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Newsline - September 26, 2001




PUTIN CALLS FOR EUROPE TO BECOME AN 'INDEPENDENT' POWER CENTER

In his speech to the Bundestag delivered on 25 September, which he made in German, President Vladimir Putin said that the world has become much more complicated than it was during the Cold War and that politicians must overcome stereotypes from that period, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Putin called for the creation of "a new, reliable and enduring arrangement" in international affairs that reflects contemporary political realities. He urged that while he has no desire to cast doubt on the "high value of relations between Europe and the United States," he believes that Europe can function as "a powerful and genuinely independent center of world affairs," especially if it unites its enormous capacities "with the human and natural resources of Russia and [Russia's] defense potential." The text of the speech is available online at http://www.president.kremlin.ru. VY

RUSSIA, GERMANY TO CONDUCT JOINT MILITARY MANEUVERS

President Putin began his state visit to Germany on 25 September by meeting Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Russian and Western news agencies reported. The two called for an international coalition to combat terrorism, and pledged to freeze the assets of terrorist groups. They also agreed that the Russian and German armies will conduct joint maneuvers in 2002. Putin stressed that Germany is Russia's biggest trading partner, while Schroeder said that he hopes Russia's participation in the international coalition against terrorism will help Moscow overcome its fear of NATO expansion and eventually allow Russia to join the alliance. VY

MOSCOW TAKES PART IN BRUSSELS MEETINGS OF ANTITERRORIST COALITION

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov flew to Brussels on 25 September to meet with his NATO counterparts, strana.ru reported. This is the first Russian-NATO ministerial contact since the alliance invoked its Article 5 provisions on mutual defense in response to the terrorist attacks in the U.S., and since President Putin named Ivanov as Russia's coordinator for work with the international antiterrorist coalition. Meanwhile, Russian officials confirmed that Putin himself will travel to Brussels on 1-2 October to take part in an EU-Russian summit on combating global terrorism. VY

PUTIN DIRECTS FOREIGN MINISTER TO MAINTAIN CONTACTS WITH U.S. ON ANTITERRORISM EFFORT

President Putin on 25 September instructed Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to remain in constant contact with the United States and other countries in the international coalition against terrorism, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Vitalii Vorobev, the Russian ambassador at large who works with international organizations, told the news agency the same day that the terrorist attacks against the U.S. underscore the need to set up an antiterrorist structure within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which unites Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. PG

DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS U.S. CAN USE RUSSIAN BASE IN TAJIKISTAN

Defense Minister Ivanov said on 25 September that Moscow has agreed that U.S. forces can use a Russian air base near Dushanbe to conduct retaliatory strikes, RBK reported. But he repeated that Russia has no plans as yet to take part in those strikes. Meanwhile, Lieutenant General Nikolai Staskov, the head of Russian paratroop forces, dismissed media reports that Moscow has increased its military presence in Tajikistan in order to repulse any attack by Islamic extremists from Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Also on 25 September, Konstantin Totskii, the director of the Federal Border Guards Service (FPS), said there will not be a massive emigration of Afghans to Russia, noting that Moscow is in close contact with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, all of which are working together to block any refugee flow, Interfax reported. CIS officials said that member countries are working to develop a common strategy to oppose terrorism, Interfax reported on 25 September. VY/PG

RUSSIAN MILITARY ADVISERS WORKING WITH NORTHERN ALLIANCE

"Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 25 September that some Russian veterans of the Afghan and Chechen campaigns are now serving as advisers to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. Some of the men involved were recruited from among Russian emigres in the United States. These advisers, the paper said, significantly increase the military capability of the Northern Alliance. VY

PUTIN'S ULTIMATUM TO CHECHENS EXPLAINED

Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev said on 25 September that President Putin's proposals on cooperating with the international antiterrorist campaign are "correct and timely," RTR reported. He added that Putin's call for Chechen militants to lay down their arms over the next 72 hours is in fact an ultimatum and that those who do not comply will be destroyed. "Kommersant-Daily" made the same point on 25 September. Meanwhile, Pavel Krasheninnikov, the head of the independent social commission on Chechnya, told Interfax the same day that the authorities must carefully differentiate between the militants who do surrender, those Chechens with blood on their hands, and those -- the more numerous, he said -- who had taken up arms either as a result of threats or misunderstandings. Failure to do so, he said, would represent a violation of human rights. VY/PG

DEFENSE MINISTRY REPORTEDLY DIVIDED ON MOSCOW'S RESPONSE TO ANTITERRORISM EFFORT

According to an article in "Vremya MN" on 25 September, Defense Minister Ivanov and Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Director Sergei Lebedev have urged President Putin to back the Americans in any operation in Afghanistan and to allow the U.S. to use bases in Central Asia. But, the paper said, General Anatolii Kvashnin, the chief of the General Staff, and at least some of his officers have argued against such support and have called for Moscow to put pressure on the Central Asian countries not to permit an American military presence there. PG

DUMA DEPUTIES OVERWHELMINGLY POSITIVE ABOUT PUTIN'S SPEECH

Virtually all Duma deputies who spoke with the media on 25 September praised President Putin's approach to international cooperation in the fight against terrorism and also his ultimatum to the Chechen militants, Russian agencies reported. But some communists continued to express concern that Putin's support of the West's campaign against terrorism could drag Russia into a wider war. PG

TAX POLICE IDENTIFY COMPANIES SUSPECTED OF FUNDING CHECHEN MILITANTS

The Main Directorate of the Federal Tax Police in the Central federal district, which includes Moscow, on 25 September announced that it has compiled a list of 65 banks and companies suspected of funding "Chechen bandit formations" and turned this listing over to the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Interior Ministry for action against them, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, FSB officials said that much of the funding for the Chechen militants comes from international terrorist Osama bin Laden via the Muslim Brotherhood group, the Russian news agency reported the same day. VY/PG

RUSSIAN MUSLIMS, KREMLIN TO HOST MEETING ON 'ISLAM AGAINST TERRORISM'

Ravil Gainutdin, the chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, told ITAR-TASS on 25 September that Russian Muslims, together with the presidential administration, will convene an international conference in Moscow in late October-early November 2001 on the theme of "Islam Against Terrorism." Gainutdin also said that the world must work to prevent the unification of terrorists at the international level as well as to block any upsurge of Islamophobia, the news service reported. PG

PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION DECIDES TO INSURE ITSELF

Although it is unclear just what assets the presidential administration wants to insure -- its total assets may amount to as much as $600 billion -- its officials have asked the 15 largest Russian insurance companies to provide data on themselves in advance of one or more of them being offered the chance to insure administration property, "Vedomosti" reported on 21 September. VY

KOZAK SAYS JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE 'NOT AN END IN ITSELF'

Speaking to a conference on the 10th anniversary of the launch of judicial reform, Dmitrii Kozak, the deputy head of the presidential administration who is overseeing this work, said on 25 September that efforts to hold judges accountable are not intended to reduce their status but rather to enhance it, Interfax reported. He said that the independence of judges "must not be converted from a means to an end in itself." He also expressed his understanding for those poorly paid judges who "are forced today to go around with an outstretched hand." PG

DUMA BUDGET COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS VOTE FOR 2002 DRAFT BUDGET

The Duma Budget Committee on 25 September recommended that the lower house support the government's 2002 draft budget when it comes up for a vote, Russian agencies reported. Most deputies predicted that the budget will pass with few difficulties, but the Agrarian Party and the Communists said it will have to be amended and the vote, scheduled for 28 September, should be postponed both to consider amendments and to assess the impact of falling oil prices on government revenues. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told the cabinet the same day that changing international economic trends, including the price of oil, are worrisome, but that the budget does not need to be revised because its drafters took such potential risks into consideration. PG

GOVERNMENT CREATES COMMITTEE TO STRENGTHEN TIES WITH OPEC

Energy Minister Igor Yusufov said on 25 September that Russia has created a committee to strengthen cooperation with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), although he repeated that Moscow has no plans to join that group, ITAR-TASS reported. He also said that he believes the drop in oil prices this week is only temporary, and that Russia in the near term has no plans to reduce or expand its export of oil. PG

FSB PREPARES ECONOMIC NATIONAL SECURITY CONCEPT

The FSB and the Economic Security Commission led by Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Vyacheslav Soltaganov have prepared and sent to President Putin for signature a new National Economic Security Doctrine, APN reported on 21 September. The document reportedly calls not for reversing past privatizations but rather for checking to make sure that those property transfers were carried out in accordance with the law. If the deals are found to be in violation, the document says, the current owner will be offered the chance to legalize 50 percent of his capital on condition that he pay back the second half to the Treasury. VY

GREF SAYS RUSSIA HAS ENTERED STAGE OF 'BALANCED GROWTH'

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref told an investment conference in Berlin on 25 September that Russia's economy has entered a new period of balanced growth, Interfax reported. He also said that Russia has completed the first, information stage of negotiations for membership in the World Trade Organization. Meanwhile, in an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" the same day, Mikhail Zadornov, the deputy chairman of the Duma Budget and Taxation Committee, said that Russian security markets will be among the most stable over the next months, even as markets elsewhere pass through a turbulent period. But he said that only investors looking to the medium or longer term are likely to invest heavily in Russia now. PG

MOSCOW TO MINIMIZE FOREIGN PARTICIPATION IN FISHING AUCTIONS

A spokesman for the State Fisheries Committee told Interfax on 25 September that his agency will work to reduce the amount of foreign participation in auctions for fishing quotas in 2002 in order to help the domestic fishing industry. PG

RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION STATE TO HAVE COMMON RADIO STATION

The Russian-Belarusian radio station "Union" will begin broadcasting soon, as questions of financing are worked out, Interfax reported on 25 September. The station is to broadcast 24 hours a day across the territories of the two countries, the news service said. PG

PIPELINE BYPASSING UKRAINE SAID TO SERVE RUSSIA'S GEOPOLITICAL INTERESTS

Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said in Novorossiisk on 25 September at the opening of a new stretch of the Sukhodolnaya-Rodionovskaya oil pipeline, which will allow Russia to export oil without sending it across Ukrainian territory, that the pipeline serves Russia's geopolitical interests, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

RUSSIA SEEKS TO DEVELOP MILITARY TIES WITH BRAZIL

A government spokesman said on 25 September that talks have begun in Moscow on military-technical ties between Russia and Brazil, ITAR-TASS reported. The Brazilian military is interested in purchasing Russian aircraft, armored vehicles, antiaircraft weaponry, and small arms, the spokesman said. VY

RUSSIAN JEWISH CONGRESS DEMANDS VANDALS BE PUNISHED

The Russian Jewish Congress on 25 September issued a statement demanding the punishment of those who vandalized the main synagogue in Moscow on 23 September, Interfax reported. The statement said that "youngsters playing at fascism and specializing in setting off national and religious tensions must be severely punished [because] there is no place for them in a civilized society." PG

TAX POLICE FOCUS ON ORGANIZED CRIME IN DEFENSE SECTOR

The Main Administration of the Federal Tax Police (FSNP) for the Central federal district announced on 25 September that it intends to focus its attention on organized crime in the military-industrial complex, Interfax reported. Officials in that sector said that they have already uncovered evidence of significant misuse of budget funds and underpayments of taxes due. PG

SERIOUS CRIMES UP DRAMATICALLY

Interior Ministry officials told Interfax on 25 September that the overall number of crimes in Russia increased by 3 percent during the first eight months of 2001 compared with the same period in 2000. But they noted that serious crimes have increased more rapidly and now make up almost 60 percent of all crimes registered by the authorities. They said that the rate of increase was especially high in the most serious crime categories -- the number of murders rose 13 percent and the number of kidnappings by 23.5 percent. PG

TUBERCULOSIS SITUATION SAID IMPROVING

Deputy Health Minister Anton Katlinskii said in an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 25 September that the situation in Russia with regard to tuberculosis has been improving since the end of 1999 as a result of federal programs and efforts to hold down the costs of medicines. He said that the rate of growth of TB infections has slowed and that there has not been any significant number of new cases of those with the most advanced form of the disease. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Kasyanov said the same day that the economic well-being of Russia depends on the health of its population, Interfax reported. PG

RUSSIA CONTINUES TO SUFFER BRAIN DRAIN

Some 250,000 Russian specialists emigrate every year, "Versty," No. 108, reported. Most leave to earn more money than they can in Russia, but others, the journal said, do so because of the low demand for scientific workers in Russia and the poor conditions of laboratories and other scholarly facilities. PG

MOSCOW MAYOR REESTABLISHES ECOLOGY POLICY

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 25 September signed an order reestablishing the city's ecology police, who are charged with enforcing environmental regulations, Interfax-Moscow reported. The ecology police operated from 1997 to August 2000 on an experimental basis. There have not been any ecology police units for the past year. PG

KAMA RIVER SO POLLUTED PEOPLE DON'T NEED SOAP TO WASH CLOTHES

"Vecherniye Chelni" reported on 24 September that water in sections of the Kama River in Tatarstan is so polluted with active synthetic agents that people can wash their clothes in it without adding any soap. PG

ORTHODOX CHURCH PLANS TO OPEN CHAPELS IN ALL RAILWAY STATIONS, AIRPORTS

According to a report in "Nezavisimaya gazeta-Religii," No. 18, the Russian Orthodox Church plans to erect a chapel in every railroad station and airport in the country. PG

MORE THAN 1,000 CATHOLIC PRIESTS REPRESSED BY SOVIETS

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta-Religii," No. 18, more than 1,000 Roman Catholic priests and bishops were repressed by the Soviets, and to this number, the supplement said, could be added "several hundred in monastic orders and millions of laypeople." The same issue of the supplement carried an article attacking "the radical views" of those Russian Roman Catholics today who follow the line of the newspaper, "Russkaya falanga," which the article said propagates medieval views and monarchism. PG

CHANGE AND CONTINUITIES IN THE RUSSIAN MEDIA

In an article published in "The Moscow Times" on 25 September, Aleksei Pankin, the editor of the media magazine "Sreda," said that shock over the terrorist attacks on the U.S. served as a wake-up call for the Russian media, forcing them to examine themselves and become more professional. One example of that phenomenon is an article in "Komsomolskaya pravda" the same day that listed the pros and cons of an American military presence in Central Asia. But other developments pointed to certain continuities: "Izvestiya" on 25 September played up an American newspaper report that the American authorities "will not exclude" the use of disinformation during the upcoming antiterrorist campaign. Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry's press service called on the Russian media to show restraint in covering the situation in Afghanistan, Interfax reported on 25 September. PG

HERMITAGE MUSEUM OPENS BRANCH OFFICE IN LAS VEGAS

Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi said in Berlin on 25 September that his agency will open a branch of St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum in Las Vegas, a step that he said should provide that state museum with up to 40 percent of its revenue needs, Interfax reported. He added that the Hermitage plans to establish affiliates with other museums in the future, including the Guggenheim in New York by 2008. VY

KREMLIN SETS UP CIVIL SOCIETY INTERNET PORTAL

Kremlin political adviser Gleb Pavlovskii is behind the opening on 25 September of a new Internet portal devoted to resources on Russian civil society, smi.ru reported the same day. The portal, hartia.ru, is intended to promote the government-sponsored organization of civil society institutions, the site said. VY

SUPREME COURT SAYS SAKHA PRESIDENT MAY SERVE ONLY TWO TERMS

The Russian Supreme Court ruled that Article 67 of Sakha's (Yakutia's) Constitution does not correspond with federal law, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 25 September. The court ruled that "no one can be elected as president of the republic more than two times." The court upheld an earlier decision of the republic's court that also ruled that the article is illegal. The previous day, Sakha President Mikhail Nikolaev announced that he plans to take place in presidential elections scheduled for 23 December, Russian agencies reported. Nikolaev will have already served two terms. According to Interfax, nine candidates have declared their intention to run, including Sakha Vice President Spartak Borisov and republican Interior Minister Semen Nazarov. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" suggested on 25 September that Borisov and Nazarov are not, in fact, real contenders for the presidency and signed up as candidates only to further the cause of their boss, President Nikolaev. JAC

BASHKORTOSTAN PRESIDENT MAINTAINS FIRM STANCE ON POWER-SHARING AGREEMENT

In an interview with Interfax-Eurasia on 25 September, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov again spoke out against revising the power-sharing agreement between his region and Moscow (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 8 August 2001). Rakhimov said the treaty between Ufa and Moscow not only reflects the region's specific characteristics but also takes into account the history and future of the development of federal relations between the republic and center. "The power-sharing treaty has in essence become the ideology of our lives," he declared. He also expressed his frustration that "instead of solving economic problems, a number of politicians occupy themselves from morning to night with prospecting work along the theme that this corresponds and that doesn't." In his opinion, it "really only distracts attention from the country's urgent problems." JAC

FAR EAST GOVERNOR SEES GAS PIPELINE AS SOLUTION TO REGIONAL ENERGY CRUNCH

Khabarovsk Krai Governor Viktor Ishaev announced on local television on 25 September that he intends to speed up the construction of a gas pipeline from Komsomolsk-na-Amur to Khabarovsk. According to Ishaev, the opening of a pipeline with a capacity of 4.5 billion cubic meters of gas a year would enable local authorities to end the fuel deficit in the Far Eastern region. The gas would be supplied from Sakhalin, and Ishaev would like the pipeline to be completed by 2006. He added that while he has managed to obtain some funding for the project included in the 2002 draft federal budget, "if we will build this counting only on the federal center, then we will build it only 120 years from now." He continued, "Therefore, our task is to attract other resources." JAC

PAGING THE PIED PIPER

The number of mice and rats in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast has increased more than 20 percent this year compared with last, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 25 September, citing the oblast's state epidemiological inspectorate. According to the inspectorate, the increase in rodents is linked with the climatic conditions of the last spring-summer season and a decline in rat extermination measures due to inadequate financing. Center officials declared that emergency measures will be taken to reduce the rodent population because of the danger of the rats spreading hemorrhagic fever. As of 25 September, three people had already been registered as having the disease. JAC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT AGREES TO PEACE TALKS WITH RUSSIA

Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has appointed his deputy, Akhmed Zakaev, to conduct talks with Russian presidential envoy to Russia's Southern federal district Viktor Kazantsev, according to Turan on 25 September and "The Daily Telegraph" on 26 September. Maskhadov characterized President Putin's 24 September ultimatum to Chechen fighters to contact Russian representatives within 72 hours to discuss disarmament procedures as "a real chance to open negotiations over the soonest possible cessation of military activities." LF




ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN OFFER DIFFERING INTERPRETATIONS OF COUNCIL OF EUROPE RESOLUTION

In response to a request from Azerbaijan's delegation to affirm its support for Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, on 21 September the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution that reaffirms both the principle of the territorial integrity of member states, and also the principle of the right to self determination, ranking the two principles as of equal importance in international law. In an interview with Noyan Tapan on 25 September, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian characterized that resolution as "unprecedented," noting that previously international organizations have ranked the principle of territorial integrity as taking precedence over the right to self determination. Oskanian said Armenia is "extremely satisfied" with the resolution. Azerbaijani commentators and media reports have presented the resolution as an ultimatum to Armenia to formally recognize Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, and thus as a moral victory for Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Azerbaijan Report," 25 September 2001). LF

POPE LEAVES KAZAKHSTAN...

Pope John Paul II left Astana on the morning of 25 September after a four-day visit during which he celebrated a mass in the capital, met with seminary students and students of the Gumilev Eurasian university, and held talks with President Nursultan Nazarbaev. Bidding farewell to the pontiff at Astana's airport, Nazarbaev drew a parallel between the pope's "humane mission to bring the West and the East, Europe, and Asia, closer together," and that of Kazakhstan, Interfax reported. He added that he believes the pope was drawn to Kazakhstan "by his Slavic roots and by the fact that his friends and fellow believers, who were deported to this land together with other Poles," are buried in Kazakhstan. LF

...BEGINS VISIT TO ARMENIA

Pope John Paul II arrived in Yerevan from Kazakhstan on 25 September. "The whole Catholic Church shares your deep joy and the joy of all Armenians on the 1,700th aninversary of the proclamation of Christianity as the official religion of this cherished land," the pontiff said upon his arrival at Zvartnots airport, where he was welcomed by Catholicos Garegin II and President Robert Kocharian, together with other members of the country's leadership, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The pope further noted the "unspeakable terror and suffering" to which the Armenian people was subjected in the 20th century. But in contrast to a joint communique issued after Garegin's visit to the Vatican last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 2000) he stopped short of calling the 1915 slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey a genocide. Later on 25 September, the pope attended a joint service with Garegin at the main Armenian cathedral at Echmiadzin, where fatigue prevented him from completing an address. LF

ARMENIAN-TURKISH CONCILIATION COMMISSION HOLDS FIRST SESSION

The first meeting of the private Armenian-Turkish reconciliation commission established two months ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2001 and "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 27, 20 July 2001) took place in Istanbul on 25 September, AP reported. Further meetings are planned this week to enable the commission's six Turkish and four Armenian members to get to know each other. LF

COUNCIL OF EUROPE SLAMS GEORGIAN HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

In an assessment prepared by its rapporteurs, PACE has expressed concern at ongoing human rights violations in Georgia, "Neue Zuercher Zeitung" reported on 26 September. The report noted numerous instances of unlawful arrest, the mistreatment or torture of detainees, the deployment of security forces to intimidate peaceful demonstrators, and failure to curtail violence by Georgian Orthodox believers against members of religious minorities. It also noted that since its acceptance into the Council of Europe in 1999, Georgia has not ratified the protocol to the European Human Rights Convention or documents pertaining to the protection of national minorities and outlawing money laundering. Georgia is "far" from fulfilling its commitments to the council, the report concluded. LF

HAVE CHECHEN MILITANTS INFILTRATED ABKHAZIA?

Two Abkhaz servicemen were wounded in an exchange of gunfire with some 20 unknown assailants in the Gulripsh Raion on 24 September, Caucasus Press reported on 25 September. Abkhaz Defense Minister Vladimir Mikanba told that agency that the identity of the attackers is not known. Interfax, however, on 25 September cited unidentified sources in Sukhum as saying that the perpetrators were members of a group of Georgian and Chechen fighters. That agency further claimed that some 450 Chechens have infiltrated Abkhazia's Kodori gorge and several hundred more are gathered on the Georgian side of the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. Interfax also quoted parliament Defense and Security Committee Chairman Giorgi Baramidze as saying in Tbilisi on 25 September that a group of 400 Georgian guerrillas and members of "other ethnic groups from the North Caucasus" that is not under the control of the Georgian government is moving freely on Georgian territory. The independent Georgian daily "Dilis gazeti" on 26 September quoted Mamuka Areshidze, an expert on the North Caucasus, as claiming that the North Caucasus militants were transported to the Georgian-Abkhaz border in vehicles with license plates identifying them as belonging to the Georgian Interior Ministry. Implicitly corroborating Russian media claims that the Chechens in question are under the command of field commander Ruslan Gelaev, Areshidze said that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has condemned the Chechen action and accused the field commander in question of "treachery." Russian and Georgian media reported in late August that Chechen militants joined forces with Georgian guerrillas and were about to attack Abkhazia, but talks between the Abkhaz and Georgian leaderships succeeded in preventing such an attack. LF

KAZAKH MOTHERS RENEW PROTEST ACTION

A group of women from the Baidibek district of South Kazakhstan Oblast on 25 September began a new protest outside the parliament building in Astana to demand the payment of overdue family allowances dating back to 1997, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January and 18 and 19 April 2001). They have threatened to commit collective suicide if those allowances are not paid. Police in South Kazakhstan last week arrested the coordinator of the protests, Ulmeken Saidova, on fraud charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2001). LF

KAZAKHSTAN, KYRGYZSTAN DISCUSS EXPULSIONS

Kazakh and Kyrgyz diplomats began talks at the Kazakh Embassy in Bishkek on 25 September on the plight of Kyrgyz citizens summarily deported from Kazakhstan over the past week, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2001). LF

KYRGYZ POLITICAL PARTIES REQUEST MEETING WITH JAILED FORMER VICE PRESIDENT

Leaders of the Ata-Meken, Erkindik, Communist, People's, and Republican parties on 25 September made a formal request to President Askar Akaev and to National Security Committee Secretary Bolot Djanuzakov for permission to met with jailed Ar-Namys party Chairman and former Vice President Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. They reasoned that Kulov's assessment of the current situation in Afghanistan is relevant. Kulov served as national security minister in 1997-1998. He was jailed in January 2001 on what many believe were fabricated charges of abuse of his official position. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH U.S. ENVOY

President Imomali Rakhmonov met on 26 September with the U.S. charge d'affaires in Dushanbe, James Boughner, to discuss the situation in Central Asia in light of expected U.S. retaliatory strikes against terrorist bases in Afghanistan, Asia Plus-Blitz reported without giving any further details of those talks. Asia Plus-Blitz also quoted the Press Service of the Tajik Defense Ministry as denying reports that a U.S. aircraft carrying reconnaissance equipment and a special troop unit has landed at an air field in southern Tajikistan. It also quoted Tajik Security Council Secretary Amirqul Azimov as declining to confirm Western media reports that the Dushanbe airport is jointly controlled by the Tajik and Russian authorities. Implying that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov had no right to affirm on 25 September that Russia has agreed to the use of Tajik air fields by the U.S. (see "Russia" section above), Azimov said only Tajikistan's leaders are empowered to take a decision on allowing the U.S. to use the airport. LF

PRESIDENT SAYS U.S. TROOPS MAY NOT ENTER TURKMENISTAN

Speaking on national television on 24 September, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said that during a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell agreement was reached that U.S. troops will not be permitted on Turkmen territory, but that Ashgabat will allow the transportation by rail and air of humanitarian cargos destined for the civilian population of Afghanistan,, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Turkmenistan's Mufti Nasrullah ibn Ibadullah advocated holding an international conference on the subject of "Islam Against Terrorism," ITAR-TASS reported. LF




PACE OFFICIAL CALLS FOR ENDING BELARUS'S ISOLATION

Stef Goris of Belgium told a session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg on 25 September that the presidential election in Belarus failed to meet Council of Europe standards. Goris led a group of PACE observers in the 23 September presidential ballot in Belarus. While "strongly deploring" what he called a lack of respect for democratic standards by the Belarusian authorities, Goris stressed on behalf of his observation team that Europe's "isolation policy of the last years has indeed proved not to be effective" with regard to Minsk. "The Council of Europe is ready to work together with both the civil society and the authorities of Belarus, expecting from them true commitment and concrete steps to meet Council of Europe principles and values," Goris added. PACE suspended Belarus's guest status in the organization in 1997. JM

YOUTH GROUPS PROTEST MINSK'S BELTWAY EXPANSION TO STALIN-ERA MASSACRE SITE

Dozens of activists from the Youth Front and the European Way organizations are continuing protests outside Minsk against the expansion of the Minsk beltway to Kurapaty, the site where tens of thousands were executed and buried by the NKVD in the 1930s, Belapan reported on 25 September. Youth Front activists put up eight wooden crosses in an attempt to stop construction workers from moving closer to the massacre site. The Youth Front told the agency that police officers and regional-level officials often visit the site, saying they have "an order" to proceed with the construction project. "Those who executed people by shooting 60 years ago also carried out orders," Youth Front said in a statement. JM

RUSSIAN COMPANY WINS GSM LICENSE IN BELARUS

Belarus's Communications Ministry has awarded the country's second dual-band GSM 900/1800 license to Russia's Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), Belapan reported on 25 September. Communications Minister Uladzimir Hancharenka said MTS pledged to invest $49.9 million in Belarus's GSM network next year and $198.9 million by 2011. Four other bidders -- two Russian companies, one from Saudi Arabia, and one from Austria -- reportedly made lower investment offers. Hancharenka said MTS must pay to the Belarusian budget $15 million for the license plus $6 million within five years beginning in 2003. MTS will be required to form a joint venture with Belarus's state-run company Mezhdugorodnaya Svyaz (Intercity Communication), which will hold a controlling 51 percent stake. JM

PRIVATE INVESTIGATION SAYS UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT NOT INVOLVED IN JOURNALIST'S DEATH...

Kroll Associates, a private investigative agency from the United States, said on 25 September that there is no evidence to link Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to the murder of Ukrainian Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. Kroll Associates was hired by the pro-Kuchma Labor Ukraine party to conduct an independent investigation into the Gongadze case. Secret recordings made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko suggested that Kuchma may be involved in the slaying of Gongadze. "Our investigation raised questions about the credibility of the person [Melnychenko] purportedly making the tapes and the integrity of the recordings themselves," Kroll Associates said in their report. The report does not answer the question of how Gongadze was killed. JM

...WHILE ANTI-KUCHMA OPPOSITION REMAINS UNCONVINCED

Ukrainian opposition activists have dismissed Kroll's findings, saying it was a public relations exercise to lend credibility to Kuchma's statements of innocence ahead of parliamentary elections next year, Reuters reported on 25 September. "Their task was to clear Kuchma and they fulfilled it. There was no investigation; they did not find any new facts. They just discussed existing theories," Yuriy Lutsenko, one of the leaders of the Ukraine Without Kuchma movement, told the agency. Michael Cherkasky, Kroll's chief executive, said his firm interviewed dozens of witnesses, including Kuchma, his chief of staff Volodymyr Lytvyn, and some top politicians. The firm, however, failed to meet with Melnychenko as well as with former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko and former Security Service head Leonid Derkach, whom Melnychenko charged of complicity in the murder of Gongadze. JM

COUNCIL OF EUROPE URGES NEW PROBE INTO GONGADZE'S DEATH

The Monitoring Committee of the Council of Europe considers it advisable to recommend that Ukraine initiate a new investigation into the Gongadze case with the participation of international experts, Novyy Kanal television reported on 25 September, quoting the Monitoring Committee's rapporteur on Ukraine, Hanne Severinsen. Former presidential bodyguard Melnychenko has reportedly agreed to testify before an investigation commission with the participation of international experts. JM

UKRAINE QUALIFIES PLEDGE OF AIRSPACE TO U.S.

A Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on 25 September that Kyiv's decision to grant U.S. military cargo planes an air corridor over Ukraine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2001) does not include transportation of arms. "The resolution makes it quite clear that there must be no arms. All freight must be purely for use in the rear," ITAR-TASS quoted the spokesman as saying. "If the U.S. requests permission to transport weapons, this issue will have to be dealt with by the Ukrainian Supreme Council," STB television quoted President Kuchma as saying the same day. JM

KUCHMA BLAMES CENTRAL BANK FOR WEAKNESS OF UKRAINIAN BANKING SYSTEM

The Ukrainian president on 25 September said the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) is responsible for the fact that Ukraine's banking system is "the world's weakest," UNIAN reported. Specifically, he blamed the NBU for past troubles of the Ukrayina bank that is now in liquidation. Kuchma recalled that when Ukrayina was declared bankrupt, having lost 123 million hryvni ($23 million) in 1998, the NBU issued a 150 million hryvni loan to it. Kuchma also made some general remarks on the way business is done in Ukraine: "Ukrainian legislation is such that whoever steals the most is right. If one has money, he will be free; if one has no money, he will sit in prison." According to Kuchma, 70 percent of Ukrainian enterprises generate losses and "unfortunately, their number is only set to grow." JM

ESTONIAN AIR SUSPENDS FLIGHTS

Estonian Air announced that it is suspending its flights from 26 to 28 September because insurance companies have reduced the maximum coverage for terrorist and war-like attacks from $1 billion to $50 million, BNS reported on 25 September. Such coverage is not sufficient, as the terms by which the company leases its aircraft require insurance of at least $500 million. The government refused the airline's request to give a guarantee for such insurance until 1 November, when a new insurance agreement will come into effect, explaining that Estonian law prevents it from giving guarantees greater than 15 percent of the state budget. The government pledged to open talks with the Danish government about widening the guarantees to Maersk Air, which owns 49 percent of Estonian Air. The airline has canceled 10 flights a day to London, Riga, Moscow, Kiev, and Hamburg, but will continue flights to Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Vilnius with planes leased by Maersk Air, ETA reported on 26 September. SG

LATVIAN PREMIER VISITS ST. PETERSBURG

Upon returning to Riga on 25 September, Andris Berzins told a press conference that the third annual Baltic Development Forum in St. Petersburg proceeded in an amicable fashion and Russia did not openly oppose the efforts of the Baltic states to join NATO, LETA reported. The forum attended by top officials from Estonia, Finland, Denmark, Russia, and the European Commission discussed alternatives for developing the Baltic Sea region. Berzins told the forum that good relations with neighboring countries are necessary for regional development. During the forum he also held talks with Viktor Cherkesov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's representative in the Northwestern region, and St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev. SG

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT VISITS IRELAND

Valdas Adamkus began a three-day visit to Ireland on 24 September with talks in Dublin with his Irish counterpart Mary McAleese on bilateral links, economic and cultural relations, European integration, and the international political situation, ELTA reported. He later met with Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, House of Representatives Chairman Seamus Pattison, and Senate Chairman Brian Mullooly. Ahern assured him that Ireland firmly supports Lithuania's efforts to join the European Union and both leaders expressed the hope that the countries would establish embassies in the other's capital. The next day, Adamkus met with Dublin Mayor Michael Mulcahy, and during a bilateral business forum attended by some 30 Lithuanian entrepreneurs from the construction, finance, and IT sectors, called Irish businessmen "the Celtic tigers" and said he is convinced the economy of Lithuania will reach similar growth rates to those of Ireland. He was scheduled to complete his visit on 26 September with a trip to Cork for a meeting with Irish Vice President Aine Hyland and the city's mayor, Tom O'Driscoll. SG

POLAND'S SLD-UP COALITION FAILS TO WIN OUTRIGHT MAJORITY IN PARLIAMENT...

The State Election Commission on 26 September released the percentage shares of votes won by individual election committees in the 23 September parliamentary elections, the "Gazeta Wyborcza" website reported. The Left Democratic Alliance in coalition with the Labor Union (SLD-UP) obtained 41.04 percent of the vote; Civic Platform 12.68 percent; Self-Defense 10.2 percent; Law and Justice 9.5 percent; Peasant Party 8.98 percent; and the League of Polish Families 7.87 percent. These committees will claim seats in the 460-strong Sejm. The commission pledged to release the seat breakdown later, saying that the sloppy work of polling station officials is responsible for the delay, Polish Television reported the previous day. The commission confirmed that the SLD-UP will not have an outright majority in the Sejm, as well as the fact that the Solidarity Electoral Action of the Right and the Freedom Union were ousted from the parliament. JM

...INVITES ELECTION WINNERS TO TALKS

The SLD-UP coalition has invited the leaders of all groupings that entered the Sejm to hold talks about a future government. "The aim of these talks is the preparation of an outline concept for the creation of a strong government, a government that would be capable of successfully moving to the resolution of all the most important Polish problems," Polish Television quoted SLD leader Leszek Miller as saying on 25 September. "Since no grouping has obtained a majority of votes, each grouping that would like to implement its program must assume that it will have to make some compromises. I am interested in the scale of these compromises," Miller added. Polish Television said the leftist SLD-UP is most likely planning to form a minority cabinet, adding that the centrist Civic Platform could support such a cabinet "on the quiet" by keeping its deputies away from the Sejm during important votes. JM

POLISH GOVERNMENT GRANTS INSURANCE GUARANTEES TO NATIONAL AIRLINES...

The outgoing cabinet of Jerzy Buzek has offered insurance guarantees to the Polish airline LOT, PAP reported on 25 September. LOT spokesman Leszek Chorzewski said the $1 billion guarantees are valid from 24 September through October. LOT asked the government to grant the guarantees for third-party indemnities after insurers cut coverage for war-risk insurance to $50 million following the 11 September terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. LOT, whose $2 billion insurance policy expired on 24 September, warned that it will terminate all flights without the guarantees. JM

...APPROVES SALE OF 21 PERCENT STAKE IN POLAND'S LARGEST INSURER

The government on 25 September approved the sale of up to 21 percent of shares in the country's largest insurer, PZU, to the Dutch-based Eureko, which currently holds a 20 percent stake in PZU, PAP reported. "The government's decision means that the treasury minister can sell the shares at any time," government spokesman Krzysztof Luft told the agency without disclosing the price. Analysts put the value of the offer at $5 billion zlotys ($1.19 billion) as a minimum. The sale will give Eureko and its Polish partner Bank Gdanski SA a majority stake in PZU, which has a 60 percent share of Poland's insurance market. JM

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER TO VISIT U.S.

Jan Kavan will visit the United States from 28 September to 2 October for the first time since President George W. Bush took office in January, CTK reported on 25 September. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the primary focus will be security, but topics will include mutual economic cooperation and changes in U.S. foreign policy under the Bush administration. Kavan is expected to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, CTK reported. While in the U.S., the Czech foreign minister will also meet with UN officials to discuss the battle against terrorism and the Czech Republic's bid to chair the UN General Assembly in 2002-2003. AH

CZECH SECURITY COUNCIL SUGGESTS TRANSFER OF RESIDENCY ISSUES TO INTERIOR MINISTRY

The Czech Republic's National Security Council has requested that Interior Minister Stanislav Gross ensure the transfer of the process for foreigners' residency permits to the ministry by the end of 2004, CTK reported on 25 September. Those responsibilities currently reside with foreigner- and border-police units, the agency quoted a government spokesman as saying, but will be replaced by a single, national organ. The spokesman stressed that the move is unrelated to the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States, and is the result of a process launched last year aimed at protecting state borders. AH

CZECH SUPREME COURT REJECTS SUSPENSION AGAINST GREENS, CZECHOSLOVAK COMMUNISTS

The Czech Supreme Court on 25 September rejected a government request to ban the activities of the Green Party and the Party of Czechoslovak Communists, but suspended five extraparliamentary parties for failure to comply with financial disclosure laws, CTK reported. The court cited a Constitutional Court ruling from 1994 that declared a "repeated, long-term failure" to submit financial statements as grounds for suspension. The Greens and the Party of Czechoslovak Communists, led by former communist apparatchik Miroslav Stepan, were guilty of more minor lapses in disclosure, according to the court's senate chairman, Karel Hasche, CTK reported. The failures to comply date back to 1996 and 1997. A total of 68 political parties and 35 political movements are active in the Czech Republic following the decision, the agency reported. AH

UNION UNREST HITS CZECH FINANCIAL OFFICES...

Some 300 employees from the country's financial and tax offices demonstrated in central Prague on 25 September to demand higher pay and better working conditions, CTK reported. The demonstrators were expected to deliver a list of major demands to the government and parliament later the same day, including a request that the government, by April of 2002, lay out plans for restructuring financial offices ahead of EU entry and raising wages to EU levels. The average salary among the 15,000 employees of financial offices is roughly 13,500 crowns ($367) per month, the news agency reported. The protesting union represents some 2,300 of those workers. AH

...AS MINISTER INTERVENES TO AVERT THREATENED RAILWAY STRIKE

Labor Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla emerged from a 25 September meeting with railway unions declaring that a strike in the sector has been averted, CTK reported. Leaders of the Railway Workers Trade Union (OSZ), fearful of a cash crunch at state-owned Czech Railways, last week threatened a labor stoppage if wages are not paid on time on 15 October. Proceeds from the privatization of Komercni Banka allowed for the assurance that employees have nothing to fear, CTK cited Czech Railways Director Dalibor Zeleny as saying. Spidla, who is also the chairman of the Czech tripartite and head of the ruling Social Democratic Party, said, "I can say that the wages for October have been ensured." AH

SLOVAK PREMIER IN BRUSSELS

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda told European Commission President Romano Prodi in Brussels on 25 September that he is confident that Slovakia's internal political turmoil is a thing of the past, international news agencies reported. Dzurinda was responding to Prodi's statement that Slovakia needs "a year of political stability" to help the country qualify for the first round of EU enlargement. Dzurinda also said his country is lining up with the EU in backing the U.S. campaign against terrorism, and will adopt the antiterrorist measures approved last week by the EU summit. MS

CROAT PRESIDENT IN SLOVAKIA

On 25 September, Stipe Mesic called for setting up a worldwide antiterrorist organization in reaction to the attacks against the United States, which, he said, "represent a threat against world civilization," CTK reported. Mesic, who lectured during his visit at Komensky University in Bratislava, earlier discussed bilateral relations with his Slovak counterpart Rudolf Schuster. Mesic said relations between the two countries are "without any problems," and that Croatia and Slovakia both pursue integration into international structures. Schuster called for increasing cooperation on investments, privatization, and tourism. He said Slovak businessmen are interested in investing in the future free-trade zone in the port of Rejeka. MS

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES SECURITY RESOLUTION

By a vote of 297 to 18, the parliament on 25 September approved a resolution supporting increased internal and external security policy measures to be taken in the wake of the terrorist acts on the United States, and set aside 19.2 billion forints ($68 million) for the project, Hungarian media reported. Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said the money will come from the budget's general reserves, and will be used to modernize firearms, develop communication systems, and enhance border protection. At the request of the opposition Socialists and Free Democrats, the parliament included in the text of the resolution a statement condemning all declarations that attempt to seek excuses for the "barbaric act" rather than denouncing it. The extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) said in response that if the other five parties wanted to condemn it, they should mention MIEP by name. MSZ

KOVACS SAYS HUNGARIAN COALITION MUST FUNCTION AS MINORITY GOVERNMENT

Opposition Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs on 25 September told parliament that as a result of the recent expulsions from the Smallholders' parliamentary group "the coalition majority has passed away." He said, however, that his party does not intend to submit a no-confidence motion six months before the elections. Kovacs called on the cabinet not to conclude any major international agreements and not to make personnel changes in the state administration prior to next year's elections. In reply, Prime Minister's Office State Secretary Laszlo Bogar said FIDESZ has concluded an agreement with several independent deputies to support the government, Hungarian media report. MSZ

INTERPOL ISSUES WARRANT FOR BIN LADEN AIDE

On 25 September, Interpol issued an arrest warrant for Ayman Zawahri, an Egyptian-born surgeon reported to be Osama bin Laden's deputy, Reuters reported. The international police organization, currently holding its general assembly in Budapest, said Zawahri is the leader of "Al-Jihad," a militant group based in Egypt, and that it is suspected of involvement in the attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September. The warrant was issued at the request of Egyptian police. MSZ

HUNGARIAN TV PROGRAM CENSURED FOR UNFAIR REPORTING

The complaints committee of the National Radio and Television Board on 25 September ruled that the "A Het" ("The Week") program on state-run Hungarian TV did not satisfy legal requirements to provide balanced and objective information in its report on late Socialist deputy Zoltan Vancsik, who died recently in an automobile accident. The board said the report called into question Vancsik's moral integrity when it linked him to the underworld, and that it dealt at length with his son's drug problems, in which Vancsik was not directly involved. The complaint was submitted to the board by the Socialist Party. In other news, Free Democrat parliamentary member Ivan Peto won a lawsuit against "Magyar Nemzet." The daily will have to pay Peto 500,000 forints ($1,800) for having listed him among corrupt politicians in an article published in August 2000. MSZ




MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT WELCOMES GERMAN LEAD IN 'AMBER FOX'

Speaking to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder by telephone from Skopje on 25 September, President Boris Trajkovski welcomed the German offer to head NATO's new, small-scale mission to protect OSCE and EU monitors, known as Operation Amber Fox, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 2001). The German military is cash-strapped, but a commentator from the Hamburg weekly "Die Zeit" told the BBC on 26 September that it is "Germany's turn to take the lead" in a NATO Balkan mission. She noted that Britain headed Operation Essential Harvest -- which was to complete its work on 26 September -- and that France is about to assume the leading role in KFOR. PM

UN STOPS SHORT OF TAKING ROLE IN MACEDONIA

Reuters reported from the UN on 26 September that the Security Council is expected to pass a resolution later in the day that backs international efforts to bolster peace in Macedonia "and strongly supports in that regard the establishment of a multinational security presence." The wording falls short of the full endorsement for a NATO mission that Berlin had sought. Unnamed diplomats said that the UN is reluctant to take a direct role in Macedonia. Trajkovski told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service recently that he would like to see a UN force in Macedonia on the model of UNPREDEP, which ended in 1998 when China withdrew its support (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Service," 27 September 2001). PM

NATO'S ROBERTSON TELLS MACEDONIAN LEGISLATORS TO FORGET 'PETTY POLITICS'

Speaking at Erebino on 25 September, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson told reporters that "Task Force Harvest has not only reached its target but exceeded it... The confirmed total [of weapons turned in] is 3,381, and the final figure should be higher still," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2001). Robertson warned Macedonian politicians that the time has come to pass legislation promised by Trajkovski to grant an amnesty to fighters of the National Liberation Army (UCK) who did not commit crimes. He said: "The political process is still incomplete, and the Macedonian parliament must set aside any petty political interests and complete its part of the settlement that was struck at Lake Ohrid [in August]. Failure to implement this agreement would confront the people of this country with the bleak prospect of a descent into civil war. It's up to the parliament of this country to turn the people's hopes into political reality." Robertson warned that "there is no tolerance left anywhere in the international community for terrorism, barbaric aggression, and atrocities," AP reported. PM

MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN POLICE TRAINEES COMPLAIN OF HARASSMENT

Macedonian Deputy Interior Minister Refet Elmazi and Deputy Foreign Minister Muhamed Halili -- both ethnic Albanians -- said in Skopje that unidentified Macedonian police have humiliated and "provoked" the 100 Albanian police trainees at the Idrizovo training camp, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 25 September. The two men said that they are confident that the U.S. police trainers will work to remedy the situation. PM

RUGOVA SLAMS 'PROPAGANDA AGAINST KOSOVA'

Moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova said in Prishtina on 25 September that unspecified reports from Belgrade and elsewhere about alleged links between bin Laden and Kosova are "propaganda against Kosova" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2001) The next day, Rugova's press spokesman Skender Hyseni told RFE/RL's Kosova Unit that a story by ITAR-TASS from Rome the previous day is "completely false." The Russian news agency reported that Rugova's Rome bureau issued a statement in which he said unspecified UCK men from Kosova "are ready to organize acts of terrorism for the purpose of supporting Osama bin Laden." The alleged statement added that the UCK is "terrorist." Hyseni said Rugova does not even have an office in Rome, and that the entire ITAR-TASS story is disinformation (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 July 2001). PM

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT ENDS DIALOGUE WITH MONTENEGRO

Vojislav Kostunica sent a letter to each of the participants he had invited to recent talks on the future of Serbian-Montenegrin relations, but which did not take place because the Montenegrin leaders refused to accept federal Prime Minister Dragisa Pesic as a participant, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 25 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2001). Kostunica wrote to Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic and Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic that they have "closed their eyes to reality," and want to determine Montenegro's future through a referendum rather than a dialogue. Consequently, Kostunica argued, any further talks would be pointless. In his letter to Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, Kostunica charged him with seeing political limelight and forgetting that he owes his office to the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition. Kostunica added that Djindjic had devoted his time in talks with the Montenegrins to "technical details" and has not looked at the bigger picture. PM

SERBIAN, MONTENEGRIN LEADERS REJECT KOSTUNICA'S CHARGES

Djindjic replied to Kostunica that his decision to end talks is hasty and irresponsible, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Belgrade on 25 September. Djindjic added that no single official has the authority to decide that an agreement cannot be reached. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic argued that the only way to solve the problem is for all parties to sit down and talk. Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac said Kostunica's approach toward the Montenegrins smacks of "paternalism." In their letters, Djukanovic and Vujanovic called Kostunica's move hasty. They argued that he had probably never been interested in finding a solution but was seeking to confer legitimacy on Pesic and his government -- which Podgorica does not recognize as legally elected. For his part, Pesic said that he is willing to absent himself from any future talks and be represented by a cabinet member, such as Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic or Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus. PM

SERBIAN LEADER SAYS TALKS MUST INCLUDE KOSTUNICA

Speaking in Uzice on 25 September, Djindjic said that he has received the latest in a series of "seven or eight" proposals from Vujanovic to have direct talks between Serbian and Montenegrin officials on the future of bilateral relations, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Djindjic replied, however, that he will not agree to any negotiations from which Kostunica is excluded. Meanwhile in Novi Sad, Djindjic and Vojvodina leader Nenad Canak discussed unspecified "reforms" regarding that province's status. PM

U.S. COMMITTED TO ALBANIA'S EU INTEGRATION

U.S. Ambassador to Albania Joseph Limprecht and Albanian Transport Minister Maqo Lakrori signed an agreement in Tirana confirming U.S. financial support for improving Albania's shaky infrastructure, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 25 September. Limprecht stressed that the new American administration is just as committed as was its predecessor to helping Albania. He stressed that improving the infrastructure is vital for Albania's integration with the EU. PM

BOSNIAN MUSLIM GENERAL WANTS TO CLEAR NAME IN THE HAGUE

Former Muslim General and cabinet minister Sefer Halilovic surrendered voluntarily to The Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 25 September, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He is expected to plead innocent later in the week to one charge of murder and other charges of violating the laws or customs of war. The court indicted him for failing to stop or punish actions by troops under his command, which led to the death of 32 Croatian civilians in September 1993. Halilovic has said that he is not guilty of the charges and wants to clear his name. He has previously appeared in The Hague as a witness in cases involving others. PM

BOSNIA MOVES AGAINST TERRORISM

Deputy Foreign Minister Ivica Misic told a news conference in Sarajevo on 25 September that the joint Bosnian antiterror program "reflects the responsibility of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a member of the united international front to combat this challenge to mankind," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2001). PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT WANTS WORLD ANTITERROR BODY

Speaking in Bratislava, Slovakia, that same day, Croatian President Stipe Mesic called for setting up a worldwide antiterror organization, CTK reported. He said that membership should be open to all "civilized" countries that support its aims. Its recommendations would require UN approval. It should target the terrorists themselves and not innocent people by, for example, imposing blanket sanctions. The organization could serve as an information clearing house and provide unspecified help to countries hit by terrorists. It would have the authority to ask countries to extradite suspected terrorists. Meanwhile in Zagreb, Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic said that the authorities will step up security on Croatia's borders to help prevent unspecified terrorists from entering the country, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT EXPLAINS DIFFERENCE BETWEEN POSITION ON KOSOVA, INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM

Ion Iliescu on 24 September said his Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) opposed the NATO military intervention in Kosova because intervention there amounted to "a military action against another state." He said the situation is different at present, when "international terrorism is threatening every state," and that each country must participate in the struggle against terrorism "within its own means," Mediafax reported the next day. Speaking on the private Antena 1 television, Iliescu said subsequent developments have proven that the PDSR's position at that time of the strikes against Yugoslavia was correct, and that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has been removed "by political means and not by the bombardments." In related news, on 25 September the cabinet approved the implementation in Romania of antiterrorist measures adopted on 21 September at the EU summit. MS

ROMANIA, HUNGARY, STILL DIVERGE ON STATUS LAW

Speaking in Bucharest following a meeting of the joint Romanian-Hungarian Commission on National Minorities, Deputy Foreign Minister Cristian Diaconescu said the two sides failed to "bridge positions" over the Status Law that was approved by the Hungarian parliament for ethnic minorities in neighboring countries, Mediafax reported. "We are precisely where we were when the law was passed," Diaconescu said. He said Romania wants to receive guarantees from Hungary that the law "is not aiming at modifying historical borders"; that issuance of ID cards by the Hungarian authorities will not follow ethnic, but "professional or functional criteria"; that the law will not apply to nonethnic Hungarian spouses; and that no organization of the Hungarian minority in Romania will be allowed to process ID cards on the basis of ethnic criteria." MS

BALKAN STABILITY PACT COORDINATOR IN BUCHAREST

Bodo Hombach, Balkan Stability Pact coordinator, on 25 September told journalists following talks with Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana that "the dramatic events in the U.S. must not deflect attention from the priority tasks laying ahead of the pact in Southeastern Europe," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Hombach discussed with Geoana the preparations underway for a regional conference of the pact, scheduled for 25-26 October in Bucharest. Hombach said this will be the first time that a conference of the pact is held elsewhere than Brussels and that this indicates the "high esteem" Romania enjoys among European countries. Hombach was also received by Prime Minister Adrian Nastase. MS

SIDEX WORKERS IMPOSE POSITION ON ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT

Marcel Oancea, the leader of the Galati Trade Unions, on 25 September said he is satisfied with the results of talks conducted in Bucharest with Privatization Minister Ovidiu Musatescu and called off the protest by Sidex workers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2001). Musatescu agreed to workers' demands to strike out from the envisaged privatization contract with the British-Indian company LNM Holdings the provisions that would have made it possible to lay off workers in exchange for a penalty paid to the Treasury, as well as the provision allowing the transfer abroad of Sidex activities. Musatescu said that an addendum to the agreement on the privatization signed with the unions on 13 June will include guarantees against any of these possibilities. He said the government will approve on 26 September an ordinance for Sidex's privatization. MS

MOLDOVA PREPARED TO ALLOW U.S. OVERFLIGHTS

Defense Ministry sources on 25 September told Flux that Moldova would be willing to open its airspace to U.S. overflights if requested to do so, but added that no such requests had yet been made by Washington. President Vladimir Voronin on 24 September said his country is ready to become "actively involved" in the struggle "against international terrorism and against separatism." Voronin said Moldovan authorities must "take urgent measures to stop illegal immigration by Islam militants who back the terrorists." MS

VORONIN TELLS STRASBOURG COURT BESSARABIAN CHURCH IS 'SCHISMATIC'

In a letter to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, Voronin wrote on 25 September that the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church is "not a separate cult, but a schismatic formation within the Moldovan Metropolitan Church," Flux reported. Voronin wrote that the Moldovan government cannot recognize the separate existence of the Bessarabian Church, since this would amount to interfering in the "internal affairs of the [Moldovan Orthodox] Church and would thus be in breach of the country's constitution." He said he hopes efforts by the Russian and the Romanian Orthodox churches will lead to a solution of the conflict. The Strasbourg court has agreed to examine a complaint by the Bessarabian Church regarding the refusal by successive Moldovan governments to recognize its independence from the Moldovan Metropolitan Church, which is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate. MS

BULGARIA OPENS AIRSPACE TO U.S. FLIGHTS

Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi told journalists after a meeting of the Bulgarian State Security Council on 25 September that Sofia has received a request from Washington to open Bulgarian airspace to U.S. planes. Pasi said the request would be formally granted on 26 September. He said the U.S. request mentions only transport planes and helicopters but no landing rights, which makes it possible to grant the request without the parliament's prior approval. President Petar Stoyanov, who chaired the council's meeting, said he was "happy" to grant access to U.S. aircraft. MS




RUSSIA OUTLINES COOPERATION IN FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM


By Tony Wesolowsky

In a speech late on 24 September, Russian President Vladimir Putin spelled out in the clearest terms to date how his government plans to help the United States following the 11 September terrorist attacks on Washington and New York. Putin outlined what his government is willing to do to aid Washington's battle against terrorism, which now appears to be focused on Afghanistan. That country is believed to be harboring Osama bin Laden, the main suspect behind the terrorist attacks in the U.S.

"Russia is supplying and intends to continue to supply all the information we have about the infrastructure and the location of international terrorists and their training bases," Putin said. "Second, we are ready to offer Russian airspace for airplanes with humanitarian aid for the region where the antiterrorist action will be carried out. Third, we have agreed on this position with our allies, including Central Asian states."

The Russian leader also said Moscow will intensify its support for the Northern Alliance, the main anti-Taliban opposition in Afghanistan, and is ready to supply the Afghan opposition with weapons and military equipment.

Putin's speech followed a long telephone conversation two days earlier with U.S. President George W. Bush. Afterward, Bush said that "Vladimir Putin clearly understands that the Cold War is over and that the United States and Russia can cooperate" in the battle against terrorism.

Such statements from the Kremlin and the White House seem to herald a new era between the Cold War-era foes. But Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer disagrees. Felgenhauer said Putin's speech can be seen, not as a victory, but as a setback for U.S. military plans to hunt down bin Laden. Felgenhauer said that despite seeming to offer cooperation, "[Putin made] a clear statement that the United States military is not welcome in Central Asia, and that Russia will do its best to prevent any American military presence in the area."

Felgenhauer said Putin also left out important details, especially regarding the use of Russian airspace, and that the Russian president made no specific mention of giving permission to any U.S. military flights. On 25 September, ITAR-TASS quoted Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov as stating unequivocally that Russia will not participate in any U.S.-led military action in Afghanistan. According to Felgenhauer, Putin's statement that his position has been "agreed" with other Central Asian states could spell bad news for U.S. efforts to forge military cooperation in that region. Felgenhauer predicts that "Russia will allow in only humanitarian flights. That means no military planes or planes carrying military equipment or supplies are allowed in. And Russia says this position is agreed with other Central Asian republics, which means that Central Asia is right now out of reach for the American military to establish any kind of bases."

The countries of Central Asia would play a key role in any U.S. effort to hunt down bin Laden. The U.S. has stepped up its efforts to woo Central Asian leaders to convince them to participate in an international coalition against terrorism.

On 24 September, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev said his country "is ready to support an action against terrorism with all means it has at its disposal," including the use of Kazakh military bases and airspace. But the other countries -- particularly Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan -- have been vague, failing to state clearly if they will offer assistance to U.S. military operations.

However, Oksana Antonenko, a Russian expert at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies, said that while Putin's speech at first glance may not contain much that's new, there are what she called significant nuances.

"For the first time, he actually explicitly stated that some Central Asian countries may decide on their own to allow the United States-led coalition forces to use their air bases," Antonenko said. "And I think that this is really quite a big difference from what was previously stated by Defense Minister Ivanov, who said even hypothetically there cannot be a possibility that any Western countries can station their forces on any bases."

In Antonenko's opinion, Putin's speech can be seen as a "green light" to Uzbekistan for it to decide on a limited U.S. military deployment on its soil, which some reports say is already taking place.

As regards Putin's statement on increasing Moscow's backing of the Northern Alliance, Felgenhauer is not impressed. He said Russia has long backed the Northern Alliance, providing arms, munitions, and air support. Russia, like the other Central Asia states, fears the spread into Russia of the type of fundamentalist Islam practiced by the Taliban.

Furthermore, Felgenhauer said Putin is unlikely to keep his word on increasing weapons shipments to the Northern Alliance because, he said, the Northern Alliance is already getting from Russia all the weapons it can absorb.

However, Antonenko disagrees, saying Putin's statement may signal Russia's willingness to supply weapons to the Northern Alliance as "military aid," meaning the alliance would not have to pay for them. She also said Moscow may now be willing to supply the Northern Alliance with better and more up-to-date hardware than it has received to date.

Felgenhauer acknowledged that the situation is fluid, and said Putin may become more accommodating to U.S. military plans if Washington expresses a willingness to compromise on issues of importance to Moscow. These issues include, for example, Western support for -- or at least less criticism of -- Russia's war in Chechnya and a halt to NATO expansion into Eastern Europe.

"[Putin] openly said that Russia is open for bargaining -- its position could change," Felgenhauer said. "Russia has already tacitly stated: nonexpansion of NATO, NMD, Chechnya; lots of different kinds of issues [that Russia may be willing to bargain on]."

Tony Wesolowsky is an RFE/RL correspondent.


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