Accessibility links

Newsline - January 23, 2002


PUTIN DISCUSSES TV-6 SITUATION WITH PARLIAMENTARIANS
At a meeting with State Duma parliamentary group leaders on 22 January, President Vladimir Putin discussed a draft law presented by Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) head Boris Nemtsov, ntvru.com reported. The parliamentarians offered to draft a new media law that would forbid shareholders, including the Kremlin, to hold more than a 25 percent share in media companies. Nemtsov made several comments in support of TV-6 journalists and criticized the government, saying the decision to close the TV-6 channel "is a stupid thing to do and a major mistake," Interfax reported the same day. "President Putin is fighting Berezovsky and the victims are TV viewers and journalists," he added. Nemtsov said TV-6 could remain a private entity if its team and Russian or foreign investors decide to take part in the upcoming tender for the station's broadcasting rights. However, according to Nemtsov, none of the potential investors should have a controlling stake, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, SPS deputy Vladimir Semenov's proposal to invite Media Minister Mikhail Lesin to explain the TV-6 situation to Duma members has been rejected by the parliamentarians. VC

COMMUNIST PARTY PREPARING FOR POSSIBLE EARLY STATE DUMA ELECTIONS
The Communist Party considers it plausible that elections to the State Duma will be held at the end of 2002 or in early 2003, Interfax reported on 22 January, quoting Duma deputy Valentin Kuptsov. Kuptsov, a former CPSU Central Committee ideology secretary who is currently the deputy leader of the KPRF, said many Communist deputies insisted at that party's extraordinary meeting held in Moscow on 19 January that preparations be made for such a scenario. VC

RUSSIA INSISTS ON JOINT COORDINATION EFFORTS FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE...
In a telephone conversation with President Putin on 21 January, Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat urged Russia to help prevent the ongoing conflict with Israel from becoming more intense, Interfax reported. Putin advocated coordinated international efforts to bring Israel and Palestine back to the negotiating table. The same day, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said in a ministry press release that Palestine should "cut short any action that endangers Israel's security and the lives of its citizens, and arrest and bring to justice all those involved in terrorist activity, provocations, and arms smuggling... Israel, in turn, must give up the policy of destroying Palestine and undermining the positions of its leadership, as well as the exclusive use of forceful methods." On 23 January, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov stressed that Russia, the United States, the EU, and the UN must stand on a common platform based on the Mitchell plan as an initial phase in the political dialogue between the conflicting sides, RIA-Novosti reported. VC

...AND DEFENDS ITS INTERESTS IN IRAN
During talks in Moscow on 21 January with Ambassador John Wolf, the U.S. special adviser on the Caspian, on efforts to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction, Russia defended its exports of technology to Iran, "The Moscow Times" reported on 23 January. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgii Mamedov called on Washington to lift sanctions against Russian companies and research institutes, which were imposed because the United States believed they sent banned technology to Iran, Reuters and "The Moscow Times" added. VC

PUTIN RECEIVES AWARD FROM RUSSIAN PATRIARCH...
On 22 January, Patriarch Aleksii II awarded President Putin with the prize of the International Fund of Unity of Orthodox Peoples, RIA-Novosti reported. The annual prize is generally offered for outstanding activity in strengthening the unity of Orthodox peoples. Patriarch of Serbia Pavle, National Assembly of Armenia Chairman Armen Khachatrian, and Lebanese Deputy Prime Minister Isam Fares, were likewise recipients of the award for 2001. VC

...AS WELL AS HONOR FROM PRO-KREMLIN JOURNALIST GROUP
The Moscow Union of Journalists headed by "Moskovskii komsomolets" Editor in Chief Pavel Gusev announced that it has awarded its annual prize "For Openness in Press" to President Putin, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 January. Gusev added that the prize was awarded to Putin in recognition of "his sincere desire to bring the state reforms to each Russian." Gusev also said similar prizes were awarded to Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Deputy Prime Ministers Ilya Klebanov and Valentina Matvienko. VY

RUSSIAN AIR FORCE GETS NEW COMMANDER
President Vladimir Putin appointed 58-year-old Colonel General Vladimir Mikhailov as the new commander in chief of the Russian air force on 22 January, RIA-Novosti reported. Mikhailov had served as deputy to former Commander in Chief Anatolii Kornukov, who has retired. Mikhailov is considered to be one of Russia's greatest pilots, and has logged more than 6,000 flight hours. "Profil," No. 3 commented that Putin likes Mikhailov because he was directly involved in a special operation conducted by Russia's secret services and air force in which former Chechen President Djhokhar Dudaev was killed in 1996 by a guided missile. Mikhailov was named a Hero of Russia for his role in that operation. VY

GOVERNMENT PROPOSES REGULATIONS ON PRESCRIPTION DRUG MARKET
Deputy Prime Minister Matvienko announced on 22 January that the government has made recommendations for the introduction of measures to control the Russian prescription drug market, RIA-Novosti reported. The government has recommended that the Health Ministry cancel licenses of pharmacies that sell prescriptions at 30 percent markups over wholesale costs. In addition, product labels would be affixed with the maximum allowed sale price along with the wholesale price paid by retailers. According to Matvienko, in Russia there are over 7,000 medical distributors, and markups on some products reach 800 percent. In order to better control the situation, the government would like to see the number of distributors reduced to seven to eight networks, "as it is accepted in civilized countries," she added. VY

RUSSIA PLANS TO WITHDRAW FROM BAIKONUR
President Putin visited the Khrunichev State Research and Production Center on 22 January and told its personnel that Russia cannot met its defense and security needs without first developing its space potential, "Vremya novostei" reported. In this context, he said that Russia plans to gradually phase out its use of the Soviet-built Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan, and use the military launch pad in Plesetsk instead. According to the president, renting Baikonur from Kazakhstan not only costs Russia $115 million per year, but also puts the country's "space sovereignty" in question. To remedy the situation, the government plans to invest some 5 billion rubles ($167 million) to develop the Plesetsk site. VY

RAILWAYS MINISTRY CUTS MORE 'GEOPOLITICAL' PROJECTS
Railways Minister Gennadii Fadeev continues to slash "geopolitical" transport projects initiated by his predecessor, Nikolai Aksenenko, in an effort to cut costs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 18 January 2002), "Vedomosti" reported on 21 January. New victims of the axe include the extension of the Trans-Siberian Railway westward into Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as agency offices in Germany, Finland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and North Korea, which will be closed. VY

PRIME MINISTER MEETS BARONS TO DISCUSS OIL GLUT
Mikhail Kasyanov met with the heads of the largest Russian oil companies on 22 January to discuss the oversupply of oil products in the Russian market that has negatively affected Russia's energy export sector, RBK reported. Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, LUKoil Vice President Leonid Fedun told Kasyanov that the mild winters in the United States and Europe have led to a drop in the demand for oil, and that refineries in Russia are filled to capacity and domestic oil prices have fallen to about $5 per barrel. Fedun asked Kasyanov to order state-run pipeline operator Transneft to cut off export supplies, but the premier said such a move is impossible due to Russia's obligations to OPEC and consumers. However, Kasyanov suggested that the oil companies could cut their own exports. "Without this, the Russian state budget -- 20 percent of which comes from taxes on oil companies' revenues -- will experience serious tension," Kasyanov said. VY

RIA-NOVOSTI SHUNNED FOR USING PORN
The Internet site of state-run RIA-Novosti (http://www.rian.ru) was excluded from the popular "Top 100" web-rating list compiled by the Russian portal Rambler because the news agency used links to pornographic websites to increase its number of hits recorded by the portal, "Izvestiya" reported on 22 January. RIA-Novosti web manager Aleksei Bessudnov admitted to the daily that the agency had indeed made use of inframe coding that led to pop-up windows of pornography sites when readers of the portal hit RIA-Novosti's banner. Bessudnov said rian.ru turned to pornography because of the stiff competition it has encountered on the Internet. VY

ONCE-CELEBRATED CRIMINAL CASE ENDS QUIETLY
The criminal case involving fraud at the St. Petersburg company Russkoe Video and the Channel 11 television station ended quietly on 16 January, "Gazeta" reported the next day. In June 2000, Media-Most head Vladimir Gusinsky was arrested in connection with alleged fraudulent transactions that allowed Media-Most to gain control of Channel 11. That charge was dropped in July 2000 after he signed an infamous secret agreement, certified by Media Minister Lesin, to sell a controlling stake in Media-Most to Gazprom (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 29 September 2000). However, Russkoe Video General Director Dmitrii Rozhdestvenskii remained in pretrial detention for many months on charges that he received $1 million in exchange for allowing Media-Most to take control of Channel 11. Prosecutors eventually reduced the charge to the alleged misuse of $10,000. The judge convicted Rozhdestvenskii and sentenced him to three years imprisonment, but immediately amnestied him. In the same trial, the general director of Channel 11 was acquitted of purchasing an automobile with company funds. LB

ADVERTISING MARKET SURGED IN 2001...
Advertising in Russian media totaled the ruble equivalent of some $1.5 billion in 2001, up approximately 43 percent from the previous year, "Vremya-MN" reported on 17 January, citing data compiled by the research firm Russian Public Relations Group. According to the group's executive director, Andrei Fedotov, the fastest growth (63 percent) was in the television sector, which suffered the largest decline in advertising after the ruble devaluation of 1998. Spending on outdoor advertisements such as billboards rose by some 50 percent in 2001, newspaper advertisements increased by 20 percent, and spending on radio commercials was up by 11 percent. Among domestic firms, prosperous oil-refining companies are among the most active advertisers, along with producers of food and drink, especially beer, juice, ketchup, and sauces, Fedotov said. Vladimir Yevstafev, the president of the Russian Association of Advertising Agencies, refused to comment on the figures released by Fedotov, citing methodological differences, but he agreed that the advertising market expanded in 2001. Foreign companies that curtailed their advertising in Russia after the 1998 ruble devaluation also contributed to last year's growth, Yevstafev noted. LB

...BUT HAS YET TO FULLY RECOVER FROM 1998 CRISIS
Despite the healthy growth in 2001, Fedotov told "Vremya-MN" that annual spending on advertising in Russia is still below the estimated $2.5 billion level attained before the economic crash that began in August 1998. The daily added that the level of advertising in Russia (about $10 per capita annually) is low by international standards. In per capita terms, Romania's advertising market is about the same size as Russia's. However, advertising in some former communist countries totals $30 per capita each year, and in the U.S., the world leader in advertising, the comparable figure is $400 per capita. LB

RUSSIA IS READY TO HELP IN KOZLODUY CLOSURE
Visiting Russian Deputy Premier Nikolai Vasiliev and Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev reached an agreement on 22 January under which Russia will help shut down four out of the six nuclear reactors at the Soviet-built Kozloduy nuclear power plant, ITAR-TASS reported (also see Bulgarian item in "Southeastern Europe"). Vasiliev told a meeting of Russian and Bulgarian businessmen the same day that LUKoil is one of the largest investors in Bulgaria and the country's largest taxpayer. The Russian agency also reported from Sofia that five companies, among them Russia's MiG Corporation, are competing in a tender launched by the Bulgarian Defense Ministry on 22 January for the modernization of Bulgaria's fleet of MiG-29 fighter jets. MS

CHECHEN LEADERS, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSS RECONSTRUCTION
Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov and Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov met on 22 January in Moscow with Russian President Putin and federal Minister for Chechen Affairs Vladimir Yelagin to discuss economic reconstruction in Chechnya, including providing permanent housing for displaced persons now living in camps in neighboring Ingushetia whose homes were destroyed in the fighting, Russian agencies reported. Kadyrov said he wanted to prove to Putin that Chechnya is not "a black hole" into which funds for reconstruction disappear without trace. Ilyasov said over 200,000 displaced persons returned to Chechnya in 2001. He also predicted that the "antiterrorism" operation currently underway will be ended within six months. LF

PRESIDENTIAL AIDE REJECTS MASKHADOV'S DENIAL OF TIES TO AL-QAEDA
Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii rejected as untrue denials by Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and his envoy Akhmed Zakaev of any links with members of Al-Qaeda, Russian agencies reported. Yastrzhembskii said that the U.S. magazine "Newsday" has acquired in Kabul a videotape that reportedly features both field commander Khattab and Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden. But "Moscow News" reported on 23 January that the tape does not show the two men together. LF

MOSCOW PROTESTS ZAKAEV'S MEETINGS IN LONDON
The Russian Foreign Ministry has formally protested to British Ambassador Sir Roderick Lyne the meeting in London on 18 January between Chechen President Maskhadov's envoy Zakaev and British Foreign Office officials, Interfax and AP reported. The protest said that meeting, which reportedly took place at Zakaev's request, runs counter to the spirit of cooperation and partnership and reflects double standards by categorizing some "terrorists" as "good" and others as "bad." LF

CHECHEN ENVOY OUTLINES PROPOSALS FOR PEACE TALKS
At a press conference in London on 22 January, Zakaev outlined President Maskhadov's proposals for peace talks, Chechenpress reported the following day. They are that Moscow recognize Maskhadov as Chechnya's legitimate president; that Maskhadov and Putin decree the creation of working groups to promote a cessation of hostilities; an immediate halt to "mopping up" operations by Russian troops; and the beginning of talks on a cessation of hostilities and the repatriation of displaced persons. LF

DEPUTY MAYOR SHOT DEAD IN DAGHESTAN
The deputy mayor of Makhachkala, Akhmad Aliev, and his wife were shot dead outside their home on 22 January, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported the following day. Aliev was a close associate of Mayor Said Amirov, who has survived several assassination attempts in recent years. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS FOR FREEZING CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
National Democratic Union (AZhM) Chairman Vazgen Manukian proposed on 22 January that plans for a referendum on constitutional reform should be suspended, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Manukian argued that neither of the two packets of draft amendments currently under consideration is likely to muster the support of the minimum one-third of registered voters and over half of those who participate in the referendum. He suggested that the vote would have to be manipulated for the amendments favored by President Robert Kocharian to be approved. The AZhM is one of six opposition parties that have drafted alternative amendments under which Armenia would become a parliamentary republic (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 42, 20 December 2001). They argue that Kocharian's proposed changes do not curtail the sweeping powers invested in the president. Kocharian has rejected the idea of putting both alternative drafts to a referendum. LF

ARMENIAN NATIONAL AIRLINE SUSPENDS FLIGHTS TO EUROPE
Armenia's national airline has cancelled flights to Europe for an indefinite period after its sole Airbus that meets the noise restrictions in force at European airports was grounded on 21 January with engine problems, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. The plane reportedly needs repairs that may cost up to $2 million. LF

NEW PROTEST IN AZERBAIJAN
Some 1,000 residents of the village of Nardaran, 30 kilometers from Baku, staged a protest on 22 January against chronic cuts in gas and energy supplies and the lack of employment opportunities, Turan reported. They also demanded the release of Islamic Party of Azerbaijan Deputy Chairman Hajiaga Nuriev, whom National Security Ministry officials detained last November on the border with Iran on suspicion of attempting to take "suspicious documents" into that country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November 2001). The villagers threatened to stage nationwide protests if their demands are not met by 1 February. Additional police have been sent to the village. LF

COUNCIL OF EUROPE INSISTS AZERBAIJAN MEET ITS COMMITMENTS
Turan on 22 January quoted Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Secretary-General Walther Schwimmer as saying that Azerbaijan is obliged to fulfill the commitments it made on being accepted into membership of the council one year ago. Schwimmer acknowledged that the Azerbaijani authorities have released some political prisoners, but added that other cases remain unresolved and should be addressed quickly. He rejected the assertion that the Parliamentary Assembly is biased against Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2002). On 23 January, lawyers said the case of Alikram Gumbatov will be reviewed by the Appeals Court on 24 January and that of Rahim Gaziev on 30 January, Turan reported. The Council of Europe considers both men -- together with former Interior Minister and Iskander Hamidov -- political prisoners, and is insisting that either they be released or their cases reviewed. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSSES PEACEKEEPING FORCE WITH UN ENVOY...
Eduard Shevardnadze met late on 21 January with Dieter Boden, the UN secretary-general's special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, to discuss the future of the Russian peacekeeping force currently deployed in the Abkhaz conflict zone under the CIS aegis, Caucasus Press reported. Boden told journalists after those talks that he considers it possible to amend the peacekeepers' mandate in accordance with Georgian demands that they be moved northward from the internal boundary between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia to the Galidzga River, which marks the northern boundary of Gali Raion. Boden again said that at the present stage the Russian peacekeepers should not be withdrawn from Georgia, as the UN is not in a position to send a force to replace them. LF

...AS RUSSIA WARNS GEORGIA MUST NOT RENEGE ON ABKHAZ AGREEMENTS...
Speaking in Sukhum on 22 January, Russian Foreign Ministry envoy Vasilii Kolotusha said that "all the agreements signed at Georgian-Abkhazian negotiations, first and foremost the fundamental agreement on a cease-fire and separation of forces of May 14, 1994, must be implemented," ITAR-TASS reported. "That is the stand of the Russian Federation and all members of the UN Security Council, whose resolutions on the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict reaffirm the need for meticulous fulfillment of the agreement," Kolotusha added. Georgian Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze said on 21 January that the Georgian leadership may comply with a demand by the Georgian parliament to abjure all agreements signed with Abkhazia since 1992, according to Caucasus Press. LF

...AND GEORGIAN GUERRILLAS MINE INTERNAL BORDER
Meanwhile, Dato Shengelia, the leader of the "Forest Brothers" Georgian guerrilla unit, announced on 22 January that his men are mining all roads leading from the border bridge over the Inguri River north into Abkhazia's Gali Raion, thereby preventing the passage of UN officials, Caucasus Press reported. Also on 22 January, an unspecified number of the estimated 80,000 Georgian displaced persons resident in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi began marching to the bridge to join their fellows who began a picket of the bridge on 19 January to demand the withdrawal of the CIS peacekeeping force. In Tbilisi, Valeri Gelbakhiani, one of the leaders of the Aghordzineba parliament faction, told journalists that he believes the Georgian leadership encouraged the displaced persons' protest at the Inguri bridge for "political aims." Presidential press secretary Kakha Imnadze dismissed that suggestion the same day as "absurd," Interfax reported. LF

KYRGYZSTAN PAYS OFF GAS DEBTS TO UZBEKISTAN
Bishkek has repaid its debts to Uzbekistan for natural gas, Kyrgyzgas General Director Avtandil Sydykov told journalists on 22 January. Tashkent repeatedly cut gas supplies to Kyrgyzstan last year due to nonpayment of debts for earlier deliveries, which in October 2001 were estimated at $500,000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2001). It is not clear, however, whether agreement has been reached on gas prices for 2002; Kyrgyzstan has offered to pay $42 per thousand cubic meters, half in cash and half in commodities, but Tashkent is reportedly demanding $45. LF

TAJIK, FRENCH PRESIDENTS DISCUSS AFGHANISTAN
During a telephone conversation on 22 January, Imomali Rakhmonov and Jacques Chirac discussed expanding bilateral cooperation and postconflict settlement in Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Rakhmonov stressed the importance of sustained economic assistance to Afghanistan, in addition to humanitarian aid. Chirac again expressed his thanks to the Tajik government for allowing a French peacekeeping force en route for Afghanistan to use its facilities. LF

TAJIKISTAN, CHINA HAIL BORDER AGREEMENT
During talks in Dushanbe on 22 January, Rakhmonov and Chinese State Council delegation head Ismail Amat expressed satisfaction at the agreement reached earlier this month on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement summit in Beijing on the demarcation of their shared border, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. That agreement will be legalized "soon," according to a Tajik presidential spokesman quoted by ITAR-TASS. Amat also met with Tajik Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov to discuss the prospects for expanding bilateral trade and economic relations. LF

U.S., UZBEKISTAN SIGN MILITARY COOPERATION AGREEMENT
Visiting Tashkent on 22 January, General Tommy Franks, who is in command of the U.S. antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan, discussed that operation with President Islam Karimov, Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov, National Security chief Mirakbar Rakhmankulov, and Defense Minister Kadyr Gulyamov, AP and Interfax reported. Franks and Gulyamov signed an agreement outlining future cooperation, which provides for more frequent contacts between the two sides. But they did not discuss the long-term presence of a U.S. force at the Khanabad air base. Karimov said late last month the U.S. presence in Uzbekistan is open-ended, and no talks had taken place on how many years U.S. troops might remain in the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2002). LF

NEW PACE HEAD SEES BELARUS AS 'PROBLEM'...
In his inaugural speech in Strasbourg on 22 January, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) President Peter Schieder said that "Belarus remains a problem," the council's website quoted him as saying. And he added: "On the one hand, the attitude of the presidential regime has not changed and remains totally unacceptable in terms of democratic and human rights standards. On the other hand, isolation does little to change the status quo. The assembly will have to pursue its delicate diplomatic balancing act, between support for progressive forces in Belarus and the need to avoid condoning the dictatorial attitude of the present regime." PACE Political Affairs Committee head Roman Jakic said the same day that the question of whether Belarus will regain its special guest status in PACE will depend on the findings of a special commission that is to be set up shortly within his committee, Belapan reported. JM

...WHILE WIVES OF MISSING FIGURES APPEAL FOR INDEPENDENT PROBE
The wives of prominent figures who have been jailed, died, or disappeared in Belarus have appealed to PACE to urge the Belarusian authorities into allowing an independent investigation with the participation of international experts into the death of politician Henadz Karpenka and the disappearances of opposition politicians Yury Zakharanka and Viktar Hanchar, as well as those of businessman Anatol Krasouski and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski. The Charter-97 website reported on 22 January that the appeal was publicized by Belarusian United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka at a recent meeting of the PACE Liberal, Democratic, and Reformers' Group in Strasbourg. The appeal suggests that the PACE Sub-Committee on Human Rights hold a hearing on the deaths, disappearances, and incarceration of opposition figures in Belarus. JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT PLEDGES TO HEED SCIENTISTS WHILE REFORMING ACADEMY
Alyaksandr Lukashenka met with members of the National Academy of Sciences on 22 January to discuss ways of reforming Belarus's science sphere, Belarusian media reported. The president is currently preparing a decree intended to transform the National Academy of Sciences into "a state management body," Belapan reported. "Decisions have not been made yet, and your opinion may have a determining significance," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying at the meeting with academicians. Last October, Lukashenka appointed former presidential administration head Mikhail Myasnikovich as the president of Belarus's Academy of Sciences without seeking advice from scientists. JM

U.S. SANCTIONS AGAINST UKRAINE OVER CD PIRACY TAKE EFFECT...
The previously announced U.S. trade sanctions against Ukraine for its inability to curb compact disc piracy took effect on 23 January. The Ukrainian parliament on 17 January hastily passed a law regulating the production of CDs. UNIAN quoted Kenneth Fairfax, an official from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, as saying that the U.S. authorities received the text of the law on 21 January and are currently analyzing it. Fairfax said the sanctions may be lifted in time if the law satisfies the United States. Fairfax said, however, that the adopted law provides for "insignificant penalties," adding that "they will come as no more than an irritation for those who make millions of dollars annually" from CD piracy, STB Television reported. Under the sanctions, the U.S. will apply higher duties on $75 million worth of metals, shoes, and other goods exported from Ukraine. JM

...WHILE KUCHMA DECRIES THEM AS 'PRESSURE'
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told journalists on 22 January that he is inclined to sign the recently passed bill on the production of CDs in Ukraine, Interfax reported. At the same time he said that "no country in the world has the kind of law the U.S. is demanding from us." And he added: "So what is it? Cooperation or simply pressure? I regard this as pressure." JM

BLOC LEADER SAYS UKRAINE TO HAVE NEW POLITICAL 'STRUCTURE' AFTER ELECTION
Presidential administration head Volodymyr Lytvyn, who leads the For a United Ukraine election bloc, said in Lviv on 22 January that the upcoming parliamentary election should give rise to "a new structure of the political system" in the country, Interfax reported. Lytvyn added that Ukraine has not yet developed "a civilized party system." In his opinion, out of the 124 parties registered in Ukraine only 11 may claim to have a countrywide character. JM

UKRAINE'S TYMOSHENKO, MEDVEDCHUK TO SPAR ON RFE/RL
Two fierce political opponents, Fatherland Party leader Yuliya Tymoshenko and Social Democratic Party (United) leader Viktor Medvedchuk, will hold a live debate in an evening program of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on 23 January. JM

SIIM KALLAS APPROVED AS NEW ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER
By an unexpectedly large margin of 62 to 31, the parliament approved the candidacy of Reform Party Chairman Siim Kallas as prime minister on 22 January, ETA reported. He received support from all the deputies of the Reform, Center, and Estonian United People's parties as well as from most members of the People's Union. Deputies from his former coalition partners, the Pro Patria Union and the Moderates, voted against him. Kallas has seven days to present his cabinet to President Arnold Ruutel who in turn has to officially approve it within three days. Kallas said that he expects the new cabinet to hold its first meeting on 29 January. He told the parliament that the main objectives of the new government will be to reduce domestic political tensions, pursue a growth-oriented economic policy, and maintain continuity in foreign policy. SG

LATVIA INVITED TO TAKE PART IN ANTITERRORISM OPERATION IN KYRGYZSTAN
The Defense Ministry received an invitation from its Danish counterpart to take part in the U.S.-led antiterrorism operation "Enduring Freedom" with a mission of 10-12 soldiers, LETA reported on 22 January. The soldiers would likely be based at the Manas international airport in Kyrgyzstan from February until the end of June. Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis and National armed forces Commander Raimonds Graube told reporters that the invitation indicates that Denmark has been satisfied with the performance of Latvian soldiers in joint peacekeeping missions in the former Yugoslavia. Denmark sent similar invitations to Estonia and Lithuania, and the matter was to have been discussed at a scheduled meeting of the three Baltic defense ministers in Vilnius on 23 January, which was postponed due to the formation of the new Estonian government. SG

LITHUANIA AND SLOVAKIA SIGN DEFENSE COOPERATION AGREEMENT
Defense Ministers Linas Linkevicius and Josef Stank signed a military cooperation agreement in Vilnius on 22 January, ELTA reported. In talks the previous day, the ministers noted the many similarities between the defense policies of their countries, the most important of which is the desire to receive an invitation to join NATO at the fall summit meeting in Prague. Both countries have been reforming their military structures to create comparatively small but well-trained armed forces capable of serving in international units. Stank noted that Slovakia plans to reduce its armed forces from 42,000 to 23,000 troops. One of the results of the agreement will be the training of two Slovak officers at Lithuania's Karmelava air control center, which meets NATO standards. Stank also met with Deputy Defense Minister Giedrius Cekuolis, as well as with parliament Deputy Chairman Arturas Skardzius and National Security and Defense Committee Chairman Alvydas Sadeckas. SG

LITHUANIAN LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY TO BE FOUNDED
Former Prime Minister and Liberal Union Chairman Rolandas Paksas told a news conference on 22 January that he and the other parliament deputies who were expelled from the Liberal Union after they withdrew from its faction plan to form a new political party to be called the Liberal Democratic Party, ELTA reported. This was decided at a meeting the previous evening in Raseiniai. The founding congress of the new party will be held in May and working groups are already drafting its program and statutes. Paksas said that the party program will be similar to that of the Liberal Union, but will devote more attention to government problems, social policy, and rural issues. SG

POLISH POLICE INVESTIGATES SUSPECTED TRADING IN CORPSES
The "Gazeta Wyborcza" and Radio Lodz on 23 January revealed that prosecutors are investigating links between doctors in emergency wards of numerous hospitals in Lodz (a city in central Poland) and funeral firms in the city. According to "Gazeta Wyborcza" on 23 January, doctors from Lodz's ambulance teams occasionally kill patients in order to sell their bodies to local funeral homes. Doctors reportedly use drugs to "gain" bodies for sale. The newspaper said the dead bodies are known as "skins" in the slang used by both doctors and funeral homes staff. The newspaper also said funeral homes pay kickbacks to doctors ranging between $300-$430 per "skin." JM

POLAND'S UNEMPLOYMENT HITS RECORD HIGH
The Main Statistics Office (GUS) reported on 22 January that the unemployment rate in December was 17.4 percent, an increase of 0.6 percent or 94,000 jobless from the record high in November. The new figure translates into 3.1 million unemployed people in the country of 39 million. The rate is roughly twice the EU average. According to GUS, first-time job seekers under the age of 24 account for nearly 30 percent of all the unemployed. The TNS OBOP polling agency found in a poll conducted on 12-14 January that 65 percent of Poles believe that developments in Poland have taken a wrong turn. JM

AUSTRIAN COALITION BREAKING UP OVER STANCE ON CZECH EU ACCESSION?
Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPO) said on 22 January that it is ready to end its coalition with Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel's conservative People's Party after the chancellor ruled out vetoing Czech entry into the EU, international news agencies reported. Schuessel earlier told journalists that the results of the petition drive initiated by the FPO (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2002) showed that most Austrians favor EU enlargement, which he described as "the core of the government's policy." Schuessel added that "if this core is missing...then [the coalition] will not work any more." In a statement whose signatories included Carinthia Premier Joerg Haider and Vice Chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer, the FPO called on Schuessel to clarify what he meant. It also said that if Schuessel "wants to end the coalition and start an election campaign over the EU and Temelin, then the FPO is certainly ready." MS

CZECH PRESIDENT SAYS ELECTIONS SHOULD BE HELD IN MAY
Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek told CTK on 22 January that President Vaclav Havel will soon meet with Premier Milos Zeman to discuss holding the elections for the Chamber of Deputies in May. The president will meet the premier after his return from his convalescence in the Canary Islands, Spacek said, adding that Havel would "be glad if the elections would take place as soon as possible." In line with the constitution, the ballot should be held between 25 May and 15 June, and under a recently passed amendment it must take place on a Friday and a Saturday, with the most likely dates being 31 May and 1 June. Havel has yet to sign that amendment into law. MS

CZECH ODA READY TO MEET FREEDOM UNION-DEMOCRATIC UNION PROPOSAL
Civic Democratic Party (ODA) Deputy Chairman Oldrich Kuzilek told journalists on 22 January that the ODA is ready to meet the proposal made by the Freedom Union-Democratic Union on how the ODA should settle its debt to insurer Ceska Pojistovna, CTK reported. The ODA is ready to meet the demand of the Freedom Union-Democratic Union to disclose the names of the persons who lent it 12 million crowns ($333,333) to help the party cover its debt, and to submit a timetable for repaying the debt in annual installments of 5 million crowns. MS

CZECH TEENAGERS RECORDED DESECRATION OF JEWISH CEMETERY
Police spokesman Radek Galas said on 22 January that police have discovered a group of teenagers who vandalized the old Jewish cemetery in Uhrineves, some 15 kilometers southeast of Prague. The group videotaped the act of destroying some 50 tombstones, AP reported. The boys, aged 14 to 16, later showed the videotape to friends. Galas said the action was "planned in advance" and the perpetrators "knew well what they were doing." The videotapes show them jumping on the tombstones and shouting "Judenmord" (Murder of Jews) and "Sieg Heil," the Nazi victory cry. Galas said only two of the group will be prosecuted on grounds of "defamation of a race" and "incitement to hatred" because the others are underage. The charges can result in a sentence of up to three years imprisonment, but due to their young age the two face a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison, if convicted. MS

SDL THREATENS TO LEAVE SLOVAK COALITION
The Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) threatened on 22 January to leave the ruling coalition after Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda refused to dismiss Finance Minister Brigita Schmognerova, international agencies reported. Dzurinda said he "sees no grounds" to replace Schmognerova, an SDL member, with Frantisek Hajnovic, as the SDL leadership decided on 21 January. SDL Chairman Pavel Konkos said his party will "not participate in coalition activities" until Dzurinda forces Schmognerova to resign or she volunteers to do so. This means that the SDL will not support the coalition in the parliament, where it would lose its majority. Konkos also said the party might leave the government if the problem is not solved to its satisfaction. Schmognerova said in response that she was surprised and thankful for Dzurinda's defense of her performance. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT BACKS MECIAR ON NEED FOR WALL-TO-WALL PARTY UNITY ON NATO MEMBERSHIP
Rudolf Schuster and opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) Chairman Vladimir Meciar called on all political parties on 22 January to pledge their support of NATO accession after the parliamentary elections scheduled for the autumn of 2002, CTK reported. Meciar criticized the members of the current coalition for having rejected an earlier HZDS initiative to pledge joint support, and said that Dzurinda "lacks the tolerance to sit at the same table with people of different opinions." Schuster said he "welcomes the initiative aimed at guaranteeing that after the elections our strategic orientation will not change." MS

FORMER HUNGARIAN PREMIER ASKS ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH TO KEEP OUT OF HUNGARIAN POLITICS
Former Socialist Prime Minister Gyula Horn sent an open letter to Archbishop Istvan Seregely, the chairman of the Conference of Hungarian Catholic Bishops, asking him to keep his church and priests out of the election campaign, Hungarian media reported on 23 January. Horn claims that some Catholic leaders and priests argue against the Socialist Party and in favor of FIDESZ even in the confessional. "It is possible for citizens to be both religious and left-wing in thinking," he wrote. Horn's letter comes one week after Hungary's Catholic, Calvinist, and Lutheran churches issued statements in support of the Status Law. The Socialist candidate for prime minister, Peter Medgyessy, said Horn's opinion is not that of the party, and therefore the Socialists will not comment on his letter. Several provincial priests called Horn's remarks "incredible and unfounded." MSZ

HUNGARIAN KONTROLL GROUP DENIES POLITICAL BIAS
The research organization Kontroll Group, made up of university students, denied on 22 January that the right wing influenced its study published in the 9 January issue of "Magyar Nemzet" regarding foreign correspondents working in Budapest. In the study the group argued that Budapest-based foreign correspondents are biased against the government and Prime Minister Viktor Orban and have left-wing or liberal party preferences. The group's spokeswoman, Reka Horvath, denied in "Nepszabadsag" that the group has any connection with right-wing radical journalist Istvan Lovas, who has recently defended the group and its study. Foreign correspondents have already written to Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi objecting to comments about them, saying that the analysis is not based on facts. MSZ

MIEP CANDIDATE SUSPENDED FROM HUNGARIAN CIVIL SERVICE
Interior Minister Sandor Pinter suspended Laszlo Grespik as head of the Budapest Administrative Office on 22 January and initiated disciplinary proceedings against him for making political statements (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2002). The action came after Grespik, speaking on Hungarian television, called on undecided voters to vote for the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP). "As the person who appoints me is Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and I am on the MIEP national list, a kind of FIDESZ-MIEP cooperation is being implemented through me," he remarked. Grespik, who will be running for parliament as an MIEP candidate, refused to accept his suspension document, saying the decision is unjustified. MIEP Chairman Istvan Csurka said the "series of attacks" against his party and Grespik's suspension "assume political significance." MSZ

ALBANIA CLAMPS DOWN ON ALLEGED AL-QAEDA NETWORK...
Prime Minister Ilir Meta told the parliament on 22 January that "we have identified the financial entities active in our country that are financially linked to the Al-Qaeda network. Our prosecutors are at work," Reuters reported. He added that the government has frozen several accounts belonging to unnamed Arab companies and one individual in the Arab-Albanian Islamic Bank and the International Commercial Bank. A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office told the news agency that the individual is Saudi construction kingpin Yassin Kadi. He is co-owner of the 15-story "twin towers" project in central Tirana. PM

...IN THE FIRST INDICATION OF A LINK
The prosecutor-general's spokesman also said in Tirana on 22 January that it appears that Kadi laundered at least $10 million in Albania in conjunction with Al-Qaeda activities, Reuters reported. Kadi's whereabouts are unknown, however, and he may have left Albania. Following the fall of communism a decade ago, numerous business, charitable, and religious groups from the Muslim world set up operations in Albania, where perhaps 70 to 80 percent of the population is of Islamic heritage. Meta's government has pledged to clamp down on undesirable foreigners and their financial dealings. This is his first statement confirming an Al-Qaeda presence in Albania, Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service reported. PM

U.S. PRISONER FROM BOSNIA IS TOP AL-QAEDA MAN
"The New York Times" reported on 23 January that one of the six Algerians recently extradited from Bosnia to the U.S. "has been identified as a European lieutenant in Al-Qaeda, who was ordered to carry out attacks on American targets in the Balkans after 11 September, [unnamed] law enforcement and military officials" said in Washington (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2002). Bensayah Belkacem "had numerous conversations on cellular telephones last fall with leaders of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan," the report added. The prisoners, who are now in Guantanamo, have been the subject of much comment in Sarajevo since their extradition. The New York daily noted that "the handover has been denounced as illegal by human rights groups and by United Nations officials. Bosnian officials have defended their decision, noting that the five suspects with Bosnian passports were stripped of their citizenship before they were turned over to the United States and were not entitled to the due-process rights of citizens." In related news, the Bosnian authorities have revoked the citizenship of a further 41 foreigners, dpa reported from Sarajevo. Most are Egyptians or Algerians. PM

...PITS KOSTUNICA AGAINST DJINDJIC
In the debate on autonomy in the Serbian parliament on 22 January, Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said that the package of legislation he has introduced is aimed at meeting DOS's previous promises to the voters, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added that the legislation is a first step toward establishing autonomy for Serbia's regions. He chided unnamed legislators for paying lip service to autonomy but opposing it in practice. Nenad Canak, the speaker of the Vojvodina parliament, said Djindjic's package is an absolute bare minimum of what is acceptable. He called on the lawmakers to pass it as a "gesture of goodwill." Canak warned that postponing a decision on autonomy will only make matters worse. PM

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT WANTS SPRING REFERENDUM
Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 22 January that a referendum on independence will likely take place in April or May, AP reported. He added that he is convinced that young voters will opt for independence because "they feel that they belong to Europe" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 14 December 2001). PM

BOSNIAN SERBS' GENOCIDE TRIAL STARTS IN THE HAGUE
General Momir Talic and his political ally Radoslav Brdjanin went on trial in The Hague on 23 January, AP reported. They are charged with being part of a "joint criminal enterprise" that engaged in war crimes, including genocide against Muslims and Croats in the Krajina area during the 1992-1995 war. The two played a role in setting up the Republika Srpska in 1992. The indictment says: "The creation of the Serbian state entailed a campaign designed to permanently remove by force, or fear, the non-Serb population from areas designated as part of the state." Brdjanin became deputy prime minister of the Republika Srpska under its founder, Radovan Karadzic (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 January 2002, and "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 10 and 17 January 2002). PM

HAGUE INVESTIGATORS QUESTION FORMER TOP SERBIAN OFFICIAL
UN investigators on 22 January began a four-day questioning of Mihalj Kertes in Belgrade, AP reported. He is a former top aide to Slobodan Milosevic and is widely regarded as a key figure in the corruption and smuggling rackets associated with that regime. Much of the money allegedly went to finance paramilitary groups in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova, which were central elements of the ethnic cleansing campaigns. Kertes' lawyer said that his client is being questioned as the possible subject of an indictment and not as a witness. The lawyer did not elaborate. PM

SERBIAN GOVERNMENT FILES CHARGES AGAINST 47 OLD REGIME OFFICIALS
The Serbian Finance Ministry has filed criminal charges against 47 top officials of Milosevic-era governments, including 11 cabinet ministers, AP reported from Belgrade on 23 January, citing the daily "Blic." Those charged include former Interior Minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic, former Justice Minister Arandjel Markicevic, and former Minister for Science and Technology Branislav Ivkovic. If found guilty, those charged could face prison sentences of up to 15 years. The Milosevic regime rested heavily on networks of crime and corruption. PM

SERBIA SEEKING ARMS COOPERATION WITH -- URDMURTIA
Despite periodic upbeat statements from Kostunica and his aides that Belgrade is succeeding in talking its way back to international prominence and respectability, the hard truth remains that Serbia is an economic basket case with few customers for its rust-bucket industries. But one partner has been found, according to an ITAR-TASS report from Izhevsk on 23 January: "Authorities of Russia's constituent Republic of Udmurtia and the Yugoslav state enterprise Yugoimport-SDPR have signed an agreement on cooperation in the field of weaponry and military technologies. A delegation of Yugoimport-SDPR's top managers made a three-day visit to Udmurtia at the invitation of its president, Aleksandr Volkov. The guests have been taken to all the major industrial facilities in the republic, many of which export their produce via the Russian state foreign trade company Rosoboroneksport, the country's largest exporter of weaponry." The two sides signed a 12-month cooperation agreement. No details are available. Udmurtia has long been a center of weapons production. In Soviet times it was noted for missiles. PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER FOR 'PARALLEL STRUCTURES' IN KOSOVA
Djindjic said in Belgrade that his government wants to become a formal candidate for EU membership in 2004, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 21 January. He added that two unresolved questions that must be dealt with by then are relations with Montenegro and the status of Kosova. Djindjic suggested that the only "realistic concept" for Kosova is to establish "parallel institutions on an ethnic basis." PM

EU EYING BIGGER ROLE IN THE BALKANS?
Reuters reported from Brussels on 22 January that the EU is considering taking over the international police functions in Bosnia from the UN later in 2002 in an effort to demonstrate that it can effectively manage such an operation. Brussels is similarly considering offering to take over peacekeeping in Macedonia from NATO at an unspecified future date. It is not clear how the EU intends to deal with the fact that Albanians anywhere in the Balkans are likely not to fully trust any major Western operation that does not include the United States. PM

SPLIT IN SERBIAN COALITION OVER AUTONOMY...
The Serbian parliament began a debate on 22 January on a demand by the Vojvodina legislature for the return of many of its powers that were scrapped by Milosevic in 1990, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 2001). Officials of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) said that the DSS is opposed to autonomy for only one region and wants instead a "Spanish solution" for regional autonomy in general. Deputies from the New Serbia movement (NS) argued that autonomy can be considered only after a new constitution is adopted. Both the DSS and NS belong to the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition. DOS is also in power in the Vojvodina government. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER ANNOUNCES GOVERNMENT DECISIONS
Adrian Nastase said on 22 January that the cabinet has decided to take "social protection measures" aimed at helping the weakest strata in the population, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Aid is to be extended to low-income families for meeting heating costs during the winter, and the government will discuss with the International Monetary Fund the possibility of expanding the category of those exempt from paying taxes and instead increase taxes on those with the highest incomes. The cabinet also decided that the interdiction of membership on companies' executive boards, which hitherto applied only to ministers, will be extended to deputy ministers, ministry directors, prefects, and deputy prefects. Nastase also pledged that the cabinet will abide by a "code of conduct" and avoid future political polemics. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT TO MEDIATE IN ARMAGEDDON II CONFLICT?
Ion Iliescu said on 22 January that it may be "useful" if he mediates the political dispute provoked by the "Armageddon II" documents and the cabinet's reaction to those documents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2002). Premier Nastase welcomed the proposal, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. On 21 January, in an interview with a private television channel, Nastase admitted he may have "overreacted" to the allegations included in the document that he is corrupt. In response to former President Emil Constantinescu's appeal to him, Iliescu said it is not within the presidential prerogatives to dismiss the interior minister and the prosecutor-general, and added that he will "respond" to Constantinescu's letter. The same day, Nastase submitted to the Prosecutor-General's Office a declaration of his income and assets, and the office is to check the statement. MS

NATO COMMANDER ENDS ROMANIAN VISIT
On 22 January, Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Joseph Ralston praised the military reforms in the Romanian army, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. General Ralston told Romanian Chief of Staff General Mihail Popescu that Romania has proved its capability of contributing to peace and security in the region during the crisis in Macedonia, and demonstrated its political ability when Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana was chairman of the OSCE last year. Ralston said the decision of the 2002 Prague summit on NATO expansion will be "mainly a political decision," but that "as a military expert" he would back Romania's membership bid. MS

ROMANIA PROTESTS 'SUSPENSION' OF MOLDOVAN PARTY
President Iliescu said on 22 January that the decision of the Moldovan government to suspend for one month the activity of the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) is an indication that the Moldovan authorities are "regrettably leaving the course of democracy and engaging in anti-European measures," Mediafax reported. Premier Nastase said that the suspension of the PPCD has been "a strategic objective" of the Chisinau authorities, who are engaging in "totalitarian behavior." The Romanian delegation at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe submitted a draft resolution criticizing both the decision of the authorities in Chisinau to introduce compulsory Russian-language classes and the decision to suspend the PPCD. MS

...AS MOLDOVA CLARIFIES EXTENT OF SUSPENSION
Also on 22 January, Justice Minister Ioan Morei said that in line with the law, the suspension means not only that the PPCD is prohibited from participating in elections or organizing demonstrations, but also to use the media for disseminating information and to conduct financial transactions at banks. Morei said that if the PPCD ignores the restrictions, it can be suspended for up to one year. PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca said the suspension of his party was an attempt to "intimidate" it, and vowed to continue the protests. MS

FORMER MOLDOVAN PREMIER CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT
Former Premier Dumitru Braghis said on 22 January that the decision by the authorities to introduce compulsory Russian-language classes has "undermined the political and the moral equilibrium in society." The Braghis Alliance, which is the second opposition party in the parliament, the same day called on the government to revoke the decision as well as its intention to make Russian the country's second official language, Infotag reported. Braghis said that the "populist and irresponsible policy" pursued by the Party of Moldovan Communists has "again pushed Moldova into endless and pointless debates." He said the "language war" is creating favorable conditions for the rise of extremism. The country's leadership, Braghis said, "should not forget that Moldova is no longer a Soviet republic, but a sovereign and independent state that has its own language." MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT TAKES OFFICE IN PRESENCE OF FOREIGN GUESTS...
President Georgi Parvanov took office on 22 January in a ceremony attended by Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Turkish Deputy Premier Mesut Yilmaz, AFP reported. Parvanov reiterated that his "strategic objective" is to accelerate his country's entry into NATO and the EU, and said he will be a head of state "committed to a policy based on the national interest and the defense of national dignity." MS

...AS HE DISAGREES WITH PREMIER ON KOZLODUY
Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski told Simitis on 22 January that Bulgaria will honor its commitment to the EU to close down by 2004 four of the six nuclear reactors at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, in line with the agreement reached with the EU, AP and AFP reported. But Parvanov, in an interview with the daily "Trud" the same day, vowed to stand firm against EU pressure to close down all the reactors by 2006. "There are moments when we are obliged to prove our firmness, but not stubbornness, in order to resolve problems by looking for a compromise." He said that he "would like to hear the opinion of Bulgarian and European experts" before the plant is shut down. The European Commission has proposed that Bulgaria receive 100 million euros ($88.4 million) in aid if it agrees to the total closure by 2006 (also see related item in "Russia"). MS

There is no End Note today.


XS
SM
MD
LG