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Newsline - September 27, 2001




PUTIN BACKS U.S. ANTITERRORISM EFFORT, SEEKS NATO MEMBERSHIP FOR RUSSIA...

President Vladimir Putin said in Berlin on 26 September that Moscow supports the U.S. in its struggle against terrorism and at the same time said NATO should admit Russia as a full member, Russian and Western agencies reported. He said, "It is time to stop making a fuss about NATO expansion and create structures together with Russia that facilitate the unification of Europe." In conversations with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Putin found increased understanding for Moscow's views on Chechnya, Russian agencies reported. Putin also said that fighting terrorism will require more than military means and urged that international cooperation is needed to cut off financial support to the terrorists and also to remove some of the conditions such as poverty that give rise to it. PG

...SAYS RUSSIA MORE OPEN TO REFORM THAN EVER BEFORE

President Putin told German businessmen in Essen on 26 September that the doors for reforms in Russia have never been open as wide as they are now, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that what has been achieved in Russia over the last 18 months had been considered "practically impossible," but it had been realized. He stressed that Russian and European economies are "complementary," and said that the two should become more integrated. And in comments to journalists the same day, he said it is time to end all "dividing lines" on the European continent, Interfax reported. PG

RUSSIAN MAP OF BIN LADEN'S BASES REPORTED

Reuters on 26 September reported that it has obtained a Russian memorandum to the United Nations dated 9 March 2001 identifying 55 bases and offices controlled by Osama bin Laden's organization. The memorandum specified that at that time, Russia believed bin Laden had some 13,000 men under his command. PG

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER WANTS MOSCOW, NATO TO COORDINATE STRATEGY ON COUNTERING TERRORISM

Sergei Ivanov said in Brussels on 26 September that Moscow and NATO will now work together in the struggle against terrorism, Russian and Western agencies reported. He said such cooperation might eventually even take a military form, but he repeated that Moscow will not participate in any action in Afghanistan. Moreover, he specifically limited President Putin's offer to engage in search-and-rescue operations to the territory of the CIS and the portion of Afghanistan controlled by the Northern Alliance, which he said Moscow will now provide more money to. The Russian defense minister did say that Russia and its Central Asian allies are offering their airspace to American and allied aviation for any attacks on Afghanistan. Ivanov insisted that "there is no classifying terrorists into good and bad," something Russia has learned. But he acknowledged that "Russia and NATO do not have a complete understanding on Balkan issues. They consider Albanian militants as rebels while we consider them as terrorists or extremists." He said, "We have to reach a common view on this problem." PG

PAPER SUGGESTS ONLY VICTORS IN ATTACK ON AFGHANISTAN WILL BE THOSE WHO DON'T TAKE PART

Writing in "Novaya gazeta," No. 69, Yulia Latynina argued that "America will fall flat on its face in Afghanistan" even as it causes bin Laden to lose as well. The real victors in such a conflict, she said, will be those like China, India, and Russia that do not take part. This gives Russia "a unique opportunity," she said, "to stand aside from the brawling, to shape and provide the technological leadership for an alliance of cultures to which neither of the warring sides is close." PG

RUSSIANS VIEW PUTIN'S BUNDESTAG SPEECH AS A BREAKTHROUGH

Russian politicians, officials, analysts, and ordinary people told dpa on 26 September that President Putin's speech to the Bundestag the day before had effectively ended the Cold War and represented in the words of one "an absolute success." The only exception to this general chorus of praise, the news service noted, was "Kommersant-Daily," which is controlled by embattled magnate Boris Berezovsky. That paper noted that "KGB Lieutenant Colonel Putin certainly didn't tear the wall down, rather the opposite is likely to be true." PG

RUSSIA TURNS DOWN INVITATION TO JOIN OPEC...

Both OPEC's head Ali Rodrigues and Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi invited Russia to join the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, but Russian Energy Minister Igor Yusufov said Moscow rejected the offers because it wants to retain its freedom of action, RIA-Novosti reported. At the same time, however, he and other Russian officials indicated that they want OPEC to keep the price of oil higher than it has been in recent years. Yusufov said that some in OPEC believe that Russia's oil exports are undercutting the organization's pricing policies, but he suggested that the best way to remedy that is for OPEC members to invest in Russia and thereby create more domestic demand for oil inside his country. Meanwhile, Baku's "Ekho" newspaper said on 26 September that Moscow may try to corner the oil market following an American attack on Afghanistan. VY/PG

...AS FALLING OIL PRICE SEEN THREATENING PREMIER'S GOVERNMENT...

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 26 September suggested that Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and his Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin badly miscalculated the behavior of the oil market in their planning for the 2002 draft budget. The paper said recent declines in the price of oil mean that Russia's revenues will be $10 billion lower than projected, and that could ultimately lead to the dismissal of Kasyanov and his government. VY

...BUT FINANCE MINISTER INSISTS RUSSIA WILL BE ABLE TO PAY ALL DEBTS

Kudrin said on 26 September that Russia can fully repay the $35 billion installments on its foreign debts over the next two years without restructuring even if the price of oil declines, Russian and Western agencies reported. In other comments, Kudrin said Russia's debt acquired since 1991 amounts to $50 billion, while its debt inherited from the Soviet Union amounts to $93.3 billion. PG

GOVERNMENT PREPARED TO GUARANTEE AIRLINES AGAINST TERRORIST ATTACKS

Prime Minister Kasyanov said on 26 September that his government will guarantee domestic airlines against military and terrorist risks until the world insurance market recovers from the 11 September terrorist attacks in the U.S. and can underwrite the firms, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

DUMA REJECTS RESOLUTION AGAINST U.S. STRIKES AGAINST AFGHANISTAN

By a vote of two for and 79 against, the Duma on 26 September rejected a draft resolution offered by Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) deputy Aleksii Mitrofanov declaring that any American strikes against Afghanistan would not be admissible, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

DUMA BACKS EXPANDED LIMITS FOR PERMISSIBLE SELF-DEFENSE

The Duma on 26 September passed on first reading a bill that gives individuals who are attacked specific legal rights to respond with force, RBK reported. This measure represents a break from the Soviet-era arrangements in which those attacked were severely limited in their ability to defend themselves. VY

DUMA CALLED UPON TO DEVELOP THE RUSSIAN NORTH

Artur Chilingarov, the deputy speaker of the Duma, said in an interview published in "Krasnaya zvezda" on 26 September that Moscow must devote more attention to the development of the Russian North, which makes up 60 percent of the country's territory and holds enormous natural resources, Interfax-Eurasia reported. He pointed to the programs that the U.S., Canada, and the Scandinavian countries have adopted to develop their northern regions as models for Russia, which he said does not do enough for the North. PG

BEREZOVSKY SAID TO BE PURSUING A SIBERIAN STRATEGY

According to an article in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 26 September, embattled magnate Boris Berezovsky is pursuing a political compact by building alliances with firms and groups in Siberia. The paper expressed skepticism that the plan will work, but said that Berezovsky appears to have little choice but to try to organize outside of Moscow if he wants to stage a political comeback. PG

PRIMAKOV CALLS ON U.S. TO CHANGE ITS APPROACH TO THE WORLD...

Speaking to students at the Russian University of Friendship of the Peoples on 26 September, former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov said that the U.S. should change its current approach to international affairs, one he said reflected "a super-power tendency," and increase cooperation with other countries, Interfax reported. He said the current approach of unilateralism is "a survival of the Cold War" and must be rejected. He also used the occasion to reject reports that he wants to become the speaker of the Federation Council. PG

...AS ZHIRINOVSKY CALLS FOR ALL FOREIGN ARMIES TO GO HOME

Duma Deputy Speaker and LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said in Strasbourg on 26 September that international terrorism can only be overcome if no armies remain based outside their homelands, Interfax reported. He said that the United States is the country most guilty of keeping its forces beyond its borders. PG

CIS DEFENSE OFFICIALS MEET ON COUNTERTERRORISM STRATEGY

Senior military commanders and defense officials from Russia and nine of the 11 other former Soviet republics (Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were not represented) met in Moscow on 26 September to coordinate their counterterrorist and border security policies, Russian and Western news agencies reported. PG

MOSCOW CRITICIZES EUROPEAN COMMISSION FOR NOT ENGAGING RUSSIA

Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Ivanov on 26 September blamed the European Commission for not taking a more active role in promoting negotiations with Russia, Interfax reported. He said that as a result of the commission's inactivity in this regard, there will not be an agreement on nuclear security at the October EU-Russia summit. The same day, Ivanov announced that he is leaving the Foreign Ministry and will become a scholar at the Academy of Sciences' Institute of Europe. PG

IRAQ BACKS MOSCOW ON CHECHNYA

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Ahmed said on 26 September that Baghdad fully supports Russia's position on Chechnya and is "categorically against any separatist tendencies," ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, the same day, visiting Chechen Administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov handed over a message from President Putin to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Interfax reported. PG

RUSSIA TO SELL MIGS TO YEMEN

"Vedomosti" reported on 26 September that the Russian MiG aircraft enterprise has signed a contract to sell Yemen $300 million worth of aircraft and support facilities. PG

MOSCOW SEEKS TO PROMOTE DIALOGUE OF TWO KOREAS

Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov said on 26 September said Moscow hopes to promote dialogue between North and South Korea, ITAR-TASS reported. The same day, Konstantin Pulikovskii, the presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, told Interfax about the attitudes of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il. Pulikovskii said Kim, with whom he spent time on the Trans-Siberian railway during the latter's visit to Russia this summer, has a negative opinion about Soviet and Russian leaders like Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, and Boris Yeltsin. But, Pulikovskii said, Kim has only positive things to say about current President Putin. PG

110 NABBED IN OPERATION DESERTER IN FAR EAST

Operation "Deserter," which was conducted by the Far Eastern Military District, resulted in the detention and return to service of 110 servicemen absent without leave, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 26 September. Almost half of them were in their first six months of service, the news agency said. PG

KOMI REPUBLIC REPUDIATES SOVEREIGNTY DECLARATION

The State Council of the Komi Republic on 26 September adopted a resolution declaring that the republic's declaration of state sovereignty is no longer in force, Interfax-Northwest reported. The vote came after the Russian Supreme Court recently held that more than half of the provisions of the declaration contradict federal law. PG

'KURSK' RECOVERY PROJECTED TO COST $60 MILLION

Deputy navy commander Rear Admiral Mikhail Barskov said on 26 September that the total cost of recovering the sunken "Kursk" submarine will be $60-65 million, ITAR-TASS reported. The submarine is scheduled to be raised during the next several days. Meanwhile, Murmansk Governor Yurii Yevdokimov said that there will not be any need for an evacuation when the "Kursk" is raised and brought to land, Interfax-Eurasia reported. PG

EARNINGS FROM PRIVATIZATION 49 PERCENT ABOVE EXPECTATIONS

The Property Ministry told Interfax on 26 September that the Russian government earned 19.51 billion rubles ($620 million) from the sale of government property during the first eight months of 2001, some 49.3 percent more than expected. PG

BAM BEING REVIVED

The Baikal-Amur Mainline is being revived and reborn with new branch lines now carrying mineral ores to processing plants, "Vremya MN" reported on 26 September. Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko this week attended the opening of one of these branch lines, which will carry vanadium ore, Interfax reported. PG

CONFERENCE HELD ON FUTURE OF CLOSED CITIES

Officials from the presidential administration, the Russian Security Council, security ministries, and others met on 26 September with the heads of the administration of closed territories and cities in Chelyabinsk Oblast to discuss their problems and their futures, Interfax reported. PG

MUSCOVITES CASH INCOMES TWICE THEIR PAY

The State Statistics Committee told Interfax on 26 September that its surveys have discovered that the case incomes of the population of the city of Moscow exceed by almost two times the average wage in the capital. In June 2001, the average wage per capita was 5,101 rubles ($174), but the average cash income per capita was 10,715 rubles. The difference reflects both entrepreneurial activity and the special benefits the city's residents enjoy. PG

TWO RUSSIAN CRUISE MISSILES GO ASTRAY

The Russian navy told Interfax on 26 September that two of its cruise missiles fired in an exercise off Russia's Pacific coast had gone astray and were lost. The 10-meter-long Granit missiles involved are like those still on board the sunken "Kursk" submarine, dpa reported. PG

MINORITY LANGUAGES, AT MERCY OF REGIONS, NOW DYING OUT

An article published in "Vremya MN" on 26 September on the occasion of Europe's Language Day said that languages spoken by only a few people in Russia are now at the mercy of the whims of regional leaders rather than of any central policy as to whether they will survive or die out. These languages saw their first major decline from the 1950s to the end of the 1980s when textbooks and instruction in them were reduced by Moscow's fiat. But since 1991, one of the "small" languages has died out -- Kerek, which was spoken in parts of Chukotka -- and many of the 60 others in this category are threatened with extinction, the article said. It also noted that Russia up to now has never signed a single international convention on the protection of small ethnic groups and languages spoken by relatively few people. PG

BRITISH FIRM TO UPGRADE INTERIOR OF PUTIN'S PLANE

Diamonite Aircraft Furnishings, which is based in the British city of Bristol, announced on 26 September that it has won a $14.8 million contract to refurbish and upgrade the interior of the new IL-96300 plane built for the Russian president by Russian firms, AP reported. PG

SUPREME COURT REFUSES TO REHABILITATE ADMIRAL KOLCHAK

The Supreme Court on 26 September refused to overrule the Transbaikal military district court decision of January 1999 in which that tribunal refused to rehabilitate Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, the leader of the White Movement in Siberia during the Russian Civil War, Interfax reported. PG

WIRE THIEVES BLOCK WEATHER FORECASTS IN BIROBIDZHAN

Metal thieves stole several meters of telephone wire in Birobidzhan and as a result the local weather station was unable to monitor and report the weather, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 26 September. PG

CHELYABINSK GOVERNOR ASKS FOR STRENGTHENING OF BORDER WITH KAZAKHSTAN

A predicted wave of refugees from Central Asia could become a serious problem for Chelyabinsk Oblast, its governor declared on 25 September, regions.ru reported. According to Petr Sumin, reinforcing the 800-kilometer long border between Russia and Kazakhstan in Chelyabinsk Oblast has become a priority task. Sumin told Interfax-Eurasia on 26 September that the regions in addition to his own that are the most vulnerable to refugee flows are Orenburg and Kurgan oblasts. Meanwhile, officials at one border-control point in Chelyabinsk reported on 26 September that four refugees from Afghanistan and two from Uzbekistan have recently been detained. They had attempted to cross the border via a bus that originated in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and terminates in Yekaterinburg. JAC

NEW PRESIDENTIAL REPRESENTATIVE NAMED IN KALININGRAD...

Presidential envoy to the Northwestern federal district Viktor Cherkesov presented his new deputy for Kaliningrad Oblast, Andrei Stepanov, in Kaliningrad on 26 September, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. According to the daily, Stepanov is an old acquaintance of President Putin and the former chief federal inspector for Leningrad Oblast. Like Putin, Stepanov was also a deputy to former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak. According to Stepanov, the reason he was not appointed earlier is because he had been on vacation and not because presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin opposed his nomination. The newspaper had earlier hinted that Cherkesov was dragging his feet on the appointment for some darker reason than a vacation (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 September 2001). JAC

...AS CONFLICT LOOMS WITH LOCAL GOVERNOR?

Stepanov told the daily that his main task in his new position will be to fulfill the earlier directive of the Security Council, which reportedly ordered that control over the special economic zone be transferred from the control of the oblast administration to the presidential administration (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 1 August 2001). Several newspapers at the time characterized the Security Council decision as a move to introduce "soft presidential rule." According to the website strana.ru on 26 September, Kaliningrad Oblast Governor Vladimir Yegorov told local reporters at a press conference in the spring that dual rule in the region would lead to "chaos and disintegration." He said that "if the [presidential] administration takes over economic management of the special economic zone, with what will the administration of Kaliningrad Oblast occupy itself?" JAC

TWO MORE CANDIDATES EMERGE IN PRESIDENTIAL RACE IN CHAVASHIA

The Central Election Commission of the Chavash Republic registered two more initiative groups to nominate candidates, incumbent President Nikolai Fedorov and republican legislative assembly member Nikolai Ivanov, for the 16 December presidential election, the website strana.ru reported on 26 September. Other candidates are Stanislav Borisov, a lieutenant general in the Federal Security Service, and State Duma deputy (Communist) Valentin Shurchanov. JAC

NEW CATHEDRAL OPENS IN SMOLENSK

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad blessed a new Russian Orthodox cathedral in Smolensk on 25 September -- the first such cathedral built in that city in the last 170 years, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 September. While stating that the cathedral had been built only due to the will of God, Kirill all the same thanked presidential envoy to the Central federal district Georgii Poltavchenko. Kirill also called on Poltavchenko to honor President Putin, whom "we love and support." JAC

PROTEST AGAINST CHECHEN CONFLICT HELD IN CENTRAL CITY

Four NGOs in Ryazan organized a protest on 26 September against the military campaign in Chechnya, RFE/RL's Ryazan correspondent reported. Picket organizers from Memorial, the Soldiers' Mothers' Committee, Yabloko's youth movement, and Choice of Conscience reported that they collected hundreds of signatures against the conflict in just one day. Organizers also sent a letter to the presidential administration asking that military activities be stopped. JAC

DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS U.S. MAY COOPERATE WITH RUSSIA AGAINST 'TERRORISTS' IN CHECHNYA

Defense Minister Ivanov said in Brussels on 26 September that he is open to the possibility that the United States and Russia may cooperate in the struggle against what he called "terrorists" in Chechnya, Interfax reported. He said that if the international community did cooperate to deny the militants funding, weapons, and other supplies, the counterterrorism operation there would be over "in 15-40 days." PG

MOSCOW'S NONULTIMATUM ULTIMATUM TO CHECHEN MILITANTS

Despite the insistence of a series of Russian officials that President Putin's call for Chechen militants to lay down their arms within 72 hours was not an ultimatum, the same officials made it clear in statements on 26 September that Putin's 24 September statement was precisely that. Viktor Kazantsev, the presidential envoy to the Southern federal district whom Putin put in charge of the program, said there are two possible scenarios: If the militants turn in their weapons and return to a peaceful life with "foreign mercenaries" leaving both Chechnya and Russia, then, Russia will cut its military presence in the republic and provide funds for restoring the situation there, including arranging for the return of refugees. But if that does not happen, if the leaders of the Chechen militants do not cooperate, "they must know that they will be destroyed," ITAR-TASS reported. Speaking in Brussels the same day, Defense Minister Ivanov said that after the 72-hour grace period is over, Russian forces will soon begin a series of "targeted operations" to destroy the militants, Western agencies reported. PG

ONE CHECHEN MILITANT TURNS IN GUN IN FIRST 36 HOURS

Interfax reported on 26 September that only one Chechen militant had turned in his weapon during the first 36 hours of Putin's program. The news service said that the Nozhai-Yurt resident will be absolved of any criminal responsibility and will be protected by the authorities. The failure of other Chechens to turn in their guns led Duma politicians and Russian officials to express doubts about whether the program will work as intended, Russian agencies reported. PG

NO CHECHEN NEGOTIATOR APPEARS

Kazantsev, the presidential envoy for the Southern federal district, was not approached on 26 September by any Chechen militant prepared to negotiate with Moscow, Russian and Western agencies reported. But one of the reasons that none have appeared may be that Russian officials have indicated that there is not much for them to discuss. Kazantsev's deputy, Sergei Yepifantsev, told ITAR-TASS that Chechen efforts to portray Putin's offer as an opening for negotiations about the status of the republic are something that "freely interprets the position of the head of the Russian state." He said that the only issues that the Russian authorities are prepared to discuss concern "the disarmament of these formations and groups and the way of their inclusion into a peaceful life." PG

DOUBTS AND FEARS ABOUT WHAT COMES NEXT IN CHECHNYA

An article in "Izvestiya" on 26 September said that the Chechen fighters are unlikely to surrender their weapons before the end of the 72-hour period. It suggested that some believe Putin's offer is only "a pretext for harsh measures" after the time runs out. Meanwhile, an article in "Vremya MN" the same day suggested that "nothing will happen" after the deadline because "Russia has neither the strength nor the political will to make anything happen." But human rights activists expressed concerns on two grounds: Human Rights Watch Moscow Office Director Marie Struthers said the same day that the Putin deadline may have been set to allow Moscow to take draconian measures even as the attention of the world is directed elsewhere in the fight against terrorism, Reuters reported. And Arsenii Roginskii of the Moscow-based human rights organization Memorial, told dpa that increasing Western willingness to look the other away concerning Moscow's violation of human rights in Chechnya could spell disaster. PG

DAGHESTANIS DEMONSTRATE AGAINST TERRORISM, U.S. PLANS IN AFGHANISTAN

On 26 September, students at faculty at the University of the Peoples of the Caucasus in Khasavyurt, Daghestan, held a rally against terrorism and U.S. plans to bomb Afghanistan, the Kavkaz-Tsentr news agency website reported. The demonstrators shouted, "One should not respond to terror with terror." PG




ARMENIA MAY BE WILLING TO ALLOW U.S. PLANES TO USE ITS AIRSPACE

Prime Minister Andranik Markarian said early on 26 September that Yerevan has not yet received an official request from the United States for military aircraft to overfly Armenia's territory, but a spokeswoman for President Robert Kocharian told RFE/RL's Armenian Service later the same day that the U.S. has asked and been given a positive answer. PG

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT'S BODYGUARDS INVESTIGATED FOR MURDER

Kocharian on 26 September suspended several of his bodyguards after they were alleged to have beaten to death the night before a Georgian citizen of Armenian origin, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. PG

ARMENIA NOW SHIPPING TO RUSSIA VIA IRAN

Noyan Tapan reported on 26 September that Armenia is now shipping cargo to Russia via Iran rather than Georgia, because the cost of such shipments are 50 percent less. Armenian cargo carrier officials said that they hope this competition will force Georgia to cut its rates. PG

EDITOR WARNED OVER ARTICLE SAYING MOSCOW BEHIND UNREST IN AZERBAIJAN'S NORTH

Elchin Shikhlinskii, the editor of Baku's "Zerkalo" newspaper, and one of his correspondents on 26 September were summoned to the Prosecuto-General's Office and given a warning for publishing an article suggesting Russia had played a role in terrorist actions in Zagatala in northern Azerbaijan, Turan reported. Prosecutors told them that there is no truth to their story and that it "can be harmful" for relations between Baku and Moscow. PG

FORMER AZERBAIJANI AMBASSADOR SAYS BAKU MUST USE FORCE IN KARABAKH

Tamerlan Garaev, the former Azerbaijani ambassador to China, said on 26 September that Baku must employ force to retake Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia, Turan reported. Garaev said he cannot understand Baku's concessions up to this point: "A country that had its territories occupied," Garaev said, "cannot make any concessions." PG

SOME AZERBAIJAN RELIGIOUS GROUPS MAY HAVE TROUBLE WITH REREGISTRATION

The Sharg news agency on 26 September reported that the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations plans to complete the reregistration of religious groups by the end of 2001, and that some groups that engage in missionary activities, such as the Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses, may have difficulty with this process. PG

AZERBAIJAN SETS UP FUND TO STIMULATE EXPORTS

Economic Development Minister Farhad Aliyev told the MPA news agency on 26 September that the Azerbaijani government is setting up a public fund to promote exports, with the government providing it with structure and support and the private sector providing the funding. PG

AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA REACH ACCORD ON OIL TARIFFS

Azerbaijani and Georgian negotiators on 26 September reached an agreement concerning the transit fees Tbilisi will receive from Baku for allowing Azerbaijani oil to flow through a Georgian pipeline, Turan reported. The final agreement will be signed in the near future, the agency said. PG

SHEVARDNADZE SAYS GEORGIA WANTS COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA

President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 26 September that his country wants good cooperation with Russia, that he is dispatching a Georgian delegation to try to smooth over current conflicts, and that he himself is prepared to meet with Russian President Putin to discuss antiterrorist efforts, Caucasus Press reported. At the same time, Shevardnadze rejected Russian charges that Chechen militants are using Georgia as a sanctuary. He said that some wounded militants might have been on Georgian territory at one point, but he said he would welcome international inspections to prove that there is no sanctuary now. Meanwhile, in Moscow the same day, the Russian Duma refused to consider a resolution offered by deputy (Communist) Anatolii Chekhoev criticizing Georgia, Interfax reported. PG

GEORGIA WILL NOT PROTEST ARMENIAN CHARGES

The Georgian Foreign Ministry told Caucasus Press on 26 September that it will not officially protest Armenian charges at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that ethnic Armenians are mistreated in Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian officials said that the charges reflect either ignorance or a desire to be provocative. PG

CENTRAL ASIAN STATES PREPARE FOR REFUGEES, DRUGS FROM AFGHANISTAN

The five countries in Central Asia on 26 September in various ways prepared to meet what officials said is the likely influx of 300,000-350,000 refugees from Afghanistan in the event of an American attack, various agencies reported. Some of the states increased domestic security, others tightened or even closed borders, and some engaged in telephone communications. Meanwhile, UN experts said on 26 September that the escalation of tensions in Afghanistan almost certainly will lead to a growth in the trade of illegal drugs across Central Asia, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. PG

KAZAKH PRESIDENT PLEDGES TO SUPPORT U.S. CAMPAIGN

President Nursultan Nazarbaev on 26 September told his U.S. counterpart George W. Bush that Kazakhstan will support the counterterrorism campaign with "all available means," dpa reported. But at the same time, Interfax reported, Nazarbaev told Bush that it is important that the fight against terrorism not turn into a clash of civilizations. PG

NAZARBAEV RECEIVES UKRAINE'S KUCHMA

President Nazarbaev met with his visiting Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma in Astana on 26 September, ITAR-TASS reported. The two agreed to help with the counterterrorism effort, but Kuchma said that "we will not move into Afghanistan for the second time" -- a reference to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Kuchma also said at the meeting that he sees a great economic and political future for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Meanwhile, Kazakhstan and Ukraine joined with Russia in forming a joint company for the production and use of nuclear energy, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 26 September. PG

KYRGYZSTAN BACKS U.S., CRITICIZES KAZAKHSTAN

Kyrgyz Deputy Foreign Minister Asanbek OsmonAliyev said on 26 September that the U.S. has the right to attack terrorist bases in Afghanistan and that Bishkek supports this effort, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. At the same time, he sharply criticized Kazakhstan for deporting more than 150 Kyrgyz from that country after they broke residency rules. PG

KYRGYZ BIRTHS UP FOR FIRST TIME IN 10 YEARS

Kyrgyzstan's Health Ministry announced on 25 September that the number of births increased thus far in 2001 by 1,000 over the same period in 2000, the first such increase in the last decade, Kabar news agency reported. PG

TAJIK OFFICIALS SAY THEY CONTROL DUSHANBE AIRPORT

Tajik Security Council Secretary Amirqul Azimov said on 26 September that the airport at Dushanbe is under Tajikistan's jurisdiction and not under joint Tajik-Russian control as some Moscow officials said earlier, Asia-Plus news agency reported. PG

UZBEKISTAN'S PRESIDENT SAYS RUSSIANS DON'T LIKE TASHKENT'S INDEPENDENT LINE

Islam Karimov said on 26 September that Russians "do not like the fact that Uzbekistan is carrying out its own independent policy with regard to [U.S. use of its facilities in the counterterrorism effort]. But let me say once again that when the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan in 1979, starting a big war, no one asked for our approval," Uzbek Radio reported. At the same time, Karimov said that he is "absolutely against" any involvement in any conflict with the Taliban. PG




PACE REPORTEDLY WANTS BELARUS TO EXPAND LEGISLATURE'S POWERS, ABOLISH DEATH PENALTY

Uladzimir Navasyad, a member of Belarus's Chamber of Representatives, told Belapan on 26 September that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) requires that Belarus make two significant steps toward Europe in order to regain its guest status in PACE. Navasyad is currently attending a PACE session in Strasbourg. According to Navasyad, PACE parliamentarians want the Belarusian authorities to expand powers of the country's National Assembly, which consists of the Chamber of Representatives and the Council of the Republic. The other requirement concerns the abolishment of the death penalty. JM

MINSK LAGS BEHIND IN CONTRIBUTIONS TO 2001 RUSSIAN-BELARUS UNION BUDGET

Nikolai Kontsevoi, an official in the Russia-Belarus Parliamentary Assembly, told Belapan on 26 September that in January-August Minsk contributed only 8.3 percent of what it owes the Russia-Belarus Union budget this year. The 2001 budget totals 2.3 billion Russian rubles ($78 million). Russia must contribute 65 percent and Belarus 35 percent. According to Kontsevoi, Russia has paid its share in full. Last year, Belarus paid only 30 percent of the agreed amount to the union budget. Kontsevoi also said it is "quite possible" that the 1999 Russian-Belarusian treaty on the creation of a union state may be revised. In particular, Kontsevoi noted that the treaty includes "a number of vague clauses" regarding the powers of the union government. JM

EBRD TO LOAN $600 MILLION TO UKRAINE

Andrew Seton, the director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in Ukraine, said on 26 September that the bank intends to issue $600 million worth of credits to Ukraine to finance various projects in the country's food industry, financial sector, industrial sector, and in its transportation, telecommunications, and municipal infrastructures. JM

UKRAINE RESUMES TALKS WITH PARIS CLUB ON DEBT RESTRUCTURING

Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov on 26 September said that following the recent resumption of IMF and World Bank loans to Ukraine, Kyiv has renewed talks with the Paris Club on restructuring Ukrainian debts to the club's member nations, Interfax reported. JM

UKRAINE'S TYMOSHENKO URGES YUSHCHENKO TO DEFINE ALLIES

Opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko has called upon former Premier Viktor Yushchenko to decide whether he is ready to head an election bloc consisting of Yushchenko's Our Ukraine, Tymoshenko's National Salvation Forum, and Oleksandr Moroz's Socialist Party, Interfax reported on 26 September. "I would not like my appeal to sound like an ultimatum. [But if Yushchenko] goes in the opposite direction, I want this to finally become clear and public," AP quoted Tymoshenko as saying. Prior to switching to the antipresidential opposition, Tymoshenko was a deputy premier in charge of the energy and fuel sector in Yushchenko's cabinet. Yushchenko has repeatedly rejected opposition advances to form an alliance opposed to President Leonid Kuchma (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 25 September 2001; and Kuchma in Kazakhstan item in Part 1). JM

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES CONTRACTS ACT

The parliament on 26 September finally passed the contracts and noncontractual obligations act, which was debated for more than two years, ETA reported. The act, with 1,068 articles the longest act ever passed by the parliament, is needed to facilitate Estonia's integration into the EU. Until it comes into force, all contractual obligations remain regulated by the Estonian SSR Civil Code. The law still requires the passing of three more acts before it can become valid -- the new civil code general provisions act, the international private law act, and the enactment act for the recently passed contracts act. Draft laws of the first two acts have been completed in the parliament, which has not yet received any drafts for the third act. It is expected that the contracts law will go into force only in late 2002. SG

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT UNABLE TO AGREE ON DRAFT 2002 BUDGET

Finance Minister Gundars Berzins announced that the government will not fulfill its plan to present the 2002 draft budget to the parliament by 1 October because the cabinet must discuss the budget at its next meeting the following day, LETA reported on 26 September. He had presented a draft budget to the government earlier in the month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 2001) with a deficit of 1.73 percent of GDP, but it was rejected, as some ministers demanded greater expenditures based on more optimistic revenue forecasts. Berzins noted the positive tendencies in the Latvian economy are basically determined by the transit of Russian oil and attracting capital to Latvia. According to Berzins, the current decline in world oil prices to $22 per barrel may decrease Russian oil exports, which are profitable only when the price is at least $24 per barrel, he said. Berzins also said that the failure to pass laws reducing corporate income tax or abolishing taxes on dividends makes attracting foreign capital more difficult. SG

LITHUANIA GRANTS U.S. RIGHT TO AIRSPACE IN ANTITERRORISM CAMPAIGN

Responding to a U.S. request, the Lithuanian government on 26 September agreed to allow the United States overflight rights as part of the campaign against terrorism, BNS reported. Deputy Foreign Minister Giedrius Cekuolis told reporters after a meeting with U.S. defense attache Lieutenant Colonel Albert Zaccor that this action demonstrates Lithuania's political will as a loyal ally of the U.S. and NATO. Lithuania also granted the right for American transport or military planes to use Zokniai airport near the city of Siauliai, whose runways are sufficiently long enough to be used by all planes. Estonian officials the same day also declared they would grant overflight permission should the U.S. request it, ETA reported. SG

POLISH LEFT'S LANDSLIDE VICTORY OFFICIALLY CONFIRMED

The State Election Commission on 26 September announced official results of the 23 September elections to the 460-strong Sejm and the 100-strong Senate. The coalition of the Democratic Left Alliance with the Labor Union (SLD-UP) won 216 seats in the Sejm; the Civic Platform 65 seats; Self-Defense 53 seats; Law and Justice 44 seats; the Peasant Party 42 seats; the League of Polish Families 38 seats; and the German Minority election committee two seats. The SLD-UP took 75 seats in the Senate. The Solidarity-rooted Blok Senat 2001 has 15 senators; the Peasant Party four senators; the Self-Defense and the League of Polish Families two senators each; and two senators were elected on a nonparty ticket. Turnout in the elections was 46.28 percent (see "End Note" below). JM

POLAND'S LABOR UNION TO HAVE SEPARATE PARLIAMENTARY CAUCUS

Sixteen members of the Labor Union (UP), an election bloc partner of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), have become lawmakers. UP leader Marek Pol on 26 September said his party will form a separate caucus in the Sejm, adding that it will cooperate with the SLD. Pol also said the UP took seven seats in the Senate, PAP reported. JM

POLISH AGRARIANS SET CONDITIONS FOR COOPERATION WITH ELECTION WINNERS

The Polish Peasant Party (PSL) on 26 September said it will support a future government formed by the Democratic Left Alliance-Labor Union if the PSL postulates concerning economic policy are taken into account, PAP reported. In particular, PSL leader Jaroslaw Kalinowski made such support conditional on introducing changes to the law on the National Bank, counteracting "unjustified transfers" of revenues by foreign-capital firms from Poland, raising the profitability of Poland's agricultural sector, and putting an end to indirect tax increases. Kalinowski said he is critical of the SLD finance minister designate, Marek Belka, and of the financial plans Belka revealed before the election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2001). JM

CZECH CABINET SEEKS IMPLEMENTATION OF ROME STATUTE ON INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNAL

Government ministers on 26 September recommended that parliament ratify the 1998 Rome Statute on establishing a permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) and approved a draft constitutional amendment to limit the immunity of senior public officials, CTK reported. A government spokesman said the immunity of the president, legislators, and constitutional judges will not extend to war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, or, in the future, crimes of aggression. The legislation would also limit the Czech president's power to grant amnesties for crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the international tribunal. The lifting of immunity in certain cases for public officials and limits on presidential clemency are preconditions for implementing the treaty. The Czech Republic signed the Rome Statute on 14 April 1999, and it should come into effect once it is ratified by at least 60 countries. It has so far been signed by 139 countries and ratified by 28, CTK reported, but faces opposition from the United States. Ratification would oblige the Czech Republic to transfer to the ICC for prosecution any citizens or foreigners covered by the convention. AH

CZECH PRESIDENT HAVEL RELEASED FROM HOSPITAL

Vaclav Havel was released from hospital on 26 September, four days after an irregular heartbeat forced him to cancel an official visit to Italy moments before his plane was set to depart, CTK and AP reported. Havel, a 64-year-old former chain-smoker and political prisoner who has been beset by health problems in recent years, will spend several days at his residence in Lany outside of the Czech capital Prague, a spokesman said. Doctors used electrical charges to normalize Havel's heartbeat after he was hospitalized on 24 September, the agencies reported. AH

NEARLY TWO-THIRDS OF CZECHS DISGRUNTLED WITH POLITICAL SITUATION

Sixty-four percent of Czechs are dissatisfied with the current political situation in their country, according to a September poll conducted by CVVM and reported by CTK on 27 September. Thirty-one percent are satisfied with the political landscape, compared with 36 percent in July, researchers said. Citizens who are young, in school, well off economically, or followers of the ruling Social Democrats tended to be more satisfied, CVVM said. AH

CZECH MINISTER DOGGED BY NEW HIRING SCANDAL

Minister for Regional Development Petr Lachnit has drawn criticism from the country's largest-circulation daily for the second time in just over a week, this time for payments his ministry is making to a former campaign manager for media services. Entrepreneur Stepan Rainisch has earned 800,000 crowns (roughly $21,800) since June 2000, and is receiving some 50,000 crowns a month for work "Mlada fronta Dnes" said should be done by existing staff within the ministry. The paper's 27 September issue cites a contract with Rainisch for preparing press statements and organizing press conferences -- tasks that the ministry's spokeswoman, Dagmar Placha, said she and her colleagues have executed. Last week, "Mlada fronta Dnes" wrote that Lachnit paid 152,000 crowns for the services of a private media agency, R.P.A., ahead of a television appearance in March. His own press office is responsible for "media training," and some senior ministry officials have links to R.P.A., the paper added. AH

SLOVAK CABINET TIGHTENS CHECKS ON EXPORTS TO RISK COUNTRIES

Economy Minister Lubomir Harach on 26 September told journalists that the cabinet has approved a draft bill on tightening controls of export and import goods that could be used for military purposes, CTK reported. Harach said the draft is particularly aimed at curbing exports of civil products that could be used for military purposes, such as radioactive materials or software. The bill is also to stipulate conditions for exports and imports of goods in trade with countries suspected of supporting terrorism. Premier Mikulas Dzurinda asked Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan to prepare an analysis of the outcome of the extraordinary EU summit that discussed the struggle against terrorism last week. Finance Minister Brigita Schmognerova is to propose ways to block bank accounts that could belong to terrorists. MS

HUNGARIAN PARTY TO STAY IN SLOVAK GOVERNMENT

Deputy Premier and Deputy Chairman of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) Pal Csaky on 26 September confirmed that the SMK will not leave the ruling coalition, Hungarian media reported. Csaky said the conditions set by the SMK for staying in the cabinet have been "largely implemented" and that the other members of the ruling coalition are "showing willingness to reach an agreement." MS

HOT LINE AGAINST RACISM INTRODUCED IN SLOVAKIA

Victims of racially motivated attacks will now be able to call a hot line against racism, which was set up by the civic initiative People Against Racism, CTK reported on 26 September. The agency cited a lawyer for the initiative, who said, "Many people do not know whom to contact" in such cases, or "do not trust police, or police refuse to help them." Lawyer Daniel Milo added that only a small number of racially motivated attacks, and "almost no activities of the neo-Nazis" are reported to police. "We want to collect that information," he said, adding that "we guarantee anonymity and pursuing the matter further." MS.

CROAT PRESIDENT MEETS WITH SLOVAK PREMIER

Croat President Stipe Mesic, on 26 September met in Bratislava with Premier Dzurinda to discuss bilateral relations and economic cooperation, CTK reported. Mesic said Croatia is interested in learning from Slovakia's experiences in transition to a market economy and would like to sign a free-trade agreement with Slovakia. He also briefed Dzurinda on plans to transform the port of Rijeka into a free-trade zone. MS

SLOVAKIA REQUESTS CZECH HELP IN FINDING KIDNAPPED PRIEST IN COLUMBIA

Slovak diplomats have asked their Czech counterparts in Bogota to help find the Rev. Pavol Sucholak, who was kidnapped by leftist terrorists in northeast Columbia on 20 September, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2001). Slovak Foreign Ministry spokesman Boris Gandel said Czech diplomats have promised assistance and information. The Spanish news agency EFE reported that a Czech priest, the Rev. Pavel Fakulac, is also among those kidnapped, but that name is not known to either Czech or Slovak church sources, CTK said. MS

HUNGARIAN CABINET TRIES TO CUSHION ECONOMIC DOWNTURN

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 26 September said Hungary is not immune to economic troubles in the United States, but the government will take special measures to avoid a recession, Hungarian and international media reported. Orban met with finance and economic ministers charged with developing a detailed plan to stimulate the economy. In other news, the Finance Ministry has received from the U.S. Embassy in Budapest a list of 27 persons and organizations linked to terrorism. The ministry has asked banks to check whether these persons are among their customers, but Hungarian law does not allow for freezing their bank accounts, Hungarian media report. MSZ

HUNGARIAN PREMIER VISITS ANTITERRORIST UNITS

Premier Orban, Interior Minister Sandor Pinter, National Police Director Peter Orban, and visiting Macedonian Interior Minister Boskoski Lyube on 26 September visited Hungary's antiterrorist units, Hungarian media reported. Orban heard a report from units that provide special protection for the U.S. military base in Taszar and the Paks nuclear power plant. Orban told reporters that the antiterrorist service is capable of taking action and eliminating terrorist attacks "swiftly, firmly, and with discipline." He also said the U.S. will inform Hungary in the event that it launches counterstrikes against terrorists. MSZ

HUNGARIAN HELSINKI COMMITTEE RESPONDS TO PREMIER'S REMARKS ABOUT MUSLIMS

Ferenc Koszeg, the head of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, responded forcefully on 26 September to remarks about Muslims made by Premier Orban one day earlier on Hungarian TV. In his interview, Orban said the fact that the U.S., the largest state in Western civilization, enters into open military conflict with a state organized on Muslim religious foundations is sufficient reason for Hungary to monitor Muslims with special attention. Koszeg said it is extremely dangerous to emphasize that Muslim refugees are treated differently than others (for security reasons, 600 Afghani refugees have already been moved into a separate camp, and are isolated from other refugees). He observed that most asylum seekers from Afghanistan left their country because they disagree with the Taliban regime. MSZ




NATO, MACEDONIA REACH AGREEMENT ON NEW MISSION

Representatives of the Atlantic alliance and the Macedonian government have reached an agreement on the composition and duration of Operation Amber Fox, which is NATO's new mission to guard unarmed OSCE and EU monitors, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Skopje on 27 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2001). Some 1,000 soldiers will guard 125 monitors for a period of three months, which can then be extended if both parties agree. NATO had wanted a longer mandate, while Skopje had hoped for fewer troops. Dpa reported that 700 soldiers will be based in Macedonia, with 300 in reserve in Kosova. NATO defense ministers approved the mission in Brussels on 26 September. Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said: "Operation Amber Fox, with Task Force Fox, offers the deployment of a mission with a very specific mandate: To contribute to the protection of the international monitors who will oversee the implementation of the peace plan in Macedonia." PM

OPERATION ESSENTIAL HARVEST ENDS IN MACEDONIA

Operation Essential Harvest ended on 26 September after 3,875 weapons had been collected, AP reported. The guerrillas of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK) handed in several hundred more weapons than they had promised (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2001) PM

MACEDONIAN POLITICIANS SEEK 'MOTIVATION' TO KEEP BARGAIN

Stevo Penderovski, an adviser to President Boris Trajkovski, told Reuters in Skopje on 26 September that "the real problem is that the parliament needs motivation to pass the reforms, to prove to the Macedonian people that the peace agreement is an important step in the right direction." He added that Macedonian security forces should be allowed to return to unspecified "low- and medium-risk areas" ahead of schedule to provide the necessary "motivation." Representatives of the international community, as well as of the ethnic Albanians, have called on Macedonian politicians to stop stalling and enact the promised reforms and amnesty for guerrilla fighters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2001). Macedonia faces parliamentary elections in January 2002, and many politicians are afraid of appearing insufficiently "patriotic" in voters' eyes if they support the peace deal (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 September 2001). PM

DEMACI TO HEAD KOSOVA MEDIA BOARD

Veteran political dissident and human rights campaigner Adem Demaci is to head the Administrative Board of Radio-Television Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Prishtina on 26 September. PM

SERBIAN MINISTER WARY ON KOSOVA VOTE

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said in Bujanovac on 26 September that the Serbian government feels that the Serbian minority in Kosova will not take part in the 17 November general elections "under the present circumstances," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September 2001). PM

VOJVODINA LEADER CALLS ON YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT TO ACT

Nenad Canak, the leader of the autonomy-oriented political forces in Vojvodina, and Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic agreed in Novi Sad on 26 September on price supports and subsidies for farmers of sunflowers and other industrial crops, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2001). Canak called on the federal government to make good on what he called its promises to farmers, adding that federal government is not "the private government of [President] Vojislav Kostunica and his Montenegrin admirers." PM

MUDSLINGING CONTINUES IN SERBIAN-MONTENEGRIN RELATIONS

Montenegro's governing Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) accused Kostunica of behaving like "an absolute monarch," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Podgorica on 26 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2001). The DPS charged that Kostunica's "unilateral" decision to end Podgorica-Belgrade political talks reflects his "cheap partisan ambitions" and will help "destabilize" the situation. Predrag Bulatovic, who heads the pro-Belgrade Socialist People's Party (SNP), told RFE/RL that Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic bears responsibility for the current political imbroglio. Bulatovic said it would be a shame if talks did not continue. He added that the next move lies with Djukanovic and Kostunica, "Vijesti" reported on 27 September. "Pobjeda" quoted DPS leader Miodrag Radunovic as saying that Kostunica is willing to sacrifice political dialogue in order to save the political skin of federal Prime Minister Dragisa Pesic. PM

CROATIA CHARGES FOUR WITH WAR CRIMES

The state prosecutor in Bjelovar has formally charged four ex-policemen with killing six Serbian prisoners of war and trying to kill a Serbian civilian during 1991, Hina reported on 26 September. The four have been in police custody since their arrest in August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 2001). PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER SAYS GOVERNMENT HAS 'NO INFORMATION' ON BIN LADEN ACCOUNTS

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 26 September told a forum of Romanian businessmen that his cabinet has "no information" on bank accounts of terrorist Osama bin Laden having been discovered and frozen in Romania, RFE/RL's Romanian-Moldovan Service reported. Nastase said Romania is implementing the UN Security Council resolution on the situation in Afghanistan and thus has "rallied to the principal position adopted by all states that fight terrorism." He added that any bank account traced to terrorists will be immediately blocked. Government adviser Adrian Vasilescu said Romanian banks have begun investigating accounts for any possible links to bin Laden. MS

U.S. AMBASSADOR PRAISES ROMANIA'S ANTITERRORIST STANCE

In his first press conference as U.S. ambassador to Romania, Michael Guest on 26 September said Romania's offer to assist in the struggle against terrorism has been well received in Washington, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Guest said Romania shares NATO's values and firmly opposes terrorism, which he said attacked "not only U.S. symbols, but to even a larger extent [Western] daily life and civilized existence." MS

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS EU COMMISSIONER

Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana on 26 September discussed in Brussels with Guenter Verheugen, the EU's commissioner for enlargement, collaboration in the struggle against terrorism and Romania's accession negotiations with the EU, Romanian radio reported. Verheugen reiterated the backing by the European Commission for lifting visa requirements for Romanian citizens, but added that a decision on the matter will be made by December. He said a meeting scheduled for 27 September of the EU's interior and justice ministers will not make a decision on lifting the requirement. MS

HUNGARIAN LEADERS IN ROMANIA COMPLAIN ABOUT PREMIER'S STATEMENTS

Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Chairman Bela Marko on 26 September told journalists that Premier Nastase's recent statements on the "indoctrination" of Transylvanian Hungarians by the Hungarian-language media in Romania and on the unacceptability of using textbooks produced abroad for teaching history and geography (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 2001) has "disturbed Magyar civil society" in the country and the UDMR itself. Marko said the UDMR leadership wishes to clarify the issue in a meeting with Nastase "as soon as possible" because "any measure that may result in restricting the rights of the Hungarian minority amounts to an infringement of the agreement between the UDMR and the [ruling] Social Democratic Party," Mediafax reported. MS

IMF REPORT SAYS ROMANIAN ECONOMIC GROWTH TOO DEPENDENT ON DOMESTIC DEMAND

In its chapter on Romania, the annual report released by the IMF this week says that the hesitant policies on reform during the last years resulted in economic growth being too dependent on domestic demand and that this phenomenon has been accompanied by a growth in the current deficit account. The IMF said economic reform must be relaunched through the acceleration of privatization and the improvement of government performance. It recommends more restrictive fiscal policies and consolidating the financial performance of state-owned companies. The fund predicts an annual growth rate of 4.1 percent for 2001, and 4.5 percent for 2002. Inflation in 2001 is predicted to be 33.8 percent, and 26 percent next year, while projections for the deficit are 6 percent of the GDP for 2001 and 5.5 percent for 2002. MS

ROMANIAN COURT RELEASES CZECH ENTREPRENEUR

The Supreme Court on 26 September ruled that Czech entrepreneur Frantisek Priplata should be released from detention, CTK and Mediafax reported. Priplata is suspected of complicity in the murder of Iasi trade union leader Virgil Sahleanu in September 2000. Priplata cannot leave Romania as long as the investigation is continuing. A lower court in Oradea ruled last month that Priplata should be released, but the Prosecutor-General's Office appealed that decision. MS

MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTRY CALLS FOR MINIMIZING 'COLLATERAL DAMAGE' IN ANTITERRORIST ACTION

The Foreign Ministry on 26 September issued a statement "firmly condemning the unprecedented terrorist attacks" on the U.S. on 11 September, calling them, "barbarous, absurd, and unjustifiable under any circumstance," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The ministry said Moldova "associates itself to the U.S. efforts...to counteract terrorism by all available means." At the same time, the statement said counteractions must be "carefully prepared and balanced" and targets must be "established with precision, in order to avoid collateral effects that could greatly harm innocent civilians." MS

U.S. CONGRESS TO DEBATE MOLDOVAN SITUATION

The U.S. Congress was to debate on 27 September the situation in Moldova, after the Senate's OSCE Commission on 24 September held hearings on the situation in that country, Flux reported. According to Infotag, the debates on the commission were held with the participation of Moldovan Ambassador Ceslav Ciobanu, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly rapporteur for Moldova Kimmo Kiljunen, the OSCE's mission head to Moldova William Hill, and Moldova expert Professor Charles King. Participants expressed the hope that Russia will pull out its troops from the Transdniester by end of 2002. Professor King said that the withdrawal is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for ending the Transdniester conflict because the separatists have in the past 10 years managed to "build a state of their own, although internationally unrecognized." Participants agreed that "considerable success" has been achieved on the democratization process, that the parliamentary elections won by the Communists were free and fair, and that President Vladimir Voronin is a pragmatic politician. MS

PREMIER SAYS MOLDOVA WILL NOT 'BLINDLY IMPLEMENT' COURT DECISION ON BESSARABIAN CHURCH

Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev on 26 September said his cabinet will not "blindly implement" the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church because "Moldova is an independent country and must pursue its own national interests," Flux reported. He added that if the court were to agree to his cabinet's request to postpone the examination of the case, a "patriotic and humane" solution would be eventually found. But the same day, the cabinet approved a decision stipulating that the Moldovan Metropolitan Church is "the rightful successor" of the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia and Hotin, which existed between 1918 and 1940. The Moldovan Metropolitan Church is now under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, while the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church, which the government refuses to recognize, is under the jurisdiction of the Bucharest Patriarchate. MS

POLL SHOWS BULGARIAN PREMIER HIGHLY POPULAR

A public opinion poll conducted by the national Public Opinion Research Center shows Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski leading the field of popular politicians, with an approval rating of 70 percent, BTA reported. He is followed by President Petar Stoyanov with 68 percent and Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski with 67 percent. Fifty-three percent said they would be ready to support Stoyanov's presidential bid if the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) backs his candidacy for a second term, but the poll shows that if the NDSV does not do so and names its own candidate, only 33 percent are ready to vote for Stoyanov. MS

FORMER BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER URGES PUBLIC DEBATE ON RISKS OF FIGHTING TERRORISM

Former Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova, who now leads the opposition Union of Democratic Forces, on 26 September said she approves of the government's decision to allow overflights of U.S. aircraft but Bulgaria must also start a public debate and "consider all the risks involved in the fight against terrorism," BTA reported. Mihailova said that Bulgaria "cannot afford to leave the public not fully informed of all the considerations that drive the government of Simeon Saxecoburggotski to make one decision or another." The parliament, she added, needs to take adequate legislative measures to update Bulgaria's position on fighting terrorism, in view of "the new global challenges" that terrorism poses. MS

PRIVATE BULGARIAN TV TO LAY OFF STAFF

Georgios Douvletis, the executive director of the private Nova TV, on 26 September told journalists that the station will lay off 20 percent of its staff, BTA reported. The measure follows the revocation of Greek-owned Nova TV 's nationwide license by the Supreme Administrative court last July. The court overruled a decision of the former cabinet headed by Ivan Kostov to award Nova TV a nationwide broadcasting network for 15 years. Lawyers for Nova TV working on the case said they are considering appealing the decision to an international court. MS




LEFT ALLIANCE TAKES OVER IN POLAND


By Jan Maksymiuk

Poland's State Election Commission announced on 26 September that the leftist coalition of the Democratic Left Alliance with the Labor Union (SLD-UP) won 41.04 percent of the vote, or 216 out of the 460 parliamentary seats, in the 23 September general elections. The centrist Civic Platform (PO), which finished second, obtained 12.68 percent of the vote, which translated into 63 parliamentary mandates. The SLD-UP also trounced rivals in the election to the 100-strong Senate, winning 75 seats.

The parliamentary election results of other parties were as follows: the radical farmers' union Self-Defense won 53 seats; the Law and Justice (PiS) 44 seats; the Peasant Party (PSL) 42 seats, and the extreme right, ultra-Catholic League of Polish Families (LPR) 38 seats. The Solidarity Electoral Action of the Right (AWSP) and the Freedom Union (UW) -- both groups deeply rooted in the Solidarity movement of the 1980s -- were ousted from the parliament.

The SLD-UP bloc has fallen 15 seats short of an outright majority, and this shortage seems to be fraught with grave consequences for an expected SLD-dominated government in particular and Poland's further course in general. Political analysts and commentators in Poland agree that the SLD-UP bloc is now facing only two realistic options -- either to run a minority government or forge a ruling coalition with the Peasant Party. The latter option would repeat the situation from 1993-1997, when the SLD ruled in an uneasy alliance with the PSL.

SLD leader Leszek Miller has repeatedly voiced his reluctance to enter any postelection coalitions to form a cabinet, arguing that none of the forces competing in the election had a program compatible with that of the SLD. Immediately after the closure of polling stations on 23 September, when exit polls predicted that the SLD-UP would either have a slim majority or lack only few seats to a majority, President Aleksander Kwasniewski suggested that the SLD-UP could run a minority government rather than enter a coalition resting on "false foundations." Now, when the SLD-UP is 15 mandates shy of a majority, the situation appears to be much more difficult.

A potential coalition with the PSL would spell many troubles for Miller in EU membership talks, especially about Poland's huge and inefficient agricultural sector. Warsaw must take tough and unpopular measures in order to upgrade its agricultural policies to EU standards, and this is exactly what the Euro-skeptic PSL firmly opposes. The PSL is well aware than any concessions toward liberalizing agricultural policies will only reduce the party's support among its countryside electorate and boost backing for the populist Self-Defense, which already outpaced the PSL in the number of parliamentary mandates. Thus, Miller -- who, according to Polish commentators, is keenly interested in leading Poland into the EU during his premiership -- has good reason to avoid a ruling bloc with the PSL.

The other option -- an SLD-UP minority government with the tacit support of the pro-European, liberal Civic Platform -- has obvious drawbacks, too. The PO -- led by a triumvirate of Andrzej Olechowski, Maciej Plazynski, and Donald Tusk -- has ruled out a coalition with the left, but hinted that it might endorse the SLD-UP on such critical issues as dealing with the budget crisis or securing Poland's EU membership. But apart from these key matters, there will be a host of other issues, and the SLD-UP would likely be forced to muster political support in the parliament every time it attempted to pass a bill. Moreover, a tacit alliance of the SLD-UP with the PO would almost certainly lump together the four remaining parliamentary groups and make a vociferous, anti-EU opposition out of them.

The militant farmers' Self-Defense cannot be regarded as a serious government partner. Apart from Self-Defense firebrand leader Andrzej Lepper, who became notorious for organizing road blockades and violent protests against Poland's pro-European policies, none of Self-Defense's 53 newly made lawmakers is known to the Polish public.

The same, although to a somewhat lesser extent, can be said of the 38 lawmakers from the League of Polish Families, a group that emerged this year from nowhere and was pushed into the parliament by the Radio Maryja run by Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, a man dubbed "the most influential religious fundamentalist in Europe" in Polish media. Like Self-Defense, the LPR fiercely opposes Poland's EU membership. The LPR's program is hardly known to the wider public, perhaps apart from the proposal that Poland should join NAFTA rather than the EU's common market.

PiS -- another political group formed this year -- is what can be termed as vestiges of the former Solidarity camp in the parliament. The PiS was built by former Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski and his twin brother Jaroslaw around their campaign for a crackdown on crime and return of the death penalty. The PiS includes a number of former activists of the Solidarity Electoral Action. Chances are that the PiS, in contrast to the populist Self-Defense and LPR, may constitute a somewhat less noisy parliamentary opposition to the SLD-UP.

Even if the preconditions for a future cabinet are not auspicious, most commentators tend to believe that Poland's monolithic, self-disciplined left will be able to forge a stable government.

The landslide victory of the post-communist SLD-UP has not provoked any panic in Europe. Miller's SLD has long ago ceased to be perceived as a party seeking revenge on its right-wing rivals or a sort of communist comeback. The revenge motivation may partly apply to SLD regional-level activists, who still include many former communist apparatchiks, but the SLD's top leadership has firmly set its party on a course toward modern social democracy.

The SLD has chosen a correct course, and this is corroborated not only by voters' massive support but also by an inflow of young activists to the party. For people just over 20 years of age, the communist era in Poland is now only a dim memory. They treat the SLD primarily as a good springboard for their public careers, not as an heir to communist authoritarianism. The SLD leadership was wise enough to provide such career opportunities. Many right-wing parties, including the AWSP and the UW, did not care enough to built such a springboard. And this is one of the reasons they lost.


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