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Newsline - September 17, 2001




PUTIN SAYS TERRORISTS' CRUELTY RANKS WITH THAT OF NAZIS...

Speaking in Yerevan on 15 September, President Vladimir Putin said that "terrorism has evolved in a most terrible way in front of our eyes. Now it is a truly global threat in the new century. Without any exaggeration, I think that there is every reason to compare what has now happened in its magnitude and cruelty with what the Nazis did," ORT television reported. Putin also said that "we talked a lot about the threat of terrorism, but apparently we didn't find the words that would have persuaded the world community to create an effective defense against international terrorism." He suggested that "the main lesson that should be drawn from this tragedy is the need to strengthen our own and international security." PG

...SAYS U.S. FAILED TO UNDERSTAND CHANGED NATURE OF THREAT

President Putin said in Yerevan on 15 September that the United States has been unwilling to "recognize" that the world has changed and it is for that reason, rather than any weakness in its intelligence community, that Washington failed to anticipate the attacks, RIA-Novosti said on 15 September. He noted that the American intelligence community does not deserve the criticisms it has received because "it simply was not designed for such challenges." VY

FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS U.S. SHOULD BE MEASURED IN ITS RESPONSE TO ATTACKS

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 14 September that the United States should use political and legal measures against the terrorists before undertaking military actions, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that military force is the ultimate measure and cannot by itself solve problems like terrorism that require more patient treatment. VY

MOSCOW PUTS FORCES IN TAJIKISTAN ON HIGH ALERT

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on 16 September told reporters that Moscow has put the 201st Russian motorized rifle division in Tajikistan "on red alert" in response to what he called "the developing situation in the region," ITAR-TASS reported. PG

DEFENSE MINISTER OPPOSED TO ALLOWING U.S. TO USE BASES IN CENTRAL ASIA TO ATTACK AFGHANISTAN

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on 14 September said that he is against the launching of an attack on Afghanistan from bases in Central Asian or other CIS countries, Radio Mayak reported. Nonetheless, Russian media, including "Izvestiya" on 15 September reported that there had been "an agreement" that the U.S. could use some airfields in Central Asia to launch an attack on Afghanistan. VY

PATRUSHEV SAYS FSB IS TRACKING OSAMA BIN LADEN

Nikolai Patrushev, the director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), said on 15 September that his agency has "operational data" on the whereabouts of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and will share that data with the United States, RTR television reported on 15 September. "We knew where he was. We made an effort to update that information and we kept informing interested intelligence services," Patrushev said. But bin Laden has now "changed his whereabouts." Nonetheless, he continued, "we will find out where he is and inform our colleagues." Patrushev added that the "neutralization" of bin Laden would help stabilize the situation in Central Asia and the North Caucasus. He added that once everyone understands that there can be no double standards in the fight against terrorism, the FSB is "ready to physically eliminate [Chechen militant commanders] Shamil Basaev and Khattab." VY

U.S.-RUSSIAN AFGHANISTAN GROUP STEPS UP ITS ACTIVITIES

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the United States, the U.S.-Russian working group on Afghanistan will increase the level of activity, NTV reported on 14 September. That group brings together intelligence and defense officials from the two countries under the cochairmanship of former Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) chief Vyacheslav Trubnikov and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. It will help to coordinate the response to the recent terrorist attacks, the channel suggested. VY

ISLAMIC EXTREMIST ISSUES WARNING TO U.S. VIA MOSCOW PAPER

"Vremya novostei" on 14 September published an interview with Abu Khamsa, the leader of the militant Islamic extremist organization Ansar Ash-Sharia. Khamsa said that the attacks on the U.S. represent a "warning to all those at war with Muslims." An Egyptian citizen who lost his eye and hand while fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan and who is reputed to have close ties with bin Laden, Khamsa said that "oppressed Muslims" have no chance to fight the enemies of Islam on their own territory and so must attack the enemy on its territory as they did in New York and Washington last week. VY

MUSCOVITES SAY WHOLE WORLD MUST BE CONCERNED BY ATTACKS

According to a poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 15 September, 85 percent of the residents of the Russian capital believe that the terrorist acts in New York and Washington must be the concern of all humanity. At the same time, measures taken in Russia in the wake of the attacks in the U.S. are reinforcing such feelings. Russian police officers have expanded their protection of currency exchanges, Interfax reported on 14 September, Unified Energy Systems stepped up its security in the energy sector, and security was increased at the Duma as well, Russian and Western agencies reported. But a practical effort by Muscovites to help by donating blood was rebuffed by officials who said they had no instructions on whether to allow such donations, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 14 September. PG

U.S. SEEN CHANGING ITS UNDERSTANDING OF NATIONAL SECURITY...

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 September, the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington will force the U.S. government to change its conception of national security because the terrorist attacks were directed not so much at particular targets but at the American state as such. The U.S. will be forced to recognize, the paper said, that its security depends on the security of others, that terrorism can inflict losses equal to those in a conventional war, and that only a global response can deal adequately with such a global threat. VY

...AND MOSCOW SEEN FACING A DIFFICULT CHOICE

In an article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 September, Andrei Fedorov, the director of political programs at the Council of Foreign and Defense Policy, said that Russia faces "a difficult choice" in the wake of the terrorist attacks. "If it joins the struggle against terrorism on a global scale, it will have to support the West...and hence disrupt many of its traditional ties with Arab countries; or keep aloof from the problem, which means that it will not quarrel with Arab countries but inevitably come into conflict with the West," Fedorov said. Some Russians have already taken sides. An article in "Vremya MN" on 14 September, for example, suggested that Moscow now has a chance to ally itself with the West and become integrated with it. But another article in "Vremya novostei" the same day suggested that any alliance with the West would quickly "die with bin Laden," after which Moscow and the West would quickly go their separate ways once again. PG

85 RUSSIAN CITIZENS LISTED AMONG MISSING AT WORLD TRADE CENTER

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 15 September that at least 85 Russian citizens are among those missing in the World Trade Center terrorist attack. Most worked on the staffs of financial companies and banks, the paper said. VY

SELEZNEV SAYS CONGRESS LIKELY TO CONSIDER IMPEACHING BUSH

Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev said in an interview published in "Vek" on 14 September that the failure of the government to ward off the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on 11 September may prompt the U.S. Congress to begin considering impeachment of President George W. Bush, Interfax reported. Seleznev also said that "the West has underestimated the fact that terrorism is becoming a source of money making." Meanwhile, two articles in "Izvestiya" were sharply critical of comments by some regional leaders about the terrorist attacks. Several officials implied that the U.S. was getting what it deserved for its earlier policies, but the paper suggested that such comments are totally inappropriate. PG

NEW YORK ATTACKS DISRUPT RUSSIAN BANK TRANSACTIONS

Most Russian commercial banks experienced considerable difficulties after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York because many of them use the automatic clearing system of the Bank of New York, "Vedomosti" reported on 14 September. Also reporting problems for the same reason was the Moscow Stock Exchange, the paper said. The exchange and some of the banks gradually shifted their transaction routings to the undamaged facilities of the Chase Manhattan Bank. Meanwhile, Russian and Western agencies reported on 16 September that flights from Russia to the United States resumed that day. VY

KASYANOV SAYS INFLATION IN 2001 WILL BE LOWER THAN IN 2000

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 14 September that inflation this year will be lower than it was last year, Russian and Western agencies reported. In 2000, inflation in Russia reached 20 percent. The Russian government earlier suggested that in 2001, inflation would be 12-14 percent. So far this year, inflation has totaled 13.2 percent. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said that the government has made its budget plans on the basis of the assumption that the ruble-dollar exchange rate in 2003 will be 32 to 1. Currently, the ruble is trading at 29.45 to the dollar. Kudrin also said that the government will introduce modifications in existing legislation to attract foreign investment. PG

AUDIT CHAMBER PROPOSES CHANGING BUDGET PROCESS

Officials at the Audit Chamber on 14 September proposed that the budgeting process be changed so that the government would have separate budgets for dealing with the state debt, for investment, and for current expenditures, Interfax reported. Such an arrangement, the Audit Chamber officials said, would improve budgetary discipline and transparency. PG

UNITY, ALLIED ORGANIZATIONS ACCUSE SPS OF PLAYING INTO HANDS OF TERRORISTS

The Unity, Fatherland-All Russia (OVR), Regions of Russia, and Peoples' Deputies Duma organizations on 14 September issued a statement condemning an appeal to the Constitutional Court by the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) that challenges the constitutionality of Russia's intervention in Chechnya, Interfax reported. The statement suggested that the SPS members who took this step are playing into the hands of the Chechen "terrorists." PG

BUDGET REVENUES TO BE DIVIDED 49-51 BETWEEN MOSCOW, REGIONS

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kudrin said on 14 September that in the consolidated budget for 2002, tax revenues will be divided with 49 percent going to the central government and 51 percent going to the subjects of the federation, Russian agencies reported. PG

KIRIENKO OUTLINES MOSCOW'S PLANS TO DESTROY CHEMICAL WEAPONS

In London on 14 September as part of his visit to G-7 capitals, Sergei Kirienko, the chairman of the Russian State Commission on Chemical Disarmament and the presidential envoy to the Volga federal district, told British Foreign Office officials that Russia "guarantees" that it will fulfill all its obligations concerning the destruction of chemical weapons, but that it seeks agreement on extending the destruction program by five years to 2012, Russian and Western agencies reported. PG

PUTIN NAMES INTELLIGENCE OFFICER TO HEAD EURASIAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev on 14 September told an Almaty meeting of the State Council of the Eurasian Economic Community that at President Putin's request he has nominated Vladimir Rapota to head this group, gazetasng.ru reported the following day. A professional intelligence officer, Rapota has served since 1991 as deputy director of the SVR, deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, director of the Russian arms sales agency Rosvooruzhenie, and most recently as first deputy trade minister as well as first deputy industry, science and technology minister. VY

MOSCOW OFFERS SUPPORT TO MASSOUD'S SUCCESSOR

Defense Minister Ivanov on 14 September extended condolences on the death, officially confirmed earlier that day, of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the leader of the anti-Taliban Northern Coalition in Afghanistan and said that Moscow will support his successor Mohammad Fahimkhan, Radio Mayak reported on 14 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2001). Meanwhile, Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, one of Russia's leading military theorists, told Interfax the same day that the death of Massoud does not represent nearly as great a threat to Central Asia and Russia as many media commentators have suggested. VY

JORDAN SEEKS INVESTORS TO BUY FIRMS OWNED BY GAZPROM-MEDIA

Boris Jordan, the general director of NTV, said in an interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 14 September that he is seeking Russian and foreign investors to form a consortium to buy media outlets now owned by Gazprom-Media. He said that this might involve either the formation of a single new media company or several smaller ones. Meanwhile, ORT television officially announced the selection of Hermitage Director Mikhail Piotrovskii as the head of its director's council. The same day, Moscow city officials expressed their condolences in connection with the death of former ORT Director Sergei Blagovolin, Interfax-Moscow reported. PG

SPORT-FM APPEALS FOR GOVERNMENT AID

The employees of the Sport-FM radio station that faces closure because of bankruptcy appealed to President Putin and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 14 September to provide state support for the station, Interfax reported. They said that sports coverage of the kind they offer has "colossal social importance." PG

HARVEST MAY BE EVEN LARGER THAN PREDICTED

First Deputy Agriculture Minister Anatolii Mikhalev said on 14 September that this year's grain harvest may total as much as 77 million tons, 2 million more than officials had said earlier, Interfax reported. PG

FIRST STORAGE FACILITY FOR IMPORTED NUCLEAR WASTES TO OPEN IN DECEMBER

St. Petersburg officials announced on 14 September that the first site for the storage of depleted nuclear fuel imported from abroad will open on 20 December 2001, Interfax reported. PG

POLICE SAY THEY HAVE LEADS IN BUTYRKA ESCAPE CASE

Justice Ministry spokesmen said on 14 September that the police now have certain leads concerning the current location of the three prisoners who escaped from Moscow's Butyrka prison on 5 September, Interfax said (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 13 September 2001). At the same time, the spokesmen asked that anyone with information concerning the whereabouts of the three who are still at large tell the authorities. The spokesmen said that the anonymity of informants would be guaranteed. PG

PROSECUTORS SAY 200-300 PRISONERS WERE MISTREATED IN PERM

Yurii Shcherbanenko, the chief of the prison oversight administration in the Prosecutor-General's Office, told Interfax on 14 September that jailors, including members of Spetsnaz troops, violated the law by beating and otherwise mistreating 200 to 300 prisoners at Perm penal institutions in April 2001. But despite this finding, Shcherbanenko said that there are certain difficulties in establishing the guilt of those involved because the perpetrators wore masks. Meanwhile, prosecutors in Vladivostok have lodged criminal charges against soldiers there for large-scale theft, Interfax reported on 15 September. PG

OFFICIALS SAY PASKO HAD SECRET DOCUMENTS

Specialists at the Defense and Atomic Energy ministries said on 14 September that they have determined that several documents in the possession of military journalist Grigorii Pasko included secret information, Interfax reported. Military prosecutors are seeking to convict him of espionage (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2001). Meanwhile, "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie," No. 34, carried an interview with Sergei Kaplin, the chief of the Information Security Department of the Russian General Staff, who pointed out that the tasks of military censors in determining what is secret and what is not are extremely complicated. PG

FIRST RUSSIAN LABOR COURT OPENS IN MOSCOW

"Vremya MN" reported on 14 September that the first labor arbitration court in the history of Russia opened on that date. The court is intended to resolve disputes between workers and employers, the paper said. PG

WAHHABISM SAID TO CONTRADICT RUSSIAN LAW

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 September, the basic postulates of Wahhabism violate Russian laws, and consequently prohibiting its activities on Russian territory is something the Russian parliament should do as soon as possible. PG

BALTIC FLEET SEEN FATED TO DISAPPEAR

An article in "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie," No. 34, suggested that as a result of geography and financial limitations, the Russian Baltic Fleet will gradually "wither away." PG

RUSSIANS TRUST SECURITY ORGANS MORE THAN ARMY, PROSECUTORS

According to polls conducted by VTsIOM and reported in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 September, Russians trust the FSB more than they trust the military or the judicial system. Moreover, Russians have become more positive about the role of the KGB in the past and the FSB now than they were a decade ago, the paper said. PG

RUSSIANS REMAIN DIVIDED ON STALIN'S ROLE

According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 14 September, 34 percent of Russians believe that Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin did more good than harm, 24 percent believe that he was responsible for more harm than good, and 26 percent said that he did about the same good as he did harm. PG

ALEKSII II TAKES PART IN KULIKOVO BATTLE ANNIVERSARY

Patriarch Aleksii II on 15 September took part in the celebration of the 621st anniversary of the Russian victory over the Mongols and Tatars at Kulikovo field, Interfax reported. Aleksii said that this battle became the site of the rebirth of Russia. In recent weeks, Tatar officials and intellectuals had appealed to Moscow not to make these celebrations into an occasion for exacerbating interethnic relations between Russians and Tatars. PG

GOVERNMENT NEWSPAPER PUBLISHES APPEAL AGAINST LATIN SCRIPT

"Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 14 September published an appeal by some 40 representatives of the Tatar intelligentsia living in Moscow and Russian regions outside of Tatarstan calling on Kazan to stop its transition to using Latin rather than Cyrillic script for the Tatar language, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. According to the appeal, such a shift would be "destructive" and separate Tatars from "a modern national culture." RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported that the letter was prepared by the Kremlin and that the Russian presidential administration pressured Tatars in Moscow to sign it. JAC

ANOTHER FEDERAL OFFICIAL SLAMS SAKHA OFFICIALS FOR RECONSTRUCTION EFFORTS...

In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 15 September, Konstantin Pulikovskii, the presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, said that the construction work completed on restoring the city of Lensk in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic has certain defects, but these can be attributed to the fact that the work had to be completed in three months when ordinarily 28 months would have been required (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2001). He added that the local Sakha government did nothing to assist the construction workers. For example, he claimed that local authorities failed to prepare a list of the people being resettled. Another difficulty, according to Pulikovskii, was that it was difficult to find construction specialists with the necessary qualifications to build on such a massive scale, since there has been little of such construction in the last 10 years. JAC

...PROMISES TO RELOCATE THE DISSATISFIED

Pulikovskii also declared that if there are any residents of the area who would like to move to a more temperate climate in Russia, they will be able to. And currently negotiations with 12 regions that could supply housing for immigrants are proceeding. On 13 September, in a joint session between federal Finance Ministry personnel and the Sakha government, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu again criticized local authorities for the pace of construction work, Interfax-Eurasia reported. He also criticized the company Alrosa, which has completed only 16 houses of the 80 planned. Valentin Vlasov, the chairman of the Sakha government, reported that some 270 families in need did not make the list to receive housing or housing certificates. JAC

CHINESE BUSINESSMEN UNMASKED AS SPIES

FSB officers in Buryatia have seized two Chinese citizens, whom they claim were trying to obtain secret military technology and equipment, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 September. Officially, the purpose of their trip was to establish business contacts with local businessmen. The two men work for a Chinese trading firm and are experienced purchasers of light metals, according to the daily. JAC

GRAIN EXCHANGE OPENS IN BLACK EARTH REGION

Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev opened one of Russia's first grain exchanges in the city of Tambov, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 September. Gordeev said that the opening of the exchange is important for the development of a "civilized grain market" in Russia. He added that the exchange's technical equipment will enable it to make deals quickly, which is important since this year's grain harvest promises to be high. JAC

PUTIN ON SALE

A furniture store in Murmansk Oblast has opened a photo exhibit of pictures taken of President Putin by a local photographer, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 15 September. According to the correspondent, the store considers the exhibit good advertising. And for the customers, good prices are to be had even on portraits of Putin. Two large photographs of Putin in an admiral's hat taken at a site close to where the "Kursk" submarine sank are marked down by 25 percent. JAC

RUSSIAN GENERAL KILLED IN CHECHNYA

A Russian general and eight other servicemen were killed on 17 September when Chechen fighters shot down a Russian military helicopter attempting to land at the Russian military base at Khankala on the outskirts of Grozny, AP reported. Also on 17 September, several hundred Chechen fighters launched a multiple attack on targets in the town of Gudermes, east of Grozny. LF




ARMENIAN-RUSSIAN SUMMIT FOCUSES ON ECONOMIC INTEGRATION...

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Armenia on 14-15 September for talks with his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian that focussed primarily on expanding economic ties to complement the close military cooperation that has developed between the two states, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. To that end, the two presidents signed a 10-year economic cooperation program that could lead to closer integration of the two countries' economies. They did not, however, reach any concrete agreement on which specific state-owned Armenian enterprises from the military-industrial complex will be transferred to Russian ownership in partial repayment of Yerevan's $100 million debt, but Putin said it is hoped such an agreement will be signed by the end of this year. Kocharian told journalists that that it was Yerevan that proposed the assets-for-debts deal, and that it will not make Armenia more dependent on Russia. In a joint communique, the two presidents stressed that their talks proceeded in "an atmosphere of full mutual understanding and agreement," and were marked by a "convergence of views" on international security issues. Addressing the Armenian parliament on 15 September, Putin said Moscow will support any agreement on ending the Karabakh conflict that is acceptable to both Baku and Yerevan, and could act as guarantor of such an agreement, Noyan Tapan and ITAR-TASS reported. LF

...AS DEFENSE MINISTERS SET TO EXPAND COOPERATION

Parallel to President Putin's visit, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov also visited Yerevan on 13-14 September. On 14 September, Ivanov and Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian signed an agreement regulating the status of Russian military consultants to the Armenian armed forces that is intended to complement the over 40 bilateral accords on military cooperation already signed. Visiting the Russian military base in northern Armenia on 14 September, Ivanov said its personnel will remain in Armenia "for a long time," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT POSTPONES VISIT TO IRAN

Heidar Aliev's long awaited visit to Tehran, scheduled to begin on 17 September, has been postponed with the agreement of both sides, according to Turan on 15 September and Reuters on 16 September. No official explanation was given for the postponement. A new date will be agreed on through diplomatic channels. LF

PACE CHAIRMAN VISITS AZERBAIJAN

Visiting Baku on 13-15 September, the chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Lord Russell-Johnston, met with President Aliyev and Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev to discuss human rights issues, noting that unspecified amendments are still needed to Azerbaijan's legislation on human rights, ANS reported. Russell-Johnston also discussed with both officials the prospects for a solution to the Karabakh conflict. Deploring the lack of progress in negotiations, he said that while the Council of Europe does not intend to become actively involved in international mediation, it will support efforts by the OSCE Minsk Group to broker a settlement. He warned that such a settlement depends largely on the readiness of both sides to compromise. President Aliyev for his part stressed that public opinion in Azerbaijan rejects the idea of compromise, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S SENIOR MUSLIM CLERGYMAN REJECTS ARMENIAN INVITATION

The head of Azerbaijan's Muslim Religious Board, Sheikh-ul-Islam Allakhshukur Pashazade, has decided not to accept an invitation from Armenian Catholicos Garegin II to attend the celebrations to mark the 1,700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as Armenia's state religion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2001), according to Azerbaijan's Trend News Agency on 15 September, as cited by Groong. LF

GEORGIA WARNS MOSCOW AGAINST ATTACKING CHECHENS ON ITS TERRITORY

In an official statement released on 14 September, the Georgian Foreign Ministry warned that Tbilisi will not tolerate any military action launched by Russia against Chechens on Georgian territory, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. In an interview with NTV, Union of Rightist Forces leader Boris Nemtsov had argued that Moscow should take such action if the Georgian authorities are unwilling or unable to neutralize Chechen fighters he claimed are operating with impunity from bases inside Georgia. LF

TWO KILLED IN FIGHTING IN SOUTHERN GEORGIA

Two people died on 16 September and one was injured in fighting in a village in Tsalka, southern Georgia, between an ethnic Greek family and a family of highland Svans resettled in the district following a natural catastrophe in their native northwestern Georgia in 1987, Caucasus Press reported. Police were deployed in the region to prevent further clashes and are patrolling access roads. Tensions between the Greek population in Tsalka and the local Armenian minority were reported last year (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 25, 23 June 2000). LF

GEORGIA BANS CONSTRUCTION OF SIX MOSQUES

Local authorities in districts of southern-eastern Georgia where the population is overwhelmingly Azerbaijani have ordered that work on construction of six mosques in the region be suspended, according to Interfax on 15 September and Caucasus Press on 17 September. Georgian parliament subcommittee for national minorities Chairman Vakhtang Shamiladze said that neither the Georgian authorities nor the religious leaders of the Azerbaijani community in Georgia have given official permission for the construction, which, he added, was being financed by representatives of unnamed Middle Eastern states posing as officials for international Muslim charities. The ban is likely to fuel latent tensions between the Azerbaijani population of the region and the Georgian authorities. In recent weeks the Azerbaijani media have repeatedly reported that Azerbaijanis in Georgia are subject to systematic discrimination. LF

RANSOM PAID FOR SPANIARDS ABDUCTED IN GEORGIA?

Relatives of the two Spanish businessmen abducted last November in eastern Georgia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2000) have paid the ransom demanded by their kidnappers and anticipate that the two men will soon be released, Caucasus Press reported on 15 September, citing Spanish media sources. The size of the ransom was not disclosed; Georgian media reported earlier that the kidnappers had originally demanded $5 million but reduced their demand to $500,000. Spain's consul general in Moscow visited Tbilisi last month to discuss with Georgian police their efforts to locate and free the hostages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2001). LF

KAZAKHSTAN, TURKMENISTAN READY TO SUPPORT U.S. REPRISALS...

Speaking at the U.S. Embassy in Almaty on 15 September, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev said his country "is ready to support the measures the U.S. will carry out against terrorists. Kazakhstan can be relied on," RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. In Washington the previous day, Nazarbaev's security adviser, Altynbek Sarsenbaev, told Reuters that the only way to neutralize Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden is through a coordinated effort spearheaded by the U.S. to end the civil war in Afghanistan. Also on 14 September, Turkmenistan's president, Saparmurat Niyazov, assured U.S. charge d'affaires Eric Schultz of his support for international countermeasures against terrorism, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported. LF

...WHILE TAJIKISTAN EQUIVOCATES

Tajik Foreign Ministry spokesman Igor Sattarov told journalists in Dushanbe on 16 September that Western media reports that Tajikistan has agreed to make its territory available to the U.S. to launch strikes against Afghanistan are without any foundation, Western agencies reported. Two days earlier, Tajik Premier Oqil Oqilov had said that the Tajik leadership would discuss any such U.S. request for the use of its territory or airspace with Moscow before responding, Interfax and dpa reported. LF

NEW POLITICAL MOVEMENT FOUNDED IN KAZAKHSTAN

The founding congress of a new political movement named "My Kazakhstan" was held in Astana on 14 September, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Its leader is Qayrat Satybaldy, a nephew of President Nazarbaev. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT EXPRESSES CONDOLENCES OVER MASSOUD'S DEATH

In a telegram to Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, Imomali Rakhmonov expressed condolences over the 14 September death of Northern Alliance military commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, Interfax reported on 16 September. Rakhmonov described Massoud as "a true national patriot and hero" whose death is "an irrecoverable loss for the fraternal Afghan people and for all friends of Afghanistan." LF




EU SAYS BELARUS'S INTERNATIONAL TIES HINGE ON DEMOCRATIC CHANGES

The EU on 14 September backed the OSCE's assessment of Belarus's presidential elections, saying in a statement that they were neither free nor fair. "The European Union deplores, in particular, the harassment of representatives of the opposition, national observers, independent media, and nongovernmental organizations," the statement read. The EU noted that the overcoming of Belarus's isolation in the international arena "is essentially dependent on respect for human rights and the progress of democracy in that country." JM

LUKASHENKA OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCED PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION WINNER

The Central Election Commission on 14 September rejected as unfounded the complaints by the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the "Vyasna" Human Rights Center, and presidential candidate Uladzimir Hancharyk that the 9 September presidential elections were rigged, Belapan reported. The commission announced official election results, according to which incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka obtained 75.65 percent of the vote, Hancharyk 15.65 percent, and Syarhey Haydukevich 2.48 percent. Turnout in the elections was 83.86 percent. Lukashenka's ceremonial inauguration for his second term will take place on 20 September. JM

POLL SAYS LUKASHENKA GOT 44 PERCENT OF THE VOTE IN MINSK

The independent news agency Belapan conducted a poll among 500 Minsk residents from 10-12 September, finding that Lukashenka was supported in the presidential elections by 44 percent of residents of the Belarusian capital. According to official data from the Central Election Commission, Lukashenka obtained 57.37 percent of the vote in Minsk. JM

LIBYAN DEFENSE CHIEF IN MINSK

Libyan Defense Secretary Abu Bakr Younis Jaber visited Belarus on 14-15 September, meeting with President Lukashenka and Prime Minister Uladzimir Yarmoshyn. Belapan quoted Lukashenka as saying that Belarusian-Libyan relations need to be given "serious dynamics." The visitor delivered congratulations from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Lukashenka's reelection. JM

UKRAINE WANTS TO HELP NATO SPOT TERRORISTS

"NATO and Ukraine condemn in the strongest possible terms [the 11 September terrorist attacks on the U.S.], and stand united in their commitment to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice and punished. In the spirit of its distinctive partnership with NATO, Ukraine stands ready to contribute fully to this effort," the NATO-Ukraine Commission said in a statement on 14 September. JM

UKRAINIANS MARCH TO REMEMBER GONGADZE

Some 4,000 people took part in a march and a rally in Kyiv on 15 September to remember the slain journalist Heorhiy Gongadze who went missing on 16 September 2000, world agencies reported. "The world has been concerned with the terrorist acts in the U.S., but it is much worse when the state, the authorities are using terror," Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz told the crowd on Kyiv's Independence Square. The secret recordings made public by presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko last year suggest that President Leonid Kuchma and top state officials may be implicated in the killing of Gongadze. The demonstration, organized by the anti-Kuchma National Salvation Forum, took place without incident. JM

ESTONIAN EDUCATION MINISTER PROMISES ADDITIONAL FUNDS TO UNIVERSITIES

Responding to the declared boycott of the government by university rectors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2001), Education Minister Tonis Lukas announced on 14 September that the state will increase spending on higher education in 2002 by 150 million kroons ($8.8 million), or 23 percent, BNS reported. He said that a large share of the additional funds will go toward Tallinn Technical University's new study center. Lukas called demands to raise the state allocations per university student from the current 12,600 kroons to 20,000 kroons surprising and out of proportion, as the state would need at least an additional 400 million kroons to do so. SG

LATVIAN PRIVATIZATION CHIEF SUPPORTS EXTENSION OF VOUCHERS

Latvian Privatization Agency (LPA) head Janis Naglis expressed on 14 September his firm support for the decision by the government the previous day to extend the validity of privatization vouchers, LETA reported. Some 16 percent of the vouchers issued to the population in the 1990s have not been redeemed yet. The cabinet resolved to extend the validity of privatization vouchers by one year until 31 December 2002, and the validity of property compensation vouchers by two years until the end of 2003. "In this case the government made a Solomonic decision," Naglis said, while noting that it is not yet clear whether the holders of the vouchers will be able to use them next year in the privatization of five large state-owned entities -- Latvian Shipping Company, Lattelekom telephone company, Ventspils Nafta oil terminal, Latvijas Gaze gas utility, and Latvijas Krajbanka savings bank. The government will decide separately on the privatization of each of these companies. The parliament must also approve the extension of the vouchers. SG

LITHUANIA WON'T DISCUSS UNIVERSITY TUITION BEFORE BUDGET APPROVAL

After talks with university rectors and students that were also attended by Education Minister Algirdas Monkevicius and Finance Minister Dalia Grybauskaite, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas asserted on 14 September that the government will not discuss the controversial university tuition plan before the parliament approves the 2002 budget, ELTA reported. The plan would require most university students to pay tuition fees of 1,000 litas ($250) per semester. Brazauskas noted that everyone agreed on the need to increase the quality and effectiveness of higher education, and to raise the salaries of professors to at least the level in neighboring Baltic states, but also discussed other possible sources of funding aside from the introduction of tuition fees. SG

POLISH BISHOPS SEND ELECTION MESSAGE

Poland's Roman Catholic bishops have sent a clear political signal to churchgoers, warning them not to support the ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) in the 23 September general elections, dpa reported on 16 September. "Catholic society must not support a political party which squarely declares its objective to implement laws that would violate the basic human right to life," the bishops said in a letter read in churches throughout Poland on 16 September. The SLD is known for advocating a liberal abortion law. "I believe in the wisdom of the Polish electorate," SLD leader Leszek Miller said in response to the bishops' message. Two recent polls, conducted by the PBS and OBW polling centers, concurrently predict that the SLD will obtain 47 percent of the vote. JM

POLAND'S LOT AIRLINE RESUMES FLIGHTS TO U.S.

Poland's LOT airline resumed regular flights from Poland to the United States on 15 September after stepping up security in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, AP reported. The airline asked passengers to arrive at the airport four hours prior to takeoff because of the extra measures, which include extensive checks and removing all sharp tools from hand luggage. JM

STOCKHOLM ARBITRAGE COURT RULES AGAINST CZECH REPUBLIC IN TV BATTLE

A Stockholm arbitrage court ruled on 14 September that the Czech state damaged the investment interests of Central European Media Enterprises, or CME, under the terms of a Dutch-Czech investment treaty, "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 17 September. CME lost the first of its arbitration efforts against the Czech Republic over an investment in the country's leading commercial television station, TV Nova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2001). Vladimir Zelezny, a former CME employee, still controls TV Nova. Both Zelezny and Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan signaled that the Czech side will seek an appeal, though CME insists the decision cannot be appealed and is focusing on a new round to determine compensation levels. AH

CZECHS PROBE REPORTS OF TRADE, BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS LINKS TO BIN LADEN

The Czech Health Ministry on 17 September launched an investigation into weekend reports that deadly biological agents, including those that cause anthrax and botulism, were sold by Czech facilities to entities associated with international terrorist Osama bin Laden, CTK reported. Local media unearthed allegations from 1994 that vials containing the deadly diseases were supplied to an Albanian offshoot of bin Laden's organization. Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik also listed tractors from Brno-based Zetor among the goods being traded by firms with connections to bin Laden, stressing that global efforts must be made to curb terrorists' access to financial resources, CTK reported. A spokeswoman from the struggling tractor producer said the company knew of no such contacts, but acknowledged that it often knows little about its trading partners. AH

CZECHS ARREST SUSPECTS IN ASIAN IMMIGRANT DEATHS

Czech police arrested a gang of Chinese and Czech nationals suspected of involvement in the deaths of 58 Asian immigrants discovered last year in a truck in Dover, England, dpa reported on 15 September. A special unit arrested eight Chinese and seven Czech nationals whom they believe have smuggled some 1,800 Chinese into Europe and the U.S. over the past two years. At least two of the suspects were involved in the migrant deaths in Dover, Czech television added. The police raids, code-named "Euro," were conducted in cooperation with German, British, and French police. AH

TWO CAMPS SPELL TROUBLE FOR NASCENT CZECH POLITICAL PARTY

The constituent assembly for the new political party Cesta zmeny (Path of Change) on 15 September failed to elect leaders, which could presage continued problems for the party, "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 17 September. A faction led by former student activist Monika Pajerova turned out for the assembly, while the camp around businessman Jiri Lobkowicz (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2001) effectively boycotted the event. Both sides pledged to clarify the status of the new party at a press conference this week. AH

SLOVAKIA'S NATIONAL PARTY EXPELS FIVE PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTIES

The nationalist, opposition Slovak National Party (SNS) has expelled five parliamentary deputies from its ranks, TASR reported on 16 September. SNS leader Anna Malikova said the five -- whose party memberships have been suspended since 1 July -- were kicked out "for their efforts to destabilize the party and cause its internal destruction." Following this move, the SNS now has eight deputies in the 150-seat parliament. JM

SLOVAK SOCIAL DEMOCRATS STAY IN GOVERNMENT

A conference of Slovakia's Social Democratic Party (SDSS) on 15 September decided that the party will remain in the ruling coalition, TASR reported. Some SDSS activists wanted the party to leave the government owing to their dissatisfaction with the government's failure to fulfil its manifesto. JM

HUNGARY READY TO ASSIST U.S. IN FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISTS

Hungary is ready to offer assistance to the U.S. government in accordance with the provisions laid down in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi on 14 September informed U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Martonyi told reporters that assistance could be of a diplomatic, political, informational, economic, or military nature. "The attacks affected humankind, so Hungary must be firmly at one with those attacked," Martonyi added. Government spokesman Gabor Borokai said the U.S. had not yet approached the Hungarian cabinet regarding any assistance. MSZ

HUNGARIAN FREE DEMOCRATS CONDEMN MIEP STANCE ON ATTACKS AGAINST U.S.

Opposition Free Democrat Chairman Gabor Kuncze on 14 September said his party will ask parliament to issue a political declaration regarding the comments formulated by Istvan Csurka regarding the United States. Csurka, the chairman of the Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), said last week that the terrorist attacks were a consequence of U.S. policies and globalization. The MIEP leadership issued a statement on 14 September which stated: "We can only take part in the global mourning ordered and expanded to abnormal proportions if we also think with sympathy of other victims of the present state of crisis, the victims laying in or raised from mass graves, those who died of starvation, were bombed or were exterminated." Csurka confirmed on 15 September that "MIEP feels profound sympathy for the victims of the terrorist attacks against America," but continues to state that "responsibility is split between global politics and the planners and perpetrators of the attacks." MSZ

MIEP WILL HAVE NO GAY CANDIDATES

MIEP will require its parliamentary candidates to sign a declaration stating that they have not been members of any oppressive organization, are not alcoholics or drug users, and are not homosexuals, spokesman Bela Gyori told a Pest County party gathering on 15 September. He said such a statement is necessary in order to ensure that future parliamentary members are not subject to blackmail, Hungarian media reported. MSZ




ALBANIA MOURNS AMERICAN VICTIMS

Albania's newly inaugurated Council of Ministers started its work on 13 September by declaring the following day a day of national mourning for the victims of 11 September's terrorist attacks on the U.S., "Albanian Daily News" reported. Prime Minister Ilir Meta said that "the Albanian government expresses its human solidarity and sides with the American people and government." He added that "this attack is directed not only against the U.S. but also against peace, security, and human and democratic values, worldwide." President Rexhep Meidani said on 13 September in Tirana: "We are here to back the U.S. in fighting terrorism head-on in order to win the fight of this century for the sake of our children." Thousands of mourners joined Tirana Mayor Edi Rama in a silent march on 14 September in central Tirana. Mosques and churches held special services for the victims. FS

ALBANIAN POLICE CHECK IDENTITY OF ARABS

Meta stressed on 13 September in Tirana that Albania "is ready to put everything at the disposal" of the U.S. and Western allies to assist them in their "fight against international terrorism." On 15 September, Public Order Minister Ilir Gjoni ordered police to check and investigate the identities of all Arabs living in the country, dpa reported. A special group of investigators will gather information and look into the possibility that Islamic extremists have infiltrated the country. Police also stepped up border checks. Investigators believe that there are currently no more Islamic extremists in Albania and said that they are closely working with U.S. experts to identify possible suspects. In 1999, Albania extradited to Egypt 10 terrorist suspects, who had used Albania as a refuge. The country has a large Muslim population and no visa regime for many Arab countries. Many businesses and aid projects in Albania are Middle Eastern in origin. FS

NEW BUGGING SCANDAL IN MACEDONIA...

The Skopje dailies "Dnevnik" and "Utrinski vesnik" on 15 September published the transcript of a telephone conversation between the leaders of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) and the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), Branko Crvenkovski and Arben Xhaferi, respectively. The transcript had been sent by fax to the newspapers by an anonymous source, "to expose the high treason" of the two leaders. Earlier this year, the Macedonian government under Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization -- Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) was accused of having bugged the telephone lines of leading opposition politicians, journalists, and foreign diplomats (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February and 23 April 2001). UB

...WHILE MINISTER DENIES INVOLVEMENT...

In response to the newspaper reports, both Xhaferi and Crvenkovski charged that Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski is behind the bugging, "Dnevnik" reported on 15 September. "It is obvious that the illegal bugging [of telephones] is still going on in Macedonia," he said. Xhaferi commented: "Behind all this stands 'Big Brother' Ljube Boskovski. That shows that there is something wrong with the state institutions." Boskovski denied to comment on the issue, saying he "lacked information." UB

...REVEALS OPPOSITION TO REFERENDUM ON PEACE ACCORD

In the telephone conversation reported by "Dnevnik" and "Utrinski vesnik" on 15 September, Crvenkovski and Xhaferi agreed to try to delay the next session of the parliament, which is scheduled to discuss the proposal of the New Democracy Party, a minor opposition party, to hold a referendum on the peace accord (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 14 September 2001). According to Macedonian law, the parliament can call for a referendum with a simple majority, or 61 out of 120 votes. As Crvenkovski told Xhaferi in the telephone conversation, a large part of Georgievski's party is likely to vote in favor of such a referendum. The ethnic Albanian political parties, the SDSM, and the international community fear that a referendum will block the whole peace process. As Crvenkovski said in the telephone call, the two parties "should buy time," presumably in order to ask the international community to urge VMRO-DPMNE deputies to refrain from such a move. The international community fears that the political settlement will come undone unless the parliament passes the constitutional amendments soon (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2001). UB

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT OPENS DEBATE

Crvenkovski said in Skopje on 15 September that the SDSM might leave the broad-based governing coalition if parliament decides to hold a referendum, AP reported. The debate on the referendum is scheduled to resume on 17 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2001). Elections are scheduled for January 2002, and many Macedonian politicians may be tempted to support a referendum in order to woo nationalist voters opposed to the constitutional changes. PM

MACEDONIA AGREES TO NATO PRESENCE

The Macedonian authorities informed NATO on 15 September that they agree with the Atlantic alliance retaining a greatly reduced number of troops in that country to guard unarmed OSCE monitors after Operation Essential Harvest ends on 26 September, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11, 12, and 14 September 2001). Unnamed Western diplomats in Skopje welcomed the move, telling Reuters that "this idea was very much in accord with what we had wanted, and surprising given the mood music here recently." AP suggested that the new force might number about 350. PM

MACEDONIAN REFUGEES, DISPLACED PERSONS TO GO HOME

Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski said in Skopje on 16 September that the first groups of Macedonians who fled their homes in recent fighting or were driven out will return to Tearce in the Tetovo area on 18 September, AP reported. Returns to Lesok and Neprosteno will follow. PM

NATO: MACEDONIAN SIDE BROKE CEASE-FIRE

NATO spokesman Peter Altmannsperger told dpa in Skopje on 17 September that Macedonian forces opened fire on ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (UCK) the previous day in the Tetovo area. He said that NATO forces were present and witnessed the entire incident. Macedonian police claimed that the Albanians had attacked them. It was the second incident within 24 hours in the area. PM

MACEDONIAN MINISTER REJECTS CONFERENCE

Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva said in Skopje on 14 September that the government rejects any idea of an international political conference for Macedonia or any new regional political groupings, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. She said that Macedonia is able to manage its own affairs. Moscow, Belgrade, and Athens have, at various times, suggested holding an international Balkan conference to deal with Macedonia and related issues. Some observers have suggested that those supporting a conference hope to use it to expand their influence in the region or to preclude independence for Kosova or Montenegro (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September 2001). PM

HAEKKERUP ISSUES 'RULES' FOR KOSOVA

Hans Haekkerup, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova, approved on 15 September a "Rule Book" for the province's government after the 17 November election, Hina reported. The parliament will have 120 seats, 10 of which are reserved for the Serbs and an additional 10 for other minorities. The government will consist of a president, a prime minister, and nine ministers. The ministries will not include foreign affairs or defense. One minister must be a Serb and one other minister a member of another minority. Kosova's population is about 90 percent ethnic Albanian. PM

RESULTS OF MASS GRAVE EXHUMATION IN SERBIA

The district court in Uzice said in a statement on 15 September that a recently exhumed mass grave contained the bodies of 48 persons in civilian clothing, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2001). The bodies were in the grave for about two years, prior to which they had been in water. The victims were 17 years of age and older and had been killed by gunfire. They are assumed to be ethnic Albanians from Kosova killed by the security forces or paramilitaries. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ASKS PARLIAMENT TO OFFER AIRSPACE TO NATO

In a letter addressed to Romanian parliament's two chambers, Ion Iliescu on 14 September called on parliament to approve the use of national airspace for NATO in the event of retaliatory military strikes for the 11 September terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C., Romanian media reported. The Romanian Supreme Defense Council (CSAT) headed by Iliescu decided that Romania should act as a "NATO ally" in the fight against worldwide terrorism. Premier Adrian Nastase added on 15 September that Romania considers itself a de facto NATO member and his country would fully cooperate in a common action with NATO. The same day, Iliescu said a military conflict is not probable. Chamber of Deputies Chairman Valer Dorneanu said parliament will convene on 19 September to discuss the CSAT proposal. ZsM

ROMANIAN ARMY TO REORGANIZE TO FACE TERRORIST THREAT

Romanian Army Chief of Staff General Mihail Popescu on 15 September said the military doctrine and the army's structures need to be modified to successfully face future terrorist threats, Mediafax reported. He said military strategy will not be modified, but new issues will be added in regard to the threat of terrorism. He added that modifying the army's structure takes time, but it should not take too long to prepare for such threats. ZsM

GUARD SERVICE DENIES HAVING TRAINED HAMAS MEMBERS

The Protection and Guard Service (SPP) in charge of protecting Romanian dignitaries on 14 September denied having trained members of the Palestinian Hamas terrorist organization, Mediafax reported. The SPP's press release denied Greater Romania Party Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor's charges that the SPP trained Hamas members in 1995. The SPP acknowledged having trained between 1994-96 several Palestinians who were to protect Palestinian Authority leaders, but added they only received antiterrorist training. The SPP considers Tudor's allegations libel. In response to Tudor's allegations, Bucharest-based "Evenimentul zilei" on 17 September referred to the senator as "Vadim bin Laden" and a "political terrorist." ZsM

ROMANIAN OFFICIALS SLAM HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW ONCE AGAIN

On the five-year anniversary of the signing of the Romanian-Hungarian Basic Treaty, Romanian President Iliescu and Premier Nastase on 15 September condemned the Status Law recently approved by the Hungarian parliament, Mediafax reported. Iliescu said Romania has fulfilled all its commitments to the Hungarian minority "without hesitations," and that this minority enjoys "large prerogatives provided for in the law on local public administration." He added that he is surprised, however, that Hungary adopted the Status Law providing special rights to ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring countries without first consulting Bucharest. Nastase said Romania will continue to act as "a good neighbor and a trustful partner," and expressed hope that the Status Law will not affect "the active partnership" between the two countries. ZsM

VORONIN MEETS SMIRNOV'S OPPONENT FOR TRANSDNIESTER PRESIDENCY

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin on 14 September met in Chisinau with Aleksandr Radcenko, a candidate for the 9 December presidential elections in the breakaway Transdniester region, Flux reported. The two discussed the situation of Transdniester companies that are "in a difficult situation" due to the introduction of new customs seals. Voronin said the country should only have a single customs office, through which Chisinau could "normalize" export-import activities in the region. He added that Chisinau guarantees the completion of customs procedures for all companies in the Transdniester. Radcenko, who is supported by civic organizations from the "The Power of the People! For Social Equity!" opposition bloc, was proposed on 13 September as Tiraspol leader Igor Smirnov's only opponent thus far. According to Flux, Radcenko supported Voronin's election campaign and was the only deputy from the Tiraspol Supreme Soviet to protest suspending negotiations with Chisinau. ZsM

U.S. WITHDRAWS FROM NATO MANEUVERS IN BULGARIA

A U.S. military official said it has suspended the participation of American personnel and aircraft in the "Cooperative Key 2001" NATO military exercises in Bulgaria, Reuters reported on 14 September. The decision to suspend U.S. activities in the maneuvers is a result of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C. on 11 September. Four A-10 attack aircraft and some 40-60 military personnel returned to Germany. The exercises will continue until 20 September and involve some 1,300 military personnel from 22 countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2001). PB

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS FOR SPEEDIER NATO EXPANSION AND INCREASED ROLE

Solomon Pasi called on NATO to increase the pace of expanding the alliance in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the U.S., dpa reported. Pasi said in an interview with the newspaper "24 Chasa" on 17 September that "NATO expansion is a necessity and the organization will have to focus on global questions." Pasi, the president of Bulgaria's Atlantic Club, a think tank that advocates the country joining NATO, said the events in the U.S. require the alliance to reevaluate its future role and its security concept. Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov said the same day that "Bulgaria is not in a state of war but is ready to help the democratic community, including the United States," in any way it can. Pasi had commented earlier that "civilization is at war with terror" and "Bulgaria is part of civilization." PB




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