Kuchma: Ukraine to maintain medium-range missiles

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine will not give up its medium-range missiles, its president said Tuesday, defying U.S. efforts to persuade the former Soviet republic to halt production and use of the weapons.
“Ukraine will have (the missiles), regardless of the opinion of this or that country,” President Leonid Kuchma said at a news conference three days before a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Albright had planned to discuss non-proliferation issues, which have been central to the relationship between America and Ukraine.
The world’s third-largest nuclear nation when it gained independence from the collapsing Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine has since scrapped all its nuclear weapons. Still, American efforts to get it to renounce medium-range missiles have made little progress.
“We have already cut so much that there is nothing left to cut,” Kuchma said of Ukraine’s arms reductions, which have won the Russian neighbor praise and money from Washington and the West.
Another issue that may be discussed during Albright’s one-day visit is Ukraine’s desire to sell turbines to Russia for use at a nuclear power plant it is building in Bushehr, Iran.
The Clinton administration has been offering enhanced economic ties and potential assistance in reviving the troubled nuclear power industry in hopes of dissuading Ukraine from these sales, saying that the project could help Iran build nuclear weapons.