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Newsline - December 5, 2001


RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SUPPORTS MORE DIALOGUE ON ABM TREATY...
Addressing personnel at Engels air base in Saratov Oblast on 4 December, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said he supports the "continuation of Russia's dialogue with the U.S. on the status of the ABM Treaty," ITAR-TASS reported on 4 December. Ivanov also said Washington informed Russia about the test the U.S. conducted on its proposed missile defense system on 3 December in which the U.S. successfully carried out a twice-delayed test shoot-down of a missile warhead over the Pacific Ocean, and that "Russia is watching what came from it." VY

...WHILE ZHIRINOVSKY SAYS IT SHOULD BE SCRAPPED; REGRETS ANTI-AMERICAN SENTIMENTS
Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington on 4 December, Duma deputy speaker and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that the ABM treaty and START accords are "obsolete," and called for them to be renegotiated, Russian and Western news services reported on 4 December. In addition, Zhirinovsky called for the revision of NATO's founding documents and to incorporate Russia into the Atlantic alliance. Zhirinovsky also suggested that the U.S. should take advantage of Russia's ties with Iraq, Iran, and North Korea to facilitate its fight against global terrorism. He said Russian influence can help block terrorist threats emanating from those countries. Finally, Zhirinovsky said the U.S., NATO, and Russia are key military powers that should share responsibility for trouble spots in the world, and that he regrets his previous "anti-American sentiments inspired by Cold War spirit." VY

RUSSIA CALLS ON ISRAEL, PALESTINE TO HALT ESCALATION OF VIOLENCE
In a statement circulated on 4 December, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko urged Israel and Palestine "not to yield to emotions and give up the hopeless 'eye for an eye' logic," Interfax reported the following day. Yakovenko said "Moscow is extremely concerned about the dramatic developments over the Palestinian territories," and added that "despite the tragic and controversial character of the situation, we are convinced that the problems that have accumulated cannot be solved by using force." The Russian Foreign Ministry stressed that the Palestinian leadership should take decisive and effective measures to restrain terrorism. In turn, the Israeli government should show wisdom, self-control, and avoid actions that may turn the Palestinian-Israeli conflict into an irreversible process, according to the statement. The RBK news agency said on 4 December that Russian officials believe the only way out of the conflict is to implement obligations set down in the Mitchell and Tenet plans, and that Russia is ready to promote this process together with the U.S., the EU, the U.N., and other cosponsors. VC

PUTIN TOURS NEW NAVY SUB
During his visit to Severodvinsk, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended a ceremony on 4 December marking the transfer of the nuclear submarine "Gepard" to the navy, ORT reported. According to the television station, Putin toured the Gepard and the Sevmash engineering plant where the final stages of the submarine's assembly took place. In addition, Putin conferred awards on almost 100 people for their work on the "Gepard" project, calling it Russia's most modern submarine. During his trip, Putin also met with Arkhangelsk Oblast Governor Anatolii Yefremov. According to ITAR-TASS, the two leaders discussed the region's economic situation. Yefremov noted that tax collections in the region have risen 20 percent this year compared with last; however, the local timber industry is struggling due to falling prices. JAC

FORMER NORTHERN FLEET COMMANDER GETS NEW RESPONSIBILITIES...
Admiral Vyacheslav Popov, the recently dismissed commander of the Northern Fleet, has been offered a top post at the Atomic Energy Ministry, Russian agencies reported on 5 December. However, the range of his responsibilities has not yet been defined, RIA-Novosti reported. On 1 December, Popov was relieved of his duties as commander of the Northern Fleet "for improper organization of everyday and combat training of personnel." VC

...AS NEW COMMANDERS OF THE NORTHERN AND PACIFIC FLEETS ARE APPOINTED
On 5 December, Vice Admiral Gennadii Suchkov was appointed commander of the Northern Fleet, Interfax reported. Suchkov was previously the commander of the Pacific Fleet. To replace him, former Pacific Fleet Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Viktor Fedorov was appointed to command the Pacific Fleet. VC

RUSSIA EXPANDS HUMANITARIAN AID TO AFGHANISTAN
According to Russian government sources, Russia is only country that has in place a full-fledged state program of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, and has already established centers along the northern border of Afghanistan from which humanitarian goods can be transported into the central provinces of that country, RIA-Novosti reported on 4 December. Meanwhile, members of the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry in Kabul told the news agency that up to 80-90 percent of the local population is in need of food, warm clothing, and medicine, and that Russia will try to rebuild a highway through the Salang Pass to help distribute those necessities. VY

STROEV TENDERS RESIGNATION
As expected, Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev officially tendered his resignation on 4 December, Russian agencies reported. Aleksandr Nazarov, representative for Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, told reporters that Stroev nominated Sergei Mironov, the former deputy speaker of the St. Petersburg legislature, as his replacement, Interfax reported. Also on 4 December, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that Arkhangelsk Oblast's legislature selected former Arkhangelsk Oblast deputy Yurii Sivkov as its representative to the Federation Council. Mikhail Korobeinikov, correspondent-member of the Russian Agricultural Academy, will represent the oblast's governor. According to the daily, Korobeinikov lives in Moscow and headed the secretariat of Federation Council Chairman Stroev. Arkhangelsk Oblast Governor Yefremov explained that although he said just two weeks earlier that someone from the oblast should be selected, Korebeinikov is "well received in the presidential administration, and in Moscow everyone knows him." JAC

STEPASHIN, KUDRIN COMPETE FOR COUNTRY'S AUDIT CONTROL
Speaking at a conference of private auditors on 3 December, state Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin said the country needs a unified system of financial investigation and auditing, and that his agency could play in a role in coordinating all controlling authorities, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. However, Stepashin's comments prompted an immediate response from Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, who said that a single financial controller already exits in Russia -- the recently created Financial Monitoring Committee within his ministry. VY

IMF MAY SCRATCH RUSSIA FROM LIST OF MAJOR DEBTORS
Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kudrin announced on 4 December that Russia's debt to the International Monetary Fund will drop to $7.69 billion by the end of the year, Interfax reported. That amount would be lower than Russia's IMF quota, he said, and in practical terms will mean that Russia will be removed from the IMF's major debtor list. VY

PRIME MINISTER SAYS RUSSIA SEEKING TO INVEST IN UKRAINIAN PRIVATIZATION PROJECTS
Speaking in Moscow at a meeting of the Russian-Ukrainian Intergovernmental Economic Commission on 4 December, Premier Mikhail Kasyanov said that Russia has a keen interest in taking part in major privatization projects in Ukraine in "complete accordance with local legislation," Prime-TASS reported. In addition to joint ventures in the energy sector, Russia seeks to invest in Ukrainian aviation, transport, and agricultural machinery production, Kasyanov said. In response, his Ukrainian counterpart Anatoliy Kinakh said Kyiv supports the creation of more joint financial and industrial groups between the two countries. VY

NEWSPAPER SAYS LUKOIL TAKING CONTROL OF TV-6 ON KREMLIN'S ORDERS
LUKoil head Vakhit Alekperov is taking control of TV-6 not because of his business interests, but under the direct instruction of the Kremlin, which would like to put a leash on the independent station, "Moskovskie novosti" wrote on 4 December. The paper argued that, had Alekperov really needed a mass media outlet, he never would have sold the profitable REN-TV, as he did recently. Furthermore, Alekperov also has personal interests in the deal -- by abiding by the Kremlin's will now, he can expect many more favors from it in future, the daily said. VY

CENTRAL BANK TELLS CITIZENS TO REFRAIN FROM BUYING EUROS...
Russia's Central Bank is urging citizens not to acquire euros in cash and to exchange their European currencies by the end of the year, RBK news agency reported on 4 December. "We have data that criminal clans may throw onto the market a large amount of false bank notes, and are asking the population to refrain from buying euros," Central Bank spokesman Aleksandr Yurov was quoted by the agency as saying. Meanwhile, gazeta.ru reported that most Russian citizens are looking to shed their German marks, of which some 5.5 billion ($2.5 billion) are circulating in Russia. He said that Russians are exchanging marks not for euros, but for U.S. dollars, "as they understand that the U.S. is politically more stable than the 12 states of the European Union." VY

...SAYS SOME RUSSIAN REGIONS MAY BE PROCLAIMED BANKRUPT
Deputy Finance Minister Bella Zlatkis announced on 4 December that her ministry is examining the possibility of proclaiming seven subjects of the Russian Federation bankrupt, utro.ru reported. Zlatkis said that she cannot name the financially troubled regions, as that could complicate their status even further. She added that should the regions be declared bankrupt, the federal government will take over their financial management. VY

RUSSIA TO MEET OPEC DEMAND OVER OIL EXPORT CUT
Russia will cut oil exports to 150,000 barrels per day beginning on 1 January 2002, the government's Information Department told Interfax on 5 December, following Russian Prime Minister Kasyanov's meeting with the heads of major Russian oil companies. "Taking the current situation into account, the Russian government and the oil companies find it possible to further reduce oil exports," the department said. As of late November, instead of a symbolic cut of 30,000 barrels per day announced earlier in the month, Russia had agreed to cut exports by 50,000 barrels per day in the fourth quarter. However, this was still considered a symbolic cut by OPEC (see "RFE/RL Business Watch," 4 December 2001). Kasyanov stressed that, unlike OPEC, Russia is making decisions on oil production and exports quarterly and this will be the basic position of Russia in its further negotiations both with OPEC and non-OPEC countries that supply oil to international markets, RBK reported on 5 December. VC

YUKOS PIPELINE TO CHINA ON THE DRAWING BOARD
The government of the Republic of Buryatia is examining a plan for the construction of a gas pipeline from the city of Angarsk in Irkutsk Oblast to the northern Chinese city of Datsin under the framework of an intergovernmental agreement between Russia and China, RFE/RL's Ulan Ude correspondent reported on 4 December. The pipeline project is sponsored by YUKOS and the scientific-research institute Gidroprovod. Under the current draft plan, construction would begin in 2002 and end in 2005. The proposed route would cross the southern Baikal region and span more than 2,400 kilometers to Datsin, where YUKOS operates a refinery. JAC

RAILWAYS MINISTER HOSPITALIZED
Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko, who unexpectedly returned from a long vacation recently, was hospitalized on 28 November and will remain there for no less than two weeks, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 December. According to Interfax, unnamed sources said on 4 December that Aksenenko has previously been diagnosed with high blood pressure and ischemia -- conditions that worsened following a cabinet session on 28 November during which Aksenenko was roundly criticized. JAC

LUZHKOV DISMISSES RESIGNATION RUMORS
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov dismissed as "rubbish" media reports that he plans to resign if Moscow city Duma elections on 16 December are declared invalid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2001), ntvru.com reported. Luzhkov said on 4 December that, while he would prefer not to comment on such "rubbish," such "political provocations" must be denied during the lead-up to the elections. JAC

DIAMOND HEAD MOVES TO HEAD OF THE PACK IN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION RACE?
"Gazeta" reported on 4 December that ALROSA head Vyacheslav Shtyrov is the "new favorite" in the 23 December presidential election in Sakha (Yakutia) Republic. Shtryov's candidacy was recently reinstated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 2001). Meanwhile, the presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, Konstantin Pulikovskii, announced the same day that he is sending one of his deputies, Aleksandr Drozdov, to Sakha to ensure that all branches of the republic are ready for the upcoming elections. In other events, ALROSA and the international company De Beers concluded a new five-year agreement on 4 December, according to Interfax. JAC

CHEREPKOV FOUNDS NEW PARTY
Former Vladivostok Mayor and State Duma deputy (independent) Viktor Cherepkov was elected chair of the new Russian party Freedom and People's Power at its founding congress on 2 December, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 4 December. Cherepkov told reporters in Vladivostok that his party is the only "non-nomenklatura" party in Russia. Last month, Cherepkov announced that he was leaving the People's Deputy faction in the Duma because it does not really represent the people's interests (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 3 December 2001). JAC

CHECHEN POLITICIAN KILLED
Rizvan Lorsanov, who in August 1996 mediated the talks between Russian military and political representatives that culminated in the signing of the Khasavyurt peace accords, was killed when his car hit a land mine in Shali Raion southeast of Grozny, Reuters and Interfax reported on 4 December. Lorsanov was elected a Chechen parliament deputy in the summer of 1997, and denounced the Chechen attacks on Daghestan in 1999. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT DISMISSES ENERGY MINISTER
President Robert Kocharian dismissed Energy Minister Karen Galstian on 4 December and named Armen Movsisian, deputy head of the State Committee for Water Resources, to succeed him, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. On 27 November, Kocharian gave Galstian five days to present a list of senior government officials who consistently fail to pay electricity bills. Those arrears are the primary reason for the energy sector's huge tax debts. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES CIVIL SERVICE LAW
Deputies approved the controversial bill on the civil service in the final reading on 4 December by a vote of 80 to 11, with six abstentions, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Opposition deputies twice rejected the bill before it was passed in the first reading (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 25, 6 July 2001). They objected specifically to the provision empowering the president to name all seven members of a state commission that will decide on key civil service appointments. The Council of Europe's Venice Commission subsequently ruled that that provision does not violate the Armenian Constitution. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT GUNMAN CLAIMS HE WAS PRESSURED TO IMPLICATE PRESIDENTIAL AIDE
Karen Hunanian, one of the five gunmen currently on trial for the murder in October 1999 of eight senior Armenian politicians, told the court in Yerevan on 3 December that his testimony in January 2000 that the shootings were organized by former presidential Chief of Staff Aleksan Harutiunian was given under pressure, Noyan Tapan reported. Harutiunian was detained in December 1999 on suspicion of involvement in the shootings but released four months later for lack of evidence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December 1999 and 17 April 2000). Armenian journalist Nairi Badalian, who was arrested in late 1999 on suspicion of complicity in the shootings, similarly said in September that he was tortured in a bid to coerce him to implicate Harutiunian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2001). LF

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REJECTS AZERBAIJANI CLAIMS TO KARABAKH
Addressing the OSCE's Ninth Ministerial Council meeting, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said in Bucharest on 4 December that the population of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has "earned the right to live peacefully on their historic lands, free of alien domination and foreign occupation," Noyan Tapan reported. Oskanian described the enclave's declaration of independence from Azerbaijan in late 1991 as "legal, peaceful, and just," and Azerbaijan's claim on Nagorno-Karabakh as legally and morally invalid. He harshly criticized the Azerbaijani leadership's subsequent disavowal of tentative agreements reached in March-April 2001 on ways to resolve the conflict, asking: "If our negotiating partner cannot make room for compromise on paper, how are we to expect that it can create it on the ground?" LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S BROTHER THREATENS OPPOSITION
In what observers described as "an emotional speech" to parliament on 4 December, deputy Djalal Aliev, whose brother Heidar is president of Azerbaijan, advocated amending the law on political parties to prevent unnamed individuals who he claimed "support the Armenians" from inflicting damage on Azerbaijan's economy and statehood," Turan reported. He further criticized the newspapers "Yeni Musavat," "Hurriyet," and "Azadlyq" for allegedly "casting aspersions on the Azerbaijani people," and ended his tirade by calling for the "annihilation" of the opposition whom he termed Azerbaijan's "enemies." A second deputy from the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan party, Kerim Kerimov, proposed amending the law on the mass media in order to put an end to what he termed "anarchy in the press." Opposition party leaders condemned Djalal Aliev's remarks, which Ali Kerimli, leader of the progressive wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, said show that the Azerbaijani authorities are prepared to go to any lengths to suppress the independent press and restrict the activities of opposition political parties. LF

PROTESTERS IN AZERBAIJANI EXCLAVE DEMAND RESUMPTION OF WATER, ELECTRICITY SUPPLIES
Some 1,000 residents of the town of Djulfa in Nakhichevan picketed the local government building on 4 December to demand the resumption of supplies of drinking water, which were cut off several days earlier, and for electricity to be supplied to their homes during the early evening. They currently receive electricity only after 8:00-9:00 p.m. LF

IRAN PROTESTS AZERBAIJAN-KAZAKHSTAN CASPIAN AGREEMENT
The Iranian government regards the bilateral agreement on the principles for dividing the Caspian Sea signed in Moscow last week by the presidents of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November 2001) as violating the principle of consensus and as an obstacle to reaching agreement between the five Caspian littoral states on the legal status of the sea, Iranian Embassy press secretary Hamidreza Asefi stated on 1 December, according to Turan on 4 December. Asefi nonetheless affirmed Tehran's readiness to continue consultations on the status of the Caspian. Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Halaf Halafov expressed "regret" at Iran's rejection of the bilateral agreement under which Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan call for the division of the seabed into national sectors along the median line and for the communal use of its waters. Iran wants both the seabed and the waters divided between the five littoral states. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT CONFIRMS EIGHT MORE MINISTERS
Deputies voted on 4 December to approve the candidacies of eight more ministerial candidates proposed by President Eduard Shevardnadze last month, Caucasus Press reported. All but one were renamed to the posts they held in the outgoing government. The eight are Zurab Nogaideli (finance), David Mirtskhulava (energy), Levan Dzneladze (tax revenues), Merab Adeishvili (transport and communications), Avtandil Djorbenadze (labor, health, and social welfare), David Kirvalidze (agriculture), and Merab Chenkeli (urbanization and construction). Former Minister for State Property Management Giorgi Gachechiladze was confirmed as minister for economy, industry, and trade. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ADMITS BLAME FOR BEGINNING ABKHAZ WAR
In a meeting last week with the emigre Georgian community in Moscow, President Shevardnadze reportedly admitted that he bears some responsibility for the invasion of Abkhazia by Georgian forces in August 1992, according to "Dilis gazeti" on 4 December, as quoted by Caucasus Press. Shevardnadze earlier said that the fighting was triggered by then-Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani, who was acting on his own initiative without Shevardnadze's knowledge. But Shevardnadze now attributes the war to Georgia's weakness and his own inability to counter the machinations of former Soviet intelligence services. He specifically absolved Kitovani and fellow warlord Djaba Ioseliani of responsibility for the invasion. LF

GEORGIAN STUDENTS RESUME PICKET OF PARLIAMENT BUILDING
An unknown number of Georgian students have resumed their picket of the parliament building in Tbilisi to demand preterm parliamentary and presidential elections, Caucasus Press reported on 5 December. Additional police were deployed on Tbilisi's central thoroughfare to prevent incidents. Parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze told journalists that she is prepared to meet with the students to discuss their demands, but she fears they would reject her argument that early elections are not necessary and would only further destabilize the domestic political situation. She added that elections should not be held until new election legislation is passed that "would not serve the interests of any political force." LF

GEORGIAN, U.S. OFFICIALS DISCUSS PIPELINE SECURITY
Senior State Department official Justin Friedmen met in Tbilisi on 3 December with Georgian President Shevardnadze and Georgian security and energy sector officials to discuss how best to protect the planned Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil export pipeline from terrorism and other threats, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. LF

KYRGYZSTAN AGREES TO GRANT ANTITERRORISM COALITION USE OF INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Following talks in Bishkek on 3 December between Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev and U.S. and French military officials, presidential adviser Askar Aitmatov told Reuters on 4 December that the Kyrgyz leadership has agreed "in principle" allow the international antiterrorism coalition to station warplanes at the Manas international airport near Bishkek for the duration of the fighting in Afghanistan. That consent must be endorsed by both chambers of Kyrgyzstan's parliament, according to ITAR-TASS. Kyrgyz officials had earlier ruled out making the Manas airport available (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 November 2001) and had offered either the Osh air base in southern Kyrgyzstan or one at Kant in the north, but Kant proved to be unsuited for that purpose. Security Council Secretary Misir Ashirkulov said on 4 December that Manas can accommodate some 30-40 aircraft, which will probably include French Mirage fighter-bombers and transport aircraft from the U.S., Canada, or Italy. LF

TAJIKISTAN CONFIRMS PRESENCE OF FOREIGN MILITARY PERSONNEL
Tajik Foreign Ministry spokesman Igor Sattarov told a press briefing in Dushanbe on 4 December that 21 military experts from the U.S. and a further 38 from Italy have arrived in Dushanbe to ascertain which of Tajikistan's airfields is suitable for use by the international antiterrorism coalition, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 5 December. He added that some 186 French troops are scheduled to arrive in Tajikistan on 5 December. The U.S. experts traveled on 4 December to southern Tajikistan to inspect the airbase at Kulyab, Interfax reported. AP quoted President Imomali Rakhmonov as telling ORT television on 4 December that he has agreed to French and U.S. combat aircraft using the Kulyab base. A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said last week that Tajikistan had offered to make an airbase available, but U.S. experts who inspected the Kulyab base earlier pronounced it unsuitable (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 30 November 2001). LF

BELARUSIAN PREMIER UNVEILS ECONOMIC PLAN OF ACTION...
Premier Henadz Navitski on 4 December presented his cabinet's economic program of action to the Chamber of Representatives, Belapan reported. Navitski said the program is based on President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's re-election platform and his ideas about setting the economy on a "liberal track." The premier promised gradual economic liberalization with due regard for Belarus's own and neighbors' experience, but stressed that there will be no "shock therapy." The program's priority targets include increasing average monthly pay to an equivalent of $250 by the end of 2005; raising old-age pensions to 48 percent of monthly pay; completing the transition to targeted social welfare; and expanding housing construction. "If we tackle the transition to a market economy in earnest...I do not rule out that this program may become obsolete in a year," Belarusian Television quoted Navitski as saying. JM

...PROMISES TO FREE PRICES IN AGRICULTURE...
Navitski told legislators that the government intends to free prices for agricultural products by the spring 2002, Belapan reported. "As long as we have strict price regulation in the agricultural sector, almost all other efforts [there] make no sense," the prime minister said. "[The government] has at last found forms and methods that will allow it to carry out the real reform of the agro-industrial complex," Navitski noted, adding that the government intends to preserve large agricultural enterprises, but will diversify ownership relations in the agricultural sector by including private owners. JM

...ANNOUNCES RUSSIAN CREDITS...
Navitski said Belarus will soon receive considerable credit support from Russia. He announced that during a Belarusian top-level delegation's visit to Moscow last week, the heads of the two countries' central banks signed an accord whereby the Central Bank of Russia will lend Belarus's National Bank 1.5 billion Russian rubles ($50 million) by the end of this year "to support the stability of our currency." The Russian government also promised to provide $30 million in preferential loans to Belarus this year. Belarus is also to receive $40 million in the first half of 2002 under the same credit arrangement. In addition, Russian Prime Minister Kasyanov promised that Russia will purchase 1.5 billion Russian rubles worth of Belarusian agricultural equipment by the end of 2001. JM

...AND SAYS RUSSIA NOT READY FOR UNIFICATION WITH BELARUS
Navitski divulged to the Chamber of Representatives that Russia is not ready to reunite with Belarus as closely as the 1999 Union State Treaty stipulates. According to Navitski, Russian President Vladimir Putin even made an offer to President Lukashenka for both sides to make "certain departures" from the treaty. Navitski also disclosed that during their meeting last week, Kasyanov told him that Belarus should first bring its customs, banking, monetary, and budget laws into line with relevant Russian laws as a necessary condition for the further development of the Russia-Belarus Union. The Belarusian premier said a number of Belarusian laws will soon be scrutinized in order to draw up a list of amendments that Russia considers essential in creating equal conditions for Belarusian and Russian companies in Belarus. JM

UKRAINE HOLDS FIRST CENSUS SINCE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
Some 170,000 pollsters started a national census in Ukraine on 5 December, Interfax reported. The census questionnaire consists of 19 questions that, in particular, refer to citizenship, marital status, profession, sources of income, ethnic origin, native language, housing conditions, and land ownership of people living in Ukraine. The census will last until 15 December, and its first results, including the number of inhabitants, are expected to be released in April 2002. The results of the last Soviet census in 1989 put Ukraine's population at 51.5 million people. According to demographers, Ukraine's population has decreased since then to some 49 million. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER SLAMS EBRD TERMS FOR COMPLETION OF NUCLEAR REACTOR
Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh said in Moscow on 4 December that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's terms for issuing loans to assist the completion of two nuclear reactors in Ukraine are unacceptable. "The main disagreement is over the project's costs, including the necessity to fulfill the project's condition to raise electricity tariffs. This would result in an average 30-35 percent increase in energy tariffs in Ukraine, which is quite a drastic and shocking measure," Ukrainian Television quoted Kinakh as saying. Russian Premier Kasyanov declared the same day that Russia will grant a loan to help Ukraine complete the reactors. According to Kasyanov, the completion of the two reactors at the Rivne and Khmenlnytskyy power plants will cost some $500 million. JM

ESTONIAN MADE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE OF LOCAL COUNCILS
The parliament by a vote of 42 to nine, with four abstentions, passed a bill on 4 December making Estonian the official language in local councils, BNS reported. The law will go into effect on 21 October 2002 after new elections to local governments are held. It requires all local council sessions, as well as all official documents and minutes of those sessions, to be in Estonian. The government may grant local councils the right to use another language to conduct business, if the language is that of the majority of the permanent residents of the locality. The parliament earlier rejected by a vote of 24 to 37 a bill proposed by the opposition Center Party to grant local councils the right to decide what language to use for their sessions. SG

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT ADOPTS NEW TAX CONVENTION WITH ESTONIA
On 4 December, the government adopted a new Latvian-Estonian government convention on avoiding double taxation and tax evasion in respect to income tax, BNS reported. It replaced an earlier agreement that Latvia suspended after Estonia passed new corporate income tax regulations in June 2000. The convention sets maximum limits on tax rates that can be imposed on dividends, royalties, and capital in the other country. Interest payments will be subject to taxes of up to 15 percent, but only 5 percent if the taxpayer owns at least a 25 percent share in the dividend paying company. Interest payments will be subject to taxes of up to 10 percent of their gross value. Royalties will be taxed up to 5 percent of their gross value if the royalties are used for production or the purchase of commercial or scientific equipment, and 10 percent in other cases. The main goal of the convention is to create a stable business environment, increase foreign investment, and improve international tax procedures in line with international standards. SG

TELEPHONE RATES TO BE INCREASED IN LITHUANIA
After meeting with Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas on 4 December, Lietuvos Telekomas (Lithuanian Telecom) head Tapio Paarma announced that telephone rates will be increased only once next year instead of the previously planned two increases, ELTA reported. Beginning on 1 July 2002, call connection fees will be raised from 0.12 ($0.03) to 0.14 litas, and the monthly subscription fee from 19 to 23 litas. The rates for local calls will increase from 0.11 to 0.12 litas per minute during the day, and from .06 to .08 litas in the evening. The monthly fees for pensioners and persons eligible for social support will decline from 17 to 16 litas beginning in 2002. While the rates for personal users will not be as great as previously planned, Paarma noted that Lietuvos Telekomas does not expect lower revenues. Planned reductions in monthly subscription rates for business phones from 28 to 23 litas will not be introduced. SG

POLISH PRESIDENT URGES RADICAL AGRARIANS TO BREAK WITH LEADER'S POLICIES
President Aleksander Kwasniewski on 4 December said the radical farmers union Self-Defense should distance itself from the style of politics pursued by its leader, Andrzej Lepper, Polish Radio reported. "If the Self-Defense would like to follow the road set by Andrzej Lepper, which includes defamation, misusing words, irresponsibility, and breaking the law; then, unfortunately, I want to announce here as the president of the Polish Republic that I will convince people to set up a joint alliance against the Self-Defense," Kwasniewski said. Meanwhile, the Self-Defense parliamentary caucus has lodged a motion to set up a special parliamentary commission to probe the corruption charges leveled recently by Lepper against two ministers and three prominent politicians of the opposition Civic Platform (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2001). JM

POLISH POLICEMEN GO TO KOSOVA
Poland will send 115 policemen to Kosova on 6 December, PAP reported. The police troops will join the UN peacekeeping forces in the Balkan province and will be stationed in Mitrovica. Their tasks will include providing security for international organizations working in Kosova, preventing ethnic clashes, and ensuring order during elections. The call for volunteers for the mission in Kosova attracted more than 600 police officers eager to work for a monthly salary of $1,000, nearly four times the average wage earned by police in Poland. JM

POLISH PREMIER BRIEFS NATION ON PUBLIC FINANCES
In a televised address to the nation on 4 December, Premier Leszek Miller said the government-proposed austerity budget for 2002 intends "to save the country from bankruptcy." Miller accused the former coalition of the Solidarity Electoral Action and the Freedom Union, as well as politicians from the opposition Civic Platform and Law and Justice groups, of "irresponsible policies" that led to a budget gap amounting to $20 billion, and of plunging public finances into the worst crisis in the post-communist era. "In order to fill this gap, every citizen, from nursery school pupils to pensioners, employed or unemployed, would have to pay 2,500 zlotys ($620)... If the crisis deepens, we will pay even more. There will be a shortage of money literally for everything," Miller warned. JM

UZBEK DISSIDENT WRITES FROM PRAGUE PRISON...
In a "Letter to the People of Prague" written from Pankrac prison, where he is being detained, a copy of which reached RFE/RL, Uzbek dissident Muhammad Solih said he admires the "high moral values" represented by Czech President Vaclav Havel, knows that the Czech Republic is a state under the rule of law, unlike Uzbekistan, which is ruled by "tyranny," and for that reason was not afraid that he might be detained when he came to Prague at the invitation of RFE/RL. Solih wrote that the 25 million people in Uzbekistan are 25 million characters in a "gigantic Kafkaesque situation" in which they must "feel guilty even though they never committed a crime." He wrote that today 8,000 political prisoners are "tortured in Uzbek prisons," including three of his brothers who were sentenced to 15 years for no other reason than being his siblings. Solih said that he left Uzbekistan "to save my life," but that ever since, he has been hounded by the Uzbek authorities who sought his extradition on groundless reasons until Norway finally granted him asylum in 1999. Solih expressed the hope that he will not be extradited. MS

...AS NORWAY OFFICIALLY REQUESTS HIS RETURN TO OSLO
In a "diplomatic note," Norway on 4 December officially requested that Solih, who has been granted refugee status by Oslo, be returned there rather than extradited to Uzbekistan, CTK reported, quoting Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil. A representative of the UN High Commission for Refugees in Prague visited Solih in prison on 4 December, along with the Norwegian ambassador and a representative of RFE/RL. All assured him they are working hard to obtain his release from prison. Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil told dpa the same day that he is "almost sure" Solih will "soon" be released and allowed to return to Norway. MS

EU AGREES ON JOINT STAND ON CLOSING ENERGY CHAPTER WITH PRAGUE
In Brussels on 4 December, diplomats representing EU member states agreed on a joint position for closing the energy chapter in negotiations with the Czech Republic, CTK reported. The position is to be officially made public on 5 December, but diplomatic sources requesting anonymity told the agency that there are "no obstacles" in closing the chapter. MS

CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER DENIES UNLAWFUL SPONSORSHIP
Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL) Chairman Cyril Svoboda on 4 December denied a report in the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" that KDU-CSL local authority representatives approved lucrative public contracts in exchange for sponsorship gifts, CTK reported. Svoboda told the agency that the gifts were accepted within the limitations stipulated by current legislation and were reported in the party's public accounting. The daily wrote on 4 December that representatives of the Four Party Coalition -- of which the KDU-CSL is a member -- approved such contracts for sponsors in Olomouc, Ceske Budejovice, Pardubice, and Bzenec. Freedom Union Chairwoman Hana Marvanova said later on 4 December that it has decided to return two sponsorship gifts totaling 120,000 crowns ($3,238) because the sponsorship came from firms that received contracts from Freedom Union local government representatives. Marvanova said she will recommend that other members of the alliance do the same. MS

MORE PEOPLE CHARGED IN 'ASANACE' CASE
The Prosecutor-General's Office charged 11 former members of the communist secret police with abuse of power on 4 December as part of the pending case regarding the "Asanace" operation of the 1970s and 1980s, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2001). MS

SPANISH PREMIER WARNS AGAINST MECIAR'S COMEBACK IN SLOVAKIA...
Spanish Premier Jose Maria Aznar, currently on a tour of EU candidate countries, said in Bratislava on 4 December that he hopes accession agreements with some of the candidate countries will be signed during the term of the Spanish EU presidency, which starts on 1 January 2002, CTK reported. Aznar hinted that internal political developments in Slovakia could hinder Slovak accession, saying he hopes "Slovakia will not return to the past," and adding that "hesitating signals sent by Slovakia between 1995 and 1998 [when former Premier Vladimir Meciar was in power] cannot be repeated." Slovak Premier Mikulas Dzurinda said in response that "after the 2002 general elections, Slovakia will have an absolutely democratic, reform-minded and integration-oriented government." MS

...WHO SEES HIS PARTY AS 'GUARANTOR' OF EURO-ATLANTIC ORIENTATION...
Meciar told the BBC's Czech program on 4 December that ever since Slovakia became an independent country in 1993, the country has never had a higher foreign policy priority than joining Euro-Atlantic structures, CTK reported. He said the cabinets he headed between 1992 and 1994, and then between 1994 and 1998, were unsuccessful in achieving this priority because they were channeling all efforts toward building new state structures following the "Velvet Divorce." This internal priority led to "deferring" entry to NATO, he claimed. Meciar dismissed "worries abroad" that his possible comeback would result in abandoning the Euro-Atlantic designs of Dzurinda's cabinet, saying they would be pursued "even more intensely than today." MS

...AND MUST NOT WORRY ABOUT 'HAIDER PRECEDENT'
Visiting Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja said in Bratislava on 4 December that he does not expect the EU to react to a possible Meciar comeback in the way it did after the inclusion of Joerg Haider's far-right Freedom Party in the Austrian coalition last year, CTK reported. Tuomioja said the EU has "learned a lesson from the Austrian case," but added that such a situation would "definitely be discussed by all the EU governments, as well as by the European Parliament." MS

BRITISH DEFENSE SECRETARY IN SLOVAKIA
British Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon told journalists during his one-day visit to Slovakia on 4 December that he believes Slovakia will join NATO after the organization's 2002 Prague summit, CTK reported. He made the comment after meeting his Slovak counterpart Jozef Stank. In response to a question, Hoon said the possibility of Slovakia's purchasing of British aircraft has not been discussed, but that his government would "naturally support it" if a British firm made "a relevant offer." Stank said that when a tender for the purchase of supersonic fighters is launched, the process will be "transparent and correct." MS

SLOVAKIA TO SET UP OMBUDSMAN INSTITUTION
The parliament approved legislation on 4 December providing for establishing the office of ombudsman, effective on 1 January 2002. The ombudsman is to be elected by the parliament for a five-year term. MS

HUNGARIAN COURT PASSES RULING ON 'LEX REPASSY'
The Constitutional Court on 4 December ruled by six votes in favor and four against to slap down elements of the law that has come to be known as "Lex Repassy," Hungarian media reported. FIDESZ deputy Robert Repassy had proposed in his bill that newspapers and other media be obliged to carry responses to opinions they publish. The law was passed by the parliament in May, but was not promulgated after President Ferenc Madl referred it to the court for consideration of its constitutionality. The court ruled that the requirement does not violate the constitution, but at the same time it said the manner in which the parliament passed the measure, by simple majority, is unconstitutional. Repassy said he regards the court's ruling as a success. Opposition Socialist Party Deputy Andras Toth, however, said his party was assured by the court's ruling that the bill was essentially qualified as unconstitutional. MSZ

TISZA POLLUTION CASE OPENS BEFORE HUNGARIAN COURT
Hearings started on 4 December at the Budapest Metropolitan Court on a lawsuit in which the Hungarian state is claiming the equivalent of $100 million in damages from the Romanian-Australian mining company that caused environmental damage on the Tisza River, Hungarian media reported. The mining company, previously known as Aurul Baia Mare, was sued for responsibility for a cyanide spill that caused serious pollution and environmental damage in January 2000. The judge postponed the hearing of arguments for 60 days after Jozsef Ivkovics, the lawyer for the mining company, announced that the concern had officially changed its name to Transgold SA. Ivkovics also said that his client prefers that the suit be handled by an international court rather than the Budapest Metropolitan Court. MSZ

MIEP DEPUTY TO LOSE PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY?
The Prosecutor-General's Office proposed on 4 December that the parliamentary immunity of the Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) deputy chairman, Calvinist pastor Lorant Hegedus Jr., who wrote an anti-Semitic article in September in a MIEP magazine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September and 29 November 2001) be lifted to allow prosecution on the grounds of "incitement of hatred against a community." The office added that the editor of the district paper, who commissioned the article, is a suspect in the case. MSZ /MS

ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO HUNGARY AWARDS 'RIGHTEOUS AMONG NATIONS' TITLES
Thirty-one Hungarians who helped save Jews during World War II were on 4 December awarded the Medal of the Righteous Among Nations by Israel's Ambassador to Hungary, Judith Varnai Shorer, Hungarian media reported. Speaking at the ceremony at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Shorer said that expulsion, anti-Semitism, and racism must not have a place in today's Europe. Some of the awards were presented posthumously, including those to Erzsebet David and Istvan Varga, who helped save the lives of U.S. columnist and writer Charles Fenyvesi and his mother. David and Varga, who were employed in the registry office of the eastern Hungarian city of Debrecen, provided Jews with blank birth certificates and baptism certificates after Jewish deportations began in 1944. The Medal of the Righteous Among Nations was created in 1953 by Israel's Yad Va'Shem Institute to honor non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis. Nearly 500 Hungarians have received the award since Hungary and Israel re-established diplomatic relations in 1989. MSZ

U.S. SLAPS EMBARGO ON ALBANIAN EXTREMISTS IN MACEDONIA...
State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said in a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Skopje on 4 December that Washington has imposed a travel ban and financial embargo on two ethnic Albanian extremist groups, similar to a ban U.S. President George W. Bush imposed on other guerrillas in June, AP and Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2001). Affected by the new ban are the Albanian National Army (AKSH) and the National Committee for the Liberation and Defense of Albanian Lands (KKCMTSH). Reeker said that both groups undermine democracy and the peace process. Little is known about the size and scope of the two organizations. It is not clear, for example, whether the AKSH represents a possible embryo of a serious new guerrilla movement, or whether it is "a couple of guys with a website." PM

...WHICH AKSH REGRETS
In Prishtina, AKSH spokesman Alban Berisha told dpa on 4 December that his group regrets Washington's decision. He said: "We do not violate U.S. law because we do not operate there... If the AKSH is considered illegal by the U.S., this is a moral handicap, because we consider the U.S. an important ally in the efforts of the Albanians for freedom and democracy." The AKSH called the Ohrid peace agreement "a waste of time" and vowed to pursue its goal of full equality for Albanians in Macedonia by military means. PM

WEST CALLS ON MACEDONIA TO SHUT DOWN POLICE CHECKPOINTS...
NATO, EU, and OSCE officials have urged Macedonia to shut down the approximately 100 police checkpoints operating in largely ethnic Albanian areas, Reuters and AP reported from Skopje on 4 December. The checkpoints are considered a provocation by many Albanians because reservists who man them are often drunk and aggressive in their behavior toward Albanians, sometimes demanding money. An OSCE spokesman noted that the checkpoints hinder freedom of movement and the reintegration of formerly guerrilla-held areas. PM

...AND DELIVER ON AMNESTY
NATO and European officials called on President Boris Trajkovski and other Macedonian leaders to implement the long-promised amnesty "as soon as possible," AP reported from Skopje on 4 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 27 November 2001). Most Albanians regard the amnesty as a key component in the peace process. On 5 December, Trajkovski announced the pardon of a first group of 11 Albanians, dpa reported. PM

SERBIAN POLICE ARE NOT LOOKING FOR MLADIC...
Milorad Simic, who heads the police administration within the Serbian Interior Ministry (MUP), told a Belgrade press conference on 4 December that the MUP has no information to the effect that indicted war criminal General Ratko Mladic is on Serbian territory, "Glas javnosti" reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 30 November 2001, and "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2001). Simic added that the police have not received any order to look for Mladic or anyone else indicted by The Hague. Simic said that the police act according to the law and will carry out orders as given by their superiors, including any order given to look for persons wanted by The Hague. When asked about three officers wanted in conjunction with the 1991 Vukovar massacres, Simic said that this case is being handled by the military. PM

...WHOM HAGUE SAYS IS IN SERBIA
Florence Hartmann, who is spokeswoman for The Hague tribunal's chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, told the Banja Luka daily "Nezavisne novine" that Mladic is indeed in Serbia and has been recently seen at several places in Belgrade, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 5 December. She added that the tribunal is still waiting for a response from "official Belgrade" to its request for action on the Mladic case. Hartmann, who is a veteran French journalist and fluent in Serbo-Croatian, said that the only acceptable answer would be for the Yugoslav authorities to arrest and extradite Mladic to The Hague. PM

SERBIA STOCKS UP ON EUROS
Some 100 million euros ($89 million) arrived at Belgrade airport from Austria on 4 December and were taken immediately to the vaults of the Yugoslav National Bank, AP reported. This is the first batch of what will eventually be a consignment of 400 million euros. The German mark has functioned as the "real" currency of former Yugoslavia for decades, and Serbs alone are estimated to have several hundred million marks hidden away, according to National Bank Governor Mladjan Dinkic. The mark is legal tender in Montenegro and Kosova, which have also been planning for the switch to the new currency on 1 January (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 July 2001). Germany's central bank, the Bundesbank, estimates that up to 40 percent of the 278 billion marks in circulation are to be found outside of Germany, particularly in the Balkans. PM

SERBIA TO BUY PROPERTY IN KOSOVA
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said in Belgrade on 3 December that the Serbian and Yugoslav governments plan to buy property in Presevo and Kosova, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2001). He said that the property in question is owned by Serbs who are forced to sell "under Albanian pressure." Covic added that it is "in the interest of the state and the nation" for Belgrade to buy up such property. He suggested that Serbs would rather sell their property to Belgrade than to Albanians, even if the state offered them less money. Observers note that preventing the sale of Serbian property to Albanians has been a concern to Belgrade since the early 1980s, and especially under former President Slobodan Milosevic. There is ample documentation to show that many Serbs have indeed sold their property under duress, while others have sold with an eye to profit, as many Albanians claim. PM

SLOVENIA ACQUIRES EX-YUGOSLAV EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON
Under a recent agreement among representatives of former Yugoslav republics in Zagreb, the former federal embassy in Washington will go to Slovenia, the "International Herald Tribune" reported on 5 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2001). Bosnia will acquire the London embassy, while Croatia will take the embassy in Paris. Macedonia gets the Paris consulate, while Belgrade will have the residence in the French capital. PM

UN POLICE SACK TWO MORE BOSNIAN OFFICERS
Stefo Lehmann, who is spokesman for the UN police administration in Bosnia (IPTF), said in Sarajevo on 4 December that the IPTF has fired Enver Dupovac and Mensur Covic, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14, 16, and 27 November 2001). He said that the two Muslims are "unfit for service in the police forces of Bosnia-Herzegovina." The two were interrogators of non-Muslims at the Silos "detention center" in Tarcin during the 1992-1995 war, where they ordered or participated in the physical abuse of civilian prisoners. PM

U.S. CONTINUES SUPPORT FOR BOSNIAN FEDERAL ARMY
The U.S. has renewed its contract with Military Professional Resources, Inc. (MPRI), for 2002, AP reported from Sarajevo on 4 December, citing unnamed Bosnian defense sources. MPRI administers and carries out Washington's "train and equip" program for the Croat and Muslim federal army. Since 1996, the U.S. has spent $100 million on the project. It is not clear what the budget for 2002 will be. PM

HERZEGOVINIAN CROATS VANDALIZE MOSQUE SITE
A small group of Croatian extremists tore down the fence around the building site of a mosque in Stolac on 4 December. The 16th-century Careva Dzamija is being rebuilt following its destruction in 1993 by Croatian nationalists. PM

BOSNIAN ARMS SCAM UNCOVERED
The four men arrested in Kiseljak recently were engaged in an arms scam, Reuters reported from Sarajevo on 4 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 2001). The four hoped to convince unnamed buyers that the conventional explosives they were offering were actually radioactive, an SFOR spokesman said. PM

MONTENEGRIN BOYCOTT ENDS
Legislators of the pro-Belgrade Together for Yugoslavia coalition agreed on 4 December to return to the parliament after receiving unspecified guarantees from other parties that a commission will be set up to investigate charges linking President Milo Djukanovic to a cigarette-smuggling racket, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 21 November 2001). Two unnamed ethnic Albanian parties agreed to support the setting up of the commission. PM

MONTENEGRIN MINISTER: NO FOREIGN MEDDLING
Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service from Podgorica on 4 December that Serbia and Montenegro should be left to sort out the terms of their future relations by themselves, without outside interference. With the encouragement of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, EU officials in particular have been active recently in pressuring Montenegro to remain in a common state with Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November 2001). PM

CROATIA APPROVES EU AGREEMENT
The parliament approved Croatia's stabilization and association agreement with the EU by a comfortable majority, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 5 December. Deputies from the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) and two smaller conservative opposition parties left the chamber before the vote. PM

OSCE BUCHAREST MEETING APPROVES ANTITERROR ACTION PLAN
The two-day OSCE Ninth Ministerial Council meeting in Bucharest ended on 4 December with the approval of an action plan aimed at combating international terrorism, AP reported. The 55 OSCE member countries agreed to share information on the whereabouts of suspected terrorists; tighten border controls and passport checks; work together to track how terrorist organization are financed; crack down on organized crime, money laundering, and illicit arms trafficking; and intensify efforts to ensure that terrorists are not mistakenly granted refugee status or asylum. At the same time, the resolution warned against violating individual rights as a result of the effort, saying the OSCE is determined to "protect citizens from new challenges to their security, while at the same time safeguarding the rule of law, individual liberties, and the right to equal justice under the law." MS

POWELL PRAISES ROMANIAN OSCE CHAIRMANSHIP
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who attended the OSCE gathering in Bucharest, told journalists on 4 December that Romania has "very well discharged its responsibility as Chairman in Office of the OSCE for the past year," and that the performance of Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana in that capacity was "superb." He added that Romania "clearly is making maximum efforts to become a part of the Euro-Atlantic community," a U.S. Embassy press release said. In response to a question, Geoana said he believes that at their 2002 Prague summit "NATO leaders will take into account the extent to which aspiring nations have demonstrated...their willingness to be contributing positive members [of NATO] when a challenge such as terrorism comes along." He added that "the Membership Action Plan remains the bedrock document and the road map that all aspiring nations should stick to and follow as they prepare themselves for possible [NATO] membership." Geoana also said the U.S. is "very pleased" with support received from Romania, and that President George W. Bush has asked him to "express my appreciation directly to the [Romanian] president and premier." Powell met later with both President Ion Iliescu and Premier Adrian Nastase. MS

ROMANIAN LEADERS DISCUSS MIDDLE EAST SITUATION WITH SHIMON PERES
President Iliescu and Prime Minister Nastase met on 4 December with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who participated in the Bucharest OSCE gathering although Israel is not an OSCE member. Peres said that Iliescu is "a great friend of the Jewish state," and that Romania has long played an important role in the search for peace in the Middle East. He also said Israel backs Romania's quest for NATO membership. On the same day Peres received a honorary doctorate from Bucharest University. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER MEETS SPANISH COUNTERPART
Spanish Premier Aznar said on 4 December after talks in Bucharest with Premier Nastase that Romania's isolation as a candidate EU country is "out of question," and that Romania must be part of "Europe's reunification," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Aznar said that during the upcoming Spanish presidency of the EU his country will "accelerate" negotiations with candidate countries, and that he hopes that Bucharest will be in the position to open negotiations on all chapters of the acquis communautaire. He also said Spain's position towards Romania's candidacy for NATO membership is "absolutely open." MS

ROMANIA TO RECEIVE RECORD FUNDING FROM EU
Romania will receive in 2002 286.69 million euros ($252.29 million) from the EU in PHARE funding, to be channeled primarily towards meeting conditions for EU membership, European Integration Minister Hildegard Puwak announced at a press conference on 4 December, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. This is the largest amount ever received by Bucharest in PHARE funds. Previous amounts did not exceed 660 million euros. MS

OSCE CALLS FOR RESUMPTION OF NEGOTIATIONS IN MOLDOVA
In its resolution adopted at the end of the organization's Ninth Ministerial Council meeting in Bucharest on 4 December, the OSCE called "upon both sides, but particularly the Transdniester authorities, to resume promptly and in the existing format the negotiations on the status of the Transdniester region," a press release that reached RFE/RL said. The OSCE foreign ministers "noted the efforts undertaken in 2001 by the Republic of Moldova and the mediators from the OSCE, the Russian Federation and Ukraine, towards the negotiation of a comprehensive settlement" of the conflict, and reaffirmed that the conflict's resolution must be based on ensuring "the sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Moldova. The ministers "welcomed the fulfillment by the Russian Federation, ahead of the agreed time, of the commitments undertaken at the OSCE Istanbul Summit in 1999," and said "this should serve as a model for constructive and fruitful cooperation in dealing with other issues" related to the conflict. MS

MOLDOVAN POLL SHOWS RULING PARTY LEADING
A public opinion poll conducted by the CIVIS polling institute shows that if elections were held now, the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists would garner 38.9 percent, considerably more than second-placed popular Party Christian Democratic and the Braghis Alliance, which would each be backed by 4.6 percent of the electorate, Infotag reported. But an overwhelming majority of 88 percent said they are not satisfied with their living standards. Over half of the respondents said Moldova should have only one political party. Political parties are the least trusted institution (15 percent), while the most trusted are the Church and the media (79 and 58 percent, respectively). A majority of 58 percent said the country's official language should be "Moldovan," with a minority of 33 percent saying both " Moldovan" and "Russian" should be official languages. MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT-ELECT, PREMIER, VOW TO COOPERATE
President-elect Georgi Parvanov and Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski met on 4 December to discuss pending appointments in the Foreign Ministry and the replacement of Counterintelligence Service Director Atanas Atanasov, who recently resigned, international agencies reported. After the meeting, Saxecoburggotski said that it is "important to show the world we have common priorities," and Parvanov said he and the prime minister have put past differences behind them and will "both lobby among our European partners for accelerating membership in the EU, as well as work for NATO membership." MS

BULGARIAN JEWISH ORGANIZATION SLAMS SECOND PUBLICATION OF 'MEIN KAMPF' TRANSLATION
The Shalom Jewish organization denounced on 4 December the publication of a second Bulgarian translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf." Shalom Chairman Emil Kalo told dpa "the emergence of these fascistic politics must be condemned." He said the motivation behind the book's publication was not to make money, but to encourage right-wing extremism, and pointed out that the costs of pasting posters announcing the book's publication are higher than the publishers' possible profits. Kalo said the authorities should act as they did last year, when a first Bulgarian translation of "Mein Kampf" was published. At that time, part of the print run was confiscated because the imprint did not identify the publisher. In order to circumvent legislation prohibiting dissemination of fascist propaganda, this second printing includes a foreword to qualify the book as a "history text." The book is selling at a price of 25 leva ($11.40). MS

There is no end note today.


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