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Newsline - October 17, 2001




ANTHRAX SCARES REPORTED IN RUSSIA

Russian health officials on 16 October responded to several reports in Moscow of mysterious powders that Russians feared contained anthrax, but the officials said none of them turned out to be anthrax, Russian agencies reported. But a genuine case of anthrax has been reported in Tuva, "Izvestiya" reported the same day. Meanwhile, Russian officials announced that they are banning the import of meat from Florida to prevent any influx of anthrax and that they have changed the schedule of a Russian delegation in Washington because of the anthrax scare there, Russian agencies said. And an article in "Kommersant-Daily" on 16 October reported that Russian Defense Ministry health officials have played down the anthrax threat, noting that "anthrax is one of the most humane" forms of biological weaponry. PG

PUTIN CONSULTS WITH KAZAKH, TAJIK PRESIDENTS

President Vladimir Putin on 16 October consulted by telephone with his Kazakhstan and Tajik counterparts, Nursultan Nazarbaev and Imomali Rakhmonov, concerning developments in Afghanistan and cooperation between the Central Asian countries and Russia, Russian agencies reported. PG

PUTIN AIDES SEE NO LEGAL BASIS FOR U.S. FORCES TO REMAIN IN UZBEKISTAN AFTER ANTITERROR CAMPAIGN

According to a report in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 15 October, senior officials in the Kremlin do not believe there is any "legal basis" for American troops to remain in Uzbekistan after the completion of the antiterrorist campaign. Consequently, the paper said, "the Kremlin does not see [their presence there now] as a problem." PG

FEDERATION MINISTER DOWNPLAYS MIGRATION THREAT

Aleksandr Blokhin, the minister for federation affairs and nationality and migration policy, said on Ekho Moskvy on 16 October that the situations in Afghanistan and Abkhazia have made the situation along Russia's southern borders somewhat more complex, but have not sparked the kind of refugee flows that would cause serious concern, Interfax reported. He added that the number of illegal immigrants in Russia is only 1 million "plus or minus 20 percent," and not the much higher figures that have been cited in the Russian media. At the same time, Russia might face difficulties if large-scale refugee flows were to begin from Abkhazia: Blokhin indicated that Russian can give shelter only to some 3,000 migrants from there, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, police said they had arrested eight Afghans in Voronezh who had entered Russia illegally, AP reported the same day. PG

RUSSIA BACKS BROAD COALITION GOVERNMENT FOR AFGHANISTAN

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said in New Delhi on 16 October that Moscow and India favor the establishment of a broad coalition government in Kabul after the Taliban leave power, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, Boris Pastukhov, the chairman of the Duma CIS Committee, said that the Northern Alliance, based on ethnic minorities, cannot govern Afghanistan, "Izvestiya" reported on 16 October. He said that "in the last 10 years, no one has controlled the situation in Afghanistan," noting that "the USSR attempted to pull it out of feudalism into socialism, but this country all the same continues to live by its own laws." PG

NUMBER OF TERRORIST ACTS IN RUSSIA UP 400 PERCENT IN YEAR

During the first eight months of 2001, there were 221 terrorist acts and 29 cases of hostage taking, four times as many as during the same period in 2000, Interior Ministry officials told Interfax on 16 October. The overwhelming majority of the terrorist acts -- 208 out of 221 -- took place in Chechnya, the officials said, with the remainder in the North Caucasus and in Bryansk Oblast. Meanwhile, "Novye izvestiya" -- the paper that lost a lawsuit earlier this week to Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2001) -- reported on 16 October that there have been 15 major terrorist acts in Russia since Patrushev took control of the FSB. PG

INTERIOR MINISTRY, SECURITY COUNCIL WANT NEW COUNTERTERRORISM LAWS

The Interior Ministry wants to close loopholes in existing counterterrorism laws so that terrorists will not be able to escape justified punishment, Interfax reported on 16 October. The Russian Security Council's interagency commission on social security and the struggle with criminality and corruption said the same day that existing legislation is incomplete and must be "perfected" quickly, the news service said. Meanwhile, Justice Minister Yurii Chaika on 16 October criticized the Duma for failing to act more promptly on antiterrorism legislation his ministry proposed more than six months ago, the news service said. PG

DIVISIONS AMONG MUFTIS SAID OPENING WAY FOR WAHHABIS

Dmitrii Makarvo, a specialist on Islam at Moscow's Institute of Oriental Studies, told AFP on 16 October that the radical Wahhabi strain of Islam is spreading among Russia's Muslims because of corruption and tensions between the two leading muftis, Ravil Gainutdin and Talgat Tadzhuddin. Tadzhuddin has been head of the Council of Muslims for European Russia since 1980. Gainutdin was his deputy, but he has now formed a rival council of Muslims for the same region using money from Saudi Arabia. PG

RUSSIA INCREASES SECURITY AT POST OFFICES

The Communications Ministry on 16 October announced that it is stepping up security at post offices and postal stations, Interfax reported. The announcement came at the first session of the specially created interagency council for providing security for postal stations. PG

PUTIN SAYS JOINING WTO A RUSSIAN PRIORITY

President Putin on 16 October said that Moscow expects to join the World Trade Organization and that he considers doing so "our priority" because it will have "a favorable impact on the Russian economy," Russian and Western agencies reported. "But," he added, "many of our goods are not competitive and we must carefully analyze the consequences." Meanwhile, Konstantin Remchukov, the deputy chairman of the Duma Natural Resources Committee, said in an interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" the same day that moving too fast to join that international trade body could damage the Russian economy. PG

PUTIN, BUSH SUMMIT IN SHANGHAI SET FOR 21 OCTOBER

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said in Shanghai on 16 October that the Russian and American presidents will meet there on 21 October, Russian and Western agencies reported. Ivanov said he will discuss the focus of the summit with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell at the meeting of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum taking place in Shanghai this week. PG

KREMLIN AIDE SAYS PUTIN WON'T HEAD CENTRIST PARTY

A source in the presidential administration was cited by "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 16 October as having said that President Putin has "more than once" said that he has no plans to join any political party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2001). PG

DID GOVERNMENT BUY DUMA'S SUPPORT ON BUDGET?

Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev said he hopes that rumors that the government offered special breaks in the budget to particular deputies to win their support for the 2002 budget are untrue, "Vremya Novostei" reported on 16 October. He added that the real negotiations on the budget are likely to occur not during the second reading on 19 October but at the third, as yet unscheduled reading. Meanwhile, the speaker of the Moscow City Duma, Vladimir Platonov, told Interfax-Moscow the same day that every Muscovite is contributing approximately 35 rubles ($1.20) to the support of the Federal Duma and its members. PG

KASYANOV, EVANS DISCUSS RECOGNITION OF RUSSIA AS MARKET ECONOMY

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov met with U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans in Moscow on 16 October to discuss prospects for Russia's recognition by the U.S. as a country with a market economy, Russian agencies reported. Later in the day, Kasyanov traveled to Krasnodar to inspect progress in the construction of the Blue Stream pipeline intended to carry gas from Russia to Turkey along the bottom of the Black Sea, Russian agencies reported. PG

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT MINISTRY PROPOSES CHANGING VISA REGIME

Natela Shengeliya, the head of the department of tourism of the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, said on 16 October that her ministry has proposed to the government that Moscow change its visa strategy in order to promote tourism by making it easier to obtain a Russian visa, Interfax reported. She said that the government will take up this issue at an upcoming meeting. PG

GREF NAMED TO HEAD RUSSIA'S POLAR COMMISSION

Prime Minister Kasyanov has appointed Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref to the chairmanship of the interagency commission on Arctic and Antarctic affairs, Interfax reported on 16 October. The commission includes 30 representatives of several ministries and agencies and also the governors of several northern regions of the Russian Federation. Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Mukhamed Tsikanov will serve as Kasyanov's deputy on the commission. PG

DIVISIONS IN MOSCOW SPS THREATEN SPLIT

Differences among the members of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) organization in the Russian capital over whom to nominate for the city Duma threaten to split the group, Interfax-Moscow reported on 16 October. Eight current city Duma deputies of the SPS faction said the same day that the local party organization has refused to support them and one additional deputy for re-election and plans to support other candidates. PG

'BUSINESS RUSSIA' TO OPEN ECONOMICS CENTER

The Business Russia social organization on 16 October announced that it is working to form a center that will prepare economic documents and proposals, Interfax reported. Business Russia Duma deputy Igor Lisinenko said that the group plans to attract the most important Russian economists and experts and possibly foreign specialists as well. PG

RUSSIAN, U.S. FIRMS SIGN CONTRACTS DURING EVANS VISIT

Three cooperation agreements were signed between Russian and American firms during the visit of Commerce Secretary Donald Evans to Moscow this week, Interfax-AFI reported. PG

ALEKSII CALLS FOR ORTHODOX UNITY IN UKRAINE

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II has sent a letter to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma supporting the latter's call for the unity of Orthodox believers in Ukraine, Interfax reported on 16 October. PG

GROUND FORCES TO REPLACE AIRBORNE TROOPS AS RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS IN BALKANS

Lieutenant General Nikolai Staskov, the chief of staff of Russia's airborne troops, told ITAR-TASS on 16 October that his forces will hand over their peacekeeping functions in the Balkans to Russian ground forces by 1 November. At the same time, he added, the number of Russian peacekeepers in Kosova will be reduced to 2,000 and Russian troops in Bosnia will be reduced to 600. PG

KASYANOV BLESSES ACCORD BETWEEN UKRAINE, BASHKORTOSTAN

Prime Minister Kasyanov has approved the signing of an agreement between the government of Bashkortostan and the Ukrainian government on trade and scientific and cultural cooperation, Interfax reported on 16 October. PG

SCHOLARS BACK FUSION OF NORTHERN FEDERAL DISTRICT INTO SINGLE SUBJECT OF THE FEDERATION

The leaders of universities and research institutes in Arkhangelsk Oblast sent an appeal to the oblast political leadership on 16 October in opposition to proposals to combine the Komi Republic and the Nenets Autonomous Okrug which is now part of the Arkhangelsk Oblast, Interfax-Northwest reported on 16 October. The authors of the appeal said that they believe it is more useful to move gradually toward the combination of all existing components of the Northern Federal District into a single subject of the Russian Federation. To that end, they backed the unification of Arkhangelsk Oblast and the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. PG

MUSLIM LEADER PROPOSES REBUILDING CHECHNYA FROM BOTTOM UP

In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 16 October, Nasrudy Chemerzaev, a member of the presidium of the Council of the Descendents of the Prophet Mohammed, said that all past and present proposals for solving the Chechen crisis and rebuilding political authority there have called for working from the top down. He argued that a better way is to use the existing small social units of that society and build on them. PG

KOKH DOES NOT WITHDRAW HIS RESIGNATION

Alfred Kokh has not changed his decision to resign as general director of Gazprom-Media, Interfax-AFI reported on 16 October. "Negotiations, including in the administration of the president, have not led to a change in Kokh's position," Gazprom-Media press secretary Aelita Yefrimova told the news agency. PG

NGO GROUPS SAY RUSSIA BECOMING 'AN ADMINISTERED DEMOCRACY'

A group of Russian NGOs issued a statement on 16 October saying that a system of "administered democracy" is being created in Russia in which citizens are increasingly excluded from the decisions that affect their interests, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, an article in "Izvestiya" the same day suggested that human rights groups in Russia are being put in an untenable position by the government, being forced either to cooperate with the regime or give up chances for influence. PG

ORTHODOX CLERGY IN YEKATERINBURG TOLD NOT TO USE FOREIGN CARS

Archbishop Vikentii of Yekaterinburg and Verkhotursk has issued a pastoral circular calling on priests in his bishopric not to use foreign cars, "Izvestiya" reported on 16 October. The paper noted that his call may not be heeded because many priests and bishops have foreign cars at the present time. PG

MILITARY TRAINING FACULTIES SET UP IN RUSSIAN MEDICAL SCHOOLS

Prime Minister Kasyanov on 16 October signed a directive calling for the creation of military training faculties at Russian medical schools, Interfax reported. The health and military ministries will share the cost of the operation of these training centers. PG

ALTERNATE SERVICE EXPERIMENT LAUNCHED IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD

Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor Yuri Lebedev announced on 16 October the introduction of an experimental system of alternative service for those who do not want to serve in the military, Interfax-Eurasia reported. If the local draft board approves their applications, young people who prefer not to become soldiers can serve for three years as assistants in the local hospital, which currently suffers from a shortage of medical personnel. PG

BUTYRKA PRISON BEING REMODELED TO IMPROVE SECURITY

"Vremya MN" reported on 16 October that Moscow's Butyrka prison, from which several inmates have escaped this year, is being remodeled and additional security features, including television monitors, are being installed. PG

MAJOR OIL DEPORT FOUND IN BARENTS SEA

The RosBusinessConsulting news agency announced on 16 October that Russian geologists have found a new offshore oil deposit in the Barents Sea containing an estimated 60 million tons. PG

PERCENTAGE OF POOR PROJECTED TO FALL 50 PERCENT IN DECADE

Yevgenii Gontmakher, the head of the department of social policy of the Russian government, said on 16 October that the percentage of Russians classified as poor (now 30 percent) will fall to 15 percent over the next 10 years assuming the economy continues to grow, Interfax reported. According to a report in "Vedomosti" on 15 October, Russians are feeling less pessimistic about their economic futures. In 1999, 83 percent of Russians said their economic situation had deteriorated during the past year, but in 2001, only 31 percent of Russians said they are worse off now than a year earlier, polls reported by the newspaper showed. PG

CPJ CALLS ON RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT TO INVESTIGATE THREATS TO JOURNALIST

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists on 15 October called on the Russian government to investigate actions by Russian officials that forced journalist Anna Politkovskaya to flee abroad, AP reported. Politkovskaya, who gained fame for her coverage of the war in Chechnya, received death threats after publishing an article in "Novaya gazeta" saying that Russian forces rather than Chechen militants had been behind the shooting down of a helicopter in which several senior Russian officers died (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2001). PG

RUSSIAN HACKER FACES UP TO 100 YEARS IN U.S. PRISON

Vasili Gorshkov was convicted in a U.S. federal court on 15 October of conspiracy, computer crimes, and fraud and faces up to 100 years in prison when he is sentenced on 4 January 2002, ITAR-TASS reported. Gorshkov and a confederate were arrested in April 2001 for breaking into Internet companies and stealing thousands of credit card numbers. PG

TAJIK INVALID CAUGHT IN MOSCOW CLAIMS TO BE RUNNING DRUGS IN ORDER TO BUY PROSTHESIS

A citizen of Tajikistan was detained with approximately 400 grams of heroin at Moscow's Domodedovo airport, Interfax reported on 16 October. The man, who lost his right hand, said that he was forced into becoming a drug courier in order to purchase a prosthesis and also to pay for medical care for his daughter. PG

KOZAK TO REGIONS: WE'LL SEE YOU IN COURT

Dmitrii Kozak, head of the presidential commission on power-sharing agreements, told a Federation Council hearing on 16 October that power-sharing agreements that have not been brought into conformity with federal law should be canceled, ITAR-TASS reported. He added that if a mutual understanding between the center and the regions is not achieved, then the matter may be resolved in court. According to Kozak, regions have until 28 July to bring their agreements into compliance. Earlier, it was reported that regions had only until 1 July or their agreements would be canceled (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2001). Commenting on the process of harmonizing local and federal laws, Kozak acknowledged that while many regional leaders contend that some of their laws and regulations are better than the federal versions, they are welcome to try to change federal laws through legally accepted manners, that is, legislative initiatives to introduce changes to federal law, strana.ru reported. JAC

STROEV GETS BACKING OF PRO-KREMLIN PARTY

The presidium of the Unity party's political council has decided to support incumbent Orel Oblast Governor Yegor Stroev in 28 October gubernatorial elections, Interfax reported on 16 October. Stroev has already served two terms as governor, and according to "Novye izvestiya" on 16 October without reference to sourcing, the reason why the Unity faction in the Duma reversed its position on a bill giving most regional governors the opportunity to seek a third term was because of an "agreement between the Kremlin and current speaker of the upper house Yegor Stroev guaranteeing his re-election" (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 20 June 2001). According to the daily, the Duma's Committee on Regional Policy has recommended that deputies try to overcome in the near future the upper house's rejection of the bill last July (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 11 and 23 July 2001). JAC

ENVOY BLAMES CRIME RISE ON ETHNIC CRIMINAL GROUPS

Twenty percent of all crimes registered in the Russian Federation are committed in the Volga federal district, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 16 October, citing Interior Ministry statistics. According to the ministry, during the first nine months of the year, the rate of crime in the district grew at a faster rate than for Russia on average. From January to September 2001, some 33,000 crime were registered -- an increase of 15 percent from the same period last year. Presidential envoy to the district Sergei Kirienko said that this year, it was "the influence of ethnic crime groups in the district, who are occupied with the illegal sale of narcotics, was especially noticeable." The Volga federal district is composed of the republics of Bashkortostan, Marii El, Mordovia, Tatarstan, Udmurtia, and Chuvashia; the Kirov, Nizhnii Novgorod, Orenburg, Penza, Perm, Samara, Saratov, and Ulyanovsk oblasts; and the Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug JAC

INCUMBENT TO TRY FOR SECOND TERM IN ALTAI REPUBLIC

The first two candidates in 16 December presidential elections in the Altai Republic have been registered, and another six are gathering signatures to support their candidacy, strana.ru reported on 16 October. Vladimir Amurgushev, chairman of the republic's Supreme Court and Sergei Krechetov, deputy general director of the Kemerovo-based coal company YuzKuzbassugol, are registered. Other likely contenders are the incumbent head of the republic Semen Zubakin, former Finance Minister Sergei Pekpeev, and leader of the Gorno-Atlai Communists Viktor Romashkin. JAC

BEREZOVSKY IMPLICATED IN MURDER OF NORTH CAUCASUS OPPOSITION FIGURE

Boris Batchaev, secretary of the Security Council of the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, has accused former Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky of ordering the murder in Cherkessk last month of Keram Semenov, one of the leaders of the opposition "Vozrozhdenie" movement, Glasnost-North Caucasus reported on 15 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2001). Batchaev claimed that Berezovsky was hoping "to create another hotbed of tension" in the North Caucasus in order to discredit President Putin. LF

CHECHEN FIGHTERS ATTACK POLICE POST, AMBUSH CONVOY

A group of some 15-20 Chechen fighters attacked a police post in Vedeno, southeast of Grozny, manned by Chechen police officers, beating them severely and retreating after stealing their weapons, Interfax reported. Russian forces deployed helicopters the same day against a group of Chechen fighters near Vedeno. Also on 16 October, Chechen fighters ambushed a convoy of Russian Interior Ministry troops in Shali Raion, killing at least three Russians and wounding a further 10. LF




ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT SHOOTING SUSPECT WANTS CHARGES AGAINST HIM DROPPED

Nairi Hunanian, the leader of the five gunmen who shot down eight senior Armenian politicians in the parliament building in October 1999, issued a statement in Yerevan on 15 October arguing that the charges against him and his codefendants should be dropped since they resorted to bloodshed as "a last resort," given that "the sovereignty of Armenia was threatened" as a result of "the illegal activities" of the country's leadership, Noyan Tapan reported on 16 October. LF

RUSSIA FAILS TO MAKE GOOD ON THREAT TO SUSPEND GAS SUPPLIES TO ARMENIA

The Gazprom subsidiary ITERA failed on 16 October to act on its threat made the previous day to cut gas supplies to Armenia because of that country's alleged failure to pay its outstanding $37 million debt for earlier deliveries, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. A spokeswoman for Armrosgazprom, which controls Armenia's entire gas infrastructure, said ITERA had decided to delay any action "for the time being." Armenian Energy Minister Karen Galustian said in late June that Gazprom had written off Armenia's gas debt under a debt swap deal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2001). LF

ARMENIA, CHINA AGREE ON CHEMICAL JV

Armenian and Chinese officials signed an agreement on 12 October under which Armenia's Nairit chemical plant and a company in Shansi province will create a joint venture to produce some 30,000-35,000 tons of synthetic rubber annually, Noyan Tapan reported on 17 October. According to Armenia's first deputy minister of industry and trade, Ashot Shahnazarian, Armenia will invest $14 million in construction of the plant and expects to make an annual profit from the undertaking of $4-6 million. LF

AZERBAIJANI SECURITY MINISTER DETAILS AVERTED CATASTROPHES

Speaking on national television on 16 October, National Security Minister Namig Abbasov said that his ministry averted a planned assassination attempt against Russian President Vladimir Putin during the latter's visit to Baku in January, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. Abbasov said that the Azerbaijani authorities got wind of those plans, which were masterminded by Iraqi citizen Kenan Rostam, during the autumn of 2000. Rostam has been arrested, tried, and sentenced. Abbasov also warned that a new attempt to overthrow the Azerbaijani leadership may be imminent, but gave no details. He said foreign intelligence services have recruited 213 Azerbaijani citizens in recent years, of whom 186 were dissuaded by "preventive measures" from any criminal action. LF

PRESIDENT SAYS AZERBAIJAN'S CASPIAN OIL COULD BE EXPORTED VIA UKRAINE

Meeting on 16 October with visiting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko, Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev said an unspecified amount of the oil Azerbaijan exports via the Baku-Supsa pipeline could be transported by tanker to Odesa and then exported to Western Europe via the planned Odesa-Brody pipeline, Interfax reported. LF

U.S. WANTS RESTRICTIONS ON AID TO AZERBAIJAN LIFTED

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell wrote on 16 October to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman urging that Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, which bans direct U.S. government aid to Azerbaijan until that country lifts its blockade of Armenia, be lifted in acknowledgement of intelligence information passed to Washington and of Azerbaijan's willingness to make available its airspace for use during the U.S.-led antiterrorism campaign, Reuters reported on 16 October. Armenian President Robert Kocharian wrote last week to U.S. President George W. Bush asking him not to lift Section 907 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2001). LF

AZERBAIJANI PROSECUTOR DEMANDS 11-YEAR SENTENCE FOR MILITARY CORRUPTION WHISTLE-BLOWER

Prosecutor Elsevar Abdullaev demanded on 16 October that former naval Captain Djanmirza Mirzoev be sentenced to 11 years imprisonment for his alleged role in the April 1993 murder of the director of the Baku Naval College, Eduard Huseinov, Turan reported. Abdullaev also asked the court to base its verdict not on evidence given during Mirzoev's trial by his codefendant Aliyusif Tairov, but on Tairov's testimony during the pretrial investigation. Tairov said during that investigation that he had overheard conversations between Mirzoev and former Interior Ministry special troops commander Rovshan Djavadov that led him to believe that the two men were planning to murder Huseinov, but retracted that testimony during the trial. Mirzoev has been repeatedly detained and harassed in recent years for his efforts to publicize corruption within the Defense Ministry. He was arrested and charged with Huseinov's murder in November 2000 (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 34, 26 August 1999 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December 2000). LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT TELEPHONES RUSSIAN COUNTERPART...

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin on 16 October to discuss bilateral relations, including the framework agreement on bilateral relations currently being drafted, Caucasus Press and Russian agencies reported. The two presidents agreed that their respective countries should cooperate more closely in the fight against terrorism and to resolve the crisis in Abkhazia, Reuters reported. LF

... SUGGESTS ALTERNATIVE TO RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPING FORCE

Shevardnadze told visiting ambassadors to the OSCE from 18 states in Tbilisi on 16 October that he has written to President Putin to thank him for the contribution made since 1994 by the Russian peacekeeping force deployed under the CIS aegis along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, Caucasus Pres and ITAR-TASS reported. But at the same time Shevardnadze noted that the force "failed to achieve its primary objective." He therefore proposed replacing the CIS force with a multilateral one in which Russian officers would also serve. Also on 16 October, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Zlenko repeated in Baku the offer that Ukrainian officials have made repeatedly since 1997 to provide a peacekeeping contingent to serve in Abkhazia under the aegis of either the UN or the OSCE, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 1997 and 30 June 1999). Shevardnadze noted that Ukraine and other unnamed states have offered to send peacekeepers to Abkhazia, but no international organization has yet offered to sponsor such a force. LF

GEORGIA REPORTS ANOTHER VIOLATION OF ITS AIRSPACE...

The Georgian Defense Ministry confirmed on 17 October reports by parliament deputy Iveri Chelidze that six MiG helicopters bombed Georgian villages in the Kodori gorge that morning, Caucasus Press reported. Two hours later, two Russian Su-25 fighter aircraft entered Georgian airspace from Russia but did not undertake any hostile action. LF

...AS INTRUDERS RETREAT FROM KODORI GORGE

Abkhaz Defense Ministry officials said in Sukhum on 16 October that sporadic exchanges of fire continued throughout the day between Abkhaz troops and small groups from the combined Chechen/Georgian guerrilla force retreating from Sugar-Loaf mountain toward the Georgian-Russian frontier. But pursuit is difficult as the band is laying mines as they retreat, ITAR-TASS quoted Deputy Defense Minister Garri Kupalba as saying. LF

ABKHAZ PRESIDENT VOWS TO DESTROY INTRUDING FORCE

Speaking on Abkhaz television on 16 October, President Vladislav Ardzinba predicted that the Abkhaz armed forces will continue to push back the invading force and will "tear it to shreds as a dog does a rag," Reuters and Caucasus Press reported. He accused Tbilisi of resorting to "aggression" against Abkhazia by co-opting "terrorists," in violation of a pledge made when Georgia was accepted into full membership of the Council of Europe to resolve the conflict with Abkhazia by peaceful means. Ardzinba again rejected Georgia's offer to grant Abkhazia "the broadest conceivable autonomy," saying that "we will not take the bait." Ardzinba also acknowledged that rumors he has been suffering from an unidentified illness are true, admitting that "the war and the post-war years have taken their toll." LF

SOUTH OSSETIA APPEALS TO RUSSIA TO ENSURE SECURITY IN CAUCASUS

Lyudvig Chibirov, president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, which like Abkhazia considers Georgia's offers of broad autonomy unacceptable, has appealed to Russian President Putin and State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev to provide security in the Caucasus in light of the ongoing fighting in Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported. LF

KAZAKHSTAN INCREASES PRODUCTION OF GOLD, SOME NONFERROUS METALS

Gold production in Kazakhstan during the first nine months of 2001 amounted to 11.88 tons [refined weight], which is a 39 percent increase over the same period last year, Interfax reported on 16 October quoting Kazakhstan's National Statistics Agency. Production of magnesium and magnesium products increased 59 percent year-on-year; titanium, 88 percent; and unprocessed beryllium, 78 percent; while unprocessed lead production fell by 18 percent and unprocessed cadmium by 35 percent. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT ADDRESSES PARLIAMENT

In his annual address to both chambers of parliament, President Askar Akaev singled out as his leadership's most outstanding achievement preserving political and interethnic stability, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He predicted GDP growth of 5.6 percent in 2001 and around 7 percent for 2002-2004, and praised the comprehensive 10-year program of economic development adopted, despite opposition criticism, in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May 2001). Focusing on the U.S.-led antiterrorism campaign, Akaev pointed out that military actions alone are powerless against terrorism unless a simultaneous effort is made to eradicate the social deprivation and poverty that fuel terrorism and extremism. He said a special commission will be created, to be chaired by Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev, to address the inevitable negative impact on Kyrgyzstan's economy of the crisis in Afghanistan. Echoing statements made by Kyrgyz officials last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2001), he also said that Bishkek will need international financial aid to cope with the anticipated influx of refugees from Afghanistan. LF




BELARUSIAN YOUTH LEADER JAILED FOR PICKET

A Minsk district court on 16 October handed down a sentence of 10 days arrest to Youth Front leader Pavel Sevyarynets for organizing an unauthorized picket in front of the Minsk Automobile Factory on 2 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2001), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Sevyarynets and his colleagues were protesting the alleged sale of the factory to Russia's Siberian Aluminum industrial group. "How did you come to think it was a picket?" Sevyarynets asked a policeman testifying against him in court. "If it had not been a picket, the journalists with tape recorders and video cameras would not have come there," the policeman responded. JM

BELARUS TO IMPORT 1 MILLION TONS OF GRAIN THIS YEAR...

First Deputy Agricultural Minister Alyaksandr Prakopau told journalists on 16 October that Belarus will have to import some 1 million tons grain for food and fodder this year, Belapan reported. He did not specify any potential suppliers. Responding to a suggestion of grain supplies from Kazakhstan, Prakopau said that "it is better to have no business with that country." Prakopau said this year's grain output in Belarus will not exceed 5.2 million tons -- 300,000 tons more than last year but 1.8 million tons short of the target set by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka for 2001. JM

...AND TO HARVEST POOR POTATO CROP

Prakopau also said Belarus will harvest less than 1 million tons of potatoes this year, compared to 3 million tons in 1990. He added that the average yield of 10.1 tons per hectare (24.9 tons per acre) makes it "hard to pick out sellable potatoes." He also made an even gloomier remark: "Our potato sector is facing what our sheep industry has already gone through and what our flax industry is going through right now. Our sheep breeding is dead. The flax industry is slowly dying." JM

UKRAINE, BELARUS PLEDGE TO BOOST COOPERATION

Ukrainian Premier Anatol Kinakh and his Belarusian counterpart Henadz Navitski on 16 October spoke in favor of broadening bilateral economic and trade cooperation, Interfax reported. Navitski was in Kyiv on his first official trip in his capacity of prime minister. The two sides signed five agreements, including on cooperation in the spheres of security, on nuclear safety, on energy conservation, and on customs and border control. Kinakh told journalists that this December the two countries hope to resolve the issue of Ukrainian enterprises' debts to Belarusian partners, but failed to mention what amounts are involved. Trade turnover between both countries in January-July 2001 stood at $422 million, down 17 percent from the same period last year. JM

PICKETERS DEMAND OUSTER OF UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER

Some 120 people from the Socialist Youth Congress and the Ukrainian Communist Youth League (Komsomol) picketed the presidential administration building on 16 October, demanding that President Leonid Kuchma fire Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk over the recent downing of a Russian Tu-154 airliner by Ukrainian air-defense gunners, Interfax reported. "[The demonstrators] were trying to show that they are deeply sorry about the tragic accident with the Tu-154 plane as well as indignant at having such a president," said Yuriy Lutsenko, the coordinator of the Ukraine Without Kuchma movement. Meanwhile, a group of parliamentary deputies said the same day that Kuzmuk deliberately misled the public with denials that the Ukrainian air-defense troops were responsible for the crash of the airliner, dpa reported. "According to our information, the defense minister and air defense chief knew on the day of the accident that the plane was hit by a missile," they claimed in a letter to the Prosecutor-General's Office. JM

PRO PATRIA OPPOSES REMOVING ESTONIAN LANGUAGE REQUIREMENT FROM ELECTION LAW

The chairman of the Pro Patria Union faction, Tiit Sinissaar, asserted on 16 October that the amendments to the laws on parliament and local elections proposed the previous day by Kadri Jaatma of Pro Patria Union, Moderate Tonu Koiv, and Paul-Eerik Rummo of the Reform Party should not be supported, ETA reported. The amendments would abolish the requirement that candidates for these offices know Estonian to the extent that they can understand the contents of legal acts and other texts; make reports on the issues on the agenda; and express their opinions, ask questions, and communicate with voters. Jaatma said that the existing law does not prevent those who do not speak Estonian to be elected to local councils. The main purpose of the amendments appears to be an effort to help convince the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to end its 10-year mission to Estonia, as the language requirement was one of the few things criticized in the last OSCE report on Estonia. SG

JUDGE MURDERED IN LATVIA'S CAPITAL

The Riga Regional Court Criminal Case Council chairman, Judge Janis Laukroze, was gunned down in his apartment building's courtyard in central Riga on 15 October, LETA reported the next day. Relying on the testimony of witnesses, police have drawn a composite portrait of the murderer, who fired seven shots and dropped the murder weapon at the scene. The government has announced a 10,000 lat ($16,000) reward for information related to the case. The motives for the murder are not clear, but Laukroze's colleagues firmly assert that it is linked with his work. He had personally presided over a number of important cases such as the trial of the three Russian National Bolsheviks who seized the steeple of Riga's St. Peter's Church last November, and had decided which judge would hear other criminal cases. Prime Minister Andris Berzins declared that it is a matter of honor for the Interior Ministry to solve the murder in two months, and met with Prosecutor-General Janis Maizitis, who assumed leadership of a joint task force of his office and the State Police investigating the crime. SG

POLISH, LITHUANIAN PRESIDENTS OPEN POLISH EXPORTS FAIR

In Kaunas on 16 October, Aleksander Kwasniewski and Valdas Adamkus officially opened the Polish exports fair Polexport 2001, organized for the eighth time by the Polish-Lithuanian Chamber of Commerce, ELTA reported. They also delivered speeches at the economic forum "Lithuania and Poland: 10 Years of Cooperation -- Successes and Prospects." Adamkus noted that the volume of trade between the two countries will soon reach $500 million per year or 100 times greater than a decade ago. He also praised efforts to improve the highways and railroads connecting the two countries, update communications, and join their energy networks. Kwasniewski said that the two countries are not competitors but partners in seeking EU membership and it would be beneficial for both states to join the union simultaneously. During his one-day working visit, Kwasniewski also informed Adamkus that he recently told Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow that Poland fully supports inviting the three Baltic states to join NATO at the Prague summit next fall. SG

POLAND STARTS TRIAL OF JARUZELSKI FOR 1970 MASSACRE...

Following nine previous aborted attempts, the Warsaw District Court on 16 October began reading an indictment in a trial of Poland's last communist leader, 78-year-old Wojciech Jaruzelski, and five other defendants who are accused of ordering and perpetrating the massacre of Polish workers in December 1970, Polish media reported. Jaruzelski, who was defense minister in 1970, is charged with ordering the military to fire on shipyard workers protesting price increases in the Baltic coast cities of Gdynia, Gdansk, Szczecin, and Elblag. At least 44 people were killed in the unrest, and more than 1,000 were injured. The trial started after the court decided to exclude from the case one defendant who repeatedly failed to appear at previous hearings for health reasons. JM

...AND OF COCAINE-SMUGGLING RING

Forty-two Poles accused of running an international cocaine-smuggling ring went on trial on 16 October under tight security in a specially built courtroom at a former military barracks in Warsaw. The indictment says the group smuggled 2.5 tons of cocaine worth $700 million from South America to Western Europe in 1994-2000. The ring arbitrarily recruited people, often students or unemployed, and sent them on tourist trips to South America where they brought cocaine. The defendants each face up to 10 years in prison. JM

POLISH RADICAL AGRARIANS TO SUPPORT RULING COALITION IN PARLIAMENT

Following his meeting with Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) leaders Leszek Miller and Marek Borowski on 16 October, Andrzej Lepper, the head of the radical Self-Defense farmers union, told journalists that Self-Defense will support the SLD-led government in the parliament as long as it continues to implement its announced program, PAP reported. "We decided to set up an unofficial parliamentary coalition with the SLD and Labor Union. The issue has not been completely decided as far as the Polish Peasant Party is concerned," Lepper said. Lepper added that Self-Defense, which has 53 parliamentary seats, will propose its candidate for a Sejm deputy speaker. JM

SUSPECTED 'ANTHRAX LETTER' RECEIVED AT CZECH PREMIER'S OFFICE

Government spokesman Libor Roucek told journalists on 16 October that a "suspicious envelope" addressed to Prime Minister Milos Zeman reached the government's office that morning and has been sent on to laboratory analysis, CTK reported. The Health Ministry said later the same day that "not a single case of anthrax" has been detected as of yet in the Czech Republic. CTK reported that 54 envelopes suspected of carrying anthrax spores have so far been received in the Czech Republic, but no cases of the disease have been confirmed. MS

CZECH PILOTS OPPOSE GOVERNMENT ON SHOOTING DOWN HIJACKED PLANES

Czech civilian pilots oppose a decision taken by the government last week that authorizes the defense minister to order the shooting down of civilian aircraft suspected of having been hijacked by suicidal terrorists. Peter Jusko, the head of the CZALPA pilots' association, told CTK on 16 October that international conventions ban shooting down civilian planes and that the decision endangers "the credibility of the Czech Republic and its airspace," and may have "an immense adverse social and economic impact." MS

BRITISH OFFICIALS RESUME CHECKS AT PRAGUE AIRPORT

On 16 October, British officials resumed checks of passengers departing from Prague's Ruzyne airport to destinations in the United Kingdom, CTK reported. The checks were first introduced in July, following a wave of Czech Roma asylum seekers in the U.K., and were stopped in September. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil told CTK the checks will last only three days and added that no reason was given by the British authorities for their resumption. MS

ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER IN PRAGUE

Visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met on 16 October with Premier Zeman, who said the Czech Republic is "to a certain extent" in a position to "assist the peace process in the Middle East," CTK reported. Zeman added that the key to a successful solution "remains as before in the hands of Israel and pro-peace Palestinian representatives." Peres told journalists after addressing the Forum 2000 conference that his country believes military force cannot solve the conflict and that "Palestinians are entitled to a state of their own," AP reported. In his address to Forum 2000, Peres said that at this time of terrorist threat, the world has ceased to be "divided into West and East." But it remains divided into "nations that cooperate against terrorism and those that do not do so," he said. Peres said a "grand antiterror coalition" should be formed and include not only Western countries, but also Russia, China, India, and Latin American countries. MS

CZECH PRESIDENT CALLS FOR 'GRAND SPIRITUAL COALITION'

Vaclav Havel on 16 October called on religious leaders in the world to form a "grand spiritual coalition" to help fight hatred and fanaticism, AP reported. Addressing a gathering of religious dignitaries, intellectuals, and politicians attending Forum 2000, Havel called on the world's major religions to "consider, in the light of the recent horrible event [of 11 September], the possibility of your deeper cooperation." He said the terrorist attack on the United States has shown "how quickly evil can be globalized," and asked religious leaders to "use all your authority for a joint struggle against everything that jeopardizes decent human life." Havel spoke at the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. MS

TEMELIN CONTROVERSY HEATS UP AGAIN

Austrian opponents of the controversial Czech Temelin nuclear power plant announced on 16 October that they will resume blocking the border between the two countries within 10 days unless the EU forces the Czech Republic to close the plant down, dpa reported. The announcement follows a statement by the government-owned CEZ utility company, which owns Temelin, that said the Nuclear Safety Authority has approved preliminary tests at Temelin's Unit 2, which is expected to become operational next year. CEZ spokesman Milan Nebesar also said Unit 1 at Temelin is now working at 55 percent capacity and is supplying power to the national grid. MS

CZECH MINISTER DENIES HE WAS SECRET POLICE INFORMANT

Agriculture Minister Jan Fencl has denied allegations that he was an informant of the communist secret police (StB), CTK, citing the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes," reported on 17 October. The daily detailed the allegations, first presented on 16 October in a program on Czech Television. It says Fencl received a "negative" screening certificate clearing him of collaboration because the lustration law makes no provision for access to the files of those agents who were listed by the StB as "candidate for confidential cooperation" and that this is Fencl's case. The daily says the information provided by Czech Television is based on written documents found in a file the StB kept on Fencl. It says Fencl twice met with two StB agents referred to as "Vaculik" and "Sasin," signed a pledge to keep the contacts secret, and provided information on foreigners he was in contact with in 1988. MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT SEAT EVACUATED AFTER RECEIVING SUSPICIOUS 'ANTHRAX LETTER'

The main building of the Slovak government offices in Bratislava was evacuated on 16 October after a letter received at that office arouse the suspicion that it may carry anthrax bacilli. The letter was addressed to Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and was sent from Bratislava, CTK reported. Cabinet spokesman Martin Maruska said on Slovak television that the envelope contained a sheet of paper with stains on it "that resembled some powder." The suspected letter was sent for analysis to the Banska Bystrica Health Institute and Maruska said the results would be known in 24 hours at the earliest. So far 16 envelopes suspected of carrying anthrax have been tested and all proved negative, a Health Ministry spokesman told CTK. Reuters reported from Bratislava that the panic over suspected anthrax letters is largely due to an advertising campaign for sanitary towels. The company producing the towels has mailed samples to prospective customers, who became suspicious due to rumors about a possible terrorist attack with biological weapons. MS

SLOVAK SOLDIERS TO BE VACCINATED AGAINST ANTHRAX

About 1,000 Slovak military experts who specialize in biological warfare and members of the Slovak rapid deployment forces are to be vaccinated against anthrax, CTK reported on 16 October, citing a Defense Ministry source. The vaccine has been ordered from the United Kingdom, but the inoculation will suffer some delay because the British are giving priority to their own military's vaccination. Apart from the United Kingdom, the vaccine is produced only in the United States and Russia. MS

EU-SLOVAK COMMITTEE CHAIRMEN DISAGREE ON IMPACT OF TERRORIST ATTACKS

Peter Weiss, Slovak co-chairman of the European Parliament-Slovakia joint committee, on 16 October publicly disagreed with Hans-Peter Martin, the Austrian co-chairman of the same committee, CTK reported. Martin had earlier said that the terrorist attacks on the U.S. are likely to have an adverse effect on the process of EU enlargement because the EU now has to focus on securing the safety of its members. Weiss said he can see no evidence of such an impact. He also rejected Martin's opinion that Slovakia itself is now more distanced from accession than it was three months earlier. Weiss said there has been "no dramatic change" since the European Commission published its evaluation of the Slovak performance in early September. Also on 16 October, Martin said in Kosice that he suspects that funds earmarked by the EU for the purpose of aiding Slovak Roma "may have been abused." He said his suspicions arose after visiting Romany settlements in eastern Slovakia and hearing requests that the funds be sent to the Roma themselves rather than to local mayors. MS

ANTHRAX PANIC REACHES HUNGARY

Hungarian disaster control services on 16 October were alerted to the possible presence of the anthrax bacteria in Budapest, Debrecen, Miskolc, and Salgotarjan, but none were positive. The National Police said it will take action against anyone who fosters panic by mailing harmless white powder, Hungarian dailies reported. MSZ

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS AGAIN TO ELECT DEPUTY SPEAKER

The governing coalition on 16 October was unable to gather a quorum in parliament, and thus the vote to elect Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) member Attila Bank to the post of deputy speaker was invalid for the second time. Opposition Socialist Party (MSZP) and Alliance of Free Democrat (SZDSZ) deputies, as well as Smallholders loyal to party Chairman Jozsef Torgyan, boycotted the vote. The MSZP and SZDSZ indicated at the first vote three weeks ago that they would not participate in a "voting comedy," saying they cannot follow the infighting within the FKGP anymore. FKGP parliamentary group leader Peter Szentgyorgyvolgyi said Bank will be nominated for deputy speaker again in three weeks time. MSZ




PRESSURE ON MACEDONIAN LEGISLATORS INCREASES AS REFERENDUM VOTE POSTPONED...

Despite an expression of support from Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, the Macedonian parliament postponed a vote on a controversial referendum as Western pressure mounts to make progress on stalled reforms agreed two months ago, Western news agencies reported on 16 October. "There are so many reasons in favor of voting for a referendum," Georgievski said. "A referendum should...be thought of as something that can resolve Macedonia's future for the next 100 years." Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson are due to arrive in Skopje on 18 October to try and revive the peace process, which has been stalled by the parliament's inability to even discuss constitutional amendments agreed in Ohrid on 13 August. DW

...WHILE POLICE TO RETURN TO REBEL-HELD AREAS SLOWLY, WITH MONITORS

Macedonian security forces will begin to move into areas held by ethnic Albanian rebels on 18 October in ethnically mixed patrols of plainclothes officers accompanied by EU and OSCE monitors, Reuters and dpa reported on 16 October. Government sources said that the initial phase of the redeployment is planned for eight low-risk villages with ethnically mixed populations in the areas of Tetovo, Skopje, and Kumanovo. Also, about 1,000 ethnic Albanian cadets were expected to return to U.S.-sponsored police training on 17 October after abandoning it last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2001) due to harassment by Macedonian reservists. Authorities agreed to remove the reservists under Western pressure, AP reported on 16 October. DW

MACEDONIAN TROOPS ACCUSED OF RANSACKING SKI RESORT

Interior and Defense ministry officials are investigating accusations that Macedonian troops stationed at the village of Popova Sapka during fighting with rebel forces ransacked and vandalized more than 100 homes belonging to ethnic Macedonians, Reuters reported on 17 October. The damage was discovered when refugees were escorted back to the area for the first time by NATO troops and international monitors on 14 October. "I was shocked because this was done by my own kind, by the same people that were meant to defend my home," said the owner of one demolished house. An Interior Ministry spokesman said: "In this case we won't just make a promise to act. All measures will be taken to punish those responsible." DW

MOB DESTROYS EU MONITORS' CAR

Macedonian police were called in to save EU monitors from an angry crowd of displaced people in Kumanovo on 17 October, which then destroyed the monitors' vehicle, dpa reported. The mob was made up of ethnic Macedonians and Serbs driven from their village of Matejce six months earlier, a police source said. The people were expecting to visit their homes, but were turned back after it was reported that 50 fighters of the formally disbanded National Liberation Army (UCK) were still there. DW

YUGOSLAV TYCOON TO RETURN FROM HIDING, DESPITE CONTINUING PROBES

Bogoljub Karic said on 16 October, one day after he and his family fled Yugoslavia fearing for their safety, that he will return to the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2001), Reuters reported. Karic said in a statement that he spoke with Serbian authorities who "convinced me that that I can safely return to the country and that all necessary protective measures will be taken." Meanwhile, investigations into the Karic family businesses continued. Radio B92 reported that the Belgrade public Prosecutor's Office has begun a criminal investigation into the business dealings of the Karic family and has requested that police and the Yugoslav National Bank cooperate in questioning relevant persons and gathering information on the Karics' BK Group. DW

BOSNIAN OFFICIAL SAYS NO EVIDENCE OF AL-QAEDA TIES

Bosnia's deputy foreign minister, Ivica Misic, said a recent spate of arrests in his country has produced no evidence linking detainees with suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, Reuters reported on 16 October. Nearly all of those detained on suspicion of links to "terrorism" have been either released or deported, though one man of Yemeni or Algerian origin taken into custody a week ago remains in detention on charges of falsifying documents in an effort to obtain Bosnian citizenship. Deputy Minister Misic said, "No, no, and no," when asked whether any cases involving Bosnians or foreigners had unearthed evidence of ties to bin Laden or his Al-Qaeda network. Senior Bosnian leaders have been battling a barrage of unconfirmed reports alleging favors granted to mujahiden fighters and possibly individuals with links to Al-Qaeda or the September terrorist attacks on the United States. Longtime political leader Alija Izetbegovic has blamed Serb and Croat hard-liners for the reports, alleging an effort to exploit world anger over terrorism to destroy Bosnia. AH

'CREDIBLE THREAT' SHUTS DOWN U.S. EMBASSY IN SARAJEVO

American officials on 17 October shut down the U.S. Embassy in Bosnia and two other satellite offices in Mostar and Banja Luka, following what an unnamed official called "a credible threat," AP reported. The facilities will remain closed until further notice, the agency added. AH

BOSNIAN-CROATIAN JOURNALISTS ORGANIZATION CONDEMNS ATTACK ON REPORTER

The Bosnian Croatian Journalists Association has strongly condemned a 15 October attack on a reporter, allegedly by Ivica Artmagic, a former leader of the Mostar branch of the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia-Herzegovina (HDZ) party, Hina reported on 16 October. The group urged the appropriate authorities to punish the assailant, who physically assaulted Boro Jelic, a reporter for the Usora radio station and a correspondent for the Croatian daily "Slobodna Dalmacija," the agency added. A source at Jelic's radio station said Artmagic had previously threatened the station's workers as they reported local police statements regarding Artmagic's activities. AH

ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE DENIES REPORTS ON NUCLEAR TRAFFICKING

Media reports claiming that Romania's territory is being used for the purpose of smuggling nuclear materials are attempts to discredit the country's international image, Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) spokesman Marius Bercaru told Mediafax on 16 October. Bercaru reacted to a report by the Moldovan BASA Press claiming that Interpol is investigating the trafficking of nuclear materials between the Transdniester and Bosnia via Romania. BASA Press attributed the reports to Italian media. It cited Paolo Sartori, the chief of Italian Interpol, as saying in an interview on national television that the investigation began after a group belonging to Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda organization was uncovered in Bosnia. MS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT DENIES ANY INTENTION TO ISOLATE ROMA

Public Information Minister Vasile Dancu said on 16 October that the government has "no intention whatever" to isolate the country's Romany minority and will oppose any such intention on the part of local authorities, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Dancu said the Piatra-Neamt project provides for building apartments for 400 ethnic Romanians alongside 100 Roma and is by no means a project aimed at the "ghettoization" of the Romany population. He said declarations to that effect made by Piatra Neamt Mayor Ion Rotaru are "merely reflecting his personal electoral strategy," and added that if Rotaru moves to implement the isolation of the town's Romany minority, the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, of which he is a member, will sanction the mayor. Mediafax reported that local authorities in Baia-Mare and Deva have announced similar plans to move their Romany population to town outskirts. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS GOVERNMENT WILL ENCOURAGE FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski told a forum on economic development in Southeastern Europe that his government will take new measures aimed at luring foreign investment to Bulgaria, AP and BTA reported on 16 October. The premier said new legislation encouraging foreign investment is about to be submitted to the parliament and the cabinet is discussing a new privatization law that guarantees both speed and transparency. He also said international accounting standards will be introduced in Bulgaria and the number of licenses needed for starting a business will be drastically reduced. Saxecoburggotski said fiscal stability will be guaranteed by a new $840 million standby agreement with the IMF, which he expects to be finalized by the end of 2001. MS

BULGARIAN REACTOR SWITCHED OFF

A reactor at the Kozlodui nuclear power plant was switched off on 16 October because of a leak in its cooling system, AP reported. An official statement by the plant's management said the leak "is not related to, and has not influenced, nuclear and radiation safety." MS




There is no End Note today.





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