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BELARUS OPENS IRANIAN CAR PLANT. Belarus's and Iran's industry ministers -- Anatol Rusetski and Ali Reza Tahmasebi, respectively -- inaugurated an assembly plant for Iran's Samand cars outside Minsk on August 11, Belapan reported. Dzmitry Yahorau, director general of Unison, the Belarusian partner in the project, said the plant will for the time being assemble the Samand LX model equipped with a 1.8-liter, 100-horsepower Peugeot engine. The car will cost around $12,500. According to Yahorau, the plant is expected to manufacture up to 800-820 vehicles by the end of 2006, and its output is projected to rise to 6,000 the following year. Unison hopes to export Samand cars to Central and East European countries, the Baltic states, Russia, Ukraine, and also sell them in Belarus. JM
UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER SEES NEED FOR LAW TO SUPPORT RUSSIAN LANGUAGE... Viktor Yanukovych told journalists in Crimea on August 11 that he sees no possibility for the time being of giving the Russian language official status in Ukraine, UNIAN reported. Yanukovych explained that in order to change the status of the Russian language, at least 300 lawmakers would have to support a change in the constitution or the issue would have to be subject to a referendum. "Both the first and the second option are unrealistic at the present moment," Yanukovych added. According to him, Ukraine should instead adopt a law regulating the use of the Russian language and enforce the implementation of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. JM
...AND SIGNALS POSSIBLE DELAY IN WTO TALKS. Yanukovych also told journalists in Crimea on August 11 that his government is committed to joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) but may delay talks to ensure that WTO membership conditions meet producers' needs, Reuters reported. President Viktor Yushchenko wants Ukraine to join the WTO by the end of this year, but Yanukovych believes that more time to study all conditions may be required. "If we manage to [join the WTO] in 2006, then it will be 2006. But our task is to resolve this issue in a clear way and within national interests. If we need to extend the term to do it, then we will extend it," Yanukovych noted. JM
CRIMEAN TATARS SCUFFLE WITH MARKET TRADERS. Some 300 Tatars got involved in a brawl with a similar number of vendors at an outdoor market in Bakhchysaray in Crimea on August 12, Ukrainian media reported. Both sides reportedly used stones, batons, and smoke candles in the fight, which led to several dozen injuries. A special police unit fired several shots in the air to break up the scuffle. Crimean Tatars demand that the market be closed since it is located at the site of a former Muslim burial ground. JM
BLAST AT UKRAINIAN COAL MINE KILLS SIX. An explosion at the Sukhodilska-Skhidna coal mine in Krasnodon in Luhansk Oblast on August 13 killed six miners and injured seven, Ukrainian media reported. Local authorities have opened an investigation into the accident. JM