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Newsline - September 18, 2001




PUTIN CONSULTS WITH CENTRAL ASIAN LEADERS ON TERRORISM...

From Sochi, where he is taking a working vacation, President Vladimir Putin on 17 September telephoned the leaders of the five Central Asian countries that are members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to discuss working together to combat terrorism, Russian and Western agencies reported. Meanwhile, Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo the same day departed for Central Asia to continue these discussions, ITAR-TASS reported. But also on 17 September, Major General Mikhail Lobarev, the chief of staff for military coordination of the Collective Rapid Reaction Force, told Interfax that there are as yet no plans for using this force, which is composed of soldiers from Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Russia, and Tajikistan, against the terrorist threat. PG

...PROPOSES SHIFTING SITE OF NEXT CIS MEETING TO MOSCOW

In a telephone call to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev on 17 September, President Putin suggested that next week's meeting of prime ministers of the member countries of the CIS should take place in Moscow rather than in Ashgabat as originally scheduled, Russian and Western agencies reported. PG

PUTIN GIVEN REPORT ON CHECHEN DEVELOPMENTS

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on 17 September reported to President Putin on the situation in Chechnya, including the attack on Gudermes and the deaths of senior Russian commanders in a helicopter crash (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2001). PG

MOSCOW LINKS CHECHNYA, AFGHANISTAN, U.S. TERRORIST ACTS

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 17 September suggested in a statement that the killing of anti-Taliban Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, the recent terrorist attacks in the U.S., and the actions of the Chechen militants were "links in one chain," Interfax reported. In support of that claim, Russian officials provided to the U.S. what they said were computer disks found in Chechnya that contained instructions on how to fly a Boeing 737 jet. Meanwhile, Federal Security Service (FSB) officials said that Chechen militant commander Khattab is responsible for terrorist acts not only in Chechnya but in Tajikistan as well, Interfax reported. Colonel General Valerii Baranov, the commander of federal troops in Chechnya, the same day also suggested direct ties. He said "Arabs are there [in the U.S.] and Arab mercenaries are here [in Chechnya]," ITAR-TASS reported. Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov on 17 September said that "Russia will give the United States information about terrorists' bases, their camps, and about persons identified as terrorists," Reuters reported. PG

POLL SHOWS MUSCOVITES BACK BEEFING UP RUSSIAN FORCES ON AFGHAN BORDER

According to a poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported on Interfax on 17 September, 45 percent of the residents of the Russian capital back the continued presence of Russian forces in Tajikistan and 20 percent believe that the size of those forces must be increased. At the same time, 20 percent favor their withdrawal. PG

PUTIN ON ROSH HOSHANAH ACKNOWLEDGES CONTINUING ANTI-SEMITISM IN RUSSIA

President Putin on 17 September issued a message of greetings to Russian Jews on the occasion of the celebration of the Jewish New Year Rosh Hoshanah, Russian agencies reported. He said that the last year was one of progress but noted that "unfortunately, even today we encounter manifestations of anti-Semitism. There is not and cannot be any justification for them." PG

KASYANOV SAYS RISKY INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT DOES NOT ALLOW BUDGET CHANGES...

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 17 September said that the fallout from the terrorist attacks in the United States has created a new international situation and that Russia must reexamine its position on a variety of economic and political issues, Interfax reported. But he said that the government is not planning any immediate changes in its draft budget because risks abroad may wipe out the estimated surplus. VY

...BUT OTHERS AREN'T SO SURE

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said on 17 September that the budget may be modified because of higher than expected earnings that are expected to reach 120-160 billion rubles ($4-5.3 billion), Russian agencies reported. Interior Minister Gryzlov said the same day that any additional revenues should go toward improving law enforcement and security, the news agency reported. And First Deputy Speaker of the Duma (Unity) Lyubov Sliska said on 17 September that the terrorist acts in the U.S. will require shifts in the budget, Interfax reported. PG

ANALYST SAYS MOSCOW WOULD BENEFIT FROM NEUTRALITY ON U.S. STRIKES AGAINST TERRORISTS

Kiril Tremasov, a stock exchange analyst at the Moscow Business World Bank, argues that "Russia will profit a great deal politically" if it neither supports nor opposes any future U.S. and NATO military actions against terrorists, utro.ru reported on 17 September. Moscow should continue its antiterrorist rhetoric, Tremasov said, but it must avoid any commitments to take part in any actions by an international coalition. Tremasov, who is a close associate of Globalization Institute Director Mikhail Delyagin, said that the present situation in the world may allow Russia to quickly regain superpower status, especially if American actions exacerbate the existing split between northern and southern countries. An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" seconded this argument, adding that those countries that join with the U.S. in a campaign against terrorism risk being attacked themselves. VY/PG

PRIMAKOV CALLS FOR OUTLAWING INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM

In an interview published in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 17 September, former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov said that "even the most powerful military alliances, the redoubling of the military budget or the most efficient NMD will prove helpless against terrorism." Instead, he said, terrorism "must be extinguished at its source -- regional conflicts." He called for the adoption of special international laws to deal with this problem. VY

'IZVESTIYA' CRITICIZES FOREIGN MINISTRY FOR ITS REACTION TO TERRORIST INCIDENTS

An article in "Izvestiya" on 17 September sharply criticized the Russian Foreign Ministry for its reaction to the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September. Instead of showing compassion, the paper said, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and his deputies acted as if nothing had changed in the world and stood aloof from the situation. That approach, "Izvestiya" added, was out of step with President Putin who compared the actions of the terrorists to those of the Nazis. If the Foreign Ministry expects to achieve more understanding from the West, the paper concluded, it will have to show more sympathy to the situation the West finds itself in. VY

EURASIAN LEADER SAYS U.S. FACES DILEMMA IN RESPONDING TO TERRORIST ATTACKS

Aleksandr Dugin, the controversial leader of the Eurasia movement, said that the United States now faces a genuine dilemma in deciding how to respond to the terrorist attacks against its people, smi.ru reported on 14 September. If it does not take decisive action, the U.S. will lose its position as the world superpower and the leader of the globalization process. But if it acts too strongly, it may alienate many of its allies and intensify the opposition of its foes. Dugin's arguments were echoed by an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which suggested that the West will find it "psychologically more difficult" to fight Islamic fundamentalism than it found combating communism during the Cold War. VY/PG

RUSSIAN SCHOLAR REJECTS CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS SCENARIO

Vladimir Isaev, the deputy director of Moscow's Institute of Oriental Studies, told Interfax on 17 September that he does not believe that the recent terrorist attacks in the United States either reflect or will produce a clash of the civilizations of East and West. Indeed, he said, such "a clash of civilizations" under existing conditions is "unthinkable." He argued that the attacks on the U.S. "evidently have not religious but rather social roots" that involve the terrible poverty and illiteracy common in the third world, above all in the Muslim regions. PG

DOBRODEEV SAYS U.S. COVERAGE OF TERRORIST ATTACKS WAS MUCH BETTER THAN RUSSIAN

Oleg Dobrodeev, who heads the Russian State Radio and Television Committee, said in an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 15 September that American television did a good job in covering the terrorist attacks but that Russian coverage was significantly weaker. He was especially critical of Russian television for showing the same horrific scenes over and over without adding anything new to them. PG

KUDRIN SAYS INFLATION IN 2001 TO BE 17-17.5 PERCENT

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kudrin said on 17 September that inflation in 2001 will total between 17 and 17.5 percent, a rise of approximately 4 percent more in the last quarter, Interfax reported. He predicted that inflation will fall to 11-13 percent in 2002. Kudrin also said that in 2003 Russia may issue $2 billion in Eurobonds. PG

DUMA REASSEMBLES, FOCUSES ON TERRORISM

The Duma reassembled on 17 September after its summer recess and a week during which deputies worked in their constituencies, Russian agencies reported. The deputies proposed a variety of draft laws and appeals to deal with the new upsurge in terrorism, and debated whether Russia should participate in any U.S. retaliation, with most speakers opposing such participation, Interfax reported. PG

OVR ASKS DUMA TO PASS RESOLUTION SUPPORTING PUTIN

Vyacheslav Volodin, the leader of the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) faction in the Duma, said on 17 September that he will ask the parliament to approve a resolution of support for President Putin "in connection with the complicated international situation," Russian agencies reported. Volodin said that the Federation Council is also drafting a similar resolution. VY

SPS WANTS DUMA TO ASK PUTIN TO DECLARE MARTIAL LAW IN CHECHNYA

Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) deputies on 17 September asked the Council of the Duma to schedule a vote by the full parliament on their proposed appeal to President Putin to declare martial law in Chechnya, Interfax reported. One of the authors of the appeal, deputy Sergei Yushenkov, said that "considering the connection of Chechen bands with international terrorism, it is necessary to coordinate efforts with the world community in the struggle with this 'plague of the 21st century.'" PG

ISLAMIC PARTY CALLS FOR CREATION OF PRESIDENTIAL COUNCIL ON ISLAM

A congress of the Islamic Party of Russia on 15 September called for the creation in the presidential administration of a Council on Islam, "Izvestiya" reported on 17 September. The delegates also expressed their condolences to the victims of the terrorist attacks in the U.S. Party leaders said that the group now has more than 600,000 members in more than 50 regions of Russia. PG

ANTIGLOBALIST GROUP ATTRACTS FEWER THAN 200

The two-day action of what organizers called "Anti-Capitalism 2001 -- the March of Youth on Moscow" failed to attract more than 200 people at the end, Interfax reported on 16 September. Earlier, a few of the participants were involved in a confrontation with police. Several demonstrators were detained, and one policeman was hospitalized. PG

CRIMINALS IDENTIFIED IN HIGH PLACES IN MOSCOW

Investigative journalist Oleg Lurie wrote in "Novaya gazeta" on 17 September that three major criminals identified by the police are now serving in the Duma, 18 more are among senior government officials, and two are working in the presidential administration. He said that these 23 people all have the type of tattoo that identifies them as members of the senior hierarchy of the underworld. He noted that because of the risk of the fusion of the government and the criminal world, it is time to name names. VY

MOSCOW READY TO COOPERATE WITH U.S. ON COUNTERING TERRORISM

Following talks between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgii Mamedov and U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton in Moscow on 17 September, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the two countries will work together "to rebuff the looming threat of international terrorism," ITAR-TASS reported. Mamedov said that the talks themselves are a reflection of Moscow's willingness to help the United States during this difficult time. In a speech the same day, Foreign Minister Ivanov underscored Moscow's belief that only international cooperation can lead to the elimination of terrorism. Unilateral actions, he said, will not do so. PG

MOSCOW TELLS U.S. RUSSIAN NUCLEAR, CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS SECURE

In response to statements by visiting U.S. Undersecretary of State Bolton concerning the security of nuclear, chemical, and biological materials, Russian officials said on 17 September that Russia has these under complete control so that they cannot fall into the hands of terrorists, Russian and Western agencies reported. Russian officials acknowledged that their nuclear plants could not withstand a terrorist attack like those in New York and Washington, but they said that they do not believe that terrorists could assemble a nuclear device. PG

RUSSIA, FINLAND TO FIGHT CROSS-BORDER CRIME

At a 17 September meeting in Helsinki, Russian Interior Minister Gryzlov and his Finnish counterpart Ville Itala agreed to expand bilateral cooperation against cross-border crime and to hold regular meetings between the police of the two countries, AP reported. PG

BORODIN AGAIN SUMMONED TO SWITZERLAND

Pavel Borodin, former Kremlin property manager and now Russia-Belarus Union state secretary, on 17 September flew to Switzerland for further interrogation, Russian agencies reported. His attorneys said that he will again refuse to answer any questions. PG

BALANCE OF FORCES SHIFTING AGAINST RUSSIA ON CHINESE BORDER

According to Khabarovsk's "AiF-Dalinform," No. 31, Russia's Far Eastern Border Guards are planning to scrap or sell off all their naval vessels that guard the Chinese border even though Chinese forces there are increasing in number and quality. PG

MUSCOVITES LIKE IDEA OF ALLOWING THOSE DRAFTED TO SERVE IN POLICE

A poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 17 September found that 58 percent of Muscovites back the idea of allowing draftees to serve three years in the police as opposed to two years in the military. Twenty-four percent were opposed, and 10 percent indifferent, the news service said. But General Anatolii Kvashnin, the chief of the General Staff, told Russian Radio on 14 September that he is skeptical about this idea. PG

ARMY TO SEEK TO USE INFORMAL LEADERS RATHER THAN FIGHT THEM

Colonel General Vitalii Azarov, the head of the Main Administration for Training at the General Staff, said in an interview carried by "Izvestiya" on 15 September that the military plans to launch an experimental program of making use of informal leaders in order to improve discipline rather than seeking to weed them out. In the past, he noted, the army viewed such "informals" as the men behind the mistreatment of junior soldiers, but now officers will try to identify such leaders early on and use them to increase efficiency in the ranks. PG

RUSSIAN COMPANIES RAISE DIVIDENDS

The "Financial Times" on 17 September reported that Russian companies have begun to increase their dividends, a sign of increased profitability and also of a desire to make investment in them more attractive. PG

NUCLEAR SUB PLANT DIRECTOR MURDERED

NTV reported on 17 September that Valerii Maslakov, the director of the submarine manufacturing facility in Primorskii Krai, has been stabbed to death. Maslakov was a famous industrialist and was actively involved in cooperation with American officials. Local police said that Maslakov's stepson has confessed to the crime. VY

STOLYPIN'S GREAT-GRANDSON PROUD OF HIS ANCESTOR

In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 17 September on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the assassination of tsarist Prime Minister Petr Stolypin in 1911, his great grandson, Aleksandr Stolypin, 32, said that his ancestor was "above all a liberal, a big and free man. A Russian man." He added that had his ancestor not been killed, Petr Stolypin would have taken steps to prevent the revolution. PG

PRO-PUTIN YOUTH GROUP FEEDS BULLS

"Izvestiya" reported on 17 September that members of Walking Together, the pro-Putin youth group, have taken responsibility for feeding the bulls that until the ban imposed by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov had been scheduled to take part in bullfights in the Russian capital this month. PG

SIBERIAN LEADER WARNS U.S. AGAINST AFGHANISTAN QUAGMIRE...

In an interview with Interfax on 17 September, Khakasia Republic President Aleksei Lebed declared that with a military engagement in Afghanistan, the U.S. would be repeating the mistake of the Soviet Union. Lebed, who served in Afghanistan as a Soviet soldier, said that when Soviet troops entered Afghanistan, they were in a state of euphoria. "It appeared to us then that we were freeing Afghan people and bringing them progressive ideas, but as a result we started to fight not against the Mujahadin but against the entire people," Lebed said. He also stressed that he understands the desire of the U.S. president to punish the terrorists, but airstrikes against population centers would likely wind up hurting only the peaceful population, while the "Taliban and [Osama] Bin Laden sat [them] out in the mountains." Lebed considers a land operation equally futile, predicting that within two-three months the U.S. Army would sustain "major losses." JAC

...AND SLAMS STATE COUNCIL

Lebed also commented on the work of the State Council in light of its one-year anniversary last month. Lebed said that he still does not understand the adoption of decisions within the council's framework. He added that he thinks the council has become "a peculiar buffer between the president and his administration and the public." Asked to offer his evaluation of the State Council, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev was more positive, telling the agency that the council gives regional leaders an opportunity to be involved in "strategic planning" for the country at large. Regarding the organ's future, Tuleev said that "lies exclusively in the hands of the head of the government." JAC

INGUSHETIA'S PRESIDENT DOUBTS U.S. RAIDS ON AFGHANISTAN WOULD BE SUCCESSFUL

Retired General Ruslan Aushev, like Lebed a veteran of the Soviet Afghan war, has expressed similar doubts whether retaliatory U.S. strikes against Afghanistan would hurt anyone other than the civilian population of that country, Interfax reported on 17 September. He noted that the country's infrastructure is already virtually destroyed as a result of two decades of fighting. "Afghanistan is not the Balkans. There are no vital communications there whose destruction could paralyze the activity of the Taliban," he said. LF

ROSTOV COURT UPHOLDS REJECTION OF COMMUNIST CANDIDATE

A Rostov Oblast court upheld on 17 September the decision by the oblast's election commission to cancel the registration of Leonid Ivanchenko, a would-be candidate in 23 September gubernatorial elections, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. Ivanchenko is the leader of the local Communist Party in Rostov, and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov has called for boycotting elections if Ivanchenko is not reinstated (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 September 2001). Ivanchenko has already declared that he will challenge the court's ruling in the Supreme Court. JAC

CENTRAL CITY INTRODUCES INTERNET-BASED PAYMENTS...

According to the website regions.ru on 17 September, the city of Vladimir has become the first Russian city where it is possible for residents to pay for public utilities, telephone, cable television, and pager connection through the Internet. The local Vladimir branch of Menatep also offers residents a free course on how to use computers. JAC

...AS VORONEZH OBLAST EXPERIMENTS WITH SMALL-SCALE METALS FACTORY

At the end of August, workers in Voronezh Oblast began construction of a metallurgical "minifactory" -- the first of its kind in Russia, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 18 September. Metallurgical specialists believe that the opening of the new factory will unleash a new epoch in Russian metallurgy. Developers hope that over the next 10 years the new kind of plant will supplant large metal combines, or significantly weaken their position in the Russian market at the very least. The minifactories perform only one or two operations of the whole metallurgical cycle, and employ much smaller numbers of workers than larger autonomous metallurgical factories -- that is, 50-5,000 workers compared with more than 20,000. According to the daily, such minifactories have existed in the U.S. since the 1970s, but during the Soviet period the approach to developing the industry was much different and tended toward "gigantomania." JAC

TATARSTAN OFFICIAL ADVOCATES REFERENDUM ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS...

The amendments that Moscow requires be made to Tatarstan's Constitution must be submitted to a republic-wide referendum, Tatarstan State Council Chairman Farit Mukhametshin stated on 17 September, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported. LF

...WHILE PROMINENT ACADEMICIAN WANTS ONE ON TATARSTAN'S ADOPTION OF LATIN ALPHABET

Tatarstan's ongoing transition from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet was dictated not by linguistic but rather by political considerations, the website SMI.ru quoted Tatar Turcologist Edham Tenishev as saying in Moscow on 17 September, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported. Tenishev argued that a referendum should be conducted on the issue. Tenishev was one of the signatories of an open letter to Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev, which was published on 14 September in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" and called for the transition to the Latin alphabet to be stopped (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2001). LF

SITUATION UNCLEAR AS FIGHTING IN CHECHNYA CONTINUES...

Russian troops began methodically combing large areas of Chechnya on 18 September following the previous day's attacks by Chechen fighters on Gudermes, Argun and Nozhai-Yurt, Reuters reported. AFP on 17 September quoted a spokesman for Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov as saying that his men fully control both Gudermes and Nozhai-Yurt. But on 18 September the commander of the Russian forces in Chechnya, Colonel General Baranov, said Russian troops currently control Gudermes. LF

...AND PRO-MOSCOW LEADER DEPARTS ON TOUR OF MIDEAST

Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, together with the muftis of all the North Caucasus republics, was scheduled to depart on 18 September on a six-day tour of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq, ITAR-TASS reported. Kadyrov will brief the leaders of those countries on "the real situation in the Caucasus and Chechnya," and assure them that "Russia's policy in the region and in Chechnya is absolutely correct and is aimed at saving the Chechen people from extremists and terrorists," according to Adlan Magomedov, Chechnya's senior representative in the Russian presidential administration. LF




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT, RUSSIAN PREMIER REVIEW PUTIN'S VISIT

In a telephone conversation on 17 September, Robert Kocharian and Mikhail Kasyanov discussed the implementation of agreements signed during Russian President Vladimir Putin's 14-15 September visit to Yerevan, ITAR-TASS reported. Kocharian told journalists after attending the opening in Yerevan of a hotel owned by Transport and Communications Minister Andranik Manukian that the benefits of those agreements will be apparent in two-three months, according to Noyan Tapan. LF

FORMER ARMENIAN DISSIDENT DETAINED FOR ILLEGAL POSSESSION OF ARMS

Armenian police arrested Azat Arshakian, a Soviet-era dissident and one of the founders of the Independence Army, a former paramilitary group now engaged in charitable work, on 14 September following the discovery earlier that day of large quantities of weapons and ammunition at a Yerevan office building belonging to the Independence Army, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 17 September, quoting an unnamed Interior Ministry official. Police said the weaponry included 30 flamethrowers, 230 hand grenades, some 300 mine detonators, and more than 13,500 cartridges. Arshakian has reportedly accepted responsibility for the arms cache, the third to be found over the past 12 months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2000 and 2 February 2001). LF

FORMER ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING SUSPECT SAYS HE WAS TORTURED

Journalist Nairi Badalian told the Presidential Human Rights Commission on 17 September that the Military Prosecutor's Office subjected him to torture in an attempt to coerce him to give incriminating evidence in the investigation into the October 1999 parliament shootings, Arminfo and Noyan Tapan reported. Specifically, Badalian said he was ordered to give false evidence incriminating President Kocharian's adviser Aleksan Harutiunian. Harutiunian was detained in December 1999 and spent four months in custody before being released for lack of evidence against him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December 1999 and 17 April 2000). Badalian was similarly taken into custody after the shootings and held for eight months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2000). LF

AZERBAIJANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENTS CONFER

The decision to postpone Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev's visit to Iran was taken by Aliyev and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Khatami during a telephone conversation on 16 September, Turan reported on 17 September, quoting a member of the Azerbaijani presidential administration. The two presidents agreed that the documents to be signed during Aliev's visit require more work, and that they will be revised and submitted to both presidents for their approval, after which a new date for Aliev's visit will be agreed on. The agreements in question cover political, economic, cultural, and legal relations as well as cooperation in the oil sector, transport, agriculture, and health care. LF

AZERBAIJANI EDITOR FOUND GUILTY OF INSULTING PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL

A district court in Baku on 17 September sentenced Shahbaz Huduoglu, editor of the independent newspaper "Milletin Sesi" (Voice of the Nation) to six months imprisonment for insulting the honor and dignity of presidential administration head Ramiz Mekhtiev, Turan reported. The paper had alleged a liaison between Mekhtiev and a call girl. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT QUITS AS CHAIRMAN OF RULING PARTY

In a move that he admitted is overdue, on 17 September Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze announced his resignation from the post of chairman of the ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK), which was founded as his personal power base in late 1993, Caucasus Press reported on 17 September. Opposition parliament deputies and some within the SMK had long argued that Shevardnadze was violating the constitution by continuing to serve as SMK chairman. His resignation has compounded speculation that the SMK may split into two or more rival factions (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 31, 10 September 2001). Parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania admitted on 17 September that Shevardnadze's departure creates a "serious trial" for the SMK, and expressed the hope that the party will swiftly set about cleansing its ranks of corrupt officials. Mkhedrioni leader Djaba Ioseliani suggested that Shevardnadze may transfer his support to the opposition "New Right Wing" (AM) founded by former SMK members who quit that party last year. Several Georgian oligarchs who are close associates of Shevardnadze's son Paata are members of the AM. But AM leader Levan Gachechiladze on 18 September said that faction will not support the president, Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIA, UZBEKISTAN ASSESS WHAT ASSISTANCE THEY COULD OFFER U.S...

Georgia would be prepared to accede to a request from the U.S. to make its military bases available for use in the event of a retaliatory U.S. strike in the wake of last week's attacks, Caucasus Press on 17 September quoted Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili as saying. He similarly told Interfax that Tbilisi would offer the U.S. "the maximum assistance," but added that neither Washington nor NATO has yet addressed any such request to the Georgian leadership. In Tashkent, Foreign Ministry spokesman Bakhodyr Umarov told AP that if asked, Uzbekistan would consider allowing the U.S. the use of its military bases to launch strikes against Afghanistan. Last year, President Islam Karimov ruled out allowing Moscow to launch strikes against the Taliban from Uzbek territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2000). LF

...AS KYRGYZSTAN WARNS OF SPILLOVER FROM RETALIATORY STRIKES

Two Kyrgyz officials expressed concern on 17 September that retaliatory U.S. strikes against the Taliban could destabilize the situation in Central Asia by triggering a new outflow of refugees. AP quoted Kyrgyz Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Mirbek Koilubaev as saying that Uzbekistan's readiness to make its military facilities available to the U.S. "may bring the conflict zone closer to Central Asia." Major General Ismail Isakov, the chairman of the Kyrgyz parliament's commission on state security, was quoted by Interfax as warning that Washington should refrain from any attacks on Afghanistan until it has hard evidence that the organizers of the 11 September terrorist attacks are in that country. He said that Washington should also consult with Central Asian governments prior to mounting any retaliatory action, and should exclude the possibility that civilians might be harmed in such strikes. He noted that U.S. attacks on Afghanistan would leave fighters from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan no choice but to flee to one of the Central Asian states. LF

INDIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS TAJIKISTAN

Visiting Indian Foreign Minister Omar Abdallah met in Dushanbe on 13 September with Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov, Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov, and Defense Minister Colonel General Sherali Khairulloev, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 4 September. Abdallah and Rakhmonov discussed expanding cooperation, especially in the pharmaceuticals sector and the training of specialists, and in combating terrorism and drug trafficking. They also discussed the threat posed to regional security by Afghanistan. Abdallah told journalists after those talks that India will give Tajikistan $5 million toward overcoming the impact of this year's drought, and seven tons of medications to treat tuberculosis. LF




WHITE HOUSE SAYS LUKASHENKA STOLE ELECTION FROM PEOPLE

Washington on 17 September condemned in strong language Belarus's presidential election on 9 September, saying it was "severely flawed," international news agencies reported. "Not only did Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Europe's last dictator, steal the elections from the Belarusian people -- for the moment, he also stole their opportunity to return to a path towards democracy and free-market economy," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said in a written statement. "This was a sadly missed opportunity and a sad moment for a brave people who suffer under a climate of fear," the statement added. The White House said the United States will work with its European allies through foreign aid programs and international organizations to promote "democracy, human rights, and the rule of law" in Belarus. JM

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION PICKETS LUKASHENKA'S OFFICE OVER DISAPPEARANCES

Some 200 people formed a "chain of concerned people" in front of the Belarusian president's headquarters on 17 September, protesting the unaccounted for disappearances of the regime's political opponents. The protesters, who included relatives of the missing politicians, displayed photos of opposition politicians Viktar Hanchar and Yury Zakharanka, businessman Anatol Krasouski, and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski. Anatol Lyabedzka, the leader of the United Civic Party, told Belapan that his party considers the protest campaign over the disappearances one of its top priorities and is planning to stage more protests in Minsk and other Belarusian cities. Lyabedzka added that the opposition intends to ask the European Court of Human Rights to look into the disappearances. JM

STUDENTS PROTEST CLOSURE OF BELARUSIAN-LANGUAGE SCHOOL

Students on 17 September picketed the City Hall in Svetlahorsk, southeastern Belarus, protesting the announced closure of the local branch of the Minsk-based National State Humanities Lycee, Svetlahorsk's only Belarusian-language school, Belapan reported. Last week the city authorities ordered the school closed and its students transferred to another school. Those opposing the closure say the authorities have long resented the school's unconventional teaching methods and its use of the Belarusian language instead of Russian. "Our classes continue as usual despite the fact that the lycee is no longer getting any funding," school Director Telman Maslyukou told the agency. JM

BELARUS, LIBYA SIGN COOPERATION DEALS

A visit by Libyan Defense Secretary Abu Bakr Younis Jaber to Belarus from 14-17 September resulted in the signing of several bilateral cooperation accords on 17 September, Belapan reported. The sides signed memorandums on joint investment in banking, finance, industrial sector, the petrochemical industry, as well as agreements between the cities of Minsk and Tripoli and between the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Libya's General Union of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT URGES BETTER REPRESENTATION FOR CRIMEAN TATARS

Leonid Kuchma on 17 September met with the authorities of the Crimean Autonomous Republic and Crimean Tatar representatives, Ukrainian media reported. "I believe that increasing Crimean Tatars' representation in public administration is an important and urgent issue... Five percent of all civil servants in Crimea -- [those are] the statistics I was given today -- is obviously too little," Ukrainian Television quoted Kuchma as saying. The president also urged the central and Crimean authorities to speed up the allocation of land to repatriated Tatars. JM

PROSECUTOR VOWS TO SOLVE UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST'S MURDER

Speaking at a public hearing in Kyiv on 17 September, Deputy Prosecutor-General Oleksiy Bahanets said the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze will probably be solved soon, STB Television reported. According to Bahanets, had it not been for the tragedy in the U.S., FBI experts invited by the Prosecutor-General's Office would have been already working on the case. "The Prosecutor-General's Office has reinforced the investigating team. Detectives who successfully solved murders in previous years -- those of parliamentary deputy Yevhen Shcherban and of [former National Bank Governor Vadym] Hetman -- are taking part in the investigation of this case," Bahanets said. JM

UKRAINIAN NATIONALIST GROUP SAYS IT DID NOT HAIL TERRORIST ATTACKS ON U.S.

The radical nationalist Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian Self Defense (UNA-UNSO) has announced on its website that last week the website was attacked by hackers, who placed there a statement on behalf of the UNA-UNSO hailing the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as "moral satisfaction" for the countries previously bombed by the U.S. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2001). The UNA-UNSO press service denied the organization was in any way responsible for that statement, adding that the attacks on the U.S. were "more of an act of vandalism than that of restoring justice." JM

ESTONIA'S RULING COALITION DETERMINED TO ELECT PRESIDENT IN ELECTORAL COLLEGE

Representatives of the Pro Patria Union, Reform Party, and Moderates decided at a roundtable meeting on 17 September that the elections of Estonia's president should not be returned to the parliament, ETA reported. It is unlikely that any candidate will win the needed majority in the first round on 21 September since at least four candidates will be nominated: Toomas Savi of the Reform Party, Peeter Tulviste of Pro Patria, Peeter Kreitzberg of the Center Party, and Arnold Ruutel of People's Choice. The Moderates have not yet decided if they will nominate Andres Tarand. The coalition parties agreed that in the second round they will support the coalition candidate who receives the most votes in the first round. SG

LATVIAN OFFICIALS STRESS IMPORTANCE OF NATO MEMBERSHIP ACTION PLAN FOR 2002

Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins told reporters on 17 September that the implementation of the NATO membership action plan for 2002 will to a great extent determine whether Latvia will receive a membership invitation at the Prague summit in November 2002, BNS reported. Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis said that there are no major differences between next year's plan and those of earlier years since "the tasks remain the same" -- to raise the country's defense abilities, and to increase the compatibility of Latvian armed forces with those of NATO. Defense Ministry State Secretary Janis Sarts noted that while the action plan for 2000 was implemented by 88 percent, the plan for 2001 had been implemented 123 percent by August. The 2002 action plan has six chapters, covering political and economic issues, defense and military issues, financial resources, security issues, technical aspects, and implementation and control. SG

TALKS CONTINUE ON PRIVATIZATION OF LITHUANIAN GAS

Russian Transport Minister Sergei Frank and Gazprom Chairman Aleksei Miller held talks in Vilnius on 17 September about the privatization of Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas), ELTA reported. President Valdas Adamkus told Miller that he backs the plan to sell 34 percent of the company to a strategic Western investor and 25 percent to a gas supplier, while leaving 17 percent in the hands of the government. Miller informed Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas that Gazprom is interested in participating in the privatization and believes that the winning gas supplier should be given at least parity with the Western investor. In his opinion, the best plan would be for Gazprom and its Lithuanian partners to be sold 50 percent of the company. He denied that Gazprom is planning to raise the price of gas to Lithuania by 50 percent next year if this condition is not met. SG

POLISH PARLIAMENT HONORS U.S. VICTIMS, BACK RETALIATORY ACTION

Meeting for its last session before the 23 September parliamentary election, the Sejm on 18 September honored the victims of last week's terrorist attack on the United States with a minute's silence and pledged support for any U.S. action against the attackers, AP reported. The Sejm unanimously approved a statement saying the attack was an "act of aggression against all countries cherishing freedom and democracy." The statement added: "This barbaric act cannot remain unanswered. Poland's parliament fully supports the NATO position. We are ready to implement our obligations as an ally." NATO pledged last week that, if they are found to have been directed from abroad, the attacks on the U.S. will be considered an attack on the whole alliance. JM

POLAND COMMEMORATES ANNIVERSARY OF SOVIET INVASION

To mark the 62nd anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland, Poles on 17 September paid tribute to and prayed for those murdered and killed in Soviet camps and prisons, PAP reported. Speaking at a commemorative ceremony in Warsaw, Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek referred to the recent terrorist attack on the U.S., saying that Poles must now manifest solidarity and prudence. "We should not forget how much freedom has cost us, this is why we should guard it in an extraordinary way," Buzek said. Earlier the same day, Buzek inaugurated an Internet index of the repressed persons compiled by the Karta Internet Center in Warsaw. Karta collects documents concerning the fate of Polish citizens in the former Soviet Union following the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939. JM

CZECH CABINET APPROVES SAME-SEX PARTNERSHIP DRAFT

The ruling Social Democratic cabinet on 17 September approved a draft bill aimed at recognizing same-sex partnerships under the law, dpa and CTK reported. The bill would set out conditions for "cohabitation," a prerequisite for surviving-partner inheritance and other legal rights -- but not allow for the adoption of children. A similar bill was rejected by lawmakers in December 1999, and the legislation is expected to run into heated debate in the lower house. The Roman Catholic Church staunchly opposes the bill, and the Czech Bishops' Conference and National Center for the Family have collected 60,000 signatures for a petition against the move. AH

CZECH NUCLEAR PLANT BACK ONLINE AFTER LATEST SHUTDOWN

The Temelin nuclear power plant was brought back online in the early morning hours of 18 September after technicians worked to correct a pump malfunction, dpa reported. Social Democrats in neighboring Austria, where officials have long sought to block the introduction of the new plant, took the opportunity to slam Czech authorities tasked with operating Temelin safely. More than 20 failures since testing on the plant began indicates that those responsible have lost control of the plant, said a spokeswoman for the Social Democrats. AH

CZECH TV NOVA ENTERS SLOVAK MARKET

The Czech Republic's major private television network TV Nova has entered the Slovak market by buying a 70 percent stake in Slovakia's TV Global operator Mac TV, TASR reported on 17 September, quoting Nova Director Vladimir Zelezny. "The plan we have long been talking about is becoming reality. We are looking forward to finally being able to offer Slovak viewers television of a quality so far known only to some Slovak citizens," Zelezny said. Slovakia's most popular television station Markiza seems to be dubious about Nova's intentions. "TV Nova wants to create some kind of federal Czechoslovak broadcasting and will turn Global into a wastebasket for their own shows that turn out to be unsuccessful," Markiza co-owner Pavol Rusko said. JM

COMMITTEE URGES GOVERNMENT TO HELP SLOVAKIA'S NATIONAL NEWS AGENCY

The parliamentary Committee for Culture and Media on 17 September agreed to request that the government immediately submit a proposal for revamping TASR -- Slovakia's national news agency, TASR reported. TASR Director Ivan Ceredejev told the committee that TASR would find itself in a critical situation should the currently proposed 2002 TASR budget of 27 million Slovak crowns ($578,000) be passed instead of the 72 million needed. Ceredejev added that as a result of constant budget cuts, the agency may become financially insolvent and cease to function in February or March 2002. JM

THIRD OFFSHOOT FORMED FROM HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS' PARTY

Deputies from several parties, including the now-splintered Smallholders' Party, have banded together to create another alternative to the Smallholders' Party led by embattled party head Jozsef Torgyan, local press reported on 18 September. The Hungarian Smallholder and Civic Party represents the third Smallholders faction to register itself as an independent party since opposition to Torgyan's leadership emerged in the party earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May 2001). The newest party was founded in Bekescsaba on 17 September by Smallholders' Party deputies Zsolt Lanyi and Miklos Hano, independent legislator Mihaly Papai, and former Democratic Forum Deputy Istvan Marko. A fourth faction, led by Defense Minister Janos Szabo and calling itself the Democratic Federation of Independent Smallholders, has not registered itself but is cooperating with one of the breakaway parties, the Smallholder Federation. AH

VISITING SWEDISH FOREIGN MINISTER WELCOMES HUNGARY'S CHOICE OF GRIPEN JETS

Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, on a one-day stopover in the Hungarian capital, said Budapest's decision to lease Swedish/British-made JAS-39 Gripen fighters will significantly enhance bilateral relations, local media reported on 18 September. The Hungarian Defense Ministry said it expects a Swedish delegation led by Defense Minister Bjorn von Sydow to arrive on 20 September to negotiate terms of the jet-fighter deal, which the cabinet opted for on 10 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2001). AH

EU'S OUTGOING HUNGARY REPRESENTATIVE URGES SPEEDY ENLARGEMENT

The outgoing head of the EU's delegation to Hungary, Michael Lake, warned there will be "a real crisis of confidence in the process when we can least afford it" if the EU does not meet 2004 accession targets in Central Europe, Reuters reported on 17 September. Lake also recommended quicker enlargement in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks in the U.S., the agency reported. With just one month left in his post, Lake praised Hungary for closing environment negotiations but cautioned that there is more to do in the agricultural sector, Reuters reported. Issues such as discrimination against Hungary's Roma, establishing an objective media, and corruption are likely to be reflected in the European Commission's upcoming progress report, he added. AH




NATO WARNS OF UNDISCIPLINED MACEDONIAN FORCES...

Following the shooting by Macedonian security forces from Zilce into Semsevo near Tetovo, NATO spokesman Mark Laity told Reuters in Skopje on 17 September that the shooting put NATO troops in danger and that the alliance has called on the Macedonian authorities to investigate the incident (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2001). The news agency added that "Western diplomats say undisciplined police reservists and associated paramilitaries have harassed ethnic Albanians, including demobilized fighters, at checkpoints and sparked numerous bouts of gunfire." The armed Macedonians appear to be "out of control." PM

...AS DOES ALBANIAN LEADER

Arben Xhaferi, who heads the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), told Reuters in Skopje on 17 September that "we don't know to whom [the paramilitaries] answer. It is a dangerous game." Later that day, armed ethnic Albanians set up roadblocks outside Semsevo, saying that they fear an attack by the undisciplined forces. Presidential adviser Nikola Dimitrov told the news agency that the National Security Council will urge that the police in that sensitive area be replaced by army units. The Interior Ministry, which is headed by hard-liner Ljube Boskovski, has nonetheless demanded that NATO remove the checkpoints and threatened to "take necessary measures" if it does not. NATO officials said that their mandate does not extend to such activities. PM

NATO WAITS FOR MACEDONIAN REQUEST

Several news agencies reported from Skopje on 17 September that the Macedonian government has formally requested NATO to deploy a small force to protect monitors after Operation Essential Harvest ends, but NATO spokeswoman Ariane Quentier told RFE/RL the next day that Brussels has not yet received a letter from President Boris Trajkovski to that effect (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2001). She added: "We haven't got the complete concerns of what President Trajkovski is going to discuss, but we sort of have an idea that it is going to be something having to do with monitors -- EU and OSCE monitors probably... We are going to ask our military authorities to look into a concept of operations... Whatever is going to be deployed is going to be completely separated from Task Force Harvest... It's probably going to take something between one and two weeks to withdraw from Macedonia [after Essential Harvest], so that will ensure coverage of the area between the time Task Force Harvest pulls out and we get something new." PM

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT CONTINUES DEBATE

The legislature is scheduled to resume discussion in the afternoon of 18 September on a proposed referendum on the constitutional changes set down in the recent Ohrid agreement, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2001). PM

RUSSIA'S BALKAN RED HERRING

A prominent U.S. journalist told the BBC on 16 September that Russia's policy in the wake of the 11 September attacks can be described as "opportunist." This was made clear again in Berlin on 18 September by Vladimir Chizhov, Moscow's top diplomat for Balkan affairs. ITAR-TASS reported that he noted "the threat of terrorism and militant extremism, which have graphically manifested themselves for years in the Balkans. Chizhov said that Russia favors an all-round regional approach to settling Balkan problems. This idea prompted the Russian initiative that states in the region should conclude agreements, laying down norms of state relations. Such a document should bar the continued remapping of borders in that part of Europe and help to call a Balkan summit." Observers note that these and similar proposals from Belgrade and elsewhere are aimed at expanding the proposing state's influence in the region and precluding the independence of Kosova or Montenegro (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2001, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 March and 31 July 2001). PM

MILOSEVIC AIDE LOSES SERBIAN PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY

The Serbian parliament voted on 17 September to strip Branislav Ivkovic of his legislative immunity, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He is the faction leader of former President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialists and a former minister for science and technology. The vote on his immunity comes in the wake of charges that he abused his position for personal gain. Predrag Canovic of the Party of Serbian Unity also lost his immunity as a result of a serious private lawsuit. In related news, police officials confirmed in Belgrade that they arrested former Serbian Culture Minister Zeljko Simic on criminal charges two days earlier. Police showed a film in which Simic could be seen robbing a flat. The accused man's lawyer said that his client only "borrowed" the goods in question. PM

VOJVODINA FARMERS STAGE PROTEST

An unspecified number of farmers blocked roads and border crossings in Vojvodina on 17 September to protest low purchase prices for their sunflowers and other industrial crops, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Serbian Agriculture Minister Dragan Veselinov told angry farmers in Novi Sad that the Yugoslav federal government is responsible for the prices. The farmers vowed to continue their protests until their grievances are resolved. PM

SLOVENIAN MINISTER LAUDS RELATIONS WITH BELGRADE

Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel formally opened his country's embassy in Belgrade on 17 September, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He said that "Slovenia is a partner, friend, and ally for Yugoslavia." The building is the largest Slovenian embassy in any foreign country. Ljubljana is anxious to recover the markets it had in Serbia before Milosevic forced the dissolution of former Yugoslavia in 1991. PM

ARREST IN MONTENEGRO AFTER STUDENT DEATHS

Police in Podgorica said on 17 September that they have arrested an unidentified man who owned a ship that sunk recently off Sveti Stefan, killing three students from Banja Luka and their teacher, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

U.S. WANTS CROATIA IN ANTITERRORIST COALITION

The U.S. government would like Croatian support in its antiterrorist efforts, "Jutarnji list" reported on 18 September, citing a conversation with Ambassador to Croatia Lawrence Rossin. Details are not yet known, the paper added. It also quoted Jozo Krizanovic, who heads the Bosnian joint presidency, as saying that his country plans to tighten up border controls on citizens of Islamic countries. Several articles have appeared in the Croatian press in recent days expressing concern that the EU will tighten up its frontier measures to the detriment of Croatia. PM

INDEPENDENTS HOLD BALANCE IN CROATIAN REGIONAL ELECTION

With a 40 percent voter turnout, citizens of Dubrovnik have given the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) 10 out of 25 seats in the local government, "Jutarnji list" reported on 18 September. Prime Minister Ivica Racan's Social Democrats (SDP) won seven seats, while five went to a three-party coalition that also includes governing parties. The Democratic Center won one seat, while a local independent slate took two. The winners were the HDZ with two seats more than before, and the SDP with a gain of one. PM

MOST IMPORTANT CROATIAN FAIR OPENS

President Stipe Mesic opened the annual Zagreb Fair on 17 September, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Croatia's official partner country this year is Bosnia. Representing the Bosnian joint presidency, Krizanovic said that relations between the two countries are "better than ever." (It is not clear whether he was speaking in Bosnian or Croatian.) Taking part are 1,800 exhibitors from 47 countries. PM

GOVERNMENT TO INVESTIGATE ALLEGATIONS OF BIN LADEN SUPPORT GROUP IN ROMANIA

Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase said on 17 September his cabinet will investigate whether a group supporting terrorist Osama bin Laden is based in Romania, Mediafax reported. Nastase was responding to an article published the same day by the "Sunday Times" about a 1996 declaration bin Laden made regarding the presence of his support group in 13 countries around the world, including Romania. The premier said the information services are already checking this information. Former Romanian Information Service Director Costin Georgescu on 17 September said in a radio interview that he had no knowledge of the presence of bin Laden's organization in Romania. The Foreign Information Service is to present a report on terrorist groups in Romania to parliament on 18 September. ZsM

PRESIDENCY PROTESTS TUDOR'S CHARGES

A press release from President Ion Iliescu's office on 17 September called on the Romanian Audio/Visual Council supervising the activity of radio and television stations to analyze the position of a Romanian public radio journalist who earlier that day interviewed extremist Senator Corneliu Vadim Tudor, Romanian media reported. In the interview, Tudor reaffirmed that in 1995 Iliescu approved the training of Hamas members by the Guard and Protection Service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2001) The press release protested "transforming public radio in an instrument of political fighting, in a pulpit for extremist, xenophobic positions, and for attacks against [Iliescu]." Mediafax reported the same day that the prosecutors will examine Tudor's charges, but warned that if they prove to be false, he will be accused of "spreading false information." ZsM

HUNGARIAN CHURCH LEADERS ASK FOR RESTITUTION OF PROPERTIES

Leaders of the Hungarian traditional churches in Romania request a meeting with President Iliescu and Premier Nastase to discuss the restitution of church properties, Romanian media reported on 18 September. As a result of their 13 September meeting, the church leaders want to present a draft law on restoring church properties formulated together with specialists from the Democratic Federation of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR). The draft law is to be presented to parliament by UDMR parliamentarians. Church leaders are to organize in October in Bucharest an extraordinary international conference on church property restitution. ZsM

VORONIN ON MOLDOVA'S EU ACCESSION AMBITIONS

Meeting with a European Parliament delegation in Chisinau, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin on 17 September said Moldova is ready to cooperate with all European institutions in order to speed up that country's EU accession process, Flux reported. He said that Moldova's relations with the EU "are becoming better and better," adding that the EU accession projects will soon be implemented. Voronin said, "Moldova shouldn't line up for EU accession," and that "in the heart of Europe there should be no more poor and underdeveloped countries." The Moldovan president also called on the European Commission to open a permanent representation office in Chisinau and to begin negotiations for a free-trade agreement between the EU and Moldova. Premier Vasile Tarlev and parliament Chairman Eugenia Ostapciuc also met with the European Parliament delegation. ZsM

SPANISH, BULGARIAN PREMIERS PLEDGE SUPPORT FOR U.S. FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM

Spanish Premier Jose Maria Aznar and his Bulgarian counterpart Simeon Saxecoburggotski said in Sofia on 17 September that their countries will align with U.S. efforts to fight international terrorism, AP reported. Aznar said after meeting with Saxecoburggotski that he hopes "the coalition against terrorism will be as broad and strong as possible." He added that "there must be a fairly clear response to terrorists and that is -- they will be pursued and will be punished." Saxecoburggotski urged all countries to join in the coalition against terrorism. He said: "It is about defending our values, our society, and about showing our solidarity when the whole civilization is facing a threat." Aznar was in Bulgaria on a one-day visit as part of a tour of Eastern Europe ahead of Spain's taking over of the EU presidency in January. PB

IMF MISSION LEADER IN SOFIA

Jerald Schiff, the IMF mission leader for Bulgaria, arrived in the country's capital on 17 September for talks with the government, BTA reported. IMF officials have been in Bulgaria for several weeks in preparation for Schiff's arrival. Schiff's talks with the government are the first since Premier Saxecoburggotski was elected in June. PB




BALKAN MISCHIEF-MAKING IS WISHFUL THINKING


By Patrick Moore

The outpouring of sympathy and support for the U.S. from across Europe and much of the world in recent days has been both touching and inspiring. As Vienna's "Die Presse" pointed out on 13 September, the tragedy in New York and Washington has enabled many people around the globe to see what is really important in life and what unites them, and at the same time to realize how much of the normal, daily fare of politics is trivial and silly by comparison.

The past few days have seen trans-Atlantic solidarity strengthened and months of bickering brushed aside. There is a new tone of cooperation in relations between Washington on the one hand and Moscow and Beijing on the other. Many around the globe have raised their voices to point out that it would be unwise to demonize any one people or religion as a result of the terrorist attacks, adding that the tragedy should serve as an opportunity for taking a fresh look at some long-standing issues affecting America's and the West's relations with Muslim countries.

Indeed, throughout the Balkans, messages of sympathy and support have come from all religious communities. The most visible signs of support for America came not only from Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro -- where official days of mourning were proclaimed -- but above all from Kosova, where thousands turned out across the province in public demonstrations of sympathy and offered to donate blood. In Macedonia, both the Macedonian and Albanian communities expressed solidarity through their leaders. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica made his horror and revulsion known, as did many other Serbian politicians. The Yugoslav government offered to help catch the terrorists.

But other voices have been heard as well. There are those who remain wedded to 19th-century concepts of nation-states, interests, and balances, even though it should now be clear to all that, in the North Atlantic world at least, we live in a very different and globalized era.

Some such observers in several countries have long been preoccupied with reducing the size and scope of U.S. influence. For many, it is a question of national honor and identity, even though it is difficult to say what is truly "national" in much of today's world. For others, their concern is because America represents the greatest threat to their own expansionist ambitions, particularly in Kosova, Macedonia, or other parts of the Balkans.

From such quarters one could hear in recent days the view that the latest tragedy will prompt America to leave the Balkans and withdraw into isolation behind a wall of missiles. Some of these individuals predicted the same thing shortly before President George W. Bush took office.

They were wrong then and are likely to be proved wrong again, as many commentators have suggested. The administration is clearly on record that it entered into its Balkan commitments together with its valued NATO allies, and that it will leave with them as well. "In together, out together" is the way that Secretary of State Colin Powell has often put it. In short, those who hope that the current tragedy will give them a chance for Balkan mischief-making are most probably engaging in wishful thinking -- at best.

The U.S. and its allies will clearly be concerned with the tragedy and its aftermath and lessons in the coming weeks. But that does not mean that they have forgotten about their obligations and commitments in the Balkans or any other part of the world.

On the contrary. NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson's latest visit to Skopje underscores this point. In short, in the Balkans as elsewhere, the tragic events of 11 September may well serve to bring home once again to Western leaderships and publics the vital importance of solidarity and commitment.


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