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UKRAINE ASKS CANADA FOR HELP IN JOINING WTO. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko on 5 December asked his Canadian counterpart John Manley for Canada's help in expediting Ukraine's bid to join the World Trade Organization, AP reported. Zlenko said Ukraine's bid should be considered at the same time as that of Russia, which has recently received vigorous support from U.S. officials. "It would be undesirable if Ukraine is left behind Russia," Zlenko told journalists. Manley, who was on a one-day trip to Kyiv, declared that Canada is ready to "provide technical support" to Ukraine on its way to the WTO. Ukraine's New Channel Television quoted Manley as saying that Ukraine and Russia will both join the WTO at the same time. JM
WORLD BANK APPROVES $50 MILLION TO REDUCE POVERTY IN UKRAINIAN COUNTRYSIDE. The World Bank on 5 December proposed a $50.21 million loan aimed at reducing poverty in Ukraine's rural areas, AP reported. The loan is to sponsor from 750 to 900 small projects in Ukraine's poorest regions over six years to support health, education, and other facilities. These projects will be created and controlled by local communities, and will be selected in a competition. The communities are to sponsor 10 percent of the projects' cost with the rest funded by the bank. The biggest possible grant may not exceed $150,000. The World Bank urged the Ukrainian government and lawmakers to approve the loan project as soon as possible. JM
POLISH PREMIER DECLARES READINESS TO SEND MORE TROOPS TO AFGHANISTAN... Premier Leszek Miller met with NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson in Brussels on 5 December, PAP reported. Miller told journalists after the meeting that Poland and NATO have "converging views" on all issues discussed, which included the international fight against terrorism, NATO expansion, and NATO cooperation with Russia and Ukraine. "If our allies had requested our larger participation [in the antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan], there would have been a larger participation," Miller commented on Warsaw's recent decision to send 300 troops to Afghanistan following a request from the U.S. government. JM
ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ATTENTIVE TO UKRAINIAN CENSUS. Mircea Geoana said on 5 December that Romania is "watching attentively" the population census now under way in Ukraine, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Geoana explained that Romania is insisting that Ukraine do away with "the artificial distinction made there between Moldovans and Romanians." He admitted that some ethnic Romanians in Ukraine declare their national identity as "Moldovan," but stressed that those are "people who were subjected to ideological intoxication throughout the long tears of Soviet occupation." Geoana also said Romania intends to "clarify this mystification of history and call a spade a spade," namely that one deals with "Romanians who are loyal citizens of Ukraine." MS
MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTRY REGRETS 'EMOTIONAL REACTION' FROM UKRAINE. The Foreign Ministry said on 5 December that it "regrets the emotional reaction of Ukrainian authorities to public statements made by the Moldovan leadership," Infotag reported. In a diplomatic note responding to a 29 November Ukrainian protest following President Vladimir Voronin's criticism of Ukraine's reluctance to agree to set up joint customs checkpoints, the ministry said Moldova highly appreciates "the bilateral friendship and cooperation ties [with Ukraine] based on the principle of good neighborly relations, noninterference in domestic affairs, mutual understanding, and trust." It added that the statements made by Voronin and other Moldovan leaders were presented in the Ukrainian media "out of their immediate context." The ministry also said Moldova "highly estimates the role played by Ukraine in efforts to settle the Transdniester conflict," and added that "restoring [Moldovan] customs controls on the common border would make an invaluable contribution to the conflict settlement process." But the statement also reiterated Moldova's regret that "Ukraine allows the transportation [from Transdniester] of commodities across the border without valid customs documents, and demands the immediate termination of this practice." MS