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Newsline - September 24, 2001




PUTIN SAYS 'EVIL MUST BE PUNISHED'...

In an interview with German ARD television broadcast on 21 September, President Vladimir Putin said that the evil of terrorism "must be punished." But he said that any strikes against it must be carried out within the limits of international law and after full international consultations, including with Russia. At the same time, the Russian leader said that Russia is ready for "comprehensive cooperation" with the United States. He said that Russian military participation beyond the borders of the country would be possible only after approval by the Federation Council and the UN Security Council, and he noted that Russia does not intend to fight "a two front" war, preferring to concentrate its efforts on Chechnya. Putin said that each of the post-Soviet countries, including Tajikistan, has full freedom to decide whether to allow the U.S. to use bases on its territory. Putin dismissed suggestions that the counterterrorist effort will ignite a third world war. But over the weekend, the Russian president held lengthy meetings with the heads of his security agencies, Russian media reported. PG

...MOSCOW SEEKS GLOBAL ANTITERRORISM SYSTEM...

In his ARD interview broadcast on 21 September, Putin also said that if Washington withdraws from the 1972 ABM treaty, "there will be no hysterics on the part of Russia." But he said that Moscow continues to view such a step as "erroneous," because "the present international security system is based to a considerable degree on the 1972 ABM Treaty." He said that the current situation in the world suggests that all parties should be careful about doing anything that might undermine the existing arrangements. Meanwhile, Russian media reported on 22 September that President George W. Bush has expressed his gratitude to President Putin for the latter's support in combating terrorism. Bush spoke with Putin on both 22 and 23 September, the Russian agencies said. PG

...AND SAYS 'QUASI-STATES MUST NOT BE PERMITTED'

In an interview published on 21 September in the German magazine "Focus," President Putin said that Russia's experience in Chechnya shows that "the emergence of irresponsible quasi-state entities must not be permitted." He said that after Russia "totally withdrew from Chechnya in 1995 [sic], it quickly turned into a gangster enclave while the ideological vacuum was quickly filled by fundamentalist organizations." In short, he said, "Russia withdrew from Chechnya, but Chechnya did not become a really independent state." He said that this history showed that "a state should be responsible for what is going on on its territory. We should strengthen the legitimate governments of states." PG

PUTIN SPEAKS WITH CENTRAL ASIAN LEADERS

President Putin on 23 September spoke by telephone with all five Central Asian presidents to discuss the international counterterrorism campaign, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

MOSCOW SEEKS GLOBAL ANTITERRORISM SYSTEM UNDER UN

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman told ITAR-TASS on 21 September that Moscow wants to create a global antiterrorism center under the aegis of the United Nations. He also said that Russia was behind the denunciation of terrorism issued by the G-8 heads of state. Also on 21 September, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that in the struggle against terrorism, the world "cannot exclude" any measures, including the use of force, Russian news agencies reported. He also warned that the campaign against terrorism could lead to a new division of the world between the North and the South. PG

KVASHNIN MEETS WITH ANTI-TALIBAN COMMANDER

General Anatolii Kvashnin, the chief of the Russian General Staff of the Russian armed forces, on 22 September met in Dushanbe with Mohammad Fahim, the commander of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, ITAR-TASS reported. They discussed the current situation and the likely course of events once the U.S. strikes the hideout of Osama bin Laden. PG

MOST DUMA DEPUTIES BACK APPROACH LAID OUT BY BUSH

Leading members of the Russian Duma on 21 September said that they basically support the counterterrorist approach laid out by President George W. Bush in his speech on 20 September, Russian agencies reported. The only major exceptions were Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, who said that Bush's remarks "open a new stage of total war against those countries which he doesn't like," and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who repeated his calls for the Muslim world to unite around Moscow, Interfax reported the same day. PG

'IZVESTIYA' RECALLS WHEN A BIN LADEN VISITED RUSSIA

An article in "Izvestiya" on 21 September reported that in September 1991, the younger brother of Osama bin Laden, Tarik, visited Ulyanovsk, "the motherland of Ilich," on a mission for Saudi King Fahd to take part in raising money for a new mosque in that city. The planned mosque was not built -- a smaller one has been constructed -- and the paper noted that "local Muslims say that the dollars [brought by Tarik bin Laden] went to Chechnya." The paper said that soon after Tarik's departure, a Chechen "band" appeared in the Ulyanovsk region. Over the course of the next eight years, "Izvestiya" said, that group conducted a series of raids, bank robberies, and attacks on officials and other people. PG

KREMLIN SIGNALS BACKING FOR CUTTING NUMBER OF DUMA COMMITTEES...

Aleksandr Kotenkov, President Putin's representative to the Duma, said on 21 September that "almost half the existing committees of the Duma have shown their complete ineffectiveness," Interfax reported. He added that some of the committees and their chairmen have slowed rather than promoted the legislative process. He did not name names, but said that the Kremlin and the Duma will have to consider carefully which committees should be scrapped and committee leaderships changed. Meanwhile, the Duma Committee on State Construction has prepared a draft bill that would limit the ability of parliamentarians to shift parties after taking their seats and impose penalties on those who do, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 21 September. PG

...SIGNALS SUPPORT FOR EMERGENCY SITUATION IN CHECHNYA

Kotenkov also said on 21 September that "if events proceed in Chechnya [as they have been doing] then it is necessary to introduce an emergency situation" there, Interfax reported. PG

STEPASHIN SAYS NEW INTERNATIONAL SITUATION REQUIRES NEW RUSSIA-NATO TIES

In an interview published in the 21 September issue of the American magazine "BusinessWeek," Russian Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin said that expanding Russian cooperation with the U.S. in the fight against terrorism requires the redefinition of Russia's relationship with NATO. Russia must not be in the position of providing assistance while being kept out of the decision-making structures, Stepashin said. Meanwhile, the Audit Chamber said that it had found violations of the budget law by authorities in Irkutsk Oblast and Chukotka, Interfax-AFI reported the same day. PG

CHERKESOV SEES EU EXPANSION IN BALTIC REGION BENEFITING RUSSIA

Viktor Cherkesov, the presidential envoy to the Northwest federal district, said on 23 September that the future enlargement of the European Union to include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland would increase the significance of the Baltic component in European integration and also lead to an expanded role in that process for Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

DOES THE KREMLIN WANT PRIMAKOV AS FEDERATION COUNCIL CHAIRMAN...

An article in "Vek," No. 38, said that current Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev will resign from his position after his reelection as Orel governor, and that with the backing of the Kremlin, former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov will take the top job in the upper house of parliament (see "Russian Political Weekly," 12 September 2001). The only development that could upset this scenario, "Vek" suggested, is if Stroev loses his race for governor. VY

...OR SHAIMIEV?

The Kazan newspaper "Zvezda Povolzhya" on 20 September suggested an alternative choice as Stroev's successor. The paper claims that President Putin is now putting pressure on Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev to leave office, and has offered him the position of Federation Council speaker or State Council secretary. The paper added that the federal government plans to hold presidential elections in Tatarstan in 2002 even though Shaimiev was only reelected this year. Meanwhile, Tatarstan's public organizations, including the Tatar Public Center, the People's Front, and the Renewal movement demonstrated in Kazan on 20 September against Russian efforts to force Tatarstan to bring its constitution and laws into line with federal ones, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported. PG

TATARS, BASHKIRS KILLED IN CHECHEN FIGHTING

RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported on 21 September that seven servicemen from Bashkortostan have died in fighting in Chechnya since 7 August and that most of them are ethnic Tatars or Bashkirs. Meanwhile, the father of one of the men killed said in an interview published in "Kyzyl tan" the same day that he would like to see peace talks begin. He said that those who want to "raze" Chechnya to the ground will destroy more than Chechnya. PG

CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD TELLS SYRIANS THERE ARE ARABS AMONG CHECHEN MILITANTS

Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, the chief of the Russian-installed Chechen administration, told Syrian officials in Damascus on 21 September that the difficulties Moscow faces in Chechnya have been "caused by the presence of many mercenaries from Arab countries in the rebel units. They are fighting for money and want to seize power." PG

MOSCOW TO FINANCE RAILROAD IN NORTH KOREA

Railways Minister Anatolii Yakovlev told Prime-TASS on 21 September that Moscow plans to provide the funding for the construction of the North Korean section of the Trans-Korea railroad. Pyongyang will then repay Russia through earnings from the use of the line, which is scheduled to be linked with Russia's Trans-Siberian railroad. PG

SENIOR OFFICERS KILLED IN CHECHNYA HONORED IN MOSCOW

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on 21 September led mourners at the funerals of 10 senior Russian army officers who were killed on 17 September in Chechnya when their helicopter was shot down with a surface-to-air missile, "Krasnaya zvezda" reported on 22 September. Ivanov said that "those who dealt this treacherous blow from behind will be destroyed. We know who shot down the helicopter and are already hunting them down." The same day, Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said in an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" that terrorist leader bin Laden is funding the Chechen militants. "Every day, bandits bring pain to Russians on bin Laden's money." PG

DUMA MAY IMPOSE HARSHER PENALTIES FOR MILITARY CRIMES

ITAR-TASS reported on 22 September that a group of Duma deputies has prepared legislation that will radically increase the penalties for crimes committed in the army. Under its terms, deserters would be punished by up to 15 years in prison; those found guilty of disobedience or inciting others to disobedience could receive the death penalty, and violators of military discipline or the mistreatment of other servicemen (known in Russia as "dedovshchina") could be sentenced from 15 years in prison to the death penalty. VY

ONLY ONE RUSSIAN TANK IN FIVE SAID MODERN

According to Colonel General Sergei Maev, the chief of the Main Tank Directorate of the Russian Defense Ministry, only 20 percent of Russia's 20,000 tanks and armored vehicles correspond to contemporary requirements, "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie" reported on 21 September. On 21 September, the Russian arms exporting agency Rosoboroneksport proposed to Turkey cooperation in the production of armored vehicles, Interfax reported. PG

KREMLIN OUTRAGED BY INFORMATION LEAKS FROM PROTECTION AGENCY

The Kremlin is reportedly infuriated that there have been leaks from the Federal Protection Service (FSO), which guards top leaders, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 21 September. The Kremlin's anger reflects the nature of the information: It concerns an Interior Ministry investigation that uncovered FSO surveillance of 12 prominent businessmen. The paper said that the agency attempted to justify the action by saying that it had to "screen" the businessmen before they met with the Russian president, but President Putin's anger about the leak means that the FSO should expect to be reshuffled in the near future. VY

RUSSIAN FIRMS CAN NOW BORROW UP TO $100 MILLION ABROAD WITHOUT PRIOR APPROVAL

The Russian Central Bank on 21 September said that Russian companies and individuals can borrow abroad up to $100 million with repayment terms of more than 180 days without the bank's permission, Interfax-AFI reported. PG

80 PERCENT OF RUSSIAN BANKS SAID UNPROFITABLE AND AT RISK OF CLOSURE

Igor Yurgens, the head of the Russian Insurance Union, said that 80 percent of Russian banks are not making a profit and should be closed down, "Izvestiya" reported on 21 September. Yurgens was discussing the need to bring Russian banks into conformity with international accounting standards before Russia can join the World Trade Organization. VY

PUSH FOR CAPITAL AMNESTY GAINS MOMENTUM

"Vremya novostei" reported on 22 September that the Central Bank now supports the idea of declaring an amnesty on capital raised illegally in the past (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2001). The bank's leadership has concluded that such an amnesty would help reverse capital flight and lead to more domestic investment. Oleg Vyugin, the chief economist of the Troika Dialogue Trust, also has also expressed support for such an amnesty, the paper said. VY

MEDIA-UNION WANTS STATE SUPPORT FOR REGIONAL PRESS

Aleksandr Lyubimov, the head of the Media-Union, said on 21 September that his organization believes that the government should provide financial support to small and regional publications, Interfax reported. He said that media outlets in 52 regions of the country have turned to his group with requests for such help. Meanwhile, in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast of Birobidzhan, a seminar took place on 21 September to discuss how journalists can resist pressure from judicial and administrative officials, Interfax-Eurasia reported. PG

ITAR-TASS JOURNALIST IN NEW YORK RECOVERS

Yurii Kirilchenko, the ITAR-TASS journalist who suffered a heart attack after providing assistance to victims of the 11 September attack on the World Trade Center, was released from New York's St. Vincent's Hospital on 21 September, the Russian news agency reported. He underwent a six-hour open-heart operation and is expected to recover fully. PG

RTR CARRIES 'TRIBUTE TO HEROES' CONCERT

Russian state television RTR on 22 September carried the "America: A Tribute to Heroes" concert organized in the U.S. in memory of the victims of the 11 September terrorist attacks. RTR officials said that the U.S. producers of the program did not require Moscow to pay any royalties for the use of the program and charged the Russian channel only for the cost of the signal itself -- some $6,000, Interfax reported on 21 September. PG

GAP BETWEEN RUSSIA'S CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS INCREASES

Kazan's "Zvezda Povolzhya" reported on 20 September that Christians and Muslims in Russia are ever more estranged, a process that the paper said reflects not only Russian engagement in the Chechen war and coverage of international terrorism, but also the Kremlin's increasing pressure on non-Russian republics within the Russian Federation. In that situation, the paper said, ever more Muslim Russians are looking to Tatarstan for political leadership. Meanwhile, leading Russian Muslims, including Ravil Gainutdin, the chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, told the media that the Taliban have nothing in common with Islam, Interfax reported. PG

ETHNOGRAPHERS CALL FOR TOLERANCE IN RELATIONS AMONG PEOPLES, RELIGIONS

A three-day international congress of ethnographers and anthropologists held in Nalchik issued an appeal to the media, journalists, and politicians to display "tolerance in their assessment and judgments about the interrelationships of people of different nationalities and religions," ITAR-TASS reported. PG

RUSSIA WORKING ON REUSABLE BOOSTER ROCKETS

Officials at the Khrunichev Space Center told dpa on 21 September that Russian scientists are working to modify the first stage of the Angara-class rocket so that it can be recovered and reused for future launches. The first test of the new rocket is planned for 2003. Such reusable boosters, the scientists said, will significantly cut the costs of future launches. PG

RUSSIAN EMIGRE MILITARY LEADER SAID PRESCIENT ON FUTURE CONFLICTS

According to "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie," No. 25, Yevgenii Messner, a tsarist officer who fought in the White Movement and emigrated first to Yugoslavia and then to Argentina, published a series of pamphlets after World War II arguing that future wars would involve terrorists rather than traditional state conflicts. PG

MUSCOVITES MARK 621ST ANNIVERSARY OF KULIKOVO BATTLE

Some 200 Moscow residents on 21 September assembled in the Slavic Square of the Russian capital to commemorate the Russian victory over the Mongols and Tatars in 1380, Russian agencies reported. Leonid Simonovich, the head of the Union of Orthodox Banner Bearers, told the group that "we must be very vigilant and calm so that Russia will not in any circumstances be drawn into a new war." And Vladimir Osipov, the leader of the Christian Renewal Union, said that America has been teaching the world how to be terrorists via Hollywood, and he called on the Russian government "not to help the globalists -- the servants of the anti-Christ -- in setting off a third world war." PG

SIBERIAN GOVERNOR EXPRESSES FEAR ABOUT POSSIBLE REFUGEE FLOW FROM AFGHANISTAN...

Novosibirsk Governor Viktor Tolokonskii told reporters on 21 September that he is concerned about the possible penetration into his region of displaced persons from Afghanistan in the event that the U.S. conducts retaliatory airstrikes against the terrorist camps in Afghanistan, Interfax-Eurasia reported. "For us the problem of refugees from Afghanistan is very serious. I think that a decision should be taken which will serve interests of Russia and the regions," he said. "We are counting on federal authorities to take effective steps." Tolokonskii also noted that Novosibirsk does not have a full-status state border with Kazakhstan and to achieve such would require interstate negotiations. JAC

...AS STATE COUNCIL TO TAKE UP ISSUE OF IMMIGRATION FROM CIS COUNTRIES

In an interview with "Vek" on 21 September, Deputy Federation Affairs Minister Belan Khamchiev said that Russians who are living abroad and wish to return have a priority status compared with other would-be immigrants. He noted that "preserving the number of the population has strategic and economic significance. We have a huge territory, rich mineral resources, which require someone to develop them," he continued. According to Khamchiev, the 2002 draft budget earmarks 50 percent more resources for receiving immigrants. According to Khamchiev, the State Council will examine in October the problem of moving citizens of the former Soviet Union to Russia, Interfax reported on 21 September. JAC

NORTHERN REGIONAL HEAD SUPPORTS MERGER WITH NEIGHBORING REGION

Komi Republic President Yurii Spiridonov told reporters in Syktyvkar on 21 September that he would support the unification of Nenets Autonomous Okrug with his republic, the website regions.ru reported, citing Komiinform. In fact, according to Spiridonov, Nenets Autonomous Okrug head Vladimir Butov would also support such a merger, "however, such dreams are far from being realized." He said that the question of joining the two regions has already been raised in the past. JAC

REGIONAL OLIGARCH TO VIE FOR HEAD OF SAKHA REPUBLIC

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 22 September that Fedot Tumusov, a local legislator and head of the financial industrial group SAPI, has unofficially declared himself a candidate in the region's next presidential elections. According to the daily, SAPI is a well-known company in the republic, and Tumusov is considered a kind of local version of Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinsky. For example, he controls the publishing company that publishes the daily newspaper, "Yakutsk vechernii." In addition, according to the daily, Tumusov has already declared his ambitions to seek the presidency. Tumusov is part of a group of deputies in Sakha's (Yakutia's) Legislative Assembly that recently opposed measures by President Mikhail Nikolaev to bring the republic's constitution into conformity with the Federal Constitution. JAC

ROLE OF INTELLIGENTSIA EXAMINED IN ST. PETERSBURG

An international conference on the "Responsibility of Intellectuals: Art, Ideology, and Memory in the 20th Century" opened in St. Petersburg on 22 September, RFE/RL's Russian service reported. The three-day conference, which was organized with financial assistance of the Open Society Institute, is looking into the question of why intellectuals in many different countries tend to sympathize with radical left and right groups that collaborate with totalitarian regimes. One participant, dean of the Smolnii Institute for Free Art Nikolai Konosov, said that the intelligentsia of the first half of the last century knew about the terror of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, but they praised their regimes all the same. And now, according to Konosov, intellectuals continue "to flirt with those who are dangerous." JAC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES COUNCIL OF EUROPE

In a statement released on 21 September, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov criticized what he termed the Council of Europe's failure either unequivocally to condemn "genocide and terrorism" committed against the civilian population of Chechnya by the Russian military, or to urge the Russian leadership to agree to calls by Maskhadov for talks on ending the fighting. Maskhadov therefore declared that he is suspending all further contacts with the Council of Europe until such time as it modifies its "negative" policy toward Chechnya. Meeting in Moscow the same day with Lord Judd, who is co-chairman of the Russia-Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe working group for Chechnya, Russian State Duma International Relations Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin characterized Maskhadov's statement as based on fear of the "extremist" Islamist field commanders Shamil Basaev and Khattab. LF

PRO-MOSCOW CHECHEN PREMIER RULES OUT TALKS WITH MASKHADOV

Speaking in Moscow on 21 September, Chechen Premier Stanislav Ilyasov said that he believes peace talks with President Maskhadov or his associates would serve no useful purpose, Interfax reported. Ilyasov also said that a program has been drafted to improve the interaction between the Russian military and the civilian administration in Chechnya. Implementing that program, Ilyasov said, will help to overcome many existing problems. The program, which according to Ilyasov has to be coordinated at "several levels" in Moscow including with President Putin, addresses such issues as Russian military checkpoints, which Chechen administration head Kadyrov and Duma deputy for Chechnya Aslanbek Aslakhanov want abolished, and the passage of civilians and goods within Chechnya. LF




WORLD CHRISTIAN LEADERS CONGREGATE FOR ARMENIAN ANNIVERSARY

Representatives of the world's Christian churches conducted a joint ecumenical service at Echmiadzin on 22 September as part of the celebrations marking the 1,700th anniversary of Armenia's adoption of Christianity as its state religion, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Among those attending were Patriarch Aleksii II of Moscow and All Russia, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Teoctist. Aleksii also met on 22 September with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and with Armenian Catholicos Garegin II, who affirmed that "there is no closer friendship than that between the Russian Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic churches," according to ITAR-TASS. Aleksii also attended the consecration of a new cathedral in Yerevan on 23 September. LF

TWO AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS SENTENCED

A Baku district court on 21 September sentenced Elmar Huseinov, founder of the now defunct newspaper "Bakinskii bulvard," to six months in a prison camp on charges of insulting the honor and dignity of Baku Mayor Hajibala Abutalibov, Turan reported. The paper's editor, Bella Zakirova, received a six-month suspended sentence. The charges were based on an article by a second journalist with the paper, Irada Huseynova, that accused Abutalibov of corruption. Huseynova is currently in Warsaw attending an OSCE sponsored conference and has reportedly asked the German embassy there for political asylum. In a separate case, the same court had fined Huseinov, Zakirova, and Huseynova 18 million manats ($17,090) each earlier this month for insulting Abutalibov and ordered the paper's closure (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2001). On 22 September, fellow editors met in Baku to found a committee to defend Huseinov's rights. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY THREATENED WITH EVICTION FROM ITS HEADQUARTERS

Police demanded on 22 September that the Civic Unity Party, which supports ousted President Ayaz Mutalibov, vacate the offices it currently occupies in Baku because the party is not formally registered with the Justice Ministry, Turan reported. All efforts by party leaders over the past two years to obtain such registration have failed. The Azerbaijan National Independence Party was recently evicted from a building in the outskirts of Baku that it had used for almost a decade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2001). LF

GEORGIA PROTESTS RUSSIAN TV'S ALLEGATIONS...

Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze told journalists in Tbilisi on 21 September that his ministry would send a protest note to Moscow later that day expressing "outrage" over "unsubstantiated" and "libelous" Russian TV broadcasts on 20 September that accused Georgia of abetting Chechen terrorists, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. He denied that Georgia harbors any "terrorists." In his traditional Monday radio broadcast, President Eduard Shevardnadze on 24 September said the Russian allegations reflect double standards, Caucasus Press reported. He specifically condemned the appearance in one of the Russian TV programs of former Georgian National Security Minister Igor Giorgadze, for whom an international arrest warrant has been issued in connection with his alleged role in the August 1995 attempt on Shevardnadze's life. Shevardnadze on 24 September also accused Giorgadze of three other murders, including those of his close associate Soliko Khabeishvili and opposition National Democratic Party of Georgia Chairman Gia Chanturia in 1993. Shevardnadze nonetheless conceded the possibility that some of the Chechens currently in Georgia may have taken part in fighting against the Russians, but pointed out that it is extremely difficult to establish which of them have done so. He affirmed that Russia has "no legal right, nor any grounds" to launch an attack on Georgian territory. LF

...REJECTS CHIEF OF STAFF'S PREDICTION

Russian army Chief of Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin's prediction that Georgia will have to resign itself to the transformation of the Russian military base in Gudauta, Abkhazia into a logistics and recreation center for the Russian peacekeeping force deployed under the CIS aegis on the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia is not a foregone conclusion, Sikharulidze told journalists in Tbilisi on 21 September, Caucasus Press reported. Russian officials proposed that option late last year and have since failed to comply with the 1 July deadline for withdrawing from the Gudauta base (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2001). Sikharulidze said the decision on the future use of the Gudauta base does not fall within Kvashnin's competence. LF

JAPANESE JOURNALIST MISSING AFTER LEAVING GEORGIA FOR CHECHNYA

Both the Russian government and the Georgian Interior Ministry said on 21 September that they do not know the whereabouts of Japanese journalist Kosuke Tsuneoka, who left Georgia in June intending to travel to Chechnya, Russian media reported. He is said not to have applied for accreditation to work as a journalist either in Georgia or the North Caucasus. On 22 September, Georgian border guards detained one Sudanese and one Jordanian citizen trying to enter Georgia illegally from Azerbaijan, Caucasus Press reported. And on 23 September police rounded up one Indian and five Pakistani citizens illegally residing in Tbilisi, who may now face deportation. LF

CASPIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTERS POSTPONE WORK ON DRAFT AGREEMENT

Deputy foreign ministers from the five Caspian littoral states ended a three-day meeting in Astana on 21 September without initialing a draft document on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. That document was to have been signed by the presidents of the five states at the Caspian summit most recently scheduled for November or December 2001. But Kazakh First Deputy Foreign Minister Nurtai Abyqaev told journalists that the deputy foreign ministers will probably meet again in December in Moscow to resume work on the draft, implying that it is unlikely that the summit will take place before then. LF

POPE VISITS KAZAKHSTAN

Pope John Paul II flew to Kazakhstan on 22 September and celebrated a mass in Astana the following day on for some 50,000 pilgrims from Kazakhstan's estimated 350,000 Roman Catholic community. Referring to the 11 September terrorist attacks in the U.S., the pontiff warned on 23 September against a "deepening of divisions" between Christians and Muslims, and called on followers of all faiths to work together "to build a world without violence," AP reported. He also met the same day with President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who again affirmed his country's rejection of international terrorism and readiness to join a coalition of states to combat it, Reuters reported. LF

KAZAKH SPECIAL BATTALION TO UNDERGO TRAINING IN TURKEY

During talks in Astana on 21 September, visiting Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu and Kazakh First Deputy Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov agreed that a Kazakh special battalion will urgently undergo additional training in Turkey, Interfax reported. The two men agreed on the need to revise and expand earlier agreements on bilateral defense cooperation. LF

RUSSIAN SECURITY COUNCIL SECRETARY MEETS WITH TURKMEN, KYRGYZ PRESIDENTS

Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo told journalists in Ashgabat on 21 September following his talks with Turkmenistan's president, Saparmurat Niyazov, that the two countries have drawn up a plan for cooperation in fighting terrorism, Interfax reported. That plan includes the exchange of information and unspecified prompt joint actions in response to terrorist acts. Rushailo said Russia and Turkmenistan agree that any U.S. retaliatory action must be carried out in accordance with international law and, in Niyazov's opinion, with the sanction of the UN. Rushailo then flew to Bishkek for talks with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev on the situation in Afghanistan and Central Asia, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Rushailo was to have met the following day with Kyrgyz security officials, but left the Kyrgyz capital without doing so. LF

HAVE U.S. TROOPS ALREADY LANDED IN TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN?

Neither the U.S. Defense Department nor government officials in Dushanbe or Tashkent have confirmed media reports that the first U.S. military aircraft and ground forces landed on 21 and 22 September at Tashkent and Dushanbe. "The Washington Post" reported on 23 September, quoting Interfax, that two C-130 cargo planes with some 100 U.S. military personnel had landed in Tashkent. The paper quoted unnamed Defense Department officials as saying that while the U.S. deployment to Uzbekistan would be publicly acknowledged, in Tajikistan it would not be. On 22 September, Tajikistan's president, Imomali Rakhmonov, again affirmed his readiness to cooperate with the U.S. and the international community in combating terrorism, but failed to specify what forms that cooperation might take, AP reported. In an internet interview carried by Asia Plus-Blitz on 24 September, Tajik air force Commander Colonel Akbar Qayumov denied either that U.S. forces have already landed at Kulob in southern Tajikistan, or that the possibility of their doing so has been discussed between the U.S. and Tajik leaderships. LF




MINSK DECLARES SUPPORT FOR COMBATING TERRORISM

"On the threshold of the retaliatory action prepared by the United States against the persons responsible for the inhuman acts of terrorism in New York and Washington on 11 September 2001, the government of the Republic of Belarus expresses its firm support for the international community's concerted efforts to combat terrorism and eradicate acts of terrorism," Belapan quoted from a statement by Belarus's Foreign Ministry on 22 September. "Each country, irrespective of the degree of its development, its economic and military potential, cultural and religious peculiarities, is able to make an important contribution to the achievement of the world community's common victory over terrorism," the statement added. JM

BELARUSIAN HUMAN RIGHT ACTIVIST SAYS ELECTION OBSERVERS ARE VICTIMIZED

Human Rights Center "Viasna" head Ales Byalyatski, who coordinated domestic election observers in Belarus's presidential election, told journalists on 21 September that many observers have been victimized and prosecuted, Belapan reported. According to Byalyatski, Ales Halich from Minsk and Pyotr Mihurski from Mahileu Oblast are to be brought to trial. Halich is accused of petty hooliganism for calling an election official a "villain" after the latter reportedly crumpled Halich's ID and threw it on the floor. Mihurski faces a criminal charge for allegedly exceeding his authority. Teacher Andrey Alyakhnovich and school instructor Alyaksandr Nikitsin from Minsk Oblast were fired from their jobs. Byalyatski added that Aleh Myatselitsa from Mahileu Oblast spent 15 days in jail for training election observers at his apartment. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER HAILS RESUMPTION OF IMF, WORLD BANK LOANS

Anatoliy Kinakh on 21 September welcomed the resumption of loans by the IMF and the World Bank (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2001), saying that it enables Kyiv to begin official talks with member countries of the Paris Club on the restructuring of Ukrainian debts for 12 years with a three-year grace period, UNIAN reported. Kinakh also said that the renewal of cooperation with the two financial organizations makes it possible for Ukraine to begin discussions with Turkmenistan about the restructuring of Ukrainian debt for Turkmen gas. JM

UKRAINIAN FIGHTERS FORCE DOWN SUDANESE PLANE IN CRIMEA

Ukrainian warplanes on 21 September forced a Sudanese An-26 plane to land in Crimea after it was refused a permit to fly over Ukraine, Interfax reported. The plane was discovered by air defense forces when it was approaching Ukrainian waters in the Black Sea. According to Ukraine's Security Service, the An-26 with nine people aboard was heading for a Kiev aircraft enterprise for repairs. The plane came from Turkey, where it had refueled, and had an expired permit to fly over Ukraine. JM

RUUTEL ELECTED AS ESTONIA'S NEW PRESIDENT

The electoral college, which consists of 101 parliamentary deputies and 266 local government representatives, on 21 September elected the chairman of the last Supreme Council of the Estonian SSR, 73-year-old Arnold Ruutel, as Estonia's president, BNS reported. In the first ballot that day, Ruutel, the honorary chairman of the opposition People's Union who had been a high Estonian Communist Party official, received 114 votes; Toomas Savi of the Reform Party, 90; Peeter Tulviste of the Pro Patria Union, 89; and Peeter Kreitzberg of the Center Party, 72. In the second ballot, Ruutel defeated current parliament Chairman Savi by a vote of 186 to 155, with 23 unmarked ballots and two ballots with both candidates crossed out. Ruutel, who lost the previous two presidential elections to President Lennart Meri, admitted that he had not expected to win, and said that he considers Estonia's membership in the European Union and NATO the highest foreign policy priorities. SG

LATVIA AND ESTONIA INK NEW AGREEMENT ON DOUBLE TAXATION

After four days of talks, Finance Ministry officials from Latvia and Estonia inked an agreement in Riga on the avoidance of double taxation that will come into effect on 1 January 2002, BNS reported on 21 September. The agreement must still be approved by the governments and parliaments, but if the parliaments should fail to ratify the accord in time it will take effect retroactively. The two countries had approved a double taxation avoidance agreement in 1993, but Latvia later suspended its initial implementation date of 1 June 2001, arguing that the situation changed after Estonia changed its tax laws at the beginning of the year by requiring companies to pay profit taxes only if they paid out dividends. In order to remove double taxation, both countries will use the simple credit method with the right to tax dividends, interests, and royalties being divided between the country of origin of the income and the country of residence. About 50 percent of Estonia's foreign investments abroad are in Latvia, where more than 500 firms with Estonian capital are now operating. SG

LITHUANIA SEEKS 13 TRANSITION PERIODS IN TALKS WITH EU ON AGRICULTURE

Deputy Agriculture Minister Dalia Miniataite announced on 23 September that Lithuania intends to ask for 13 transition periods in agriculture policies in its negotiations for European Union membership, BNS reported. The greatest number of these periods are in the sectors of veterinary medicine, plant variety preservation, and public health. Lithuania is asking for transition periods until 1 January 2012 for the implementation of requirements for the protection of plant varieties, and until 1 January 2009 for adjusting veterinary inspection fees with those applied in the EU and for additional rules on milk and milk products. The actual negotiations on the agriculture chapter will begin in early October in Brussels with technical consultations between officials of the Lithuanian Agriculture Ministry and the EU. SG

POLAND'S LEFTIST BLOC TROUNCES RIVALS IN GENERAL ELECTION...

According to unofficial results released by the OBOP polling center on 24 September, the election bloc of the Democratic Left Alliance and the Labor Union (SLD-UP) won 41.9 percent of the vote in the previous day's parliamentary election. The liberal Civic Platform obtained 12.4 percent of the vote; the radical farmers' union Self-Defense 10.1 percent; the right-of-center Peasant Party 9.2 percent; the rightist Law and Justice 9 percent; and the extreme right and pro-Catholic League of Polish Families 7.3 percent. The ruling Solidarity Electoral Action of the Right (AWSP) and the Solidarity-rooted liberal Freedom Union were eliminated from the Sejm -- the former gained 5.5 percent of the vote (as a coalition of parties, the AWSP needed at least 8 percent support to win parliamentary representation), while the latter 3.3 percent (it needed 5 percent support to get to the Sejm). According to unofficial results, the SLD-UP also won some 75 seats in the 100-strong Senate. Official results of the 23 September ballot are expected on 26 September. JM

...BUT MUST REPORTEDLY LOOK FOR PARTNER TO RULE

The SLD-UP's unofficial election results translate into some 220 parliamentary mandates, meaning that the leftist bloc will not have an outright majority in the 460-seat Sejm and may be constrained to look for a coalition partner to run the government. The SLD-UP has repeatedly stressed that it does not see any promising coalition partner, adding that it would prefer to form a one-party cabinet. President Aleksander Kwasniewski, commenting on the unofficial election results on the TVN television after the polling stations closed on 23 September, said he would prefer SLD leader Leszek Miller to form a minority cabinet instead of looking for a coalition with an unreliable partner. "We are waiting for official results on Wednesday [26 September] and there will be no decisions and no speculation [on coalition partners] before then," Reuters quoted SLD spokesman Michal Tober as saying on 24 September. JM

HEART TROUBLE PUTS CZECH PRESIDENT IN HOSPITAL

Czech President Vaclav Havel was taken to a hospital shortly before his plane was scheduled to depart Prague for a three-day official trip to Italy for "a slight arrhythmia," or irregular heartbeat, a presidential spokesman told Reuters on 24 September. The former dissident and playwright, who will turn 65 next week, has been hospitalized some 200 days since he became president in 1993. Havel suffered mild influenza during a summer holiday in Portugal in July, but had worked out a busy autumn schedule, hoping to put his health problems behind him, Reuters reported. Dr. Ilja Kotik, the president's personal physician who was accompanying him, said Havel has previously suffered similar problems, "particularly in situations of stress or in the case of viral infections of the respiratory tract due to his chronic bronchitis," AFP reported on 24 September. AH

TRADE UNION DECLARES STRIKE ALERT AT CZECH PUBLIC TELEVISION

The Independent Trade Union at state broadcaster Czech Television on 21 September threatened to strike for the second time in less than a year over what it considers harassment by the company's interim management, CTK and AP reported. Station employees want an apology for threats they say were made by management to reporter Martin Schmarcz after he expressed opposition to a 2 million crown ($53,000) fine levied by the broadcast council. The council found that journalists, including Schmarcz, compromised the station's independence when they appeared on television during a December-January strike to air their demands. After expressing his disagreement with the finding, Schmarcz was reportedly told he could be dismissed for breach of contract. The union is also demanding a public apology from managers for damaging Czech Television's good name. The station's interim director, Jiri Balvin, and senior News Editor Petr Bohus deny that they acted improperly and have variously called the strike threat "blackmail" and "harassment," while rejecting union demands. The public broadcaster has been wracked by infighting and political horse-trading since employees rallied public support for a protest alleging political meddling that began in December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 December 2000). A new director is expected to be named in October. AH

SVOBODA WINS PRAGUE PRIMARIES, BUT CZECH OPPOSITION STILL UNDECIDED OVER SLATE IN NEXT YEAR'S ELECTIONS

The Four Party Coalition's Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL) on 22 September selected party Chairman Cyril Svoboda to lead its efforts in Prague, as expected, but has indicated it is prepared to cede the coalition's leadership role to Freedom Union head Hana Marvanova, CTK reported on 23 September. The leader of the KDU-CSL's Prague branch, Petr Burgr, said Svoboda is expected to decide for himself "whether to cede the position to the Freedom Union chairwoman," the agency reported. Svoboda is expected to announce his decision on 28 September, CTK said. The Freedom Union will hold its own primaries in mid-October. Marvanova, who in June became the first woman to head a Czech parliamentary party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2001), said it is still too early to speculate on who will lead the opposition Four Party Coalition's Prague slate in next year's national elections, CTK reported. AH

CZECH FREEDOM UNION NEGOTIATING POSSIBLE MERGER WITH NONPARLIAMENTARY RIGHT-WINGERS

The opposition Freedom Union is holding talks with the nonparliamentary Democratic Union regarding a possible merger, Freedom Union Chairwoman Marvanova told CTK on 22 September. The Freedom Union and Democratic Union represent two of the four parties allied in the opposition Four Party Coalition and expected to battle for their survival in the June 2002 national elections. The Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), also a member of the Four Party grouping but limited to representation in the upper house, recently broached its own hopes for a potential merger with the Democratic Union. Under a draft election law currently being pushed by the ruling Social Democrats and their power-sharing partner, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), parties need 5 percent to reach parliament, while coalitions require 5 percent for each party they include. AH

ONE IN TWO CZECHS WANTS SECRET POLICE FILES DECLASSIFIED

Half of those polled agree with a Czech Senate proposal to completely declassify the files of the communist-era secret police, or StB, CTK reported on 23 September. Advocates say opening the files to the public will help people deal with the past, polling agency TNS Factum said, while opponents say there is no need to delve further into the country's checkered past. Some 52 percent of respondents agreed with a complete declassification, compared to some 20 percent who believed the opposite. Roughly 80 percent of those wishing to see declassification think it would prevent potential blackmail. More than two-thirds of those opposed said they believe the files are unreliable. The Social Democratic government swept aside on 12 September a Senate-backed proposal to open StB files to anyone over 18 years of age (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2001). AH

SLOVAKIA AGREES TO U.S. USE OF AIRSPACE

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda on 21 September announced that his government has approved a request by the U.S. for allowing military transport planes to overfly Slovak territory or to land for fueling and maintenance of the aircraft, CTK reported. Dzurinda said the request was made "for a limited time," and in connection with retaliatory actions against terrorists, and added that in approving the request, Slovakia is "acting as if we [already] were a NATO member." President Rudolf Schuster praised the government's decision. Slovak media reported that all political parties except the Slovak National Party (SNS) support the cabinet's decision. In related news, according to a poll by the IVO institute, 60 percent of Slovaks support Slovakia's participation in the struggle against terrorism and 32 percent oppose it. MS

BIN LADEN BOUGHT TRACTORS FROM SLOVAK FIRM

The Czech daily "Hospodarske noviny" on 24 September wrote that terrorist chief Osama bin Laden did indeed buy tractors as reported by the Czech media, but that the tractors were not produced in Brno, the Czech Republic, as initially reported, but in Martin, central Slovakia, CTK reported. The daily cited testimony given in a U.S. court by Arab entrepreneur Wahid al Hage, who said he "bought 10 tractors in Slovakia in 1992." "Hospodarske noviny" said the tractors were later obtained by the Laden International company owned by Bin Laden, and cited the manager of the ZTS Turcianske company in Martin as confirming the deal with Al Hage. MS

SLOVAK FAR-RIGHT LEADER TO SET UP NEW PARTY

Former SNS leader Jan Slota on 21 September told journalists he will soon establish a new political party, to be called the "Real SNS," CTK reported. Slota is among the five parliamentary deputies who were expelled from the SNS last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2001). Radio Twist cited Slota as saying he has gathered 2,000 signatures on a petition supporting the establishment of the new party -- 1,000 more than required by law. MS

SLOVAK OFFICIAL NEWS AGENCY MAY CLOSE DOWN

TASR Director Ivan Ceredejev on 21 September said the agency may have to stop operations by February 2002. Ceredejev said the budget for that year provides for only one-third of the agency's needs, and that instead of receiving 72 million crowns ($1.5 million) as in 2001, TASR is to receive only 27 million next year. "We will not be able to work under these conditions," AP cited Ceredejev as saying. MS

U.S. REQUESTS USE OF HUNGARIAN AIRSPACE

The United States on 21 September asked Hungary for permission to use its airspace and ground facilities during military operations within the planned "Infinite Justice" action against international terrorism, Reuters and Hungarian media reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath said Premier Viktor Orban called a meeting of the National Security Committee for a discussion of the request. The parliament must also approve the move. Orban met with leaders of the parliamentary formations, and five out of six expressed support for granting the request. Istvan Csurka, leader of the far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), said he is opposed and that Hungary should "remain neutral." A Gallup Poll conducted on 21 September found that 58 percent support granting the U.S. request and 35 percent oppose it, but that 85 percent are opposed to sending Hungarian troops to Afghanistan or to action against other countries supporting terrorism. MS

HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS PARLIAMENTARY GROUP SPLITS

The parliamentary group of the Smallholders' Party (FKGP) on 21 September split into two, Hungarian media reported. The supporters of FKGP Chairman Jozsef Torgyan, responding to last week's expulsion from the party of six of their members, officially informed parliamentary speaker Janos Ader that from now on only 20 deputies will represent the FKGP and that they have elected Joszef Csatari as their leader. Torgyan, who was expelled from the group by his rivals on 7 May, is included among these 20 deputies. Peter Szentgyorgvalgyi, who leads the group of Torgyan opponents, said that the move is "absurd" since house regulations do not allow the forming of a group by deputies "simply disassociating" themselves from their colleagues. Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs on 23 September said the ruling FIDESZ now heads a minority government whose survival in the parliament is only due to MIEP support. MS

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN HUNGARY

Visiting Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi on 21 September met in Budapest with his Hungarian counterpart Janos Martonyi, who told him Hungary will fully back Bulgaria's efforts to gain EU and NATO membership, Hungarian media reported. Both politicians agreed that Hungarian firms should invest in Bulgaria and particularly in the development of its infrastructure. MS




GERMANY TO LEAD NEW NATO MISSION IN MACEDONIA?

NATO's policymaking council of ambassadors was expected to approve on 24 September a new force up to 600-strong to protect unarmed OSCE monitors, Reuters reported from Brussels (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2001). The previous day, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung" reported that cash-strapped Germany is willing to lead the mission, which will consist primarily of German, French, and Italian forces. PM

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENTARY DISCUSSION DRAGS ON...

The parliament passed the first three of a package of 15 constitutional amendments on 21 September with a bare majority of 62 out of 120 possible votes, AFP reported. Speaker Stojan Andov abruptly adjourned the session when the fourth amendment, which deals with the legal status of the Orthodox Church, received only 60 votes. The "debate" over the amendments has been described as a show or theatrical performance by some observers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2001). As part of the overall political settlement, the parliament must pass the entire package, which is to be followed by a "period of public debate" and then by the formal passage of all 15 amendments once again by the legislature (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 and 21 August 2001). The entire process is overshadowed by the campaign for the January 2002 elections. PM

...AS UNCERTAINTIES LOOM

Despite the delaying tactics by Macedonian nationalist deputies in the legislature, the ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (UCK) are continuing their pledge to disarm on schedule, Reuters reported from Skopje on 23 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2001). In addition to the amendments, however, parliament has yet to pass a planned amnesty for all UCK fighters except those who committed war crimes. Failure to pass the amnesty could thwart the entire process. A further uncertainty is the nature and outcome of the scheduled "public debate" among ethnic Macedonians, many of whom feel that the amendments threaten their country's and people's identity. Nor has much of the commentary in the press been conducive to confidence building and reconciliation. Meanwhile in the night of 22-23 September, one of the capital's frequent and mysterious explosions marred a peace concert featuring musicians from Albania, Serbia, and Macedonia, AFP reported. PM

UKRAINE CONFIRMS TANK SHIPMENT TO MACEDONIA

Interfax reported from Kyiv on 21 September that Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko told reporters that Ukraine has delivered 31 T-72 tanks to Macedonia. He said: "We, as a party to a treaty with Macedonia, have made certain commitments and, as a predictable and reliable partner, must meet them and are meeting them." He stressed that shipping tanks to the cash-strapped Balkan country does "not run against anybody's interests" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2001). Zlenko added that his government had "held the necessary consultations with NATO and the American side about these shipments." U.S. officials have previously urged Ukraine not to sell weapons to Skopje, which tries to fight its domestic insurgency primarily by shelling villages with tanks and artillery. PM

SERBIAN VOTER REGISTRATION IN KOSOVA ENDS

Registration of voters for the 17 November election in Kosova ended across Serbia on 22 September, with a total of 150,000 persons, mostly ethnic Serbs, having signed up, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 20 September 2001). It is not clear which Serbian leaders in Belgrade will encourage Serbs to vote. A spokeswoman for the OSCE, which is supervising the elections, said in Prishtina on 22 September that four Serbian parties agreed to form an electoral coalition but did not specify which ones, AP reported. PM

BOSNIAN MUSLIM EX-GENERAL TO TURN SELF IN TO HAGUE

Sefer Halilovic, a Muslim military commander in the 1992-1995 war, will soon surrender voluntarily to The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, Justice Minister Zvonko Mijan said in Sarajevo on 24 September, AP reported. Mijan added that the matter is linked to Halilovic's responsibility as a commander for the actions of his subordinates. Halilovic is believed to be on a secret list of indicted Croatian and Muslim commanders who committed atrocities against each other's people. Halilovic, who was the first commander of the Bosnian army in 1992, was minister for refugees in the current Bosnian non-nationalist government until he was voted out of that post during a government meeting on 24 September. PM

EXHUMATIONS CONTINUE AT BOSNIAN MASS GRAVES

The State Commission for Missing Persons said in a statement in Sarajevo on 22 September that more than 200 bodies were exhumed from several sites during the previous 10-day period, dpa reported. The largest group was 162 Muslim civilians from Srebrenica, whose remains were found in a mass grave near Zvornik, which experts believe may contain up to 200 victims. Some 75 bodies were exhumed from the former Ljubija mining pit in western Bosnia. These are believed to be the remains of victims killed at Serbian concentration camps in the area. PM

CROATIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES SOCIAL CUTS

The legislature voted on 21 September to approve the state budget and a package of measures aimed at cutting back expenditures on social programs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2001). The social legislation will take effect in October. PM

MONTENEGRIN, SERBIAN WAR OF WORDS CONTINUES

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade on 21 September that any independence referendum in Montenegro will have to be approved by at least 60 percent of the citizens of that republic to be valid, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He stressed that such an important issue as the future of a state cannot be left to "a handful of votes." Meanwhile in Podgorica, the governing Democratic Party of Socialists said that Kostunica is trying to manipulate political life in Serbia through intrigues, moral self-righteousness, anti-Western campaigns, and cooperation with "clericalist and nationalist" forces. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER CRITICIZES 'INDOCTRINATION' IN HUNGARIAN-LANGUAGE MEDIA

Adrian Nastase on 21 September said he is "dissatisfied" with the "distorted reports" in the Hungarian-language media in Transylvania on his visit last week to schools in Harghita and Covasna counties, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase said the media in the language of that minority indulges in "indoctrination," and that "the time has come" for the cabinet to address the population there "without mitigation" and to "break the cartel" of that media. Nastase also said that schools teaching in languages of the national minorities must use only textbooks produced in Romania and that this is "particularly important for history and geography" in order to avoid inculcating "other visions" to students. He said principals of schools that use textbooks produced abroad will be dismissed. The leadership of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania said that it is "worried" by the premier's "insulting" statements. MS

ROMANIA, HUNGARY ENGAGE IN 'DIALOGUE OF DEAF'...

The Romanian Foreign Ministry on 21 September said it was "surprised" by the summoning of Romanian Ambassador to Budapest Petru Cordos one day earlier, and by the statement of Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Horvath said Romanian President Ion Iliescu's statement that Hungary has become "somewhat arrogant" following its NATO membership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2001) is in contradiction with Hungary's support of Romania's quest to gain NATO membership. Horvath also said Hungary expects a "clarification" from Romania, and added that such a clarification should come via diplomatic channels and "not through statements to the media." The Romanian Foreign Ministry replied that Budapest relies on media reports and "deliberately ignores President Iliescu's actual message." Presidential spokeswoman Corina Cretu said on 21 September that Iliescu had only reiterated his position that "it would have been more productive" for regional stability if NATO had accepted both Hungary and Romania among its members in 1997. MS

...AND BUCHAREST ACCUSES BUDAPEST OF FINANCING 'REVISIONIST CD'

Public Information Minister Vasile Dancu on 23 September said a Hungarian parliamentary commission financed the production of a CD with "revisionist music," Mediafax reported on 23 September. The CD was produced by the Young Hungarians Association and financed by the Hungarian parliament's Commission on Nongovernmental Organizations, Dancu said. The move was criticized by the opposition Socialist Party, but commission members said that financial assistance went to the association and not for the production of the disc. Elod Attila Novak, chairman of the association, said the CD is aimed at "breaking the wall of silence" around the 1921 Trianon Treaty. Mediafax cited commission head Laszlo Bognar of the extremist Justice and Life Party as saying his party welcomes the production of the CD and intends to back similar actions in the future. Dancu said the Hungarian authorities "must act more resolutely to stop irredentist postures and the reawakening of collective memories contradicting European and international standards." MS

ROMANIAN EXTREMIST LEADER 'SUSPENDS' PARLIAMENTARY ACTIVITY...

Greater Romania Party (PRM) leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor on 21 September announced he is "suspending" for 30 days his parliamentary activity, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Tudor said he will not attend Senate sessions and will forego his parliamentary wages in protest against disciplinary sanctions imposed on radio journalist Paul Grigoriu for having allowed Tudor to make allegations on the air about Romania's alleged training of Hamas members (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2001). The same day, presidential spokeswoman Cretu said the president's office is considering a lawsuit against Tudor for making the allegations. MS

...WHILE PRESIDENT SINGLES OUT OTHER 'TENDENTIOUS' ALLEGATIONS ON TERRORISM

Cretu also said other reports in the media on alleged terrorist activities in Romania are "just as tendentious" as those published in the PRM weekly "Romania mare." She singled out an article in the daily "Romania libera" on 20 September, in which Marius Oprea wrote that Romania provides a "fiscal paradise" for terrorist organizations. Oprea was a presidential adviser in former President Emil Constantinescu's administration and Cretu said he had "illegally used classified information" to which he had access in the past. She said the Prosecutor-General's Office should consider opening an investigation against Oprea. MS

RESITA WORKERS STOP LABOR SANCTIONS

The Resita trade union of the local CSR steel-producer on 21 September voted to accept the package offered by the government and end demonstrations and hunger strikes, Romanian radio reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 21 September 2001). The union said it will not oppose the laying off of workers if the government provides an 18 billion lei ($600,000) emergency loan, but that sanctions will be resumed if the loan fails to materialize. MS

RUSSIA WANTS MOLDOVA TO BE 'MORE ACTIVE' IN CIS ANTITERRORISM CENTER

A Russian embassy official in Chisinau on 21 September told journalists that Moldova's membership of the CIS Antiterrorism center is "passive" and "purely formal." Yurii Shestak said Moldova does not participate in the CIS Collective Security Treaty either and this had prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to refrain from having telephone conversations with President Vladimir Voronin following the 11 September terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. MS

FORMER MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT REMINISCES

Former President Mircea Snegur on 21 September said conditions in August 1991, when Moldova proclaimed its independence, were not ripe for reunification with Romania. In an interview with the Internet journal "Moldova Azi," Snegur said the Moldovan population was not "ready" at that time for the reunification and the step might have "triggered serious consequences for the still-fragile Moldovan democracy." Snegur also said that separatist leader Igor Smirnov was detained in 1991 in Kyiv by "collaborators of the Moldovan Interior Ministry." The "pretext" was the participation of a group from Tiraspol in the putsch attempt against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Snegur said Smirnov was later freed because Russian women and children in Transdniester had protested by blocking rail links between Tiraspol and Varnita. Moldova, Snegur said, "was about to have its energy resources cut" just ahead of the winter. As a result, it was decided that "Smirnov is not worth as much as a whole country" and he was set free. MS

MOLDOVAN PARTIES POSTPONE MERGER

National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) leader Valeriu Muravschi on 21 September told Flux that the merger of the PNTCD with other extraparliamentary formations has been postponed from 23 September to 7 October. The merger was to encompass the six parties that set up in May the Democratic Forum, namely the PNTCD, the Party of Democratic Forces, the Civic Dignity Party, the New Moldovan National Party, the National Liberal Party (PNL), and the Party of Order and Social Justice (PODS). The PNL and the PODS have since decided to merge separately, and Muravschi said he hopes that formation will form an alliance with the envisaged unified party. Also on 21 September, the Democratic Party and the Party of Progressive Forces announced they will form an electoral bloc for the next local elections and that they envisage an eventual merger. MS

LIBYA POSTPONES VERDICT IN TRIAL OF BULGARIANS

A Libyan court on 22 September postponed passing verdicts on the six Bulgarians accused of having willfully infected children with the HIV virus, AP and Reuters reported. Bulgarian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Elena Poptodorova said the postponement "gives us reason to be optimistic, as it would give the court more time to consider the evidence presented by the defense." She said the verdict is now expected on 22 December. Parliamentary Chairman Ognyan Gerdzhikov said that the postponement "and the presence of Western diplomats" at the court's session "could mean a new chance for our compatriots." MS




There is no End Note today.





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