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Newsline - July 12, 2001




PUTIN SIGNS LAWS PERMITTING IMPORTATION OF NUCLEAR WASTES...

President Vladimir Putin on 11 July signed into law a group of measures allowing the importation of spent nuclear fuel for permanent storage, Russian and Western wire services reported. At the same time, Putin called for the creation of a special commission to supervise the process, which is to be chaired by Nobel Prize-winning academician Zhorez Alferov and will consist of presidential administration and government officials as well as Duma deputies. The same day, Putin signed into law legislation limiting smoking in public, guaranteeing the right of Russians to hold referenda, and an act on ratifying a convention on paying sailors, Interfax reported. VY

...BUT CONTROVERSY FAR FROM OVER

Even though officials say no nuclear wastes are likely to be imported immediately, opponents of such imports expressed outrage on 11 July at Putin's endorsement of them. Environmentalist groups said they would protest on Red Square on 12 July, Interfax reported. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky said that Putin's action was "a political mistake" and that he will pursue plans to arrange a referendum on the issue, Russian agencies said. PG

PUTIN URGED TO UNDERTAKE NEEDED BUT UNPOPULAR ECONOMIC REFORMS

An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 11 July argues that, having proved that he is prepared to go against public opinion by supporting the importation of nuclear wastes and opposing the death penalty, Putin should pursue "an economic breakthrough" by pushing forward necessary but inevitably unpopular economic reforms. But an article in "Izvestiya" the same day argued that improved economic conditions and hence enhanced government revenues might give rise to an even greater political problem for the Kremlin and thus suggested that Putin should move carefully in the direction of further reforms. PG

PUTIN SAID TO HAVE HUNTED DOWN DISSIDENTS

According to Rome's "Repubblica" on 11 July, Putin never worked for the KGB's foreign intelligence service but rather for its Fifth Administration, which was in charge of eliminating all forms of dissent in the USSR. In the first installment of what the paper says will be a six-part series, it quotes an anonymous colleague of Putin's from the Leningrad section of the KGB who said he and the current Russian president were trained to hunt for dissidents. The paper also cites former KGB General Oleg Kalugin as asserting that Putin worked in East Germany not for the KGB's foreign intelligence arm but as a Soviet liaison officer with the Stasi political police. VY

PUTIN REWARDS LOYAL FSB HEAD

Putin has promoted his friend, Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev, to the rank of full general, ostensibly "in connection with his 50th birthday," Interfax reported on 11 July. On the same day, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov presented Patrushev with a special certificate in honor of his work for the state, the news service said. VY

KASYANOV PLEDGES TO PRESS AHEAD WITH REFORMS

In an interview with Reuters television on 11 July, Prime Minister Kasyanov said he is pleased with the work of the government over the last year and plans to press ahead with economic and other reforms. He added that Moscow may reenter the world bond market in 2002 for the first time since the August 1998 crisis. He noted that Gazprom will be split up and Unified Energy Systems will be restructured. At the same time, he conceded that inflation will be higher this year than the 12 percent projected earlier but lower than the 20 percent it reached in 2000. PG

STROEV REGISTERS AS CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR

Yegor Stroev, who simultaneously serves as speaker of the Federation Council and governor of Orel Oblast, has registered as a candidate for re-election to the latter post, "Vremya MN" reported on 11 July. If he is elected, he will then have to give up his position in the Federation Council. PG

A BUSY DAY IN THE DUMA

On 11 July, the Duma passed on third reading a law doubling rates for the use of water and passed also on third reading amendments to certain parts of the Tax Code, Russian agencies reported. In addition, it adopted a statement calling on the United States to adhere to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and appealed to OSCE parliamentarians to hold an international conference on the Balkans. And it offered to set up a joint working group with the Federation Council to promote a political settlement and ensure human rights in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

NEMTSOV SAYS HE'S READY TO ACCEPT STAKE IN EKHO MOSKVY

Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov has agreed to accept Gazprom's offer to give him a 9.5 percent stake in Ekho Moskvy radio as part of an effort to keep the government from dominating the independent station, Russian and Western agencies reported on 11 July. He added that he plans to hand over that stake to a public council composed of "people with an impeccable reputation," rather than manage it alone. "Ekho Moskvy radio station, as the most respected private radio station, must remain independent. None of its owners should hold the controlling stake," Nemtsov said. Ekho Moskvy General Director Yurii Fedutinov said he is "grateful for Nemtsov's efforts" but said that he fears Gazprom may later seek to gain control of the station when a court takes up the issue of the fate of another 14 percent share now in dispute. But the radio station's editor in chief, Aleksei Venediktov, denounced Nemtsov's provisional acceptance of a stake as "shameless corruption," Interfax reported. PG

DUMA SAID READY TO RATIFY RUSSIAN-U.S. WEAPONS-GRADE PLUTONIUM ACCORD

The Duma International Relations Committee said on 11 July that the full Duma is prepared to ratify a Russian-U.S. accord signed in 2000 on the utilization of weapons-grade plutonium, ITAR-TASS reported. The agreement calls for each country to reduce the concentration of plutonium in existing stockpiles so that it can be used for fuel at nuclear power plants. In addition, the accord calls for the U.S. to provide Russia with at least $200 million and possibly more toward the construction of a processing center for the plutonium. VY

PAMFILOVA CALLS FOR GOVERNMENT TO COOPERATE WITH NGO COMMUNITY

Ella Pamfilova, the head of the Movement for Civil Dignity, said in Moscow on 11 July that "without the interaction of the structures of state power with nongovernmental social organizations, it will not be possible to improve significantly the situation in the country." She said that the 12 June 2001 meeting between Putin and representatives of NGOs showed that the authorities have realized "that over the last decade a force of a new kind has arisen and that the authorities are ready to cooperate with it." PG

GRYZLOV WANTS BUSINESS TO HELP ENFORCE LAWS

In an interview published in "Vedomosti" on 11 July, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said that his ministry and private Russian businesses must work together to guarantee the enforcement of laws. Business must improve its compliance with existing laws, the minister said, and it must help the government enforce them as well. In addition, he said, his ministry has set up a program allowing private detectives to be trained in ministry institutions. PG

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT JUDGE BACKS IDEA OF ADMINISTRATIVE COURTS

Speaking to the Second Global Conference of the World Bank on Problems of Legal and Judicial Reform in St. Petersburg on 11 July, Constitutional Court Judge Gadis Gadzhiev called for the creation of a system of administrative courts in Russia, Interfax reported. He said that administrative justice is a necessary part of the defense of the individual against arbitrary actions by the state. PG

MOSCOW MAY RETALIATE IF ITS PLANES ARE BANNED INTERNATIONALLY

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) said on 11 July that Russia's civil aviation fleet does not meet international environmental standards and may be banned from landing at airports abroad after 1 April 2002, ITAR-TASS reported. Deputy Transport Minister Pavel Rozhkov told the ICAO that Russia might retaliate against any countries that implemented such a ban, Interfax reported. One possibility might be restricting foreign carriers from using newly-opened routes over Russia. PG

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX, WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES CONDEMN GLOBALIZATION

At a conference convened in Slovakia recently by the World Council of Churches and the World Alliance of Reform Churches, Eastern Orthodox churchmen from Russia and Eastern Europe joined their Western colleagues in condemning globalization, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta-religii," No. 13. The meeting's concluding document said that globalization is undercutting democracy and working to the benefit primarily of "the international bureaucracy, transnational corporations, and global finance capital." It calls for such institutions to be made "more transparent, responsible, and representative" to give ordinary people a voice in global political and economic processes. VY

MOSCOW POLICE ARREST TIBETAN DEMONSTRATORS

On 11 July, Moscow police arrested and then released 10 demonstrators protesting China's application to host the 2008 Olympic Games, Russian and Western agencies reported. The International Olympic Committee is currently holding a meeting in the Russian capital. Moscow police told the demonstrators that "you are on Russian soil and must obey Russia law." One protester responded that "this is the same thing that would happen in China." PG

PATRIARCH'S VISIT TO BELARUS SEEN UNDERCUTTING PUTIN

According to an analysis in "Nezavisimaya gazeta-religii," No. 13, Patriarch Aleksii II's visit to Belarus on 23-27 June was intended to distract attention from Pope John Paul II's simultaneous visit to Ukraine. But in fact, the journal said, it provided support for Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka and undercut the policies of Russian President Putin. PG

PUTIN PRAISES MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT FOR STANCE ON TRANSDNIESTER ISSUE

Putin welcomed the unexpected visit of Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin to Moscow on 11 July, saying that he fully supports his guest's position on talks with the Transdniester Republic, ORT television reported. He said that Voronin's approach will make possible the constructive development of ties between Moscow and Chisinau in all areas. VY

'IZVESTIYA' JOURNALISTS FAIL TO LOCATE RUSSIA-KAZAKHSTAN BORDER

"Izvestiya" reported on 11 July that a group of its journalists spent three days traveling along what is supposed to be the border between Russia and Kazakhstan but "had not seen it once," meaning that they failed to find the demarcation markers that officials from both countries say were placed there recently. PG

MOSCOW REFUSES TO EXTRADITE OPPOSITION TAJIK JOURNALIST

Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov has refused to comply with a request from the Tajik authorities to extradite Tajik opposition journalist Dododzhon Atovullo, Russian and Western agencies reported on 11 July. Atovullo's arrest at a Moscow airport last week provoked an international outcry by European governments and international media groups. By coincidence, the same day, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that Moscow and Dushanbe have signed an agreement on the status of news correspondents in their respective countries. PG

PUTIN, BUSH SAID PLANNING TO ANNOUNCE BUSINESS FORUM

According to a report in "The Wall Street Journal" on 11 July, Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush are planning to announce the creation of a business forum to promote investment in Russia. The body, the paper said, will include leading businessmen from both countries. PG

MOSCOW CALLS ON ISRAEL TO STOP DEMOLISHING PALESTINIAN HOMES

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 11 July that Moscow hopes that Israel will end its practice of demolishing homes in Palestinian areas, Russian and Western agencies reported. He also called for moves toward a "comprehensive Arab-Israeli settlement, including returning the occupied Golan Heights to Syria." PG

PUTIN GREETS MONGOLIA ON 80TH ANNIVERSARY OF SOCIALIST REVOLUTION

Putin sent a message to Mongolian President Natsagiin Bagabandi on 11 July on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the revolution that made that country the second socialist country, Interfax reported. PG

KREMLIN WANTS TO ABOLISH POWER-SHARING ACCORDS, WON'T SIGN NEW ONES

Pravda.ru reported on 11 June that the Kremlin not only plans to abolish the existing power-sharing accords between Moscow and federation subjects, but will not sign any new ones. It noted that Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov, who the site noted has often anticipated the Kremlin's moves, has said that the regions must be enlarged and their governors appointed. VY

OMSK JOINS OTHER REGIONS IN SEEKING EXIT FROM POWER-SHARING AGREEMENT

Omsk Oblast has reportedly appealed to President Putin with a request to abandon the power-sharing agreement it negotiated earlier with the federal center, Interfax reported on 11 July. An unidentified Kremlin source told the agency that Omsk is just one of several regions that have made such a request. Russian media have already reported on four other regions that have made the request -- the Perm, Nizhnii Novgorod, and Ulyanovsk oblasts, as well as the Marii El Republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2001). JAC

LEBED DEMANDS CLOSURE OF KRASNOYARSK PAPER

Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed has demanded the closure of his region's largest newspaper, "Krasnoyarskii rabochii," "Vremya MN" reported on 11 July. Lebed said that the paper violated registration rules, but the paper's editors said that the governor wanted to liquidate their outlet. PG

NEWSPAPER OFFICE ROBBED IN VLADIVOSTOK

Interfax-Eurasia reported on 11 July that the Vladivostok bureau of the Moscow newspaper "Trud" was robbed the night before. The thieves made off with two computers, a scanner, and several floppy disks said to contain confidential information. PG

TENSIONS INCREASE BETWEEN MOSCOW, PERIPHERY

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 11 July, the disproportionate amount of investments coming into Moscow has increased the difference in the standard of living between the capital and the Russian provinces and consequently increased tensions between the two as well. It called on the city to consider trying to help the regions lest this lead to a political problems and attacks on the city's achievements. PG

CAPITAL FLIGHT DOWN SLIGHTLY

Mikhail Delyagin, the director of the Moscow Institute of the Problems of Globalization, said on 11 July that capital flight from Russia in 2001 would amount to $20-21 billion, under 5 percent less than in 2000, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, inflation in the first nine days of July 2001 amounted to 0.3 percent, Interfax reported citing a release by the State Statistics Committee. PG

AUDIT CHAMBER IDENTIFIES MISUSE OF FOREIGN LOANS

The Audit Chamber on 11 July issued a statement saying that it has identified misuse of foreign loans in the energy sector during the first quarter of 2001, Interfax reported. The statement said that the chamber is turning over its findings to Putin and to the government. PG

RUSSIAN SCHOLAR DESCRIBES RUSSIA'S CHEKIST REGIME

Speaking to an international political science meeting in Berlin devoted to Russia's current political regime, Russian scholar Aleksei Musakov said that Putin's path to power was paved by the elite of the country's intelligence services acting under the direction of Yevgenii Primakov, the BBC reported on 11 July. Putin, Musakov said, is by nature a meritocrat in political life and "an authoritarian liberal" in economic affairs. In foreign affairs, Musakov added, Putin is a pragmatist who is prepared to cooperate with both the West and rogue states and, as a former intelligence officer, is adept at camouflaging his actions. Musakov is known to have close ties with the Russian intelligence services. VY

RUSSIAN NAVY IS NOT 'COMBAT READY'

According to an article in "Versiya," No. 25, the Russian navy is "not combat ready whatever its commanders say." The navy cannot repair ships, train crews, or maintain communications, but it is good at one thing, the journal said: misinforming the government and the public "with a clear conscience" about its real condition. PG

FORBES, FORTUNE LIST RUSSIAN COMPANIES

The U.S.-based "Fortune" magazine listed only Gazprom among its top 500 corporations in the world, but "Forbes" magazine included four Russian companies -- Gazprom, Surgutneftegaz, YUKOS and LUKoil -- with the Russian gas monopoly having risen from the 22nd largest company in 2000 to 138th place on this year's list. VY

TRANSPORT OFFICIAL WANTS TO END SPECIAL TRANSIT FARES

In an interview published in "Trud" on 11 July, Deputy Transportation Minister Anatolii Nasonov said that the country's urban transit systems are in a "critical" state with half of the existing equipment in need of repair because only 40 percent of passengers pay full fares. The remainder, he said, fall into one of 64 categories of people who are entitled to pay between half fares to nothing at all. In order to improve transit, he said, these special concessions should be ended. PG

TOBIN'S LAWYER SEEKS HIS TRANSFER TO BETTER PRISON

A lawyer for imprisoned American exchange student John Tobin said on 11 July that he is seeking to have his client transferred to a minimum security penal colony, AP reported. Tobin is now in a general security camp, but he may be transferred to a less strict regime camp or even released once the first half of his sentence is completed on 2 August, the lawyer said. PG

PASKO GOES ON TRIAL AGAIN -- BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

The repeat trial of journalist and ecologist Grigorii Pasko for espionage has begun in a military court of the Russian Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok, Interfax reported on 11 July. In July 1999, Pasko was convicted only of abuse of office and then immediately freed under an amnesty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 1999). Prosecutors appealed that verdict, and the new trial now taking place behind closed doors is the result. VY

PLISETSKAYA WINS SUIT AGAINST MOSCOW PAPER

Ballerina Maya Plisetskaya won a libel suit against "Moskovskii komsomolets" for the paper's false report that she had given birth to a daughter in secret, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 July. The court awarded the 75-year-old dancer 10,000 rubles ($342) to be paid by the paper and 8,000 rubles to be paid by the journalist who wrote the article. PG

ANTI-SEMITISM SAID TO HAVE DECREASED UNDER PUTIN

Nikolai Butkevich, a spokesman for the U.S.-based Union of Councils of Soviet Jews, said in Moscow on 11 July that anti-Semitism increased dramatically during the last two years of Boris Yeltsin's presidency, but has noticeably decreased under Putin, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

NEW RUSSIAN ATHEIST JOURNAL APPEARS

The first issue of "Novii bezbozhnik," published by the Atheist Society of Moscow, has gone on sale and is reviewed in "Nezavisimaya gazeta-religii," No. 13. The editors of the new journals said that "we want to show our opponents and our supporters that atheism is alive in Russia." PG

TUBERCULOSIS FIGURES SAID NOT AS BAD AS REPORTED

Health Minister Yurii Shevchenko said on 10 July that the number of people ill with tuberculosis in Russia is not 5 million as has often been reported but only 200,000, "Izvestiya" reported the following day. Shevchenko said that some officials artificially inflated the number in hopes of getting money from the World Bank. PG

RUSSIANS WARNED ABOUT FIRMS ARRANGING CITIZENSHIP IN OTHER COUNTRIES

According to an article in "Izvestiya" on 11 July, many Russian newspapers now carry advertisements by companies offering Russians the chance to purchase citizenship of one or more foreign countries. Such offers, the paper said, are sometimes genuine, but often the basis for collecting large amounts of money from the gullible. PG

STALIN'S DRAWINGS SAID TO REVEAL HIS PERSONALITY

A collection of drawings by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin reveals his pathological hatred of many of his colleagues and shows that he had "the sense of humor of a hooligan," according to an analysis of them that appeared in "The Sunday Times" and was reported by Interfax on 11 July. The paper also reported that other Russian archival documents recently uncovered indicate that Stalin fathered an illegitimate son by a 14-year-old girl. But the archives themselves may be in trouble: according to a report by Interfax-Moscow the same day, more than 20 million pages of materials in the Moscow City Archives need immediate restoration, but the archivists have enough funds to restore only 200,000 a year. PG

LOCAL COURT LIQUIDATES HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP

A raion-level court in Yaroslavl Oblast upheld an earlier decision by the same court liquidating the regional branch of the human rights group Memorial, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 11 July. The group is being liquidated because it failed to reregister by September 2000. The group in Yaroslavl was created in 1988 and participated among other things in the construction of a monument to the victims of political repression in the cities of Yaroslavl and Tutaevo. The group also worked together with a television studio to create a series based on interviews with the victims of political repression. JAC

UDMURTIA'S LEGAL HARMONIZATION EFFORT ASSESSED

The Republic of Udmurtia continues to have 10 republic-level laws on the books that do not conform with federal laws, the head of a Justice Ministry department in Udmurtia, Vyacheslav Osipov, said on 11 July. However, Osipov also revealed that the number of violations of federal laws in municipal charters is much higher, according to Interfax-Eurasia. Twenty-five of 31 documents have some kind of violation. JAC

DRUG ADDICTION SHOWS SHARP RISE IN SIBERIAN REGION

According to official figures, the number of drug addicts in Tomsk Oblast increased 50 percent in the last year, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 10 July. Now, the number of registered addicts is more than 6,000, and experts believe that the real figure is five to 10 times higher. According to the daily, every fifth person in the oblast is a student, but there is dearth of data on the spread of drug use among students. At a recent session of an interdepartmental oblast council, officials called for preventing the spread of illegal narcotics, but also noted that as yet a federal program for the struggle against drug addiction has not been adopted. JAC

GENERAL ADMITS RUSSIAN TROOPS ACTED 'LAWLESSLY'

The commander of the joint Russian forces in Chechnya, Lieutenant-General Vladimir Moltenskoi, on 11 July condemned "large-scale crimes" and "lawless acts" committed by Russian troops during the security sweeps in the villages of Sernovodsk, Assinovskaya, and Kurchaloi last week, AP and dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 July 2001). He compared the brutality in the two former villages to "an outrage, like an ancient Mongol horde," and said that unspecified measures will be taken to try to win back the trust of the local Chechen population. In Moscow, Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii suggested that the methods used in conducting such security operations could be revised, or that they may be dispensed with completely. LF

DUMA DEPUTY DENIES PUTIN ASKED HIM TO MEDIATE WITH MASKHADOV

Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who represents Chechnya in the Russian State Duma, told Interfax on 11 July that there is no truth to Russian media reports that President Putin authorized him to conduct peace talks with Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov. However, Aslakhanov admitted that during a meeting with Putin the possibility of doing so was discussed, but the Russian president rejected it. Aslakhanov has repeatedly called for talks with Maskhadov, and told Interfax that he periodically receives requests from him to arrange such talks with representatives of the Russian leadership. Presidential aide Yastrzhembskii too on 11 July denied that the Kremlin has asked anyone to mediate with Maskhadov, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

CESIUM DISCOVERED IN GROZNY SCHOOL

Chechen Emergency Situations Ministry officials have discovered more than 50 kilograms of radioactive cesium-137 on the grounds of a half-destroyed Grozny school, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 July. Background radioactivity at the site is 1,000 times higher than the accepted maximum level. The cesium has been removed to an unguarded storage area in Achkhoi Martan Raion. LF




DONORS PLEDGE $620 MILLION IN AID FOR ARMENIA

A two-day conference in Paris of donor states and organizations approved a new three-year, $620 million loan and assistance package to support economic reform in Armenia, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 1 July. Most of the funds will be provided by the U.S. government, the IMF, and the World Bank. The aid is linked to the successful implementation of a three-year Armenian government program aimed at reducing poverty. Prime Minister Andranik Markarian told the conference on 10 July that his cabinet will seek to raise living standards primarily through higher rates of economic growth. He also repeated earlier pledges to crack down on endemic corruption. LF

MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRMEN HOLD TALKS IN KARABAKH...

The French and U.S. co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group and Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov held talks in Stepanakert on 10 July with Arkadii Ghukasian, the president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), ITAR-TASS and Mediamax reported. Ghukasian expressed confidence that talks on resolving the Karabakh conflict will continue despite "changes in the dynamics of the negotiating process." Trubnikov stressed that any solution to the conflict must be acceptable to all parties, in the first instance to the population of the unrecognized republic. "We would not like the people here to get the impression that the mediators are trying to impose solutions," he said. The NKR is not officially represented at the "Three-plus-Two" talks between the three Minsk Group co-chairs and the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. On 11 July, the Minsk Group representatives, together with the NKR Foreign and Defense Ministers, visited the formerly predominantly Azeri-populated town of Shusha, where they noted that contrary to Azerbaijani claims, the town's mosque has not been vandalized, according to Snark, as cited by Groong. LF

...EXPRESS CONCERN AT CALLS FOR NEW HOSTILITIES

Later on 11 July, the Minsk Group mediators crossed in Fizuli Raion, close to the Azerbaijani border with Iran, the Line of Contact separating the Armenian and Azerbaijani forces, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. In a communique released as they crossed the Line of Contact, the mediators expressed concern at the fragility of the current state of "no peace, no war," and warned against "irresponsible" and "bellicose" statements and calls for a resumption of hostilities. They said such statements exacerbate tensions and increase the risk of new fighting. LF

GEORGIAN GUERRILLAS MURDER FOUR ABKHAZ, TAKE SIX MORE HOSTAGE

A Georgian guerrilla group operating out of the Kodori gorge has murdered four Abkhaz residents of the village of Azanta in Gulripsh Raion and abducted six others, Caucasus Press reported on 12 July, quoting an official from the local Prosecutor's Office. An Abkhaz Defense Ministry official accused the Georgian intelligence service of instigating the killings. LF

GEORGIAN RULING PARTY, OPPOSITION FAIL TO REACH CONSENSUS ON LOCAL ELECTIONS

At a session on 11 July of the parliamentary Committee for Regional Policy and Local Self-Administration, opposition representatives rejected a revised draft proposal on the principles of local government presented by the head of the presidential service for regional policy, Badri Khatidze, Prime News and Caucasus Press reported. That new draft provided for the election on the majoritarian principle of local village and town councils, elections on the proportional principle to raion councils, and the appointment by the president of regional administrators and the mayors of major cities from among the members of those councils. The opposition wants those latter positions to be elective (see "RFE/RL Newsline," Vol. 4, No. 24, 28 June 2001). LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT URGES MORE DOMESTIC INVESTMENT IN OIL SECTOR...

Addressing Kazakh businessmen in Astana on 11 July, President Nursultan Nazarbaev urged them to become "socially active" participants in major economic projects, including the development of the country's oil resources, Russian agencies reported. He said that while in the years immediately following independence in 1991 there was no alternative to inviting foreign companies to exploit major oil and gas fields, Kazakhstan's business community has now accumulated the capital required to do so. He noted that of some 200 blocks on the Caspian Sea shelf, only 18 are being developed by international consortia. LF

...COMMENTS ON CAPITAL AMNESTY

Nazarbaev also pledged that anyone who violates the confidentiality principles under which the current repatriation of shadow capital is proceeding will be subject to prosecution, Interfax reported. He added that the importance of the amnesty lies not so much in the sums that it is hoped will be brought back to Kazakhstan and invested in the local economy, but in breaking with dubious past practice and starting a new era in which the business community "will work in an honest and transparent way." LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S ECONOMY BOOMING

Nazarbaev also said at the 11 July meeting that industrial production increased by 13.6 percent during the first six months of this year compared with the same period in 2000, Interfax reported. The highest growth (11.6 percent) was in the manufacturing sector. Inflation for the first half of 2001 was 3.7 percent. In Ashgabat last week, Nazarbaev said that GDP growth during the first six months of this year amounted to 11.2 percent. Annual GDP growth in 2000 was approximately 10 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 2001). LF

ISRAELI MINISTER VISITS KAZAKHSTAN, KYRGYZSTAN

Israel's Minister for Infrastructure, Avigdor Lieberman, held talks in Astana on 9 July with Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev, and also met with Kazakh businessmen, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. It was announced in the course of his visit that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will visit Kazakhstan in November. Trade turnover between Kazakhstan and Israel last year amounted to almost $17 million, or more than double the total for 1999. On 11 July, Lieberman traveled to Bishkek, where he met with Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev and Foreign Minister Muratbek ImanAliyev to discuss expanding trade and economic cooperation, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF

KYRGYZSTAN, BELARUS SEEK TO EXPAND RELATIONS

Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev met in Bishkek on 10 July with a visiting Belarusian parliamentary delegation headed by speaker Alyaksandr Vaytovich to discuss expanding both political and economic cooperation, Interfax and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Voitovich expressed willingness to supply Kyrgyzstan with agricultural machinery and coal-mining equipment in return for raw materials for Belarus's light industry. The Belarusian delegation also met with Prime Minister Bakiev and Foreign Minister ImanAliyev and with the speakers of both chambers of Kyrgyzstan's bicameral legislature. LF

TAJIK-RUSSIAN ECONOMIC COMMISSION MEETS

Speaking in Dushanbe on 11 July, Russian Minister of Industry, Science and Technology Aleksandr Dondukov said the fifth session of the intergovernmental Tajik-Russian Economic Cooperation Commission, which ended the previous day, "surpassed all expectations," according to ITAR-TASS. Dondukov is co-chairman of that commission. The session focussed on joint ventures in the military-industrial complex, the creation of joint energy and metallurgical companies, and the possible joint exploitation of a wolfram deposit north of Dushanbe. LF




MINSK PLEDGES TO 'ACTIVELY COOPERATE' WITH INTERNATIONAL ELECTION OBSERVERS

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka ordered the Foreign Ministry to "actively cooperate" with international monitors who will be sent for the 9 September presidential elections in Belarus, Belapan reported on 11 July. Hans Georg Wieck, the head of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk, announced in Minsk the previous day that the European parliamentary troika, the OSCE, the European Commission, and the U.S. National Democratic Institute, are ready to send election observers to Belarus. These organizations decided at recent consultations in Paris to ask the Warsaw-based OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to organize a long- and short-term international observation mission. The decision to send such a mission may be reviewed "in light of further developments in the election process, with the registration of candidates constituting the most sensitive phase of the process up to the actual elections," Wieck noted. JM

WEST SAID TO FORCE BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION INTO SELECTING SINGLE PRESIDENTIAL CHALLENGER

Belarusian Television reported on 11 July that unidentified "Western strategists" are to gather Belarusian opposition leaders in Vilnius on 15 July to make them name a single candidate to challenge President Lukashenka in the 9 September ballot. The network added that Belarusian opposition leaders will be stripped of Western grants if they fail to agree on a single candidate. Meanwhile, the five hopefuls supported by the democratic opposition -- Syamyon Domash, Mikhail Chyhir, Uladzimir Hancharyk, Syarhey Kalyakin, and Pavel Kazlouski -- have pledged to decide on a single candidate from among themselves before the official registration of presidential candidates, which is to take place from 5-14 August, Belapan reported, quoting Domash. The five negatively assess the recently voiced idea of holding a congress of Belarusian democratic forces in order to name a single challenger to Lukashenka. JM

INDEPENDENT EXPERT SAYS BELARUSIANS EQUALLY DIVIDED OVER LUKASHENKA

Alyaksandr Sasnou, deputy director of the Independent Institute of Socioeconomic and Political Studies (NISEPI), said in Minsk on 11 July that 48 percent of Belarusians are satisfied with how President Lukashenka rules the country and 48 percent are dissatisfied, Belapan reported. According to NISEPI polls, 37 percent of voters backed Lukashenka in April and 36 percent in June. Sasnou added that the number of voters wanting to take part in the upcoming presidential ballot increased from 70 percent in April to 87 percent in June. JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS, INTERNATIONAL GROUP URGE SOLUTION OF JOURNALIST'S MURDER

The parliamentary Committee for the Freedom of Expression and Information has appealed to the government to use all possible measures to find out who killed journalist Ihor Aleksandrov last week (see RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001), Interfax reported on 11 July. The committee said the killing of Aleksandrov testifies to "the continued onslaught on the freedom of expression in Ukraine." The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists also appealed to President Leonid Kuchma to organize a thorough investigation of Aleksandrov's slaying. The organization said the case causes concern, especially as there is no end in sight to the probe into the notorious murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SLAMS LAWMAKERS FOR ALLEGED CORRUPTION

Leonid Kuchma on 11 July said some Ukrainian lawmakers and politicians intentionally discredit the country in the international arena, Interfax reported. "No one speaks more abominably about Ukraine than Ukrainian politicians," Kuchma noted. The president added that Ukrainian legislators are more concerned with their own well-being than lawmaking. According to Kuchma, parliamentary groups are paid "millions of dollars" for voting on some bills. "The deputy's pay is only pocket money. They get their basic pay in greenbacks," Kuchma said. JM

RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR WARNS KYIV OVER NEUTRAL STATUS

Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin told Moscow's "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 11 July that Ukraine can play the role of a "regional leader," Interfax reported. Chernomyrdin noted, however, that Ukraine's "neutral status may essentially undermine [Kyiv's] strategic interests" and lead to a situation in which the role of such a leader is assumed by "other countries." Chernomyrdin said he does not understand "those Ukrainians who are lobbying for the policy of economic isolation of their country from Russia." And he added: "I doubt whether Ukraine will be able to find an alternative to the Russian market in Europe, Asia, or Latin America." JM

GROWTH OF 7 PERCENT PREDICTED FOR LATVIA'S 2001 GDP

Bank of Latvia President Einars Repse told a news conference in Riga on 11 July that the growth in Latvia's gross domestic product (GDP) this year will be 7 percent, BNS reported. He noted that the GDP in the first quarter of the year grew by 8.2 percent while the current account deficit fell from 4.5 percent of GDP in the first quarter last year to 4.1 percent of GDP this year. Repse said the economic growth could be affected by the slowdown of economic development in Europe and the world, but since the national currency, the lats, is pegged to the SDR currency basket and not the euro, Latvia might be more flexible in reacting to outward turbulences. Last year, among countries wishing to join the EU, Latvia's GDP growth of 6.6 percent was only exceeded by Turkey's 7.2 percent growth. The average GDP growth rate for EU candidate countries last year was 5.2 percent, and 3.3 percent for EU countries. SG

LITHUANIA NOT TO SEEK TRANSITION PERIOD FOR VEHICLE INSURANCE

The government changed its earlier position and decided on 11 July not to request a transition period for compulsory vehicle third-party liability insurance coverage during its EU membership negotiations, BNS reported. In August 2000 it decided to ask for a transition period until the end of 2009 to avoid a great increase in insurance premiums. The Lithuanian vehicle third-party Liability Insurance Law, effective from 1 April 2002, sets the minimum coverage amount at 30,000 litas ($7,500) for both personal injury and vehicle damage. EU directives, on the other hand, set the minimum coverage at 350,000 euros ($300,800) and 100,000 euros, respectively. With no transition period, Lithuanian nationals would not have to acquire an additional "green card" policy while traveling in EU countries and would not be discriminated against during border-clearance procedures. SG

POLISH GOVERNMENT INCREASES BUDGET DEFICIT

Premier Jerzy Buzek's cabinet decided on 11 July that the estimated 2001 budget deficit be increased by 8.6 billion zlotys ($2 billion), Polish media reported. This additional budget deficit is to be covered by the sale of government securities. Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Janusz Steinhoff said the government assumes that, due to slowing economic growth, its revenues will be lower than predicted by some 17 billion zlotys this year. Steinhoff added that some 7.5 billion zlotys of the remaining shortfall will be eliminated through spending cuts. According to Boguslaw Grabowski from the Monetary Policy Council, the government's decision should have a calming effect on the financial market. The Polish zloty has been falling since last week over worries about the widening budget gap. JM

POLISH DEFENSE MINISTER CALLS FOR INTERPARTY CONSULTATIONS ON WARPLANE

Bronislaw Komorowski on 11 July said there is an "urgent need" for consultations of all political forces in order to "open a protective political umbrella" over a tender for a multirole aircraft for the Polish air force, PAP reported. Komorowski's statement followed a dismissal of his deputy, Romuald Szeremietiew, over allegations that Szeremietiew's aide solicited bribes from Western producers of military hardware. The bidders in the multirole aircraft tender include the producers of U.S. F-16, French Mirage, and Swedish-British Gripen planes. Komorowski added that full transparency of tender procedures is a matter of priority, even at the cost of delaying the tender timetable. Meanwhile, the Swedish-British consortium Saab-BAe, which produces Gripens, pledged the same day that it will invest $3 billion in Poland if it wins the tender, which is worth an estimated $2.5-3.5 billion. JM

POLAND'S RIGHT, CENTER GROUPS AGREE ON JOINT CANDIDATES TO SENATE

The Solidarity Electoral Action of the Right, the Freedom Union, the Civic Platform, the Law and Justice, and a group of current senators have agreed on setting up a joint committee named Senate Bloc 2001 in the general elections on 23 September, PAP reported on 11 July. The basic principle accepted by the constituent groups in organizing the bloc is a pledge that they will not run candidates to the Senate outside of the Senate Bloc 2001 election lists. JM

CZECH OPPOSITION SHADOW DEFENSE MINISTER ON MILITARY REFORM

Petr Necas, the chairman of the Chamber of Deputies' Defense and Security Committee and shadow defense minister in the Civic Democratic Party's (ODS) ministerial lineup, on 11 July told the lower house that the cabinet headed by Premier Milos Zeman has "done nothing" to promote military reform since the country's NATO accession, CTK reported. Earlier on 11 July, Necas presented to journalists the ODS proposals for a professional army. Reacting to the proposals, Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said the plan is "in many points similar" to that under preparation by his own Social Democratic Party. Tvrdik said the ODS proposals are based on materials from the ministry he heads and said he welcomes the "emerging consensus" on military reforms. MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT SAYS CULPRITS IN ROM'S DEATH MUST BE PUNISHED...

The government on 11 July expressed "deep regret over the violent death of [Rom] Karol Sendrei" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2001). The cabinet said the incident "must be properly investigated and the culprits [must be] punished." It also said Interior Minister Ivan Simko must quickly propose a set of measures to restore the confidence in police "as protectors of law and order," CTK reported. On 10 July, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda promised the cabinet will undertake "a clear, resolute, responsible and transparent action" to clear up the case. But he added that although "what happened is very sad, this does not happen in Slovakia alone. It sometimes happens in countries where democracy has a centuries-long tradition." Dzurinda added that his cabinet will not "be covering up the case, as [former Premier Vladimir] Meciar's cabinet did between 1995 and 1998." MS

...BUT NO MINISTER ATTENDED THE FUNERAL...

Ministers in the cabinet had different explanations to offer as to why no member of the cabinet attended Sendrei's funeral, CTK reported on 11 July. Deputy Premier Pal Csaky, who is in charge of human rights, said he had received "contradictory information" on the incident and did not attend "to prevent the impression that I am favoring one side in the dispute." Health Minister Roman Kovac said ministers should have attended "if their schedule permitted it," while Labor Minster Peter Magvasi said that at least Interior Minister Ivan Simko should have represented the government at the funeral. Dzurinda himself left unanswered a CTK correspondent's question on why he did not attend. MS

...AS AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL SAYS SLOVAK POLICE GUILTY OF TORTURE

Amnesty International (AI) on 11 July accused Slovak police of Sendrei's death under "suspicious circumstances" and of having tortured him and his two sons, AP reported. In an open letter to the Slovak government AI wrote: "Once again, we call on the Slovak authorities to respect their commitments under international treaties and to protect the fundamental rights of all individuals in Slovakia, without discriminating on grounds of their race, color, sex, language, religion, opinion, national or social origin." MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT 'DISAPPOINTED' OVER EU DECISION ON PHARE FUNDS

The government on 11 July said it is "disappointed" over the EU decision to suspend part of its aid to Slovakia pending the investigation of suspicions of corruption in handling the EU's Phare funds, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2001). A spokeswoman for Deputy Premier Maria Kadlecikova, who is in charge of EU integration, said the minister is convinced that the Slovak authorities "are fully cooperative in the investigation" and will request next week that Brussels release the suspended funds. MS

HUNGARIAN COALITION LEADERS SPAR OVER FARMLAND ISSUE

Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 11 July told Hungarian radio that "the homeland is not for sale, and therefore we will not sell it." Orban was responding to charges made by Jozsef Torgyan, the chairman of the coalition partner Independent Smallholders' Party, who two days earlier claimed the FIDESZ-led cabinet was "betraying the homeland" by agreeing with the EU to allow the sale of Hungarian farmland to foreign citizens residing in Hungary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2001). Orban said the agreement with the EU does not permit foreigners to buy farmland except under tight restrictions. He also called into question the Smallholders' threat to protest the agreement by staging roadblocks, but did not rule out the possibility of discussing the matter with Torgyan at a later date. MSZ

HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS' SPLINTER GROUPS FORM ALLIANCE

Three Smallholders' splinter groups on 11 July concluded an electoral cooperation agreement, Karoly Tamas, the executive chairman of the Democratic Federation of Independent Smallholders (FKDSZ), told Hungarian media. The alliance includes the FKDSZ, the Historical Smallholders' Party led by former Agriculture Minister Jozsef Ferenc Nagy, and the Smallholders' Federation led by Sandor Cseh. Tamas said the group expects persons previously expelled from Torgyan's Independent Smallholders' Party to join the new alliance. According to Nagy, the aim of the new alliance is to ensure that agricultural interests are represented in parliament after the 2002 elections. MSZ

ORBAN DESCRIBES HIS VISION FOR EUROPE

"We would like to see a union based on nations, and nations based on regions and local communities," Orban on 11 July told the Belgian newspaper "La libre Belgique." "We are not advocating a European United States" he added, saying that "we must preserve cultural and national diversity." Regarding Hungary's Status Law, Orban said the law has no extraterritorial force, but is needed to promote the culture of ethnic Hungarians abroad. MSZ

EU PARLIAMENT ON HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW

The European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee has moved a motion for an amendment to its country report on Hungary, prompted by the Hungarian parliament's passage of the Status Law, Hungarian media reported on 12 July. The amendment calls for the examination of the law's "compatibility with current EU regulations, the spirit of good neighborliness, and cooperation between EU member states." The motion was submitted by several members of the Greens' parliamentary group, and follows concerns raised by the Romanian and Slovak governments. MSZ




MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT ASKS OSCE FOR MORE OBSERVERS

The Macedonian Coordinating Body met on 10 July to discuss the security situation, the Skopje daily "Vest" reported. Tihomir Ilievski, the spokesman of this new government institution, said afterward that the government will ask the OSCE to increase the number of its observers in Macedonia. The main task of the additional OSCE observers will be to monitor the cease-fire. Harald Schenker of the OSCE mission in Skopje said it is not yet clear how many additional observers will be involved. UB

MACEDONIAN ALBANIANS PUT FORWARD COUNTERPROPOSAL...

In response to the international community's draft document containing a legal framework for the rights of the Albanian minority in Macedonia, the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) has come forward with a rival text, Reuters reported on 11 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 10 July 2001). The most controversial point of the new PDSH proposal is the demand for a broad veto right for the Albanians on almost every government decision. U.S. envoy James Pardew and PDSH leader Arben Xhaferi had clashed already at earlier meeting (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 July 2001). In an attempt to explain his request for the veto right, Xhaferi said: "[The Macedonians] have an aggressive policy within my land, and I have a defensive policy." For his part, President Boris Trajkovski was "outraged" by the Albanian proposals, the discussion of which is certain to prolong the negotiations, dpa reported. UB

...WHILE MEDIATORS TRY TO OVERCOME THE DEADLOCK

In an effort to overcome the stalemate, the envoys of the international community are trying to find ways to bring the Albanians around to accept the proposals in the original document, the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" reported on 12 July. The paper speculates that Pardew and his European counterpart Francois Leotard might offer concessions on linguistic or other issues in return for an Albanian climb-down on political matters. According to the daily, the Macedonian side especially fears that the international community might allow the local police to be controlled by Albanian political parties. UB

GREEK-MACEDONIAN BORDER BLOCKED BY MAKPETROL TANKER TRUCKS

Some 78 tanker trucks of the biggest Macedonian oil retailer, Makpetrol, blocked the two main border crossings with Greece at Dojran and Bogorodica, AP reported on 11 July. Makpetrol wants an end to a deal allegedly struck by the current government with the Greek oil company OKTA. In 1999, OKTA bought the largest Macedonian oil refinery. In addition, it was granted the privilege of importing crude oil at the exceptionally low customs duty of only 1 percent, while other oil importers have to pay 21 percent. Allegations that Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski personally profited from the deal have never been put to rest. On 1 June, Macedonia signed a trade agreement with the European Union that prohibits such special rights, and Makpetrol now wants a speedy end to OKTA's privilege. UB

BOSNIAN MASSACRE COMMEMORATION PASSES PEACEFULLY

Some 3,000 Muslims marked the sixth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre on 11 July at a new memorial just outside the Serb-held town, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2001). Reis-ul-ulema Mustafa Ceric, who heads Bosnia's Islamic religious community, said: "We come not to indict, but not to free from guilt, either." He also suggested that Bosnian Serbs risk being collectively blamed for Europe's worst massacre since World War II unless those directly responsible are tried for war crimes. PM

BOSNIAN MUSLIM GIRL SHOT DEAD

Late on 11 July, a 16-year-old Muslim woman was fatally shot through a window in her village home near Vlasenica in eastern Bosnia, Reuters reported. Her family recently returned to the village. UN officials are investigating. This is the second attack on returnees there within two months, AP reported. A UNHCR official said: "This tragedy could have been prevented with the appropriate actions of the local authorities after the first attack." PM

SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE FOR PREVLAKA

The UN Security Council voted unanimously on 11 July to extend the mandate for UN military observers (UNMOP) in Croatia's Prevlaka region for a further six months, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. A UN press release added: "Established in January 1996, UNMOP is currently [composed] of 27 military observers from 25 countries. In addition to monitoring the demilitarization of the area, the mission holds regular meetings with local authorities in order to strengthen liaison, reduce tensions, improve safety and security, and promote confidence between the parties." The peninsula is Croatian territory but controls access to Montenegro's Kotor Bay, which is home to Yugoslavia's only deep-water naval base. PM

BUDISA RESIGNS AS HEAD OF CROATIAN PARTY

Drazen Budisa resigned as head of the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS), which is the second-strongest party in the governing coalition, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2001). He did not give a reason, but an RFE/RL correspondent said that Budisa is unhappy with the government's decision to cooperate with The Hague-based tribunal. It is not clear whether the move is a political ploy by Budisa, who has a history of making political miscalculations and playing the gadfly. PM

SPLIT IN SERBIAN COALITION OVER YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT MAKEUP

The two most important parties in the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition have taken conflicting stands regarding the composition of the next Yugoslav government, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 11 July. The Democratic Party of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic hailed a proposal by outgoing Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus that the post of finance minister go to a Serb on the grounds that Montenegro, which does not recognize the federal government, does not give it any money. The Democratic Party of Serbia, which is headed by Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, criticized Labus's proposal, saying that it is "too strong." Elsewhere, a spokesman for the Socialist People's Party (SNP), which is the Montenegrin coalition partner of DOS, said that his party will not be unhappy if Labus is not included in the next government, "Vesti" reported. PM

KOSTUNICA: BREAKUP OF YUGOSLAV FEDERATION MEANS NEW ELECTIONS

Kostunica told "Politika" on 11 July that the breakup of the federation will necessitate new elections in Serbia. He added that there will "soon" be a meeting of the Supreme Defense Council to discuss, among other things, Prevlaka and the extradition of former President Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague. He stressed that he wants to hear the thoughts of the military on these issues in detail. Observers note that Djindjic appears to enjoy the support of the police, while Kostunica is close to the army leadership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2001). PM

SERBIAN MILITARY BASE IN PRESEVO

Army special units and the police will soon acquire a base between Presevo and Bujanovac capable of housing 2,000 troops, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 11 July. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said that the base will be set up "on the standards of Western armies, modeled on KFOR." PM

MONTENEGRIN OPPOSITION AGREES TO TALKS

The SNP has accepted the invitation of Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic for talks on the upcoming referendum on independence, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 11 July from Podgorica (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2001). PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER WELCOMES EU PARLIAMENT'S AMENDMENT ON STATUS LAW

Adrian Nastase on 11 July welcomed as "reasonable" the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee's amendment to the country report on Hungary, Mediafax reported (see Hungarian item above). Nastase said that in post-communist modern Europe, "good neighborly relations must be based on European principles" and added that "the ethnic line must not be over-emphasized, as demonstrated by the effects of its exaggeration, particularly in the Balkans." He said that "formulations based on economic and social discrimination on an ethnic basis cannot but create nervousness and discontent." Foreign Ministry spokesman Victor Micula on 12 July announced that Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, who is due to hold talks on 13 July with his counterpart Mircea Geoana, will "informally meet" Nastase as well. Hungarian media reports say Martonyi is arriving in Romania on 12 July and will also meet with Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania Chairman Bela Marko. MS

ROMANIAN PEASANT PARTY SANCTIONS DISSIDENTS

The leadership of the troubled National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) on 11 July "suspended" from party membership the leaderships of five PNTCD county branches and forbade those leaders to run for PNTCD office, Mediafax reported. The sanctions will be in force for one year. Among those suspended is former First Deputy Chairman Vasile Lupu, who is chairman of the Valcea regional PNTCD branch. That branch, together with the now-dissolved county leaderships in Iasi, Neamt, Salaj, and one of the Bucharest sectors, refused to recognize the new PNTCD leadership and called for an extraordinary PNTCD congress to be convened in August. Interim PNTCD Chairman Victor Ciorbea said 30 county branches have so far backed the new leadership and its decision to call the extraordinary congress in December. Ciorbea told journalists: "Vasile Lupu may convoke whatever congress he wishes, but not that of the PNTCD." MS

ILASCU INTERVIEWED ON RFE/RL

Romanian Senator Ilie Ilascu on 10 July told RFE/RL that ever since his liberation from detention in Tiraspol more than two months ago he never stopped attempting to secure the liberation of the three members of his group who are still imprisoned. He said Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin and Intelligence and Security Services chief Valeriu Pasat told him he had to leave the country in order to secure the liberation of the remaining prisoners and that he was promised this would happen by 16 May at the latest. "I did not leave out of free choice," he said. Ilascu also said his death sentence in Tiraspol remains in effect and that he was warned by the Transdniester authorities before his release that the verdict will be carried out if he ever returns there. MS

FORMER BULGARIAN KING TO BE PREMIER

Former King Simeon II on 12 July was officially nominated by his National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) to be the country's next prime minister, AP and Reuters reported. The decision to nominate "Simeon Saxe-Coburgotski" was announced by NDSV parliamentary group leader Plamen Panayotov after a meeting with President Petar Stoyanov. After the announcement was made, Simeon said: "With great emotion, but with my typical sense of responsibility, and taking into consideration the trust voters placed in me on 17 June, I accept the nomination." A special parliamentary session will be held on 24 July to approve the government's lineup. MS

BULGARIA READY TO CURB ROMANY EXODUS TO NORWAY

Stoyan Zahariev, an Interior Ministry official, on 11 July told journalists that "it would be an act of discrimination to ban people from leaving the country on ethnic grounds" but that Bulgaria is "prepared to take back" the refugees requesting asylum in Norway "if they are expelled" and is even ready to "pay for their trip back," Reuters reported. He said that once the refugees are back in Bulgaria, under current legislation they will not be allowed to leave the country for one year. Zahariev said a handful of Bulgarian travel agencies had lured the asylum-seekers, most of whom are Roma, with false promises of job prospects and easily obtainable Norwegian work permits. Police will start investigating those travel firms, he said. Some 650 would-be refugees have arrived in Norway from Bulgaria since June. MS




There is no End Note today.





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