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Belarus: Commonwealth Of Independent States Summit Opens Today

Minsk, 31 May 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States are due to open a two-day summit later today in Minsk. No major agreements covering the 12-nation grouping are expected. But substantive talks will take place on the sidelines, within smaller regional sub-groups, as Russian President Vladimir Putin meets the three Caucasus presidents and leaders from Central Asia.

Beginning at 17:30 local time, Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold talks with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijan's Heidar Aliyev on the thorny issue of Nagorno-Karabakh. The three heads of state will be joined later in the evening by Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, when the discussion is expected to shift to the war in Chechnya.

Following those meetings, the presidents of the Eurasian Community -- a grouping which includes Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Belarus -- will discuss economic cooperation.

All the presidential meetings will take place largely behind closed doors at the residence of Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka, with only handpicked state media representatives allowed in.