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Newsline - September 6, 2001




PUTIN SENDS SPECIAL ENVOY TO MIDDLE EAST

Following what Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said were requests from both Israel and the Palestinians, after a telephone conversation with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and after his meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin on 5 September dispatched his special envoy for the Middle East, Andrei Vdovin, to meet with all sides in the conflict, RIA-Novosti reported. Before leaving Moscow, Sharon told Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and a group of Russian businessmen that Israel is prepared to open more credit lines for Russian firms in order to expand upon the current $6 billion in trade between the two countries. Meanwhile, Russian Orthodox Church officials said that they are ending church-sponsored pilgrimages to Jerusalem because the church cannot guarantee the security of those taking part, AP reported. VY/PG

PUTIN DECREE OPENS DOOR TO FREER ARMS TRADE

President Putin has signed a decree that clearly defines the types of military equipment and systems available for export and the countries to which such materiel can be exported, "Vremya novostei" reported on 4 September. While many of the specifications remain classified, this document is truly "revolutionary," the paper said, both because of what it reveals and because it specifies that companies that comply with its provisions will no longer need to get government approval on a case-by-case basis for their sales abroad. VY

KASYANOV SAYS DISCRIMINATION AGAINST RUSSIAN TRADE MUST END WITH WTO MEMBERSHIP

Prime Minister Kasyanov told visiting Italian Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero on 5 September that Moscow will insist that its future membership in the World Trade Organization lead to an end to existing forms of discrimination against Russian exports, Interfax reported. PG

KASYANOV SAYS RUSSIA AGAIN 'A NATION OF READERS'

Speaking at the opening of the Moscow Book Fair on 5 September, Prime Minister Kasyanov said Russians are deservedly called "the most reading country in the world," Russian agencies reported. He noted that 80 percent of the books published in Russia today are published by private publishing houses and that 60 percent of the books published are textbooks and scholarly-scientific books. He urged Russian publishers to print more books for children. He also announced that the Russian government will finance over 10 years the publishing of a 30-volume "Great Russian Encyclopedia." PG

GOVERNMENT SLOW TO RESPOND TO DUMA INQUIRIES

The press service of the Duma said on 5 September that more than 90 percent of inquiries from Duma members to the government are answered only 10 days to two months after being submitted, Interfax reported. Moreover, the press service said that those responses are seldom prepared or signed by senior government officials. PG

NEMTSOV OFFERS ZYUGANOV COPY OF 'BLACK BOOK OF COMMUNISM'

Boris Nemtsov, the leader of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), has presented Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov with a copy of "The Black Book of Communism," which details oppression in communist countries in the past, Interfax reported on 5 September. Nemtsov said Zyuganov had asked him about the book, adding that he inscribed it "To dear Gennadii Andreevich from his colleague in the Duma. A very instructive book." The same day, Nemtsov flew to Chechnya to open Internet classes in two schools there, the news service said. PG

KREMLIN PREPARES RESPONSE TO BEREZOVSKY TO USE YELTSIN POLITICALLY

Embattled magnate Boris Berezovsky reportedly plans to use former Russian President Boris Yeltsin against President Putin, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 4 September. Under Berezovsky's alleged plan, Yeltsin would become the honorary chairman of an anti-Putin "people's movement" to be financed by Berezovsky. But the paper said that the Kremlin is preparing a response: It is considering dispatching Yeltsin as ambassador to Beijing, not only keeping him out of Russian domestic politics but putting him closer to the Chinese medical treatments he has reportedly found so useful. VY

DORENKO REENTERS POLITICS, DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM BEREZOVSKY

Sergei Dorenko, a well-known television journalist, announced on 5 September that he will run for a deputy's position in upcoming elections to the Moscow city Duma, Russian agencies reported. He said that his views are "100 percent" at variance with those of embattled and exiled magnate Berezovsky and that he, Dorenko, seeks to back President Putin in his effort "to transform Russia into a European state." Meanwhile, a group of Moscow residents has formed the "Free Moscow" association to promote democratic change in the Russian capital, Interfax reported. PG

CIS FOREIGN MINISTERS DISCUSS JOINT POSITION ON WEST'S HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN

Speaking to journalists after a plenary session of the meeting of CIS foreign ministers in Moscow on 5 September, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov said that the meeting focused on the prevention and settlement of conflicts in the region, joint counterterrorist efforts, and coordinating foreign policy positions in advance of the UN General Assembly session later this fall, Russian and Western agencies reported. Ivanov said that the West often criticizes Russia and the Central Asian states for human rights violations, and that Moscow would like the CIS countries to adopt a common response, the BBC reported the same day. Ivanov also expressed the hope that the UN General Assembly would adopt a resolution in support of the 1972 ABM Treaty, Interfax reported. VY

MOSCOW 'ANALYTICAL CENTER' SAYS WESTERN AGENCIES PLOTTING AGAINST LUKASHENKA

An unidentified Moscow analysis center has prepared and published in the Belarusian mass media a report that claims that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Britain's MI-6, and Germany's BND have agreed on a special plan called "White Stork" that is intended to promote popular hostility against Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka in advance of presidential elections there, "Trud" reported on 5 September. The center further claimed that the plan is being implemented in Minsk by OSCE representative Hans-Georg Wieck who, "Trud" reported the center as saying, is in fact "a longstanding German spy." Meanwhile, RTR television reported the day before that Lukashenka said Russian intelligence has provided him with information showing that Michael Kosak, the U.S. ambassador in Belarus, is leading the plot against him. VY

RUSSIAN SCIENTISTS CONCERNED BY U.S. BACTERIOLOGICAL WEAPONS RESEARCH

Aleksandr Gorbovskii, a senior scientist at the Russian Munitions Agency, told AP on 5 September that he and his colleagues are concerned about American plans to develop a possibly more lethal variant of the bacteria that cause anthrax. The U.S. plan was reported by "The New York Times" on 4 September. Meanwhile, "Vremya MN" on 5 September carried an extensive discussion of the history of Soviet and Russian bacteriological weapons research and development. PG

PUTIN RECEIVES SPANISH KING

President Putin on 5 September met with Juan Carlos I of Spain who was on a one-day private visit to the Russian capital, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

ANGOLAN REFUGEE DIES FROM BEATING

Massa Maioni, a refugee from Angola who attracted the attention of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, died on 5 September from wounds he received from a 23 August beating from people the Moscow police have identified as hooligans, Interfax reported. PG

RUSSIA, CHINA READY TO SIGN PIPELINE ACCORD

Deputy Prime Minister Klebanov said after his talks with his Chinese counterpart Wu Yi in St. Petersburg on 5 September that the two countries are ready to sign an agreement calling for the construction of a natural gas pipeline between the two countries, RIA-Novosti reported. Klebanov said that the accord will be signed on 8 September when a Chinese government delegation arrives in Moscow. VY

FSB SAYS IT EXPELLED SOUTH ASIAN SPY FROM RUSSIA

A spokesman for the Federal Security Service (FSB) said on 5 September that FSB officers have broken up an espionage operation by an unnamed South Asian country and have secured the expulsion of the foreign nationals involved, Interfax reported. VY

CABINET BACKS CONTINUED RUSSIAN PRESENCE IN ANTARCTIC

The cabinet on 5 September decided to maintain the Russian research presence in the Antarctic in order to defend what it called "Russian national interests," RIA-Novosti reported. The agency said that Moscow now plans to spend $10 million next year, down from the $12 million a year it spent prior to 1998 but significantly above the $4.5 million it is spending this year. Evacuation of existing stations there would cost Moscow an estimated $120 million. VY

MOSCOW HOPEFUL ABOUT GETTING OFF FATF MONEY-LAUNDERING BLACKLIST

Members of the Russian delegation arguing that Moscow should be dropped from the money-laundering blacklist maintained by G-7's Financial Action Task Force (FATF) told Reuters on 5 September that they believe that they are close to achieving their goal. "We are 75 percent ready," one Russian delegate said, "and therefore we think that they will make a positive decision." PG

FISCHER SAYS RUSSIA A MODEL OF FINANCIAL REFORM

Stanley Fischer, the former deputy director of the International Monetary Fund, told the Dow Jones news service on 5 September that Russia has been a model of how to conduct economic reform, Interfax-AFI reported. He said that his most recent visit to Russia in June 2001 convinced him that Russia is "firmly" advancing as a market economy. PG

ECONOMIC GROWTH SEEN PROMOTING CONSUMER SOCIETY

According to a Comcon survey reported by "The Moscow Times" on 4 September, recent economic improvements have led ever more Russians to spend more on consumer goods and to be willing to pay more to get higher quality items. In 1998, the survey found, only 23 percent of Russian women were willing to pay more for higher quality; now, 53 percent are. PG

BUMPER CROP SENDING PRICES FOR GRAIN DOWN

Yelena Tyurina, the director of the Moscow Institute of Agrarian Marketing, told Interfax on 5 September that Russia's bumper grain crop this year could end by hurting the agricultural sector if it continues to depress prices. PG

RUSSIA'S PACIFIC RIM HOPES TO ATTRACT INVESTMENT FROM U.S. PACIFIC RIM

The initiative group "The Russian East--the U.S. West Coast" is planning to hold a session in Ulan-Ude on 10-15 September to come up with proposals to attract more investments in Russia's Far East from the other side of the Pacific, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 5 September. PG

LOCAL AND REGIONAL PRESS SAID DYING

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 5 September, Russia's local and regional press is "dying" as a result of the absence of support from the central authorities, and of pressure from changing economic conditions that have led many Russians to stop buying newspapers and magazines and to watch television instead. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" reported the same day that most Russians get all of their news about the Chechen war from television. PG

EKHO MOSKVY JOURNALISTS INTEND TO SET UP NEW RADIO STATION

The staff of the Ekho Moskvy radio station on 5 September told Interfax that because of their conflict with the Gazprom owners, they are seeking the rights to a new frequency so they can launch a new radio station. The Media Ministry is to make a decision on this on 26 September. PG

COMMUNICATIONS MINISTRY TO OPEN 1,860 PUBLIC INTERNET ACCESS POINTS BEFORE END OF YEAR

Communications Minister Leonid Reiman said on 5 September that his ministry plans to open 1,860 public Internet access points by the close of 2001 to attempt to meet rising demand for access, Interfax reported. He said that "the growth of the Internet in Russia is constrained by the price of computers," and consequently the government wants to allow people to share government-owned computers. PG

BORDER GUARDS HAVE STOPPED 80,000 FOR INADEQUATE DOCUMENTS IN 2001

The press service of the Federal Border Guards said on 5 September that Russian border guards have stopped since the beginning of 2001 some 80,000 people with inadequate documents and 3,000 with fraudulent ones, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, the Moscow city Duma the same day adopted an amendment to city legislation that will give foreigners staying in the city for more than ten days three days to register with the authorities and not only one as now, the Russian news service reported. PG

'KURSK' FAMILIES DEMAND INVESTIGATION

The families of the sailors who died when the "Kursk" submarine sank in August 2000 said on 5 September that they have sent a letter to Russian officials demanding an investigation into the causes of the accident, but officials said they have not yet received that document, Russian and Western agencies reported. Meanwhile, residents on the shore near where the Kursk sank and where it is to be recovered told Reuters the same day that they do not trust government statements that there is no radiation danger. Some of them are leaving the area, the news service said. PG

UDMURTS PROTEST AGAINST CONSTRUCTION OF ROCKET DISMANTLING PLANT

"Vremya MN" reported on 5 September that members of the "Defenders of the Rainbow" environmental group have been working with the residents of Votkinsk in Udmurtia to oppose the construction of a plant to dismantle rocket engines. City residents said that they fear chemical spills and other dangers. PG

RUSSIAN POSTAL SERVICE TO BE PRIVATIZED

Deputy Communications Minister Anatolii Kiselev said on 5 September that his agency will transform the country's postal service into a state corporation and then in 2004-05 privatize it as a joint stock company, RIA-Novosti reported. Meanwhile, Communications Minister Reiman said the same day that he will invite foreign consultants to help the postal service make this transformation, Interfax reported. VY/PG

THREE LIFERS ESCAPE IN MOSCOW'S BUTYRKA PRISON

Three inmates of Moscow's notorious Butyrka prison escaped from their cells into the basement, where more than 250 guards and dogs searched for them, Russian agencies reported on 5 September. The search had not yielded results by the end of the day because prison officials lacked an accurate map of the prison basement. PG

COSSACKS AGAIN PERMITTED TO WEAR TRADITIONAL KNIFE

Prime Minister Kasyanov has signed a special directive allowing members of Cossack communities to wear the kinzhal, the traditional Caucasian dagger, RTR television reported on 5 September. The station said that the document carefully lists precisely what kinds of weapons can be worn when and appears to bear the touch of President Putin. VY

MOSCOW POLICE CHIEF CALLS FOR WAR ON CRIME

Noting that serious crime in the Russian capital has risen even though the overall number of crimes committed there fell slightly over the last year, Vladimir Pronin, the chief of the city Interior Ministry agency, said on 5 September that he plans to seek the use of draftees to fill the ranks of the police force, to enlist the aid of the population in warding off terrorist attacks, to crack down on corruption in the police, and to introduce new performance standards for those who enforce the laws. PG

MOSCOW CITY GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE FREE FUNERALS, MAY BAN SMOKING IN SCHOOLS

The Moscow city Duma on 5 September adopted legislation providing free funerals to city residents and approved on first reading draft rules that would prohibit smoking in schools and on school property, Interfax-Moscow reported. PG

PATRIARCH WANTS LENIN TO REMAIN WHERE HE IS -- UNTIL THE WHOLE NATION AGREES TO BURY HIM

Patriarch Aleksii II said on 5 September that the body of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin should be removed from the mausoleum on Red Square only when the entire nation has expressed its support for such a move, ITAR-TASS reported. "At present no action should be taken," Aleksii said, "that might further divide the nation and start another confrontation in society. We have had enough of all that during the past decade. Things like that do not promote national unity or the consolidation of the state either." PG

SAKHA RECONSTRUCTION REPORTEDLY ON SCHEDULE

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on 5 September that reconstruction work in the city of Lensk in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) will be completed as promised by 15 September, Interfax reported. Most homes and businesses were destroyed in Lensk during severe flooding last May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 2001). Earlier, President Putin set 25 September as the deadline to complete the restoration work, and Shoigu himself said that he will resign if the work is not completed by 15 September, "Obshchaya gazeta" No. 36 reported. According to the weekly, not only Shoigu but also Sakha President Mikhail Nikolaev took a keen personal interest in the progress of restoration work at Lensk: "If the city is not rebuilt in time, then [Nikolaev] could forget about re-election for a third term," the weekly said. JAC

UNESCO OFFICIALS CONCERNED OVER LAKE BAIKAL

UNESCO officials are considering including Lake Baikal in a list of world objects facing the threat of extinction, "Vremya novostei" reported on 5 September. However, Russian government officials are reportedly hoping to forestall such an action, fearing that it would hurt the government's chances of obtaining a loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to restructure the company that is a major polluter of the lake, the Baikal Cellulose and Paper Plant. At the end of August, Ivan Dakhov of the Audit Chamber told an international conference on the lake that for the last seven years only 6.5 percent of the resources earmarked for the federal program for protection of Baikal were actually disbursed. According to Dakhov, more than 12.5 billion rubles ($424.2 million) will be spent on the program over the next 10 years. JAC

SIBNEFT STRIKES OIL IN CHUKOTKA

Sibneft completed drilling of its first oil well in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 5 September. According to the okrug administration, the company will begin developing the well in the middle of September. In November, the company will begin construction of a road connecting the Western Lake gas deposit with the capital city of Anadyr, in order for Anadyr's power plant to be supplied with gas by the middle of 2002. JAC

NEMTSOV, AUSHEV DISCUSS CHECHEN PEACE TALKS

Following his visit to Chechnya, SPS leader Nemtsov traveled to Magas on 5 September to meet with Ingushetia's president, Ruslan Aushev, to discuss the optimum format for talks on ending the war in Chechnya, Interfax reported. Nemtsov told Interfax after that discussion that both he and Aushev agree that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov ought to be a party to those talks. But in view of the Russian leadership's rejection of Maskhadov as a negotiating partner, Nemtsov proposed, as he has done on previous occasions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 August 2001 and "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 29, 13 August 2001) that the Chechen people elect delegates to represent them at peace talks. Neither Aushev nor Nemtsov named any Russian politician whom they consider qualified to represent Moscow in peace talks, but they agreed that ideally the Russian representative "should not be someone who took part in hostilities against Chechnya." LF




ARMENIAN POLITICAL PARTIES APPEAL TO GOVERNMENT OVER INCREASED TELEPHONE CHARGES

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutiun appealed on 5 September to the Armenian government to seek a solution to its dispute with the Greek owners of Armenia's telecommunications monopoly Armentel over the controversial per-minute charges the latter has introduced, Noyan Tapan reported. Speaking at a roundtable discussion of Armentel the same day, Union of Constitutional Rights Deputy Chairman Hayk Babukhanian urged the population not to pay the increased charges, as did Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications Vaghinak Kocharian. Kocharian said that the Armenian government plans to take legal action against Armentel to force it to abandon the increased charges. LF

NAGORNO-KARABAKH HOLDS LOCAL ELECTIONS

Residents of unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic went to the polls on 5 September to elect new local government bodies, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. A total of almost 2000 candidates contested legislative and executive posts in 223 towns and villages. In Stepanakert, five rival candidates challenged Hamik Avanesian, who is affiliated with the ruling Democratic Artsakh Party, for the post of mayor. The unrecognized enclave's president, Arkadii Ghukasian, told journalists after casting his ballot that voting was "legitimate and democratic." No major irregularities were reported. Azerbaijani officials have condemned the ballot as illegal, while the Council of Europe has argued that it creates an additional obstacle to resolving the Karabakh conflict. But the U.S. State Department said last week that the elections will not have an impact on the ongoing search for a solution to the conflict. LF

AZERBAIJANI MINISTER DISCUSSES SECURITY ISSUES IN IRAN

During talks in Tehran on 5 September with Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hassan Rowhani, Azerbaijani National Security Minister Namig Abbasov acknowledged that relations between the two countries are strained and must be improved, AP reported, quoting IRNA. Rowhani for his part expressed Tehran's desire for "good neighborly" relations, stressing that Azerbaijan lies within the zone of Iran's national security interests and that interference by third parties into Iranian-Azerbaijani relations cannot be justified. LF

SENTENCE PASSED ON FORMER KAZAKH PREMIER

Kazakhstan's Supreme Court sentenced Akezhan Kazhegeldin in absentia on 6 September to 10 years imprisonment on charges of abuse of his official position, tax evasion, and illegal possession of arms, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The prosecution had demanded a 12-year sentence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15, 16, and 29 August 2001). Kazhegeldin's property in Kazakhstan has been confiscated, and he has been ordered to pay 1 billion tenges ($6.8 million) in compensation for "damage inflicted on the state." Kazhegeldin has lived in Europe and the U.S. since leaving Kazakhstan in 1999. The prosecution has sent special letters of warning to several current and former senior Kazakh government officials whose testimony failed to substantiate the charges against Kazhegeldin. LF

KAZAKHSTAN, LATVIA DISCUSS POTENTIAL FOR OIL EXPORTS...

Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins arrived in Kazakhstan on 5 September on a three-day official visit and met the same day in Astana with President Nursultan Nazarbaev, Russian agencies reported. The two men discussed the prospects for exporting oil from Kazakhstan via Russia and Latvia. Berzins said Latvia could initially ship between 3-5 million tons of Kazakh crude, provided agreement is reached with Russia on rail and pipeline tariffs. An agreement reached last year on supplying Kazakh crude for refining in Lithuania has been held up by failure to reach such a transit agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2000 and 16 February 2001). The two men also discussed expanding cooperation in the textile sector and the manufacture of shoes and furniture. LF

...PLAN TO EXPAND ECONOMIC COOPERATION

Berzins's visit coincided with the first session of the Kazakhstan-Latvia intergovernmental commission for trade and economic cooperation, which opened in Astana on 5 September and is being jointly chaired by Latvian Economics Minister Aigars Kalvitis and Kazakh Trade and Economics Minister Zhaqsybek Kulekeev, ITAR-TASS and Caspian News Agency reported. The two sides noted that bilateral trade turnover last year increased by 50 percent to reach $74 million. Much of that increase was due to exports of cotton from Kazakhstan to Latvian textile plants. LF

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS KYRGYZSTAN

Visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi held talks in Bishkek on 5 September with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev and with his Kyrgyz counterpart Muratbek Imanaliev, Interfax and Caspian News Agency reported. Kharrazi also discussed with Kyrgyz First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev the prospects for expanding bilateral economic cooperation. Kharrazi told journalists after those meetings that Iran seeks closer ties with the Central Asian states, especially in the areas of economic cooperation and strengthening regional security. He identified Afghanistan, international terrorism, and drug trafficking as major threats to regional security. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT ACKNOWLEDGES DEBT TO RUSSIA

In an extensive interview published in "Trud" on 5 September and pegged to the 10th anniversary of Tajikistan's independence, Imomali Rakhmonov admitted that it is not certain whether Tajikistan would have survived 10 years as an independent state without Russian assistance. He added that preserving "Tajikistan's sovereignty and self-sufficiency depends first and foremost on geopolitical priorities." As he has done in several earlier interviews this year, Rakhmonov also expressed his hope of raising economic cooperation with Russia to the level of military cooperation. He denied that the opposition or the independent media in Tajikistan are subjected to any restrictions. LF

SEVEN MEN CHARGED WITH MURDER OF TAJIK OFFICIAL

Seven former Tajik opposition fighters were charged in Dushanbe on 5 September with the April murder of First Deputy Interior Minister Khabib Sanginov, also a former member of the opposition, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2001). Investigators have established that the seven men acquired the weapons they used to kill Sanginov and his bodyguard from Nazarali Yarmatov, an opposition fighter who is now on the staff of the Emergency Situations Ministry, which is headed by former opposition field commander Mirzo Zieev. LF




OSCE REJECTS MINSK'S ESPIONAGE ACCUSATIONS

"Sovetskaya Belorussiya," a press organ of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's administration, published on 5 September a lengthy "analytical memorandum" accusing U.S., British, and German intelligence agencies of contriving an operation code-named "White Stork" with the aim of overthrowing Lukashenka. The newspaper alleges that Western spymasters are using the OSCE's Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk, Western humanitarian agencies, and Belarusian NGOs as a cover for their operation. The publication claimed the operation is to culminate in a 10 September night march of young opposition activists from Belarusian regions on Minsk and a possible attack on Lukashenka's residence. "The article appears to be an attempt to discredit the advisory and monitoring activities which the OSCE has undertaken. On earlier occasions, official publications have attempted to associate [the OSCE] with intelligence operations. Such accusations are groundless," Minsk's OSCE mission said in a statement. JM

U.S. SAYS BELARUS'S DEMOCRATIZATION AT RISK IN ELECTION

"The people of Belarus will vote for president on 9 September 2001. Sadly, though, the heartening transitions under way elsewhere in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE are at grave risk in that nation," U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on 5 September. Boucher added that in recent months the Belarusian authorities "have increased a campaign of intimidation and threats against the opposition and repeatedly denied them fair media access and funding." According to Boucher, the activities of the Belarusian authorities are "calling into grave doubt whether the electoral process can meet the free and fair standard or reflect the true will of the Belarusian people." JM

AUTHORITIES URGE BELARUSIANS TO VOTE EARLY

An official from the Central Election Commission told Belapan on 6 September that 4.04 percent of Belarusian voters voted on 4 and 5 September, taking advantage of the early voting option for the 9 September presidential elections. According to reports by Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service in the past two days, the authorities have launched a widescale propaganda campaign, urging Belarusians to cast their votes ahead of 9 September. The Belarusian opposition has repeatedly voiced fears that the early voting procedure -- which cannot be efficiently monitored by independent observers -- may be the primary means utilized by the authorities to rig the election. JM

BELARUSIAN KGB CHARGES ITALIAN CITIZEN WITH SPYING

The Belarusian KGB on 5 September said it has charged Italian citizen Antonio Angelo Piu with spying and Belarusian citizen Iryna Ushak with treason, Reuters reported. "Piu and Ushak were...caught red-handed during an exchange of documents which contained material of a military nature," the KGB said in a statement. Piu and Ushak have been held in custody since their arrests in April. If convicted, they could face up to 15 years in prison. Piu heads a foreign company in Belarus. JM

UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT ADOPTS 2002 DRAFT BUDGET

The cabinet on 5 September endorsed a 2002 draft budget, setting revenues at 57.1 billion hryvni ($10.7 billion) and spending at 61.3 billion hryvni, Interfax reported. The budget deficit is equal to 1.7 percent of Ukraine's GDP. Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov explained that, in contrast to this year's zero-deficit budget, the 2002 budget has a deficit because privatization receipts are no longer included in budget revenues. Next year's privatization income is projected to be 5.8 billion hryvni. The government plans to direct 52 percent of budget spending for social programs, increase wages for state workers by 15 percent, and keep the tax burden below 18 percent of the country's GDP. The document also provides for the spending of $400 million to pay off Ukraine's foreign debt. JM

UKRAINIAN INTERIOR MINISTER WARNS OPPOSITION OVER ANNIVERSARY OF JOURNALIST'S MURDER

Yuriy Smyrnov told Interfax on 5 September that the police will react with "tough measures" if the opposition resorts to "provocation" during its actions on 15-16 September to mark the first anniversary of the disappearance of independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. "I do not want another 60 of our employees to suffer for nothing," Smyrnov added, referring to scuffles between riot police and demonstrators on 9 March. The antipresidential National Salvation Forum intends to hold a march commemorating Gongadze in Kyiv on 15 September. The following day, Ukrainian journalists plan to gather in Kyiv and set up an Journalistic Ethics Commission in order to react to defamatory media campaigning in the upcoming parliamentary elections. JM

ESTONIA, DENMARK SIGN COOPERATION MEMORANDUM

Danish Transportation Minister Jacob Buksti and Estonian Transportation and Communications Minister Toivo Jurgenson signed a cooperation memorandum in Tallinn on 5 September, ETA reported. The Danish Transport Ministry agreed to provide 90 percent of the financing for two projects: the monitoring of noise levels at Tallinn airport and a risk analysis of the Muuga port in Tallinn. The Estonian Aviation Department will provide 10 percent of the 6.5 million kroons ($375,000) needed for the noise study, while Tallinn Port will provide a similar share of the 7.35 million kroon port study. Jurgenson said Denmark's support for Estonia's transport sector has increased two-three times over the past two years and, "Today's memorandum will make the cooperation on the level of interministerial projects more concrete." SG

EU PROGRESS REPORT ON LATVIA RELEASED

The European Parliament released a progress report on Latvia on 4 September, LETA reported the next day. The report stated that Latvia has made an enormous effort to reduce the gap between it and the first round EU candidate countries, and has realistic opportunities to overtake them if it continues making progress in reforming its administrative and judicial system, as well as fighting corruption. The report asserted that Latvia meets the political criteria for EU membership, but mentions areas where further improvements are needed. Deficiencies in procedural law and unacceptably long pretrial detention periods, especially for minors, were named as the main problems in the human rights sector. The European Parliament also pointed out the need to improve the efficiency, accountability, and transparency of Latvia's public administration system, and to combat corruption. The report praised Latvia's successful economic development with a low rate of inflation and lower budget deficit. It noted an improvement in the integration of noncitizens, but recommended greater government support for that program as well as the need for free language courses for such adults. SG

LITHUANIAN LIBERAL UNION CHAIRMAN RESIGNS

Former Lithuanian Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas resigned from the post of chairman of the Liberal Union on 5 September, ELTA reported. The other members of the executive council also resigned. Paksas made the decision when it became clear at the meeting of the party's council in Anyksciai that he no longer had the support of the majority of the council's members. Former Klaipeda Mayor Eugenijus Gentvilas, whom Paksas replaced as Liberal Union Chairman in 1999, was appointed acting chairman. The Liberal Union will hold an extraordinary congress on 27 October to elect a new leadership. SG

POLISH PARLIAMENT DISPLEASED WITH PREMIER'S REPORT ON BUDGET CRISIS

The Sejm on 6 September voted by 236 to 133, with 33 abstentions, to reject Jerzy Buzek's report on the situation of public finances as unsatisfactory and lacking specific proposals to avert the looming budget meltdown in 2002, PAP reported. Buzek told the parliament the previous day that, according to a "pessimistic scenario," next year's budget deficit may amount to 88.2 billion zlotys ($20.7 billion). Dismissing calls from the opposition Democratic Left Alliance to present a plan of budget spending cuts before the parliamentary election on 23 September, Buzek said it is not possible for the government to come up with precise proposals because economic results for August are not yet available. JM

LITHUANIA EXPRESSES INTEREST IN POLAND'S GAS DEAL WITH DENMARK

Lithuanian Premier Algirdas Brazauskas said in Warsaw on 5 August that Lithuania wants to join a Polish-Danish agreement on building a gas pipeline, PAP reported. In July, Poland and Denmark agreed to build a 230-kilometer pipeline at an estimated cost of $300 million to deliver North Sea gas to Poland (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2001). Brazauskas noted that Latvia and Estonia are also interested in the Polish-Danish pipeline project. Brazauskas and Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus met in Warsaw with their Polish counterparts, Buzek and Aleksander Kwasniewski, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic ties between both countries. JM

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR CONSIDERING TEMELIN 'ZERO OPTION'...

In a resolution approved on 5 September on the progress of accession negotiations with the Czech Republic, the European Parliament said the "zero option" on the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant should be considered, and recommended that an international conference be held to examine the possibilities and the costs of decommissioning the plant, CTK and international agencies reported. The resolution praises the Czech government for measures taken to facilitate the integration of the Romany minority, accelerated privatization, and progress in bringing Czech legislation in line with that of the EU. At the same time, it also criticized the growing budget deficit, called for a quick reform of the health and social security systems, and said the government must act quickly against youth unemployment. It also called for measures against corruption in public administration and in private business. MS

...PROMPTING CZECH CRITICISM, REJECTION

Deputy Premier and Social Democratic Party Chairman Vladimir Spidla told CTK in reaction to the resolution that the European Parliament cannot force the Czech Republic to do anything about Temelin because "the EU has no common regulations on nuclear safety." Government spokesman Libor Roucek said that the European Parliament "should not force on candidate countries something that does not apply to EU members." Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil, while noting the resolution shows the Czech Republic "is among the best prepared candidates," said the European Parliament members failed to consider all of the materials relating to Temelin submitted to them by Czech diplomats, as well as the "fundamental progress" made in implementing the 2000 Melk agreement between the Czech and the Austrian premiers. Vaclav Klaus, the leader of opposition Civic Democratic Party and Chamber of Deputies' chairman, said the resolution "lacks any serious argument that could prompt us to seriously consider Temelin's shutdown." Most other politicians interviewed by CTK were also critical of the resolution. MS

CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES 2002 BUDGET DRAFT, REFERENDA DRAFT...

The government on 5 September approved a "framework draft" for the 2002 budget and decided to begin talks on the budget with other political formations, Deputy Premier Spidla was cited by CTK as telling journalists. The draft envisages a deficit of 52.2 billion crowns (some $1.37 billion), revenues of 700 billion crowns, and expenditure of 752.2 billion crowns. The specifics of the draft are to be approved on 17 September. The cabinet also approved a draft bill on holding plebiscites, including a referendum on EU accession. The bill stipulates that a plebiscite can be called by the president, by the parliament, or at the initiative of 300,000 voters. The agency cited Jiri Stodulka, the chairman of the Senate's Constitutional Commission, as saying he is "skeptical" that the government-approved draft will be passed by the parliament. The Senate passed its own version of a referendum bill earlier this year and forwarded it to the Chamber of Deputies. MS

...POSTPONES VISA REQUIREMENT FOR ROMANIANS

The cabinet also decided to postpone the introduction of visa requirements for Romanian nationals from 1 October to 1 November, CTK reported government spokesman Roucek as telling journalists on 5 September. Roucek said that the Foreign Ministry has asked for more time to prepare the additional technical equipment and personnel at the Czech Embassy in Bucharest needed for that purpose. The ministry also said the costs of introducing the regulation could be as high as 20 million crowns ($525,000). MS

CZECH REPUBLIC WINS ARBITRATION CASE AGAINST U.S. MAGNATE

The Finance Ministry on 5 September hailed what it described as a "legal victory" against U.S. multimillionaire Ronald Lauder, AP reported. A statement by the ministry said a London arbitration court has unanimously rejected damage claims by Lauder, who filed a $500 million complaint against the Czech government for losses suffered from his investment in the private Nova TV network. He said the Czech government failed to adequately protect his investment. Lauder also sued his former partner, Nova TV Chairman Vladimir Zelezny, to whom he lost control over Nova TV in 1999. A spokesman for Lauder's Central European Media Enterprises company refused to comment on the ruling, saying the company has not yet received it. MS

CZECH DRIVERS PROTEST IN PRAGUE

Government spokesman Roucek rejected protests on 5 September of Czech drivers who blocked traffic on several streets in central Prague as well as access to the Transportation Ministry's parking lot, saying the drivers were "acting like the communists did in 1948," when they overthrew the government, CTK and dpa reported. The protest was organized by the Association of Small Cars Importers and the Association of Driving Schools against new regulations limiting the age of imported cars and tightening rules on the issuance of driver's licenses. They also demanded the resignation of Transportation Minister Jaroslav Schling, saying he insulted them in a TV broadcast. The drivers handed a letter to Premier Milos Zeman at the premier's office but Zeman said he will not dismiss Schling and other ministry officials whom the protesters want fired. The protesters spent the night under open skies in Prague and said they would resume the protest the next day, but Prague police chief Jan Charvat said police would no longer tolerate any blockade of traffic and would "use all legal means" to prevent such action. MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT APPROVES REGIONAL REFORM DAFT LAW

The cabinet headed by Premier Mikulas Dzurinda on 5 September approved a draft bill transferring prerogatives over the management of health care and pensions from central authorities to local administrations, CTK and international agencies reported. The bill gives regional parliaments more control over their own finances. Dzurinda told journalists that the draft bill will reach the parliament by the end of this week, making it possible for the legislature to approve it by the end of September. The Hungarian Coalition Party has threatened to leave the cabinet unless the local administration reform is enlarged and approved by the parliament by the end of this month. MS

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT 'REGRETS' SLOVAK DECENTRALIZATION NOT LARGE ENOUGH FOR SMK

The resolution of the European Parliament regarding Slovakia's progress in EU accession talks said the parliament "regrets" that the Local Public Administration Law approved by the Slovak legislature has failed to accommodate the demands of the Hungarian minority, CTK reported on 5 September. The resolution includes critical remarks on the situation of the Romany minority in Slovakia and on trafficking of women, but praised Slovakia for having fulfilled the EU's political criteria and for having scored successes in the economy. It said Slovakia has accelerated privatization and has caught up with the leading candidates for EU accession. MS

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT SAYS HUNGARY "MOST ADVANCED" IN ACCESSION PREPARATIONS

The European Parliament on 5 September approved a positive country report on Hungary, rejecting most of the motions for amendments containing critical remarks about the country. Regarding Hungary's Status Law, the report recommended that the Hungarian government work out the details of the law's implementation in order to ensure its compatibility with European norms. The European Parliament also asked the European Commission to compare the law to similar legislation existing in European countries, and determine its compatibility with the aquis communautaire and "the spirit of good neighborly relations." The report placed Hungary first among EU candidates, and requested that the European Commission, at the earliest possible time, provide a specific date for the completion of the accession talks with Budapest. MSZ

TORGYAN TO RUN AGAIN IN 2002 ELECTIONS

Independent Smallholders' Party Chairman Jozsef Torgyan on 5 September announced that in the 2002 elections he will run again for parliament in the individual constituency of Mateszalka, eastern Hungary. In other news, the governing board of the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) on 5 September approved the electoral cooperation agreement signed recently with FIDESZ. Party Chairwoman Ibolya David again denied in her report to the board that there is any addendum to that agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2001). MDF Budapest board Chairman Laszlo Szoke similarly denied earlier media reports that he will initiate the cancellation of the agreement. MSZ

HUNGARIAN VILLAGE ALLEY NAMED AFTER HORTHY

An alley in the Pest County village of Paty has been named after Miklos Horthy, Hungary's head of state between 1920 and 1944. This is the first time since World War II that a street has been named after Horthy. The proposal was submitted to the village council by the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party. Paty Mayor Gabor Wiedermann opposed it, but said a majority of local councilors voted in favor. In other news, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told a press conference in Melk, Austria, that a new German-language university will open in Hungary in September 2002. Orban spoke following the second "Little Danube" summit of the prime ministers of Hungary, Austria, Baden-Wurttemberg, and Bavaria. MSZ




LEOTARD WANTS EU FORCE FOR MACEDONIA

Former French Defense Minister Francois Leotard, the EU's envoy for Macedonia, wants a 1,500-strong EU force to deploy there after NATO's Operation Essential Harvest is completed, the "Financial Times" reported on 6 September. The daily adds that, if approved, "it would be the first deployment of an EU military force independent of the U.S. in the Balkans, though it would still need U.S. logistics. The Macedonians will need to invite the force to operate." Leotard stressed that "the EU, for the first time in the history of the Balkans, [will be able] to show it was able to cope with a crisis." The plan is one of several that EU foreign ministers will discuss over the 8-9 September weekend near Brussels. One unnamed EU official told the British daily that "this is not EU policy. This is Leotard's private view. The whole issue of the follow-up to Essential Harvest [NATO's 30-day operation to collect weapons from Albanian rebels] has yet to be decided." PM

OTHER PLANS FOR MACEDONIA?

Another plan under consideration by some EU officials is to set up a "coalition of the willing" among those countries willing to send troops to provide security for OSCE monitors, who will be observing the implementation of the political settlement, Reuters reported from Brussels on 5 September. Elsewhere, a NATO spokesman said that the alliance "is not...considering a new mission or making plans for an extension" of the current one. U.S. envoy to Macedonia James Pardew recently suggested that NATO might indeed consider a continuing role in Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2001). Whatever the nature of the international presence, Germany and France intend to be involved. The "Financial Times" reported that German and French leaders agreed in Berlin that NATO's arms-gathering mission will be completed by 26 September as scheduled, and that they are "willing to remain involved beyond then." German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said: "We also agreed that France and Germany will work closely over what will come...[later, including] the necessary things that go beyond Essential Harvest." PM

PARDEW: RUSSIA AGREES TO INTERNATIONAL PRESENCE IN MACEDONIA

U.S. special envoy to Macedonia James Pardew said in Moscow on 6 September that he and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov have agreed on the need for a continued international presence in Macedonia, Reuters reported. "We talked about the matter and agreed on the need for an extended international presence in Macedonia for a period of time. The nature of that was not defined. But I think the ministry agreed with us that there is a need for an extended international presence to stabilize the situation." Pardew noted that the Russians agreed that "an increased civil presence requires adequate security from the [Macedonian] government or from some form of international security force." Pardew said his meeting was "very, very good," and that Ivanov's analysis of the Balkan situation is "very sophisticated." Pardew added that "We talked about how Russia could be helpful in ensuring long-term peace in the region. We want to work closely with Russia to move forward on this common interest" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2001 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 July 2001). PM

IVANOV GIVES FAMILIAR MESSAGE ON BALKANS

Ivanov told a press conference in Moscow on 6 September that "we are witnessing attempts by certain forces to further destabilize the situation and undermine the legitimate Macedonian government's moves to normalize the situation. And we know where those forces are based -- Kosovo. Their policy is aimed at undermining stability in the whole of the Balkans," AP reported. He added that "the main goal of the world community is to prevent the development of the situation in Macedonia from leading to destabilization of the situation and not to worsen the already difficult situation in the Balkans." Moscow's policy (and that of Belgrade) is to portray NATO's work in Kosova as incompetent at best in order to embarrass and discredit the Atlantic alliance. Both Russia and Serbia want an international Balkan conference in hopes of regaining influence in the region at the expense of NATO countries. PM

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT RESUMES DEBATE

Speaker Stojan Andov reconvened the legislature on 6 September at 12:00 noon, AP reported. Only about 12 additional deputies are scheduled to speak before the vote of confidence in the peace plan, which could come later in the afternoon (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 September 2001). The vote requires 80 out of 120 votes to pass. The most important question is whether enough of the deputies who have criticized the plan will actually vote "no" and block the measure. PM

EU ENCOURAGES MACEDONIANS TO BACK SETTLEMENT

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said in Skopje on 5 September that Western countries see Macedonia as a "partner" and not as a "protectorate," dpa reported. He added that "any [attempt to secure a] division [of the country along ethnic lines] under the guise of NATO will never find our support." Top EU officials Chris Patten and Javier Solana are due to meet with Macedonian leaders on 6 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2001). The two men will encourage support for the settlement by promising to organize a donors conference. Brussels is also offering a $27 million damage and infrastructure repair package, $44 million in state budget support, and $37.7 million as part of a broader cooperation package, AP reported. PM

RED CROSS TALLIES DISPLACED PERSONS IN MACEDONIA

Officials of the Macedonian Red Cross said in Skopje on 5 September that the number of internally displaced persons now stands at 75,878, dpa reported. Some 47,148 are from the Tetovo region, 16,266 from Kumanovo, 8,278 from Skopje and Aracinovo, and 4,186 from Skopska Crna Gora. Elsewhere, displaced persons ended their nine-day blockade of the border crossing to Serbia at Tabanovce after talks with government officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2001). PM

FOREIGN MINISTER TOPS MACEDONIAN POLL

A recent poll conducted by a Macedonian NGO of "citizens" suggests that Social Democratic Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva is the most popular politician, with a rating of 66.4 percent, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 5 September. President Boris Trajkovski follows with 58.5 percent. Social Democratic leader Branko Crvenkovski is in third place with a 54.8 percent favorable rating. At the other end of the scale, ethnic Albanian leader Arben Xhaferi received a negative rating from 79.7 percent of the respondents. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski is disliked by 63.6 percent. The least popular foreign politicians are Javier Solana with a 71.2 percent negative rating, followed by NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson with 60.4 percent. PM

ARE SERBIAN WAR CRIMINALS 'PROTECTED' IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA?

Beriz Belkic, the Muslim representative on the Bosnian joint presidency, told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service from Sarajevo on 5 September that The Hague chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte told him that Radovan Karadzic enjoys official protection from the top Bosnian Serb leadership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2001). She told Belkic that Republika Srpska President Mirko Sarovic and Interior Minister Dragomir Jovicic are "directly responsible" for this state of affairs. Also in the Bosnian capital, Del Ponte said that the Bosnian Serb and Herzegovinian Croat authorities are "not cooperating" with the tribunal, Reuters reported. She noted that 38 suspects are still at large in the former Yugoslavia, 27 of whom have been publicly indicted and 11 secretly. Del Ponte added, "I am sure that if I can put in place my own tracking team, I will locate fugitives in the Republika Srpska, if the government is not cooperating." PM

HARTMANN: KARADZIC, MLADIC ON THE MOVE

Del Ponte's spokeswoman Florence Hartmann told RFE/RL on 6 September that Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic travel frequently between Bosnia, Serbia, and Montenegro. RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported the previous day from Banja Luka that U.S. officials have told Bosnian Serb authorities that they cannot expect serious economic growth as long as Karadzic remains at large. The officials added that the best thing for all concerned would be for Karadzic to turn himself in to The Hague voluntarily. PM

ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER GETS MANDATE

President Rexhep Meidani has asked Prime Minister Ilir Meta of the Socialist Party to form a new government, Reuters reported from Tirana on 5 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2001). The Socialists won 73 out of 140 parliamentary seats in the 24 June elections and have 13 additional votes from coalition partners. PM

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT WELCOMES EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

The cabinet headed by Adrian Nastase on 5 September said it is "satisfied" with the outcome of the debates in the European Parliament on Romania's progress in EU accession talks and welcomed the resolution on Romania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2001) that was formally approved that day, Romanian Radio reported on 6 September. The cabinet also greeted the acknowledgment by the European Parliament of the "important contribution that Romania can bring to regional security" if admitted to NATO in 2002. Speaking to a forum of Romanian diplomats in Bucharest earlier that day, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said that the resolution reflects Romania's progress and that he is confident that the European Commission's report due in November will take note of further progress. Geoana called on the diplomats to work "more pragmatically" than in the past toward achieving Romania's integration goals. MS

ROMANIA POSTPONES STATUS LAW CONSULTATIONS WITH HUNGARY

A Foreign Ministry spokesman in Bucharest on 5 September said Romania has requested the postponement to later this month of the scheduled talks with Hungary, which were due to open this week, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The spokesman gave Geoana's "very heavy agenda" as the reason for the request. The talks were to focus on the regulations about to be issued by the Hungarian government on the implementation of the Status Law. Addressing the Romanian diplomats gathered in Bucharest (see above), President Ion Iliescu on 5 September said Transylvania "is not a territory on which there is joint Romanian-Hungarian sovereignty," and only Romanian laws apply to citizens living there. Iliescu again called the Status Law "discriminatory and anti-European." Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania Chairman Bela Marko on 5 September said his party wants the pending Police Law to specify that members of the police serving in localities with ethnic minority populations of more than 20 percent must be conversant in the languages of those minorities. MS

TRANSDNIESTER SUSPENDS NEGOTIATIONS WITH CHISINAU

The Transdniester Supreme Soviet on 5 September decide to "suspend" negotiations with Chisinau in response to what it called the "Moldovan customs blockade," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The separatists' "foreign minister" was cited by ITAR-TASS as saying, "We will agree to resume the dialogue only after the problem has been solved with the help of the guarantors -- Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE." In an interview with ITAR-TASS on 5 September, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin said the separatist leadership is "seeking any pretext to dodge the Moldovan leadership's proposal to grant the Transdniester a special status." Voronin said this status would satisfy residents on both sides of Dniester River and preserve everybody's rights. He said that "there is no economic blockade of the Transdniester region," and explained that new custom seals were introduced as a result of Moldova's accession to the World Trade Organization. This "caused a painful reaction" in Tiraspol because its leaders "will no longer be able to carry out illegal operations which earned them up to $1 billion," Voronin said. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT APPEALS TO TRANSDNIESTRIANS

Upon returning from Moscow on 5 September, Voronin appealed to the residents of the breakaway region, speaking in Russian on Moldovan radio, Romanian Radio reported the next day. In the unprecedented direct appeal, he reiterated the readiness of Chisinau to grant a special autonomous status to Transdniester and called on the region's population to support those proposals. While denying that Chisinau has instituted an economic blockade, Voronin said that under its present leadership the Transdniester has been turned into "a CIS and a European black hole" that allows "international mafia clans" to indulge in illegal transactions with oil, alcohol, drugs, and armaments and make "enormous profits." He said the present leadership in Tiraspol is under the influence of these traffickers, who are interested in maintaining tension between the two sides. Voronin called on the Transdniestrians to ignore "the smear campaign" launched by the Tiraspol authorities against Moldova and to "display wisdom and do everything for Moldova's reunification into a single state where national minorities will not be discriminated against in any form." MS

MOLDOVA CALLS ON CIS MEMBERS TO STOP TRANSDNIESTER CONTACTS

The Foreign Ministry called on all CIS members to abstain from contacts with the Transdniester leadership "at any" level, as well as to refrain from "other actions that may negatively influence" negotiations with the separatists, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The Moldovan appeal was handed to participants in a CIS foreign ministers' meeting in Moscow on 5 September. Foreign Minister Nicolae Dudau, who is attending the meeting, called on CIS countries to contribute to "creating favorable conditions" for the settlement of the conflict. Dudau also met with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov to discuss the pending bilateral treaty between the two countries. MS

TIRASPOL ACCUSES MOLDOVAN MILITARY OBSERVER OF ESPIONAGE

The Transdniester authorities have recently detained Major Iurie Ceibas, a member of the Moldovan military observers team of the Joint Control Commission (JCC), Infotag reported on 5 September. George Roman, JCC co-chairman, said the incident was discussed on 4 September at a meeting of the commission. The Transdniester delegation at the JCC said Ceibas was detained in the central square of Tiraspol on 2 September during the celebrations of the Transdniestrian "11th independence anniversary." The delegation said Ceibas was dressed in civilian clothes and carried a tape recorder and a camera during the military parade there. The Moldovan delegation said that in line with an earlier agreement, military observers committing offenses must be prosecuted by the authorities of the side they represent, and demanded that Ceibas be transferred to the jurisdiction of Moldovan prosecutors. MS

TRANSDNIESTER SETS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION DATE

The separatist authorities on 5 September officially set the date for the presidential elections there for 9 December, Infotag reported. The ballot will be cast for the post of head of state and vice president and will be held under a single-constituency system, with 418,000 citizens entitled to vote. A referendum last year established the new presidential system, which also makes it possible for separatist leader Igor Smirnov to run for a third term as "president." MS

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT BACK TO OLD POSITIONS ON BESSARABIAN CHURCH CONFLICT

The government on 5 September wrote to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg that the hearing set for 2 October at the court will have a "negative impact" on attempts to solve the conflict on the Bessarabian Church through negotiations conducted within the Orthodox Church itself, Infotag reported. The government said that four rounds of talks have been conducted since 1997 and the next round, to be held with the participation of Russian Patriarch Aleksii II and Romanian Patriarch Teoctist, is scheduled for "the near future." Successive Moldovan governments have refused to register the Bessarabian Church, which is subordinate to the Bucharest Patriarchate, and the cabinet was supposed to let the court know by 1 September what measures it envisages for settling the conflict. MS

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ADDRESSES BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT

Visiting Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, addressing the Bulgarian parliament on 5 September, said that although his country is "today" not considering admission to NATO, it believes that "every state has the right to decide for itself" on the matter, international agencies reported. Kuchma said Ukraine views NATO enlargement as "the expansion of stability and strengthening of democracy on the European continent" and added: "I would like to congratulate Bulgaria for its choice of foreign policy priorities, which include NATO membership, and to wish Bulgaria success at the [2002] NATO summit." He also said Bulgaria and Ukraine "share the common goal" of achieving EU integration. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER READY TO TRAVEL TO LIBYA

Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski is ready to travel to Libya to seek the acquittal of the six Bulgarians who are on trial in Tripoli for allegedly willfully infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV, AP reported on 5 September, citing parliamentary speaker Ognyan Gerdzhikov. Gerdzhikov, who recently returned from a visit to Libya, said the premier will go to Tripoli before the court is expected to give its verdict on 22 September, but would do so only if the Libyan leadership "clearly signals" that it wants the visit to take place. MS




NGOS DECLARATION AGAINST RACISM PROMPTS COUNTERPROPOSAL


[The following is a statement and counterproposal to the NGO Forum Declaration and Program of Action that was adopted in Durban, South Africa, at the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) Forum, which concluded on 1 September. This counterproposal written by nongovernmental organization (NGO) delegates from CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE and the former Soviet Union was released on 2 September and has been signed by 77 NGOS from 37 countries as of 5 September.]

We, WCAR NGO Forum delegates of 36 nongovernmental organizations from 19 countries of CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE and the former Soviet Union, state that we do not support the documents allegedly adopted by the WCAR NGO Forum and come forth with a forward-looking positive proposal.

First and foremost, we declare that the process of compilation and adoption of the NGO Forum Declaration and Program of Action was neither transparent nor democratic and permeated with procedural violations. The draft documents were not submitted to the delegates in a timely manner; the rules of procedure were unclear and repeatedly changed; the discussion was heavily restricted. Finally, the delegates were not given an opportunity to vote on the draft documents in their entirety. This enables us to affirm that the documents cannot be considered adopted by the NGO Forum and are not consensus documents.

We believe that as a result of this flawed process, the contents of the documents include unacceptable concepts and language. We are particularly concerned with certain ideas included in the chapters "Globalization," "Palestine," "Reparations," and a number of other paragraphs in the documents.

We must emphasize that the language of the chapter "Palestine" as well the deliberate distortions made to the chapter "Anti-Semitism," are extremely intolerant, disrespectful and contrary to the very spirit of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance.

Nevertheless, despite the negative results of the NGO Forum, we strongly believe that the international NGO community should not give up but continue to work on the basis of the positive aspects of the entire preparatory process to the World Conference and the Forum itself. In particularly, the following achievements represent a sound foundation for future consolidated efforts: reinforcement of the available international legal mechanisms of protection against racism and discrimination; development of national antidiscrimination legislation and institutions; creation of national plans of action; recognition of the slave-trade as a crime against humanity; acknowledgement of the consequences of colonialism; inclusion on the agenda of such issues as denial of racism; double discrimination; religious intolerance; state racism; ethnic cleansing; racism not rooted in the slave-trade; sexual orientation; migrants and internally displaced persons; indigenous peoples; and specific groups of victims such as Roma, Chechens, Tibetans, and Dalits.

We intend to immediately move on to implementation of the above achievements and call upon the international NGO community to join in these efforts.

***

P.S. On top of all the troubles of the NGO Forum, at the closing ceremony, the delegates had to listen for over two hours to a speech by Fidel Castro. We are offended by the fact that one of the worst dictators in the contemporary world, particularly notorious for gross violations of human rights, was invited to address this world gathering of nongovernmental organizations. Listening to Fidel speak, we only had to wonder why the organizers had failed to invite Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Turkmenbashi [Saparmurat Niyazov], Saddam Hussein, or a Taliban regime representative.

For more information, contact Yuri Dzhibladze at dzhib@demokratia.ru


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