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UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT UPBEAT ON SENDING PEACEKEEPERS TO IRAQ... President Leonid Kuchma told journalists in Kyiv on 28 May that he is certain the Verkhovna Rada will endorse a decision taken earlier this month by the National Security and Defense Council to send a contingent of Ukrainian peacekeepers to the Polish stabilization sector in Iraq, Interfax reported. "I am convinced, taking into account the situation in parliament, that the decision to dispatch [the contingent] will be adopted," Kuchma said. He said he is aware that such a decision will be "perceived ambiguously by Ukrainian society" but added, "We have no right to stay aside from global processes." JM
...AFRAID OF RECURRENCE OF EAST-WEST SPLIT DURING PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION... President Kuchma said at the same 28 May news conference that he fears there might be attempts in next year's presidential election to pit voters in the east of the country against those in the west, as was the case in previous presidential ballots in 1991, 1994, and 1999, Interfax reported. Kuchma added that such a negative, east-west division was reinforced during the 2002 parliamentary elections. JM
...AND DOUBTFUL OF OPPOSITION'S ABILITY TO FIELD SINGLE CANDIDATE. Kuchma also told journalists on 28 May that opposition forces -- Our Ukraine, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, the Socialist Party, and the Communist Party -- are unlikely to field a joint presidential candidate in the 2004 election, Interfax reported. Kuchma suggested that Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko made a mistake by not siding with pro-presidential forces and not forming a pro-government majority in the Verkhovna Rada after the 2002 parliamentary elections. JM
POLAND TO COMMIT MORE THAN 2,000 TROOPS TO IRAQ. Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said on 28 May that Poland will send more than 2,000 service personnel to its stabilization sector in Iraq in July, Polish media reported. Szmajdzinski pledged that the Polish contingent in Iraq will become fully operational by the end of August. The Polish-led division in Iraq is expected to consist of 6,500-7,500 troops. General Czeslaw Piatas, chief of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces, said the same day that "over 75 percent of the required forces have already been declared." Meanwhile, Reuters quoted unidentified NATO diplomats as saying that Warsaw is still having difficulties finding enough soldiers for its stabilization force in Iraq, despite a related international conference held last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 2003). According to those diplomats, Poland has so far secured commitments from roughly 2,000 soldiers from Ukraine, 800 from Fiji, 600 from South Korea, and a small unit from the Dominican Republic. JM