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Newsline - November 26, 2001




RUSSIAN PRESIDENT WELCOMES IMPROVED RELATIONS WITH NATO...

Vladimir Putin met on 23 November in Moscow with visiting NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson and said, "Russia is prepared to develop relations with the Atlantic Alliance as far as NATO itself is ready to go," Interfax reported. "The Moscow Times" quoted Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov as saying Russia wants a "completely new mechanism" by which NATO members and Russia will discuss issues on an equal footing. On 22 November, after meeting with Defense Minister Ivanov, Robertson said NATO and Russia are discussing plans for closer security ties that "imply" a Moscow veto in some cases and which may lead to a "sea of change" in the way the two sides do business, "The Moscow Times" reported on 23 November, quoting Reuters. Robertson added that this decision "will give Russia a right of equality, but also a responsibility and an obligation that would come from being part of a consensus-building organization," Reuters reported. Robertson did not elaborate on the conditions on which Russia would be invited into NATO, but Reuters reported they could include peace-support operations, crisis management, terrorism, and civil-emergencies planning. VC

...AS HE INSISTS THAT RUSSIA BE TREATED AS A SUPERPOWER...

Meeting on 22 November with 24 members of the International Affairs committees of both chambers of the Russian parliament, President Putin reaffirmed that "Russia does not intend to stand in line for NATO membership. With its economic, human, military, territorial, scientific, and technical potential, Russia is a self-sufficient state, capable of securing its own defense," gazeta.ru reported on 25 November. However, in assessing his recent visit to the United States, Putin told parliamentarians that the rapprochement with the U.S. is not a temporary tactical agreement to fight the threat of international terrorism, but "a long-term program of partnership," gazeta.ru continued. VC

...AND GORBACHEV WELCOMES PRESIDENT'S INTERNATIONAL INITIATIVES

Addressing a congress of the Russian United Social Democratic Party [ROSD] he heads, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said on 23 November that "the West has not yet fully realized all suggestions that Russian President [Putin] made," Interfax reported. Gorbachev added: "It is clear to both NATO and us [Russia] that we should bear responsibility for security in Asia as well as in Europe. To my mind, there should be a new treaty today, and the old one should be left to history. There is no need to enter NATO for this. I think it could be an associate membership," Interfax reported on 24 November. VC

GORBACHEV, TITOV LAUNCH NEW SOCIALIST PARTY

The Social Democratic Party of Russia (SDPR) held its constituent congress in Moscow on 24 November at which some 700 delegates along with guests from 16 countries attended, according to ITAR-TASS. The new party represents a merger of Gorbachev's ROSD and the Russian Party of Social Democracy (RPSD) headed by Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov. Also present were members of Aleksei Podberezkin's Spiritual Heritage, Ivan Rybkin's Socialist Party, and Nina Zhukova's Union of Realists. However, the leaders of those parties did not elect to join RPSD. Gorbachev was elected leader of the new party, while Titov was selected as chairman, according to Interfax. Both ran for those seats unopposed. The new party may have 30,000 members once it is finally registered, according to Russian agencies. JAC

RUSSIAN AGENCIES EXTEND THEIR PRESENCE IN KABUL

Three military transport planes carrying technical equipment for Russia's new embassy in Kabul landed at Bagram airport on 26 November, Interfax reported. More transport planes are expected to deliver additional supplies in the near future. A delegation of representatives of the Russian Foreign, Interior, Defense, and Emergency Situations ministries is in Afghanistan preparing to open an embassy and a delivery center for humanitarian aid. The delivery center is intended to provide "logistical support" for Russian personnel and specialists in Afghanistan. It will include a hospital with a medical staff of 90, as well as representatives of the Health and Emergency Situations ministries. In addition, the center will provide 300 trucks for delivering humanitarian aid in Afghanistan. VY

NEW JUDICIAL REFORM PACKAGE INTRODUCES JURY TRIALS...

On 22 November, the State Duma passed on second reading fundamental amendments to a three-bill package that would set new limits on judges' terms in office and establish complicated procedures for lifting their immunity from prosecution, "The Moscow Times" reported. Deputies voted 293 to 33 in favor of amendments to the bill regulating the status of judges, RIA-Novosti reported. One of the amendments pertains to the introduction of jury trials, which would be mandatory as of January 2003 in all regional courts for cases involving "dangerous" crimes such as murder and rape. Defendants accused of "theft" -- one of the most common charges in the country -- will not be eligible for jury trials. The code also expands the powers of defense lawyers and attempts to separate the court's functions from those of the prosecution. VC

...REGULATES CRIMINAL PROCEDURES

Deputies also voted on second reading on 22 November in favor of an amendment to the new Criminal Procedural Code that stipulates that all agencies wishing to open a criminal investigation, including the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Tax Police, would be required to receive permission from prosecutors. Putin's representative in the Duma, Aleksandr Kotenkov, told the parliamentarians that the amendment, which was passed by a vote of 247 to one, is a necessary safeguard against criminal proceedings instigated under pressure from persons or groups with vested interests, "The Moscow Times" reported. VC

RUSSIA TO BEGIN TRANSITION TO PROFESSIONAL ARMY IN 2005

General Vladislav Putilin, the deputy chief of the Russian army's General Staff, said at a news conference on 23 November that in 2005 Russia will begin a gradual transition to manning the armed forces primarily with professionals, Interfax reported. He said a state program should be drafted in 2004, following President Putin's proposal. Putilin added that only 12 percent of those eligible for the army or navy last spring are likely to be conscripted, down from 24 percent in 2000 and 13 percent in 1999, "The Moscow Times" reported. On 22 November, "Kommersant-Daily" quoted Defense Ministry officials as saying that a professional army, composed entirely of paid volunteers, will be defending Russia by 2010. But General Nikolai Staskov has said some senior army officers have been disappointed in the 150,000 professional soldiers who currently serve the army. Eighty percent of those recruited were fired before their contracts ended because "their professional training and moral qualities were sharply unsatisfactory," Interfax reported, quoting Staskov. VC

NORILSK'S 'CLOSED CITY' STATUS STILL UNCLEAR

Adding to the recent confusion, on 25 November, Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed declared the industrial city of Norilsk of "strategic importance," and announced that as of 26 November the city will be closed to all non-Russian citizens except Belarusians, NTV television reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 13 November). A city of 200,000 located north of the Arctic Circle, Norilsk is home to the world's largest nickel producer, Norilsk Nickel. Under the new regulations, the FSB is in charge of issuing special permits to foreigners who plan to fly to Norilsk, and the local airline KrasAir will no longer sell tickets to the city to foreigners. Lebed also said foreigners currently living in Norilsk as well as foreign visitors who arrived prior to his declaration will be asked to leave the city. VC

MOSCOW CHURCH SAYS HEAD OF EXILED CHURCH MAY VISIT RUSSIA

On 23 November, Patriarch Aleksii II told Interfax that he has sent invitations to visit Moscow to Metropolitan Lavr, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile, and to Bishop Gavriil, the secretary of the exiled church's synod, the news agency reported. Patriarch Aleksii II said, "Conditions have emerged in the 21st century for the reunification of the Russian Orthodox diaspora with the mother church." He added that, should the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile accept his invitation, negotiations will take place in Moscow on unifying the two churches. VC

MOSCOW CITY TO REGULATE TRAFFIC BY LIMITING DOWNTOWN ACCESS

On 22 November, Moscow Traffic Police chief Sergei Kazantsev said access to the center of Moscow should be limited to overcome the heavy traffic that often paralyzes the Russian capital and proposed that a special access fee for automobiles be introduced, lenta.ru reported on 25 November. Kazantsev said such a measure could help reduce traffic in downtown Moscow by 30 to 40 percent. He also said war veterans and invalids should pay only a reduced access fee. VC

RAILWAY FARES FOR PASSENGERS TO BE RAISED BY YEAR'S END

Acting Railways Minister Aleksandr Tselko said passenger fares will be increased by one-third in the last days of December this year, Ekho Moskvy radio station reported on 22 November. Tselko also said the Railways Ministry is planning an additional fare increase in 2002. VC

RUSSIAN SUPREME COURT ONCE AGAIN DENIES WHITE MOVEMENT LEADER'S REHABILITATION

The proposal to rehabilitate Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, the leader of the White Movement during the Russian Civil War, came from monk (Yeromonakh) Nikon Belavenets, the leader of the Faith and Motherland movement, NTV reported on 25 November. In January 1999, the military court of the Transbaikal Military District refused to rehabilitate the leader of the Siberian White movement, arguing that archival material and transcripts of his interrogations did not demonstrate that Kolchak undertook measures to stop mass terror against civilians. Representatives of the Faith and Motherland movement said they will file a new claim with the chairman of the Supreme Court, as well as to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. VC

MVD FIGHTS CORRUPTION WITHIN ITS RANKS

Addressing hearings in the Duma, Deputy Interior Minister Yevgenii Solovev said over 10,000 officers have been put on trial since the beginning of the year, "Izvestiya" and ORT television reported on 22 November. Among those officers, 2,700 have been sued for corruption. "Criminals now consider [acquiring] protection [krysha] from the Interior Ministry (MVD) as often as from the criminal world," Solovev said. In the first nine months of this year, organized crime groups made 820 attempts to infiltrate the MVD. Solovev, who himself has worked for 20 years in both the MVD and the FSB, said the MVD has asked its Internal Security Service to launch an investigation into the matter and that the FSB now screens all applicants for positions within the MVD. VY

CONCERNS RAISED OVER 2002 BUDGET

The Duma Budget Committee adopted an amendment to the 2002 federal budget that increases control over expenses in the social spheres, RIA-Novosti reported committee head Aleksandr Zhukov as saying on 23 November. The amendment also reduces the projected input to the federal budget from income taxes, according to Zhukov. This amendment reflects experts' concern that, should oil prices remain the same, Russia could lose its current financial reserves and eventually be forced to seek additional foreign loans, gazeta.ru commented on 23 November. VY

RUSSIA SHOWS INTEREST TO EURO, BUT STAYS LOYAL TO DOLLAR

While the European Union remains Russia's main foreign trade partner, over 70 percent of profits are held in U.S. dollars, "Izvestiya" reported on 22 November. Moscow banks have few private and corporate accounts in the euro, and offer interest rates of 2 percent less for savings accounts in the euro than those held in U.S. dollars. For this reason, despite seeing significant promise in the single European currency, experts do not expect the Russian confidence in U.S. dollars to diminish soon. VY

RUSSIAN DIPLOMATS TO WEAR UNIFORMS

The Russian government has decided that Russian ambassadors and senior diplomatic personnel will be required to wear uniforms, "Kommersant" reported on 23 November. Initially, the Foreign Affairs Ministry (MID) wanted Russian couturier Vyacheslav Zaitsev to design a dark-colored uniform with gold trim, such as existed under the Soviet regime, but after Zaitsev refused the offer the MID turned to designers who specialize in uniforms. VY

RUSSIA CONTINUES TO DISAPPOINT OPEC...

Following a meeting between the heads of Russian oil companies and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 23 November, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko told reporters that Russia will cut its oil output by 50,000 barrels a day in the fourth quarter of 2001 -- a daily increase of 20,000 barrels over a previously announced cut. Oil producers will meet with the government again in the first week of December to decide how much oil output and exports will be cut in the first quarter of next year. LUKoil Vice President Leonid Fedun, echoing earlier comments by his industry colleagues, told reporters that Russia cannot halt production that quickly in the winter because of technical reasons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 2001). Dmitrii Avdeev, an analyst at United Financial Group, told Reuters that "most likely, Russia will not do anything at all [in the fourth quarter] and [the] seasonal fall in exports will be masked as a cut." JAC

...BUT HOLDS OUT PROSPECT OF FUTURE COOPERATION

The day prior to Kasyanov's meeting, President Putin spoke by telephone with Mexican President Vincente Fox about coordinating joint activities aimed at stabilizing the price of oil, according to the presidential press service. Mexico announced earlier that it is willing to cut its output by 100,000 barrels a day or more in response to a call by OPEC to support prices. On 21 November, presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov told reporters that Russia should not cooperate with OPEC because it is "an unreliable partner, a historically doomed organization." And, he added, "in a price war declared by OPEC, Russia has a more advantageous position." JAC

GATHERING OF NGOS ENDS...

The Civic Forum, a gathering of almost 5,000 activists from nongovernmental organizations across Russia, closed on 22 November following two days of meetings at the Kremlin State Palace in Moscow. President Putin addressed the gathering on its first day and assured delegates that "civil society cannot be formed at the initiative of government officials." He added that the process of building Russia's civil society is only beginning, but that he doubts "there is any country where you can say civil society is completely formed." Discussion groups were organized along 21 different themes including education, Chechnya, and military reform. According to "The Moscow Times" on 22 November, these groups were then broken up into roundtables of no more than 100 people each. And by the end of the gathering, some 15 people were designated to meet with top government officials with concrete proposals. JAC

...WITH CRITICISM AND PRAISE

According to ITAR-TASS, the meeting was attended by a number of high-level government officials in addition to Putin and Prime Minister Kasyanov, such as presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo, and Media Minister Mikhail Lesin, among others. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky panned the meeting, calling it a "purely image-making activity," and asked what kind of "dialogue" can take place with 5,000 people with diverse interests. Yabloko deputy Sergei Mitrokhin told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 24 November that he also considered the event to be primarily about public relations. According to Mitrokhin, former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin summed up the event well when he told delegates "to give us all of your suggestions, so we can put them in one place." After the first day, human rights activist Valentin Gefter told "Kommersant-Daily" that he was satisfied with results: "Putin lacks the administrative resource. He has come for support. He wants us to put state officials under pressure," he said. JAC

PUTIN HOLDS ANOTHER MEETING WITH OLIGARCHS

President Putin met with members of board of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) on 23 November. RSPP head Arkadii Volskii told reporters that the meeting was "quite useful" and will result in instructions being issued to Prime Minister Kasyanov as well as to the government as a whole, Interfax reported. According to Volskii, the topic of the bureaucratic red tape businesses face was discussed in detail. According to "Vremya novostei" the next day, YUKOS head Mikhail Khodorkovskii complained about the endless audits and checks by prosecutors and law enforcement agencies, which he said interferes with the business sector's normal functioning. Uralmash General Director Kakha Bendukidze spoke on the topic of banking, concluding that "half the banks in Russia are incapacitated," and if forced to function according to international accounting standards would cease to exist. JAC

FOREIGN MINISTRY DENIES CHECHENS FIGHTING IN AFGHANISTAN

In a press release dated 21 November, Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov denied a CNN report of 18 November that some 60 Chechens fighting in the Taliban ranks in Afghanistan drowned themselves in the Amu-Darya River rather than surrender. The press release condemned some Western media outlets' tendency to repeat blindly Russian propaganda allegations concerning Chechnya. On 23 and 24 November, Russian military and FSB sources both told Russian agencies that they cannot confirm Russian media reports that Jordanian-born Chechen field commander Khattab has left Chechnya for Afghanistan. LF




ARMENIAN PRESIDENT HINTS AT PARDON FOR JAILED KARABAKH GENERAL

Robert Kocharian said in Yerevan on 22 November that he "is discussing" with the leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic the possibility of pardoning former Karabakh Defense Army commander Samvel Babayan, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Babayan was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment in February on charges, which he denies, of masterminding the failed assassination attempt in March 2000 on Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February 2001). Ghukasian told RFE/RL in July that Babayan cannot be pardoned because he has not admitted his guilt. Kocharian has not previously commented on a series of appeals by Armenian intellectuals for clemency for Babayan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 2001). Kocharian and Ghukasian met on 24 November, reportedly to discuss the economic situation in Karabakh and the prospects for resolving the conflict, according to Noyan Tapan. LF

EU AFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR PRELIMINARY KARABAKH AGREEMENT

Members of the EU-Armenia parliamentary committee on cooperation have adopted a joint statement affirming support for a formal settlement of the Karabakh conflict based on the so-called "Paris principles" agreed on during talks in March and April between President Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev, Armenian delegation head Aghvan Vartanian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 23 November. The Azerbaijani leadership denies that any such preliminary understanding was reached. LF

AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER CONDEMNS ARMENIAN 'INTRANSIGENCE'

Vilayat Quliev predicted on 22 November that Yerevan will not succeed in legalizing the occupation of Azerbaijani lands, Turan reported. (It is not clear whether he was referring to the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic or seven adjacent raions currently controlled by Armenian forces, or both.) Quliev claimed that the most recent visit to Armenia and Azerbaijan by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5, 7 and 8 November 2001) demonstrated that Armenia is unwilling to resolve the conflict by means of mutual compromise. Quliev also denied that Baku is seeking to change either the format for the peace talks or to replace any one of the three co-chairs. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT RE-ELECTED CHAIRMAN OF RULING PARTY...

Delegates to the second congress of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party unanimously re-elected President Aliyev as party chairman on 21 November and nominated him as the party's candidate for the presidential elections due in October 2003, Turan reported. In his two-hour speech to the congress, Aliyev praised the party's role in ensuring political and economic stability in Azerbaijan, but also told its members to take more decisive measures to counter the actions of the "aggressive" opposition. At the same time, he stressed that the opposition is a necessary component of democracy. LF

...WHILE DEMONSTRATORS CALL ON HIM TO RESIGN

The opposition Azerbaijan Democratic Party convened a rally in Baku on 24 November under the slogan "Bread, jobs, Karabakh," Turan reported. Participants accused Aliyev of violating the constitution and citizens' basic rights, and called on him to resign. The demonstration was sanctioned by the city authorities, and passed without incident. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES SIX MINISTERIAL CANDIDATES

Parliament deputies on 21-22 November confirmed six of the 18 ministerial candidates proposed on 15 November by President Eduard Shevardnadze, Caucasus Press reported. They are Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze, Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili, Education Minister Aleksandre Kartozia, and Justice Minister Roland Giligashvili, all of whom held those portfolios in the outgoing government; and Interior Minister Koba Narchemaishvii and Security Minister Vakhtang Khaburzania. Deputies agreed on 21 November not to vote on the candidates for ministers with economic responsibilities until the commission created to determine who bears responsibility for the recent budget sequester makes its findings public (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 37, 7 November 2001). LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER VOWS TO WORK FOR IMPROVED RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA, CIS

Speaking on 24 November in St. Petersburg, where she is attending a session of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, Nino Burdjanadze again said she will do everything in her power to put Georgian-Russian relations on a normal footing based on cooperation and mutual respect, ITAR-TASS reported. She also pledged to try to restore Georgians' faith in the expediency of CIS membership, noting that hopes expressed when Georgia acceded to that body in 1993 that membership would expedite a solution to the Abkhaz conflict have proven unfounded. LF

ABKHAZ PREMIER WANTS GEORGIAN TROOPS WITHDRAWN FROM KODORI...

Abkhazia will insist that the Georgian troops "illegally" deployed in the Abkhaz sector of the Kodori gorge be withdrawn, Russian agencies quoted Prime Minister Anri Djergenia as saying on 22 November. Djergenia said the troops' presence heightens tensions and precludes the resumption of talks between Tbilisi and Sukhum on a political settlement of the conflict. Djergenia said he has submitted proposals for the Georgian withdrawal to UN special envoy Dieter Boden and will do everything possible to ensure that a political decision on the withdrawal is taken and promptly implemented. On 22 November, Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba again ruled out any further talks with Tbilisi before the Georgian troops leave Kodori, Interfax reported. LF

...WHILE GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS THEY MAY BE REINFORCED

Davit Tevzadze said on 23 November that the Georgian military presence in Kodori cannot be withdrawn at present and may be increased if necessary in order to protect the local Georgian population, which numbers approximately 5,000 people, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. Abkhaz Vice President Valerii Arshba warned that Abkhazia will take "appropriate measures" if more Georgian troops are sent to Kodori. Georgian media reported earlier this month that many Georgian residents left the gorge prior to the onset of winter as the Georgian government had failed to supply them with food and other basic necessities to last throughout the months when the region is cut off by snow. LF

GEORGIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL ISSUES ORDERS FOR CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER'S ARREST

The Georgian Prosecutor-General's Office confirmed on 21 November receipt of a request from its Russian counterpart to extradite Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev, who is believed to be recuperating in Georgia's Pankisi gorge from wounds received during the ill-fated incursion into Abkhazia last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2001). The office said it has instructed the relevant ministries to track down and arrest Gelaev, after which it will consider the extradition request. One week earlier, a senior Georgian intelligence official admitted to having helped Gelaev return to Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 2001). LF

SOUTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENT YIELDS TO RUSSIAN PRESSURE, ADMITS DEFEAT

On 21 November, Lyudvig Chibirov, who failed in his bid for re-election as president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2001), tried unsuccessfully to persuade parliament speaker Stanislav Kochiev to withdraw his candidacy to enable Chibirov, who was placed third, to contest the runoff poll on 2 December against businessman Eduard Kokoev, Caucasus Press reported. Also on 21 November, a special police detachment headed by Chibirov's son Aleksei surrounded the parliament building to protest alleged irregularities during the 18 November presidential ballot and demand that Kochiev and Kokoev both withdraw their candidacies. On 23 November, Caucasus Press reported that a group of Russian State Duma deputies addressed an open letter to Chibirov, Kochiev, and Kokoev appealing to them to "avoid...extreme methods" and "act strictly within the framework of the constitution." Chibirov announced the same day that he is ready to hand over power to Prime Minister Dmitrii Sanakoev pending the outcome of the runoff. He avoided questions about his son's 21 November raid on the parliament and denied that his relations with North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov have deteriorated. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT SACKS MORE OFFICIALS...

Nursultan Nazarbaev sacked Pavlodar Oblast Governor Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov on 21 November and named First Deputy Prime Minister Danial Akhmetov to succeed him, ITAR-TASS reported. Akhmetov served earlier as governor in Pavlodar from 1994-1997. Zhaqiyanov, one of several top officials who on 18 November announced the founding of the Democratic Choice party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 2001), was repeatedly stopped by road police while driving from Astana to Pavlodar on 22 November, and prevented from boarding a flight from Pavlodar to Almaty the following day. On Akhmetov's orders, Zhaqiyanov's subordinates were prevented on 23 November from entering the Pavlodar Oblast administration building, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. On 22 November, Nazarbaev dismissed three more founding members of Democratic Choice: Labor and Social Protection Minister Alikhan Baimenov, First Deputy Finance Minister Kairat Kelimbetov, and State Agency for Natural Monopolies Chairman Berik Imashev. LF

...LAUDS AIMS OF NEW OPPOSITION PARTY

Nazarbaev met on 22 November in Astana with two further members of Democratic Choice, Kazkommerzbank President Nurzhan Subkhanberdin and Temirbank board Chairman Mukhtar Abliyazov (a former minister of economy, industry, and trade), to discuss the political situation and progress of democratic reforms in Kazakhstan, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Nazarbaev hailed the creation of Democratic Choice and lauded its aims. Subkhanberdin and Abliyazov assured the president that the party's aims correspond with his own and that Democratic Choice does not seek "confrontation" with the authorities. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT UNABLE TO DEBATE BORDER CONCESSIONS TO CHINA

A planned closed session of the People's Assembly (the upper chamber of Kyrgyzstan's bicameral legislature) on 22 November to debate the 1999 amendments to the treaty signed three years earlier delineating the Kyrgyz-Chinese border was postponed because the government failed to provide deputies with the relevant documentation and maps, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. But Alisher Abdimomunov, who chairs the international and Interparliamentary Affairs Committee of the Legislative Assembly (the lower parliament chamber) told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service the same day that after five requests he finally received from the government earlier on 22 November a map showing the territories that Kyrgyzstan is to cede to China under those amendments. LF

KYRGYZSTAN UPGRADES STATUS OF RUSSIAN LANGUAGE

Both chambers of the Kyrgyz parliament approved on 22 November on second reading amendments to the constitution that proclaim Russian an official language, Interfax reported. The parliament passed legislation last year bestowing that status on the Russian language (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2000). LF

FRENCH MINISTER VISITS TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN

French Minister for Cooperation Charles Josselin held talks in Tashkent on 22 November with Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov on expediting the opening of a customs post in the border port of Termez to speed up the transport of humanitarian aid to northern Afghanistan, Reuters reported. Josselin also said that some 50 French soldiers are currently in Uzbekistan waiting for permission from the Afghan authorities to enter Afghanistan. On 23 November, Josselin met in Dushanbe with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and also bilateral trade and economic cooperation, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. On 24 November, ITAR-TASS reported that France has submitted an official request to Kyrgyzstan to station troops on Kyrgyz territory and to use Kyrgyz air bases for the duration of the antiterrorist campaign in Afghanistan. LF

UN OFFICIAL WARNS TAJIKISTAN OVER CORRUPTION

Visiting UN Development Program administrator Kalman Mizhei warned Tajik leaders on 22 November that the country must take tougher measures to eliminate corruption and implement broad reforms or risk a reduction in the amount of international aid it receives, AP reported. Mizhei discussed with President Rakhmonov the situation in Afghanistan and the implementation of Tajikistan's Medium-Term Economic Strategy. LF




TRADE UNION LEADER ADVISES WEST NOT TO RUSH TO EMBRACE BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT

Uladzimir Hancharyk, the chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus and President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's rival in the 9 September presidential ballot, has called on the international community not to rush into improving relations with the Belarusian regime, Belapan reported on 25 November. "If the isolation is removed and there is not any action in response on the part of Lukashenka, if there is not any dialogue with political parties and trade unions, then such a thaw will produce nothing and will only be used for strengthening the regime," Hancharyk said. An OSCE Parliamentary Assembly mission consisting of Uta Zapf of Germany and Urban Ahlin of Sweden is currently visiting Belarus to study the postelection situation there. JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT FIRES RAILWAYS CHIEF...

President Lukashenka has dismissed Belarusian Railways chief Viktar Rakhmanko on charges of inflicting serious damage on the state by abusing his position for personal gain, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service and Belapan reported on 23 November. Police have also arrested Uladzimir Kulahin, the director of Atlant, the state-run manufacturer of refrigerators in Minsk, on charges of abuse of power. Lukashenka said 15 more people "are waiting in line" to be charged with criminal offenses and arrested. Rakhmanko is a member of the Council of the Republic, Belarus's upper house, and his possible arrest requires approval of the house. JM

...SETS MEDAL TARGET FOR WINTER OLYMPICS

President Lukashenka has told Belarus's Olympic Committee, of which he is chairman, that Belarusian athletes should win 10 medals at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Belapan reported on 23 November. Minister of Sports and Tourism Yauhen Vorsinau said last week that he expects Belarusian athletes to win three medals. "Three medals are too few. We can win that many in the biathlon alone. Freestylists can produce four more. That is why it is necessary to aim for 10 medals," Lukashenka opined. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAYS HE WILL NOT SEEK THIRD TERM...

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said on 23 November that he is not going to seek a third presidential term, UNIAN and Interfax reported. Kuchma also denied press reports saying he is preparing a successor for himself. "Not the president but life itself should prompt a new leader," he added. JM

...PRAISES ADMINISTRATION CHIEF FOR LEADERSHIP OF ELECTION BLOC...

Kuchma also said he approves of the intention of presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn to head the For a United Ukraine election bloc. Kuchma called Lytvyn "a professional and a decent, honest man," and added that "today such people are few on the political scene." The leaders of the four parties constituting the For a United Ukraine bloc -- Valeriy Pustovoytenko (Popular Democratic Party), Serhiy Tyhypko (Labor Ukraine), Mykola Azarov (Party of Regions), and Mykhaylo Hladiy (Agrarian Party) -- said earlier that Lytvyn gave his consent to lead their bloc. Another Kuchma aide, Roman Bezsmertnyy, joined the Our Ukraine election bloc of former Premier Viktor Yushchenko as election staff leader. JM

...MAKES NEW APPOINTMENTS

Kuchma has appointed Valentyna Dovzhenko as head of the State Committee for Family and Youth Affairs, Mariya Bulatova as head of the State Committee for Physical Culture and Sports, and Mykola Kalenskyy as head of the State Customs Service, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported on 22 November. JM

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT ABOLISHES LANGUAGE REQUIREMENT FOR DEPUTIES

On 21 November, the parliament by a vote of 55 to 21, with one abstention, passed amendments to the "Parliament Election Act" and the "Local Councils Election Act" abolishing the language requirement for candidates to the parliament and local councils, ETA reported The amendments, which required 51 votes to pass, were supported by all the members of the Moderates faction, most of the deputies from the Reform Party and the Pro Patria Union, and seven opposition deputies. On 23 November, the head of the OSCE mission to Estonia, Doris Hertrampf, said she will recommend to the OSCE permanent council in Vienna on 13 December that the mission be closed at the end of this year. SG

LATVIA'S NATIONAL HARMONY PARTY HOLDS CONGRESS

On 24 November, Russian State Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin told the eighth Congress of the National Harmony Party (TSP) in Riga that Latvia should respect the rights of minorities, LETA reported. The congress unanimously re-elected Janis Jurkans as the party chairman and a 43-member council. It also decided to participate in the 2002 parliament elections as part of the joint ticket of For Human Rights in a United Latvia with the Socialist Party and the Equality movement. SG

LATVIA REFUTES COUNCIL OF EUROPE'S TORTURE CHARGES AGAINST POLICE

Normunds Belskis, the director of the Press and Public Relations Department of the Interior Ministry, asserted on 23 November that the report released the previous day by the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture accusing the Latvian police of beatings, electrical shocks, and asphyxiation during questioning of suspects is untrue, LETA reported. The report also charged that detention centers are overcrowded, have poor hygiene conditions, and detainees do not always receive regular exercise or food. Belskis agreed that the conditions in the detention centers are poor, but added that requests for additional funds intended to improve the conditions have not been approved. He said the report produced no facts to support the torture charges and that the level of transparency in the detention system is great enough that such mistreatment could not have been concealed. SG

OIL SPILL AT LITHUANIA'S BUTINGE TERMINAL

In the early morning of 23 November an oil spill occurred at the floating oil terminal at Butinge during the loading of a Norwegian tanker, ELTA reported. The pumping of oil was halted immediately and it was later ascertained that the leakage came from an underwater hose. The amount of oil spilled has not yet been determined, but Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas formed a working group to investigate the causes of the spill that will report its findings on 4 December. Unlike an earlier spill in March, the oil did not move north into Latvian waters, but south toward Palanga. The weather was initially favorable for collecting the oil by ships and nearly 10 tons of oil was collected. Weather conditions later worsened and aerial spraying of environmentally friendly dispersants continued until oil slicks were no longer visible. SG

POLAND TO SEND TROOPS TO AFGHANISTAN

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski on 22 November approved a government motion to send a Polish military contingent to join the antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan, Polish media reported. The 300-member contingent will be ready for action by 10 January 2002. The motion was submitted following a U.S. request to send the troops. Kwasniewski told journalists that the composition of the Polish contingent -- which will include 80 troops from the elite GROM commando -- was agreed on with the United States and NATO. He added that Polish officers are already stationed at a military base in Tampa, Florida. The cost of the six-month operation of the contingent is estimated at some $7 million. JM

POLISH OPPOSITION WANTS NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE ON FOREIGN MINISTER OVER EU CONCESSIONS...

The League of Polish Families (LPR) said on 23 November that it will propose a vote of no-confidence in Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz this week in connection with his announcement on 19 November in Brussels of Poland's concessions in the EU membership negotiations concerning the sale of land (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2001), Polish media reported. The Self-Defense and Law and Justice parliamentary groups have declared their support for the LPR motion. LPR leader Antoni Macierewicz said Cimoszewicz "misled the parliament and public opinion" when he announced that Poland will allow EU citizens to buy land plots and homes for leisure purposes seven years after its EU entry, while EU farmers will be able to buy farmland in Poland for their own cultivation after a three-year lease period. JM

...AS RADICAL AGRARIAN LEADER CALLS HIM 'SCOUNDREL'...

Speaking on a local radio station in Olsztyn on 23 November, deputy parliamentary speaker Andrzej Lepper, the leader of the radical farmers union Self-Defense, called Cimoszewicz a "scoundrel" for making concessions in Poland's EU talks. Lepper also said Cimoszewicz's father was "a criminal who killed Poles." Lepper's pronouncements, widely publicized in Polish media, have provoked indignation among Polish politicians and gave rise to calls for a vote intended to strip him of his parliamentary post. On 24 November, Lepper repeated his insulting remarks regarding Cimoszewicz at a public gathering in Wloclawek, central Poland. On 26 November, Lepper said he will write an apology to Cimoszewicz, but only regarding his remark about the minister's father. JM

...WHILE FOREIGN MINISTER DENIES DECEIVING POLES ON EU ACCESSION STANCE

Cimoszewicz on 23 November denied that he deceived the public over concessions to the EU on facilitating land sales to foreigners and added that his opponents will not force him to resign. Cimoszewicz said the decision to change Poland's negotiation positions with the EU was agreed with the government. Commenting on Lepper's insulting remarks, Cimoszewicz told Polish Television the same day that he is ashamed that Lepper is a deputy parliamentary speaker. Lepper was elected to his parliamentary post by votes from his Self-Defense and the ruling coalition of the Democratic Left Alliance with the Peasant Party. JM

POLISH DEPUTY SPEAKER CALLS FOR 'SOCIAL REVOLT,' NEW ELECTIONS

Deputy Sejm speaker and Self-Defense leader Lepper told a 1,000-member crowd in Wloclawek on 24 November that their town should become the center of a "social revolt" and a movement seeking early parliamentary elections, Polish media reported. Last week police evicted traders from an illegal market place in Wloclawek. Earlier this month in that city, Lepper prevented a bailiff from executing such an eviction (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 2001). JM

U.S. ENLISTS CZECHS TO HELP IN AFGHAN NEGOTIATIONS

The United States has asked the Czech Republic to use its influence to make the pending negotiations on Afghanistan's future successful, CTK and AP reported on 21 November. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil said U.S. Ambassador Craig Stapleton delivered the request during a meeting with Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, and that Kavan replied that Prague will "do its best to help its allies." Pospisil said that "the U.S. is aware that the Czech Republic has good knowledge of the troubled region and is in a position to help." Kavan later said the U.S. wants to exert "the broadest possible diplomatic pressure on the Northern Alliance" to bring about the creation of a broad coalition government. The same day, President Vaclav Havel told the BBC that neither Czech nor world humanitarian help to Afghanistan is sufficient, calling that aid "microscopic" in comparison with what is being spent on the purchase of military equipment. MS

CZECH REPUBLIC TO JOIN BALKAN STABILITY PACT

The Czech Republic will join the EU-initiated Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, pact coordinator Bodo Hombach told CTK on 23 November following his meeting with Czech Premier Milos Zeman at the Central European Initiative summit in Trieste. Hombach said Prague will do so alongside Poland and Slovakia "within two weeks." MS

CZECH PRESIDENT 'NOT SURE' ZEMAN WILL LEAVE POLITICS

In his interview with the BBC, President Havel expressed skepticism that Premier Zeman will follow up on his decision to leave politics prior to parliamentary elections scheduled for next year, CTK reported. Havel said he himself originally intended to be president only until the first free elections in 1990, but eventually stayed in that position for 12 years. MS

CZECH GOVERNMENT FILES SUIT AGAINST 'RESPEKT'

The government on 22 November filed a lawsuit against "Respekt" accusing the weekly of committing a "crime," but did not specify the nature of that crime, CTK and AP reported. So far the cabinet has failed to follow up on the original decision that each minister file individual lawsuits against "Respekt" in order, as Premier Zeman put it, to make it "finally cease to exist." In an article published in October, the weekly accused the government of corruption. "Respekt" Editor in Chief Pert Holub lodged a countersuit against Premier Zeman earlier this month. MS

CZECH TELEVISION MOGUL FILES SUIT AGAINST INVESTIGATOR

On 23 November, Vladimir Zelezny sued police investigator Vladimir Machala on the grounds of "inflicting harm" and demanded an apology, CTK reported. Zelezny, who is under investigation on suspicion of "attempting to harm a creditor," said he is also considering suing Investigation Office Director Miroslav Antl for having alleged that Zelezny might be behind attempts to intimidate Machala, who has received several threats to his life. Zelezny was detained earlier this month at Machala's request, but was later freed by a court order. MS

CHARGES AGAINST CZECH PRIEST DISMISSED

The Prosecutor-General's Office on 21 November dismissed the charges filed earlier by police against Roman Catholic priest Vojtech Protivinsky on the grounds that he had urged parishioners not to vote for the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia in the 2001 Senate elections, CTK and dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2001). Protivinsky was also granted a presidential pardon from President Havel earlier the same day. MS

TEMELIN CONTINUES TO MAKE HEADLINES

European Commission Chairman Romano Prodi, in an interview with the Austrian weekly "Format," on 24 November rejected Austrian demands that the EU set "legally binding" norms for the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant, CTK reported. However, Prodi said he is not against the EU introducing safety standards for nuclear facilities in general, but said such norms will take several years to establish. On 22 November, the EC officially rejected the demand made by the European Parliament that an international conference on decommissioning Temelin and compensating the Czech Republic for it be held under EU auspices. The decision triggered strong protests from Austrian parties. On 21 November, the Austrian parliament adopted a resolution calling on the government not to agree to the closing of the energy chapter in EU negotiations with Prague unless the issue of the safety of Temelin is satisfactorily solved. Finally, antinuclear activists blocked the Freilassing border crossing between Austria and Germany on 24 November, accusing the Austrian government of "excessive restraint" in preventing Temelin from going into operation. MS

CZECH-MADE SUBSONIC JET CAN TAKE OFF AGAIN

Frantisek Padelek, the head of the Czech air force, on 22 November ordered the resumption of flights of the Czech-made L-159 subsonic jet fighter, CTK reported. L-159 flights were suspended one week earlier after a technical failure was discovered on some of the planes. The air force press service said the failure had been corrected by the plane's manufacturer, Aero Vodochody, and that it was not the result of a design defect. On 21 November, the Czech government approved a proposal by Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik on ways to continue financing the production of the fighter. MS

SLOVAKIA OPENS AIRSPACE TO GERMAN WARPLANES

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said after an extraordinary meeting of the cabinet on 22 November that Slovakia has agreed to a request by Germany for overflights of military aircraft participating in Operation Enduring Freedom, and that the first such overflights will be carried out on 26 November, CTK and Reuters reported. Slovakia already gave its consent on 21 September for overflights by U.S. military planes. Dzurinda said the cabinet has also decided to agree to similar requests by other NATO members should they be made. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER OPPOSES CHANGE IN BORDER REGIME WITH CZECH REPUBLIC

Premier Dzurinda told journalists in Trieste, where he participated in the Central European Initiative summit on 23 November, that he is opposed to changing the border regime between his country and the Czech Republic as well as to increased border security in line with EU demands, CTK reported. Dzurinda said attention should instead be focused on tightening security on Slovakia's border with Ukraine. MS

SLOVAK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CLEARS PARTICIPATION OF PSNS IN REGIONAL BALLOT

The Constitutional Court on 22 November decided to "freeze" the appeal of the Slovak National Party against the registration of the Real Slovak National Party (PSNS) until after regional elections scheduled for 1 December. The decision makes it possible for the PSNS to participate in those elections, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 November 2001). MS

FOURTH BSE CASE DISCOVERED IN SLOVAKIA

The State Veterinary Authority announced on 24 November that a fourth case of BSE ("mad cow disease") has been discovered in a five-year-old, locally bred bovine that died on a farm near Zvolen, central Slovakia, CTK reported. The first three cases were discovered earlier this autumn. Tests to confirm the initial findings of the latest case are to be carried out in Bratislava and the results will be announced later this week. MS

HUNGARY'S FIDESZ, SOCIALIST PARTY AGREE TO CHANGE ELECTION RULES

Representatives of the major coalition party FIDESZ and the opposition Socialist Party on 21 November agreed to require compulsory recounts in the event of a slight difference at the 2002 general elections, and to double the ceiling on party campaign spending from the present 386 million forints ($1.3 million) to 772 million forints. HHHHHowever, the Free Democrats (SZDSZ), the Independent Smallholders (FKGP), and the Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) expressed "outrage" over the agreement. SZDSZ Chairman Gabor Kuncze said the agreement is "unusual," as all parties had been consulted on such matters up to this point. MIEP deputy parliamentary group leader Zoltan Balczo said that doubling the campaign spending limit is solely in the interests of FIDESZ and the Socialists, as only those parties are capable of spending as much as 772 million forints. Smallholder attorney Jozsef Deak said, "The pact casts the shadow of a grand coalition." Socialist parliamentary group leader Sandor Nagy said on 23 November that, despite the agreement with FIDESZ, his party will not vote for amendments to the Election Procedure Law unless it is supported by all six parliamentary parties. Deputies from FIDESZ and the Socialists hold sufficient voting strength to ensure meeting the two-thirds majority required to amend election laws. MSZ

HUNGARY SIGNS GRIPEN LEASE MEMORANDUM

On 23 November, Hungarian Defense Minister Janos Szabo and his Swedish counterpart Bjoern von Sydow signed a memorandum of understanding in Stockholm for the lease of 14 Gripen fighter jets to Hungary over 10 years, Hungarian media reported. The document states that a 108 billion forint ($380 million) contract will be signed in December, after it is endorsed by the legislatures of the two countries. Szabo announced that the first jets will be delivered in 2004 for deployment in 2005. It is conceivable that Hungary will purchase the jets once the lease expires, he added. Hungary announced in September that it was opting for the Gripen jets instead of U.S.-made F-16s, saying the Swedish offer was more advantageous. MSZ

MIEP CHAIRMAN ACCUSES 'NEPSZABADSAG' OF BETRAYING THE FATHERLAND

Istvan Csurka, the chairman of the extremist MIEP party, told reporters on 21 November that his party will ask Secret Services Minister Ervin Demeter to investigate whether there is any link between the Romanian secret services, the opposition Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), and the "Nepszabadsag" daily, and whether it is permissible for a party and a press organ to serve foreign interests for the sake of achieving electoral success. Csurka said he based his remarks on articles published by the daily pertaining to the Hungarian Status Law. Although the Socialists voted in favor of the bill, he said, they have engaged in "fierce propaganda" against the law and against the government, an action he claimed is tantamount to "betrayal of the fatherland." The daily rejected Csurka's comments and said it will sue him for libel. Csaba Tabajdi, the MSZP deputy parliamentary group leader, said that "if it were up to MIEP, Slovak and Romanian chauvinists, and pro-Nazi extremists, the Carpathian Basin would have been engulfed in flames long ago." In other news, the Budapest Prosecutor-General's Office on 22 November brought charges against seven people for publishing the anti-Semitic "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." In 1999, Aron Monus, one of the accused, obtained a photocopy of the 1974 London edition of the book, and published and disseminated 3,006 copies in Hungary. The indictment stated that the book could be used to mislead those who do not know the history of Jewry in general and Zionism in particular. Monus is also the publisher of a Hungarian translation of Hitler's "Mein Kampf." MSZ




MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT WANTS GUERRILLA ZONES UNDER CONTROL...

Boris Trajkovski told Reuters in Skopje on 25 November that he wants police to return to all former guerrilla-held zones by mid-January 2002. He stressed that the move "will proceed in a transparent way, through discussions with both the international community and local [ethnic Albanian] authorities" in a coordinated fashion. Trajkovski added that the redeployment of police will proceed in three phases. Phase 1 is the part of the project involving the lowest risk and will include ethnic Albanian police entering villages in the Gostivar region. Phase 2 will see the return of police to the Tetovo region, which was the scene of much of the fighting in recent months. Phase 3 involved deployment of police in the area beyond Kumanovo, which is considered the power base of the more extreme guerrillas. The former guerrilla zones account for some 10 percent of Macedonia's territory. Reuters quoted unnamed diplomats as saying that Trajkovski has recently been able to reassert his authority over unnamed hard-liners, who have been "chastened" by the recent killing of three police by armed Albanians. PM

...SEES APRIL DATE FOR ELECTIONS

Trajkovski told Reuters in Skopje on 25 November that he expects that the parliament will soon decide to move the date of the early legislative elections from 27 January 2002, as stated in the 13 August peace agreement, to an unspecified date in April. Trajkovski added that the postponement of the elections will enable police to better consolidate their control over the former rebel zones. Observers note, however, that Trajkovski's party -- the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski -- is faring poorly in most public opinion polls and is anxious to put off the elections as long as possible. PM

WHAT FUTURE FOR MACEDONIA'S GOVERNMENT?

Georgievski said in Skopje on 23 November that he hopes that the Social Democrats (SDSM) will reconsider their recent decision to leave the governing broad-based coalition, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2001). He added that their move was motivated by a desire to win votes. In his 25 November interview with Reuters, Trajkovski said that he trusts Georgievski to appoint "sensible" people to the posts vacated by the SDSM, which are defense minister, foreign minister, and deputy prime minister. Interfax reported from Moscow on 22 November that outgoing Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva's upcoming visit to Russia has been "postponed indefinitely." PM

MACEDONIAN MASS GRAVE MYSTERY CONTINUES

Judge Aleksandra Zafirovska said in Tetovo on 25 November that workers have found unspecified "human body parts" at an alleged mass gravesite nearby, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2001). She added that "identifying the evidence" could take up to "four or five months, depending on the process used." She refused to provide any details of the find or say whether any evidence of violence -- such as empty cartridges -- were found. In a move aimed at depoliticizing the issue, experts from The Hague-based war crimes tribunal and the OSCE are present at the site, guarded by NATO troops. On her recent visit to Macedonia, chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte did not publicly mention the site, which Macedonian hard-liners claim holds the remains of 13 Macedonians purportedly killed by Albanian guerrillas in July. Meanwhile, in a move aimed at easing tensions, Trajkovski told Reuters that the special police unit known as the Lions will dismantle their roadblocks along main routes and will stay out of Albanian villages unless the regular police are attacked. The Lions have strong links to the VMRO-DPMNE. PM

KOSOVA LEGISLATURE SET TO MEET...

Hans Haekkerup, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova, said in Prishtina on 24 November that the newly elected legislature will hold its first session on 10 December, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2001). Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) will have 47 out of 120 seats but will need coalition partners in order to govern. Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosova won 26 seats, while the Serbian Povratak (Return) coalition finished third with 22 seats. Some 14 parties will be represented in the legislature. In Belgrade, Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic called on Del Ponte to oppose any cabinet posts for Thaci or Ramush Haradinaj of the Alliance for the Future of Kosova on the grounds that they were responsible for unspecified "terrorist acts" during the 1999 conflict, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Batic said such individuals are banned from public life under the 1999 UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and the Rambouillet agreement, which Serbia did not approve. PM

...AS PARTIES JOCKEY FOR POSITIONS

All major parties in Kosova have expressed at least some interest in entering a coalition government, Hina reported from Prishtina on 25 November. Povratak is willing to consider a coalition with Rugova, RFE/RL's Slavic Service reported, even though some of its members have refused to acknowledge him as the eventual president of Kosova, "Vesti" reported. Elsewhere, Thaci told the German weekly "Focus" that he is willing to enter a coalition with the LDK provided his party acquires real power and does not simply serve "as a decoration." Thaci added that Serbs as well as Albanians should feel safe in Kosova and return to their preconflict homes. PM

KOSOVA POLICE ARREST ALBANIAN FOR ABDUCTION OF SERBS

International police have arrested an unidentified ethnic Albanian former guerrilla commander in conjunction with the kidnapping of five Serbs in 1999, Reuters reported from Prishtina on 25 November. Only one of the Serbs is known to still be alive. The arrested man is an officer in the civilian Kosova Protection Corps (TMK), which many Albanians see as the nucleus of a future Kosovar army. PM

YUGOSLAV AUTHORITIES TO KEEP TWO COMMITTEES FOR KOSOVA

The federal government has decided to keep both of its committees dealing with Kosovar affairs, the Federal Committee and the Coordinating Center, "Vesti" reported on 23 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2001). Election boycott leader Momcilo Trajkovic has nonetheless been ousted as president of the Federal Committee. PM

GENOCIDE INDICTMENT FOR SERBIAN EX-LEADER

On 23 November, The Hague-based war crimes tribunal released its third indictment against former President Slobodan Milosevic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. This time he is charged with genocide and other crimes in conjunction with the 1992-1995 Bosnian conflict. Genocide is the most serious charge in the tribunal's book. The document mentions several other individuals who were part of Milosevic's "criminal enterprise." They include "Radovan Karadzic, Momcilo Krajisnik, Biljana Plavsic, General Ratko Mladic..., [General] Veljko Kadijevic, [General] Blagoje Adzic, Milan Martic..., Vojislav Seselj, Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan, and others," "Vesti" reported. In Sarajevo, a spokesman for the Bosnian Foreign Ministry hailed the indictment as a step toward justice, Reuters reported. PM

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT: NO MILITARY SECRETS TO THE HAGUE

Vojislav Kostunica told the "Sunday Times" of 25 November that Belgrade will not provide the war crimes tribunal with any documents that contain "military secrets." He did not say what such secrets might be or who will determine what constitutes a secret. Kostunica stressed that his country's political situation remains unstable and that the legal basis for Belgrade's cooperation with The Hague must be thoroughly prepared. Critics have charged that Kostunica is dragging his heels on enacting legislation in order not to offend nationalist voters and because he himself considers the tribunal to be an "anti-Serbian instrument of U.S. foreign policy" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 November 2001). Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic has argued that the tribunal is based on UN decisions that have priority over Serbian or Yugoslav law. PM

MILOSEVIC CRONY LOSES YUGOSLAV IMMUNITY

The lower house of the federal parliament voted to strip Bratislava Buba Morina of her legislative immunity, "Vesti" reported on 23 November. She is a close political associate of Milosevic and his wife, Mira Markovic. Morina faces charges of embezzling refugee relief funds while she was refugee commissioner under the Milosevic regime. She denies the charges, arguing that she is the victim of political persecution. PM

NEW, OLD SYMBOLS FOR SERBIA

A government working group has recommended the adoption of a set of state symbols, which the parliament will vote on in a 15 February 2002 session, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 23 November. The include the pre-communist national anthem "Boze pravde" and the 1882 coat of arms, which includes a crown. Historian and Christian Democratic party leader Milan Protic told "Vesti" that the crown is a symbol of state sovereignty and not necessarily of a monarchy. PM

SERBIAN AUTHORITIES INVESTIGATE ALLEGED PLOT...

The Interior Ministry has launched an investigation into the origins of a list of police -- including members of the elite Red Berets -- allegedly wanted by The Hague, "Vesti" reported on 24 November (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 November 2001). The Belgrade weekly "Reporter" recently published a list of 17 persons supposedly under investigation for war crimes, in addition to a list of 345 persons believed to be witnesses to atrocities. Serbian media and political figures have begun speculating about who or what might be behind the publication of the list, the authenticity of which appears dubious. Some suspect a plot to split the police, others a conspiracy to undermine links between the police and the government or simply to destabilize the government. Yet another theory is that the list is a classic journalistic canard aimed at boosting the weekly's circulation. "Reporter" says that its source was unspecified persons close to Kostunica. PM

...AS MINISTER AFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR POLICE

Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic said that he is familiar with the tribunal's indictments and that no Interior Ministry personnel are named in them, "Vesti" reported from Belgrade on 24 November. He added that no member of the police will be extradited to The Hague as long as he is in office. Elsewhere, human rights lawyer Rajko Danilovic said that the time has come to dissolve the Red Berets. He charged that the group is linked to some of Serbia's best-known political crime mysteries, including the killing of journalist Slavko Curuvija and the disappearance of former President Ivan Stambolic. PM

BOSNIAN SERB PARTIES MERGE

The Party of Independent Social Democrats of former Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik and the Democratic Socialist Party of Nebojsa Radmanovic have agreed on a joint platform, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Banja Luka on 25 November. The new grouping will be known as the League of Independent Social Democrats (SNS). Dodik repeated his long-standing views that The Hague-based tribunal is fair and that Milosevic is responsible for the Bosnian conflict. Dodik's Muslim critics charge that he did little during his years as prime minister to bring war criminals to justice. PM

ROMANIA CONFIRMS BANK TRANSACTIONS TO ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS

Parliament Deputy Ion Stan, the chairman of the commission for overseeing the activity of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), said on 21 November that the service has confirmed that between 1999 and 2001 some $323 million was illegally transferred from Romania to bank accounts abroad whose owners are businessmen known for their links to Islamic extremist groups, RFE/RL's Bucharest service reported. Stan said all such transactions were traced back to Arab nationals in Romania. But he also added that the SRI established that no persons associated with the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization were, or currently are, in Romania and that Osama bin Laden has no bank accounts in Romania. MS

ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE REPORT HEATS UP DEBATE OVER TRANSYLVANIA...

Stan also warned that, according to the SRI report for 2001, the central authorities in Bucharest are losing control over Harghita and Covasna counties, which are inhabited by ethnic Hungarian majorities. He said the two counties are "on their way to autonomy" and that an "autonomous educational system" is being established in Transylvania. Stan said a "Hungarian border" is about to be established "in the country's inner territory." He also said discrimination against ethnic Romanians is intensifying there and that the freedom of the Romanian Orthodox Church is being curtailed. Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Chairman Bela Marko said the next day that such statements "torpedo interethnic coexistence" in Transylvania, as well as the collaboration pact between the UDMR and the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD). He said the government must "explain" to the UDMR the role that "prominent PSD members" played in issuing the report. On 25 November, Public Administration Minister Octav Cozmanca said the SRI report reflects a situation that "existed up to early 2001," but that the cabinet has since "taken measures to remedy it." MS

...TRIGGERS REACTION FROM OPPOSITION

Senator Radu F. Alexandru, the leader of the National Liberal Party (PNL) parliamentary group, said on 21 November that Prime Minister Adrian Nastase must "inform the parliament" regarding the loss of the government's control over Harghita and Covasna and "possibly over other regions as well," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Alexandru said that if Nastase fails to do so, the PNL will initiate a motion of censure against the cabinet. The Greater Romania Party (PRM), which held its third congress on 23-24 November (see below) approved an appeal to President Ion Iliescu, demanding that he urgently meet with parliamentary party leaders to discuss "the serious situation of ethnic Romanians in Harghita and Covasna." At its congress, the PRM approved a "Black Book of the UDMR" presented by its general secretary, Gheorghe Funar. MS

ROMANIA READY TO EMULATE BULGARIA REGARDING NATO BASE

Returning from a three-day visit to Greece on 23 November, President Iliescu said Romania is prepared to follow Bulgaria's example and grant NATO the right to use a military base on its territory, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see Bulgarian item below). A similar statement was made on 24 November by Premier Nastase. Both leaders emphasized that Romania already granted NATO the right to use its airspace, territory, and maritime areas following the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States. MS

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT TO SEEK VOTE OF CONFIDENCE

The government announced on 21 November that it plans to seek a vote of confidence from the parliament regarding its austerity and privatization plans, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. It will do so under a constitutional procedure called "assumption of governmental responsibility." Under this procedure, a vote of confidence is considered to have been granted unless a no-confidence motion is moved within three days after the presentation of the program in the legislature. MS

PRM MOTION AGAINST ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT FAILS

On 22 November, the senate denied by a vote of 74 to 54 a motion by the PRM to debate the situation in the education system and the cabinet's failure to allocate sufficient funds for education. The PNL and the Democratic Party supported the PRM's motion. Those two parties announced the next day that they will motion for a debate on the situation in the health system and the alleged "deflection of funds" by the government from health care in an attempt to cover "black holes in the budget." PRM leader Senator Corneliu Vadim Tudor claimed after the 22 November vote in the Senate that the rejection of his party's motion was due to votes being cast for senators who did not attend the debate, and that the PRM will contest the outcome of the vote in the Constitutional Court. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS INVESTIGATED OVER PRIVATIZATION DEALS

Former State Privatization Fund Chief Radu Sarbu and former Agriculture Minister Ioan Avram Muresan were investigated on 22 and 23 November, respectively, over privatization deals concluded during their tenures. Sarbu was investigated by police, while Muresan was interrogated by a special presidential commission established for controlling privatization decisions taken by former members of the cabinet. Sarbu and Muresan, both members of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic, said the investigations are "politically motivated." MS

PRM CONGRESS RE-ELECTS TUDOR AS CHAIRMAN

At its 23-24 November third party congress, the PRM re-elected Corneliu Vadim Tudor as its chairman by a vote of 1,030 to six, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Gheorghe Funar was re-elected PRM secretary-general. In other news, at its congress on 24 November the extraparliamentary Union of Democratic Forces (UFD) elected Adrian Iorgulescu as its chairman and Varujan Vosganian as the party's National Council chairman. Vosganian was formerly UFD co-chairman alongside Iorgulescu. He withdrew from the race for the chairmanship before the vote. MS

ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE GETS NEW DEPUTY DIRECTOR

General Gioni Popescu was appointed on 21 November as deputy director of SRI, replacing Mircea Ghiordunescu, who resigned earlier this month, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Romanian media reports alleged that Popescu was involved in the past in numerous dubious deals, among them the smuggling of oil to Yugoslavia when that country was under UN embargo. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER 'MASTERS MOLDOVAN LANGUAGE'

Addressing the Trieste Central European Initiative summit on 23 November, Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase ironically dismissed the inclusion of the "Moldovan language" among the meeting's official languages, saying he was "astonished" to realize that the "extraordinary atmosphere" of the gathering has made him capable of "learning one more foreign language in just a few minutes," Romanian television reported. He said he proved his claim by making his opening remarks "in Moldovan," after which he "switched" to Romanian (practically the same language) and asked the Moldovan participants to "listen to my speech using the headphone translation." MS

MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTER DEFENDS NEW YORK JOINT DECLARATION

Foreign Minister Nicolae Dudau on 23 November dismissed criticism of the declaration he recently signed in New York with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts on ways to settle the Transdniester conflict as inaccurate, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The declaration calls for a continuation of negotiations within a forum that includes the Transdniester and the OSCE as well as the three signatory states. Dudau said this does not signify that Chisinau wants to resume high-level negotiations with the present leadership in Tiraspol, and that President Vladimir Voronin rules out this possibility. He said the five-structure forum refers to negotiations "at expert level." Observers quoted by RFE/RL pointed out that the New York declaration fails to mention for the first time Moldova's "sovereignty" alongside the mention of its "territorial integrity," which may open the path for guaranteeing Transdniester's special status by a foreign power. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES RAISING ELECTORAL HURDLE

The parliament on 22 November unanimously approved on first reading the draft bill submitted by the opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic to raise the electoral hurdle for parliamentary representation, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The bill stipulates that the hurdle shall be 6 instead of 4 percent for individual parties, 9 percent for lists including two formations, and 12 percent for alliances made up by three formations or more. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT GRANTS CITIZENSHIP TO CONTROVERSIAL RUSSIAN BISHOP

President Voronin on 22 November signed a decree granting citizenship to Tiraspol and Dubasari Bishop Iustinian, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The Russian-born (1961) Iustinian is a supporter of separatist leader Igor Smirnov and was ordained bishop by the Moldovan Orthodox Church (subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate) in 1995. Earlier this year Moldovan Metropolitan Vladimir appointed Iustinian as rector of the Noul-Neamt theological seminary, after which Iustinian dismissed members of the staff and came into conflict with Voronin. Deputy Vlad Cubreacov, a lawyer for the rival and officially unrecognized Bessarabian Metropolitan Church, told RFE/RL that Voronin's decision is "unacceptable" and that Iustinian has acted in the past "to undermine Moldovan statehood." Cubreacov also said that Iustinian has been under the surveillance of the Moldovan intelligence services due to those activities. MS

U.S. FORCES USING BULGARIAN AIR BASE

The first six U.S. Air Force aircraft intended for support of humanitarian operations in Afghanistan landed on 23 November at the Burgas airport, in the vicinity of that Black Sea port, international agencies reported. The six KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft will remain in Bulgaria for the duration of Operation Enduring Freedom, setting up in Burgas what Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi called on 23 November "a temporary American military base." One day earlier, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Elena Poptodorova said the government approved a request by the U.S. to use the air base as part of the ongoing international antiterrorist campaign. A U.S. Embassy official cited by AFP said the same day that the planes will be serviced by some 200 ground personnel, who will be stationed at the nearby Sarafovo military base. Pasi said the actual refueling operations will be carried out over the Caspian Sea, outside Bulgaria's airspace, and the fuel will be purchased from the Neftochim company in Burgas. MS

OUTGOING BULGARIAN PRESIDENT TO LEAVE POLITICS

Outgoing President Petar Stoyanov, who lost the presidential runoff of 18 November to Georgi Parvanov, said on 22 November that he plans to withdraw from politics after the end of his term on 22 January 2002, international agencies reported. "I fully assume responsibility and guilt for the lost election," Stoyanov said. He added that, at least for one year "and maybe much longer," he will back no political party or attempt to form a party of his own. "A [political] party dress is too tight for me," Stoyanov said. MS

EC COMMISSIONER SAYS BULGARIA, ROMANIA NOT TO JOIN EU SOON

Guenter Verheugen, the EC commissioner in charge of enlargement, said on 23 November in Frankfurt, Germany, that Bulgaria and Romania will "definitely" not be in the first wave of new members joining the organization, AFP reported. The statement was made in response to comments last week by French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, who said it may be a disadvantage for the union to leave the two countries out of the enlargement and that enlargement itself should be postponed until those countries can also be integrated. Verheugen said that "a lot of work still needs to be done" before Romania and Bulgaria will be able to join. The same day, Bulgarian Premier Simeon Saxecoburggotski proposed at the Trieste Central European Initiative summit that the EU accept the "political integration" of candidate countries before their "economic integration." The proposal was advanced just hours after Verheugen rejected Vedrine's suggestion. MS




There is no End Note today.





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