CIS Summit Ends in Shambles

YALTA–Ukraine (Deutsche Presse-Agentur)–A summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States in the Ukrainian resort of Yalta ended in a shambles Saturday after key participants failed to attend.

Intense fighting against Islamic insurgents along the mountainous Afghan border forced the presidents of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to stay home because of the tense domestic situation.

Tartarstans president also sent his regrets–pleading domestic difficulties.

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Yalta shortly before noon on Friday and left later the same day instead of seeing out the conference to the end.

The drama surrounding Kursk submarine–lying crippled on the bed of the Barents Sea–demanded his attention–a spokesman for Putin said.

Conference organizers on Friday canceled social events for the participants–including a ride on a cruise ship and a visit to a folk festival–saying they would be "inappropriate" with 118 sailors still trapped aboard the Kursk.

Planned events for Saturday–which were to have included a formal convocation of the CIS summit by Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma–public statemen’s by leaders–and a rare press conference with attending heads of state–were canceled without explanation.

The nine heads of former Soviet republics attending the conference met informally Friday and Saturday in Ukraines presidential residence Zarya–an elite dacha deep in a secluded park on the Black Sea.

The main topic of the talks was improving economic relations between member states–conference spokesman Oleksander Martynenko said.

But by the end of the conference–the participants only managed to produce a lukewarm joint statement supporting globalization.

Thorny problems facing the CIS group–like removing tariff barriers or ending the war in Central Asia–were not discussed–Martynenko said.

Heads of state from Armenia–Azerbaijan–Belarus–Georgia–Kazakhstan–Moldova–Russia–Tadjikstan–and Ukraine attended the conference. They left Yalta–with little fanfare–throughout Saturday.

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