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Newsline - November 21, 2001




RUSSIAN ENVOY DISCUSSES FUTURE SHAPE OF AFGHAN GOVERNMENT...

Special Russian envoy to Afghanistan Aleksandr Oblov has met with representatives of the Northern Alliance in Kabul, including Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, and obtained their assurances that the future Afghan government will be formed on a "broad basis," Interfax reported on 20 November. Speaking from Paris on the same day, Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo also noted that Rabbani and other politicians are aware that the new Afghan government should represent the interests of all ethnic groups. Meanwhile, "Obshchaya gazeta" (no. 46) reported that speakers at a recent gathering of political scientists at Moscow's Aleksandr House suggested that creating an Afghan government without the Pashtun people is like trying to form a Russian government based on the Chuvash or Mordvin ethnic groups. JAC

...AS PLANS MADE TO REOPEN RUSSIAN EMBASSY

Interfax reported on 20 November citing an unidentified diplomatic source that Russia may reopen its embassy in Kabul before the end of the year. In addition, a consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif is also planned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2001). JAC

MORE POSITIVE REACTIONS TO NATO PROPOSAL REGISTERED...

State Duma Defense Committee Chair (People's Deputy) Andrei Nikolaev told ITAR-TASS on 20 November that British Prime Minister Tony Blair's recent proposal that Russia-NATO cooperation be restructured "is the optimum solution for our country at present" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 November 2001). But he said that he doubts that the proposal would be warmly received by all members of the alliance, particularly the U.S. Taking this into account, Nikolaev suggested that Russia may find it "easier to identify areas of agreement, cooperation, and partnership with each NATO country separately than with all of them together at once." Duma deputy speaker (Unity) Lyubov Sliska told reporters on the same day that she believes cooperation with the alliance should be attained in the political sphere: "It is necessary that Russia be integrated into NATO's political system." JAC

...ALONG WITH NEGATIVE

Also on 20 November, "Novye izvestiya" concluded that Blair's proposal is similar to the other "placating gestures" that "the alliance makes to Moscow every time it admits new members." The daily continued that "London is out to create the illusion that Russia as a strategic partner will be involved as an equal in the work on some aspects of the war." JAC

PUTIN TURNS HIS ATTENTION TO GAZPROM...

Addressing an audience at Novye Urengoi in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug on 20 November, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about the future tasks facing the oil and gas industry. Putin declared that Gazprom should be restructured "persistently, consistently, and without any haste." Putin noted that Gazprom is "a unique structure" and that the government is aware of its uniqueness and "will act on the basis of this fact." At the same time, Putin noted that Russian gas sells for 2.5 to 3 times higher in some European countries than Gazprom export prices. Putin noted that "it is good that Russian gas is bought for such a price, but it is not clear why Gazprom sells gas so cheaply, and most important, what accounts for the difference in the prices, and where the money actually winds up," according to Interfax. Meanwhile, Tyumen Oblast Governor Sergei Sobyanin told ITAR-TASS that it is not the time to raise the question of restructuring Gazprom. JAC

...AS NEWSPAPER SUGGESTS HUNT FOR BUDGET REVENUES IS ON...

Anticipating Putin's visit, the government newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" speculated on 20 November that the decline in oil prices was one reason why Putin was visiting the region. According to the daily, central authorities are urgently looking for alternative sources of financing and "obviously believe that [Russian] producers of natural gas could bring in more money." Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin told reporters on 20 November that the government will review its forecast for the Russian economy in 2002 over the next few days. However, State Duma Budget Committee Chairman (Russian Regions) Aleksandr Zhukov echoed the statement of cabinet officials that the current spate of low oil prices does not necessitate "panic" or making any changes to the 2002 budget. JAC

...AND BEREZOVSKII NEWSPAPER PREDICTS RUBLE DEVALUATION

Also on 20 November, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" argued that Russia could experience a new default in 2003, and that even if oil prices fell to $15 a barrel for only one month, the negative consequences to the Russian economy "could affect every resident" of Russia. The daily noted that "already at the beginning of next year the dollar could cost 30-31 rubles." And, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 November that the dollar reached the 30 ruble mark at one point during the previous day's trading. JAC

PATRIARCH STUMPS FOR LUKOIL

Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia Aleksii II is appearing in a Russian TV spot on behalf of LUKoil, "The Moscow Times" reported on 20 November. According to the daily, the patriarch appeared in a 25-second advertisement on RTR in which he is shown outside a church surrounded by LUKoil officials, including President Vagit Alekperov. The patriarch looks into the camera and says that the church is grateful to LUKoil for its support of many projects. Then, large letters appear on the screen: "Ten years of LUKoil for the good of Russia." The newspaper also reported that last year Alekperov and Aleksii II signed a protocol of intent for future cooperation which envisioned the creation of joint ventures such as embroidery workshops, jewelry production, and the development of gas stations in Moscow city and oblast. JAC

MVD EXPANDS ANTITERRORISM EFFORT...

The main organized crime administration of the criminal police service at the Interior Ministry (MVD) is establishing a special section on fighting terrorism and extremism, Aleksandr Ovchinnikov, head of the organized crime division at the ministry, announced on 20 November. According to Ovchinnikov, MVD offices in the seven federal districts have already set up terrorism sections. Ovchinnikov added that the relevant officers intend to cooperate with foreign law enforcement bodies in carrying out antiterrorist activities. JAC

...AS 'GRAY CARDINAL' FACES CRIMINAL CHARGES

Investigative journalist Aleksandr Khinshtein reported in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 20 November that the Prosecutor General's Office has launched a criminal case against retired Lieutenant General Aleksandr Orlov, formerly "one of the most influential and powerful people in the country." Orlov is suspected of violating Article 286 of the Criminal Code and exceeding his official authority. Orlov, according to Khinshtein, is called the "gray cardinal of the MVD." "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported earlier in the month that the investigation into Orlov's activities is being conducted by his own agency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2001). JAC

ANOTHER MUSCOVITE TAPPED FOR FEDERATION COUNCIL

Deputies in Nizhnii Novgorod's legislature confirmed former Deputy Finance Minister Yevgenii Bushmin as Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Governor Gennadii Khodyrev's representative in the Federation Council, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 20 November. According to the agency, Bushmin said that he is "almost certain" to become chair of the upper house's Budget Committee. Meanwhile, the Federation group has nominated Sakhalin Oblast's representative Valerii Goreglyad to be deputy chair of the upper legislative chamber. ITAR-TASS reported that unidentified "observers" believe that Goreglyad will eventually become chairman. On the same day, polit.ru noted that Goreglyad himself has hinted that former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov is the likely choice; however, it noted that Primakov may not be willing to take such a post, since it would be primarily a "decorative" one. JAC

NATIONAL, REGIONAL LEADERS COMPLAIN ABOUT ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION

Illegal immigration has become a "high-profile" issue in southern regions of Russia, TV-6 reported on 20 November. According to the station, a number of shanty towns composed of Tajik migrants have appeared around Asktrakhan Oblast, despite the temporary closure of the railway link between Astrakhan and Dushanbe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2001), and Governor Anatolii Guzhvin has appealed to federal authorities for "special efforts to regulate immigration." According to the correspondent, "Astrakhan has become a staging post for illegal immigrants, many of whom have criminal intent." Also on 20 November, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told reporters in Novosibirsk Oblast, which borders Kazakhstan, that a cordon sanitaire should be created or Russia will get 5 million refugees from Central Asian countries. According to Zyuganov, some 100,000 such refugees already live in Omsk Oblast alone. Zyuganov's remarks follow a recent UNHCR statement that no influx of immigrants from Central Asia connected with the Afghan military activities has so far been detected in Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2001). JAC

SUPREME COURT TELLS JUDGES IN SAKHA TO THINK AGAIN

The federal Supreme Court ruled on 20 November that the Supreme Court of the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic must re-examine its decision upholding the registration of incumbent Sakha President Mikhail Nikolaev in 23 December presidential elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 6 November 2001). Sakha's Supreme Court issued a resolution on 31 October appealing to the federal Constitutional Court to consider the legality of Nikolaev's registration, thereby putting a stop to attempts by the local prosecutor to cancel Nikolaev's registration. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 21 November, sources close to Nikolaev do not exclude that the president will himself decide to withdraw from the race. JAC

INVESTIGATION OF STAROVOITOVA MURDER EXTENDED AGAIN

The Prosecutor-General's Office has again extended its investigation of the murder of Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova, Ekho Moskvy reported on 20 November. The new deadline is now 20 May 2002. The Federal Security Service's directorate for St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast stated that the investigation has recently focused on more specific persons, although no charges have yet been filed. Starovoitova was killed on 21 November 1998. JAC

SMALL PLANE CRASHES IN TVER

An Il-18 airplane crashed in Tver Oblast on 19 November, killing 25 passengers and seven crew members, according to lenta.ru the next day. The flight originated in Khatanga in Taimyr Autonomous Okrug and was headed for Moscow. The Defense Ministry has denied that the plane went down because it was hit by an errant missile, as happened last month when a Ukrainian missile knocked down a Tu-154 airliner, according to Interfax. Viktor Osipov, head of the Krasnoyarsk regional directorate for air transport, said on the morning of 20 November that investigators have not yet ruled out terrorism as a cause, according to RIA-Novosti. JAC




WORLD BANK DELAYS RELEASE OF LOAN TRANCHE TO ARMENIA

An IMF representative in Yerevan said on 19 November that disbursement of the third tranche of a World Bank SAC-4 credit, worth $15 million, will be suspended due to Armenia's failure to meet its tax collection target for October, according to Armenian National Television as cited by Groong. The tranche will be made available if the November tax target is met. Arminfo on 8 November quoted Armenian Deputy Finance and Economy Minister Pavel Safarian as saying that the IMF insists that 53 billion drams ($93.9 million) in taxes must be collected during the fourth quarter of 2001; in October, Safarian said, only 15.3 billion drams was collected. LF

ARMENIAN STUDENTS DEMAND REDUCTION IN TUITION FEES

Some 200 students at state-run universities staged a demonstration outside the government building in Yerevan on 20 November to demand that tuition fees, which average $600-$700, be reduced by 20 percent, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Student representatives met with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's chief of staff, Andranik Hakobian, but no agreement was reached. LF

GREEK DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS AZERBAIJAN

During a visit to Baku on 19-20 November, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Yannis Magriotis met with President Heidar Aliev, Baku Mayor Hadjibala Abutalibov, and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev, Turan reported. Magriotis told journalists at the end of his visit that issues discussed included the Karabakh conflict and the possibility of transporting Azerbaijani oil to Europe via the planned Burgas-Alexandropoulis pipeline. Magriotis also stressed that Greek bilateral cooperation with Armenia and trilateral cooperation with Armenia and Iran is not directed against Azerbaijan. LF

CONGRESS OF AZERBAIJAN'S RULING PARTY BACKS PRESIDENT'S SON TO SUCCEED HIM

The second congress of the Yeni Azerbaycan Party, which controls the Azerbaijani parliament, opened in Baku on 21 November, Turan reported. A proposal that President Heidar Aliev's son Ilham -- who was elected two years ago as one of the party's five deputy chairmen -- be elevated to the rank of senior deputy chairman was met with a standing ovation and calls of "Long Live Ilham Aliyev -- Azerbaijan's Future!" and "Long Live Ilham Aliyev -- The Only Successor to Heidar Aliev!" Ilham Aliyev responded by affirming that "we will always be in power. Azerbaijan's future is connected with the YAP, Heidar Aliyev and his policies." Addressing the congress, YAP Executive Secretary Ali Akhmedov branded opposition party leaders Isa Gambar (Musavat Party), Etibar Mamedov (Azerbaijan National Independence Party), Ilyas Ismailov (Adalet Party), Rasul Guliev (Azerbaijan Democratic Party), and Ali Kerimov ( Azerbaijan Popular Front Party progressive wing) as leading "destructive forces." LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS PROPOSED CUT IN NUMBER OF MINISTRIES

Parliament deputies rejected on 20 November by a vote of 119 against and only 11 in favor President Eduard Shevardnadze's proposal to reduce the number of government ministries from 18 to 15, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2001). They reasoned that as Shevardnadze plans to implement further changes reintroducing the post of prime minister, it would be more appropriate to leave the number of ministries unchanged and expedite debate of the latter issue, according to Interfax. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT PROPOSES CANDIDATE FOR PROSECUTOR-GENERAL, THEN HAS SECOND THOUGHTS

President Shevardnadze submitted on 19 November for the parliament's approval the candidacy of Nugzar Gabrichaidze as the new prosecutor-general, Caucasus Press reported. But within hours Shevardnadze telephoned parliament speaker Nino Burdjanaadze to ask her to suspend consideration of Gabrichaidze's candidacy. He did not, however, propose an alternative candidate. Gabrichaidze is a trained lawyer who served for years as Tbilisi city prosecutor. From 1997-2000 he was deputy prosecutor-general, and most recently held a senior post within the Ministry of Internal Affairs. LF

NGO ACCUSES FORMER GEORGIAN MINISTER OF TRYING TO BRIBE VOTERS

The NGO "Fair Elections" has accused former Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze of distributing cheap gifts to voters in the run-up to the 21 October by-election in the western Georgian raion of Baghdadi which he won with over 80 percent of the vote, Caucasus Press reported on 20 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2001). The NGO has brought legal proceedings against Lortkipanidze, demanding that he not be permitted to register as a candidate for the next parliamentary ballot. LF

BRIDGE BLOWN UP, MONKS ABDUCTED IN PANKISI GORGE

A motor bridge leading to a hydroelectric power station under construction by Chinese engineers in the Pankisi gorge was blown up early on 20 November, Caucasus Press reported. Also on 20 November, a representative of the Georgian Patriarchate told journalists that a $1 million ransom has been demanded for the release of two hermit monks and two novices abducted in Pankisi the previous day. LF

KAZAKH PREMIER CLAIMS PLOTS UNCOVERED TO KILL PRESIDENT...

In an official statement released on 20 November, Qasymzhomart Toqaev claimed that at least two plots by unknown groups to assassinate President Nursultan Nazarbaev have been thwarted in the past two months, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. He also called on Nazarbaev to dismiss those officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Uraz Djandosov, Labor and Social Protection Minister Alikhan Baimenov, Deputy Defense Minister Zhannat Ertlesova, and Pavlodar Governor Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, who on 18 November announced the creation of a new opposition party named Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 2001). Toqaev branded them "unprofessional" and "intriguers," and accused them of trying to blackmail the leadership in a bid to force the dismissal of persons whom they dislike, according to Interfax. He threatened to resign if Nazarbaev does not act on his request. Observers suggest that Toqaev, described by one of his predecessors as a pleasant individual but not an influential politician in his own right, may have issued that ultimatum at Nazarbaev's bidding to provide the president with a pretext to move against the founders of Democratic Choice. LF

...AS PARLIAMENT DEPUTY CALLS FOR TOTAL RENEWAL OF LEADERSHIP...

In an open letter addressed to President Nazarbaev and made public at a session on 20 November of the Mazhilis (the lower chamber of parliament), deputy Serik Abdrakhmanov appealed to the president to renew the country's entire leadership, from the presidential apparatus to the government and the governors of the country's 14 oblasts, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Abdrakhmanov condemned the founders of Democratic Choice, claiming they nurture "destructive political goals." LF

...PROMPTING TARGETED OFFICIALS TO OFFER TO RESIGN

Djandosov, Baimenov, First Deputy Finance Minister Kairat Kelimbetov, and Ertlesova all offered on 21 November to resign, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. Djandosov told journalists in Astana that they have informed Nazarbaev that they consider it impossible to continue working under Toqaev following his statement of 20 November. Nazarbaev subsequently sacked Djandosov and Ertlesova, Reuters reported. LF

LOWER CHAMBER PASSES KYRGYZ BUDGET FOR 2002

The Legislative Assembly approved the 2002 draft budget on 20 November, one day after the upper chamber did so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2001), RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Some deputies complained, however, that the draft allocates 152.6 million soms (about $3 million) for the presidential and government administration but only 70 million soms for the Legislative Assembly. LF

UPPER CHAMBER ENDORSES PREMIER'S ANNUAL REPORT

Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev presented to the People's Assembly on 20 November his annual report on the work of the government, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Bakiev said that GDP grew year-on-year during the first nine months of 2001 by 6.7 percent, and wages increased by 25 percent. The average monthly wage is now 1,338 soms (about $28). He said that the bloated government apparatus has been slimmed down, with 1,257 jobs cut or 8.4 percent of the total, according to Interfax. (As of 1 January 2001, one in four members of the work force were employed in the civil service.) Bakiev admitted, however, that not enough is being done to counter corruption and economic crime, which he claimed pose a threat to national security. LF

IMF TO WRITE OFF PART OF KYRGYZSTAN'S DEBTS

Bakiev also told parliament on 20 November that the IMF has agreed to write off or reschedule an unspecified part of Kyrgyzstan's foreign debt, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Bakiev said the country's total foreign debt currently amounts to $1.429 billion. LF

TAJIK MILITARY CONFIRMS REPORTS OF NAMANGANI'S DEATH

Interfax quoted unnamed Tajik military sources on 20 November as confirming claims by General Abdul Rashid Dostum of the Northern Alliance that Djuma Namangani, one of the leaders of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, has been killed while fighting in the Taliban ranks. Those sources said Namangani was killed on 18 November during an exchange of fire in Kondoz, northern Afghanistan. LF

U.S. SENATORS, MILITARY COMMANDER VISIT UZBEKISTAN

U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Senator Carl Levin (Democrat) and Senator John Warner (Republican), met in Tashkent on 20 November with President Islam Karimov, Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov, and Defense Minister Kadyr Gulyamov to discuss what Levin termed "an increased military role" for the U.S. in Uzbekistan, AP reported. Levin said that role will not entail the deployment of more U.S. troops. The two senators also discussed increasing U.S. aid to Uzbekistan and the time frame for opening Uzbekistan's border bridge across the Amu-Darya River at Termez to allow relief aid into northern Afghanistan. Uzbekistan has repeatedly delayed opening the bridge for what it terms security reasons. Reuters reported on 16 November that the U.S. may give Uzbekistan up to $100 million in humanitarian and military aid in return for its cooperation in facilitating the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan. The supreme commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General Tommy Franks, arrived in Tashkent on 19 November to inspect the Khanabad military base where some 1,000 U.S. troops are currently stationed, Reuters reported. LF




EBRD WARNS AGAINST EUROPEAN 'LACE CURTAIN'

In its annual Transition Report, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is warning against the creation of a "Brussels lace curtain" dividing the continent as the Iron Curtain did for 40 years, Reuters reported. The EBRD says it is essential that all of the bank's 27 countries of operation, and not just the 10 seeking to join the EU, be helped. "It is essential for the EU enlargement process to be outward-looking and inclusive instead of inward-looking and exclusive," the bank's chief economist, Willem Buiter, wrote in the report's section dealing with globalization and regional integration. The report said the enlarged EU must be "trade-creating" for the world as a whole, opening its markets to goods and services produced elsewhere, possibly through trade agreements with the 17 EBRD countries that are not accession candidates. MS

PACE TO SEND MISSION TO BELARUS

At its meeting in Vilnius on 19-20 November, the Political Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) discussed the situation in Belarus and resolved to send a delegation there for talks with representatives of the government, the opposition, and NGOs, Belapan reported. Quoting Jonas Cekuolis, Lithuania's representative on the political committee, Belapan said Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer has recently sent a message to Minsk stating four conditions for the renewal of the council's dialogue with Belarus: giving more powers to the legislative branch, abolishing the death penalty, guaranteeing independence of the media, and establishing the post of an ombudsman. "A very good foundation has been laid for cooperation with Belarus, both the official authorities and the opposition," another Lithuanian lawmaker on the PACE Political Committee, Vaclovas Stankevicius, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service, though he did not elaborate. JM

BELARUSIAN ARMY'S TRADE UNION COMPLAINS ABOUT 'MISERABLE' PAY

Ivan Narchyla, the head of the Trade Union of Armed Forces Employees, has sent a letter to Prime Minister Henadz Navitski, asking the government to urgently raise wages for servicemen, Belapan reported on 21 November. Narchyla says the average monthly wage in the army is well below the $100 that budget sector employees were promised by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka that they would attain by August. Narchyla argues that low wages are responsible for the high rotation of army personnel, which undermines the combat efficiency of troops. "Miserable pay like that cannot support even one person, let alone a family," Narchyla wrote in his letter. JM

KUCHMA APPOINTS NEW ENERGY MINISTER

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has appointed Vitaliy Hayduk as the country's new fuel and energy minister, Ukrainian media reported on 20 November. Hayduk served as deputy fuel and energy minister from January 2000 to April 2001. "I do not think this is the right moment for reforms. We must stabilize the situation and guarantee that the country will live through the winter normally and there will be light and heating in every home," Inter television quoted Hayduk as saying. JM

RESIDENCE REGISTRATION DECLARED UNCONSTITUTIONAL IN UKRAINE

The Constitutional Court on 20 November ruled that the Interior Ministry's regulations requiring that citizens obtain residence permits from and register their places of residence with relevant Interior Ministry visa and registration departments run counter to the Ukrainian Constitution, Interfax reported. The Constitutional Court's ruling, which is binding and not subject to appeal, came in response to a motion by some 50 lawmakers who argued that the constitution guarantees the freedom of movement for all citizens. The obligatory registration of the population is one vestige of the Soviet era, and Ukrainian regulations in this regard are based on Soviet norms dating back to 1974. JM

UKRAINE DENIES SUPPLYING LABS TO TERRORISTS

The Foreign Ministry has denied allegations of Ukraine's involvement in supplying laboratory equipment that could be used by the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda to make chemical and/or biological weapons, UNIAN reported on 20 November. The denial came in response to media reports alleging that three laboratories that could be used for producing such weapons were transported from Ukraine to Afghanistan in 1999. JM

UKRAINE, BELARUS ARE RUSSIA'S TOP TRADE PARTNERS IN CIS

Ukraine has become Russia's top trading partner in the CIS, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 November. Russia's trade turnover with Ukraine was up 12 percent to $6.9 billion in the first nine months of 2001, compared with the same period last year. Russia's trade turnover with Belarus was worth $6.8 billion in January-September 2001. JM

ESTONIAN MADE WORKING LANGUAGE OF PARLIAMENT

The parliament, by a vote of 68 to zero with one abstention, passed a bill on 20 November formally declaring Estonian its working language, BNS reported. The Pro Patria Union had proposed the bill to balance a law proposed by three coalition deputies that would abolish the Estonian-language requirement for candidates to the parliament and local councils (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2001). The passage of the bill making Estonian the working language of local councils was delayed because the parliament's constitutional affairs committee wanted to make some minor changes to it. Abolishing the language requirement should help convince the OSCE to end its 10-year mission to Estonia. SG

TURKEY STRONGLY SUPPORTS LATVIA'S ADMISSION TO NATO

Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer assured visiting Latvian Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins on 20 November that Turkey strongly supports Latvia's membership in NATO, BNS reported. They also discussed the ongoing international antiterrorism campaign, Latvia's efforts to join the EU, and bilateral relations. Berzins, who began an official visit to Turkey on 18 November, discussed opportunities for increasing economic cooperation with Turkey's external economic relations council officials and Turkish businessmen the next day. He noted that Latvia is seeking cooperation partners in fields such as telecommunications, food industry, textiles, pharmaceuticals, and engineering. Berzins is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and parliament Chairman Omer Izgi before returning to Latvia on 21 November. SG

LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT BACKS REDUCTION OF PROFIT TAX

The cabinet approved on 20 November a draft law which would reduce the rate of the profit tax from 24 to 15 percent as of 1 January, ELTA reported. The tax reduction in practical terms would not be applied until 2003 when profits for the year 2002 would be taxed. The bill, which still has to be approved by the parliament, would also abolish the zero tax rate on reinvested profits that has been effective since 1997. In an effort to promote the development of small companies with less than 10 employees and annual revenues under 500,000 litas ($125, 000), such companies would be subject to only a 13 percent profit tax. SG

POLISH GOVERNMENT ADOPTS 2002 AUSTERITY DRAFT BUDGET

Leszek Miller's cabinet on 20 November approved a 2002 draft budget with austerity measures to cope with a huge budget gap inherited from the previous, Solidarity-led government, Polish media reported. The 2002 spending is set at 184 billion zlotys ($44.7 billion) and the budget deficit at 40 million zlotys, or 5 percent of GDP. Inflation is projected at 4.5 percent and GDP growth at 1 percent, well down from the 4 percent optimistically forecast earlier this year. "It's a difficult budget but it's not a budget in which we have cut expenditures in a senseless way, anywhere possible. It ensures a possibly good functioning of the state," AP quoted Finance Minister Marek Belka as saying. Miller called on the Monetary Policy Council to lower key lending rates "by at least 3 percentage points" in order to give the battered economy a chance to "breathe." JM

POLISH PARTIES SURPRISED AT GOVERNMENT'S CONCESSIONS IN EU TALKS

The Polish Peasant Party (PSL) parliamentary caucus is going to ask its leader and Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kalinowski for clarification of the government's plans to sell land in Poland to EU farmers after a three-year lease, PAP reported on 20 November. The previous day, Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz announced in Brussels that the government approved plans for EU citizens to buy second homes and land for summer homes in Poland after a seven-year transition period, and for EU farmers to buy land for cultivation after a three-year lease (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2001). PSL lawmaker Zbigniew Kuzmiuk said this announcement is "strange and imprecise." Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper said Cimoszewicz's announcement came as a surprise to him, adding that his party firmly opposes such plans. The League of Polish Families condemned these concessions, adding that they will be opposed in a referendum on Poland's EU membership. JM

OECD SAYS SLOWDOWN IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE LESS SHARP THAN ELSEWHERE

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says the former communist countries vying for EU entry face slowing economic growth as a result of the global economic slowdown, but the impact will be less sharp than elsewhere, AFP reported. The report says that "in Central Europe, some OECD member states applying for EU membership have been generating their own growth momentum for some time." It says that while economic activity is expected to slow down in these countries, "the downturn may be less pronounced than elsewhere." In Poland, a "combination of tighter fiscal and easier monetary policies would improve the chances for a stronger recovery without endangering the recent reduction of domestic and external imbalances." The report warns that a sharp cut in investment and a slowing growth might be encountered in the Czech Republic, but says that in Slovakia "strong domestic demand is driving growth, though unemployment is expected to remain very high." In Hungary, the report says "consumer demand is robust." MS

CZECH CABINET UNENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT VEDRINE PROPOSAL

The Czech government is "aware of rumors" that the criteria for differentiating among EU candidates according to their level of preparedness might be replaced by "political considerations," but "this has not happened yet," Foreign Minister Jan Kavan told journalists in Brussels on 20 November. Kavan was reacting to French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine's recent proposal in Brussels that all 10 EU candidates be admitted in what has been termed as the "big bang enlargement." Kavan said the Czech government would regard the abandonment of admittance based on individual country performance "unfavorably," but added that "right now I do not have any reason to believe this will happen." MS

CZECH REPUBLIC OFFERS POLICEMEN FOR EU FORCE

Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, who attended a Brussels joint meeting of EU interior ministers from members and candidate countries, said Prague is willing to offer "at least 100 policemen" for the envisaged European Police Force contingent, CTK reported. The contingent is to be established by January 2003 and be formed by 760 policemen, 250 of whom will be part of a rapid deployment force. Gross said the Czech Republic could contribute 25 policemen to the latter force, envisaged to be capable of being deployed within 30 days to areas of tension. At a parallel meeting of defense ministers from EU and candidate countries, Deputy Defense Minister Stefan Fuele said Prague can contribute 1,000 soldiers to the envisaged EU rapid reaction military force, which is also planned for 2003. MS

ZEMAN TELLS SLOVAKS HE DID NOT WANT SPLIT

Czech Premier Milos Zeman, accompanied by his Slovak counterpart Mikulas Dzurinda, told students in Presov on 20 November that as a deputy in the former Czech-Slovak Federal Assembly, he thought it a mistake to tear Czech-Slovakia apart and supported instead the establishment of a Czech-Slovak Union, TASR reported. Dzurinda, on the other hand, said he does not regret the split "and not only because it made it possible for me to be premier now." He said the Czechs and the Slovaks are a lot closer to each other after the partition than they were any time in the past. MS

SLOVAKIA TO PARTICIPATE IN EU RAPID REACTION FORCE

Deputy Foreign Minister Ratislav Kacer said in Brussels on 20 November that Slovakia can contribute 450 soldiers to the envisaged EU rapid reaction force (see Czech item above), TASR reported. Kacer said that the soldiers will be part of a mechanized company that could act in crisis situations, and that Slovakia can also contribute transport helicopters, a mine-clearing unit, and military police. Slovakia is also offering 50 policemen for the European Police Force. MS

HUNGARIAN POLITICIANS REACT TO U.S. AMBASSADOR'S STATEMENT ON ANTI-SEMITISM

Mihaly Balla, head of the foreign affairs section in the FIDESZ parliamentary group, on 20 November said that U.S. Ambassador Nancy Goodman Brinker had "exaggerated somewhat" when she spoke of a rise in anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Hungary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2001). Balla said there are "some manifestations" in Hungary that could be labeled anti-Semitic, but it cannot be said that anti-Semitism officially prevails in Hungary. Balla also said he is unaware that the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) has made anti-Semitic remarks, although "it is hard to rule out" that such remarks may have been made at some MIEP forums or in articles written by their politicians. Democratic Forum Deputy Chairman Miklos Csapody said he is "surprised that the ambassador holds such a strong view after being in Hungary for less than 60 days." Opposition Socialist Party Deputy Chairwoman Katalin Szili remarked that signs of incitement to hatred and anti-Semitism have grown in the past four years, in part because the cabinet adopts a "permissive conduct toward extremist views." MIEP spokesman Bela Gyori said it is "difficult to assess an opinion based on hearsay." He rejected the suggestion that MIEP is implicated by the ambassador's remarks. MSZ

'FINANCIAL TIMES' SAYS HUNGARY BECOMING POLARIZED

"Hungary is likely to witness next year its sharpest elections since the fall of communism," the "Financial Times" reported on 20 November. The newspaper observes that the consensus which prevailed during the 1989 change of regime is over, and the Hungarian political scene has since become polarized. The paper also says that voters will face a starker choice next year than in any of the three postcommunist elections in Hungary, and the "overtly chauvinistic" MIEP, with which FIDESZ has sometimes cooperated, could "tip the balance." The newspaper notes that FIDESZ leaders reject the idea of cooperation with MIEP, but it observes that Prime Minister Viktor Orban left himself room for maneuver on this issue in his recent interview with "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2001). MSZ

HUNGARY OFFERS TO CONTRIBUTE TO EUROPEAN FORCE

Defense Minister Janos Szabo and Interior Ministry State Secretary Laszlo Felkai have offered to contribute 800 soldiers and police to proposed European peacekeeping units at a conference in Brussels, Hungarian media report on 21 November (see Czech item above). Hungary is offering a mechanized artillery battalion and a Mistral missile defense platoon to the rapid reaction force. In other news, Premier Orban said on 20 November that Hungary is "sympathetic" to the idea of a 10-country group joining the European Union, but does not want to be hindered by less well-prepared candidates. "There is only one thing we cannot accept -- that Hungary should wait for accession because of anybody else," Orban told Hungarian state radio, but did not name any country that could delay the EU enlargement. He added that it was not Hungary's task to set the enlargement timetable, but the country expects to finish accession negotiations in 2002. MSZ




MACEDONIAN COALITION GOVERNMENT TO SPLIT UP

In a widely expected move, the Social Democrats (SDSM) have decided to leave the government, Reuters reported from Skopje on 20 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2001). The move will be formally announced by party chairman Branko Crvenkovski on 23 November. The SDSM's departure will enable it to disassociate itself from the activities of and decisions by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, of whom it disapproves. The Social Democrats are anxious to establish a clear profile in the run-up to the January 2002 elections. Polls show them ahead of Georgievski's nationalists, but the balance of power lies with voters who have not yet made up their minds. Observers note, however, that the SDSM's departure from the cabinet would strengthen the hand of hard-line Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski. His main rival, Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski, is a Social Democrat. PM

DEL PONTE TO INVESTIGATE ATROCITIES IN MACEDONIA

In the Tetovo area, the government plans to exhume a supposed mass grave on 21 November, RFE/RL'S South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2001). The previous day, President Boris Trajkovski told visiting Hague chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte not to forget that "terrorists and criminal bands have attacked Macedonia" in recent months. But Del Ponte is determined to investigate all claims by both sides, not just those of the government, Reuters reported. Albanians charge that Interior Ministry forces were involved in an atrocity against civilians at Ljuboten in August. Georgievski's office objected to her decision to investigate Ljuboten, saying in a statement on 20 November: "The prime minister [feels] that the opening of the investigation (against the Macedonian side) has political connotations and that starting investigations into only two cases [equates] the victims with the killers." PM

NEW MACEDONIAN UNIVERSITY OPENED

A Western-sponsored university was formally launched in Tetovo on 20 November, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. It will offer a curriculum that meets European standards with instruction in Albanian, Macedonian, and English. The plan was conceived by OSCE envoy Max van der Stoel to provide Albanians with an opportunity to take university courses in Macedonia in their mother tongue. There are strict safeguards to address Macedonian fears that the university could turn into a diploma mill for unemployable nationalists, as many feel was the case with Prishtina University in the 1970s. PM

SMALL BOMB GOES OFF AT EU OFFICES IN MACEDONIA

Unknown persons threw a bomb at the offices of the EU in Tetovo late on 20 November, doing little damage and injuring no one, Reuters reported. It was the second bombing in Tetovo within one week. A shadowy Albanian extremist group claimed credit for the first incident, but many observers doubt that the Albanian National Army (AKSH) is large or truly organized. The parliament recently passed a package of constitutional changes that satisfy the demands of mainstream Albanian political parties and organizations (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 November 2001). PM

BELGRADE LEADERSHIP DIVIDED OVER CHANGES IN KOSOVA BODY...

President Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade on 20 November that he is opposed to a consolidation of Belgrade's oversight bodies for Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2001). Kostunica added that Kosova has so many problems that there is easily enough work for two bodies to do without duplicating each other's efforts. Observers note that the consolidation of the Federal Committee into the Coordinating Center as proposed by Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic is seen as a move against those who favored a boycott of the recent elections in Kosova. PM

...WHILE KOSTUNICA'S RIVALS STAND THEIR GROUND

In a reply to Kostunica on 20 November, Covic said that there is no justification for supporting those whose boycott led to Serbian candidates receiving fewer votes than they otherwise would have received, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 2001). Elsewhere, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service that a representative of Kostunica was present at the meeting of the governing coalition at which the vote was taken to back Covic's proposal, and that Kostunica's representative did not oppose the move. Meanwhile, the Coordinating Center censured two of its members -- Momcilo Trajkovic and Marko Jaksic -- for supporting the boycott. The two men denied having done so. PM

INVALID SERBIAN BALLOTS FOR KOSOVA

Marko Blagojevic, who is a spokesman for a Serbian NGO that helped monitor the casting of ballots by Kosova Serbs in Serbia and Montenegro, said that he has seen "hundreds" of ballots that voters deliberately made invalid. They did so by writing anti-Albanian slogans or Serbian nationalist symbols on the papers, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 20 November from Belgrade. PM

YUGOSLAVIA TO CRACK DOWN ON HOOLIGANISM

The authorities have prepared a draft law aimed at curbing rowdy behavior by soccer fans, AP reported from Belgrade on 20 November. The legislation appears likely to take effect before the start of 2002. Chanting abusive slogans can bring a six-month prison sentence, while leaders of mobs that invade soccer fields can get up to five years. Throwing firecrackers onto the field or attacking a referee can bring up to a year in jail. Riots and rowdy behavior at soccer matches by spectators, or by organized soccer fans elsewhere, has become a serious problem in Serbia recently (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 July 2001). PM

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT SUES CROATIAN WEEKLY FOR LIBEL

President Milo Djukanovic has formally filed a $100,000 libel suit against the Croatian weekly "Nacional," which linked him to a cigarette-smuggling racket in articles earlier this year, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 20 November. The affair has figured prominently in the Montenegrin media for months. PM

UNHCR CALLS ON BOSNIAN SERB AUTHORITIES TO CATCH KILLERS

A UNHCR spokeswoman told reporters in Sarajevo on 20 November that an elderly Bosnian Muslim was killed with an axe in Pale on 16 November, Reuters reported. This was the second murder in four months of a Muslim who had returned to his or her home in the Republika Srpska. Bosnian Serb police recently arrested a man in conjunction with the killing of a Muslim girl in July, but no one has been caught in the latest case. The UNHCR appealed to the Bosnian Serb authorities to do more to catch and punish the killers. PM

INDICTED BOSNIAN CROAT GOES TO THE HAGUE

Former Bosnian Croat police official Pasko Ljubicic voluntarily left Zagreb for Amsterdam on 21 November, AP reported. Ljubicic, who surrendered to police earlier in November, is bound for The Hague, where he has been indicted in conjunction with atrocities against Muslims in the Lasva Valley in 1992 and 1993 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2001). He is charged with four counts of crimes against humanity and seven counts of violations of the laws or customs of war in the murder of more than 100 civilians in the central Bosnian village of Ahmici. Ljubicic has said that he is innocent and wants to clear his name. Documents found in the archives of the late President Franjo Tudjman suggest that Tudjman may have helped Croats involved in the Ahmici killings to obtain new identities. Croatian media have speculated that information could emerge in Ljubicic's trial to exonerate his former superior, General Tihomir Blaskic, of responsibility for Ahmici. The tribunal sentenced Blaskic in 2000 to 45 years in prison for war crimes. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT THRILLED ABOUT VEDRINE PROPOSAL

Presidential spokeswoman Corina Cretu said on 20 November that President Ion Iliescu is "delighted" about French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine's proposal earlier this week that all EU candidate countries, including Romania and Bulgaria, be admitted to the organization, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. If the proposal is accepted, she said, Romania is ready to discuss with the EU a "special program for closing the gap [to the advanced candidates] and to mobilize all its internal resources in order to finalize negotiations by 2004, rather than 2007." Returning from Brussels, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana reacted "temperately," according to Romanian radio, saying that the proposal is a "reconfirmation of France's traditional interest in Romania and southeastern Europe" but that ultimately "the negotiations' calendar depends on Romania's own capability to make progress." MS

ROMANIA OFFERS FIVE BATTALIONS TO EU RAPID REACTION FORCE

Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu offered in Brussels on 20 November five Romanian infantry battalions to participate in the envisaged European Rapid Reaction force (see Czech item above). Pascu told Romanian radio on his return that Romania is also offering "naval forces" and that the offer also includes "an air force element," but specified neither how many soldiers would be involved nor what the naval and air force offer consists of. MS

PRESIDENT BACKS ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE CHIEF OVER TRANSYLVANIAN ALLEGATIONS

Presidential spokeswoman Cretu told journalists on 20 November that President Iliescu believes the recent warning by Romanian Intelligence Service Director Radu Timofte on the danger of "vanishing state authority" in the Harghita and Covasna counties" is "partly accurate" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 2001). Cretu said Timofte's warning had referred to "the dominance of the ethnic criteria" in the implementation of the law in the two largely Magyar-inhabited counties, adding that the president emphasizes that the law must be implemented "unitarily" everywhere. Hungarian minority leaders have criticized Timofte's allegations. MS

EXTREMIST ROMANIAN DEPUTY'S IMMUNITY DEFENDED BY UNEXPECTED PEERS

The Chamber of Deputies' Judicial Commission on 20 November recommended that the plenum reject the demand of Justice Minister Rodica Stanoiu to lift the parliamentary immunity of Greater Romania Party (PRM) deputy Danut Saulea, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The decision will be made by the chamber's plenum. Romanian television said that the "negative recommendation" was due to the fact that not all deputies representing the ruling Social Democratic Party, to which Stanoiu belongs, had backed her request. Like PRM leader Senator Corneliu Vadim Tudor, Saulea is accused of having "disseminated false information" in alleging that Palestinian Hamas terrorists have been trained in Romania. MS

VORONIN HAILS CIS, RULES OUT NATO MEMBERSHIP

Visiting Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin said in Moscow on 20 November that 10 years after its establishment, the CIS has proved its necessity. He added that he expects the results of the past decade will make it possible to map "future plans for integration" at the organization's Moscow summit set for 30 November. Voronin was less enthusiastic about GUUAM (the organization consists of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova), saying that membership in it "does not promise much for Moldova." Voronin said Moldova has no intention of joining NATO because it "does not plan to intimidate anyone," and added that NATO must be modernized, because "its goals have changed since the times of the USSR." Voronin met on 20 November with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, who said the Moscow mayoralty intends to invest in Moldovan wineries and in the planned Giurgiulesti oil terminal. MS

TIRASPOL CHANGES TONE ON RUSSIAN-MOLDOVAN BASIC TREATY

Valerii Litskay, the separatist Transdniester "foreign minister," said on 20 November that Tiraspol "salutes" the signing the previous day in Moscow of the basic treaty between Russia and Moldova and believes Russia's growing influence in the region will be beneficial for the negotiation process with Chisinau, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He said the treaty includes several important demands made by Tiraspol, since it mentions Russia's role as a guarantor of the peace process and the fact that the conflict between Chisinau and Tiraspol is "an international one." Litskay also said the mention in the treaty of Russian as a "communication language" in Moldova should be viewed as "positive." He said Tiraspol has participated in different stages of the treaty's negotiations and this is why a separatist representative was present at the signing ceremony. But he deplored the failure of the treaty to mention the need for opening a Russian consulate in Tiraspol. MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER IN CHINA

Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev, on a five-day visit to China, met on 20 November with Premier Zhu Rongji. They signed agreements on cooperation between their justice ministries and in wine-growing and wine-making, ITAR-TASS reported. The two premiers also discussed cooperation in aviation, medicine, industry, and agriculture. MS

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER HAILS FRENCH PROPOSAL ON EU ENLARGEMENT...

Solomon Pasi said in Brussels on 20 November that the proposal made one day earlier by French Foreign Minister Vedrine is "visionary," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Vedrine proposed that the EU should consider admitting all 12 (10 in Eastern Europe plus Malta and Cyprus) candidate countries. Pasi said that Jean Monet, the post-war French foreign minister credited with launching the process of European integration, "made a similarly visionary statement half a century ago." He said Monet was not conditioning the creation of a united Europe on any "Madrid or Copenhagen criteria," which are now the criteria guiding the EU's enlargement. Pasi also said the 11 September terrorist attacks on the U.S. will accelerate EU and NATO expansion. Deputy Belgian Foreign Minister Annemie Neyts -- representing the current EU presidency -- said in response that Bulgaria and Romania are not yet ready for joining the EU and that "premature" accession can damage the countries' development. MS

...MAKES OFFER TO U.K. FOR TRANSITING AND OVERFLYING BULGARIA

Pasi and Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov met in Brussels with British Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon, telling him Bulgaria is willing to offer British troops the same rights as those recently stipulated in an accord with the U.S., BTA reported. These rights involve overflights, transit passage, and the temporary stationing of troops on Bulgarian territory. Hoon expressed "an interest in principle" in the offer and said the issue will soon be discussed in bilateral talks. MS

HEADS START ROLLING IN BULGARIA'S SDS

Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) Chairwoman Ekaterina Mihailova said at the SDS National Executive Board meeting on 20 November that she demands the resignation of SDS Sofia branch head Evgeni Bakardzhiev, BTA reported. Bakardzhiev called on the SDS leadership to resign immediately upon learning the results of the 18 November presidential runoff. Mihailova accused him of attempting to "destabilize the party." Bulgarian media reported that Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyansky, who already announced he is quitting the SDS to establish a new party, intends to call his formation the Association of Free Democrats. MS




PRIDE AND DIGNITY


By Patrick Moore

Yugoslavia's "constitutionalist" president has publicly endorsed a mutiny by an elite paramilitary police unit that was close to the regime of former President Slobodan Milosevic. At issue is something much more serious than a possible momentary lapse of judgment by one top official.

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. Kostunica agrees with the police that cooperation first requires a special law, which the 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."

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. The Red Berets served in Milosevic's wars in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 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. (The matter was settled on 17 November by making the Red Berets an "antiterror" unit subordinated directly to the interior minister.)

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 Milosevic regime. But as some critics have suggested, some laws seem more important to Kostunica than others. He has reluctantly acknowledged -- in principle -- the legal obligation to cooperate with the tribunal, but has done nothing in practice to bring this about. He still regards the court as an anti-Serbian instrument of U.S. foreign policy and has sought to score political points at Djindjic's expense by challenging Djindjic's policy toward The Hague.

At the root of the problem is that, after starting and losing four often grisly Balkan wars in the past decade, Serbia has yet to undergo the kind of soul-searching that Germans underwent in the years and decades after World War II. Some Serbian writers have referred to this as a need for Serbia's own "de-Nazification," or need to break with a nationalism given to narcissism and self-pity.

Until that break is made, one is likely to see again scenes in which a "constitutionalist" or "reformist" leader defends the rights of paramilitaries from the old regime to flaunt the law. And one will hear him and the uniformed lawbreakers using words like "pride" and "dignity" to defend their actions.

Of course, Serbia's "de-Nazification," like that of Germany, will be a long drawn out process -- once it begins. Until a break is made with traditional nationalism, Serbia will retain a potential for producing aggressive and expansionist leaders and legions of a kind unimaginable in Germany today. And just as a modern, progressive Germany was a precondition for lasting peace and stability in post-1945 Europe as a whole, a similarly reformed Serbia is a prerequisite for development and security in the Balkans.


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