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...BUT PRAISES ITALY FOR ITS ASSISTANCE. At the same time, Lukashenka praised the Italian government for the help it has provided to Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported. He said he is pleased by the large Belarusian liaison group in the Italian parliament and also by the willingness of the Italian people to take into their homes 40,000 Belarusian children who had suffered as a result of the Chernobyl disaster. The Belarusian leader's comments were made in a special message to Italy's ambassador in Minsk. PG
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS CLAIMS BODYGUARD'S CLAIMS. President Leonid Kuchma on 4 January said that a former bodyguard who had accused him of various crimes is "mentally ill" and that he would not comment on those allegations, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Kuchma's comments came in response to a December 2000 RFE/RL Ukrainian Service broadcast in which bodyguard Mykola Malnichenko said that Kuchma had ordered law enforcement agencies to undermine the reputation of Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, DPA reported. Kuchma also reiterated that he has "no final information" concerning the fate of journalist Heorhy Gongadze. PG