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GUAM Leaders Create New International Group

The presidents (left-right) of Moldova, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Georgia in Kyiv on May 23 (official site) May 23, 2006 -- The presidents of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova have transformed their GUAM regional grouping into a new international group to be called the Organization for Democratic and Economic Development-GUAM.

Meeting in Kyiv today, Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili, Ukraine's Viktor Yushchenko, Azerbaijan's Ilham Aliyev, and Moldova's Vladimir Voronin signed a declaration in which they pledged to work together to build up democracy, stability, and security.

The new organization will be open for other countries to join. Its headquarters will be in Kyiv.

Yushchenko announced that the leaders also agreed to set up a free-trade zone.

At a press conference at the end of the summit, Yushchenko said he was "firmly convinced that [the] region has great potential and that it will become one of the most promising regions in modern Europe. This concerns not only energy or transport projects but also security projects."

The GUAM group was launched in 1997. Uzbekistan became a member in 1999 but withdrew in 2005.

(UNIAN, Interfax-Ukraine, "Ukrayinska pravda")