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Newsline - November 9, 2001




RUSSIAN SMALLPOX VIRUS MAY HAVE BEEN SOLD TO TERRORISTS

Lev Sandakhchiev, the head of the Vektor Biotechnology Center, told NTV on 8 November that there is a possibility that poorly paid staffers at his institution may have sold smallpox virus samples to terrorist groups. He urged that the entire Russian population be vaccinated against the disease, noting that 90 percent of all Russians have lost their immunity to it. But Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his ABC interview with Barbara Walters that "it is impossible" that terrorists could obtain the smallpox virus or anthrax spores in Russia, according to Interfax on 8 November. VY

PUTIN SAYS U.S. LOSING INFORMATION WAR WITH TERRORISTS

President Putin also said in his interview with ABC's Walters that the United States is "to a well-known degree now losing the war [with terrorism] not in the military sphere but in the information area," according to a transcript of the program reported by Interfax on 8 November. He added that in his view, the terrorists are acting more aggressively and presenting their positions better and more emotionally than the United States. Putin also said Russia's involvement with Iran's nuclear program will not lead to the production of an Iranian atomic bomb. PG

RUSHAILO SAYS ANTITERROR CAMPAIGN DOESN'T JUSTIFY NATO EXPANSION

Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo said on 8 November that the international antiterrorist campaign should not be invoked to justify the expansion of NATO as some of the alliance's proponents have done, ITAR-TASS reported. He said, "NATO's expansion, both past and planned, is not linked directly with the intensification of the fight against terrorism, and for several reasons it can hardly be expected to give a powerful impetus to the pooling of the efforts of all states in the fight against the 21st-century challenge." Instead, Rushailo said, "only the formation of a broad antiterrorist coalition, outside the bounds of individual blocs and alliances, will help create a single world system of security without any dividing lines." PG

NO RUSSIAN MUSLIMS HAVE GONE TO HELP TALIBAN, LEADERS SAY

Gavil Gainutdin, the head of the Council of Muftis of Russia, on 8 November denied reports that Russian Muslims are being sent to Afghanistan to help the Taliban, Interfax reported. He said that neither he nor other Russian Muslim leaders has information about even a single case of such action, and suggested that these reports are "a provocation." The same day, the press center of the Russian Federal Border Service denied reports that Russian border guards have clashed with the Taliban at the Tajik-Afghan border, the news service said. PG

PUTIN CREATES COUNCILS FOR SCIENCE, CULTURE

President Putin on 8 November signed decrees creating a Council for Science and High Technologies and a Council for Culture and the Arts within his office, ITAR-TASS reported. The first is intended to promote the implementation of a state science and technology policy, while the second is to bring together leaders in the arts to discuss cultural affairs. PG

GOVERNMENT SUBMITS PENSION INVESTMENT REFORM BILL

The government on 8 November submitted to the Duma a draft pension reform bill that will allow the investment of pension funds in government bonds and commercial paper, Interfax-AFI reported. PG

DUMA LIKELY TO INCREASE FUNDS FOR SECURITY AGENCIES

Vladimir Reznik, the deputy head of the Duma's Unity faction, said on 8 November that his fellow parliamentarians are likely to revise the draft 2002 budget and provide more money for national defense, security agencies, and law enforcement personnel. He added that Federal Security Service (FSB) and Interior Ministry units fighting in Chechnya will receive particularly large increases in funding. VY

FEDERATION COUNCIL TO FOCUS ON FEDERAL RELATIONS

Valerii Goreglyad, who heads the parliamentary group Federation in the upper chamber of the parliament, told Interfax on 8 November that the Federation Council will focus in the near future on national-state construction and improving federative and interbudgetary relations. He said that today "Russia should not be called a federation" because the regions lack the resources to discharge their responsibilities. He also said the council should serve as a form of "technical control" on the actions of the Duma. PG

DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA TO RAISE AGAIN ISSUE OF BURYING LENIN

Ruslan Linkov, the administrator of the Democratic Russia Party, said on 7 November that his party intends to raise again the question of moving the body of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin out of the Red Square mausoleum and burying him as his relatives had requested, Interfax reported. He said the party plans to ask President Putin to form a commission to organize Lenin's burial and that Democratic Russia is prepared to assume all the costs this will entail. PG

AUDIT CHAMBER TO EXAMINE PRIVATIZATION PROCESS

Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin said in an interview published in "Argumenty i fakty" on 8 November that his agency will examine the course of privatization in Russia. He said privatization in Russia sometimes took advantage of the absence of necessary laws, but often simply flaunted those laws that did exist. He noted that time is of the essence because some of the earliest privatizations in 1992 will soon be beyond the reach of prosecutors as a result of the 10-year statute of limitations on such actions. PG

ZYUGANOV SAYS MEDIA TRIED TO HIDE GROWING SUPPORT FOR COMMUNISTS

Speaking on 8 November after the 7 November holiday, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov said that the party attracted more supporters and demonstrators this year than last, and complained that Russian media attempted to play down this fact and also the fact that many of the party's supporters are young and well-educated, Interfax reported. He added that attempts were made to prevent communists from reaching march sites. Meanwhile, the news service cited Russian analysts as saying that the upsurge of participation in communist marches reflects the party's disappointment in President Putin's economic course and also the party's desire to portray itself as the most consistent opponent of his reforms. PG

PUTIN, BUSH DISCUSS SUMMIT, ANTITERRORIST EFFORT

Russian President Putin and U.S. President George Bush spoke by telephone on 8 November about their upcoming summit meeting and the course of the antiterrorist campaign in Afghanistan, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Russian officials stressed that they are continuing discussions with many countries about the antiterrorist campaign, while American officials stressed that Russia and the U.S. have no major differences on the future government of Afghanistan and that Moscow has been helpful in tracking the terrorists' financial network, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. PG

ZHIRINOVSKY EXPECTS MOLOTOV-RIBBENTROP-TYPE ACCORD FROM SUMMIT

Duma deputy speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said in Moscow on 8 November that he expects that during the summit meeting between Russian President Putin and U.S. President Bush a document comparable to the Molotov-Ribbentrop nonaggression pact concluded between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939 will be signed, together with corresponding protocols to it, Interfax reported. Zhirinovsky said Muslims and international terrorism "have helped bring together" Moscow and Washington, and he offered to accompany Putin to the United States in order to give him advice. PG

DUGIN SAYS SUMMIT WILL NOT LEAD TO RUSSIA'S INTEGRATION INTO WEST

Aleksandr Dugin, the leader of the Eurasia movement, told smi.ru on 8 November that the upcoming Russian-American summit will not lead to the integration of Russia into the West because the contradictions between Russia and the West are too great. As a result, Dugin said, the summit will probably be a disappointment for Moscow and force Putin to revert to his earlier more confrontational approach with Washington. But Sergei Rogov, the director of the Moscow USA and Canada Institute, said the summit may prove to be a turning point in East-West relations unequalled in the past 50 years, Russian agencies reported. VY

MOSCOW SEEKS MODIFICATIONS IN KYOTO PROTOCOL

Aleksandr Berditskii, the chief of Russia's Committee for Meteorology, said in Marrakesh on 8 November that Russia hopes that the final documents to be adopted at the UN conference on global climate change currently taking place in Morocco will make it possible for Russia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, ITAR-TASS reported. He said Russia's decision on ratification will depend "on whether our economic interests are taken due account of." PG

EUROPEANS SAID INTERESTED IN RUSSIAN TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS

Transportation Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Filimonov said on 8 November that a European transportation conference in Hamburg this week has highlighted European interest in investing in Russian transportation projects, Interfax reported. The Russian delegation also attracted support from the Europeans for developing the East-West and North-South transportation corridors that President Putin has made a centerpiece of his development program, Filimonov said. PG

KREMLIN SAYS PUTIN HAS NO PLANS TO GO TO IRAQ

Presidential press secretary Aleksei Gromov said on 8 November that reports in the media that President Putin has scheduled a visit to Iraq do "not correspond to reality," ITAR-TASS reported. PG

RUSSIA SIGNS PRIVACY PROTECTION CONVENTION

First Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Avdeev signed in Strasbourg on 8 November the international convention on the protection of information about individuals, Interfax-Europe reported. The convention sets rules against the misuse of such information and governs the sharing of such information across national borders. PG

MOSCOW RADICALS PROTEST ARRESTS IN LAOS

Three members of the Transnational Radical Party on 8 November began a hunger strike in Moscow to call attention to the arrest of five of their colleagues, including one Russian, by the Laotian authorities, Interfax reported. The Laotian government arrested the five after they conducted a demonstration in Vientiane calling for "freedom, democracy, and national accord in Laos," the hunger strikers said. PG

'KURSK' LOG FOUND

Officials found the log of the "Kursk" submarine on 8 November, ITAR-TASS reported. The documents are being dried out and then will be examined, officials on the scene said. Meanwhile, investigators resumed their examination of the wreck of the "Kursk" in an effort to determine what caused the submarine to sink in August 2000. PG

LUZHKOV PROMISES TO END EXTREMISM IN MOSCOW

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov told a special session on 8 November of the interagency antiterrorist commission of the Russian capital that law enforcement personnel there must react "quickly and effectively" to any manifestation of extremism, Interfax-Moscow reported. He said, "It is necessary to put an end to extremism regardless of the slogans under which it operates." PG

MOSCOW CULTURAL FIGURES DECRY DESTRUCTION OF ARCHITECTURAL MONUMENTS

A group of social and political figures on 8 November held a press conference in Moscow to protest the destruction of architectural monuments in the Russian capital in order to build what they described as ugly new buildings, Interfax reported. Speakers said that in Moscow today, people are confronted with "utter kitsch and a parade of disgustingness." PG

NORILSK AGAIN A CLOSED CITY

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has signed a decree designating Norilsk a closed city just as it was before the collapse of the USSR, ORT reported on 8 November. The new status means that citizens of CIS countries and other foreigners can visit Norilsk only with the permission of the FSB, and travel agencies are prohibited from selling air and train tickets to Norilsk. But the city's mayor, Oleg Budarin, said he is pleased by Kasyanov's ruling because at present the city "is full of unwanted nonresidents and foreigners." VY

RUSSIA'S GDP TOTALS $243 BILLION IN FIRST 10 MONTHS OF 2001

The Finance Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 8 November that Russia's GDP totaled 7.3 trillion rubles ($243 billion) during the first 10 months of 2001. PG

RUSSIA SAID FAR BETTER PREPARED FOR THIS WINTER THAN LAST YEAR

Russian officials said on 8 November that the country has far more fuel and other reserves at the start of this winter than it did a year ago, Russian agencies reported. In addition, Prime Minister Kasyanov has ordered the allocation of 5 billion rubles ($170 million) to the regions to help them prepare for the winter season, ITAR-TASS reported. PG

RUSSIA'S NUCLEAR ARSENAL LARGE, AGING

Officials at the Moscow Center for the Study of the Problems of Disarmament told Interfax on 8 November that Russia has 6,094 nuclear weapons, of which 3,444 are on ICBMs, 2,024 are on submarines, and 626 are on bombers. The majority of the rockets have a predicted useful life lasting until 2010, the strategic bombers have an expected use until 2020, but many of the land-based rockets will be beyond their projected lifetimes by 2005, the center's officials said. PG

RUSSIA NEEDS SEVERAL HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS TO SALVAGE NUCLEAR SUBMARINES

Deputy Energy Minister Valerii Lebedev told ITAR-TASS on 8 November that Russia needs several hundred million U.S. dollars to salvage the 109 decommissioned Russian nuclear submarines kept along the Kola Peninsula. He added that construction of a long-term storage facility for empty reactors alone is estimated to cost up to $100 million. PG

PRIMAKOV PREPARED TO CONSIDER OFFER TO HEAD TRADE CHAMBER

Former Prime Minister and Duma deputy (OVR) Yevgenii Primakov said on 8 November that he is prepared to consider the proposal of Arkadii Volskii of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs that Primakov head the Trade Industry Chamber but has not yet received a formal offer, Interfax reported. Volskii suggested earlier the same day that Primakov should assume that position, the news service said. PG

DELYAGIN SAYS CAMPAIGN AGAINST CORRUPTION HAS BECOME A STRUGGLE BETWEEN CLANS

Mikhail Delyagin, the Moscow Globalization Institute director, said in an interview published in "Obshchaya gazeta" on 8 November that the anticorruption campaign launched by prosecutors looks more and more like a struggle among political clans, with the new St. Petersburg clan around Putin struggling to take property away from the groups that prospered under former President Boris Yeltsin. Delyagin, who has advised Putin in the past on how to fight corruption, said Russia needs an independent agency like the American FBI to do so. VY

RUSSIANS SPLIT ON TRUSTING INTERIOR MINISTRY

A poll conducted by ROMIR-Gallup International and reported by Interfax on 8 November found that 51 percent of Russians do not trust the Interior Ministry while 41.4 percent do. But the proportion saying that they trust the ministry is 3 percent higher than in a comparable poll conducted in March 2001, the news service said. PG

COMPANIES FORM GROUP TO PROMOTE GOOD CORPORATE GOVERNANCE

A group of major Russian enterprises including Norilsk Nickel, YUKOS, and others formed a Russian Institute of Directors for the Improvement of Corporate Governance on 8 November, Interfax-AFI reported. The new institute will help to develop economy-wide standards of corporate behavior, including rules about handling minority stockholders and conducting audits of firms, the news service said. PG

WWI AND CIVIL WAR COMBAT DEAD TO BE REMEMBERED

The Tsarskoe Selo Historical Society is organizing a three-day commemoration 9-11 November of Russian soldiers and officers who died in World War I and the Civil War, Interfax-Northwest reported on 8 November. The event is intended to attract attention to the problems of the cemetery in Tsarskoe Selo where heroes of World War I are buried. PG

EDMOND POPE SAYS HE WAS 'PAWN' IN RUSSIAN POLITICAL STRUGGLE

In his new memoir of his experiences while held as a spy in Russia during 2000, American engineer Edmond Pope said that he was "a pawn that played into this game [in which Russian hardliners were trying to present the West as the enemy] that is still evolving," Reuters reported on 7 November. Pope's book, "Torpedoed," describes his 253 days in Moscow's Lefortovo prison, during which he sometimes felt the entire episode was "a joke" and at other times was near suicidal despair. PG

GUINEA PIG NAMED 'CHUBAIS' WINS BEAUTY CONTEST IN KEMEROVO

"Izvestiya" reported on 8 November that a guinea pig named Chubais was among the winners of a beauty contest for rodents held in Kemerovo Oblast. It is not known whether the prize winner has ginger fur. PG

ENVOY ACCUSED OF IGNORING ETHNIC MINORITY RIGHTS...

Bashkortostan authorities continue to refuse the registration of the Tatar National-Cultural Autonomy, which aims to protect the interests of Bashkortostan's Tatar minority, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 8 November. Elfir Saqaev, the vice president of the autonomy, told RFE/RL that his group has been trying since September 1999, but has been unable to achieve a successful result even in the courts. Saqaev said presidential envoy to the Volga federal district Sergei Kirienko, to whom the group has sent dozens of letters and telegrams, is partly to blame. However, Kirienko, on a visit to Bashkortostan, declared that Bashkortostan is pursuing the correct nationalities policy. JAC

...AS MODERATE TATAR NATIONALIST GROUP FACES MORE PRESSURE?

RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported the same day that the Tatar Public Center (TOTs) in Ufa has been told that it must change its name and drop the Tatar attribute in order to reregister. Local Justice Ministry officials told the group that if it keeps the Tatar designation, it will not be allowed to participate in political activities. Meanwhile, in Kazan, the Prosecutor-General's Office in Tatarstan is preparing materials to present in court against some of the organizers, such as TOTs, of meetings and activities in Kazan held on 14 October. The organizers are accused of making speeches and using slogans that "threatened the constitutional security and territorial wholeness of the Russian Federation" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2001). JAC

FEDERAL PROSECUTOR COMPLAINS ABOUT LOCAL POLICE

In an interview with "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 6 November, the deputy prosecutor-general for the Urals federal district, Yurii Zolotov, said the crime rate in his district has dramatically risen over the last year. In two regions within the district -- the Sverdlovsk and Tyumen oblasts -- the number of crimes has risen 16 and 10 percent respectively. Part of the problem, according to Zolotov, is a lack of effectiveness among law enforcement officials. More than 900 officials have been subject to disciplinary action, and some leaders of the police and the Prosecutor's Office have been dismissed. However, in some cases the rising crime numbers are the result of increased scrutiny, according to Zolotov. For example, the number of bribery cases in the district rose 16.6 percent. JAC

ROMANY COMMUNITY TO BE PUT UNDER EXTRA SCRUTINY IN KEMEROVO

At a recent meeting, the administration of the city of Kemerovo decided to monitor more strictly the construction of private housing in the city by Romany families, nns.ru reported on 7 November, citing the Kemerovo newspaper "Nasha gazeta." According to the newspaper, city authorities believe that only four houses have the proper documentation, and that the residents of the remaining housing are therefore not paying the proper taxes. In addition, one Romany leader reportedly has nine expensive automobiles and an enormous cottage, and that following a police raid on his home a large quantity of narcotics and huge sum of money were discovered. In Krasnodar, officials recently resolved the problem of the construction of illegal housing there by deporting the Romany families involved and tearing down their homes (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 31 October 2001). JAC




STILL NO ARRESTS IN ARMENIAN CAFE DEATH

To date, 50 people, including members of President Robert Kocharian's bodyguard, have been questioned in connection with death in a Yerevan cafe on 25 September of an Armenian from southern Georgia, Poghos Poghosian, Armenian agencies quoted Prosecutor-General Aram Tamazian as telling journalists in Yerevan on 8 November. But no one has been arrested and charged with Poghosian's killing. It is widely believed that Kocharian's bodyguards assaulted Poghosian after he directed insulting remarks at the president, who was visiting the cafe that evening together with French singer Charles Aznavour (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September and 2 and 9 October 2001). LF

MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRS WARN AGAINST RESUMPTION OF HOSTILITIES

In a statement released in Yerevan on 8 November at the end of the visit to Baku, Stepanakert, and Yerevan, the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen from France, Russia and the United States warned that a resumption of hostilities over Nagorno-Karabakh would have "disastrous" results for the entire South Caucasus, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Even the continuation of the current state of "not peace, but not war" risks leaving Armenia and Azerbaijan excluded from the positive processes of integration currently under way throughout the world, the statement said. The co-chairs confirmed that in their meetings with Presidents Heidar Aliyev and Kocharian they presented ideas that could help to bring the positions of the two sides closer, stressing that responsibility for finding a solution to the conflict lies primarily with the two presidents. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT MEETS WITH U.S. DIPLOMAT...

President Aliyev met in Baku on 8 November with visiting U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Lynn Pascoe (a former U.S. Minsk Group co-chair) to discuss the situation in the South Caucasus and Central Asia and bilateral cooperation the ongoing international antiterrorism campaign, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. LF

...ASSURES GEORGIAN COUNTERPART OF HIS SUPPORT

President Aliyev has telephoned his Georgian counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze to assure him of his support during the current period of political tensions in Georgia, Caucasus Press reported on 9 November. Aliyev expressed his confidence that Shevardnadze will overcome his present difficulties and build a truly free and independent Georgian state. LF

MUSLIMS OF CAUCASUS CALL FOR BOMBING HALT IN AFGHANISTAN DURING RAMADAN

Participants at an international conference on the theme "Islam and Terrorism Are Incompatible" that opened in Baku on 8 November addressed an appeal to U.S. President George Bush to call a halt in the bombing of terrorist targets in Afghanistan for the duration of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in mid-November, Turan reported. They affirmed that "there is no doubt that the world must take action against terrorism," but added that carrying out antiterrorism operations "only against Muslim countries is tantamount to equating Islam with terrorism." Also on 8 November, Caspian News Agency reported from Yerevan that Azerbaijan's senior Muslim cleric, Sheikh-ul-Islam Allakhshukur Pashazade, will meet, probably in Moscow, at the end of this year or in early 2002 with Armenian Catholicos Garegin II. Pashazade declined an invitation from Garegin to attend the celebrations in September to mark the 1,700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as Armenia's state religion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 17 September 2001). LF

10 JAILED FOR 1999 PLOT TO KILL GEORGIAN PRESIDENT

Georgia's Supreme Court passed sentence on 8 November on 10 men accused of plotting to assassinate President Shevardnadze in May 1999, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May 1999). Former General Gudjar Kurashvili, identified as the leader of the conspiracy, and nine associates were sentenced to three years imprisonment; taking into account the time they have already spent in pretrial custody, they will be released in May 2002. Nine other men walked free as the sentences passed on them were less than the time they have already spent in detention. One of the alleged plotters, 29-year-old Security Ministry official Temur Papuashvili, died suddenly in custody in January last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 2000). LF

ADJAR LEADER SAYS HE ACCEPTS RESPONSIBILITY FOR STABILITY IN GEORGIA...

In an interview with the independent Georgian TV station Rustavi-2 on 8 November, Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze said that during his four-hour talk with President Shevardnadze on 3 October he accepted responsibility for restoring stability in Georgia on certain conditions that he declined to divulge, Caucasus Press reported on 9 November. Abashidze also dodged a question about Shevardnadze's statement on Rustavi-2 earlier on 8 November that he offered Abashidze the currently nonexistent post of prime minister (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2001). But he did comment that in the event that policies fail, it is generally the prime minister who is made the scapegoat. LF

...PRAISES HIS PREFERRED CANDIDATE FOR PARLIAMENT SPEAKER

Abashidze also told Rustavi-2 that he telephoned Shevardnadze on 6 November to propose the candidacy of Djemal Gogitidze, who heads the Georgian parliament faction of his Revival Union, for the vacant post of parliament speaker, Caucasus Press reported. A group of deputies from that faction also proposed Gogitidze's candidacy on 7 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2001). Abashidze characterized Gogitidze as "a man from the provinces with no aspirations to a senior position, he is reserved and well-educated." Just such a person, Abashidze argued, can create a balance within parliament between supporters and detractors of the present leadership. Abashidze further observed that should he accept the post of prime minister, Gogitidze would have to resign as speaker as it is inappropriate for two persons from the same region of Georgia to occupy two such posts. Abashidze also said he does not believe former Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze has any chance of being elected speaker even though Shevardnadze backs him. Parliament will try again to elect a speaker late on 9 November, having failed to do so three days earlier. LF

RUSSIAN EXPERTS REJECT ASSESSMENT OF SOUTH CAUCASUS POLITICIANS' INFLUENCE

Several Russian experts have taken issue with the results of a survey published by gazeta.sng.ru that named Azerbaijani President Aliyev as the most influential politician in the South Caucasus, Caspian News Agency reported on 8 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November 2001). Georgii Tikhonov, who is deputy chairman of the Russian State Duma's Committee for CIS Affairs, told the website that he considers Abashidze to be the most influential regional politician, followed by Aliev, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, Armenian President Kocharian, Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, and former Georgian parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania, with Shevardnadze ranking seventh. It is not clear whether the original assessment was conducted before or after the beginning of the ongoing Georgian political crisis. LF

MOSCOW ANGERED BY SHEVARDNADZE'S COMMENTS ON CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER

Russian agencies on 8 November cited unidentified Russian officials as rejecting statements that they claim Shevardnadze made during his 8 November interview with Rustavi-2 concerning Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev, who Russian sources claim led the contingent of Chechen fighters that infiltrated Abkhazia last month. Those reports quote Shevardnadze as describing Gelaev as "a soberly minded and well-educated person who is well-disposed toward Georgia," and as admitting that Gelaev and his men moved freely across Georgian territory from their base in the Pankisi gorge. Caucasus Press for its part quoted Shevardnadze as denying that he has ever met with Gelaev. "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 12 October without citing its source that Gelaev met with Shevardnadze before the combined Chechen and Georgian guerrilla force entered Abkhazia. LF

KAZAKH ROLE IN ANTITERRORISM CAMPAIGN STILL UNCLEAR

U.S. military experts are currently in Kazakhstan to evaluate together with Kazakh officials the possibilities for enhancing Kazakhstan's "military and technical cooperation" in the ongoing U.S.-led international antiterrorism campaign, Security Council Secretary Altynbek Sarsenbaev told Reuters on 8 November. He refused to elaborate. Defense Minister Lieutenant General Sat Toqpaqbaev for his part told journalists in Astana the same day that Kazakhstan does not plan to make its airfields available to the U.S., according to ITAR-TASS. Meanwhile, President Nursultan Nazarbaev told foreign ambassadors in Astana on 8 November that his country "is prepared to contribute to the fight" against the global menace that terrorism represents, ITAR-TASS reported. He said "all countries, governments, and international organizations" should pool resources and combine their efforts to eradicate terrorism. LF

KAZAKHSTAN REJECTS SOUTH KOREAN ALLEGATIONS THAT PRESIDENT ACCEPTED BRIBES

Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry released a statement on 8 November rejecting as "premeditated disinformation" press reports that quoted a South Korean businessman as saying that he authorized a subordinate to offer a bribe of $10 million to President Nazarbaev, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service and Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 2001). LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S GOLD MINERS STRIKE

Employees at gold mines in the Moyinqum region of Zhambyl Oblast have begun a strike to demand payment of wage arrears dating back to May 2001, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 8 November. The men plan to block the main highway and railway line between Almaty and Astana if they do not receive those payments. LF

KYRGYZSTAN'S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REFUSES TO CONSIDER JAILED OPPOSITIONIST'S APPEAL

Kyrgyzstan's Constitutional Court has refused to consider an appeal lodged by former Vice President and opposition Ar-Namys Party Chairman Feliks Kulov against the seven-year sentence handed down to him in January by the Bishkek Military Court on charges of abuse of his official position while serving as national security minister, Kulov's lawyer Vladislav Luzhanskii told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 8 November. The Bishkek Military Court and the Court of Appeals have both upheld that sentence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March and 20 July 2001). LF

TURKISH PRESIDENT, UN ENVOY, AFGHAN PRESIDENT HOLD SEPARATE TALKS IN TAJIKISTAN

On the second day of visit to Dushanbe, President Ahmet Necdet Sezer discussed with Tajik Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov the prospects for expanding bilateral economic cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported. Sezer also met behind closed doors in Dushanbe with Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and how that country should be governed once the Taliban are defeated. UN envoy for Afghanistan Francesc Vendrell met in Dushanbe on 8 November with Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov to discuss the optimum composition of a future Afghan government. Vendrell is scheduled to meet on 9 November with Rabbani and Russian Ambassador Maksim Peshkov. LF




BELARUSIAN POLICE REMOVE PROTEST CAMP AT STALIN-ERA MEMORIAL SITE

Riot police on 8 November tore down a camp set up six weeks ago by Belarusian opposition groups and NGOs at Kurapaty, a wooded suburb of Minsk where tens of thousands of "enemies of the people" were executed and buried by the Stalin-era NKVD in the 1930s (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 2001), Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The camp was pitched to prevent the reconstruction of the Minsk beltway that threatens the existence of the Kurapaty memorial site. Police used truncheons and tear gas to remove the camp and protesters, while road construction workers smashed down crosses erected along the beltway by defenders of the memorial site. Several protesters were arrested. "The regime that destroys crosses are Satanists, not Christians. Today's events prove [President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka to be a direct heir of Stalin. If he was given a free hand, he would unleash mass murders in Belarus, another Kurapaty," opposition activist Vycheslau Siuchyk told Belapan. JM

BELARUS WANTS RETURN OF SPECIAL GUEST STATUS IN PACE

Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastou has sent a letter to the leadership of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) with an appeal to reinstate Belarus's special guest status in the organization, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 8 November. Minsk was denied that status in January 1997, following the rigged November 1996 referendum that gave President Lukashenka authoritarian powers. The PACE Political Committee is scheduled to meet in Vilnius on 19-20 November, ahead of a PACE session in January 2002, and to work our recommendations regarding the status of Belarus. The meeting in Vilnius will be attended by an official delegation of Belarus's National Assembly and representatives of the opposition. JM

OSCE TO MONITOR UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION IN 2002

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko on 8 November extended an official invitation to the OSCE to sent its monitors to Ukraine's parliamentary election on 31 March 2002, Ukrainian media reported. The invitation was passed to Gerard Stoudmann, the head of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, who was visiting Kyiv. Stoudmann said the OSCE will send a long-term monitoring mission in early February, while several hundred observers from the OSCE and the Council of Europe will arrive in Ukraine shortly before the election day. "I would like to emphasize that the general atmosphere, people's attitudes, and election legislation have changed greatly since my last visit to Ukraine. The election legislation has really become more perfect," Inter television quoted Stoudmann as saying. JM

FORMER UKRAINIAN PREMIER IN U.S.

Former Premier Viktor Yushchenko met with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Ukrainian media reported on 8 November. "[I presented] a political project and a political program which in our view could give an optimistic reply to [the question of] how a new dynamics of economic and political progress can be achieved in Ukraine," One Plus One television quoted Yushchenko as saying in Washington. According to UNIAN, Armitage said the U.S. government is willing to sent observers to the Ukrainian parliamentary election in March. Yushchenko also passed on letters from Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to the U.S. president and vice president. Kuchma said the previous day that in his letters he reaffirmed Ukraine's commitment to democracy and expressed the hope that the Jackson-Vannik amendment will be abolished to Ukraine's benefit (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 6 November 2001). JM

ONE MORE ELECTION BLOC EMERGES IN UKRAINE

The Popular Rukh of Ukraine for Unity on 8 November announced the creation of a new election bloc named Popular Movement (Rukh) of Ukraine, Interfax reported. The bloc will apparently add to the confusion among the electorate, since there are already two other Rukhs in Ukraine: the Popular Rukh of Ukraine led by Hennadiy Udovenko and the Ukrainian Popular Rukh headed by Yuriy Kostenko. "The parties of Udovenko and Kostenko are living out their last months," Bohdan Boyko, leader of the Popular Rukh of Ukraine for Unity, told journalists. Boyko's party was created in an unsuccessful bid to unite the once monolithic Rukh, which split into Udovenko's and Kostenko's factions following the death in a car accident of charismatic Rukh leader Vyacheslav Chornovil in 1999. Udovenko and Kostenko, who joined the Our Ukraine election bloc of Yushchenko, have pledged to address the unification of their parties next year. JM

BROADCASTING COMMITTEE: THREE TV STATIONS ENOUGH FOR ESTONIA

Peeter Sookruus, the head of the Culture Ministry Media and Copyright Department, announced on 6 November that the Broadcasting Licenses Committee had decided that three nationwide TV stations are enough for Estonia, BNS reported the next day. Taking into account the realistic volume of the Estonian TV advertising market, the television channels' practices thus far, and the need to create the necessary conditions for the development of digital broadcasting, the committee urged the Culture Ministry not to issue another nationwide television broadcasting license earlier than 2005. The three stations are the state-owned Eesti Television (ETV), and the foreign-owned commercial stations TV-3 and Kanal 2. The license of another commercial station, TV-1, was revoked in October (see "RFE/RL Newsline." 22 October 2001) because it failed to pay transmission fees. SG

LATVIAN ECONOMY MINISTER REQUESTS DISMISSAL OF PRIVATIZATION HEAD

Aigars Kalvitis announced on 8 November that he will seek the dismissal of Latvian Privatization Agency Director Janis Naglis at the next meeting of the government scheduled for 13 November, LETA reported. The decision was made following an internal investigation that revealed procedural violations committed by Naglis. Naglis's dismissal would require the agreement of the three parties in the ruling coalition. The People's Party, to which Kalvitis belongs, and For Fatherland And Freedom/LNNK have expressed their support for the dismissal. Prime Minister Andris Berzins of Latvia's Way said he will decide on whether to include the firing of fellow party member Naglis on the meeting's agenda only after Kalvitis presents written documentation on the charges. SG

LATVIAN NAZI WAR CRIMES SUSPECT KALEJS DIES IN AUSTRALIA

Konrads Kalejs, a Latvian-born Australian citizen who is suspected of being a Nazi war criminal, died in a Melbourne hospital on 7 November, BNS reported the next day. The Latvian Prosecutor-General's Office requested on 12 December 2000 that the Australian authorities extradite him and a Melbourne court granted its approval for the action in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2001). Appeals and the poor health of the 88-year-old suspect had delayed his return. He would have been the first Nazi war crimes suspect tried in Latvia since the country regained independence in 1991. SG

LITHUANIA TAKES OVER LEADERSHIP OF COUNCIL OF EUROPE

Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis officially took over the chair of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers at its 109th session in Strasbourg on 8 November, BNS reported. Valionis outlined the priorities of his six-month term and noted that Lithuania is actively participating in European processes and that the country's experience with democracy, regional cooperation, and good relations with neighboring states will be used to seek solutions to problems affecting all of Europe. Among the most important issues the council will deliberate during Lithuania's leadership are whether to accept Bosnia-Herzegovina as a member state; setting conditions for Yugoslavia's entry; and whether to return observer status in the council to Belarus, which was suspended in 1997. Lithuania will hand over the chairmanship of the council to Luxembourg at the 110th session of the Committee of Ministers in Vilnius on 15-16 May 2002. SG

EU ENLARGEMENT CHIEF SAYS POLAND'S ENTRY BID ON SCHEDULE

EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said in Warsaw on 8 November that the EU's annual progress report, due to be released next week, will show that "Poland is a strong candidate and...is among the front-runners," Polish media reported. "Poland and the EU regard the entry of Poland into the EU in 2004 to be their priority. It is not true that Poland is delayed in the negotiations. The fact that it has closed fewer chapters does not testify to Poland being more weakly prepared. This is quite simply a political decision that was taken by the previous government," Polish Television quoted Verheugen as saying. Following his meeting with Verheugen, Premier Leszek Miller said Poland is ready for flexibility in EU entry negotiations but gave no details. JM

GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN WARSAW

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on 8 November discussed European integration, bilateral relations, and struggle against terrorism with his Polish counterpart Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and Premier Miller, PAP reported. "We cannot imagine an EU enlargement without Poland," Fischer said. "[There are] two harmful myths that circulate in Poland and Germany: one holding that the Poles will flood the German labor market, the other suggesting that the Germans will buy out Polish land," Miller noted, adding that "we are ready to be flexible in the EU accession talks but we expect reciprocity." JM

POLISH PRESIDENT URGES FOR EU, NATO EXPANSION OVER TERRORIST THREAT

On 8 November, Aleksander Kwasniewski told the international Europe-Forum 2001 meeting in Warsaw that the terrorist attacks against U.S. cities are additional arguments for enlarging the EU and NATO, PAP reported. Kwasniewski stressed that the expanding EU must offer an appropriate policy toward eastern countries, including Ukraine. JM

FIRST CRACKS APPEAR IN PARLIAMENTARY GROUP OF POLISH PEASANT PARTY...

Lawmaker Dariusz Grabowski has left the parliamentary caucus of the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), Polish media reported on 8 November. PSL leader Jaroslaw Kalinowski commented that Grabowski's resignation was related to his speech during a parliamentary debate on 7 November, when he criticized the government's proposals of tax changes. The PSL is a ruling coalition partner of the Democratic Left Alliance. Meanwhile, Grabowski said his critical speech was coordinated beforehand with the PSL parliamentary caucus. The same day, there was more confusion when PSL deputies Janusz Piechocinski and Bogdan Pek broke their caucus discipline and voted for the rejection of presidential amendments to the lustration law in the first reading (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2001). JM

...AND THAT OF CIVIC PLATFORM

Several politicians from the Conservative Peasant Party (SKL), including Artur Balazs, Krzysztof Oksiuta, Ireneusz Niewiarowski, and Zbigniew Chrzanowski, have left the Civic Platform (PO) parliamentary caucus, refusing to sign membership declarations on joining the PO party, PAP reported on 8 November. The SKL, which quit the Solidarity Electoral Action before the 23 September parliamentary elections, won its parliamentary representation on the PO election ticket. "Artur Balazs is a classic example of political anthrax," PO leader Donald Tusk commented on the SKL pullout. JM

CZECH PREMIER SPEAKS AHEAD OF MEETING WITH BUSH...

Prime Minister Milos Zeman, speaking prior to his scheduled meeting in Washington with President George W. Bush, told journalists on 8 November that "it is an illusion" to believe the struggle against international terrorism "can be reduced to a short time, and it is an illusion to reduce it to a single country, a single person, or reduce it to merely one single military operation," CTK reported. Zeman said he would "welcome the possibility of expanding the Czech Republic's military aid to its NATO allies" if Bush were to request it. Zeman also said that "their low intelligence notwithstanding," terrorists are unlikely to have deposited money in Czech banks "because they know how those banks functioned in the past." MS

...RECEIVES CRITICISM IN U.S. MEDIA OVER 'RESPEKT' AFFAIR

Professor Charles Gati, a prominent U.S. expert on CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPEan affairs, on 8 November wrote in a letter to the editor published in "The Washington Post" that although the immediate cause of the multiple lawsuits the Czech government intends to launch against "Respekt" rests in the weekly's allegations on corruption in the cabinet, the real reasons rest in the weekly's critical reporting on the cabinet's activity. The U.S. expert said "Respekt" revealed a deal for arms sales to Yemen that was signed just two days after the terrorist attacks on the United States, and throughout the year has reported extensively on Czech arms deals with countries in the Middle East, Southeastern Asia, and Africa. It was "Respekt," Gati wrote, that first broke the story in 2000 on Czech participation in the construction of the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran and about a secret visit to Iraq by a government delegation. Gati said that "Prague's heavy handed attack on the press is an affront to Western values, and its secret relations with anti-U.S. and anti-NATO countries are a threat to Western security interests." MS

CZECH INTERIOR MINISTER DEMANDS APOLOGY FROM OPPOSITION SENATOR

Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, in a letter to Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Senator Michael Zantovsky, demanded that Zantovsky apologize for having told journalists that the antitank missile found on 18 October near Prague's Ruzyne airport was left there by a police unit that conducted exercises in the area, CTK reported. Zantovsky said he does not intend to "communicate with Gross" via the media, but that it would be "highly desirable" for Gross to "offer a satisfactory explanation" for the affair. MS

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS AGREEMENT ON TEMELIN DOES NOT 'BELONG IN EU TREATY'

Jan Kavan said on 8 November that the agreement on the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant based on the "Melk process" does not belong in the future treaty with the EU on the Czech Republic's joining of that organization, CTK reported. Kavan was responding to a statement made earlier that day by Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, who said in Strasbourg that the agreement on Temelin should be a "binding part" of the accession treaty. Kavan said that the Melk agreement "can somehow be envisaged as being integrated in the energy chapter," which is still to be closed between Prague and the EU. Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said she would favor "any formulation" securing the safety of the plant. Kavan and Ferrero-Waldner were attending a conference on bilateral Czech-Austrian relations at Stirin castle in central Bohemia. MS

CZECH FINANCE MINISTRY PREDICTS STRONG FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN 2002

An economic forecast for 2002 released on 8 November by the Czech Finance Ministry predicts strong foreign investment, rising consumer confidence, low inflation, and record-high government revenue from the sale of state-controlled companies, CTK reported. The forecast said a record 260 billion crowns ($7 billion) will result from the sale of these companies in 2002, and that that amount will cover those companies' debts, will contribute 20 billion crowns to the treasury, and pump 40 billion into a social security fund. But the forecast also warned against yet unforeseen developments that may emerge as the global economy weakens, especially in Germany, which is the Czech Republic's largest trade partner. MS

LATVIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN PRAGUE

Visiting Latvian Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis on 8 November discussed with his Czech counterpart Jaroslav Tvrdik the process of NATO enlargement, and told his host about ongoing reforms in the Latvian army, CTK reported. Tvrdik told journalists the Czech Republic "unambiguously" supports Latvia's quest to join NATO. Kristovskis also met with Chamber of Deputies Defense and Security Committee Chairman Petr Necas. MS

U.S. INVESTMENT GROUP BUYS HISTORIC CZECH TRUCKMAKER

SDC International, a U.S. investment group whose directors include automotive industry leaders from Detroit and former U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig, on 8 November announced that it will pay $10 million to acquire a 92 percent stake in the Czech truckmaker Tatra, which built Central Europe's first automobile in 1897 and its first truck in 1898, dpa reported. The Czech government has approved the deal, under which SDC International also intends to invest $30 million to upgrade and refinance Tatra. The Terex Corp., which is a key SDC shareholder, is to become a global distribution partner with Tatra, whose traditional markets include Russia, China, and India. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT SAYS PUTIN IS 'STRONG AND PROMISING YOUNG POLITICIAN'

Speaking prior to his 11-13 November visit to Russia, President Rudolf Schuster told ITAR-TASS on 8 November that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a "young and promising politician." He said Putin has done "a lot of good things during his relatively short term in office" and that he "exercises a very large influence on forging world policy." Schuster said Putin's efforts to democratize Russia are in line with Slovak interests. Schuster also said his visit will help "correct past mistakes, when Bratislava believed Slovakia did not need Russia and Moscow thought Russia did not need small Slovakia." He also said Russia has "the most powerful political, economic, scientific, and technical potential" to influence developments in CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE and that, without Russia, Europe cannot have "an effective security system." According to Schuster, Russia is "among the first countries that launched a struggle against international terrorism" and has "confirmed its place among democratic states." MS

SLOVAKIA MAKES HOLOCAUST DENIAL PUNISHABLE OFFENSE...

The Slovak parliament on 8 November passed an amendment to the Penal Code making the denial of the Holocaust and belittling its crimes a punishable offense, CTK and AP reported. Justice Ministry official Daniel Lipsic argued against the amendment, saying a free society should not punish people for expressing opinions, even if those opinions are extremist. The deputies rejected another amendment to the code that would have strengthened punishments for those spreading false alarm. Two people are currently being prosecuted for that offense in connection with hoaxes related to alleged "anthrax letters." MS

...REJECTS ABOLISHING PUNISHMENT FOR DEFAMATION OF OFFICIALS

The parliament rejected by a vote of 56 to 55, with one abstention, an amendment to the Penal Code that would have abolished a provision related to the defamation of the head of state, the parliament, the Constitutional Court, and the government, CTK and AP reported. The amendment was submitted by deputy Tomas Galbavy of the Slovak Democratic Coalition. Its rejection means that the prosecution of journalist Ales Kratky of the daily "Novy cas" will proceed. Kratky wrote that President Schuster's State of the Nation speech earlier this year revealed "the signs of his spiritual incapability to head the state," and described him as an "arrogant egomaniac." The Vienna-based International Press Institute has sent a letter to Schuster, urging him to withdraw the lawsuit against Kratky. MS

STRANGE DUO TO HEAD SLOVAK REGIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION

Vladimir Scuka of the Romany Civic Initiative is to head the Central Electoral Commission for regional elections scheduled for 1 December, and Rudolf Pucik of the Slovak National Party is to be Scuka's deputy, CTK reported on 8 November. They were chosen by draw. Pucik has acquired a reputation for his sharp attacks on the Romany minority. Pucik and Scuka told journalists that, despite "discords" between their formations, the commission will work "for the benefit of Slovak citizens." MS

HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ASKS FOR HELP ON STATUS LAW NEGOTIATIONS

On 8 November in Strasbourg, Janos Martonyi asked the Council of Europe and the OSCE for help in launching negotiations with Romania and Slovakia on the implementation of the Status Law, Hungarian media and Mediafax reported. Martonyi said Budapest is ready to consult with its neighbors in an effort to eliminate differences and facilitate the law's implementation on 1 January 2002. Bruno Haller, the secretary-general of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), said the assembly intends to examine the law from the same perspective as the Venice Commission did when scrutinizing it; that is, by comparing it with legislation on rights extended to minorities living abroad in EU states and in other countries. Haller said it is "difficult to understand" why criticism of the law persists after the commission gave its recommendations. The Hungarian MTI news agency cited OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Ralph Ekeus as saying the implementation of the Status Law poses no risk of creating tension in the region. MS

HUNGARIAN EXTREMIST LEADER TAKES A LOOK AT ELECTORAL CRYSTAL BALL

Far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) Chairman Istvan Csurka said on 8 November that he expects his formation to garner 20 percent of the vote in the 2002 parliamentary elections and be part of the next ruling coalition, AP reported. MIEP received slightly more than 5 percent in the 1998 elections. Csurka told journalists that if his prediction proves wrong, the MIEP will support a possible minority government of Premier Viktor Orban's FIDESZ and the Hungarian Democratic Forum. "We will set other conditions for joining the government in 2002, namely that certain parts of our political program are carried out. But we will not join the government merely to get a few ministerial appointments," Csurka said. He also said Hungary made a mistake in agreeing to implement "liberal legislation" as part of its effort to join the EU without getting anything in return. MS

HUNGARIAN JEWISH LEADER CRITICIZES PROCRASTINATION ON COMPENSATION

Peter Tordai, the chairman of the Hungarian Jewish Communities (MAZSIHISZ), said on 8 November that the government's delay in passing legislation for compensating victims of the Nazi era is "outrageous" and "unconstitutional," dpa reported. The Constitutional Court ruled following a MAZSIHISZ complaint that previously passed legislation compensating victims and their families with the equivalent of $100 is untenable, and obligated the parliament to pass new legislation. Following negotiations with the government, MAZSIHISZ recommended that compensation be set at $1,000. Justice Ministry official Istvan Somogyvari told the daily "Nepszabadsag" that the government intends to settle the compensation issue, but that this might not be possible during the current tenure of its mandate. MS




ETHNIC ALBANIAN PARTY BALKS OVER MACEDONIAN CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES

The Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD), which is one of the two largest Albanian parties in Macedonia, still refuses to accept proposed changes to the preamble of the constitution as agreed by all other major parties and EU negotiators, Reuters reported from Skopje on 8 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2001). Parliamentary speaker Stojan Andov has said that he sees no reason to call a vote on the changes unless two-thirds of the 25 Albanian legislators will support them. He says he fears that any party that does not accept the changes will try to reopen the issue later. Andov, and Macedonian opinion in general, want any changes or reforms to put an end to Albanian complaints once and for all. The parliament was scheduled to resume debate on the long-stalled reform package on 9 November. PM

SWEDE NAMED TO HEAD MACEDONIAN MISSING PERSONS GROUP

EU envoy Alain Le Roy said in Skopje on 8 November that Brussels has asked Swedish expert Lars Norberg to head an international commission that will investigate the thorny question of missing people, AFP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 2001 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 November 2001). PM

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT ARRIVES IN MACEDONIA

Vojislav Kostunica arrived in Skopje on 9 November for two days of talks with President Boris Trajkovski, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, and other officials, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

CALLS FOR KOSOVA'S SERBS TO VOTE

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle, the Serbian government, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan have all appealed to Kosova's Serbian minority to vote in the 17 November elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Belgrade on 8 November (see RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2001, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 November 2001). Robertson said in Prishtina that Serbs should remember that "Kosovo's destiny in many ways will be shaped by the outcome of this election." In Vienna, OSCE mission chief Daan Everts said the Kosova elections will be the "best monitored elections this century." PM

MONTENEGRIN LEADERS REMAIN FIRM ON INDEPENDENCE

President Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 8 November that Montenegro will be an independent country after the referendum slated for April 2002, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac said that Montenegro's own flag will fly in front of the UN building in New York after that vote. But officials of the OSCE have objected to Montenegrin legislation regarding the referendum. They believe that more than a simple majority will need to approve it for it to be valid. PM

EXPERTS DISCUSS KEY BALKAN ROAD PROJECT

Ministerial teams of experts from Montenegro, Bosnia, and Albania met in Budva on 8 November to discuss a highway project linking Sarajevo, Podgorica, and Tirana, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The Montenegrins and Albanians also discussed improving the road linking Bar and Shkoder. PM

HAGUE TAKES TWO BOSNIAN SERB BROTHERS INTO CUSTODY

Officials at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague said on 9 November that they are now in custody of Predrag and Nenad Banovic, Reuters reported. The Bosnian Serb twin brothers were indicted for crimes against humanity as guards in the Keraterm concentration camp in 1992. Five unidentified men in civilian clothes arrested the two as they were selling peppers at the market in Obrenovac, Serbia, the previous day, AP reported. Reuters quoted unnamed Yugoslav sources as saying that the five men were Serbian secret police. Belgrade authorities have said previously that Bosnian Serbs are not protected by legislation prohibiting the extradition of Yugoslav citizens. The Banovic family is from Prijedor. PM

BOSNIAN SERBS WANT MUSLIM LEADER INDICTED

The Bosnian Serb authorities have sent to The Hague an indictment of wartime Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 8 November. Many Serbs have long demanded that top Muslim and Croat leaders be indicted for war crimes against Serbs. Izetbegovic has said that Muslims and Sarajevans were victims of Serbian aggression and cannot be considered war criminals. PM

YUGOSLAV PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION IN BOSNIA

A delegation from the federal parliament headed by Dragoljub Micunovic met with Bosnian officials in Sarajevo on 8 November, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Micunovic said that Belgrade's special links to the Republika Srpska, which are guaranteed by the 1995 Dayton agreements, are not at the expense of Bosnia as a whole. (The Croatian government has taken a different view regarding its right to special links to the Croat-Muslim federation.) Later on 8 November, the Belgrade delegation also met with the international community's high representative, Wolfgang Petritsch, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. PM

WEAPONS COLLECTION CONTINUES IN BOSNIA

SFOR spokesman Daryl Morrell said in Sarajevo on 8 November that peacekeepers continue to collect thousands of illegal weapons more than five years after the Dayton agreements ended the Bosnian war, dpa reported. He noted that SFOR has collected 3,040 small arms, 686,486 rounds of ammunition, 12,667 hand grenades, 3,655 mines, 3,580 kilograms of explosives, and other weapons since January 2001. PM

HAS INDICTED GENERAL FLED CROATIA?

Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic told "Jutarnji list" of 9 November that former General Ante Gotovina probably fled the country after The Hague indicted him for war crimes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2001). The tribunal charged him with crimes against Serbian civilians during the Croatian army's 1995 offensive against Serbian rebels. Many Croats suspect that the government was glad that Gotovina fled lest the authorities try extradite a man whom many regard as a war hero. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER MEETS BLAIR

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said on 8 November upon his return from his visits to Canada, the United States, and Great Britain that the atmosphere at his meeting earlier that day with Prime Minister Tony Blair in London was "very warm and full of substance," Romanian radio reported. Nastase said Blair reiterated "his moral obligation to continue backing Romania's integration in NATO and the EU." Nastase said they discussed political developments in Romania and cooperation between their countries at both bilateral and international level. Blair, Nastase said, emphasized that Romania has made "notable internal progress," and is "called on to play the role of a strategic partner of the West in Southeastern Europe." Nastase also said the British leader expressed "full support" for the Social Democratic Party's (PSD) integration into the Socialist International. MS

ROMANIAN CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES REJECTS PRM MOTION

The Chamber of Deputies on 9 November rejected by a vote of 161 to 71 the motion of the Greater Romania Party to hold a debate on the Romanian treasury in Moscow and the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact in view of the current discussions underway with Russia on the pending basic treaty, Romanian radio reported. Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana assured the chamber that the government is "promoting with rigor and professionalism our national interest," and that the treaty will not include "damaging compromises" or "abandoning the country's dignity." Geoana said that to hold a debate now, when discussions are underway, would be "inopportune," and that the parliament will be in a position to express its views when the treaty is submitted for ratification. In related news, President Ion Iliescu said on Romanian television on 8 November that the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact "has no value or influence" today, and that the problem of the Romanian treasury can be dealt with in an annex to the envisaged basic treaty. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT PRAISES FORMER KING AT OFFICIAL CEREMONY

President Iliescu on 8 November said former King Michael's historical role in staging the coup that led to the arrest of Marshal Ion Antonescu, as well as the role played by the Romanian royal dynasty in bringing about the country's unification in 1918 cannot and should not be overlooked. Iliescu made the comments during a ceremony marking Michael's name day at the Cotroceni presidential seat in Bucharest. Iliescu said he was and remains a republican, but that the time has come for a reconciliation of all forces willing to contribute to Romania's democratic future. The former monarch spoke in the same spirit. Hundreds came earlier on 8 November to the Elizabeth Palace in Bucharest to congratulate Michael, who recently turned 80. MS

PARIS TRIBUNAL DISMISSES CASE AGAINST ILIESCU

On 8 November, a high court in Paris dismissed the complaint launched by a company owned by Romanian-born businessman Adrian Costea against President Iliescu, Romanian Radio reported. Costea had complained that Iliescu and his former Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) failed to pay over $1.3 million for services delivered by the company, which printed posters for the 1996 electoral campaign. The scandal later triggered an investigation in Romania, as some of Iliescu's former PDSR associates were suspected of money laundering. The court ruled that the complaint was launched four years after the alleged misconduct took place, and that the statute of limitations applied. It also said that the plaintiff failed to submit any documentation attesting to a contract between the company and either Iliescu personally or the PDSR. MS

REPORT SAYS ROMANIA-BASED ARAB BUSINESSMEN FUNDED TERRORISTS

An investigation ordered by Premier Nastase found that Arab businessmen living in Romania donated hundreds of millions of dollars to terrorist organizations, the daily "Adevarul" and Romanian television reported on 8 November. The investigators found that the money was channeled through legally established companies. It said an Egyptian businessman transferred some $150 million to Egyptian-based associates with close links to Islamic terrorist organizations. The money was registered as "advance payment" for goods that were never delivered. MS

ROMANIA'S POSITION ON STATUS LAW 'UNCHANGED'

Foreign Ministry State Secretary Mihnea Motoc told the Council of Europe on 8 November that his country's position on the Hungarian Status Law "remains unchanged," Mediafax reported. Motoc later told the agency that Romania continues to be "open to a dialogue" with Budapest. Meanwhile, Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania Chairman Bela Marko clarified on 8 November that the recently established joint commission of his party, Hungarian historic churches, and nongovernmental organizations will not be involved in issuing "Hungarian ID cards," but only in recommending who is eligible for receiving those cards in Hungary, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

ROMANIAN MAVERICK MAYOR PAINTS SIDEWALKS IN NATIONAL COLORS

Ultranationalist Cluj Mayor Gheorghe Funar has ordered the sidewalks in Cluj to be painted in the Romanian national colors -- red, yellow, and blue, AFP reported on 8 November. In the past, Funar has ordered benches in public parks to be painted in the national colors. He said he drew his inspiration for his latest order during a visit to the South Korean city of Suwon, where he saw sidewalks painted in the same fashion. MS

BALKAN STABILITY PACT CRITICIZES ROMANIAN SUBORDINATION OF NEWS AGENCY

In a letter to the Romanian authorities, the Balkan Stability Pact on 8 November called on the government to revoke an ordinance subordinating the national news agency Rompres to the control of the Public Information Ministry, AP and Romanian media reported. Michael Zenner, the chairman of the pact's Media Task Force, wrote that the pact's Charter for Media Freedom, which the Romanian government has endorsed, states that "publicly owned media should serve the interests of the public, and not of parties in power." A recent report by an independent Romanian organization that analyzed news bulletins on five television stations showed that the government and the ruling PSD have been allotted 10 times more coverage than opposition parties. MS

MOLDOVAN RULING PARTY TO SATISFY GAGAUZ-YERI DEMANDS?

A group of communist legislators intends to ask the Constitutional Court to examine a draft for amending the country's basic document to include the existence of the Gagauz-Yeri Autonomous Region as a separate administrative unit and affirm its right to "self-determination," Flux reported on 8 November. Valentin Chilat, a deputy representing the opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD), said the Party of Moldovan Communists "intends to sell [Moldovan] territory in exchange for support at the ballot by the Gagauz in the next elections." He said the move could trigger "political instability" in the country. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES REVOKING DEPUTY'S PARLIAMENTARY MANDATE

The parliament on 8 November began debating the possible revocation of PPCD deputy Vlad Cubreacov's mandate on the grounds that his activity in support of the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church amounts to "support of an anticonstitutional organization," Infotag and Flux reported. Cubreacov is also accused, as the director of the church publication "Alpha and Omega," of working for Romania, where the publication is printed. The debate proposal was made by Communist deputy Yurii Yeremin. Yeremin said Cubreacov, who has represented the Bessarabian Church as a lawyer, infringes on the constitutional provision providing for the separation of church and state. Cubreacov said the initiative is proof of the Communists' "desperate situation" after the International Court for Human Rights started examining the Bessarabian Church's complaint against the government's refusal to register it. He warned that a revocation of his mandate will trigger "an international scandal." MS

TRANSDNIESTER COMMUNISTS BACK SMIRNOV'S 'PRESIDENTIAL' BID

The Communist Party in the Transdniester region has decided to back the "presidential" bid of Igor Smirnov, Flux reported on 8 November. In a resolution passed on the occasion of the 84th anniversary of the October Revolution, the local Communists said Smirnov must do more to ensure "Transdniester independence" until the region joins the Russia-Belarus Union, and should not allow the privatization of enterprises or increased prices for electricity and energy. MS

RUSSIA TO PROCESS FIRST LOAD OF BULGARIAN RADIOACTIVE WASTE

Russia will soon begin processing radioactive waste from the Bulgarian Kozlodui nuclear power plant, dpa reported on 8 November, citing ITAR-TASS. The first trainload of used fuel rods from Kozlodui arrived in Krasnoyarsk to undergo the process at a local chemical plant. The Krasnoyarsk authorities are currently negotiating with Bulgaria for the delivery of more radioactive waste for treatment. MS




EBRD CHIEF SAYS KYIV MEETS TERMS FOR LOAN ON NEW NUCLEAR REACTORS


By Ron Synovitz

A key loan to Ukraine -- part of a $1.5 billion package linked to the closure of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant -- has advanced closer to final approval. The board of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is to vote next month to confirm the $215 million loan, which was tentatively approved a year ago on condition that Ukraine meet the four targets on nuclear safety and economic credibility. Jean Lemierre, the president of the EBRD, said in London on 7 November that Ukraine has met the four conditions attached to the loan to help complete reactors at the Khmelnitskyy-2 and Rivne-4 nuclear plants, known collectively as K2R4, and he formally recommended that the EBRD's board of directors vote to confirm that loan.

Approval by the EBRD board also would help unlock funds totaling $1.5 billion from other lenders for the upgrading and completion of reactors at K2R4, so that Ukraine can replace energy production lost by the closure of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant last year.

The first condition for EBRD financing was met a year ago when authorities in Ukraine permanently shut down the last active nuclear reactor at Chornobyl -- the site, in 1986, of the world's worst civilian nuclear accident.

Another important step was reached in September when the International Monetary Fund resumed disbursements under a loan program known as the "Extended Fund Facility."

EBRD spokesman Jeff Hiday told RFE/RL on 8 November that Lemierre's approval of Kyiv's progress on nuclear safety assurances is significant. "Another [important condition that Lemierre says has been met] is that a host of [nuclear] safety standards are put in place. And not only safety standards, but money to implement safety standards. And this is not only for these two reactors [at Khmelnitskyy and Rivne], but also for all 13 nuclear reactors that are operated in Ukraine," he said

The safety assurances required by the EBRD include the issuing of a report by international nuclear regulators confirming that Ukrainian nuclear regulators have the necessary independence and resources to assure that nuclear plants in the country meet Western safety standards. The EBRD also required commitments from the G-7 leading industrial nations and from the European Commission to provide technical assistance.

Finally, financial commitments for the K2R4 project were required from the European Union's nuclear agency Euroatom, along with several export credit agencies and Russia.

Hiday said prompt confirmation by the EBRD board next month could allow financing for the remainder of the $1.5 billion loan package to be completed by the end of this year. "I think [the EBRD loan and financing from others] is going to come together more or less simultaneously," Hiday said. "The G-7 also has to take a lead in arranging the financing. But it all needs to happen more or less at once. And, in fact, if we sign this deal next month in Kyiv, as we hope to, it would be not only us signing the deal but several of the other parties signing the deal at the same time. So we all have to move in concert."

But Hiday said the EBRD board's vote is not expected to be a long, drawn-out process. "[The board simply has] to give a confirmation that these four conditions have been met. But they don't have to go through the entire project again [as they did last year]," he said. "It's purely to agree that these technical conditions have been met."

Hiday said any loan agreement signed in Kyiv would contain a series of additional conditions that would have to be met before money is actually disbursed. "There are a lot of other conditions that relate to the money being disbursed. There are about 30 in total," Hiday said. "They range from adoption of a privatization plan for [Ukrainian] energy distribution companies to the establishment of a decommissioning fund for the eventual decommissioning of other [nuclear power] plants. Also, they have to do with electricity sector reform, to get tariffs raised and more cash collected for electricity bills."

The G-7 countries and the European Commission signed a memorandum of understanding with Kyiv in 1995 on the closure of Chornobyl. The EBRD was asked at that time to play a role in possible financing for the completion of K2R4.

The EBRD also administers three international funds for the decommissioning of Soviet-designed nuclear reactors in Lithuania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia.

Ron Synovitz is an RFE/RL correspondent.


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