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Ukraine: CIS Economic Space Is Premature, Says President

Kyiv, 28 April 1998 (RFE/RL) - Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said today that the idea of creating a common economic space within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) of former Soviet republics is premature. Kuchma made the remarks on the eve of a CIS Moscow summit set for tomorrow.

His spokesman Olexandr Maidannik quoted Kuchma as saying that the 12-nation grouping "is not an end in itself, but a means" for solving problems and defending the interests of its members. Kuchma also said the CIS should be "an international mechanism of multilateral relations".

In Moscow, Russian President Boris Yeltsin met today with several CIS leaders ahead of the summit. Yeltsin's aide Sergei Prikhodko said Yeltsin and Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev agreed that an accord on dividing the sea bed in the northern sector of the Caspian Sea will be signed during Yeltsin's visit to Akmola in early July. The two presidents did not discuss Russian payments for the Baikonur space launching-pad in Kazakhstan, deciding to leave the issue to their governments.

Yeltsin met with Nazarbayev following a meeting of a four-state Customs Union including Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan. The Customs Union agreed today to accept Tajikistan as a fifth member. They also decided that the Customs Union's headquarters would be moved from Moscow to Almaty in Kazakhstan.

The leaders also approved a document entitled "10 Simple Steps for Ordinary People" to increase cooperation and economic integration. The document seeks to simplify travel rules and citizenship procedures, recognize diplomas issued in each member state and create favourable conditions for small businesses.

Yeltsin also met with newly-elected Armenian President Robert Kocharian. No details of the meeting were provided.