Washington, 10 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell met today with visiting Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych to discuss a wide range of issues, including Iraq and the war on terrorism.
Neither man made public comments following Yanukovych's visit to the State Department. Later, at a briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that during their meeting Powell stressed the importance of promoting democracy and human rights in Ukraine.
"Secretary Powell met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Victor Yanukovych today. There were a variety of bilateral issues discussed. It was also an opportunity for the secretary to express thanks for Ukraine's important contribution to the stability effort in Iraq. Ukraine is the fourth-largest contributor of troops in Iraq."
Ukraine has 1,600 soldiers stationed in Iraq under Polish command.
Ukrainian companies are seeking to participate in Iraqi reconstruction efforts. The only Ukrainian companies so far to actually perform work in Iraq are air charter firms that offer large aircraft on the international cargo market.
Ukrainian construction firms say they would be in a good position to help rebuild Iraqi infrastructure because of inexpensive labor and materials.
Boucher also said Powell talked about the 2004 presidential elections in Ukraine.
"The secretary also stressed the importance of promotion of democracy and human rights in Ukraine. He made clear that the conduct of open, free, and fair presidential election process in 2004 and the strengthening of media and judicial independence are essential and will have a major impact on Ukraine's ability to move forward with its aspirations."
Boucher also spoke about Ukraine's help to the United States in fighting the war against international terror and Ukrainian aspirations about moving closer to the West.
"And we thanked them as well for the cooperation we've been able to establish on the war on terrorism. The secretary expressed support for Ukraine's effort to draw closer to the Euro-Atlantic and European Institutions as well as for Ukraine's goal of accelerated accession to the WTO [World Trade Organization]."
Yanukovych also met today with other senior administration officials to discuss trade, energy, and agriculture issues. Earlier, he paid a visit to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.
The visit of the Ukrainian prime minister came at a time of strained relations between the two countries. The United States has accused Ukraine of attempting to sell a radar system to the regime of Saddam Hussein before the war. Washington has also been critical of what it sees as undemocratic trends in Ukraine such as the Kyiv government's treatment of independent journalists.