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UKRAINIAN PARTIES UNITE TO BACK YUSHCHENKO'S PRESIDENTIAL BID. A congress of the opposition Popular Rukh of Ukraine (NRU) resolved on 20 March to set up an electoral bloc of nearly 40 parties to support Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko in the upcoming presidential election, UNIAN reported. In particular, apart from the Popular Rukh, the bloc is expected to include the Ukrainian Popular Party, the Reforms and Order Party, the Solidarity Party, the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, and the Yabluko Party. The congress obliged NRU leader Borys Tarasyuk to work out a deal with interested parties on the creation of the bloc. JM
IN SLOVAK CAPITAL, 'VILNIUS 10' PLEDGE SUPPORT FOR EURO-ATLANTIC INTEGRATION TO EAST, SOUTHEAST. The prime ministers of nine of the so-called Vilnius 10 states vowed at the close of a two-day conference in the Slovak capital on 19 March to support the integration of Ukraine and Turkey, as well as Balkan, Caucasian, and Black Sea countries into Euro-Atlantic structures, TASR reported. The leaders of Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, and Slovakia signed the document (Slovenian Prime Minister Anton Rop was not in attendance), in which they say they will back the democratic ambitions of the EU's "new neighbors" and cooperate closely with those countries, the news agency added. At the same conference on 19 March, Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas urged the EU and NATO to alter their policies toward Eastern European nonmember states, TASR reported. Brazauskas said neither organization has a clear vision of how to behave toward the region. AH
MOSCOW CONCERNED BY UKRAINE, NATO TIES. The Foreign Ministry on 20 March issued a statement of concern following a decision by Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada to allow rapid access by NATO military units to Ukrainian territory in the event of an emergency, Interfax reported. An unidentified ministry source told Interfax that Moscow is worried "by Ukraine's readiness to [allow] the use of its territory for NATO operations without consulting with Russia." VY
SIGNING OF TURKMEN-UKRAINIAN GAS DEAL AGAIN POSTPONED. Following a telephone conversation between Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma, the latter's press service said on 20 March that his planned visit to Ashgabat to sign a long-term agreement on supplies of Turkmen natural gas to Ukraine has now been scheduled for early May, ITAR-TASS reported. In December, the two presidents agreed that Kuchma's visit should take place in February; then, on 28 January, they postponed it until April. LF