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Ukraine Lawmaker Proposes Probe of Radar Sale to Iraq - 2002-09-25

A leader of Ukraine's parliament has proposed creating a special commission to investigate charges that President Leonid Kuchma, in defiance of U.N. sanctions, approved the sale of a sophisticated radar system to Iraq.

The speaker of the parliament, Volodmyr Lytvyn, told lawmakers Wednesday that the allegations of sanctions-busting are not, in his words, official facts. But Mr. Lytvyn says the details do still need to be examined.

Mr. Lytvyn, a long-time ally of the president who until recently headed his administration, suggested that some unnamed lawmakers had themselves initiated attempts at military cooperation with Iraq. He said these lawmakers then returned to Kiev to put pressure on President Kuchma.

President Kuchma's office has issued a statement denying selling the radar system.

Earlier on Wednesday, another ally of President Kuchma, the chief of parliament's defense and national security committee, Georgy Kryuchkov, said the United States was responsible for the allegations against President Kuchma. He said they were an attempt by the United States to support Ukraine's political opposition in its bid to bring about President Kuchma's resignation and early elections.

The United States has suspended more than $50 million in aid to Ukraine, after saying it had authenticated a clandestine recording of President Kuchma giving his approval of the sale to Iraq.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for Ukraine's foreign ministry expressed surprise at the U.S. decision to suspend aid, saying it was based on what he called unverified data.

At issue is the so-called "Kolchuga" aircraft-tracking system. The system picks up signals from objects hundreds of kilometers away on the ground or in the air. But it stays invisible because it emits no signals of its own, unlike radar detection systems that can be picked up by pilots.