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Newsline - September 21, 2001




U.S. SAID TO WANT RUSSIA'S COOPERATION, NOT PARTICIPATION IN ANTITERRORIST EFFORT

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 20 September after meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush that the American leader is not seeking Russia's participation in upcoming military operations against terrorism or approval for U.S. use of bases in Tajikistan, but only Russia's cooperation in the general effort, Russian news agencies reported. VY

PUTIN, CHIRAC AGREE ON UN ROLE IN FIGHTING TERRORISM

President Vladimir Putin on 20 September had a telephone conversation with his French counterpart Jacques Chirac, and the two agreed that the UN Security Council should play a key role in the fight against terrorism, Russian and Western agencies reported. Foreign Minister Ivanov made the same point when he met with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York on 20 September, adding that the proper way to deal with Osama bin Laden is to bring him to trial, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said the same day that Moscow welcomes Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's willingness to help resolve the crisis in Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

MOSCOW CLAIMS IT BLOCKED URANIUM SALE TO OSAMA BIN LADEN

"Newsday" on 19 September reported that the Russian intelligence services succeeded in blocking a 1998 deal in which terrorist leader bin Laden sought to purchase uranium of Soviet origin via a Pakistani firm he controlled, ITAR-TASS reported the following day. PG

MOSCOW REAFFIRMS ITS SUPPORT FOR ANTI-TALIBAN AFGHAN GOVERNMENT

Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov met with Afghan Ambassador A. Asefi on 20 September and reconfirmed Moscow's support for the anti-Taliban government in Afghanistan, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo said the same day that the Taliban must not be allowed to take complete control of that country, TV-6 reported. PG

AIR FORCE CHIEF PROPOSES, MOSCOW CITY OPPOSES USING MISSILES TO PROTECT CITY FROM TERRORISTS

General Anatolii Kornukov, the commander of the Russian air force, on 20 September proposed using missiles to shoot down planes that hijackers might seek to crash into Moscow buildings, Interfax reported. But city officials sharply criticized the very idea of using missiles in such a crowded place. PG

RUSSIANS OVERWHELMINGLY SYMPATHIZE WITH U.S. AFTER TERRORIST ATTACK...

A poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 20 September found that 77 percent of Russians said they felt shock and anger at the terrorist attacks against the United States and expressed sympathy for the American people. PG

...AS PUBLIC DISCUSSION OF TERRORISM CONTINUES

Ever more politicians, analysts, and business people on 20 September weighed in with their opinions on who was behind the attacks on the U.S. and what the future holds if the U.S. responds with force. Embattled magnate Boris Berezovsky warned against reducing the struggle against terrorism to punishing bin Laden, Interfax reported. Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) member Sergei Stankevich called for an alliance with the U.S. to fight terrorism. The Interfaith Council of Russia condemned terrorism in all its forms. Human rights activist Sergei Kovalev warned against launching a crusade against Islam. Presidential security adviser Igor Sergeev called for action only against targets carefully identified as terrorist. Meanwhile, Duma deputy speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that the CIA organized them to raise oil prices, give more money to the defense industry, and lead to American dominance of the world, Interfax reported. PG

PAVLOVSKII SAYS EMERGENCY MEASURES NEEDED TO SURVIVE WORLD CRISIS...

Kremlin adviser Gleb Pavlovskii argues that Russia must take a number of specific moves in foreign and domestic policy in order to avoid being dragged into war or suffer in other ways, strana.ru reported on 20 September. He told a meeting of the Civil Debate club that such measures should include a ban on protests by the Communist Party and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) slated for October. Such demonstrations, he said, could have a very negative impact on Russia's image abroad. He also called for a more general ban on extremist groups. VY

...DELYAGIN IDENTIFIES 'THREATS' TO RUSSIA...

Speaking to the same meeting of the Civil Debate club, Mikhail Delyagin, the director of Moscow's Globalization Institute, said that Russia must avoid gloating over what is happening in the United States and ensure that it is not dragged into a conflict with Islam that would undermine Russia's own national interests, strana.ru reported on 20 September. Delyagin said that the Taliban is a threat to Russia not as an ideological magnet or terrorist organization, but rather as a trafficker in drugs intended for the Russian market. VY

...AND BANK CHIEF SAYS AMERICAN RESPONSE MAY HURT ECONOMY

Russian Central Bank chief Viktor Gerashchenko said on 20 September that a massive American attack on Afghanistan could have a negative impact on the world economy, Interfax reported. Yevgenii Yasin, a leading Moscow economist, told the agency that further terrorist acts could slow the U.S. economy and thus reduce demand for Russian exports. But Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin said on RTR on 19 September that the Russian economy is relatively protected from any major shock from these sources. PG

PREMIER SAYS IMPROVED ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE MAY ALLOW BUDGET REVISIONS

Mikhail Kasyanov said on 20 September that Russia's better-than-expected economic performance -- a 5.5 percent GDP growth rate in 2001 rather than the 4 percent that was projected earlier -- and the resulting budget revenues may permit some revision in the 2002 budget, but that the cabinet will not undertake any such revision until the end of the year in order not to unleash inflation, RIA-Novosti reported. The prime minister also said that the 2002 draft budget anticipates the creation of a reserve fund to level the expenditures of the regions and avoid any risk to the federal budget of imbalances in regional equivalents. Meanwhile, presidential economics adviser Andrei Illarionov told Interfax the same day that he believes there will be a sufficient growth of budget revenue to pay for increased expenditures on defense. VY/PG

DUMA ADOPTS LAND CODE...

Despite protests both outside and inside the chamber by Communists and Agrarians, the Duma on 20 August approved on third and final reading the new Land Code by a vote of 260 for to 130 against, Russian agencies reported. The measure, which still must be approved by the Federation Council and signed into law by President Putin, allows for the buying and selling of a small fraction of the country's land area. Excluded from purchase and sale are arable lands, areas near large rivers, water reservoirs, forests, and land near borders. The Agrarian deputies repeated their threat to stage protests and to seek a national referendum on the code. VY

...BACKS PUTIN ON CHECHNYA AS TERRORIST THREAT...

By a vote of 345 to eight, the Duma on 20 September called on President Putin to combat terrorism in order "to protect Russian citizens," and to "cut off external support for terrorist groups in Chechnya," Russian and Western agencies reported. Meanwhile, officials of the Federal Security Service (FSB) are working with other Russian security agencies to identify and block the domestic and international channels of financing of the pro-independence Chechen forces, Interfax reported on 20 September. PG

...BUT REFUSES TO CALL FOR EMERGENCY STATUS IN CHECHNYA

Also on 20 September, the Duma failed to pass a measure introduced by the SPS to call on President Putin to introduce a state of emergency in Chechnya; something the SPS insists is required to legalize the Russian troop activities there. Sixty-eight deputies voted for the measure, as opposed to the 226 needed for passage. Some 175 voted against. The deputies did, however, adopt with 231 deputies voting for it an appeal to Putin demanding "immediate and tough measures" to uproot organized crime, and they passed a resolution calling on the president to focus on what the parliamentarians called "negative trends" in the work of the Unified Energy Systems company and its chairman, Anatolii Chubais. In addition, the deputies passed on first reading a measure that will increase punishments for those violating Russian laws governing securities transactions, Interfax-AFI reported. VY/PG

GREF SAYS CAPITAL FLIGHT IN 2001 WILL TOTAL $20-25 BILLION

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref on 20 September said on ORT television that capital flight out of Russia will total $20-25 billion in 2001. To get it back, he said, Moscow will have to create a more attractive investment climate. But "Izvestiya" suggested the same day that the deteriorating international environment may either prompt more Russians to keep their money at home or alternatively to send even more abroad to safe havens. Meanwhile, on 19 September, ITAR-TASS reported that the Russian population currently holds $18-20 billion in U.S. currency, down from $30 billion immediately after the August 1998 crisis. PG

GOVERNMENT APPROVES FOREIGN BANK ACCOUNTS FOR RUSSIANS

The Central Bank has released new regulations allowing Russian citizens to transfer their funds to accounts in foreign banks, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 September. The new rules do not impose any restrictions on these accounts except to say that Russians may place their funds only in countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). VY

A CAPITAL AMNESTY IN THE NEAR FUTURE?

Duma Budget Committee head (Russian Regions) Aleksandr Zhukov believes that there must be an amnesty on past capital acquisitions before the Law on Combating Illegal Income goes into force in February 2002, "Obshchaya gazeta" reported on 20 September. Zhukov said the state should legalize all undeclared capital up to that point and then take a tough line against any future illegal gains. Zhukov's comments were echoed by Russian Central Bank head Gerashchenko, who also announced the same day that he will not remain in that position for a second term, Interfax reported. VY/PG

PRICES INCREASE BY 0.1 PERCENT IN FIRST 17 DAYS OF SEPTEMBER

The State Statistics Committee on 20 September said that inflation rose by 0.1 percent between 1 and 17 September, with all of that small increase coming in the last week of that period, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Tatyana Paramonova, the first deputy chairman of the Russian Central Bank, predicted that inflation will total 17-18 percent in 2001, the news service said the same day. PG

WAGE ARREARS DECLINE IN AUGUST

The State Statistics Committee on 20 August told Interfax that total wage indebtedness in Russia declined by 4.1 percent in August to a total of 32.73 billion rubles ($1.1 billion). PG

FEDERATION COUNCIL TO CONSIDER SUPPLEMENTAL BILL FOR SECURITY SERVICES

Vladimir Kulakov, a member of the Federation Council's Defense Committee, said on 19 September that he plans to introduce a supplemental appropriation bill calling for additional spending on the country's security agencies, Russian news agencies reported. Kulakov, who was elected Voronezh Governor in December 2000 after serving as chief of the local FSB branch, said his first priority in this measure will be increasing the salaries of special forces officers. Meanwhile, also on 19 September, Duma Defense Committee Chairman Andrei Nikolaev said he will call for an increase in the defense budget in fiscal 2002, RIA-Novosti reported. VY

PREMIER PUSHES FOR GAZPROM ROLE IN LITHUANIA

Prime Minister Kasyanov on 20 September discussed with his visiting Lithuanian counterpart Algirdas Brazauskas Gazprom's plans to purchase a 25 percent share of the Lithuanian gas company Lietuvos Dujos and another 25 percent in that company via its Lithuanian affiliates, RIA-Novosti reported. Vilnius was very reluctant to agree to this form of Russian investment, but Kasyanov apparently believes that he will succeed in securing Brazauskas's approval for the deal. At the same time, Kasyanov sought to promote the extension of a transit corridor from Kaliningrad to the Lithuanian border at Klaipeda, which Russian and Asian firms would like and from which Lithuania would profit from transit fees. VY

SIX CIS COUNTRIES TO COOPERATE ON ARMS PRODUCTION

Six members of the Commonwealth of Independent States -- Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan -- have agreed to coordinate the work of their arms industries, Interfax reported on 20 September. Some 1,500 of the firms involved are in Russia, with 700 others divided among the other five countries, the news agency said. PG

PUTIN HAILS LUKASHENKA'S INAUGURATION

President Putin on 20 September sent a message of greetings on the occasion of the inauguration of Alyaksandr Lukashenka as president of Belarus, Russian agencies reported. Putin said that he is "convinced that together we can deal with the enormous tasks for the further integration of Russia and Belarus in the interests of the strengthening the Union, the increase of the well-being and flowering of our peoples." PG

MOSCOW URGES BULGARIA TO RECONSIDER VISA REQUIREMENT

A Foreign Ministry spokesman on 20 September said that Sofia's decision to introduce a visa requirement as of 1 October for Russian citizens traveling to Bulgaria was "somewhat unexpected" for Moscow, Russian news services reported. He urged that the Bulgarian authorities reconsider. PG

MOSCOW RELEASES DETAILS ON SOLDIERS CONVICTED OF CRIMES AGAINST CIVILIANS IN CHECHNYA

For the first time during the second Chechen war, the Russian government has released detailed information on 15 servicemen who have been convicted of crimes against the civilian population in Chechnya. The list appeared in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 20 September. Deputy Chief Military Prosecutor Yurii Yakovlev told the paper that Russian soldiers who commit crimes should and will be punished, but he suggested that many of the crimes for which they are blamed were in fact committed by Chechen militants who dress in the same uniforms as Russian soldiers. PG

TATAR DEPUTIES SAY MOSCOW LETTER AGAINST LATINIZATION A FORGERY

Members of the State Council of Tatarstan said on 20 September that a letter opposing Tatarstan's plans to shift from a Cyrillic to a Latin-based alphabet that was published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 14 September and purported to be from well-known Tatars was a forgery, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 September 2001). Several of those whose names were appended to the letter have denied signing it, the Tatarstan leaders said. Despite this, Moscow continued its campaign against the shift to the Latin script. Also on 20 September, Mufti Ravil Gainutdin, the chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, told Interfax "We, the Muslim clergy of Russia, do not support the shift of the Tatar language to the Latin script. This will divide the Tatar people. We will be cut off from the culture and language of the people if Tatarstan shifts to the Latin script." PG

RUSSIAN ARMY SAID ON THE BRINK OF DISSOLVING INTO ARMED BANDS

An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 September said that chaos and indiscipline in the Russian army today is so great that it threatens to turn the army into an uncontrolled but well-armed mob. The situation has deteriorated over the last decade, the paper said, because the quality of draftees has fallen, the army has no professional sergeants, there is no up-to-date regulation governing behavior, and soldiers serving in hotspots are treated according to peace-time rules. The paper called for updating the disciplinary code and imposing it lest the Russian army and the Russian state suffer the same fate they did in 1917. PG

RETIRED OFFICER FOUND WITH ICBM CODES

The Stavropol branch of the FSB said that during the summer it arrested a retired officer found to be in possession of classified equipment and encryption codes used by the Strategic Rocket Forces, "Izvestiya" reported on 20 September. While still on active service, the man had been involved in the development of the equipment, but he had made no effort to sell it to any foreign buyer, and the paper said it had only one question about the case: "If the officer was taken into custody in the summer, why would the secret services delay reporting it? Were they intending to make a report 'on fighting terrorism successfully in connection with the deterioration of the international situation? '" Other officers who have been released into the reserves have a more promising fate: 500 of them are to be trained for work in banks at the Institute of Economics, Finance, and Law near Moscow, Interfax-AFI reported on 20 September. PG

YOUTH CRIME UP DRAMATICALLY IN MOSCOW REGION

Interior Ministry officials said on 20 September that over the last five years, crimes committed by youths have increased by 71 percent and that crimes among those under 14 now account for 30 percent of the total number of youth crimes, Interfax-Moscow reported. The officials added that now more than 45 out of every 100,000 young people are drug addicts, and that the number of young people in this region infected with HIV has increased from 22 cases in 1998 to 1,371 cases in 2000. PG

RUSSIANS REMAIN DIVIDED ON WTO MEMBERSHIP

Aleksandr Chistoradov, the head of the St. Petersburg Industrial Chamber, said on 20 September that early Russian accession to the World Trade Organization might put Russia's domestic industry at risk rather than open up markets for Russian goods, RIA-Novosti reported on 20 September. Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade Maksim Medvedkov said the same day that the telecommunications sector in Russia would not suffer from the country's membership in the WTO, Interfax reported. VY/PG

TURNING IN TEACHERS IN RUSSIA HAS BECOME EASIER

The Education Ministry has set up a hotline and a website -- www.kids.alledu.ru -- for Russian schoolchildren and their parents to denounce teachers and school officials for rudeness, allocating excessive homework, and other transgressions, "The Moscow Times" reported on 20 September. Many of the complaints are relatively harmless, but the paper said that some of those who call in have identified serious problems including bribery, abuse, and improper searches. PG

DEADLINE SET FOR 'CORRECTING' POWER-SHARING AGREEMENTS...

Members of the presidential commission for dividing responsibilities between the center and regions decided on 20 September to limit the time that will be allowed to bring power-sharing agreements between regions and the center into compliance with federal laws, Russian agencies reported. According to the website strana.ru, federal and regional officials have until 1 May 2002 to alter the agreement. After that day, the commission can decide to initiate judicial proceedings to examine or change the agreements. According to the site, some 42 power-sharing agreements exist. According to Interfax, First Deputy Federal Prosecutor Yurii Biryukov gave commission members a report cautioning them to remember that violations of federal law exist not only at the regional but also at the municipal level. JAC

...AS TATARSTAN SETS UP CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION

Meanwhile, Tatarstan's Legislative Assembly confirmed on 20 September members of the republic's Constitutional Commission. Farid Mukhametshin, the assembly's speaker, noted that it is necessary to consider possible changes in Tatarstan's Constitution and "to examine the norms of the power-sharing agreement between the Russian Federation and Tatarstan," Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to the pro-Kremlin website strana.ru, Mukhametshin also stated that the phrase "associated with the Russian Federation" will be struck from the section of the republic's constitution that states that Tatarstan is "a sovereign government, a subject with international rights, associated with the Russian Federation." The website concluded that the republic's leaders "have come to the decision to officially acknowledge that Tatarstan is nevertheless 'in' Russia, and not just 'with' Russia." JAC

TATAR NATIONALISTS SPEAK OUT AGAINST U.S. MILITARY ACTION

Leaders of seven city branches of the Tatar Public Center sent a telegram on 20 September to President Putin expressing their concern about possible U.S. military actions following the 11 September terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Interfax-Eurasia reported. "It is not necessary to bomb peaceful people" or "to blackmail the Islamic and Arab world and state governments." The authors of the telegram appeal to President Putin to "explain" to U.S. President Bush that "evil produces evil." The previous day, the Tatarstan-New Century party published a statement in the local newspaper, "Vremya i dengi," expressing their deep condolences over the event, while voicing concern about attempts to link terrorism and Islam, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. JAC

MURMANSK OFFICIAL PREPARE FOR EVACUATION IN CASE OF SECOND 'KURSK' ACCIDENT

The administration of Murmansk Oblast discussed the possible evacuation of 12,000 residents from the village of Roslyakovo, which has a floating dock next to which the "Kursk" submarine will eventually be raised from the floor of the Barents Sea, Interfax reported on 20 September. According to the agency, buses, trains, tourist bases, and hotels will be prepared for the possibility of an evacuation. A representative for the Dutch company participating in the raising of the submarine said the operation will start no earlier than 27 September. In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 September, Sergei Zhavoronkin, senior radiologist with Atomflot, said that the worst thing that can happen would be a breach of the "first contour pipes" that could release hot water. According to Zhavoronkin, the sub's nuclear reactor has been sealed off and will be hauled away separately. JAC

CHECHEN DISTRICT POLICE CHIEF MURDERED

Kurchaloi district police commander Salman Abduev, a close associate of pro-Moscow Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, was killed in a shoot-out with unidentified assailants late on 19 September, Interfax and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Six of his men also died. LF

RUSSIAN PLANNING OFFICIAL QUERIES NEED TO REBUILD WHOLE OF GROZNY

The Russian official charged with overseeing construction and restoration works in Chechnya, Anatolii Popov, argued in Grozny on 19 September that there is "no need" to rebuild the entire devastated city as its population is now far smaller than before hostilities began, Interfax reported. He said that before the war, the city's population was approximately 600,000, and it housed several major metallurgical and machine-building plants that have since been destroyed. In May 2001, the city had an estimated 120,000 inhabitants. The pro-Moscow Chechen administration plans to construct new accommodation elsewhere in the republic to encourage displaced Chechens who fled to Ingushetia to return. LF




ANOTHER NEW POLITICAL PARTY FOUNDED IN ARMENIA

Deputy parliament speaker Gagik Aslanian, together with five other parliament deputies who also quit the People's Democratic Party two months ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2001), on 20 September held the founding conference of a new political party, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The party, named the People's Democratic Party (ZhDK), will adhere to a "centrist" and "statist" line, Aslanian told journalists. "We want to serve as a bridge between the people and the authorities," he said. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY ACCUSES UKRAINE OF 'ANTI-ARMENIAN PROPAGANDA'

Hovannes Hovannesian, who heads Armenia's delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), said on 19 September that the Armenian delegation will support Georgia, but not Ukraine during a debate scheduled for the PACE autumn session on those two countries' compliance with their commitments to the Council of Europe, according to Mediamax, as cited by Groong. He said the reason for this differentiated approach is that Ukrainian officials have recently been "conducting anti-Armenian propaganda in a number of international organizations." LF

SPANISH CONTENDER AGAIN QUITS ARMENIAN ENERGY NETWORKS TENDER

A spokesman for the Spanish power utility Union Fenosa told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 20 September that the company has decided against participating in the repeat tender for the privatization of four Armenian energy distribution networks. He rejected as untrue press reports that Union Fenosa would submit a joint bid for one or more of the networks together with the Gazprom subsidiary ITERA. The deadline for submitting preliminary applications for the tender is 21 September. The Armenian government's first attempt to privatize the four networks ended in failure in April when none of the four short-listed companies, which included Union Fenosa, submitted a final bid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2001). On 19 September, an appeal signed by 48 parliament deputies was submitted to the Constitutional Court asking that body to rule that the revised legislation on the privatization of the four companies that was passed by parliament in late July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2001) is unconstitutional, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

EDITORS DEPLORE GOVERNMENT PRESSURE ON AZERBAIJANI MEDIA

Meeting in Baku on 20 September, members of the editors' union Yeni Nesil expressed concern at the recent increase in government harassment of the media, and decided to establish a five-person commission to investigate the circumstances of the forced closure of several newspapers and the arrest of three journalists, union Chairman Arif Aliyev told Turan. Aliyev said that if such selective harassment continues, editors may decide to publish a common newspaper. LF

AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA 'CLOSER' TO REACHING AGREEMENT ON GAS PIPELINE

Azerbaijani and Georgian government representatives came closer during talks in London last week to resolving their disagreements over transit tariffs for the planned export gas pipeline from Azerbaijan via Georgia to Turkey, according to Reuters on 19 September, as cited by Groong. Georgian State Oil Company Chairman Giorgi Chanturia said the London talks addressed the possibility that Georgia might receive part of the tariffs in cash and part in the form of gas at a fixed price. He said a further round of talks will be held next week in Baku, and expressed the hope that Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze would travel to the Azerbaijani capital to sign the final transit agreement before the end of this month. The signing ceremony was originally scheduled for late July but was cancelled at the last minute because of the tariff disagreement. LF

FORMER GEORGIAN MINISTER REGISTERS TO CONTEND BY-ELECTION IN HIS FORMER CONSTITUENCY

On 21 September, the deadline for registration, Georgia's Central Election Commission registered former Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili as the 12th candidate to contest the 21 October by-election in the Tbilisi district of Vake, Caucasus Press reported. Saakashvili had represented that district prior to his appointment as minister in October 2000. On 20 September, President Shevardnadze accepted the letter of resignation that Saakashvili submitted the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2001). LF

PROTEST LEADER ARRESTED IN SOUTHERN KAZAKHSTAN

Ulmeken Saidova, one of the leaders of the Adilet movement, has been arrested in South Kazakhstan Oblast on fraud charges, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 20 September, quoting the editor of a local newspaper. Saidova organized a protest action outside the Kazakh parliament building in Astana earlier this year by dozens of women from southern Kazakhstan who demanded that they be paid child allowances dating back to 1996 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January and 18 and 19 April 2001). LF

IMF DELEGATION VISITS KYRGYZSTAN

An IMF delegation headed by Tapio Savolainen met in Bishkek on 19 September with Kyrgyz Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev and Finance Ministry officials to discuss a planned new three-year cooperation program under which Kyrgyzstan stands to receive $105 million, and also unspecified aspects of the draft budget for 2002, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. It is not clear whether the release of the final $35 million tranche earmarked under the previous loan program was also discussed. The fund declined to release that tranche as scheduled in July after the Kyrgyz government cut income tax rates without first consulting the fund (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2001). LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY OFFICIALS INSPECT TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER...

Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo flew to southern Tajikistan on 20 September, accompanied by Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, Defense Minister Colonel General Sherali Khairulloev, and Russian Border Guards Chief of Staff Colonel General Nikolai Reznichenko, to inspect the Russian forces stationed there, Interfax reported. During that tour of inspection, Rakhmonov instructed the Russian troops to "watch the situation carefully." He said he does not consider it expedient at this juncture to increase the Russian military presence on the border. LF

...WHICH WILL REMAIN CLOSED TO AFGHAN FUGITIVES

Rakhmonov also stated explicitly on 20 September that Tajikistan will not open its borders to any Afghan displaced persons fleeing anticipated retaliatory strikes on Afghan targets by the U.S., "Die Welt" reported. Tajikistan had already made clear in January of this year that it would not allow the Afghan fugitives already encamped on the border to enter Tajikistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 24 January 2001). LF

TAJIK, UZBEK PRESIDENTS CONFER

On 19 September, President Rakhmonov discussed by telephone with his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov cooperation between their countries' police and armed forces in the field of countering regional terrorism, Interfax reported on 20 September. Also on 20 September, a Moscow-based CIS air defense official denied that U.S. aircraft are already en route for Tajikistan, or that the U.S. has requested overflight permission from Tajikistan, Interfax reported. He explained that the only Tajik airport equipped for such aircraft is in Dushanbe and that it cannot handle a large number of U.S. aircraft in addition to the present level of civilian and Russian military air traffic. Tajik Foreign Ministry spokesman Igor Sattarov similarly told Interfax on 20 September that the Tajik government is not holding talks with Washington on the deployment in Tajikistan of either U.S. troops or aircraft. Uzbek officials including Karimov's spokesman, Rustam Djumaev, on 20 September likewise denied U.S. media reports that U.S. military aircraft have already arrived in that country, or that Uzbekistan has discussed with the U.S. the possibility of making its territory or airspace available for retaliatory strikes, Russian agencies reported. LF




LUKASHENKA TELLS WEST TO ACCEPT BELARUSIAN ELECTION...

Speaking after his inauguration on 20 September, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka urged the West to accept the official results of Belarus's presidential election. "You [foreign diplomats attending the inauguration] should take a realistic view of things. It is inadmissible today not to respect the great Belarusian people who made their choice [on 9 September]," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying. The ambassadors of the EU countries accredited in Belarus at the very last moment stayed away from the inauguration ceremony and sent lower rank diplomats instead, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The same was done by the Polish and Lithuanian embassies in Minsk. JM

...PLEDGES NOT TO APPLY 'SHOCK' ECONOMIC POLICIES

Lukashenka promised that there will not be any "unpopular" moves in his economic course. "As the head of state, I will not allow making fools of the people by way of shock, unpopular -- or perhaps popular -- measures... We will be carrying out only what was promised and written down in [my] election program," he said. JM

LUKASHENKA'S RIVAL APPEALS TO FOREIGN TRADE UNIONS OVER PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Presidential candidate Uladzimir Hancharyk, leader of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus, has appealed to international trade unions for help in spreading what he claims is the truth about the recent presidential election in Belarus, Belapan reported on 20 September. Hancharyk said the officially declared election results were falsified. He added that observers registered thousands of violations of the electoral law that "left voters cheated and offended, and the country without legally elected organs of power." JM

BELARUSIAN GOVERNMENT TENDERS RESIGNATION

In accordance with the country's constitution, Premier Uladzimir Yarmoshyn on 21 September tendered the resignation of his cabinet following President Lukashenka's inauguration for a new term, Belapan reported. Lukashenka accepted the resignation and ordered that the current government remain as a caretaker until a new cabinet can be formed. JM

IMF, WORLD BANK RESUME LENDING TO UKRAINE

The International Monetary Fund's (IMF) board of directors on 20 September decided to resume lending to Ukraine and issue a credit tranche of $377 million, Interfax reported. The IMF said in a statement that it is impressed by Ukraine's economic results and monetary policies this year. The fund advised Kyiv not to increase the 2002 budget deficit beyond 1.7 percent of GDP and urged the Ukrainian government to speed up structural reforms and privatization, as well as to liberalize the country's agrarian sector. The same day, the World Bank decided to loan Kyiv $250 million to support the government's economic program. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT UPGRADES INHERITANCE LAW TO EUROPEAN STANDARDS

The parliament on 20 September adopted a section of Ukraine's new Civil Code, bringing Ukrainian legislation relating to the right to inheritance into line with European standards, ICTV Television reported. The code establishes a new procedure for appointing heirs. "Earlier the state was the heir if a person did not have relatives, brothers, or sisters. Now, according to the future Civil Code, property may be in every case inherited, even by distant relatives," ICTV quoted lawmaker Vasyl Onopenko as saying. JM

ESTONIA ACCEDES TO OECD INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENTS DECLARATION

Gita Kalmet, Estonia's charge d'affaires to France, on 20 September in Paris confirmed Estonia's acceptance of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) international investments declaration, ETA reported. The Estonian government approved the declaration on 19 June. It obligates Estonia to treat foreign and domestic investors equally. The declaration has been signed by all 30 OECD member states, as well as by Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. Lithuania also acceded to the declaration the same day. SG

OSCE COMMISSIONER VISITS LATVIA

The new OSCE commissioner for national minorities, Rolf Ekeus, kicked off his visit to Latvia on 20 September with talks in Jurmala with President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, BNS reported. The president discussed with Ekeus developments that have taken place in Latvia in its 10 years of independence and the republic's policy on minorities. Ekeus declined to comment on the possible closing of the OSCE mission to Latvia at the end of this year, saying the OSCE member states will make that decision. Education and Science Minister Karlis Greisklans provided information to Ekeus on the country's language program for teaching Latvian as a second language, while other ministry officials spoke about the prospects for ethnic minority high schools after 2004 and the accomplishments of the Ethnic Minorities Advisory Council. Ekeus also met with parliament Chairman Janis Straume and other deputies including Prime Minister Andris Berzins, and top officials of the Naturalization Board and the State Language Center. Prior to his appointment to a three-year term as commissioner that began on 1 July, Ekeus served as Sweden's ambassador to the U.S. in 1997-2000 and as chief of the UN Special Commission ensuring the destruction of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons in Iraq in 1991-1997. SG

LITHUANIAN PREMIER MAKES WORKING VISIT TO RUSSIA

Algirdas Brazauskas flew on 20 September to Moscow where he was met at the airport by Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev, BNS reported. He then traveled to Mystishchi in Moscow Oblast where he opened the exhibition "Lithuanian Export" in which more than 60 light-industry, furniture, food, electronics, and transport companies are participating. Moscow Oblast Governor Boris Gromov praised the quality of the Lithuanian goods and expressed an interest in increasing trade with Lithuania. Russian Energy Minister Igor Yusufov discussed with Brazauskas the possible import of electricity from Lithuania and the participation of Russian companies in the privatization of Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas). In later talks with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kasyanov, Brazauskas urged Russia to make more use of the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda, which can handle about 30 million tons of cargo per year, but is currently utilizing only half of its capacity. SG

POLISH OPPOSITION OUTLINES BUDGET RESCUE PLAN

Top presidential economic adviser Marek Belka, a candidate of the Democratic Left Alliance-Labor Union coalition for the post of finance minister following the 23 September parliamentary election, said on 20 September that the budget deficit in 2002 should not exceed 40 billion zlotys ($9.5 billion), or 5 percent of GDP, Polish media reported. Belka indicated that to avert the looming budget crisis, he is considering introducing a tax on capital earnings from interest on bank deposits, stocks, and bonds. At the same time, Belka said he is not in favor of introducing an import tax or increasing personal income-tax rates to raise budget revenues. JM

POLAND WANTS QUICKER INTEGRATION WITH EU

The government has adopted a document proposing closer cooperation with the EU and expressing its desire to accelerate Poland's integration into the union, PAP reported on 20 September. "We declare readiness to accelerate [EU membership] negotiations...and we expect similar readiness on the part of the EU so that we could reach a compromise in negotiations as soon as possible," Premier Jerzy Buzek said, adding that the leaders of major political parties were consulted on the document. JM

POLISH PREMIER CRITICIZES CZECH COUNTERPART FOR PARTICIPATION IN CAMPAIGN RALLY

"This is not good political, democratic practice," Premier Buzek said on 20 September in regard to Czech Premier Milos Zeman's participation in an election campaign rally of the opposition Democratic Left Alliance in Katowice (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2001). "It is with sadness that I think about the fact that...my friend Milos Zeman...quantifies the possibility of accession to the EU as being dependent on whatever political party governs," CTK quoted Buzek as saying. Zeman said in Katowice that he hopes Poland will join "a social democratic European Union" soon and at the same time as the Czech Republic. JM

LATEST POLLS PREDICT POLISH OPPOSITION'S LANDSLIDE WIN, BUT DIFFER ON MARGIN

According to a poll by the PBS polling agency published in the 21 September "Rzeczpospolita," the Democratic Left Alliance-Labor Union (SLD-UP) coalition will get 48 percent of the vote in the 23 September parliamentary election. Such a result could give the SLD-UP 256 mandates in the 460-seat Sejm. According to PBS, the parliament would also include the Civic Platform (75 seats), the Peasant Party (52 seats), Self-Defense (44 seats), Law and Justice (32 seats), and one German minority representative. The Solidarity Electoral Action of the Right and the Freedom Union would find themselves out of the parliament. The OBOP polling agency released a poll the previous day that placed SLD-UP support at 43 percent, meaning the leftist coalition would obtain 220 parliamentary seats and be forced to look for a coalition partner to form a government (see also "End Note"). JM

CZECH INDUSTRY MINISTER VISITS 'TRADITIONAL TRADE PARTNER' RUSSIA

Czech Industry and Trade Minister Miroslav Gregr was expected to kick off a trade mission on 21 September aimed at boosting economic relations with Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. The trip is to include a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Kasyanov, as well as meetings with senior representatives of Gazprom to discuss that company's participation in gas-transport projects in the Czech Republic, the agency reported. Gregr told ITAR-TASS that Czechs consider Russia "a traditional partner and one of the major trade and economic ones." The Czech delegation will also attend a session of the Russo-Czech intergovernmental commission for trade, economic, scientific, and technical cooperation. AH

CZECH PARLIAMENTARY LEADER TOLD THAT EP WILL SEEK EQUAL LEGISLATIVE SEATS

Vaclav Klaus, the chairman of the Czech lower house, was told that the European Parliament (EP) will seek to amend the Nice Treaty to allow for the equal division of seats in that chamber, CTK reported on 20 September. Klaus said after a meeting with the chairman of the EP's Foreign Affairs Committee, Elmar Brok, that deputies want to ensure that the Czech Republic will have the same number of seats as current members with similar population levels following its accession to the EU. Klaus, who also heads the Czech opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), said he got the feeling that Brok regards the issue as a foregone conclusion, CTK reported. The Nice Treaty currently would grant countries like the Czech Republic and Hungary 20 seats each, while Belgium, Portugal, and Greece would have 22 seats in the EP. AH

CZECH AMBASSADOR REFUTES CLAIMS THAT EXPORTED TANKS WENT TO BIN LADEN

Czech Ambassador to Georgia Jiri Nekvasil vehemently denied suggestions that tanks sold by his country to Georgia have ended up in the hands of Saudi-born terrorist Osama bin Laden, CTK reported on 21 September. He labeled as "useless speculation" an assertion in the book "In the Name of Osama bin Laden," by Roland Jacquard, that the prime suspect in the 11 September terrorist attacks in the U.S. had planned to purchase Czech T-55 tanks via Georgia. The ambassador added that he had seen "all the tanks" at a base in Koda, some 30 kilometers from Tbilisi, roughly one month ago. Fears of Western secret services that old tanks sold off by the Czech army would get into the hands of the Taliban first appeared in the Czech media in the spring of 1999. An authority on international terrorism, Jacquard wrote that Italian intelligence revealed at the end of 1998 that bin Laden was going to finance the sale of Czech tanks to Georgia before they were sold to the Taliban. Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze at the time dismissed that possibility, CTK reported. AH

LOWER HOUSE RETURNS GOVERNMENT DRAFT OF ELECTIONS LAW TO COMMITTEE

The Czech Chamber of Deputies returned a cabinet-backed bill on local elections to committee for further debate and to make it palatable for the 81-member Senate, CTK reported on 21 September. Dozens of municipalities are eagerly awaiting the legislation, whose most controversial clause would set a 5 percent threshold for seats on municipal assemblies. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, whose ruling Social Democrats are governing through a power-sharing pact with the Civic Democrats (ODS), proposed that the lower house amend the draft in an effort to head off Senate opposition. The junior parliamentary Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) have threatened to appeal to the Constitutional Court if the 5 percent threshold is included, calling it an unfair attempt to torpedo independent candidates. A number of municipalities currently have no representative bodies, and are being governed by centrally appointed administrators as they await the new legislation. AH

CZECHS TIGHTEN ASYLUM REGIME

The Chamber of Deputies on 21 September approved a government-sponsored bill on asylum that is intended to prevent foreigners from using the country's asylum status to illegally enter third countries, CTK reported. The bill, which must still be discussed by the upper house and then signed by the president, also restricts asylum seekers' access to employment. There has been a steady influx in the number of refugees to the Czech Republic since 1989. In 1990, there were 1,600 asylum applicants, whereas last year that number grew to 9,000, CTK reported. The number of applicants is expected to exceed 20,000 in 2001, Interior Minister Gross said recently. The Czech Republic ranks 11th in the world in terms of the number of asylum seekers, well ahead of other post-communist countries, according to the UNHCR. AH

IN PRAGUE, SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER TALKS OF YUGOSLAVIA'S FUTURE

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindic told a Prague news conference he believes that Yugoslavia could be preserved as a state, but only after its current status is radically changed, RFE/RL reported on 21 September. Djindjic said that Yugoslavia -- which now consists of Serbia and much smaller Montenegro -- should be represented as a single state in international relations -- but become a loose confederation of two individual states with a large degree of autonomy. Djindjic met with senior Czech politicians, including Prime Minister Zeman and President Vaclav Havel, during his two-day visit. He told reporters after a meeting with Havel that Yugoslavia is "ready to cooperate with international organizations to fight terrorism," AP reported. AH

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT GIVES GREATER POWERS TO SELF-GOVERNMENTS

The parliament on 20 September passed a crucial bill on the transfer of some 300 powers from ministries as well as regional and district executive bodies to regional self-governments, CTK reported. The adoption of such a bill was the Hungarian Coalition Party's (SMK) condition for staying in the government. SMK Chairman Bela Bugar told journalists that his party will make a final decision on staying in the ruling coalition following the parliamentary debate on other laws pertaining to the civil service reform in the country. "We are more inclined to not leaving [the government] now," Bugar added. "The range of powers we decided to transfer to self-governing bodies...brings us to the head of reforming and transforming countries," Premier Mikulas Dzurinda commented on the passed bill. JM

SLOVAKIA, CZECH REPUBLIC, POLAND SIGN ACCORD ON JOINT BRIGADE

Meeting in Oravsky Podzamok in Slovakia on 20 September, Josef Stank, Jaroslav Tvrdik, and Bronislaw Komorowski, the defense ministers of Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Poland respectively, signed an accord on the creation of a joint military brigade, CTK reported. Slovak Defense Ministry spokeswoman Ingrid Stanova said the brigade will consist of 2,500 soldiers and be ready to participate in peacekeeping operations by the end of 2005. According to Stanova, the brigade will boost Slovak changes to join NATO. JM

SLOVAKIA OPENS SKY TO U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT

Responding to a U.S. diplomatic note, the Slovak government has given the green light to U.S. military transport overflight and landing on Slovak territory, CTK reported, quoting Premier Dzurinda. He added that the permit has a limited time frame and is aimed at enabling the U.S. to conduct a retaliatory operation in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. last week. JM

EXPULSIONS WITHIN SMALLHOLDERS' PARTY LEAVES GOVERNMENT IN MINORITY

The expulsion on 19 September from the parliamentary caucus of six deputies loyal to Smallholders' Party President Joszef Torgyan has left the three-party ruling coalition with a minority in parliament, the daily "Nepszabadsag" reported on 21 September. Informal talks are already underway to assure 194 votes in the 386-member parliament through agreement with deputies tossed out of the Smallholders' Party earlier this year. The six deputies were expelled for undermining a FIDESZ-Smallholders pact from 1998, Smallholders house leader Peter Szentgyorgyvolgyi was quoted as saying. He added that the expulsions were carried out according to the law, saying the step had to be sped through ahead of a 20 September meeting to allocate committee seats. Embattled party leader Torgyan responded with a letter to Speaker Janos Ader, calling the meeting illegal. He told reporters that an unscrupulous, traitorous minority is tarnishing the prestige of the parliament and the Smallholders' Party, media reported. Torgyan said the move further fueled speculation that the Christian Democrats, the Democratic Forum, and the Smallholders are to be merged into FIDESZ. AH

CALVINISTS OBJECT TO MIEP DEPUTY'S COMMENTARY

The Calvinist synod said it considers an article published in a Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) newspaper by deputy and pastor Lorant Hegedus, Jr., irreconcilable with the Gospel and religious faith, local media reported on 21 September. Deputy Hegedus made disparaging references in the article to Jews, calling on readers to "Exclude them!" before they did the same. The synod has asked for an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the publication of the article. AH




SERBIAN LEADER CALLS FOR 'RADICALLY REFORMED' STATE WITH MONTENEGRO

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said at RFE/RL's headquarters in Prague on 21 September that he envisions a future Yugoslav state that will consist of a loose confederation between Serbia and Montenegro. The two republics will be jointly represented in international affairs. He noted that the future of Belgrade-Podgorica relations is the most important issue in Montenegro, while in Serbia economic problems and crime top the agenda. PM

MONTENEGRIN LEADER: STILL CHANCE FOR DIALOGUE WITH SERBIA

Speaking at a press conference in Podgorica on 20 September, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic denied unspecified reports that his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) is backing away from its previous insistence on a referendum on independence because it cannot expect to win, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2001). He called for setting up a new "concentrated" coalition government of all parties in the legislature to provide a broad democratic basis for a referendum to be held "by next spring." Djukanovic added that the latest proposal for Belgrade-Podgorica talks by Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica constitutes a "possible basis for an agreement." Djukanovic also told the press conference that Kostunica proposed new talks to head off negotiations between Djindjic and Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic. Kostunica told "Politika" -- which often acts as his mouthpiece -- of 21 September that he wants a "modern federal state." "Modern" was a favorite buzzword of former President Slobodan Milosevic during his rise to power in the second half of the 1980s. PM

SERBIA BLOCKS EX-OFFICIALS' BANK ACCOUNTS

Aleksandar Radovic, who heads the government's committee investigating financial corruption and crime, said in Belgrade on 21 September that the domestic bank accounts of several top Milosevic-era officials have been blocked, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Those affected include former Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic. Some officials, however, also have fat bank deposits abroad. Former Jugopetrol oil company Director Dragan Tomic has about $200,000 in a Canadian bank account, while former Health Minister Milovan Bojic has $400,000 in a Swiss bank, Radovic added. PM

SERBIA JOINING MACEDONIA IN MANIPULATING TERM 'TERRORIST'?

Shortly after U.S. envoy James Pardew warned the Macedonian leadership not to misuse the term "terrorist" for their own domestic political advantage (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2001), Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said in Bujanovac that "terrorists" are prepared to attack Belgrade, "Danas" reported on 21 September. He said that he does not want to use the word "extremists" but rather "terrorists" to describe those who would cross the borders between Kosova, Serbia, and Macedonia to "destabilize the region." It is not clear what evidence he has to suggest a possible attack on the Serbian capital. PM

MACEDONIA DETAINS EIGHT IN KILLING OF BRITISH SOLDIER

Almost one month after teenagers killed British sapper Ian Collins with a concrete block, the Macedonian authorities have arrested eight persons in the case, AP reported from Skopje on 21 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 28 August 2001). No details are available, except that four of the eight are under 18. PM

PETRITSCH: NO TERRORIST THREAT IN BOSNIA

Wolfgang Petritsch, the international community's high representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 20 September that unspecified media reports about an international Islamic terrorist threat from Bosnia are unfounded, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He told the Bosnian Serb "Nezavisne novine" of 21 September that there are no grounds for foreign concerns about such a threat, adding that all authorities in Bosnia must work together and effectively to make sure that this remains the case. He stressed that Bosnia must stand unreservedly "in solidarity with the U.S. and its people." The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" noted that the greatest solidarity with the U.S. in the Balkans has been from the "Muslim" Albanians -- 10,000 of whom held a pro-U.S. march in Prishtina -- while some "Christian" Serbs and Macedonians have shown unabashed glee over America's plight (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2001). The article noted that the Albanian national movement is secular in nature, and that there has been no "Islamic radicalization" in Bosnia or among the region's Albanians. PM

BOSNIAN POLITICIAN CALLS IT QUITS

Veteran Bosnian political leader Haris Silajdzic has decided to withdraw from politics and the leadership of the Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina, "Oslobodjenje" reported on 21 September. His successor as party leader is Safet Halilovic. Silajdzic said that there are several reasons for his decision, some of which are personal. He did not elaborate. Some observers have suggested that he has health problems, while others point out that he has increasingly found himself on the political sidelines in recent months. PM

CROATIA TO TRY MORE THAN 1,500 FOR WAR CRIMES

Croatian police have questioned former Interior Minister Ivan Vekic in connection with the 1991 murder of Osijek police chief Josip Reihl-Kir, "Jutarnji list" reported on 21 September. The previous day, Justice Minister Stjepan Ivanisevic said that some 1,522 people will be charged with war crimes, dpa reported. PM

INTERNATIONAL UNIONS CALL ON CROATIAN GOVERNMENT TO RETHINK POLICY TOWARD WORLD BANK

Bill Jordan of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) said in Zagreb on 20 September that the government of Prime Minister Ivica Racan should carefully review its relations with the IMF and World Bank, dpa reported. The Racan government is cutting back on social programs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2001). PM

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT TO HELP RESITA STEEL COMPANY

At its 19 September meeting, the Romanian cabinet decided to grant an 18 billion lei ($600,000) emergency loan for paying wage arrears at the Resita steel-producer CSR, Mediafax reported. Privatization Minister Ovidiu Musetescu said the company's creditors have agreed to disperse the money in installments, with the first payments going to workers who have accepted layoffs. The payments are conditioned on ending ongoing trade union protests. The premier's adviser, Eugen Dijmarescu, who held talks in the United States with majority stakeholder Noble Ventures, said the owners would like to renegotiate an earlier for paying the company's debts. Meanwhile on 19 September, CSR employees continued their protest actions by blocking a road in the nearby city of Caransebes. Some 250 workers are currently on a hunger strike. ZsM

EXTREMIST PARTY WANTS TO ABOLISH COUNCIL ON SECURITATE ARCHIVES

The extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM) on 19 September submitted to parliament a draft law abolishing the Law on access to Securitate files, Romanian media reported. The PRM wants to replace the law with a new one that grants access only to personal files, while abolishing the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS). PRM Deputy Mariana Buruiana-Aprodu said the CNSAS, which was also set up to examine and publish personal files of dignitaries, is "a privileged, parasitic structure" that has breached national security. The press has accused several PRM members of having worked for the former Romanian secret police, the Securitate. ZsM

PACE: THE STABILITY PACT LACKS EFFICIENCY

OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Chairman Adrian Severin on 20 September said in a press conference in Bucharest that the Southeast European Stability Pact's activities thus far have "lacked efficiency," Mediafax reported. He argued that member states are interested in attracting funds for themselves instead of initiating regional projects, but the EU does not support local projects. Severin added that the pact has failed to "mobilize donors, and private investors," mainly due to an unclear legal, political, and economic framework and lack of legal stimuli for international donors. He called for organizing an international conference on "security and stability" in the region in order to reconfirm guarantees on borders, independence, and integrity of countries from Southeastern Europe. ZsM

OSCE CONTINUES TO SUPPORT DEFUSING TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT

During his 20 September meeting with Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, OSCE mission chief William Hill said the OSCE continues to support Moldovan efforts to defuse the Transdniester conflict, Flux reported. Hill is to submit a report to the U.S. Congress on the Transdniester situation and the evacuation of Russian armaments from the region. Voronin reiterated his position to introduce a single economic and customs space throughout the country, including the Transdniester. He said Tiraspol leader Igor Smirnov's decision to cancel their last two meetings and his opposition to introducing the new customs seals are motivated by the upcoming presidential elections in the breakaway region. ZsM

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT NAMES RUNNING MATE

Petar Stoyanov has named Neli Kutskova, a Sofia District court judge, as his vice presidential candidate, BTA reported on 21 September. Stoyanov said he chose Kutskova for her "professionalism, frankness, honesty, and openness," and that they share a "similar set of values." Kutskova said at a press conference in Sofia that she was "flattered" by Stoyanov's offer and said that the two "have similar mindsets." She said that if the team is elected to office in the 11 November election, she will focus her efforts on fighting corruption. Prior to Stoyanov's announcement, two officials from the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union said they will nominate the current vice president, Todor Kavaldjiev, if he is not retained by Stoyanov as vice president. PB

NATO EXERCISES IN BULGARIA CONCLUDE

President Stoyanov said on 20 September in marking the end of NATO military maneuvers that the exercises created a new solidarity among the militaries of NATO members and applicant countries, BTA reported. Stoyanov, speaking at the Graf Ignatievo air base in southern Bulgaria, said the maneuvers also helped the countries seeking NATO membership to harmonize the criteria needed for accession. He added that Cooperative Key 2001 served as a "clear sign" to terrorists that they will face serious force from NATO and Eastern European countries. Graf Ignatievo was recently renovated to comply with NATO standards. PB

BULGARIAN FINANCE MINISTER EXPECTS IMF AGREEMENT IN COMING MONTHS

Milen Velchev said in Sofia on 21 September that Bulgaria will sign an agreement with the IMF by the end of 2001, BTA reported. Velchev made his comments after a second meeting with Jerald Schiff, the IMF mission leader in Bulgaria. Schiff said the IMF does not agree with the Bulgarian government's plan to increase the minimum monthly wage because it will increase government spending amid high unemployment. Velchev said the proposed wage increase was needed to improve the living standard of many Bulgarians and said the proposal will not derail negotiations with the IMF. PB




SOLIDARITY-AFFILIATED PARTIES FACE POLITICAL DEMISE


By Jan Maksymiuk

The last few months have been extremely upsetting for Poland's Solidarity Electoral Action of the Right (AWSP). The AWSP is an election coalition of three parties: the Solidarity Electoral Action Social Movement, the Christian National Union, and the Polish Party of Christian Democrats. Therefore, under Poland's election law, it needs to obtain at least 8 percent of the vote in the 23 September general elections in order to win parliamentary representation. However, most preelection surveys have predicted that support for the AWSP is just below the 8 percent threshold. This week, the AWSP charged the left-wing election coalition of the Democratic Left Alliance and the Labor Union (SLD-UP) with "unparalleled manipulation of election polls." The AWSP stressed that the statistical error in public opinion surveys is usually 3 percent and urged its supporters not to lose heart in the run-up to 23 September. The AWSP is what remains of the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), a bloc of some 30 various right-wing groups that won the 1997 parliamentary election and provided principal political backing to Jerzy Buzek's government in the following years. The AWS remained relatively stable until last year's presidential election, in which AWS leader Marian Krzaklewski lost heavily not only to the extremely popular post-communist Aleksander Kwasniewski but also to liberal independent Andrzej Olechowski, who subsequently launched the Civic Platform (PO) group. Following Krzaklewski's election defeat, the AWS began to crumble and split. Some AWS defectors, led by Sejm speaker Maciej Plazynski and Conservative Peasant Union leader Jan Maria Rokita, jumped on Olechowski's election bandwagon. Others joined the Law and Justice (PiS) group that was set up this year by former Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski and his brother Jaroslaw, who were close associates of then-President Lech Walesa in the early 1990s. Polls suggest that both the PO and the PiS will clear the 5 percent voting threshold required for an election committee of a single party or a group of citizens to obtain parliamentary mandates. What makes the AWSP so unpopular among Polish voters is primarily the four-year record of Buzek's cabinet, under which unemployment soared to 16 percent. Most unemployed Poles have found themselves in glaring poverty, while many of those with jobs have been continuing an exhausting struggle to earn their livelihood. The AWS-led cabinet undertook four bold reforms -- in the health care and pension systems as well as in administration and education. However, all of them were bungled in execution and have provoked wide social discontent. The health care system is believed to be heavily bureaucratized, with too little money spent on looking after patients. The state-run insurer PZU still has no working computer system to make efficient transfers of money from individual accounts to social security funds. Schoolchildren and teachers remain unsure of what exams should be taken at schools next summer, especially as the SLD-UP is threatening to revoke Buzek's education reform. And because of apparently too small sums transferred from the central budget to local self-governments, many in Poland resent even the most successful of the four reforms -- the administrative one, which vested local authorities with greater decision-making powers than they had before. While Poland's socioeconomic woes seem to be the most important reason for the mass disappointment with Buzek's government in particular and the Solidarity-affiliated political camp in general, they are in no way the only one. Buzek, though widely believed to be a honest person, has been seen as a weak leader. For more than three years, his cabinet was actually run by Krzaklewski. Krzaklewski, in his double capacity as Solidarity trade union boss and AWS parliamentary caucus leader, was a behind-the-scenes operator, molding the government's policies and utilizing interfactional animosities to achieve his personal goals. Such a complicated and unclear power structure gave rise to many rifts within the Solidarity bloc and eventually forced the centrist Freedom Union (UW) to quit the ruling coalition in mid-2000. There were also many allegations of corruption among top government officials. Buzek has been constrained to fire four ministers over corruption charges in the past three months. Solidarity, which solemnly pledged four years ago to cleanse politics of corruption, has been deeply hit by corruption scandals itself. Most polls have also predicted that another major Solidarity-rooted force, the UW, will not be able to win 5 percent of the vote and remain in the parliament. This may appear surprising, particularly since the UW is believed to advocate the interests of Poland's middle class, the group for which the country's post-communist transformations were doubtless a success story. This socioeconomic class, according to polls, is well capable of producing two-digit election support for its political representatives. But the UW apparently made a grave mistake at its congress in December 2000, when it opposed a leadership change. Instead of promoting younger and more dynamic activists to top party posts, the UW once again put its trust in such veterans of the Solidarity underground opposition as Tadeusz Mazowiecki and Bronislaw Geremek. The congress was immediately followed by a massive defection -- led by Donald Tusk -- of UW young activists to Olechowski's PO. It seems that the PO, with its program incorporating many of the UW's liberal ideas, has succeeded in winning over the middle-class electorate. The SLD-UP election bloc is poised for a wide-margin victory on 23 September. Some polls forecast that the bloc may garner nearly 50 percent of the vote and win an outright majority in the parliament. If the AWSP and the UW fail to win parliamentary seats, their political survival will be in serious doubt, to say the least. Such a development may spell not only the end of their careers for some prominent and distinguished politicians, but also the end of an epoch. This epoch began with an overwhelming vote of support installing the Solidarity camp in power, and may end with a no less overwhelming vote casting it into political oblivion.


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