UKRAINE DISSATISFIED WITH SHARE OF US AGRICULTURE CREDITS

UKRAINE DISSATISFIED WITH SHARE OF US AGRICULTURE CREDITS

A Ukrainian delegation, lobbying for its own U.S. agricultural credits, told policy-makers that Ukraine did not receive its fair share of grain from earlier loan guarantees the United States offered the former Soviet Union.

Rep. Thomas Coleman, R-Mo., met with the Ukrainians and said they told him that "they have not gotten their share that they thought they were getting through what was assigned from the former Soviet Union."Ukraine recently asked the United States for $300 million worth of loan guarantees to buy U.S. farm products.

A top Senate Agriculture Committee aide who met with the Ukrainians said they wanted the credits to buy 1 million tons each of corn and wheat, and 800,000 tons of soybean meal.

The Senate aide said Ukraine wanted the grain to be shipped by July to tide it over until its own wheat harvest.

Russia also has asked the Bush administration for its own line of $600 million in credits, and a Russian delegation was expected to meet with Agriculture Department officials Friday.

The United States has extended some $3.75 billion in agriculture credits to the former Soviet Union since January 1991, which has helped U.S. farmers by creating a market for millions of tons of their grain.

Since the breakup of the union and the ensuing economic chaos, there has been concern that the republics would not be able to repay the loans, which are backed by the U.S. Government.

However, those payments have been made on time so far, according to officials in the Agriculture Department, which administers the credit program.

But congressional sources said it may be a difficult and long process to approve credits for Ukraine, which still is developing a banking system and does not have its own currency.

Leonid Steshenko, first deputy minister of foreign economic relations, told reporters that Ukraine was prepared to perform almost all of the banking duties the credits require.

But Mr. Coleman said while Ukraine is making economic process, it is questionable whether the republic had sufficient financial capabilities to qualify for the credits.

While Mr. Coleman said Ukraine's ability to repay loans must be analyzed, he said it is in the U.S. interest to help stabilize the republic and "to sell American products to them as opposed to letting the Europeans sell European products to them."