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Newsline - September 18, 2000




PRO-KREMLIN FACTION BACKS GOVERNMENT BUDGET...

Boris Gryzlov, the leader of the State Duma's second largest faction, Unity, told reporters on 15 September that his group is prepared to support the 2001 draft budget in its first reading, scheduled for early October. He suggested that if next year's budget revenues exceed government projects, then those extra revenues should be used to pay foreign debts. "Segodnya" reported the same day that Budget Committee Deputy Chairwoman Oksana Dmitrieva (People's Deputy) said recently that the budget will probably be rejected in its first reading. Earlier, Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov also suggested that such a fate is likely if the government does not first reach a compromise with Duma deputies. JAC

...AS OTHER GROUPS WANT HIGHER SPENDING, REVENUES

According to "Segodnya," which is owned by Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-MOST Group, Duma specialists believe that 100-150 billion rubles ($3.6-5.4 billion) should be added to the budget. On 15 September, leader of the Fatherland-All Russia faction Yevgenii Primakov said his faction will reject the budget if the government does not increase revenues and spending projections. He noted that the budget is based on an assumed world oil price of $18-$19 per barrel, while OPEC is predicting $22-$28 and other experts are not expecting it to dip below $30. "Even if $24 per barrel is taken as the minimum price, it will bring 54-60 billion rubles in additional revenues to the budget," he said. JAC

DUMA DEPUTIES TO SEEK EXTRA MONEY FOR EDUCATION

"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 September that the education lobby in the State Duma plans to seek an additional 1 billion rubles ($36 million) for education. The current draft 2001 budget allocates 5 billion rubles to education. In remarks to the State Duma on 15 September, Education Minister Vladimir Filippov defended next year's budget, saying that it envisages a considerable increase in funding allocated for the upkeep of schools and higher education establishments. However, he also called the low salaries being paid to educational workers a pressing problem and revealed that in a number of regions wage and scholarship arrears continue. Of the ministry's various reforms planned for the educational system, he highlighted the computerization of schools in rural areas, which he said President Vladimir Putin supports. Filippov also reported that this year some 40,000 school-age children did not attend school for various reasons. JAC

INDUSTRIAL GROWTH PICKS UP SPEED AGAIN...

Industrial output soared 10.2 percent during the first eight months of 2000 compared with the same period last year, according to the State Statistics Committee, Interfax reported on 15 September. In July, output was up 8.5 percent in comparison with the same period the previous year and increased by 9.8 percent in June and 10.6 percent in May. In comparison with July 2000, industrial output increased 3.2 percent last month. JAC

...AS CORPORATE PROFITS SOAR...

The pre-tax profits minus losses of large and medium-sized companies jumped 110 percent during the first seven months of 2000 compared with the same period last year to total 587.015 billion rubles ($21.17 billion), according to the State Statistics Committee. Of the 51,800 companies in that category, 59.3 percent posted pre-tax profits. The proportion of companies operating at a profit was highest in communications (75.3 percent), followed by tourism (69.8 percent), food and catering (66.5 percent), wholesalers of industrial products (60.9 percent), industry (60.3 percent), construction (58.7 percent), and transportation (50.1 percent). JAC

...AND PERCENTAGE OF BARTER TRADE FALLS

The percentage of barter trade between Russian enterprises as of June 2000 was 26 percent compared with 29 percent in April, Niina Pautola, senior economist with the Russian-European Center for Economic Policy, told Interfax on 15 September. She added that other statistical data on the level of monetization in the economy indicate a considerable improvement in comparison with the second half of 1999. JAC

IMF SEES NO NEED FOR NEW CREDITS

The IMF believes that economic growth in Russia will reach 7 percent in 2000 rather than the 1.5 percent it projected six months, Interfax reported on 16 September, citing Bloomberg. The IMF's Executive Board met in Prague that day to review the fund's annual report on Russia. The next day, Russia's executive director to the fund, Aleksei Mozhin, told ITAR-TASS that the executive board's main recommendation is that Russia take advantage of its current favorable economic conditions to boost its structural reforms. Mozhin added that many board members raised doubts about Russia's need for additional credits from the IMF and suggested that fresh credits would be needed only if some unforeseen difficulties arose. A new IMF mission is expected in Moscow in the second half of October. On 19 September, talks on Russia joining the World Trade Organization will begin in Washington, ITAR- TASS reported on 15 December. JAC

DUMA GRILLS KLEBANOV OVER 'KURSK' DISASTER...

Facing a broadside of what AFP described as hostile questions in the Duma on 15 September, Deputy Prime Minster Ilya Klebanov denied that the authorities had deliberately misled the public following the sinking of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine last month in the Barents Sea. Klebanov, who heads the government commission investigating the causes of the disaster, said the statements he knew about "were not spreading disinformation, but on occasion they appeared like disinformation," adding that some comments had been made "in the heat of the moment, without enough analysis." Klebanov said three possible causes of the disaster are being considered: the "Kursk" hit a World War II mine; it collided with a foreign submarine; or an accident occurred onboard in the first torpedo compartment. The deputy premier also dismissed as "crazy" a claim by Primore legislature speaker Sergei Zhekov that the "Kursk" sunk after being hit by a missile fired by a Russian warship (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2000). JC

...WANTS OWN MEMBERS ON GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATIVE COMMISSION

Also on 15 September, the Duma voted to ask President Putin to include representatives from the lower house on the commission investigating the cause of the sinking of the "Kursk." Earlier, deputies had rejected a proposal by the Union of Rightist Forces, Fatherland-All Russia, and Russian Regions caucuses that an independent parliamentary commission be formed. Deputies also turned down a suggestion by Aleksei Mitrofanov (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) and Nikolai Bezborodov (Russian Regions) that the Duma include on its agenda an appeal to U.S. President Bill Clinton and the U.S. Congress to order an "external examination" of U.S. submarines that the two lawmakers believe caused "Kursk" disaster (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2000). JC

U.S. REFUSAL STRENGTHENS 'KURSK' COLLISION THEORY, SAYS MOSCOW

Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen has turned down a request by Russian Defense Minster Igor Sergeev to examine two U.S. submarines that were in the Barents Sea at the time the "Kursk" sank, according to ITAR-TASS on 16 September. Cohen is reported to have told Sergeev that he believes it is neither "necessary or appropriate" to allow such an inspection to take place. Interfax on 17 September quoted an unidentified Russian Defense Ministry official as saying that the Pentagon's refusal "only strengthens the assumption that the reason for the ['Kursk' disaster] was a collision with an underwater object." JC

PUTIN MEETS FAMILIES OF CHECHEN AMBUSH VICTIMS

President Putin on 15 September met with relatives of the 84 paratroopers killed in Chechnya six months ago, AP reported. "It's not your fault that the country has ended up in the situation it's in," Putin said, adding that "it's fortunate that you raised people who stood in the way of the further collapse of the country." The Russian government has given each family 720,000 rubles ($26,000). Participants in the meeting told NTV that they were satisfied with their session with Putin. PG

KADYROV SAYS RUSSIAN ATROCITIES MAY SPARK CHECHEN PROTESTS

Mufti Akhmad Kadyrov, head of the pro-Moscow Chechen civilian administration, said on 16 September that harsh Russian actions against Chechen civilians, including "atrocities," may spark a new wave of protest and even unrest, Interfax reported. He said that if that happens, "I have to admit that the people will be right and I will have to stay with these people." And he said that it is almost certain that Chechen rebel leaders are exploiting Russian actions to gain support for their cause. Kadyrov added that he has frequently protested to Russian military and civilian authorities about the dangers involved in their harsh approach to Chechen civilians. PG

SPECIAL DEVICES SET OFF CHECHEN BOMBS

Russian forces have begun to employ special devices that set off Chechen bombs as soon as the latter are installed, Interfax reported on 15 September. Military officials said this device was responsible for the recent deaths of several rebels, whose deaths some had thought were the result of suicide attacks. PG

AMNESTIED CHECHENS SAID RETURNING TO FIGHTING

A spokesman for Russian forces in the North Caucasus told ITAR-TASS on 16 September that some amnestied Chechen fighters have again taken up arms against Moscow. Some 2,000 of the 2,500 Chechen fighters who laid down their arms in the first five months of 2000 did so under an amnesty offer. PG

UN OFFICIAL SEEKS 'CREDIBLE RESPONSE' FROM MOSCOW ON CHECHNYA

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said on 15 September that she continues to seek a "credible response" from Russian officials concerning allegations of widespread human rights abuses in Chechnya, Western agencies reported. She said she is ready to meet with senior Russian officials to avert what she said she fears is becoming "a humanitarian tragedy" in the North Caucasus. PG

RUSSIAN FORCES RELEASE TWO AID WORKERS IN CHECHNYA

Russian federal troops on 16 September released Natalya Estemirov of Memorial and Viktor Popkov of Civilian Contribution after holding them for five days in Chechnya. The two were released after the Memorial organization interceded with Russia's human rights representative in Chechnya, Vladimir Kalamanov. PG

SWISS PROSECUTOR TELLS RUSSIAN COUNTERPART TO STEP UP EFFORTS

Swiss Attorney General Valentin Roschacher met with his Russian counterpart, Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, in Moscow on 15 September. A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office told Interfax that Roschacher, together with other members of his delegation, have brought a large amount of evidence, much of which pertains to the investigation into embezzlement committed by Aeroflot officials and kickbacks from Swiss firm Mabetex to Kremlin officials. According to the spokesman, Russian prosecutors assured the Swiss delegation that the recent resignation of the chief investigator on the Aeroflot case, Nikolai Volkov, will not interrupt the criminal inquiry and that "the new investigator is no worse than his predecessor in [terms of his] professional qualities" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2000). After Roschacher's visit, Swiss authorities issued a statement on 15 September expressing doubt that Russia is investigating the cases as strenuously as it should, Reuters reported. But they added that Ustinov has pledged action and said he still wants Swiss assistance. JAC

SYRIA WANTS GREATER RUSSIAN ROLE IN MID-EAST PEACE PROCESS

Russian Minister for Industry Aleksandr Dondukov and Syrian Minister for Economics and Foreign Trade Muhammad al-Imadi, meeting in Damascus on 17 September, agreed to develop cooperation in the gas and oil sectors and form joint ventures producing cement, pesticides, and mineral fertilizers. Together with Syrian Finance Minister Khalid Mahayni, Dondukov signed an agreement on avoiding double taxation. And at a meeting the previous day with Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Russian minister handed over a message from President Putin, the contents of which were not revealed. Assad, for his part, was quoted as urging Moscow to play a greater role in helping break the deadlock in Syrian-Israeli peace talks. JC

RUSSIAN AIRLINES DEFIANT ON RESUMPTION OF PASSENGER FLIGHTS TO IRAQ

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's comment at a 15 September press conference that she does not think the resumption of passenger flights to Iraq is a good idea prompted a harsh rebuke from the top official of Vnukovo Airlines, which is competing with Aeroflot for the right to launch such flights to Baghdad. Sergei Isakov, deputy chairman of Vnukovo, declared that Albright's statement "was made in defiance of all existing international norms." He noted that "there is no air blockade of Iraq just as there is no automobile blockade. Motorists now drive to Baghdad and back." An Aeroflot spokeswoman adopted a similar position, saying that "international sanctions do not ban passenger flights to Iraq." She continued that "the Russian Foreign Ministry, not the UN Security Council, has the right to permit Russian airlines to fly to Iraq." JAC

RUSSIAN OLYMPIC TEAM SET TO BEAT U.S.

Following the opening of the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 September that the Russian team's goal is to win at least 35 gold medals and top the medals table. "We can beat the Americans," Vitalii Smirnov, chairman of Russia's National Olympic Committee, declared recently, according to dpa. As an incentive, Russian athletes who win a gold medal will receive $50,000, while U.S. athletes are eligible to win only $15,000. The agency also reported that the Russian government set aside $6 million for the Russian Olympic team's preparation. JAC

KLM PASSENGER EXPERIENCES ROUGH LANDING

An unidentified Russian man wanted by Russian police on suspicion of rape fell from the landing gear compartment of a KLM Boeing 737 on 2 September, landing in a water-filled ditch a few kilometers northwest of Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, Reuters reported on 15 September. According to the agency, the man was already dead when he landed. The body of a second Russian man, who was also wanted on suspicion of rape, was found dead in the plane's wheel well. JAC




WORLD BANK TO AID ARMENIAN JUDICIAL SYSTEM

The World Bank announced on 15 September that it will extend $11.4 million to Yerevan to help support the reform of the Armenian judicial system, Noyan Tapan reported. At the same time, the Yerevan office of the World Bank announced that it will conduct its own investigation into the recent detention of the head of a bank official involved in the implementation of an irrigation project there. PG

ARMENIA'S 'RESPUBLIKA' DECLARED BANKRUPT

A Yerevan court has declared the Russian-language newspaper "Respublika Armenia" bankrupt, Noyan Tapan reported on 15 September. The newspaper received only half of the state subsidies it had been promised and as a result was forced to seek bankruptcy protection, its editorial board said. PG

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT HAS MEDICAL CHECKUP IN U.S.

Heidar Aliyev is undergoing a checkup at the Cleveland Clinic where he had bypass surgery a year ago, Interfax reported on 15 September. His entourage returned to Baku on 14 September; while the president is expected to remain in Cleveland for several days. PG

PACE OFFICIAL CALLS FOR FREE ELECTIONS WITH FREE MEDIA IN AZERBAIJAN

Robert Antretter, a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe mission that is monitoring the pre-election situation in Azerbaijan, said on 15 September that "free elections can be conducted only in countries with free media." He noted that during the past 40 years, "no journalist has been arrested in Europe for criticism and insults and no publications have been shut down," Turan reported. Antretter called for the release of journalists held in Azerbaijan, apparently a reference to Rauf Arifoglu, the editor in chief of "Yeni Musavat." The same day, Arifoglu was denied access to a physician, his newspaper reported on 16 September. PG

AZERBAIJANI ELECTION MANEUVERS

The Azerbaijani Islamic Party, which is boycotting the 5 November parliamentary ballot, has elected Haji Alikram as chairman. Alikram replaces Haji Mazaggar Jabrayilzade, who resigned, "Yeni Musavat" reported on 16 September. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan rejected news reports that more than 100 of its members in the Gyandzha branch have defected to the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, the same newspaper said. PG

BAKU SEEKS MEDIA HELP IN FREEING HOSTAGES

Azerbaijani National Security Minister Namik Abbasov appealed to the country's news media on 15 September to help bring pressure on Armenia via the international community to gain the release of the 783 Azerbaijani citizens who, he said, continue to be held by Yerevan. Armenia has denied that it is holding any of those Baku seeks. PG

RUSSIAN, IRANIAN MEDIA SAY Aliyev HOPES TO RECOVER SOUTHERN AZERBAIJAN

Baku's "525 gazet" reported on 16 September that both Iranian and Russian media have suggested that during the Soviet era, Azerbaijani President Aliyev planned to recover portions of Iran in which ethnic Azerbaijanis predominate and that "even though Aliyev has changed his political adherence now, he does not want to dismiss these previous plans." Meanwhile, Turan reported on 15 September that Baku has repaid $1 million of its debt to Iran for energy supplied to Nakhichevan. PG

AZERBAIJANI-RUSSIAN BORDER REOPENS

After a six-day stoppage, vehicles again began transiting the Azerbaijani-Russian border, Baku's ANS television reported on 14 September. Azerbaijani First Deputy Prime Minister Abbas Abbasov said that there must be no problems in the future lest relations between Moscow and Baku worsen. PG

GEORGIA DENIES HELICOPTER VIOLATED RUSSIAN AIR SPACE

The Georgian border department on 15 September denied Russian claims that one of its helicopters had violated Russian air space over Daghestan, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Colonel-General Gennadii Troshev, the commander of the Russian North Caucasus military district, visited a Russian base in Abkhazia, the Russian agency reported. PG

TBILISI ARRESTS FOUR FOR SELLING RADIOACTIVE SUBSTANCES

Georgian officials on 16 September arrested three Georgian nationals and an Armenian for attempting to sell small amounts of U-235 and plutonium, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

DRUG TRADE SEEN THREATENING CENTRAL ASIA

Malik Shoinbaev, the chief of the Kazakhstan Security Council, told an international conference in Almaty on 15 September that drugs flowing out of Afghanistan now threaten Central Asia, Interfax- Kazakhstan reported. He said that 65 percent of all drugs produced in Afghanistan now transit the region on their way to Europe, contributing to increases in both addiction and corruption. PG

KAZAKH PRESIDENT UNVEILS BAYTURSUNOV STATUE

During a visit to northern Kazakhstan on 15 September, Nursultan Nazarbaev unveiled a statue to Akhmet Baytursunov, a prominent Kazakh scholar and political figure who was shot by the Soviets in the 1930s, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. During his visit to the region, Nazarbaev said that he wants Kazakhstan's farmers to have greater freedom of action in the future. PG

ISLAMIST TRACTS FOUND IN KAZAKHSTAN PENAL COLONY

Kazakhstan's Commercial TV on 15 September reported that officials have confiscated extremist Islamist literature at the Uralsk ordinary regime penal colony. Prosecutors said they are now seeking to determine the source of the literature. PG

KYRGYZ FORCES CONTINUE TO BATTLE INSURGENTS

Despite claims of two victories on 15 September, Kyrgyz troops continued to battle insurgents in the Batken region on 17 September, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

FOURTH KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE REGISTERED

The Central Election Commission on 15 September registered Almaz Atambaev, 44, as the fourth candidate in the upcoming presidential ballot, Interfax reported. Another six have submitted their candidacy, papers and five of these applications were accepted for checking. Meanwhile, the election commission's language commission noted that several people who had sought to be registered as candidates cannot speak either Kyrgyz or Russian properly, the Russian news agency said. PG

CIS PEACEKEEPING MANDATE IN TAJIKISTAN ENDS

Tajikistan marked the end of the CIS peacekeeping mandate in Tajikistan on 16 September, Tajik radio reported. The CIS force included troops from the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Meanwhile, Tajikistan President Imomali Rakhmonov said that Russia is the guarantor of peace and stability in Central Asia in particular and the world in general, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 September. PG

TAJIKISTAN DECRIES RUSSIAN MEDIA MISINFORMATION

The Tajik Foreign Ministry on 16 September released a statement decrying what it called "the deliberate misinformation" about Tajikistan contained in the Russian media, Tajik TV reported. It singled out Russian Television's "Panorama" program for suggesting that Tajikistan is allowing terrorists to transit its country. Despite its earlier protests, the ministry said, "such attempts have not ceased, which suggests there is a plan of deliberate misinformation and provocative activities intended to create a new spiral of tension in the country." PG

TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN INTRODUCE VISA REGIME

Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are introducing a visa regime for their citizens beginning on 18 September, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 September. The decision to do so was made in May. PG

TASHKENT CONFERENCE CONDEMNS MISUSE OF ISLAM BY TERRORISTS

A UNESCO-sponsored meeting in Tashkent of representatives from more than 30 countries condemned terrorism and the misuse of Islamic slogans by terrorist organizations, Uzbek State Radio reported on 16 September. Meanwhile, Uzbek officials said they have crushed the Islamic insurgents who earlier had entered their country, but Uzbekistan's ambassador to Washington, Sodik Safaev, welcomed the decision of the U.S. to list the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan as a terrorist organization, "The New York Times" reported on 15 September. PG

HEADSCARVES BEING BANNED AT UZBEK UNIVERSITIES

Fozil qori Sobirov, the chairman of Uzbekistan's Committee on Religious Affairs, told Tashkent's "Vatanparvar" newspaper on 16 September that some university officials have banned female students from wearing headscarves because they cannot "tell the difference between a headscarf and a hejab." But by issuing this ban, Sobirov said, these officials "are unconsciously adding grist to the mill of our ideological enemies abroad, who rejoice in picking holes in our work." PG

OLYMPIC MEDAL COUNT--PART 1 COUNTRIES-------

Through SEPTEMBER 17


Country_________Gold___Silver___Bronze___Total

Russia_____________1_______2_______3_______6
Georgia____________0_______0_______1_______1
Kyrgyzstan_________0_______0_______1_______1
Armenia____________0_______0_______0_______0
Azerbaijan_________0_______0_______0_______0
Kazakhstan_________0_______0_______0_______0
Tajikistan_________0_______0_______0_______0
Turkmenistan_______0_______0_______0_______0
Uzbekistan_________0_______0_______0_______0





BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT WARNS U.S. OVER ANTI-DUMPING SANCTIONS...

Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 15 September blasted the U.S. for a report alleging that Belarus is selling steel at dumping prices, Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka warned that if the U.S. Department of Commerce takes anti-dumping sanctions against Belarus, Minsk will retaliate. "I want to warn the Americans: [possible sanctions] will cost them dearly here in Belarus," Lukashenka told a 500-strong crowd of steel mill workers in Zhodzina, Minsk Oblast. Lukashenka said Belarus is selling its steel abroad in a fair competition, while the U.S. are resorting to political leverage to drive rivals out of the market. The U.S. International Trade Commission submitted a report to the Department of Commerce last month accusing Belarus and several other countries of dumping steel used to reinforce concrete. JM

...SAYS AUTHORITIES REGISTERED 'ALL' OPPOSITION CANDIDATES FOR ELECTIONS...

Lukashenka said in Zhodzina that he is "very grateful" to the Central Electoral Commission for registering "all [opposition] candidates, even those who did not want [to be registered]." According to Lukashenka, some "significant oppositionists" failed to collect the required 1,000 signatures, but regional electoral commissions registered them all the same, in order to avoid accusations that the authorities are suppressing the opposition. Belapan, however, reported on 15 September that electoral commissions, citing irregularities in registration documents, refused to register a majority of some 60 democratic opposition candidates, including independent trade union leader Alyaksandr Bukhvostau and 10 out of the 16 candidates of the Social Democratic Party. It is unclear whether former Premier Mikhail Chyhir will be allowed to run, since a Minsk district electoral commission has postponed his registration. JM

...EXPLAINS WHY OPPOSITION SEEKS LEGISLATIVE SEATS

"Why are [oppositionists] running for this parliament? Most likely, it has not been too sweet for them in the West, they have had to work hard for the money [they received from the West]. And here salaries are pretty high and nobody has so far overstrained himself [in the Chamber of Representatives]," Lukashenka said in Zhodzina the same day. JM

MINSK URGED TO ACCOUNT FOR DISAPPEARED OPPOSITIONISTS

The OSCE issued a statement on 16 September saying the disappearances of political figures continue to be "an obstruction to confidence-building endeavors within the civil society in Belarus" and urging the government to take "more effective measures and convincing action" to solve them. "As long as these cases remain unexplained, the climate of fear in Belarus cannot be dispelled and international confidence in Belarus cannot be restored," the U.S. mission at the OSCE said. There were scuffles between police and a group of oppositionists holding a picket in Minsk the same day to mark one year since the as yet unexplained disappearance of opposition leader Viktar Hanchar and his friend Anatol Krasouski. The authorities have so far also failed to account for the disappearances of former Interior Ministry Yury Zakharanka in May 1999 and Russian Public Television cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski in July of this year. JM

IMF WANTS UKRAINE TO DO 'A LOT' BEFORE RESUMING LOANS

IMF First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer told journalists on 15 September that Ukraine has to do "a lot of work" before the fund will resume its $2.6 billion loan program, AP reported. Meanwhile, Julian Berengaut, head of an IMF mission currently visiting Kyiv, said the loan program can begin again only if Ukraine draws up its 2001 budget, intensifies privatization efforts, and maintains a "healthy" banking system. At the same time, he praised many improvements, including those in the energy and agricultural sectors, as well as overall economic stability and strong economic growth, which he predicted would reach some 3 percent by year's end. The IMF officials' comments seem to be bad news for the Ukrainian government: while meeting foreign financial obligations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2000), Kyiv has recently failed to pay some 80 million hryvni ($14.7 million) on domestic T- bills. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ATTENDS UKRAINE-EU SUMMIT

Leonid Kuchma held talks with French President Jacques Chirac, EU Commission Chairman Romano Prodi, and other EU officials at a 15 September EU-Ukraine summit in Paris. Kuchma repeated Kyiv's pledge to close the Chornobyl nuclear power plant by 15 December, while Chirac reaffirmed that the EU is prepared to contribute 430 million euros ($369.8 million) to help finance the shutdown. Kuchma commented after the summit that he also won EU support for Ukraine's efforts to join the World Trade Organization next year. JM

CHURCH ASKS CONSTANTINOPLE PATIARCH TO HELP UNITE UKRAINIAN ORTHODOXY

Last week's synod of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) asked Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew I "to take the lead in the process of consultations among the world's Ukrainian Orthodox community toward unifying [Ukrainian Orthodoxy] into a single local Church with the prospect of granting autocephaly [to it]," Interfax reported on 15 September. The UAOC expressed its readiness to enter into a dialogue with the two other Orthodox Churches in Ukraine--one subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate and the other to the Kyiv Patriarchate--on the possible unification. "If there is a [single autocephalous] Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Ukraine will leave Moscow's political orbit. If there is no such Church, what can be said about Ukraine's independence?" the UAOC's newly elected head, Metropolitan Mytrofan, commented. JM

COUNCIL OF EUROPE CALLS ON RUSSIA TO RETURN EMBASSIES TO BALTS

The Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers has asked Russia to expedite the return of diplomatic property to the Baltic countries, BNS reported on 15 September. The committee expressed the hope that the dispute will be settled soon, and it reminded Russia that as a member of the Council of Europe, Moscow is obliged to return property belonging to other member countries. The committee's decision said the restitution issue must be settled on the basis of the three countries' legal continuity throughout the unrecognized Soviet annexation. Embassy buildings belonging to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in Rome and Paris, which were seized by the Soviet Union after the occupation, continue to house Russian diplomatic departments. MH

URBAN, RURAL RESIDENTS DIVIDED OVER RADICAL ESTONIAN ADMINISTRATION REFORM

Urban and rural residents in Estonia are divided over a far-reaching regional administrative reform plan, according to a poll released on 15 September by the Emor polling firm, ETA reported. The poll showed that 40 percent of urban residents support the plan proposed by Administrative Reform Minister Toivo Asmer in an interview with "Postimees" published on 11 September. Only 21 percent of rural residents support the plan, which calls for abolishing more than 200 local governments. Asmer's plan would reduce the number of local governments to 20, corresponding to the 15 current counties and the five largest cities (Tallinn, Tartu, Narva, Parnu, and Kohtla- Jarve). Asmer told "Postimees" on 16 September that his e-mail in-box has been inundated with angry letters but that he stands firm on the plan. MH

EXPERTS DISCUSS HOW TO PROSECUTE ALLEGED LATVIAN WAR CRIMINALS

Experts from Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, the U.K., and the U.S. were in Riga on 14-15 September to discuss how to proceed in dealing with alleged Latvian war criminals Konrads Kalejs and Karlis Ozols, who are both Australian citizens. Latvian Prosecutor-General Janis Maizitis said that "serious progress" was made in how to charge Kalejs, who is accused of being a member of the notorious Arajs Commando killing squad. Maizitis would not predict, however, when action would be taken. He added that the case against Ozols is more difficult as there is only evidence of war crimes committed on current-day Belarusian territory and not on Latvian soil. Russian experts were also invited to the meeting but failed to attend. Both Latvia and Australia are giving high priority to the conclusion of an extradition treaty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2000). MH

LATE POLL SHOWS LITHUANIAN OPPOSITION FAR AHEAD

One of the last major polls before the 8 October general elections show that the center-left New Alliance (Social Liberals) is well ahead with 23.6 percent support. The Vilmorus poll, published by "Lietuvos Rytas" on 16 September, indicates that the left-wing bloc of ex- President Algirdas Brazauskas, which brings together the Social Democrats and the Democratic Labor Party (LDDP), has doubled its support to 17 percent. The New Alliance's coalition partners, the Liberal Union and Center Union, are in third and fifth place, with 7.7 percent and 5.4 percent respectively, while the ruling Conservatives have moved up to fourth place with 7 percent support. The Peasants Party has just below the 5 percent backing necessary for the 71 seats to be contested under the proportional representation system. A large 22.2 percent remain undecided or will not vote. MH

POLISH PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS PROTEST PREVIEWING OF CAMPAIGN BROADCASTS

Five right-wing presidential candidates--Marian Krzaklewski, Dariusz Grabowski, Jan Lopuszanski, Jan Olszewski, and Lech Walesa-- have protested the future previewing of election broadcasts by national television managers Andrzej Kwiatkowski, Robert Kwiatkowski, and Slawomir Zielinski. The protest says these persons were members of President Aleksander Kwasniewski's election team in 1995 and may now inform the incumbent president about the content of their campaign programs one day before they are broadcast. A public television spokesman said none of the three will be involved in previewing campaign broadcasts. In accordance with the election law, the previewing commission consists only of technicians and legal experts. Meanwhile, four members of the Polish Television Program Council have suspended their activity in that body, saying public television is favoring only one presidential candidate, Kwasniewski. JM

PROTEST OF POLISH TRUCKERS SMALLER THAN EXPECTED

Police reported that only some 500 trucks out of more than 20,000 nationwide took part in the 15 September go-slow protest over high fuel prices in Poland (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2000). "The protest was quiet and did not cause any big traffic disruption," Reuters quoted police spokesman Pawel Biedziak as saying. A representative of Poland's Association of International Hauliers told the agency that unless the government begins "serious talks" with the truckers on fuel prices, they will start blocking refineries and fuel distribution points in actions similar to those witnessed recently in Western Europe. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT, PREMIER REFUSE TO MEET AUSTRIAN PROTESTERS AGAINST TEMELIN

"Vaclav Havel will not act under any pressure or threats," Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek told CTK on 16 September in response to a demand by protesters from Austria to meet with the Czech president and Premier Milos Zeman. One day earlier, the protesters had for the third time blocked crossing points between the two countries for several hours, demanding that Czech authorities halt the planned launch of the Temelin nuclear power plant. Prime Minister Milos Zeman said the "Austrian environmental activists are no partners for me." German protesters briefly blocked traffic at the Zinnwald border crossing on 15 September. Meanwhile, on 17 September, some 500 German, Austrian, and Czech environmentalists blocked the German side of the Philippsreuth/Strazny border crossing. MS

CZECH LOWER HOUSE REJECTS BILLS ON JUDICIAL REFORM

The Chamber of Deputies on 15 September rejected three bills proposed by the government on reforming the Czech judicial system, CTK reported. This was the second time that the chamber had rejected the reforms, proposed by Justice Minister Otakar Motejl. Earlier, Motejl had threatened to resign if the bills were not passed. The EU has criticized the Czech Republic for its obsolete judicial system. Among other things, the bills are intended to increase the independence of judges, which the EU considers to be unsatisfactory. In response to the vote against his bills, Motejl (whose name means butterfly in Czech) said that he feels "like a harmful insect" and will have to think about whether to remain in the cabinet. MS

CZECH PREMIER REFUSES TO CUT TAX ON FUEL

Zeman told journalists on 16 September that the Freedom Party's proposal to cut consumer taxes on fuel and diesel is "populist" and a "stopgap measure" that would only lead to higher income tax, CTK reported. Zeman said that cutting consumer taxes on fuel would lower state revenues and ultimately affect spending on welfare care, health, and eventually transportation as well. On 18 September, the premier is scheduled to meet with representatives of the truckers, who demand that the growth in fuel prices be halted. The opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) called the Freedom Union's proposal "hypocritical," saying that only ODS representatives opposed the government's decision to increase taxes on fuel earlier this year, while the Freedom Union supported the increase. MS

EU HAS 'NO STANCE' ON SLOVAK EARLY ELECTIONS

Pavol Hamzik, deputy premier in charge of negotiations with the EU, told TASR on 16 September that early parliamentary elections would raise doubts about the country's direction and could endanger prospects for joining the EU, AP reported. Hamzik spoke after meeting in Brussels with European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen. But Verheugen told CTK on 15 September that the EU will "neither criticize, nor comment" on the prospect of early elections, nor will it "support [or] criticize" the Slovak Hungarian Coalition's demand that a separate county be set up in southern Slovakia, where most ethnic Hungarians live. But he noted that the EU calls on all countries seeking membership to "ensure that EU principles, including the protection of the rights of minorities, are respected." MS

ORBAN SEES FASTER ROAD FOR HUNGARY'S EU ACCESSION

Prime Minster Viktor Orban told a meeting in Budapest on 15 September of the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederation of Europe that "if the EU were brave enough to make a reasonable grouping..., enlargement could be completed within two years." Orban said Hungary could join the EU by 2003 if it joined forces with "two of the smaller candidate countries." Reuters says this is an allusion to the Czech Republic and Slovenia. Orban apparently left out neighboring Poland, the largest of the 12 EU accession candidates. MS

HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT POSPONES FUEL TAX HIKE

The government on 16 September reached an agreement with the Hungarian Association of Road Transporters to postpone a planned 6 percent hike in taxes on gasoline. The truckers had been threatening to launch protests similar to those that have recently affected Western Europe. The agreement stipulates that taxes remain at the present level until the global price for crude oil falls to $25 a barrel from current levels exceeding $30, Reuters reported. MS




YUGOSLAV ARMY CHIEF CALLS ELECTION DAY 'D-DAY'

General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who is chief of the General Staff, said in Pozarevac on 16 September that 24 September, on which Yugoslav and Serbian elections will take place, is "D-Day," "Danas" reported. Pavkovic stressed that the military will not allow anyone to "take power by using force on the streets." He referred to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic as "brave, decisive, and especially visionary" and "boldly making decisions when freedom and the homeland are at stake." Defense Minister General Dragoljub Ojdanic said that the West is attempting to install "its puppets" in power in the elections, "Vesti" reported. In Belgrade, Mladjan Dinkic of the G-17 group of independent economists said that the army's role is to defend the constitution and the right of citizens to cast their ballots, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

MONTENEGRIN PARTY BLASTS POLITICAL ROLE OF YUGOSLAV ARMY

The Democratic Party of Socialists said in a statement in Podgorica on 17 September that the public should be aware of possible attempts by the Yugoslav military leadership to promote political polarization in the runup to the elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2000). The previous day, Economics Minister Vojin Djukanovic protested what he called attempts by the army to block unspecified major construction projects and to blockade Montenegro's borders. He also criticized the military for "illegally" allowing Serbian television broadcasts to be beamed to Montenegro from transmitters on military bases. PM

YUGOSLAV PREMIER SAYS MILOSEVIC TO VISIT MONTENGRO

Momir Bulatovic said at a provincial Montenegrin election rally that Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic wants to establish a state of "smugglers and criminals guarded by police under the protection of NATO," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Podgorica on 17 September. Bulatovic added that Milosevic will visit Montenegro as part of his pre- election campaign, but the premier did not say when. PM

SERBIAN OPPOSITION CANDIDATE: MILOSEVIC 'CAPITULATED DISHONORABLY' TO WEST

Vojislav Kostunica, who is the united opposition candidate running against Milosevic, told a crowd of up to 30,000 people in Novi Sad on 16 September that the election is a matter for the "survival of the people and the state," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Kostunica added that the Yugoslav military "fought honorably" in recent years but that Milosevic "capitulated dishonorably" to the West. Kostunica argued that the fruit of Milosevic's policies is that foreign troops are now stationed in Bosnia and Kosova. In Subotica, Kostunica said that it is "too early" to discuss an opposition-led government's future relations with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. He stressed that the government will have many "more pressing" concerns than dealing with war crimes. Those who raise the issue of cooperation with The Hague are helping to slow progress toward the democratization of Serbia, Kostunica added. The following day, the Milosevic-run daily "Politika" sharply attacked the opposition candidate as a "liar." PM

SERBIAN PRESTIGE PROJECT FIZZLES

The hydro-electric power plant at the Iron Gates, which Milosevic recently turned on line, was shut down immediately after he left the ceremony, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 16 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2000). In previous years, several prestige objects launched by Milosevic and his supporters at election time also failed to work for lack of money to run them. PM

KOSOVA OFF-LIMITS TO SERBIAN CAMPAIGNERS?

KFOR peacekeepers "prevented" Vojislav Mihajlovic from visiting Kosova on 15 September, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Prishtina (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2000). His party said in a statement that KFOR's move is a "flagrant violation" of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 on Kosova. Mihajlovic is the presidential candidate of Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement and has about 5 percent of voter support in recent polls. KFOR officials said in a statement that Mira Markovic, who is Milosevic's wife and head of the United Yugoslav Left, is "persona non grata" in Kosova and should not try to make good on her pledge to campaign in the province. PM

COHEN EXPRESSES 'CONCERN' OVER MISBEHAVIOR IN KOSOVA

U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said in a statement Singapore on 17 September that incidents described in a recent U.S. report about some U.S. soldiers' behavior toward Kosovars are a source of "grave concern and reflect behavior that cannot be allowed to recur. Such incidents must not, however, be allowed to tarnish the reputation and accomplishments of the more than 10,000 American men and women in uniform who are serving with distinction under difficult circumstances in the Balkans," Reuters reported. PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT WARNS RIGHTIST TROUBLEMAKERS

Stipe Mesic said in Zagreb on 15 September that no one should try to make trouble or use force in the streets in the wave of the recent arrests of suspected war criminals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2000). Prime Minister Ivica Racan added that the authorities will not allow anyone to threaten democracy in Croatia. PM

SLOVENIAN DRIVERS STAGE WARNING PROTEST

Members of the professional drivers' union SAS briefly blockaded roads and highways "everywhere" in Slovenia in the early hours of 18 September. The union members removed the blockades and traffic returned to normal by 7:00 a.m., the Ljubljana radio 24 UR reported. SAS wants a cut in fuel taxes and will resume the blockades on 19 September if their demands are not met. PM

OSCE LAUNCHES ANTI-CORRUPTION DRIVE IN BOSNIA

Officials of the OSCE appealed to Bosnian citizens to expose corruption, particularly in the runup to the November local elections, "Oslobodjenje" reported on 18 September. Robert Barry, who is the OSCE's chief of mission in Bosnia, stressed that it is important that citizens remember which incumbents are corrupt when they cast their votes. PM

SEVENTH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE NOMINATED IN ROMANIA

An extraordinary National Council meeting of the extraparliamentary Liberal Democratic Party has nominated party leader Nicolae Cerveni as the party's presidential candidate in the November-December ballot, Romanian Radio reported on 16 September. Cerveni is the seventh candidate so far in the presidential contest. On 15 September, Marian Munteanu, the candidate of the National Alliance for that post, denied he was an informer of the communist secret police. A photocopy of Munteanu's signed pledge to work for the Securitate was published earlier last week in the Greater Romania Party weekly "Romania mare," Mediafax reported. The same photocopy was published last year in the tabloid "Atac la persoana." In an interview published in 1993, Dan Zamfirescu, a Romanian nationalist writer, revealed that he and Munteanu had both worked for the Securitate. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN CRITICIZES PRESIDENT

Vasile Nedelciuc, chairman of the parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, criticized President Petru Lucinschi and the Moldovan negotiating team on 15 September for having agreed to negotiate on Yevgenii Primakov's proposal for a settlement of the Transdniester conflict, Romanian Radio reported. Primakov heads the Russian state committee for a solution to that conflict. Nedelciuc said Moldova must by no means accept negotiations from which the OSCE is excluded. He also said that Russia's past policies demonstrate that Moscow can be "neither a guarantor nor a mediator" in the conflict because it sides with Tiraspol and keeps troops in the separatist region. Nedelciuc said a plenum of the legislature must be convened to debate the negotiations and pass a resolution that should be binding on Moldovan representatives in the talks. MS

LIBYA POSTPONES BULGARIANS' TRIAL 'FOR LAST TIME'

A Libyan court has postponed until 7 October the trial of six Bulgarians charged with deliberately infecting hundreds of children with the HIV virus, Reuters reported on 17 September, citing Bulgarian television. The court ordered the delay--the fifth--at the request of the defendants' Libyan and Bulgarian lawyers, who said they need more time to study the indictment. The five nurses and one doctor face the death penalty if convicted. Libyan lawyer Osman Byzanti said this is "the last time" that the court will agree to postpone the trial. He and his Bulgarian colleagues also said they are requesting that the court allow international experts to testify in the case. MS

OLYMPIC MEDAL COUNT--PART 2 COUNTRIES-------

Through SEPTEMBER 17


Country_________Gold___Silver___Bronze___Total

Bulgaria___________1_______1_______1_______3
Slovakia___________0_______2_______1_______3
Ukraine____________1_______1_______0_______2
Czech Rep._________1_______0_______1_______2
Romania____________1_______0_______1_______2
Belarus____________0_______0_______2_______2
Croatia____________1_______0_______0_______1
Hungary____________1_______0_______0_______1
Lithuania__________1_______0_______0_______1
Yugoslavia_________0_______1_______0_______1
Latvia_____________0_______0_______1_______1
Albania____________0_______0_______0_______0
Bosnia-Herzeg._____0_______0_______0_______0
Estonia____________0_______0_______0_______0
Macedonia__________0_______0_______0_______0
Moldova____________0_______0_______0_______0
Poland_____________0_______0_______0_______0
Slovenia___________0_______0_______0_______0





THE GORDIAN KNOT OF PIRAN


By Patrick Moore

One particularly thorny dispute divides Slovenia and Croatia. Important issues are involved for both parties, and finding a solution remains difficult.

Slovenian President Milan Kucan recently told Radio Maribor that he is concerned about the state of his country's relations with all of its neighbors (with the notable exception of Italy). Difficulties with Austria have increased since the success of the far- right Freedom Party in the October 1999 elections, but Kucan's primary concern, he stressed, is Croatia.

The reasons are not hard to identify. There are at least five problems bedeviling relations between Ljubljana and Zagreb, some of which date back to when the two countries became independent in 1991. The first is the question of funding, managing, and using the Krsko nuclear power facility, which is on Slovenian territory but was built during communist years with partial funding from Croatia. Several times since 1991 a solution seemed to be at hand but in the end proved elusive.

The second issue is the fate of Croatian citizens' communist-era accounts with the Ljubljanska Banka. This issue, like Krsko, has been on the table since 1991.

The third problem, which is more recent, involves the stationing of Slovenian troops on the Sveta Gera mountain, which overlooks Croatian territory. Zagreb wants them off the mountain, but a mutually agreeable formula that would save face for Slovenia has yet to be worked out.

Fourth is the matter of a Slovenian van filled with intelligence-gathering equipment that Croatian forces captured on Croatian territory a few years ago. At first glance, the incident appeared to be the result of a bungled, third-rate spying mission. Slovenian authorities soon claimed, however, that a corrupt official or officials "sold" the van to Croatia for personal gain. Ljubljana wants the van and equipment back.

But the main problem involves delineating maritime boundaries in the Gulf of Piran. Indeed, many observers suspect that Slovenia, in particular, has postponed solutions to other outstanding problems--including ratification of an agreement on cross-border traffic--lest its position on Piran somehow be jeopardized. Ljubljana has repeatedly rejected Zagreb's calls for international arbitration on Piran.

The issue is simple. The current regional maritime borders give a common frontier to Italy and Croatia that prevents Slovenia from having an outlet to the open sea. Ljubljana argues--not very convincingly--that Slovenian-based patrol craft were responsible for the entire gulf in communist times and that the body of water should be its preserve now. The main Slovenian argument, however, is that Croatia has long a coastline and should not feel put out by letting Slovenia have "a few hundred meters" in Piran.

For Croatia, however, the matter goes well beyond the "few hundred meters" of maritime space. First, letting Slovenia have access to the Adriatic would affect Croatia's economic zone in an area where natural gas deposits are believed to lie, "Vjesnik" reported on 10 September.

Second, many Croats fear that Italian rightists would use the change in the maritime frontiers as an excuse to reopen a whole host of questions that were ostensibly settled in the 1975 Osimo agreement between Rome and Belgrade. Since conflicting Italian and Croatian claims in Istria and Dalmatia were one of the dominant issues in Croatian (and Yugoslav) politics between the two World Wars, the possible reopening of the Dalmatian question is a prospect that no Croatian government or political party can take lightly. For this reason, the new government of President Stipe Mesic and Prime Minister Ivica Racan has proven no more accommodating to Ljubljana than was the late President Franjo Tudjman. Similarly, the need for an outlet to the open sea in the Gulf of Piran is recognized and endorsed by all Slovenian political parties. With elections just a month away, it is not surprising that some Slovenes' thoughts are turning to Piran and a possible need to show one's patriotism by raising the issue.


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