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Newsline - November 16, 2001




BUSH, PUTIN VERBALLY AGREE TO DEEP CUTS IN NUCLEAR ARSENALS...

Following talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President George W. Bush confirmed earlier reports that the two countries have agreed to reduce the number of nuclear warheads in their respective arsenals from more than 6,000 each to 1,700-2,000. At a joint press conference on 14 November, Putin noted that Russia is prepared to formalize the verbal agreement with a treaty, according to "Izvestiya" on 15 November. The same day, the government newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" also stressed the need for a new treaty, arguing that "handshakes are not subject to parliamentary ratification, without which there is no long-term prospect for strategic stability." JAC

...AS FAILURE TO SEAL DEAL ON PAPER CRITICIZED...

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" and Russian Defense Ministry officials, including the head of the main department for international military cooperation, Valentin Kuznetsov, criticized the Bush administration's unwillingness to negotiate a new treaty. Kuznetsov noted that the reduction of nuclear stockpiles based on unilateral declarations fails to guarantee the promised levels will be reached, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, in his speech to a high school in Crawford, Texas that day, Putin noted that the form which the proposed reductions in strategic weapons will take will depend on the "level of confidence" between the two countries, Interfax reported. Whether the warheads will simply be dismantled or destroyed will be a matter for negotiations, he declared. JAC

...AND WHITE HOUSE PROMISES TO PRESS FOR REVOCATION OF JACKSON-VANICK

In an interview with RFE/RL's Russian Service on 14 November, Andrew S. Weiss of the Council on Foreign Relations noted that President Bush has decided to propose cuts that are even lower than those discussed by former Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton in Helsinki in 1997. Meanwhile, Interfax reported on 15 November that Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell have exchanged letters about the U.S. administration's intention to seek a waiver of the Jackson-Vanick amendment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2001). According to "Izvestiya," the U.S. has also agreed to boost funding for projects involving small and medium-sized businesses in Russia and for Russian financial institutions. JAC

RUSSIAN MUSLIM ACTIVIST SLAMS PRO-U.S. POLICY

Geidar Dzhemal, head of Russia's Islamic Committee, told reporters in Moscow on 15 November that the U.S. military presence in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan represents "one more failure for the Russian leadership, which has definitively chosen the path of passively building itself into the American strategy," Interfax reported. He added that "the arrival of Americans in Tajikistan brings us one step closer to a world war." According to Interfax, Dzhemal also said that the U.S. might experience more terrorist attacks: "A scheme has been launched that is similar to an alarm clock or a torpedo, and secondly, there is not much connection between the groups that are organizing the terrorist acts." JAC

RUSSIA SAYS NO TO OPEC REQUEST...

In response to a call by OPEC for Russia, Norway, and Mexico to curb their combined oil production by 500,000 barrels per day, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 15 November that Russia cannot afford to make considerable cuts in its oil exports, ITAR-TASS reported. At the same time, he did not exclude the possibility that small cuts would be made to stabilize prices. Earlier in the week, Kasyanov said that Russian oil companies will cut their exports by 40,000-44,000 barrels per day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2001). Also on 15 November, YUKOS head Mikhail Khodorkovskii said that Russia cannot cut its production of oil dramatically because of cold climatic conditions, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

...AS YUKOS HEAD PREDICTS CONSOLIDATION AHEAD IN RUSSIAN OIL SECTOR

Speaking at a conference in Moscow on 14 November, Khodorkovskii predicted that 10 years from now, Russia will have only six vertically-integrated oil companies, '"Novye Izvestiya" reported. These companies will be LUKoil, Surgutneftegaz, YUKOS, Tyumen Oil Company, Sibneft, and Gazprom. JAC

ECONOMIST SAYS FALLING OIL PRICES MAY FACILITATE DEBT RESTRUCTURING

Vneshekonombank head Andrei Kostin told reporters on 15 November that the drop in world oil prices will allow Russia to reopen negotiations with creditor states to restructure Russia's national debt, Interfax reported. He added that if prices continue to drop, Russia could "raise the issue of lightening the debt burden, including a write-off of part of it." JAC

WEEKLY ASSERTS THAT COVERT FSB HAS BEEN FORMED

"Versiya" (no. 43) has a long article about a regional organization of law enforcement officials that, according to unverified reports, is a "clandestine organization of secret service officers." According to the organization's annual report for 2000, the group has 42 offices throughout Russia and the CIS and comprises more than 8,000 men, most of whom work in security structures or are recent retirees. A clandestine organization is needed, according to the weekly, to do away with corruption within the country's intelligence services. The legal service director of the organization told the publication that the group's ultimate objective is the "revival of trust in law enforcement agencies and the restoration of their prestige in society." He added that the group is often "approached by serious business owners and bankers who have problems with law enforcement agencies and the underworld." JAC

MORE OLIGARCHS ENTER UPPER HOUSE

The number of new senators selected according to the new rules for forming the Federation Council is now greater than that of the old members, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 November. According to the daily, 85 new senators have been appointed to date as the 1 January deadline for a complete turnover in the upper legislative chamber's ranks approaches. Among the new senators confirmed on 14 November were three members of "big business," namely Yamalstroi head Vyacheslav Boronik, Saturn head Viktor Glukhikh, and Slavneft-Yaroslavneftegazorgsintez Executive Director Yevgenii Zayashnikov. Mikhail Margelov, a member of the Federation group and a representative for Pskov Oblast, was elected chair of the International Affairs Committee, replacing Novgorod Governor Mikhail Prusak. Prusak will now be represented by former presidential aide Gennadii Burbulis (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 7 November 2001). JAC

PAVLOVSKII PREDICTS NEW BATTLE OVER PROPERTY...

Participating in a public-political club, "Civic Debates," a number of famous Russian political analysts in Moscow predicted that a new distribution of property is about to take place in Russia, which could pose a threat to the stability of President Putin's regime, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 13 November. One such analyst was Gleb Pavlovskii, unofficial presidential adviser, who said this conflict will arise over the restructuring of Russian monopolies, such as Gazprom. In addition, he charged that "what is happening in [Sakha (Yakutia)] is simply a cynical attempt to seize control over the largest federation subject with the help of the force structures" (see item below). JAC

...AND PRESIDENTIAL RESIGNATION IN 2003

Duma deputy (Yabloko) Sergei Yushenkov reported that Pavlovskii has published a report on the website that he controls saying that President Putin will resign on 14 July 2003, Ren-TV reported on 15 November. Aleksandr Kotenkov, presidential envoy to the Duma, responded that he has not seen the report, but that Pavlovskii "is not so close to the president as to express his opinion." JAC

RAILWAYS MINISTRY INVESTIGATION CONTINUES

The office of the Prosecutor-General has accused First Deputy Railway Minister Mikhail Ivankov of exceeding the powers of his office, polit.ru reported on 15 November citing the daily "Gazeta." According to the newspaper, Ivankov is considered a close and trusted colleague of vacationing Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko. Prosecutors are also conducting a search of the office of acting Railways Minister Aleksandr Tselko. JAC

DUMA RAISES SOLDIERS' PAY

State Duma deputies approved on 15 November in the third and final reading a bill limiting TV and radio advertising during children's, educational, and religious programs. Ads may not last longer than 20 percent of total air time, and the interval between each commercial should total at least 15 minutes. The bill amends article 11 of the law on advertising, according to ITAR-TASS. On the same day, deputies approved in the first reading a presidential bill reforming the system by which the military is paid cash allowances. As of 1 July 2002, military personnel will receive 86 percent more money than they make now, according to Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Kudrin. In addition, military salaries will no longer be any lower than those of public sector employees. The bill passed with 249 votes in favor, 131 against, and two abstentions. JAC

ILLEGAL LOGGING ON THE INCREASE

Natural Resources Minister Vitalii Artyukhov said on 15 November that illegal logging has risen some 80 percent over the past five years to reach 732,000 cubic meters last year, ITAR-TASS reported. Illegal logging is most prevalent in border regions and areas near commercial seaports. JAC

BEREZOVSKII SAYS TV-6'S FATE UNDER KREMLIN CONTROL

In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 15 November, self-exiled media magnate Boris Berezovskii declared that the decision on the fate of the 15 percent stake in TV-6 will be "taken by the Kremlin" and not by LUKoil head Vagit Alekperov. Alekperov had earlier stated his company's willingness to sell its 15 percent stake in the company to Berezovskii (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2001). Berezovskii added that he offered LUKoil $10 million for their shares. JAC

DIAMOND COMPANY BOSS THROWN OUT OF SAKHA ELECTION RACE

The Supreme Court of Sakha (Yakutia) cancelled the registration of one candidate, ALROSA President Vyacheslav Shtyrov, in 23 December presidential elections there, Russian agencies reported on 15 November. The court ruled that Shtyrov had turned in the paperwork for his candidacy only after the deadline for submitting such materials to the republican election commission had passed. However, Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said that the court's decision has no basis. Veshnyakov did not exclude the possibility that the decision will be reviewed by the federal Supreme Court. That court will consider the validity of the registration of the incumbent President Mikhail Nikolaev on 20 November, according to ITAR-TASS. JAC

TURKEY REJECTS PUTIN'S ALLEGATIONS OVER CHECHENS

The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 15 November expressing "regret" over President Putin's claims that Chechen fighters move freely from Russia to Georgia to Turkey (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2001), whence they travel to Afghanistan, according to the "Turkish Daily News" on 16 November, quoting Anatolia News Agency. The statement said Putin's remarks "create the impression of going too far," and that it is not clear what evidence they were based on. The Foreign Ministry stressed that Chechens are subject to the same visa requirements when entering Turkey as all other citizens of the Russian Federation. LF

TRIAL OF CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER OPENS IN DAGHESTAN

Salman Raduev went on trial in Makhachkala on 15 November amid massive security precautions on charges of terrorism, banditry, hostage-taking, and murder arising from his leadership of the January 1996 raid on the town of Kizlyar in Daghestan, Russian media reported. In the course of that raid Raduev and his men took more than 2,000 hostages and killed at least 43 people. In an interview published in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 15 November, Raduev said he agreed to lead the raid only because he was asked to do so by then-Chechen President Djokhar Dudaev, who he believes is still alive. Raduev predicted that he will receive a 10-12-year jail sentence, adding that while in pretrial detention he was treated "like a general." He also condemned current Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov for failing to prevent the rise of Wahhabism in Chechnya, and praised Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov as "the man whom Chechnya needs now." LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY CLAIMS SUCCESSES AGAINST CHECHEN MILITANTS

Russian military spokesmen in the North Caucasus told ITAR-TASS on 15 November that in the course of a one-month, three-stage operation that began on 12 October, Russian army troops have killed 376 Chechen fighters and captured a further 545. LF




POLISH PRESIDENT RECOGNIZES ARMENIAN GENOCIDE

Meeting on 15 November, the second day of his official visit to Armenia, with students and faculty members at Yerevan State University, Aleksandr Kwasniewski affirmed that the mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 "was a genocide, and no one should dispute that fact," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Kwasniewski visited the monument in Yerevan to the victims of that genocide earlier that day. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH IRANIAN DIPLOMAT

Robert Kocharian has discussed with Mehdi Safari, the head of the Iranian Foreign Ministry's CIS Department, details of his visit to Tehran scheduled for mid-December, Noyan Tapan reported on 15 November. Also discussed were the ongoing attempts to mediate a solution to the Karabakh conflict and the aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks in the U.S. LF

ARMENIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT RESUMES OPERATION

Armenia's Medzamor nuclear power plant resumed operation on 16 November after a four-month stoppage for maintenance and refueling, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The original plan to bring it on line again in late August was delayed by the lack of funds to pay for a new consignment of nuclear fuel from Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2001). The delay in reactivating Medzamor necessitated doubling imports of Russian natural gas to fuel thermal power plants; on 15 November the Armenian government announced a $5 million emergency loan to Armgazprom to pay the ensuing debts to the ITERA gas exporter. LF

RUSSIAN DEPUTY PREMIER VISITS AZERBAIJAN

Viktor Khristenko arrived in Baku on 14 November to attend a session of the Azerbaijani-Russian intergovernmental council for economic cooperation, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. That session reviewed some 10 documents that are to be signed during Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev's planned visit to Moscow, which was recently postponed from late November to early next year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2001). The most important of those agreements concern the terms on which Russia may continue to use the Gabala radar station in central Azerbaijan, and the export via the Baku-Novorossiisk oil pipeline of Azerbaijani crude. Khristenko noted that under a bilateral agreement signed in January 1997, Azerbaijan should increase the amount of oil it pumps through that pipeline annually from 2.5 million in 2001 to at least 5 million metric tons in 2002, according to Interfax on 15 November. It is not clear whether during Khristenko's meetings with President Aliyev and senior government officials any rapprochement of the two sides' positions was reached. Aliyev nonetheless characterized 2001 as "a year of serious moves towards strengthening" bilateral relations, according to Caucasus Press. LF

AZERBAIJANI POLICE THWART PLANNED PROTEST

Police in Baku on 15 November forcibly dispersed several dozen journalists who planned to stage an unsanctioned protest against court decisions to shut down the newspapers "Bakinskii bulvard" and "Milletein sesi," Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2001). Six journalists including "Bakinskii bulvard" founder Elmar Huseynov and "Milletin sesi" editor Shahbaz Hudaoglu were taken into police custody but released hours later. LF

FORMER LEADING AZERBAIJANI OFFICIAL PROPOSES DEPORTING KARABAKH'S ARMENIAN POPULATION

In an interview with "Yeni Azerbaycan," the official paper of the eponymous ruling party, published on 14 November and circulated by Groong, former presidential foreign policy advisor Vafa Guluzade argued that the entire Armenian population of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic should be deported in retaliation for the "ethnic cleansing" of Armenia's Azerbaijani minority. (Azerbaijanis fled from the then-Armenian SSR en masse in late 1988.) Alternatively, Guluzade continued, Armenia should agree to the creation of an Azerbaijani autonomous formation in its southern region of Meghri. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SUBMITS LIST OF PROPOSED NEW MINISTERS TO PARLIAMENT

Eduard Shevardnadze submitted to parliament late on 15 November his 19 nominees for the new government, Caucasus Press and Reuters reported. As anticipated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 14 November 2001), 14 of those nominees are holdovers from the previous government. Speaking on 16 November at her first press conference since being elected parliament speaker, Nino Burdjanadze said that deputies had hoped to see "more new people," in place of those who had "failed to pull the country out of crisis," Caucasus Press reported. On 15 November, Burdjanadze told Georgian State Television that she believes her predecessor as parliament speaker, Zurab Zhvania, would make an excellent prime minister, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

RUSSIA REAFFIRMS ITS INTENTION TO WITHDRAW FROM REMAINING BASES IN GEORGIA

Speaking in Moscow on 15 November, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Kosovan said that Russia will comply with its commitment to close its military bases in Batumi and Akhalkalaki, but gave no date for doing so, Caucasus Press reported. Kosovan said talks on the timetable for that withdrawal have been suspended indefinitely due to Georgia's "unfriendly policy towards Russia." Also on 15 November, Caucasus Press quoted unidentified Russian Defense Ministry officials as saying that despite Georgian objections, Russia plans to transform the Gudauta base in Abkhazia from which the last military hardware was recently withdrawn into a recreation facility for the Russian peacekeeping force deployed under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone. Georgia wants that Russian force withdrawn and replaced by an international contingent under the aegis of the UN. LF

GEORGIAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF ADMITS TO HELPING CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER LEAVE GEORGIA

In an interview published in the daily "Akhali taoba" on 15 November and summarized by Caucasus Press, Intelligence Department chief Avtandil Ioseliani said that on orders from President Shevardnadze, he and former National Security Minister Vakhtang Kutateladze helped Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev retreat from Abkhazia's Kodori gorge last month and return to Chechnya. Ioseliani said the Abkhaz authorities were informed in advance of Tbilisi's plans to extricate Gelaev from Kodori and did nothing to hinder that operation. LF

ABKHAZ PREMIER DEMANDS ADMISSION OF WRONGDOING FROM GEORGIA

Speaking on 15 November at a press conference in Moscow, where he has been holding talks with Russian officials since 9 November, Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Djergenia said that the Georgian leadership should admit that by allowing the incursion last month on to Abkhaz territory of an armed group including Gelaev and his supporters and Georgian guerrillas, it violated the May 1994 cease-fire agreement signed in Moscow, Russian agencies reported. Djergenia also said that the members of that armed group taken prisoner during last month's fighting will be put on trial. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT'S CONTROVERSIAL SON-IN-LAW RESIGNS

National Security Committee Deputy Chairman Rakhat Aliyev submitted his resignation to his father-in-law, President Nursultan Nazarbaev, on 14 November, and Nazarbaev approved it the following day, Interfax reported. ITAR-TASS reported that the resignation was the result of mutual criticisms in the media outlets they controlled between Aliyev and Pavlodar Oblast Governor Galymzhan Zhaqiyanov. Last month Aliyev, whose media empire has repeatedly criticized the situation in Pavlodar, accused Zhaqiyanov of being behind accusations by parliament deputy Tolen Toqtasynov that Aliyev is guilty of abuse of his official position (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12, 15 and 19 October 2001). But Kazakh media suggested that Aliyev resigned voluntarily after his superior, Marat Tazhin, forbade him to appear before parliament to give an account of his actions as deputies had demanded (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2001). On 15 November Nazarbaev appointed a 45-year-old former KGB official, Major General Nurtai Dutbaev, to succeed Aliyev, Interfax reported. LF

KYRGYZ MILITARY COURT REJECTS ISLAMIC MILITANTS' APPEAL

The Board of the Kyrgyz Military Court on 15 November rejected appeals by two members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan who were sentenced to death in July on charges of terrorism, murder, and hostage-taking for their role in an incursion by IMU guerrillas into Kyrgyz territory last year, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2001). LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT APPROVES PRIVATIZATION PROGRAM

The People's Assembly (the upper chamber of the bicameral parliament) on 15 November endorsed the privatization program for 2002-2003 submitted by the government, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. That program envisages the sale of dozens of companies including giants such as the national airline and telecommunications company, Kyrgyzenergo, and Kyrgyzgas. LF

EBRD PRESIDENT VISITS TAJIKISTAN

Jean Lemierre ended his tour of three Central Asian countries on 15 November after talks in Dushanbe with Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov, AP and Interfax reported. Lemierre repeated the advice that he gave to the presidents of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is prepared to advance further loans to Central Asian states provided that they implement reforms to make their economies attractive to foreign investors. Lemierre's talks with Rakhmonov and Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov focussed specifically on EBRD support to develop small and medium-sized businesses. LF

U.S. TO PROVIDE FURTHER AID FOR TAJIKISTAN

Speaking in Dushanbe on 14 November, USAID administrator Andrew Natsios said that his organization will provide Tajikistan with additional aid worth some $24.8 million to alleviate the aftermath of this year's drought, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Natsios commended Tajikistan's cooperation in shipping international relief aid to Afghanistan at a time when the country is itself suffering from a natural catastrophe. LF




BELARUSIAN LEGISLATURE PASSES 2002 BUDGET IN FIRST READING

The Chamber of Representatives on 15 November passed the 2002 draft budget in the first reading, Interfax reported. The document calls for revenues of 3.9 trillion Belarusian rubles ($2.55 billion) and a budget deficit of some $226 million (1.5 percent of GDP). For the first time during President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's tenure, Finance Minister Mikalay Korbut divulged details of the so-called presidential reserves fund, which is replenished with proceeds from arms exports, the Moscow-based "Kommersant" reported. Korbut said the presidential reserves fund will amount to $2.5 million next year, adding that this sum "is not itemized in the draft budget." The 2002 draft budget itemizes support for the Orthodox Church in Belarus, but not for other churches, and projects spending on the presidential bodyguards at $3 million, which is more than expenditures on the maintenance of the legislature and the government combined, the Moscow-based "Vremya novostei" reported. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ENDORSES GAS ACCORDS WITH RUSSIA...

The parliament on 15 November ratified three government accords with Russia that regulate Russian gas supplies and gas transit across Ukraine, Interfax reported. One accord, relating to Russian gas supplies in 2001, sets the Russian gas price at the Ukrainian border at $80 per 1,000 cubic meters and the maximum monthly delivery quota at 1.5 billion cubic meters. This accord also allows Ukraine to postpone up to half of its payments for the gas deliveries, keeping them as state debt. Two other accords guarantee that no Russian gas will be siphoned off while traversing Ukrainian territory. The package also envisions rescheduling Ukraine's $1.4 billion debt to Gazprom over a period of 12 years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2001). JM

...RESTRICTS ALCOHOL, TOBACCO ADVERTISING...

The parliament also passed amendments to a law on advertisements, banning the advertising of alcohol and tobacco products "on all information carriers," Interfax reported. The move in effect limits the visual promotion of cigarettes and alcoholic drinks to billboard advertising. JM

...BUT FAILS TO PASS BILL CURBING CD PIRACY

Only 140 deputies -- well below the required majority of 226 votes -- voted on 15 November in the second reading for a bill that would establish licensing for production of compact discs and thus put a barrier to widespread piracy of music CDs in Ukraine. According to estimates, illegal production of compact discs in Ukraine costs up to $300 million a year in damages to the global record industry. The U.S. has threatened to impose trade sanctions on Ukraine if it fails to curb this piracy. Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov told UNIAN that the government will insist on an additional hearing of the bill. JM

UKRAINE, RUSSIAN COMPLETE DELIMITATION OF LAND BORDER

"We have finally delimited the state border between Ukraine and Russia from Belarus to the Azov Sea. We have settled the disputes and signed a corresponding protocol," Ukrainian Foreign Ministry official Yuriy Serheyev told journalists in Sumy on 15 November, after the 12th meeting of the Ukrainian-Russian commission on the delimitation of the state border, UNIAN reported. Ukrainian and Russian experts will now work on the delimitation of the maritime section of the state border in the Azov Sea, the Black Sea, and the strait of Kerch. "This will be discussed by extended delegations, and the discussion is going to be heated," Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov commented. JM

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT RAISES SUPPORT FOR SECOND CHILD

The parliament adopted a law on 15 November which increases the monthly support for the second child born in a family from the current 225 ($12.60) to 300 kroons, ETA reported. The 300-kroon allowance will also be applied to the third and further children, while the allowance for the first child will remain at the 150-kroon level. Social Minister Eiki Nestor said that the increased benefits will be paid for approximately 89,300 children and will cost about 70 million kroons per year. The law will go into effect on 1 January 2002. Also on 15 November, the parliament's Constitution Commission by a narrow vote of five to four with one abstention expressed its support for the law abolishing the state language-proficiency requirements for candidates to parliament and local councils. SG

NATO PRAISES LATVIA'S MEMBERSHIP ACTION PLAN

A delegation headed by Foreign Ministry State Secretary Maris Riekstins presented Latvia's Membership Action Plan (MAP) for 2002 at NATO headquarters in Brussels on 15 November, BNS reported. NATO officials praised the MAP, but pointed out the need for Latvia to work towards increasing its ability to host alliance forces in case of need. Defense Ministry State Secretary Edgars Rinkevics explained that no candidate country has as yet worked toward improving the host-country support ability as NATO has previously not pushed this requirement. He noted that it would take several years and "very serious work together with NATO experts" to accomplish this, adding that it is fortunate that NATO is not demanding that it should be done before the summit meeting in Prague next fall at which Latvia hopes to be invited to join the alliance. SG

LITHUANIA, IMF REACH AGREEMENT ON SUPPLEMENTARY MEMORANDUM

The IMF mission to Lithuania announced on 15 November that it has reached a preliminary agreement with the Lithuanian authorities on a supplementary memorandum of economic policies for the remainder of 2001 and for 2002, BNS reported. The agreement still has to be approved by the IMF's Executive Board, probably in January. The mission, headed by Patricia Alonso-Gamo, gave a positive assessment of Lithuania's macroeconomic policies, reform efforts, and economic prospects. It noted Lithuania's pledge to keep the budget deficit under 1.5 percent of GDP in 2002 and expressed support for the government's efforts to strengthen municipal finances and the finances of the health insurance fund, as well as for the planned privatization of the gas and power utilities Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas) and Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy). SG

POLISH PREMIER FIRM ON EU ADMISSION IN 2004

In a televised address to the nation on 15 November, Premier Leszek Miller said Poland has a good chance to end EU entry talks in 2002, hold a referendum on EU membership in 2003, and join the EU in 2004. "We must be part of a rich, European superpower," Miller said, stressing that EU membership will contribute to the improvement of living standards for Poles and the modernization of Poland. "Over the last four years, our position in the [EU] negotiations has weakened. It is time to change this, to accelerate the negotiations, and to attain the success that is within reach," Miller noted, explaining why his cabinet decided to relax Poland's stance on the controversial issues of labor market and land sale in EU talks (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 15 November 2001). JM

POLAND EXPECTS U.S. REQUEST TO SEND TROOPS TO AFGHANISTAN

Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski has said he expects that the United States will within days ask Poland to take part in its operation in or near Afghanistan, Polish Television reported on 15 November. "We are well prepared for this [request]," Szmajdzinski added. According to Polish Television, the troops who might most likely be involved in the operation are commandos from the GROM special task force, as well as sappers and soldiers from chemical defense and biological reconnaissance units. JM

CZECH PREMIER INSULTS OPPONENTS ONCE MORE

Prime Minister Milos Zeman told the Chamber of Deputies on 15 November that he has found a recipe for fulfilling his doctor's recommendation to lose weight. All he needs do, he said, is to listen to speeches by members of the Four Party Coalition and that would make him feel sick, upset his stomach, and he would thus satisfy his doctor. Zeman was reacting to Four Party Coalition members' expressed opposition to calling an emergency session of the chamber to debate the government's decision to postpone raising salaries in the civil service. The Czech premier has often in the past insulted political opponents and critical journalists. MS

CZECH COURT FREES TELEVISION TYCOON

A Prague court on 15 November released television tycoon Vladimir Zelezny from detention, rejecting a request by police to detain him until he is tried on charges of attempting to financially harm a creditor, CTK and international agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2001). The court said there was no need to keep Zelezny in detention during the investigation. The judge said she was not afraid he might try to influence possible witnesses, as police have claimed he may do. MS

BRITISH OFFICIALS END CHECKS AT PRAGUE AIRPORT

British officials on 15 November once more ended checks of passengers embarking on flight to destinations in the U.K. at Prague's international Ruzyne airport, CTK reported. The checks, first introduced in July, have been canceled and resumed several times and a spokesman for the British Embassy said they might be resumed at any time without an earlier warning. Between 8 and 15 November, the spokesman said, 16 people were barred from embarking on the flights, of whom 13 were Czechs. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER COMMENTS ON EUROPEAN COMMISSION REPORT

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said on 15 November that the shortcomings mentioned in the European Commission's assessment of Slovakia's performance will be discussed at an extraordinary meeting of the cabinet, CTK reported. Dzurinda said that Slovakia will strive to close the EU negotiations next year and become a member of the union in 2004. "We will not rest and will not be satisfied until Slovakia meets the EU standards," he said. Also on 15 November, Deputy Premier Maria Kadlecikova and Dirk Meganck, EU chief negotiator for Slovakia, said in Brussels after talks that they hope Slovakia will soon receive the EU funds suspended after suspicions arose that they were being used for other purposes. MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT APPROVES DECOMMISSION OF NUCLEAR REACTORS

The cabinet on 15 November approved the final version of an agreement with the EU on decommissioning two Soviet-made nuclear reactors at the Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear power plant, AP reported. Under the agreement, the decommissioning costs will be covered by an international fund managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and partly financed by the EU. The EU will contribute $127 million to the fund, which is about 44 percent of the estimated decommissioning costs. The two reactors are slated to go off line between 2006 and 2008. Two newer reactors at Jaslovske Bohunice will remain in operation. MS

SLOVAKIA SENDS HUMANITARIAN AID TO AFGHANISTAN

The loading of government-financed humanitarian aid for Afghanistan worth 4 million crowns ($82,772) started in Limbach, near Bratislava, on 15 November, CTK reported. The aid was approved at a government meeting in October and consists of blankets, tents, and water containers. On the same day, a spokeswoman for the Slovak police announced that 46 refugees from Afghanistan attempted to cross the border with Austria the previous night using rubber boats. Most of them failed to do so as water penetrated the boat they were using. Police detained the refugees, as well as two Slovak accomplices who now face prison sentences. MS

HUNGARIAN-SLOVAK CONSULTATIONS ON STATUS LAW POSTPONED

A round of consultations between Slovakia and Hungary scheduled for 16 November has been postponed until 22 November at Hungary's request. Slovak Foreign Ministry State Secretary Jaroslav Chlebo told the Hungarian daily "Nepszabadsag" that his Hungarian counterpart Zsolt Nemeth has informed the ministry that he will be accompanying Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the CEFTA summit in Bucharest. At that summit, Orban is also expected to discuss the Status Law with his Romanian counterpart, Adrian Nastase. MS

DISSATISFACTION WITH DEMOCRACY GROWING IN HUNGARY

The number of Hungarians who are dissatisfied with the current political system has risen from 36 percent in 1998 to 48 percent at present, according to a poll released by the GfK polling institute, Hungarian media reported. Some 20 percent of those polled said their expectations of the system have been fulfilled. The portion of those in favor of an authoritarian system, however, has also been declining. MS




MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES REFORM PACKAGE...

A package of 15 constitutional amendments aimed at giving the large Albanian minority more rights passed with a two-thirds majority on 16 November after weeks of haggling and delays, primarily on the part of Macedonian nationalists, Deutsche Welle reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 and 21 August 2001). The reform package is the centerpiece of the 13 August Ohrid agreement between the leaders of the two largest Macedonian and two largest Albanian political parties. Observers note that many ethnic Macedonians do not like the package but accepted it under foreign pressure in hopes of putting an end to Albanian complaints. Those Macedonians will now be ill-disposed to grant further concessions beyond those provided for in the Ohrid agreement. The Albanians, for their part, still want parliament to pass a formal amnesty for former guerrillas, except those indicted for war crimes by The Hague tribunal. President Boris Trajkovski gave assurances in a letter to international officials that such an amnesty will be implemented, Western agencies reported on 16 November PM

...TO THE RELIEF OF NATO, EU...

Lord George Robertson, the secretary-general of the Atlantic alliance, said in a statement that Macedonia has moved "closer to European standards on the equitable treatment of minorities... By turning its back on the spiral of violence that risked civil war, Macedonia's leaders have created the opportunity to build a vibrant, peaceful, multiethnic democracy," AP reported from Skopje on 16 November. In Brussels, Javier Solana, who is the EU's top foreign policy official, said, "The European Union will now redouble its efforts in supporting the implementation of the Ohrid agreement and will give priority to help bringing Macedonia closer to the EU," Reuters reported. PM

...AND MANY IN MACEDONIA

Ethnic Albanian leader Arben Xhaferi commented: "We repaired the constitution, and now we have to repair the mentality that created ethnic conflicts. I expect that the situation will ease and that all refugees will return to their homes. I hope Albanians will be satisfied with these changes and that all conflicts will end," AP reported from Skopje on 16 November. Macedonian Social Democrat Gjorgji Spasov said, "I think that the deputies who voted in favor of the changes have significantly contributed to the coexistence of all citizens, regardless of their nationality." PM

MACEDONIAN FLASHPOINT REGION REMAINS TENSE

Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski, whom the BBC described as "the biggest danger to the peace process," said in Skopje on 15 November that he is withdrawing from the government's Crisis Management Committee, AP reported. That body seeks to coordinate moves aimed at the gradual restoration of government authority to formerly guerrilla-held areas. Deputy Prime Minister Ilija Filipovski said that Boskovski "announced that all further police actions will be undertaken according to the situation in the field." He did not elaborate. Elsewhere, militants of the shadowy Albanian National Army (AKSH) said in a statement that police forces "will be attacked without warning if they try to enter [ethnic] Albanian areas" in the Tetovo region (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"15 November 2001). The extremists added that "no international pressure [can] convince us to put down our weapons." It is not clear how strong the AKSH is or who stands behind it. PM

MACEDONIAN JOURNALISTS ADOPT PRESS CODE

In an effort to strengthen the country's democracy, some 70 Macedonian journalists from the state-owned and the private media adopted a new journalistic code of ethics on 14 November, dpa reported. "The main task of the reporters is to respect the truth and the right of the public to be promptly informed, as stated in Article 16 of the Macedonian Constitution," the draft code says. "Showing respect for the ethical values and professional standards..., reporters will be honest, objective, and prompt." Media representatives worked out the new press code with international support. An "honor council" of the journalists association will oversee its implementation. "The code provides for greater professionalism and quality to the field of journalism in Macedonia," Ivan Andreevski, president of the Macedonian journalists association, is quoted as saying. Foreign observers have widely criticized the professional quality of much of Macedonian journalism, arguing that inflammatory press coverage of the crisis has contributed to ethnic polarization. UB

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT BACKS MUTINEERS

Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade on 15 November that the members of the elite paramilitary police, known as the Red Berets, have "understandable" and "legitimate" demands in their protest against the government's policy of cooperating with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13, 14, and 15 November 2001). Kostunica agrees with the police that cooperation requires a special law, which the present authorities have not enacted during their year in office. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic argues that no domestic legislation regarding The Hague is necessary, since the tribunal has a UN mandate, which takes precedence over Serbian or Yugoslav law. But Kostunica stressed that "a law is necessary not only for the preservation of our state's sovereignty, but also our stability." He added that it is necessary to "address the cause of the protest, not its symptoms." It is not clear why the president, who prides himself as a champion of the rule of law, should be sympathetic to illegal actions by an elite formation that was a pillar of the regime of former President Slobodan Milosevic. PM

SERBIAN ELITE POLICE SAY THEY ARE 'PROUD' OF THEIR RECORD

The Red Berets issued a statement in Kula on 15 November in which they said they are proud of the way they "defended the Serbian people in [the recent] wars" and denied "rumors" that they oppose cooperation with The Hague in order to avoid the extradition of many of their own members, AP reported. The Red Berets served in Milosevic's wars in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova, where some of them have been linked to atrocities. They also reject a recent decision by Djindjic to transfer them from the security forces to the civilian police, Reuters reported. PM

SERBIAN GOVERNMENT SACKS PRO-MILOSEVIC JUDGES

On 15 November, Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic announced the firing of 21 judges who handed down decisions against the private media under a draconian media law during the Milosevic regime, AP reported. Batic stressed that the judges should have been guided "not by the law alone but by moral standards." PM

DIFFERING VIEWS CLOUD KOSOVA'S FUTURE

Ethnic Albanian parties campaigning in the run-up to the 17 November elections have stressed populist themes and not offered a clear vision for the future, Deutsche Welle reported on 16 November (see "End Note," below). In many areas inhabited by the Serbian minority, the boycott of the election is so complete that there is "no trace" of campaigning. Kostunica postponed a planned visit to Mitrovica for security reasons, AP reported on 15 November. Elsewhere, Hans Haekkerup, who heads the UN civilian administration, said that Kosova can hope for autonomy but not the independence sought by all Albanian parties, Reuters reported. He stressed that "we will make sure that [independence] never gets on the agenda of the assembly." But the Independent International Commission on Kosovo, which is chaired by South African Judge Richard Goldstone, said in a recent report that the Kosovars will "have the illusion of self-rule rather than the reality... If the population is distrusted [by the international community], it is likely to repay like with like." PM

TWO MORE POLICEMEN SACKED IN BOSNIA

Stefo Lehmann, who is spokesman for the UN police administration in Bosnia (IPTF), said in Sarajevo on 16 November that the IPTF has fired two Muslim police officials in the Bihac area, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2001). The IPTF declared Dervis Demirovic and Hajrudin Halilagic unfit for duty, presumably because of unacceptable conduct during the 1992-95 war. PM

BOSNIAN SERB LEADER PLEDGES HUNT FOR WAR CRIMINALS

Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic said in Banja Luka on 15 November that the Republika Srpska authorities have begun a search for 10 persons indicted by The Hague for war crimes, Reuters reported. The list includes Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic. Ivanic acknowledges that if Bosnian Serb police were ordered to arrest the men, "it is evident that such a thing would not pass without problems, and it is evident that it would cause certain reactions." The Republika Srpska authorities have recently decided that they are legally obliged to cooperate with the tribunal. Both Ivanic and President Mirko Sarovic say that there is no evidence that Karadzic or Mladic are in the Bosnian Serb entity. Some 20 Bosnian Serbs have been indicted by the tribunal but are still at large, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM

BOSNIA WITHDRAWS CITIZENSHIP

The Interior Ministry has withdrawn citizenship granted to 94 individuals, mainly from unspecified Asian or African countries, citing "irregularities" in their applications, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Sarajevo on 15 November. PM

CROATIA GRANTS AIRSPACE, BASE RIGHTS

Prime Minister Ivica Racan said in Zagreb on 15 November that the government is putting its airspace and Adriatic bases at the disposal of NATO for use by the antiterror coalition, dpa reported. Croatia seeks membership in the Atlantic alliance. PM

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES 2002 BUDGET

With a vote of 270 for and 154 against, a joint session of the Romanian parliament's two chambers approved on 15 November the 2002 budget, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The bill was supported by the ruling Social Democratic Party and by the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania. The opposition Greater Romania Party (PRM), National Liberal Party (PNL), and Democratic Party all voted against. The PNL and the PRM later said they are considering appealing against the law at the Constitutional Court. The PNL wants to appeal on procedural grounds, but would need to enlist the support of the Democrats for an appeal, since its number of deputies (29) falls short of the number (50) required by the law in such cases. The PRM said it wants to appeal on grounds that the budget infringes on the provision of the "organic" Law on Scientific Research by not clearly allocating to research the GDP share established by that legislation. "Organic laws" are legislation that can be amended only with a special majority. MS

ROMANIAN DEFENSE COUNCIL REDEFINES INTELLIGENCE SERVICES ATTRIBUTIONS

The Supreme Council for National Defense (CSAT) chaired by President Ion Iliescu on 15 November decided to restructure and to redefine the attributions of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) and the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Both measures were said to be prompted by the new priority of fighting international terrorism and in order to facilitate collaboration with intelligence and counterintelligence services in the West. The council also decided to launch privatization procedures for several enterprises that formerly produced mainly for Romania's defense industry. Mediafax reported that the new organizational structure of the SRI is modeled on that of the U.S. FBI. MS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT HALTS BANK TRANSFERS TO 'SUSPICIOUS FOREIGN ACCOUNTS'

The government on 15 November issued an emergency ordinance forbidding the transfer of money to foreign accounts suspected of links with international terrorist organizations, Mediafax reported. Banks are obliged to immediately report to the authorities any attempt to carry out such transactions, and the ordinance provides for prison terms of between five and 20 years for those guilty of infringing the ordinance's provisions. SRI Director Radu Timofte told journalists after the CSAT meeting that investigations carried out by his organization have confirmed "large sums of money" have been transferred from Romania to accounts at banks abroad "with possible links to terrorist organizations." In response to a question, Timofte also said that the SRI "agrees" with the recent statement by Interior Minister Ioan Rus that the Romanian state faces the danger of a "loss of authority" in the Harghita and Covasna counties, which are mainly inhabited by ethnic Hungarians. MS

EUROPEAN COUNCIL APPROVES RECOMMENDATION ON ROMANIA'S CSANGO MINORITY

The European Council on 15 November approved a recommendation calling on a joint team of Romanian and Hungarian experts to investigate the origins and the character of the language spoken by the Csango minority. The recommendation follows an earlier resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe calling on Romania to ensure the safeguarding of the Csango minority's cultural rights, Mediafax reported. The PACE resolution said the Csangos "speak an archaic Hungarian." The Csangos live mainly in Moldavia and belong to the Roman Catholic Church. In recent years complaints intensified that the Romanian authorities, which view the Csangos as "Magyarized Romanians," are attempting to assimilate that minority. The Romanian Foreign Ministry said in reaction that the council's recommendation "confirms the official Romanian position that the origins of the Csango have not been elucidated by scientific research." MS

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY 'SURPRISED' BY UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR'S STATEMENTS

The Romanian Foreign Ministry on 15 November said in a communique it was "surprised" by the statements made earlier that day by Ukrainian Ambassador to Bucharest Anton Buteyko and wants the Foreign Ministry in Kyiv to confirm whether Buteyko had "an official mandate" to make those declarations, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Buteyko said that Ukraine would be in a position to agree to arbitration by the International Court in The Hague in a dispute concerning the border in the Black Sea's continental shelf after Romania officially agrees to recognize that Ukraine inherits from the former Soviet Union all the rights over the state border with Romania. Observers say that in doing so, Bucharest would lose any claim to the continental shelf around the oil-rich Serpents' Island. Buteyko also said the delimitation of the border in the Black Sea is an issue concerning not only Ukraine and Romania, but also Turkey, Russia, and Hungary. Buteyko also accused Romania of spreading in the media "misleading and tendentious information" on the dispute. The Romanian Foreign Ministry said negotiations under way with Ukraine have so far yielded no results, and appealing to the court in The Hague would be in line with "European practice" and with the annex of the 1997 basic treaty between the two countries. It also expressed "perplexity" that Buteyko "involved other states in the region in the dispute, without those states having been consulted or having agreed to that involvement." MS

ROMANIAN SENATE COMMISSION SENDS TUDOR CASE TO THE PLENUM

The Senate Judicial Commission recommended on 15 November that the Prosecutor-General's demand to lift the parliamentary immunity of PRM leader Senator Corneliu Vadim Tudor be debated by the chamber's plenum, Mediafax reported. The lifting of Tudor's immunity is sought on grounds of spreading false information after he alleged that Romania has trained terrorists belonging to the Palestinian Hamas. The Senate Permanent Bureau has scheduled the debate for 29 November. MS

CUSTOMS OFFICIALS SEARCH TRANSDNIESTER 'PRESIDENTIAL' CANDIDATE'S CAR

Transdniester customs officials at the Bendery-Tighina checkpoint on 15 November searched the car of Aleksandr Radchenko, one of separatist leader Igor Smirnov's competitors in the "presidential" ballot scheduled for 9 December, Flux reported. Radchenko was carrying in his car 17,000 copies of the newspaper "Golos naroda" (People's Voice), of which he is editor in chief. The search was conducted in violation of Radchenko's immunity as a member of the Supreme Soviet, and the officials said they intend to charge him with smuggling, an offense not covered by his parliamentary immunity. MS

GUUAM FOREIGN MINISTERS CONCERNED ABOUT TRANSDNIESTER

The foreign ministers of the GUUAM states (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova), meeting at the 56th UN General Assembly in New York, strongly condemned all actions against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of GUUAM member states and expressed "particular concern" over the lack of progress in the Transdniester conflict settlement process, Infotag reported. The five ministers also condemned any "wrongful use of military force" and foreign backing of separatist and extremist forces "illicitly acting in some GUUAM states." MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER IN U.S.

Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, on a visit to the U.S., told a forum of businessmen in New York on 14 November that the immediate task of his cabinet is to expand and improve capital resources -- both foreign and domestic -- as well as the use of natural and human resources, BTA reported. Saxecoburggotski said the government seeks to "develop a system of financial and regulatory mechanisms that would attract foreign investment." He said the parliament will approve in the near future a new privatization law that will guarantee transparency and will expedite privatization procedures. Meanwhile, Deputy Premier and Economy Minister Nikolai Vasiliev told journalists in Sofia on 15 November that Bulgaria expects to privatize 349 companies in 2002 and earn as a result $382.7 million euros ($337.4 million), of which 316 million euros would be paid into the national budget, AFP reported. MS

MOB ACTIVITY WIDESPREAD IN BULGARIA

In a report released on 15 November, the National Service for the Fight Against Organized Crime said more than 100 armed gangs of organized criminals, each with nearly 500 members, are operating across the country, AFP reported. The report does not include the capital Sofia. It also says Bulgarian gangs are in contact with mafias in all parts of Europe and in Latin America. While 94 percent of those involved in organized crime are Bulgarian, the gangs also include nationals from Russia, Turkey, Albania, and Arab countries. MS




KOSOVA'S BIG STEP TOWARD SELF-GOVERNMENT


By Patrick Moore

Kosovars go to the polls on 17 November to choose the first democratically elected parliament in their history. Once home-rule structures are in place and functioning, the next step could be to resolve Kosova's status.

Voters are scheduled to elect a 120-member assembly in what Reuters has called "the most important event in the...province since NATO bombing ended Serb rule in 1999." The moderate Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) of Ibrahim Rugova is expected to win the most seats, followed by two parties that emerged from the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK): Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosova and Ramush Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosova.

The assembly will choose a president and a seven-member presidency of the legislature. The president will name a prime minister, who will have a nine-member cabinet. Its responsibilities are purely internal ones, and do not include defense or foreign affairs.

Some 20 parliamentary seats are reserved for minorities, including 10 for Serbs, who make up perhaps 7 percent of the population. It is not clear, however, how many Serbs will vote. Belgrade has encouraged them to cast their ballots, and Serbia's governing coalition is fielding candidates. But many local Serbs have difficulty adjusting to the fact that they no longer control the province and plan to boycott the vote.

All parties of the 90 percent Albanian majority want independence for the UN-administered protectorate. Resolving the question of the province's status is not among the new government's prerogatives, however. Furthermore, in order to secure Belgrade's support for the elections, the UN civilian administration recently promised Belgrade that a change in Kosova's status is not in the offing. Under UN Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999, Kosova formally remains part of Yugoslavia, even though no Kosovar party favors continued links with Belgrade.

The elections are, obviously, only a first step toward dealing with two interrelated, pressing problems. The first is cleaning up the mess of crime, corruption, and violence in Kosova. The Kosovars will need to demonstrate through their new institutions that they are indeed capable of managing their own affairs. They know that the international community is in no hurry to grant them independence lest the result be the emergence in Europe of a failed state that exports instability to its neighbors. The Albanians presumably also know that the only ones who can prove the skeptics wrong are the Kosovars themselves.

The second issue is the question of the province's status. On the one hand, no one in Washington or Brussels is eager to set up a Balkan Sierra Leone. On the other hand, the international community is wary of continuing the protectorate any longer than is absolutely necessary lest a Bosnian-style dependency syndrome set in. Furthermore, as German Professor Stefan Troebst and several other Western experts have argued, there can be no stability in the region until Kosova's status is clarified.

That means, according to those experts, only one thing: independence. Until the principles of self-determination and majority rule are applied to Kosova, there is unlikely to be lasting peace in the region.

The precondition to that, of course, is that the Kosovars will need to show that they can put their house in order and keep it that way. Part of that involves addressing the legitimate concerns for the security and safety of Serbs and other minorities. The Albanians will need to control their own thugs and rowdies as well as respect broader European standards for minority rights. By the same token, the Serbs will have to accept that they can live as a minority in a state in which the overwhelming majority in not Serbian.


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