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WELL ARMED: Lithuania has decided to purchase a Javelin medium-range antitank weapon system from the United States for $9.12 million. The contract clinching the deal was signed in Vilnius Dec. 17 and the weaponry should reach Lithuania by 2004. The U.S. government agreed, however, to seek ways to supply the system to Lithuania by October 2002, by which time Lithuania is hoping to have established a mechanized infantry battalion at its Rukla military base. The Javelin medium-range antitank weapon system, made by the U.S. company Lockheed Martin, will also be used by a regular readiness brigade, to be composed of the Rukla battalion, the Panevezys mechanized infantry battalion and Alytus motorized infantry battalion. The brigade is to be established according to NATO standards by the end of 2006.
BETTER BORDERS: The European Union decided to grant Estonia three million euros ($2.8 million) under the PHARE aid program to develop cross-border cooperation. The money will be divided into two parts - one million euros going toward small projects and two million euros for large projects - according to the delegation from the EU's executive commission in Estonia. The cost of small projects to be financed by the EU was set at 10,000-50,000 euros, and that of the large ones at 50,000-300,000 euros. All the projects must have a cross-border impact and include partners from neighboring countries. The PHARE cross-border cooperation program was launched in 1994 and more than 50 projects have been financed.
MEXICO-BOUND: Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus will visit the United States in January 2002 to continue his earlier trip, which was disrupted by the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. He will also make the first official trip by a Lithuanian official to Mexico. Adamkus could meet with U.S. President George W. Bush on Jan. 23. The Lithuanian president's visit to the U.S. was originally planned for Sept. 9 through Sept. 17, but was cut short by the terrorist attacks on Washington DC and New York. The president plans to stay in Mexico and vacation on the Pacific coast following his official visit. Adamkus' family and friends have spent their holidays in Ikstapa, Mexico, for over a decade, a tradition that hasn't been broken since his election in the beginning of 1998.
NATO-FRIENDLY: The number of Lithuanians supporting their country joining NATO has leaped to 64.6 percent of the country's population, a recent public opinion poll has shown. According to the survey, conducted by the Vilmorus pollster in November and December, support for Lithuania's NATO integration has grown by 0.6 percentage points, compared to a June poll. Twenty-two percent of those polled said Lithuania does not need NATO membership, which is a decrease by 3.5 percent since the last poll. Slightly more than 20 percent of poll respondents said they doubted the necessity of Lithuania's NATO membership since they are not sure that this is the cheapest way of ensuring state security. Another 4.3 percent said they were not interested in Lithuania's NATO integration and the perspectives of Lithuania's state security. More than 1,000 respondents 18 years of age and older were polled in 18 Lithuanian towns and cities and 56 villages for the survey, ordered by the Foreign Ministry. Support for NATO membership has been on a stable increase in Lithuania in recent years, and the country expects an invitation to join the alliance at the NATO summit scheduled for next November in Prague.
DEJA VU: Yet another accident struck Mazeikiu Nafta's (Mazeikiai Oil) refinery operation Dec. 15, when an employee cleaning underground oil pumps suffered severe burns. The victim was a 31-year-old male who is in a serious condition. He was initially diagnosed with second or third degree burns to 35 percent of his body and was in a state of shock. After initial treatment he was sent to Kaunas, Lithuania's second largest city, for care. The accident reportedly happened just after 1 a.m., when a flame was being routinely checked during the cleaning of underground pipeline equipment. In a similar earlier incident, one employee died at Mazeikiu Nafta. The company attempted to conceal the death from the press, which only learned of the accident three days later. Mazeikiu Nafta has also had two major spills in three accidents at the Butinge oil platform it operates on the Lithuanian Baltic Sea coast. Lithuanian prosecutors are investigating the latest spill of oil into the Baltic Sea - the largest recorded in the region - for criminal negligence.
DECEASED: Juozas Paliekas, a Klaipeda district administration member, died in hospital after a Dec. 18 explosion of unknown origin near the city center in the port of Klaipeda, Lithuania. Paliekas' hand was blown off and he sustained fatal injuries to his head and internal organs. Paliekas, 43, worked as deputy general director of the Klaipedos Hidrostatyba (Klaipeda Hydro-Construction) company and served on the regional administrative body as a Social Democrat. The explosion happened at about 2:30 p.m. near the entrance to the offices of car sales company Irvaja, which is located in a residential apartment building.