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NATO WARY OF RUSSIAN-LED 'GAS OPEC.' Britain's "Financial Times" reported on November 14 that a recent confidential NATO study warns "the military alliance that it needs to guard against any attempt by Russia to set up an 'OPEC for gas' that would strengthen Moscow's leverage over Europe." The NATO economic experts suggested that "Russia may be seeking to build a gas cartel including Algeria, Qatar, Libya, the countries of Central Asia, and perhaps Iran." The study noted that Russia wants to use energy policy for "political ends," as it has recently toward Ukraine and Georgia. On November 13, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in Moscow that "only a madman could think that Russia would start to blackmail Europe using gas, because we depend to the same extent on European customers" as they do on their Russian suppliers. He added that there is "no substance at all" to the idea that Russia wants to form a gas cartel. On October 31, the Moscow daily "Kommersant" reported that Valery Yazev, who heads the State Duma's Energy, Transport, and Communications Committee, told the board of the Russian Gas Association on October 30 that producers and transporters in CIS countries should form an International Alliance of National Nonprofit Gas Organizations. Yazev, whom the daily described as "Gazprom's chief lobbyist in the State Duma...[and] unofficial mouthpiece of the Russian authorities," suggested that President Vladimir Putin first came up with the idea but placed it "on the back burner" at the time of the July St. Petersburg summit of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 20 and October 31, 2006). PM
UKRAINIAN RULING PARTY SLAMS OPPOSITION FOR SEEKING TO CANCEL CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM. Party of Regions lawmaker Raisa Bohatyryova told the Verkhovna Rada on November 14 that her caucus is calling for the adoption of a resolution condemning last week's decision by the opposition Our Ukraine People's Union (NSNU) to contest the validity of the 2004 constitutional reform before the Constitutional Court, Ukrainian media reported. Bohatyryova was referring to a congress of the pro-presidential NSNU on November 11 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," November 13, 2006) that obliged NSNU lawmakers to demand that the Constitutional Court recognize the constitutional reform adopted on December 8, 2004, as unlawful. "Do not stir bees in the hive if you don't know how to gather honey," Bohatyryova warned the NSNU lawmakers, adding that the NSNU's move is tantamount to a call for changing the country's constitutional system. The 2004 constitutional reform shifted the balance of power in Ukraine from the presidency to the prime minister and parliament. Some experts believe that the adoption of the reform -- a political compromise that ended the standoff that emerged as a result of the country's contentious 2004 presidential elections -- violated constitutional and parliamentary procedures. JM
WILL UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT DISMISS FOREIGN MINISTER? Presidential aide Taras Stetskiv predicted on November 14 that lawmakers of the ruling coalition of the Party of Regions, the Socialist Party, and the Communist Party will vote on November 15 to dismiss Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, Interfax-Ukraine reported. "The anticrisis [ruling] coalition has long had the temptation to get rid of the foreign minister, and it won't miss its chance tomorrow," Stetskiv said. Tarasyuk and Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko were summoned by the Verkhovna Rada to deliver reports on November 15 on their performance. Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych also signaled that he wants a replacement for Tarasyuk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," November 13, 2006). Under the Ukrainian Constitution amended in December 2004, the country's defense and foreign ministers are nominated by the president and confirmed by parliament, which also has the right to dismiss the entire cabinet. Meanwhile, Our Ukraine has prepared a petition to the Constitutional Court asking for a ruling on whether the Verkhovna Rada actually has the right to dismiss the ministers nominated by the president. JM