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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Ukraine faces 'Iraq radar sales' claim
Opposition leader Julia Tymoshenko (R) is blocked by riot police
Ukraine's opposition is staging a second day of protests
Ukraine is coming under increasing pressure to explain allegations that President Leonid Kuchma approved the sale of advanced radar systems to Iraq.


We still need to get from the Ukraine some explanation for the evidence which is emerging at the moment

Nato Secretary-General George Robertson
Nato Secretary-General George Robertson said that "very serious questions" needed to be answered about evidence emerging of the alleged deal.

The United States earlier announced it was suspending more than $50m in aid to Ukraine and launching a policy review of its relations with the country.

Ukrainian Economics Minister Oleksandr Shlapak dismissed the accusations and said his government did not understand the US decision.

Presidential administration head Viktor Medvedchuk said the accusations were aimed at boosting opposition to Mr Kuchma.

The row comes as Kiev faces a deep internal crisis, with opposition supporters holding a second day of protests and making increasingly vocal calls for Mr Kuchma's resignation.

US concern

Mr Shlapak's remarks are the first high-level response from Ukraine to an announcement by Washington that the US is reviewing its policies towards a country that has been in the top five recipients of US aid for more than a decade.

The move comes after US officials authenticated tape recordings, in which they say President Kuchma is heard approving the sale of early warning radar systems to Iraq.

President Leonid Kuchma
President Kuchma faces a raft of accusations

Speaking on the eve of his departure to Washington as head of Ukraine's delegation to the IMF and the World Bank, Mr Shlapak said there was still no proof that Ukraine has illegally sold weapons systems to Iraq.

Although existing humanitarian aid projects will be unaffected, Washington's decision is an unambiguous gesture of concern, says BBC Russian regional analyst Steven Eke.

The evidence is a secretly-made audio recording, in which Mr Kuchma is apparently heard approving a scheme to smuggle four radars to Iraq via a Jordanian intermediary.

Transcripts of the conversation have been in the public domain for some months, and the State Department says its delayed reaction is due to time-consuming efforts to authenticate the recording.

The US State Department says it has indications that the Ukrainian radars may already be in Iraq.

Known as passive radars, they are reported to be able to locate all types of aircraft - including stealth aircraft - while themselves remaining virtually undetectable.


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25 Sep 02 | Politics
25 Sep 02 | Europe
23 Sep 02 | Europe
17 Sep 02 | Media reports
16 Sep 02 | Europe
21 Jul 02 | Country profiles
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