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Ukraine Gains US Guarantee Needed For START Support

Parliament now likely to ratify nuclear arms cuts

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THE United States has provided a written security guarantee to Ukraine that will remove a major stumbling block in the ratification of the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) by this country's hesitant parliament, Ukraine's top arms negotiator says.

Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk said he received the US written statement during discussions in Washington last week. The outline of the declaration by the United States, and possibly other nuclear powers, offers Ukraine protection against potential aggression once it fulfills its pledge to dispose of all 176 strategic nuclear missiles on its territory.

Although he would not reveal the details of the security guarantee document, Mr. Tarasyuk said it would most likely be presented in formal declaration by the heads of states of the leading nuclear powers, including neighboring Russia. It would provide security assurances against both nuclear and conventional attack on Ukraine, the second-largest former Soviet republic with 52 million people.

Tarasyuk told the Monitor in an exclusive interview that the US proposal should clear up doubts regarding ratification among many Ukrainian parliament members who have been reluctant to approve the treaty. Some have voiced concern about the country's security without a nuclear shield.

"I expect this will positively affect the ratification process in parliament," Tarasyuk said. Parliament is expected to reconvene on Jan. 18, although many deputies say the legislature probably will not begin discussing START until February.

Ukrainian ratification of START I is crucial to US efforts at nuclear arms reduction vis a vis the former Soviet nuclear powers - Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Russia and Kazakhstan have already ratified START I. All four former Soviet nuclear states must ratify START I before the deeper arms cuts envisioned in the START II treaty can be implemented.

START II, signed by President Bush and Russian leader Boris Yeltsin earlier this month, would cut the US and Russian nuclear arsenals combined by more than 14,000 warheads. Ukrainian worries

Some Ukrainian legislators and government officials have expressed fears that once Ukraine gave up all its nuclear missiles it would be exposed to aggression from Russia.

In the past, Russian nationalists, including Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, have heightened concern among Ukrainians by making territorial claims against Ukraine, including agitating for the annulment of the 1954 protocol transferring the Crimean Peninsula from Russian to Ukrainian jurisdiction.

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