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Newsline - November 2, 2001




DOCTORS WARN AGAINST PANIC OVER ANTHRAX

Nikolai Filatov, the chief government public health doctor, said on 1 November that there is no reason for panic concerning anthrax, Interfax-Moscow reported. He said there had been approximately 300 reports of suspicious substances in letters in Russia since the first reports from the United States had come in but that none of the substances tested had contained anthrax. But the false alarms continued around the country: In Birobidzhan, for example, a letter with a white substance that was later found not to contain anthrax sparked a panic in the Mayor's Office, Interfax-Eurasia reported. PG

MOSCOW, WASHINGTON COORDINATE AFGHANISTAN POLICY

The Russian-American working group on Afghanistan co-chaired by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Russia's First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov took place in Moscow on 1 November, Russian agencies reported. The meeting occurred behind closed doors, but after the session, the two sides released a statement underscoring their agreement on all major issues, including opposition to any participation by the Taliban in a post-Taliban government. Meanwhile, Russian officials the same day denied reports that Russian planes had attacked Afghanistan and that Russian forces will soon go there, ITAR-TASS reported. VY/PG

BORDER SERVICE PLAYS DOWN AFGHAN REFUGEE THREAT

Colonel General Nikolai Kolesnichenko, the chief of the general staff of the Russian Federal Border Service, told ITAR-TASS on 1 November that his agency is not inclined to overstate the threat of Afghan refugees flowing into Central Asia and Russia. He said there are now 6,000 to 8,000 potential refugees on the other side of the border but most of them had been there before the U.S. bombing strikes began. PG

RUSSIAN MILITARY ANALYST SAYS U.S. APPROACH IN AFGHANISTAN IS 'CONFUSED'

Vladimir Slipchenko, a prominent Russian military analyst, said in an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 1 November that the U.S. has been "confused" in its response to the terrorist attacks and has sent its bombers to Afghanistan not as a result of a carefully considered policy but rather to mollify domestic American public opinion. In other comments, he said NATO "in its current form" has "outlived its usefulness" and should be disbanded and replaced with a new agency to fight terrorism. PG

ACTIONS OF 'YOUNG NAZIS' IN MOSCOW DECRIED...

Officials, ethnic organizations, and parliamentarians have all denounced the Russian nationalist pogrom against people from the Caucasus that took place in Moscow on 30 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October and 1 November 2001), "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported. Prosecutors and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said they are convinced that the action was "well planned." Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said the terrible actions should serve as a wake-up call to Russia because the country does not have "a normal nationality policy," Interfax reported on 1 November. PG

...AS SKINHEADS' ACTIVITIES IN REGIONAL CAPITALS IS DOCUMENTED

Following the recent pogrom in Moscow by members of Russian National Unity, "Komsomolskaya pravda" carried a small survey by its network of regional correspondents documenting a number of similar incidents in regional capitals over the past year. For example, in Kaliningrad, a group of skinheads severely beat two African students from the Baltic State Academy. African students have also been accosted by skinheads on the streets of St. Petersburg and Krasnodar. In Volgograd, skinheads from 13 to 18 years old attacked a Romany camp, killing one Roma on the spot while another died afterward in the hospital. Several over members of the community suffered other injuries. Recently, more than 100 Roma were deported from Krasnodar Oblast to Voronezh, where they were officially registered (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 31 October 2001). JAC

PUTIN CELEBRATES 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF CONSTITUTIONAL COURT

President Vladimir Putin on 1 November told a meeting of international jurists that the decade of activity of Russia's Constitutional Court "testifies that the country is developing as a democratic, law-based state" in which "human rights and freedoms" are protected, Russian and Western agencies reported. He said that "for the first time, a body has emerged [in Russia] that limits legislative and executive powers." He called for the court to cooperate more with foreign courts and the parliament to protect the rights of Russian citizens. PG

PUTIN SETS UP FINANCIAL MONITORING BODY, NAMES PETERSBURG COLLEAGUE TO HEAD IT

President Putin on 1 November issued a decree setting up a Financial Monitoring Committee within the Finance Ministry, Russian agencies reported. Putin named Viktor Zubkov, with whom he worked in St. Petersburg in the early 1990s, to head the committee with the rank of first deputy finance minister. The committee is charged with tracking financial flows that may involve criminal activities. A graduate of a Leningrad agricultural school, Zubkov worked in the agriculture section of the Communist Party oblast organization in that city. He met Putin in 1992 when they both worked in the city's Mayor's Office. In 1993, Zubkov became chief of the St. Petersburg Tax Inspectorate, and since 2000, he has been chairman of the regional organization in the northern capital of the Unity Party. Meanwhile, Union of Right Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov said the same day that he fears that the formation of the new committee might lead to an increase in corruption if people turn away from using financial institutions required to report transactions to the new agency, Interfax reported. VY/PG

KREMLIN MEDIA ADVISER CRACKS DOWN ON HIS OWN WEBSITE

Gleb Pavlovskii, the Kremlin media adviser and head of the Fund for Effective Policy, has ordered the operators of his own website, strana.ru, to be more careful in their reporting, "Vedomosti" reported on 1 November. Pavlovskii was angered by the site's false report on 29 October that Aleksei Miller had resigned as head of Gazprom. One of the webmasters told the paper that Pavlovskii had received a reprimand from above for that error and so is now "making excuses." PG

JUSTICE MINISTRY SAYS RUSSIA MUST DEFEND PRISONERS' RIGHTS OR THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE WILL

Justice Minister Yurii Chaika said on 1 November that his agency is obligated to do "everything possible" to ensure that the criminal justice system protects the rights of prisoners, because if Moscow doesn't, "then the Council of Europe will take up the issue," Interfax-AFI reported. He said that possibility makes it a question of "the prestige" of the state. Chaika added that the government has allocated 350 million rubles ($12 million) for the reconstruction of prisons and interrogation facilities in 2000 alone, the news service reported. PG

STEPASHIN STRESSES INDEPENDENCE OF AUDIT CHAMBER

In an interview published in "Gazeta" on 1 November, Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin said his agency plans "90 percent of our own work," with the remainder being done at the request of Duma deputies and Federation Council members. He added that President Putin has asked the Audit Chamber to check certain agencies but that the chamber has proceeded entirely independently. PG

DUMA STRIPS GOLOVLEV OF IMMUNITY ON SECOND TRY...

By a vote of 387 to two, the Duma on 1 November stripped SPS deputy Vladimir Golovlev of his parliamentary immunity, Russian agencies reported. The parliamentarians had initially failed to approve that step on 31 October but agreed on the second vote because prosecutors said they would only pursue charges against Golovlev and not immediately arrest him. VY

...BACKS ONE MEDIA TAX CONCESSION...

The Duma on 1 November approved on first reading an amendment to the Tax Code in order to give the print media a 10 percent tax concession in the value added tax that the media must pay, Interfax-AFI reported. Supporters of the measure say that it is essential for the survival of the country's newspapers and magazines. One media outlet in trouble, "Vremya novostei," announced on 1 November that its fate will be decided in the next day or two depending on whether it can attract new investment, Interfax reported. PG

...AND CONSIDERS A VARIETY OF OTHER MATTERS

The Duma on 1 November adopted on first reading the bill on the Pension Fund budget for 2002, adopted on third and final reading the measure extending the sales tax, approved on third and final reading the Civil Code, and approved on first reading a bill that would double taxes on gaming businesses while excluding from taxation sums gamblers win in cash, Russian agencies reported. The deputies also decided to hold a closed session on combating terrorism, to ask the government to comment on reports that operations in Chechnya have been suspended and that Russian troops will participate in Afghan fighting, and to put off consideration of the judicial reform package until 21 November. VY

DUMA TO CONSIDER APPROVING SPACE DEFENSE ACTIVITY

The Duma Defense Committee has introduced a bill that will allow for the deployment of Russian military hardware in space, RIA-Novosti reported on 1 November. If this bill is adopted, it would represent a retreat from Moscow's proposals, introduced by Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov at the United Nations, for the complete demilitarization of space. VY

SPS LEADERS GET FIRST PARTY CARDS

Officials of the SPS on 1 November passed out party cards to the members of the SPS political council, Interfax reported. Yegor Gaidar received No. 1, Sergei Kirienko No. 2, Boris Nemtsov No. 3, Irina Khakamada No. 4, and Anatolii Chubais No. 5, the news service said. PG

FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES STRATEGIC ISSUES IN WASHINGTON

Foreign Minister Ivanov met with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington on 1 November to discuss strategic stability, counterterrorism, and the upcoming U.S.-Russia summit in Texas, Russian agencies reported. The two reportedly have agreed to deep cuts in the strategic forces of both countries as part of a deal that would allow some modification of the 1972 ABM Treaty. PG

...AFTER MEETING ARAFAT IN OSLO

On his way to Washington, Foreign Minister Ivanov on 1 November met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Oslo, Interfax-Europe reported. Ivanov stressed that Russia wants to see peace in the Middle East and will work closely with the United States, Europe, and the UN to achieve it. PG

RUSSIA PLEASED UKRAINE HAS DESTROYED LAST TWO ICBM SITES

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 1 November that Moscow is pleased by reports that Ukraine has destroyed the last two ICBM silos on its territory in conformity with the 1992 Lisbon Protocol to the START-I treaty, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

MOSCOW NERVOUSLY WATCHING EVENTS IN GEORGIA

President Putin said on 1 November that he is "closely watching what is happening in Georgia" and is "very concerned" about developments there, ITAR-TASS reported. Parliamentarians also expressed concern and staked out a variety of positions. Yabloko deputy Aleksei Arbatov pointed to the existence of forces that want to remove President Eduard Shevardnadze; Federation Council member Mikhail Margelov said Moscow should support the Georgian president but that Shevardnadze may lose control of the situation; and Duma deputy Dmitrii Rogozin said Moscow should be reaching out to the Georgian opposition, Russian agencies reported. As often happens, Duma deputy speaker and LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky struck the most radical pose: he said Georgia ought to now become part of Russia, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Vyacheslav Nikonov, the president of the Policy Foundation, said at a RIA-Novosti press conference on 1 November that President Shevardnadze's approach to the current crisis, one based on his propensity "to behave as the leader of a superpower in a period of confrontation," may lead to "the disappearance of Georgia as a state." PG/VY

42 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS APPROVE OF BASE CLOSINGS ABROAD

According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 1 November, 42 percent of Russians approve of the Kremlin's decision to close Russian bases in Vietnam and Cuba, almost twice as many as those who said they disagree with this position (23 percent). Meanwhile, an article in "Kommersant-Vlast," No. 43, noted that most people believe Russia has closed all its bases outside of the Commonwealth of Independent States, but in fact Moscow still has a technical maintenance facility in Tartus, Syria, that provides Russia with important support. PG

RUSSIANS WANT GOOD RELATIONS WITH U.S.

According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 1 November, 69 percent of Russians want to avoid confrontation with the United States and see the two countries develop a partner relationship. That pattern of support holds across all political, age, and educational categories, the news service reported. The poll also found that Russians believe Russia is likely to gain in international power and the U.S. will likely lose power as a result of shifts in the world since the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States. PG

RUSSIA SELLS $150 MILLION WORTH OF MILITARY HELICOPTERS TO IRAN

"Vedomosti" reported on 1 November that Rosoboroneksport has signed a contract to supply 30 MI-8 military transport helicopters to Iran. The total value of the deal was estimated at $150 million. PG

COURT REJECTS REHABILITATION OF GENERAL VLASOV

The Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court on 1 November refused to overturn the decision of a lower court that had refused to rehabilitate General Andrei Vlasov and 11 of his senior officers who fought on the side of the Germans against the Soviet Union during World War II, ITAR-TASS reported. The appeal was launched by the monarchist Faith and Fatherland, but the collegium rejected all of the group's requests, although the jurists noted that it is no longer appropriate to hold Vlasov and the others guilty of "counter-revolutionary propaganda" since that is no longer a crime in Russia. VY

KREMLIN WANTS DIALOGUE WITH SOCIETY

In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 1 November, Sergei Abramov, the head of the main administration for domestic policy in the presidential administration, said the government wants to increase its dialogue with society and consequently has decided to hold the Civic Forum meeting at the Kremlin on 21-22 November, Interfax reported. But in an interview published the same day in "Rossiiskaya gazeta," Ludmila Alekseeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, said that her group and others should take part in that meeting only under certain conditions, among them being that there would not be elections to determine who was present and that there would be follow-up roundtables on specific questions. PG

RUSSIA'S OLIGOPOLIES SAID TO HAVE 'NEW FACE,' OLD ESSENCE

According to an analysis published in "The Moscow Times" on 1 November, "a huge slice of the nation's GDP is controlled by a handful of powerful industrialists that have at times appeared to violate if not the letter then certainly the spirit of the law." In this, the article suggests, the situation resembles in many ways the pre-August 1998 crisis pattern. But there is a major difference: "under Putin, overt political activity has transformed into aggressive lobbying; corporate governance has become a topic of discussion and action; and the idea of taking enormous profits and investing them domestically instead of exporting them abroad looks appealing." PG

RUSSIA DECIDES TO SUSPEND PALLADIUM EXPORTS

Valerii Rudakov, the head of the State Treasury, said on 1 November that Russia will suspend its exports of palladium temporarily because of the global recession and falling prices, Interfax reported. Russian exports account for approximately 70 percent of the world market. VY

PUTIN URGED TO RESTRICT VIOLENCE ON TELEVISION

Shield, an organization of Moscow psychologists and psychiatrists, has appealed to President Putin to restrict violence on the major national television channels, "Izvestiya" reported on 1 November. The group said it is against censorship in general, but that fighting terrorism requires some restrictions on what television shows. VY

U.S. CASE AGAINST RUSSIAN HACKERS SAID ILLEGAL

The Chelyabinsk regional office of the Federal Security Service (FSB) has concluded that the American indictments of Russian hackers Vasilii Gorshkov and Aleksei Ivanov for breaking into computer systems and stealing credit-card numbers are illegal, "Chelyabinskii rabochii" reported on 1 November. The FSB offices said that the methods employed by the U.S. law enforcement agencies were "illegal and criminal," including what the FSB called "the unauthorized entry into the virtual space of Chelyabinsk Oblast" in Russia. VY

FOREIGN POLICY COUNCIL SAYS WEST SET APART IN ERA OF GLOBALIZATION

Russia's Foreign and Defense Policy, which is headed by Sergei Karaganov, has published a study entitled "Russia and Globalization" that suggests that the West is increasingly set apart from the rest of the world, RIA-Novosti reported on 1 November. The authors base their argument on two facts: the declining share of exports in American GDP, and the fact that most foreign investment by the U.S., the European Union, and Japan is directed within that self-contained group of countries. But Karaganov himself said that in the era of globalization, Russia cannot afford to maintain or support any anti-American tendencies in the world, Interfax reported the same day. VY/PG

EURASIANISTS CALL FOR DEFENDING UNIQUE FEATURES OF RUSSIANS, OTHER PEOPLES IN RUSSIA

More than 250 politicians, scholars, and activists are taking part in a three-day Moscow conference on "Eurasianism -- the Future of Russia as a Dialogue of Cultures and Civilizations," Interfax reported on 31 October. Participants said Russia must find its own path, one that defends its uniqueness, and they added that the authorities must provide more assistance to protect and develop the various minority nationalities in Russia. Meanwhile, in an article in "Parlamentskaya gazeta" the same day, Vadim Pechenev argued that the parliament must adopt a special law on the status and future development of the Russian nation. PG

PROSECUTORS SAY DENTS IN 'KURSK' HALL DID NOT CAUSE ACCIDENT

Yurii Yakovlev, the first deputy chief military prosecutor, told Interfax on 1 November that the dents many have observed on the wreck of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine were not caused by a collision, but he added that this conclusion does not necessarily mean that no collision took place, AP reported. Meanwhile, the navy said it had unloaded 14 of the submarine's 22 Granit cruise missiles. PG

EVER MORE RUSSIANS AGAIN SEE NOVEMBER 7 AS REVOLUTIONARY HOLIDAY

According to polls conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 1 November, the percentage of Russians who view 7 November as "a great revolutionary holiday" has risen from 22 percent in 1993 to 39 percent this year. PG

PULIKOVSKII PLANS BIOGRAPHY OF 'ENIGMATIC' NORTH KOREAN LEADER

Konstantin Pulikovskii, the presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, told ITAR-TASS on 1 November that he intends to write a book about the "enigmatic" North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, with whom he traveled during Kim's 24-day tour of Russia last summer. The news service suggested that the book "is expected to be one of the most interesting books about the North Korean leader." PG

KOMI INCUMBENT TO SEEK THIRD TERM

Following the closing of the deadline for submitting registration documents on 31 October, no more than nine candidates will now be eligible to run in Komi Republic's 16 December presidential elections, strana.ru reported the next day. Among the candidates are incumbent President Yurii Spiridonov; Sever-OIL General Director Mikhail Kodanev; writer Aleksandr Nekrasov; Leonid Musinov, an assistant to a State Duma deputy; Leonid Kochanov, an unemployed resident of Syktyvkar; and pensioner Rita Chistokhodovaya. JAC

ONE HEAD FINALLY ROLLS FOLLOWING PRIMORE ELECTION DEBACLE...

The chief federal inspector for Primorskii Krai, Pavel Lysov, has been dismissed, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 1 November. According to the daily, Lysov essentially ran the election campaign for Gennadii Apanasenko, the deputy presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, when he was running for governor in the 27 May gubernatorial elections (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 20 June 2001). Apanasenko did not perform well in the race, and local analysts believe that the presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, Konstantin Pulikovskii, decided to hold Lysov responsible for Apanasenko's poor showing. Pulikovskii's office refused to comment on Lysov's departure or disclose his new location. JAC

...AS POWER COMPANY TURNS ON HEAT -- FOR NOW

Meanwhile, the region's energy supplier, Dalenergo, restored heat supplies to homes in Vladivostok on 1 November after a seven-day suspension, Interfax-Eurasia reported. The same day, deputies in the krai's legislature decreed that Dalenergo should be banned from cutting off electricity or heat to consumers during the fall and winter period without a court order. Dalenergo officials, however, said that heat will be turned off on 8 November to cultural, medical, and scientific establishments in Vladivostok because of the city's unpaid debts. JAC

DEFENSE WORKERS GO ON STRIKE...

Workers of a construction plant of the Volga-Urals military district went on strike on 22 October, RFE/RL's Samara correspondent reported on 27 October. The last time they were paid was in June, and workers are demanding payment of the growing backlog of unpaid wages. On 24 October, the head of the combine paid his employees part of their wages for July, but the workers remain dissatisfied and promise a massive walkout. JAC

...AS UNPAID WAGES MOUNT FOR TEACHERS IN SIBERIA, FAR EAST

Teachers in Novosibirsk haven't been paid since August, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 30 October. The city's teachers union has threatened to go on strike if wages are not paid. Meanwhile, in the capital of Sakhalin Oblast, teachers picketed the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Mayor's Office on 29 October, demanding their wages for September, Interfax-Eurasia reported. In order to raise at least some of the necessary funds, municipal officials plan to privatize certain city properties. JAC

SIX ARRESTED FOR MURDERS IN DAGHESTAN

Police in Daghestan on 1 November arrested six suspects in the drive-by shooting of Arsen Kamaev, the deputy speaker of the republic's parliament, and Abdulkhalik Musaev, the head of a Makhachkala bank, on 30 October, Russian and Western agencies reported. The local police said that the case is being investigated by the FSB, and that agency said none of the six had yet been charged with any crime. Meanwhile, Magomedali Magomedov, the chairman of Daghestan's State Council, said the same day that the killings represented "the continuation of attempts aimed at destabilizing the situation in the republic," ITAR-TASS reported.

NORTH OSSETIA PLAGUED BY 'TELEPHONE' TERRORISTS

Lieutenant General Kazbek Dzantiev, the interior minister of North Ossetia, appealed to the republic's population on 1 November to struggle with what he called "telephone" terrorists, people who anonymously report fictional crimes, Interfax reported. He said that such false police reports are costing the republic money and increasing tensions among its population. PG

MOSCOW OFFICIALS DENY ANY DEAL ON CHECHNYA

Alisher Khozhaev, a spokesman for President Putin, on 1 November denied media reports that Russian officials have reached a preliminary agreement with Chechen militants under the terms of which Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov would be allowed to leave Russia if he agreed to end his fight against Russia, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Khozhaev said that the reports, including in "Izvestiya" the same day, were "totally false" and that there had not been any meeting, let alone an accord. PG

U.S. ATTACKS ON AFGHANISTAN SAID LEADING CHECHENS TO RETURN HOME

Colonel General Nikolai Reznichenko, the chief of staff of the Russian Federal Border Service, told ITAR-TASS on 1 November that Chechens now serving with the Taliban in Afghanistan are likely to return home now that the U.S. has begun bombing that country. Their return, he said, could aggravate the situation in the North Caucasus. PG

CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER SENTENCED TO PRISON

A Krasnodar court on 1 November sentenced Iraqi citizen Abdel Azizi Mohammad Abdel Wahab to 12 1/2 years in prison for his participation in the Chechen militant band led by field commander Khattab, ITAR-TASS reported. Abdel Aziz, the FSB said, was responsible for "ideological indoctrination" of militants in camps at Serzhen-Yurt and Urus-Martan. PG

MONEY SHORTAGES PREVENT ADEQUATE PREPARATIONS FOR WINTER IN CHECHNYA

Stanislav Ilyasov, the chairman of the government of the Republic of Chechnya, told ITAR-TASS on 1 November that a shortage of funding from Moscow had prevented the republic from being able to get ready for winter. He said that some 1 billion rubles ($34 million) are needed over the next two months. PG

HEALTH MINISTRY NOTES DECLINING FERTILITY, RISING MORTALITY IN CHECHNYA

Health Ministry officials in Grozny told Interfax on 1 November that the birthrate has declined by 67 percent and the death rate doubled in Chechnya in recent times. The officials placed the blame on "the worsening of the ecological situation and the constant stress situations of people" there, in the words of the news service. The officials noted that more than 80 percent of the medical institutions in the republic have been destroyed. PG

THE CHECHEN CONFLICT BY THE NUMBERS

The Russian presidential press service told ITAR-TASS on 1 November that federal troops have killed about 11,000 Chechen militants since October 1999, that Russian forces have suffered 3,438 killed and 11,661 wounded, but that the militants still operate some 100 groups with up to 2,000 fighters. Meanwhile, Interfax reported the same day that federal forces have located a satellite telephone system that the militants used to coordinate their military activities. And in yet another indication that the militants still represent a serious force, Russian General Vladimir Moltenskoi, the commander of the Unified Group of Forces in the North Caucasus, told the news service on 1 November that the number of military stations in Chechnya must be dramatically increased to control the situation. PG




ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS ARMENIA SHOULD BE COMPENSATED FOR BRAIN DRAIN

Romanian President Ion Iliescu said in Yerevan on 1 November that Armenia, along with Romania, should be compensated for educated people who go abroad to work in other countries, Noyan Tapan reported. He said the countries that take those individuals in should pay the countries from which they come "by analogy with soccer clubs." In other comments, Iliescu said the Karabakh conflict is part of the Soviet legacy, that it must be "resolved by political means not force," and that Romania understands what Armenia is going through because it lost what is now Moldova as a result of Soviet occupation in 1940, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported the same day. PG

ARMENIA'S NUCLEAR POWER PLANT WON'T RESUME OPERATION AS SCHEDULED

Arminfo reported on 1 November that financial and technical problems will prevent putting the nuclear power plant at Medzamor back on line on 5 November as had been scheduled. PG

DASHNAKS GET ANOTHER MINISTERIAL POST

President Robert Kocharian on 1 November named Levon Mkrtchian, a senior member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun), to be science and education minister, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. He thus becomes the second Dashnak in the cabinet. Prior to his new appointment, Mkrtchian had been deputy foreign minister. PG

AZERBAIJAN WORRIED BY GEORGIAN CRISIS

Ali Karimli, the chairman of the People's Front of Azerbaijan Party, said on 1 November that the events in Georgia have as their "target" not Georgia so much as "the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline" and thus are ultimately aimed at destabilizing Azerbaijan, MPA reported. Meanwhile, officials in the President's Office expressed confidence that Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze will "bring Georgia out of the current political crisis," while former presidential security adviser Vafa Quluzade said that the current situation in Tbilisi is "alarming," Turan reported. Quluzade added that "the most important thing is to avoid protracted destabilization that might lead to a change of the country's foreign policy." PG

AZERBAIJANI OIL MAJOR SENDS NOVEMBER BATCH VIA BAKU-NOVOROSSIISK PIPELINE

The SOCAR oil company on 1 November resumed the shipment of oil via the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline, MPA reported. The same day, the agency said, Russia resumed the supply of gas to Azerbaijan after a pipeline leak was repaired. PG

AZERBAIJANIS ANGERED BY ARMENIAN JOURNALISTS' COMMENTS

The Karabakh Liberation Organization and Azerbaijani women's organizations denounced comments of 10 visiting Armenian journalists about Nagorno-Karabakh, Turan reported on 1 November. The visiting journalists said that Karabakh should be independent. PG

SHEVARDNADZE TRIES TO CALM GEORGIA

After dismissing his entire cabinet on 1 November and accepting the resignations of the prosecutor-general and the speaker of parliament, and after facing charges in parliament that he is attacking freedom of the press, President Eduard Shevardnadze tried to calm the situation both by promising to continue to serve as president and by calling on demonstrators to disperse, Caucasus Press reported. He defended his actions in a television address the same day by arguing that what he had done was intended to protect democratic values. But some demonstrators continued to call for his resignation late on 1 November, and former Prosecutor-General Gia Meparishvili said that the current tense situation in Georgia reflects simply "a struggle for power," Georgian TV reported. PG

EX-GEORGIAN SPEAKER CALLS FOR RADICAL CHANGES IN TBILISI

Zurab Zhvania, who resigned as speaker of the Georgian parliament and who said that President Shevardnadze has lost touch with the people, nonetheless said on 1 November that Shevardnadze should remain in office and that radical changes should be introduced in the composition and organization of the Georgian government, Russia TV reported. Zhvania also appealed for calm, arguing that Georgia must find civilized and legal methods to overcome the crisis, Caucasus Press reported. Zhvania said that his successor as chairman of the parliament will be elected next week. PG

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION SEES CRISIS AS ORCHESTRATED BY RUSSIA

Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia, the leader of the Georgian National Democratic Party, told Iprinda news agency on 1 November that "sadly, the first act of a show directed by the Russian special services has ended successfully" with the dismissal of the cabinet. Other Georgians who share her views picketed the Russian Embassy in Tbilisi, Interfax reported. PG

NAZARBAEV SAYS KAZAKHSTAN CAPABLE OF DEFENDING ITSELF

President Nursultan Nazarbaev said on 1 November that his country "has everything necessary to respond to any external threat," Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. He added that the Kazakh people, as the titular nationality of the country, "have the high responsibility of maintaining peace and accord in the country." But the same day, the news agency reported, officials said they lacked the funds to pay the salaries of Interior Ministry officers or even to purchase uniforms for them. PG

U.S. TO PURCHASE $6 MILLION IN GRAIN FROM KAZAKHSTAN FOR AFGHAN AID

U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan Larry Napper said on 1 November that the United States plans to purchase $6 million worth of grain from Kazakhstan for humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. PG

KAZAKH WORKERS SET TO STRIKE AT CANADIAN OIL FIRM

Kazakh Commercial TV on 31 October reported that workers at the Canadian Hurricane oil firm plan to strike if the company goes ahead with plans to dismiss the staff of all the subsidiary services that support the company's activities. PG

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT SAYS HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IMPROVING

Askar Akaev on 1 November said that the human rights situation in his country is improving, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Indeed, he said, OSCE officials have told him that "Kyrgyzstan has been a model country in learning from criticism lodged against it." But in September 2001, the Sakharov Foundation cancelled plans to hold a congress in Bishkek to protest continuing human rights violations there. Meanwhile, on 1 November, a court in Jalal-Abad sentenced journalist Samagan OrozAliyev to nine years in prison on weapons charges. PG

KYRGYZ SECURITY FORCES ARREST MORE ISLAMISTS

A spokesman for the Kyrgyz National Security Service told Kabar news agency on 1 November that there are some 2,500 to 3,000 followers of the Hezb-e Tahrir Islamist movement active in Kyrgyzstan and that Kyrgyz officials have arrested 288 of them. Meanwhile, journalists in Bishkek complained to the news agency on 31 October that some new Christian groups active in Kyrgyzstan are insulting Kyrgyz national traditions and values. PG

TAJIKS RETURN HOME FROM RUSSIA

Some 1,500 Tajik citizens who wanted to return to their homeland are on a train from Astrakhan to Dushanbe, Asia-Plus reported on 1 November. They had been unable to return earlier because Kazakh authorities had suspended Tajik trains and vehicles from passing through the territory of Kazakhstan as of 25 October. PG

TURKMEN LEADER CALLS FOR 'SOONEST POSSIBLE' PEACE IN AFGHANISTAN

President Saparmurat Niyazov said on 1 November that he wants to see the "soonest possible" peace in Afghanistan and the establishment of a government there that represents all the ethnic communities of the country, Turkmenistan.ru reported. PG

FORMER DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER BLASTS TURKMENISTAN'S GOVERNMENT

Boris Shikhmuradov, the former deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Turkmenistan who had been Ashgabat's ambassador in Beijing until 30 October, on 1 November issued a statement denouncing the regime of President Niyazov as "a primitive police state" that combines "the worst methods of the Soviet style of leadership" with methods drawn from "the technology of the administration of a traditional Eastern society." Niyazov, Shikhmuradov continued, has isolated the country, committed crimes and allowed crimes to be committed, and persecuted people on religious and ethnic bases. PG

UZBEK GENERAL READY TO HELP RUSSIA AID AFGHANISTAN

Major General Ravshan Khaydarov, the Uzbek Emergencies Minister, said on 1 November that Tashkent is ready to help Russia provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, RIA-Novosti reported the same day that up to 8,000 Uzbek militants are fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan. PG

UZBEKISTAN DEVALUES ITS CURRENCY

The Uzbek Central Bank on 1 November announced that it has set the exchange rate of the som to the U.S. dollar at 680.90 to one, down from 433.7 to one two days earlier, Uzbek TV reported. In setting the new rate, the bank announced that it "is not committing itself to buying or selling currency at that rate" in the future. PG




MINSK DENIES SELLING ARMS TO EXTREMISTS

Foreign Ministry spokesman Pavel Latushka said on 1 November that, like other countries, Belarus sells arms, but added that it has never acted in violation of UN restrictions on arms sales, Belapan reported. Latushka denied recent media reports saying the country is a major supplier of arms to Islamic extremists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2001). "We strongly deny these reports, and we request that our position be conveyed to these states. Belarus is open about these issues. It is common knowledge that secret arms-trade is impossible today," Latushka told journalists. JM

OSCE CONFIRMS NEGATIVE ASSESSMENT OF BELARUSIAN ELECTION

The observation mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has released its final report on the 9 September presidential election in Belarus, Belapan reported on 1 November. The mission confirmed its preliminary conclusion that the 2001 presidential election process in Belarus failed to meet Council of Europe standards and OSCE commitments for democratic elections formulated in the 1990 Copenhagen Document. According to the report, the election process in Belarus was flawed by: the regime's drive to block the opposition at all costs; arbitrary changes of the electoral environment made by executive authorities; a defective legislative framework of the election; a nontransparent early voting procedure; a campaign of intimidation directed against opposition activists, domestic observation organizations, opposition, and independent media; and a smear campaign against international observers. JM

BELARUS, RUSSIA SIGN DOCUMENT ON BORDER PROTECTION

On 1 November in Minsk, Lieutenant General Alyaksandr Paulouski, the chairman of the Belarusian State Border Troops Committee, and Colonel General Konstantin Totskii, the director of the Russian Federal Border Service, signed a joint directive on organizing the protection of the external border of the Russia-Belarus Union State for 2002, ITAR-TASS reported. The officials explained to journalists that Belarusian border guards will protect Belarus's border, while Russian border guards will guard that of the Russian Federation. At the same time, Belarus and Russia will continue to conduct a coordinated border policy and will implement programs for jointly building border facilities and training border-protection personnel. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER SATISFIED WITH U.S. TRIP

Anatoliy Kinakh said on 1 November that he agreed with the leadership of the IMF and the World Bank in Washington during his three-day U.S. trip (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October and 1 November 2001) to deepen mutual cooperation in order to strengthen Ukraine's banking system, Interfax reported. Kinakh said Ukraine's relations with the IMF and the World Bank are of a "long-term character and based on equal rights." Commenting on his trade negotiations with U.S. officials, Kinakh noted that they took place in a "constructive and open atmosphere" and were characterized by "willingness to seek compromises." Kinakh also said the U.S. has put off "indefinitely" the announced introduction of trade sanctions over Ukraine's inability to curb piracy of music on compact discs. Meanwhile, a U.S. trade official said the previous day that the U.S. has postponed the decision on the trade sanctions against Ukraine until 15 November, when the Ukrainian parliament is expected to debate a bill on the protection of intellectual property. JM

UKRAINIAN, RUSSIAN EXPERTS VIEW COMPUTER SIMULATION OF PLANE DISASTER

Ukrainian and Russian officials and experts on 1 November traveled to a military training ground in Crimea to view a computer simulation to determine how a Ukrainian missile could have shot down a Russian airliner with 78 people aboard on 4 October, Interfax reported. Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council chief Yevhen Marchuk suggested that "reflections from the water surface" of the Black Sea could have disrupted signals to a Ukrainian missile that deviated from its course and downed the plane. Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo agreed with preliminary conclusions that the tragedy was the result of a combination of unusual circumstances and technical reasons. "Final conclusions will be made by the Ukrainian side," the agency quoted Rushailo as saying. JM

UKRAINE EXCEEDS GRAIN HARVEST TARGET BY 5 MILLION TONS

Deputy Prime Minister Leonid Kozachenko on 1 November said Ukraine has harvested 40 million tons of grain crops including maize, which is 5 million tons more than the government's target for 2001, UNIAN reported. Kozachenko said agricultural production growth now stands at 10 percent, while the food-processing industry is up 60 percent compared with the same period in 1999. According to Kozachenko, Ukraine currently covers 95 percent of its food demand domestically and only 5 percent through imports. Kozachenko also noted that for the first time in 10 years Ukraine has registered no decrease in its number of livestock. JM

UKRAINE SEES DRAMATIC INCREASE IN OIL, GAS THEFTS

Mykhaylo Korniyenko, the head of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry's Chief Department for Combating Organized Crime, told journalists on 1 November that Naftohaz Ukrayiny suffered losses of 16 million hryvni ($3 million) in 2001 due to the illegal siphoning of oil and gas condensate from pipelines, ITAR-TASS reported. Korniyenko said the company registered 60-70 cases of such thefts in previous years, while the figure for this year has already reached 949. According to Korniyenko, the situation is dangerous, particularly since criminal groups steal gas and oil in cooperation with officials from the country's oil and gas sector. Korniyenko pointed to the fact that oil and gas are usually stolen from the pipelines that are not guarded. Only 1,400 out of the 76,700 kilometers of Ukrainian pipelines are guarded. JM

ESTONIA ORGANIZES EU CONFERENCE WITH OWN FINANCING

Parliament Chairman Tunne Kelam opened the two-day conference "Estonia and European Union: Estonia on the Path to a Changing Europe" in Tallinn on 1 November, ETA reported. He noted that this was the eighth international conference on the EU to be held in Estonia, and unlike in previous years it was financed by the Estonian parliament and government and not through aid from the EU and Nordic countries. The conference will discuss the institutional future of the EU, public participation in EU enlargement, and the future of common foreign and security policies of Europe. German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping was scheduled to address the conference on 2 November. SG

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES TELECOMMUNICATIONS LAW

The parliament passed on 1 November a new telecommunications law that grants monopoly rights for the fixed-line national phone company Lattelekom until 1 January 2003, a reduction of 10 years, BNS reported. The new law will also allow consumers free access to other public telecoms networks, without changing their telephone numbers, from that date instead of the previously set 2005. One of the owners of Lattelekom, Tilts Communications, has already filed suit against Latvia in a Stockholm arbitration court for breaking the agreement granting Lattelekom a 20-year monopoly on fixed-line telephone communications. SG

NEW U.S. AMBASSADOR TO LATVIA APPROVED

The U.S. Senate approved the appointment of career diplomat Brian Carlson as the new ambassador to Latvia on 30 October, LETA reported on 1 November. His previous assignments include London, Madrid, Belgrade, and Oslo. President George W. Bush nominated Carlson on 26 June to replace James Holmes, who ended his three-year term as ambassador on 12 September. SG

LITHUANIAN LAB FINDS ANTHRAX IN U.S. EMBASSY MAILBAG

Kazimiera Rutiene, the director of the Lithuanian Public Health Center's Microbiology Laboratory in Vilnius, announced on 1 November that anthrax bacteria has been found in one of five mailbags the U.S. embassy sent for testing, BNS reported. The mailbags, which came from the U.S. State Department mail facilities in Washington, were flown to Vilnius on a regular commercial flight and had been picked up at the airport by the U.S. Embassy's postal courier. Medical officials said the incident poses no direct threat to public health in Lithuania since anthrax is not spread by casual personal contact and the small number of people who were in contact with the bags have been prescribed antibiotics and are under medical observation. This is the only reported spreading of anthrax from the U.S. to Europe, although a diplomatic pouch at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru, was also found to contain anthrax. SG

FINANCIAL OFFICIALS SUE POLISH CENTRAL BANK FOR BACK PAY

Six members of the 10-member Monetary Policy Council (RPP) have sued the National Bank for some $500,000 in back wages, Polish media reported on 31 October. The claimants say they were entitled for the past three years to receive $8,500 monthly instead of the $6,300 they were actually paid. The case has greatly stirred up both Polish media and politicians, since the current wages of the RPP members are more than 12 times the average monthly wage in Poland. "One would like to say: the sooner you will withdraw your suit the greater chances you will have to save your prestige, which has been undermined [even without the suit]," parliamentary Public Finances Commission head Mieczyslaw Czerniawski commented to PAP. The RPP has recently been attacked by different political forces for keeping interest rates high. Such a policy, according to a widely shared opinion, has reduced not only inflation but also economic growth. JM

CZECH ANTICHEMICAL SQUAD TO PARTICIPATE IN OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM

The Czech Republic has agreed to send some 300 members of its antichemical unit to participate in the Enduring Freedom Operation in Afghanistan, CTK and international agencies reported on 1 November. A government statement said the request for help was passed by U.S. Ambassador Craig Stapleton at a meeting with Premier Milos Zeman the same day and that Zeman approve the request. The decision must also be approved by both chambers of parliament. Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik declined to say where the troops will be deployed. "The core of the battalion will be the antichemical platoon of some 160 people," he said, but a "unit of logistics support and a guarding unit will accompany the platoon." Tvrdik also said the deployment will cost 30 million crowns ($810,000) per month and the cabinet will have to find the financing resources for this purpose. Chief of Staff General Jiri Sedivy said the battalion is ready to take part in the campaign "within days." Czech chemical warfare troops took part in the Gulf War as part of the U.S.-led coalition that ousted Iraq from Kuwait. MS

MISSILE FOUND NEAR PRAGUE AIRPORT WAS TO DOWN ISRAELI PLANE

The daily "Pravo," relying on "well-informed sources," reported on 2 November that the antitank missile that was found near Prague's Ruzyne international airport on 18 October was intended to be used to shoot down an Israeli civilian plane. According to CTK, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said he cannot confirm the information and told the daily that "these are your speculations -- no investigation results have yet been confirmed." The daily reported that Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres had left Prague just two days prior to the discovery of the live missile in a field outside the airport, but that the missile was intended to shoot down a plane carrying civilian passengers. MS

EXPELLED IRAQI DIPLOMAT FROM CZECH REPUBLIC RECONNOITERED RFE/RL HEADQUARTERS

Former Iraqi diplomat Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir Ani, who was expelled from the Czech Republic in April and who met with suspected terrorist Muhammad Atta in Prague, observed and photographed RFE/RL's headquarters, "Newsweek" reported this week. Czech authorities feared Ani was preparing an attack on the building. Former Deputy Foreign Minister Hynek Kmonicek told the weekly that Ani had drawn suspicion because he never attended any diplomatic event. Kmonicek said Ani met with representatives of the Iraqi opposition to try to convince them to return to Iraq, and in one case even used threats for that purpose. MS

CZECH INTERIOR MINISTER SAYS COMMUNIST AGENTS EMPLOYED UP TO 1998

Former Communist secret police (StB) agents continued to work in the Czech Interior Ministry up until 1998, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said on 1 November during a debate in the Chamber of Deputies on the declassification of StB files. Gross said he intends to launch a complaint against those who employed the agents "deliberately" and "in contradiction with official regulations." One opposition Civic Democratic Party deputy said he hopes no former communist agents worked for the current Social Democratic (CSSD) government. The CSSD minority cabinet is opposed to declassifying the StB files. MS

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER EXPECTS MELK PROCESS TO END IN DECEMBER

Foreign Minister Jan Kavan told CTK on 1 November that he expects the Melk process of assessing the environmental impact of the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant to be completed in December. He said finalizing the process will make it possible to close the energy chapter in the Czech negotiations with the EU. He said he is "in regular contact" with his negotiating Austrian counterpart, Environment Minister Wilhelm Molterer, and "there are fewer and fewer problems after each meeting, which means there is progress." MS

TAIWAN-BASED COMPANY TO MANUFACTURE COMPUTER PARTS IN CZECH REPUBLIC

The Taiwan-based Lite-On Enclosure, a major computer parts manufacturer, announced on 31 October plans for a new factory in the Czech Republic, boosting this country's efforts to become a European hub for computer manufacturing, dpa reported. The company said it intends to build more than 2.7 million chassis and casings for PCs and laptops at the new plant in Opava. All products are to be exported. The company's clients include IBM, Fujitsu, Siemens, Acer, and Dell and it said it will create 530 jobs within three years after the plant opens in March 2002. MS

CZECH REPUBLIC TO IMPOSE VISAS ON SLOVAKS?

The daily "Mlada fronta Dnes," cited by CTK, reported on 2 November that the Foreign Ministry is considering changes in the visa-free treaty with Slovakia, which would come into force if the Czech Republic joins the EU and Slovakia does not. According to these changes, Slovaks staying in the Czech Republic for more than 90 days would have to apply for long-term residence visas. The authorities in Prague are also considering tightening border controls at crossing points and restricting the number of points where Slovaks can cross without a visa into the Czech Republic. The EU has repeatedly criticized the current arrangement, saying it makes it easier for illegal immigrants to enter the country. MS

SLOVAK DAILY SAYS 'MIGHTY LEFTIST ALLIANCE' LIKELY TO WIN REGIONAL ELECTIONS

The daily "Pravo" on 1 November wrote that the recent alliance between former Premier Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and Robert Fico's Smer (Direction) party has a good chance of scoring a landslide victory in the regional elections scheduled for 1 December, CTK reported. The daily said that this alliance could also be joined by the minor coalition leftist Civic Understanding Party and Democratic Left Party. It said the HZDS enjoys consistent support of some 30 percent and the extraparliamentary Smer is backed by 15 percent. The regional election campaign, "Pravo" wrote, will test the electorate's reaction to the HZDS-Smer alliance and might modify its strategy for the 2002 general elections. Fico, who some months ago ruled out any cooperation with Meciar, now says regional and central electoral strategies will be kept separate. "Pravo" also said that an alliance of center-right parties has been gradually emerging as an alternative to the leftist alliance. The center-right alliance might include the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union of Premier Mikulas Dzurinda, the Christian Democratic Movement, television magnate Pavol Rusko's ANO ("Yes") party, and the Democratic Party. MS

HUNGARY SAYS IT WILL SCRAP TAX BREAKS ON EU ENTRY

Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said in London on 1 November that his country will abolish the current system of tax breaks for large investors when it joins the EU, but not before that date, Reuters reported. European Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said during a visit to Budapest on 29 October that Hungary has failed to bring its policy on tax concessions into line with EU rules and that this backlog could prevent Budapest from closing the chapter on competition in the acquis communautaire. Martonyi said: "We know very well that we shall have to stop [tax breaks] and we never said we shall not do so." However, he added, "no one has yet committed themselves to a timetable for Hungary's accession and we do not see a reason why we should accept now what we do not have to." MS




KOSOVA SERBS BAFFLED BY RUSSIAN, MACEDONIAN REPORTS OF AL-QAEDA BASE...

The London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) wrote on 2 November that recent Russian and Macedonian media reports about an alleged Al-Qaeda base in the village of Ropotova in Kamenica municipality in the U.S. sector have local residents baffled. The reason is that Ropotova's 150 homes are all occupied by Serbs. One of them told IWPR: "What sort of mujahedin would dare to come to our village? Ropotova is surrounded from all sides with Serb villages." Shaip Surdulli, who heads the municipality -- where Serbs and Albanians still work side by side -- said he believes that the reports are disinformation aimed at "creating tension between Serbs and Albanians ahead of the upcoming elections, branding Albanians 'allies of the 'terrorist' Osama Bin Laden,' and discrediting U.S. troops operating in Kosovo." PM

...AS ARE TROOPS ON THE GROUND

The report by IWPR on 2 November adds that "claims of mujahedin activity have also been rubbished by U.S. KFOR units patrolling the area." KFOR spokesman Randy Martin noted that "the regular air and ground patrols conducted by the Russian and American troops in close cooperation with the Serb and Albanian communitieshave not discovered such information." Tales of Albanian involvement in terrorism with U.S. support are long-standing themes in disinformation from Moscow, Belgrade, and Skopje (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 July and 28 September 2001). On 1 November, "The Wall Street Journal Europe" ran a guest commentary alleging that Bin Laden has an extensive network in the Balkans. The article contained terms favored by Serbian and Russian publicists such as "Albanian separatism" and "Kosovo and Metohija." PM

MEETINGS CONTINUE OVER KOSOVA SERBS' PARTICIPATION IN VOTE

Hans Haekkerup, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova, is scheduled to meet with top Yugoslav and Serbian leaders in Belgrade on 2 November, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2001). The previous day, Dragoljub Micunovic, the speaker of the lower house of the Yugoslav parliament, said there is no consensus in Serbia's governing coalition to call on Kosova's Serbian minority to vote in the 17 November general elections in the province. He nonetheless urged Serbs to vote lest they put themselves at a disadvantage by not doing so. Several officials of the international community and Kosovar political leaders have recently told the Serbs that they face a choice between joining in a democratic process or risking political isolation. A recent survey suggests that some 82.5 percent of Kosova's Serbs are registered to vote. PM

MONTENEGRO, ALBANIA TO LAUNCH JOINT WATER PROJECT

RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Podgorica on 1 November that Montenegro and Albania will soon launch a joint project to regulate Lake Scutari, which forms part of their border region, as well as two rivers that flow into it at Shkoder, the Drin and the Buna. The project is part of the EU's Stability Pact. PM

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER THREATENS TO BLOCK RATIFICATION VOTE

Stojan Andov told reporters in Skopje on 1 November that he may refuse to call a vote to ratify the constitutional reform package unless one of the two main ethnic Albanian parties, the Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD), ends its opposition to recent changes in the package, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October and 1 November 2001). Andov said: "I'd stop the procedure immediately. Not one constitutional reform will be adopted unless they vote in support of them... The point of the constitutional reforms is to have solutions that would satisfy the Albanians, so there is no reason to have them if they don't agree." Andov added that Macedonia is expecting generous support from the EU once the package is enacted: "The only way we can implement these reforms is with aid, especially financial, from the European Union." PM

MACEDONIAN POLICE WOUND AUSTRIAN NATIONAL

Macedonian police opened fire on a van with Austrian license plates near Tetovo on 1 November after it failed to stop at a checkpoint, dpa reported, citing a police statement. Andreas Mulner, an employee of the OSCE-sponsored Tetovo University, was injured in the incident. In an earlier statement, the police claimed that occupants of the van fired on them. Much about the incident remains unclear. PM

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT RAISES MASS GRAVE CLAIM

President Boris Trajkovski wrote to The Hague-based war crimes tribunal from Skopje on 1 November asking the court to investigate reports of an alleged mass grave near Tetovo containing the remains of 12 Macedonians, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2001). Local Albanians say no such grave exists and that some Macedonian politicians invented the story as an excuse to deny a promised amnesty to Albanian guerrillas. PM

BOSNIAN CAPITAL HONORS U.S. TERROR VICTIMS

Some 6,000 people attended a concert in Sarajevo on 1 November to honor the victims of the 11 September terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, AP reported. Sponsors said the concert was proof of "an active stand against terrorism." That same day, however, the daily "Oslobodjenje" published a commentary critical of the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan because it has led to the deaths of innocent civilians. PM

NURSE ARRESTED IN SWITZERLAND ON CROATIAN WAR CRIMES CHARGES

The Croatian Interior Ministry said in a statement on 2 November that Swiss police have arrested Zorana Banic, a former Serbian paramilitary who holds Croatian citizenship, in connection with the 1991 killings of 43 Croatian civilians in the Adriatic village of Skabrnja, dpa reported. She was in transit at Zurich airport from Dubai to an unnamed third country at the time of her arrest. The Croatian authorities have asked Switzerland for her extradition. If returned to Croatia, she faces a 20-year prison sentence, to which a Croatian court has sentenced her in absentia. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER MEETS BUSH, TALKS TO CHENEY

Adrian Nastase met on 1 November at the White House with President George W. Bush, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Nastase called the encounter "a historic turning point" in Romanian-U.S. relations. He said Bush told him he is "a friend of Romania" and that to the extent that Bucharest meets the conditions for NATO accession, it can expect "a positive answer from the alliance." Nastase said they discussed Romanian and international developments and ways in which Romania can contribute to the current struggle against international terrorism. Nastase's scheduled meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney was conducted via a video conference because Cheney had been taken to a secure location following this week's alert over the possibility of a new terrorist attack. They mainly discussed ways to boost U.S. participation in the process of Romanian privatization. MS

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER TESTIFIES BEFORE U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION

Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, who is accompanying Nastase on his trip, testified on 1 November before the U.S. Helsinki Commission in his capacity as OSCE rotating chairman, Mediafax reported. Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Christopher Smith said that despite "misgivings" he has had in the past about Romania's OSCE chairmanship, he is "profoundly impressed" by Geoana's performance. But Smith also said Romania has made "insufficient progress" in ensuring respect of human rights toward Roma and in extending official recognition to religious groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses. Smith also criticized "the toleration" by the Romanian authorities of statues erected in the memory of Marshal Ion Antonescu and the fact that the Penal Code is still punishing journalists for "defamation and calumny." MS

ROMANIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY PROPOSES OUTLAWING STATUS LAW

Democratic Party Chairman and Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu told journalists on 1 November that his formation will initiate a draft law prohibiting the implementation of the Hungarian Status Law on Romanian territory, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Basescu said the draft will be submitted to the parliament if negotiations with the Hungarian side produce no results "by December." Cosmin Gusa, the secretary-general of the ruling Social Democratic Party, said Basescu's initiative "does nothing but repeat what the government itself has said on numerous occasions." MS

ROMANIAN EXTREME NATIONALISTS TO MOVE MOTION ON MOSCOW-HELD STATE TREASURY

The Greater Romania Party (PRM) announced on 1 November it will move in the Chamber of Deputies a motion to hold a debate on "the principles" to be included in the ongoing negotiations with Russia on the basic treaty between the two countries. PRM First Deputy Chairman Corneliu Ciontu said his party wants to "ring an alarm bell" about the danger that Romania will forego its right to demand the return of the treasury, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Democratic Party Chairman Basescu said his party will not cosponsor any motion with the PRM, but "might vote in favor" of such a motion. Meanwhile, Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania Executive Chairman Laszlo Borbely called the initiative "a demagogic initiative with obvious electoral objectives." National Liberal Party Deputy Andrei Chiliman said the motion "should be addressed to the Russian government, rather than moved in the Romanian parliament." MS

ROMANIAN SENATE APPROVES LAW BANNING SEXUAL HARASSMENT, GENDER DISCRIMINATION

The Senate approved a law on 1 November banning sexual harassment and any form of gender discrimination, Romanian television reported. MS

ROMANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER BELIEVES SOLUTION FOR BRASOV TRUCKMAKER IN OFFING

After meeting in Brasov with trade union leaders, Interior Minister Ioan Rus said on 1 November he believes an interministerial commission will be able to come up with a "viable solution" to the problems of the troubled Brasov Roman truckmaker within three weeks, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. But Marius Stinghe, a leader of the trade unions at Roman, said the unions cannot agree with the government's restructuring plans for the plant and will reject any layoffs. MS

ROMANIAN SENATOR ILASCU INVOLVED IN MANSLAUGHTER

An automobile driven by PRM Senator Ilie Ilascu struck and killed a crossing pedestrian in a village near Bacau, Mediafax reported on 2 November. MS

ROMANIA PROHIBITS HAMMUD'S ENTRY

Interior Minister Rus on 1 November signed an order prohibiting the entry in Romania of Mahmud Ahmad Hammud, the former Lebanese honorary consul in Chisinau who is suspected of being a prominent member of the terrorist Hizballah organization, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Rus said in Brasov that the order was issued at the request of the Romanian Intelligence Service to "uphold national interests and strengthen national security." MS

DIACOV SAYS 'HAMMUD AFFAIR' IS REVENGE OF MOLDOVAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE CHIEF

Democratic Party Chairman and former parliamentary speaker Dumitru Diacov told journalists on 1 November that the "Hammud affair" is nothing but an attempt staged by Moldovan Intelligence and Security Service head Valeriu Pasat to take revenge on Diacov for having tried to bring about his dismissal, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. "Nobody wanted Hammud until he married my daughter," Diacov said, claiming that Pasat is also being assisted by Popular Party Christian Democratic Chairman Iurie Rosca. Diacov denied media reports that he intends to leave Moldova, saying the country must find "a reasonable alternative" between Rosca's unionists and the communists. Hammud, who was expelled from Moldova after his Moldovan citizenship was revoked by President Vladimir Voronin, said he planned to leave for Lebanon on 2 November "to inform his government on the allegations against him," and will tour other Arab states for the same purpose, Mediafax reported. MS

TIRASPOL SUPREME SOVIET APPROVES WITHDRAWAL OF RUSSIAN ARSENAL

Supreme Soviet Chairman Grigorii Marakutsa on 1 November told the parliament that the Russian Defense Ministry has requested the State Duma to allocate 298 million rubles ($100 million) for the costs of withdrawing the Russian arsenal from the Transdniester and that, in line with the earlier understanding reached with the Tiraspol authorities, the money will be used to cover the separatists' debt for Russian gas deliveries, Flux reported. The Supreme Soviet subsequently approved by unanimous decision a 26 October agreement reached with the Russian Defense Ministry on the withdrawal of the arsenal and the destruction of depleted equipment. The resolution pledges Transdniester cooperation beginning on 5 November in "withdrawing the arsenal without any hindrance." MS

SMIRNOV 'PRESIDENTIAL RIVAL' LEAVES BENDERY 'TO AVOID PHYSICAL VIOLENCE'

The former chief of the Bendery-Tighina administration Tom Zenovich said during a stopover in Chisinau on his way to Moscow on 1 November that he will describe to "prominent Russian politicians the atmosphere of fear and lies stirred up by the current Transdniester leadership," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Zenovich, who intends to run against Smirnov in the 1 December "presidential" elections, was dismissed by the authorities in Tiraspol. He said that immediately upon announcing his candidacy he and his family received threats of physical violence, the secret services spied on him, and his telephone was tapped. Zenovich also said that before he departed for the airport an attempt was made to arrest him. MS

MASS PROTEST RALLY MARKS BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT'S FIRST 100 DAYS IN OFFICE

Thousands protested on 1 November in Sofia, marking 100 days in office of the cabinet headed by Simeon Saxecoburggotski, international agencies reported. The rally was called by the two main trade unions, which issued 17 demands, including tax cuts to encourage business and create more jobs, and a 20 percent pay raise for state employees. Confederation of Independent Trade Unions leader Zhelyazko Hristov told the protesters that the government's pre-election promises have not been honored. He urged the government to either begin discussions with the unions or face strikes. Deputy Premier Lidia Shuleva said the government has already raised the minimum monthly salary to 100 leva ($46) from 85 leva, and that it plans to increase social welfare spending by 20 percent in 2002. MS

POPE TO VISIT BULGARIA IN MAY

Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi told journalists on 1 November that he has received confirmation that Pope John Paul II will visit Bulgaria in the second half of May 2002, AP reported. The information was passed on to the ministry by Apostolic Nuncio Antonio Mennini. Pasi expressed the hope that the visit will help "erase from Bulgaria's image the blemish of...[its alleged 1981] involvement in the attempt on the pope's life." Three Bulgarians suspected of complicity in the assassination attempt carried out by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca were acquitted by an Italian court for lack of evidence. MS

CORRECTION:

"RFE/RL Newsline" erroneously reported on 1 November that the Bulgarian draft budget for 2002 envisages a zero deficit. In fact, the budget is projecting a 0.8 percent of the GDP deficit.




BATTLE OF THE BREWS COMES TO A HEAD IN SLOVENIA


By Donald F. Reindl

A takeover of Slovenia's Union Brewery is imminent, and speculation is growing as to whether the Belgium-based multinational company Interbrew or the Lasko Brewery -- Union's Slovene archrival -- will be successful in acquiring a majority stake in the 137-year-old Ljubljana brewery. Lasko currently controls slightly over half of the beer market in Slovenia.

The Slovene daily "Delo" reported on 23 October that Interbrew acquired an additional 3 percent of Union shares the previous day, giving it a share nearly as great as the 24.9 percent currently held jointly by Lasko and its subsidiary Radenska. Lasko merged with the popular Slovene soft drink company Radenska in a friendly takeover in September last year. Traders reported that Union employees likely sold the stock to Interbrew in an attempt to prevent a Lasko takeover. The outcome now depends on which company acquires the remaining shares, which are held by a state fund and small shareholders.

The potential international consolidation of Slovenia's beer market is a reflection of broader trends from the Baltics to the Balkans. Despite frequently intense loyalties to local brews, independent hometown breweries have become increasingly rare anachronisms in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE. The privatization of formerly state-owned breweries, coupled with the need for Western capital, has made breweries a ready target for international firms. Indeed, Interbrew is active in other parts of post-communist Europe, and operates breweries in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and elsewhere. Nor is it alone. The South African Breweries corporation boasts holdings in Slovakia, Russia, Poland, and -- perhaps most prominently -- has had a controlling interest in the Czech brewing combine Pilsner Urquell-Radegast since 1999, when it beat out Heineken by meeting the $321 million asking price set by the combine's Japanese owner, Nomura. On the other hand, the Dutch company Heineken counts breweries in Macedonia and Poland among its 110 worldwide, and holds a range of labels in Slovakia.

The rare exceptions to this trend are represented by cases such as the well-known Czech Budvar brewery, which remains state-owned in order to prevent a hostile takeover by the American Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. -- although this has not prevented a series of court cases and even criminal prosecution involving marketing rights in various countries over the "Budweiser" label. The two companies have been contesting the matter since 1911, when Budvar first tried to sell its Budweiser on the American market, and they appear no closer to a compromise now than they did 90 years ago (see "RFE/RL Weekday Magazine," 31 July 2001).

However, it is not only Western multinationals that are engaged in buying up the breweries of CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE. Lasko is also engaged in takeover bids outside Slovenia. Although the company does not command as much capital as the large multinational brewing consortia, it has acquired a 40 percent share in the Jadranska brewery of Split, Croatia, and recently competed -- albeit unsuccessfully -- with Interbrew for Bosnia's Banja Luka brewery.

These international takeovers are not so much a reflection of an inability to maintain domestic control over the beer market as they are a sign of the modernization of the brewing industry in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE. After all, several decades ago the American brewing industry went through similar growing pains associated with massive consolidation. The developments also indicate the attractiveness of these breweries to international investors. Despite falling beer sales across Europe, many breweries continue to operate successfully. Last year, for example, Lasko reported a net profit of approximately $6.2 million. This is explained in part by the diversified products of modern breweries. Whichever company eventually acquires Union will also acquire production facilities for a variety of soft drinks and spring water. In addition, Union is Slovenia's only producer of baking yeast, producing some 3,800 tons annually.

Slovenes remain relatively unconcerned about the changing ownership of the Union brewery. The general attitude seems to be that business is business. As an article in the weekly financial paper "Delnicar" commented on 28 September after Interbrew confirmed its intention to enter Slovenia's beer market, the real regret is that it is only Belgian money -- and not Belgian lambics and other celebrated Belgian brews -- that will be coming to Slovenia. And, in any case, there are no plans to close the landmark brewery on the edge of Ljubljana's downtown.

Connoisseurs of irony might note that Union and Lasko were locked in fierce market competition three-quarters of a century ago. The outcome was Union's secret purchase of most of Lasko's stock in 1924, and the closure of the brewery three months later. Union then marketed its own beer under the Lasko label, to the indignation of loyal Lasko drinkers. If Lasko is successful in acquiring a majority stake in Union, many may well remark that turnabout is fair play. Donald F. Reindl is a freelance writer and Indiana University Ph.D. candidate based in Ljubljana. (dreindl@indiana.edu)


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