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Newsline - September 25, 2001




PUTIN OUTLINES FIVE-PART ANTITERRORISM PROGRAM...

In a countrywide broadcast on 24 September, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia's position on terrorism remains "unchanged," Russian agencies reported. He said Moscow's position concerning the planned American antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan includes five provisions: active cooperation among intelligence agencies, the opening of Russian airspace for humanitarian missions, agreement with Central Asian allies on overflights, participation in search and rescue operations, and expanded cooperation with the Northern Alliance Afghan government. He noted that "other, more extensive forms of cooperation are possible." PG

...ANNOUNCES CREATION OF RUSSIAN COORDINATING GROUP...

To coordinate Russia's actions in these areas, President Putin said in his 24 September broadcast that he has created a coordinating group to be chaired by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. Putin said this group will both collect and analyze information about the terrorist threat and also interact with those taking part in the antiterrorist operation. PG

...LINKS RUSSIAN ACTIONS IN CHECHNYA TO ANTITERRORIST CAMPAIGN...

President Putin said in his 24 September broadcast that "the events in Chechnya cannot be considered outside of the context of the struggle with international terrorism." Allowing for the possibility that some Chechen militants may have taken up arms against Russia "under the influence of false and distorted values," Putin said that Moscow is prepared to offer those who "still have not laid down their arms in Chechnya" a chance over the next 72 hours to turn themselves in to the authorities. He did not specify what the Russian authorities would do to those who fail to turn themselves in. The Russian president added that he has named Viktor Kazantsev, the presidential envoy to the Southern federal district, to oversee this process. PG

...AND REPORTS ON HIS MEETING WITH RUSSIAN MUSLIM LEADERS...

During his televised speech on 24 September, Putin said that he wanted to say "several words" about his meeting earlier in the day with leaders of the Muslim spiritual directorates of Russia. He noted that this session took place "on their initiative" and said that they proposed holding in Moscow an international Islamic conference under the slogan "Islam Is Against Terror." Putin said Russia is against extremism of any kind and is not conducting a campaign against Islam. PG

...HAVING CONSULTED WITH PARLIAMENTARIANS BEFOREHAND

President Putin met with members of the State Council, Federation Council, and the Duma prior to giving his countrywide address on 24 September, Russian agencies reported. Putin said that he wanted to brief them on his plans before speaking to the nation. During the meeting, Putin stressed that he has had intensive discussions with international leaders and the Russian security community over the last few days and wanted to hear the views of the country's political leaders. VY

DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS AFGHANISTAN, CHECHNYA 'TWO BRANCHES OF ONE TREE'

Defense Minister Ivanov said on 24 September that "Afghanistan and Chechnya are two branches of one tree," adding that "the roots of the tree are in Afghanistan," RIA-Novosti reported. Ivanov said that terrorism grows most easily in places no one controls, such as Afghanistan and parts of the Philippines. Ivanov also said that the solution to the problem of terrorism requires more than military strikes. He said Russia has no plans to participate in any U.S. raid on Afghanistan. The same day, representatives of Russian special services said they have arrested a man in Chechnya who was carrying plans for the strikes on the World Trade Center, Interfax reported. VY/PG

'VEK' SAYS MOSCOW SHOULD FOLLOW U.S. IN IGNORING BORDERS AND EXTEND FIGHT AGAINST CHECHNYA INTO GEORGIA

Writing in "Vek," No. 37, Valerii Solovei said that American plans to attack terrorists wherever they are found regardless of national borders provide a justification for Russia to do the same and cross into Georgia if need be to defeat the Chechen militants. Meanwhile, Akhmar Zavgaev, the Chechen member of Russia's Federation Council, said he expects the fall session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to assess the situation in Chechnya "more objectively and reasonably than before" because of the 11 September terrorist attacks, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 September. That view was repeated by presidential adviser Sergei Yastrzhembskii, Interfax reported the same day. But PACE Chairman Lord Russell-Johnston said on 24 September that the terrorist acts in the U.S. "have not changed the position of the European parliamentarians to the situation in the Chechen Republic." PG

GOVERNMENT TO PROPOSE STRICTER ANTITERRORISM LAW

Aleksandr Kotenkov, the Kremlin's representative in the Duma, said on 24 September that the presidential administration intends to introduce a new, updated antiterrorism bill because the versions presented earlier are now "absolutely unacceptable," Interfax reported. Justice Minister Yurii Chaika called the same day for the rapid adoption of new laws to combat terrorism, the news agency reported. Meanwhile, Russian politicians continued to discuss how to react to Washington's antiterrorist effort. Duma deputy (Peoples' Deputy) Gennadii Raikov said on 24 September that any such effort must proceed under the UN flag, Interfax reported. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said he will appeal to President Putin not to allow Russia to be dragged into "a war with the Islamic world," while National Bolshevik Party leader Anatolii Tishin said that Russia should be supporting the Taliban against the United States, the news agency said. PG

FOREIGN MINISTER PROPOSES CALLING SPECIAL UN SESSION ON TERRORIST THREATS

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told the UN General Assembly in New York on 24 August that Moscow would like to see a special UN session convened on new terrorist challenges to global security and the problems of nonproliferation, Russian and Western agencies reported. Such a session, Ivanov said, could also take up disarmament questions as well, including Moscow's proposal to cut the number of nuclear weapons held by Russia and the United States to 1,500 each. In his address, Ivanov said Moscow would like to see the establishment of a global system to counter terrorism and give early warning of terrorist attacks, Interfax reported. Ivanov also called for the development of more balanced rules to govern global trade. VY/PG

PUTIN WARNS AGAINST 'DIZZINESS FROM SUCCESS'

President Putin said on 24 September that Russia's economic performance is not bad, but he nonetheless said that "dizziness from success" is "impermissible," Russian agencies reported. (Putin's words recall those that Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin used during the collectivization campaign.) Putin called on Duma deputies and government officials to work carefully on the budget and to consider all possible risks. The same day, the State Statistics Committee reported that Russia's GDP in the first eight months of 2001 was 5.9 percent greater than in the same period in 2000 after being adjusted for inflation, Russian agencies reported. Unemployment fell 18.7 percent from August 2000 to August 2001, Interfax reported also on 24 September. PG

PUTIN LOOKS FORWARD TO GERMAN VISIT

President Putin will make his first state visit to Germany on 25-27 September, Russian and Western agencies reported. In advance of his visit, Putin gave an interview published in the German newspaper "Bild" in which he said that he finds it easier to deal with current German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder than with Schroeder's predecessor Helmut Kohl because Schroeder is a man of Putin's own generation. PG

SPECIAL STRUCTURE TO PROTECT STATE SECRETS CREATED

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 24 September signed a directive creating a new Directorate for the Protection of State Secrets and a Control Directorate, gazeta.ru reported. A government spokesman said that the new structures will be integrated into the government's existing structure and allow for "better distribution of functions within the government and the coordination of efforts to fight international terrorism." VY

AGRARIANS BEGIN FORMAL PREPARATIONS FOR A REFERENDUM

Aleksandr Veshnyakov, the head of the Central Election Commission, said on 24 September that the Agrarian Party of Russia has begun the process of registering for the collection of the 2 million signatures needed to call for a referendum on the buying and selling of land, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the same day that Russians now face a dilemma that citizens of other countries have long confronted: "Is it more profitable to own or rent?" PG

BUSINESS SEEN FINANCING MAJOR PARTIES...

According to an article in "Russkii fokus," No. 23, most of Russia's major parties now rely on major businesses to finance their operations, sometimes by selling places on party lists to businessmen. The article noted that the link between businesses and parties will only grow because it currently costs up to $2 million to launch a major party in Russia. PG

...AS RADICAL LEFT PARTIES SEEN AS UNLIKELY TO SURVIVE BUT STILL MAKING NOISE

The new law on political parties does not give the radical left communist movements much chance for survival even if they all unite, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 22 September. They are simply too small and too concentrated to meet the new law's provisions. But such groups can still attract attention: on 24 September, they staged a demonstration at the Yugoslav Embassy in Moscow in support of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Interfax reported. PG

MOSCOW NEGOTIATING TO OBTAIN NUCLEAR WASTE IMPORTS

Academician Zhores Alferov, the chairman of the government commission on nuclear waste management, said on 24 September that his group has entered into negotiations with a number of countries about their possible dispatch to Russia of nuclear wastes for permanent storage, Interfax reported. He said Taiwan and Switzerland have shown particular interest in the program, but added that it is still early to talk about contacts, noting that "the struggle for the nuclear waste market" will be long and complicated. PG

DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS BALTIC EU MEMBERSHIP MAY HAVE NEGATIVE IMPACT ON RUSSIA

Speaking at the Baltic Forum in St. Petersburg on 24 September, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said Moscow is concerned that future Baltic membership in the European Union may have negative consequences for Russian exports, RIA-Novosti reported. If the Baltic countries become EU members, Klebanov noted, Russian exports through those countries will become subject to EU antidumping rules and maximum quotas will be set on exporting oil and nuclear fuel. Consequently, Klebanov said, Russia will seek a special agreement lest it be forced to raise prices and price itself out of the market. At the same time, however, he indicated that the Nordic-Baltic region is becoming ever more important for Russia as a bridge to Europe. VY

RUSSIAN DELEGATION ARRIVES IN BAGHDAD

A delegation of Duma deputies and journalists arrived in Baghdad on 24 September to study the situation there, ITAR-TASS reported. The direct charter flight that carried them from Moscow to Baghdad was the 25th such flight since the route opened last year, the agency said. Meanwhile, Russian officials said in Moscow the same day that Russia may sell some of its grain to Baghdad later this year. PG

MOSCOW SYNAGOGUE VANDALIZED

Russia's Chief Rabbi Adolf Shaevich said on 24 September that vandals drew swastikas and anti-Semitic epithets on Moscow's main synagogue and below the office windows of Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt in the early morning hours of 23 September, Western agencies reported. Shaevich said, "Our security is very good, but perhaps they lost some vigilance because it has been peaceful recently." The U.S.-based National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ) said in a press release the same day that "these incidents underscore the need for year-round protection of Jewish institutions" in Russia. PG

RAPID GROWTH PREDICTED FOR AVIATION SECTOR

Deputy Prime Minister Klebanov said on 24 September that the country's civil aviation network will need to purchase 800 to 1,000 planes by 2010, Interfax reported. He also said that new international aviation standards will not have serious consequences for Russian carriers, many of which now operate with planes that do not meet those noise and pollution standards. Aviation companies called for the government to invest more in their sector, the news agency reported the same day. PG

DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS GOVERNMENT WILL DECIDE ON GAS PRICES

Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said on 24 September that there will not be any increase in gas prices without the prior approval of the government, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, as part of the effort to regulate domestic supplies and prices, the government raised export duties on some types of oil and cut them on gas, the news agency said. But the gas companies continue to nurture ambitious plans: Gazprom head Aleksei Miller said the same day that his company plans to maintain its 25 percent share of the European gas market over the next decade, Interfax-AFI reported. PG

RUSSIA'S POPULATION DECLINE ACCELERATES

The State Statistics Committee said on 24 September that the population of Russia declined during the first seven months of 2001 by 530,800 people or 0.4 percent, Interfax reported. During the same period in 2000, the country's population declined by only 471,200 or 0.3 percent, the committee said. Moreover, during the January-July 2001 period, immigration compensated for only 5.5 percent of the total loss, a figure also lower than in earlier years. Meanwhile, officials at the Federation, Nationalities, and Migration Policy Ministry said that there may be 1.5 million or even more illegal residents currently living in Russia, the news agency said. PG

ONE-THIRD OF POPULATION IN MIDSIZED TOWNS FEEL IGNORED

Yeleonora Sheremetyeva, the mayor of Uglich and the head of the national association of small and midsized towns, told journalists who visited her town over the weekend that one-third of the population living in cities and towns with a population of between 20,000 and 200,000 feel that their problems receive little attention from the federal government, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 September. PG

ETHNIC GREEKS OF SIBERIA GET ORGANIZED

Ethnic Greeks across Siberia are organizing a regional national culture association to protect their traditions and strengthen ties with Greece, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 September. In Tomsk, activists from this association have opened a school where children are instructed in contemporary Greek language and literature. PG

GRAIN HARVEST EVEN LARGER THAN PROJECTED

Officials at the Russian Agriculture Ministry on 24 September increased their forecast for the 2001 grain harvest to as much as 77 million tons, but added that some may be lost because of the lack of harvesting equipment, Russian and Western agencies reported. Some agricultural experts said that this year's crop could actually reach 81-85 million tons before losses, Reuters reported. PG

COMPLETE EXPLANATION FOR 'KURSK' DISASTER MAY NEVER BE FOUND

Deputy Prime Minister Klebanov, who heads the government commission for investigating the causes of the August 2000 sinking of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine, told Interfax on 24 September that even after the submarine is raised, not all questions about its sinking may be answered. Meanwhile, bad weather and new problems led officials to suggest again that the date for the raising of the submarine might be delayed, but not beyond 29-30 September. PG

NEW GENERATION OF ICEBREAKERS NEEDED FOR ARCTIC SEA ROUTE

Aleksandr Ushakov, the head of the Northern Route administration of the Transportation Ministry, told Interfax on 24 September that Russia will need to develop a new generation of atomic-powered icebreakers if it wants to keep the entire Arctic route open year-round. At present, he said, existing icebreakers can only keep the western sections of the route open all year. PG

MORE THAN 50 PERCENT OF RUSSIA'S MILITARY AIRFIELDS NEED REPAIRS

Russian air force officials told Interfax on 23 September that more than half of the country's more than 140 military airfields need serious repairs to their runways and that virtually all of them need upgrades in their electronic infrastructure. If nothing is done, the officials said, the number needing massive runway repairs will rise to 80 percent by 2005. PG

SERBSKII INSTITUTE COMPLETES EXAMINATION OF BUDANOV

Psychiatrists at Moscow's Serbskii Institute announced on 24 September that they have concluded their examination of Colonel Yurii Budanov, who is accused of murdering an 18-year-old Chechen woman, but refused to divulge their findings, Interfax reported. If Budanov is adjudged sane, he could face up to 15 years in prison; if he is found to be mentally incapacitated in some way, his sentence would be only three years. This is the third time Budanov has been examined by psychiatrists. PG

RUSSIANS SAY THEY SAVED SWITZERLAND -- IN 1799

Russian diplomats in Switzerland on 24 September laid wreaths at a monument in the Swiss village of Andermatt in honor of Russian Marshal Aleksandr Suvorov, who 202 years ago on that date crossed the Alps and prevented Napoleon from entering Switzerland, RTR television reported. Russian historians noted on the program that this action preserved Swiss neutrality. VY

THE .SU RETURNS ON THE INTERNET

The Fund for the Development of the Internet told Interfax on 24 September that as of 1 October 2001, Internet users may again register with the domain .su. The fund's spokesmen said such registration will cost $15,000, and that they hope it will be used across the former USSR. PG

ROSTOV INCUMBENT WINS...

As expected, incumbent Rostov Oblast Governor Vladimir Chub won reelection in the ballot held on 23 September. According to preliminary results, Chub polled 78.1 percent of the vote, and the category "against all candidates" came in second with 12.68 percent, Interfax reported the next day. The only other registered candidate, Petr Voloshin, the head of Zimovnikovskii Raion, came in third with 7.4 percent. Local Communist Party leader Leonid Ivanchenko, who was unable to overturn a decision by the local oblast commission banning him from participating in the election, commented that the results cannot be considered legitimate. Ivanchenko also told local reporters that Communist Party election observers believe that no more than 35 percent of registered voters participated in the election -- rather than the 48 percent the local election commission is claiming. JAC

...AS CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION ISSUES ITS SEAL OF APPROVAL

At the same time, Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told reporters in Moscow that the election was observed by a number of representatives of different public movements and parties, and not one serious complaint was made. According to Interfax, Veshnyakov said that the likelihood of the Supreme Court overturning the election result is small. Presidential envoy to the Southern federal district Kazantsev announced that he is certain that "Rostov Oblast will become the example for how to conduct elections for the republics of Agydei, Kalmykia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and North Ossetia, which will hold elections next year." JAC

REGIONAL LEGISLATURES CONTINUE TO PASS LOCAL LAWS VIOLATING FEDERAL LEGISLATION

Sergei Medvedev, the deputy head of administration of the Prosecutor-General's Office in the Siberian federal district, told Interfax-Eurasia on 24 September that 160 normative acts remains on the books in that district that violate federal laws. The Siberian region with the highest number of laws in violation is the Altai Republic with 30, followed by the Altai Krai with 24, and Novosibirsk Oblast with 18. The constitution of the Altai Republic along with Buryatia's and Khakasia's are also in violation of the Federal Constitution, according to Medvedev. He also reported that of the laws and normative acts passed by legislative assemblies in the district this year, some 10-15 percent have been challenged in court by prosecutorial organs. JAC

ANOTHER DUMA DEPUTY SPEAKS OUT AGAINST LATIN SCRIPT FOR TATAR LANGUAGE

Bashkortostan Academy of Sciences President and State Duma deputy (Russian Regions) Robert Nigmatulin told reporters on 20 September that the introduction of Latin script for the Tatar written language will result in the break of the Tatar language from the Bashkir language as well as from Russian language and culture, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 24 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2001). Nigmatulin said that this is not "a private issue of Tatarstan." In an earlier interview with Russian Television (RTR) on 18 September, he called for resolving the question at the federal level. During that same RTR program, Marat Murtazin, rector of the Islamic University, also condemned the Latinization program, saying that it should be "forbidden to experiment on a people, abandoning one plan for another." JAC

...AS TATARSTAN OFFICIALS STAND FAST

"Our children will lose the opportunity to read, to read literature that was written in the Tatar language during the last 70 years," he continued. According to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau, Nigmatulin and Murtazin admitted at a Moscow press conference that they themselves do not read any books or newspapers in Tatar -- even in Cyrillic script. Meanwhile, local Tatarstan officials were defiant. Farid Mukhametshin, chairman of Tatarstan's Legislative Assembly, said on 21 September that federal authorities cannot legally block the switch to Latin script. And Mansur Khasanov, president of the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences, said that if the State Duma votes to prohibit the switch, this would be a "return to the past" and would represent the annihilation of Tatarstan's sovereignty. JAC

WOMAN ARRESTED IN CHECHNYA FOR TENDING TO WOUNDED FIGHTERS

Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officials have arrested an unnamed woman in Gudermes for providing medical assistance to supporters of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 September. The FSB agents claimed to have found documentation at her home proving she participated in the January 1996 attack by Salman Raduev on the Daghestan town of Kizlyar. LF




ARMENIAN-RUSSIAN INTERPARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION MEETS

A Russian State Duma delegation headed by former USSR Council of Ministers Chairman Nikolai Ryzhkov attended the third session of the Armenian-Russian interparliamentary commission in Yerevan on 24 September, Noyan Tapan reported. Discussions focused on bilateral economic cooperation in general, and specifically on implementation of the agreements signed 10 days earlier during Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Armenia. Ryzhkov argued that the Medzamor nuclear power station should continue to operate until at least 2013-2015. In 1996, Armenia assured the EU it would close Medzamor by 2004, but since late 1998 Armenian energy officials have consistently argued that it will not be feasible to do so unless alternative energy generating capacity totaling 600 megawatts is in place (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 1998, 27 June 1999, and 19 June 2001). Ryzhkov also implied that Moscow would prefer that Armenia purchase Russian gas rather than proceed with construction of the planned Iran-Armenia gas pipeline, and may offer price concessions as an incentive to do so. LF

ARMENIA AGAIN AFFIRMS READINESS TO COOPERATE AGAINST INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM

Speaking in Yerevan on 24 September at a meeting with visiting EU officials, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian again said Yerevan is ready to cooperate with the U.S. and the international community to fight international terrorist groups thought to be responsible for the 1 September attacks in the U.S., RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But he declined to specify what form Armenia's support for such military action might take. LF

TOP AZERBAIJAN OIL OFFICIAL BRINGS SECOND LAWSUIT AGAINST OPPOSITION POLITICIAN

Natik Aliev, president of the Azerbaijan State Oil Company SOCAR, has filed suit for a second time against Azerbaijan National Independence Party Chairman Etibar Mamedov in connection with the latter's allegations last month that up to 1.5 million tons of oil is illegally exported from Azerbaijan via Iran every year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2001). A Baku district court ruled on 14 September that Mamedov must publicly apologize for those allegations, but Mamedov's lawyer said he will appeal that ruling. Aliyev has now demanded that Mamedov make a payment of 100 million manats ($213,200) to a Baku children's home in compensation for his incriminating statements. LF

PRESIDENT DOUBTS GEORGIA'S ABILITY TO CONTRIBUTE TO U.S. RETALIATORY STRIKES

It is doubtful whether Georgia's military bases are of a suitable standard for use during the expected U.S. retaliatory strikes against international terrorists in Afghanistan, President Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 24 September. He pledged that Georgia will nonetheless offer any support that it can for such an operation. Interfax on 21 September quoted Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze as saying that the U.S. had not requested the use of either Georgian airspace or military facilities as of that time. LF

PARLIAMENT DEPUTY WANTS NATO TO PROTECT GEORGIA AGAINST ANTICIPATED RUSSIAN ATTACK

Georgian parliament deputy Koba Davitashvili, who quit the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia faction earlier this month to protest the Georgian government's failure to take effective measures to combat corruption, on 25 September appealed to fellow legislators to ask NATO to send troops to Georgia as a deterrent against an anticipated attack by Russia on Georgian territory under the guise of punitive action against "Chechen terrorists," Caucasus Press reported. LF

UNFROCKED GEORGIAN PRIEST ANNOUNCES NEW CRUSADE AGAINST NON-ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS

Father Basil Mzekalashvili, whose followers have systematically assaulted Jehovah's Witnesses in Tbilisi and other Georgian towns, on 24 September staged a march in Tbilisi that was intended to mark the beginning of a new campaign against all non-Orthodox religious groups in Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. Mzekalashvili and his followers forcibly broke up a meeting of evangelists in Tbilisi on 23 September, according to "Rezonansi." LF

NO PROGRESS IN TALKS ON SOUTH OSSETIA

The most recent round of talks on ways to resolve the conflict between the central Georgian government and the unrecognized breakaway Republic of South Ossetia, held in Bucharest from 14-19 September, made no progress whatsoever, and the Georgian delegation has threatened to boycott any further such talks as a waste of time, according to Caucasus Press on 24 September. The Georgian, South Ossetian, and Russian delegations focused on South Ossetia's future status within Georgia and reconstruction of the devastated region's infrastructure. The Georgian leadership has said it will not fund any such reconstruction unless South Ossetia agrees to the status of "broad autonomy" within Georgia (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 4, 25 January 2001). Meanwhile on 19 September, South Ossetian President Lyudvig Chibirov scheduled presidential elections for 18 November and announced his intention to run for a further term. The opposition Ademon Nykhas movement, which advocates South Ossetia's unification with the Republic of North Ossetia-Alaniya, has accused Chibirov of planning to sell out to Georgia, but has not yet proposed a rival presidential candidate. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT OFFERS U.S. USE OF AIRFIELDS

Speaking at a press conference in Astana on 24 September, President Nursultan Nazarbaev said Kazakhstan is ready "to support an action against terrorism with all the means at its disposal," Reuters and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Asked whether Astana would make its military bases available to the U.S., he replied in the affirmative, but added that the U.S. has not yet made any specific request for aid of any kind. LF

...DENIES PLANS TO RESIGN, PLEDGES SUCCESSION WILL BE DEMOCRATIC

At the same press conference, Nazarbaev rejected as unfounded rumors that he plans to step down, Interfax reported. Nazarbaev, who celebrated his 61st birthday in July, declared that, his hitherto robust health permitting, he will serve at least to the end of his current term in January 2007, after which, he pointed out, he may seek a further presidential term. He also denied planning to ensure that a member of his family succeed him as president. "What succession can there be in a democratic state?" Nazarbaev asked, stressing that Kazakhstan has "laid the foundations" for becoming a democratic state. LF

KAZAKHSTAN PREPARES TO RECEIVE COETHNICS FROM AFGHANISTAN...

Nazarbaev declared at his 24 September news conference that his country is prepared to shelter refugees fleeing from Afghanistan, Interfax reported. But he apparently failed to clarify whether he was referring specifically to the estimated 300,000 ethnic Kazakhs now living in Kazakhstan, or to members of other ethnic groups as well. Sherim Asilbekov, who heads the migration department within the South Kazakhstan Oblast administration, said that the entire Kazakh community in Afghanistan wants to leave that country, but that his region could offer accommodation to only 25,000 of them. He added that the oblast's budget for resettlers amounts to only 11 million tenges ($75,500), which is sufficient only to provide for 1,000 resettlers for one month. He estimated the total monthly cost of providing for 25,000 refugees at 1 billion tenges. LF

...HAVING EXPELLED KYRGYZ TRADERS

Also on 24 September, representatives of an estimated 700 Kyrgyz traders who have just been expelled from Kazakhstan staged a protest outside the Kazakh Embassy in Bishkek, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The traders, who ran market stalls in Almaty, said the Kazakh police began rounding them up on 21 September, annulled their registration papers with no explanation, and transported them to the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border. The total number of Kyrgyz traders in Kazakhstan is estimated at 7,000. LF

SAUDI ARABIA PROPOSES THAT KAZAKHSTAN SHOULD JOIN OPEC

After talks with President Nazarbaev in Astana on 24 September, Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi told journalists that it is in the interest of all countries that are exporters of petroleum to propose that Kazakhstan join OPEC, Interfax reported. He added that Kazakhstan will attend an OPEC conference in Vienna on 26 September as an observer. But regardless of whether or not Kazakhstan becomes an OPEC member, al-Naimi said, his country will expand cooperation with it in the oil and gas sector. Kazakhstan's Energy Minister Vladimir Shkolnik said Kazakhstan may join OPEC "in a year or two." LF

U.S. ACCEPTS OFFERED USE OF KYRGYZ AIRSPACE

After consultation with fellow signatories to the CIS Collective Security Treaty, Kyrgyzstan has offered to open its airspace to U.S. aircraft for use during a counterterrorism strike against Afghanistan, President Askar Akaev announced in Bishkek on 25 September. He said that offer was accepted. LF

TAJIK, UZBEK OFFICIALS CONTINUE TO DENY ARRIVAL OF U.S. TROOPS, AIRCRAFT

Interfax-AVN on 24 September quoted unnamed officials from both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as continuing to deny Western media reports that the U.S. has already sent military aircraft or troops to either country in preparation for a strike against terrorist bases in Afghanistan. But addressing a congress that day of the People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan which he heads, Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov again expressed his willingness to cooperate with the U.S. government in hunting down the terrorists. AFP on 24 September quoted U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell as saying he has no knowledge of the arrival of U.S. electronic surveillance planes in Uzbekistan. LF

LEADER OF CLANDESTINE MUSLIM GROUP SENTENCED TO DEATH IN UZBEKISTAN

A court in Khorezm on 24 September sentenced the leader of a clandestine Muslim group to death on charges of having planned to hijack an airplane to Afghanistan, AP reported. Nineteen of his followers received prison sentences ranging from four to 21 years. The group was arrested in June. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT REVAMPS GOVERNMENT...

Alyaksandr Lukashenka has reorganized the government, reducing the number of ministries from 44 to 28, Belarusian Television reported on 24 September. Key ministers from the former cabinet of Uladzimir Yarmoshyn retained their posts, including Finance Minister Mikalay Korbut, Economy Minister Uladzimir Shymau, Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastou, Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumau, and Defense Minister Leanid Maltsau. Lukashenka also reappointed two former deputy prime ministers, Andrey Kabyakou and Alyaksandr Papkou, and named two new ones -- Uladzimir Drazhyn and Syarhey Sidorski. The Belarusian president said Yarmoshyn will most likely be reappointed as prime minister, but he pledged to decide on this nomination after the cabinet has been completed. JM

...PREPARES TO HINDER INFLOW OF AFGHAN REFUGEES...

Lukashenka told journalists that the Belarusian authorities are preparing to counteract a possible huge influx of Afghan refugees should the U.S. conduct retaliatory strikes in Afghanistan. "You are aware of this illegal migration, and that we have been detaining hosts of people on the Polish border, deporting them -- but they keep coming there. As of today, there are about 100,000 such migrants in Belarus. Thank God, they still behave decently. But their number can increase. So we are preparing to thwart the influx of illegal migrants here, but Western Europe should understand that they will not escape this surge. A road, a wide road through Belarus, Ukraine, and the Baltic countries has already been paved," Belarusian Television quoted him as saying. JM

...PLEDGES TO ATTRACT FOREIGN INVESTORS

Lukashenka announced that the new government will work toward attracting foreign investors to Belarus. "Keen interest in our enterprises is being manifested not only by Russian capital but also by major international companies and corporations as well as Western states. I feel that, following the [presidential] election, strong competition has begun for the right to invest money in our economy," Lukashenka noted. JM

UKRAINE OPENS AIRSPACE TO U.S. MILITARY CARGO FLIGHTS

Ukraine's Council of National Security and Defense (RNBO) has agreed to allow the U.S. military overflight rights to the country's airspace, Interfax reported on 24 September, quoting deputy parliamentary speaker Viktor Medvedchuk. Medvedchuk said the decision was made at Washington's request. According to Medvedchuk, the RNBO decision will by confirmed by a presidential decree and does not require parliamentary approval. RNBO head Yevhen Marchuk said Washington has assured Kyiv that U.S. planes flying over Ukraine will not be carrying weapons of mass destruction, military aircraft, helicopters, tanks, or heavy artillery, since flights with such cargos must be approved by the Ukrainian parliament. UNIAN reported that leaders of parliamentary caucuses met with President Leonid Kuchma on 24 September and assured the president of their support for the RNBO decision regarding U.S. flights over Ukraine. JM

UNATTENDED NUCLEAR-WASTE STORAGE FOUND IN UKRAINE

An unattended nuclear-waste storage facility has been found near Zhytomyr, central Ukraine, UNIAN reported on 24 September, quoting the local newspaper "Misto." In the article entitled "Nuclear Bomb Near Zhytomyr," the newspaper reported that unknown people found a concrete well with wooden boxes cast in concrete. The boxes contained steel blocks marked as radioactive substance. Each steel block emits from 0.017 to 1.2 milliroentgens per hour, while the maximal permissible emission level is 0.03 milliroentgens per hour. The newspaper said a Soviet army unit that stored nuclear warheads was previously deployed at the site. The newspaper added that Ukraine's Security Service has instructed the local authorities to urgently isolate the radiation sources. JM

ESTONIA'S RULING COALITION PROMISES NOT TO QUARREL

The coalition council of Pro Patria Union, the Reform Party, and the Moderates decided on 24 September that they would avoid mutual accusations concerning their defeat in the recent presidential elections, ETA reported. The council's chairman, Andres Tarand of the Moderates, asserted: "All the partners will wash their dirty laundry on their own." He also affirmed that the coalition will never agree to the suggestion of Reform Party Deputy Chairman Meelis Atonen that the opposition People's Union should be invited to join the ruling coalition. Prime Minister Mart Laar told reporters that the defeat should have a positive effect on the coalition by making clear the need for its members to work together. He said that the coalition will not join forces against the new president, Arnold Ruutel, but will work with him "in a matter of fact way." SG

WORLD BANK WANTS LATVIA TO RAISE EXCISE TAX ON TOBACCO

The World Bank mission to Latvia is urging the country to raise its excise tax on tobacco to the EU's recommended level of 57 percent of the average price of a pack of cigarettes, BNS reported on 24 September. The head of the World Bank project "Latvian Health Reform," Dominic Haazen, told reporters that day, "Experience of many world countries shows that the most effective means to fight smoking is to increase the excise tax on tobacco." Latvian Finance Ministry Excise Tax Department head Maris Juruss noted that the current excise tax of 5.1 lats ($8.24) and 6.1 lats per 1,000 filter and nonfilter cigarettes, respectively, is about 42 percent of the average price of that benchmark. He said Latvia will not raise the excise tax to the recommended level any earlier than in 10 years because any increase greater than 1-2 percent per year would result in an increase in contraband cigarettes. SG

POWELL URGES BALTIC STATES TO DEVELOP ANTITERRORISM PROGRAMS

In a letter to Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell asked the three Baltic states to develop both individually and in concert an action program to contribute to the worldwide fight against terrorism, BNS reported on 24 September. He noted "We have rededicated ourselves to a vision in which your country and the other Baltic states have a vital role to play. We remain steadfast in our commitment to help you prepare yourselves for full integration in the trans-Atlantic community." Powell wrote that the Baltic states, under the U.S.-Baltic Charter and through the Baltic Partnership Commission, can contribute to the effort to fight international terrorism. The three Baltic foreign ministers had planned to meet Powell earlier this month in Washington, where they were to attend a Baltic Partnership Commission meeting. However, that meeting was canceled after the terrorist attacks of 11 September. SG

UNCERTAINTY HANGS OVER POLAND'S NEW GOVERNMENT

According to unofficial election results released on 24 September by the PBS polling center, the leftist coalition of the Democratic Left Alliance with the Labor Union (SLD-UP) will have 219 seats in the new parliament, 12 seats short of an outright majority, Polish media reported. "It is hard to say if any group has an identical program with the [SLD]," SLD leader Leszek Miller told Polish Radio the same day. Miller added that seeking a coalition partner can mean "difficult talks, a waste of time, perhaps some fierce disputes." Analysts suggest that the SLD-UP could enter a coalition with the Peasant Party (PSL), which is predicted to have some 40 parliamentary mandates. An SLD-PSL coalition already ran the government in 1993-97. The centrist Civic Platform, which finished second in the 23 September election and can expect more than 6O mandates, has ruled out a coalition with the SLD-UP, but indicated that it will support a leftist government on critical matters regarding the budget and reforms necessary to join the EU. JM

POLISH PREMIER TO DECIDE ON RESIGNATION AFTER OFFICIAL ELECTION RESULTS

Jerzy Buzek on 24 said he will make a decision concerning his resignation after the State Election Commission announces official election results on 26 September, PAP reported. Buzek noted that, according to the constitution, his government still has an obligation to prepare the budget law. According to preliminary results, Buzek's election committee, the Solidarity Electoral Action of the Right, will not receive a single seat in the parliament. JM

CZECHS SAY RESPONSE TO TERRORISM WILL DEEPEN COOPERATION WITH EU

While Czechs should not expect any direct impact on EU accession from this month's terrorist attacks on the U.S., the Czech Republic's state secretary for European affairs, Pavel Telicka, said they will raise questions regarding increased cooperation in specific areas, CTK reported on 25 September, citing an interview in the daily "Pravo." Telicka said the EU is likely to more closely monitor aspiring members' adoption of European law in their justice systems, law enforcement and other Interior Ministry functions, and protection of the Schengen area that allows for the free movement of labor within the EU, the agency reported. He said heightened scrutiny would be particularly noticeable in "internal security protection." Telicka added that no candidate countries will be obliged to fully implement the Schengen system at their international airports upon EU entry. AH

CZECH INTERIOR MINISTER WARNS OF INCREASED ASYLUM REQUESTS

Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said on 24 September that an increased number of refugees will likely seek asylum in his country in the event of military conflict in the Middle East, CTK reported. Gross said this possibility prompted deputies in the lower house to fast-track a bill, which was passed on 21 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2001) and is awaiting Senate and presidential approval, to stiffen requirements and prevent abuse of the country's asylum laws. Ten asylum facilities and two remand facilities have been designated to hold refugees detained on the borders, CTK reported. Their capacity will increase in the following weeks, Gross added. Czech Police President Jiri Kolar said a new remand center for refugees detained on the borders will be opened soon in Prague. AH

CZECH LEADERS SAY POLISH ELECTIONS PRODUCED NO SURPRISES

Czech political leaders polled by CTK on 24 September expressed little surprise at the Polish left's apparent victory and said they think the result will not adversely affect good relations between the two countries. The right ascribed the election failure of their Polish colleagues to fragmentation of the Polish right, the agency reported. Parliamentary Chairman and head of the right-leaning Civic Democratic Party Vaclav Klaus called it a "probably unprecedented" rejection of the incumbent Solidarity government by "resolute" Polish voters. It shows the fallacy of recent attempts to lionize Poland as "the most brilliant example of a successful political, social, and economic transformation," added Klaus, who was Czech prime minister from 1992 to 1997. Deputy Prime Minister and Czech Social Democratic leader Vladimir Spidla called it a historical lesson from Poland, where "the right failed to cope with its political responsibility and totally flopped as the country's leader," CTK reported. Czech Senator Michael Zantovsky, whose ODA party is fighting for its survival, said the failure of a fractured right should serve as "a sign for other countries in the region," the agency reported. AH

BRITISH EXPAND CZECH AID PROGRAM

The British government announced plans to expand a year-old assistance program aimed at helping prepare the Czech Republic for EU entry by 2004, dpa reported on 24 September. The program provides technical and financial aid for projects ranging from minority rights to a DNA database to fight crime, and has already cost Britain more than 1 million pounds ($1.46 million), the agency reported. Other local and national reforms being targeted are tax-reform programs, combating xenophobia, improving Czech manufacturing competitiveness, and environmental clean up. Although the Czech Republic has met requirements for 19 of the 31 chapters needed for EU entry, Britain's minister for Europe, Peter Hain, said, "There is still much to do." AH

CZECH PRESIDENT HAVEL RECUPERATING IN HOSPITAL

Czech President Vaclav Havel is feeling well and has expressed an interest in events at home and abroad, his personal physician Ilja Kotik told CTK roughly 24 hours after the Czech leader canceled an official trip due to heart problems. The 64-year-old former dissident and playwright underwent a procedure to return his heart rate to normal after a bout of arrhythmia that scuttled a planned three-day visit to Italy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 2001). AH

SLOVAK EMBEZZLEMENT SCANDAL TO END WITHOUT PROSECUTION

Maria Kadlecikova, deputy premier in charge of European integration, on 24 September told Markiza TV that the Interior Ministry has advised the government not to prosecute anyone in connection with the scandal involving embezzlement of EU funds, CTK reported. Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda wrote to Guenter Verheugen, the EU's commissioner for enlargement, that an investigation had not confirmed embezzlement, but "only a lack of transparency, favoritism, and a clash of interests." Two Slovak officials, Pavol Hamzik (who was Kadlecikova's predecessor) and Ronald Toth, the former head of the Foreign Aid Department in the premier's office, were forced to resign when the scandal erupted in early 2001. MS

COLOMBIAN LEFTIST GUERRILLAS KIDNAP SLOVAK PRIEST

Guerrillas suspected of being members of the Cuban-inspired National Liberation Army in Columbia have kidnapped Slovak Roman Catholic priest Pavol Sochulak, Reuters reported on 24 September. A spokesman for the Order of the Divine World said Sochulak was abducted on 23 September after two men stopped the bus in which he was traveling from Medelin to Bogota. Sochulak worked as a parish priest in the province of Choco, one of Columbia's poorest regions. Sochulak has worked in Columbia for two years. MS

SLOVAKIA'S FIRST PRIVATE TV CHANNEL GOES ON AIR

TA3, Slovakia's first private television channel, started broadcasting on 23 September, AP reported the next day. The station is run by Martin Lengyel, a former spokesman for Premier Dzurinda, and its editor in chief is Zdenek Samal, who previously worked as a journalist for Czech public television. Lengyel said the station's main backer, U.K.-based Millennium Electronics, will invest 150 million Slovak crowns ($3.1 million) in the new venture. The station's debut comes less than a year ahead of general elections that will pit Dzurinda's fragile government coalition against an attempted return to power by former Premier and Movement for a Democratic Slovakia Chairman Vladimir Meciar. MS

HUNGARY APPROVES U.S. USE OF ITS AIRSPACE

By a vote of 272 to 12, the Hungarian parliament on 24 September approved a U.S. request to make Hungarian airspace and ground services available to aircraft taking part in military operations against terrorism (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 2001). Only the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party refused to support the decision, arguing that it is not even known against whom the U.S. action might be directed. In presenting the resolution, Prime Minister Viktor Orban asked parliamentary parties to set aside party policy disputes in order for the broadest possible cohesion to be achieved in combating international terrorism, Hungarian media reported. MSZ

INTERPOL HOLDS MEETING IN BUDAPEST

On 24 September, some 650 delegates from 140 countries attending Interpol's annual meeting in Budapest agreed to adopt a common stance against international terrorism. In his opening speech, Premier Orban said the meeting has taken on much greater significance in the wake of terrorist attacks against the United States. Interpol General Secretary Ronald K. Noble said a special task force has been set up to speed up the flow of information between Interpol headquarters and national police offices. MSZ

HUNGARIAN SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT ACCEPTS CHANGES IN SMALLHOLDER GROUP

Janos Ader on 24 September informed parliament prior to regular business that the six deputies expelled last week from the parliamentary group of the Independent Smallholders' Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 24 September 2001) will have to sit as independents, Hungarian media report. Ader also announced that Geza Gyimothy, one of the expelled deputies, is no longer the deputy speaker of parliament, and that Sandor Cseh and Laszlo Csucs have officially been admitted to the Smallholder parliamentary group. Group leader Peter Szentgyorgyvolgyi said it was decided that all Smallholder deputies will be obliged to vote in favor of government proposals. MSZ




MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES AMENDMENTS

After several days of delay and acrimonious debate, the parliament approved a package of 15 constitutional amendments on 24 September, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 2001, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 September 2001). The vote was 68 in favor, 24 against, and four abstentions. Following a public debate, the parliament will then have to ratify the package, but this time with a two-thirds majority, or 80 out of 120 possible votes. The amendments are an integral part of the political settlement signed by the leaders of the largest ethnic Macedonian and ethnic Albanian political parties in August. The constitutional changes are aimed at improving the lot of the Albanian minority, which makes up at least 23 percent of the population. PM

NATO'S ROBERTSON CALLS ON MACEDONIANS TO STICK TO SCHEDULE

Speaking in Skopje on 25 September, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said that the Atlantic alliance has done its part to collect weapons from the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK) and called on the parliament to ratify the amendments package, Reuters reported. He said: "The skeptics have been proven wrong. Arms have been handed in and the disarmament process has gone ahead... The politicians of this country...have an obligation to fulfill. We have done our part." But parliament has yet to approve a planned amnesty for UCK fighters who did not commit war crimes. Robertson said, "I am assured by President [Boris] Trajkovski that there will be an amnesty, and it is now time for the parliamentarians to enact this amnesty." Reuters quoted one Western observer as saying that "the problem now [without the amnesty] is that there may be conflicting expectations of NATO. The Albanians are looking to NATO to be their guarantor, while the Macedonians want it to ensure [that] their security forces reenter crisis areas." PM

MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN GUERRILLAS SURRENDER MORE WEAPONS THAN PLANNED

AP reported from Brodec on 24 September that the UCK has already given up more than the 3,300 weapons it is expected to surrender to NATO troops as part of Operation Essential Harvest. The mission ends on 26 September. PM

KOSOVA SERBS SET UP ELECTION COALITION

Daan Everts, the OSCE's chief representative in Kosova, certified the "Coalition Return" (KP) voter coalition for the 17 November elections, AP reported from Prishtina on 24 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 2001). The KP is headed by Sima Garikalovic, who lives in Bujanovac in southern Serbia. The bloc is backed by some 20 Serbian parties belonging or close to Belgrade's governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition. The term "return" can be understood in Serbian political discourse to mean the return of ethnic Serb refugees and displaced persons to their homes in Kosova, or the return of the province to Serbian rule. The news agency reported that it remains to be seen how many Serbs will actually cast their ballots. Some do not want to grant legitimacy to a political process that they cannot expect to dominate. Others feel that Serbs must take part if they want to help make decisions that directly affect them. PM

ALBANIAN EXTREMISTS BANNED FROM KOSOVA VOTE

Hans Haekkerup, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova, banned at least two unnamed "extremists" from running in the 17 November elections, dpa reported from Prishtina on 24 September. The two men's parties -- the National Movement for Liberation of Kosova (LKCK) and Kosova's Popular Movement (LPK) -- may field other candidates, however. The extremists' names appear on a list submitted by U.S. President George W. Bush in June as part of an executive order aimed at cutting off funding for the UCK in Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2001). PM

BOSNIAN LEADERS AGREE TO FIGHT TERRORISM

Members of the joint presidency and government, as well as the presidents and governments of both entities, agreed in Sarajevo on 24 September to tighten border controls and the procedures for issuing passports, AP reported. It is the first meeting of leaders from all three ethnic groups since the war began in 1992 to be held without international mediation. It is also the first unanimous decision reached by the usually fractious politicians. The leaders agreed that terrorism is a problem that cannot be ignored or exaggerated. They said in a statement that Bosnia is a democratic state based on the rule of law that is "ready for the institutional fight against all sorts of terrorism, and that it is safe and favorable for foreign investments." On 25 September, the Bosnian parliament passed a declaration against terrorism, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. PM

BOSNIAN MUSLIM GENERAL TURNS HIMSELF IN

Former Bosnian army commander and cabinet minister Sefer Halilovic voluntarily surrendered to UN authorities in The Hague on 25 September, Reuters reported. The war crimes tribunal has indicted him for crimes committed by his forces against Croats during the 1993-1994 Muslim-Croat conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 2001). PM

CROATIAN GOVERNMENT SETS UP CRISIS GROUP

Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic will head a top-level body to deal with "natural or other disasters," Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 24 September. The group will consist of eight government ministers. PM

CROATIAN TOURISM OFF AFTER TERROR ATTACKS IN U.S.

The terrorist attacks in the U.S. have led to an increase in the cancellation of hotel reservations in Croatia by 15 percent, "Jutarnji list" reported on 25 September (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 and 21 September 2001). PM

CROATIAN MILITARY SUPPORT FOR MACEDONIA

Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski discussed Croatian support for training "antiterror units" and other forms of military cooperation with his Croatian counterpart, Jozo Rados, in Zagreb on 20 September, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. The ministers provided no details of their talks, except to say that much of the substantive work was done by groups of experts and not by them. Rados noted that the two countries have a military cooperation program. He added, however, that unspecified media reports asserting that Croatia is a major arms supplier to Macedonia are greatly exaggerated. PM

CROATIA TO INVESTIGATE TITO'S PARTISANS FOR WAR CRIMES

The government has "given the green light" to legal proceedings that could result in former members of Marshal Josip Broz Tito's World War II Partisan movement being tried for war crimes, "Novi List" reported on 25 September. The move is aimed at clearing up unanswered questions from Croatia's recent past. "Vecernji list" quoted Slavko Zadnik of the state Prosecutor's Office as saying that the authorities will conduct thorough investigations, but that many key witnesses to such atrocities are now dead. PM

YUGOSLAVIA READMITTED TO INTERPOL

Following a nine-year ban, Belgrade's representatives have been readmitted to Interpol at that organization's gathering in Budapest, "Danas" reported on 25 September. PM

FORMER SERBIAN POLICE CHIEF DENIES ROLE IN ARKAN MURDER

Rade Markovic, who headed the secret police under former President Slobodan Milosevic, told a court in Belgrade that he had nothing to do with the murder of paramilitary leader and gangster Zeljko Raznatovic -- better known as Arkan -- in January 2000, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In related news, the Swiss authorities have blocked the bank accounts of four unnamed top Milosevic-era officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2001). PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WRITES TO BUSH

In a letter addressed to U.S. President George W. Bush, Romanian President Ion Iliescu wrote that his country "stands by the U.S. and the other states that assumed the responsibility to firmly defend liberty, democracy, human rights, peace, and international stability," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Iliescu said that "six decades of totalitarianism" have taught Romania "the price for defending liberty is worth paying," and that Romania is "determined to participate for as long as it takes in the struggle against terrorism." On 21 September, Iliescu and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase received new U.S. Ambassador Michael Guest. MS

MAVERICK ROMANIAN SENATOR OFFERS TO FOREGO IMMUNITY

Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor on 24 September sent Senate Chairman Nicolae Vacaroiu a letter offering to renounce parliamentary immunity in order to allow the Prosecutor-General's Office to investigate him about allegations he made last week that Palestinian Hammas terrorists have been trained in Romania, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. National Liberal Party Deputy Chairman Andrei Chiliman said Tudor is making a "purely propagandistic move," as he is aware that voluntary renunciation of immunity has no judicial validity. Democratic Party Deputy Chairman Emil Boboc said Tudor should stop acting "demagogically" and resign from the Senate to speed up the investigation. Ruling Social Democratic Party senators said they are awaiting a opinion by the Prosecutor-General's Office, after which they might initiate the procedure for lifting Tudor's immunity. MS

ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE CHIEF SAYS PALESTINIANS TRAINED WITH ISRAEL'S APPROVAL

Intelligence Service Director Radu Timofte on 24 September told a local TV station in Piatra Neamt that the "Palestinian fighters" who were trained in Romania carried Israeli passports and the training took place with Israel's knowledge and approval, Mediafax reported the next day. Timofte, who was responding to Senator Tudor's allegations made last week that Hammas terrorists were trained in Romania, said 23 Palestinians were in fact trained as bodyguards for "leaders of the future Palestinian state." Timofte said some "56 or 57" Palestinians were trained by the Romanian Special Protection Service to serve in police forces. He also said there are "several [foreign] extremist or religious groups" whose activity in Romania "infringes on the law," and that the authorities keep them "under surveillance." MS

GALATI SIDEX WORKERS BLOCK MANAGEMENT ACCESS TO PLANT

Workers at the Galati Sidex steelmaker on 24 September blocked access to the plant of the transition management appointed by the plant's prospective buyer, the British-Indian LNM Holdings. The workers protested against two provisions in the privatization contract signed by LNM Holdings and the government. The workers' union said the contract now includes a provision making layoffs possible in the first five years after the privatization if the company pays a 10 million lei (about $300) penalty for every such dismissal. The union also said the contract allows Sidex to transfer activities abroad. The union said these provisions are new and are in breach of the conditions they agreed to for LNM Holdings to purchase Sidex. Mediafax reported on 25 September that the union's leaders departed for Bucharest to meet Privatization Minister Ovidiu Musatescu for negotiations. MS

MOLDOVAN PARTIES MERGE

The extraparliamentary National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Party of Order and Social Justice (POJS) merged on 24 September, thus forming the new Moldovan Force Social Liberal Union, Infotag reported. The new formation will elect its chairman after six months. Until then it will be headed by a National Council on which former POJS leader Vyacheslav Untila will act as chairman and former PNL leader Mircea Rusu as secretary-general. Among the new party's deputy chairmen are former National Security Minister Anatol Plugaru and the former chairman of the United Social Democratic Party, Anatol Taranu. MS




SERBIAN PREMIER REVIEWS ROLE OF OPPOSITION


By Eugen Tomiuc

On 21 September, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic concluded a two-day visit to the Czech Republic, during which he discussed political and economic cooperation with Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and President Vaclav Havel. Djindjic also spoke at RFE/RL headquarters and discussed, among other topics, what opposition movements must do to successfully oust authoritarian regimes, such as that of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Djindjic said that in Serbia, after failed attempts that lasted almost a decade, the goal of ousting the Milosevic regime was finally achieved only after the Serbian opposition movement instituted several changes in its strategy; universal approaches that could be used in similar circumstances elsewhere, such as, perhaps, in Belarus.

The first was to unite the opposition within the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, or DOS, coalition. Djindjic said that as long as opposition forces are unable to unite, they are part of the problem rather than the solution. Dictatorships, he said, rely not on their own strength but on the opposition's weakness.

Djindjic added that an opposition needs to offer people a clear choice between good and evil, and that this can be achieved by presenting the situation in a country in simple "black-and-white" terms.

Authoritarian regimes, Djindjic said, always present themselves before their people as the guarantors of the country's independence and sovereignty, often in the face of an imaginary international conspiracy. People are told "stories" that they have to put up with hardships because the "rest of the world" is allegedly against them.

The prime minister added that opposition forces must be prepared to come up with what he called their own credible "stories" to counterbalance a regime's propaganda: "The opposition must have a story about how the world is perfect and that we are in a prison, and it is not a fight for independence. It is corrupt people who are protecting their interests."

Djindjic went on to say that a second change in the opposition's strategy is to switch public discussion from politics to issues of greater concern to ordinary people, such as the economy and personal living standards. He admitted that this is a difficult task since in most cases members of the opposition are not directly involved in the running of a country's economy. But Djindjic noted that people must be convinced that a win for the opposition is, in the end, a victory for them, too. "It is not the question why it is good that I [the opposition candidate] win against the government," he said. "It is important why it is good for you [the voter] that I win against the government."

A third change, Djindjic said, is to attract to the opposition movement groups and individuals with credibility in the society, such as the church, nongovernmental organizations, and independent personalities.

Lastly, the prime minister argued that opposition forces must clearly show they are ready to use violence to fight back in case of repression. He said winning democratic elections sometimes is not enough to take power -- as happened in Serbia after the DOS opposition alliance won last September's elections. He said security forces must realize they cannot resort to violence without risks.

As for the future of Yugoslavia, Djindjic said the federation in its current components -- Serbia and the much smaller republic of Montenegro -- must undergo radical reforms to survive as a state. "I think that Yugoslavia does have a future -- not [as] this kind of country, [but as a] very, very reformed [one]," he said.

He argued that Yugoslavia should be represented as a single state in international relations but for its own internal purposes become a loose confederation of two individual states, each with a large degree of autonomy.

However, Djindjic said the future of the Yugoslav Federation is not one of the Serbian people's top priorities. He said Serbs are currently more concerned about economic troubles and crime, and that they will accept any decision Montenegrins might make about their independence. He said Serbia is ready to reform the Yugoslav state, and that it is willing to wait two or three more months for Montenegro's decision.

Commenting on allegations in the Western media that Serbian paramilitary units from Kosova and other parts of the former Yugoslavia were involved in the overthrow of Milosevic's regime last October, Djindjic said such paramilitary groups did not play a "very active" role in the popular uprising that led to the collapse of the regime. He argued it was of critical importance that the 800-strong special security forces decided not to intervene in Milosevic's favor.

He admitted that a controversial security official -- General Sreten Lukic, who has been accused of involvement in the repression of ethnic Albanians in Kosova in 1999 -- is now holding a senior position in the Interior Ministry. But Djindjic said Lukic was promoted only after it was proven he had not been involved in repressive acts against Kosovar Albanians.

The prime minister added that under the new democratic leadership, Serbian security forces are behaving differently in crisis areas, such as in the buffer zone in southern Serbia that they were allowed to reenter this spring. "It was proved that under democratic conditions, with clear goals, with clear responsibility and hierarchy, that police can be used as a normal tool to conduct peace and order," he said.

Djindjic also said the current international economic situation -- in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and amid signs of a global economic recession -- does not bode favorably for Serbia, which badly needs foreign investment to patch up an economy largely destroyed by a decade of war and an infrastructure damaged by NATO's 1999 airstrikes. (He did not make the related point that it is an aging, communist-style economy, virtually untouched by reform and made worse by close links to the criminal underworld.)

Djindjic said that, owing to war and Milosevic's dictatorship, Yugoslavia has missed favorable opportunities to attract foreign investment. He pointed out that despite the democratic changes, Yugoslavia over the last 10 months has not benefited from substantial economic support from the international community. He said he expects future levels of foreign investment in Yugoslavia to be rather modest. (Such investments are indeed likely to remain that way until Serbia introduces far-reaching free-market reforms, transparency, and the rule of law. Until it does, neighboring countries will remain more attractive to most investors except those from the Serbian diaspora or established foreign investors anxious to recapture their pre-Milosevic market share.)

Eugen Tomiuc is an RFE/RL correspondent.


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