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FORMER GERMAN LEADER DEFENDS RUSSIAN ENERGY POLICIES. Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who heads the stockholders' oversight body for the planned North European Gas Pipeline (NEGP) running from Vyborg to Greifswald, said in Moscow on June 19 that "Russia and Russian companies must get the same opportunities as European companies enjoy in Russia," Reuters reported. He added that "mutual dependency can create trust between Russia and Europe. Europeans know that there is no truly reliable alternative to Russia as an energy partner. But Europe should not pretend that Russians have to be grateful for being allowed to supply oil and gas to Europe." He called for an end to European reliance on Ukrainian pipelines, through which 80 percent of Russian deliveries to the EU pass. "In the interest of Europe's safe energy supplies, this [Ukrainian role] will have to be reduced," he argued. Schroeder's nomination to the NEGP post late in 2005 led to criticism in Germany and to questions about his taking up the Gazprom pipeline post so soon after the end of a chancellorship that saw ever-closer relations with Moscow, the conclusion of the NEGP deal, and the worst U.S.-German relations since World War II. He has repeatedly rejected charges of impropriety (see "RFE/RL Newsline," April 3 and 28, 2006, and End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," January 17, 2006). PM

....AND BACKS NUCLEAR RIGHTS WHILE TOUTING NONPROLIFERATION EFFORTS. The Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia summit in Almaty released a statement on June 17 defending the "inalienable right of countries to have access to nuclear technologies, materials and equipment, as well as using them for peaceful purposes in line with the obligations set by corresponding agreements on [the International Atomic Energy Agency's] safety guarantees," Interfax reported. But that statement also noted the group's support for "the joint efforts of Central Asian countries in creating a zone in Central Asia free of nuclear weapons" and stressed the importance of broader nonproliferation efforts, specifically commending and encouraging "the efforts of all countries to suppress attempts by terrorists and criminal groups to acquire weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them." In addition to leaders of the member states, the summit was also attended by a number of representatives from observer states, including the United States, Japan, Ukraine, and the United Nations. The regional grouping, founded in 1992, seeks to foster greater cooperation and security in Asia and its members range from China and Russia to Iran and Israel. RG

COMPOSITION OF NEW UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT STILL UNCLEAR... Our Ukraine has concluded "consultations" with the Party of Regions and is now ready to begin "negotiations" on the creation of a ruling coalition, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website ( reported on June 19, quoting Roman Zvarych from Our Ukraine. According to Zvarych, his bloc will make a final decision regarding such negotiations with the Party of Regions on June 20, at a meeting of the Our Ukraine parliamentary caucus. Asked about the progress of Our Ukraine's coalition talks with the former Orange Revolution allies -- the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc and the Socialist Party -- Zvarych said: "There are differences of opinion so serious that they may become a barrier [to forging a coalition]." JM

....AS ORANGE ALLIES SEND CONTRADICTORY SIGNALS OVER DRAFT COALITION ACCORD. Oleksandr Turchynov from the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc told journalists in Kyiv on June 19 that a coalition accord between his bloc and Our Ukraine and the Socialist Party is ready for signing, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website ( reported. "[The accord] has been prepared and agreed, and it depends exclusively on Our Ukraine whether it will be finalized today or not," Turchynov said. Meanwhile, Our Ukraine spokeswoman Tetyana Mokridi told journalists the same day that a round of Orange coalition talks on June 18 has left a number of diverging positions. In particular, Mokridi claimed that the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc opposes Our Ukraine's idea of making the post of prime minister accountable to the parliamentary coalition, while the Socialist Party has objections to Our Ukraine's strategic political goal of integrating with Euro-Atlantic structures. JM