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Newsline - November 1, 2000




RUSSIA, FRANCE LOOK TO BROADER COOPERATION

Speaking to journalists on 31 October, the second day of his official visit to France, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the main result of his negotiations with French President Jacques Chirac was the confirmation that both sides will pursue a "policy aimed at broad cooperation," Interfax reported. Putin stressed that such cooperation also includes boosting economic ties. France currently occupies eighth place among Russia's trade partners, which, Putin noted, "clearly does not correspond to the capabilities and needs of either country." Russian deputy chief of the presidential staff Sergei Prikhodko told journalists that the issue of Chechnya "did not dominate" the talks between the two leaders. France has been a strong critic of Russia's latest campaign in Chechnya, and Russian-French ties have cooled since that campaign began last year. Other subjects on the agenda of the Putin-Chirac talks included the preservation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the situation in the Balkans and Yugoslavia, and the possible involvement of France and other EU countries in the Middle East peace process, of which Russia is a co-sponsor. JC

PUTIN TEMPTS FOREIGN INVESTORS WITH REFORM PLEDGES

Also on 31 October, President Putin met with a group of French businessmen to discuss investment opportunities in Russia. Putin declared that Russia has "come out against any redistribution of property" and is expending much effort to rid the economy of red tape, establishing "transparent and equitable rules" for all businesses, ITAR-TASS reported. With regard to future tasks, Putin stressed that among the most important are restructuring Russia's banking sector and reducing its tax burden: "We want taxes, duties, and social payments to be at a level that will allow the real sector of our economy and its basic branches to develop normally," he said. On the issue of judicial reform, Putin stressed that Russia's legal system must become independent from "central and regional executive authorities and from businesses." JAC

TRIAL OF ALLEGED U.S. SPY ADJOURNED FOR TWO DAYS

The Moscow City Court on 31 October suspended the espionage trial of U.S. businessman and former naval officer Edmond Pope after the defendant complained of acute joint pains. Pope has suffered from a rare form of bone cancer and since being detained in April has been examined only by Russian doctors. More recently, the court refused a request for another medical check-up and declined to include as evidence documents detailing the defendant's medical history (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 31 October 2000). The trial is scheduled to resume on 2 November. Meanwhile, U.S. State Department Richard Boucher said on 31 October that Washington believes that it is "imperative" that Pope undergo a medical examination and that the results be made available to Pope, his family, and the U.S. Embassy, an RFE/RL correspondent in the U.S. capital reported. JC

ARE DIVERS SEARCHING FOR BODIES OR SENSITIVE EQUIPMENT IN SUB'S THIRD COMPARTMENT?

Northern Fleet commander Admiral Vyacheslav Popov told Russian Television on 31 October that the operation to recover the remains of at least some of the 118 crew members of the sunken "Kursk" nuclear submarine has been switched to the vessel's third compartment because it was the "most-populated" of the submarine's compartments after the second one, Interfax reported. A decision on whether to search the fourth and fifth compartments will be taken once the third has been examined, he noted, adding that there is "no point" trying to enter the sixth, seventh, or eighth. He stressed that the only job of the divers is to recover bodies. Some experts, however, have said they believe the divers are now seeking to retrieve sensitive equipment and documents in the third compartment, which contained the submarine's control systems. AP quoted a retired Russian naval officer as expressing that point of view, saying that "there is both machinery and equipment [in the third compartment] that should not fall into foreigners' hands." JC

RUSSIANS PUTTING MORE MONEY INTO BANKING SYSTEM

Russian citizens' bank deposits in ruble and foreign currency accounts increased 31.7 percent during the first eight months of 2000 and totaled 420 billion rubles ($15 billion) as of 1 September, the State Statistics Committee reported on 31 October. Compared with the same time last year, the amount held in such deposits increased 50.5 percent. JAC

MAJOR REHAUL OF PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE PROPOSED...

"Segodnya" reported on 30 October that a group of State Duma deputies, including Viktor Pokhmelkin (Union of Rightist Forces), Sergei Ivanenko (Yabloko), and Valerii Grebennikov (Fatherland-All Russia), has prepared a new draft law on the Prosecutor-General's Office that would drastically alter its status. Pokhmelkin told the daily that the law would transfer from the prosecutor-general to the Justice Ministry the task of monitoring whether federal and regional power structures are implementing laws. In addition, the legislation would establish an office of special prosecutors that would be appointed by the parliament whenever there are reasons to suspect that the Prosecutor-General Office's cannot conduct an objective investigation. JAC

...AS INVESTIGATOR SAYS KEY DOCUMENT IN MABETEX CASE FORGED...

Ruslan Tamaev, a senior investigator at the Prosecutor-General's Office in charge of the Mabetex case, told Interfax on 31 October that documents from a bank account in Switzerland allegedly belonging to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and former Kremlin facilities directorate head Pavel Borodin have turned out to be forgeries. According to Tamaev, the Banco del Gottardo in Switzerland has confirmed that no such account ever existed. According to the agency, Tamaev declined to specify whether he is going to extend his investigation into the Swiss construction firm Mabetex's alleged provision of kick-backs to Kremlin personnel, which is scheduled to end on 8 November. An article written by Oleg Lure about the Banco del Gottardo account appeared in "Versiya" on 27 May 1995, the website, http://www.lenta.ru, reported. JAC

...AND USTINOV WINS PARTIAL COURT VICTORY AGAINST NTV

A Moscow court on 31 October ruled partly in favor of Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov in his suit against NTV and its general director and anchorman Yevgenii Kiselev, Interfax reported. Ustinov had objected to an NTV report aired in the middle of September that raised doubts about whether Ustinov could be objective in the Mabetex affair since he was indebted to Borodin for the latter's help in procuring both his job and an apartment in Moscow. The reports also cast doubt on the legality of the way the apartment was obtained. The court declined to comment on whether Ustinov's apartment was obtained legally but deemed that parts of the broadcast defamed Ustinov. NTV's lawyer told the news agency that the station will appeal the court's decision. JAC

SECURITY COUNCIL CHIEF POOH-POOHS IDEA OF MAJOR MEDIA LEGISLATION CHANGES...

Speaking to journalists in London on 31 October, Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov said that he does "not see the need for a major change to legislation on mass media which is already in place," Reuters reported. He added that "the Security Council is for full freedom of speech, people's right to access information, and even punishment for those deliberately concealing information from the people." Ivanov's comments follow the release of the now notorious information security doctrine and statements by one of its authors, deputy head of the Security Council's Information Security Department Anatolii Streltsov, that the current law on the media might require major changes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2000). JAC

...ENDORSES POSSIBLE RUSSIAN COOPERATION WITH EU RAPID REACTION FORCE

Ivanov told the same press conference that Russia is willing to consider military cooperation with the EU if the latter proceeds with plans to establish an international rapid reaction force. Russia's possible contribution to such a force had been discussed the previous day in Paris at the EU-Russian summit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2000). "We see [the rapid reaction force] as one outlet of possibly joining forces on security issues in Europe, because many European countries are not in fact NATO members," Ivanov commented. JC

NOVEMBER SECURITY COUNCIL MEETING EXPECTED TO DETERMINE FORCE CUTS

Interfax reported on 31 October, citing unidentified sources in the Defense Ministry, that the size of reductions in the armed forces personnel will be finalized at a session of the Security Council in November, which will be chaired by President Putin. In September, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev announced that by 2003, Russia's armed forces will be trimmed by about 350,000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2000). According to the agency's sources, some 365,000 troops could be cut, including 240,000 officers. Thirty percent of those officers would be majors, lieutenant colonels, or colonels, and more than 380 generals would lose their positions. JAC

CHINA TO BUY AWACS SYSTEM FROM RUSSIA?

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 1 November that Russia and China are to conclude an agreement during Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's upcoming trip to Beijing on the sale of a Russian airborne warning and control system. According to the newspaper, China asked Russia this summer to sell it upgraded A-50 airplanes after a deal with Israel for such a system had fallen through under intense pressure from Washington. The report did not say how many planes Beijing wants to buy, but it quoted the Moscow Instrumentation Research Center as saying that each plane would cost $180-200 million. The report added that it would likely take three years to make necessary changes to the upgraded system. JC

CHECHEN SUICIDE BOMBER FAILS TO KILL INTERIM ADMINISTRATION HEAD

Russian security officials said on 1 November that they had advance knowledge of a suicide bombing that took place in Gudermes earlier that day. The perpetrator pulled the pin from a hand grenade after Russian troops closed in on him. There were no other casualties. The putative target of the attack, interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, was not in Gudermes at the time. On 30 October, the pro-Moscow police chief in Vedeno, Said Bisultanov, was gunned down at his home, ITAR-TASS reported. Bisultanov's deputy, Shamil Azaev, died in a drive-by killing at his home in mid-September. LF

ROCKET LAUNCHER PERFORMS SELF-TEST?

Four short-range rockets from a Grad launcher were fired without authorization on 30 October, Radio Rossii reported. According to the government radio station, the rocket engines ignited spontaneously at a storage depot. Two workers in the depot at the time were injured, one seriously. The radio station reported that according to one preliminary theory, the firing might have been triggered by a spark from a light switch. Russian Television reported that one rocket exploded on the spot, while two were found nearby unexploded. As of 30 October, the whereabouts of the fourth rocket was still unknown. JAC

ELECTRICITY SUPPLIERS CUT OFF TELEVISION, RADIO, AND BOSS'S SPEECH

The electricity supplier in Primorskii Krai, Dalenergo, cut off electricity supplies to the city's radio and television center on 31 October because of unpaid bills totaling 20 million rubles ($719,000), RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported. Residents were deprived of all radio and television broadcasting for three hours. A representative of the krai's branch of the All-Russia State Television and Radio Company called Dalenergo's action illegal, since the company's broadcasts are considered of national strategic importance. According to ITAR-TASS, Dalenergo head Yurii Likhoida was holding a press conference when the cut-off occurred. He had been explaining that his company wanted to halt energy supplies to telecommunication facilities but was not planning to do so just yet. JAC




ARMENIA, BELARUS SEEK TO EXPAND TRADE

Visiting Belarusian Prime Minister Uladzimir Yarmoshyn and his Armenian counterpart, Andranik Markarian, signed five bilateral agreements in Yerevan on 31 October aimed at boosting bilateral trade and cooperation in taxation, science and tourism, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Bilateral trade turnover stood at $2.7 million in 1999 and is projected to reach $4.5 million this year; the two premiers hope to raise that figure to $8 million in 2001. Yarmoshyn said Belarus is particularly interested in importing pharmaceutical products from Armenia and in selling trucks, tractors, and other heavy machinery in return. Yarmoshyn also said that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka will visit Armenia during the first half of next year. A comprehensive treaty on friendship and cooperation will be signed during that visit. LF

POPULARITY OF AZERBAIJAN'S RULING PARTY PLUMMETS

The findings of two opinion polls made public on 31 October indicate that, at least in Baku, the opposition Musavat Party is the most popular, Turan reported. Of 500 people questioned between 21-29 October in Baku, 24 percent expressed the hope that the Musavat party will win the 5 November parliamentary poll, while only 20 percent want a victory for the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party. A second poll of 817 people who said they will participate in the ballot indicated that 47 percent intend to vote for opposition candidates and only 22 percent for candidates from the ruling party. Some 26 percent said they will vote for Musavat and 21 percent for Yeni Azerbaycan. A second poll conducted by the Meridian analytical group and summarized in the independent daily "Sharq" on 31 October established support for Musavat at 29.8 percent. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT MEETS WITH U.S. OFFICIALS

Stephen Sestanovich, who is advisor on CIS affairs to the U.S. Secretary of State, and U.S. Minsk Group co-chairman Carey Cavanaugh met with Heidar Aliyev in Baku on 31 October to discuss U.S.-Azerbaijani relations, regional security and the 5 November parliamentary elections, Turan reported. The two U.S. diplomats also met the same day with Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiev. On 30 October, Aliyev told two staffers of the U.S. Senate International Relations Committee that Azerbaijan wants closer cooperation with the U.S. but that some U.S. officials have what he termed a "biased" view of Azerbaijan, Interfax reported. LF

GEORGIAN PROSECUTOR GENERAL COMMENTS ON ITALIAN JOURNALIST'S MURDER

Djamlet Babilashvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 31 October that he, too, believes that Italian journalist Sergio Russo may have been murdered because he had proof that Russian forces are using banned chemical weapons in Chechnya, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian Greens chairman Giorgi Gachechiladze had suggested that possibility last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2000). Babilashvili said that a video believed to corroborate that hypothesis was found to be missing from Russo's belongings after his death. LF

CHECHEN REFUGEES LEAVE GEORGIA TO RETURN HOME

Of the 7,000 Chechens who fled to Georgia after the beginning of hostilities 13 months ago, at least 2,000 have left Georgia over the past few months, Caucasus Press reported on 31 October, citing the Georgian Border Guard Department. Some 70 percent returned to Chechnya, while approximately 20 percent travelled to Azerbaijan or other countries. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT IMPLICATED IN REPRISALS AGAINST DEMONSTRATORS

Former architecture professor Arken Uaqov has published a book accusing President Nursultan Nazarbaev of playing a key role in crushing the protest demonstrations in Almaty and other cities in December 1986 against the election of ethnic Russian Gennadii Kolbin as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported on 31 October. Uaqov was sentenced to four years in a labor camp for his role in the December 1986 protests but was pardoned in 1994. In 1986 Nazarbaev was chairman of the Kazakh SSR Council of Ministers. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S CABINET ASSESSES ECONOMIC TRENDS...

Addressing a cabinet session in Astana on 31 October, Kazakhstan's Premier Qasymzhomart Toqaev warned that the impressive economic growth the country is currently registering is not yet irreversible, Interfax reported. He said that Kazakhstan's economy is growing faster and social problems being resolved more quickly than in other CIS states, including Russia. He added that a balanced budget is "within reach." Economic Minister Zhaqsybek Kulekeev told the session that industrial production increased by 15.4 percent during the first nine months of the year compared with the same period in 1999; output in the mining industry grew by 21.1 percent, in the iron and steel industry by 25 percent, the non-ferrous metals sector by 15.3 percent, and the oil and gas sector by 15.7 percent. Kulekeev predicted that economic growth will slow slightly next year, with GDP expanding by 4-5 percent and industrial output increasing by 8 percent year-on-year. LF

...ANTICIPATES INCREASE IN OIL EXTRACTION

Kulekeev also told his cabinet colleagues on 31 October that it should be possible to increase oil production in 2001 to 37-40 million metric tons from this year's anticipated 30 million tons, according to Interfax. But he added that that increase is contingent on increasing the throughput capacity of the Atyrau-Samara pipeline to15 million tons per year and on completion of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium pipeline on schedule by the third quarter of next year. LF

DEFEATED KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL CHALLENGER SAYS POLL OUTCOME WAS FALSIFIED...

Opposition socialist Ata-Meken Party chairman Omurbek Tekebaev said in Bishkek on 31 October that the results of the 29 October presidential poll in Bishkek were falsified, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Tekebaev claimed that businessman Almaz Atambaev received 33.3 percent of the vote, incumbent Askar Akaev 32.7 percent, Tekebaev 20.3 percent and Kairan-El party candidate Melis Eshimkanov 4.1 percent. Tekebaev said only 13 percent of the city's electorate participated in the vote. AP on 31 October quoted Emil Aliev, a member of Tekebaev's campaign staff, as saying that police had detained three of Tekebaev's campaign supporters in Talas Oblast and that seven more are missing. LF

...AS HIS SUPPORTERS LAUNCH PROTESTS...

Some 3,000 people blocked the main Bishkek-Osh highway in the town of Bazar-Korgon (Djalalabad Oblast) on 31 October for the second consecutive day to protest the outcome of the 29 October presidential poll, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The protesters claim that the results were falsified and that Tekebaev, who was born in Bazar-Korgon, was elected president. Tekebaev flew to Djalalabad on 31 October to ask the protesters to disperse, but they refused to do so, insisting on their constitutional right to elect a candidate other than Akaev. According to official returns, Akaev was re-elected president with 74 percent of the vote. LF

...AS U.S. INSTITUTE DELIVERS ANOTHER NEGATIVE ASSESSMENT

The National Democratic Institute issued a report in Bishkek on 31 October that criticized the conduct of the presidential poll as failing to meet international standards or Kyrgyzstan's commitments to the OSCE, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The report noted the exclusion from the ballot of prominent opposition candidates, pressure on voters to cast their ballot for the incumbent, interference by local authorities in the election process, and propaganda on behalf of the incumbent by most media outlets. LF




MINSK TEACHERS THREATEN STRIKE OVER SALARIES

More than 20,000 teachers in Minsk have signed an appeal to the government demanding higher salaries, "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" reported on 1 November. The teachers are threatening to go on strike unless the government meets their demand by the end of this year. The newspaper said the monthly salary of a teacher beginning his/her career in Minsk is 14,500 Belarusian rubles ($14). "Change the outdated course of the economic development of our state, provide development opportunities for industry, agriculture, and business, and you will obtain more means for education, science, culture, and health care," the Minsk teachers advised the government in their appeal. JM

UKRAINE, RUSSIA 'PRACTICALLY' CONCLUDE BORDER DELIMITATION

Ambassador at Large Yuriy Kostenko, chief of the Ukrainian delegation to the border delimitation talks with Russia, told journalists on 31 October that the delimitation of the Ukrainian-Russian frontier has "practically" been concluded, Interfax reported. Kostenko said some 30 sections of the border in Rostov Oblast (Russia) as well as Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts (Ukraine) remain to be determined. He added that the sides must demonstrate "particular caution" with regard to these sections since they are in densely populated areas. According to Kostenko, an agreement on the delimitation of the Ukrainian-Russian land frontier may be ready for signing in the summer next year. Kostenko admitted that Kyiv and Moscow currently differ on how to determine the maritime part of their border in the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait. JM

ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS HUNGARY

Mart Laar was in Budapest on 31 October to meet with his Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orban. The two leaders noted that their countries have made progress toward EU integration and hope that concrete decisions will be made during Sweden's presidency in such areas as agriculture, environment, and free movement of the work force. They underscored that admission of new members into the EU must be based on objective criteria, even if this results in fewer candidates winning entry in the first round of enlargement, BNS reported. Laar and Orban also discussed the establishment of a new foundation to investigate the crimes of communism, whose headquarters would probably be located in Tallinn. SG

LATVIAN PRESIDENT VISITS BRITAIN

In talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on 31 October, Vaira Vike-Freiberga received support for Latvia's efforts to join the EU and NATO, LETA reported. Blair stressed the importance of Latvia's maintaining a dialogue with other candidate states and the so-called "troika" of the previous, current, and future EU presidency states. During her official visit, which began on 26 October, Vike-Freiberga met with British armed forces commander Charles Guthrie and Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, who reaffirmed Britain's support for Latvia's integration into NATO. On 31 October she told Minister for European Affairs with the British Foreign Office Keith Vaz that Latvia will be ready to join the EU and NATO on 1 January 2003. SG

LITHUANIA, BELARUS AGREE TO STEP UP PROTECTION OF JOINT BORDER

Belarusian Army State Border Committee Chairman Lieutenant General Aleksandr Pavlovsky was in Vilnius on 30 October to discuss with Commander of the Lithuanian Border Police Department Algimantas Songaila the situation at the Lithuanian-Belarusian border as well as the demarcation of that border, ELTA reported. The following day, the officials signed a protocol calling for the conclusion by the end of this year of an agreement on the activities of border commissioners. They also agreed to hold joint operations to combat smuggling and illegal migration. SG

POLAND'S SPEAKER URGES 'DECISION' IN SOLIDARITY BLOC CRISIS

Parliamentary speaker Maciej Plazynski on 31 October said "there is no reason to put off a decision that should have been made a long time ago," PAP reported. Plazynski was commenting on Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) leader Marian Krzaklewski's proposal to hold an AWS congress in March to transform the group into a federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2000). According to Plazynski, the proposed congress's date is too late. "One who forwards such a proposal is dragging on talks without any chance of reaching an end," Plazynski noted. Three parties in the AWS coalition are demanding that Krzaklewski step down. The OBOP polling center found in mid-October that 27 percent of Poles would like Plazynski to become the new leader of the AWS, while 14 percent said Krzaklewski should retain the post. JM

CZECH NATIONAL BANK GOVERNOR RESIGNS

President Vaclav Havel on 31 October accepted the resignation of Josef Tosovsky as governor of the Czech National Bank and said he will name a replacement within a month, CTK reported. Tosovsky, a former Czech prime minister, resigned one day after Havel vetoed a bill that many observers suggested would have limited the independence of the bank. But Tosovsky said that he had resigned for personal reasons to become chairman of the Financial Stability Institute in Switzerland. PG

TEMELIN NUCLEAR PLANT CONTROVERSY HEATS UP

As Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman met with Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel to discuss the fate of the nuclear power station that has sparked controversy between the two countries, Czech officials announced on 31 October that they have approved stepping up the power production of the Temelin plant, CTK reported. A commentator on Austrian radio said that this action constitutes an "insult" to Austria. Meanwhile, a poll conducted by STEM/MARK found that 85.9 percent of Czechs support having an independent group of international experts determine if the plant is safe, the Czech news agency said. PG

ROMANY HOLOCAUST PLAQUE UNVEILED

The Committee for Compensation for the Romany Holocaust unveiled a plaque at a Mirovice cemetery on 31 October in memory of the 189 Roma who were killed by the Nazis there during World War II, CTK reported. PG

MOST CZECHS UNHAPPY WITH POLITICAL SITUATION

A poll conducted by the Czech Institute for Public Opinion Research has found that 66 percent of Czechs are dissatisfied with the country's political situation, CTK reported on 31 October. Only 30 percent said they are happy with it. PG

PRIEST BEATIFICATION PROCESS LAUNCHED IN CZECH REPUBLIC

The Catholic Church has begun the process for the possible beatification of Czech priest, author, and communist-era political prisoner Jan Urban (1901-1991), CTK reported on 31 October. PG

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT CUTS LENGTH OF MILITARY SERVICE

Lawmakers on 31 October voted overwhelmingly for a bill that would cut the term of compulsory military service from 12 to nine months, AP reported. Meanwhile, the colonel who mistakenly called on soldiers to swear their loyalty to the "Slovak Socialist Republic" has offered his resignation, the wire service said. PG

SLOVAK REFERENDUM UNLIKELY TO ATTRACT ENOUGH PARTICIPANTS

Only 37 percent of Slovaks say they will participate in an 11 November referendum on early parliamentary elections called for by Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), according to a poll cited by CTK on 31 October. If 50 percent of the electorate does not take part, this referendum, like earlier ones in Slovakia, will not be valid. PG

HUNGARIAN MUSEUMS APPEAL ORDER TO RETURN ART

Two Hungarian museums and the State Treasury have appealed a court decision ordering that some of the art treasures seized by the Nazis during World War II be returned to their rightful owner, Martha Nierenberg of New York, AP reported. PG




REFORMISTS WALK OUT OF GOVERNMENT MEETING IN PROTEST

Reformists walked out of a meeting of Serbia's transitional government on 31 October over a refusal by members of ousted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialists to dismiss the head of state security, Reuters reported. Nebojsa Covic, a deputy premier from the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, and Spasoje Krunic, a deputy premier from the Serbian Renewal Movement, said they will not resume working with the government until Serbian state security chief Rade Markovic leaves his post. Krunic said Socialist Premier Milomir Minic announced at the meeting that Markovic will not be removed from office because his leaving is not a part of the agreed upon power-sharing deal, forged to create a transitional government until elections can be held. Krunic said Markovic's dismissal is an important part of the deal and that Minic has gone back on his word. Serbian President Milan Milutinovic is scheduled to meet with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica on 1 November to discuss the issue. Meanwhile, Balsa Govedarica, the head of the Serbian Supreme Court, and Dragisa Krsmanovic, Serbia's chief public prosecutor, offered their resignations, as demanded by Kostunica's supporters. PB

HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP ACCUSES SERBIAN SECURITY SERVICE OF EDITOR'S MURDER

The Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) on 31 October accused the Serbian state security service of last year's murder of Slavko Curuvija, the owner and editor in chief of the daily "Dnevni Telegraf," Reuters reported. The HLC said it received a document from the state security service revealing that undercover surveillance of Curuvija was being organized by Belgrade state security chief Milan Radonjic. The report, the HLC said, stated that the undercover agents "were withdrawn a few minutes before Curuvija was gunned down by three men." The HLC has filed a criminal complaint against the Serbian and Belgrade state security heads. "Dnevni Telegraf" was banned in 1998 by the government "for spreading fear, panic, and defeatism," but it re-registered itself in Montenegro. PB

SECURITY COUNCIL RECOMMENDS YUGOSLAV UN MEMBERSHIP

The UN Security Council endorsed Yugoslavia's application to join the UN as a new member, AP reported. The recommendation goes to the General Assembly for formal approval, perhaps as soon as 1 November. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke said "this is a great day for democracy in the Balkans, in Europe, and a great day for the UN." Bosnia-Herzegovina's UN ambassador, Muhamed Sacirbey, said his country will be among the co-sponsors of the resolution to admit Belgrade to the world body, where its membership has been suspended since 1992. Sacirbey said: "We believe that this is indeed a momentous occasion. It resolves at least one outstanding [issue] among us." PB

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT WILLING TO TALK TO KOSOVAR LEADERS

Kostunica said on 31 October that he is willing to meet with ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova and other elected leaders from Kosova but warned that calls for the province's indepedence could be "very dangerous" for the Balkans, Reuters reported. Kostunica said in Oslo after a meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg that "I am open to all sorts of contacts with [ethnic] Albanian leaders." Asked if he would speak with former rebel leader Hashim Thaci as well as with Rugova, he said he would talk "to whoever it's necessary." Kostunica added, "I think that independence for Kosovo would be very dangerous for stability in the region," saying it would be problematic not only for Yugoslavia but perhaps for Macedonia. He called the results of the elections "monoethnic" since the huge majority of Serbs boycotted the vote. Norway said it will end all sanctions against Yugoslavia. PB

GERMANY APPROVES RESTORING TIES TO BELGRADE

The government of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in a statement on 1 November that it has agreed to restore diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia, dpa reported. The statement said Germany "is supporting the democratic change in Belgrade and signalling future support for Yugoslavia from Germany." No date for the resumption of relations was given. PB

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT PLEADS FOR INDEPENDENCE

Milo Djukanovic said on 31 October that a union between Serbia and Montenegro as two internationally recognized and independent states is the best solution to the republics' disagreement on reforming the Yugoslav state, AP reported. Djukanovic, speaking on Montenegrin television, said both republics have a "historical right" to independence and "have functioned as independent states for several years." Djukanovic said that "no one consulted Montenegro when applying for UN membership. The federation of Yugoslavia no longer exists...this is a fact." But he added that Podgorica will not interfere with Belgrade's efforts to join the UN as Yugoslavia. PB

KOSOVAR ALBANIAN ACTIVIST URGES SERBS TO ACCEPT INDEPENDENT KOSOVA

Adem Demaci, a long-time Kosovar Albanian activist, said in Belgrade on 31 October that Serbs must recognize the province's new reality and accept its independence, AP reported. In his first visit to Belgrade in more than a decade, Demaci said "there is no going back" and "any solution that avoids recognition and acceptance of an independent Kosova is doubtful and can only be temporary." Demaci, 64, spent 28 years in Yugoslav prisons. PB

MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN LEADER PRAISES KOSOVA ELECTIONS

Arben Xhaferi, the head of Macedonia's largest ethnic Albanian political party, the Democratic Party of Albanians, said on 31 October that the election in Kosova will help normalize the situation in the Balkans, Reuters reported. Xhaferi said "this election is a great contribution to normalization of the political situation in the region and in Kosova." Xhaferi said Ibrahim Rugova's party won the election because "people in Kosova were voting mostly for political icons rather than mayors and Rugova fit the image best." Some 22 percent of Macedonia's citizens are ethnic Albanians. PB

CROATIA TO JOIN WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION THIS MONTH

WTO Director-General Mike Moore said in Geneva on 1 November that Croatia will be admitted to the organization on 30 November as its 140th member, AP reported. The Croatian government ratified the membership agreement on 31 October and membership is granted 30 days thereafter. Lithuania, Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia are among 30 other countries waiting for approval to join the WTO. PB

GENERAL ACCUSED OF CARRYING OUT MASSACRES AT SREBRENICA

UN war crimes prosecutors on 31 October confronted Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic on the role he played in the 1995 massacres at Srebrenica, in which thousands of Muslim men and boys were executed, Reuters reported. Krstic said he was busy capturing the nearby town of Zepa while the massacres were taking place. But prosecutor Peter McClosky showed a document from Krstic ordering units to the area around Srebrenica. Krstic, 52, has been charged with genocide for carrying out orders to execute Muslims. He says that he did not take command of the Bosnian Serb Drina Corps until 10 days after it seized Srebrenica and that army chief Ratko Mladic was in control of the Srebrenica operation. PB

ROMANIAN ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF RESIGNS

General Mircea Chelaru resigned on 31 October, Romanian media reported. Four days earlier, Chelaru had said at a press conference that "mafia-type groups" engaged in organized crime are interested in maintaining a weak state. He also referred to the problem of "autonomy and local government" in the southeastern region of Dobrogea and south Oltenia, where he claimed an "enclave" will be formed. He named Interior Ministry and Romanian Information Service officials as sources for that claim, noting that the matter has been discussed by Romania's Supreme Defense Council. But a press release from President Emil Constantinescu's office denied that there is any threat to the country's integrity or security and stated that the Supreme Defense Council has not discussed these problems. Constantinescu has named General Mihail Popescu as Chelaru's successor. ZsM

SENATE CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO INVESTIGATE ROMTELECOM PRIVATIZATION

The Romanian upper house on 31 October adopted a resolution calling on the government to "analyze the fairness and legality" of the privatization of the former Romanian telecommunication company, Romtelecom, Romanian media reported. The Senate asked the government to issue within 30 days an emergency ordinance obligating all companies with monopoly positions to alter their tariffs, but only if those changes are approved by the Competition Council. ZsM

SWEDEN ASKS ROMANIA FOR ARBITRATION OVER $4 BILLION DEBT

Romanian State Minister Mircea Ciumara on 31 October announced that the Swedish government has asked Romania to accept international arbitration over the issue of Romania's debts toward Sweden. Stockholm thereby repeated its claim for $3.8 billion damages for a 1929 loan Romania took from Sweden, interest on that loan, and the value of Swedish properties nationalized by the communist regime. Ciumara has held talks with Romanian parliamentary parties to seek a solution to the problem. ZsM

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT TO SET DATE OF PRESIDENTIAL VOTE

Following the promulgation of the law on presidential elections, the parliament will set the date for the ballot sometime between 1 December and 15 January, BASA-Press reported on 31 October. President Petru Lucinschi's mandate expires on 15 January. PG

SOME MOLDOVAN SCHOOLS MAY CLOSE IN WINTER

Some 120 of the country's 1,439 secondary schools may be forced to close this winter because of a lack of fuel to warm the rooms or because of a lack of funds to repair the school buildings, BASA-Press reported on 31 October. PG

HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT BACKS BULGARIAN MEMBERSHIP IN EU, NATO

Ferenc Madl told Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova in Budapest on 31 October that the rapid entrance of Bulgaria into the EU and NATO is in the best interests of Hungary, BTA reported. His comments came on the sidelines of the 46th annual assembly of the Atlantic Treaty Association in the Hungarian capital. Meanwhile, Josef Gruver, the representative of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Bulgaria, told BTA that Bulgaria should part with its role of Romania's "Siamese twin" in its drive to join Europe. He said that Bulgaria has done much better than Romania in recent years and should not allow itself to be held back by assessments of the other country's progress. PG

BULGARIAN TRADE INCREASES, BUT FOREIGN INVESTMENT FALLS

Bulgaria continued to run a trade deficit during the first eight months of 2000, even though its foreign trade increased by some 20 percent over the same period last year, BTA reported. However, direct foreign investment in Bulgaria during the same period fell by 9 percent over the same period a year earlier, totaling $366.4 million. PG




THE POLITICS OF HONORIFICS


By Paul Goble

A decision by a European academic organization to award Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov an honorary degree for his commitment to democracy calls attention to the ways in which such honorific titles are used and abused on the international scene.

The European Academy of Information Sciences, based in Brussels, last week announced that it will present Niyazov with a grand doctor of philosophy degree for his "significant contribution to the theory and practice of state structures" and his promotion of "democratic regulation of social processes at the turn of the millennium."

The award has raised eyebrows around the world among those who are aware of Niyazov's record as leader of Turkmenistan. Niyazov has banned opposition groups, closed the country's academy of sciences, downsized universities, barred all persons who are not 100 percent pure Turkmen from higher education, and sought to exercise total control over his society. Questions are now being asked about how it is possible that any international organization could give Niyazov such an award or bring itself to describe him as committed to democratic change.

The answer is surprisingly simple. Organizations from universities and non-governmental organizations to international bodies like the UN regularly hand out such awards to foreign leaders. It is the way in which international business gets done.

From the point of view of the organizations that make such awards, this practice gains them broader media coverage than they might otherwise receive and even attracts the attention of those to whom they give awards. Indeed, many organizations may make such awards precisely to be in a position to advance their own agendas with the recipients.

And sometimes that strategy works. Some leaders who receive awards actually have tried to live up to the honor they have received, changing their policies or at least becoming more open to the possibility of such changes.

But many recipients regularly abuse this process. And Niyazov's record suggests that he is very likely to do precisely that. Indeed, when he was named an "intellectual genius" by a UN body earlier this year, he made sure that the media in Turkmenistan devoted significant attention to that epithet.

Moreover, like many of his predecessors, Niyazov appears certain to claim that this award shows that his critics at home and abroad are wrong, that he is in fact the "democratic" leader he regularly proclaims himself to be. And thus he is likely to argue that organizations at home and governments abroad should stop trying to pressure him and his regime to change.

Even more, there is the danger that the Turkmen leader may conclude that he has a free hand and will treat his own population in an even more authoritarian manner. At the very least, he almost certainly will take any future criticism of his actions less seriously than might otherwise have been the case.

But the most significant impact of such awards to those who would not appear to qualify for them lies elsewhere. Such misplaced honors have the effect of draining the meaning of the words like "democracy" and thus increasing public cynicism about such terms and the principles for which they stand.

In Turkmenistan and elsewhere, many people are likely to conclude that democracy has no real meaning if Western institutions are prepared to describe Niyazov in that way. And if Turkmens and others reach that conclusion, they are likely to be significantly less prepared to work for it.

That, in turn, almost certainly will reduce the chances for the spread of human freedom not only in Turkmenistan but elsewhere as well. And it also may have the effect of making those in the societies where such awards are given less confident about what their countries stand for and thus less willing to contribute to the growth of democracy in places that have known little of it up to now.

If that happens, the apparently innocent use of such an honorific will tend to undermine not only the level of human freedom today but make it less likely that there will be more freedom in the future.


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