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Newsline - October 1, 2001




PUTIN SAYS CIS MUST UNITE AGAINST TERRORISM...

Speaking to a meeting of the prime ministers of the member governments of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), President Vladimir Putin on 28 September said that the CIS must unite to fight terrorism, Russian and Western agencies reported. Putin noted that the organization has made many mistakes in the past but must not make them in the future in the fight against terrorism. For the first time in his presidency, Putin called the CIS countries Russia's "brothers," noting that they share with Russia a common heritage as "multicultural and multireligious" states, and that they all are committed to fighting terrorism, not Islam. The prime ministers in attendance approved a resolution condemning international terrorism and pledging expanded cooperation. Putin for his part asked the CIS countries to make the CIS Antiterrorist Center a reality and added that Moscow will pay 50 percent of the center's budget, RTR television reported the same day. VY

...BUT COMMENTATORS PREDICT CIS MAY BE WEAKENED OR TRANSFORMED

On 28 September, "Izvestiya" suggested that members of the CIS seem certain to play different roles in the international antiterrorist coalition, thereby posing a threat to cohesion within the CIS, and that President Putin's efforts to unite the CIS represent a kind of preemptive strike. On 28 September, "Kommersant-Daily" suggested that the CIS meeting the day before, by its decision to abolish the Interstate Eurasian Coal and Metals Association, has demonstrated that the CIS is no longer primarily an economic group but may become "a military union" instead. PG

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS CONCERNED BY POSSIBLE INFLUX OF REFUGEES

Colonel General Konstantin Totskii, the director of the Federal Border Service (FPS), said on 27 September that there could be a sizeable influx of refugees if the U.S. attacks Afghanistan in response to the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on 11 September, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Yurii Vorobev said in an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 27 September that the number of refugees fleeing from Afghanistan to Russia could amount to as many as 300,000. Russian military officials on 27 September said that more than 1,500 additional Russian troops will be sent to Tajikistan this week, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

MOSCOW WELCOMES UN SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION ON TERRORISM

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 28 September that Moscow welcomes the UN Security Council resolution condemning terrorism not only because it "provides a legal foundation for forming a coalition against terrorism," but also because it "places the UN at the head of the fight against this scourge," Russian agencies reported. PG

RUSSIA, U.S. COOPERATE TO DISRUPT FINANCING OF TERRORISM

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said on 28 September after a telephone conversation with U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Kenneth W. Dam that the two countries plan to begin consultations on how they can work together to disrupt the financial base of international terrorism, RBK reported. Kudrin said that Russia's recently approved anti-money laundering legislation will help Moscow to do so. At the same time, however, Kudrin acknowledged that Russia needs to strengthen that law and possibly adopt others as well as part of this effort. On 29 September, U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton visited Deputy Foreign Minister Georgii Mamedov to discuss the military and political aspects of a proposed international coalition against terrorism, Interfax reported on 29 September. VY/PG

U.S. TO BACK RUSSIAN MEMBERSHIP IN WTO

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick on 28 September told Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kudrin that Washington supports Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization, RBK reported on 30 September. Zoellick added that Washington will also expedite a response to Moscow's request for certification as a full market economy, which will help Moscow's WTO application but could mean that the U.S. will then have the right to impose extra duties on Russian companies enjoying state subsidies. VY

PUTIN SAYS DRUG PROBLEM THREATENS RUSSIAN NATIONAL SECURITY

Speaking to a special meeting of the Russian Security Council on 28 September, President Putin said that the drug problem in Russia has become so serious that it threatens the country's national security both directly and by providing funds to terrorists, RTR reported. Other participants in the meeting noted that almost 20 percent of Russian draftees have used drugs, that there were 243,000 drug-related crimes last year, that some 12,000 of these crimes were committed by organized gangs, and that the illegal drug business now amounts to approximately $1 billion a year. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported the same day that there are now five major channels of the international drug trade affecting Russia -- the Baltic, the Western, the Caucasian, the Central Asian, and the Russian Far East. Interfax reported the day earlier that Russian and Tajik officials have agreed to step up bilateral cooperation in the fight against the influx of drugs from Afghanistan. VY/PG

PRIMAKOV, PAVLOVSKII PRAISE PUTIN FOR CAREFUL APPROACH TO COOPERATING WITH WEST ON TERRORISM...

In an interview carried on NTV on 27 September, former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov praised President Putin for carefully distinguishing between cooperation with the West and any closer relationship in the fight against terrorism. He said Russia has its own interests and concerns and must not simply follow Washington's lead. Meanwhile, in an interview published in "Vek" on 28 September, Gleb Pavlovskii, who serves as a Kremlin media adviser, said Putin's approach in this area is "exceptionally precise." PG

...WHILE LUKIN SAYS RUSSIA MUST ENTER NATO IF IT CAN

Yabloko leader and former Russian Ambassador to the United States Vladimir Lukin said in an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 27 September that Russia must enter NATO if it can. He argued that once Russia did so, its influence would grow rapidly because that alliance operates on the principle of consensus, which Moscow would be in a position to deny if it felt its interests were being threatened. PG

MOSCOW PLEASED BY U.S. SHIFT ON CHECHNYA

Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 27 September said that Moscow is pleased by Washington's shift in its comments on Chechnya, Russian agencies reported. Meanwhile, other officials suggested that the U.S. now sees the Chechens as terrorists and that the U.S. is prepared to provide Russia with materials on Chechnya in exchange for information about Afghanistan, Interfax reported on 28 September. PG

LIKE PUTIN, DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS PLACE WHERE HE ONCE SPIED

Just as President Putin last week visited German cities where he once worked as a KGB officer -- a visit that "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 29 September said confirmed his status as "a real political leader" but one that "Kommersant-Daily" said had not yielded "any concrete results" -- so too on 28 September Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov visited Stockholm, from where he was once expelled for engaging in KGB work, "Izvestiya" noted in its report on his visit. Ivanov was in Sweden to prepare for the visit to Moscow of Swedish King Karl Gustav and to discuss the expansion of Russian-Swedish military cooperation, RosBalt agency reported the same day. During that visit, Ivanov urged the development of a new security system in the world, one that would replace most existing institutions like NATO, ITAR-TASS reported on the same day. VY/PG

MOSCOW ANGERED BY U.S. PAPER'S LINKING RUSSIAN MAFIA TO BIN LADEN

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 27 September issued a statement criticizing a report in "The "Washington Times" that said there have been links between Russian organized crime and terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, and that these links were exploited in an apparently failed attempt by bin Laden to purchase Russian weapons of mass destruction, RIA-Novosti reported. The ministry said that such reports are clearly intended to undermine Russia's cooperation with the international antiterrorism coalition by casting aspersions on Russia. But at the same time, the ministry said that "if these reports have any basis in fact, then this information should be sent to Russian security services via special channels." VY/PG

JUSTICE MINISTRY PREPARING NEW ANTITERRORISM LAWS

Justice Minister Yurii Chaika told Interfax on 27 September that his ministry is preparing new and tighter laws to combat terrorism. Dmitrii Kozak, the deputy head of the presidential administration, said that the government will ensure that human rights are defended even as Russia combats terrorism, the news agency said the same day. Meanwhile, the next day, visiting U.S. Congressman Curt Weldon said that the Russian-American interparliamentary commission intends to jointly develop counterterrorism legislation, the news agency said. PG

POLLS HIGHLIGHTS RUSSIAN CONCERNS ABOUT TERRORISM, COUNTERTERRORIST EFFORT

According to a poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 27 September, 72 percent of Russians believe that the American response to terrorism could lead to a new world war. Forty-seven percent of Russians do not believe that the elimination of bin Laden will change the situation, while 70 percent believe that the West now sees Russia as an ally in this struggle. The poll also found that 45 percent of Russians believe the terrorists who mounted the 11 September attacks were motivated by hatred of the United States, while an equal percentage believe that they were Islamic "fanatics." PG

DUMA APPROVES 2002 BUDGET ON FIRST READING...

The Duma on 28 September approved on first reading the government's draft 2002 state budget by a vote of 262 to 125, with two abstentions, Russian agencies reported. A second reading is scheduled for 19 October. The budget calls for revenues of 2.1 trillion rubles ($71.9 billion) and spending of 1.9 billion rubles. It assumes that Russia's GDP will rise 4.3 percent in 2002, that inflation will average 10-13 percent, and that oil prices will not fall significantly. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kudrin told the deputies that President Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov want the Duma to pass the budget without significant changes. VY/PG

...AND VOTES AGAIN TO APPROVE LAND CODE

Because of variations in the texts of the Land Code approved on 20 September, the Duma on 28 September voted the second time on third reading to approve the Land Code that permits limited buying and selling of land, Russian agencies reported. Meanwhile, Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev told Interfax on 28 September that the members of the upper chamber of parliament are not pleased with the Land Code adopted by the Duma and that the senators will not approve it without serious changes. He said that the buying and selling of land should be a local option rather than a countrywide policy. VY/PG

PEOPLE'S DEPUTY GROUP BECOMES PEOPLE'S PARTY

Gennadii Raikov, the leader of the pro-Kremlin Duma People's Deputy Group, announced on 28 September that his group has transformed itself into a new countrywide People's Party, gazeta.ru reported. The new party, which held its constituent congress the same day, adopted a program that calls for the restoration of state control over natural monopolies and of central planning of the economy. Gazeta.ru commented that the emergence of this pro-Kremlin group suggests that President Putin is completely disappointed with the Union of Rightist Forces and sees Raikov's group as a "pocket" ally. VY

COMMUNISTS FORM UMBRELLA 'RUSSIAN PATRIOTS' GROUP

The Communist Party of the Russian Federation and its allies held the inaugural congress of a new 'Russian patriots' group on 30 September in an effort to form a common front on the left against the policies of President Putin, ITAR-TASS reported. The group's member parties agreed to field a single candidate for most offices, including president. A poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 30 September suggested that the Communists would garner a greater percentage of the votes -- 35 percent -- than any other party if parliamentary elections were held today. In addition, the participants adopted a resolution criticizing Putin for participating in the U.S.-led antiterrorist coalition and called American charges against bin Laden "unsubstantiated." VY

ZHIRINOVSKY'S PARTY PROTESTS U.S. PLANS TO ATTACK AFGHANISTAN

Duma Deputy Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky on 28 September led a group of the members of his party in a protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Moscow against American plans to attack bin Laden in Afghanistan, Interfax reported. He told the 70 people assembled that the U.S. is seeking to draw Russia into a war in Central Asia, and that "Russia ought to display more solidarity with the Muslim world." PG

COURT REFUSES TO LIQUIDATE NATIONAL BOLSHEVIK PARTY

The Moscow Oblast court on 27 September refused to agree to an appeal by the Justice Ministry to disband the National Bolshevik Party headed by imprisoned writer Eduard Limonov, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court refused to rule that those who took down the statues to Cheka founder Feliks Dzerzhinskii violated any law, the news service reported on 28 September. PG

DRAFTEES FROM CHECHNYA NOT TO SERVE IN REGULAR ARMY

"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 September that this fall's draftees from Chechnya will serve in the Emergency Situations Ministry and the railways forces rather than the regular army. PG

PSKOV OBLAST SEEKS TO SET UP EUROREGION WITH ESTONIA

Vladimir Blank, the deputy governor of Pskov Oblast, has been discussing with Estonian officials the possibility of creating a Euroregion linking his region with Estonia's eastern districts, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 27 September. PG

RUSSIAN MILITARY SATELLITE SYSTEM NOW MUCH REDUCED

According to an article in "Trud-7" on 27 September, Russia is "fast running out of spy satellites." Before 1991, it had nearly 200 such satellites, but now it has only 93, and 80 percent of the latter have exceeded their projected service lifetimes. PG

JOURNALISTS CALL ON LESIN TO END KREMLIN INTERFERENCE IN MEDIA

A meeting of journalists from around Russia on 27 September challenged Media Minister Mikhail Lesin to ask President Putin to prohibit the president's subordinates from interfering in the work of the media, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the following day. For his part, Lesin responded: "Do you think it is easy for me?" Lesin also said that press freedom is "like a child" that must move from drawing everything in "bright colors" to learning to live "by the rules." Lesin also suggested that there is a need for a new law on television and for support of regional stations that lack a sizeable advertising market, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 28 September. PG

TV-6 CLOSURE SAID STRICTLY BUSINESS

Officials of LUKoil-Garant said on 28 September said that the company went to court to close down TV-6 not to restrict media freedom but for purely commercial reasons, Russian and Western agencies reported. The day before, Moscow's Arbitration Court permitted LUKoil-Garant to take this step. PG

80 PERCENT OF MURMANSK BELIEVE RAISING 'KURSK' IS RISKY

As bad weather again delayed work on the raising of the nuclear submarine "Kursk," a poll conducted by Sotsium and reported by Interfax on 28 September found that 80 percent of the residents of Murmansk are worried about possible risks from raising the submarine. Fifty percent of the sample said they are concerned about the possibility of a radiation leak. Meanwhile, Russian officials said they will try to raise the submarine on 1 October, when better weather is expected. PG

ORTHODOX HIERARCH WARNS OF CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad said in Kaliningrad on 26 September that the attack on the World Trade Center threatens to unleash a clash of civilizations, adding that it is important that this not become simply a defense of "Western-liberal" society against Islam, Interfax reported. He said, "If we are not able to harmonize [various] civilizational models, then we will not be able to live in a stable world." He added that "it is impermissible to create integration on the basis of a single civilization model." PG

RUSSIAN MUSLIM LEADER WANTS RELIGIOUS TO WORK WITH SECURITY FORCES

Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin, the chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, said on 27 September that he wants representatives of various religions, including Islam, to work more closely with the military and security services to prevent the entry into Russia of "nontraditional religious groups" financed "from abroad," and thus protect Russia's national security, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Mufti Nafigulla Ashirov, the head of the Spiritual Directorate of Asiatic Russia, said in an interview published in "Argumenty i fakty," No. 39, that Russia's Muslims are loyal to Russia. He said that the current conflict is less between the U.S. and Islam than between the U.S. and Europe on one side and the Third World on the other. PG

ECONOMIC CRIMES RISE 4 PERCENT OVER LAST YEAR

The number of economic crimes so far this year has totaled 283,000, 4 percent more than during the same period in 2000, Interfax reported on 27 September. These crimes, officials at the Interior Ministry said, cost Russia some $1.7 billion. PG

OIL EXPORTS LIMITED BY TRANSPORT ROUTES

Transneft Vice President Sergei Grigorev said on 28 September that Russia will only be able to increase its export of oil if it builds new transport routes and pipelines, Interfax reported. PG

YAKOVLEV CALLS FOR REHABILITATING MEMBERS OF 1917 PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT

Aleksandr Yakovlev, the chairman of the presidential commission on the rehabilitation of victims of political repressions, on 27 September called for the rehabilitation of the members of the Provisional Government who were later shot by the Bolsheviks, Interfax reported. He said he has turned over their files to the Main Military Prosecutor's Office. Meanwhile, Mikhail Kislitsyn, the chief military prosecutor, told the news agency the same day that since 1991, his staff has rehabilitated 81,000 victims of political repressions, including 15,000 foreigners. He said that his office turned down requests for rehabilitation in 35,000 cases, including 7,000 involving foreign nationals. PG

KIDS SAY PUTIN 'COOL'

A poll conducted by the ROMIR agency and reported by dpa on 28 September showed that Russian children overwhelmingly have a positive attitude about President Putin. Eighty-two percent of the children surveyed used words like "kind," "just," and "cool" to describe the Russian president, with only 1 percent calling him "secretive," "bad," or "vicious." PG

INTERIOR MINISTRY OFFICIAL SAYS AFGHAN REFUGEES CROWDING OUT LOCAL POPULATION

Ivan Shushkevich, the head of the main administration for cadres of the Interior Ministry, told "Ekho Rostova" on 28 September that relations between different ethnic groups in the Southern federal district are becoming more strained, regions.ru reported. In addition, he suggested that the probability of conflict between ethnic Russians and Caucasians on this basis is increasing. Shushkevich attributed the growing tension to the large number of unemployed persons and refugees in the area. According to Shushkevich, there is an entire microraion in Rostov where hundreds of refugees from Afghanistan are gradually pushing out the local population. JAC

SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS PRIMORSKII KRAI ELECTION RESULT

The Supreme Court decided on 28 September not to accept the complaint made by State Duma deputy (People's Deputy) Viktor Cherepkov, which challenged the results of Primorskii Krai's gubernatorial election. Cherepkov had filed a legal challenge to a 2 August decision of a krai-level court. Cherepkov, who was eliminated from competing in the second round of that election, has declared that a number of federal and local actors conspired to prevent him from gaining office in the krai (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 20 June 2001). JAC

INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER EDITOR IN KEMEROVO CHARGES OBLAST WITH INTERFERENCE

The editor in chief of the independent newspaper "Kuznetskii krai," Yevgenii Bogdanov, has charged that the financial-industrial group Euroazholding has taken control of his newspaper at the initiative of Kemerovo Oblast authorities, RFE/RL's Kemerovo correspondent reported on 28 September. The company has managed to buy up around 60 percent of the shares in the newspaper, and some shareholders in the newspaper have alleged that the company resorted to blackmail in order to "persuade" them to sell. One shareholder, for example, was told that tax authorities would conduct an audit of his business. In response to Bogdanov's charges of involvement in Euroazholding's takeover effort, the oblast administration has filed a lawsuit claiming defamation. In addition, Sergei Cheremov, the head of the department for relations with public and media organizations in the oblast, declared that the oblast has nothing to do with the events associated with the newspaper, and that the number of independent media organs in the oblast has only increased. JAC

TATAR GROUP EXPRESSES FEARS OVER UPCOMING CENSUS

The Milli Mejlis public organization told RFE/RL's Chally correspondent on 26 September that it is concerned that Moscow may use the forthcoming countrywide census to understate the number of ethnic Tatars in Russia by dividing them into four distinct ethnic groups. These would include the Kazan Tatars, the Astrakhan Tatars, the Siberian Tatars, and the Christian Tatars. Also on 26 September, the moderate nationalist group Tatar Public Center held actions in Naberezhnye Chelny and Yelabugi in favor of accelerating the process of using Latin rather than Cyrillic script in written Tatar, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Farid Mukhametshin, the chairman of Tatarstan's legislative assembly, stated earlier in the month that such a process would take at least 10 years to complete. JAC

FEDERATION COUNCIL MEMBER DIES IN CAR CRASH

Arkhangelsk Oblast's representative to the Federation Council, Vyacheslav Kalyamin, has died in an auto accident, Russian agencies reported on 28 September. Meanwhile on 26 September, deputies in Novosibirsk Oblast's legislative assembly approved Viktor Ignatov as representative of their region in the upper legislative council, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Ignatov most recently worked as an assistant to Novosibirsk Governor Viktor Tolokonskii. JAC

RUSSIAN, CHECHEN OFFICIALS REJECT GEORGIAN MEDIATION OFFER...

Pro-Moscow Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov on 1 October affirmed that Russia has no need of mediators to conduct peace talks with representatives of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, ITAR-TASS reported. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze had stated the previous day that he is willing to act as a mediator after receiving a request from Maskhadov to do so from Akhmed Zakaev, a former member of Maskhadov's government. Shevardnadze made a similar offer at the beginning of the current war (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999). Ilyasov implicitly accused Shevardnadze of abetting Maskhadov and suggested he would be better served trying to expel Chechen fighters loyal to Maskhadov from Georgian territory. Nikolai Britvin, deputy presidential envoy to the Southern federal district, similarly rejected Shevardnadze's offer, stressing that no one in Moscow asked him to act as go-between. LF

...AS CHECHENS CONFIRM THEY ARE IN CONTACT WITH KAZANTSEV

In an interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 29 September, Maskhadov confirmed that his envoy Zakaev has been in contact with presidential envoy to the Southern federal district Viktor Kazantsev, whom President Putin has tasked with conducting talks with those Chechens willing to lay down their arms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 27 September 2001). Maskhadov said those talks did not focus on specific decisions but rather on "the search for points of contact on key aspects of mutual relations," in particular an end to hostilities. Presidential aide Yastrzhembskii for his part on 28 September expressed approval of Maskhadov's choice of Zakaev as his envoy, characterizing Zakaev as "quite an acceptable and sane person" who had not participated in active fighting, Interfax reported. But at the same time Yastrzhembskii yet again ruled out Maskhadov as a negotiating partner. Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov similarly said on 28 September that dialogue with Maskhadov "is impossible," Interfax reported. LF




THOUSANDS CALL ON ARMENIAN PRESIDENT TO RESIGN

A crowd estimated at between 3,000 and 12,000 demonstrators attended a rally in Yerevan on 28 September convened by opposition Hanrapetutiun party leader and former Prime Minister Aram Sargsian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. In early September, Hanrapetutiun together with the People's Party of Armenia and the National Accord Party announced their intention of beginning impeachment proceedings against President Robert Kocharian, whom they accuse of violating the constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2001 and "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 32, 24 September 2001). Sargsian and former Yerevan Mayor Albert Bazeyan both described Kocharian's plans to seek a second presidential term in 2003 as "a threat to Armenia's statehood," Glasnost-North Caucasus Reported. Speakers at the rally claimed that attendance would have been larger had police not turned back buses carrying thousands more potential participants before they reached Yerevan. LF

U.S. MAKES USE OF ARMENIAN AIRSPACE

U.S. military aircraft engaged in the buildup of U.S. forces prior to the anticipated retaliatory strike against terrorist bases in Afghanistan overflew Armenia on 27 September, Presidential spokesman Vahe Gabrielian told RFE/RL. But he did not specify how many aircraft were involved, or whether the flights originated from the Turkish airbase at Incirlik or elsewhere. LF

POPE ENDS VISIT TO ARMENIA

Pope John Paul II left Armenia on 27 September after a three-day visit after celebrating a mass at Echmiadzin for Armenia's tiny Catholic community. Speaking at a farewell ceremony at Yerevan's Zvartnots airport, the pope called on the leaders of the three South Caucasus states to "move forward courageously" toward peace, which he termed the precondition for development and prosperity. He also urged Armenians not to lose hope in the face of economic hardship. LF

ARMENIAN-TURKISH CONCILIATION COMMISSION REGISTERS PROGRESS

Two Armenian members of the Armenian-Turkish conciliation commission established in July told RFE/RL's Armenian Service on 228 September that during the group's first session held in Istanbul last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2001), its 10 members "got a better idea of each others' views," as a result of which "it is now easier" for them to discuss "sensitive issues." But neither participant divulged precisely what topics the group addressed. Its next meeting is to take place in November in New York. Meanwhile in Strasbourg, the Armenian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) autumn session proposed that the PACE Ministerial Committee formally discuss Turkey's economic blockade of Armenia, Noyan Tapan reported on 26 September. LF

AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA SIGN AGREEMENT ON NATURAL GAS EXPORT

The presidents of Azerbaijan and Georgia, Heidar Aliyev and Eduard Shevardnadze, signed a formal agreement on 29 September in Baku on the export of Azerbaijani natural gas (not oil, as reported in "RFE/RL Newsline" on 27 September) via the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum pipeline. That agreement was originally scheduled for signing two months earlier, but delayed due to the two sides' inability to reach agreement on transit fees (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August and 21 September 2001). A parallel intergovernmental agreement was signed by Georgian International Oil Company President Giorgi Chanturia and Azerbaijani Fuel and Energy Minister Medjid Kerimov. ITAR-TASS quoted Natik Aliev, president of the Azerbaijani State Oil Company SOCAR, as saying that between 2004-2009 Georgia will receive $2.50 for each 1,000 cubic meters of gas, rising gradually over the next 20 years to a maximum of $5. According to Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili, separate agreements will be negotiated annually between 2004 and 2018 to determine what percentage of the transit tariffs Georgia will receive in cash and natural gas respectively. In addition, Georgia will receive 5 percent of the gas exported via the pipeline free of charge, and will have the option of purchasing a further 500 million cubic meters at a price of $55 per 1,000 cubic meters. The initial throughput capacity will be 2 billion cubic meters per year, rising to 6.6 billion cubic meters in 2018. LF

COUNCIL OF EUROPE CONCERNED BY HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN AZERBAIJAN

Council of Europe Secretary-General Walther Schwimmer on 28 September expressed concern at the increase in the number of instances of harassment and imprisonment of journalists in Azerbaijan in recent weeks, Turan reported. He called on the Azerbaijani leadership to guarantee free speech and journalistic independence, and also to make good on the pledge made in January when Azerbaijan was accepted into full membership of the Council of Europe to release or grant a new trial to all political prisoners. President Aliyev told a visiting Council of Europe delegation in July that there are no political prisoners in Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2001). LF

GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ OFFICIALS ASSESS CHECHEN THREAT...

Abkhaz Premier Anri Djergenia traveled to Tbilisi on 28 September, where he met for two hours with President Shevardnadze to discuss preparations for the planned 9 October meeting of the UN-sponsored Coordinating Council that aims to resolve issues related to the Abkhaz conflict, and the threat posed by the reported presence in Abkhazia of groups of fighters from Chechnya, Russian and Georgian agencies reported. Djergenia denied Georgian media reports of clashes over the previous two days between Abkhaz troops and combined Chechen and Georgian guerrilla forces near the town of Tkvarcheli. Shevardnadze said that contact has been made with the Chechen fighters, who agreed to leave Abkhazia. UN special envoy Dieter Boden said on 29 September that the risk of new fighting in Abkhazia has been almost eliminated, Interfax reported. Caucasus Press on 27 September quoted Georgian Forest Brothers guerrilla movement leader Dato Shengelaia as explaining that the 900 Chechen fighters entered Georgia two months ago, but failed to reach agreement with the Georgian guerrillas on launching a new offensive against the Abkhaz army. The Georgian guerrillas wanted to enlist the Chechens' help to overthrow the Abkhaz leadership, but the Chechens wanted to attack the Russian military base in Abkhazia and thus open a new Russian-Chechen front on Georgian territory. LF

...AS INTERIOR MINISTER RULES OUT JOINT OPERATION WITH RUSSIA AGAINST CHECHENS

Visiting Moscow on 28-29 September for talks with his Russian counterpart Boris Gryzlov, Georgian Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze said Tbilisi would not agree to mounting a joint operation with Russia against Chechen fighters on Georgian territory, ITAR-TASS reported. One week earlier Georgian Border Guard commander Valeri Chkheidze had hinted that Georgia might agree to such an operation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2001). Targamadze denied that Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev is hiding out on Georgian territory controlled by the central Georgian government, but conceded that he might be in a region that is not controlled by the Georgian government, possibly meaning Abkhazia or the breakaway unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia. Numerous Russian media reports over the past year have claimed that Gelaev and his men retreated to Georgia's Pankisi gorge after his clash in March 2000 with fellow field commander Arbi Baraev. Targamadze and Gryzlov also discussed the extradition to Russia of 13 fighters from the North Caucasus detained in Georgia in early June after illegally entering Georgia from Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 19 September 2001). LF

RULING PARTY APPEALS TO GEORGIAN PRESIDENT TO DELAY RESIGNATION AS CHAIRMAN

A group of founding members of the Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) has appealed to President Shevardnadze not to resign yet as that party's chairman, Caucasus Press reported on 29 September. Shevardnadze announced his decision to do so two weeks ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2001). The SMK was founded in late 1993 to serve as Shevardnadze's personal power base. LF

GEORGIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS IN JEOPARDY?

For lack of a quorum, the Georgian parliament on 28 September failed to select the members of the new Central Election Commission nominated by NGOs, Caucasus Press reported. Those members must be endorsed by no less than two-thirds of the 235 parliament deputies, but only 143 were present. Two days earlier, Central Electoral Commission Deputy Chairman Givi Komakhidze told Caucasus Press he doubts that local elections will take place as scheduled on 4 November. The commission has not yet received the 4 million laris ($1.93 million) required to cover the costs of the ballot, and numerous organizational problems have still to be resolved. Virtually all opposition parties have vowed to boycott the poll, claiming that the parliament vote on the new election law was invalid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 2001). LF

U.S., KAZAKH OFFICIALS DISCUSS ANTITERRORIST MEASURES

U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan Larry Napper on 28 September urged Zharmakhan Tuyaqbaev, speaker of the Mazhilis (the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament) to expedite ratification of international conventions of the fight against terrorism, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The same day, Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov met in Washington with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to discuss Kazakhstan's contribution to the international antiterrorism coalition, ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 28 September, Kazakh officials in Astana said that a U.S. military aircraft en route from Ireland to Uzbekistan overflew Kazakh territory two days earlier, Reuters reported. Meanwhile in Almaty, the All-Union Bolshevik Party's Kazakhstan branch held a press conference at which members protested the Kazakh leadership's willingness to facilitate U.S. strikes on Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. LF

KYRGYZ DISTRICT COURT THROWS OUT LIBEL SUIT AGAINST PRESIDENT

The Pervomai district court in Bishkek on 28 September rejected a libel suit brought against President Askar Akaev by imprisoned former Vice President Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2001). In his book "The Memorable Decade," Akaev had described Kulov as power hungry and having ties to criminal circles. Kulov was sentenced in January to seven years imprisonment on charges of abuse of power while serving as national security minister in 1997-1998. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT CONSULTS WITH AFGHAN, UZBEK, COUNTERPARTS

During a telephone conversation on 28 September, Imomali Rakhmonov and Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani shared their concern at the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and appealed to the international community to provide the maximum aid to the civilian population, Interfax reported. Also on 28 September, Rakhmonov met with Moukhsin Aminzadeh, a special envoy of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, to discuss the possible repercussions of U.S. airstrikes against terrorist bases in Afghanistan. Rakhmonov also discussed Afghanistan and the situation in Central Asia with Uzbekistan's president, Islam Karimov, Russian agencies reported. The two agreed on the need to strengthen border controls to prevent terrorists from entering either country from Afghan territory. LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT DISCUSSES ANTITERRORISM MEASURES WITH RUSSIAN PRESIDENT, VISITING U.S. OFFICIAL

President Karimov telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin on 30 September to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and ways to cooperate in the fight against international terrorism, Russian agencies reported. On 28 September, U.S. Undersecretary of State John Boulton visited Tashkent to discuss antiterrorism measures with the Uzbek leadership, AP reported. No details of those talks were released. Also on 28 September, for security reasons Uzbekistan stopped routing either passenger or cargo flights across Afghan territory, Interfax reported. LF




MINSK WORKERS BLOCK STREET TO GET OVERDUE WAGES

Some 500 angry workers of the Minsk Tractor Plant, a flagship of Belarusian industry, blocked the street near their factory for two hours on 28 September, to protest the delay in paying wage arrears, Belapan reported. The plant's management promised to pay workers their overdue wages in mid-September, but has failed to do so. According to the agency, the street protest greatly alarmed both plant managers and government officials who immediately arranged for payments to begin. "The protest has shown that the working class has not yet degraded completely. In the current conditions, this is the only effective method for workers to defend their rights," said trade union leader Alyaksandr Bukhvostau. JM

MINSK TEACHERS DENY THEY EARNED MORE THAN $100 IN SEPTEMBER

Tamara Chobatava, chairwoman of Trade Union of Science and Education Workers, has denied that the average wage of teachers in Minsk in September will amount to $104, Belapan reported on 27 September. Such a statement was made by Minsk Mayor Mikhail Paulau earlier the same week in a report to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Chobatava said the average monthly wage of a full-time teacher in Minsk is only 51,000 rubles ($35). She added that in order to increase their pay, many teachers work extra hours amounting to 70 percent of their standard workload. JM

BELARUSIAN INTELLECTUALS PROTEST ROAD CONSTRUCTION AT STALIN-ERA MASSACRE SITE

Some 40 Belarusian intellectuals and prominent public figures have demanded that the Minsk City authorities stop the road construction work at Kurapaty, a site outside Minsk where tens of thousands were executed and buried by the NKVD in the 1930s (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 26 September 2001), Belapan reported on 29 September. They said in a statement that a government commission in 1989 confirmed that Kurapaty is a burial ground of thousands of victims of the NKVD, and is now listed as a Belarusian historical and cultural heritage site. The authors of the statement consider the ongoing expansion of the Minsk beltway to be a direct threat to Kurapaty. They want the authorities to suspend the construction work, carry out additional archeological excavations at the site, publish the full results of the previous investigation, and turn the area into a memorial. JM

LUKASHENKA APPOINTS NEW PRIME MINISTER

The Belarusian president has appointed 52-year-old Henadz Navitski as new prime minister, Belapan reported on 1 October. Navitski was a deputy prime minister in the previous cabinet of Uladzimir Yarmoshyn. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOWS TO FIGHT TERRORISM

Leonid Kuchma on 29 September said today's terrorists are followers of the Nazi genocide policy and pledged Ukrainian support for U.S. efforts to build a global antiterrorist coalition, Interfax reported. Kuchma made this statement during the official commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust massacre at Babi Yar near Kyiv, where the Nazis killed between 100,000 and 200,000 people of primarily Jewish origin during the occupation of the country. Kuchma unveiled a monument to the estimated 40,000 Jewish children killed at Babi Yar. JM

UKRAINE, U.S. FINALIZE DETAILS OF U.S. TRANSPORT FLIGHTS

Kyiv and Washington on 28 September agreed on details regarding the use of Ukrainian airspace by American military transport planes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2001), Interfax reported, quoting Mykola Palchuk from the Ukrainian armed forces' General Staff. Palchuk said U.S. aircraft may fly over Ukraine at an altitude of no less than 9,100 meters and use three military air fields and several air corridors. "[The U.S. planes] may leave us in any direction and use the corridors for return flights," Palchuk said. JM

PROSECUTORS REFUSE TO INVESTIGATE KUCHMA OVER JOURNALIST'S DEATH

The Prosecutor-General's Office has rejected a demand from Lesya Gongadze, the mother of murdered journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, to launch a criminal investigation into whether President Kuchma and other top officials were involved in his murder, AP reported on 28 September. In a letter to Lesya Gongadze, Deputy Prosecutor-General Oleksiy Bahanets said investigators have already looked into allegations made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko about Kuchma's complicity in the murder and found them to be false. JM

TWO SENTENCED FOR KILLING POPULAR UKRAINIAN COMPOSER

The Lviv Oblast Court on 28 September found Dmytro Voronov and Yuriy Kalinin guilty of the premeditated murder of popular Ukrainian composer Ihor Bilozir and sentenced them to 15 and 12 years in prison respectively, Interfax reported. Bilozir died in a Lviv hospital on 28 May 2000 after being beaten by Voronov and Kalinin, who did not like his speaking and singing in the Ukrainian language while in a cafe. Bilozir's death provoked violent anti-Russian protests in Lviv and exacerbated to Ukrainian-Russian ethnic tensions in western Ukraine. Voronov and Kalinin were also ordered to pay 50,000 hryvni ($9,430) in compensation to Bilozir's family. JM

ESTONIAN ECONOMY MINISTER ANNOUNCES RESIGNATION

Mihkel Parnoja of the Moderates unexpectedly announced his resignation as economy minister on 28 September, BNS reported. He said unpopular decisions he had made regarding the privatization of Eesti Raudtee (Estonian Railways) and Narva Elektrijaamad (Narva Power Plants) had been correct and necessary, but unfortunately he and his colleagues had failed to successfully explain the reasons for those decisions to the public. Parnoja, who survived two no-confidence votes while he was economy minister, intends to return to the parliament as a deputy once President Lennart Meri accepts his resignation. The board of the Moderates the next day approved Parnoja's decision and pledged to nominate a new economy minister as soon as possible. The Moderates will oppose the proposal made by its coalition partner, the Reform Party, that the merger of the Economy Ministry and Transport and Communications Ministry be initiated immediately. SG

BALTIC SEA REGION E-BUSINESS FORUM HELD IN RIGA

On the final day of the Baltic Sea region E-business forum in Riga on 26-28 September, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Secretary-General Donald Johnston said that the Baltic states have the necessary basic infrastructure with the necessary institutions and well educated people to successfully develop an information technology-based society, BNS reported. On 27 September, Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar told the forum that cooperation between public and private sectors is a precondition for implementing E-projects, such as Estonia's E-government project that allows government members to participate in cabinet sessions from anywhere in the world. His Lithuanian counterpart Algirdas Brazauskas also spoke at the forum, and at a subsequent meeting the three premiers of the Baltic states discussed the global situation following the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States and agreed to develop a joint program for combating terrorism. SG

LITHUANIAN PREMIER VISITS LATVIA

Brazauskas held talks during his two-day working visit to Latvia with high-level officials from that country, ELTA reported. The premier gave speeches at the Baltic Sea region E-business forum on 27 September and at the meeting of representatives of the Council of the Baltic Sea States the next day, ELTA reported. He discussed with Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins the need for Latvia to ratify the sea-border treaty between their countries, the possible renewal of searches for oil deposits off their coasts, and the participation of both countries in joining Poland's program to obtain gas from Norway. Brazauskas told President Vaira Vike-Freiberga that their countries should simplify border-crossing procedures and invest more in the expansion of border-crossing points to eliminate the lines of trucks that often form at the borders. The leaders also spoke about their negotiations to join the EU and NATO, and the possibility of signing an agreement on the free movement of labor between their states. Brazauskas also invited OSCE Secretary-General Johnston to attend the global IT forum that is to be held in Vilnius in August 2003. SG

POLISH LEFT ALLIANCE APPEARS TO LOOK FOR COALITION CABINET

Leszek Miller, the leader of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), told the 29 September "Rzeczpospolita" that a ruling coalition is a better option than a minority government. According to Miller, ruling by a minority would be an "ordeal." The SLD (in an election bloc with the Labor Union) won 216 parliamentary seats in the 23 September election, 15 seats short of an outright majority. Miller, who is widely expected to be Poland's next prime minister, is currently holding talks on a future cabinet with the five other parties that won parliamentary mandates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2001). Commentators predict that the SLD is most likely to forge a ruling coalition with the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), unless the PSL demands too many concessions. The PSL won 42 parliamentary seats. JM

POLISH GOVERNMENT APPROVES 2002 DRAFT BUDGET

The outgoing cabinet of Jerzy Buzek on 28 September approved a spending plan for 2002, Polish media reported. Finance Minister Halina Wasilewska-Trenkner said the austerity budget plan cuts the previously projected deficit of 88 billion zlotys ($20.9 billion) to 40 billion zlotys, or an estimated 5 percent of GDP. The government proposed a 5 percent import tax and a rise in VAT on agricultural equipment to close the huge budget gap. The 2002 budget draft projects economic growth at 2.5 percent. JM

SENIOR CZECHOSLOVAK COMMUNISTS PLEAD NOT GUILTY TO NAZI COVER-UP

Two senior officials from the pre-1989 communist regime in Czechoslovakia pleaded not guilty in a Prague court on 1 October to charges they obstructed the prosecution of a former Nazi, CTK reported. Former Deputy General Prosecutor Jaroslav David, 77, and ex-Deputy Interior Minister Jaroslav Klima, 80, are suspected of intervening in 1966 to prevent charges being filed against Werner Tutter, a former Nazi who worked for Czechoslovak intelligence for several decades after World War II, the agency added. Klima has denied writing a letter requesting that prosecutors drop the case, while David testified that he simply passed Klima's letter along without acting on it, CTK reported. AH

CZECH SUPPORT FOR EU ENTRY RISES SLIGHTLY

An early September poll shows Czech support for the country's accession to the EU to be 43 percent, up 3 percent from May, CTK reported on 1 October. One-fifth of respondents said they would reject EU membership if it were put to a referendum, down by 3 percent, according to the figures from STEM polling agency. Figures based on participation in a possible referendum indicated likely approval for EU entry among those who would vote, the agency added. AH

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER URGES UN LEADERSHIP ON ANTITERROR COALITION

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan recommended to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 28 September that the United Nations take the lead in efforts to combat terrorism, CTK reported. Kavan said the UN should lead the antiterrorism coalition "because international terrorism cannot be fought only by military means," CTK cited him as saying after a meeting between the two men on 28 September. The UN "could strike the roots of terrorism," he added. Kavan was scheduled to meet U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on 1 October as part of his four-day official visit. AH

SCHUESSEL PRAISES SLOVAKIA'S PROGRESS IN EU NEGOTIATIONS

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel told visiting Slovak Premier Mikulas Dzurinda on 28 September that "You have caught up with the countries in the most advanced group [in negotiations with the EU], and even surpassed some of them," CTK reported. Schuessel added that Slovakia is a "remarkable example" of progress in the accession negotiations and that Vienna has never been a partisan of negotiations by groups, preferring individual negotiations with the candidate countries. He also said that Austria is "satisfied" with the Slovak decision to close down the first and second blocks of the Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear power plant in 2006 and 2008, respectively. Dzurinda thanked Schuessel for his support in the EU negotiations and said Austrians are the largest single group of foreign investors in his country. MS

SLOVAK MINISTER CONTENT WITH EU ASSESSMENT OF PROGRESS

Maria Kadlecikova, the Slovak deputy premier in charge of EU integration, on 28 September said in Brussels that the 2001 assessment by the EU Commission of Slovakia's performance toward integration will be better than the report of the previous year, CTK reported. She said the report will be "positive" on all chapters in the negotiations. However, Kadlecikova admitted that the EU is recommending that Bratislava intensify efforts to meet the conditions of accession in the agriculture, environment, and interior affairs chapters of the acquis communautaire. MS

SLOVAK PARTY TO LOOK FOR PARTNERS ON THE LEFT

The minor coalition Civic Understanding Party (SOP) decided at its congress on 29 September to seek partners on the left of the political spectrum and to "stop toying with liberal orientations," according to CTK. The congress elected Marian Mesiarik, Ivan Budiak, and Jozef Skultety as SOP deputy chairmen. SOP Chairman Pavol Hamzik was reelected to his position. The SOP was set up by Rudolf Schuster when he was mayor of Kosice in 1998, but has been gradually losing support since the last elections. On 28 September, President Schuster underwent successful cataract surgery and his spokesman said he will be discharged "in a day or two," AP reported. MS

SLOVAK POLICE DETAIN SKINHEAD NEO-NAZIS

Police in Papradno, 100 kilometers northeast of Bratislava, on 29 September detained 90 skinheads and seized neo-Nazi paraphernalia at a concert in the town, AP reported. The detained skinheads were released the next day. The concert was attended by skinheads from several countries. MS

COLOMBIAN REBELS RELEASE SLOVAK PRIEST

The Rev. Pavol Sochulak, who was kidnapped by leftist guerrillas on 21 September, has been released, CTK reported on 28 September. The rebels released him on 25 September despite his refusal to meet their demand that he inform the media about their conditions for parleys with the Colombian government. MS

TESTS CONFIRM BSE IN SLOVAKIA

A second round of testing carried out in Germany has confirmed Slovakia's first case of BSE ("mad cow disease"), AP reported on 27 September. The Slovak authorities have ordered a third round of testing and results are expected on 4 October. The suspected case was discovered during routine tests conducted on a 6-year-old bovine on a farm near Ziar nad Hronom, some 120 kilometers northeast of Bratislava. MS

FIDESZ GOVERNMENT REGAINS PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY

FIDESZ parliamentary group leader Jozsef Szajer on 30 September announced that Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) deputies Katalin Kiszely and Robert Molnar have been admitted to the FIDESZ group, thus restoring the 194-member coalition majority in the parliament. Szajer said the victory of the left in last week's Polish elections must serve as a warning to the governing coalition in Hungary. He added, however, that the FIDESZ-Democratic Forum cooperation pact can provide a solid basis to sustain a right-of-center government. Forum Chairwoman Ibolya David said traditional Smallholder values have a place in a FIDESZ-Forum government, but add that the FKGP "does not appear to represent a real political force." MSZ

HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS GROUP ELECTS LEADER

The Reform Smallholders' Party on 29 September elected Katalin Liebmann as its chairwoman, Hungarian media reported. Liebmann previously headed the Budapest chapter of Jozsef Torgyan's FKGP. Liebmann said in her acceptance speech that many former FKGP members who call themselves "reformers" are only "waiting to stab their leader in the back." She promised that her party will openly take up the struggle for real reform. MSZ

HUNGARIAN CABINET TO INJECT 200 BILLION FORINTS INTO THE ECONOMY

The Hungarian government is responding to a potential global economic slowdown with a 200 billion forint ($715 million) economic stimulation program, Economy Minister Gyorgy Moatolcsy said on 28 September. Some 70 to 80 billion forints of the 200 billion will be spent next year. Finance Minister Mihaly Varga said there is no need to modify the 2002 budget, as reserves are available. MSZ




GUNFIRE EXCHANGED AS MACEDONIAN TROOPS PREPARE TO MOVE INTO REBEL TERRITORY...

The Macedonian government reported exchanges of gunfire on 30 September and the following day between ethnic Albanians and Macedonian police in the northwest of the country, AP reported. Police spokesman Victor Sutarov said there were no injuries in what he said was the most serious flare-up of gunfire in several days. He accused ethnic Albanian militants of initiating the shooting and said police manning checkpoints outside of Tetovo returned fire. An ethnic Albanian rebel commander told AP that the incident was a provocation by the Macedonian side. Gunfire was also heard in some villages in the northwest that were rebel strongholds during the insurgency, and which the Macedonian government is preparing to retake control of. PB

...AND EVERYONE WAITS FOR MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT TO DECLARE AMNESTY

NATO, members of the Macedonian government, and ethnic Albanian rebel leaders urged the Macedonian parliament to pass an amnesty before sending Macedonian security forces into rebel-held areas of the country, AFP reported. The amnesty is supposed to be granted in exchange for the rebels disarming, which has been officially completed. Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski said on television that "I wish they [parliament deputies] would finally stop passing the buck about who should propose the law for amnesty and solve this painful issue. We have to accept that we have taken on an obligation that is part of the peace plan...[hard-line politicians] can also endanger the lives of policemen who enter villages because if the status of former so-called UCK members is not regulated, this creates unease and room for incidents." NATO spokesman Mark Laity made a similar point, saying: "people who fear being arrested because there is no amnesty will not be so welcoming of Macedonian security forces returning." Rebel leaders said it will also be very difficult for the peace process to continue without an amnesty. Hard-liners in the parliament have delayed passing the amnesty, and some have even suggested it should be put to a national referendum. PB

COMMANDER OF NEW NATO FORCE PLEDGES SECURITY...

Brigadier-General Heinz-Georg Keerl, the German head of NATO's follow-up mission in Macedonia, dubbed Amber Fox, said on 29 September that his forces will "move very rapidly, if necessary by air...to secure an area and provide a secure environment" for the monitors being sent to observe the peace process. NATO began deploying troops for Amber Fox on 27 September, and Keerl said some 250 soldiers are already in place. NATO spokesman Laity said, "There will be problems, there will be violence. It's a fact of life there will be incidents." PB

...AS TALKS ON THE RETURN OF MACEDONIAN FORCES CONTINUE

NATO said in Skopje on 30 September that progress was made in the talks to decide on a plan of return for Macedonian forces to the conflict areas held by rebel ethnic Albanian forces, AFP reported. NATO spokesman Laity said that "progress was made on all levels" in meetings with the Macedonian Defense and Interior ministries. Macedonian army spokesman Blagoja Markovski said soldiers will not return to the rebel strongholds until NATO's new mission, Amber Fox, is properly under way. Defense Minister Buckovski said the government is taking into consideration "the demands of the international community for a staged return which is aimed at guaranteeing greater security." Some members of parliament and the government had called for an immediate push by Macedonian forces into areas held by ethnic Albanians that could be completed within a few weeks. PB

TWO SERBS KILLED IN SOUTHEASTERN KOSOVA IN SEPARATE INCIDENTS

A 50-year-old woman was killed by a land mine while working in her cornfield on 30 September, and a 48-year-old man was killed when the van in which he was a passenger was fired upon on 28 September, AP and Beta reported. Serb sources in the village of Klokot believed the mine that killed Stana Mirkovic was planted the night before, as members of her family had worked the field the previous day. Klokot is one of the few Serb settlements left in the predominantly ethnic Albanian southeast. A UN police spokesman said the van was attacked as it stopped at a roadblock near the village of Kopernica, 45 kilometers southeast of Prishtina. DW

SERBIAN MINISTER WANTS POSTELECTION GUARANTEES IN KOSOVA

Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic told the 30 September "Vecernje Novosti" that "Serbs need additional guarantees that Kosovo will not declare independence after the [17 November] elections," and that Serbs will be able to organize their own local authorities under UNMIK rules, Serbian news agencies reported. He also said under the UN's plan, repatriating the 250,000 displaced Serbs to the province would take 250 years; although at the same time he criticized his own government for failing to deliver aid earmarked for the Kosova Serbs. DW

GRAFFITI CALLS FOR EXPULSION OF MINORITIES FROM VOJVODINA

Graffiti calling for the expulsion of minorities from the ethnically mixed town of Sombor in northern Vojvodina appeared overnight, the Hungarian-language daily "Magyar Szo" reported on 30 September. "Hungarians Out!", "Croats Out!", "Death to the Jews!", "Death to the Albanians!", and "We shall storm over the River Drava and set Croatia ablaze!" were some of the slogans covering walls in the town. Mayor Jovan Vujicic called on citizens to stop tolerating such offenses and name the perpetrators, as well as calling on authorities to take action. DW

YUGOSLAVIA HAS 'OPEN DOOR' TO NATO'S PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE

Robert Serry, the director of the Crisis Management and Operation Directorate at NATO headquarters, said that Yugoslavia has an "open door...since the democratic changes in Belgrade" of a year ago, Reuters reported on 29 September. Speaking after a two-day conference on the possibility of Yugoslavia joining the program, Serry said the fact that Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic opened the conference "is an encouraging sign of the growing interest of Belgrade in the further improvement of its relations with NATO." Svilanovic said he is convinced that "we are very close to joining the Partnership for Peace." In other news, the U.S. on 28 September reopened its consulate in Belgrade, which had been closed since the NATO bombing campaign of March 1999, AP reported. DW

YUGOSLAV PARLIAMENT PASSES LAW ON MONEY LAUNDERING

The Yugoslav parliament passed a law proposed by the central bank to combat money laundering and harmonize its laws with those of the EU, Reuters reported on 28 September. The law comes into effect on 1 July 2002. "We decided to start implementing the law nine months after its adoption to give time for all needed institutions to be created," National Bank of Yugoslavia Governor Mladjan Dinkic said. DW

FORMER BOSNIAN-MUSLIM COMMANDER PLEADS NOT GUILTY IN THE HAGUE

The highest-ranking Bosnian Muslim to be brought before The Hague war crimes tribunal, Sefer Halilovic, pleaded not guilty on 27 September to charges of failing to prevent the 1993 killing of Bosnian Croat civilians by his troops, Reuters reported. Halilovic, who surrendered to the court on 25 September, is charged with violating the laws and customs of war. He is accused of failing to stop the murder of more than 60 villagers and of subsequently not investigating or punishing those responsible for the killings. Halilovic's lawyer said the killings were carried out by elements of the army and secret services to deepen ethnic resentment and discredit Halilovic, Reuters said. AH

BOSNIAN LEADERSHIP PREPARED TO INTERCEPT MILITANTS WITH LINKS TO BIN LADEN

Dozens of militants linked to Saudi-born Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda organization are trying to flee Afghanistan for Bosnia, Reuters and other agencies quoted the interior minister of the country's Muslim-Croat federation as saying on 28 September. Minister Muhamed Besic said he had "information from a reliable source that 70 people...involved in bin Laden's organization are preparing to leave Afghanistan for Bosnia, thinking it is now the safest place for them," Reuters reported. But the ministry said it is ready to intercept those seeking refuge, presumably with local sympathizers, and has already taken measures with the UN policing mission and the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia. After the 11 September attacks in the United States, local media revived allegations that Bosnian wartime authorities had issued a passport to bin Laden, but this has been repeatedly denied. Bosnia's federation recently launched a crackdown on foreigners with Bosnian citizenship who are wanted abroad. It was intensified after the 11 September suicide attacks in the United States. Besic said that his ministry, acting upon information from Interpol and some foreign embassies in Sarajevo, have been tracking 13 people who were "under a well-founded suspicion of being linked to terrorism." AH

CROATIAN LABOR LEADER SLAMS GOVERNMENT REFORM EFFORTS

The president of the Association of Workers' Trade Unions, Boris Kunst, accused the government of allowing social benefits and standards to fall during reform efforts, particularly in health care, Hina reported on 28 September. Kunst, who has called for public demonstrations under the slogan "Sobering Protests," said the poorest Croats are being affected most harshly. He accused the government of trying to establish a neoliberal model for social policies, the agency said, adding that poorly paid Croatian workers could hardly bear such an approach. AH

UN PROSECUTOR SIGNS CROATIA INDICTMENT AGAINST MILOSEVIC

The UN's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, has signed a new indictment against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes in Croatia, Reuters quoted her deputy saying on 28 September. The signing of a Bosnia indictment has been delayed as prosecutors work to gather evidence, Graham Blewitt added. The Croatia indictment, signed on 27 September, does not contain a charge of genocide, the agency reported. Blewitt declined to detail the charges pending a judge's confirmation of the indictment. Croatian President Stipe Mesic welcomed the new charges, saying that "without this indictment, justice would not have been served at all," Reuters reported. AH

CROATIA AUTHORITIES ARREST SEVEN ON WAR CRIMES CHARGES

Croatian police arrested seven former military policemen suspected of war crimes against civilians during Croatia's 1991-95 war for independence, Hina and Reuters reported on 28 September. Police are reportedly still hunting for the former chief warden of Lora military prison in Split, Hina said. A Split public prosecutor said a report has been filed against all eight for "crimes against humanity and international law and war crimes against civilians," Reuters reported, citing Hina. Those crimes are believed to include torturing and murdering Serb prisoners at the Croatian military police base of Lora during the war. AH

ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER STRESSES COOPERATION WITH MACEDONIA...

Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta and visiting Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski at a 30 September meeting in Tirana agreed on the need for increased mutual cooperation in the fight against cross-border trafficking in people, drugs, arms, and other common areas of interest, dpa reported. The Albanian leader also urged "the immediate implementation" of the Ohrid peace accord and responded to Buckovski's concerns over the fate of ethnic Macedonians in southeastern Albania. Meta pledged his country's determination to implement minority rights "in full compliance with international standards," the agency reported. AH

...AS FOREIGN, DEFENSE MINISTERS SAY THE PROBLEM IS NOT ALBANIA

Macedonian Defense Minister Buckovski also met with the foreign and defense ministers of Albania, ATA and dpa reported on 30 September. Foreign Minister Arta Dade said Albanian fighters have complied with the Ohrid agreement and it is now "up to the Macedonian parliament to realize the total implementation of this agreement," according to ATA. Buckovski said the Ohrid accord had "a good chance to beat all agreements with Albanians" and added that his government is "engaged in realizing it," ATA said. Meanwhile, Albanian Defense Minister Pandeli Majko rejected Macedonian claims that his country is supporting armed ethnic Albanian groups in Macedonia, dpa said. Majko said there are "no training camps for terrorists in Albania and we would welcome any international investigation into the matter," dpa said. Buckovski reiterated allegations that camps in Tropoje and Kukes are used "for the training of terrorists that have terrorized Macedonia," ATA reported. The defense ministers of both countries agreed on an international investigation into the matter, according to ATA. AH

ROMANIA SETS UP MINISTERIAL COMMISSION TO SUPERVISE SUSPECT BANK ACCOUNTS

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 27 September announced that the government has set up an interministerial commission that will supervise the implementation of the Security Council Resolution 1333, and in particular the blocking of bank accounts belonging to persons or organizations suspected of having links to terrorists, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

ROMANIAN CABINET APPROVES EU, NATO ACCESSION PLANS...

The cabinet on 27 September approved the medium-term action plan for Romania's accession to the EU, covering the period 2001-2004, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. One day earlier the cabinet also approved Romania's annual program of measures for NATO-accession, covering the period 2001-2002. The latter program was presented at NATO headquarters in Brussels on 28 September by Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana and Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu. MS

...ORDINANCE FOR SIDEX PRIVATIZATION

On 27 September the cabinet approved a government ordinance for the privatization of the Galati steelmaking giant Sidex, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Privatization Minister Ovidiu Musatescu the next day traveled to Galati and presented the ordinance to Sidex trade union leaders. Mediafax reported that the ordinance writes off $500 million in arrears owed to the Treasury by Sidex, and converts $400 million of the company's debts into shares, which will be transferred to LNM Holdings, the British-Indian consortium that is about to purchase Sidex. MS

EXTREMIST ROMANIAN PARTY SAYS 'NO VADIM, NO MEETING'

The Greater Romania Party (PRM) on 27 September said it will not attend a meeting with President Ion Iliescu on 3 October because he would not agree that the PRM be represented by its leader, Senator Corneliu Vadim Tudor, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Iliescu has invited all parliamentary parties to consultations on NATO and EU accession. Iliescu has refused to meet Tudor following the PRM leader's declarations that members of the terrorist organization Hamas were allegedly trained by Romania, and said on 28 September that his decision is "irrevocable." Also on 28 September, the PRM leadership said it expects "concrete proof" that Tudor's allegations have damaged Romania's image. Tudor said he will launch judicial procedures against those accusing him of disseminating false information. MS

ILIESCU WARNS AGAINST 'EXTRAVAGANT FEDERALIZATION IDEAS'

President Iliescu, on a visit to Timis County, on 29 and 30 September warned against "extravagant federalization ideas," Romanian radio reported. Addressing members of the staff of Timisoara University on 29 September, Iliescu said the main problem confronting Romania is poverty, and in order to cope with it the country needs "national cohesion and national solidarity" rather than these "strange" ideas that circulate in the region. He repeated the message he made on 30 September while visiting Arad. He said that "Romanians have long fought to achieve national unity," and "undermining it is not in the interest of anyone or any of the country's regions." In related news, Premier Nastase said in a 27 September interview with the Hungarian MTI agency that he never has and never will support the setting up of state university taught in the Hungarian language. Nastase added that no international regulations stipulate that national minorities must have universities financed from the state budget. MS

ETHNIC HUNGARIAN PARTY IN ROMANIA DISCIPLINES HONORARY CHAIRMAN

The Council of Representatives of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), meeting in Targu Mures on 29 September, decided to sanction with a "warning" UDMR Honorary Chairman Bishop Laszlo Toekes for having called on UDMR supporters to vote against the party's Salaj County candidate for the Senate in the 2000 elections, Mediafax reported. The council opted for the mildest of the three possible sanctions recommended by the UDMR Ethics Council, the most severe of which would have been exclusion. Toekes said in response the next day that the disciplinary action against him is "a political act," and added that after being decorated with the Hungarian Grand Cross by the government in Budapest, he will now "have to bear the little cross with which the UDMR has decorated me." The Council of Representatives on 29 September elected Senator Gyorgy Frunda as its chairman. He replaces Zoltan Deszi, who resigned from the position to avoid a conflict of interest with his current position of deputy prefect in Harghita County. MS

NEW ROMANIAN PARTY HOLDS FIRST CONGRESS

The Socialist Party of National Revival (PSRN) on 29 September held its first congress in Bucharest, electing Bucharest Deputy Mayor Ioan Radu as its chairman, Mediafax reported. Radu, who left the PRM in December 2000, said he wants to attract to his formation PRM supporters "except the Taliban" in that party. He also said he is particularly targeting those Transylvanian supporters of the PRM who cast their ballots for Corneliu Vadim Tudor's party in 2000 for "a lack of an alternative." MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES JOINING CIS ANTITERROR CENTER...

The parliament on 28 September approved Moldova's membership of the CIS Antiterrorist Center, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Information and Security Service (SIS) Director Valeriu Pasat, addressing the legislature, denied the claim made by the opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) that joining the center represents an infringement of Moldova's neutrality. Pasat said the center "is not a military organization, but a think tank." The PPCD voted against the government-submitted resolution. MS

...AS SECURITY SERVICE DIRECTOR WARNS OF TERRORIST ACTIVITY

Addressing the parliament on 27 September, Pasat said the SIS has managed to foil an attempt by international terrorist organizations to purchase military equipment in the Transdniester. He said several terrorist organizations, among them Hamas, Hisbollah, the Muslim Brothers, and the extremist wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party have sent envoys to Moldova and the SIS has foiled attempts to legally register organizations connected with these movements. Pasat also said that "supporters of extremism penetrate into Moldova via illegal immigration," and expressed concern over the growing number of foreign students, many of whom come from countries suspected of links with terrorist organizations, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Sudan. MS

ILASCU SEEKS TO INVOLVE PACE IN LIBERATION OF TIRASPOL PRISONERS

Romanian Senator Ilie Ilascu submitted a draft resolution to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 27 September asking that organization to intervene for the liberation of the three members of his group who are still detained in Tiraspol, Flux reported. Thirty PACE parliamentarians support the draft. MS

THIRD CANDIDATE EMERGES IN TRANSDNIESTER PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

Viktor Skok, a member of the Communist Party in Transdniester, on 28 September announced that he will run in the forthcoming "presidential" elections in the separatist region, Flux reported. He is the third candidate to do so, after "President" Igor Smirnov and Aleksandr Radchenko, the leader of the Narodvlastie (People's Power) party. The 51-year-old Skok was elected in 1996 as first secretary of the Tighina/Bendery local branch of the Communist Party. Political observers in Chisinau believe Voronin is backing the candidacy of Radchenko. MS

BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS NAME LEADER AS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

The opposition Socialist Party (BSP) on 30 September nominated BSP Chairman Georgi Parvanov to be its candidate in the presidential elections scheduled for 11 November, dpa reported. The ruling National Movement Simeon II is to nominate its candidate on 2 October. MS

IMF DELAYS DECISION ON BULGARIAN LOAN

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has delayed a decision on whether to approve a loan to Bulgaria, insisting the country must revise its budget projections due to fears of a global recession, AP reported on 27 September. IMF mission head to Bulgaria Jerald Schiff said the loan could, however, be soon approved because there are "no disagreements on the broad parameters of economic policies." MS

GADDAFI SON TO 'OBSERVE' TRIAL OF BULGARIANS IN LIBYA

Seif Islam, a son of Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, said on 27 September that he has "agreed to be an observer" of the trial of the six Bulgarians accused of having willfully infected children with the HIV virus in Libya, Reuters reported. The agency said his presence in the court is viewed by Bulgaria as a boost for the defendants' chances. Islam, who chairs the Gaddafi International Foundation for Charity Associations, told Reuters in a written reply: "We have accepted this role at the request of the Bulgarian side and in conformity with the humanitarian role of the foundation... We will do our utmost to guarantee that justice is done, and assure the Bulgarian side of the fairness and justice of the Libyan judicial system." MS




There is no End Note today.





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