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Wednesday, 2 October, 2002, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
US rejects Ukraine radar inquiry
Opposition holds an effigy of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma during protests in Kiev
After opposition protests, Mr Kuchma faces fresh trouble

The United States has rejected an offer made by the Ukrainian president, Leonid Kuchma, to investigate Ukraine's alleged sale of a sophisticated radar tracking system to Iraq.

The Americans say there is no point in carrying out an investigation unless Ukraine is totally open about the alleged deal.

Kolchuga early warning radar
Ukraine denies any deal with Iraq
Mr Kuchma has just survived the latest round of opposition protests, calling for his resignation, but is now facing a potentially fatal blow to his presidency from abroad.

The US suspended financial support to Ukraine last week, after claiming that Mr Kuchma had approved the sale of the Kolchuga early warning radar system to Iraq.

Allegations

The American allegations are based on a tape recording made secretly in the Ukrainian president's office in July 2000 by one of his bodyguards.

Georgiy Gongadze
Mr Kuchma denies links to the disappearance of Georgiy Gongadze

The US State Department has said it is satisfied that the conversation between Mr Kuchma and the then head of Ukraine's arms export agency was genuine.

Ukraine at first denied that the tapes were real, and then denied that there had been any deal with Iraq.

Now Washington insists on clearing up the matter before it will resume any aid to Kiev.

Gongadze's case

It is the second time that these tapes have landed Mr Kuchma in hot water.

In another extract, the Ukrainian president is allegedly heard calling for the investigative journalist Georgiy Gongadze to be silenced.

Mr Gongadze subsequently disappeared in 2000, and his headless corpse was later found in a forest near Kiev.

In September, the second anniversary of Mr Gongadze's disappearance saw opposition demonstrations all over Ukraine.

But the opposition has proved to be too fragmented to threaten seriously Mr Kuchma's position.

But if Washington now increases the pressure on Mr Kuchma, he may yet be forced out before presidential elections, due in just over a year's time.


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25 Sep 02 | Europe
28 Aug 01 | Middle East
23 Sep 02 | Europe
17 Sep 02 | Media reports
16 Sep 02 | Europe
21 Jul 02 | Country profiles
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