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Ukraine Signals New Interest In Regional Status

8 February 2005 -- Ukraine's newly appointed foreign minister, Borys Tarasyuk, suggested today that his country should use its strategic position between the expanding European Union and a resurgent Russia to become a regional leader.

Tarasyuk, who served as the country's foreign minister for two years before his abrupt dismissal by former President Leonid Kuchma in September 2000, told journalists that all of Ukraine's foreign policy moves should be "not pro-Western, not pro-Eastern -- only pro-Ukrainian."

He said that the Foreign Ministry's main task will be to pursue good neighborly relations, first of all with Russia, but also with its EU neighbors.

Tarasyuk, who was introduced today as the country's new foreign minister by President Viktor Yushchenko, said European and Euro-Atlantic integration are also priorities for Ukraine, which he said will try to move "from words to actions."

Yushchenko has made eventual membership in the EU a top goal of his presidency.

Tarasyuk also said today that Ukraine will gradually withdraw its 1,600-strong troop contingent from Iraq, replacing it with instructors and a civilian presence.

Tarasyuk served as Ukraine's envoy to NATO before taking over as foreign minister in April 1998, and was widely seen as one of Kyiv's pro-Western politicians.


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