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Newsline - October 11, 2001




PUTIN DISCUSSES AFGHANISTAN WITH UZBEK COUNTERPART

President Vladimir Putin on 10 October spoke by telephone with Uzbekistan's president, Islam Karimov, concerning the situation in Afghanistan and developments in Central Asia, ITAR-TASS reported. The same day, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that under the terms of agreements between Putin and the leaders of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Russian generals are being dispatched to those two countries to help coordinate defensive measures. (Xinhua agency reported the same day that Ivanov had spoken with his Chinese counterpart Tang Jiaxuan on 9 October to discuss the coalition against terrorism.) Also on 10 October, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov spoke by phone with his Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharrazi to consider how to promote a political settlement in Afghanistan after the conflict there ends, the news agency said. Ivanov also telephoned his Uzbek counterpart Abdulaziz Komilov, ITAR-TASS reported. The two men acknowledged that the situation on the Uzbek-Afghan border remains "complex," but that the Uzbek authorities fully control the situation. PG

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER OUTLINES RUSSIA'S POSITION ON AFGHANISTAN

Speaking to the Federation Council on 10 October, Defense Minister Ivanov said that the U.S. must avoid inflicting civilian casualties during its bombing campaign in Afghanistan and that Russia has no plans to allow the U.S. to use Russian airspace for its combat planes, Russian and Western agencies reported. Ivanov also said that Moscow would like to see a "strengthening" of the role of the UN Security Council in coordinating antiterrorist actions. PG

RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT WARNS U.S. AGAINST OVERREACHING IN AFGHANISTAN, CENTRAL ASIA

Eduard Shevchenko, the Russian ambassador to Pakistan, told Reuters on 10 October that the U.S. should be careful not to get involved in the "quicksand" that is Afghanistan lest it find it "difficult to get out." He added that "the Americans have good relations in Central Asian states, but they should understand that it is a Russian sphere of influence. Our presence there is known and well-recognized." PG

PARLIAMENTARIANS DISCUSS ANTITERRORISM CAMPAIGN

The Duma on 10 October began discussion of a draft resolution calling for a broad antiterrorist campaign as Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev warned against a widening of the geography of attacks against terrorists and Communist deputies spoke against Russia being drawn into another war in Afghanistan, Russian agencies reported. A group of deputies who visited the Tajik-Afghan border earlier this week described conditions there as very tense, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, a group of Unity deputies said that they will travel to Pakistan to check on the security of Russians living there, Interfax reported. PG

RUSSIAN DEPUTIES SUPPORT ANTITERRORISM RESOLUTION AT NATO ASSEMBLY

Russian deputies participating in the 47th session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Ottawa voiced their support on 10 October for a resolution passed by the assembly declaring that the invocation of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty was a justified response to the terrorist attacks on the U.S., Interfax reported. The Duma deputies also signed an agreement with the Parliamentary Assembly calling for further cooperation between them. PG

RUSSIA NOT READY FOR BIOLOGICAL TERRORISM

Gennadii Onishchenko, the Russian government's chief public health officer, said in an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 10 October that Russia has a system of measures for preventing biological terrorism and some measures for combating it. But he said Russia is not ready for possible attacks, noting that "in 1999-2000, there was a special federal program of funding measures against biological terrorism. Unfortunately, this program is not included in the 2002 draft budget." PG

MILOSEVIC BROTHER SAYS BIN LADEN BEHIND ALBANIAN FIGHTERS

Borislav Milosevic, the brother of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and a former ambassador to the Russian Federation, told members of the Duma on 10 October that terrorist leader Osama bin Laden visited Albania in 1998 and provided assistance to the National Liberation Army (UCK), Interfax reported. PG

PUTIN SAYS PROSECUTORS, FORENSIC SPECIALISTS SHOULD BE FIRST TO BOARD 'KURSK'

As the "Kursk" submarine was towed to Roslyakovo on 10 October and maneuvered into position to be moved to a dock there, President Putin said that the first people who should be allowed to go aboard are prosecutors who can investigate the cause of the tragedy and forensic specialists who can examine the remains of those who died when the submarine sank in August 2000, Russian agencies reported. PG

KASYANOV SAYS RUSSIA WILL MEET WTO NORMS 'WITHIN MONTHS'

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said in Prague on 10 October that Russia has considered all the arguments for and against and has decided to become "a full-fledged WTO member without any restrictions," ITAR-TASS reported. He said that Russia plans to bring its legislation into line with the World Trade Organization's requirements "within several months." PG

STEPASHIN WANTS ENHANCED STATUS FOR AUDIT CHAMBER

In an interview published in "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 10 October, Audit Chamber chief Sergei Stepashin said that having his agency report to the president as well as the Duma as anticipated in legislation currently before the parliament will strengthen its ability to do its job and also bring its status into correspondence with similar agencies in other, "strong president" republics like France and the United States. PG

GOVERNMENT RESERVES MAY REACH $7 BILLION THIS YEAR...

Oleg Vyugin, a senior economist of the Troika Dialog company, said on 10 October that the government may have as much as 200 billion rubles ($7 billion) in reserve at the end of 2001, Interfax reported. PG

... AND GOVERNMENT PLANS TO INCREASE SPENDING ON LAW ENFORCEMENT, SECURITY

First Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Ulyukaev said on 10 October that the Russian government plans to modify the 2002 draft budget and increase spending on law enforcement and security, Interfax-AFI reported. Earlier, Unity deputies had sought such a shift in priorities. PG

A BUSY DAY IN THE DUMA

The Duma on 10 October unanimously ratified the first-ever treaty between Russia and Guatemala, passed on second reading with 354 votes the third section of the Civil Code, passed on first reading by a vote of 327 for to 51 against with one abstention a program to provide federal assistance to depressed areas, and adopted on third reading amendments to the Tax Code concerning taxes due on property sold by individuals, Russian agencies reported. PG

FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES LAND CODE

Despite the presence of picketers outside, the Federation Council approved by a vote of 103 for, 29 against, and nine abstentions the Land Code previously passed by the Duma that allows the buying and selling of a small portion of the country's land, Russian and Western agencies reported. Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev said the move will reduce criminal activities involving land by setting up common rules, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said the same day that the government will now begin drafting legislation allowing for the buying and selling of agricultural land, Interfax reported. The upper chamber of the parliament also approved extending the presence of peacekeepers in Bosnia through August 2002. PG

ROSSEL CALLS FOR CHANGES IN APPROACH TO HARMONIZATION

In an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 10 October, Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel said that harmonization is being carried out backwards. He said that instead of federal subjects being compelled to bring their legislation into line with federal laws, federal officials should carefully study the various approaches adopted locally and then introduce those changes into federal legislation. He stressed that Russia has "never been a federal state" and that the "struggle between federal authorities and the regions is an ongoing process." PG

RAIKOV CONFIRMS PEOPLES' DEPUTY GROUP TO BECOME A PARTY

Gennadii Raikov, who heads the Peoples' Deputy faction in the Duma, said on 10 October that the group, which has 71 regional branches, will submit its registration forms as a political party to the Justice Ministry on 21-22 October, Interfax reported. He said the group has approximately 40,000 members and that 52 of the 60 deputies in the faction have already announced they are joining the party. PG

DUMA DEPUTY FROM CHECHNYA JOINS OVR

Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who represents Chechnya in the Russian Duma, has become a member of the Duma faction Fatherland-All Russia (OVR), officials of that faction told Interfax on 10 October. He becomes the 45th member of OVR, the officials said. Up until now, Aslakhanov was an independent. PG

SUPREME COURT RULES COURTS CAN'T PREVENT STOCKHOLDER MEETINGS

A plenum of the Russian Supreme Court on 10 October ruled that judges and courts do not have the right to prevent annual stockholder meetings from taking place, Interfax-AFI reported. The court said that such actions violate Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, which among other things guarantees the right to hold meetings. PG

GORDEEV SAYS HARVEST WILL BE 82.5-83 MILLION TONS

Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev on 10 October issued what Interfax described as the most precise projection yet of the grain harvest this year: 82.5-83 million tons. Gordeev also said that President Putin approved on 9 October adding 4-5 billion rubles ($130-170 million) to the stabilization fund that allows the government to intervene to stabilize prices. PG

KUDRIN WANTS RUSSIA, NOT IMF TO PROVIDE LOANS TO CIS COUNTRIES

In an interview published in "Novye izvestiya" on 10 October, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said that Russia can take over the role that the International Monetary Fund and World Bank now play in providing funds to the poorest member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and thus become the latters' "main creditor." PG

LOSYUKOV DENIES TERRITORIAL CONCESSIONS TO JAPAN WOULD SET A PRECEDENT

In a wide-ranging interview with ITAR-TASS on 10 October concerning the status of talks between Russia and Japan on a peace treaty, Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov expressed "cautious optimism" that those talks may lead to the conclusion of such an accord. At the same time, he denied suggestions that any Russian territorial concessions on the southern Kurile Islands would set "a dangerous precedent and trigger a chain reaction of territorial claims to Russia from other countries." PG

PAVLOVSKII PREDICTS MORE INSTABILITY IN PARTS OF CIS

At a press conference in Moscow on 10 October, Gleb Pavlovskii, who serves as a media adviser to the Kremlin, said that several regions of the CIS are likely to become increasingly unstable, including Central Asia and the Caucasus, Interfax reported. At the same time, he said "Russia will not play at strengthening the separatist regimes, including Abkhazia." At the same press conference, Ethnology Institute Director Valerii Tishkov said "the new states of the CIS are still insufficiently strong... to independently resist the new threats," including the sharpening of tensions around Afghanistan. PG

RUSSIAN COMPATRIOTS MEET IN MOSCOW

Four hundred ethnic Russians from the former Soviet republics and other countries have assembled in Moscow for a Congress of Compatriots, Russian media reported on 10 October. In an article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" the same day on the occasion of the meeting, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev called on the Russian government to provide substantially more assistance to its "compatriots abroad." "Vremya MN" for its part noted that Russia has been "a stepmother" to Russians abroad for most of its history, but that now that approach must change. Meanwhile, the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the Defense Ministry, and the Institute of Military History announced the publication of a new collection of documents about the Russian military emigration in the 1920s, Interfax reported the same day. PG

RUSSIAN MALE LIFE EXPECTANCY NOW PUT AT 55.5 YEARS

Citing a report by the RBK agency, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 10 October that the average life expectancy for Russian men is now 55.5 years. That figure is less than the 67.2 years in the U.S. but is in the mid-range of member states of the CIS, slightly lower than in Ukraine and slightly higher than in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. The same day, Interfax-Moscow reported that during the first nine months of 2001, there were almost twice as many deaths -- 99,000 -- in Moscow as births -- 57,000 -- there. PG

MORE PRISON OFFICIALS FIRED IN WAKE OF BUTYRKA ESCAPES

Justice Minister Yurii Chaika on 10 October replaced Stanislav Prodrez with Anatolii Druzin as corrections department chief in Moscow and named new heads for the subunits of that department responsible for strict regime facilities, regular facilities, and personnel, Russian and Western agencies reported. Those appointments follow four escapes from Moscow's Butyrka prison since 1 September. At the same time, Chaika increased by 50 to 100 percent the pay of jailors at several jails in the Russian capital, Interfax reported. PG

POST-1945 COMBAT DEAD HONORED IN SAMARA

A monument has been erected in Samara to honor the 463 local residents who have died in combat operations since 1946, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 10 October. Most of the dead -- 246 -- fell in Afghanistan, and Afghan veterans took the lead in erecting the monument. The remaining 217 died in campaigns in 33 other countries, the paper said. PG

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS BEGIN HUNGER STRIKE

Air traffic controllers at 38 airports across Russia began a hunger strike on 10 October, Russian and Western agencies reported. They are protesting legislation that prevents trade unions from participating in collective bargaining if the union includes fewer than 50 percent of the employees. But because Russian law prevents them from walking off the job, the air traffic controllers have chosen a hunger strike to attract attention to their cause. PG

ILLEGAL TRADE IN NONFERROUS METALS GROWING RAPIDLY

The number of crimes connected with the illegal sale of nonferrous metals is increasing at an annual rate of 15 percent, Interfax reported on 10 October, and as a result, the government and Duma are considering new rules and enforcement mechanisms to reduce the problem. Meanwhile, Russian metal industry leaders said the country could be driven from the U.S. market if Washington imposes the 150 percent antidumping tariff on Russian steel imports that American steel producers seek, the news agency said. PG

CHUBAIS BLAMES RAILWAYS FOR FAILING TO DELIVER COAL

Unified Energy Systems (EES) head Anatolii Chubais said on 10 October that because of a lack of railcars, coal cannot be delivered to all the power stations that need it, Interfax reported. He said the problem is entirely the fault of the rail system because EES has both insured and paid in advance for the deliveries. Chubais said that the government will have to intervene to resolve the situation. PG

RUSSIAN FORESTS AT RISK

The BBC reported on 9 October that only a very small part of the northern forests in European Russian remain intact in large sections and that the remaining parts likeliest to be exploited are not protected by federal or local legislation. PG

FSB SUPPLIES OLD ICONS TO NEW CHURCH

According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 10 October, the Federal Security Service (FSB) has provided some old icons to Moscow's newest Russian Orthodox Church, which is named for those martyred by the Soviet state. PG

HEWLETT-PACKARD BEGINS MANUFACTURING COMPUTERS IN RUSSIA

Interfax reported on 10 October that U.S. electronics giant Hewlett-Packard has begun manufacturing computers in Russia. The company said it plans to produce the entire spectrum of personal computers and also design larger computer systems on demand. The company estimates it will produce 100,000 computers a year. PG

INCIDENCE OF RABIES DEATHS INCREASING

Russian health officials told ITAR-TASS on 10 October that the number of people suffering from rabies as a result of animal bites is increasing, and that 16 people have died of the disease so far in 2001. The largest number of cases is in the North Caucasus. PG

RUSSIAN BEER MARKET IS FASTEST GROWING IN THE WORLD

Russian experts said on 10 October that the Russian market for beer is the fastest growing in the world, increasing by 20 percent annually over the last three years, with a growth rate of 26 percent in 2000, Interfax reported. The experts said there are no signs that the rate of growth will slow in the near future. PG

PUTIN ASKED TO TAKE CHARGE IN REGIONAL TV BATTLE

State Duma deputies adopted an appeal on 10 October to President Putin calling on him to intervene in the conflict over Udmurt Television, Russian agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 11 October 2001). According to the appeal, Udmurt residents' constitutional rights to information have been violated by All-Russian Television and Radio Company's (VGTRK) suspension of broadcasts of that station. The conflict has arisen because VGTRK opted not to renew the contract of the current director of the station; however, he refuses to relinquish his office to the new director. He is being supported in the battle with the Moscow office by the Udmurt legislature and president. JAC

SIBERIAN REGIONS BRACE FOR REFUGEE FLOWS THROUGH CHINA, MONGOLIA

The migration service of Irkutsk Oblast is stepping up measures to stop the illegal migration of citizens from Afghanistan, because some experts are predicting a higher flow of refugees through China and Mongolia and via flights that stop in Irkutsk, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 10 October. Afghan refugees have managed to enter the territory of Irkutsk's neighbors, the Republic of Buryatia and Chita Oblast, by train and automobiles, according to the agency, and migration controls are going to be strengthened at those regions' airports, train stations, and highway borders. Regional officials in other parts of Russia -- even in the Far North --have recently called for tighter migration controls and the introduction of a visa regime with Central Asian countries (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 11 and 3 October 2001). JAC

RAKHIMOV SPEAKS OUT AGAINST CURTAILING REGIONAL INDEPENDENCE

In an interview with "Trud" on 10 October, a day in advance of the 11th anniversary of Bashkortostan's declaration of sovereignty, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov said the document has "great historical importance" because it "opened up a new stage in the development of Bashkortostan." He said, "Our declaration is a logical continuation and development of the declaration on state sovereignty of the Russian Federation." Rakhimov also expressed his support for President Putin's efforts to consolidate state power, but cautioned that the "strengthening of the power vertical should be accompanied by the strengthening of the federal state rather than through the limitation of the independence of regions and the revival of a petty guardianship over them." JAC

PENSIONER GOES A-WANDERING

A 73-year-old woman has returned to family after spending two weeks lost in the taiga in Sakha Republic (Yakutia), Interfax-Eurasia reported on 10 October. The woman survived by eating cowberries and the fruit of wild roses. During her two weeks in the taiga, the weather was warm and dry for only three days, and during another three-day period a snowstorm raged. She was rescued only after shepherds passing by saw her name, which she had written in large letters in the snow. She is now resting in the surgical department of her local hospital, according to the agency. She had frostbite on the soles of her feet, but otherwise doctors say the trauma has not been dangerous for her health. JAC

RADICAL COMMANDER IN CHECHNYA REPORTED WOUNDED

Jordanian-born Chechen field commander Khattab has been seriously wounded in fighting with Russian forces in the village of Starye Atagi south of Grozny, Interfax and AP reported on 10 October, citing an anonymous source within the pro-Moscow Chechen administration and a senior Russian military official at the Khankala Russian military base near Grozny. LF




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT APPEALS TO U.S. COUNTERPART

President Robert Kocharian has written to U.S. President George W. Bush expressing "deep concern" at efforts by some U.S. congressmen to secure the repeal of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, which bans U.S. government assistance to Azerbaijan as long as that country continues to blockade Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Noyan Tapan and Interfax reported. Kocharian argued that repeal of Section 907 would be perceived as "rewarding" Azerbaijan and as an acknowledgement that Azerbaijan has made a greater contribution than has Armenia to the international antiterrorism campaign. Referring to media reports linking Azerbaijan with Saudi-born terrorist Osama bin Laden, Kocharian said that the repeal of Section 907 would also be interpreted as rewarding "a country which in fact harbors terrorists." It would also, Kocharian added, negatively impact ongoing efforts by the OSCE Minsk Group to mediate a settlement of the Karabakh conflict. LF

NATIONWIDE CENSUS BEGINS IN ARMENIA

The first nationwide census to be conducted in Armenia since the last Soviet census in January 1989 began on 10 October and will last for 10 days, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and AP reported. Western donors agreed earlier this year to provide the lion's share of the 1.7 billion drams ($3 million) the undertaking will cost after it appeared the census would be postponed for lack of resources (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January and 13 February 2001). In 1989, Armenia's population was 3.8 million, and in January 1999, despite the emigration of at least 600,000 people since 1992, it was 3.79 million. LF

OSCE OFFICIAL, U.S. DIPLOMAT EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER HARASSMENT OF JOURNALISTS IN AZERBAIJAN...

Speaking at a session of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna on 4 October, OSCE representative for media freedom Freimut Duve calculated that "it appears more journalists are in prison" now in Azerbaijan than at any time since that country declared its independence 10 years ago, Turan reported on 10 October. Duve said the situation has deteriorated "dramatically" since mid-September and that "we have seen an unprecedented rise in the number of journalists who have been targets of the government's most recent crackdown." At the same session, the U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, David T. Johnson, endorsed Duve's assessment of the situation and said the U.S. "will continue to stress to the government of Azerbaijan... the vital importance of respecting the freedom and independence of nongovernmental print and electronic media." LF

... WHILE POLICE IN BAKU DISPERSE JOURNALISTS' PROTEST

On 10 October, police in Baku used force to disperse an unsanctioned demonstration by some 40 journalists against government pressure on the media, Turan reported. The same day, the Azerbaijani Council of Editors, which is made up of the heads of leading media outlets, addressed an appeal to Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev to release imprisoned journalists on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Azerbaijan's independence. Meanwhile, the independent newspaper "Azadlyg" on 10 October quoted Eldar Ibragimov, a parliament deputy representing the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan party, as saying that both "Azadlyg" and the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" should be closed down. LF

OFFICIAL SAYS STRIKES AGAINST AFGHANISTAN HAVE NO IMPACT ON RELIGIOUS SITUATION IN AZERBAIJAN

Rafik Aliev, who was named in June to head Azerbaijan's new State Council for Relations with Religious Organizations (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 30, 17 August 2001), said in Baku on 10 October that the antiterrorism operation in Afghanistan has not affected the stability of the religious situation in Azerbaijan, Turan reported. Two days earlier, the Baku-based Religious Board of Muslims of the Caucasus issued a statement saying Azerbaijan's Muslims are praying for a swift end to the military operation against Afghanistan and for international terrorists to be handed over to an international court to preclude further innocent victims, Russian agencies reported. LF

ACTIVISTS DETAINED DURING NAKHICHEVAN DEMONSTRATION RELEASED

Nineteen people detained by police in the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan during a demonstration on 29 September were released on 10 October, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 October 2001). LF

GEORGIA SENDS TROOPS TO KODORI

Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze announced on 11 October that an unspecified number of government troops are being sent to the Kodori gorge, the scene of ongoing clashes between Abkhaz troops and a band said to be composed primarily of Chechen fighters and Georgian guerrillas, "in order to protect the local [Georgian] population," dpa reported. On 10 October, Georgian Intelligence Service head Avtandil Ioseliani said Tbilisi will not use force in Abkhazia unless a threat arises to the Georgian population of the Kodori gorge, according to Interfax. Also on 10 October, an Abkhaz Defense Ministry spokesman said a second group of between 500-700 fighters, believed to include some Georgian police, has entered Kodori from the eastern, Georgian side, presumably to reinforce the original group now pinned down in the vicinity of Sugar-Loaf mountain, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. But Georgian Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze denied the same day that any Georgian police are participating in the fighting, Caucasus Press reported. Abkhaz Defense Minister Vladimir Mikanba said on 11 October that the fighters in the Kodori gorge include President Eduard Shevardnadze's representative to the region, Emzar Kvitsiani, Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIAN, RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS DISCUSS CRISIS...

The Georgian Foreign Ministry delivered a note to its Russian counterpart on 10 October protesting the previous day's bombing of Georgian villages in the Kodori gorge and insisting on a joint-Georgian-Russian investigation into the bombing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 10 October 2001). The Russian Foreign Ministry responded by summoning Georgia's Ambassador to Russia Zurab Abashidze, and informing him that Tbilisi's attempts to blame Russia for the bombing are "groundless" and claiming that the aircraft in question "flew to Abkhazia from Georgia." The Russian side warned of the dangers inherent in a further escalation of the conflict, Interfax reported. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili subsequently spoke by telephone with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov and the two agreed both to conduct the joint investigation Tbilisi has called for and on other unspecified measures to defuse tensions in Abkhazia. LF

... AS GEORGIAN SECURITY MINISTRY CLAIMS TO HAVE PROOF OF RUSSIAN BOMBING

Georgian Security Minister Vakhtang Kutateladze told journalists in Tbilisi on 10 October that his ministry has proof, including tape-recordings of intercepted radio communications, that the planes and helicopters that bombed four Georgian villages in the Kodori gorge early the previous day were Russian, Caucasus Press reported. He said that in a second such incident, two aircraft entered Georgian airspace over the Kodori gorge from the direction of Sukhum on 10 October and then flew back in that direction, Interfax reported. LF

DEFENSE MINISTRY, PARLIAMENT SPEAKER REJECT RUSSIAN CHARGES GEORGIA CANNOT CONTROL ITS TERRITORY

In a statement released in Tbilisi on 10 October, the Georgian Defense Ministry rejected as "groundless" the 9 October statement by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov that the Georgian leadership either does not control the territory of the country or is manipulating Chechen fighters to achieve its own aims (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2001). The Georgian response claimed that "the situation in the part of the Kodori gorge that is controlled by the central Georgian authorities is on the whole stable and there are no illegal armed groups there," according to ITAR-TASS. The statement added that "the Georgian authorities cannot assume responsibility for events that are taking place in the part of Abkhazia they do not control." Parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania similarly said on 10 October that Ivanov's "unprecedented" allegation that Georgia cannot control its territory "does not correspond with reality," Caucasus Press reported. LF

ADJAR LEADER OFFERS TO MEDIATE IN ABKHAZ CRISIS

The chairman of the Supreme Council of Georgia's Adjar Republic, Aslan Abashidze, is prepared to mediate talks in Adjaria between Abkhaz and Georgian representatives in a bid to defuse tensions, Aslan Smirba, a member of Abashidze's Union for Georgian Revival, told the independent Georgian TV station Rustavi-2 on 10 October, according to Caucasus Press. Abashidze traveled to Sukhum in the fall of 1993 in a similar bid to mediate between Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba and Shevardnadze, but Shevardnadze rejected his offer. LF

UN OFFICIAL MEETS WITH ABKHAZ PREMIER, CALLS FOR RESUMPTION OF TALKS

Dieter Boden, the UN special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, met in Sukhum on 10 October with Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Djergenia, Caucasus Press reported. Boden appealed to the Abkhaz and Georgian leaderships to resume talks on resolving the conflict, which they had been scheduled to do on 9 October. That meeting of the UN-sponsored Coordinating Council was cancelled after the attacks last week on Abkhaz villages. Boden also said that the agreement reached on 27 September during talks between Djergenia and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze that the armed band in Abkhazia would leave (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2001) has clearly not been implemented. Also on 10 October, a Russian Orthodox monk claimed to have witnessed the shooting down on 8 October of a helicopter belonging to the UN Observer Mission in Georgia, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba has sent a message of condolence to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in connection with the deaths of five UN observers in that incident. The Abkhaz government has formed a special commission headed by Deputy Prime Minister Vyacheslav Eshba to investigate the circumstances in which the helicopter was downed, Interfax reported on 10 October. LF

CHECHEN OFFICIAL DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN ABKHAZ FIGHTING

Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Akhmed Zakaev has denied any Chechen involvement in the current fighting in Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported on 10 October. He characterized Russian media reports that the fighters in the Kodori gorge include a Chechen detachment headed by field commander Ruslan Gelaev as a provocation intended to drive a wedge between the various Chechen military leaders. LF

RUSSIA BEEFS UP SECURITY ON BORDER WITH GEORGIA

Russian Defense Minister Ivanov told the Federation Council on 10 October that an unspecified number of Russian troops will be sent to man the entire length of Russia's border with Georgia, including the border with Abkhazia, Reuters reported. He added that the situation in Abkhazia is "of great concern" to the Russian government. Interfax reported the same day, citing a spokesman for the headquarters of the North Caucasus Military District, that mountain paths leading from Georgia to Ingushetia and Chechnya are being mined to prevent them from being used by Chechen fighters seeking to leave Georgia. LF

PARLIAMENT DEPUTY WARNS KAZAKH PRESIDENT HIS SON-IN-LAW HAS ACQUIRED TOO MUCH POWER

Tolen Toqtasynov, a deputy to the Mazhilis (the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's bicameral parliament) on 10 October made public the text of an open letter he has addressed to President Nursultan Nazarbaev requesting that he "rein in" his son-in-law Rakhat Aliyev, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Aliyev is first deputy chairman of the National Security Committee (the former KGB). He and his wife Dariga Nazarbaeva reportedly control most of Kazakhstan's media outlets, both print and electronic. Toqtasynov also said that the National Security Committee is currently engaged primarily in monitoring the activities of opposition political parties rather than taking measures to increase the country's security. LF

KAZAKH OFFICIALS UPBEAT ON ECONOMIC SITUATION

Deputy Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov told a satellite press conference in Astana on 10 October that thanks to the leadership of President Nazarbaev, Kazakhstan's macroeconomic situation is extremely favorable, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Akhmetov said GDP grew by 12.3 percent and industrial production by 14 percent during the first nine months of 2001 compared with the previous year, while foreign trade turnover increased by 17.7 percent over the same nine-month period. He said any fall in world oil prices will not negatively affect the country's economy in view of the special fund created to cushion the impact of such price fluctuations. Also on 10 October, Kazakhstan's National Bank Chairman Georgii Marchenko told a press conference in Almaty that the tenge has lost 1.65 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar since the beginning of 2001, Interfax reported. But he said that the U.S.-led antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan is unlikely to destabilize the Kazakh economy. LF

KAZAKHSTAN TO JOIN WTO SIMULTANEOUSLY WITH RUSSIA

Deputy Prime Minister Akhmetov also said during his 10 October press conference that because of the "strong" mutual interdependence of the economies of Russia and Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan plans to join the WTO at the same time as Russia and other unnamed CIS states, Interfax reported. Two months ago, Kazakhstan's Economy and Trade Minister Zhaqsybek Kulekeev was less optimistic, terming the ongoing talks on Kazakhstan's prospective WTO membership "difficult" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 2001). LF

RUSSIAN SECURITY COUNCIL SECRETARY MEETS WITH KYRGYZ PRESIDENT

Vladimir Rushailo flew from Dushanbe to Bishkek late on 9 October and met the following day with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev to discuss the possible repercussions on the security situation in Central Asia of the ongoing U.S.-led strikes against terrorist targets in Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Ukrainian Security Council Secretary Yevhen Marchuk also attended that meeting. Rushailo told journalists after the talks that if the security situation in Central Asia deteriorates, more troops from the CIS rapid reaction force should be sent to the region. He also said that he and Akaev have succeeded in resolving the problems connected with financing the Bishkek branch of the CIS antiterrorist center. The center's current most important task, Rushailo said, is to monitor the situation in Afghanistan. LF

TAJIK, AFGHAN PRESIDENTS MEET

Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani met for two hours in Dushanbe on 10 October with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov at the latter's invitation to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and Central Asia as a whole, and measures to counter international terrorism, Asia Plus-Blitz and ITAR-TASS reported. Rabbani told journalists after those talks that he is grateful to the international community, the CIS states, and Tajikistan in particular for the humanitarian assistance provided to the people of Afghanistan. LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT SAYS NO RISK INVOLVED IN AIDING U.S. ANTITERROR EFFORT

In an interview with the state news agency published in the official Uzbek language daily newspaper "Khalq suzi" on 10 October, Uzbek President Islam Karimov dismissed as unfounded fears that Uzbekistan's willingness to facilitate the U.S. strikes against terrorist targets in Afghanistan could trigger reprisals by the Taliban, Reuters and Interfax reported. At the same time, Karimov called for increased vigilance on the part of the population, noting that "inactivity, apathy, and the spreading of rumors and reactionary news can help extremist elements." Also on 10 October, Interfax reported that a poll conducted by the government-controlled Uzbek public opinion center found that 95.6 percent of respondents voiced approval for Karimov's decision to make one of the country's airbases available to the U.S. for use during antiterrorist strikes against Afghanistan. LF




BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SETS ECONOMIC TASKS FOR NEW GOVERNMENT...

Introducing Henadz Navitski, his nominee for prime minister, to the Chamber of Representatives on 10 October, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said the new cabinet must ensure macroeconomic and financial stability, reform the state economic sector, and develop entrepreneurship, Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka promised to liberalize economic relations and support private businesses, adding that the state will regulate the economy with "other, more flexible and efficient" means. "The new government will have to learn managing with primarily economic methods and to reduce to the minimum direct interference in the activity of economic entities," the Belarusian president said. JM

... CALLS ON WEST FOR EQUAL DIALOGUE...

Lukashenka said the policy of isolating Belarus is counterproductive, and called on European countries and international organizations to begin dialogue with Belarus on a "fair and mutually advantageous basis." Lukashenka stressed that Europe should recognize his victory in the presidential elections and cease "forcing us to crawl on our knees before the West." Lukashenka noted that Minsk is ready "to do a lot" to improve relations with the United States. JM

... SAYS TERRORISM IS ROOTED IN POVERTY...

Lukashenka said terrorism should be eradicated and terrorists should be punished "in the fiercest [possible] way," but noted that this cannot be done only with the help of "cruise missiles, Tomahawks, and other [weapons]." According to Lukashenka, "the roots of terrorism are in poverty [and] destitution, in the lack of elementary rights for many, many nations." He added that terrorism can be uprooted only if these deficiencies are properly addressed. JM

... BLAMES RUSSIA, U.S. FOR SMUGGLING KGB DEFECTOR OUT OF BELARUS

Lukashenka alleged Russian and U.S. involvement in smuggling out of Belarus KGB officer Henadz Uhlyanitsa and Andrey Zharnasek, the authors of a video implicating the Belarusian regime in political murders, Belapan reported. Uhlyanitsa and Zharnasek accused an Interior Ministry special task force of kidnapping and killing opposition leader Viktar Hanchar and his friend Anatol Krasouski (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 29 August 2001). According to Lukashenka, it was "through the Americans, with assistance from Russia" that Uhlyanitsa and Zharnasek left Belarus. Lukashenka also alleged that a representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees helped both men get to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and later out of CIS territory. JM

BELARUSIAN LEGISLATURE APPROVES NEW PREMIER

The Chamber of Representatives on 10 October voted by 81 to 12 to approve Navitski as prime minister, Belapan reported. Speaking to the legislature, Navitski pledged that the country's average wage will rise by 80-85 percent to the equivalent of $250 by 2005, while GDP will increase by 35-40 percent, industrial output by 30 percent, agricultural output by 25 percent, exports by 50 percent, and investments by 60-70 percent. JM

UKRAINE STRENGTHENS EASTERN BORDER TO STOP ILLEGAL MIGRANTS...

Kyiv has beefed up security at the Ukrainian-Russian border in easternmost Luhansk Oblast, in anticipation of an influx of illegal migrants from Afghanistan and neighboring countries, Interfax reported on 10 October. Ukraine's Border Guards are to establish border checkpoints every 25-30 kilometers along the frontier in that region. The same day, Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko said he does not rule out the possibility of terrorists infiltrating Ukraine and committing terrorist acts, UNIAN reported. According to Zlenko, the antiterrorist action of the United States and its allies in Afghanistan may increase the number of refugees and illegal migrants in Ukraine as well as breed anti-American sentiments among Ukraine's Muslims and anti-Islamic sentiments among ethnic Ukrainians. JM

... EXTENDS NO-FLY ZONE OVER CHORNOBYL

Vitaliy Tolstonohov, the general director of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, said on 10 October that in the event that any planes appear in the sky above the Chornobyl area without warning it will be regarded as a terrorist act, New Channel television reported. He added that closed airspace has now been extended far beyond the 30-kilometer zone around the Chornobyl plant. "The flights of any aircraft over the Chornobyl plant zone are prohibited, and I think that the air-defense forces will have sufficient time to see to it that this plane is downed," Tolstonohov said. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER SAYS GAS DEBT ACCORD WITH RUSSIA BASED ON EQUAL TERMS

Anatoliy Kinakh on 10 October said the recent gas debt accord with Russia (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 9 October 2001) sets a new stage of Ukrainian-Russian cooperation in the energy sector on equal terms. Kinakh stressed that Ukraine managed to secure advantageous terms for re-exporting Russian gas to Europe, on which Russia had initially planned to impose a "draconian" duty, Inter television reported. "The size of the duty is no longer fixed. Ukraine and Russia will determine the terms and amounts of natural gas likely to be exported from our territory, taking into account prevailing market conditions, the level of stability on the natural gas market in Europe and the availability of resources," Kinakh said. JM

UKRAINIAN OFFICIAL WANTS RESIGNATIONS OVER PLANE CRASH

Deputy parliamentary speaker Viktor Medvedchuk on 11 October suggested that Ukraine's top military leaders who are responsible for the recent crash of a Russian airliner over the Black Sea should resign, Interfax reported. Medvedchuk said he expects that those responsible for the crash "will find courage to tender their resignations under the officers' code of honor." Medvedchuk's statement signals that Kyiv is apparently preparing to admit its guilt for downing the Russian airliner with a stray missile. Meanwhile, President Kuchma said the same day that he has refused to accept the resignation of Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk over the crash. Without providing any specific date, Kuchma said Kuzmuk tendered his resignation "immediately." JM

NEW PREDOMINANTLY RUSSIAN PARTY REGISTERED IN ESTONIA

The registration of the new political party "Unity in Estonia" was completed on 9 October when it was entered in the register of nonprofit organizations, BNS reported the next day. Governing board member Igor Pisarev said the party has 1,325 members, two-thirds of whom live in Tallinn and the rest in other parts of Estonia. He rejected the media's designation of the party as "Russian," as about one-third of its members are ethnic Estonians. The party considers itself to be center-right and sees its goal to be the formation of a middle class in Estonia. The founding congress of the party was held on 3 August, but the party chairman will only be elected in November at the first meeting of the party's extended board. The most prominent member of the party is Gennadi Ever, a member of the Tallinn city council, who is currently under arrest for alleged involvement in organizing the murder of Vitali Khaitov, his former business partner and publisher of the country's largest Russian-language newspaper "Estoniya." SG

HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER VOICES SUPPORT FOR LATVIA'S PATH TO NATO

Janos Szabo told Defense and Interior Affairs Committee Chairman Dzintars Kudums in Riga on 10 October that the first countries deserving to gain NATO membership at the Prague summit next fall are Slovenia, Slovakia, and the three Baltic states, BNS reported. Szabo urged Latvia to focus on reaching the level of NATO member countries in the defense sphere and noted that the security gained by NATO membership has helped boost foreign investments in Hungary, thus speeding up its EU entry negotiations. Later talks with his Latvian counterpart Girts Valdis Kristovskis also touched upon international security following the terrorist attacks in the United States, and an analysis of Latvia's efforts toward joining NATO. They also discussed the situation in Russia and its opposition to further NATO expansion. SG

LITHUANIA SET TO CUT STATE INVESTMENTS NEXT YEAR

The government on 10 October approved a draft state investment program for the years 2002-2004 that will be presented to the parliament along with the draft 2002 budget, BNS reported. The program calls for state investments of 1.16 billion litas ($290 million) in 2002, or some 9 percent less than this year. More than half of the investments (628 million litas) will come directly from the state budget, 200 million litas from the Privatization Fund, and the remainder from loans. The greatest recipients of state investments will be the transport sector (330 million litas), national defense (280 million litas), preparation for EU membership (187 million litas), environmental protection (85 million litas), and education and science (84.6 million litas). The program foresees state investments decreasing to 1.15 billion litas in 2003 and to 1.06 billion litas in 2004. SG

POLAND'S MILLER NAMES NEW CABINET MINISTERS...

Following the signing of a coalition deal with the Peasant Party (PSL) and the Labor Union (UP), Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) leader and Prime Minister designate Leszek Miller on 10 October unveiled a new cabinet lineup: Deputy Premier and Agriculture Minister Jaroslaw Kalinowski (PSL), Deputy Premier and Infrastructure Minister Marek Pol (UP), Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Marek Belka, Interior and Administration Minister Krzysztof Janik, Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski, Treasury Minister Wieslaw Kaczmarek, Economy Minister Jacek Piechota, Education Minister Krystyna Lybacka, Science Minister Michal Kleiber, Culture Minister Andrzej Celinski, Justice Minister Barbara Piwnik (no party affiliation), Health Minister Mariusz Lapinski, Labor Minister Jerzy Hausner, and Environment Minister Stanislaw Zelichowski (PSL). Miller also appointed Michal Tober as government spokesman, Marek Wagner as head of the prime minister's office, and Jan Truszczynski as chief negotiator with the EU. JM

... WHILE SLD LAWMAKERS APPROVE MILLER AS CAUCUS LEADER, PROPOSE BOROWSKI FOR SPEAKER

During their first meeting on 10 October, the SLD's newly elected lawmakers decided that Miller will be the head of the SLD parliamentary caucus, PAP reported. The prime minister designate headed the SLD caucus in the preceding Sejm as well. The lawmakers also proposed Marek Borowski as the SLD's candidate for Sejm speaker. JM

POLISH DEPUTY PREMIER DESIGNATE EXPLAINS NEW INFRASTRUCTURE MINISTRY

Marek Pol, who was subsequently confirmed as deputy prime minister and infrastructure minister, said on 10 October that the reason behind the creation of a new Infrastructure Ministry is a "departure from the sectoral division of the economy in favor of a task-based division," PAP reported. The Infrastructure Ministry will oversee transport, communications, and regional policy. JM

POLISH GOVERNMENT SHORES UP NATIONAL AIRLINE

The outgoing cabinet of Jerzy Buzek has transferred $96 million worth of shares in three state-owned companies to the national airline LOT in a bid to boost LOT's creditworthiness. "The government made the decision in view of the very difficult situation of the civil aviation business following the terrorist attacks against U.S. cities," PAP quoted government spokesman Krzysztof Luft as saying. JM

CZECH GOVERNMENT SAYS HIJACKED CIVILIAN PLANE CAN BE DOWNED...

The government on 10 October examined current legislation and concluded that it allows the downing of hijacked civilian aircraft in emergency cases, CTK reported, citing Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik. The downing of a plane hijacked by terrorists is to be approved by the defense minister or, in his absence, by his first deputy or by the chief of staff, Tvrdik said. The matter was brought up and discussed in connection with the 11 September terrorist attack on the United States. MS

... PROVIDES AID FOR AFGHAN REFUGEES...

The cabinet at its 10 October meeting set aside 5 million crowns (some $137,000) for aid to Afghan refugees forced to leave their country, Tvrdik said. The aid will be delivered via the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. On 11 October, Frantisek Bublan, head of the Czech civilian counterintelligence service, said in an interview with the daily "Pravo" that no Czechs are in Afghanistan and "not a single trace" has been found of a Czech reportedly working there for the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. MS

... SETS UP GENDER EQUALITY COUNCIL

The cabinet approved at its 10 October meeting a proposal by Deputy Premier Vladimir Spidla to set up an interministerial council on gender equality, CTK reported. The council is to function as of 1 January 2002, and Spidla said its formation is to be regarded as "a signal to the EU." The council will focus on harmonizing hiring and promotion procedures intended to grant equal opportunities to women. MS

OSI REPORT SAYS SITUATION OF CZECH ROMA UNCHANGED

The annual report of the Open Society Institute (OSI) said the situation of Czech Roma has not improved over last year, despite efforts of the government to reduce discrimination and implement a large-scale program for integration, CTK reported on 10 October. The report said discrimination is not legally outlawed in the Czech Republic and relevant regulations against discrimination, though existing, are not consistently applied. It also said the interministerial committee for Romany affairs has neither the means nor the strength to ensure ministries fulfill pledges to act against discrimination. OSI also said that despite a government campaign in support of tolerance, displays of racism have become more frequent over the last year, and the number of racist organizations has grown. It also says Czech courts are often reluctant to convict perpetrators of anti-Roma violence within legal provisions against racism. MS

CZECH COURT HALTS PROSECUTION OF COMMUNIST OFFICIALS

A Prague court on 10 October halted the prosecution of two former senior communist officials charged with protecting a Nazi war criminal, CTK reported. In February, the Office for the Documentation and Investigation of Communist Crimes accused former Deputy Interior Minister Jaroslav Klima and former Deputy Prosecutor-General Jaroslav David of having prevented the prosecution of Nazi war criminal Werner Tutter in 1966. Tutter later became an agent of the Czech communist secret service. The court ruled that the accusation falls under the 1999 statute of limitations, which does not allow crimes that were committed more than 10 years earlier to be prosecuted. MS

CZECH POLICE BREAK INTERNATIONAL GANG OF SMUGGLERS

Czech police broke up a gang that earned at least $33 million by smuggling about 60,000 Asian refugees into Western Europe, AP reported on 10 October, citing police spokeswoman Ivana Zelankova. Ten Czechs and four foreigners were detained in various places in the Czech Republic on 9 October, Zelankova said. The criminal organization, active since 1999, had its headquarters in the Czech Republic and branches throughout Europe. It mainly smuggled refugees from Afghanistan, Arab countries, and Southeast Asia. The refugees were brought into the Czech Republic, sheltered there temporarily, and then trucked to Western Europe at a suitable time. The smugglers often drugged the refugees to keep them silent during the transports. The organization's boss, an unidentified 33-year-old foreigner, is among those arrested. The raid was part of a coordinated effort by police in the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, and the United Kingdom. MS

SLOVAK OFFICIAL SAYS PARTY PREFERENCE POLLS BEHIND VERHEUGEN'S CONCERN

Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jaroslav Chlebo told CTK on 10 October that EU enlargement commissioner Guenter Verheugen's recent public expression of concern over political stability in Slovakia is nothing new, and most likely reflects his worries over the outcome of the 2002 elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2001). Party preference polls show the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia leading the field. Chlebo said it is impossible to predict what impact Verheugen's statements will have on Slovakia's chances to join the EU, but added that "there are also opinions that are somewhat different." Slovak Deputy Premier Maria Kadlecikova, who is in charge of EU integration, told CTK she does not consider Verheugen's statement to have been "an official one... . It often happens to us, politicians, that we believe only experts are in the audience, while journalists are there as well," she said about the statement made by Verheugen in Luxembourg to a meeting of EU foreign ministers. MS

SLOVAK POLICE FILE CHARGES AGAINST SIEMENS OFFICIAL

Police on 10 October filed corruption charges against an official of the German Siemens company, but did not release his name, AP reported. The charges are in connection with a bid for purchasing a communications system for the state treasury. Reports in the media alleged that the Siemens official offered a 1.5 million crown ($31,250) bribe in an effort to win the 1 billion crown contract. The tender was won by the competing Hewlett-Packard company, and the contract is expected to be signed at the end of October. MS

SLOVAK DEPUTY SUBMITS DRAFT BILL ON HOMOSEXUAL PARTNERSHIP

Party of Democratic Left deputy Milan Istvan on 10 October submitted to parliament a draft bill on homosexual partnership, while admitting that the chances of its approval are "far from brilliant," CTK reported. The bill grants same-sex partners the same rights and privileges as those enjoyed by heterosexual partners, with the exception of adopting children and church marriage. It also does not allow same-sex partners the right to use artificial insemination. Inakost, an organization promoting the rights of homosexuals, said the draft bill is "a first step in the direction of accepting homosexual partnerships." Organization spokesman Ivan Pozgai said the draft will spark a debate and this eventually may lead to a more liberal attitude toward homosexuals. MS

U.S. AMBASSADOR THANKS HUNGARY FOR SUPPORT

U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Nancy Goodman Brinker told parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee on 10 October that U.S. military aircraft and cargo planes bearing humanitarian aid shipments in recent days have used Hungarian airspace, as authorized by parliament. In her first public statement in Hungary, Brinker expressed thanks for the parliament's speedy decision-making and Hungary's close cooperation in combating terrorism. In other news, the Defense Ministry announced that an air-defense system will protect the airspace over southern Hungary, and the Paks nuclear power plant will be defended by antiaircraft missiles, Hungarian TV reported. MSZ

HUNGARIAN TOWN TO HOST REFUGEES DESPITE PROTESTS

The director general of the Immigration Office, Zsuzsanna Vegh, on 11 October confirmed a previous announcement that 500 refugees, mostly from Afghanistan, will be moved to a former military barracks in Kalocsa. However, town residents continue to collect signatures and are preparing for a protest rally on 12 October. Andrea Szobolits, a spokeswoman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said local residents' fears are unfounded, as the refugees do not constitute any security or health risks. In other news, parliament's Human Rights Committee voted down minority ombudsman Jeno Kaltenbach's proposed amendment to strengthen legal measures against the crime of incitement against a community, after the governing parties abstained from the vote. MSZ

COURT REINSTATES TORGYAN IN PARLIAMENTARY GROUP

The Metropolitan Court on 10 October ruled that Independent Smallholders' Party Chairman Jozsef Torgyan must be reinstated in his party's parliamentary group, Hungarian media reported. Torgyan was expelled from the Smallholder group on 7 May, and parliamentary speaker Janos Ader had designated a place for him among independent deputies. Smallholder parliamentary group leader Peter Szentgyorgyvolgyi said that despite the court ruling, he cannot revoke the group's resolution expelling Torgyan, as it expresses the will of the majority of party deputies. The court's verdict is not final, and can be appealed to the Supreme Court within 15 days. MSZ

HUNGARIAN RADIO CHIEF SAYS SOCIALISTS THREATENED STAFF

An internal inquiry at Hungarian Radio claims that the station did not censor the statements of opposition Socialist Party (MSZP) politicians, as charged by the Socialist Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2001). Karoly Szadai, the FIDESZ chairman of the station's board of trustees, on 10 October told parliament's Budget Committee that to the contrary, the MSZP had threatened radio staffers that unless their comments were featured on the "Kronika" news program, the staffers would be sacked if the Socialists won next year's elections. MSZP press chief Andras Dekany rejected Szadai's statements as baseless and slanderous. MSZ




DISAGREEMENTS OVER MACEDONIAN REBEL AMNESTY CONTINUE

Reactions to the amnesty proposed by President Boris Trajkovski and approved by most members of the multiethnic government on 9 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2001) continued to differ widely, AP reported on 10 October. "We certainly welcome this declaration," said Harald Schenker of the OSCE, adding that it is now up to the Macedonian courts to work out the details. A Western envoy in Skopje, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the amnesty declaration is "completely acceptable in this form" while expectations that it become specific legislation are "unreasonable... since the [ethnic] Macedonian-dominated parliament is unlikely to agree on such an issue." But another anonymous Western envoy said the wording of the declaration showed "considerable difference" from what had been agreed upon under the Western-brokered Ohrid agreement and is "subject to broad legal interpretation." DW

NATO DESTROYS WEAPONS CACHE IN MACEDONIAN VILLAGE

A de-mining team from the 1,000-strong NATO force in Macedonia destroyed a weapons cache in the village of Otlja, 18 kilometers northeast of Skopje, on 10 October, AP reported. A local resident alerted NATO to the cache in an abandoned house comprising about 2,000 kilograms of ammunition, explosives, and antitank mines. "These weapons presented a danger for all, it was in the spirit of our mission to destroy them," said Colonel Peer Schwan, chief of the mission code-named Amber Fox. DW

DEL PONTE EXPECTS PLAVSIC, OTHERS TO TESTIFY AGAINST MILOSEVIC

UN chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said on 10 October that she expects former Bosnian Serb leader and war crimes suspect Biljana Plavsic to be one of a number of high-profile witnesses who will testify against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Reuters reported. She also said she hopes to have a third indictment against Milosevic, for Bosnia, ready in a few weeks to add to the indictments for Kosova and Croatia, and that it will contain the most serious charge of genocide. Del Ponte said she thinks Plavsic will testify, but there will be no plea bargain. "No deal. It's not my way of working," she said. DW

STRUGGLE ERUPTS OVER BELGRADE APPOINTMENTS TO NOVI SAD TELEVISION

The speaker of the Vojvodina Assembly, Nenad Canak, who also leads the forces calling for greater autonomy for the Serbian province, sparked a storm of controversy with his reaction on 9 October to the appointment by the central Radio-TV Serbia (RTS) of a director for the local branch in Novi Sad, AP and local media reported. Canak's argument that local authorities should appoint the station's director was followed by a visit to the station, where he smashed a sign with the RTS logo and declared he will "no longer permit Belgrade to trample on Vojvodina." The Vojvodina Coalition in the Serbian parliament said in a statement that Canak's "primitive and hooligan-like behavior" does not contribute to the efforts to peacefully restore Vojvodina's judicial and executive authority, but that it agrees that the local authorities should appoint the TV's director. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia, however, described Canak's actions as "an attempt to carry out some kind of a coup and impose will by force and illegal means." DW

SERBIAN MINERS BACK TO WORK, STRIKES ELSEWHERE TO FOLLOW?

Workers at the Kolubara mine returned to work after a week-long strike (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2001) on 10 October after the government partially met their demands for better wages and working conditions, AP reported. Serbian radio also reported on 11 October that workers at the Bor mine ended their strike after the government agreed to pay them back wages from April. Meanwhile, Serbian Finance Minister Bozidar Djelic said on 10 October that there will be no wage increase in the electricity sector to avert a strike threatened for that day. But he admitted that the government decree freezing state wages was a blunt instrument that had resulted in an absurd situation, as the unions claimed, and the decree can be modified, Tanjug reported. DW

RUGOVA: KOSOVA ELECTIONS' OBJECTIVE INDEPENDENCE...

Moderate Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova said on 10 October that the 17 November general elections are an opportunity to work for the province's independence from Yugoslavia, AP reported the same day. "The national objective of our program is to work toward the formal recognition of Kosova's independence," he said in a speech marking the opening of the Democratic League of Kosova's election campaign in the capital, Prishtina. He also promised that if his party wins it "will guarantee and protect the minorities and integrate them in the institutions of Kosova's democratic state." DW

... WHICH SERBIAN MINISTER SAYS IS ILLEGAL

Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said in Belgrade on 10 October that all the ethnic Albanian parties campaigning for Kosova's elections are breaching UN Security Council Resolution 1244 by calling for independence, Radio B-92 reported the next day. He also said that the Serbian government's Coordination Center for Kosovo, which he heads, is not "some parallel institution of power" but the highest state body for the province, established under and in compliance with Resolution 1244, and he called on the UN administration in the province to stop talking about parallel institutions. DW

ENVOY TO BOSNIA ACCUSES BOSNIAN SERB LEGISLATORS OF 'HOLDING HOSTAGE' KEY LAWS

The international community's high representative to Bosnia, Wolfgang Petritsch, has warned of obstructionist tactics by some of the Republika Srpska's (RS) delegates to state institutions in a letter to the speaker of the RS National Assembly, the Onasa website reported on 10 October. The report cited a statement from the Office of the High Representative to Bosnia-Herzegovina outlining the contents of a letter sent to Speaker Dragan Kalinic. "Many laws that are vital for the economic well-being and security of Bosnia-Herzegovina in general, and for the RS in particular, have been passed by the Council of Ministers... [but] are unfortunately held hostages for all intents and purposes by RS delegates in the state parliament," the website quoted Petritsch as saying in the letter. Petritsch praised the work of a group of legal experts set up recently to facilitate communication and minimize misunderstandings over the legal basis for state-level legislation. He also reminded Kalinic that "while the RS People's Assembly is free to discuss any issue within its competence, it clearly cannot adopt conclusions binding at the state level," the site reported. AH

CROATIA PROBES ALLEGED CRIMES BY WWII-ERA PARTISANS

The Croatian judiciary is investigating partisan crimes allegedly committed against civilians and prisoners of war in May 1945 near Slovenia's current border with Austria and in some parts of central Croatia, dpa reported on 10 October, citing the weekly "Globus." But at the same time, Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic cautioned that "it is not realistic that each and every crime will be punished," dpa reported. Last month, Croatia's state-run news agency HINA quoted an unnamed government official as saying that so far only the crimes of the Ustashe, the forces of the Nazi puppet state during the war, "had been punished." AH

DUBROVNIK CONFERENCE URGES RESPECT FOR RIGHTS, FREEDOMS IN FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM

The delegates to a three-day international conference on human rights and democratization closed on 10 October with the adoption of the "Dubrovnik Conclusions," condemning terrorism while demanding respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in combating it, Hina reported. Representatives condemned the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States, labeling them a crime against humanity, and urged all countries to implement relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the agency said. The document also calls for bolstering the role of civil society in democratization and the promotion of human rights in Europe, Central Asia, and the Transcaucasus. Participants called on the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Union, and UN subregional agencies to develop more efficient cooperation in protecting and promoting human rights in the region, Hina reported. AH

MILOSEVIC ARRAIGNMENT FOR CROATIA WAR CRIMES SET FOR END OF OCTOBER

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic will be arraigned for war crimes in Croatia by The Hague war crimes tribunal on 29 October, a tribunal spokesman said on 10 October, according to Hina. The 32-count indictment charges Milosevic with crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva conventions, and violations of the laws or customs of war in 1991-92. It holds him responsible for the persecution of 170,000 Croats and other minorities in Serb-occupied areas. Aside from the former Yugoslav Federal Army, the indictment charges that members of Serbia's Interior Ministry, state security service, and volunteer units also took part in the crimes in Croatia. AH

ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER INDULGES IN CONSPIRACY THEORIES...

Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu on 10 October said that the great number of illegal immigrants attempting to cross the Romanian border could be due to "a plan to discredit Romania," Mediafax reported. Pascu said that this large number of refugees "harms Romania's efforts at integration in the Euro-Atlantic structures and this may be precisely why some people would like to organize such things from within Romania itself, in the hope of hindering the integration." MS

... BACKS WOMEN'S MILITARY CAREERS

Speaking at a forum on women and military careers in Bucharest on 10 October, Pascu said his ministry favors the promotion of women in the army, emphasizing that today physical force is "less important than intelligence." He said the Romanian military will make it possible for women to develop a career "suitable to their valor and competence." He added that the promotion of women will demonstrate that "Romania and its military are highly interested in promoting democratic values... and eliminating any discrimination on sexual, religious, or racial grounds." MS

ROMANIA BRINGS UP STATUS LAW AGAIN IN YUGOSLAV TALKS

Senate Chairman Nicolae Vacaroiu on 10 October said after talks with visiting Yugoslav Premier Dragisa Pesic that the views of the two sides on the Hungarian Status Law are "close," Mediafax reported. The same day, Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Chairman Bela Marko criticized Prime Minister Adrian Nastase for having brought up the law in discussions with Pesic the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2001). Marko said Nastase and members of the Romanian cabinet should discuss that law with Hungarian, rather than with Yugoslav, government members, Romanian radio reported. MS

ROMANIAN TOWN PLANS GHETTOIZATION OF ROMA

Several dozens Roma protested on 10 October in the northern Romanian town of Piatra-Neamt against the intention of Mayor Ioan Rotaru to move them to an enclosed area that is now under construction, Mediafax reported. Rotaru said that "90 percent" of those about to be moved have no source of income, refuse to work, and refuse to learn how to properly maintain their flats, which had rapidly deteriorated. The UDMR and the National Liberal Party (PNL), in separate statements, protested against Rotaru's plans. The PNL said the mayor intends to "isolate the Roma in the new area behind a fence guarded by police" and warned Premier Nastase that this would seriously harm Romania's international image. UDMR Chairman Marko said the idea "scares him" and that the UDMR favors "integration, not separation." MS

ROMANIAN PARTIES REFUSE TO BE SEEN IN DISREPUTABLE COMPANY

Senate Chairman Vacaroiu asked the Greater Romania Party (PRM) on 10 October to designate another person as its representative in a Senate delegation of senators that will pay a visit to Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines next month, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The PRM had designated its chairman, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, but the PNL, the UDMR, and the Democratic Party announced they will not participate in any international delegation of which Tudor is a member, saying he discredits Romania's reputation. Vacaroiu said it would be beyond his prerogatives to force a change in these parties' positions and added that if the PRM persists in its refusal to nominate another senator, the delegation will leave without a PRM representative. MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER SAYS PREPARATIONS FOR ROMANIAN COUNTERPART'S VISIT CONTINUE

Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev said on 10 October that his government has never received an "official confirmation" from Bucharest that Premier Nastase has canceled his participation on 18 October in the planned trilateral meeting with Tarlev and Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh, and that consequently Moldova is continuing with its preparations for the visit, Romanian radio reported. Tarlev also said it would be "unproductive" to move the focus of Moldovan-Romanian relations from the economic to the political realm. Also on 10 October, Greater Romania Party Senator Ilie Ilascu said in Chisinau that he disagrees with the Romanian government's position and "invectives." Ilascu said that "in previous years, the Moldovan authorities made no less ridiculous statements, but Bucharest never responded to them as toughly as this time around." He commented: "I guess that the [Moldovan] Communist, pro-Moscow leadership, simply set out a bait, and Bucharest swallowed it," Infotag reported. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SEES 'NO POINT IN JOINING RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION NOW'

President Vladimir Voronin, in an interview with the Kyiv daily "Fakty," on 10 October said that "for now" he can see no point in joining the Russia-Belarus Union, Infotag reported. Voronin said the union is "more words than deeds." He added that Moldova "will be where it is to its advantage to be" and said Chisinau is willing to join the CIS Customs Union provided Ukraine also does so. Moldova, Voronin said, has "historically always looked East." Voronin said that his main aim since his election as president has been to dispel fears that his Party of Moldovan Communists intend to restore the previous political system. "I have met with the presidents of 24 European and Asian countries [since my election], and everybody saw that Voronin has neither a tail, nor hooves," he commented. MS

TRANSDNIESTER PLANS TO HAND OVER TO RUSSIA CONTROL OVER ENTERPRISES

Grigorii Marakutsa, chairman of the Transdniester Supreme Soviet, on 10 October said in Moscow that the separatists intend to transfer to Russia controlling blocks of shares in their largest enterprises free of charge, on the condition that these "operate in accordance with Russian legislation," ITAR-TASS reported. He explained that as a result, the enterprises would pay Russia lower tariffs for electricity, production costs would be lowered, more jobs would be created, and revenues to the Transdniester budget would increase. Observers in Chisinau say the move is designated to circumvent the Moldovan decision to withdraw from Transdniester the right to use Moldovan custom seals, because products of Russian-controlled enterprises could be considered to be Russian rather than "Moldovan." MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT, CHIEF MUFTI SAY TERROR IS NOT SAME AS ISLAM

President Petar Stoyanov and Chief Mufti Selim Mehmed said on 10 October in Sofia that Bulgaria's support of the antiterrorist struggle "cannot justify any intolerance or aggressive attitudes against Muslims in Bulgaria or the world at large," BTA reported. Stoyanov and Mehmed said they want to "categorically emphasize" that "acts of terror cannot be identified with Islam, which, like all great world religions, preaches love." They said that "any act of intolerance toward compatriots who practice Islam will damage not only Bulgaria's good reputation, but, above all, the centuries-old Bulgarian tradition of justice and tolerance." In response to a journalist's question, Selim said there have been "only a few isolated incidents" of intolerance toward Bulgarian Muslims since the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States. MS




WEAPONS-COLLECTION PROGRAM HAS MIXED RESULTS IN ALBANIA


By Jolyon Naegele

It has been four years since political infighting plunged Albania into violent anarchy and crowds looted the country's arms depots of more than half a million light weapons.

The United Nations estimates that civilians took 550,000 weapons, 1,500 million rounds of ammunition, and 3.5 million hand grenades from the depots.

Since then, Albanian police have managed to retrieve 180,000 of the looted small arms and light weapons. Legislation was passed allowing the public to return the weapons voluntarily. But the majority of the collection took place over the last 2 1/2 years with the help of the UN Development Program, or UNDP.

Although many of the looted arms -- chiefly Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles -- found their way to neighboring Kosova and Macedonia, a number of the weapons remained in Albania, hidden in countless homes across the country. Grenades became a favored instrument for fishing, and the number of accidental shooting deaths increased.

UNDP launched its weapons-collection program in Albania after meeting with success in its first such effort, disarming child soldiers and ex-combatants in the West African state of Mali. Since starting the disarmament project in Albania in December 1998, UNDP has launched similar weapons-collection projects in the South Pacific's Solomon Islands as well as in Somalia and the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville).

Initially, the UNDP's Albanian pilot program was set in motion in some 100 villages in the central Gramsh district, with the goal of collecting approximately 10,000 weapons -- an estimated one weapon per family.

However, Alfred Moisiu, a former Albanian defense minister and current head of the pro-NATO Albanian Atlantic Association, said that "most people are not agreeing to hand over the arms, the weapons, because the situation is still not secure here in our country... . [And even if they did hand over the weapons] it is not a problem for the criminals for crime, because the criminals are able to find the weapons anyway."

UNDP workers, accompanied by Albanian police officers, went into the Gramsh villages and tried to raise public awareness among target groups -- such as women and young people -- of the dangers the weapons posed to family life, the local community, and society as a whole.

"Trust is also created by international assistance. When we are with the police, the people have more trust in the output of this project and [understand] that this is not just an action of the police and that the weapons will [not] be destroyed, or hidden, or used by other parties," said Johan Buwalda, a program manager for UNDP's Weapons in Exchange for Development Program in Albania. "So the involvement of UNDP in the collection itself is a very important issue. At the same time, we give the police more authority by providing equipment, vehicles, communications, and materials, so that at least [the public] sees that UNDP is behind them and is assisting the Ministry of Public Order for creating law and order in this country."

Nevertheless, Buwalda said the Albanian police force is "very poorly equipped" and lacks vehicles, suitable storage facilities, security regulations, and registration books for whatever weapons are being collected.

UNDP's public awareness information officer, Nora Kushti, said no real development can take place in Albania as long as large numbers of weapons remain in circulation. But persuasion remains a difficult task, according to Kushti, "It takes time to change a person's mentality, and to disarm a person's mind."

She describes the Gramsh pilot program as being based on public awareness of both the benefits of handing over weapons and the economic incentives being offered.

Kushti said some $1 million were invested in Gramsh's roads, bridges, street lighting, and telephone lines. Residents were given a choice of the type of development -- road improvement, street lighting, or telephone lines -- that they wanted in exchange for handing over weapons. Despite such incentives, however, UNDP and Albanian security forces failed to reach their goal of collecting 10,000 weapons in the Gramsh district. When the project ended in 2000, they had amassed just 6,000 weapons and 137 tons of ammunition.

UNDP then launched two additional pilot projects in Elbasan and Diber, where program manager Buwalda notes that police had already begun collecting some weapons on their own. "Of course the security issue is a main criteria [for going] to a particular area," Buwalda said. "We have decided to extend our weapons collection and we have asked the government which areas they'd like us to go to. At the same time, we formulate the criteria where we want to work and how we can work and what is actually needed to work."

Collections in the Elbasan and Diber districts totaled 6,500 weapons. The industrial area of Elbasan turned over weapons in quantities similar to Gramsh. But the Diber district proved more difficult. That district is isolated from the rest of the country by high mountains and bad roads, and is cut off from its historic administrative center and market, Debar (Diber), which lies just across the border in Macedonia. Such isolation -- paired with possible weapons smuggling to Albanian insurgents in Macedonia -- meant relatively few arms were collected in the district.

"At least when we compare now we can say that Diber was not very fruitful in this way, in that the number of weapons we have collected is not a high amount of weapons," Buwalda said. In the beginning we were actually told, 'Look, we are poor. If we have a weapon we'd like to sell it.'"

But rather than paying for weapons -- which UN officials say would have motivated people to steal -- UNDP instead offered Diber assistance in building local infrastructure, much as it had in Gramsh and Elbasan.

But according to Buwalda, although the Albanian government claims all the weapons in the Diber area have been collected, local residents tell UNDP there are still weapons at large. "We all know that weapons are not always at the same place. They are trafficked in different areas and in different directions," Buwalda said. "The Kosovo crisis has benefited from a number of weapons [from Albania]. The Macedonian crisis has benefited from them. We know that weapons have gone to Greece, to Italy. But you don't know how much has been returned and what was already [at large] within this civil population before the 550,000 weapons [were looted]. So it is still [a matter of] guessing."

Most of the collected weapons are destroyed at a designated site in Elbasan. The Albanian Defense Ministry, however, has reserved the right to keep any weapons it chooses. Museum-quality antique weapons, many predating World War I -- such as numerous British Lee-Enfield rifles -- are also set aside.

UNDP plans to expand the weapons-collection program nationwide in November. Buwalda said the new program will be considerably broader in scope than the pilot projects. "It is not only weapons collection. It is also weapons control," Buwalda said. "So we will assist the police in setting up a database, storing these data, managing the data, and we will exchange our experience and learn from the neighboring countries what their problems are and how we can serve them."

In a bid to expand its disarmament activities in the Balkans, UNDP plans to hold a regional workshop on arms collection in January 2002 with representatives from Albania and the former Yugoslav republics. Jolyon Naegele is an RFE/RL correspondent.


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