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U.S. OFFICIAL SEES NO INTEREST ON THE PART OF BELARUS TO IMPROVE TIES WITH WEST. David Kramer, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told journalists in Minsk on April 25 that Washington has not seen "much evidence" from the Belarusian government to support its recent expressions of interest in improving relations with the West, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported. Kramer, who arrived in Minsk on April 23, met with opposition politicians, relatives of political prisoners and students, and with Foreign Minister Syarhey Martynau and Natalia Pyatkevich, deputy head of the Presidential Administration. Kramer said he took advantage of these meetings to spell out the "minimum steps" that Washington expects Minsk to take toward better bilateral relations. These steps, Kramer elaborated, include releasing all political prisoners, dropping charges against other opposition activists, allowing the Chornobyl Way demonstration on April 26 to take place peacefully, and allowing the congress of democratic forces in Belarus in May to take place without any problems. "Absent those steps, I fear that relations could deteriorate," Kramer noted. "Under the Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act that Congress passed [in December 2006] and President Bush signed [in January 2007], we have additional steps we can take to increase the pressure on the government. I hope that won't be necessary, but the ball is in the court of the government of Belarus." JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT POSTPONES SNAP ELECTIONS BY ONE MONTH... Viktor Yushchenko said in a television address to the nation on April 25 that he has issued a decree on postponing the early parliamentary elections he decreed earlier this month for May 27 until June 24, Ukrainian media reported. Yushchenko said a new date for the early elections was needed to enable election officials to prepare the ballot, adding that preparations for the ballot have been complicated by the absence of a quorum in the Central Election Commission and the cabinet's refusal to allocate funds for the election campaign. "It has already been a month since the coalition in the Verkhovna Rada was reformatted against the constitution. From now on, the president of Ukraine can fully implement his right to dissolve the parliament on the grounds of Article 90 of the Ukrainian Constitution. I'm sure of the legal right and political necessity for such a decision. I'm convinced that Ukrainian society, responsible Ukrainian politicians, and the people understand this decision," Yushchenko said. The new decree, dated April 26, 2007, was published on the presidential website (http://www.president.gov.ua) on April 26. JM
...AS COALITION LAWMAKERS WANT TO APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ONCE AGAIN. Lawmaker Raisa Bohatyryova, coordinator of the parliamentary coalition of the Party of Regions, the Socialist Party, and the Communist Party, said on April 26 that, by signing his new decree on early elections in June, President Yushchenko intended to prevent the Constitutional Court from ruling on his previous decree, which scheduled early parliamentary elections for May 27. "Today, an attack was actually launched on the Constitutional Court to make it impossible for it to pass a resolution on the April 2 decree," Bohatyryova said. She added that the ruling coalition will appeal against the new decree to the Constitutional Court as well. Meanwhile, Party of Regions lawmaker Taras Chornovil called on lawmakers of the ruling coalition gathered in the Verkhovna Rada session hall on April 26 to initiate the procedure of impeachment against President Yushchenko. Under the Ukrainian Constitution, at least 226 votes in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada are necessary to initiate the procedure of impeachment, at least 300 votes are required to accuse the president of "state treason or other crime" that could constitute the grounds for his/her impeachment, and at least 338 votes are necessary to approve the removal of the president from office. JM