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Newsline - October 12, 2001




DUMA ADOPTS ANTITERRORISM RESOLUTION

By a vote of 315 for, 37 against and with one abstention, the Duma on 11 October adopted a resolution expressing its solidarity with President Vladimir Putin's approach to the struggle against international terrorism and asserting that the counterterrorist effort must be directed exclusively at the liquidation of terrorist groups rather than at broader geopolitical goals, Russian agencies reported. The deputies rejected an alternative variant prepared by the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) that denounced the U.S. strikes against Afghan targets as aggression. That measure received only 100 votes for, while some 166 deputies voted against it. The deputies rejected another LDPR resolution that criticized the presence of American forces in Uzbekistan. That measure attracted only 136 of the 226 votes needed to pass. Deputies also rejected a third LDPR resolution calling on Muslims to show solidarity with Russia and oppose the United States. That resolution attracted only 86 votes in favor. PG

DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES REPORTS OF RUSSIAN SOLDIERS IN AFGHANISTAN

The press service of the Russian Defense Ministry said on 11 October that reports in the Russian and foreign press asserting that units of the Russian armed services are in Afghanistan do not correspond to reality, Russian and Western agencies reported. PG

CIS ANTITERRORIST CENTER HEAD WARNS THAT AFGHAN CONFLICT MAY SPILL OVER INTO REGION

Lieutenant General Boris Mylnikov, the head of the CIS Antiterrorist Center, said that the counterterrorist strikes in Afghanistan threaten to broaden the zone of conflict beyond the borders of that country. He said the attacks could lead to increased refugee flows into Central Asia, make some of the Central Asian states "targets for revenge," and lead to increased activity by Muslim extremist groups, including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, some of whose members he said are currently in Afghanistan. The same day, President Putin discussed these dangers by telephone with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, Russian agencies reported. PG

MORE SECURITY MEASURES ANNOUNCED IN RUSSIA

Law enforcement officials in Moscow on 11 October announced plans to step up security even though a separate meeting of these officers reported that there had been only one terrorist act in Russia in 2001, the explosion at the Belorusskaya metro station in Moscow, Interfax-Moscow reported. Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev said that the country's nuclear plants are being guarded more closely, "Tru-7" reported the same day. Meanwhile, the Federal Security Service (FSB) conducted exercises to respond to any terrorist seizure of an aircraft, Interfax-Northwest reported. Russia's space program announced that it has increased security at the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported the same day. PG

RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE ALREADY KNEW WHAT U.S. TOLD ALLIES ABOUT BIN LADEN

According to an article in "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 11 October, the Russian secret services already had all the information on Osama bin Laden's links to terrorist acts that Washington has presented to its NATO allies and to Russia. PG

MOSCOW, TEHRAN WANT UN TO PLAY LARGER ROLE IN COUNTERTERRORIST CAMPAIGN

Russian and Iranian diplomats in Moscow said on 11 October that their countries want to cooperate in providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and for the United Nations Security Council to play a larger role in this and other aspects of the counterterrorist effort, Russian agencies reported. Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said the same day that Moscow may allocate additional funds for humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and hopes to be able to work directly with European countries, the United States and the UN to organize assistance in territories under the control of the Northern Alliance, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

DUMA DEPUTY SAYS MOSCOW MUST NOT LET U.S. BOMB AND THEN LEAVE AFGHANISTAN

In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 11 October, Aleksei Arbatov, the deputy chairman of the Duma Defense Committee, said the Russian government must work to ensure that the United States does not bomb Afghanistan and then leave others to solve the resulting problems in the region. PG

U.S. COUNTERTERRORIST STRIKES SEEN HELPING U.S. ARMS SALES ABROAD

According to an article in "Ekspert," No. 37, the impact of the U.S. counterterrorist campaign on international arms sales remains uncertain but may allow American arms firms to "consolidate their positions" in export markets, possibly at the expense of Russian firms that have been hoping to sell more. PG

YASTRZHEMBSKII AGAIN SAYS BIN LADEN INVOLVED IN CHECHEN FIGHTING

In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 11 October, Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said that bin Laden is directly involved in sending terrorists from Afghanistan to Chechnya. Yastrzhembskii said that these "mercenaries" are "notorious for their ferocity." But he said that there are only a few mercenaries in Chechnya at present. PG

PUTIN TELLS IMF RUSSIA READY TO ACCELERATE DEBT PAYMENTS...

President Putin on 11 October told visiting International Monetary Fund head Horst Koehler that Moscow is now ready and able to accelerate its payments on its debts to foreign countries, Russian and Western agencies reported. Koehler welcomed the move as evidence of Russia's economic progress and growing cooperation with the IMF. The two also agreed on the necessity to reform the Russian banking system. Koehler for his part said that Russia has too many low-capitalized banks. PG

...GREETS MOSCOW CITY INVESTMENT CONFERENCE IN BERLIN...

President Putin on 11 October sent a message of greetings to participants and guests of the Fourth International Investment Forum "Moscow-Invest-2001," Interfax reported. Putin said that the forum is "a notable event in the business life" of the Russian capital and stressed that it is very important that "foreign businessmen receive complete and reliable information about the state of the Russian economy." Meanwhile, the Central Bank announced the same day that it intends to adopt simplified measures to allow for greater capital investment from abroad, the news service said. PG

...AND TELLS COMPATRIOTS THAT THEY MUST FEEL ONE WITH RUSSIA

President Putin on 11 October told the Moscow meeting of the Congress of Russian Compatriots Abroad that Moscow must do more to help them than it has in the past when efforts to reach out to them were hampered by "bureaucratism and indifference," Russian agencies reported. He said he hopes that ethnic Russians abroad will feel at one with Russia and help Russia to integrate into the international community. Meanwhile, Duma International Relations Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin said Russia should create an international organization to defend the rights of ethnic Russians abroad, and that the parliament must adopt a law on the national cultural status of the Russian people who, he said, are the core of the Russian Federation. Duma deputy speaker and LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky almost broke up the session when he denounced the meeting as "a Potemkin congress" that had been over-organized by the authorities to create the impression that Russian government officials really understand the problems of the Russian communities abroad, Interfax reported. PG

GORBACHEV PRAISES PUTIN...

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev told the Berlin investment forum on 11 October that economic conditions in Russia have improved dramatically over the last several years, and that President Putin's approach promises to make things even better, Interfax reported. Gorbachev added that everything Putin has done since the 11 September terrorist attacks demonstrates that the Russian president plans to expand cooperation between Russia and the West in all areas, including the economic sphere. PG

...BUT POLL SUGGESTS SOME RUSSIANS CONCERNED ABOUT CIVIL RIGHTS...

According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 11 October, 21 percent of Russians believe that as a result of President Putin's efforts there have been positive changes in Russian foreign policy. Only 1 percent suggested that his actions had had a negative impact in that sector. Concerning other areas, Russians were divided in their assessment of Putin's actions. Two percent said that there has been an improvement in the observance of civil rights and freedoms, but 4 percent said that there has been a deterioration in that area. Six percent said there have been positive developments in the area of personal security, while 10 percent suggested that things have become worse in that area under Putin. PG

...AND HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS REMAIN DIVIDED ON PARTICIPATION IN KREMLIN'S PLANNED CIVIC FORUM

Even as Vyacheslav Surkov, the deputy chief of the presidential administration, convened on 11 October a planning session for the 21-22 November Civic Forum of Public Organizations, Russian human rights activists were divided on whether to participate in that meeting, Interfax reported. Duma deputy and former human rights ombudsman Sergei Kovalev said that groups that elect to take part could jeopardize their reputations because of the way the Kremlin has gone about organizing this session, but that they could also take advantage of the meeting to press their causes. But Duma deputy (Union of Rightist Forces) Sergei Yushenkov spoke out categorically against any participation in the upcoming meeting. PG

DUMA PLANS HEARINGS ON DISAPPEARANCES IN BELARUS

Duma deputies decided on 11 October to hold hearings before the end of the month on the disappearances of journalists and opposition figures in Belarus, Interfax reported. Deputies backed on first reading legislation laying the foundation for government work in the field of culture. PG

RUSSIA, UKRAINE UNABLE TO DEMARCATE SEA BORDER

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators over the course of several years have been unable to define the legal status of the Azov and Black Seas, Interfax reported on 11 October. Ukraine seeks to have the border between the two countries precisely defined across these bodies of water, while Russia wants the two to agree on joint exploitation of the entire water area. PG

MOSCOW TO ALLOW EU SHIPPING ON MORE RUSSIAN RIVERS

Nikolai Smirnov, the head of the River Fleet Service of Russia, said on 11 October that Russia is increasing the number of rivers that European Union-flagged ships can use for purposes of commerce, Interfax reported. Fourteen rivers and river ports are already open for such ships, Smirnov said, and more will be opened in the near future, including such major rivers as the Volga and the Don. PG

HONG KONG PROPOSED AS MODEL FOR KALININGRAD DEVELOPMENT

Alfonso Zardi, an official of the Council of Europe, said in Kaliningrad on 11 October that Kaliningrad could become the second Hong Kong, Interfax-Northwest reported. Regional officials said that Kaliningrad has the greatest number of border crossers of any region in Russia, with 8.2 million people having entered or left that region in 2000 alone. Meanwhile customs officials in Kaliningrad reported the same day that a container of humanitarian assistance from Germany also included poisonous substances, the news service said. The container reportedly was intended for a local religious organization. PG

MOSCOW INCREASES ASSISTANCE TO NORTHERN REGIONS FOR WINTER PREPARATIONS

The Russian government plans to devote 5 billion rubles ($170 million) during October alone to help ensure that Northern regions of the country will have sufficient fuel for winter, Interfax-ANI reported. Meanwhile, Energy Minister Igor Yusufov expressed the hope that Russia will be able to avoid any heating crises this winter, Interfax reported the same day. And Unified Energy Systems and the Railways Ministry announced plans to form a commission to deal with problems in fuel delivery due to a shortage of rolling stock, the news agency said. PG

INFLATION REMAINS LOW IN EARLY OCTOBER

The State Statistics Committee announced on 11 October that consumer prices had risen by 0.3 percent during the first eight days of October, Russian agencies reported. For the first nine months of 2001, the committee said, inflation stood at 13.9 percent, 0.2 percent less than in the same period during 2000. Meanwhile, Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko said the same day that inflation will total "around 17 percent" for 2001, Prime-TASS reported. And Deputy Finance Minister Bella Zlatkis said that "there is every reason to suppose that in 2002 inflation will be significantly lower" than this year, "Vremya MN" reported. PG

EURASIAN MOVEMENT SAYS ISLAM IS TRUE ANTIGLOBALIST FORCE

Members of the Eurasian Party together with Muslim leaders, diplomats, and Duma deputies from the LDPR held a roundtable in Moscow on "Russia, Islam and Globalization" on 10 October, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the following day. Most participants were sharply critical of the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan and said that Islam is now the most reliable antiglobalist force. General Makhmud Gareev of the Academy of the Military Sciences told the meeting that America must be condemned for its pattern of increasingly targeting civilian infrastructure rather than hitting military objects. PG

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS CALL OFF HUNGER STRIKE

The Russian Federation of Unions of Air Traffic Controllers on 11 October called off the hunger strike its members began 24 hours earlier, Russian agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2001). Federation officials said they did so to ensure that their members will be able to do their jobs and will not suffer any physical harm. The union added that some airport managers attempted to remove from work controllers who were on hunger strike, Interfax reported. PG

PAVLOVSKII SAYS INTERNET IS ALREADY THE 90TH REGION OF RUSSIA

"Izvestiya" on 11 October cited Gleb Pavlovskii, the Kremlin media adviser, as saying that "one must be get used to the fact that the Russian Federation now has a 90th region -- the Internet," and that Russian leaders at all levels must be present in this region, which will gradually become the largest region in the country in terms of political influence. The paper reported the same day that Duma deputy Tatyana Astrakhankina (Communist Party) wants the parliament to adopt legislation that will limit the access of schoolchildren to pornography and other unacceptable sites on the Internet. PG

NEW DELAYS IN DOCKING 'KURSK'

Naval officials said on 11 October that they have postponed until next week the delicate process of bringing the "Kursk" submarine to the dock in Roslyakovo, Russian and Western agencies reported. Meanwhile, officials said that in the initial stages at least, military personnel will take the lead in examining the submarine. PG

RANKS OF INTERIOR MINISTRY INCREASING

According to data collected by the Russian Interior Ministry and reported by Interfax on 11 October, the number of people applying to work in the organs of internal affairs has risen dramatically, as have the number of new hires. So far in 2001, the ministry has hired 74,200 new employees, a number far in excess of those retiring or leaving the service for other reasons. PG

RUSSIAN EXPORTS OF WOOD PRODUCTS PROJECTED TO DOUBLE IN FIVE YEARS

A participant in a Moscow international conference on "The National Forestry Policy of Russia" told Interfax on 11 October that Russia plans to double its sales of forest products abroad from $5 billion to $10 billion. But other participants noted that Russia's forests suffer from poor management and inadequate government supervision. PG

MOSCOW CITY SCHOOLS BEING CHECKED FOR RADIATION DANGERS

Russian officials have checked one-quarter of Moscow's schools for background radiation over the past five years and have not uncovered any threatening situation, Interfax-Moscow reported on 11 October. Meanwhile, the Atomic Energy Ministry said the same day that there is no truth to media reports that Moscow is near agreement on the import of spent nuclear fuel from any foreign country, Russian agencies reported. PG

MOSCOW CITY CONSIDERING MONUMENT TO WWII HORSES AND DOGS

Moscow city Duma officials are considering a proposal by World War II veterans to build a monument to horses and dogs used by the Soviet army during that conflict, Interfax reported. PG

LEADERS OF PREDOMINANTLY MUSLIM REPUBLICS KEEP SILENT...

Neither Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev nor Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov have commented publicly on the U.S.-led bombing campaign against Afghanistan, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 11 October, and the daily concluded that their silence may indicate "at least ambivalence within Russian about the latest developments." Meanwhile, the religious leaders in their regions are not refraining from comments. Mikaddas Bibarsov, chairman of the Volga Muslim Religious Board has remarked that "The U.S., the global policeman, and its allies are reshaping the world and killing civilians -- using the slogan of combating terrorism as a pretext," according to the daily. And Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board noted that bin Laden and the Taliban "emerged with the help of the U.S. and Pakistan special services" and that the bombing "only contributes to the civil war in Afghanistan," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. JAC

...AS OTHERS SEE CONFLICT AS RESULT OF FAILURE OF U.S. LEADERSHIP

Chuvash President Nikolai Fedorov was also critical of the United States, saying that the terrorist acts were a natural outgrowth of the failure of the U.S. to find adequate solutions to the major ethnic conflicts of the world, such as between Israel and Palestine. "Terrorism is a cruel aftereffect of political errors," Fedorov noted, according to the newspaper. JAC

POWER SHARING AGREEMENTS TO BE FIXED -- OR ELSE...

"Izvestiya" reported on 11 October that by 1 July of next year all of the power-sharing agreements between Russian regions and the center that do not conform to federal laws will be canceled. Newspapers reported earlier that the deadline would be 1 May 2002 (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 24 September 2001). The newspaper obtained a protocol of the presidential commission on such agreements that is chaired by Dmitrii Kozak, presidential administration deputy head. According to the protocol, those persons and state organs within the regions who have not brought their region's laws into compliance could held criminally and administratively responsible. Unidentified sources close to the presidential envoys to the federal districts told the daily that the "federal center does not exclude [the possibility] that political tension could arise in one of the especially powerful regions, which are not ready for this." JAC

...AS STROEV PREDICTS EVOLUTION OF UNITARY FEDERATION

In an interview with "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 11 October, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev said that he believes that President Putin "has moved decisively so that the status of the regions will soon be equal." Stroev said he supports Putin's moves in this direction and that he himself has always spoken against the conclusion of power-sharing agreements between the regions and Moscow. "How is it possible to reach an agreement with one part of the country and not with the rest?" he asked. JAC

SAKHA PRESIDENT LOSES LAST CHANCE FOR THIRD TERM?

Legislators in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) failed to pass a bill amending the republic's constitution to allow current President Mikhail Nikolaev to seek a third term in office, Russian agencies reported on 11 October (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 11 October 2001). The measure needed support from two-thirds of the local legislature, according to Interfax-Eurasia. The speaker of Sakha's legislative assembly, Vasilii Filippov, commented that the result of the vote is that Nikolaev has no legal basis to seek reelection. Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov made a similar comment earlier. JAC

ST. PETERSBURG ELECTION TURNS UGLY?

Former St. Petersburg legislator Yurii Shutov has charged that candidates in the 14 October by-election for a vacant State Duma seat from St. Petersburg are facing unequal conditions, Interfax-Northwest reported on 10 October. Shutov, a candidate in the race, is currently on trial on charges of conspiracy to commit murder among other things. He was arrested almost two years ago, but his trial began just two weeks before the election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2001). Meanwhile, Ruslan Chovpin, the assistant of another candidate, Yurii Solonin, was beaten by unknown assailants. According to Interfax-Northwest, eight candidates are competing in the election, including former Labor Minister Natalya Petukhova and rector of the Baltic Technical University Yurii Savelev. JAC




ARMENIA EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER THREAT TO COETHNICS IN ABKHAZIA

Galust Sahakian, who heads the Armenian parliament's largest faction, Miasnutiun, said on 11 October in Yerevan that the Armenian government should take unspecified steps to protect the Armenian community in Abkhazia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Several Armenians were reported killed in the village of Giorgievskoe on 3 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2001), and 14 more died during a raid late on 8 October on the village of Naa. On 10 October, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian expressed concern at those killings, warning against any attempt to damage relations between Armenia and Georgia. Armenian Revolutionary Federation -- Dashnaktsutiun faction leader Aghvan Vartanian advocated on 11 October sending a fact-finding mission to Abkhazia. LF

ARMENIA UNLIKELY TO SEND TROOPS TO CENTRAL ASIA

The dispatch of Armenian troops to Central Asia to defend the Tajik-Afghan border within the framework of the CIS Collective Security Treaty is "unlikely and will hardly be needed," Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian said in Yerevan on 11 October upon his return from the emergency meeting of CIS security officials on 8-9 October in Dushanbe, ITAR-TASS reported. Sarkisian noted that under the Armenian Constitution the parliament must approve the dispatch of troops to fight outside Armenia. LF

ARMENIAN AIRSPACE NOT USED SINCE BEGINNING OF AFGHAN STRIKES

Sarkisian also told journalists on 11 October that the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition has not made use of Armenian airspace since the beginning of airstrikes on Afghanistan on 7 October, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He said no such request has yet been received, but that Armenia would "almost certainly give out permission" if asked. U.S. military aircraft engaged in the buildup to those attacks overflew Armenia on 27 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2001). LF

AZERBAIJAN 'WOULD CONSIDER' TRANS-CASPIAN PIPELINE

Ilham Aliev, the vice president of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR and son of Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev, told journalists in Baku on 11 October that the Azerbaijani leadership is ready to consider any proposal that Turkmenistan may make concerning the laying of a Trans-Caspian pipeline to export Turkmen natural gas via the South Caucasus, Interfax reported. That statement is at odds with one by SOCAR's President Natik Aliyev (no relation to Ilham and Heidar) that the Trans-Caspian pipeline project will not be implemented (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2001). But Ilham Aliyev reiterated the condition that originally led to the collapse of talks between Baku and Ashgabat on the pipeline project, namely that Azerbaijan be granted the use of half its estimated annual throughput capacity of 16 billion cubic meters to export gas from its Shah Deniz Caspian field. He pointed out that if Turkmenistan agreed to those terms it would no longer be so dependent on Russia to export and sell its gas. LF

AZERBAIJAN EXTRADITES SUSPECTED EGYPTIAN TERRORIST

An Egyptian citizen detained in Azerbaijan on suspicion of involvement in international terrorism was handed over to Egyptian officials at Baku airport late on 11 October, ITAR-TASS reported the following day. Azerbaijani security officials refused to divulge details of his arrest or comment on his possible involvement in the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States. LF

ABKHAZ AIR FORCE ATTACKS INTRUDERS

On 11 October Abkhaz military aviation for the first time attacked the group of fighters said to be Chechens and Georgian guerrillas who are pinned down near the Sugar-Loaf mountain, inflicting casualties and preventing them from breaking out of encirclement, Abkhaz Deputy Defense Minister Harri Kupalba told Interfax. Abkhaz presidential aide Astamur Tania told Caucasus Press on 12 October that fighting continued through the night and that two Georgians were killed. He did not say whether the Abkhaz side incurred losses, Caucasus Press reported. Also on 12 October, Russian peacekeeping troops intercepted a Georgian convoy carrying food supplies that was headed for the Kodori gorge, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

ABKHAZ PRESIDENT APPEALS TO PUTIN

Abkhaz Defense Minister Vladimir Mikanba told Caucasus Press and Interfax on 11 October that the Abkhaz leadership considers the dispatch of Georgian army units to the Kodori gorge as "a step toward war," in response to which Abkhazia will appeal for help from Russia and the peoples of the North Caucasus. Later that day, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba wrote to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking him to "thwart Georgia's policy of state aggression" and take urgent measures to prevent "a new large-scale war in Abkhazia." He also asked Putin to initiate a UN Security Council resolution denouncing "Georgian terrorism," ITAR-TASS reported. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR WITHDRAWAL OF CIS PEACEKEEPERS...

Parliament deputies voted late on 11 October almost unanimously, by 163 votes for to one against, to demand the withdrawal from Georgian territory of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed since mid-1994 under the auspices of the CIS along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Deputies claimed that the peacekeepers have failed to fulfill their mandate. Prior to the vote, President Eduard Shevardnadze had said that he would do his best to ensure that the peacekeepers are withdrawn if the parliament considers such a withdrawal expedient. Under the CIS peacekeeping force's mandate, it cannot be withdrawn without the consent of the Abkhaz, and all CIS states must vote on the withdrawal, which Armenia is unlikely to approve given its concern for the fate of the Armenian minority in Abkhazia (see above). LF

...WHICH UN REPRESENTATIVE DEEMS UNWISE

Dieter Boden, the UN Secretary-General's special representative for the Abkhaz conflict, commented on 11 October that the withdrawal of the CIS peacekeepers could present "a great risk," insofar as it is not clear who would take their place, Caucasus Press reported. He said that if the CIS force were withdrawn, the UN Observer Force would also be constrained to leave Georgia. On 12 October, Caucasus Press quoted Boden as denying a statement attributed the previous evening by Georgian State Television to the effect that he approved the dispatch of Georgian troops to the Kodori gorge. Caucasus Press quoted him as saying that on the contrary, he regards the Georgian move as "not useful," potentially destabilizing, and as a violation of the cease-fire agreement signed by Georgia and Abkhazia in May 1994. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ASSURES DISPLACED PERSONS OF SPEEDY 'VICTORY'

Meeting earlier on 11 October with representatives of some 1,000 Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia demanding that the Georgian government give its official support and backing to the Georgian guerrilla units operating in Abkhazia, President Shevardnadze said, "I am sure we will return to Abkhazia and it will happen very shortly. I will go head with you. We have more resources now and international support... We are closer to victory than any time before," Reuters reported. LF

MOSCOW BLAMES TBILISI FOR DETERIORATING SITUATION IN ABKHAZIA...

The Russian Foreign Ministry on 11 October issued a statement saying that Moscow holds Tbilisi responsible for failing to block the influx of Chechen and other fighters into Abkhazia, Russian agencies reported. The statement continued that Russia has frequently warned Georgia about this danger but that "our calls were not heeded." It concluded that the deteriorating situation in Abkhazia reflects as well the interest of some in the Georgian capital in using force rather than negotiations to resolve the Abkhaz conflict. PG

...WHILE DUMA ADOPTS RESOLUTION CRITICIZING GEORGIA FOR CRISIS

By a vote of 292 to one with one abstention, the Duma on 11 October adopted a resolution expressing its concern over the rise in tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi and placing the blame for that development on Georgia, Russian agencies reported. The resolution repeated many of the points the Russian Foreign Ministry statement contained, and the ministry expressed itself satisfied with the tone of the Duma resolution. Many deputies spoke out against recent Georgian policies, and Communist Party chief Gennadii Zyuganov said that Georgian President Shevardnadze has "completely lost control over the situation in his country." PG

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION FACTION DEMANDS THAT PARLIAMENT SPEAKER RESIGN

Levan Gachechiladze, one of the 11 deputies in the opposition "New Right Wing" faction, has argued that parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania should step down following the total collapse of the parliament majority, "Alia" reported on 11 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2001). Until a few days ago, the Union of Citizens of Georgia to which Zhvania belongs was the largest single parliament faction and the senior partner within the majority faction (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 33, 8 October 2001). LF

KAZAKH TV STATION DENIES PRESIDENT'S SON-IN-LAW CONTROLS MEDIA EMPIRE

Editors from KTK TV convened a press conference in Almaty on 11 October at which they denied that the station is owned by President Nursultan Nazarbaev's son-in-law Rakhat Aliyev, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. They rejected as "groundless and politically motivated" claims made by parliament deputy Tolen Toqtasynov in an open letter to Nazarbaev made public the previous day that Aliyev and his wife, Nazarbaev's daughter Dariga, between them control the majority of both print and electronic media outlets in Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2001). LF

KYRGYZSTAN HOSTS MEETING OF SCO SECURITY OFFICIALS...

Senior security and Interior Ministry officials from five of the six member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Russia, and China, but not Uzbekistan) met in Bishkek on 11 October to assess the possible impact on Central Asia of the U.S.-led antiterrorist strikes against targets in Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Participants adopted a joint statement, which must be endorsed by their foreign ministries, stressing the need for enhanced cooperation in the fight against international terrorism, drug trafficking, and religious extremism. Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev did not address the session although he had been expected to do so. LF

...ASSESSES CAPACITY FOR HOUSING REFUGEES

Addressing a session in Bishkek on 11 October of the government's coordinating committee for emergency situations, Kyrgyz First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev said Kyrgyzstan could accept a maximum of 2,000 refugees from Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He said housing and providing for that number of refugees would cost an estimated 20 million soms ($415,000) and that the Kyrgyz government would have to ask international relief organizations to provide part of that sum. LF

DIPLOMAT DENIES TALIBAN AMASSING ON BORDER WITH UZBEKISTAN

Media reports that Taliban forces are gathering on the border between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan are "not serious," Uzbekistan's Ambassador to Russia Shokasym Shoislamov told Russian journalists in Moscow on 11 October. He added that Uzbekistan "is fortifying its borders," but that no large Taliban force has been detected in the vicinity. LF




BELARUS CONCERNED ABOUT SECURITY OF LITHUANIAN NUCLEAR PLANT

Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Pavel Latushka on 11 October raised concerns about the security of Lithuania's Ignalina nuclear power plant, which is located near the Belarusian border. Latushka added that Minsk's concerns have been stirred by the 11 September terrorist attacks on U.S. cities. "The Belarusian side believes that Lithuania must show more responsibility and constructiveness in establishing an effective system of control over its airspace and interact with its neighbors in guarding and protecting the Ignalina nuclear power plant," Belapan quoted Latushka as saying. "The Lithuanian government...is concerned about the safety and security of the Ignalina plant without prompting and comments [from the outside]... A lot of money has been spent on that, and now foreign experts say it is one of the safest nuclear power plants in Europe," RFE/RL's Belarusian Service quoted Lithuanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Petras Zapolskas as saying. JM

ORT ASKS BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT TO ALLOW JOURNALIST TO ATTEND CLOSED TRIAL

Russia's ORT public television network has requested that Alyaksandr Lukashenka allow ORT journalist Pavel Sheremet to attend a trial of suspected kidnappers of ORT cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski, Belapan reported on 11 October. The Minsk City Court is expected on 23 October to open a closed-door trial of former Interior Ministry antiterrorist unit member Valery Ihnatovich and three others who are suspected of abducting Zavadski and committing seven murders. "We are concerned about how the Zavadski case is being handled... Lukashenka's answer [to the ORT request] will most likely be 'no,'" Sheremet said in a recent interview with "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta." Zavadski's relatives believe that the case material contains indirect evidence that Zavadski, who has been missing since 7 July 2000, was a victim of a carefully planned operation, not of an ordinary crime. JM

KUCHMA SAYS UKRAINE UNABLE TO STOP MIGRANTS FROM EAST...

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 11 October said Ukraine is not able to efficiently stop an inflow of illegal migrants through the country's insufficiently protected eastern borders, Interfax reported. "We are now unable to seal our borders. Only our western borders are sealed. Migrants from all over the world gather here, which is a huge burden on the Ukrainian budget," Kuchma said, adding that illegal migrants penetrate into Ukraine "along guerilla paths from Moldova, Transdniestria, and Russia." JM

...PLEDGES TO ELIMINATE DOMESTIC TERRORISM

Kuchma also urged tighter antiterrorist measures in order to eliminate "manifestations of terrorism" within the country. "I have no right to think that there is no [terrorism] in Ukraine," Kuchma said in Chernivtsi, southeastern Ukraine. Kuchma suggested that the violent clashes between police and antipresidential demonstrators in Kyiv on 9 March were such manifestations of terrorism. "Terrorism seeks to intimidate the authorities, to cause panic in society, to stir people to oppose the authorities, and so on. We see this in Ukraine or we saw this in Ukraine. But we called these things different names," One Plus One television quoted Kuchma as saying. JM

UKRAINE BANS DUTY-FREE SUGAR IMPORTS FROM BELARUS, RUSSIA

Ukraine has temporarily banned duty-free imports of sugar from Russia and Belarus, the government press service said on 11 October. The decision was made to "defend the local market from massive supplies of cheap Russian and Belarusian white sugar that hit Ukrainian sugar producers' revenues," "The Moscow Times" reported on 12 October. Earlier this year, the Ukrainian government prevented local sugar producers from selling white sugar at prices below 2,300 hryvni ($433) per ton, while Russian and Belarusian producers are offering sugar at some 2,100 hryvni per ton. Russian and Belarusian sugar traders had enjoyed duty-free status owing to a free-trade zone encompassing Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. However, the duty-free agreement allows the signatory countries to exclude certain commodities. JM

DIFFERENT VIEWS IN ESTONIA'S RULING COALITION

The Reform Party has started to take measures to distance itself from the unpopular moves of its coalition partner, the Pro Patria Union, "Eesti Paevaleht" reported on 12 October. The Reform Party chairman, Finance Minister Siim Kallas, has promised to review the plans for raising electricity tariffs and to oppose the increase unless calculations clearly show their necessity. The Reform Party also holds a different position on two other important Pro Patria projects: the introduction of controversial ID cards and the administrative-territorial reform that would reduce the number of local government from 247 to 80-90. In both cases the Reform Party affirms that the projects cannot be mandatory, but only voluntary. The board of the other coalition partner, the Moderates, met on 11 October and defined separately the priorities of the government coalition and the Moderates. It decided to emphasize the role of its ministers toward realizing the party's election promises and program priorities. SG

LATVIAN SUPREME COURT REDUCES SENTENCES OF RUSSIAN RADICALS

The court decided on 11 October to reduce the sentences of the three Russian National Bolsheviks whom the Riga Regional Court had found guilty of terrorism after they seized the steeple of Riga's St. Peter's Church in November 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2001), LETA reported. It ruled that they were only guilty of delinquency but not terrorism. The 15-year prison sentences given to Maxim Zhurkin and Sergei Solovey were reduced to six and five years of imprisonment, respectively, and one year of police supervision. The five-year sentence of Dmitrii Gafarov, who was underage when the crime was committed, was reduced to one year in prison and one year of police supervision. All three lawyers for the defendants said they are pleased with the ruling and will not file further appeals even though they had requested in their petitions that the defendants be acquitted. SG

LITHUANIA TO SHUT DOWN MOST CROSSING POINTS ALONG BELARUS BORDER

The head of the Lithuanian Border Service, Algimantas Songaila, announced on 11 October that the 23 of 29 border-crossing points with Belarus that have simplified crossing procedures will be closed and the security at the other posts will be increased, BNS reported. The action is needed to bring security along the 650-kilometer long border up to European Union standards. Songaila said that the checkpoints along the border with Russia's Kaliningrad exclave already meet future requirements and need a minimum of funding to improve their existing infrastructures. During a visit to the Ignalina nuclear power plant, Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius declared that Lithuania will ask Belarus to cooperate with its decision to expand the no-flight zone around the plant from 10 to 20 kilometers. The compliance of Belarus is clearly needed, as the plant is only three kilometers from its border (see Belarus item above). SG

POLAND'S NEW CABINET TO REVIVE EU MEMBERSHIP TALKS

Poland's new left-wing government plans quick compromises to revive EU membership talks despite strong election gains by anti-EU populist parties, Reuters reported on 11 October. "The fast and efficient creation of the ruling coalition, which set EU entry as a top priority, should dispel fears that the EU's eastern enlargement could be delayed because of Poland," the agency quoted SLD politician Jozef Oleksy as saying. "The EU's enlargement road map -- completing negotiations in 2002 and accepting new members in 2004 -- remains realistic for Poland," newly appointed chief EU negotiator Jan Truszczynski said the same day. "A new government is able to speed up negotiations and find compromise solutions the former government was unable to solve," PAP quoted Guenther Verheugen, the EU's commissioner for enlargement, as saying. JM

POLAND'S MILLER PLEDGES EFFICIENT GOVERNMENT

"I intend to govern efficiently and without unnecessary hesitations," Prime Minister designate Leszek Miller said on 11 October, following a first, informal meeting of his cabinet, which is expected to be sworn in next week. Millers said the priority task for the new cabinet in the coming weeks will be drafting a 2002 budget bill. He added that his ministers will also review the laws that have recently came into effect or will come into effect in the near future in order to slash "unfounded" budget expenditures. "We will seek to annul such laws or to delay their implementation," PAP quoted Miller as saying. JM

POLISH PRESIDENT VETOES BAN ON SUNDAY SHOPPING...

Aleksander Kwasniewski on 11 October vetoed an amendment to the Labor Code that would have banned shopping on Sunday and holidays at commercial premises employing more than five people, PAP reported. "In the face of growing unemployment and the falling rate of economic growth, the introduction of a ban on activity on Sundays and holidays by large commercial premises and service providers would have caused economic difficulties," Kwasniewski's office said of the veto. The presidential office added that, according to estimates, the shopping ban would have caused some 16,000 layoffs. JM

...SIGNS BILL ON ELECTRONIC SIGNATURE

The same day Kwasniewski signed into law a bill on an electronic signature. Under the bill, an E-signature placed under a document sent via the Internet will produce the same legal effects as a handwritten signature and will unambiguously define the identity of a person using it. "The law is an important signal to the international community that Poland is developing," PAP quoted Kwasniewski as saying. JM

PUTIN TO VISIT POLAND IN JANUARY 2002

Russian President Vladimir Putin will pay an official visit to Poland in mid-January, PAP reported on 11 October, quoting Andrzej Majkowski from the presidential office. Majkowski added that there will also be a meeting between the two presidents during Kwasniewski's visit to Moscow, which is planned for 14 and 15 October. JM

NATO ACCEPTS CZECH OFFER OF TU-154

Foreign Minister Jan Kavan on 11 October told journalists that NATO has accepted a Czech offer of a Tu-154 plane for use in the current operations against international terrorism, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2001). Kavan said that "for the time being" the plane will be used for 30 days, starting at a date between 15 October and 13 December. "Theoretically," he said, "this means that out plane could already be used next week." He said the Tu-154 will be used in connection with the transportation of five AWACS aircraft and their ground components and "will be used only in Europe." MS

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS ARMY PREPARED FOR POSSIBILITY OF BIOLOGICAL ATTACK

Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik told CTK on 11 October that the army "is prepared to react" in the event of a bacteriological attack against the Czech Republic. Tvrdik made the declaration in response to the discovery of a third case of an anthrax bacterial infection in Florida on 10 October. "Thanks to our allies, we are now prepared [to fight this danger] and the situation is getting better every day," he said. Anthrax can be used as a biological weapon. The same day, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said the Czech Republic "ranks among the best prepared European countries in the protection of civilians against biological weapons." On 9 October, the government approved a draft bill for protection against high-risk biological substances and poisons. The draft was prepared prior to the discovery of the anthrax cases in the United States. MS

IRAQI DIPLOMAT HELD PRAGUE MEETINGS WITH TERRORIST INVOLVED IN U.S. ATTACK

An Iraqi diplomat stationed in Prague held a number of clandestine meetings with Mohammed Atta, one of the suspected hijackers involved in the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States, AP reported on 11 October, citing a senior Czech government official. The official said the diplomat, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samil Al-Ani, had been observed by Czech security services because they suspected he might have been involved in plotting attacks on the RFE/RL headquarters in Prague. The diplomat was subsequently expelled in April. The official said Czech authorities do not know what was discussed at those meetings and called this "the $64,000 question." MS

CZECH INTERIOR MINISTER SEES NO DANGER OF HUMAN RIGHTS INFRINGEMENT

Interior Minister Gross on 11 October told public radio Cesky rozhlas that strengthening the powers of the secret services to fight terrorism would not lead to an infringement of human rights, CTK reported. Gross called allegations that this would result in such an infringement "extremely misleading, unfair, and untrue." The possibility is being discussed within preparations for a new bill on the secret services, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the United States. MS

GLOBAL POLICE CORRUPTION TARGETED AT PRAGUE CONFERENCE

An 8-11 October international conference on the struggle against corruption organized by Transparency International ended in Prague by pledging to target corrupt police and security agencies whose abuse of human rights, participants said, fuels global terrorism. The declaration approved by the 10th International Anticorruption Conference called the 11 September attack on the United States "the worst single act of terrorism the world has ever known," and said such "crimes against humanity" are fostered by corruption, and that the "feelings of helplessness and despair can provide a ready recruiting ground for those with murderous tendencies," dpa reported. MS

'LE FIGARO' PUBLISHES FAKE HAVEL ARTICLE

Czech President Vaclav Havel on 11 October strongly protested and demanded that a public apology be made after the French daily "Le Figaro" the same day published an article Havel said he never wrote, CTK reported. The article was published under the title "Why [Italian Premier Silvio] Berlusconi Is Wrong." Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek said Havel never wrote the beginning of the article, in which he allegedly calls for elucidating what is meant by "West" when used as a contrast to other civilizations, and that the following part was taken out of a speech he delivered in Bratislava on 11 May and was reprinted without permission. Spacek said "Le Figaro" has "seriously breached ethics" by attributing to Havel things he never wrote and by presenting a speech made six months ago as a fresh article. MS

CZECH PRESIDENT 'HEALTHY, BUT TIRED'

President Havel on 10 October canceled scheduled meetings with Defense Minister Tvrdik and Interior Minister Gross, CTK reported, citing Havel's physician. Dr. Ilja Kotik said Havel "has no health problems," but has been exhausted by "the many meetings he has had to hold in these difficult times." MS

POLL RAISES QUESTIONS ON CZECH DEMOCRATIC PERFORMANCE

A public opinion survey conducted by the Institute for Applied Social Research (CVVM) shows that 45 percent of Czechs do not know who represents them in the Senate. This is 2 percent higher than last year, CTK reported. Twenty-two percent said they trust their senator and precisely the same proportion of respondents do not. Those who do not know who their senator is belong mainly to the youngest age brackets and have an elementary education. Trust prevails among the higher-educated and higher-income brackets, as well as among skilled employees. Nearly two Czechs in three (64 percent) believe the Senate serves no purpose and is "a waste of money." This is nine percentage points less than in 1998. Every second Czech believes the Senate is impeding the legislation process and a majority of 57 percent feels the Senate has been set up only to strengthen the position of political parties. MS

VERHEUGEN, SLOVAK, HUNGARIAN PREMIER INAUGURATE SYMBOLIC BRIDGE OVER RIVER DANUBE

EU commissioner for enlargement Guenter Verheugen and the premiers of Slovakia and Hungary inaugurated the reconstructed Maria Valeria bridge linking the Slovak town of Sturovo and the Hungarian town of Esztergom on 11 October, international agencies reported. The bridge was blown up by Nazi troops 57 years ago and was reconstructed with EU funds. In his speech, Slovak Premier Mikulas Dzurinda said the bridge "unites people who will live in a new Europe," but added that this new continent will be "affected" by the recent terrorist strikes on the United States. Premier Viktor Orban said the reconstruction of the bridge is a good example of the two countries' willingness to cooperate. Verheugen said it is "realistic to assume" that both Hungary and Slovakia will end negotiations with the EU in 2002, and that he is confident that voters in both states will participate in the 2004 elections for the European Parliament. Verheugen also said the terrorist attacks will not change the enlargement criteria, but will influence security measures in Europe as a whole, with border protection becoming a high priority. MS

ERRC FILES SUIT AGAINST SLOVAKIA

The Budapest-based European Roma Rights Center (EECR) on 11 October filed a complaint with the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg over the case of Lubomir Sarissky, a Rom who died of injuries suffered while in police custody in August 1999, CTK reported. The official Slovak version of the case claims Sarissky was questioned at a police station because he was suspected of stealing a bicycle and that during questioning he snatched a gun from the investigator and shot himself into the stomach. He died despite undergoing three operations. However, before his death Sarissky told a friend in the hospital that he was injured by a police officer. The officer was handed a one-year suspended sentence in October 2000. MS

HUNGARIAN AUTHORITIES TOUGHEN BORDER CHECKS

General Jozsef Bendek, commander of Hungarian Border Guards, on 11 October told a parliamentary committee that since last month the Border Guards have posted units along all stretches of Hungary's frontiers, stepped up registration of persons traveling from Middle East countries, and tightened restrictions on the issuing of visas. In other news, Secret Services Minister Ervin Demeter told reporters after visiting the Paks nuclear power plant that the plant and its safety systems are well protected. The transit of an air-defense unit from the northwest to the south of the country, Demeter explained, is not connected with bolstering the defense of the power plant, but is a measure taken in the wake of the U.S.-led strikes in Afghanistan, "Nepszabadsag" reported. MSZ

SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT KEEPS TORGYAN OUT OF PARTY GROUP

Parliamentary speaker Janos Ader on 11 October decided that Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) Chairman Jozsef Torgyan will remain an independent deputy, despite a court ruling reversing Torgyan's expulsion from the FKGP parliamentary group (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2001). Ader also announced that the FKGP group has again nominated its former leader, Attila Bank, for the post of deputy speaker of parliament, and that the opposition Socialists and Free Democrats have announced they will once again not vote on the matter, Hungarian dailies reported. MSZ




REBEL LEADER CAUTIOUSLY WELCOMES MACEDONIAN AMNESTY...

The former political leader of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK), Ali Ahmeti, welcomed the amnesty adopted by the Macedonian government on 9 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2001) as "an expression of political good-will," Western news agencies reported on 11 October. But Ahmeti also demanded the release of all the former UCK members arrested in the seven months of fighting in the spirit of the amnesty. "We expect them to release all those Albanians arrested and detained under investigation, and also to pardon all those already convicted on charges relating to activity in the UCK. We request these measures to be taken immediately," he said. Also, the Kosova-based daily "Koha Ditore" reported on 11 October that Ahmeti will form his own party to pursue the disbanded UCK's goals of greater rights for ethnic Albanians in Macedonia. DW

...WHICH IS ALREADY UNDER THREAT OF COLLAPSE?

Ethnic Albanian Deputy Interior Minister Refet Elmazi said on 11 October that days prior to the government's amnesty, Macedonian police raided villages in search of young ethnic Albanians bearing arms and 50 were arrested and await trial, AP reported. He said it indicates a lack of sincerity by the ethnic Macedonian-dominated government. Also, police announced the same day that troops discovered a cache of arms buried near the village of Tanuse in rebel-held territory near the Albanian border and 80 kilometers southwest of Skopje. Police spokesman Vasko Sutarov said the cache contained rocket launchers, antitank mines, machine guns, hand grenades, and explosives. He did not say what prompted the raid in rebel territory near the army's border post. DW

YUGOSLAV RADICAL LEADER EAGER TO GO TO HAGUE

Hard-line nationalist Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj said on 11 October that he "cannot wait" to go to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague to defend himself and show he is not afraid of the tribunal, Reuters reported. Seselj was one of 15 Yugoslav political figures, police, and army officials named in the indictment against former President Slobodan Milosevic for ethnic cleansing in Croatia in 1991-92. The indictment says Seselj recruited or provided assistance to Serb volunteers, known as "chetniks" or "Seselj's men," who it said carried out crimes. It also said Seselj openly espoused the creation of a Greater Serbia "by violence and other unlawful means." "I am proud that thousands of Serb Radical Party volunteers fought on almost all fronts where Serbdom was defended," Seselj said. "Do they expect me to defend myself from this, no I boast of this, I am proud of it and my sons, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will be proud of this." DW

TRIAL BEGINS OF FORMER MILOSEVIC SECURITY CHIEF

The former chief of state security under President Milosevic, Radomir Markovic, and three others went on trial on 11 October for the alleged attempt in 1999 on the life of then-opposition leader Vuk Draskovic, Reuters and AP reported. Draskovic escaped with injuries when a truck plowed into cars carrying him and his associates, four of whom were killed. The trial began with two of the defendants, former members of an elite police unit, withdrawing confessions they made earlier this year. They had confessed that Markovic gave the order and arranged the crash to look like an accident. They claimed they confessed after being told it would help clear the name of their unit and were promised leniency and witness protection. DW

FORMER GENERAL INDICTED BY HAGUE IN HOSPITAL

Retired Lieutenant General Pavle Strugar, who had said he wanted to surrender himself to the UN war crimes tribunal after being named (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2001) in an indictment stemming from the shelling of Dubrovnik, Croatia, in 1991, has been hospitalized, Western news agencies reported. Montenegrin Interior Minister Andrija Jovicevic said Strugar, 68, who now lives in the smaller Yugoslav republic, "is currently in hospital as he is very ill. His treatment should be completed by the end of this week." He added that Strugar still wants to go to The Hague, but asked that the court show "a certain amount of patience." DW

ORTHODOX CHURCH IN NIS BURNS TO THE GROUND

A 19th-century Serbian Orthodox church in the south Serbian city of Nis was destroyed early in the morning hours of 12 October in a fire and explosion, Reuters reported. Firefighters arrived quickly, but attempts to put out the blaze were disorganized and one fire engine was set on fire when part of the church collapsed on it, Radio B-92 reported. The church was undergoing restoration work and the cause of the fire is thought to be negligence. DW

VOJVODINA ASSEMBLY DECLARES NOVI SAD CAPITAL

The parliament of the Serbian province of Vojvodina on 11 October decided to return to the province's main city of Novi Sad the status of provincial capital, Reuters reported the same day. Leaders in the assembly say they want to win back the political and economic autonomy granted to Vojvodina by the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution and stripped by former President Milosevic, but that they are not calling for independence. "We are not separatists, we just want our money," said Nenad Canak, the parliament's speaker and leader of the political forces calling for autonomy. DW

YUGOSLAV FORCES DETAIN SIX KOSOVA POLICE

A UN spokesman in Kosova said Yugoslav forces have detained six Kosova police officers operating by the boundary with the republic of Montenegro, Reuters and AP reported on 12 October. Spokesman Andrea Angelli said the officers of the Kosovo Police Service (KPS), including one woman, were detained on 11 October while on duty and in uniform but that the reason and the circumstances were still not clear. Angelli said he did not know whether the officers, five ethnic Albanians and one Muslim Slav, had been detained inside Kosova or whether they had accidentally crossed the boundary in a mountainous and remote region. "The KPS officers belong to the antismuggling unit operating on the Kosovo side of the administrative border with Montenegro," he said, adding that they are still being held. DW

WORLD BANK STUDIES POVERTY IN KOSOVA

The World Bank on 11 October released a report on poverty in Kosova that says half of the province's population live in poverty, dpa reported. The study also says that 12 percent of the population live in extreme poverty, and also that poverty is concentrated in areas with higher ethnic diversity, suggesting the existence of different access and utilization of public services and market opportunities. The survey also said that there are more poor Kosova Serbs (59 percent) than Kosova Albanians (50 percent). The report said non-Albanians like Serbs, Roma, and Muslim Slavs are more exposed to poverty risks. DW

OSCE PUSHES FOR REDUCED MILITARY SPENDING IN BOSNIA

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on 11 October launched an initiative aimed at discouraging what it considers excessive military expenditures in Bosnia, dpa reported. The head of the OSCE mission in Bosnia, Robert Beecroft, said Bosnia's military "could fulfill their mission far more effectively if their personnel strength were significantly reduced," adding that current spending is unsustainable, the agency said. The OSCE is trying to raise public awareness of spending levels, encouraging citizens to demand transparency and accountability in the budget process. The OSCE claims Bosnia's defense budget entailed roughly 6 percent of GDP, while the European average is about 1.5 percent. According to the OSCE, Bosnia-Herzegovina, a country with two armies that include three military components with different national bases, can barely afford an army half its current size. AH

BOSNIAN MEDIA SHUFFLE WILL 'TERMINATE' HRT TERRESTRIAL TV PRESENCE

A spokesman for the Office of the High Representative (OHR) to Bosnia said on 11 October that ongoing efforts to reorganize radio and television in Bosnia will put an end to Croatian Radio Television's (HRT) terrestrial broadcasts in that country, Hina reported. Croat-Muslim federal authorities have frequently objected to aspects of reforms aimed at convergence with international standards, and HRT has reached a significant part of the population in recent years. Croatian and international representatives in Bosnia-Herzegovina are considering ways to ensure broadcasts to the Croat population via the future federal Radio and Television and the state Public Broadcasting Service, the OHR spokesman added, according to Hina. AH

NATO 'HARVESTS' THOUSAND OF WEAPONS IN BOSNIA

A spokesman for the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia said international officials have this year collected thousands of weapons through a program offering amnesty in return for surrendered weapons, AP reported on 11 October. More than 2,650 small arms and 567,790 rounds of ammunition have been collected in the NATO-led program, dubbed Harvest, which began in 1998. Weapons handed in this year included 9,500 hand grenades, 3,400 mines, and 3,540 kilograms of explosives. The NATO spokesman added that authorities plan to continue the program, the agency reported. AH

HUNDREDS OF BODIES EXHUMED FROM FORMER MINE IN BOSNIA

Forensic experts have exhumed 372 bodies in the past four weeks from one of the largest mass graves discovered in Bosnia since the 1992-95 war, AP reported. The victims are believed to be Bosnian Muslims and Croats killed by Serb troops at the beginning of the conflict. The grim body count could increase as experts continue to search for victims at the former iron mine near the Serb-held town of Prijedor, some 175 kilometers northwest of the capital Sarajevo, the deputy head of the Muslim Commission for Missing Persons, Jasmin Odobasic, was quoted as saying. AH

FORMER OFFICER TESTIFIES TO ATROCITIES AT LORA MILITARY BASE IN CROATIA

A former Croatian military police officer, who says he lost his job for objecting to atrocities against prisoners of war (POWs), told a local daily that killings and torture were commonplace at the Lora military base in Split during the war, dpa reported on 12 October. An investigation is continuing into alleged abuses at Lora and seven former military police officers have been arrested as a result. Mario Barisic said he saw POWs wearing Yugoslav National Army uniforms "making gurgling sounds as if their tongues had been cut off, while some had missing ears and eyes," the daily "Jutarnji" quoted him as saying. His superior told him many POWs were not registered anywhere and therefore he could "do whatever you like" to them. After he appealed to then-President Franjo Tudjman, he said he lost his job. AH

CROAT MINISTERS BACK ZAGREB-SPLIT MOTORWAY...

The Croatian government, symbolically meeting in Split on 11 October to dispel perceptions that it is neglecting the south of the country, voted unanimously to establish a commission to speed the construction of a highway between the capital Zagreb and Split, Hina reported. Premier Ivica Racan will head the commission, whose job it will be to ensure that construction starts in June 2002 and the north-south motorway is completed within three years, the agency added. The project is expected to cost 3 billion German marks, about half of which will be provided by the government. The rest of the funding should come from increased taxes on fuel or hikes in road tolls, or future government windfalls or international loans. The government also unanimously agreed to assist in the reconstruction of the existing Zagreb-Split road, a project that should be finished by the mid-2003, Hina reported. AH

...BUT STILL CAN'T WIN THE HEARTS OF SOUTHERN VETERANS

About 200 veterans of the 1991 war for independence marched on the Croatian cabinet session in Split to tell the government it is unwelcome in this nationalist-held southern city, AP reported on 11 October. Ministers held their regular session in Split to shake off feelings that they are neglecting the area. Police stopped the veterans' group, which was waving Croatian flags and chanting antigovernment slogans, some 200 meters from the building. Hostility has mounted among veterans and the former ruling party of the late President Tudjman since the government declared its determination to prosecute Croat war crimes, the agency noted. Veterans have scheduled a new rally for 20 October in Zagreb. Prime Minister Ivica Racan told reporters he has nothing against the rallies, "as long as they're not violent," AP reported. AH

OHR IN BOSNIA QUESTIONS CROAT CANTONAL BOYCOTT

The Mostar branch of the Office of the High Representative to Bosnia expressed regret over a recent announcement by Croat representatives to the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton Assembly suggesting Croat officials might boycott such cantonal institutions, Hina reported on 11 October. Croat representatives in the assembly have told the UN Mission Chief that the national structure in the cantonal Interior Ministry is unfair, since neither the minister nor other senior elected officials are Croats, the agency said. Deputies recommended that Croat officials consider their participation until ethnic equality is achieved in the Interior Ministry. An OHR spokeswoman said a boycott is no way to resolve the situation, Hina reported. AH

TALKS CONTINUE BETWEEN CROATIAN GOVERNMENT, CIVIL SERVANTS

Talks aimed at hammering out a collective agreement for public sector employees were expected to resume on 12 October following the elimination of a major hurdle, Hina reported on 11 October. Negotiators from the Croatian government and civil servants unions agreed to the text of a protocol that had been holding up the talks, which deal with some of the basic rights of civil servants. AH

ALBANIA VOWS TO WORK WITH GREEKS TO STIFLE LAWLESSNESS

Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta said his government will "cooperate closely with Greece and other regional countries" to combat terrorism, organized crime, and stem the flow of illegal immigrants, AP reported on 11 October during Meta's visit to Athens. He also said the Greek minority in Albania will "continue to be an important part of new standards we want to achieve with the further democratization and Europeanization of Albania," the agency added. The treatment of ethnic Greeks has heightened tensions between the two countries in the past as some have complained of harassment by Albanian authorities, AP said. Meta and Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis discussed a Greek government program to issue temporary work and residency permits to hundreds of thousands of Albanians who entered the country illegally. AH

POLL SHOWS SLIGHT ROMANIAN MAJORITY BACKING AFGHANISTAN BOMBING

A poll conducted by the Romanian Institute for Public Opinion Surveys (IRSOP) between 8 and 10 October showed 51 percent of Romanians back the U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan and 44 percent oppose it, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Sixty percent said they agree to allowing U.S. overflights and 73 percent expressed confidence in the ability of President Ion Iliescu and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase to "make the right decisions." Fifty-nine percent said it is unlikely that Romania will become a target of terrorist attacks, 54 percent said they feel secure, and 42 percent have "a sense of danger." MS

ROMANIAN DEFENSE OFFICIAL SAYS KFOR AND SFOR MISSIONS WILL BE STRENGTHENED

Defense Ministry State Secretary George Maior on 11 September said in Bucharest that Romania's military is "disappointed" that its offer to participate in peacekeeping operations in Cyprus was turned down by the United Nations. Maior said Romania had hoped to "score some points" in the quest for NATO accession by demonstrating the ability of its military, Mediafax reported. He announced that Romania will increase participation in the KFOR and SFOR peacekeeping operations in Kosova and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Also on 11 October, Romanian radio reported that a KFOR military delegation visited the Black Sea port of Constanta the same day and that NATO intends to use the port's military facilities for transporting equipment to KFOR forces. MS

SUSPECTED ARAB TERRORIST DETAINED IN ROMANIA

A court in Constanta issued a warrant on 11 October for the "preventive detention" of Attala Mohamid Attala, a 31-year-old Palestinian who is a resident of both Egypt and Romania, Mediafax reported. The agency said the Romanian secret services were acting upon information received from foreign secret services, which suspect Attala to be a member of an Arab terrorist organization. He was detained on 10 October on charges that he participated in three robberies in Romania itself. Attala told Mediafax he has lived in Romania since 1993, but admitted that "for some time" he had been expelled from the country. He denied being a member of any terrorist organization. MS

ROMANIAN MAVERICK SENATOR TO FINALLY LOSE PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY?

The Prosecutor-General's Office recommended on 11 October that the parliamentary immunity of Greater Romanian Party (PRM) Chairman Senator Corneliu Vadim Tudor and of his fellow-PRM Senator Danut Saulea, be lifted on grounds that they had "spread false information" on the alleged training of Hamas Palestinian terrorists in Romania, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In response to the decision, Tudor said his senatorial immunity cannot be lifted for having expressed a "mere political opinion." He said he can be prosecuted as a journalist, but that the information he had disseminated was "nothing new" and had been published in many media outlets. His prosecution as a journalist, Tudor added, would amount to "restoring censorship." He also said the PRM will act to initiate early parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, on 11 October Senate Chairman Nicolae Vacaroiu announced that since the PRM has refused to replace Tudor in the Senate delegation that will visit three Far Eastern countries, that delegation will include no PRM representative (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2001). MS

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY PROTESTS GOVERNMENT CONTROL OF ROMPRES

In a statement released on 11 October, the Democratic Party said it will appeal to international organizations to intervene against the government's attempt to "take total control" over the official Rompres news agency, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The Democrats say Rompres journalists are forced to take orders from the government, as the agency has been placed under the supervision of the Public Information Ministry. The Democrats called for returning Rompres to parliamentary supervision. MS

CEFTA MEMBERS AGREE ON 'SEPARATING COMPROMISE'

Meeting in Bucharest on 11 October, the seven countries of the Central European Free Trade Organization agreed on a compromise, whereby the economically more advanced Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovakia will continue liberalizing trade among themselves and abolishing tariffs, said Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana after the meeting, as cited by Romanian radio. The other, less developed four members (Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, and Slovenia), will be allowed to defend local producers of agricultural goods by keeping some trade barriers in force. MS

MOLDOVAN JUSTICE MINISTER SAYS STRASBOURG DECLARATION MADE 'UNDER GOVERNMENTAL MANDATE'...

Justice Minister Ion Morei on 11 October said in Chisinau that he has no reason to submit his resignation, as has been demanded by opposition parties and Moldovan civic movements, Mediafax reported. Morei said the declarations he made before the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg were "under governmental mandate." He said he used the term "Romanian political expansionism" to describe the fact that "certain political forces from both Moldova and Romania, whether overtly or covertly, do not recognize Moldovan state sovereignty." He said these forces "strive to use any possible method" to undermine Moldovan sovereignty and that "the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church is just part of those methods." MS

...WHILE ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER CANCELS CHISINAU VISIT

On 11 October, Romanian Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu canceled a scheduled visit to Chisinau "due to the situation that has been created," Romanian radio reported. The visit was scheduled for 18-19 October. Also on 11 October, Romanian government spokesman Claudiu Lucaciu refuted a statement made by Moldovan Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev's one day earlier that Moldova has received no "official information" concerning the cancellation of the visit by Premier Nastase (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 11 October 2001). Lucaciu said Chisinau was informed of the cancellation "via diplomatic channels and through the official declaration issued by the Romanian government." MS

BULGARIAN POLICE ARREST LEBANESE

Police arrested on 10 October a Lebanese suspected of "committing crimes across the whole country," Interior Ministry spokeswoman Stefka Ivanova announced on the next day, AP reported. A special anti-organized crime squad raided the suspect's villa in a Sofia suburb, arresting him and seven armed men that were guarding him. He was only identified as "Adel S., aged 44." Police seized five rifles and two pistols in the villa. Ivanova said she did not know whether the man was suspected of links to international terrorism. He has lived in Bulgaria for 10 years and has held Bulgarian citizenship since 1993. Police also seized about a kilogram of gold and "a large amount of foreign and Bulgarian currency." On 11 October, an explosion in the northern Bulgarian city of Pleven killed one man and police said it could not exclude that the explosion was "a suicide bombing," AP reported. The bomb exploded near a secondary school and a kindergarten. MS




Bulgaria's Simeon Gives Backing to Incumbent Stoyanov


By Julia Guechakov

In what looked more like a royal blessing than a party endorsement, Bulgaria's prime minister has announced that his party will back incumbent President Petar Stoyanov for a second term in office in upcoming elections.

By deciding to support Stoyanov, an independent who already has the backing of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), Simeon has virtually assured that Stoyanov will not face serious competition.

The National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) -- a recently formed coalition led by former monarch Simeon Saxecoburggotski -- won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections earlier this year. Had Simeon chosen to back a different candidate, it would have posed a serious challenge to Stoyanov.

Prime Minister Simeon justified the decision by saying, "The position of the National Movement Simeon II is a clear sign of continuity in Bulgaria's foreign policy, which is aimed at a full-fledged membership in the European Union and NATO, a sign that the National Movement shares the values of the European Popular Parties."

Significantly, Simeon made the announcement on the eve of a recent meeting in Sofia of heads of state of Eastern European countries aspiring to join NATO. Membership in the alliance was a top foreign policy priority for the previous SDS government. Also, the NDSV is said to be seeking to join the European Popular Party, a grouping of mostly ruling European conservative parties, of which SDS is a member.

The decision seemed to leave many of the NDSV's leaders perplexed. Stoyanov, a popular politician with a good foreign policy record, is running as an independent and already had the endorsement of the SDS. And the SDS has bitterly opposed the NDSV since losing to Simeon's movement in the June general election.

But the NDSV in fact had little choice. Simeon is barred from running for president under the constitution, as he has not lived in Bulgaria for the past five years. Simeon's movement is a motley group, and most members have little political experience and no national following. The NDSV -- and the former monarch -- could hardly risk losing the presidential poll so soon after coming to power.

The center-right SDS appeared to have plenty of reasons to rejoice at the NDSV's endorsement of Stoyanov. Party leaders were quick to publicly present it as a failure of the ruling coalition -- and their own victory.

"The National Movement Simeon II once again showed they are weak politicians unable to take important political decisions, just as they are unable to rule the country," said Dimitar Abadzhiev, an SDS leader. "This position clearly dealt a heavy blow to their coalition parties, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms [DPS] and the Socialist party, which clearly are of a different opinion."

But in fact, Simeon's endorsement of Stoyanov will deprive the SDS of the opportunity to fight and regain some lost political ground.

The Socialists also said Simeon's decision is a sign of political helplessness. The Socialists, who have two ministers in the government although they are not formally part of the coalition, have nominated party leader Georgi Parvanov as their candidate. They had previously expressed a willingness to back a joint candidate with the ruling coalition. Parvanov's nomination -- announced after waiting almost to the last minute -- seemed somehow second best.

The NDSV's junior partner in the coalition -- the ethnic Turkish DPS -- was in the tightest spot. After repeatedly saying they will back a joint candidate with Simeon's movement, the DPS refused to follow the line of their coalition partner.

DPS leader Ahmed Dogan said, "We do not and will not support the nomination of Petar Stoyanov for a second term in office."

Dogan further warned that, according to the DPS, endorsing Stoyanov risked a political destabilization and early parliamentary elections.

"Support for Petar Stoyanov by the National Movement -- and as it had been only logical to expect, support by the DPS [for a joint candidate] -- will lead to instability instead of stability. It clears the way for a [political] comeback of the SDS and early parliamentary elections."

Despite the threatening predictions, the DPS -- which for the first time since the collapse of the former communist regime a decade ago now has ministers in the government -- said its coalition agreement with the NDSV is not in question. The DPS has not endorsed any presidential nominee yet.

In Bulgaria, power rests mostly with the government and parliament. The apparent lack of real competitiveness in November's election could shrink traditionally low voter turnout -- which some say could even fall below the required 50 percent -- and undermine the perceived political weight of the presidential institution. And that, some local analysts suggest, may have been the hidden reasoning behind Simeon's decision. Julia Guechakov is an RFE/RL correspondent.


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