Kravchuk Wins Over Chairman

KIEV -- President Leonid Kravchuk came under fresh attack in parliament on Tuesday for his agreement to rid Ukraine of nuclear weapons but he won the support of parliament's influential chairman.

Deputies complained that they had been given insufficient time to examine Kravchuk's appeal to parliament on Monday to join the 1968 Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, as a nonnuclear state -- effectively giving up nuclear weapons for good.

They postponed further action until later in the week.

But chairman Ivan Plyushch said parliament had no choice but to adhere to NPT -- a little more than a week after Kravchuk signed a deal with Russia and the United States providing for Ukraine to give up more than 1,600 warheads.

Deputies were clearly taken aback by Kravchuk's move on Monday, when he asked parliament in an official letter to join the Nonproliferation Treaty.

It appeared to distract attention from the Moscow accord, signed by Kravchuk and Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, which many deputies have denounced as treacherous.

"The question of the NPT is out of place here," said Tatyana Yakheyeva, a member of one of four commissions studying the Moscow deal. "The president only asked parliament about this yesterday."

Added Ihor Derkach, who sits on parliament's Defense Commission: "After we join NPT, Russia will then be able to say that nuclear weapons are not our property and we will get no compensation. If NPT is put before parliament, it will be heavily defeated."

The deal signed by the three presidents in Moscow sought to address objections raised by the Ukrainian parliament when it ratified the START I treaty in November.

These focus mainly on security guarantees and on compensation of about $1 billion for giving up expensive enriched uranium contained in warheads.

Meanwhile in Washington, a U.S. intelligence study has predicted that Ukraine's economic woes will lead to its breakup, thus exacerbating the dispute over nuclear arms on its soil, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

It said the classified analysis, formally called a National Intelligence Estimate, says if current economic trends continue, a minority of Ukraine's 51 million people will favor reunification with Russia, a development which "would spark new interest by officials elsewhere in Ukraine in retaining at least some nuclear weapons to deter Russian hegemony," the report said.