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Newsline - October 31, 2001




300 YOUTHS STAGE POGROM IN MOSCOW AGAINST NORTH CAUCASIANS

Two people were killed and at least 15 were injured on 30 October when 300 young people burst into a Moscow market and beat people from the North Caucasus selling goods there, Interfax-Moscow reported. The attack at the market near Tsaritsyno metro station began at approximately 10:30 p.m. Moscow time. Interior Ministry officers arrived on the scene and have increased the guard force there. Several of the participants have been detained, officials said. PG

FALSE ANTHRAX REPORTS IN RUSSIA PROVING COSTLY...

According to a report in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 30 October, false reports of anthrax are costing the Russian budget tens of thousands of rubles. PG

...AS RUSSIA READY TO SELL ANTHRAX DECONTAMINATION EQUIPMENT TO U.S.

Gennadii Mesyats, the vice president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told ITAR-TASS on 30 October that Russia is prepared to sell the United States special equipment that can simultaneously sterilize over 200,000 letters. Mesyats said he expects a contract to be signed in the near future. He also noted that similar equipment developed by the Novosibirsk Nuclear Physics Institute has already been sold to the United States. PG

FOREIGN MINISTER REPEATS MOSCOW'S OPPOSITION TO ANY TALIBAN PARTICIPATION IN FUTURE AFGHAN GOVERNMENT...

Igor Ivanov said on 29 October that Russia remains opposed to any participation of the Taliban, "even the so-called 'moderates'" in a future Afghan government, Interfax reported. He said the majority of countries around the world share this point of view. Meanwhile, Russian Border Guards commanders reported that both the Taliban and the Northern Alliance continue to engage in cross-border drug trade, the news service said the same day. PG

...LOOKS FORWARD TO PROGRESS AT U.S.-RUSSIA SUMMIT

Ivanov said on 29 October that Moscow looks forward to progress at the upcoming U.S.-Russia summit in Texas and toward making relations between the two countries "stable, predictable, and constructive," Russian agencies reported on 30 October. He repeated that it is Moscow's view that the 1972 ABM Treaty remains "a key element" for the preservation of strategic stability, but he added that "the situation in the world is changing and our relations with the U.S. are changing as well." PG

ZYUGANOV SAYS U.S. FOLLOWING PATH OF 'FUEHRER'

Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said on 30 October that the United States today is "pursuing not the path of Roosevelt but rather the way of a fuehrer who attempts to force all the governments of the planet into ranks and to give them orders," Interfax reported. Meanwhile, four State Duma deputies -- two from Russian Regions, one from the Communist Party, and one from the Agro-Industrial group -- submitted a resolution to the Duma calling on the U.S. to end its bombing strikes against Afghanistan, the news service said. PG

RUSSIA, LIBYA DENOUNCE TERRORISM, AGREE TO PUTIN-GHADAFFI SUMMIT

Foreign Minister Ivanov and his visiting Libyan counterpart Abdel Rahman Shalqam on 30 October denounced terrorism, ITAR-TASS reported. They also discussed the situation in Afghanistan and agreed to prepare for a future summit meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Libyan leader Muammar Ghadaffi. PG

PUTIN SAYS MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX 'ARCHAIC'

President Putin told a joint meeting of the presidium of the State Council and the Russian Security Council on 30 October that the country's military industrial complex is "archaic and does not correspond to contemporary military-political tasks," Interfax reported. He noted that only 20 percent of plants are functioning and that many must be closed down. He called for the introduction of modern management methods to improve the situation. Meanwhile, in an interview published in "Trud" the same day, Moscow Oblast Governor Boris Gromov said that a special organ should be created to coordinate the activities of the military-industrial complex. And Chelyabinsk Oblast Governor Petr Sumin said the government will prepare an annual report to the president on the conditions in the military-industrial sector, Interfax reported. PG/VY

PUTIN SEES RUSSIAN ECONOMY GROWING...

President Putin told the Davos World Economic Forum meeting in Moscow on 30 October that Russia's economy is on the upswing, that Russia will be able to get by without new loans, and that it will pay all its debts. He said Russia's main international economic priority is to join the World Trade Organization, but only if this can be accomplished under favorable conditions. He also called for more direct foreign investment such as Exxon has made in the Sakhalin-1 project. VY

...PROMISES MORE REFORMS, BETTER POLICING

Putin added in his 30 October speech that Moscow plans to cut taxes further, liberalize the labor market, introduce pension reforms, restructure its banking and insurance sectors, and set up in the near future a financial intelligence service to combat money laundering and other financial crimes. VY

PUTIN TOLD RUSSIA READY FOR WINTER THIS YEAR

Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told President Putin on 30 October that Russia is ready for winter this year, that all the fuel deliveries have been completed on time, and that problems with railway transport have been overcome, Interfax reported. PG

GREF SAYS MOSCOW TO CONTINUE TO PURSUE FLOATING RUBLE STRATEGY

In an interview published in "Vedomosti" on 30 October, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said Moscow plans to continue its policy of allowing the ruble to float on currency exchanges. He noted that the government has little choice because firms now are required to convert only 50 percent of their hard-currency earnings. On 29 October, Gref said on NTV that Russia is now "remarkably more prepared for accepting foreign investment" than in the past. PG

GOVERNMENT CONSIDERING CUT IN VAT

First Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov said on 30 October that the government is considering the possibility of reducing value added tax (VAT) from 20 percent to 16 or 17 percent if the 10 percent privileged VAT rate is not restored, ITAR-TASS reported. That privileged rate is what media outlets stand to lose in January 2002. PG

RISING NARCOTICS CRIME PROMPTS DUMA TO CONSIDER HARSHER PUNISHMENTS

The Duma is currently considering 14 different draft laws that dramatically increase punishment for those found guilty of drug-related crimes, "Vremya novostei" reported on 30 October. The same day, Interfax reported that the number of drug crimes in Russia in the first three quarters of 2001 is up 4.5 percent over the number during the same period a year ago. PG

DUMA TO HOLD DECEMBER HEARINGS ON SALE OF FARMLAND

The Duma Council on 30 October agreed to a proposal of the Fatherland-All Russia faction to hold hearings on 24 December on the issue of buying and selling agricultural land, Interfax reported. The hearings are intended to help develop legislation to introduce market relations in agriculture, the news service said. PG

DUMA BUDGET COMMITTEE DEPUTY PROBED FOR CORRUPTION

First Deputy Prosecutor-General Yurii Biryukov said on 30 October that his office has lodged criminal charges against Vladimir Golovlev, a Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) deputy who serves as deputy chairman of the Duma Budget Committee, Interfax reported. Biryukov said he has asked the Duma to lift Golovlev's immunity so he can be tried for corruption, embezzlement, and abuse of office while he served as head of the privatization agency in Chelyabinsk Oblast in 1996. The Duma is scheduled to consider this request later this week. VY

NEW CENTRIST PARTY LOOKS EVER MORE LIKE 'A PARTY OF A NEW TYPE'

Articles in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and "Izvestiya" on 30 October said the centrist party planned around a union of Fatherland, Unity, and All-Russia will most likely enforce strict discipline and have clearly defined hierarchies, thereby resembling "a party of a new type or a party of the totalitarian type." PG

YABLOKO DISSIDENTS PROMISE TO BACK PUTIN

Duma deputy Vyacheslav Igrunov and former head of the Yabloko youth organization Andrei Sharomov, both of whom broke with the Yabloko party because of their disagreements with party leader Grigorii Yavlinsky, have organized their own, as yet unnamed political structure, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 30 October. The two said they expect to attract more disaffected Yabloko members to their cause and added that they will support and cooperate with the government and the Kremlin. PG

PEOPLE'S PARTY OFFICIALLY REGISTERED

The Justice Ministry on 30 October officially registered the People's Party of the Russian Federation, Interfax reported. It thus became the first party to register under the new political parties law, its leader Gennadii Raikov said. PG

MIRONOV WANTS OMBUDSMAN FOR MEDIA

Oleg Mironov, the human rights ombudsman for the Russian Federation, told journalists on 29 October that he believes there should be a similar official to protect the mass media, RIA-Novosti reported. VY

RUSSIA, NORTH KOREA SIGN ENERGY ACCORD

Vostokenergo Director Viktor Manakov told RIA-Novosti on 30 October that Moscow and Pyongyang have signed an agreement on the integration of the electrical grids of the two countries. Russia will modify the existing North Korean network to bring it into correspondence with Russian standards. VY

MOSCOW CITY OFFICIALS NO LONGER ALLOWED TO DISCUSS PROPERTY ISSUES WITH EMBASSIES

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 30 October issued a directive prohibiting municipal officials from discussing property issues with foreign embassies, Interfax-Moscow reported. All such contacts are to be handled in future exclusively by the Foreign Ministry, as was the case in the USSR. PG

DAY OF MEMORY FOR POLITICAL REPRESSION VICTIMS MARKED

Human rights activists and others in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other cities on 30 October marked the Day of Memory of the Victims of Political Repression, Russian agencies reported. In some places, they staged meetings; in others, they called attention to the number of victims who have survived but have not yet been rehabilitated. PG

INCOMES UP, INCOME POLARIZATION DECLINES SLIGHTLY

The percentage of Russians earning more than 3,000 rubles ($100) a month rose from 15.9 percent in 2000 to 30.8 percent in 2001, the State Statistics Committee told Interfax on 30 October. At the same time, income polarization declined slightly, with the incomes of the highest paid 10 percent now totaling 33.5 percent of all wages and salaries, down 0.8 percent from 2000. Meanwhile, incomes of the bottom 10 percent in the income pyramid continue to total 2.4 percent of all wages and salaries, the committee said. PG

RUSSIA TO EXPORT NO MORE THAN 3 MILLION TONS OF GRAIN

In the face of stiff competition from Ukraine and Kazakhstan, Russia this year will export no more than 3 million tons of grain, export officials told Interfax on 30 October. PG

RUSSIAN RAW MATERIAL EXPORTS SAID LIKELY TO BECOME LESS COMPETITIVE IN TIME

In an interview published in "Vremya MN" on 30 October, Viktor Danilov-Danilian, the president of the International Ecological-Political Science University, said that in the coming decades Russia's raw materials will become uncompetitive on world markets because of the restrictions on the extraction and processing that membership in the World Trade Organization will impose on this sector of the Russian economy. For the time being, Deputy Prime Minister Khristenko said on 30 October, Russia expects OPEC to maintain price stability in the oil sector, Interfax reported. PG

MORE BODIES, EVIDENCE RECOVERED FROM 'KURSK'

Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said on 30 October that investigators have found another farewell letter by one of the lost crewmembers of the "Kursk" submarine and also recovered logbooks from the hull, RTR reported. The same day, both electronic and print media outlets in Russia continued to report that the evidence found so far increasingly points to a collision with a foreign submarine as the cause of the sinking of the Russian submarine in August 2000. As of 30 October, officials have removed a total of 59 bodies from the "Kursk," Russian and Western agencies reported. Thirty-two of them have already been identified, and some were buried the same day, Interfax reported. The same day, six more missiles were removed from the "Kursk." VY/PG

75 PERCENT OF RUSSIAN OFFICIALS TAKE BRIBES

"Kommersant-Vlast" reported on 30 October that recent surveys show that 75 percent of all Russian officials take bribes but only 0.4 percent of them are punished in any way. The weekly noted that bribing all those willing to take money requires $49 million a month, more than the cost of keeping them all in custody for 15 days. VY

KUDRIN SAYS HALF OF RUSSIAN BANKS DO NOT MEET WORLD ACCOUNTING STANDARDS

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said on 30 October that he estimates that "only half of the existing banks [in Russia] will be able to meet the norms" of international accounting rules that are scheduled to be introduced in Russia in 2004, Interfax-AFI reported. PG

MOSCOW SAID NOT INTERESTED IN RAPID EXPORT OF CASPIAN OIL

Maksim Korobov, the deputy chairman of the Duma Natural Resources Committee, said in an interview published in "Gazeta" on 30 October that Russia is not interested in having the oil from the Caspian basin exported in the near future to the West. Such exports, Korobov said, would only send oil prices down further. Moreover, they would work against Russia's geopolitical interests in the area by giving the United States and other Western countries greater influence over governments in the region. PG

MORTALITY RATES FOR WORKING-AGE MALES 'WEAK LINK' IN RUSSIA'S DEMOGRAPHIC PICTURE

Yevgenii Andreev, the head of the laboratory for the analysis and prognosis of mortality at the Moscow Institute of Economic Prognostication, said on 30 October that "mortality of men of working age is the weakest link in the demographic situation in Russia," Interfax reported. Meanwhile, First Deputy Health Minister Gennadii Onishchenko said the same day that Russia faces serious problems with outbreaks of viral hepatitis, the news service said. PG

ALEKSII WANTS ORTHODOX CULTURE TAUGHT TO RUSSIANS, MUSLIM CULTURE TO MUSLIMS IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS

Patriarch Aleksii II on 30 October called for the introduction of Orthodox culture as a subject of instruction in Russian secondary schools and of Muslim culture in schools located in the country's Muslim regions, Interfax reported. Such instruction, he said, will help students orient themselves in the world today. Meanwhile, government officials said they are considering building an Orthodox church on the grounds of the Russian Embassy in Washington, the news service reported. PG

RUMORS ABOUT GAZPROM HEAD DENIED

"Vedomosti" on 30 October said that the claims by two websites the day before that Aleksei Miller of Gazprom has resigned are completely untrue. The paper said the government is "confident" that someone was trying to launch an intrigue against the Gazprom CEO. But while the rumors were untrue, they sent the value of Gazprom shares down 2.5 percent on 29 October, the paper said. PG

PROSECUTORS AGAIN SEEK TO BAN JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES

Prosecutors on 30 October launched another attempt in a Moscow court to strip the Jehovah's Witnesses denomination of its registration as a religious group, Interfax reported. Prosecutors earlier tried over 30 months to convince a Moscow court that the group is stirring up interconfessional conflicts. Prosecutors appealed against that ruling, and on 30 May 2001, a superior court ordered a new hearing, which began this week. PG

40,000 DESERTERS SAID A MAJOR SOURCE OF CRIME

According to an article in "Rossiya" on 30 October, the Soldiers' Mothers Committee believe that there are currently some 40,000 deserters in Russia, even though military prosecutors file 2,000 to 2,500 cases against such deserters every year. Moreover, these deserters are a serious threat to society: military judicial authorities report that almost one-third of the deserters commit crimes. Meanwhile, Interfax reported the same day that more than one-quarter of the sailors who died in the Baltic Fleet this year had committed suicide. The Fleet's press service chief, Anatolii Lobskii, characterized the increase in the number of officers, sailors, and contract employees who kill themselves as especially dangerous. PG

MOSCOW WIRED, RUSSIA NOT

According to a survey conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 30 October, 97 percent of Muscovites have a telephone at home while only 43 percent of other Russians do. The survey also found that 20 percent of the residents of the Russian capital have home computers, compared with only 5 percent of those living outside Moscow. PG

UZBEK AMBASSADOR'S LIMOUSINE STOLEN IN MOSCOW

A black Mercedes-Benz belonging to Uzbekistan's ambassador to Russia was stolen in Moscow during the night of 28-29 October, Interfax reported the following day. LF

TATAR GROUP REPORTS DOZENS OF VOLUNTEERS FOR THE TALIBAN...

Rafis Kashapov, the chairman of the moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center branch in Naberezhnye Chelny, told reporters in Kazan on 30 October that some 70 people of various nationalities have approached his group over the last month wanting to fight against the United States on the side of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Interfax-Eurasia reported. However, Kashapov said that, since his group is a public organization and not engaged in recruitment, he is not working with the would-be volunteers. JAC

...AS STAVROPOL AUTHORITIES BRACE FOR BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS ATTACK

Aleksandr Sulimov, a department head within Stavropol Krai's Federal Security Service directorate, said on 30 October that Russian intelligence agents have received information that terrorists are preparing to conduct "terrorist acts of a biological nature," regions.ru reported. According to Sulimov, the terrorists, whom he did not identify, are expected to travel through Chechnya to Stavropol. He added that he does not exclude the possibility that anthrax spores will be disseminated. JAC

TATAR NATIONALIST GROUPS FACE CRIMINAL PROSECUTION FOR GATHERING

Meanwhile, the office of the prosecutor-general in Tatarstan is preparing materials to present in court against some of the organizers of meetings and activities in Kazan held on 14 October to mourn those who defended the city against Ivan the Terrible in 1552 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2001). According to the prosecutor's press service, organizers such as the All-Tatar Public Center, People's Front, and Idel-Ural gave speeches and used slogans, which "threatened the constitutional security and territorial wholeness of the Russian Federation." According to regions.ru, the organizers of the action will be accused of violating Tatarstan regulations on conducting public meetings and demonstrations. If found guilty, the organizers face a fine of five minimum wages or two months of corrective labor. According to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau, some demonstrators called for the creation an Idel-Ural confederation, the rejection of Russian passports, and the transfer of law enforcement and military bodies to local authorities. JAC

DEPUTY GOVERNOR IN ST. PETERSBURG DISMISSED PENDING OUTCOME OF BRIBERY INVESTIGATION

St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Valerii Malyshev has been suspended from his duties following orders from the Prosecutor-General's Office for the Northwestern federal district, Interfax reported on 30 October. The St. Petersburg governor's press service told the agency that Malyshev will be suspended for the duration of the investigation into whether he accepted a bribe, but his suspension is not an acknowledgment of guilt. News of the Prosecutor Office's investigation surfaced last July, when some media reported that investigators are particularly interested in Malyshev's relationship with several city banks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2001). JAC

INDEPENDENT MEDIA IN SAKHA UNDER POLITICAL PRESSURE

Officials from a local communications inspectorate on 30 October suspended broadcasts of the independent Viktoriya radio station in Yakutsk, Ren-TV reported. The communications officials claim the suspension was necessary because the station lacks the proper technical documents. In addition, according to Ren-TV, they are trying to get the Media Ministry to pull the station's broadcasting license once and for all. However, station General Director Aleksandr Glotov said the real reason for the suspension is that local authorities are trying to control independent media during the lead-up to 23 December presidential elections. Vyacheslav Zhevalun, the acting general director of a joint stock company that controls the independent CTC TV station, concurs. He said communications inspectors are conducting inspections more frequently, and have asked that a report about one candidate, Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasilii Kolmogorov, be aired. According to some media outlets, Kolmogorov is the candidate preferred by the Kremlin (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 10 October 2001). JAC

SENIOR OFFICIAL, BANKER ASSASSINATED IN DAGHESTAN

Daghestan National Assembly Deputy Chairman Arsen Kamaev and Abdulkhalif Musaev, who headed Promstroibank's Daghestan branch, were gunned down on a street in Makhachkala late in the evening of 30 October, Caucasus Press reported. LF

RUSSIAN HELICOPTER CREWS QUESTIONED OVER CIVILIAN DEATHS

The crews of three Russian military helicopters are being questioned about the 27 October deaths of a woman and a four-year-old boy near the village of Komsomolskoe, Chechen Prosecutor-General Vsevolod Chernov told Interfax on 30 October. The helicopter crewmembers claim they fired warning shots at a car in a bid to halt it, then again opened fire when the driver tried to escape, wounding the passengers whom they then transported to a hospital. Residents of Komsomolskoe and other villages picketed the Chechen administration building in Gudermes on 29 October to protest those deaths and other cases of the death or disappearance of local residents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2001). Also on 29 October, the pro-Moscow Chechen administration's consultative council appealed to the Russian authorities to set up a special commission to investigate crimes committed by the Russian military against the Chechen civilian population, Interfax reported. LF




ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT BUDGET FOR 2002

Meeting in a special session on 30 October, the Armenian government approved the draft budget for 2002, which must be submitted to parliament by 1 November, according to Caspian News Agency and Mediamax, as cited by Groong. The draft sets revenues at 214.3 billion drams ($380 million), an increase from this year's level of 193 billion, and expenditures at 257.7 billion drams, which is the same as in 2001. Finance Minister Vartan Khachatrian said on 29 October the budget parameters "seem to satisfy" the IMF delegation that visited Yerevan last week, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 29 October. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT FAILS TO APPEAR AT DIPLOMATIC FUNCTION...

Heidar Aliyev failed at the last minute to attend the official ceremony on 29 October marking Turkey's Republic Day, Turan reported on 30 October. His absence has refueled rumors that the 78-year-old president's health is failing. LF

...RECEIVES TELEPHONE CALL FROM U.S. PRESIDENT

U.S. President George W. Bush telephoned Aliyev on 30 October to thank him for his support for the U.S.-led campaign against international terrorism, Turan reported. Aliyev for his part made clear that he wants Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, which bars direct U.S. government aid to Azerbaijan as long as Azerbaijan blockades Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, repealed. Congress voted last week to allow Bush to waive that restriction in the interests of helping Azerbaijan secure its borders and contribute more effectively to the antiterrorism campaign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2001). LF

GEORGIAN SECURITY OFFICIALS RAID INDEPENDENT TV STATION...

In the morning of 30 October, some 30 National Security Ministry officials forced their way into the premises of the independent Georgian TV station Rustavi-2 and conducted a two-hour search, Reuters reported. National Security Ministry official Malkhaz Salakaya said the raid was prompted by suspicion that the station has withheld some 1 million laris ($480,000) in taxes, but Rustavi-2 General Director Nika Tabatadze said an audit the previous week failed to uncover any irregularities. LF

...PROVOKING PUBLIC OUTCRY

Parliament deputies and NGOs immediately condemned the raid on Rustavi-2's premises as an attempt to silence a media outlet widely respected for its hard-hitting but objective reporting, an accusation the National Security Ministry denied in a statement released later the same day. Hundreds of citizens of Tbilisi congregated at the TV station's headquarters ready to thwart any further reprisals against it. The parliament's Human Rights Committee met in emergency session to discuss the implications of the raid, which parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania termed an act of political persecution, Reuters and Caucasus Press reported. On 31 October, thousands of people congregated in central Tbilisi to protest the raid against Rustavi-2. They then marched on the parliament building, where the parliament bureau called on Zhvania to ask President Eduard Shevardnadze to convene an emergency parliament session on 1 November. Deputies demanded that Shevardnadze also attend that session. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DOWNPLAYS DANGER TO FREE SPEECH...

In a statement read on Georgian National Television later on 30 October, President Shevardnadze proposed conducting an independent audit of Rustavi-2's finances, and sought to reassure the population that "as long as I remain president, freedom of speech in Georgia will not be in danger," Reuters and Caucasus Press reported. Rustavi-2 President Erosi Kitsmarishvili accused Shevardnadze on 30 October of ordering the raid, recalling that during a conversation in August Shevardnadze had implied that the station was guilty of withholding taxes, Caucasus Press reported. LF

...AS PARLIAMENT SPEAKER WARNS OF POSSIBLE COUP...

Addressing parliament on 30 October, speaker Zhvania suggested that the move against Rustavi-2 presaged a coup d'etat that would render the parliament superfluous, Caucasus Press reported. He said the struggle against corruption has triggered a counteroffensive aimed against civil society and freedom of speech, according to Reuters. In recent months Zhvania has consistently sought to exert pressure on Shevardnadze by highlighting the latter's apparent inability to counter corruption and malpractice (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 31, 10 September 2001). LF

...AND MINISTER RESPONSIBLE STEPS DOWN

National Security Minister Kutateladze announced his resignation following a 31 October session of the National Security Council during which Zhvania called on both Kutateladze and Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze to step down, Caucasus Press reported. But parliament deputy Tedo Paatashvili argued that Kutateladze, being "a professional," could not have acted on his own initiative. Paatashvili said Targaamadze and Prosecutor-General Gia Meparishvili should also resign. Rustavi-2 General Director Tabatadze claimed last week that Targamadze had threatened in a telephone conversation to "destroy" the TV station, but later shrugged off that threat as "a joke" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 2001). LF

GEORGIA DENIES WOUNDED CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER IN RUSTAVI

The Georgian State Security Ministry issued a statement in Tbilisi on 30 October rejecting as untrue Abkhaz claims that Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev, who is believed to have played a key role in the fighting in the Kodori gorge earlier this month, is undergoing hospital treatment in the town of Rustavi southeast of Tbilisi, Interfax reported. Abkhaz officials claimed earlier that Gelaev had been evacuated by helicopter from Kodori to Tbilisi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2001). LF

SOUTH CAUCASUS FOREIGN MINISTERS FEAR ANTITERROR CAMPAIGN WILL ECLIPSE REGIONAL PROBLEMS

During talks in Luxembourg on 30 October with EU officials, the foreign ministers of the three South Caucasus states expressed concern lest the international focus on Afghanistan eclipse the problems posed by unresolved conflicts in their region, Reuters reported. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili accused Russia of taking advantage of the current world situation to further its own interests. Belgian Deputy Foreign Minister Annemie Neyts told a subsequent news conference that "both Georgia and the EU express their grave concern" over recent violations of Georgian airspace and the bombing of villages in the Kodori gorge. "We want the incursions to stop," Neyts said. But she stopped short of naming Russia as responsible for those raids. Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said "we are concerned about the exploitation by our adversaries, especially Azerbaijan, of the terrorism issue and trying to put the Karabakh conflict in that context...in the hope of gaining the sympathy of the international community." He said that approach is "wrong," and could "become a self-fulfilling prophecy" for Azerbaijan. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT TOURS ATYRAU, ANNOUNCES NEW OIL-SECTOR STRATEGY

Touring the western oblast of Atyrau on 30 October, President Nursultan Nazarbaev said that in future oilfields in Kazakhstan may be developed only by local companies or joint ventures, meaning that wholly foreign-owned consortia will not be eligible to do so, Interfax reported. But he added that Kazakhstan will continue to solicit foreign investment to modernize the oil-extraction and refining sector. He also said that the involvement of foreign companies engaged in the oil sector must be "totally transparent." LF

KAZAKHSTAN, RUSSIA RESOLVE VAT PROBLEM BEDEVILING GAS EXPORTS

Kazakhstan's State Revenues Ministry and the Russian Finance Ministry have signed a memorandum of understanding that provides for levying VAT on natural gas from the Karachaganak deposit exported to Russia only in Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan's State Revenues Minister Zeinulla Kakimzhanov told the lower house of Kazakhstan's parliament on 30 October, according to Interfax. The British-Italian-U.S.-Russian consortium developing Karachaganak suspended gas extraction in early September after the imposition of dual taxation that Kazakhstan's Customs Committee Chairman Maratkali Nukenov estimated cost Kazakhstan $5 million every month. LF

U.S. PROVIDES HUMANITARIAN AID FOR KYRGYZSTAN

The U.S. on 30 October delivered to Bishkek a shipment of humanitarian aid worth $5 million to be shared among some 50 hospitals in Bishkek and elsewhere in the country, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. A U.S. official said in Bishkek the same day that Washington will increase humanitarian aid to Kyrgyzstan in 2002, and will provide assistance to any refugees from Afghanistan who seek refuge in Kyrgyzstan. LF

TAJIK GOVERNMENT AMENDS STATE OF EMERGENCY BILL

A government session on 30 October chaired by President Imomali Rakhmonov amended the draft bill on a state of emergency to provide for restricting foreigners' entry into the country and for intensifying passport control in border areas in the event of increased tension in border regions due to the ongoing war in Afghanistan, Interfax reported. LF

U.S. GENERAL VISITS UZBEKISTAN...

General Tommy Franks, the commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, met in Tashkent on 30 October with President Islam Karimov and the foreign and defense ministers for what Franks later told journalists proved to be "wide-ranging fruitful discussions" of the ongoing U.S.-led antiterrorist operation against Afghanistan and the prospects for future bilateral military contacts, RFE/RL's Tashkent bureau reported. LF

...AND TAJIKISTAN

On 31 October, General Franks met in Dushanbe with President Rakhmonov to discuss the antiterrorism campaign and unspecified aspects of the political and military situation in Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported. On 30 October, the Tajik government issued a statement denying that U.S. and allied warplanes will be allowed to use an airfield in the southern region of Kulyab, according to ITAR-TASS. The statement stressed that Tajikistan has offered the use of its airspace and airfields only to aircraft engaged in transporting humanitarian aid. LF




LUKASHENKA READY TO SELL PETROCHEMICAL GIANTS TO RUSSIA

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 30 October promised his assistance in reorganizing the Palimir petrochemical plant in Navapolatsk, northern Belarus, Belapan reported. Lukashenka said the government plans to merge Palimir with the Navapolatsk-based Naftan oil refinery and transform them into a joint stock company. He added that he has already concluded a preliminary agreement to that effect with Russian businessmen who are ready to invest in Belarus's petrochemical industry. Lukashenka noted that if potential investors propose scenarios that could benefit Belarus, he will support the idea of privatizing Palimir and Naftan. JM

BELARUSIAN CHIEF BANKER ASSURES IMF OF LIBERALIZATION PROGRESS

National Bank Chairman Pyotr Prakapovich on 30 October said the government has recently taken some steps to liberalize Belarus's economy, Belarusian Television reported. He cited the adoption of an Investment Code as well as recent decisions on attracting investment and shortening the list of licensed business as examples of that liberalization. Prakapovich was speaking with the IMF's European II Department head, Marta de Castello-Branco, who is currently in Minsk to hold consultations with the government prior to making a decision on an IMF loan program for Belarus. JM

BELARUS SEEN AS TOP SUPPLIER OF ARMS TO ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS

Belarus is the largest supplier of weapons to Islamic radicals, dpa reported on 30 October, quoting U.S. and Israeli intelligence sources. According to those sources, in the first half of 2001, Minsk inked over $500 million worth of arms-supply deals with Arab, Palestinian, and Albanian Muslim extremists. "Belarus is one of the most secretive countries in its weapons deals and probably one of the most irresponsible countries you can think of," the agency quoted Siemon Wezemen, an expert on arms proliferation, as saying. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER CONTINUES U.S. TRIP

U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill assured Anatoliy Kinakh in Washington, D.C., on 30 October that the U.S. is ready to provide expert assistance to Ukraine in combating money laundering, New Channel television reported. Kinakh emphasized during the talks that Kyiv wants to enter the World Trade Organization. Kinakh's main objective during his three-day visit is to persuade Washington to give Ukraine the status of a country with a market economy, which would mean lower tariffs and larger quotas for Ukrainian goods in the United States. The same day, Kinakh also met with World Bank President James Wolfensohn. Ukrainian Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov commented that the talks with the World Bank are the most successful and constructive in the last several years. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION BILL, BUT WITH OBJECTIONS

Leonid Kuchma has signed into law a bill on parliamentary election that was passed by the parliament earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 23 October 2001), Interfax reported on 30 October, quoting presidential spokesman Ihor Storozhuk. Storozhuk told journalists that Kuchma simultaneously asked the parliament "to urgently introduce a number of amendments" to the bill in order to hold next year's parliamentary election "with full observance of Ukraine's Constitution and legislation." In particular, Kuchma proposed to change the procedure for forming precinct election commissions and cancel the clause banning the participation in elections of parties that were set up less than one year before the election date. JM

UKRAINE DESTROYS LAST SS-24 MISSILE SILO

On 30 October, in Pervomaysk Raion of Mykolayiv Oblast, Ukrainian field engineers blew up the last of the country's 46 silos that were built to launch SS-24 intercontinental ballistic missiles, Ukrainian media reported. In this way Ukraine met its international commitment to liquidate its strategic offensive arms. The same day, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Volodymyr Mykhtyuk and John Connell, the director of the program for elimination of strategic arms in Ukraine, signed a document providing for U.S. assistance of $30 million toward the dismantling of Ukraine's infrastructure used to construct SS-19 and SS-24 missiles. UNIAN reported that the U.S. also pledged its assistance in destroying Ukraine's 47 Tu-22 heavy bombers. JM

COMMUNISTS WANT U.S. AMBASSADOR OUT OF UKRAINE

The Communist Party of Ukraine has called on the Foreign Ministry to declare U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual persona non grata for interfering in Ukraine's internal affairs, Ukrainian media reported on 30 October. Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko said Pascual has grossly interfered in the country's affairs by sending a letter to the Ukrainian parliament and urging the "so-called parliamentary majority" to adopt laws on curbing copyright violations. According to Symonenko, some legislative provisions designed to crack down on Ukraine's market in pirated video, audio, and computer software were inspired or even dictated by U.S. experts. The U.S. previously indicated that it could impose sanctions over Kyiv's inability to curb the piracy of intellectual property. JM

UKRAINIAN MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX CHIEF CALLS FOR CIVILIAN DEFENSE MINISTER

Volodymyr Horbulin, the head of the State Commission for the Military-Industrial Complex, said on 30 October that he is ready to assume the post of defense minister, following last week's dismissal of Oleksandr Kuzmuk over the accidental downing of a Russian passenger plane. Horbulin added, however, that this post has not been offered to him. Horbulin believes that Ukraine's defense minister must be a civilian. "I believe that the military is simply unable to carry out reform, without which the existence of the Ukrainian armed forces is impossible," One Plus One television quoted Horbulin as saying. JM

ABB SELECTED TO LAY ESTONIAN-FINNISH POWER CABLE

The consortium of seven energy companies planning to link the energy power systems of the Baltic states and Scandinavia via an electric power cable between Estonia and Finland (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2001), on 30 October selected the international concern ABB to lay the cable, ETA reported. The other bidders for the contract were Pirelli and Siemens. The cable will be nearly 70-kilometers long and have a capacity of 315 megawatts. The project, which is expected to cost about 100 million euros ($90 million), will begin next spring and should be completed by the end of 2003. SG

PRESIDENT SUPPORTS MORE LATVIAN PEACEKEEPERS IN FORMER YUGOSLAVIA

Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga told a news conference that she supports doubling the number of Latvian soldiers serving as peacekeepers in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, BNS reported on 30 October. According to Vike-Freiberga, such a move would be a firm indication that Latvia is ready to extend assistance and not just wait for protection from NATO. Her statement was prompted by the U.S. call on ambassadors of NATO candidate and member states to help relieve peacekeeping operations in the former Yugoslavia. The president suggested that Latvia could send two companies instead of its single company of nearly 200 soldiers currently serving in Bosnia. SG

LITHUANIA'S POPULATION HAS FALLEN BY 5 PERCENT SINCE 1989

The deputy director of the Statistics Department, Petras Adlys, announced on 30 October that the preliminary results of the census conducted in April 2001 indicate that Lithuania has 3,491,000 permanent residents, ELTA reported. This is 5 percent less than the 3,674,802 permanent residents recorded in the January 1989 census. Adlys said the decrease of 184,000 residents is the result of a number of factors, including the end of the Soviet tradition of padding population figures, the departure of some 50,000 Soviet soldiers, and the emigration of some 120,000 to 130,000 people. City populations decreased by 142,000, with the greatest fall being the 9 percent decline recorded in Kaunas. The rural population fell by 42,000. The population decline in Lithuania is considerably less than that of Estonia and Latvia, which recorded 12 and 11 percent drops respectively over the same time period. SG

POLISH CENTRIST GROUPING TRANSFORMS INTO PARTY

The Civic Platform (PO) has passed a new statute proclaiming it a political party, PAP reported on 30 October. The agency added that the PO will now seek court registration. The PO, which was created earlier this year by Andrzej Olechowski, Donald Tusk, and Maciej Plazynski, absorbed some activists and groups of the former Solidarity-led ruling coalition, including the Conservative Peasant Party (SKL). The SKL criticized the PO statute as undemocratic, saying it will decide at a congress in January whether to leave the PO. The centrist liberal PO won 63 parliamentary mandates in the 23 September elections and is the Sejm's second largest force after the leftist bloc of the Democratic Left Alliance and the Labor Union. JM

EU WELCOMES POLAND'S FLEXIBILITY ON LAND SALES

The European Commission on 30 October welcomed with satisfaction Poland's announcement to give up the requirement in EU membership talks for a transition period on the sale of land for industrial investments, PAP reported. EU diplomats told the agency that such a possibility was presented by Poland's chief EU negotiator, Jan Truszczynski, at the European Commission's closed-door session in Brussels last week. On 29 October, Malgorzata Alterman, spokeswoman of the Polish mission at the EU, told journalists that "the government has not made any decision to this effect," but she admitted that Truszczynski signaled to the EU that Poland may withdraw the requirement for a transition period on the sale of land for investments if the EU also "shows flexibility." JM

U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION CONCERNED ABOUT 'RESPEKT AFFAIR' IN CZECH REPUBLIC

Congressman Christopher Smith, the co-chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, has expressed "concern" over plans by the Czech government to file multiple lawsuits against the weekly "Respekt," CTK reported on 30 October. Smith wrote that "using criminal charges against journalists to punish them for what they write is simply inconsistent with OSCE standards, which the Czech Republic has freely pledged to observe." Even the threat to bring charges "chills free speech, " Smith wrote. He expressed the hope that the government in Prague will reconsider its decision. On 31 October, the World Association of Newspapers asked Prime Minister Milos Zeman in an open letter to do everything in his power to "remove criminal libels from the statute books." The letter was written in connection with the recent sentencing of former "Nove Bruntalsko" Editor in Chief Frantisek Zamecnik to 16 months in prison for libel. MS

POLL SHOWS LARGE CZECH MAJORITY BACKS U.S. ACTION IN AFGHANISTAN

Seventy percent of Czechs agree with the retaliatory action taken by the U.S. in reaction to the terrorist attack of 11 September, CTK reported of 30 October, citing a public opinion survey conducted by the CVVM institute. Twenty-one percent disagree with the action, 50 percent believe the strikes will contribute to suppressing terrorism, and 33 percent say this will not happen. Only 39 percent of those polled said they would back Czech participation in the action, and 51 percent were opposed outright. MS

CZECH GOVERNMENT'S POPULARITY SURGING

Premier Zeman's cabinet is trusted by 44 percent -- 10 percent more than one month ago, a public opinion poll released by CVVM and cited by CTK revealed on 30 October. President Vaclav Havel is trusted by 56 percent -- 2 percent more than in September, and trust in the Chamber of Deputies has also risen by three percentage points to 29 percent. The Senate remains the least trusted institution, with a popularity rating of 21 percent. MS

VERHEUGEN PRAISES CZECH PROGRESS IN EU PREPARATIONS

The European Commission's report on the Czech Republic's progress toward accession will be "definitely positive," CTK quoted Deputy Premier Vladimir Spidla as saying on 28 October following talks in Brussels with EU commissioner for enlargement Guenter Verheugen. Spidla and Verheugen discussed the forthcoming annual report of the EU, the accession talks, and the Temelin nuclear power plant. Verheugen said after the talks that the Czech Republic is a "leading country" in the accession negotiations and that these negotiations are likely to be concluded by the end of 2002, making it possible for it to become one of the first new EU members. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER SAYS RELATIONS WITH PRAGUE 'NEVER BETTER'

In an interview with the Czech daily "Hospodarske noviny" on 30 October, Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said relations between Slovaks and Czechs have "never been better than today." Dzurinda said he is satisfied with the quick solution of solving the division of the property of the former Czechoslovakia. He also said that Slovakia lags behind the Czech Republic in its economic development owing to mistakes made by the governments headed by Vladimir Meciar. Dzurinda said relations within the group of the Visegrad Four could follow the model of relations among the three Benelux countries. A similar opinion was expressed by Czech Premier Zeman, who was also interviewed by "Hospodarske noviny." Zeman said the remaining obstacles in Czech-Slovak relations will disappear once both countries join the EU, but warned that the Czech Republic "will not wait for Slovakia." MS

SLOVAKIA SAYS RELATIONS WITH HUNGARY 'ALMOST' WITHOUT PROBLEMS

Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said on 30 October that "the Hungarian Status Law is the only problem in Slovak-Hungarian relations," Hungarian media reported. Kukan said the law discriminates against other nationalities. MS

SLOVAK AUDIT FINDS NO EVIDENCE OF EU FUNDS MISMANAGEMENT

Slovak auditors have found no evidence of fraud or misconduct in the management of EU funds, AP reported on 30 October, citing TASR. The report was published five months after President Rudolf Schuster dismissed Pavol Hamzik, the former deputy premier in charge of EU integration, for failing to investigate allegations of bribes taken by one of his subordinates, Ronald Toth, in connection with the affair. Toth was also dismissed. MS

SLOVAK STATISTICAL OFFICE RELEASES CENSUS RESULTS

The census conducted in May 2001 shows that 5,379,455 people live in Slovakia. Almost 50 percent are economically active, AP and CTK reported. Compared with the 1991 census, the returns show Slovakia's population is aging and birthrates are declining. Only 92,000 -- 14,000 more than in 1991 -- declared their ethnicity as Romany, and nongovernmental Romany groups said the actual number is far higher, about 4 to 7 percent of the population. Only 218 said their ethnicity is Jewish. The percentage of Hungarians dropped from 10.8 to 9.7 and that of Czechs from 1 percent to 0.8, while 2,348 respondents gave their nationality as "Moravian." The number of Ruthenians has increased since 1991 by 0.4 percent. Unemployment is estimated at around 18 percent. The largest confessional denomination is Roman Catholic, with 3.7 million members, or 68.9 percent of the population. MS

HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DISMISSES ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT'S STATEMENT

Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, in a statement released on 30 October, said that contrary to Romanian claims, the cabinet headed by Viktor Orban has not rejected the proposals of Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase on the implementation of the Status Law and could not do so as it was never officially notified of those proposals, Hungarian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2001). Martonyi also said that the assessment of the Status Law by the Venice Commission shows it is not necessary to amend that law, but that the decrees yet to be issued on its implementation will take the commission's recommendations into consideration. He said Hungary has on several occasions initiated negotiations with its neighbors for that purpose, including Romania, but that Budapest's initiatives produced "no substantial results." MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER SAYS FIGHTER PURCHASE DECISION IS 'FINAL'

Prime Minister Orban, speaking on Hungarian radio on 31 October, said Hungary will not reconsider its decision to lease 14 Swedish-made JAS-39 Gripen supersonic fighters despite a new and cheaper offer from the United States for F-16s, Reuters reported. MS

RUSSIAN DUMA SPEAKER IN HUNGARY

Visiting Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev, in an interview with the daily "Magyar Hirlap" on 30 October, said Russia supports the struggle against international terrorism but finds "unacceptable" the U.S. position of "those who are not with us are against us." Seleznev said "international forces" should be brought together to "make the most" of the UN and the Security Council resolutions on terrorism and "work out a complete strategy" for combating those forces. Seleznev met with President Ferenc Madl, Premier Orban, and several ministers. He also met parliamentary speaker Janos Ader, who asked him to facilitate the return of Hungarian art treasures taken to Russia at the end of World War II. Seleznev told journalists that "it would be conceivable to return works of art on a reciprocal basis." MS

SMALLHOLDERS MERGE WITH SMALLHOLDERS IN HUNGARY

The leaders of the Reform Smallholders Party and the Smallholders' Federation, Katalin Liebmann and Sandor Cseh, decided on 30 October to merge their formations, both of which are formed by dissenters from Jozsef Torgyan's Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP), Hungarian media reported. They said they intend to set up a formation of "genuine Smallholder unity" and that other dissenters from the FKGP are welcome to join. "Nepszabadsag" said it is questionable whether the Smallholders and Civic Party headed by Zsolt Lanyi will join the new formation. Meanwhile, FKGP Chairman Torgyan removed Miklos Simon from his post as chairman of the FKGP Szabolcs County branch. The move follows recent meetings between Simon, FIDESZ Deputy Chairman Laszlo Kover, and several FKGP dissenters who might run on FIDESZ lists in next year's parliamentary elections. Simon is reportedly not ruling out running himself on the FIDESZ lists. MS




MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES REFORMS -- AGAIN

The parliament is slated to resume debate on a package of 15 amendments to the constitution on 31 October, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2001). The debate is likely to be stormy and last for several days. On 30 October, Vice President Abduladi Vejseli of the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD) told the news agency that his party refuses to accept any changes to the 13 August Ohrid peace agreement, thereby calling into question the latest compromise changes to the reform package negotiated by the EU. But Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski of the International Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) said the changes "satisfy the basic requests of VMRO-DPMNE." He also called for "ending the entire [parliamentary] procedure very soon." Vice President Nikola Popovski of the Social Democrats (SDSM) said that "until something has been verified by the parliament, I don't think anything has been agreed." PM

NATO FINDS ILLEGAL BOSNIAN ARMS CACHE

SFOR peacekeepers have found an arms cache near Han Pijesak, the wartime command center of indicted war criminal General Ratko Mladic, Reuters reported from Sarajevo on 30 October. It is not clear whether the weapons hoard dates back to the 1992-1995 war or is of more recent origin. A second cache is believed to be nearby in a minefield. SFOR spokesman Daryl Morrell said that "what is clear is that someone has been around the site since the war." Bosnian Serb commanders General Novica Simic and General Svetozar Andric told SFOR they know nothing about the caches, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Tuzla. PM

UN POLICE SACK SEVEN LOCAL MEN IN BOSNIA

UN police (IPTF) spokesman Stefo Lehmann said in Sarajevo on 30 October that the IPTF has fired five Bosnian Serb police in Prijedor, one in Omarska, and one Croat police commander in Odzak because "their wartime background renders them unfit for service in the police forces of Bosnia-Herzegovina," Reuters reported. The Serbs were interrogators in the Omarska concentration camp in 1992. The Croat supervised guards in the Orasje area camp. PM

BOSNIAN SERB PENSIONERS ON STRIKE

Up to 2,000 pensioners demonstrated in Banja Luka on 30 October to demand the payment of their entitlements, which they have not received for four months, AP reported. Their $51 per month pensions are not enough to make ends meet in the Republika Srpska, where, according to official statistics, a family of four needs $210 per month to live. The pensioners demanded free medical care for retirees and accused officials of insensitivity. Medical staffers are also on strike to demand the salaries they have not been paid for four months. A doctor earns $230 per month, while a nurse takes home half of that. Defense Ministry employees demonstrated recently for payment of their salaries, which they have not received for three months. PM

CROATIAN FOOD PARCELS FOR BOSNIAN MUSLIMS

In a sign of improved ties between Zagreb and Sarajevo, the Croatian government has responded to an appeal by the UNHCR and begun sending 150,000 food parcels to tens of thousands of needy Bosnian Muslims camped in tent settlements near their former homes, AP reported from Sarajevo on 30 October. PM

CROATIAN, VOJVODINA LEGISLATORS MEET

Zlatko Tomcic, the speaker of the Croatian parliament, met in Sremska Mitrovica on 30 October with his counterpart from Vojvodina, Nenad Canak, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Tomcic's family comes from the Vojvodina town, and this was his first opportunity in 10 years to visit family graves. Visits to gravesites for All Souls Day are an important event in Croatia and in much of Roman Catholic Central Europe. PM

GERMAN AID FOR SERBIA

The German government will provide Yugoslavia with nearly $5 million to help improve power supplies for the coming winter, AP reported from Berlin on 30 October. The government will give the German Red Cross some $325,000 to provide wood and coal to schools, hospitals, and retirement homes in Yugoslavia. PM

SERBIA GIVES RUSSIA, CHINA 'STEALTH' TECHNOLOGY

The Belgrade authorities have made available to Russian and Chinese experts parts of the U.S. Stealth aircraft downed in the 1999 Kosova conflict, "Vesti" reported on 31 October. Moscow and Beijing, which supported former President Slobodan Milosevic in his war with NATO, plan to use the technology windfall for their own aircraft industries -- and presumably for other purposes as well. The Serbian daily quotes unnamed sources in the Yugoslav General Staff as saying that China was the first country to ask Serbia for the right to study the plane. Russian experts nonetheless got first crack, followed by the Chinese. PM

BUSH CALLS ON KOSOVAR SERBS TO VOTE

President George W. Bush has sent a letter to Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica urging Kosovar Serbs to take part in the 17 November general elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 30 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 30 October 2001). Bush stressed that it is important that the Serbian minority take part in the vote, which will help shape the future of Kosova. In Prishtina, Hans Haekkerup, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova, said that he is optimistic that the Serbs will participate. Kostunica has been demanding "better security" for local Serbs in what some observers regard as a ploy to re-establish a direct role for Belgrade and its security forces in the province. All parties representing Kosova's 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority oppose any role for Serbia in Kosova. PM

SLOVENIA UNDER REVIEW FOR U.S. VISA-FREE LIST

U.S. authorities are reviewing the visa-free travel status of six countries on a list of 29 whose citizens may stay 90 days in the United States without a visa, Reuters reported from Washington on 30 October. The countries in question are Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, and Uruguay. An unnamed U.S. official said: "The selection of countries had nothing to do with September 11, and they had been designated in late August" as being up for review. Congress requires that each country enjoying visa-free travel status be reviewed every five years as a "routine event." Former U.S. President Bill Clinton drew up the visa-free list in 2000 in an effort to promote trade and tourism. PM

BOMB KILLS ONE PERSON IN ALBANIAN LEGISLATOR'S HOUSE

A bomb exploded in the home of Democratic Party legislator Azgan Haklaj in the early hours of 31 October in Bajram Curri, AP reported. His niece died in the explosion, and four other family members were injured. Edi Paloka of the Democratic Party said that "the incident happened after Haklaj turned down an invitation by [Socialist] Prime Minister Ilir Meta to meet with him." No other details or statements are available. Bajram Curri is in the northeast of Albania, at the center of a region known for lawlessness. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER SIGNS AGREEMENT ON SHORT-TERM STATIONING OF U.S. TROOPS IN ROMANIA

In Washington on 31 October, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and visiting Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase signed an agreement that allows the transiting or short-term stationing of U.S. troops on Romanian territory, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. The agreement must yet be approved by the Romanian parliament. Nastase expressed the hope that the agreement, which is an enlargement of the two countries' "strategic partnership," will also boost U.S. investment in his country. He also told Powell that Romania is behaving like "a de facto NATO partner" in the current crisis, and urged Powell to follow Romanian military, political, and economic reforms ahead of the Prague 2002 NATO summit. Powell thanked Nastase for "the firm declaration of support" and for Romania's cooperation in the current crisis. Nastase and Powell also discussed bilateral economic relations and Romania's efforts to solve the problem of homeless children. MS

NASTASE MEETS IMF MANAGING DIRECTOR...

Nastase also met in Washington with IMF Managing Director Horst Koehler ahead of the IMF executive board meeting of 31 October, during which a decision was expected to be made on the new standby agreement with Romania. The Romanian premier said after his meeting with Koehler that he received assurances that a $400 million loan will be approved, but added that "the real exam" of the agreement will rest on Romania's ability to abide by its conditions. He said that in order to achieve this purpose his government must prove capable of resisting expected "social pressure." Radio Bucharest cited Koehler as saying that Romania must end its previous "stop-and-go -- go-and-stop" policies on implementing economic reform. MS

...VISITS U.S. HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM

Nastase also visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on 30 October. In an interview broadcast the next day, Romanian Radio cited the museum's International Archival Programs director, Radu Ioanid, as saying audiences at both the Johns Hopkins University Advanced International School, where Nastase lectured earlier in the day, and at the museum itself were "deeply impressed" by the determination expressed by the premier to eradicate extremism and anti-Semitism from Romanian society. Ioanid quoted Nastase as saying that such programs will be introduced at the National Defense College and Holocaust issues will be taught in colleges and elementary schools. He said that "a law banning any manifestation associated with personalities who committed war crimes will be enacted" and that, as premier, he is "personally committed to remove all...statues of Marshall [Ion ] Antonescu." MS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT REJECTS STATEMENT OF OPPOSITION PARTIES AS 'DEMAGOGIC'

A statement released by the government on 31 October said the cabinet considers a declaration adopted the previous day by representatives of the National Liberal Party, the Democratic Party, and several parties from the extraparliamentary opposition, as well as civic organizations, as a "demagogic text that distorts reality," Mediafax reported. In the declaration, the signatories criticized the government for "negotiating away Romania's national interest" in both the discussions under way with Russia on the new basic treaty and in the proposals made by the premier on the implementation of the Hungarian Status Law in Romania. The government said it is being criticized by the same people who "hastened to conclude the bilateral treaty with Ukraine" without taking into consideration the then-opposition's plea to introduce in it a condemnation of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. It also said the cabinet "nowhere" said it is willing to renounce the return of the Romanian state treasury from Moscow. The government said the signatories "in bad faith" have ignored its statements that Romania will never accept the Status Law's extraterritorial and "socioeconomically discriminating" aspects. MS

EXECUTED ROMANIAN DICTATOR'S SON DEMANDS RETURN OF CONFISCATED PROPERTY

A Bucharest tribunal on 30 October began hearing the case of Valentin Ceausescu, one of executed dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's children, against the confiscation of property belonging to him, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The disputed property was confiscated soon after the 1989 uprising that ended Communist rule in Romania. Valentin Ceausescu argues that the confiscated art and china were his personal property and mementos without "any special intrinsic art value." The objects were transferred to the National Art Gallery. In 1996, the Prosecutor-General's Office ended proceedings that were launched against the dictator's three children, one of whom has since died, on the grounds that they undermined the national economy. The office subsequently ordered the restitution of their confiscated property, but the gallery refuses to do so without a court order. MS

SUSPECTED TERRORIST IN MOLDOVA THREATENS TO SUE IN ROMANIA

Suspected terrorist Mahmud Ahmad Hammud told journalists on 30 October that if he is expelled from Moldova he intends to settle in Romania and to sue the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) and media outlets there, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Hammud reiterated his denial of membership in Hizballah or having ever been engaged in the trafficking of women or drugs. He said he will open judicial procedure in Romania against the SRI, as well as newspapers and television stations that alleged his involvement in those practices and in terrorism. He also said that should he fail to clear his name he will sue in international courts of justice. The Romanian authorities said they will decide whether to allow Hammud to re-enter the country after examining documents he handed to the Romanian Consulate in Chisinau. Also on 30 October, Moldovan National Liberal Party Chairman Mircea Rusu denied reports in the media that his party has been financed by Hammud. MS

PACE TO DEBATE CASE OF 'ILASCU GROUP' DETAINED IN TIRASPOL

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will debate in January 2002 the continued detention in Tiraspol of three members of the "Ilascu group," Romanian radio reported. A draft resolution submitted by Ilie Ilascu, currently a Romanian senator, stipulates that the PACE demands from the separatist authorities the immediate and unconditional liberation of the three prisoners. The draft resolution is also demanding that the authorities in Chisinau "make real efforts" to bring about their liberation and that Russia stop any political, economic, and military support of the Tiraspol authorities. MS

MOLDOVAN DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS NO RISK ON DEFAULT ON INTERNATIONAL DEBT

Deputy Premier and Economy Minister Andrei Cucu told journalists on 30 October that "in the near future" there is no risk that Moldova will default on its international debt, Infotag reported. Cucu said Chisinau hopes to receive a $5 million loan from the World Bank, a $15 million credit from the EU, and a $10 million grant from the Dutch government. Cucu also said discussions will soon begin with the World Bank for a $30-40 million loan intended to cover Moldova's budget deficit, but added that these latter discussions will not open before December at the earliest. He said the Moldovan economy is showing signs of revival, as demonstrated by the 12.2 percent growth in industrial output from January-September 2001 as compared with the same period last year, and the 1.7 percent growth registered in agricultural output over the same time period. The average monthly inflation rate has also dropped by 0.2 percent, he said, while budget revenues increased by 7 percent. MS

SMIRNOV DISMISSES POTENTIAL 'PRESIDENTIAL' OPPONENT FROM JOB

Separatist leader Igor Smirnov on 30 October dismissed Tom Zenovich, the chief of the Bendery-Tighina city administration, from his job due to "the worsening situation in the town and the administration's failure to take the necessary measures," Flux reported. Smirnov claimed that his decision has "nothing to do" with Zenovich's announced intention to run in the "presidential elections" scheduled for 1 December, but Valerii Litskay, the Transdniester "foreign minister," told ITAR-TASS that "Zenovich became involved in the presidential race and started to criticize the authorities whose representative he was. That is why he has been dismissed." Political observers said earlier that Zenovich enjoys the backing of both Moscow and Kyiv. In related news, Flux reported that following Vladimir Skok's decision to withdraw from the "presidential" race, four candidates remain in the competition. They are Deputy Aleksandr Radchenko, Zenovich, and "Novaya gazeta" Editor in Chief Andrei Safronov. Only Smirnov has thus far managed to collect the 8,500 signatures necessary for registering as a candidate. MS

HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ENDS BULGARIA VISIT

Visiting Hungarian Defense Minister Janos Szabo ended his two-day visit to Bulgaria on 30 October by telling Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi that Hungary strongly supports Bulgaria's NATO membership bid, BTA reported. Szabo said the best indications of this support are the meetings held on a quarterly basis between military experts from the two countries. Pasi said Bulgaria wishes to learn from Hungary's experience in joining NATO. On 29 October, Szabo met with his Bulgarian counterpart Nikolai Svinarov and was received by President Petar Stoyanov. MS




EU OFFICIAL BEGINS TOUR OF CENTRAL ASIA TO DISCUSS FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM


By Ahto Lobjakas

On 31 October, Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, as a representative of the current rotating European Union presidency, began a two-day tour of Central Asia that will take him to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan. Michel is expected to discuss with the leaders of the three countries how they can better contribute to the military and humanitarian operations of the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism, and what the EU can do in return for their assistance.

A Belgian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL the EU is taking a "message of support" to Tashkent, Ashgabat, and Dushanbe, in order to show its willingness to develop better political and economic relations with the region. However, the EU is doing this, the official said, with a full awareness of the bloc's limited influence on the region's authoritarian-leaning regimes.

The EU, which is seeking a wider coalition against terrorism, needs the Central Asian countries as corridors for military operations and humanitarian aid heading for Afghanistan. The Central Asian states themselves could do with more development aid, which would help shore up governments increasingly challenged by radical Islamic opposition movements.

In more concrete terms, the Belgian official said, Michel will ask Central Asian leaders for their analysis of the situation in the region; in Afghanistan, as well as in their own countries. He also hopes to gain their insight on the political future of Afghanistan.

Finally, Michel will discuss how to develop bilateral relations and assess the functioning of existing aid and cooperation programs. The latter range from the "partnership and cooperation agreement" the EU has concluded with Uzbekistan to the EU's TACIS aid program for the region as well as specific projects aimed at improving communication and transport links with the EU.

The official said the Central Asian countries are "obviously" looking for compensation for the support they are giving to the antiterrorist coalition. He said, however, that Michel will refrain from speaking about rewards, whether in the form of promises of money or aid. He will instead limit himself to getting "a feel" for the Uzbek, Turkmen, and Tajik positions, which he will relay to his EU colleagues at their next meeting in Brussels.

The Belgian official said the EU will raise the traditional political objectives of democracy, human rights, and economic reform with offers of greater political dialogue. Although he said such objectives could be "integrated" into "interest-driven" discussions, he notes the real effect of the demands is likely to remain "theoretical," as is the case with China and Iran.

The official said the EU is aware of the danger that the Central Asian governments could use their cooperation in antiterrorist efforts as an excuse to intensify political repression.

The EU's rationale for closer engagement with the Central Asian region was laid out at a 30 October meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. A "suggestions paper" presented by the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, noted that the geopolitical importance of the region has long been underestimated. Considering the sudden intensification of international terrorism, the stability of Central Asian countries has emerged as being of essential importance in containing the threat. Hence, the EU must clearly define its long-, medium-, and short-term interests.

Solana's paper indicated that the EU's overriding concern must be with the stability of the region, which could open the door to achieving other aims, such as lasting peace in Afghanistan; the containment of Islamic fundamentalism and the terrorist threat; the eradication of the drug trade; and ending the trafficking of weapons and human beings.

The report notes that the EU has limited influence to pursue its interests in the region. If EU leaders decide that a "new orientation" with Central Asia is needed, the EU needs to set its objectives in the region against the instruments at its disposal. This, Solana's paper said, could raise serious questions about the resources the EU is willing to make available in order to make a difference.

On his tour, Foreign Minister Michel is expected to promote a "regional approach" to the Central Asian countries. He will avoid playing to any nation's parochial interests and instead will be looking for a "single voice." If past experience is anything to go by, this will be a difficult task. Solana's suggestions paper itself notes that, although several pan-regional cooperation schemes exist, none embraces all five of the Central Asian countries. Instead, quarrels involving the distribution of common resources like water -- as well as the demarcation of challenged borders -- are rife.

The Belgian diplomat said the EU considers Uzbekistan the key country in the region for its contribution as a conduit for both military and humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan. He said, however, that Uzbekistan's attempts to achieve regional dominance are "not a good approach." The official said Uzbekistan's desire to extract as much as possible from the West for its support of the antiterrorist coalition is an open secret and will form one element of Michel's talks.

Although the United States have long given Uzbekistan preferential treatment -- considering it a useful counterbalance to Russia's influence in the region -- European Union assistance has declined in recent years, a reaction to the increasingly authoritarian tendencies of President Islam Karimov. In 1998, Uzbekistan received 29 million euros from the TACIS aid fund. In 2000, such aid amounted to 15 million euros.

Turkmenistan is easily the most difficult case for the EU and the antiterrorist alliance. The regime of President Saparmurat Niyazov -- described as "presidential, authoritarian, and repressive" by the EU -- has prevented the EU from ratifying the partnership and cooperation agreement signed in 1998.

However, Turkmenistan continues to benefit from the TACIS program, receiving 9 million euros in 1999. Although Niyazov's isolationist regime has declared itself neutral in the conflict in Afghanistan, the EU hopes Turkmenistan will prove to be of great value as a transit country for both humanitarian aid and personnel moving to northern Afghanistan.

Tajikistan's value is also mostly limited to the humanitarian aspects of the antiterrorist effort, although the EU's means to influence it are even more limited than in Turkmenistan.

Although a five-year civil war ended in 1997, Tajikistan is considered too unstable for a partnership and cooperation agreement. The TACIS aid program was discontinued in 1997 for security reasons. The country presently benefits from an annual 10 million euro humanitarian program, a 4 million euro food safety program, and a 5.4 million euro rehabilitation program.

Ahto Lobjakas is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Brussels.


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