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Newsline - November 5, 2001




PUTIN WELCOMES COOPERATION BETWEEN U.S., RUSSIAN SECURITY AGENCIES

Following a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on 3 November, President Vladimir Putin said that dialogue between Russian and U.S. security agencies is an important component of bilateral ties, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 November. Putin said this kind of cooperation "creates the atmosphere of trust necessary for developing relations in other directions." Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that the agenda for the upcoming U.S.-Russia summit has been basically agreed upon, Interfax reported on 2 November. PG

FOREIGN MINISTER WANTS CLOSER COOPERATION WITH NATO...

Foreign Minister Ivanov said on 3 November that Moscow wants to increase the level and closeness of its relationship with NATO in order to counter new threats to humanity, Interfax reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 3 November that Moscow welcomes the backing of UN member states for the continued observance of the 1972 ABM Treaty, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

... WHILE DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS NATO 'COLD WAR RELIC'

Following his meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld on 3 November, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said the ABM Treaty is "to some extent" what the U.S. claims -- "a relic of the Cold War," Russia TV reported. But he said that before ending the ABM Treaty's restrictions, something new must be put in the place of that agreement. Ivanov added that in his opinion, "NATO itself in its current shape is quite a relic of the Cold War." PG

PRIMAKOV CALLS FOR ANTITERRORIST CHARTER

Former Prime Minister and Duma deputy Yevgenii Primakov said in an interview published in "Vek" on 2 November that an international antiterrorist charter should be drawn up in the near future. He also warned that if the U.S. expands the antiterrorist effort beyond Afghanistan then "the U.S. will lose the support of many of those who support it now." PG

RUSSIA SEEKS TO IMPROVE SECURITY AT NUCLEAR PLANTS

Viktor Kholstov, the head of the Defense Ministry's Radiation, Chemical, and Bacteriological Defense Forces, said on 2 November that Moscow has increased training of personnel at nuclear facilities in order to improve security in the face of possible terrorist attacks, Reuters reported. PG

CUSTOMS OFFICERS SEIZE ROCKET MOTORS

Customs officials in Kaliningrad on 2 November seized two rocket engines being illegally exported, Interfax-Northwest reported. The engines were concealed in containers scheduled to be shipped to the Netherlands. The news agency said that officials have identified a local scrap-metal dealer as being behind the shipment. PG

MOSCOW URGES INTERNATIONAL EFFORT AGAINST USE OF ANTHRAX AS WEAPON

Gennadii Onishchenko, the chief public health official of the Health Ministry, said on 2 November that the anthrax spores being disseminated in the U.S. originated there, Russian and Western agencies reported. He added that as of that date, some 252 envelopes containing white powder have been reported in Russia but none of them have proved to contain anthrax. Meanwhile, according to a ROMIR-Gallup poll reported by Interfax the same day, some 35 percent of Muscovites fear that there will be anthrax attacks in their city as well as in the U.S. PG

PUTIN CALLS FOR ACTION ON ANTI-EXTREMISM BILL...

President Putin on 2 November told Justice Minister Yurii Chaika to speed up work on an anti-extremism law, Russian and Western news agencies reported. He said that Russia is now "facing many phenomena that the country did not have to deal with before." Putin's remarks followed rioting by 300 people in Moscow on 30 October during which two people from the Caucasus were killed. PG

... AS ABDULATIPOV WARNS OF MORE NATIONALIST ACTIONS...

Federation Council member and leader of the Assembly of the Peoples of Russia Ramazan Abdulatipov called on the government on 2 November to take immediate measures to ward off more pogroms. He said that in the absence of such actions, the "most unpredictable consequences for Russia" are possible -- including "the collapse of the country," Interfax reported. He said that his group has collected hundreds of reports of discriminatory actions by Russian law enforcement personnel and that Russian media and entertainment cultivate nationalist prejudices. PG

... AND POLLS SUGGEST NATIONALISM GROWING AMONG YOUNG MUSCOVITES

A poll conducted by ROMIR-Gallup International and reported by Interfax on 2 November found that many Muscovites believe that young people in the city are increasingly nationalistic. Meanwhile, "Novye izvestiya" the same day carried an interview with Aleksandr Ivanov-Sukharevskii, the leader of the People's National Party, who suggested that the pogrom was "a natural reaction" on the part of young people to the influx of non-Russians into the capital. He called for "the consolidation of the Russian people with the help of the German, Italian, and French peoples to stop the expansion of Jewish pan-Americanism." And on 3 November, Duma deputy speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky told a group of his supporters that Moscow must "cleanse the capital" of "criminal groups consisting of people from the south," Interfax reported. PG

PROTEST IN MOSCOW AGAINST U.S. ACTIONS IN AFGHANISTAN

About 70 members of the For Popular Democracy movement, the National Bolshevik Party, and the Communists staged a demonstration in Moscow's Pushkin Square on 2 November to protest the American bombing of Afghanistan, Interfax reported. The demonstrators carried signs saying "Peoples Together Against Presidents," "Peace to the huts -- war to the buildings," and "NATO Bases Out of the USSR." National Bolshevik leader Anatolii Tishin told the news service that "America has never done anything good and never will do anything good for Russia, and so Russia would serve its interests better by supporting the Taliban." PG

YASTRZHEMBSKII GREETS U.S. 'ENLIGHTENMENT' ON CHECHNYA

Speaking to an American-Russian investment symposium in Boston on 3 November, presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii welcomed what he called American "enlightenment" on the nature of the conflict in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. Yastrzhembskii said that "everybody knows about the White House's statement about Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network and its close links to international terrorists operating in Chechnya." PG

AFGHANISTAN WORKING GROUP TO INCLUDE DUMA DEPUTIES

Dmitrii Rogozin, the chairman of the Duma International Affairs Committee, told Interfax on 2 November that the Foreign Ministry has created a special working group on Afghanistan that will also include Duma deputies as members. PG

AUDIT CHAMBER TO EXAMINE PUTIN'S OFFICE

Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin said on 3 November that his organization will look at the administration of President Putin in the near future, Interfax reported. He added that the chamber will also look at other ministries and activities, including the reconstruction effort in Lensk. But he noted that an audit had not found any violations in the Emergency Situations Ministry. The day before, the chamber announced that its examination of the Russian atomic energy program revealed serious shortcomings, including a failure to bring on line any of the seven reactors planned for the period 1996-2000, the news service said. PG

ILLARIONOV SAYS FINANCIAL MONITORING BODY ONLY FOR STRUGGLE WITH CRIME

Presidential adviser Andrei Illarionov said on 2 November that the Committee on Financial Monitoring was created solely to help fight crime and not to settle political scores, Interfax reported. A poll conducted by ROMIR-Gallup International and reported by Interfax on 3 November found that most Russians agreed with that and believe the new body will help improve Russia's international reputation. PG

REPORTED PLAN TO CREATE STATE BODY TO SUPERVISE RELIGIONS DENIED

Andrei Sebentsov, the deputy chairman of the government commission on the affairs of religious organizations, on 2 November denied press reports that the government is planning to create a Soviet-style body to supervise religious groups, Interfax reported. He also denied reports that representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church and of Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar failed to take part in his committee's deliberations. He said that his working group deals primarily with queries from the regions concerning how to deal with religious issues. PG

JUSTICE MINISTRY PLANS ACCORDS WITH FEDERATION SUBJECTS

Justice Minister Chaika said on 2 November that his ministry already has agreements with nine subjects of the federation concerning cooperation in the legal sphere and that he plans to sign accords with all the others, Interfax reported. Chaika also said his ministry is stepping up its cooperation with the Tax Ministry to improve enforcement in that area. PG

CHUBAIS SAYS PETERSBURG DISPUTE SIGN OF SPS STRENGTH

Anatolii Chubais, the co-chairman of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), said on 3 November that the dispute that has split that group's St. Petersburg organization is a sign of strength not weakness, Interfax reported. He also said that the current economic successes in Russia have their roots in the policies of the government of former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, the news service said. PG

DORENKO EXPLAINS WHICH KPRF HE WANTS TO JOIN

In an interview on Ekho Moskvy on 2 November, television journalist Sergei Dorenko explained that he wants to become a member of the Conservative Party of the Russian Federation not the Communist Party of the Russian Federation as some media outlets had reported. The confusion arose because both groups have the same initials in Russian, KPRF, but Dorenko said the Communists have not registered that acronym and that he hopes the Conservatives will. PG

BURBULIS BECOMES A SENATOR

With the end of the Federation Council mandate of Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak approaching, Gennadii Burbulis, onetime state secretary under former President Boris Yeltsin, will become a member of the upper house of parliament in his place, Interfax reported on 2 November. Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak appointed Burbulis to serve as his liaison with the State Duma and Federation Council in June 2000 (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 7 June 2000) Meanwhile, Valerii Goreglyad, the head of the Federation group in the upper chamber, said his group does not intend to raise the question of Federation Council speaker Yegor Stroev's mandate even though Stroev has been re-elected as governor of Orel, the news agency said the same day. He said it is even possible that Stroev might remain in the Federation Council by resigning as governor. PG/JAC

BEREZOVSKY DOES NOT INTEND TO RETURN TO RUSSIA

Speaking on NTV on 2 November, embattled entrepreneur Boris Berezovsky said that, as before, he does not intend to return to Russia to face prosecutor's questions as he cannot count on the Russian legal system to protect his rights. Meanwhile, also on NTV, Duma deputy (SPS) Vladimir Golovlev, who was stripped of parliamentary immunity and now faces corruption charges, said the same day that Russian prosecutors misled the Duma in order to secure deputies' agreement to lift his immunity from prosecution. PG

SUPREME COURT JUSTICE WANTS OPEN TRIALS OPEN TO MEDIA

Viktor Zhuikov, the deputy chairman of the Supreme Court, said on 2 November that open court cases should be open to the media, and denounced efforts to keep the media out as "a crude violation of the law," Interfax reported. He said that audio recording is now permitted, and that television should be allowed by the agreement of the sitting judge once new legislation is passed. PG

COALITION FORMED FOR MOSCOW CITY DUMA RACE

Leaders of Fatherland, the SPS, Unity, and Yabloko signed on 4 November what they called "a nonaggression pact" that will have them agree on a common list of candidates and also agree not to attack each other during the campaign for the 16 December elections to the Moscow city Duma, Interfax-Moscow reported. PG

MOSCOW CONSTRUCTION OFFICIAL ASSASSINATED

Two men gunned down Sergei Balashov, the Moscow city official in charge of construction, on 2 November Russian and Western agencies reported. Officials suggested that there was a link between his professional responsibilities and his murder. No one has yet been charged with the crime. Meanwhile, Major General Vladimir Pronin, the commander of the city Interior Ministry division, announced a crackdown on corruption within the city's police force, Interfax reported. PG

WINTER PREPARATIONS LAG IN SIX REGIONS

Sergei Kruflik, the first deputy chairman of Gosstroi, said on 2 November that the number of regions lagging significantly in preparations for winter has been reduced from 11 to six in recent weeks, Interfax reported. Now, the only regions where winter preparedness is still in doubt are Kamchatka, Arkhangelsk, Magadan, Sakhalin, Ulyanovsk, and Murmansk, he said. PG

MEDVEDKOV SAYS EU EXPANSION DOESN'T THREATEN RUSSIA

Maksim Medvedkov, Deputy Minister for Economic Development and Trade, said on 2 November that the planned expansion of the European Union eastward will not threaten Russia's interests, especially because the new members will have far fewer votes than current members with which Russia has good relations, Interfax reported. PG

PROBLEM WITH PERMITS STALLS TRAFFIC AT FINNISH-RUSSIAN BORDER

New customs rules imposed on 1 November and the absence of any Russian arrangement to provide the necessary papers has resulted in long lines of trucks at Finnish-Russian border-crossing points, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 November. PG

MOSCOW DENOUNCES CZECH REPORT ON RUSSIAN SPECIAL ACTIVITIES

Russian diplomatic sources told Interfax on 2 November that a Czech government report saying that Russian special services have become more active in the Czech Republic is "a relic of the Cold War," Interfax reported. The sources described the report as "a direct falsification" of Russian foreign policy. PG

MOSCOW WANTS RAPID POLITICAL SOLUTION TO GEORGIA CRISIS

Foreign Minister Ivanov said on 2 November that Moscow wants Georgian political leaders to find "a rapid exit" from the current political crisis in a political way within the framework of the existing constitution, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Duma deputies, including Yabloko member Vladimir Lukin, International Affairs Committee Chairman Rogozin, and Unity deputy head Vladmir Reznik, said that what happened in Georgia was bound to happen because of the standoff between President Eduard Shevardnadze and the parliament, Russian agencies reported the same day. PG

USTINOV SAYS 'KURSK' NOT SUNK BY COLLISION WITH FOREIGN SUBMARINE

Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said on 3 November that the "Kursk" was not sunk by a collision with a foreign submarine but rather by an explosion of one torpedo that touched off the explosions of others, Russian and Western news services reported. Meanwhile, officials said on 4 November that the damage to the "Kursk" was too severe to remove the last six cruise missiles on board, AP reported. PG

RUSSIA HAS CUT EXTERNAL DEBT BY $19 BILLION SINCE 1998

Presidential adviser Illarionov said on 2 November that Russia reduced its foreign debt by $19 billion between the end of 1998 and 1 July 2001, Interfax reported. As a result, it now owes approximately $137 billion, which does not put Russia in the category "of countries with extremely high levels" of foreign debt, Illarionov said. PG

49 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS GET SOME STATE BENEFITS

According to a poll conducted by VTsIOM and reported by Interfax on 3 November, 49 percent of all Russians get some type of government benefits, including 31 percent who receive discounts on communal services and discounted or free public transport, 11 percent who receive discounts for the purchase of medicines, 8 percent who receive free or discounted railway or airline tickets, and 6 percent who receive free or heavily discounted medical services. PG

ARMS EXPORTERS HELP FAMILIES OF RUSSIANS KILLED IN LINE OF DUTY

Rosoboroneksport, the Russian arms exporting agency, is providing money for the families of Russian soldiers and security officials killed in the line of duty, "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie" reported on 2 November. At present, it gives money to more than 10,000 children whose parents died in the service of their country. PG

ALCOHOLISM, TUBERCULOSIS, AIDS INCREASINGLY SERIOUS PROBLEMS

Chief public health officer Onishchenko said on 2 November that 27,000 Russians died from ingesting poor quality vodka during 2001, Interfax reported. The same day, officials in Yaroslavl reported that they had uncovered a tank containing 255,000 liters of illegally produced vodka, the news service said. Meanwhile, the British medical journal "The Lancet" reported in its November issue that there are now 16 million Russians infected with tuberculosis and that this could interact with the spread of HIV infections and result in more people coming down with both diseases, Reuters reported on 2 November. PG

GASPRINSKII CONFERENCE TAKES PLACE IN MOSCOW

An international conference devoted to Ismail Gasprinskii (Gasprali), the great 19th-century Crimean Tatar activist and Islamic modernist, opened in Moscow on 1 November, "Vremya MN" reported. PG

BULGAKOV DIARIES TO BE PUBLISHED

The Moscow publishing house VAGRIUS announced on 3 November the publication of "The Diary of the Master and Margarita," containing all known diaries of writer Mikhail Bulgakov from 1922 "to the last day of his life" on 8 March 1940, Interfax reported. PG

MUSLIMS WORRY ABOUT 'ISLAMOPHOBIA'...

In Chelyabinsk Oblast, Muslims in the city of Zlatoust are organizing a peace march, regions.ru reported on 2 November. The march was suggested by a member of the city's branch of the Eurasian party in part to dispel rumors about the involvement of all Muslims in the Afghan conflict. In an interview with "Argumenty i Fakty" on 30 October, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said he is concerned about "Islamophobia," noting that one of the aims of international terrorism is to provoke a clash between Christians and Muslims. According to Shaimiev, Islam is an extremely peaceful and tolerant religion. JAC

... AS WESTERN JOURNALISTS CONFIRM PRESENCE OF POTENTIAL TALIBAN RECRUITS

Meanwhile, RFE/RL's correspondent in the city of Chally, Tatarstan, reported on 2 November that a number of Western television and radio journalists have visited the city following reports of potential Muslim volunteers for the Taliban (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2001). One reporter for Deutschland Radio said that they had discovered about 70 members of the Tatar Public Center who said they would like to join the Taliban. On 31 October, Tatarinform reported that officials from the Chally administration visited the center's office and expressed their extreme displeasure that local Tatar Public Center head Rafis Kashapov was being interviewed by foreign journalists. The Tatar newspaper "Kyzyl Tang" called for an end to the bombing of Afghanistan in its 27 October issue, according to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau. The daily said that bombings against a country -- where the one-story buildings are made of dung and the primary means of transportation is by donkey -- can only serve to annihilate the peaceful population rather than plants and factories. JAC

ANOTHER GOVERNOR TO SEEK A THIRD TERM DESPITE KREMLIN OBJECTIONS?

Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel has announced that he has the full legal right to seek a third term in office despite the fact that the usual interpretation of existing legislation has been that such a bid would be forbidden, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 3 November. According to the daily, Rossel has suggested that the bill amending the law on principles' executive and legislative power was adopted by the State Duma only in October 1999, a month after which the people of Sverdlovsk elected him to office. Therefore, according to Rossel, everything -- including prior elections -- that occurred prior to October 1999 should not be considered relevant. JAC

ENVOY FINDS BORDER ISSUES PROVOCATIVE

In an interview with "Vek" on 2 November, presidential envoy to the Volga federal district Sergei Kirienko expressed his categorical opposition to the changes in the administrative borders inside the seven federal districts. "I am convinced that for Russia this would be very dangerous," he said. "If anyone would like to create a provocation, then he should raise the issue of changing borders." Kirienko added that the districts "did not appear as prototypes for new regions, and no one is planning on reshaping [the regions]." JAC

TWO MURDERS SOLVED IN DAGHESTAN...

Three contract killers arrested last week have been charged with the 30 October shooting in Makhachkala of Daghestan National Assembly Deputy Chairman Arsen Kamaev and Abdulkhalif Musaev, who headed Promstroibank's Daghestan branch, Interfax reported on 4 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October and 2 November 2001). The killings were commissioned by Novolak administration head Saigid-Batal Uzunov and were not politically motivated, "The Moscow Times" on 5 November quoted Interior Minister Adilgirei Magomedtagirov as saying. LF

... AS MAYOR ESCAPES 14TH ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT

Makhachkala Mayor Said Amirov escaped unhurt, but two other people were slightly injured when unknown perpetrators launched two grenades at Amirov's car on 2 November, Interfax reported. Amirov is partly paralyzed as a result of injuries sustained in one of the 13 previous attempts on his life. On 3 November, some 1,500 people staged a rally in Makhachkala to demand that Interior Minister Magomedtagirov resign because of his failure to ensure Amirov's safety, "The Moscow Times" reported. LF




FUGITIVE ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY ENDORSES CALL FOR PRESIDENT'S IMPEACHMENT

Former Armenian Interior Minister and Yerevan Mayor Vano Siradeghian, who fled Armenia in April 2000 to avoid being taken into custody for the remaining duration of his trial on charges of arranging contract murders, has written to the Armenian daily "Haykakan zhamanak" saying he is "pleased" to append his signature to the petition being circulated in parliament calling for the impeachment of President Robert Kocharian, the paper reported on 1 November. LF

ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN EXCHANGE PRISONERS

Three Azerbaijani civilians detained on the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the past two months were handed back to the Azerbaijani authorities on 3 November in return for one Armenian soldier taken prisoner last month, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. Representatives of the OSCE and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies monitored the exchange. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT AGAIN DEMANDS EQUITABLE SOLUTION TO KARABAKH CONFLICT

Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev told the visiting U.S., French, and Russian co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group during a four-hour meeting in Baku on 4 November that a solution to the conflict must take into account that parts of Azerbaijan's territory have been occupied and the population forced to flee their homes, ITAR-TASS and Turan reported. He said that a "one-sided approach" cannot yield a solution. AP quoted Aliyev as again threatening a new war if no peaceful solution can be found to the conflict, but Russian co-chair and First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov told journalists after the meeting that despite such statements Aliev, like his Armenian counterpart Kocharian, has the "civic courage" required to pursue a peaceful solution. Trubnikov also hinted that the co-chairs discussed with Aliyev amendments to earlier proposals on resolving the conflict, but did not give further details. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SAYS HE WILL NOT RESIGN OR DISSOLVE PARLIAMENT...

Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 5 November that he does not intend either to step down or to dissolve parliament, RFE/RL's Georgian Service and AP reported. He said the president should resign only if he has committed a serious crime or he is physically incapacitated, arguing that it would be irresponsible for him to step down when Georgia has no government and there is no parliament leadership. LF

... DISCUSSES POLITICAL SITUATION WITH ADJAR LEADER...

On 3 November Shevardnadze traveled to Batumi where he bestowed Georgia's highest award, the Order of Gorgasali, on Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze in recognition of Abashidze's contribution to the revival of Adjaria and preserving political stability there, Caucasus Press reported. The two men discussed the political situation in the wake of Shevardnadze's dismissal of the cabinet, focusing specifically on possible candidates for the post of prime minister. Abashidze said after those talks that he now considers it possible to travel to Tbilisi for the first time in several years. But Djemal Gogitidze, who heads the parliament faction of Abashidze's Revival Union, denied that Abashidze is in the running for the post of premier, noting that he has been offered it several times before but always refused. LF

... AS PUBLIC PROTESTS IN TBILISI DIE DOWN

The number of people still picketing the Georgian parliament building in Tbilisi to demand Shevardnadze's resignation dwindled to a few dozen by late on 4 November, most of them students and supporters of late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, but rose to around 150 on the morning of 5 November, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. But the Mkhedrioni paramilitary organization headed by Djaba Ioseliani, who was instrumental in ousting Gamsakhurdia and bringing Shevardnadze back to Tbilisi in 1992, has endorsed the call for Shevardnadze to step down, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 November. Meanwhile, the situation in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi, where demonstrators also called on Shevardnadze to resign, remains unclear. A student leader in Zugdidi told Caucasus Press on 3 November that the students had ended their protest, but that agency reported the following day that two people were seriously injured in fighting between one faction that supports Shevardnadze and a second that backs former parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania and parliament deputy Mikhail Saakashvili. LF

UN SECURITY COUNCIL AGAIN FAILS TO AGREE ON ABKHAZ SETTLEMENT DOCUMENT

A 30 October session of the UN Security Council again failed unanimously to endorse the draft proposals on the future relations between the Georgian central government and the breakaway unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported on 31 October. UN special representative for Abkhazia Dieter Boden said Russia again voted against the draft (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2001). LF

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS CLAIM ABKHAZ BASE CLOSED

Major General Nikolai Sidorichev, who commands the CIS peacekeeping force in the Abkhaz conflict zone, and Russian Defense Ministry official Colonel Nikolai Deryagin both told Interfax on 3 November that the last train transporting military equipment and personnel left the Russian military base in Gudauta, Abkhazia, earlier that day bound for Russia. The base no longer formally exists, Deryagin said. Georgian officials wanted international monitors to supervise the final withdrawal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2001). LF

GEORGIA STRIPPED OF VOTING RIGHTS AT UNESCO

Georgia has been stripped of its voting rights at UNESCO because of its failure to pay membership fees totaling $3 million, "Alia" reported on 1 November. LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTIES CLOSE RANKS, ELECT KULOV AS LEADER

Meeting in Bishkek on 3 November, leading members of the opposition Ar-Namys, Ata-Meken, Erkindik, and People's parties announced the formation of a People's Congress and elected as chairman of that body imprisoned Ar-Namys Chairman Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The congress adopted a declaration condemning what they termed the country's "authoritarian" leadership and "totally corrupt" government, which they blamed for the fact that 80 percent of the population lives in poverty. They called for sweeping political reforms including amendments to the constitution to create a presidential-parliamentary system, and for Kulov's release from jail. The Asaba Party attended preliminary talks on 30 October but failed to join the congress. LF

UZBEKISTAN AGAIN SUSPENDS GAS DELIVERIES TO KYRGYZSTAN

Uzbekistan halted gas deliveries to Osh Oblast in southern Kyrgyzstan on 1 November because of the unpaid 60 million soms (about $1.3 million) debt of the local gas distribution company, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. On 2 November, the deputy chairman of Kyrgyzstan's State Property and Foreign Investments Committee, Anatolii Makarov, said Uzbekistan owes some 1.5 billion soms to Kyrgyzstan's state-owned Kyrgyzenergo for electricity supplies. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH EU OFFICIAL...

Imomali Rakhmonov held talks in Dushanbe on 2 November with visiting Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, the current chairman of the EU Council of Ministers, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Rakhmonov requested further support and assistance from the EU for Tajikistan's ongoing efforts to create a civil society and a functioning market economy. Michel said the EU will soon resume aid to Tajikistan within the framework of the TACIS program. The two men also discussed the situation in Afghanistan. LF

... ADB DELEGATION

President Rakhmonov met in Dushanbe on 1 November with a visiting delegation from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) headed by Regional Director Gert van der Linden to discuss the progress of ongoing ADB-funded projects for postconflict restoration of the infrastructure and social sector and planning for new projects in the transport, power-engineering, and agriculture sectors, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. LF

TURKMENISTAN ISSUES ARREST WARRANT FOR FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER

Turkmenistan's prosecutor-general has issued an arrest warrant for former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov and asked for his extradition from Russia, his presumed whereabouts, Interfax reported on 2 November. Shikhmuradov is accused of the theft of state property valued at $25.27 million, including warplanes and armaments that he is said to have sold to Russia. Shikhmuradov, who was fired as foreign minister in the summer of 2000, was dismissed from his post of ambassador to China on 30 October and two days later issued a statement accusing President Saparmurat Niyazov of ruling over "a police state" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2001). LF

U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY VISITS TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN...

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked Tajik President Rakhmonov in Dushanbe on 3 November to make available three further Tajik air bases, including one in Kulyab in southern Tajikistan, for use during the ongoing strikes against Afghanistan, "The Washington Post" and the "Los Angeles Times" reported on 5 November. Rakhmonov gave permission for U.S. engineers to assess how much work is required to make the facilities in question operational. ITAR-TASS on 4 November quoted NBC as reporting that Washington is prepared to offer Dushanbe tens of millions of dollars in aid in return for the use of the bases. Rumsfeld then traveled to Tashkent where he discussed the military situation in Afghanistan, bilateral military cooperation, and antiterrorism measures in general with President Islam Karimov and Defense Minister Kadyr Gulyamov on 4 November. At a press conference following those talks, Gulyamov said Uzbekistan has not been asked to provide greater support for the strikes against Afghanistan, according to Reuters. Uzbekistan has made one air base available for use in humanitarian and search-and-rescue operations. LF

... AS DOES AUSTRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER

Visiting Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner met with Uzbek President Karimov and Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov on 2 November to discuss the military situation in Afghanistan, Reuters reported. She told journalists after her talks with Komilov that Austria acknowledges that the military strikes against Afghanistan are necessary, but hopes that they will be concluded expeditiously in the near future. She praised Uzbekistan's "very firm stance" in the international antiterror coalition. On 3 November, Ferrero-Waldner met in Dushanbe with President Rakhmonov to discuss advance planning for the reconstruction of Afghanistan once the ongoing war is ended, Interfax and AP reported. Ferrero-Waldner said it is crucial that the postwar government should include representatives of all of Afghanistan's ethnic groups. She expressed confidence that Tajikistan and the other Central Asia states can contribute to the EU's planned economic and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. LF




BELARUSIAN GOVERNMENT SUBMITS 2002 BUDGET DRAFT TO LEGISLATURE

The government has submitted a 2002 budget draft to the Chamber of Representatives, Belapan reported on 2 November. The document calls for revenues of 3.9 trillion Belarusian rubles ($2.5 billion) and projects a deficit of 344 billion Belarusian rubles, or 1.5 percent of GDP. JM

BELARUSIAN YOUTHS PUNISHED FOR ANTI-FASCIST DEMONSTRATION

A Minsk court on 2 November sentenced opposition Youth Front leader Pavel Sevyarynets to 10 days in jail for his recent attempt to pay tribute to Belarusian resistance fighters executed by the Nazis during World War II (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2001), Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Sevyarynets' colleagues, who joined him in an unauthorized anti-Nazi action in Minsk, were punished with fines of up to $750 or arrest for three days. JM

RUSSIAN ELECTION OFFICIAL SAYS BELARUS'S ELECTION FLAWED

Aleksandr Veshnyakov, the chairman of Russia's Central Election Commission, told strana.ru on 5 November that Belarus's presidential election in September was "far from being an example to Russia and other countries that have embarked on the path toward democracy." Veshnyakov said the election "in some measure" complied with international election standards. "However, we have some very serious advice for our Belarusian colleagues on how to make their future elections meet the election standards in full rather than in some measure," Veshnyakov added. In particular, Veshnyakov recommended that each cast ballot be demonstrated to all those present at the polling station and every observer be entitled to a copy of the official election results at his/her station in order to make parallel vote count possible. JM

RUSSIA'S SECURITY COUNCIL CHIEF BRIEFS KUCHMA ON PLANE CRASH

Russia's Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo on 3 November reported official findings regarding the 4 October crash of a Russian airliner to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Interfax reported. Rushailo said a Russian investigative commission completed its work and confirmed that a Ukrainian S-200 missile was responsible for the accident. First Deputy Premier Oleh Dubyna told journalists later the same day that Kyiv will begin paying compensation to victims' families "in the near future." JM

KUCHMA SLAMS PARLIAMENT FOR FAILURE TO AMEND CONSTITUTION

President Kuchma on 2 November criticized the legislature for the failure to implement the results of the constitutional referendum of 16 April 2000, Ukrainian television reported. In particular, those results provided for introducing a bicameral legislature and abolishing the immunity of deputies. Kuchma called on the parliament to approve relevant constitutional amendments next year. Addressing journalists in Mariupol, Donetsk Oblast, Kuchma accused lawmakers of pursuing their own interests, rather than thinking about the people. "The deputies are afraid and they were afraid of one question most of all -- the immunity of deputies. Let us see now how many people will run to secure a deputy mandate in the constituencies. Why? ... Everybody is actually going there to become immune," Kuchma said. JM

MAJORITY OF UKRAINIANS GLOOMY ABOUT SITUATION

In a poll conducted by the Oleksandr Razumkov Center for Economic and Political Studies from 1-25 October among some 11,000 adult Ukrainians, 57.7 percent of respondents said the current situation in the country is difficult, Interfax reported on 3 November. Of those polled, 19.2 percent said the situation in the country is "disastrous" and only 2 percent said it is "good." According to 13.7 percent of Ukrainians, the situation will "significantly worsen" in the near future, while 18.8 percent said it will "somewhat worsen." JM

GERMANY PROMISES ESTONIA FURTHER DEFENSE AID

After a meeting with his Estonian counterpart Juri Luik in Tallinn on 2 November, German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping said Estonia has implemented its NATO membership plan well and Germany will continue providing military support to that country, BNS reported. He noted that NATO expansion is not directed against Russia, whose membership in NATO is very unlikely in the next twenty years, according to Scharping. He also told Prime Minister Mart Laar that Germany views the Baltic states as a united group regarding NATO enlargement. In addition, Scharping held talks with President Arnold Ruutel, former President Lennart Meri, and Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves. SG

LATVIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS DO NOT DISCUSS COOPERATION OFFER FROM OTHER LEFTIST PARTY

The new council of the Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party (LSDSP) at its first meeting in Riga on 3 November decided not to discuss the draft agreement on cooperation in the parliament proposed by For Human Rights In a United Latvia on 16 October, LETA reported. LSDSP Chairman Juris Bojars said it is not an urgent matter since elections to the parliament will not be held soon. The council decided to hear regular reports from the party's factions in the parliament and the Riga City Council, as such reports may be useful for campaign purposes. The next council session will be on 20 December in Jurmala. SG.

U.S. REPORT ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN LITHUANIA RELEASED

A report on religious freedom by the U.S. State Department declared that Lithuania's Constitution guarantees religious freedom, except in cases when religious practices contradict laws, and that Lithuanian authorities respect this, "Lietuvos rytas" reported on 3 November. According to the report, there are 923 traditional and 176 nontraditional religious communities registered in the country, but 18.7 percent of the population does not practice any religion. About 70 percent of the 3.5 million population consider themselves to be Roman Catholics, and the other major religions are Russian Orthodox (about 180,000 members), Old Believers (50,000), and Lutherans (30,000). Jewish and Muslim communities have about 5,000 members each. Although the activities of foreign missionary groups are not prohibited, their representatives sometimes find it difficult to obtain work permits and encounter many other bureaucratic difficulties when seeking permanent residence permits. The Catholic Church has had the greatest success in recovering property that was nationalized under Soviet rule, and the main obstacles hindering other religions are the lack of funds and bureaucracy. SG

BRITISH PREMIER BACKS POLAND'S EU BID

Polish Premier Leszek Miller met with his British counterpart Tony Blair in London on 2 November. The two politicians discussed the war on terrorism and Poland's membership bid for the EU. "We are strong supporters of the Polish accession to the European Union as part of the first wave of candidates coming into Europe, based on the conditions of entry," AP quoted Blair as saying. Miller said he wants his country to be part of the EU by 2004. JM

POLAND AWAITS 16 PRESIDENTS FOR CONFERENCE ON TERRORISM

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski has invited 16 presidents from CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE to participate in a conference on terrorism that is due to open in Warsaw on 6 November, PAP reported. The presidential office said the presidents of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, and Macedonia have confirmed their attendance. Kwasniewski also invited observers from the United States, Russia, Belarus, and Turkey, as well as from the UN, OSCE, NATO, and EU. U.S. President George W. Bush is expected to address the conference via satellite. JM

CZECH UNIT LIKELY TO BE DEPLOYED IN COMBAT ZONE

The antichemical unit that the Czech Republic is sending to participate in Operation Enduring Freedom is likely to be deployed in combat zones in Afghanistan or in neighboring countries, U.S. Ambassador Craig Stapleton was reported as saying on 2 November. According to a 3 November report in "Mlada fronta Dnes" cited by CTK, the U.S. is "not elated" about Prime Minister Milos Zeman "prematurely" announcing the dispatch of the unit. But Zeman, who arrived in the United States on 5 November for a weeklong visit, defended his actions by saying he had specifically asked Stapleton whether the information could be disclosed. Meanwhile, Czech Security Information Service chief Jiri Ruzek told journalists on 2 November that he "can confirm" that RFE/RL headquarters in Prague were "at the center of interest of Iraqi intelligence services," Reuters reported. MS

CZECH PRESIDENT RELEASED FROM HOSPITAL

Vaclav Havel was released from hospital on 2 November and will continue to recover at the official presidential residence at Lany, near Prague, CTK and AP reported on 2 November. The 65-year-old president was hospitalized on 23 October after a recurrence of chronic bronchitis. A spokesman for the presidential office said on 4 November that Havel will spend the remainder of the week recovering. MS

KLAUS RE-ELECTED CHAIRMAN OF MAIN CZECH OPPOSITION PARTY

On 4 November, former Premier Vaclav Klaus was re-elected as chairman of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), CTK and AP reported. He ran unopposed and received 242 out of the 263 votes cast by delegates at the ODS congress in Ostrava. Prior to the vote, Klaus told the gathering that "we must win the [2002] elections, and can have no lesser objective." Miroslav Benes, Ivan Langer, Petr Necas, and Jan Zahradil were elected ODS deputy chairmen. Klaus told Czech television the same day that he is ready to resign as party chairman if the ODS fails to win the elections. In his address to the congress on 3 November, Klaus criticized the government for the "fragile" economic and social situation in the country, but said blame is also shared by the policies of the National Bank and by the "offended vanity" of the non-left opposition -- a clear allusion to the Four Party Coalition. Karel Kuehnl, the leader of that coalition, called Klaus's speech "hypocritical," and Freedom Union Chairwoman Hana Marvanova said the ODS may be preparing to renew the so-called opposition agreement with the ruling Social Democratic Party. MS

IFJ SAYS MULTIPLE LAWSUITS AGAINST 'RESPEKT' ARE 'UNACCEPTABLE'

Oliver Money-Kyrle of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said on 2 November in Prague that disputes between politicians and the media should be solved by a body especially devised for that purpose, and without lawsuits or trials, CTK reported. Money-Kyrle said the Czech government's reaction to the allegations of corruption published by the weekly "Respekt" is "absolutely inadequate, out of any line, and unacceptable." The government's aim, he said, is not to sue over one article, but "to destroy one of the few quality newspapers in the Czech Republic" and to "silence a critical voice." MS

AUSTRIA SEIZES PAINTINGS OWNED BY CZECH TV MAGNATE

On 2 November, Austrian authorities seized four paintings by prominent Czech painters they claim are owned by Nova television owner Vladimir Zelezny and ordered them confined to the Dorotheum gallery in Vienna, CTK reported, citing the Austrian APA news agency. The paintings were part of an exhibition in Salzburg and were seized following an order by a court in that town, which was acting upon the request of U.S. businessman and former Ambassador to Austria Ronald Lauder. An international arbitration court in Stockholm has ruled that Zelezny and the Czech Republic must compensate Lauder for losses he suffered when Nova television cut its ties with the Lauder-owned CME company. Four other paintings were earlier seized in Austria, but Zelezny told CTK he is not the owner of any of the seized works. On 3 November, Finance Minister Jiri Rusnok told the daily "Pravo" that Prague has appealed the Stockholm court's ruling. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER IN THE U.S.

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, who is on a private visit to the United States, on 4 November visited the site of the 11 September terrorist attacks in New York and said that what he saw "leaves in every human being deep traces and the determination that such madness should never be repeated," CTK reported. Dzurinda came to the United States to express his solidarity with the victims of the attack and to participate in the traditional New York marathon race. Alongside fellow guest Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase, Dzurinda took part in CNN's "Larry King Live" program titled "America's New Allies." He said on the program that Slovakia sides with the United States and "strongly supports... the world democratic coalition." He also said his country is "ready to shoulder our part of responsibility in the complex fight against terrorism." MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT, SELEZNEV DISCUSS COOPERATION

Visiting Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev and Rudolf Schuster agreed on 2 November that cooperation between their countries must be expanded in all spheres and that visa requirements should be eased as much as possible, CTK reported. Schuster told journalists that his country "unfortunately acted rashly" in imposing visa requirements on Russian and Ukrainian citizens under EU pressure, and now seeks to ease those requirements as much as possible. Schuster also said the future of Europe is "unimaginable without Russia," but Seleznev commented that the "EU-Russia express train is gaining speed" and that Moscow "will be glad if Central and East European carriages will also be part of this train" -- a hint that, in his opinion, Russia is further along than Slovakia in the process of EU integration. Seleznev also said Slovakia's quest to join NATO "does not scare Moscow off" from pursuing "fraternal relations" with Bratislava. Both politicians denounced international terrorism. MS

TESTS CONFIRM SLOVAKIA'S SECOND BSE CASE

Martin Chudy, the head of the State Veterinary Office, said on 3 November that tests have confirmed the second case of BSE discovered late last month, Reuters reported. Chudy said his office has identified 53 animals genetically related to the infected cow from a farm in central Slovakia and that those animals will all be slaughtered, tested, and incinerated this week. MS

HUNGARY COMMEMORATES 1956 UPRISING

Hungarian state officials and political party leaders on 4 November commemorated the 45th anniversary of the 1956 Russian invasion that crushed the Hungarian Uprising, Hungarian media reported. President Ferenc Madl attended the unveiling of a memorial in the courtyard of the 10th district prison where former Prime Minister Imre Nagy and two close associates were executed on June 16, 1958. Madl, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, cabinet members, and opposition politicians later attended a wreath-laying ceremony at plot 21 of the National Pantheon in Budapest's Kerepesi Cemetery. Some spectators interrupted the ceremony with protests when opposition politicians paid tribute. MSZ

ORBAN INTERVIEWED OVER RELATIONS WITH EXTREMISTS

Premier Orban told the Munich daily "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" prior to his visit to Munich last week that he sees "no possibility at all" of forming a coalition with the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP), Hungarian media reported on 5 November. Orban said the moderate right will be able to attain an absolute majority in the 2002 elections, and that consequently neither right-wing extremists nor former communists will be in power. Asked why he does not take firmer action against the anti-Semitic declarations of the MIEP, Orban said that "it is a part of Hungarian political folklore that the left wing declares all non-left-wingers anti-Semites." In response to the interviewer's remarks about his nationalistic policies, Orban said this is his way of soothing the population's fears that EU membership will result in the loss of national identity, and preventing the extreme right from gaining ground. MSZ

HUNGARY TO UPGRADE MIGS

Representatives of the Defense Ministry and the Russian defense contractor "Rosoboronexport" signed a 5 billion forint ($18 million) contract to extend the operational life of 14 of Hungary's 27 MiG-29 jet fighters, Hungarian media reported on 2 November. Ministry spokesman Gyorgy Joos said the operational life of MiGs will expire by October 2002, but they will able to remain operative until the end of 2005 after refurbishing. MSZ

HUNGARIAN LOCAL SMALLHOLDERS DEFY TORGYAN

On 3 November, the Szabolcs County council of the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) refused to accept a resolution passed by the party's top leadership to suspend and expel from its ranks local branch Chairman Miklos Simon (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2001). The council appealed to Smallholder organizations, asking them to resist the will of the national leadership. In other news, FKGP deputy Bela Horvath has accused the opposition Free Democrats (SZDSZ) of breaching the law on the financing of political parties. Horvath charged that during its 1998 election campaign the SZDSZ accumulated 800 million forints ($2.8 million) in debt but later claimed expenditures of only 450 million forints. He said undeclared party funds spent on the campaign were financed by companies close to the SZDSZ, and this could not be have been done without breaking the law. MSZ




YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT CALLS ON KOSOVAR SERBS TO VOTE

Serbian and Yugoslav leaders met with Hans Haekkerup, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), in Belgrade on 2 November, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2001). The next day, the Serbian and Yugoslav leaders agreed to urge Kosova's Serbs to take part in the 17 November elections, despite concerns about the Serbs' security in the 90 percent Albanian province. Kostunica said participation is "the lesser evil" for the Serbs. He stressed that Kosova's Serbs should take an active part in shaping the province's political future. He added that he has assurances from the international community that the elections will not be followed by a declaration of Kosova's independence. Elsewhere, the opposition Socialist Party of Serbia, Serbian Radical Party, Party of Serbian Unity, and Serbian Renewal Movement all condemned Kostunica's decision as contrary to Serbian interests. PM

SERBS IN KOSOVA DIVIDED OVER ELECTIONS

RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Mitrovica on 3 November that Kosova's Serbs are not united in their reactions to Kostunica's decision. Marko Jaksic, who heads the Serbian National Council (SNV), said Belgrade's move is a result of foreign pressure. Vuk Antonijevic, also of the SNV, argued that most Serbs are unlikely to vote "because they know how they live here and what is in store for them" after the elections. He did not elaborate. Momcilo Trajkovic of the Serbian Resistance Movement said he does not find the international community's guarantees sufficient. Veteran Serbian leader Oliver Ivanovic, however, called Kostunica's decision a bold one. Serbian Orthodox Bishop Artemije said Belgrade's announcement reflects "political courage" and called on the province's Serbs to all turn out for the elections. PM

UNMIK HAILS KOSTUNICA'S ANNOUNCEMENT ON KOSOVA VOTE...

UNMIK spokesman Simon Haselock told dpa in Prishtina on 3 November that the UN administration "warmly welcomes" Kostunica's announcement. Haselock stressed that the Serbs must take part in the political process if they want to improve their situation. PM

... BUT ALBANIANS ARE NOT QUITE SURE

Hina reported from Prishtina on 4 November that the local Albanian-language media "continue to ascribe huge importance to Belgrade's decision." "Koha Ditore" noted, however, that Albanian political leaders are not quite sure about what Haekkerup promised Kostunica in order to secure his support. The daily noted that some local Serbian leaders have been calling for setting up a Serbian "joint task force" to work with UNMIK to ensure that no changes are made in the province's status. Other Serbian demands have centered on setting up a Serbian militia and on institutionalizing a separate legal status for existing Serbian enclaves. "Koha Ditore" cited a statement by Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who is Belgrade's point man for the region, to the effect that UNMIK has promised that Kosova will not become independent. All ethnic Albanian political parties call for independence for the province, which legally remains part of Yugoslavia but in practice is an international protectorate. PM

SERBIAN DELEGATION TO WASHINGTON

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and a government delegation left Belgrade for Washington on 4 November, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. His agenda includes a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush and a series of talks with other officials on economic issues. PM

LOW TURNOUT IN SERBIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS

Only about half of the eligible 300,000 voters turned out to elect 670 local officials in 18 districts across Serbia on 4 November, Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service reported. The most interesting aspect of the elections is that Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) is running separately from the rest of the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition in what is widely seen as a test of strengths. Some observers attribute the low turnout to voters' disgust with incessant feuding among the politicians and continuing economic stagnation. Initial returns are expected shortly. PM

YUGOSLAVIA OPENS EMBASSY IN SLOVENIA

Almost six weeks after Slovenia opened an embassy in Belgrade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2001), Yugoslavia launched its own diplomatic representation in Ljubljana, AP reported on 2 November. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic met with President Milan Kucan and other top officials. Slovenia has virtually no Serbian minority, and most of the two countries' outstanding problems were settled by the recent agreement to divide former Yugoslav property. Serbia is anxious to expand relations with neighboring countries, while Slovenia wants to regain its Yugoslav-era markets in Serbia. Slovenia also maintains diplomatic links to Montenegro, which does not recognize the Yugoslav government's right to speak in its name. PM

KOSTUNICA PREPARING FOR MONTENEGRIN VOTE

Kostunica said in Belgrade on 3 November that he does not believe that Montenegro will gain independence, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added, however, that Serbia will retain "all prerogatives" of the present federal state if Montenegro secedes. It is not clear how this differs from the position of former President Slobodan Milosevic, who maintained for years that his state owned all former Yugoslav assets and properties. Belgrade's current leadership abandoned that stance soon after ousting Milosevic one year ago. On 2 November, Kostunica's office said in a statement that preparations are going ahead in Montenegro for a referendum on independence. The statement stressed that the vote should be held as soon as possible and in keeping with the Montenegrin Constitution and "international standards and practice." A recent poll in Serbia suggests that increasingly fewer Serbs support continued joint statehood with Montenegro. Some 52 percent of respondents favor a joint state, while 41 percent want independence. This represents a narrowing of the gap over that shown in similar polls one year ago. PM

RENEWED CONTROVERSY OVER BOSNIAN SERB PARTY

Wolfgang Petritsch, the international community's high representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 3 November that Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) continues to promote extremist views and obstruct implementation of the Dayton agreement and economic reform, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported on 5 November. He added that he may introduce sanctions against the SDS. In Banja Luka on 4 November, Republika Srpska President Mirko Sarovic said the SDS plays a central role in Bosnian Serb politics and that it is not possible to form a government without the involvement of the SDS. The BBC noted on 5 November that the SDS, with its continued opposition to privatization and other economic reforms, is chiefly responsible for keeping much of the Republika Srpska in poverty. The SDS has vested interests in blocking the privatization of state-owned companies and the reform of the customs service. PM

CROATIAN LEGISLATORS TO BOSNIA

Parliamentary speaker Zlatko Tomcic led a legislative delegation to Sarajevo on 4 November for a three-day visit, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT HAMSTRUNG AGAIN

Many legislators from Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski's nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) boycotted a session of the parliament on 2 November, which was to consider the constitutional reform package, Reuters reported from Skopje (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2001). The boycotters said they staged a one-day protest against what they called increased violence by ethnic Albanian guerrillas. An unnamed NATO official told the news agency, however, that the nationalists are trying to upset the peace process and provoke more shooting as a means to that end. An unnamed diplomat said foreign monitors have confirmed that most of the shooting is due to "firing into the air, an old Balkan tradition, not shooting at Macedonians... . In fact, there are suspicions that some of this shooting comes from [Macedonian] security forces." Meanwhile, parliament speaker Stojan Andov blamed opposition to the latest version of the reform package by the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD) for renewed tensions. He hopes nonetheless that a planned legislative session will take place on 5 November. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER WRAPS UP U.S. VISIT

On 4 November, Adrian Nastase ended his visit to the United States and set off for a four-day visit to the United Kingdom. Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana told Romanian Radio on 5 November that as a result of the visit "the invitation to join NATO is closer than ever," but added that Romania must continue military reforms. Nastase was in New York from 2-4 November and took the time to lay a wreath at the site of the 11 September terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, and to meet with U.S. businessmen and leaders of U.S. Jewish organizations, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Nastase also launched the trading day on 2 November at the NASDAQ stock market and later met with former U.S. President Bill Clinton in his Harlem office. The premier also participated in CNN's "Larry King Live" talk show (see Slovak item above), during which he insisted on the importance of Romania and Bulgaria's joining of NATO as an instrument to advance stability in the Balkans. MS

FRENCH SENATE SPEAKER IN ROMANIA

President Ion Iliescu received a French delegation headed by Senate speaker Christian Poncelet on 5 November, Romanian radio reported. Poncelet arrived on 2 November for a three-day visit that included meetings with his Romanian counterpart Nicolae Vacaroiu and with Chamber of Deputies speaker Valer Dorneanu. He reiterated France's support for Romania's quest to join NATO and the EU. MS

ROMANIAN PUNKS CLASH WITH HUNGARIAN SKINHEADS...

Romanian punks exchanged insults with three Hungarian skinheads at a rock concert in Targu Mures on 1 November, the daily "Evenimentul zilei" reported on 3 November. The neo-Nazis protested when a punk rocker from the Bucharest-based band Los Imbecilos told the audience he hates Nazis and any form of racial discrimination. The skinheads responded by raising their hands in a Nazi-style salute, after which the guest band Molotov Cocktail from New York announced its refusal to perform as long as neo-Nazis were present in the audience. Punches were exchanged and the concert was resumed after bouncers forced the three skinheads out. MS

... AND PRIESTS SAID TO NURTURE IRON GUARDISTS

The daily also reported on 3 November that the Romanian Information Service says it has managed to neutralize an attempt by the reborn Legionary Movement (Iron Guard) to infiltrate the Romanian Orthodox Church in northern Romania with the help of parish priests who are sympathetic to the movement. It said pro-Iron Guard meetings have been held in several Transylvanian monasteries and that 15 priests from Bihor County have joined the fascist organization. The head of the Piatra Craiului monastery, Father Gregorie, has reportedly proclaimed himself to be the leader of the legionnaires in northern Romania, and has attempted to transform the Oradea branch of the Association of Romanian Christian Orthodox Students (ASCOR) into a branch of the Legionary Movement. Stelian Gambos, ASCOR Oradea leader, was quoted by "Evenimentul zilei" as saying that the attempt has been foiled in Oradea, but that "in Bucharest the legionnaires managed to be admitted as ASCOR members." MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENCY DRAFTING NEW 'FOREIGN POLICY CONCEPT'

Experts working for the Moldovan presidency have drafted a new "foreign policy concept" that interferes with the government's prerogatives, Flux reported on 3 November. The report has not been confirmed by the presidency. According to Flux, the concept calls for Moldova to "ignore Bucharest's attitude, which regards Moldova as being a second Romanian state." For this purpose Moldova should seek a rapprochement with the political forces in Romania that are "democratic, not nationalist and not irredentist." The guidelines also stipulate that Moldova must work to convince the United States of the importance of Chisinau's "traditional links and strategic partnership" with Russia, and convince Moscow of the "strategic necessity for a balanced U.S. presence in the region." The guidelines also warn that both Romania and Ukraine have economic interests in Moldova and that pursuance of those interests, particularly in the case of transit pipelines for Russian oil, may clash with Moldova's intention to build its own oil terminal at Giurgiulesti, on the Danube River. MS

HAMMUD LEAVES MOLDOVA

Suspected Hizballah leader Mahmud Ahmad Hammud, whose Moldovan citizenship was revoked by President Vladimir Voronin, left the country for Lebanon on 2 November, vowing to "leave behind an army of lawyers" to clear his name, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Hammud's father-in-law, former parliamentary speaker Dumitru Diacov, told journalists the same day that Hammud left "to end the hysteria" around him launched by "the rightist media," and that his own daughter may later seek a residence permit for her husband in Moldova. MS

MOLDOVA, TRANSDNIESTER RESUME NEGOTIATIONS ON 'SPECIAL STATUS'

The negotiations on a "special status" for the Transdniester resumed on 2 November in Chisinau with the participation of the OSCE and Russian and Ukrainian "mediators," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The discussions were stopped last month by Tiraspol after Moldova introduced a new customs seal. Chief Moldovan negotiator Vasile Sturza described the discussions as "difficult, but useful." He said that when agreement is not reached, two or more alternatives are introduced in the draft for later consideration. Sturza also said Chisinau will under any circumstances preserve the prerogatives of the "central government" over foreign and defense policies. MS

WORLD BANK OFFICIAL SAYS MOLDOVA, IMF CLOSE TO AGREEMENT

World Bank official Pieter Stek said in Chisinau on 2 November that Moldova and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are close to reaching an agreement that will make it possible for the World Bank to resume lending to that country, Reuters reported. Stek said at a news conference that "with hard work, you should get there at the end of this year or sometime early next year." The IMF, which froze its $142 million three-year standby agreement after the Moldovan presidential elections, said in August that it reached a "memorandum of understanding" with the government that could lead to a resumption of financing. Both the IMF and the World Bank insist that the 2002 budget should be "realistic," that reforms should be launched in the energy and agricultural sectors, and that major state companies should be privatized. MS

ZENOVICH REGISTERED AS 'PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE' IN TRANSDNIESTER

Tom Zenovich, the former chief administrator of Bendery-Tighina who was dismissed by the Tiraspol authorities from that position, on 2 November submitted to the Central Electoral Commission the 8,500 signatures needed to officially register his candidacy, Infotag reported. His representatives were told that in order to launch his campaign Zenovich must yet complete some documentation, which he could not at the time because he is in Moscow. The same day, Zenovich met in the Russian capital with officials and told Interfax that Igor Smirnov's administration is guilty of corruption and violation of human rights and is reluctant to resume negotiations with Chisinau. Media reports in Tiraspol cited by Infotag said Zenovich has hired the Russian agency Novcom to manage his campaign, and that the expenses will be paid by the Moldovan leadership. MS

BULGARIAN POLLSTERS PREDICT FIRST-ROUND VICTORY FOR STOYANOV

A public opinion poll conducted by Sova Harris predicts that incumbent President Petar Stoyanov will garner 54 percent of the vote and win the 11 November presidential elections in the first round, BTA reported on 3 November. The poll has Coalition for Bulgaria candidate Georgi Parvanov taking 20 percent and former Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev 17 percent of the vote. One-third of eligible voters will not participate in the elections, according to the survey. The daily "Monitor," cited by BTA, said that if Stoyanov is nonetheless forced into a runoff, he would garner 60 percent if his rival is Bonev, and would score 65 percent against Parvanov. Other pollsters predict a showing by Stoyanov of between 34.9 and 43 percent in the first round, with Parvanov receiving between 14.8 and 18 percent and Bonev between 14.4 and 18.4 percent. MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS FIRST 100 DAYS A SUCCESS

Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski said on 2 November that the first 100 days in office of his cabinet have been a success in both internal and foreign policy, BTA reported. Saxecoburggotski said one of the main concerns of Bulgarian society before the cabinet took office was the "indiscriminate siphoning-off and pillaging of state-owned enterprises," and that this phenomenon is about to be eliminated due to measures taken by the government. He also said Bulgaria has made considerable progress in its negotiations for EU and NATO integration and that the country's "timely and clear" support for antiterrorist actions has been noted in Washington. Likewise, Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said on 2 November that "Judging from the perspective of foreign policy, this is the most successful government Bulgaria has had since 1989." MS




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