U.S. State Department official to visit Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan

Associated Press Worldstream
March 22, 2004 Monday

U.S. State Department official to visit Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan


The top deputy for Secretary of State Colin Powell will visit
Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan this week, the State Department
announced Monday.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage will depart Wednesday
for Kiev, Ukraine, and then will travel on to Yerevan, Armenia and
Baku, Azerbaijan, returning to the United States on Saturday, State
Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Armitage will meet with senior government officials in all three
countries, as well as political leaders and pro-democracy groups,
Boucher said.

While Ukraine opposed the U.S.-led war on Iraq, it now has the
third-largest non-American contingent there, with 1,650 Ukrainian
troops serving in the Polish-led force patrolling southern Iraq.
Azerbaijan is a key U.S. partner in the Caucasus as the starting
point of an oil pipeline through Georgia to Turkey that is under
construction and has drawn strong Washington support.

The United States last week announced plans to hold joint
U.S.-Azerbaijan military exercises with land and navy forces as part
of two country’s strategic partnership. Officials did not specify
when the exercises would be held.

In Armenia, the United States said earlier this month that it will
provide US$1 million to increase security at the former Soviet
republic’s only nuclear power plant.

Musheg Shaginian, deputy general director of the power plant, said
that the money would be provided as part of a U.S. Department of
Energy program aimed at increasing the safety of nuclear stations in
the former Soviet Union.

Armenia plans to use the funding to help pay for the scheduled
modernization of the plant’s physical defenses aimed at preventing
any terrorist attacks. The work is scheduled to take place between