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych outlined the parliamentary election program of his Party of Regions during a convention in Kyiv on 2 December, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Yanukovych said the short-term goals of his party are to reduce unemployment, create well-paid jobs, and provide people with decent salaries. Yanukovych stressed that his party favors a transition to a federal system that could help balance the level of socioeconomic development of various regions. Speaking about foreign political priorities, Yanukovych said the Party of Regions is "against haste in joining international organizations." Yanukovych also said his party is for granting the Russian language official status. The convention endorsed the party's list of candidates for the 26 March 2006 legislative elections. According to recent polls, Yanukovych's is the most popular party in Ukraine and can count on some 18 percent of the vote. JM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR RUSSIAN TROOPS TO LEAVE TRANSDNIESTER. Romanian President Traian Basescu called on 2 December for Russian troops to leave Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region, Flux reported on 3 December. Speaking in Kyiv, Basescu said the first step in settling the conflict in Transdniester is the withdrawal of foreign troops and the "dissolution of the military and paramilitary forces of the separatist regime." Basescu added that Bucharest's " greatest preoccupation remains the existence of some conflict hotbeds in this part of Europe, which are real 'black holes' beyond international law." BW

AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT ELECTS NEW SPEAKER. Meeting for its first session on 2 December, the newly elected Azerbaijani parliament approved the candidacy of Oktai Asadov as its new speaker, Azerbaijani media reported. Asadov, who is 51, is president of the Azersu company and a member of the Political Council of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, which won the largest number of seats in the new parliament. His candidacy was proposed by Murtuz Alesqerov, who served as parliament speaker since 1996. Addressing the opening parliament session, President Ilham Aliyev declared that there is no chance of an Orange Revolution in Azerbaijan to overturn the election results, as was the case in Ukraine in November-December 2004, and reported. LF