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Newsline - October 16, 2001




POLLS SHOW RUSSIANS DO NOT SUPPORT PUTIN ON AFGHANISTAN...

A survey of recent polling data published in "Izvestiya" on 15 October suggested that most Russians do not support President Vladimir Putin's decision to ally Moscow with the U.S.-led counterterrorism effort. That is not because Russians are ignorant or supportive of terrorism, but rather because they do not trust the United States and believe that Washington will try to exploit the campaign for its own broader geopolitical and economic interests, according to a commentary on the poll findings. The article noted that this should not surprise anyone because most Russians have still not decided whether Russia should be part of the West or pursue a special course with the East. VY

...AS COMMENTATORS SUGGEST U.S. FACES HARD ROAD AHEAD

Former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov told ITAR-TASS on 15 October that the United States may find itself sinking "into a quagmire" in Afghanistan much like the one in which the Soviet Union found itself in the past. Meanwhile, an article in "Parlamentskaya gazeta" on 13 October suggested that Osama bin Laden is likely to prove difficult and perhaps impossible to capture. Russian ecologists believe that it is completely possible that the Taliban and the other terrorists may have and use biological weapons, Interfax reported on 15 October. PG

MOSCOW OFFERS TO HELP U.S. WITH ANTHRAX VACCINE

Health Minister Yurii Shevchenko said on 15 October that his agency is ready to provide the U.S. with its vaccines against anthrax should that prove necessary, RIA-Novosti reported. He added that Russia is also prepared to contribute its expertise to American doctors combating such infections. Also on 15 October, officials across Russia said they are taking additional measures to be ready to respond to any use of biological weapons against Russia, Russian agencies reported. VY/PG

RUSSIA MOVES TO STRENGTHEN SOUTHERN BORDERS

Viktor Kazantsev, the presidential envoy to the Southern federal district, said on 15 October that the Russian government has allocated additional funds to strengthen the country's southern border, Interfax reported. Konstantin Totskii, the director of the Federal Border Guards, said on 13 October that his units have enough forces to repel any incursions across the Tajik-Afghan border. PG

RUSSIA HAS PROVIDED 88 TONS OF AID TO AFGHAN REFUGEES

Russia has flown some 88 tons of food as well as tents, blankets, and medicine to Tajikistan for distribution to refugees from Afghanistan, Interfax reported on 15 October. It is also preparing a 78-car train for Tajikistan carrying additional assistance, AP reported. PG

PAPER SAYS U.S. GUILTY OF TERRORISM AGAINST CUBA

An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 13 October said that the U.S. has been guilty of provoking and carrying out terrorist acts against Cuban leader Fidel Castro and his regime. It suggested that the U.S. might use the cover of the antiterrorist campaign to attack Castro again. The same issue of the paper carried another article suggesting that American intellectuals are concerned that the war against terrorism will give birth to a new outburst of McCarthyism in the U.S. PG

PUTIN WANTS BUDGET TO REMAIN IN BALANCE

President Putin told government leaders on 15 October that "absolute priority should be given to the principle that all expenditures should be covered by understandable and clear sources of revenues. No spending should be planned over and above the revenues that we are going to receive," ITAR-TASS reported. Duma deputies for their part called for additional spending on defense and security, and some expressed the hope that the military budget itself will become more transparent, Ekho Moskvy reported the same day. PG

KLEBANOV SAYS EXPORT CONTROLS ON DUAL-USE ITEMS EFFECTIVE

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said on 13 October that Russia's system of export controls on dual-use technologies is very effective, Interfax reported on 15 October. Klebanov said that there are no immediate plans to increase the severity of these controls, but noted that "questions of export control remain under the constant attention of President Vladimir Putin." PG

CENTRISTS HOPE TO CREATE A PARTY WORTHY OF PUTIN

Aleksandr Vladislavlev, the secretary of the political council of Fatherland and of the general council of the union of Fatherland and Unity, said on 15 October that his dream is that "a centrist party might be created which would be worthy of being headed by the president," Interfax-Moscow reported. Vladislavlev indicated that he and others in the leadership of the movements that are now moving toward the formation of a unified centrist party hope that President Putin will head the party after he is re-elected. PG

YAVLINSKY ELECTED PRESIDENT OF MOSCOW CITY YABLOKO ORGANIZATION

By a vote of 140 for to eight against, Yabloko party leader Grigorii Yavlinsky was elected on 14 October to head the party's Moscow city organization, Interfax reported. The former incumbent, Vyacheslav Igrunov, resigned in July. Igrunov took this occasion to say that he will leave the Yabloko party entirely but will continue to work as a deputy with the Yabloko faction in the Duma. PG

ZHIRINOVSKY SAYS LUKASHENKA 'IDEAL PRESIDENT' FOR POST-SOVIET STATES

Duma deputy speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said in Minsk on 15 October that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is "the most suitable president" not only for Belarus but for all the former Soviet republics, Interfax reported. Zhirinovsky said that "if all the countries in the CIS were to follow the path taken by Lukashenka in Belarus, it would be better for all of us." He added that he would support the Belarusian leader to head the Russia-Belarus Union. PG

FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES ANTITERROR CAMPAIGN WITH U.S. DIPLOMAT

Igor Ivanov met with visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns on 15 October to discuss the counterterrorist campaign and Middle Eastern issues, Interfax reported. The two men repeated earlier calls for international cooperation against terrorists and stressed that any attempts to portray international terrorism as a manifestation of "the clash of civilizations" must be resisted, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

RICE SAYS U.S. POLICY IN CENTRAL ASIA NOT DIRECTED AGAINST RUSSIA

In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 13 October, U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice said that American involvement in Central Asia is not directed against Russia, and that the U.S. has "no plans to squeeze Russia out" of that region. She said that Russia has been "a generous partner and good ally" in the fight against terrorism. She indicated that Washington does not exclude possible strikes against Iraq. She added that the U.S. opposes terrorism wherever it is found, including in Chechnya, although she stressed that there are legitimate political issues involved in Chechnya as well. VY

GREF SAYS U.S. WILL SOON RECOGNIZE RUSSIA AS HAVING A MARKET ECONOMY

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said on 15 October after meeting with visiting U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans that Washington is speeding up the process of recognizing Russia as a country with a market economy, strana.ru reported. That status will help Russia in its application for membership of the World Trade Organization. Gref noted that the delegation accompanying Evans included numerous businessmen, and Evans for his part said that American business has never been more optimistic about Russia than it is today. VY

POLITICAL SCIENTIST SAYS U.S. CONSCIOUSLY WEAKENED RUSSIA ECONOMICALLY

In an article in "Novaya gazeta" on 15 October, political scientist Mikhail Kruglov said that the West deliberately persuaded former Russian President Boris Yeltsin that a rapid transition to a market economy would be a good thing, although Kruglov said such a swift transition is just as utopian as a swift transition to communism. Kruglov added that the West did so not because of ignorance but because it hoped to weaken Russia and lead it into a blind alley where development of the economy would prove impossible. As a result of this unfortunate policy, Kruglov concluded, the Russian political system now is a hybrid of Italian corporate fascism and survivals of communism. VY

BRITISH DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER WANTS ANTITERRORIST ALLIANCE TO CONTINUE IN PEACETIME

British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said in Moscow on 15 October that he hopes that the international alliance that has been formed to fight terrorism can be broadened and continue into peacetime once terrorism is defeated, Russian and Western agencies reported. He stressed that Britain views Russia as a key partner in this alliance. PG

PUTIN, POLISH PRESIDENT AGREE ON COUNTERTERRORISM FIGHT, TRADE

President Putin received his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski in Moscow on 15 October for a discussion on combating international terrorism and promoting trade, ITAR-TASS reported. The two agreed on both issues, noting that the fight against terrorism will be successful only if there is a coalition of NATO countries, Russia and moderate Arab states. Putin accepted an invitation to visit Poland in January 2002, and Kwasniewski said his government will investigate Chechen information offices in Poland to determine whether any of their activities violate the law. VY

KLEBANOV TELLS INDIANS CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERRORISM MAY LAST A LONG TIME

Deputy Prime Minister Klebanov told Indian officials in New Delhi on 15 October that the campaign against terrorism may last for a long time, ITAR-TASS reported. Klebanov is in India to prepare for the Russian-Indian summit scheduled for early November. Meanwhile, Indian officials said that New Delhi has decided to open a branch of the Indian State Bank in Moscow, the news agency said. PG

RUSSIA SEES PIPELINES TO CHINA OPENING NEW CHANNEL FOR EXPORTS

Energy Minister Igor Yusufov told the leaders of Russia's largest oil companies on 15 October that the construction of a pipeline from Siberia to China will open "a new eastern track" for Russian exports that will within a decade bring revenues comparable to those Moscow now receives from Europe, RBK reported. Chinese oil consumption according to the most conservative estimates will, Yusufov added, exceed the demand of all other Asian countries put together, and after the construction of this pipeline, Russian sales can account for at least half of China's energy market, "Vedomosti" reported the same day. VY

GEORGIAN EMBASSY DEFACED IN MOSCOW

Two individuals whom Moscow city authorities described as hooligans from the National-Bolshevik Party threw paint at the Georgian Embassy in the Russian capital on the night of 14-15 October, Interfax reported. The two have been arrested and will be charged. Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" on 15 October asked as its question of the day whether people view Abkhazia as part of Russia: the answers were uniformly negative. PG

EXPERTS DON'T SEE GEORGIA'S DEPARTURE ENDING THE CIS

In its 15 October issue, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" published the responses of a group of experts to the question of the impact of a possible exit by Georgia from the Commonwealth of Independent States on that body's future. The experts, who included Gleb Pavlovskii of the Effective Politics Foundation and Valerii Fedorov of the Center of Political Conjunctions, said that the they do not believe that Georgia will ultimately leave but that if it does, that move would not lead to the demise of the CIS as a whole. PG

TENGIZ-NOVOROSSIISK PIPELINE BEGINS OPERATION...

The Caspian Pipeline Consortium on 15 October loaded the first oil tanker in Novorossiisk with oil from Kazakhstan's Tengiz field, Prime-TASS reported. ChevronTEXACO Vice President Richard Matzke said that the beginning of the much-delayed oil flow represents "a powerful signal" for investors in both Kazakhstan and Russia. VY

...AS PAPER SUGGESTS SOVIET UNION 'CONTINUES TO LIVE' VIA PIPELINES

"Izvestiya" on 15 October carried an article entitled "The Soviet Union Continues to Live with the Help of Pipelines." The article describes the ways in which oil and gas pipelines laid prior to the collapse of the USSR continue to link together the economies and hence the politics of the former Soviet republics. PG

SIBERIAN AIRLINES SUES UKRAINE OVER DOWNED AIRCRAFT

On 15 October, lawyers for the Sibir airline that owned the passenger jet accidentally shot down on 4 October by a Ukrainian missile over the Black Sea announced that they have filed an initial $10 million suit against the Ukrainian government, RIA-Novosti reported. The lawyers said that Ukrainian claims of poverty are not convincing, and that attorneys will file more damage suits in the future on behalf of the families of the passengers and crew. VY

TRANSDNIESTER REPRESENTATIVES APPEAL TO DUMA

Deputies of the Supreme Soviet of the unrecognized Transdniester Republic have visited the Russian Duma and the Ukrainian parliament in recent days to press their case against the Moldovan central government, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 13 October. The deputies also met with officials in the Kremlin, the Foreign Ministry, and the Moscow city government. PG

SELEZNEV SEES DEMOGRAPHIC DISASTER IN RUSSIA

Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev said on 15 October that the demographic situation in Russia is so bad that it is now seen as a threat to the country's national security, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

BUMPER HARVEST SEEN SOLVING FOOD PROBLEMS

Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev said on 15 October that Russia's bumper harvest of 82 million tons will allow the country to solve its food problems and thus help the country recover, Interfax reported. PG

ETHNOGRAPHERS POINT TO INTERETHNIC, INTERCONFESSIONAL HARMONY IN VOLGA FEDERAL DISTRICT

Sergei Kirienko, the presidential envoy to the Volga federal district, said that Russian ethnographers are studying the reasons behind interethnic and interconfessional peace and cooperation in that region, "Vremya MN" reported on 13 October. The scholars have not only called attention to the high level of cooperation there but have provided educational materials to help promote it. PG

MOSCOW POLICE SET UP SAPPER DEPARTMENT

Last week, the Moscow militia set up an engineering-sapper department to respond to reports of explosive devices around the city, "Izvestiya" reported on 15 October. The unit's 64 members will be paid jointly by the city and federal governments. Meanwhile, the authorities reported that almost half of the students at a militia academy in Perm have been hospitalized with diphtheria, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 15 October. PG

POLL FINDS RUSSIANS SAY RESTORATION OF STATE POWER MORE UNIFYING IDEA THAN DEMOCRACY

According to a poll reported by "Novoe vremya" on 14 October, 13 percent of respondents named communism and socialism as capable of uniting the Russian people, 7 percent named capitalism, 6 percent named democracy, and only 3 percent named religion. Five percent of the sample said that Russia's "uniqueness as a nation" is a unifying idea, but 35 percent said that the most unifying idea is "the revival of Russia as a mighty global power." PG

MANY CHECHEN WAR VETERANS SAID TO BE PSYCHOLOGICALLY DISTURBED

Tatyana Glakhova, a social worker with the Union of Veterans of the War in Afghanistan, said in an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 13 October that many of the veterans of the fighting in Chechnya who returned to Novosibirsk Oblast, where she lives, are psychologically disturbed. She said that the stress and chronic illnesses they experience are likely to last their entire lives, especially since there are few programs to help them. PG

SOME RUSSIAN LEADERS ARE SMARTER THAN OTHERS

A group of Russian psychologists and psychiatrists from the Doctors for Human Rights group decided to test the IQs of selected members of the Russian political elite, "Obshchaya gazeta," No. 41, reported. The "most intelligent person in Russian politics," the survey found, is Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Irina Khakamada with an IQ close to the 179 of former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Duma deputy speaker Zhirinovsky's IQ is close to that of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at 175. Economic Development and Trade Minister Gref and Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed have IQs of 170, the survey found. At the other end of the spectrum was Viktor Chernomyrdin who scored only 70, the same, the survey said, as Monica Lewinsky. No data were given for President Putin. PG

OKTOBERFEST SEEN HAVING BRIGHT FUTURE IN MOSCOW

Muscovites consumed almost 15,000 liters of Paulaner beer from Munich in Oktoberfest celebrations from 20 September to 7 October this year, Interfax reported. The drinking took place in 55 specially decorated restaurants and bars in the Russian capital, and organizers said that it proved sufficiently successful to become an annual event there. PG

VOLOGDA GOVERNOR SEES U.S.'S ANTITERRORISM CAMPAIGN AS HYPOCRITICAL

Addressing a session of the Vologda Oblast administration, Governor Vyacheslav Pozgalev said that the West is "hypocritical when it talks about an international war against terrorism," regions.ru reported on 15 October, citing "Rosbalt." He continued, "Today's situation was created especially for Russia. Now a war is ongoing without borders or laws. Through the southern borders, the Taliban will tear directly into Russia. We are the ones that are threatened. This is a conscious act of world imperialism." JAC

TATAR NATIONALIST GROUPS ISSUE NEW CALL FOR INDEPENDENCE

More than 2,000 people gathered in Kazan on 14 October to mourn those who defended the city against Ivan the Terrible in 1552, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 15 October. Some participants burned likenesses of the Russian state symbol as well as historical maps. Leaders of moderate nationalist groups also made speeches, decrying Moscow's "mistaken policies toward ethnic groups within Russia" and growing federal government pressure on Tatar legislators. According to the bureau, demonstrators also called on Tatarstan's government and the federal government to "adopt an act on Tatarstan's full independence and create an Idel-Ural confederation, reject Russian passports and introduce [Tatarstan's] own, and [transfer] law enforcement and military bodies [to] local authorities." According to "Izvestiya" on 15 October, there were also calls to form a people's front and "liquidate 'colonial vertical Russian power.'" JAC

ROSSEL BENDS TO FEDERAL PRESSURE

Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel signed a decree late on 12 October bringing the oblast's regulations into conformity with federal legislation, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 15 October. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 16 October, Rossel's measure was designed to save the oblast's legislature from dissolution. Earlier in the month, presidential envoy to the Ural federal district Petr Latyshev said that if the oblast's Duma did not bring the region's laws into compliance, he would ask President Putin to disband the legislature (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2001). Work has been paralyzed in the local legislature due to a dispute over the Duma's speaker, making it impossible for the legislators to meet a 12 October deadline set by the Russian Supreme Court to revise local laws. JAC

TUVAN DEPUTY PREMIER HAS SLIGHT LEAD IN BY-ELECTIONS...

According to preliminary results, Tuva's Deputy Prime Minister Chilgychi Ondar and Tuvan Interior Minister Sergei Mongush are almost tied in by-elections held on 14 October for a vacant State Duma seat, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 October. Ondar has 37.57 percent of the vote compared with Mongush's 36.32 percent. Five candidates in all, including Kyzyl Mayor Aleksandr Kashin and local Yabloko leader Vladimir Tavberidze, competed for the seat left vacant when Nikolai Loktionov vacated his seat for a job with the Audit Chamber. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 16 October, the local Fatherland branch, which has voted against merging with Unity, supported Ondar, while Mongush was supported by Unity. JAC

...AS ST. PETERSBURG BALLOT DECLARED INVALID DUE TO LACK OF VOTER INTEREST.

By-elections were also held in St. Petersburg on 14 October to fill the seat left vacant by Sergei Stepashin, who now heads the Audit Chamber. (Previously, the seat was filled by Galina Starovoitova.) However, due to low turnout, the results were canceled. A minimum of 25 percent of registered voters was required but only 22.7 percent materialized. Stepashin told Interfax on 15 October that one of the reasons for the low turnout was "the level of effectiveness of the work of the Duma itself." Of the votes cast, the largest percentage, 45.5 percent, supported the Communist candidate, Yurii Savelev, ITAR-TASS reported. Savelev is the rector of the Baltic State Technical University. Yurii Solonin, the candidate supported by Unity, Yabloko, and the SPS, polled only 21 percent. JAC/PG

TWO BUSINESSMEN TAPPED FOR FEDERATION COUNCIL

Yaroslavl Oblast Governor Anatolii Lisitsyn has chosen as his representative in the Federation Council Viktor Glukhikh, chairman of the board of directors of Saturn enterprise, Interfax-Northwest reported on 15 October. Another businessman, Yevgenii Zayashnikov, executive director for Yaroslavlnefteorgsintez, was chosen to represent Yaroslavl's legislature in the Russian Federation's upper legislative chamber. JAC




FORMER INTERIOR MINISTRY OFFICIAL CHARGED OVER ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING ALLEGATIONS

Former senior Interior Ministry department head Mushegh Saghatelian was arrested in Yerevan on 12 October and formally charged on 15 October with providing false information, using forged documents, hooliganism, and other offenses, Noyan Tapan reported. Convicted felon Harutiun Grigorian, a police informant who shared a cell with two of the defendants in the parliament shootings case, had testified that Saghatelian offered him $50,000 if he claimed that the October 1999 Armenian shootings were masterminded by President Robert Kocharian and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, and then manufactured evidence to substantiate that claim. Saghatelian told a press conference in Yerevan on 3 October that he "has grounds to believe" that Kocharian was responsible for arranging the shootings. LF

RUSSIAN COMPANY QUALIFIES FOR ARMENIAN ENERGY TENDER

The Armenian government commission responsible for overseeing the privatization of four energy distribution networks concluded on 13 October that Russia's Unified Energy Systems (EES) qualifies for the final stage of the tender, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 15 October. The commission had earlier twice ruled that the documentation submitted by EES was incomplete and demanded additional information on the company's financial situation. EES is the only foreign bidder whose participation in the tender has been confirmed to date. An earlier attempt to sell off the four networks ended in failure in April when none of the four companies shortlisted submitted a bid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2001). LF

ARMENIAN DISTRICT GOVERNOR OFFERS TO COOPERATE WITH NEIGHBORING AZERBAIJANI DISTRICT

Armen Goularian, governor of Armenia's Tavush district, which has a 300-kilometer common border with Azerbaijan, has submitted to the Armenian government a proposal drafted by the regional administration to establish cooperation with the neighboring district of Azerbaijan in various economic fields, nature protection, and the use of water resources, Noyan Tapan reported on 15 October. Meeting four days earlier with a group of visiting Azerbaijani journalists, Goularian pointed out that some 10,000 hectares of arable land along the two countries' common border are not being used because of the unresolved Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijani officials regularly reject Armenian proposals to begin economic cooperation, arguing that they are not prepared to do so until the conflict is formally resolved. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT POSTPONES PLANNED VISIT TO RUSSIA

President Heidar Aliev's visit to Russia, which was scheduled to take place shortly before the 30 November CIS summit, has been postponed until late January or early February 2002, Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev told Turan on 16 October. Quliev said that documents that are to be signed during that visit require unspecified amendments. LF

U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT REFUELS IN AZERBAIJAN?

A U.S. Air Force Hercules transport aircraft was spotted coming in to land at Baku on 14 October, Turan reported the following day, quoting unnamed eyewitnesses. The plane is believed to have taken off again after refueling. Defense Ministry officials contacted by Turan denied any knowledge of the flight. LF

FIGHTING CONTINUES IN KODORI GORGE

Abkhaz troops continued to engage groups of presumed Chechen militants and Georgian guerrillas in the vicinity of the Sugar-Loaf mountain on 15 October, Caucasus Press reported. Abkhaz Defense Minister Vladimir Mikanba told journalists in Sukhum that operations to round up the remaining intruders are likely to last for several days, according to Caucasus Press and Interfax. He confirmed Russian reports that a new group of several hundred fighters entered the gorge from the upper, eastern end on 15 October, but said that it would take them several days to descend to where the fighting is currently underway. Interfax on 15 October quoted the Abkhaz Defense Ministry as estimating losses since the fighting began 12 days ago at 15 Abkhaz and some 60 intruders killed. In Sukhum, Abkhaz officials denied on 15 October Georgian media claims that fierce gun battles were underway both in Sukhum and in the Black Sea town of Gagra to the north, Reuters reported. There has been no Abkhaz reaction to Georgian claims to have shot down a helicopter on 15 October near Eshera. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SAYS VIOLENCE 'LAST RESORT'...

Georgia will never reconcile itself to the loss of Abkhazia, but will use force to bring the breakaway republic back under its control only as "a last resort, when all other peaceful means of resolving the conflict have been exhausted," President Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 15 October. Shevardnadze advised the Abkhaz leadership to understand that the Abkhaz people can be saved from a new war only through peace talks and consenting to live together in a single Georgian state. Shevardnadze said he is prepared to meet with Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Djergenia in Tbilisi or to travel to Sukhum for talks, according to Interfax. Shevardnadze also said he is ready to meet anywhere, at any time, with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the Abkhaz situation, acknowledging the role played earlier by Russia both during the 1992-1993 war and in trying to mediate a political settlement since 1994. LF

...BUT ABKHAZ PREMIER SAYS TALKS POINTLESS BEFORE FIGHTING ENDS

Djergenia responded on 15 October to Shevardnadze's proposal by affirming that resuming peace talks with the Georgian leadership is "senseless" before "the bandits and terrorists are either destroyed or driven out of Abkhazia," Caucasus Press reported. Djergenia also hinted that Abkhazia might not oppose the withdrawal, which Tbilisi has demanded, of the Russian peacekeeping forces deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 October. Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba struck a somewhat more conciliatory note on 16 October, saying that members of the Abkhaz leadership are prepared to meet with Shevardnadze to discuss how to end the fighting in Kodori, Caucasus Press reported. But Shamba stressed that Abkhazia will never agree to autonomous status within Georgia, although it is still ready to discuss entering a federation with Georgia. Georgian parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania had said on 15 October that Tbilisi would offer Abkhazia "the broadest autonomy conceivable," in which the central authorities would control only defense, border protection, and tax collection, allowing Abkhazia complete freedom on all other issues. LF

COULD ABKHAZIA BECOME AN 'ASSOCIATE MEMBER' OF THE RF?

It is not clear how Shamba's statement that Sukhum would still consider entering a federation with Georgia is to be reconciled with Djergenia's statement on 14 October on TV-6 that Abkhazia has formally requested to be admitted as an "associate member" of the Russian Federation, meaning that it would be part of Russia's legal system and use the same currency. The Russian ruble, not the Georgian lari, is currently used in Abkhazia. Djergenia said he has not yet received a response from Moscow to that request. On 12 October, President Putin stressed that Russia recognizes Georgia's territorial integrity. LF

CHAIRMAN OF GEORGIAN RULING PARTY'S PARLIAMENT FACTION QUITS

Following the disintegration of the Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) parliament faction, which with 100 of a total of 235 deputies was the largest, the faction's chairman, Revaz Adamia, has resigned from that position, Caucasus Press reported on 15 October. Merab Tkeshelashvili was elected the same day to succeed him. Adamia had publicly offered to step down in June as he considered himself not suited to that post. LF

KAZAKHSTAN DENIES IT HAS BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS

Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry released a statement in Almaty on 15 October rejecting as unfounded U.S. media speculation that the country still has biological weapons, and may be connected with the cases of anthrax recently discovered in the U.S. or have supplied anthrax spores to "extremists," Interfax reported. The statement affirmed that Kazakhstan abides by its obligations under international agreements on nuclear disarmament and the destruction of chemical and biological weapons. It added that the U.S. has helped fund the ongoing closure of the Soviet-era Stepnogorsk research and production facility for biological weapons. On 12 October, Reuters reported that U.S. inspectors found anthrax spores inside piping at a former biological weapons facility in Kazakhstan several days earlier. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT SIGNS ELECTION LAW AMENDMENTS

Askar Akaev signed into law on 15 October the election law amendments passed by the Legislative Assembly (the power chamber of the bicameral parliament) four days earlier, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Also on 15 October, Tolekan Ismailova, the president of the Coalition of NGOs, wrote to parliament protesting the amendments, in particular one that bans any Kyrgyz political party or organization that receives funding from abroad from participating in the monitoring of elections there. She argued that that restriction is aimed at hindering the monitoring of elections and preventing international organizations from funding training programs for would-be election monitors. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT COMMITTEE REVIEWS BUDGET PARAMETERS FOR 2002

The Kyrgyz parliament's finance and economy committee reviewed at its 15 October session the draft budget for 2002 presented by Finance Minister Temirbek Akmataliev, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The draft projects GDP at 80.19 billion soms ($1.67 billion), which is 4 percent higher than this year's target. Inflation next year is estimated at 8.2 percent, and the budget is predicated on an exchange rate of 49 soms to the U.S. dollar. LF

KYRGYZSTAN, UZBEKISTAN FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT ON GAS SUPPLIES

Talks in Tashkent last weekend between Kyrgyz and Uzbek government officials failed to resolve the current disagreement over gas and water supplies, Kyrgyzstan's First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev told journalists in Bishkek on 15 October, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2001). Tanaev said that Uzbekistan has accused Kyrgyzstan of failing to honor an agreement signed last December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December 2000) whereby Kyrgyzstan would provide Uzbekistan with 2.2 billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectricity in return for oil and gasoline. Uzbekistan is threatening to suspend supplies of natural gas to Kyrgyzstan in retaliation for that failure, which Kyrgyz Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev has acknowledged. LF

TAJIKISTAN REINFORCES FRONTIER WITH AFGHANISTAN

A special 300-man unit of border guards was dispatched on 12 October to reinforce Tajikistan's southern border with Uzbekistan and Afghanistan against a possible attack by Taliban forces, Asia Plus-Blitz and Interfax reported on 15 October, quoting Border Guard commander Lieutenant General Saidanvar Kamolov. LF

UN APPEALS FOR FOOD AID FOR TAJIKISTAN

The UN World Food Program launched an appeal on 16 October for some 67,000 tons of emergency food supplies worth $36 million to be distributed among 1 million residents of mountainous regions of Tajikistan most severely affected by the second consecutive year of drought, Reuters reported. The World Food Program's representative in Dushanbe said that many of those affected face starvation. LF

UZBEKISTAN UNVEILS NINE-MONTH ECONOMIC RESULTS

Uzbekistan's GDP grew by 4.5 percent year-on-year during the first nine months of 2001, while industrial production increased by 7.6 percent over the same time period, Interfax reported on 15 October quoting Macroeconomics and Statistics Minister Rustam Azimov. The targets for 2001 as a whole are 4.5 and 5.8 percent respectively. In 2000, GDP growth was 4 percent, industrial production grew by 6.4 percent, and agricultural output by 3.2 percent. LF




POLL SAYS 85 PERCENT OF BELARUSIAN BUSINESSMEN GIVE BRIBES

The International Finance Corporation found in a poll conducted in July and August among 335 owners of small- and medium-sized businesses in Belarus that 85 percent of them have offered bribes to bureaucrats, Belapan reported on 15 October. Of those polled, 44 percent said they give bribes occasionally while 41 percent said they bribe bureaucrats on a regular basis. The results of the poll are in stark contrast to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's repeated claims that under his rule corruption in Belarus has been virtually eliminated. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT WANTS ACCOUNTABILITY OVER RUSSIAN PLANE DOWNING

The parliament on 16 October approved a motion to request the Prosecutor-General's Office to institute criminal proceedings against Ukrainian military officials responsible for the 4 October downing of a Russian Tu-154 airliner over the Black Sea with an errant missile, Interfax reported. Deputy Prosecutor-General Oleksandr Atamanyuk told the agency that the Prosecutor-General's Office will consider opening a criminal case on the Tu-154 crash after it obtains an official report from a commission investigating the crash. JM

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL SLAMS UKRAINE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD

Amnesty International on 15 October said torture and ill-treatment of detainees as well as curtailment of the freedom of expression persist in Ukraine 10 years after it declared independence. "Ukraine's real commitment to human rights must be questioned. When formal complaints have been lodged and investigations opened in cases of alleged torture or ill-treatment by police officers, they have been slow, frequently lacking in thoroughness, and often inconclusive," Amnesty International said. "Press freedom has also been curtailed through overt forms of harassment and intimidation, whereby journalists have been physically attacked by unknown assailants, sometimes resulting in death. The circumstances surrounding many of these attacks remain unresolved and only occasionally have those responsible been brought to justice," the world's human rights watchdog said. JM

UN MISSION TO RECOMMEND INVESTMENTS IN CHORNOBYL ZONE

Kalman Mizsei, the head of a UN mission working on Chornobyl-related problems, told journalists in Kyiv on 15 October that the mission will recommend that the international community invest in the Chernobyl zone, adding that the site is clean enough for economic development, AP reported. Mizsei said the risk to investments in the Chornobyl area "has significantly decreased" and the radiation-contaminated zone has been reduced to a very small territory. The mission studied the problems of the 30-kilometer exclusion zone around Chornobyl in July-August and will report its final conclusions regarding its development potential to the UN General Assembly and donor countries later in October after visiting radiation-affected areas in Belarus and Russia. According to Mizsei, the world's assistance policy should be shifted from humanitarian aid to concrete economic rehabilitation projects around Chornobyl. JM

RUSSIA MAKES ABOLISHING DOUBLE TARIFFS CONDITIONAL ON ESTONIAN CHURCH ISSUE

Jaak Saarniit, the managing director of the Estonian Large Enterprises Association, was told by Russian Deputy Premier Viktor Khristenko during a visit to Moscow last week that Russia will not grant Estonia equal trade conditions until the issues concerning the Estonian Orthodox Church in Estonia are resolved, "Aripaev" reported on 15 October. Although the Estonian Orthodox Church subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate has applied for registration many times, the Estonian authorities have denied it, arguing that it would be confused with the already legally registered Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church, which is subordinate to the Constantinople Patriarchate. The registration can play a role in determining the future of the assets that once belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church in Estonia. SG

BELGIAN OFFICIAL SAYS LATVIA'S PROGRESS GREATEST AMONG EU CANDIDATES

Meeting with parliament deputies in Riga on 15 October, Belgian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Annemie Neyts stated that Latvia had made the greatest progress among EU candidate countries, BNS reported. Speaking about the future of the EU, she noted that an agreement was reached in Luxembourg on 8 October to establish in the first half of next year a forum composed of European parliament deputies and three representatives from the governments and parliaments of every EU member country that will focus on the future of the EU. Candidate countries will be able to participate in the forum's discussions but without the right to vote. European Affairs Committee Chairman Edvins Inkens noted that the latest public opinion polls indicate growing support for EU membership, but Inkens suggested there is a need for more information about the social aspects of EU membership. Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins told Neyts that Latvia is ready to participate in discussions about the future of the EU. He recalled that Latvia was among the first candidate countries to submit an action plan for fulfilling the Schengen requirements. SG

U.S. MIGHT NEED LITHUANIA'S AIRSPACE IN ANTITERRORIST CAMPAIGN

The deputy commander for U.S. forces in Europe, General Carlton Fulford, began a tour of the Baltic states in Vilnius on 15 October with a meeting with President Valdas Adamkus, ELTA and BNS reported. Their talks focused primarily on Lithuania's implementation of the program for NATO accession and its readiness to assume membership commitments. Fulford called Lithuania's permission for the U.S. to use its airspace and airports "a very important and significant contribution" to the antiterrorist campaign, as it would make it easier to proceed from the planning stages to the execution of military actions. In later talks with Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius, Fulford praised both Lithuania's decision to increase security around the nuclear power plant at Ignalina and its decision to have a smaller, but better trained and equipped army. SG

ROW ERUPTS OVER NEW HEAD OF POLISH-GERMAN FUND

Treasury Minister designate Wieslaw Kaczmarek on 15 October said he will overturn the outgoing Solidarity-led government's recent appointment of Transport Minister Jerzy Widzyk as the head of the Polish-German Reconciliation Foundation, which oversees the distribution of German compensations to former Nazi-era slave laborers. "It must be one of the first decisions," AP quoted Kaczmarek as saying. Widzyk replaced Witold Krochmal, who had held his job since his predecessor was fired in August in a dispute over the exchange rate used to transfer compensation funds from Germany. "Rzeczpospolita" reported on 12 October that tax police suspect Widzyk of financial machinations and have demanded a probe by prosecutors. JM

POLAND'S BIGGEST CORRUPTION CASE TO EXPIRE?

Last week's nomination of Judge Barbara Piwnik for the post of justice minister in Prime Minister designate Leszek Miller's cabinet has drawn criticism from some politicians, including former Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski, Polish media reported. Piwnik has so far presided over a complicated and protracted case involving corruption at the Foreign Debt Servicing Fund (FOZZ) in the early 1990s. Suspects in the FOZZ case, which was dubbed the largest financial scandal in post-communist Poland, are accused of embezzling some $90 million from the state. Piwnik will have to resign her judicial post after being sworn in as a cabinet member. Some Polish politicians have voiced fears that the search for a new judge will drag out the FOZZ case, which is to expire under the statute of limitations in 2005, and that the suspects will avert a court verdict. JM

GERMAN TV SAYS AL-QAEDA TRIED TO GET MASS DESTRUCTION WEAPONS VIA CZECH REPUBLIC

Traces of attempts by the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization to obtain weapons of mass destruction lead, among other places, to the Czech Republic, CTK reported on 15 October. The agency cited the two main German television channels, ARD and ZDF, which earlier that day released summaries of reports that the terrorists may have succeeded in acquiring some nuclear and biological weapons while on Czech territory. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said those reports will be closely analyzed. "We do not want to underestimate anything," CTK quoted him as saying. ARD quoted arms control expert Friedrich Steinhausler as saying Al-Qaeda tried to obtain nuclear material with the help of the Russian mafia, and negotiations were conducted for this purpose in Europe. Steinhausler said members of a gang involved in the attempt have been arrested and that they worked with go-betweens from the Czech Republic, Belarus, Russia, and Germany. MS

CZECH, SLOVAK AUTHORITIES TEST SUSPICION OF ANTHRAX-CARRYING LETTERS

Pavel Pittermann, who is a spokesman for the Czech Nuclear Safety Authority (SUJB), said on 15 October that his office is testing 31 letters and packages on suspicion that they may contain anthrax or other toxic or biological material, AP reported. The results of the tests are expected in a couple of days. Pittermann said the letters were sent both to individuals and to his agency and "some of them arrived from abroad." Four letters suspected of containing toxic materials were received in Karlovy Vary, and two drug stores in Hradec Kralove said they have received suspicious letters from Nigeria, CTK reported. In Slovakia, Interior Minister Ivan Simko said police seized four envelopes that contained suspicious powder or crystals. One of the letters originated from South Africa. MS

CZECH PREMIER SAYS F-16 PURCHASE MAY BE RECONSIDERED

On 15 October Prime Minister Milos Zeman indirectly confirmed media reports that the U.S. is urging Prague to reconsider its decision on the purchase of supersonic fighters, saying that the Boeing company "may yet get a contract" for the purchase, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2001). Earlier this year Boeing withdrew from a tender for the fighters. "My position," Zeman said, "has always been that the more bidders, the better for the Czech Republic." Zeman said that some of the offers coming from the U.S. could be considered "a belated entry into the tender." MS

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER URGES MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROGRESS

Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on 15 October while on a visit to Greece that the international community should explore new ways of moving ahead the peace process in the Middle East in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the U.S., AP reported. Speaking after meeting his Greek counterpart George Papandreou, Kavan said he believes "the most effective way of fighting international terrorism, of depriving it of the fertile soil on which it exists... is to isolate and take from those groups any trace of legitimacy." CTK cited the two foreign ministers as saying EU and NATO expansion are more urgent than ever in the wake of the 11 September attack. MS

CLINTON ADDRESSES FORUM 2000

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton told the Forum 2000 conference in Prague on 15 October that the 11 September terrorist attack reflected "the dark underside" of an "interdependent" world tied to "hatred" in developing countries and to "selfishness" in wealthy states, dpa reported. Clinton told the gathering he supports his successor, President George W. Bush and the latter's leadership of the war against terrorism. He said that Osama bin Laden and his followers have divided the world into three groups: Moslems, Moslem heretics and "infidels." MS

COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS REJECTION OF CZECH GOVERNMENT'S DRAFT BUDGET

The Budget Committee of the Chamber of Deputies on 16 October recommended that the plenum vote against approving the 2002 draft budget submitted by the government, CTK reported. The vote will take place on 17 October. Ivan Pilip, the Four Party Coalition's "Shadow Finance Minister" said the draft must be changed to reflect priorities following the 11 September terrorist attack on the U.S. Pilip proposed that the cabinet withdraw the draft and submit an amended one. Committee Chairman Vladimir Tlusty of the Civic Democratic Party recommended that the Chamber submit its own version of draft budget within 20 days after rejecting the version proposed by the cabinet. MS

SLOVAK DEFENSE COUNCIL APPROVES PROFESSIONAL ARMY PLAN

The National Defense Council approved on 15 October a plan for the professionalization and modernization of the Slovak army, CTK reported. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said after the council meeting that in 2006 the Slovak army will stop conscripting and consist only of professional soldiers, and by 2010 it will become a fully modernized and rearmed force. The plan stipulates that the number of soldiers will be reduced from the current 42,600 to 24,500 by 2010. Defense Minister Jozef Stank said the costs of the modernization will be as high as 41 billion crowns (over $980.5 million). Stank said defense expenditure will be 1.89 percent of the GDP till 2005 and 2 percent as of 2006. MS

ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER IN BRATISLAVA

President Rudolf Schuster and visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said on 15 October they agree that the worldwide coalition fighting international terrorism must not be based on religious differences, CTK and AP reported. Peres said that the choice is between having a world "safe, peaceful, and happy," or a world "ruled by the rule of the jungle, where snakes and treacherous creatures prevent the others from living in peace." Peres said he understands why the U.S. is trying to mobilize the support of Muslim countries in the struggle against international terrorism, but added that it is now up to the U.S. and the United Kingdom to persuade Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to accept the Israeli offer of conditions for setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Peres also met with Premier Dzurinda and Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan. MS

HUNGARIAN OFFICIAL RESPONDS TO STORY ON TERRORIST LINK

Contrary to a report published by the Spanish daily "El Mundo," it was not members of the Basque terrorist organization ETA, but rather members of the IRA who visited Hungary last summer, presumably in an attempt to procure weapons from the Russian mafia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2001), Secret Services Minister Ervin Demeter told "Nepszabadsag" on 15 October. The newspaper also says the deal fell through after authorities in Slovakia captured the IRA members, who have since been put on trial in the U.K. Meanwhile, the TV2 commercial television station reported that the secret services alerted Hungary's top leadership on 28 August that some kind of terrorist attacks were planned against an undetermined country. Demeter said he has ordered his subordinates to find out how the TV network acquired documents that were given a 30-year secret classification. MSZ

HUNGARIAN MINISTRY DENIES COMMENT ON ROMANIA'S NATO MEMBERSHIP

The Defense Ministry on 15 October firmly denied that Minister Janos Szabo spoke out against Romania's NATO membership during his recent visit to Latvia, Hungarian dailies reported. The ministry's press department said that contrary to a claim published in the Romanian daily "Ziua," Szabo did not mention which of the prospective candidates have "merited" NATO membership. "Ziua" had quoted Szabo as saying that in Hungary's view, only Slovakia, Slovenia and the Baltic states, but not Romania and Bulgaria, deserve to be invited to join NATO at its summit in Prague next year. MSZ




ETHNIC ALBANIAN PARTIES TO BOYCOTT MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE

Parliament speaker Stojan Androv scheduled debate on nine of the 15 constitutional amendments agreed on in the Ohrid peace plan for 18 October, despite threats to boycott the debate by the two main ethnic Albanian parties, AFP and Reuters reported on 15 October. The two parties demand that parliament debate all 15 amendments at once. Ilias Talini of the Democratic Party of Albanians and vice president of the parliament, said: "I am surprised that the president of the parliament is arranging a session without consulting the vice president. He is accusing us of obstructing the parliament. The obstruction is being made by the president of the state. The president of the state should not violate the Ohrid agreement because he is one of those who signed it." President Boris Trajkovski attacked the two parties, who he said were obstructing the work of the parliament. "If this blockade by some parliamentary groups continues, I will regard it as an attempt to dictate the issue, and I will not accept that," Trajkovski said. DW

YUGOSLAV MEDIA TYCOON FLEES COUNTRY

Bogoljub Karic and his family, who own the largest private company in Serbia, fled the country to an undisclosed location out of fear for their lives, Western and Yugoslav news agencies reported on 15 October. A statement released by Karic's BK TV television said the family is "currently under the protection of the police of a foreign state," and that "snipers with infrared aiming devices" were seen near the family's house in Belgrade. Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic said, "If they had felt threatened in any way they should have informed the police." Last week the Serbian government stepped up pressure on Karic and his business interests, demanding $30 million in taxes on wealth he allegedly gained from Milosevic-era privileges. Also, the Yugoslav central bank appointed an administrator for the Astra Bank owned by the family and Serbian police began investigating the family's stake in the Mobtel mobile telephone operator on 12 October. Zivkovic said Karic was not under investigation and was free to leave the country. DW

TALKS FAIL, SERBIAN UNIONS TO STRIKE

Talks between the Serbian government and trade union leaders fell through on 15 October and the union heads said the general strike scheduled for the next day would go ahead, local media reported. Trade Union Federation head Milenko Smiljanic said that even though some agreement had been reached, the main condition -- the withdrawal of the Labor Code -- had not been met, which led to the decision to go through with the strike. DW

MONTENEGRO BEGINS SWITCH TO EURO

Businesses in Montenegro began listing prices in German marks and euros on 15 October in preparation for the introduction of the euro as the official domestic currency, dpa reported. Montenegro is set to officially switch over to the currency on 31 March 2002. The smaller of Yugoslavia's two republics adopted the German mark as legal tender in 1999. DW

BOMB DESTROYS LOCAL OFFICES OF TWO BIGGEST KOSOVAR PARTIES

An explosion and fire destroyed the offices of the two biggest ethnic Albanian parties in the southern town of Suva Reka in the early morning hours of 16 October, AP and Reuters reported. A suspected grenade explosion in the offices of Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova started a fire that spread to the offices of the second-largest party, the Democratic Party of Kosova. No injuries were reported. This is the first report of violence against a party in the two weeks since the campaign for the 17 November general elections began. DW

BOSNIAN INTERIOR MINISTER RESIGNS AMID POLITICAL PRESSURE

The interior minister for Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation, Muhammed Besic, resigned on 12 October following threats by political opponents that they would conduct a public review of his tenure, AP reported on 15 October, citing information from government leaders. The federation's government said it will appoint a new interior minister at its next session on 24 October, the agency added. Besic's work has been repeatedly praised by international officials, AP said, prompting local reports that U.S. officials in Sarajevo expressed concern over his departure in a letter to federation officials. U.S. Embassy representatives declined to comment on those reports for AP. Besic was one of the leading figures in the government's antiterrorism team and worked closely with U.S. officials in trying to locate people with links to global terrorism in Bosnia, AP said. The vice president of the Muslim-Croat federation, Safet Halilovic, had complained that Besic made serious errors, including a decision to hire a wartime bureaucrat suspected of granting citizenship to Islamic fighters during Bosnia's 3 1/2-year conflict. Halilovic had also complained about Besic's remarks to the press, including a pledge to make "hell on Earth" for Taliban fighters reportedly headed to the country to hide out. AH

CROATIAN OFFICIALS BLAME U.S.-MADE FILTERS IN DIALYSIS DEATHS...

Croatian Health Minister Ana Stavljenic-Rukavina said "it is clear that something was wrong with the filters" manufactured by U.S.-based Baxter International Inc. and used by more than 20 dialysis patients who died in that country in just over a week, AP reported on 15 October. She added that it is "unclear what it was at the membrane that caused the clinical symptoms that led to the patients' deaths," the agency added. Initial reports referred to 23 deaths (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2001), but Stavljenic-Rukavina said two of those patients' deaths were not linked to dialysis machines. Meanwhile, the Croatian government held a crisis meeting on 15 October and ordered a comprehensive investigation. Stavljenic-Rukavina said no new related deaths have been reported in Croatian hospitals after the dialyzers were replaced. AH

...PROMPTING MANUFACTURER TO PULL THEM FROM WORLD MARKET

While the company has categorically denied any responsibility for the deaths, the president of Baxter International in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE, Vincente Belenguer, said on 15 October that the company is temporarily pulling its "A" series dialysis filters from world markets, Hina reported. Belenguer was speaking in Zagreb, where he is cooperating with the investigation into the tragedies. AH

CROATIA NUDGES UP ON CORRUPTION INDEX

Transparency International ranked Croatia 47th among 91 countries ranked in its annual corruption index released on 15 October, Hina reported. That places the country alongside regional neighbors Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, the agency said. Croatia placed 74th in 1999 and 51st in 2000, Hina added, marking a gradual but consistent improvement. The section of the report focusing on Central and Southeast Europe and Baltic countries said the development of a transparent democracy in Croatia is still in its infancy, Hina reported. AH

ALBANIA OPENS INTERNATIONAL ANTITRAFFICKING CENTER

Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta inaugurated an antitrafficking center in the southern port city of Vlore on 15 October amid increased international pressure on his government to do more to fight organized crime and the trafficking of drugs, people, and arms. The center will be jointly operated by Albanian, German, Greek, and Italian police and should help coordinate efforts to stem illegal flows from East to West, dpa reported. Meta vowed the facility will help raise the fight against trafficking and organized crime "to a higher level," the agency reported. Housed in the resort villa of Albania's former communist dictator Enver Hoxha, the center is equipped with sophisticated monitoring and communications equipment. It will be used primarily to stop dinghies used by criminals to shuttle drugs and illegal immigrants to Italy's southern coast. The OSCE recently issued a report urging Albania to do more to curb crime (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2001). AH

ALBANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER, KFOR COMMANDER PLEDGE BORDER COOPERATION

The commander of NATO's peacekeeping forces in Kosova, General Marcel Valentin, met with Albanian Defense Minister Pandeli Majko in Tirana on 15 October and pledged intensive cooperation in trying to control mutual borders, the Albanian news agency ATA reported. Majko stressed the importance of openness in information and communications and praised the role of KFOR troops in ushering in peace and security in Kosova and the region. He called NATO's role indispensable and a determining factor, ATA reported. AH

ROMANIAN PREMIER IN FINLAND

On 15 October Prime Minister Adrian Nastase began a two-day visit of Finland, meeting his Finnish counterpart Paavo Lipponen and President Tarja Halonen, Romanian radio reported. Lipponen said Finland backs Romania's quest for EU membership, as well as the cancellation of visa requirements for Romanian citizens traveling within the Schengen agreement space as of 1 January next year. Nastase told journalists the terrorist attack on the U.S. amply demonstrates the need for NATO to acquire more partners through enlargement. "We are all facing the same common threat," Nastase emphasized. MS

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN GERMANY

Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana has also received strong backing for the cancellation of visa requirements for the EU. Geoana met on 15 October in Berlin with Interior Minister Otto Schilly and later discussed with his German counterpart Joschka Fischer the European joint struggle against human trafficking. After the talks with Fischer, Geoana said that the German-Romanian bilateral relations "have become a strategic political and economic partnership," and that Romania can "look into a future in which it will occupy its natural place as a NATO and EU member," Romanian radio reported. Geoana attended a conference in Berlin on this struggle in his capacity as OSCE rotating chairman. Premier Nastase wrote in a letter he sent via Geoana to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that the relations between their countries in the last three months have registered a "spectacular evolution." MS

ROMANIAN JUSTICE MINISTER OFFICIALLY ASKS SENATE TO STRIP TUDOR OF IMMUNITY

Justice Minister Rodica Stanoiu asked Senate Chairman Nicolae Vacaroiu on 15 October to start proceedings for lifting the parliamentary immunity of Greater Romania Party Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor on the grounds that Tudor disseminated false information, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In line with existing Senate procedure, the file will now be examined by the Judicial Commission, who must make its recommendation to the Permanent Bureau. Upon receiving that recommendation, the bureau must convoke a debate within 15 days. Tudor called the move "political abuse." He added that he does not fear a trial, and that he will use the occasion to make "shocking revelations" that will bring about the fall of the cabinet and early parliamentary elections. MS

RACIST LEAFLETS DISSEMINATED IN TRANSYLVANIAN TOWN

Racist leaflets warning against "mongering" with Roma and using inflammatory language to denounce this minority, homosexuals, religious sects, and "anyone who is not a Romanian" have been spread in the Transylvanian town of Deva, Romanian television reported on 15 October. The leaflets are signed by the extraparliamentary "New Right" party. Meanwhile Piatra-Neamt Mayor Ion Rotaru announced on 15 October that he has abandoned his plans to build special houses for the town's Romany population because of the protests the plans have caused. Rotaru said ethnic Romanian families will be moved into those apartments and "the Roma can now ask [Social Democratic Party (PSD) Deputy and Romany leader] Madalin Voicu to give them houses instead." Voicu is among the Romany leaders who complained about Rotaru's plans. MS

ROMANIAN RADIO CHAIRMAN SAYS CONSPIRACY AIMS TO REMOVE HIM

Romanian Broadcasting Company (SSR) Chairman Andrei Dimitriu told journalists on 15 October that a conspiracy is being forged to bring about his removal before the end of his mandate, Mediafax reported. Dimitriu believes "second-rank" PSD officials are involved in that conspiracy. He said the plot aims to have legal proceedings opened against him on fabricated grounds, which would enforce his being suspended from his position until the accusations are legally clarified. By then, he said, his mandate would have anyhow ended and "some sort of apology will be made when nothing can help any more." Dimitriu was appointed by the previous government and his mandate runs out in 2003. MS

ROMANIA NOT CONTEMPLATING ANTI-MOLDOVA SANCTIONS

President Ion Iliescu told an international forum of journalists on 15 October that his country will not impose any "sanctions" on Moldova in the wake of Moldovan Justice Minister Ion Morei's declarations in Strasbourg, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Iliescu said that Romania "cannot sacrifice its relations with Moldova" just because that country has a government whose "ideological criteria" are different from Bucharest's own. Speaking in Helsinki where he is on official visit, Romanian Premier Nastase, in an obvious allusion to Russia, said on 15 October that Bucharest considers it "unacceptable" for any country to have military bases on the territory of another without the consent of that state's authorities. Nastase said Romania is "worried" by the "continuous threat" posed by the Transdniester situation to Moldova's sovereignty, Flux reported. Finally, Mediafax reported on 15 October that Romanian Interior Minister Ioan Rus is to sign a three-year cooperation accord with the Moldovan Interior Ministry in Chisinau on 16 October. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT WARNS OF DEBT DEFAULT

President Vladimir Voronin, in an interview with the "Financial Times" on 15 October, warned that his country may be forced to default on its international debt if a rescheduling agreement is not reached with the Paris Club of official creditors, Infotag reported. Next year Moldova must pay $277 million, which is about 20 percent of its GDP. In June 2001, Chisinau was close to defaulting on a $3.7 million interest rate payment on a Eurobond and made that payment only on the last day of a 21-day grace period. Moldova is currently negotiating with the IMF a $142 million loan that is contingent on, among other things, speeding up privatization. Unless that loan is approved, Chisinau will not benefit from credits from the World Bank and the EU, and may thus be forced to default on its international debt. MS

U.S. PRESIDENT THANKS STOYANOV, SAXECOBURGGOTSKI FOR SUPPORT

President George W. Bush has sent messages to his Bulgarian counterpart Petar Stoyanov and to Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, thanking them for the support offered by Bulgaria in the rescue operations after the 11 September terrorist attack, for their messages of condolence and sympathy, and for Bulgaria's swift expression of its readiness to support the U.S. military operations against the terrorists, BTA reported. Bush wrote that the struggle against international terror may be a long one, but the U.S. has the necessary strength and determination to carry it out, thanks in part to the solidarity and support of its friends. MS

BULGARIAN SOCIALIST DAILY TO RESUME PUBLICATION

The left-wing daily "Duma," which stopped publication in early July due to financial problems, will re-appear by the end of this month, BTA reported on 15 October, citing Editor in Chief Vyacheslav Tunev. Tunev said the daily will not, however, be a successor to the former "Duma." He said it will have a "Balkan orientation" and will be "independent." The daily was first issued in April 1990, as a successor to the communist "Rabotnichesko delo." Subscribers are to receive it together with "Republika," which was launched on 14 July by a publishing trust close to the Bulgarian Socialist Party after "Duma" suspended publication. MS




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