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Kuchma’s Iraqi Arms Deal Approval Draws Fire from Helsinki Commission Leaders

Bi-Partisan Letter to Powell Urges Close Scrutiny of Kuchma’s Money

Washington – Leaders of the United States Helsinki Commission have urged Secretary of State Colin Powell to keep a close eye on President Leonid Kuchma’s financial dealings after recent revelations that the Ukrainian personally approved an arms deal with Iraq.

In their letter to Powell, the bipartisan Commission leadership said Kuchma’s “action makes a mockery of international efforts to isolate Saddam Hussein’s outlaw regime while. . .significantly increasing the risk to U.S. and U.K. military personnel who are currently policing the ‘no-fly’ zones and may be called upon to conduct additional operations against Iraq.”

Helsinki Commission leaders signing the letter were Chairman Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Ranking Member Senator Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT) and Ranking Member Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD).

“We are deeply troubled by recently published information making it clear that Ukrainian President Leonid D. Kuchma gave his personal approval for the sale of sophisticated military equipment to Iraq,” the leaders wrote in a letter to Powell.

“It is difficult to see Mr. Kuchma’s approval of this sale as anything other than a hostile and reckless act,” the leaders wrote. “Such criminal conduct by the leader of a country that has been a major beneficiary of U.S. political support and financial assistance is outrageous and demands a clear and firm response from the Administration.”

Strong action is warranted to demonstrate to Mr. Kuchma, as well as to other foreign officials, that reckless and criminal behavior will have the most serious consequences, according to the leaders.

“As an initial step, we urge that the Department of State establish an inter-agency group to develop concrete measures focused on the Ukrainian leader, members of the presidential administration, and other state officials,” the letter reads.

Among other things, the purpose of such an inter-agency group would be to closely examine any financial benefit Kuchma or his associates might have derived from this sale, as well as any other possible illegal activities, including money laundering.

“We further urge that the United States initiate contacts with foreign governments in an attempt to identify the money trail from sales to Iraq or possible sales to other rogue regimes,” the letter reads. “In addition, we believe official contacts with Mr. Kuchma should be kept to an absolute minimum and be conducted at the lowest possible levels.”

“While we continue to endorse strong U.S. support for Ukraine and its people, given the evidence at hand it is hard to see how we might resume a normal relationship with Mr. Kuchma or place our faith in any assurances he might offer us,” Commission leaders wrote. “We believe that U.S. policy toward Ukraine must be crafted with these goals in mind.”

The United States Helsinki Commission has actively monitored Ukraine’s military security and human rights conditions. A compilation of Ukraine-related material is available on the Commission’s Internet Web site.

The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.

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