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UZBEK, UKRAINIAN LEADERS DISCUSS GUUAM. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma began a two-day visit to Tashkent on 19 December with a meeting with President Islam Karimov, ITAR-TASS and Interfax-Ukraine reported. The talks focused on the future of the GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) grouping. The two presidents indicated the organization will be redundant if the member states' economic interests are ensured by bilateral means or through the creation of a free-trade zone. The two sides signed a cooperation agreement between their foreign ministries and a document on mutual recognition of registration of medicines. Kuchma was also due to meet ethnic Ukrainians living in Uzbekistan and open an Uzbek-Ukrainian joint venture. AA
UKRAINE COULD FACE SANCTIONS OVER DIRTY-MONEY EFFORTS. Premier Viktor Yanukovych on 19 December appealed to the Verkhovna Rada to pass an antimoney-laundering bill as required by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) global watchdog, Reuters reported. "Today is the last day to make a decision on FATF. If sanctions are introduced, the country will lose a lot in 2003," Yanukovych pleaded. Under a threat of sanctions from the FATF, the parliament passed an antimoney-laundering bill last month that President Leonid Kuchma has already signed; but the FATF has demanded amendments to toughen the monitoring of financial operations in the country. The parliamentary opposition, however, has obstructed parliamentary work for the past three days to protest a controversial vote on replacing the National Bank governor and parliamentary committee leaders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December 2003). Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn adjourned the session until next week. JM
UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION PROPOSES END TO PARLIAMENTARY STANDOFF. Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko on 19 December proposed a compromise to the pro-government majority in order to resolve the current stalemate in the Verkhovna Rada, UNIAN reported. Yushchenko said he was speaking on behalf of all four opposition parliamentary groups: Our Ukraine, the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc. According to Yushchenko, the opposition is ready to confirm the replacement of National Bank Governor Volodymyr Stelmakh with Serhiy Tyhypko but insists that the majority cancel its decision to reappoint parliamentary committee leaders. The third step to overcoming the blockade of parliamentary activities, Yushchenko added, is setting up a working group to prepare a number of "compromise" draft bills, including on elections, the budget, and taxation. JM
MOLDOVAN OFFICIAL SAYS MOSCOW NEGOTIATIONS SIGNAL DANGERS, REGRESSION. In an interview with RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service on 19 December, Moldova's chief negotiator with the Transdniester Vasile Sturdza said the round of talks concluded one day earlier in Moscow marked a regression and signaled new dangers ahead. Sturdza said the final protocol of the meeting mentions the need to examine not only the OSCE's proposal for Moldova's federalization, but also other past proposals and agreements. He said Tiraspol could use this clause to return to its earlier positions and demand a confederation of equal states instead of a federal state. Sturdza said that a proposal put forward by Ukrainian representative Yevhen Levytskyy suggesting that each side should safeguard its current institutions and attributions until a solution is reached is rife with dangers and in blatant contradiction with the Kyiv summit agreement that relaunched the current negotiation process earlier this year. Sturdza said he does not rule out that Ukraine has turned into "a lobbyist for the interests of the separatist regime," adding that the proposal "could well have been written in Tiraspol itself." MS