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Newsline - September 12, 2000




RUSSIAN POPULATION DECLINING FASTER THAN EXPECTED

Russia's demographic trends are developing according to a worst case scenario drawn up by forecasters at the State Statistics Committee in 1998, "Segodnya" reported on 12 September. At that time, what was labeled the "most pessimistic" scenario projected a rise in the death rate at the same time as a fall in the birth rate and a decline in migration from rural to urban areas. Under the scenario, Russia would have a population of 144.7 million at the end of 2000 and 130.3 million at the end of 2015. At the beginning of July, Russia's population had fallen by 425,000 since the beginning of the year to total 145.1 million. If this trend continues, the population will be below 144.7 million at the end of the year, according to the daily. The largest-ever number of Russians, 148.3 million, was recorded at the beginning of 1992, coinciding with the demise of the USSR. JAC

GOVERNMENT NOT WORRIED ABOUT POSSIBLE OIL PRICE DIP...

Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin said on 11 September that the OPEC ministers' recent decision to raise oil output will not hurt Russia's revenue flow. He said that Russia "is ready for any changes in the market situation this year," noting that the 2001 draft budget assumes that oil prices will drop somewhat. Analysts told Reuters that Russian oil companies will use every possible avenue to raise their exports in order to take advantage of currently high prices: Ivan Mazalov of Troika Dialog told the agency that "it is generally believed that Transneft is working at the limit of its capacities, but they kept saying that in previous years, when exports were lower." James Henderson of Renaissance Capital told Reuters that Russian oil producers would still make a net profit of about $8 a barrel if oil prices fell to $25 a barrel. JAC

...AS OIL REVENUES FILL BANK COFFERS

State Duma Budget Committee Chairman (Russian Regions) Aleksandr Zhukov predicted that the Central Bank's hard currency reserves will reach $30 billion by the end of 2000, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 9 September. And he said that the federal budget's surplus revenues might reach 250- 300 billion rubles ($9-11 billion) by the end of the year up from a current surplus of 160-170 billion rubles. According to Zhukov, the primary reason for the healthy receipts is the rise in energy prices. JAC

ANCHORMAN CONSIDERING 'NEW' CAREER IN POLITICS

At a press conference on 11 September, Russian Public Television (ORT) anchorman Sergei Dorenko, whose show was recently pulled off the air, declared that "if I am thrown into politics, I will concentrate on it in earnest." Dorenko also said that during a conversation with Vladimir Putin, he told the Russian president that even if there are 100 state television channels, viewers "will still watch one of your channels and one alternative channel." He noted that Putin agreed that "there is such a danger." Commenting on plans to bring leading television channels under state control, Union of Rightist Forces faction leader Boris Nemtsov declared that "democracy is being castrated" and that "somebody in the Kremlin has come up with the idea of giving this arrangement the beautiful name of guided democracy." Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov took the opposite tack, declaring that state television must serve executive power. JAC

PUTIN HONORS SLAIN JOURNALIST

President Putin bestowed the Order of Courage on Larisa Yudina, editor of "Sovetskaya Kalmykiya," Interfax reported on 11 September. Yudina was murdered in June 1998 while investigating official corruption in Kalmykia. Valerii Ostanin, State Duma deputy (Yabloko) and leader of Yabloko's parallel investigation into Yudina's murder, told "Segodnya" that he was pleasantly surprised by the decision to bestow the award on Yudina. However, he added that he suspects Putin might simply be trying to change his image from the "suppressor of glasnost" to that of a "defender of journalists." Yudina was a member of Yabloko. JAC

ALLEGED U.S. SPY'S HEARING POSTPONED

The Moscow City Court has postponed a scheduled hearing in the case of alleged U.S. spy Edmond Pope until 19 September. Interfax quoted Pope's lawyer, Pavel Astakhov, as saying the defendant had applied to be present at the 11 September hearing but his petition, filed via the Lefortovo prison administration, had failed "for some reason" to reach the court. The hearing was therefore postponed until next week. But Interfax later quoted a Federal Security Service official as saying that investigators have a written statement by Pope in which the defendant said he asked to attend the 19 September hearing but did not request to be in court on 11 September. The statement is dated 11 September and was reportedly penned after Pope heard his lawyer speaking on television. JC

MOSCOW WELCOMES PALESTINIAN DECISION TO DELAY INDEPENDENCE

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 11 September issued a statement welcoming the Palestinian leadership's decision the previous day to postpone declaring independence. "We are satisfied that the Palestinian Central Council did not opt for unilateral steps that could have had a negative impact on the peace process in the region," the statement read. Also on 11 September, Vasilii Kudrin, Putin's special envoy on the Middle East peace process, told Interfax that Russian side remains convinced that "the Palestinian state will be completely viable only if it is the result of negotiations and relevant agreements between the Palestinians and Israelis." He added that "Russia, as a co- sponsor of the [Middle East] peace process, will continue to make every effort" to find mutually acceptable resolutions to outstanding issues. JC

KASYANOV MEETS WITH VIETNAMESE PREMIER

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov met with his Vietnamese counterpart, Phan Van Khai, in Moscow on 11 September, at the start of the latter's five-day official visit. Several accords aimed at boosting bilateral trade were signed during the meeting, including one between Gazprom and PetroVietnam on developing oil and gas fields on Vietnam's continental shelf. Kasyanov noted that relations between Russia and Vietnam "are on the rise again" but added that the "pace of their development is not what it should be." According to Kasyanov, annual trade with Vietnam totals $500 million, which is slightly higher than in recent years but well below levels during the Soviet era. The Russian premier also said that the question of settling Vietnam's Soviet-era debt to Moscow will be resolved during Khai's visit. JC

DATE OF KIM JONG-IL'S VISIT TO BE FIXED SOON

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov told ITAR-TASS on 12 September that the date of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's visit to Russia will be determined "within the next month or two." He added that it is clear that the visit will be an official one. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov announced after Putin's visit to North Korea in July that Kim had agreed to visit Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2000). JC

RUSSIAN GENERAL WOUNDED IN CHECHEN AMBUSH

A Russian major general was wounded on 11 September and six Russian troops killed when Chechen fighters opened fire on their car near Gudermes, AP reported. Also on 11 September, federal forces in Gudermes defused an explosive charge found in a truck in the market place in Znamenskoe in Nadterechnyi Raion, northeastern Chechnya. The previous day, Chechen fighters shot dead a local official of the pro-Russian administration in the village of Oktyabrskoe. LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY OFFICIAL CRITICIZES INTERIOR MINISTRY TROOPS' FAILURES IN CHECHNYA

Colonel General Valerii Manilov, who is first deputy chief of Russian Army General Staff, has lambasted the failure of Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service (FSB) troops to wipe out the remaining small groups of Chechen guerrillas following completion of the "first stage" of the war in Chechnya, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 7 September. Manilov said that by mid-April, the Chechen fighters' troop system and infrastructure had been destroyed but that the Interior Ministry and FSB failed to take advantage of the Chechens' resulting weakness to wipe out their remaining forces. He said the ongoing "mopping-up" operations conducted by Interior Ministry troops are wholly ineffective. According to "Moskovskii komsomolets," this was the first direct public criticism by the Defense Ministry of other Russian troops deployed in Chechnya. LF

BODIES OF 'KURSK' CREW TO BE RECOVERED NEXT MONTH

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who heads the government commission investigating the sinking of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea last month, told journalists in St. Petersburg on 12 September that the bodies of the crew will be recovered next month. Earlier, it had been announced that the bodies would be retrieved in September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 2000). JC

TOTAL INVESTMENT UP ALMOST 20 PERCENT

Foreign investment in Russia increased 11 percent during the first half of 2000 compared with the same period last year, according to Andrei Illarionov, presidential envoy to the G-7 (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 2000). Domestic and foreign investment combined were up 17 percent. Addressing an investment conference on 8 September, Illarionov noted that the inflow of investment was not as large as it would have been if the country had not experienced a financial crisis in August 1998. Illarionov considers the present rate of investment growth appropriate since it corresponds fairly closely to the rate of economic growth and will thus maintain "the proportions of more healthy economic growth." JAC

ELECTRICITY CUT AFFECTS HAZARDOUS WASTE FACILITY

A sudden reduction in electricity in Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk Oblasts on 9 September left numerous enterprises, including the Mayak radioactive waste processing facility, without power. Electricity industry sources told Interfax that no leaks occurred at the Mayak plant. The electricity shortage occurred when one of the reactors at the Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant in Sverdlovsk Oblast went off-line. The cause for the reactor's malfunction has not yet been determined. Electricity output increased 3.9 percent during the first seven months of the year, according to Unified Energy Systems, while consumption jumped 4.1 percent during the first half of the year, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 September. According to the company, coal consumption increased 5 percent during the first quarter of the year. JAC

MINSK PROPOSED AS MIDWAY POINT FOR NEW TRANSPORTATION ROUTE

At an international transportation conference on 11 September, Secretary of State for the Union of Belarus and Russia Pavel Borodin spoke in favor of creating a transport corridor between Paris-Berlin-Warsaw-Minsk-Moscow-Nizhnii Novgorod, that would serve as the first leg of a longer transport corridor between Western Europe and Southeast Asia, ITAR-TASS reported. According to Borodin, trade turnover between the countries of Western Europe and Southeast Asia now amounts to $240 billion, and Russia and Belarus "have every opportunity to receive huge sums from cargo transportation between those countries." JAC

RUSSIA TOPS IN TENNIS, PERSONAL SECURITY...

Russian tennis player Marat Safin defeated tennis champion Pete Sampras in the finals of the U.S. Open on 11 September, winning kudos from Russian President Putin. Putin issued a statement via his press service hailing the 20-year-old Safin: "You did not waver in your encounters with the most formidable and titled competitors...we are proud that today's victor is a Russian." Meanwhile in Oslo, Russian teams also proved victorious in the world bodyguard championship, the website http://www.lenta.ru reported. Two Russian teams placed first and second in the championship, a Swiss team third and a British team fourth. The Russian teams were composed of members of the private security force for the Tyumen Oil Company. JAC

...AND PARKING TICKETS IN NEW YORK

Of the top 25 countries with parking violations committed in New York City, Russia is No. 1, with 63,834 parking tickets worth $7,194,522, New York City Mayor Rudolf Giuliani wrote in an open letter to President Bill Clinton, "The Moscow Times" reported on 12 September. Indonesia ranks number two, while Russia's neighbors Ukraine and Belarus also made the top 10 list. JAC




ARMENIAN COALITION PARTIES DISCUSS CONDITIONS FOR CONTINUING COOPERATION

Representatives of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) have held talks on clarifying their respective conditions for continued cooperation within the majority Miasnutiun parliamentary bloc, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 11 September. Parliamentary deputy speaker Tigran Torosian (HHK) said his party does not want to end that cooperation but that its continuation requires greater support by the HZhK for the government's policies. He further hinted that if Miasnutiun collapsed, the HHK would demand that controversial HZhK parliamentary speaker Armen Khachatrian be replaced. LF

AUTHORITIES PROHIBIT PROTEST PICKETS ON BEHALF OF ARRESTED AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST

The Baku municipal authorities has rejected a request to stage protests on 12-13 September against the arrest of opposition "Yeni Musavat" editor Rauf Arifoglu, Turan reported on 11 September. A committee established earlier this month to defend Arifoglu's rights had requested permission to stage protests outside the state television and radio building and the Prosecutor-General's Office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2000). LF

AZERBAIJANI COMMUNIST LEADER DENIES PLANS TO ALIGN WITH RULING PARTY

Seyran Veliev, who is press secretary for the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, told Turan on 11 September that the party has no intention of merging with the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan party. In its 11 September issue, the newspaper "Bu Gun" had quoted Communist Party leader Firudin Hasanov as saying that his party is considering a merger with Yeni Azerbaycan. LF

AZERBAIJAN REQUESTS AID TO COUNTER DROUGHT DAMAGE

President Heidar Aliyev has written to the World Bank requesting assistance to counter the effects of the worst drought to hit Azerbaijan for 20 years, AFP reported on 11 September, quoting an unnamed Ministry of Agriculture official. That official estimated that some $35-40 million are needed to provide help for rural families as well as buy seeds and fertilizers and protect crops. Prime Minister Artur Rasizade, in a letter to the UN, estimated the total damage at more than $100 million. Georgia has estimated drought damage at more than $200 million and Armenia at $40 million. Both countries have similarly appealed to international agencies for help (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August and 5 September 2000). LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST PROTEST DEMOS...

Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 11 September that protests such as that by residents of the west Georgian town of Tkibuli (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2000) risk destabilizing the domestic political situation and jeopardizing international financial aid, AP reported. Shevardnadze also said that Georgia is gradually emerging from its ongoing economic crisis. Two weeks earlier, Interfax had quoted him as saying that "recent positive tendencies," including a 9 percent increase in industrial output during the first six months of the year and 2.8 percent GDP growth over the same period, show that Georgia has already overcome that crisis. LF

...AS GUERRILLA LEADER ISSUES ULTIMATUM

Dato Shengelaia, one of the leaders of the "Forest Brothers" Georgian guerrilla organization, which sporadically terrorizes the population of southern Abkhazia, issued an ultimatum on 12 September to the director of the Zugdidi city market in western Georgia to lift the recently imposed ban on the sale of smuggled food, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian parliamentary deputy Tengiz Djgushia had accused Shengelaia in June of complicity in smuggling across the internal border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, after which Djgushia and his family received repeated threats (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 13 June 2000). "Rezonansi" on 11 September reported that the grandfather of Djgushia's wife had been abducted from his home in southern Abkhazia several days earlier. LF

GUUAM TO ACQUIRE NEW MEMBER?

Shevardnadze also told journalists in Tbilisi on 11 September that Romanian President Emil Constantinescu has informed him that Romania is ready to submit a formal request to join the GUUAM grouping, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported on 11 September. Romania is the first non-Soviet successor state to state its readiness to join Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova in that alignment. LF

COURT ANNULS KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER'S ACQUITTAL...

Kyrgyzstan's Military Court on 11 September annulled the acquittal of former Vice President and opposition Ar-Namys party chairman Feliks Kulov, Interfax and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The court called for Kulov to be retried, this time by the Bishkek City Court, and for him to give a written pledge not to leave Bishkek. After a six-week trial, the court last month found Kulov not guilty of abusing his official position as national security minister (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2000). Kulov has formally stated his intention to contest the 29 October Kyrgyz presidential poll. LF

...AS OFFICIAL HINTS AT CLEMENCY FOR A SECOND OPPOSITIONIST...

Kyrgyz presidential spokesman Osmonakun Ibraimov told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 11 September that he considers the 16-year jail sentence handed down to opposition politician Topchubek TurgunAliyev too severe, but he added that neither the government nor the presidential administration is empowered to infringe on the independence of the judiciary. TurgunAliyev was found guilty of having recruited semi-literate herdsmen to assassinate President Askar Akaev last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2000). The verdict was based on testimony given by one man, who later withdrew his statements. Ibraimov hinted that Akaev may soon make "a special statement" on the TurgunAliyev case. LF

...AND PLEDGES TO HOLD FAIR ELECTIONS

Ibraimov told journalists in Bishkek on 11 September that the 29 October poll must be "fair and transparent" in order to establish Kyrgyzstan's international reputation as a democratic country, according to Interfax. He argued that the mandatory Kyrgyz language test for presidential hopefuls is justified because "a presidential candidate must have a perfect command of the language if he does not want to humiliate the nation." President Akaev passed that test, despite some grammatical errors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2000). Ibraimov pledged that all candidates will enjoy equal rights. Also on 11 September, parliamentary deputy and opposition Kairan El party leader Dooronbek Sadyrbekov announced that he is quitting the presidential race because local authorities are doing all in their power to thwart the presidential campaigns of any challengers to the incumbent president, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF

KYRGYZ TROOPS KILL MORE ISLAMISTS

Kyrgyz government troops and police on 11 September surrounded and killed seven Islamic militants who had crossed the border into Djalalabad Oblast from neighboring Uzbekistan, a spokesman for the oblast governor told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service. Two police officers were killed and two wounded in that operation. LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT SAYS U.S. READY TO HELP WIPE OUT BANNED ISLAMIC MOVEMENT

On his return from the UN Millennium Summit in New York, Islam Karimov told journalists that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had assured him that Washington considers the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan a terrorist organization, Interfax reported. The Russian agency quoted Karimov as saying Albright told him the U.S. is ready to offer political, moral, and, if necessary, material assistance to fight the militants. LF

UZBEKISTAN PROTESTS BAN ON OLYMPIC COACH

The Uzbek government on 11 September formally protested the Australian government's refusal to allow boxing coach Gafur Rakhimov to enter Australia with other members of Uzbekistan's Olympic team, AP reported. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the next day, the reason for the ban was Rakhimov's links to organized crime as alleged by a U.S. journalist citing the memoirs of a French businessman. Also on 11 September, an Uzbek Olympic official said Uzbek boxing official Sergei Voynov is being treated for a skin disorder with a human growth hormone that customs officials confiscated from him when he arrived in Sydney last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2000). LF




BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES THREATEN IMPRISONMENT OVER ELECTION BOYCOTT

Mikhail Sukhinin, a department chief at the Justice Ministry, told Reuters on 11 September that calls to boycott the 15 October legislative polls can be regarded as an attempt to "hamper the right to vote guaranteed by the constitution." He added that "law enforcement bodies, if they want, may qualify this as a criminal act." His aide said that under the law such actions are punishable by up to two years in jail. The opposition responded by saying the authorities aim to intimidate the population by such statements. "We are confident that we are acting according to the law," Viktar Ivashkevich, an organizer of the boycott campaign, told the news agency. Opposition activists currently visit private households, asking citizens to boycott the vote and distributing leaflets featuring a kissing couple along with the headline "No to Farce!" JM

BELARUS'S CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION EXPANDED WITH CONSULTING MEMBERS

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has decreed that the Central Electoral Commission be expanded to include consultative representatives from the nine political parties that are fielding candidates in the 15 October elections to the Chamber of Representatives, Belarusian Television reported on 11 September. The nine appointees have no voting right on the commission and may only submit proposals and ask questions during the commission's sittings. In another decree, Lukashenka ordered that elections to the Council of the Republic, the second house of the National Assembly, take place from 13 September to 13 December. According to the constitution adopted in the controversial 1996 referendum, the soviets of the country's six oblasts and the city of Minsk will elect eight members each and the president will appoint the remaining eight members of the 64-seat Council of the Republic. JM

UKRAINIAN DEPUTY SPEAKER DENIES HARBORING PRESIDENTIAL AMBITIONS

First deputy speaker Viktor Medvedchuk on 11 September denied that he intends to run for the post of president in the event of early elections, Interfax reported. Medvedchuk was responding to a recent statement by the All-Ukrainian Youth Association accusing "some clans hiding behind the mask of political parties" of "launching a campaign to prepare public opinion for a possible ouster of the guarantor of the constitution [President Leonid Kuchma] because of his poor health." The association said that plans prepared by, among others, Medvedchuk's Social Democratic Party (United) provide for Medvedchuk's becoming prime minister, Kuchma's dismissal, and paving the way for Medvedchuk's victory in early presidential elections. Medvedchuk commented that a "legal and psychiatric examination" of the authors of the statement would be in order. JM

DONETSK PENSIONERS TAKE TO STREETS AGAIN

Some 3,000 pensioners in Donetsk took to the streets again on 11 September, less than two weeks after their recent protest action (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 2000), Interfax reported. The protesters demanded that the local authorities grant official status to the Russian language in the region, "stabilize" prices for bread and necessities, lower utility payments, and increase minimum wages and pensions. After staging a picket at the oblast administration building, the protesters blocked traffic in the city center. The Donetsk Oblast Council promised to examine the protesters' demands at its emergency session but noted that giving official status to Russian in the region is beyond its powers. JM

ESTONIAN PRESIDENT THANKS PARLIAMENT FOR UPHOLDING 'CIVILIAN CONTROL' OVER MILITARY

Lennart Meri told the parliament on 11 September that by dismissing Lieutenant General Johannes Kert on 28 August, it had "supported civilian control over the Defense Forces," BNS reported. Meri argued that the military must fully obey civilian orders. His address came after an opposition deputy had blamed the vote in favor of Kert's dismissal on a voting error (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2000) and amid heavy criticism for exceeding his presidential authority in sacking Kert--a power reserved for the parliament. In his 11 September address, Meri did not explain his reasons for dismissing Kert. MH

ROW BREAKS OUT AMONG LEFTISTS IN LATVIA

A row has broken out within the left-wing parliamentary coalition For Equal Rights in a United Latvia over its 4 September resolution on the adoption of the language law regulations. Parliamentary deputy Janis Jurkans, a leading member of the coalition, criticized the resolution, which calls for opposing the regulations through all forms of non-violent protest, and asked "how can one support idiotism?" BNS reported on 11 September. Head of the parliament's education and culture committee, Dzintars Abikis, asked prosecutors to examine the resolution to decide whether it violates laws prohibiting the promotion of ethnic discord. And President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said that "if ethnic hatred is instigated or state stability threatened, then such appeals may well turn into crimes." Vike-Freiberga also said it is "pretty obvious" that the resolution is connected with campaigning ahead of the March 2001 local elections. MH

PRIEST'S MURDERERS GET LIFE IN LITHUANIA

A Vilnius Regional Court on 11 September handed down a guilty verdict to four men for the murder of well-known priest Ricardas Mikutavicius in 1998. The court sentenced Vladas Beleckas to life imprisonment, while his three accomplices received prison sentences of between 13 and 22 years, BNS reported. Theft was the apparent motive for the murder. MH

PRESIDENT CALLS FOR 'CIVILITY' IN UPCOMING LITHUANIAN CAMPAIGN

President Valdas Adamkus has called on all political parties campaigning for the 8 October general elections to remain civil toward one another in order to prevent damage that would make it impossible "to go back to a normal daily routine" after the elections, BNS reported on 11 September. Speaking to the leaders of the five largest parties contesting the elections. Adamkus stressed that the "foundations of statehood" should not be "undermined" during the campaign. BNS speculated that the meeting was called because of a letter that Conservative leader Vytautas Landsbergis recently sent to some of his opponents--notably the New Alliance and the Social Democratic bloc--accusing them of wanting to orient Lithuania's policies toward Russia. According to BNS, Adamkus chided Landsbergis, saying such rhetoric is unacceptable in a democratic society. MH

SOLIDARITY LEADER DEPLORES PRESIDENTIAL VETO ON MASS PRIVATIZATIOIN BILL

Marian Krzaklewski on 11 September said that "millions of people feel wronged" by President Aleksander Kwasniewski's veto on the mass privatization bill (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2000), which is also called the mass enfranchisement bill in Poland, Polish Television reported. "President Kwasniewski has shown that his vision of Poland is in conflict with the vision of Poland that says the family should be in its own home, that there should be property enfranchisement during privatization, that [privatization] should not be undertaken in the direction of the richest only, often in the direction of the former nomenklatura," Krzaklewski added. Krzaklewski, who is Kwasniewski's rival in the 8 October presidential ballot, said that if he were elected president, he would immediately propose a new mass privatization bill. JM

FORMER CZECH OFFICIALS SUSPECTED OF BREACHING LAW

The Prosecution-General's Office on 11 September confirmed that it has launched an investigation into National Bank Governor and former Prime Minister Josef Tosovsky, former Finance Minister Ivan Pilip, and former National Property Fund Chairman Roman Ceska, CTK reported on 11 September. The three are suspected of having infringed the law in 1997 by transferring to Pragobanka several hundred million crowns acquired from privatizations carried out by the fund. Pragobanka collapsed in 1998. Pilip, who is now a deputy representing the Freedom Union, responded that the investigation is an "absurd effort by the current [Social Democratic Party minority] government to criminalize a managerial decision" that was made "on the basis of legal analyses." National Bank spokesman Milan Tomanek said that the decision to place the fund's monies into Pragobanka had "nothing to do" with the bank and "did not fall under its jurisdiction." MS

CZECH SENATORS APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT

Thirty-three senators on 11 September filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court against the electoral law amendment approved by the parliament earlier this year, CTK reported. The senators said the amendment is formulated in such a way that it serves the interests of the two large parties and breaches the constitutional provision on a proportional system and a bicameral parliamentary system. The signatories are also opposed to the provision whereby 35 electoral districts replace the former eight districts. The complaint is backed by senators representing the opposition Christian Democratic Party, the Freedom Union, and the Civic Democratic Alliance as well as by three communist senators, two independents and two senators representing the ruling Social Democrats. President Vaclav Havel has also filed a complaint on similar grounds. MS

SLOVAKIA TURNS DOWN ANNAN'S MEDIATION OFFER OVER GABCIKOVO- NAGYMAROS

Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan on 11 September told journalists that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has offered to mediate in the Slovak-Hungarian feud over the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros dam but that Premier Mikulas Dzurinda has turned down the offer. Kukan said that Dzurinda met with Annan at the recent UN Millennium Summit and Annan asked him whether Bratislava would welcome the help of "a third party" to settle the dispute. Dzurinda replied that such help is "not necessary" and that talks are under way with Hungary. Kukan also said that the EU should lift sanctions against Austria, following the report of the three so-called "wise men" saying Vienna respects human rights. Slovakia has not joined the sanctions against Austria. MS

HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT, PARLIAMENTARY PARTIES ISSUE STATEMENT ON EU EXPANSION

The government and all six parties represented in the parliament signed a joint statement on 11 September saying that joining the EU "at the earliest possible date" serves Hungary's "fundamental national interest" and that progress in accession talks should depend only on "the individual performance of candidate countries," Hungarian media reported. They called on the EU's December summit in Nice to "adopt decisions that could make the enlargement strategy predictable and credible" so that countries that fulfill conditions can conclude negotiations by the end of 2001 and join the EU by the end of 2002. However, Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi told journalists that 1 January 2005 is "the most probable" date for Hungary's accession. MS




WESTERN OFFICIALS CONSIDER RESPONSE TO POSSIBLE VIOLENCE IN MONTENEGRO

EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten, U.S. National Security Adviser Samuel Berger, and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott have discussed possible responses to any attempt by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to use violence against the Montenegrin authorities in the runup to the 24 September Yugoslav federal elections. After meeting with the U.S. officials in Washington on 11 September, Patten said: "Clearly we are concerned about the pressures which have been applied to [the Montenegrin] government by Belgrade," Reuters reported. "I assume Mr. Milosevic knows how strongly we feel about Montenegro's continuing freedoms but I don't think it would be wise to say any more than that," he added. Observers note that there is widespread speculation in the former Yugoslavia that Milosevic might try to oust the Montenegrin government by force if Belgrade believes that Washington is too preoccupied with the November elections to oppose him. PM

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT: YUGOSLAV ELECTIONS LACK LEGAL BASIS

Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 11 September that his government will not take part in the 24 September elections because the Belgrade authorities violated the constitution in setting down the legal framework for the vote (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4 August 2000). He denied charges made by Milosevic supporters that the Podgorica government is boycotting the vote because Djukanovic fears defeat, Montena-fax reported. Djukanovic stressed that an election victory by an opposition candidate over Milosevic's supporters will not lead to democracy in Serbia because the legal basis of the vote is flawed. Elsewhere, talks collapsed between supporters and opponents of the government on monitoring the elections. Critics charged that Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic personally overruled his supporters, who were prepared to strike a deal with the government, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

MORE NATO TROOPS FOR KOSOVA

Military leaders of the Atlantic alliance agreed near Athens on 11 September to send another four battalions of peacekeepers to Kosova in the runup to the 24 September elections, Reuters reported. The troops will come from France, Italy, Greece, and the U.K. PM

KOSOVA PLANNING CHIEF KILLED

Unknown persons shot and killed Rexhep Luci in the stairway of his Prishtina apartment building on 11 September, AP reported. The head of the province's reconstruction and development agency had actively campaigned against illegal construction activity. NATO peacekeepers and UN police are investigating the murder. Unidentified persons killed "Rilindja" journalist Shefki Popova in Vushtrri on 10 September. PM

BALKAN STABILITY PACT SUMMIT OPENS IN CROATIAN CAPITAL

Heads of the legislatures of the countries participating in the EU's Balkan Stability Pact began a three-day meeting in Zagreb on 12 September. The 45 participants will discuss the role that legislatures can play in implementing projects agreed on through the pact and in promoting Euro-Atlantic integration. Bodo Hombach, who is the coordinator of the pact, urged participating governments to create a more favorable climate for investments, dpa reported. The pact is a clearing house and coordinator for projects aimed at promoting democracy and development in the Balkans. Critics charge that it is a costly talking-shop that has produced few, if any, concrete results. PM

LORD JOHNSTON: NO BALKAN PEACE WITH MILOSEVIC HEADING SERBIA

Lord Russell Johnston, who is the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, told the Zagreb gathering of legislative leaders on 12 September that "the people of Serbia, and the entire free world with them, are holding their breath" in the runup to the elections. Russell Johnston added: "Let us face it. Until Milosevic and his coterie are removed from power, stability will be undermined in the Balkans," AP reported. Referring to the elections, Russell Johnston argued that "we may be betting against the odds [that Milosevic will lose], but the hope is there." Russell Johnston nonetheless concluded that "we should harbor no illusions of Milosevic playing fair, least of all in the event of him losing the ballot," Reuters reported. PM

CROATIA TO REPAIR DESTROYED HOMES BY 2003

Prime Minister Ivica Racan said in Zagreb on 11 September that by the beginning of 2003, the government will complete its program to rebuild or repair homes destroyed or damaged in the 1991-1995 conflict, Hina reported. Racan also said that the government will continue its financial support for war veterans. He added, however, that the government expects those administering the programs to show "more responsibility" for their actions than in the past. Veterans' affairs programs have been tainted by charges from those opposed to the late President Franjo Tudjman that the programs have offered Tudjman's supporters the opportunity to engage in corruption. PM

SLOVENIAN PARTIES VOW TO KEEP FOREIGN ISSUES OUT OF CAMPAIGN

Representatives of the parties represented in the parliament agreed in Ljubljana on 11 September not to allow foreign policy questions to become a source of contention among themselves in the runup to the 15 October legislative elections, "Dnevnik" reported. The political leaders agreed that they will not be drawn into a discussion with conservative Austrian politicians such as Joerg Haider, who have called on Slovenia to repudiate the World War II-era AVNOJ decrees, under which members of the German minority lost their property and were expelled from the former Yugoslavia. Janez Jansa's Social Democrats did not take part in the meeting of the party leaders, arguing that issues from the first half of the 20th century are of no concern in the 21st century. Observers note that there is general consensus on key foreign policy issues in the country of 2 million people and widespread concern that foreigners not be allowed to pit Slovene against Slovene. PM

PRIVATE SECURITY COMPANY BEHIND ROMANIAN TRADE UNION LEADER'S MURDER

Police on 11 September said the murder of Virgil Sahleanu last week was the result of a plot involving the manager of a private security company and the Tepro director general to "intimidate and if necessary assassinate" the Iasi trade union leader. Sahleanu had opposed a deal whereby the security company would guard the Tepro pipe company in Iasi, saying employees can guard the factory themselves. As a result, the security company lost a 480 million lei ($21,000) contract. President Emil Constantinescu called on the government to approve legislation making private security companies subject to "legal transparency" in order to avoid similar incidents in the future. MS

ROMANIAN SHIPPING COMPANIES LIFT DANUBE BLOCKADE

Shipping companies on 11 September lifted a four-day blockade of the River Danube after the government agreed to cancel debts and exempt the firms from fuel taxes, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The blockade began on 8 September to protest the losses suffered by the companies as a result of Yugoslavia's failure to clear up the Danube for navigation. The river has been obstructed by the debris of bridges destroyed last year by NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. Romanian shipping companies say they have been forced to lay off more than 3,500 employees and have suffered losses amounting to $150 million. MS

BULGARIA, ROMANIA DISCUSS ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS

Bulgarian Environment Minister Evdokia Maneva met with her Romanian counterpart, Romica Tomescu, in Sofia on 8 September to discuss environmental problems affecting the two countries, in particular the Romanian Turnu Magurele chemical plant, which pollutes Bulgarian settlements across the River Danube, and the controversial Kozloduy nuclear power plant, AP, BTA, and Romanian Radio reported. The two ministers later visited the Bulgarian town of Russe and the Romanian town of Calarasi. Tomescu protested Bulgaria's failure to inform Romania about the incidents at Kozloduy, which the Bulgarian media reported last week. He also demanded that Romanian experts be granted access to Kozloduy. Maneva said radiation leakages resulting from those incidents were small and had no impact outside the plant itself. She said a report has been prepared and will be submitted for discussion by experts in the two countries. MS

PRESIDENT TO RESUME MOLDOVAN CONSTITUTIONAL BATTLE

Returning from the UN Millennium Summit on 11 September, Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi said he will soon resume contacts with the parliament in an attempt to find a "mutually acceptable solution" to the constitutional crisis, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Should this solution prove unattainable, Lucinschi said, he will "insist" that a referendum be held in which the electorate chooses between his proposal to expand the presidential prerogatives and the parliament's decision to transform Moldova into a parliamentary republic. Lucinschi added that Moldova will continue to insist that negotiations with Tiraspol be conducted "solely on the principle of Moldova's territorial integrity." He said Chisinau is "not ready to agree to the federalization" option. MS




FIGHTING FUNDAMENTALISM WITH SUFISM


by Paul Goble

Tashkent is actively promoting the ideas of an Islamic sect with deep roots in Uzbek society in order to render its citizens immune against the appeals of Islamic fundamentalism.

This use of a mystical trend in Islam to fight an inherently political one appears to have achieved some success, but it may ultimately backfire on the Uzbek authorities.

Najmiddin Kamilov, a senior Uzbek official who has written widely about Sufism, said last week that by promoting the Naqshbandi Sufi order, which has advocated adapting Sunni Islamic precepts to local popular practices, "our people and our army will be stronger and better able to defend the homeland."

Kamilov's views were echoed by Vernon Schubel, a Western specialist on Islam who teaches at Ohio's Kenyon College. He noted that Islamic fundamentalists "see Sufism as a pollution of Islam, so to put Sufism forth as the real Central Asian Islam is a way of combating other forms of political Islam." He added that he believes the Uzbek government views this approach "as a kind of inoculation."

Among the steps taken by the Uzbek authorities are the promotion of scholars who advocate Naqshbandi ideas, the erection of billboards featuring quotations from the 14th century founder of that mystical group, and renaming the main street in Bukhara. In Soviet times, that avenue bore the name of Vladimir Lenin. Now, it is called Bahauddin Naqshbandi Prospect in honor of the order's founder.

What makes these actions stand out is that the Uzbek authorities, from President Islam Karimov down, have repeatedly attacked fundamentalist Islam as a threat to stability there. They have banned fundamentalist religious literature and arrested Islamic activists. And in recent weeks, they have suggested that fundamentalism is behind the current military insurgency across Central Asia.

During the 1970s and 1980s, many Soviet officials and Western scholars identified Sufism in general and the Naqshbandi order in particular as a threat to stability in Central Asia and the North Caucasus. Historically, they noted, many of the most committed opponents of Russian rule in these areas were Naqshbandi followers, and consequently, they suggested, the spread of Sufism within "underground" Islam pointed toward a revolution.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many officials in the new Central Asian countries initially adopted a rather undifferentiated approach to any kind of Islamic belief beyond the officially approved religion that they felt they could control.

But during the last few years, the governments of these countries have begun to make some critical distinctions, most importantly between fundamentalists who seek to create a theocratic state and thus challenge current political arrangements and others, such as at least some followers of the Naqshbandi order, who according to Komilov, have "adapted to local circumstances."

Followers of this group, Kamilov argues and Schubel concurs, are less likely to be attracted by the political program of fundamentalist groups that reject the veneration of local saints, object to special local pilgrimages, and abhor the respect the Naqshbandi followers have for many pre- or non-Islamic practices. Indeed, in Uzbekistan at least, they argue, Naqshbandi beliefs can serve almost as a national faith.

But in many respects, this attempt to use Sufism to combat fundamentalism is fighting fire with fire. While followers of the two trends dislike one another and disagree on many theological and practical points, they have in common a distaste for many of the actions and corruption of the successor regimes in Tashkent and elsewhere in Central Asia.

Moreover, the two groups share an underground kind of organization: fundamentalism, because of its radical rejection of all civil authorities, and the Naqshbandi Sufi order, because its propagation has always been based on groups of the followers of a particular saintly leader. By their very nature, such organizations are often beyond the control of the state.

Not surprisingly, the Uzbek government has tried in the past to block the formation of such orders lest they become a threat to the regime. But in promoting the ideas of the Naqshbandi order, Tashkent may find that its success in seeking to shield its citizens from fundamentalism will not provide the guarantee it seeks to allow it to control an increasingly numerous, impoverished, and restive population.


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