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Clinton promises to double aid

President Clinton said Friday he was doubling to $700-million the amount of assistance offered to Ukraine.

Clinton announced the increase in response to the former Soviet republic's agreement to rid itself of nuclear weapons. He also praised what he said was progress in introducing market reform to Ukraine.

"This represents a major increased commitment to an important friend in the region," Clinton said at a news conference alongside Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk.

Clinton praised Kravchuk for persuading Ukraine's Parliament to drop the conditions it attached to ratification of the START I arms treaty and said he now viewed Ukraine as a key player in maintaining stability in Europe. Ukraine inherited 1,600 nuclear warheads from the Soviet arsenal.

"Over the last half year, I have come to have higher hopes for the prospect of a full Ukrainian partnership in a democratic Europe," Clinton said.

"I also know what a very difficult economic time Ukraine is going through and I see the beginnings of a real effort to restructure the economy, and I believe the United States should support that."

Kravchuk said Ukraine already has started dismantling its nuclear weapons under an agreement signed in Moscow in January with Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

"Ukraine will fulfill its commitment," he pledged. He said he has resolved differences with Russia over how Ukraine will be compensated for the highly enriched uranium that will be removed from its warheads.

Kravchuk described the economic conditions two years after Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union as "very bad" and praised U.S. aid as vital during the struggle to change to a market economy.

"We are convinced that we found the right friend at the right time in America," he said.

Hyperinflation has plunged most of Ukraine's 52-million people into poverty. The government only recently approved programs to reduce inflation.

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