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UKRAINE DEPRESSED

Ukrainians are depressed about democracy, fearful over the economy and opposed to NATO membership for their former Soviet republic, according to an extensive survey commissioned by a Washington-based public policy center.

They are "becoming increasingly disenchanted with their political leaders generally and felt less engaged with the democratic process" than at any time since the pro-democracy Orange Revolution of 2004, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) said this week when it released its poll of more than 1,200 Ukrainians.

Only 2.1 percent of those surveyed supported President Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine political party, while Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's BYuT movement scored 26.2 percent. (The initials stand for her name preceded by the word, bloc.)

"Ukrainians are clearly concerned about what the future holds for the country and themselves," IFES said.

More than three-quarters said the country is heading in the wrong direction and 84 percent cited worries about political and economic instability.

"Most Ukrainians are pessimistic about voting making a difference and 85 percent disagree with the idea that ordinary people can influence decisions made by the government," the foundation added.

Fifty-eight percent of Ukrainians expressed opposition to joining NATO, even though officials are pressing ahead with membership talks.

The Kiev International Institute of Sociology conducted the survey on behalf of IFES from Oct. 17 to 28. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

MEDIEVAL PUNISHMENT

With Saudi King Abdullah due in Washington for the financial summit of global leaders, one prominent Arab columnist is worried about the image Muslim nations present to the world over a gruesome sentence a Saudi court imposed on a doctor who prescribed the wrong medicine to a Saudi princess.

Raouf Amine al-Arabi, an Egyptian doctor practicing in Saudi Arabia, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 1,500 lashes for misprescribing the drugs and causing the princess to become addicted.

"How can we face the rest of the world when some Arab and Islamic countries still use medieval types of punishment?" Pierre Abi-Saab asked in his column in Lebanon's Al-Akhbar newspaper on Thursday.

TURKMEN PRESSURE

The U.S. Embassy in Turkmeni-stan is worried that authorities are pressuring Turkmen students to withdraw from a U.S. student-exchange program.

The embassy did not speculate on the reason for the intimidation of the students, but the United States has accused the former Soviet republic of major human rights violations.

Embassy spokesman Andrew Paul told Reuters news agency that many students have withdrawn applications for the program and students returning from the U.S. are under pressure to cut ties with American friends.

"We are concerned about these instances of pressure on Turkmen students and have a regular dialogue with Turkmen authorities on educational programs and the importance of increased openness," he added.

Turkmen authorities say they have been trying to encourage human rights reform since the death two years ago of the authoritarian leader, Saparmurat Niyazov.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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