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Newsline - October 17, 2000




RUSSIA SNUBBED BY MIDEAST SUMMITEERS...

After media speculation about who would represent Russia at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit in Egypt, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters on 16 October that Russia had not yet received an invitation to attend the meeting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000). He added that he didn't know how the list of participants was drawn up but "for Russia, the results are more important than the format." State Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman (People's Deputy) Dmitrii Rogozin appeared less understanding of Russia's failure to receive an invitation, declaring that "not a single problem in relations between the Israelis and Palestinians can be solved without Russia." He also accused the U.S. of operating a "de facto policy of keeping Russia away and [trying] to monopolize the sponsorship [of the peace process] in an effort to use the possible success of its negotiations for its own interests." JAC

...AS DUMA FOREIGN AFFAIRS SPECIALIST SUGGESTS RUSSIA WITHDRAW AS PEACE PROCESS CO-SPONSOR

On 15 October, Rogozin said that Russia would be justified in resigning as a co-sponsor of the peace process if talks on the following day failed to yield results. He said that "the U.S. and naturally Israel will be to blame for the failure." Asked about the summit on 16 October, President Putin repeated that Russia is ready to take part in the peace process, "but only to the extent that the parties most concerned--Israel and Palestine--would recognize [such participation] useful." JAC

GOVERNMENT ABANDONS NO-COMPROMISE STANCE ON BUDGET...

The State Duma Budget Committee decided on 16 October to recommend that the lower legislative house pass the draft 2001 budget in its second reading scheduled for 20 October. According to "The Moscow Times" on 17 October, the government agreed to let regions keep almost all of the income tax revenues they collect. That should give them an additional 30 billion rubles ($1.1 billion), according to Deputy Budget Committee Chairman (Agro-Industrial Group) Sergei Shtorgin, ITAR-TASS reported the previous day. In return for the income tax concession, the Duma's Budget Committee agreed to slash subsidies to the regions by 21.2 billion rubles, according to the daily. JAC

...AS MILITARY TO RECEIVE MORE FUNDS

The military will get an additional 12.6 billion rubles and police 2 billion rubles extra. According to ITAR-TASS, the committee also recommended an additional 3 billion rubles for education, 2 billion rubles for investment programs for industry, 500 million rubles for the judicial system, and 1.5 billion rubles for science. At the same time, the committee suggested that spending on international activities and government administration be reduced. According to Interfax, also proposed was that several national funds be abolished, such as the Environmental Fund, the Lake Baikal Protection Fund, and the Military Reform Assistance Fund. JAC

CONSCRIPTS REFUSING TO SERVE ON SUBS?

RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 16 October that the conscripts at the military registration and enlistment offices in Tula are refusing to serve on military submarines. Every year, a quarter of Tula's conscripts are sent to serve on submarines; however, this year young men and their parents are refusing submarine assignments. JAC

BEREZOVSKII SETS UP TRUST TO MANAGE ORT...

More than a dozen journalists signed an agreement on 16 October establishing a new company, Teletrust, to manage Boris Berezovskii's 49 percent stake in Russian Public Television (ORT). According to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, among those signing the agreement were ORT journalists Sergei Dorenko and Vladimir Pozner, writer Vasilii Aksenov, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" editor Vasilii Tretyakov, "Obshchaya gazeta" editor Yegor Yakovlev, theater director Yurii Lyubimov, and former deputy head of the presidential administration Igor Shabdurasulov. Others who have been invited to join the company will have until 1 December to sign the agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2000). According to Interfax, Berezovskii said that he will not refuse to give the government some or all of his stock in ORT, "if the shareholders of the new company make such a decision." Berezovskii also said that he has agreed to finance the new company. JAC

...AS HE REPEATS CHARGE THAT AEROFLOT CASE POLITICALLY MOTIVATED

Berezovskii also revealed that he had meet recently with embattled Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii to see whether they could work together now that they both find themselves "under powerful pressure from authorities." However, "the meetings did not make anything clearer." According to Berezovskii, he has recently been turned out of the state dacha he had rented in Moscow for six years for a sum of $500,000 annually, and has to stay at a hotel. Asked to comment on former Russian President Boris Yeltsin's memoirs, Berezovskii said the book "contains not all truth and not only that." He added that "Yeltsin pretended not to be and Putin pretends that he is." On 17 October, Berezovskii spent nearly an hour at the Office of the Prosecutor-General answering questions in the Aeroflot case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000). After the interrogation, Berezovskii repeated his charges that the case is "pure blackmail and pure politics." JAC

PRO-MOSCOW CHECHEN LEADERS RECONCILED

Meeting on 13 October, interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov and former militia commander Beslan Gantemirov resolved the disagreements that set them at odds in July and led to what Kadyrov termed their irreversible alienation two months later, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 October (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 37, 15 September 2000). Kadyrov has now formally appointed Gantemirov as his first deputy, the position to which Gantemirov had earlier laid claim. Meanwhile the Russian presidential representative to the South Russia federal district, Viktor Kazantsev, said in an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 16 October that he has drafted plans for a total restructuring of the temporary administration in Chechnya, which is to be finalized by the end of this month. He declined to provide details. LF

MOSCOW DENIES HEAVY TROOP LOSSES IN TSA-VEDENO

Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii denied on 16 October a report on a Chechen website that some 50 Russian servicemen were killed in a battle with Chechen fighters in the village of Tsa-Vedeno, 50 kilometers southeast of Grozny, Interfax reported. Yastrzhembskii said that fighting had occurred near that village on 4-7 October, but that the Russian side killed 20 Chechen fighters and wounded a further 19 without incurring any fatalities. LF

RUSSIA TO ACCEPT MORE IOUS FROM UKRAINE FOR GAS

Following his meeting in Sochi with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 16 October, President Putin told reporters that the two leaders had reached agreement on "virtually all issues," Russian agencies reported. Putin said that Russia accepts the fact that Ukraine "cannot pay for its needed gas supplies only in cash;" therefore the difference [between what it can pay and what it owes] will be included in Ukraine's state debt to Russia." He added that both sides agreed that the "unsanctioned export of Russian gas will be stopped." According to ITAR-TASS, Putin said that Russia thinks that Ukraine's suggestion that Gazprom participate in privatization of Ukraine's gas transportation system "is a good idea," and "we will announce a date for the forming of a government commission which will examine [possible] forms of cooperation" in this area. According to Interfax, the two presidents also discussed cooperation in the fields of space and law enforcement. JAC

RUSSIA, IRAN PREPARE TO DISCUSS CONTAINMENT OF TALIBAN

As Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov began the first day of his official trip to Tehran, President Putin on 16 October sent a letter to Iranian President Mohammed Khatami assuring him that Russia wants to deepen its cooperation with Iran. "We regard the development of good neighborly relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran as one of our long-term foreign policy priorities," he wrote, Interfax reported. According to ITAR-TASS, during Ivanov's trip, Russian and Iranian officials will discuss "bilateral and multilateral cooperation in providing security in Central Asia, which is endangered by international terrorism [emanating] from Afghan territory." Ivanov recently linked the escalation of violence on the West Bank with the Taliban's increased activities in Afghanistan and Central Asia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000). JAC

ANOTHER INDEPENDENT JUDGE LOSES HIS POST

On 11 October, Judge Sergei Pashin was stripped of his post by the Qualification Collegium of Judges for violating judicial ethics, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 16 October. However, Pashin says the real reason he lost his post was because of his independence, an appraisal with which Western human right organizations agree. Pashin was dismissed for criticizing the sentencing of a young man to prison for draft-dodging--even though the Russian Constitution allows conscientious objection--and for giving his personal telephone number to a listener in need of legal help during a radio show. Last June, the Qualifications Collegium stripped an arbitration court judge in Primorskii Krai, Tatyana Loktionova, from her office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2000). She frequently ran afoul of Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko. JAC

PACE OF INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT GROWTH SLOWS...

Industrial production grew by 7.2 percent in September compared with the same month last year, the State Statistics Committee reported on 16 October. The September rise was smaller than the 10.2 percent hike recorded in August and 8.5 percent in July. For the first 9 months of 2000, output was 9.7 percent higher than during the same period last year. JAC

...AS GRAIN, POTATO HARVESTS RISE

As of 1 October, Russian farmers had harvested 65.2 million tons of grain--a 21 percent increase over the same period last year, according to the committee. Grain still needs to be harvested in the Urals and Siberian regions. The potato crop was also more bountiful by 3.5 percent and totaled 31.1 million tons. JAC

GOVERNMENT RAISES MORE PETROLEUM PRODUCT EXPORT DUTIES

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed a resolution on 12 October increasing export duties on gasoline, kerosene, and diesel to 32 euros ($27.4) per ton, Interfax reported. The duty on fuel oil was raised to 27 euros per ton. Earlier, in the month, the government announced increases in the export duty on crude oil (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2000). JAC

BUSH, JR., TO RECEIVE LETTERS, SUMMONS FROM RUSSIA

State Duma deputy (Unity) and former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin announced on 16 October that he plans to sue U.S. presidential candidate (Republican) George W. Bush for libel both in the U.S. and Russia. Bush recently accused Chernomyrdin of pocketing some of the money the IMF lent to Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 2000). Chernomyrdin also released a letter that he wrote to Bush demanding a public apology. On the same day, State Duma Anti-Corruption Committee head (Fatherland-All Russia) Nikolai Kovalev said that he, too, has written a letter to Bush asking him to share his information on the misuse of foreign credits. JAC




FOUR NEW DEPUTIES ELECTED TO ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT

By-elections took place on 15 October in four constituencies left vacant after Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and three other deputies joined the current government in May, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Factory manager Gevorg Hakobian, a member of Markarian's Republican Party (HHK), won unopposed in the latter's district in central Yerevan. The chief manager of the local energy distribution network, Grigor Madatian, defeated his sole rival in Yerevan's southern Erebuni district. Madatian's brother, Eduard, represented that constituency before joining Markarian's cabinet as transport and communication minister. In Kotayk, a senior police officer, Mushegh Harutiunian, narrowly beat a HHK candidate. In Ararat, Mihran Movsisian of the Union of the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle, lodged a protest with the Central Election Commission (CEC) after losing to Gurgen Arsenian, chief executive of Armagrobank, one of the largest in the country. LF

AZERBAIJANI, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET

Vilayat Guliev held talks in Moscow on 16 October with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov aimed at preparing for Russian President Vladimir Putin's planned visit to Baku in November. Ivanov expressed the hope that Putin's visit will open a "new page" in bilateral relations, according to ITAR-TASS. The two ministers also discussed trade and economic relations, the Karabakh conflict, and the status of the Caspian Sea. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT SACKS BAKU MAYOR

Heidar Aliyev on 16 October dismissed Rafael Allakhverdiev from the post of Baku City mayor, Turan reported. Allakhverdiev, who is one of eight deputy chairmen of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan party, had earlier announced his intention to step down to contest the 5 November parliamentary election. Speaking in Baku on 6 October, Allakhverdiev had accused the presidential administration of issuing instructions to local election commission staff concerning which would-be candidates should be registered to contest the parliamentary poll as well as specifying which of those should be "elected" (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 40, 13 October 2000). Aliyev told journalists on 16 October that he intends to order the Central Electoral Commission to register all candidates who wish to run in single-mandate constituencies, adding that those refused registration include many Yeni Azerbaycan candidates, Turan reported. LF

THREE MORE GEORGIAN JAIL-BREAKERS DETAINED

Georgian police on 16 October detained in the Sachkhere Raion of western Georgia one more of the 12 prisoners who escaped from a Tbilisi security jail on 1 October, and a second surrendered to police in nearby Martvili, Caucasus Press reported. Five of the fugitives were captured on 12 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 2000). The third was apprehended on 17 October. In his traditional Monday radio broadcast on 16 October, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said that two of the recaptured prisoners, Loti Kobalia, the commander of former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia's presidential guard and Gamsakhurdia's finance minister, Guram Absandze, had planned unspecified actions to destabilize the political situation in Georgia. Shevardnadze thanked the police who captured the escapees for averting "a new fratricidal war." LF

ITALIAN JOURNALIST FOUND DEAD IN GEORGIA

Antonio Russo, a correspondent for a radio station affiliated with Italy's Radical Party, was found dead with chest injuries in Kakheti, some 80 kilometers east of Tbilisi, on 16 October, AP and Caucasus Press reported. Russo had been in Tbilisi for a year, and had focused primarily on reporting on the war in Chechnya and its impact on Georgia. LF

GEORGIAN TEACHERS END STRIKE

Teachers in Georgia's Mtianeti-Mtskheta region have ended the strike they began at the beginning of the school year one month ago to protest non-payment of their salaries, Caucasus Press reported on 16 October citing "Alia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2000). The teachers have been promised three monthly salaries. LF

RELATIVES OF KYRGYZ SENTENCED FOR PLANNING TO KILL PRESIDENT STAGE PROTEST

Eight women relatives of seven men sentenced last month for their alleged participation in a 1999 plot to assassinate President Askar Akaev began a picket of the regional administration building in the town of Djalalabad on 16 October, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The women claim that their men-folk are innocent. The men, most of them shepherds with only elementary education, were said to have been recruited by opposition Erkindik Party leader Topchubek Turgunaliev. The entire case was based on the testimony of one man, which was later retracted. TurgunAliyev and all but one of the remaining defendants were sentenced in early September to 16-17 years imprisonment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2000). LF

TAJIK DEPUTY MINISTER FIRED

Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov has dismissed Deputy Minister of Culture Rahmatullo Aminov for engaging in business activities in violation of the law "On State Service," Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 16 October. LF

TAJIKISTAN GRAPPLES WITH UNEMPLOYMENT

Speaking in Dushanbe on 13 October, Tajik Employment Minister Rafiqa Musaeva said that between 1989 -2000 Tajikistan's population increased by over 1 million, to 6.105 million, while the able-bodied population increased over the same timeframe by 640,000 people to 3 million, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. She estimated that unemployment nationwide will reach 16.3 percent by the end of this year. In Khatlon Oblast, the largest in the country, 6,800 people out of a total population of 2.14 million are registered as unemployed, while in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Republic 15,179 of the 203,500 inhabitants are officially registered as seeking work. LF

TURKISH PRESIDENT VISITS UZBEKISTAN

Ahmet Necdet Sezer arrived in Tashkent on 16 October on the first leg of a four-day visit to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported. Sezer and his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov discussed security issues and signed joint statements on cooperation to fight drug trafficking, terrorism, and organized crime. Uzbek Defense Minister Kadyr Gulomov and Turkish General Staff officer Lieutenant-General Unal Onsipahioglu also signed a defense cooperation agreement. Karimov expressed appreciation for Turkey's stated willingness to provide Uzbekistan with military technology, Interfax reported. LF




U.S. DISMISSES BELARUSIAN ELECTION...

The U.S. State Department on 16 October said Belarus's elections to the Chamber of Representatives the previous day were not free, fair, or transparent, Reuters reported. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the U.S. will continue to recognize the Supreme Soviet led by Chairman Syamyon Sharetski as Belarus's legitimate parliament. "The United States deeply regrets that the Belarusian authorities ignored the desire of a growing number of Belarusian citizens to return to democracy, and strongly condemns the gross abuses committed by the Lukashenka regime during the elections," Reeker added. JM

...AS DO EUROPEAN ORGANIZATIONS...

The OSCE technical assessment mission, which worked in Belarus for four weeks before the 15 October vote, said the elections did not meet international standards. The mission noted that the main abuses of the election process in Belarus included the executive branch's control over electoral commissions, the refusal to register nearly 50 percent of those would-be candidates who sought to run on an independent ticket, the authorities' monopoly on the media, and the excessive use of the early voting procedure. According to Wolfgang Berendt from the Council of Europe, Belarus's guest status in the Council of Europe will not be restored anytime soon. OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Chairman Adrian Severin said the Supreme Soviet will continue to represent Belarus in the assembly "at least until February 2001." JM

...WHILE RUSSIAN OBSERVERS SAY ELECTIONS FAIR

Boris Pastukhov, chairman of the Russian Duma Committee for Relations with Compatriots, told journalists on 16 October that the Belarusian elections have met "generally recognized standards" and "confirmed Belarus's desire to build a truly democratic society," ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking on behalf of Russian election observers from the Federation Council, Pastukhov said "no one in the Russian delegation has information about serious violations" of the election process. The Russian observers noted that the OSCE's conclusions about the Belarusian ballot are "highly biased" and reflect the organization's "double standards." JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION SAYS ELECTION TURNOUT FALSIFIED

Mechyslau Hryb, who coordinated some 5,500 election observers from Belarusian NGOs, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 16 October that the opposition has drawn up "volumes" of protocols registering violations of the electoral process by the authorities. According to Hryb, the authorities forced voters to come to the polls, continued campaigning for pro-regime candidates on the voting day, cast ballots for voters who did not participate in the elections, and falsified election results, including turnout. Hryb said the election turnout was overstated by some 20 percent. The opposition said the previous day that the overall turnout was around 45 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000). "These were the dirtiest elections in Belarus's history," opposition leader Mikalay Statkevich commented. JM

RUSSIA NOT TO BUILD GAS PIPELINE BYPASSING UKRAINE?

Ukrainian presidential spokesman Oleksandr Martynenko said on 16 October that Russia's participation in the modernization of Ukraine's gas pipelines will eliminate the need for Russia to build a gas pipeline bypassing Ukraine and increase gas transit via Ukrainian territory by 30 percent. Martynenko was commenting on the meeting of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Sochi the same day, where Putin expressed interest in Gazprom's participation in privatization of Ukraine's gas transport system (see also item in Part 1). Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS quoted unidentified Russian experts as saying that Ukraine's gas transportation system needs up to $1 billion for modernization and its suggested sale or transfer for gas debts to Gazprom is not an attractive bid. JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER TO BE TRIED IN GERMANY FOR EMBEZZLEMENT

Lower Saxony State Prosecutor Thomas Klingle on 16 October said Viktor Zherdytskyy, the Ukrainian lawmaker arrested in Hanover last week, will be tried in Germany on charges of embezzling 86 million marks ($38 million) from a German compensation fund for Nazi victims in Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000), AP reported. Klingle said the money was allegedly embezzled from an account in Kyiv's Gradobank while Zherdytskyy was in charge of that facility before he was elected to the parliament. Klingle noted that the German authorities previously failed to persuade the Ukrainian parliament to lift Zherdytskyy's immunity and arrested him while he was attempting to withdraw $50,000 from an account at a Hanover bank. JM

NEW PARNU COALITION COULD AFFECT NATIONAL COALITION

The new governing coalition in the seaside city of Parnu could have implications for the coalitions running the Tallinn City Council and the Estonian parliament. Reform Party member Einar Kelder was elected mayor of Parnu on 16 October with the support of his own party (7 seats), the Center Party (8 seats), and a coalition led by the Coalition Party (5 seats), the Moderates (2 seats), and the Russian-speakers coalition People's Trust (2 seats) in the 33-member council, BNS reported. This came about after the city government, led by the Pro Patria Union (9 seats) resigned in the wake of a no-confidence motion supported by some in the former ruling coalition. The national coalition is comprised of the Pro Patria Union, the Reform Party, and the Moderates, while the Tallinn council is joined by People's Trust, and this Parnu coalition is the most significant ruling council where the national coalition has split and sided in part with the opposition Center Party. MH

LATVIAN PREMIER SAYS MARITIME BORDER PACT SHOULD BE DELAYED

Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins said on 16 October that the ratification of the maritime border deal between Latvia and Lithuania should be delayed due to the lack of a resolution of a fishing rights dispute, BNS reported. Berzins made his position known while meeting with a junior coalition partner, For Fatherland and Freedom, which is opposed to the treaty without the fishing agreement. One of its members, the head of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, Guntars Krasts, said the treaty will not be put to the full parliament for ratification until such an agreement over economic and fisheries rights is concluded. Fishermen have threatened protests and port blockades if the treaty is ratified without the supplemental agreements protecting their rights, LETA added. MH

LITHUANIAN ELECTIONS RESULTS CONFIRMED...

The Lithuanian Central Electoral Commission announced the final results of the 8 October general elections on 15 October, confirming earlier results with a published list of the 141 newly-elected parliament members. The four-party ruling coalition holds 67 of 141 seats, but can count on the support of some minor groups and independent deputies. Another recount of the razor-close Plunge-Rietavas constituency resulted in a rare election draw (each gaining 5,311 votes), thus the elder candidate--Visvaldas Nekrasas of the Social Democrats--was given the victory, BNS reported. The New Democracy Party also pulled its three seats out of the opposition Social Democratic bloc, leaving it with 48 seats. The parliament will meet for the first time on 19 October. MH

...BUT PRESIDENT AGAINST SOME APPOINTMENTS?

Before departing for a visit to Norway, President Valdas Adamkus on 16 October met with leaders of the new ruling coalition to discuss their political plan. Though the proposed list of cabinet posts was discussed, the group would not reveal its list at this time. However, ELTA reported that the president voiced concerns over the proposed candidates for economics and finance ministers, Eugenijus Maldeikis and Jonas Lionginas, both members of the Liberal Union. The two would be returning to their former positions under the 1999 government of Rolandas Paksas, who is slated to return to that job once Adamkus makes the nomination. MH

POLISH OPPOSITION PARTIES SEEK REFERENDUM ON REPRIVATIZATION

The Democratic Left Alliance, the Peasant Party, and the Labor Union on 16 October submitted to the parliament a motion to hold a referendum on the government's plan calling for compensation to those whose property was illegally nationalized during the communist era. The motion was supported by 571,000 signatures. The government's reprivatization bill provides for returning 50 percent of the value of assets that the state confiscated from former owners. The three opposition parties propose limiting property restitution to a total of 10 billion zlotys ($2.2 billion) for Polish citizens whose property was illegally seized by the state between 1944 and 1962. The Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and the Freedom Union, which sponsor the reprivatization bill, have a majority in the parliament to reject the referendum motion, but it has happened more than once that AWS lawmakers voted against their government. JM

CZECH, AUSTRIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKERS DISCUSS RELATIONS, TEMELIN

Chamber of Deputies Chairman Vaclav Klaus, on a one-day visit to Vienna on 16 October, discussed with his Austrian counterpart Heinz Fischer bilateral relations and the dispute over the nuclear power plant at Temelin, CTK reported. Klaus said he is "not 100 percent satisfied" with the fact that what should have been a "bilateral issue" has been "Europeanized" by the Czech government's appeal to the EU against the blockades at the borders, and also criticized Austria's decision to raise the dispute at the EU summit in Biarritz, France over the weekend. Asked by a journalist whether Prague is willing to compromise on the issue, Klaus responded: "You do not want to compromise, you want an unconditional capitulation of the Czech government." MS

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER TO DISCUSS BLOCKADES IN BRUSSELS

Foreign Minister Jan Kavan on 16 October said he intends to discuss the blockades at the Czech-Austrian border at meetings with EU officials in Brussels this week, despite the fact that protesters have for the time being halted the blockades. He said he welcomed their announcement but "I would welcome it even more if the blockades were not merely discontinued, but canceled altogether." MS

CZECH REPUBLIC SUPPORTS LATVIA ON JOINING NATO

Kavan said on 16 October after meeting his Latvian counterpart Indulis Berzins in Prague that the Czech Republic supports Latvia's quest to join NATO, but added that Prague "does not intend to differentiate" between that aspiration and the similar drive by neighboring Estonia and Lithuania to become NATO members. He also said he hopes a decision on NATO's further enlargement will be adopted in 2002 and that the organization will hold that meeting in Prague. Berzins said that after becoming NATO members, the Baltic states could establish with Russia, which opposes their quest, relations similar to those which Norway, also a NATO member bordering that country, has with it. "This means that a common border with Russia and excellent relations at the same time are possible," he said. MS

HAVEL SAYS MOSCOW PREVENTED BABITSKII FROM ATTENDING FORUM 2000

Addressing participants in the Forum 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000) meeting on 16 October, President Vaclav Havel said that Russian authorities have prevented RFE/RL journalist Andrei Babitskii from attending the gathering, CTK reported. Havel also paid tribute to the recent victims of the Middle East conflict and said that in an age of "global responsibility" it is necessary to "get rid of the pride of reason." Humbleness, he said, is one of the main conditions for people to be able to face joint responsibilities in the face of "the miracle of being and our realization that we know nothing." MS

SLOVAK NATIONALISTS OPPOSE NATO MEMBERSHIP

Slovak National Party (SNS) Chairwoman Anna Malikova said on 16 October that her party is demanding that Slovakia's accession to NATO be approved in a national referendum. She said "billion of crowns of the taxpayers' money are being ineffectively used for the purchase of NATO military equipment that Slovakia does not need." That money, Malikova said, would be better used for education and aid to pensioners. "Maybe we shall become militarily strong and well equipped, but we will also be a sick and stupid nation, as education and health care will collapse," she commented. Malikova said even U.S. presidential candidate George W. Bush has recently said that it is "high time for Europe to solve its security problems independently" and added that "there are gratifying signs to the SNS that Europe is on its way to develop an independent security system," CTK reported. MS

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE VOTES TO STRIP SZEKELY OF IMMUNITY

The parliament's Immunity Committee on 16 October unanimously agreed to propose that the house lift the immunity of former Independent Smallholder parliamentary group member Zoltan Szekely, who is accused of blackmail and bribery by the Prosecutor's Office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 16 October, 2000). According to a letter addressed by Prosecutor-General Peter Polt to parliament, Szekely demanded 30 million forints ($100,000) from entrepreneur Daniel Balla. In return, Szekely agreed not to block a sewage project which Balla had won in a tender. Balla reported the matter to police, after which the Prosecutor's Office set up the 12 October meeting between the two and caught Szekely accepting the bribe. MSZ

DANUBE COMMISSION APPROVES CLEARING NOVI SAD BRIDGE DEBRIS

Ambassadors of the 11 countries represented in the Danube Commission, meeting in Budapest on 16 October, approved a project on clearing the river of the debris around Yugoslavia's town of Novi Sad, "Mediafax" reported. Yugoslavia has withdrawn its earlier objections to the project, and agreed to cooperate in the project financed by the EU. The bridges destroyed during last year's NATO bombings in Yugoslavia blocked transportation on the river, causing major losses for neighboring countries. MSZ




SERBIA TO HAVE A GOVERNMENT...

In Belgrade on 16 October, representatives of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) reached agreement with officials of former President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) on the composition of a transitional government for Serbia until the 23 December elections. According to the agreement, the SPS will name the prime minister, but the DOS and Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) will each select a deputy prime minister. Decisions will be reached by consensus between the three. The key justice, interior, finance, and information ministries will function on the same principle, as will a special commission for state television, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Of the remaining ministries, the SPS will hold 11, the DOS five, and the SPO five. Parliament will conclude preparations for the elections by 23 October. The SPO was marginalized in the 24 September elections and is unlikely to do any better in December. But it is nonetheless well represented in the outgoing Serbian parliament. PM

...BUT NOT YUGOSLAVIA?

Talks between the DOS and Montenegro's Socialist People's Party (SNP) broke down in Belgrade on 16 October after the SNP insisted that at least one SPS member be included in the federal government. The SNP was a close ally of Milosevic but has indicated in recent weeks that it is ready to do a deal with the DOS. The Montenegrin government, which includes bitter rivals of the SNP, refuses to recognize any federal government in which the SNP takes part (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000). Late on 16 October, DOS leader Zoran Djindjic arrived in Montenegro for talks with government officials. Kostunica arrived in Montenegro the following day. Elsewhere, Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic told "Pobjeda" that Montenegro will "continue on the road of independent statehood" if it cannot reach an agreement with Serbia. PM

SERBIAN CROWN PRINCE GREETS MINERS

Aleksandar Karadjordjevic told some 1,000 miners at the Kolubara complex on 16 October: "I admire you, the whole world admires you. You were the driving force that brought changes to this country," "Vesti" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000). He also told Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle that "my heart is in Serbia." Responding to calls by well-wishers for him to stay, Aleksandar replied that his goal is to eventually remain in Serbia. He stressed that his place "is with the people and not in politics," adding that he continues to study "the Serbian language" on a daily basis. Aleksandar was born during World War II in a London hotel that Prime Minister Winston Churchill's government declared Yugoslav territory for that day so that Aleksandar would not lose his claim to the throne. He was raised and educated in England and has spent most of his life as a businessman in the U.K. and U.S. He has repeatedly said that he is willing to accept the crown if the Serbian people want him to. PM

MILOSEVIC'S GENERAL PLEDGES LOYALTY TO NEW YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT

Chief of the General Staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic said in Belgrade on 16 October that "the election of the president, Mr. Kostunica, resolved the issue of supreme command over the army, which is of utmost importance for the military," AP reported. Pavkovic, who has never made a secret of his political loyalties to Milosevic, added, however: "No one in the Yugoslav army is against personnel changes, but they have to be carried out in accordance with the existing procedures, not arbitrarily. The only condition for someone to get to a certain position must be his expertise, not his political opinion." The DOS is firmly committed to depoliticizing the military as well as the police and the courts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2000). PM

EU MONEY FOR YUGOSLAVIA

Leaders of EU member states promised Kostunica at Biarritz, France, that they will provide some $175 million to Belgrade before the end of the year, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 16 October. PM

SERBIA'S MILOSEVIC TO GO TO JAIL FOR FRAUD?

DOS leader Zarko Korac said that Milosevic is likely to be tried in Serbia for fraud. He told a Croatian weekly that "the indictment will include [Milosevic's repeated] electoral fraud, and it is a great irony. The man who has done all this will go to jail because of rigging elections, because of ordering the police to fire on protesters... That is how the career of a dictator will end up--not as a huge crime but as simple fraud... Maybe there is some historic justice in Milosevic going to jail for fraud," Reuters reported from Zagreb on 17 October. PM

SLOVENIAN PRESIDENT HAILS ELECTION RESULTS

Milan Kucan told Ljubljana Radio 24-UR on 16 November that the previous day's parliamentary elections show that the country is not polarized into left and right camps (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000). He added that young voters also reject any division into "old" and "new" political parties. By this he presumably meant that they do not reject former communist officials or parties that emerged from the communist era. "Dnevnik" reported that the majority of the voters favored left or center-left parties, which would have won a clear majority of seats in the legislature if Slovenia did not have a system of proportional representation. PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT REBUKES HERZEGOVINIANS

Stipe Mesic told Herzegovinian Croat leader Ante Jelavic that the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina should seek to solve their problems within that republic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Jelavic had sought Zagreb's help in changing Bosnia's election laws. PM

CROATIA BLOCKS GERMAN TELECOM MONOPOLY

The state privatization commission has ruled against selling a 21 percent stake in Croatian Telecom to Deutsche Telekom, "Jutarnji list" reported on 17 October. The German giant already owns about a 35 percent interest in the Croatian firm. PM

OSCE CRITICIZES ALBANIAN RUN-OFF VOTE

The OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said in a statement in Tirana on 16 October that the campaign in the previous day's runoff local elections was marred by "nationalistic rhetoric" in the southern Himara region, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000). The statement said that "while the first round...marked significant progress towards meeting the standards for democratic elections, the second round on 15 October was less transparent and inclusive." ODIHR election monitoring mission head Eugenio Polizzi added, however, that any irregularities were not sufficient to influence the overall outcome. He nonetheless called on the Albanian authorities to investigate the irregularities fully. PM

DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION OF ROMANIA STILL FACING PROBLEMS...

National Peasant Party Christian Democratic Chairman Ion Diaconescu on 16 October said the newly-formed Democratic Convention of Romania 2000 (CDR 2000) will likely run in the parliamentary elections as an "electoral alliance" rather than as a "political alliance," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Diaconescu explained that the former is a "short-term" while the latter a "long-term" alliance. He said the decision stems from the fact that the CDR 2000 might have missed the deadline for registration by the Bucharest Tribunal (its registration has recently been contested by the extraparliamentary Generation 2000 Party). Electoral alliances do not need to be registered at the tribunal but are regarded as valid only for election purposes. On the same day, Union of Democratic Forces co-chairman Adrian Iorgulescu said that after the elections each CDR 2000 alliance member will "return to autarchy." MS

...AND PREMIER ISARESCU MIGHT START FACING THEM

Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu on 16 October admitted that the IMF may delay releasing the next $112 million tranche of the current $540 million standby loan because the government has not fulfilled the condition agreed with the fund to cut debts between state-owned companies and to keep wages under control. Isarescu said that he "cannot in good conscience" claim that his cabinet will be able to fulfill that condition "with elections due to be held in the fall." Observes say failure to get the tranche may affect Isarescu's chances in the presidential elections. One of his competitors, National Liberal Party candidate Theodor Stolojan, on 16 October said the recovery of Romanian economy is prevented by rampant corruption and that budget funds that could be used for financing education and health care are wasted on the debts owned by state-owned companies. MS

LUCINSCHI OPPOSES DISMISSING MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT

Presidential spokesman Anatol Golea said on 16 October that President Petru Lucinschi is opposed to dismissing the cabinet headed by Dumitru Braghis following the recent dispute between the government and the legislature over the privatization of the tobacco and wine industries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2000). Lucinschi urged lawmakers to agree to the privatization which, he said, is particularly important ahead of the planned visit to Chisinau by the IMF delegation. Golea said that Lucinschi "is not ruling out" early parliamentary elections and that although he opposes some of its provisions, the president will promulgate the law on the election of the head of state, because Lucinschi "always acts within the strict provisions of the law," Infotag reported. MS

BULGARIAN LEADERS REPEAT CALL FOR MILOSEVIC EXTRADITION

Bulgaria's leaders on 16 October called for Yugoslavia's inclusion in the Balkan Stability Pact but urged Belgrade again to comply with all UN Security Council resolutions, AP reported. President Petar Stoyanov and Prime Minister Ivan Kostov addressed a meeting of some 1,200 businessmen in Sofia that discussed investment projects in Southeastern Europe. Balkan Stability Pact Coordinator Bodo Hombach told the forum that the Yugoslav blockage of navigation on the Danube River will be lifted "as of today" and cited President Vojislav Kostunica, with whom he had met earlier (see above). MS

FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN BULGARIA GROWING

Foreign investment in Bulgaria since 1992 has reached $3.5 billion, of which $800 million is in 2000 alone. Foreign Investment Agency Director Georgi Tabakov said on 13 October that investment since 1997 has totaled $2.9 billion. The largest investor in 2000 are Italian companies, followed by Greece, Germany, and Belgium, though German companies head the list of investors for the 1992-2000 period, ahead of Belgian, Italian, and Greek companies, BTA reported. MS




NEW MOVES ON AN OLD CHESSBOARD


By Paul Goble

Tashkent's new willingness to recognize the Taliban as the Afghan government challenges Russian efforts to recoup influence in Central Asia as well as some widely held assumptions about the sources of Islamic fundamentalism there and elsewhere.

But because it does both of these things simultaneously, this latest Uzbek shift appears likely to rearrange many of the pieces on the chessboard of Central Asian geopolitics, calling old arrangements into question, opening the possibility for new ones, and possibly undermining his own position.

Speaking in Tashkent on 12 October, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said that he is ready to recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan. "It doesn't matter whether we like that government or not," he added. "The main criterion is whether the people of Afghanistan trust it."

If Uzbekistan eventually does take that step, Tashkent would become the fourth government around the world to do so, thereby reducing the isolation of a regime which controls 95 percent of Afghanistan's territory but which many believe sponsors terrorism.

But Karimov's remarks, a complete reversal of his position up to now, do not appear to be addressed primarily to the Taliban--although his foreign minister has acknowledged that Tashkent has had informal conversation with Taliban representatives.

Instead, Karimov's about-face appears directed in the first instance at Moscow and those Central Asian countries which are following its lead and also at Western governments which up to now have been his biggest supporters.

By announcing his willingness to recognize the Taliban, Karimov effectively rejects Moscow's entire effort to regain influence in Central Asia by positing an external fundamentalist threat to these countries that they can meet only with Russian aid.

The most recent of these Russian attempts came earlier last week when Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan as well as those of Armenia and Belarus to discuss a common response to Islamist threats.

The tenor of that Bishkek meeting was reflected in the comments of a Kyrgyz security official who argued that threats to the stability of the Central Asian countries are "external" rather than "domestic" and that they come "from Afghanistan."

And this same official added that the Russian Federation is "the core and the nucleus of regional security, around which other countries are consolidating" because they see Russian forces along the Tajik-Afghan border as an important deterrent.

Karimov not surprisingly stayed away from the Bishkek meeting, but his subsequent statement makes it clear that he rejects both Russia's diagnosis of the problems Central Asia faces and Russia's prescription as to how to deal with them.

Indeed, by adopting this new position on the Taliban, Karimov is challenging more than just Moscow's efforts. He is calling into question the view that Islamic fundamentalism is something that can be exported from one country to another.

That would put him at odds not only with Russia and his Central Asian neighbors but also with many Western governments on whom Karimov has relied to pursue his independent course. Almost all of them remain convinced that fundamentalism is an exportable phenomenon.

Moreover, some Western governments are likely to be especially concerned by the timing of his words. They came just as some suggested a link between the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole and Osama bin Laden, to whom the Taliban gave refuge.

And Karimov's shift could also have some important domestic ramifications if either his regime or its opponents should conclude that Tashkent's harsh approach to Islam is breeding the very Islamic fundamentalism for which the Taliban had been blamed.

In either case, that could lead to new challenges and changes in Uzbekistan and as a result of these to changes in its relationship with its neighbors, with Russia and with the West.


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