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Newsline - November 27, 2000




RUSSIA SEEKS WIDER COOPERATION OVER MID-EAST PEACE PROCESS...

Addressing a conference in Berlin on 25 November, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov proposed that Russia, the U.S., the EU, and the UN work together in a bid to resolve tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians. Moscow will "take an active role" in seeking to resolve the conflict, Ivanov said, but he added that "we are not seeking an exclusive role in the Middle East settlement, as we believe that...joint efforts of the entire international community are needed today to stop the violence...and resume the negotiating process," ITAR-TASS reported. Ivanov also proposed deploying "international observers or an international presence" in the Middle East, saying that Russia would support any such presence that was acceptable to both sides in the conflict. The Russian foreign minister acknowledged that Moscow has not come up with a solution to resolve the conflict but is willing to work with other countries to find one. Russia and the U.S. are co-sponsors of the Middle East peace process. JC

...AS PUTIN GETS ARAFAT TO SPEAK WITH BARAK

The previous day in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin arranged for visiting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to speak on the telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. According to AP, this was the first conversation between the Palestinian and Israeli leaders in three weeks. Barak's spokesman was quoted as saying that Arafat promised to do everything in his power to put an end to the violence in Israeli territories under Palestinian jurisdiction, while Barak agreed to reopen Israeli-Palestinian liaison offices (those offices had been closed on 23 November when a bomb planted at one of them killed an Israeli soldier). Arafat praised Russia's role as a co-sponsor of the Middle East process, saying that the importance of that role was shown by the "three-way [telephone] conversation" between himself, President Putin, and Prime Minister Barak. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 November that Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami has postponed a visit to Moscow that was scheduled to take place on 27 November. A new date for that visit has not been determined, according to the news agency. JC

RUSSIA TO REVIVE MILITARY COOPERATION, ARMS SALES WITH IRAN...

Following an article in the "The Washington Post" on 22 November, a number of Russian newspapers reported on 24 November that a few days before the U.S. presidential election on 7 November, Russia informed Washington that on 1 December 2000, Russia will withdraw from its earlier commitment not to supply Iran with conventional arms. According to "Vremya novostei," some Russian government officials have complained that by leaking the secret 1995 memorandum of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission on Russian arms sales to Iran, the U.S. has already violated the agreement. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," on the other hand, notes the primary reason for reviving military cooperation with Iran is not anger at the U.S. but the realization that the agreement caused Russia huge economic losses. JAC

...AS RUSSIA REJECTS U.S.

ULTIMATUMS. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" also reports that analysts with the Foreign Intelligence Service convinced the Kremlin and Foreign Ministry that "the advantages of resuming full-fledged arms sales to Iran would outweigh all negative consequences of the decision." An unidentified senior defense industry official told "Vremya novostei" that preliminary calculations show that any harm done by future U.S. sanctions will be outweighed by the gains from supplying military hardware to Iran. On 23 November, Clinton administration officials warned that if Russia withdraws from the memorandum restricting arms sales to Iran, the U.S. might respond with economic sanctions against Russia, Reuters reported. Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov responded that "the language of sanctions is not the kind of language you can use with Russia." He added that Russia is rigorously abiding by agreements not to provide weapons of mass destruction. If any country has concerns, he said, "we are willing to engage in a dialogue in order to remove such concerns." JAC

KHATAMI MAY VISIT MOSCOW EARLY NEXT YEAR

Interfax on 25 November quoted unidentified diplomatic sources in Moscow as saying that Iranian President Mohammad Khatami is expected to visit Russia during the first half of 2001 and that his visit might take place "closer to the beginning of the year." The meeting between the Iranian and Russian presidents will be aimed at consolidating "friendly and neighborly relations" and giving "new impetus to bilateral cooperation in different spheres," those sources said. During the UN Millennium summit in September, Russian President Putin had invited Khatami to visit Russia. JC

KAZANTSEV CONFIRMS TALKS UNDER WAY WITH CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER

"Kommersant-Daily" on 24 November quoted Russian presidential envoy to the South Russia federal district Viktor Kazantsev as saying that his aides are conducting talks with Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev, AP reported. But Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev rejected Kazantsev's claim as "nonsense." Interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov had earlier said talks were under way with Gelaev on the latter's possible surrender. LF

CAMERAMAN GUNNED DOWN IN CHECHNYA

Adam Tepsurgaev, a freelance Chechen cameraman who had worked in the past for Reuters, was shot dead by Chechen-speaking gunmen at his brother's home in Alkhan-Kala late on 21 November, Russian agencies reported. LF

GUDERMES MAYOR SURVIVES ANOTHER ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT

Unidentified gunmen opened fire late on 23 November on the jeep of Gudermes mayor Malika Gezimieva, injuring her driver and son, ITAR-TASS reported. Gezimieva was not travelling in the vehicle at the time. She suffered minor injuries on 6 November when her car was damaged by a remote-controlled land-mine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 2000). LF

CHECHEN TEACHERS BEGIN TO RECEIVE WAGE ARREARS

Teachers and doctors in Chechnya have received some of their salary arrears, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 November. A Chechen government official said that the Russian government has allocated some 16.6 million rubles (some $59,000) to pay teachers and a further 9.3 million for medical personnel. Chechnya's teachers had begun a republic-wide strike on 15 November, but abandoned it after Kadyrov promised in a TV speech that wage arrears would be paid over a period of two-three months beginning on 20 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 2000). LF

CABINET GIVES PRELIMINARY OKAY TO 20-YEAR ENERGY PLAN

Energy Minister Aleksandr Gavrin told reporters on 23 November that the Russian cabinet has supported a draft energy plan for Russia up to 2020. Under that draft plan, Russia would invest some $700 billion to introduce energy-efficient technologies and to increase the production of oil, natural gas, electricity and coal, ITAR-TASS reported. Annual oil output would total 360 million tons by 2020, natural gas 700 billion cubic meters, coal 400 million tons, and electricity 1620 billion kilowatt-hours. Some 80 percent of the $700 billion would come from revenues from higher energy prices. Commenting on the plan, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that "given economic growth and the accompanying 20 percent increases in energy consumption by 2020," the urgency of Russia's energy problem will grow. According to Gavrin, the energy plan will be fine-tuned and resubmitted to the government within three months. JAC

FINANCE MINISTRY STILL USING CONSIDERABLE DISCRETION DISTRIBUTING BUDGET FUNDS

A review by the Audit Commission of the implementation of the 2000 federal budget during the first three quarters of this year shows that while revenues are rising, tax collection remains low and the government is still not distributing budget funds on time or in full, "Vremya MN" reported on 23 November. According to the daily, the Audit Commission claims that 50 percent of all companies and organizations registered with the state either do not apply for tax registration or do not bother to present their accounts. The commission also found that despite higher-than-expected revenues, the Finance Ministry provided courts with only 56.1 percent of their planned funding, while only 20.5 percent of the allotted funds went to international activities and 58.7 percent to the media. National defense fared comparatively better, receiving 88.7 percent of its funds, while a category known only as "other expenses" was allotted 186.3 percent of funds. JAC

FIRST SENATOR ABANDONS FEDERATION COUNCIL...

Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov told reporters on 24 November that he is resigning his membership in the Federation Council as of 1 January, ITAR-TASS reported. Ayatskov, who is also a member of the newly formed State Council, said that his colleagues in the upper legislative chamber have reacted to his resignation coolly. Deputy speaker of the Federation Council Oleg Korolev, for his part, told the agency that "state responsibilities should not be trifled with." JAC

...AS PUTIN REAFFIRMS STATE COUNCIL'S STATUS AS CONSULTATIVE GROUP...

At the first full session of the State Council on 22 November, President Putin, who chaired the session, declared that the council "could be a springboard for preparing and formulating decisions important for the fate of the entire state." He also said that at the next session of the council's Presidium, the "key problem" of land ownership will be addressed. The same day, Prime Minister Kasyanov said he believes the council "may propose a balanced way to settle" the land issue, the public discussion of which "has [previously] been monopolized by extreme views." "Novye izvestiya" noted the next day that while Putin may have called the council a "political body of strategic importance," council members heard nothing about how or if their decisions will be implemented. JAC

...AND COUNCIL PROPOSES TWO CHOICES FOR NATIONAL ANTHEM

Addressing the council on 22 November, St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev said that the presidium's members have listened to the eight songs suggested for Russia's national anthem and decided to propose two of them, the current anthem by Mikhail Glinka and the anthem of the Soviet Union composed by Aleksandr Aleksandrov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2000). According to Yakovlev, new words would be written for the Aleksandrov melody. Yakovlev also stated that the State Duma would make the final choice about the anthem. He added that contrary to some news reports, President Putin has so far expressed no preference with regard to the various melodies proposed. According to "Izvestiya" on 23 November, the Unity, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Communist, and Fatherland-All Russia factions and Russian Regions and the People's Deputy groups all support Aleksandrov's music, while the Union of Rightist Forces and Yabloko object to it. JAC

COURT REJECTS RUSSIAN NAVY CIVIL SUIT IN POPE CASE

The Moscow City Court on 24 November rejected a civil suit that the Russian Navy had brought against Edmond Pope, the U.S. businessman currently standing trial on charges of espionage. The navy's anti-submarine weapons department had demanded that if Pope is found guilty, he should pay some $252 million in damages allegedly incurred by Pope's having acquired the blue-prints of the "Shkval" high-speed underwater torpedo. The court ruled that the civil suit should have been filed before the criminal trial began. The previous day, the court threw out one volume of the eight-volume indictment on the grounds that the discarded materials related to witnesses who have not been called to testify in court. JC

INCUMBENT LEADS POLL IN KURGAN

Governor Oleg Bogomolov won the first round of gubernatorial elections in Kurgan Oblast on 26 November, garnering some 44 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results reported by the regional election commission. Local entrepreneur Nikolai Bagretsov, who received some 22 percent backing, will also take part in the run-off in two weeks' time. Turnout was low, at 46 percent, in a region where some 70 percent of voters usually take part in such ballots, according to ITAR-TASS. JC

RUBLE SHOWS REAL GROWTH AGAINST DOLLAR

The ruble grew 11.3 percent in real terms against the U.S. dollar during the first nine months of 2000, Interfax reported on 23 November, citing the government's information department. In nominal terms, the ruble slipped 2.8 percent against the U.S. dollar during the first three quarters of this year. JAC

STATE MONOPOLY ON CAVIAR PRODUCTION PROPOSED

Presidential envoy to the Southern federal district Kazantsev has proposed the introduction of a state monopoly on caviar production and exports in 2001, "Vedomosti" reported on 24 November. Deputy Chairman of the State Fishing Commission Vladimir Izmailov said that the committee supports his proposal and has already prepared a draft resolution for the government. The daily cites the Caspian Research Institute of Fisheries as estimating that 10,000 tons of sturgeon were poached in the north Caspian basin this year, while the official combined catch of Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan was only 700 tons. According to "Segodnya," the sturgeon population in the Caspian and Azov Seas has declined from 15 million in 1994 to 4 million in 2000. JAC




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT AMENDS ELECTION LEGISLATION

Following a two-day debate, deputies voted by 95 to five to adopt in the first reading an amendment to the election law that increases from 56 to 94 the number of seats in the 131-person legislature allocated under the party-list system, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 22 November. It is unclear, however, when the amendment will take effect: while several minority factions argue that the amendment should take effect immediately, the majority Miasnutiun faction wants its implementation delayed until 2003, when the present parliament's mandate expires. LF

AZERBAIJANI AUTHORITIES BAN PLANNED OPPOSITION RALLY

The Baku municipal administration on 23 November withdrew oral permission given earlier to the Union of Azerbaijani Forces, which unites the Vahdat, Namus, and Social-Democratic Parties, to stage a rally in the city on 25 November to protest the falsification of the outcome of the 5 November parliamentary election, Turan reported. Representatives of the Democratic, Liberal, and Azerbaijan National Independence Parties and of the reformist wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHCP) had also planned to attend that protest. On 22 November, Azerbaijan's Constitutional Court approved the election results for 88 of the 99 single-mandate constituencies but ordered new elections in the remaining 11, Interfax reported. According to Turan, 79 of the 88 deputies elected figured on the list made public by Social Justice Party leader Matlab Mutallimli in October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2000). LF

TWO AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTIES SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT

The leaders of the Azerbaijan National Independence Party and the reformist wing of the AHCP, Etibar Mamedov and Ali Kerimov, have signed a five-point cooperation agreement, Turan reported on 24 November. That agreement is aimed at having the election results canceled and new elections called. It also specifies the unification of opposition forces as a goal. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN RE-ELECTED

Murtuz Alesqerov was re-elected speaker of Azerbaijan's parliament by a vote of 100 to one when the new legislature met for its first session on 24 November, Turan and Reuters reported. Analysts had anticipated that President Heidar Aliev's son Ilham would be named speaker. Opposition deputies boycotted the session, with the exception of Musavat party member Vahid Samedoglu, who told Turan that his responsibility to those who voted for him did not permit him to comply with the opposition's call for a boycott. An emergency session of Musavat's steering committee expelled Samedoglu from the party later the same day. LF

EARTHQUAKE IN AZERBAIJAN CLAIMS 26 LIVES

At least 26 people died and almost 300 were injured when an earthquake hit Azerbaijan late on 25 November. Most of the casualties were in Baku. President Aliyev criticized the country's seismological service the following day for failing to respond fast enough to the emergency. He said the quake caused no "large-scale destruction." LF

ITERA BEGINS GAS DELIVERIES TO AZERBAIJAN

The gas export corporation ITERA began supplying natural gas from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan on 23 November, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. Deliveries should have begun in early November but were delayed because Russia's Customs Committee had not issued the permit required for transit across the Russian Federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2000). LF

GEORGIA REJECTS RUSSIAN CONDITIONS FOR DROPPING VISA REQUIREMENT...

Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili told the Georgian parliament on 25 November that during his talks with Russian officials in Moscow earlier in the week the latter had spelled out the conditions under which Moscow is prepared to drop its insistence on a visa regime for travel between the two countries, Caucasus Press reported. The Russian demands are that Georgia adopt a "neutral" position in the Chechen conflict, accede to the Eurasian Economic Community created last month on the basis of the CIS Customs Union, moderate its negotiating position on the closure of the Russian military bases in Georgia, and take into consideration Russia's interests in the export of Caspian oil and gas. It is not clear whether the latter requirement means that Russia wants Georgia to pull out of the Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline project. Menagharishvili told deputies that while Tbilisi is interested in "constructive dialogue" with Russia, it will never agree to such demands. LF

...AS DEPUTIES PROPOSE THAT GEORGIA SHOULD QUIT CIS

Reacting to Menagharishvili's remarks, several deputies proposed on 24 November that Georgia should withdraw from the CIS, Caucasus Press reported. That proposal was supported by Union of Traditionalists leader Akaki Asatiani, National Democratic Party leader Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia, and majority Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) faction member Irakli Gogava. Revaz Adamia, who heads the SMK faction, said he would not rule out the possibility of Georgia's quitting the CIS. But Menagharishvili told journalists the following day that doing so is not in Georgia's interest. LF

FIRST DEPUTY PREMIER DISMISSED IN KAZAKHSTAN

Interfax on 23 November quoted the presidential press service as saying that President Nursultan Nazarbaev had fired Aleksandr Pavlov from the post of first deputy prime minister in connection with another, unspecified appointment. Pavlov, who is 47, had occupied that post since September 1996; he had also served as finance minister from 1994-1998, according to Reuters. On 22 November, government press secretary Rasul Zhumaly told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service that Pavlov is on vacation and will not return to work before the end of November. The Kazakh press had reported several days earlier that Pavlov had fled to Russia after Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev rejected his voluntary resignation. According to a second, as yet unconfirmed report, Pavlov has been appointed director of the giant KazakhMys copper smelter. LF

AUTHOR OF BOOK ON CORRUPTION IN KAZAKHSTAN BROUGHT TO TRIAL

The trial of Temirtas Tleulesov, author of a book detailing official corruption in that city, opened in Shymkent on 23 November, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Tleulesov is accused of propagating "false materials." His son was arrested earlier last week on charges of illegal timber-felling. LF

JOURNALISTS IN KAZAKHSTAN DISCUSS AMENDMENTS TO MEDIA LAW

Several hundred representatives of electronic media met in Almaty on 23 November to assess the probable impact of new restrictions on broadcasting foreign programming, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. Amendments to the existing law proposed by the cabinet earlier this month reduce to 20 percent the proportion of all air time that may be devoted to the retransmission of foreign programs. Independent radio and television stations that rely heavily on rebroadcasting Russian-language materials may be forced to reduce their air time. Qaraghandy journalist Aleksandr Zharkov complained to the meeting that it is "almost impossible" to find professional journalists who are fluent in Kazakh. LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER'S SENTENCE CUT

The Bishkek City Court on 24 November slashed the prison terms it handed down in September to eight men found guilty of plotting to assassinate President Askar Akaev, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2000). Topchubek Turgunaliev, who was found guilty of masterminding the alleged plot, had his sentence commuted from 16 to six years, while his codefendants' sentences were reduced from 16-17 years to 4-5 years. But the court upheld its original ruling on the confiscation of all the defendants' property. The eight men intend to appeal the court ruling and demand their acquittal. LF

KYRGYZ AUTHORITIES PLAN NEW ROUND TABLE WITH OPPOSITION

Presidential administration official Arslan Anarbaev told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on 24 November that the country's leadership plans to hold another roundtable discussion on the political situation in late December. The Kyrgyz authorities, the opposition, the media and NGOs will each send 21 representatives to that forum. The OSCE office in Bishkek will also send a representative. Opposition parties and NGOs boycotted an earlier roundtable in June after the authorities increased the number of participants at the last minute (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 June 2000). LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT FAILS TO LIFT MORATORIUM ON LAND OWNERSHIP

The People's Assembly--the upper house of the Kyrgyz parliament--twice failed on 23 November to abrogate the five-year moratorium on the private ownership of land imposed after the electorate voted in favor of that measure in a referendum in late 1998, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Deputies began debating the issue on 22 November, but both votes the following day were invalid. Interfax on 23 November quoted Communist Party leader Absamat MasAliyev as claiming that the Kyrgyz government is under pressure from the IMF to abrogate the moratorium. LF

AFGHAN REFUGEES KILLED IN FIGHTING ON AFGHAN-TAJIK BORDER

An unknown number of Afghans fleeing the fighting in northern Afghanistan were killed by artillery fire in southern Tajikistan during the night of 26-27 November, Reuters reported. In related news, Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Erlan Idrisov on 23 November denied that Kazakhstan has offered the U.S. the use of bases on its territory to launch air strikes against Afghanistan, Interfax reported. Also on 23 November, Interfax reported that Turkmen presidential envoy and former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov was to travel to Beijing for talks on the situation in Afghanistan. LF

TURKMEN OFFICIALS SACKED FOR POOR COTTON HARVEST

Touring the eastern provinces of Mary and Lebap on 22-23 November, President Saparmurat Niyazov fired dozens of local officials for failing to meet the planned cotton harvest targets, Reuters and Interfax reported. The country's total yield this year was 1.03 million tons, short of the 1.3 million target (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2000). Niyazov also criticized leaders in Mary for deploying women and children to help harvest the cotton crop. LF

TURKMENISTAN TO INCREASE GAS SALES TO IRAN

The co-chairmen of the Turkmen-Iranian bilateral commission for economic cooperation, Turkmen Deputy Premier Khudaikuly Khalykov and Iranian Transport Minister Mahmoud Hojjati, initialed an agreement in Ashgabat on 25 November on supplies of Turkmen gas to the Iranian border town of Daragaz, ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking two days earlier at the commission's fifth session, Hojjati also expressed interest in increasing transit transportation between the two countries. Bilateral trade turnover for the first nine months of this year totaled $214 million, compared with $229 million for the whole of 1999. LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT VISITS ITALY

On a two-day official visit to Rome and Venice on 22-23 November, Islam Karimov met with his Italian counterpart, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, and had a short audience with Pope John Paul II, Interfax reported. Six inter-governmental agreements were signed during the visit, including one by Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov and his Italian counterpart, Lamberto Dini, on cooperation in combating terrorism and organized crime. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SACKS TOP SECURITY OFFICIALS

Alyaksandr Lukashenka has dismissed KGB Chairman Uladzimir Matskevich, Security Council Chairman Viktor Sheyman, and Prosecutor-General Aleh Bazhelka, Interfax reported on 27 November. Presidential spokesman Mikalay Barysevich told Reuters that those officials were fired "in connection with transfers to other jobs." He added, however, that he does not rule out that "this reaction by the president reflects his dissatisfaction that many important [investigation] cases have dragged on for too long without justification," Barysevich added. Leanid Yeryn, chief of the presidential security service, is new KGB head, while Foreign Minister Ural Latypau has been appointed Security Council secretary and presidential aide Mikhail Khvastou is to take over the foreign portfolio. The Charter-97 website commented that Lukashenka has accomplished "yet another state coup." The website noted that key posts in Belarus are now in the hands of "Russia's open proteges in Lukashenka's entourage." Belarus's premier, deputy premiers, power ministers, a number of deputy ministers, and speaker of the Chamber of Representatives are all Russian-born. JM

CHORNOBYL SHUTS DOWN--FOREVER?

The Chornobyl nuclear power station's only reactor shut down on 27 November owing to power-line failures. Vadym Hryshchenko, acting director of Ukraine's Atomic Energy Agency, told Reuters that the reactor may not be turned back on given that it is to be shut off for good on 15 December. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VISITS TURKEY...

Leonid Kuchma visited Turkey on 22-24 November to hold talks with Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Turkish Premier Bulent Ecevit, Interfax reported. Kuchma also addressed the Turkish parliament and a forum of Turkish businessmen and met with Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew I. Kuchma and Sezer signed agreements on the exchange of information on nuclear accidents, cooperation between the Justice Ministries, and protection of defense industry information and materials. They also agreed to raise the volume of annual bilateral trade to $2 billion. JM

...SLAMS PREMIER FOR 'BIGGEST MISTAKE' IN ENERGY SECTOR

Kuchma told journalists in Ankara on 24 November that the "biggest mistake" of Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet was to switch to cash payments for energy supplies from Russia. "When we know that we do not have enough cash to pay for energy resources from Russia, making such a decision means acting against national interests," Interfax quoted Kuchma as saying. By agreeing to cash payments for energy supplies, Kyiv has lost Russian markets for Ukrainian goods, he added. JM

UKRAINE'S RUKH UNITES OR SPLITS EVEN FURTHER?

Some 600 delegates from grass-root organizations of the two wings of Rukh--the Popular Rukh of Ukraine, led by Henndiy Udovenko, and the Ukrainian Popular Rukh of Yuriy Kostenko-- set up a political party called Popular Rukh of Ukraine for Unity at a congress in Kyiv on 25 November, Interfax reported. The new party is led by parliamentary deputies Bohdan Boyko, Eduard Krech, and Heorhiy Filipchuk. According to Boyko, the aim of the party is "to make both Rukhs unite" and propose a single list of Rukh candidates in parliamentary elections. Neither Udovenko's nor Kostenko's faction sent official delegations to the congress. JM

EU RELEASES ECONOMIC FORECASTS FOR BALTIC STATES

The European Commission on 22 November predicted that Estonia's GDP will increase by 6.2 percent this year, the largest increase among the 13 countries applying for EU membership, and by 6.3 percent in 2001, BNS reported. The corresponding GDP growth forecasts for Latvia were 3.6 percent and 4.5 percent and for Lithuania, 2.3 percent and 3.2 percent. Lithuania, however, was predicted to have the lowest inflation rates: 1.0 percent this year and 2.5 percent in 2001. The corresponding figures for Estonia were 3.8 percent and 2.8 percent and for Latvia 3.4 percent and 3.9 percent. SG

LATVIA AMENDS CORPORATE INCOME TAX LAW

The Latvian parliament on 23 November amended the law on corporate income tax in a bid to encourage large investment projects, BNS reported. Those investing more than 10 million lats ($15.97 million) in less than three years will be entitled to a 40 percent corporate income tax reduction for 10 years after that investment. The break, however, does not apply to investments in industries where there is a monopoly or to investments enjoying tax benefits under the law on foreign direct investment. SG

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT VISITS GERMANY

Valdas Adamkus began a five-day working visit to Germany on 23 November by meeting with Brandenburg Prime Minister Manfred Stolpe, who expressed support for Lithuania's accession to the EU. The next day, Adamkus met in Berlin with German Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse and European commissioner in charge of EU enlargement Guenter Verheugen, BNS reported. Verheugen praised the reform measures taken by former Premier Audrius Kubilius and noted that Lithuania's EU membership talks are progressing at a good pace. In a speech at the European Forum, organized by the Herbert Quandt Foundation, Adamkus urged that EU candidate states also be allowed to express their opinions about the future structure of the EU. He also met with Finnish President Tarja Halonen on 25 November and flew to Munich the following day for meetings with Bavarian business and local government representatives. SG

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS WARSAW

Igor Ivanov visited Warsaw on 22-23 November to hold talks with his Polish counterpart, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, and with Premier Jerzy Buzek and President Aleksander Kwasniewski. "Without exaggeration, we are on the threshold of a qualitative change in our relations. It is the strategic will of Russia," Reuters quoted Ivanov as saying. No documents were signed during Ivanov's visit. On 22 November in Warsaw, Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo and his Polish counterpart, Marek Biernacki, signed an accord on establishing a Polish-Russian police force to deal with grave offenses and organized crime and agreed on border cooperation program for 2001. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW NATIONAL BANK GOVERNOR

Vaclav Havel on 24 November appointed Zdenek Tuma as governor of the National Bank, AP reported. Tuma replaces Josef Tosovsky, who resigned earlier this month. Tosovsky's resignation made it possible for Havel to appoint a new National Bank governor before the law giving that right to the government goes into effect on 1 January 2001. Prime Minister Milos Zeman responded that Havel "must accept full responsibility for this decision, which may lead to a worsening of the Czech economy." MS

CZECH PREMIER, SCHUESSEL TO MEET IN VIENNA

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan told journalists in Sochaux, France, on 23 November that Prime Minister Zeman and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel will meet "near Vienna" on 12 December and that there is hope that the meeting will result in "essential progress" in the bilateral relations between the two countries, CTK reported. Kavan said he believes the issue of the Temelin nuclear power plant can be solved "in the foreseeable future." MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT PROMULGATES LAW FORBIDDING MULTI-PARTY MEMBERSHIP

Rudolf Schuster on 23 November signed a recently-passed amendment to the law on political parties. The amendment prohibits membership in more than one party and may affect, among others, Premier Mikulas Dzurinda, who is chairman of both the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) and the recently-established Slovak Democratic Christian Union, AP reported. On 25 November, the Slovak Democratic Party of Slovakia (SDSS) decided to continue talks on a merger with the Party of Civic Understanding (SOP) but to hold parallel discussions on a merger with the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL), CTK reported. In the 1998 elections, the SDSS ran as a SDK member and had three deputies elected. MS

HUNGARY'S SOCIALISTS RE-ELECT CHAIRMAN

The congress of the opposition Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) has re-elected Laszlo Kovacs as party chairman, Hungarian media reported on 26 November. It also elected Katalin Szili as deputy chairman, a new post established last year, and Ferenc Juhasz and Ildiko Lendvai as the party's two vice presidents. Under a resolution passed by the delegates, the party's steering board will set the date for nominating an MSZP candidate for the premier's post. The next Hungarian elections are scheduled for 2002. Kovacs said he will resign as the party's parliamentary group leader. MSZ

CEI MEETING IN BUDAPEST RE-ADMITS YUGOSLAVIA

Meeting in Budapest on 25 November, the heads of government of the 16 countries of the Central European Initiative readmitted Yugoslavia to the organization. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica did not attend the summit owing to the increased tensions at the Kosova-Serbian border, but Serbia was represented by Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic, who met with his Hungarian counterpart, Janos Martonyi, to discuss a bilateral free trade agreement. Participants in the meeting also discussed the establishment of new Euro regions, the development of economic infrastructures, and border cooperation. MSZ




ETHNIC ALBANIANS FLEE SERBIA FOR KOSOVA

Some 1,200 ethnic Albanians fled the Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac region of southwestern Serbia for Kosova on 26 November, according to the UNHCR office in Prishtina, London's "The Guardian" reported. Several hundred ethnic Albanians had left Serbia for Kosova in previous days. Refugees said that they fled following a recent buildup of Serbian police and army forces in the area. They added that many more Albanians wanted to leave but were prevented from doing so by Serbian forces. On 27 November, one Albanian was killed and several injured when their tractor hit a land mine in the Presevo area, Reuters reported. PM

SECURITY COUNCIL WARNS ALBANIAN MILITANTS

Tensions have grown in southwestern Serbia following the recent killing of three Serbian policemen by members of the ethnic Albanian Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2000). On 23 November, the UN Security Council condemned the killings and called for a thorough investigation and for the killers to be punished, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The UCPMB regards itself as the defender of the region's ethnic Albanian population. It declared a unilateral cease-fire over the weekend. The Serbian view is that the UCPMB is an illegal organization of "terrorists and separatists." PM

SERBIA GIVES NATO DEADLINE

Serbian Democratic Opposition leader Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 23 November that the tense situation on the border between Serbia and Kosova could lead to a "real war," the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. In Zagreb the following day, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica called Kosova "the biggest problem in Europe," "Vesti" reported. The Serbian Interior Ministry said in a statement that NATO must stop "terrorists" from entering Serbia from Kosova by the evening of 27 November, AP reported. If the infiltration and attacks continue, Serbian police will enter the 5-kilometer buffer zone along the border with Kosova "with the means that are available," Bozo Prelevic said. He is one of three interior ministers in the transitional Serbian government. On 27 November, however, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said near Bujanovac that the deadline is "simply postponed" indefinitely to give diplomacy a chance. AP reported, however, that a military buildup is under way on either side. NATO has called on the two sides to show restraint. PM

YUGOSLAV LEADER CALLS FOR TALKS...

Kostunica said in Belgrade on 25 November that "solutions imposed from the outside will bring nothing good to Kosovo or Serbia or Yugoslavia or the Balkans. That is why I think it is necessary to start a dialogue. I am convinced that a solution can be found," AP reported. He called on moderate ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova to open talks on the future of Kosova. Kostunica wants Kosova to remain part of Serbia, while all ethnic Albanian parties seek independence. The next day in Mitrovica, local Serbian leader Oliver Ivanovic endorsed the idea of Serbian-Albanian talks. He stressed, however, that Albanian leaders should first discuss the situation in the Presevo region with officials of the international community, the EU, NATO, and the U.S., RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

...EXPRESSES CONCERN FOR STABILITY

Kostunica said in Belgrade on 26 November that it is necessary for Serbian officials to preserve human life in the Presevo region and to avoid provocations, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He stressed that Serbia must observe its international obligations and engage in dialogue with the international community, KFOR, and the UN administration in Kosova, as well as with what he called those people among the Kosova Albanians who are ready to talk. The next day in Vienna, he said that the current tensions could "set the region ablaze," Reuters reported. He added that "it is crystal clear that KFOR and UNMIK (the UN administration in Kosovo) have failed to do their part of the job properly." Observers suggest that the Presevo tensions could undermine Kostunica's political position at home and abroad in the run-up to the 23 December Serbian parliamentary elections. Such difficulties for Kostunica could, in turn, benefit former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his Socialists. PM

MODERATE POLITICIAN KILLED IN KOSOVA

An unknown gunman or gunmen killed Xhemail Mustafa in Prishtina on 23 November, a UN spokesman said. Mustafa was a well-known journalist and aide to Rugova, AP reported. PM

SERBIAN LEADER CALLS FOR COURT CASE AGAINST MILOSEVIC

Zoran Zivkovic, who is a vice president of Djindjic's Democratic Party and Yugoslav interior minister, said in Belgrade on 26 November that legal charges should be brought against Milosevic for "spreading false news and for slander," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Zivkovic argued that Milosevic's description of the current Yugoslav leadership as "traitors and mercenaries" at his Socialist congress the previous day constituted grounds for a lawsuit. The congress elected Milosevic party president (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2000). Officials of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal and the U.S. government subsequently criticized the public appearance of Milosevic, who is an indicted war criminal, and called for his arrest. PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT HAILS BALKAN SUMMIT

President Stipe Mesic said in Zagreb on 24 November that the one-day summit between the EU and western Balkan leaders showed that "Europe is our destiny" and that "this common Europe is going to rule out war as a political approach," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2000). He stressed, however, that "it is an illusion even to talk about normalizing relations [with Belgrade]...as long as there is no full cooperation with the UN [war crimes] tribunal." Mesic described protests against the summit by several hundred right-wing opponents of the government as "hiccups." The protesters had expected several thousand demonstrators to join them. PM

EU SAYS DOOR IS OPEN TO NEW MEMBERS

Leaders of the EU signed a "stabilization and association agreement" with Macedonian officials at the 24 November Zagreb summit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2000). The EU representatives also told representatives of all the countries of the region that the door to EU membership is open to them. Brussels will make $4 billion in economic aid available to the region and admit some 95 percent of its agricultural and industrial products duty free. French President Jacques Chirac said, however, that "we expect something in return," AP reported. Javier Solana, who is the EU's chief spokesman for foreign and security affairs, said that what Brussels wants is "good neighborliness, demilitarization of the region, development of regional infrastructure, economic cooperation, [as well as] cooperation against transnational challenges--illegal immigration, organized crime, [and] money laundering." PM

YUGOSLAV LEADER CLAIMS SPECIAL ROLE WITH EU

Kostunica told participants in the 24 November Zagreb summit that "Europe" must take the lead in Balkan affairs and not yield the main role there to an unnamed "outside power," as it did in the 1999 Kosova crisis, the BBC reported. He added that "we are now on the threshold of a lasting peace among member states of the former Yugoslavia, and this offers my country and the EU an opportunity to rise to the task of envisaging a future of true peace in Europe," AP reported. After returning to Belgrade, Kostunica told reporters that Yugoslavia currently "is closer to the EU than is any other country of the region," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He did not elaborate. The next day, he and Romano Prodi, who heads the EU Commission, signed an agreement in Belgrade paving the way for talks leading toward a stabilization and association agreement between Yugoslavia and the EU. PM

MANY QUESTIONS STILL OPEN AFTER BALKAN SUMMIT

Chirac told the 24 November Balkan summit that "it is in the interest of everybody that [those who committed war] crimes be tried and punished," AP reported. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said, however, that Belgrade "must be given time to achieve political stability" before the EU calls on it to bring war criminals to justice. Bernard Kouchner, who is the UN's chief civilian administrator in Kosova, said that EU leaders no longer support his proposal for general elections in the province in the spring, Reuters reported. He stressed that the failure to hold elections will serve to alienate Kosova's ethnic Albanian majority, whose political leaders demand that the province's political status be settled soon. Kouchner also accused unnamed EU leaders of "ignoring" UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which provides the legal basis for his administration, and of seeking a new, unspecified regional agreement. PM

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR REFERENDUM

Milo Djukanovic told the Zagreb summit on 24 November that for all practical purposes, Montenegro is now an independent country, Hina reported. He added that he expects his government to hold a referendum on independence within the first six months of 2001. Djukanovic argued that it is a fiction to maintain that a united Yugoslav state exists. He called instead for Belgrade and Podgorica to redefine their relationship proceeding from the "fact" that they are two independent states, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

NO RECOUNTS NECESSARY IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA

Bosnian Serb President-elect Mirko Sarovic said in Moscow on 24 November that he supports the Dayton agreements, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2000). But Sarovic, who won the presidency outright in the first round, added that he believes that some "finishing touches" are needed for the agreements, particularly regarding the right of refugees to return to their pre-1992 homes and reclaim their property. PM

EARLY ELECTIONS FOR MACEDONIA?

Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said in Skopje on 26 November that he does not rule out early elections following the recent threat by Deputy Prime Minister Vasil Tupurkovski to leave the governing coalition, Reuters reported. Georgievski called for parliament to meet on 28 November to replace the five cabinet members of Tupurkovski's Democratic Alternative. PM

ROMANIANS VOTE FOR THE PAST AND FOR EXTREMISTS

Preliminary results of the 26 November presidential and parliamentary elections confirm pollsters' predictions and several exit polls suggesting that former President Ion Iliescu will face extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM) leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor in a runoff. With more than 39 percent of the votes counted, Iliescu has a 36.5 percent lead over Tudor's 29 percent. Iliescu's Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) appears set to become the largest party in the new parliament (37 percent), followed by the PRM (20-21 percent). The Democratic Party came third with 7.5 percent, according to the preliminary results, but exit polls indicated that the PNL (6.9-7.3) will occupy that position. The Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) received 6 percent support, while the Democratic Convention of Romania 2000 has been ousted from the legislature. MS

LIST OF SECURITATE INFORMERS PRODUCES SURPRISES

The National Council for the Study of the Former Securitate Archives on 22 November released a partial list of parliamentary candidates who were informers of the communist-era secret police. The council said it has not yet completed screening the candidates of the Democratic Party and the PRM and that only candidates of those parties with the best electoral chances have been examined. Among those mentioned as an informer is PNL leader Mircea Ionescu-Quintus, who has rejected that accusation and said he will appeal the council's decision. Fourteen Democratic Convention of Romania 2000 candidates, nine candidates from the PDSR, four from the UDMR, three from the PNL, two each from the Democratic Party, the Alliance for Romania and from the PRM, and one from the National Alliance were said to have been either active informers, "informers whose activity cannot be proved by documentation," or members of the Securitate. MS

TWO TO COMPETE IN MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT

Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) leader Vladimir Voronin and Constitutional Court chairman Pavel Barbalat will compete in the Moldovan presidential elections on 1 December, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Voronin was chosen by his party on 23 November. He can count on the backing of 40 PCM deputies, but in order to be elected, Voronin must receive the endorsement of 61 lawmakers. Barbalat's candidacy was proposed by a coalition formed by the Democratic Party, the Democratic Convention of Moldova, and the Popular Party Christian Democratic and was endorsed by several independent deputies close to President Petru Lucinschi. Barbalat is estimated to have the support of between 50 and 60 deputies. If the parliament fails to elect a president after two rounds, Lucinschi can dissolve that body and call new elections. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT REPLACES FOREIGN, EDUCATION MINISTERS

President Petru Lucinschi on 22 November dismissed Nicolae Tabacaru as foreign minister in connection with the latter's appointment to another, unspecified post and appointed Nicolae Cernomaz to replace him, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Cernomaz, who is close to Lucinschi, has been ambassador to Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Meanwhile, former Education Minister Ion Gutu will return to his position at the Moldovan Pedagogical University. He is to be replaced by Ilie Vancea, a PCM member. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER ENVISAGES EARLY SOLUTION TO EU VISA DISPUTE

Prime Minister Ivan Kostov told the parliament on 23 November that he hopes the European Assembly will decide in March 2001 to lift visa restrictions on Bulgarians, Reuters reported. Kostov said he has received assurances in Brussels that Bulgaria's progress toward EU membership will not be judged by the success of "regional initiatives," nor would his country be "grouped with other countries in the Balkans"--an allusion to Romania. On 26 November, some 3,000 people demonstrated in Sofia against the visa requirement, AP reported. MS




REPORT WARNS OF MAJOR CLIMATE CHANGE IN EASTERN EUROPE


By Breffni O'Rourke

Earlier this month, an international conference in The Netherlands devoted to climate change could hardly have asked for more dramatic scenes to underscore the impact on mankind of unstable weather.

In the run-up to the summit in the Dutch city of The Hague, gales raced in from the Atlantic, bringing mountainous seas and tearing at Europe's western fringes. Flood waters engulfed wide areas of central and southern England, driving people from their homes. Meanwhile, other areas of the Continent enjoyed unseasonable mildness.

Not that this sequence of events is unique: November has always brought gales and rains, and sometimes sunshine. Rather, it is the changing combination of these phenomena in record or near-record doses that suggests the degree of climatic instability we are facing. Although there is no direct proof that any single weather disaster is the result of man-made global warming, the scientific community is increasingly convinced by indirect evidence of a linkage.

A new report, issued by British-led scientists and funded by the EU, suggests global warming will affect CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE in a number of ways starting around 2020. It says experimental models predict that temperatures in Europe will warm at a rate between 0.1 degree Celsius per decade and 0.4 degree per decade. This trend will be most marked in the northeast, including Western Russia and Finland, and in the Mediterranean region.

This means the north and center of the Continent, including the Baltic states, will experience milder winters and warmer though possibly wetter summers. This means northern plant and animal communities will come under increasing pressure as habitat conditions change. And agriculture will have to make adjustments.

One of the scientists contributing to the report, Helsinki-based Tim Carter, told RFE/RL that "it's quite possible that different types of crops could be grown in northern regions than are grown at present...and there may also be over the longer term a shift in tree distribution, broad leaf trees replacing the current evergreens that are grown in northern parts towards the Arctic Circle. On the other hand, one might also expect new pests and diseases of these species also to move northwards, so it is not all positive."

Such rapid change would bring with it a need for the re-education of farmers and foresters, as well as much experimentation, some of it likely to be painful. And there might be other drawbacks. "Some of the crops that are grown in the northern and central regions of Eastern Europe, as the temperatures rise..., might actually experience a drop in crop yield," Carter said. "This is because crops such as wheat and barley will mature more rapidly, under a climate warming, which is detrimental to yield."

In the far south and southeast of Europe, the developments because of climate change are projected to be almost entirely negative. The report estimates that hotter summers will be more frequent, resulting in increased air pollution in cities. Water will be scarcer as rainfall decreases, while forest fires will be worse. And because of the excessive heat, seashores may lose much of their recreational appeal. Diseases could increase significantly, and agriculture could be severely affected. "Certainly the prospect of drying in the summer half of the year is likely to worsen the problems of soil impoverishment, desertification, salinization, particularly where irrigation is used," according to Carter.

It's not clear from the climate models used to compile the report just how severe these impacts would be on states north of the Mediterranean rim, such as Bulgaria. They, too, can be expected to suffer more extreme heat waves and consequently extra soil dehydration and associated problems. But some models indicate rainfall in the region may increase instead of decrease.

Therefore it would seem that Romania, which lies still further north, could have a more moderate mix of extra summer heat and rainfall.

In any event, the editor of the British-organized report, Professor Martin Parry, says it's essential for the EU to start incorporating estimates of climate change impacts into its regional and environmental policies, including agricultural policies. The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague.


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