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NEW TURKMEN LEADER HOLDS MEETINGS... Newly inaugurated Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov met with a number of regional leaders and high-ranking officials in Ashgabat on February 14, news agencies reported. Berdymukhammedov and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev stressed that they hold close positions on global issues, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. Nazarbaev also invited Berdymukhammedov to Kazakhstan. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Berdymukhammedov agreed that Turkmenistan will remain a strategic supplier of natural gas to Ukraine, Interfax reported. Berdymukhammedov told Iranian First Vice President Parviz Daoudi that Turkmenistan wants to deepen ties with Iran, while Daoudi said that Iran would like to invest in the Turkmen energy sector, Iranian radio and IRNA reported. Berdymukhammedov told Ismail Amat, deputy chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and envoy of Chinese President Hu Jintao, that Turkmenistan will honor all of its bilateral agreements with China, Xinhua reported. DK
...AS LEADERS MEET ON SIDELINES. Leaders in attendance at Berdymukhammedov's inauguration also held meetings in Ashgabat on February 14, news agencies reported. Yushchenko met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov to discuss Ukrainian investment in the Tajik energy sector, with Tajikistan also asking Ukraine to provide free military and technical assistance to help Tajikistan guard its borders, Korrespondent reported. Nazarbaev met with Richard Boucher, U.S. assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, and they both expressed the hope that Turkmenistan "will move along the path of greater openness, and that the policy of self-isolation will be to a certain degree rethought," Kazinform reported, quoting a spokesman for the Kazakh president. Nazarbaev also met with Rakhmonov to discuss bilateral relations, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. DK
HAS RUSSIA BLACKLISTED UKRAINIAN POLITICIANS? Volodymyr Kornilov, director of the Ukrainian branch of the Institute of CIS Countries, told journalists in Kyiv on February 14 that he believes Moscow has a blacklist of Ukrainian politicians who cannot enter the Russian Federation, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Kornilov was commenting on an incident last week in which Ukrainian lawmaker Petro Poroshenko, former secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, was declared persona non grata and barred from entering the Russian Federation at an airport in St. Petersburg. Russian Foreign Ministry officials said the move was a retaliatory measure against Ukraine's entry ban on a number of Russian politicians and political analysts in the past year or so. JM
UKRAINIAN POPULATION CONTINUES TO SHRINK WHILE ECONOMY FLOURISHES. The State Statistics Committee reported on February 14 that Ukraine's population continued to decrease throughout 2006, falling by 22,000 in December to reach 46.646 million at the beginning of January, Interfax-Ukraine reported. The same day, the committee said the country's gross domestic product in January grew by 9.3 percent year-on-year. JM