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Newsline - February 6, 2002


IN RARE SHOW OF UNITY, LEADERS OF LEFT, RIGHT PARTIES COME OUT IN DEFENSE OF TV-6...
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky, and Union of Rightist Forces head Boris Nemtsov have signed a joint declaration in defense of TV-6, Ekho Moskvy radio reported on 5 February. The leaders declared that with the disappearance of TV-6 from the airwaves the government has an effective monopoly over television programming, adding that in such a situation it is impossible to provide a well-rounded public discussion of the authorities' actions or of the struggle against corruption. JAC

...AS FEDERATION COUNCIL HEAD SPEAKS OUT AGAINST SPORTS PROGRAMMING ON TV
Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov said on 5 February that he opposes the creation of either a sports or a religious channel in place of TV-6, polit.ru reported. Mironov said that while he has much respect for the Russian Orthodox Church, and the patriarch in particular, he thinks that while there should be an audience for Orthodox programs on various channels, the creation of an entire channel devoted to the theme is "inexpedient." He also said there are already plenty of opportunities to watch sports on television. He added that he thinks there is a chance the "fine professionals" at TV-6 will return to their work. JAC

UPPER CHAMBER TRIES TO TINKER WITH BUDGET POLICY...
The Federation Council in its new form has launched its first serious legislative initiative, RIA-Novosti reported on 5 February, citing Federation Council First Deputy Chairman Valerii Goreglyad. According to the agency, senators intend to introduce amendments to this year's budget that would increase by 3 billion rubles ($97 million) the amount in the reserve for the payment of wages to state sector workers. The reserve currently holds some 13.7 billion rubles. Meanwhile, Vladimir Germanenko and Sergei Openyshev, the two representative from Altai Krai, told journalists in Barnaul the same day that they do not believe the upper chamber is yet able to solve regions' concrete problems, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Germanenko said discussions so far have focused on the chamber's standing rules of order rather than on the regions' problems, while Openyshev said the personal ambitions of certain senators have hindered productive work. JAC

...AS LEADERS CONTINUE TO DIVVY UP TURF
Also on 5 February, the responsibilities of the newly elected deputy chairmen were delineated, according to polit.ru. First Deputy Chairman Goreglyad (Sakhalin Oblast) will coordinate legislative work and oversee economic committees. Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Torshin (Marii El Republic) will oversee legal committees and answer for cooperation with authorities in the Volga, Central, and Southern federal districts. Deputy Chairman Mikhail Nikolaev (Sakha Republic) will oversee questions relating to science, culture, education, and medicine; problems of the North and numerically small ethnic groups; human rights; and cooperation with the Siberian and Far Eastern federal districts. Deputy Chairman Andrei Vyakhirev (Kurgan Oblast) will oversee the social policy committees and be responsible for cooperation with the Urals and Northwest districts. Chairman Mironov will himself oversee the activities of all committees, particularly the committees for defense, international affairs, CIS affairs, and the commissions. JAC

ANALYST SAYS RUSSIA WILL SELL AS MUCH WEAPONRY AS IT CAN TO INDIA
Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov arrived in New Delhi on 5 February to discuss with his counterpart George Fernandes a joint aircraft-production project and the expansion of Russian arms exports to India, Russian news agencies reported. The weapons package Klebanov will offer India includes Tu-22 bombers, the "Admiral Groshkov" aircraft carrier, and two Bars-class nuclear submarines. India is second largest importer of Russian weaponry after China, BBC quoted Tatyana Shaumyan, the director of the Center of Indian research at the Institute of Oriental Studies, as saying on 5 February. She added that Russia receives some $4 billion a year from its arms exports to India, and that it seeks to expand that figure by selling India as much weaponry as it can. VY

PARLIAMENTARIAN NAMES CHINA AS RUSSIA'S MAIN ADVERSARY
Union of Rightist Forces faction member Vladimir Koptev-Dvornikov told pravda.ru on 4 February that his faction supports Vladimir Putin's foreign policy because the Russian president has found a proper balance between extended dialogue with the West and the consolidation of Russia's geopolitical interests in the East. According to Koptev-Dvornikov, Putin's policy takes into account that "in the 21st century Russia's main and most dangerous competitor will be China, as it will project its [demographic and economic] pressures on the Russian border." He added that Putin's visionary policy will allow Russia to withstand Chinese pressure by developing an alliance with Japan while relying on already established ties with the West and NATO. VY

GAZPROM DROPS PLANS TO EXTEND PIPELINE TO SLOVAKIA
Gazprom board member Boris Fedorov said following a board meeting on 4 February that the company is close to scrapping plans to link the Yamal-Europe pipeline with that in Slovakia, and thus bypassing Ukraine, RBK reported. Fedorov said the board is now focusing on further developing the Yamal-Europe pipeline, as well as speeding up construction of the "Blue Stream" gas pipeline to Turkey. The next day, Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko tried to soften the impact of Fedorov's announcement by saying that the Yamal-Europe pipeline extension was never discussed in the board meeting, strana.ru reported. VY

PRIMAKOV TELLS RUSSIA TO TREAD CAREFULLY ON ROAD TO WTO
Yevgenii Primakov, the recently elected chairman of the Russian Trade and Industry Chamber, has outlined to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov his concept what could happen should Russia be allowed into the WTO, "Vedomosti" reported on 5 February. According to the daily, he warned the government against making "uncalculated moves," and stressed that only 10 percent of Russian enterprises are ready for the international competition that would result from entrance into the organization. In addition, he said that the lifting of trade barriers as required by the WTO could spell the ruin of entire industries in Russia, particularly those of automobile and aircraft manufacturing, chemicals, trade, banking, and insurance. "Vedomosti" commented that because Primakov offered no new arguments, it looks like he is taking the opportunity to lobby on behalf of some Russian oligarchs and trying to consolidate his own position in his new role. VY

ARMY CALLS DUMA DEPUTIES INTO SERVICE
The Defense Ministry will call up 140 State Duma deputies from 5-9 February for service as military reservists under the General Staff, NTV reported on 5 February. The deputies will take a theoretical course on defense issues and be trained to shoot automatic weapons. Those who pass the drills successfully will be promoted to their next reservist officer rank. Yabloko deputy Sergei Ivanenko told RBK the same day that the action is merely a public relations tactic on the part of the Defense Ministry, and that members of his party/faction will have no part in it. "This practice is not much better than last year's practice, when the Defense Ministry promoted...those who voted for the military budget 'properly,'" Ivanenko added. VY

AIRBORNE DESERTERS KILL 10
Tatarstan's deputy interior minister, Rakhil Nagumanov, said that officers from his service shot and killed two soldiers in Tatarstan who escaped from the 31st Airborne Brigade based near Ulyanovsk and had killed 10 people, including several policemen who attempted to disarm them, ORT reported on 5 February. Nagumanov said both of the deserters had connections with the criminal underworld. Meanwhile, Airborne Troops commander Gennadii Shpak said deserters destroy the "honor of paratroopers," and that 20 percent of his troops "have criminal records." VY

FSB REPORTS IN-FLIGHT SECURITY BREACHES
A spokesman for the Federal Security Services (FSB) said on 5 February that more than 80 in-flight security incidents have taken place on Russian airliners in the first nine months of last year, RosBalt reported. Speaking at the opening of the "Security on Transport" conference in Moscow, the spokesman also said that 37 unauthorized breaches of security barriers in Russian airports were recorded, as well as numerous attempts to smuggle explosives onboard aircraft. VY

NUMBER OF TRAIN ACCIDENTS DOUBLES
The number of train accidents in Russia doubled in 2001 compared with the previous year, Interfax reported on 6 February, quoting Railways Minister Gennadii Fadeev. Five railway workers were killed in the accidents, and more than 100 railroad cars were destroyed. According to Fadeev, one of the reasons for the increase is that many railway brigades work 12-hour shifts or more in a 24-hour period. However, he said the main reason is the deficiency in the work of the leadership of certain railways -- particularly that of the Transbaikal, Oktyabrskaya, Sverdlovsk, and Kuibyshevsk lines. JAC

DEFENSE MINISTRY ACCUSES REGION OF MEDDLING IN MATTERS OF NATIONAL SECURITY
The Defense Ministry has again sharply criticized the city of Nizhnii Novgorod's program for alternative military service. In an interview with "Moskovskie novosti" on 5 February (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 30 January 2002), Colonel General Vladislav Putilin, the head of the administration for organization and mobilization at the Defense Ministry, said that such "experiments" are only possible because legislation in the area of military duty has not yet been completed. Putilin added that the ministry believes that a program of alternative military service should only be offered following the adoption of a federal law, and that Nizhnii Novgorod's authorities "have intruded on the competence of the Russian Federation," which alone has the authority to oversee questions relating to national defense and security. JAC

KREMLIN GETS THE JOB DONE -- JUST NOT IN THE RIGHT PLACE
During President Putin's televised chat with Russian citizens in December last year (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 31 December 2001), he promised that a farm in Krasnodar Krai would finally be hooked up to a gas pipeline in January. "Izvestiya" reported on 6 February that one eager presidential assistant subsequently issued an order for "gasification" for a farm with a similar name in a neighboring raion. Yuggazifikatsiya chief engineer Nikolai Gryazev told the newspaper that his company received an order on 28 December to start work so that gas could be supplied to consumers in Kazache-Malevannyi in January. Working in temperatures of minus 27 degrees Celsius, his company's workers managed to have a pipeline ready for supplies by 31 January. However, the krai's deputy governor, Aleksandr Ivanov, announced that a "common" mistake had been made and the names of the two farms were confused. Meanwhile, gazeta.ru found out that Tatyana Disyuk, the woman who had originally made the request, doesn't even live in Kazache-Malevannyi and has had gas in her own home for years. She explained that she made the phone call on behalf of the farmers because they are not used to public speaking and their Russian isn't strong. JAC

ENVOY LIKES TO HOLD MEETINGS?
Konstantin Pulikovskii, the presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, will create a new district-level council for the leaders of the legislative bodies in the district, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 6 February. Primorskii Krai legislature speaker Sergei Zhekov told the agency that the creation of the council is an attempt to strengthen federal institutions of power. The same day, a session of another council composed of the leaders of executive bodies in the district was to be held in Khabarovsk. On 5 February, President Putin met with Viktor Cherkesov, the presidential envoy to the Northwestern federal district, to discuss the process of harmonizing regional laws with federal ones, the implementation of the Security Council's decision regarding Kaliningrad, and preparations for the celebration of St. Petersburg's 300-year anniversary. JAC

GET THEE TO A 'DATSAN'
A Sunday school for girls has been opened at the Buddhist monastery in Ulan Ude in Buryatia, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 5 February. Eleven girls ranging from seven to 11 will study the Buryat language, culture, traditions, as well as the ethnography of the Buryats, Mongols, and Tibetans. They will also learn the practice of Buddhist religious rites. JAC

COMMISSION BEGINS INVESTIGATING CHECHEN 'SWEEP'
During a meeting in Grozny on 4 February between members of the Chechen leadership and residents of the villages of Starye and Novye Atagi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 2002), agreement was reached on forming a Chechen government commission that on 5 February began investigating complaints that Russian troops engaged in brutality against the civilian population during a search in both villages for Chechen militants that began on 28 January, Chechenpress and Interfax reported. That action reportedly ended late on 5 February, by which time both villages had run out of food supplies and medications. The whereabouts of 24 people, including nine Chechen police officers, detained by Russian troops during the search is still unknown. LF

CORRECTION:
"RFE/RL Newsline" incorrectly reported on 4 February that former IMF First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer is a Citibank vice president. He is in fact a Citigroup vice chairman.

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY STAGES NEW PROTEST
Members of the Musavat Party staged a further picket on 5 February outside the Ministry for Economic Development in Baku to protest the ministry's refusal to extend the lease on the building that houses Musavat's headquarters, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January 2002). The ministry claims that the building is a listed architectural monument. LF

IRAN OFFERS SPECIAL TRAVEL CONCESSIONS TO RESIDENTS OF AZERBAIJANI EXCLAVE
The Iranian Consulate in Nakhichevan has begun to issue special "regional 32-page passports" to local Azerbaijanis wishing to travel regularly to Iran for business purposes, Turan reported on 5 February, quoting the independent daily "Azadlyq." LF

ABKHAZIA AGAIN REJECTS UN PROPOSAL ON RELATIONS WITH GEORGIA
Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Djergenia refused on 5 February to accept from visiting UN special representative for the Abkhaz conflict Dieter Boden the "Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competencies between Tbilisi and Sukhumi" drafted under Boden's supervision, Caucasus Press reported. The UN Security Council resolution on Abkhazia adopted on 31 January calls on both the Abkhaz and the central Georgian government to take that document, which according to "Die Welt" on 31 January defines Abkhazia as "a sovereign law-based entity within the framework of the Georgian state," as a basis for reaching a solution to the conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 2002). Urged by Boden to resume talks with Georgian representatives, Djergenia said the Abkhaz leadership will do so once Georgia withdraws the troops it deployed last fall in the Kodori Gorge. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER ADVOCATES SMALLER LEGISLATURE
Nino Burdjanadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 4 February that she favors cutting the number of parliament deputies by up to 50 percent, from the present 235 to 100-115, Caucasus Press reported. She reasoned that Georgia cannot afford to maintain such a large parliament. Deputies receive a monthly allowance of $400, according to Interfax on 5 February. On 1 February, deputies discussed, but failed to reach a decision on, a proposal to introduce fines of between 122-400 laris ($59-$180) for deputies who regularly fail to attend parliament sessions without a valid reason, Caucasus Press reported. LF

POWER SECTOR WORKERS LAUNCH STRIKE IN WESTERN GEORGIA
Employees of a hydroelectric power station in western Georgia began a strike on 5 February to protest nonpayment of their wages over several months amounting to some 500,000 laris, Caucasus Press reported. They are demanding that a minimum of two months' back wages be paid immediately. LF

PRESIDENT WARNS KAZAKH BUSINESSMEN TO STEER CLEAR OF POLITICS
Nursultan Nazarbaev has issued a clear warning to entrepreneurs and bankers sympathetic to the opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan "not to meddle in politics," Interfax reported on 5 February. He suggested they could better serve their country "by opening new enterprises, creating jobs," and raising wages. LF

SLAVS IN KAZAKHSTAN WANT RUSSIAN DESIGNATED AS STATE LANGUAGE
Organizations representing the Russian and other Slavic communities in Kazakhstan have begun lobbying for Russian to be designated a state language, Interfax quoted Russkii obozrevatel research center head Fedor Miroglov as telling journalists in Almaty on 5 February. Miroglov expressed "outrage" that school programs in Russian language and literature are being reduced in some regions of Kazakhstan, and condemned as "an example of double standards" the state language program that foresees Kazakh becoming the primary language of communication over the next decade. LF

KAZAKHSTAN REAFFIRMS INTEREST IN BAKU-CEYHAN
Meeting in Washington on 4 February with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Kazakh Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev reaffirmed Kazakhstan's interest in construction of the Baku-Ceyhan oil-export pipeline, ITAR-TASS reported. But Toqaev implied that Astana will not make a firm commitment to export oil via that route until after a feasibility study is completed. Toqaev also stressed that Astana remains committed to implementing the agreements signed in December 2001 in Washington by Nazarbaev and U.S. President George W. Bush. LF

PETITIONS IN SUPPORT OF ARRESTED KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT DEPUTY STOLEN
Lists containing some 17,601 signatures to a petition calling for the release of arrested parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov were stolen from a car en route from Djalalabad to Bishkek on 5 February, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Police had stopped the car to lecture the driver on road safety. Also on 5 February, up to 50 of the estimated 400 people on hunger strike to demand Beknazarov's release ended their protest. LF

KYRGYZ, U.S. TROOPS BEGIN JOINT EXERCISES
Some 100 servicemen, 90 from the Kyrgyz armed forces and 10 from the U.S., began joint antiterrorism training in mountainous territory at an unidentified location in Kyrgyzstan on 5 February, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The maneuvers will last until 14 February. LF

GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL FOUND MURDERED IN KYRGYZSTAN
Mars Koshbaev, who headed the Kyrgyz government agency responsible for attracting foreign investment, was found dead of shotgun wounds at his home in Bishkek on 4 February, Reuters reported the following day. The circumstances of his death remain unclear. LF

UZBEKISTAN DENIES IT HAS BORDER DISPUTES WITH NEIGHBORS
Speaking on 5 February in Bishkek where he attended a meeting of foreign ministers from Central Asian Economic Union member states, Uzbekistan's deputy foreign minister, Ilkhom Nimatov, denied that there are any disputes regarding the demarcation and delimitation of Uzbekistan's borders with its neighbors, Interfax reported. Some sectors of Uzbekistan's borders with Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are still subject to dispute, however (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2002). LF

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MAKES STOPOVER IN UZBEKISTAN
Igor Ivanov met briefly at Tashkent airport on 4 February with his Uzbek counterpart Abdulaziz Komilov to discuss bilateral relations, the situation in Afghanistan, and the international antiterrorism campaign, Caspian News Agency and the Uzbekistan National News Agency reported. LF

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS NEW RAILWAYS CHIEF
Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 5 February appointed Vasil Hapeyeu as the head of Belarusian Railways, Belarusian Television reported. Former Belarusian Railways chief Viktar Rakhmanko was dismissed and arrested in November on charges of inflicting serious damage on the state by abusing his position for personal gain. Belarusian Television reported that "numerous scams" committed by Rakhmanko cost the state some $44 million. According to State Control Committee Chairman Anatol Tozik, Rakhmanko's gravest offense was handing over "the most profitable areas" of railway transportation in Belarus to nonresident "intermediaries." Lukashenka ordered Hapeyeu to get rid of those "intermediaries" in the first quarter of 2002. JM

BELARUS, OSCE AT LOGGERHEADS OVER OSCE MISSION IN MINSK
Summing up her three-day visit to Minsk, Uta Zapf, the head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Working Group on Belarus, told journalists on 5 February that she is concerned about the Belarusian authorities' demands that the mandate of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group (AMG) be reviewed before they accredit new AMG head Eberhard Heyken, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Meanwhile, Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Pavel Latushka told Reuters the same day that "we can't give our approval to Heyken's appointment," adding that "we first insist on reviewing the mandate of the OSCE [group], which in recent times was teaching the opposition and has turned into a political player in Belarus." The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Permanent Committee is to decide on policies toward Belarus on 21 February. Belarus is now not represented in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. JM

UKRAINE'S CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION REGISTERS 35 PARTY LISTS
The Central Election Commission has concluded the registration of candidates running on party lists in the 31 March parliamentary election, Interfax reported on 6 February. The commission registered candidates from 35 lists and denied registration to one group -- the For Yushchenko election bloc led by Oleksandr Rzhavskyy -- on technicalities. Meanwhile, a Kyiv district court ruled on 5 February that the For Yushchenko bloc illegally used the name of former Premier Viktor Yushchenko in its own name. The court decision followed a complaint filed by the Our Ukraine election bloc led by Yushchenko. JM

UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT APPROVES OF ELECTION SECURITY DEPOSITS
The Constitutional Court on 5 February made public its ruling that the provision of the election law that obliges parties and candidates to pay security deposits in order to qualify for election is constitutional, Interfax reported. The ruling followed a motion by 63 lawmakers in January urging the court to declare this provision unconstitutional. Under the election law, a party or a bloc needs to pay a deposit equal to 15,000 untaxed minimum wages ($48,000), while a candidate seeking a parliamentary mandate in a single-seat constituency must pay a deposit equal to 60 minimum wages ($192). The security deposits will be returned after the election only to those parties and candidates that win parliamentary seats. JM

UKRAINIAN PREMIER, U.S. OFFICIAL DISCUSS UPCOMING ELECTION
Anatoliy Kinakh met with U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky on 5 February to discuss the 31 March parliamentary election, AP reported. Kinakh said the Ukrainian authorities will do everything necessary to make the election democratic and transparent. He noted that Ukraine has invited numerous foreign observers and will allow nongovernmental organizations to oversee the election process together with the Central Election Commission. Dobriansky refused to comment on her meeting with Kinakh. Upon arriving in Ukraine she noted that Ukraine's upcoming election is "certainly important...in terms of global development." Dobriansky is reportedly the highest U.S. government official with a Ukrainian ethnic background in U.S. history. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT WANTS INVESTIGATION AGAINST KUCHMA FOR EMBEZZLEMENT
The Verkhovna Rada on 5 February voted to ask Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko to open an investigation against President Leonid Kuchma, lawmaker Yukhym Zvyahilskyy, and former Cabinet of Ministers member Anatoliy Lobov for "the embezzlement and waste of state funds" equal to 12 million German marks ($5.3 million), UNIAN reported. The motion was proposed by lawmakers Hryhoriy Omelchenko, Anatoliy Yermak, and Viktor Shyshkin. The parliament also supported another motion by these deputies to investigate whether Kuchma violated the constitution by not signing the law on parliamentary temporary investigation commissions passed in December 2000. According to the parliament, Kuchma vetoed the law too late, overstepping the constitutional 15-day term in which he has the right to either sign or veto legislation after receiving it from the parliament. JM

ESTONIA NAMES FUTURE OF EUROPE CONVENTION REPRESENTATIVES
The government decided on 5 February to name former President Lennart Meri as its representative to the Future of Europe Convention, which will begin on 28 February, BNS reported. The convention will be made up of representatives of the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the governments and national parliaments of EU member and candidate countries. It is expected to outline the functioning principles of the EU after enlargement and submit its proposals to the 2004 intergovernmental conference of the EU. The parliament on 31 January named parliament Deputy Chairman Peeter Kreitzberg of the Center Party and former Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves of the Moderates as its two representatives, with Ulo Tarno from the Center Party and Tunne Kelam from Pro Patria Union as their alternates. SG

LATVIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH U.S. VP
Vaira Vike-Freiberga met in Washington on 5 February with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, BNS reported. He told her that the U.S. is ready to cooperate with Latvia in strengthening its democratic institutions and judicial system to better fight the corruption in the country. They also discussed the world situation after the 11 September terrorist attacks as well as NATO enlargement. Cheney said that U.S. cooperation with Russia in antiterrorist activities will not change its position that new NATO members will be admitted on the basis of their achievements and that no non-NATO country will hold veto rights. SG

EU ENLARGEMENT OFFICIAL SPEAKS OUT AGAINST TRANSITION PERIOD FOR LAND SALES IN LITHUANIA
Anders Henriksson, the head of the Lithuanian division of the Enlargement Directorate of the European Commission, told members of the parliament's Rural Affairs Committee on 5 February that they should not demand a seven-year transition period for allowing the sale of agricultural land to foreigners, ELTA reported. He said a transition period is not needed and would in fact be "harmful" to Lithuania's interests. Henriksson noted that Lithuania did not ask for a transition period when it completed the relevant negotiations chapter last March, and that to demand one now would be counterproductive, as it would shake the EU's confidence that Lithuania will stand by what was agreed to earlier. Agriculture Minister Jeronimas Kraujelis explained that the transition period is needed to gain the necessary two-thirds support of the parliament for amending Article 47 of the constitution. SG

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS UKRAINE HAS NO 'RESERVATIONS' ABOUT GAS BYPASS
Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz on 5 February said Kiev has "no particular reservations" about Gazprom's plans to build a gas pipeline via Poland that would bypass Ukraine, PAP reported. Cimoszewicz refused to comment on unofficial reports that Gazprom has dropped this plan (also see "Russia"). Polish Television reported later the same day that the Polish government expects that Gazprom head Aleksei Miller's visit to Warsaw in mid-February will clarify Gazprom's stance on the bypass gas pipeline and a possible construction of the second leg of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline. JM

TEN POLISH MINERS DIE IN BLAST
PAP reported on 6 February that 10 miners died as the result of a blast caused by the buildup of coal dust or methane in the Jas-Mos mine in Jastrzebie Zdroj, Silesia Province, at 5 a.m. local time. "Eleven miners were working in the area of the accident. One miner was rescued alive as a result of an immediate rescue action. Ten of them were fatally wounded," Higher Mining Office spokeswoman Danuta Olejniczak-Milian told the agency. JM

CZECH GOVERNMENT APPEALS POLICE DECISION ON SHELVING COMPLAINT AGAINST 'RESPEKT'
The Czech government appealed on 5 February against the decision by police to shelve the complaints launched in October by the cabinet and by the weekly "Respekt" against one another, CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January 2002). The decision was earlier appealed by "Respekt" Editor in Chief Petr Holub. The prosecutor in charge of investigating the complaints will now have to resume the investigation, according to CTK. MS

UNMARKED SEMTEX STOCKED BY CZECH MILITARY
Tons of undetectable Semtex -- a plastic explosive often used by terrorists -- are vulnerable to theft from Czech military stocks, dpa reported on 5 February, citing the daily "Lidove noviny." The daily reported that about 60 tons of unmarked Czech-made Semtex are stored at military facilities around the country. Intelligence sources told "Lidove noviny" that soldiers and even officers stole Semtex in the 1990s, and that three officers were involved in the largest theft to date -- some 42 kilograms. Unmarked Semtex lacks additives that can be detected during airport screens. The explosive was used by the terrorists who blew up a Pan Am jetliner in 1988, killing 270 persons aboard. Last month the government announced that it will renationalize the company producing the explosive in an attempt to tighten security (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January 2002). MS

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER ORDERS TESTS OF ALTIMETERS
Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik has ordered tests by an independent expert to be carried out on the altimeters used by the Czech air force, CTK reported on 5 February, citing a ministry spokesman. Czech television said that a report of a Defense Ministry commission concluded that the altimeters are unsuitable for use. Out of 28 altimeters tested, only 12 met all requirements. Last November, Tvrdik briefly suspended flights of MiG-21 and L-39 planes over the suspicion that faulty altimeters used in those aircraft had caused accidents. The suspension was lifted in December. MS

FREEDOM UNION-DEMOCRATIC UNION TO RUN WITH KDU-CSL IN JUNE ELECTIONS
The Freedom Union-Democratic Union National Committee decided on 5 February that it will run on joint lists with the Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL) in the June parliamentary elections, CTK reported. KDU-CSL Deputy Chairman Milan Simonovsky welcomed the decision. The KDU-CSL will discuss on 7 February the decision of the Freedom Union-Democratic Union to offer seats on the joint lists to independent personalities linked to civic initiatives. The seats became free after the departure of the Civic Democratic Alliance from the Four Party Coalition. MS

SLOVAK PARLIAMENT DEBATES DECLARATION ON HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW...
On 5 February, the parliament began debating a draft declaration on the Hungarian Status Law, whose text was earlier approved by the government, CTK and international agencies reported. The declaration expresses "concern" over the law, and says it amounts to interference in internal Slovak legislation and "seeks to create a precedent in a sphere that is solely under the jurisdiction of a sovereign country." It says the parliament cannot agree to the Status Law's implementation on Slovak territory, and calls on Hungary to amend it in line with "the principles of international law and the European standards for the protection of national minorities." The declaration also says the law infringes on the basic treaty between the two countries. The Hungarian Coalition Party opposed the draft when the government debated it. MS

...BUT DISCUSSIONS WILL CONTINUE
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda told the parliament that "until the Hungarian law complies with the recommendations of the Venice Commission, it must be considered illegitimate," TASR reported. However, Dzurinda added, Slovakia will not take measures to defend its sovereignty against the law's provisions before it determines that the dialogue with Budapest has no chance of being successfully concluded. Personally, Dzurinda said, he believes an agreement can still be reached. Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said talks with Hungary will continue even after the parliament approves the draft resolution. MS

SLOVAK FINANCIAL POLICE HEAD WAS NOT VETTED
Interior Minister Ivan Simko told CTK on 5 February that Jozef Stieranka, the director of the Slovak Financial Police Office, was not vetted by the National Security Office (NBU) before he took over the office, and is therefore not eligible to access classified data. Simko said a person whose records have not been checked by the NBU cannot head the Financial Police Office, and that the chief of Slovak police will have to make a decision on Stieranka's case. There have been reports in the media that Stieranka was a member of the Czechoslovak communist secret police. MS

ECHR FINES BELGIUM FOR INFRINGING ON SLOVAK ROMA'S RIGHTS
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled on 5 February that Belgium must pay damages of 10,000 euros ($8,701) to a family of four Slovak Roma who were deported back to their country in October 1999 after their applications for asylum were rejected, CTK reported. The four-members of the Conka family complained that they were summoned to a police station under the pretext that some information was missing from their asylum applications, but upon their arrival they were instead taken to a refugee camp and deported five days later. The court said the authorities violated the Roma's right to freedom and security, as well as the ban against collective deportation of foreigners. Belgium must also pay 9,000 euros for judicial expenses. MS

TURMOIL IN HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE OVER STATUS LAW
The opposition Socialist Party's deputies in the parliament walked out on 5 February in protest against being called "traitors" by Prime Minister Viktor Orban and other members of the ruling coalition, Hungarian media reported. The Socialists had earlier introduced a draft resolution calling for a review of the memorandum of understanding reached with Romania on the implementation of the law. In turn, the Free Democrats submitted a motion to amend the law itself. The ruling parliamentary majority refused to put the Socialists' draft to a vote, and deputy parliamentary Chairwoman Katalin Szili refused to ask Orban to explain his remarks, which prompted the walkout. The draft submitted by the Free Democrats was rejected thanks to the votes of the ruling coalition and the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party. MS

UN SAYS HUNGARY PRODUCES EUROPE'S HIGHEST NUMBER OF ASYLUM SEEKERS
The number of asylum seekers from Hungary rose in 2001 to more than those from any other country except Colombia and Mexico, dpa reported on 5 February, citing MTI. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Office said 4,022 persons fled Hungary last year, compared with 1,532 in 1999 and 2,612 in 2000. Most asylum seekers are Roma and claim to suffer from discrimination. The number of refugees seeking asylum in Hungary itself also grew by 22.5 percent over the previous year, reaching a total of 9,554. The majority came from Afghanistan (4,311), followed by Bangladesh and Iraq. MS

OSCE WARNS CROATIA AGAINST TURNING BACK CLOCK ON MEDIA FREEDOM
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has entered the fray over a recent television program in Croatia that painted a bleak picture of the country's judiciary, Hina reported on 5 February. The OSCE's representative for media freedoms, Germany's Freimut Duve, warned in a letter to Foreign Minister Tonino Picula that the prosecution of critics could adversely affect the media and journalists' efforts to report on corruption. The broadcast last week of Denis Latin's Latinica program, in which participants debated Croatia's legal system and accused it of corrupt practices, prompted state prosecutors to say they were considering charges against Latin and his guests. Prosecutors said comments concerning ongoing cases amounted to coercion of judiciary officials. Duve said it would be unsettling if such prosecution undermined the country's considerable headway in the media sector, Hina reported. AH

CROATIA HOPES FOR THE BEST, INCLUDING NEW STANDBY FACILITY, IN TALKS WITH IMF
The government in Zagreb concedes shortcomings in fulfilling last year's agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but does not expect problems in the fund's final assessment on 6 February, Hina reported. The agency quoted Deputy Prime Minister Slavko Linic as saying the country has seen economic growth, a reduced budget deficit, and lower inflation since the current standby arrangement was signed last March. Linic said the government is interested in a new IMF facility to validate reform steps taken so far, noting that the current one runs out in May. He said such a deal should include targets in "key control points" rather than detailed regulation of the government program, Hina reported. Linic said his government has not managed to reduce budget spending on salaries, for instance, but added that the situation does not affect macroeconomic fundamentals. AH

GREEK PREMIER PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR ROMANIA'S NATO, EU MEMBERSHIP
Visiting Greek Premier Kostas Simitis, on a one-day visit to Romania on 5 February, pledged in meetings with his counterpart Adrian Nastase and President Iliescu that Athens will support Romania's quest to join NATO and the EU, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

CROATIAN MINISTER SAYS FOREIGN RELATIONS NOW HINGE ON TRADE, COMMERCE -- NOT IDEOLOGY
Croatian Foreign Minister Picula offered a sweeping assessment of his country's relations with neighboring states on 5 February, noting differences while pointing to valuable lessons learned along the way. He said that new issues confront Zagreb in relations with virtually all its neighbors, Hina reported. But while there are "more than a few problems," Picula said such disputes are no longer of ideological but of a trading and commercial nature, the agency reported. He added that Croatia has a lot to learn from the current imbroglio with Slovenia over the transport of oil and petrochemical products over Croatian highways. Croatian radio reported him as saying that relations with Bosnia will be of strategic importance in the coming year. Picula also said relations with Yugoslavia steadily improved in the past year and added that he will "soon" visit Belgrade, Tanjug reported. Among the major items still to be tackled, Picula identified "the issues of missing persons, refugees, return of property, tenancy rights, arrests of returnees who have been indicted, [and] problems with border and border policies," according to Croatian radio. AH

YUGOSLAVIA RECEIVES $70 MILLION LOAN FROM WORLD BANK
The World Bank has granted Yugoslavia a $70 million loan to restructure its struggling economy, Yugoslav government officials said on 5 February, AP reported. Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus said the government is also in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund on an $850 million standby credit, which would go toward supporting the deficit-ridden state budget and stabilize the dinar. The country's previous standby agreement with the IMF for $250 million, which was granted in June 2001, is to expire next month. Labus said the IMF loan could be distributed over three years in 13 installments. DW

MACEDONIAN POLICE ENTER TWO MORE VILLAGES
Ethnically mixed police forces entered the northwestern villages of Ciflik and Larce on 4 February, AP reported. The security forces have now restored the Macedonian government's authority in 47 of roughly 100 towns and villages in mostly ethnic Albanian areas previously held by rebels fighting against the government. The return is being overseen by international observers. Meanwhile, gunfire was exchanged between unidentified gunmen and police at two checkpoints outside of Tetovo on 5 February, and one man was injured when he was shot in the leg by machine-gun fire while driving on the highway between Tetovo and Gostivar the same day. PB

SERBIAN GOVERNMENT NOT TO BE REPRESENTED AT MILOSEVIC TRIAL
Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said on 5 February that the Serbian government will not send a representative to the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic due to start in The Hague next week, Beta reported. "How can you expect us to be present when Milosevic recognizes neither The Hague tribunal nor the Serbian government?" he asked. He also called on those in Serbia indicted by the tribunal to "go to The Hague voluntarily," stressing that the Serbian government will give them "guarantees to be able to defend themselves as free persons." Batic also denied that Serbia would be responsible if the genocide charges against Milosevic are proven. "In a trial it is the individual responsibility that is determined, and these stories are just an attempt to justify Milosevic's moves," he said. DW

SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH CONDEMNS ANTI-SEMITIC COMMENTS BY RETIRED PRIEST
The Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church condemned anti-Semitic remarks made by a retired Orthodox priest in a New Year's broadcast, AP and Yugoslav agencies reported on 5 February. The remarks by Zarko Gavrilovic, in which he said Jews are "born defective because of incest," drew protests from Israel and Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 2002). In a statement, the church said it "rejects and condemns [anti-Semitic remarks and actions] resolutely," and also denounced the "language of hatred" heard recently in Yugoslavia. DW

MONTENEGRO REJECTS EU'S ATTEMPTS TO DISCOURAGE INDEPENDENCE DRIVE
Montenegrin officials rejected the strongest EU pressure to date (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 2002) concerning the government's attempts to declare independence from the Yugoslav federation, AP reported on 5 February. Pointing to economic reasons and the "right of our citizens to be free," Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Rakcevic challenged the EU's assessment that declaring independence would slow Montenegro's attempts at European integration and damage its economy. Rakcevic argued that staying in federation with Serbia "would mean a return to the past...high customs rates, a closed market, a dominant, state-managed economy." DW

UN: POLICE UNIFICATION SETS GOOD 'PRECEDENT' IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA
Authorities presided over a ceremony to mark the unification of the Mostar City Police Administration and the appointment of an interim police commissioner on 5 February, Onasa reported. The move was enabled by an amendment to the Law on Internal Affairs allowing for a single body to police the ethnically divided Herzegovina-Neretva Canton and city. Six police administrations are thus integrated into a single city police force, though the seventh canton remains independent. Jacques Klein, a special representative of the UN secretary-general, hailed the step as "a precedent for all other institutions" at both the city and canton levels that will bring unification and greater efficiency, the agency said. Klein added that the UN mission will now require the Interior Ministry to eliminate the ethnically parallel structure, Onasa reported. "A principal goal of the UN mission in Bosnia is to ensure that local law enforcement is done with professional integrity, and that police administrations have the capacity to function professionally and nonpolitically in a multiethnic society, upholding the rule of law, and in conformity with European standards," Klein told the gathering. AH

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH TOP U.S. OFFICIALS IN WASHINGTON
Boris Trajkovski discussed crime, corruption, and lobbied top U.S. officials for their support of his country's official name during meetings in Washington on 4 and 5 February, makfax.com and Reuters reported. Trajkovski said after talks with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on 4 February: "Our country has the right to call itself what it likes and we expect recognition of our name, our constitutional name." Trajkovski raised the same issue the following day in talks with U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Greece rejects the name Macedonia because it says use of it implies a territorial claim on the Greek province also called Macedonia, and insists the country be called the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia," an official term that is largely ignored. Trajkovski added that the two also discussed "the current efforts to tackle organized crime and corruption given that these are two crucial areas required for stability and prosperity in the region." Trajkovski said the U.S. reiterated its firm commitment to supporting the Macedonian government as it recovers from last year's military conflicts. PB

MACEDONIA TO FORMALLY REQUEST EXTENSION FOR NATO
The Macedonian government said on 5 February that it has decided to ask the NATO force in its country to remain for a further three months beyond its 26 March mandate, Reuters reported. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski is to send an official letter to NATO officials on 6 February requesting the extension. He will also discuss the issue with NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson. The lightly armed forces -- numbering some 900 soldiers -- are in Macedonia to protect international monitoring groups and to bridge the gap between ethnic Albanians and Macedonian security forces as the latter retake formerly rebel-held villages. PB

UNHCR DECRIES CASES OF ARSON IN MACEDONIA
The Skopje office of the UN high commissioner for refugees condemned on 5 February a spate of arson cases in the town of Tetovo aimed at keeping displaced persons from returning to their homes, AP reported. Amin Avad, the UNHCR representative in Macedonia, said that the acts of arson on homes "are damaging the peace process and destabilizing the country." An estimated 100,000 people fled their homes during fighting between Macedonian security forces and ethnic Albanian rebels last year. Some 31,000 are still listed as displaced. PB

ROMANIAN DIPLOMATIC OFFENSIVE IN WASHINGTON
President Ion Iliescu was to participate in the traditional National Prayer Breakfast in Washington on 6 February, Romanian radio reported. The prayer was to be led by President George W. Bush and the reports said Iliescu would later meet with Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and hold talks with administration officials Paula Dobriansky and Dan Fried. On 7 February, Iliescu will speak at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. Romanian media reports say the main aim of the three-day visit is to promote Romania's NATO membership. Iliescu is accompanied by Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, who stayed behind after Premier Adrian Nastase's visit last week and is also promoting his country's invitation to join NATO in meetings with U.S. officials. MS

ROMANIA DENIES ALLEGATIONS OF ARMS TRAFFICKING
The Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) denied on 5 February that Romanian territory is being used by international terrorist organizations from Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria for the transfer of illegal arms originating from the Transdniester, Mediafax reported. The SRI was responding to a report published in the Italian weekly "Panorama" that said "phantom companies" set up in Romania by those organizations had transferred millions of dollars' worth of illegal arms and radioactive material. The weekly also claimed that terrorist Osama bin Laden boasted a few years ago that one of his main financial centers is in Romania. MS

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION CLAIMS VICTORY IN DEBATE OVER NEW LAW
The Chamber of Deputies on 5 February returned the text of the law on access to classified information currently under debate in the chamber to the Defense Commission and Judicial Commission for re-examination, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Opposition parties expressed satisfaction with the decision, saying it is a "victory" of the criticism they formulated against two articles in the envisaged legislation. Article 16 was criticized for obliging any Romanian citizen to protect classified information -- even they received it by accident -- and making it obligatory to return that information to the authorities. Article 39 stipulates sanctions for the unauthorized use, transmission, publication, or alteration of classified information. MS

FORMER DEPUTY PREMIER REJECTS MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT'S ACCUSATIONS
On 5 February, Andrei Cucu, who was forced to resign as deputy premier by President Vladimir Voronin, dismissed the accusations made against him by the president, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He said a letter he wrote to the U.S. authorities included no request to reduce the 233 percent antidumping levies introduced against the Transdniester-based Rybnitsa steelmaker, as Voronin had claimed. Cucu said the letter appealed to the U.S. authorities to "treat Moldova as a state with a market rather than one with a planned economy," and that the Rybnitsa steelmaker is not controlled by Chisinau, but by the Transdniester separatists. Cucu also said Voronin is "looking for scapegoats" for the "rather precarious situation the economy finds itself in," and that "the drive is to have in place a government made up by Communists alone." MS

MOLDOVAN FINANCE MINISTER RESIGNS
Finance Minister Mihai Manoli resigned on 6 February, Flux reported. He thanked the cabinet "for the trust placed in me," but added without elaborating that "under the current circumstances, which are independent of my own will, I am forced to submit my resignation." MS

MOLDOVAN PARTIES BRACE FOR LOCAL ELECTIONS
The Social Democratic Alliance headed by former Premier Dumitru Braghis and the Democratic Party headed by former parliamentary speaker Dumitru Diacov agreed to run in a joint electoral bloc in the 7 April early local elections, Infotag reported on 5 February. The bloc is to be called the Social Democratic Union of Moldova. Also on 5 February, 10 extraparliamentary formations decided to run in the local elections in an alliance called the Serafim Urechean Bloc. The alliance will include Chisinau Mayor Serafim Urechean's Alliance of the Independents, the two parties calling themselves Party of Democratic Forces (one headed by former President Mircea Snegur, the other by Valeriu Matei), as well as the Forta Moldovei (Moldova's Force), the Social Liberal Union, the Party of Reforms, the New National Moldovan Party, the Popular Democratic Party, the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic, the Republican Party, and the Party of Civic Dignity. MS

OSCE WORRIED ABOUT DEVELOPMENTS IN GAGAUZ-YERI
The OSCE mission in Moldova said on 5 February that it "notes with deep concern" the activities underway in Gagauz-Yeri "against the democratically elected authorities" of the autonomous region. The OSCE said that among those involved in the activities are a group of deputies in the region's Popular Assembly, as well as the Moldovan Interior Ministry and its Security and Information Service (SIS). It said adversaries of Governor Dumitru Croitor attempted to take over Comrat television on 2 February with the support of the SIS, and that the Interior Ministry ordered the dismissal of the Gagauz-Yeri police chief and of local police chiefs in Vulcanesti and Chadir-Lunga. The mission said these moves (which are part of the attempt to bring about the dismissal of Governor Croitor), "can lead to a serious destabilization of the political and security situation" in the region. MS

LIBYA MOVES BULGARIANS AWAITING SENTENCE TO COMFORTABLE HOUSE ARREST
The Libyan authorities have moved from prison to house arrest in a comfortable villa the six Bulgarians charged with deliberately infecting hundreds of children with the HIV virus, BTA and Reuters reported on 5 February. Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said the six are "practically in non-jail conditions." He praised the Libyan authorities' decision and attributed it to the "energetic involvement" of Seif Islam -- the son of Libyan leader Muammar Ghadaffi -- who last August agreed to be an observer at the trial. However, Pasi called for caution ahead of a court session on 17 February, when the verdict is due. "We should be happy if there are no death sentences -- for us that would be a success," Pasi said. The trial has been postponed 12 times at the request of the defense since it first opened in February 2000. MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT IN BRUSSELS
Georgi Parvanov, on his first foreign visit as the new Bulgarian head of state, told Belgian Premier Guy Verhofstadt on 5 February that Sofia would "like to receive a clear signal that we shall be invited [to join NATO] at the organization's November Prague summit," Reuters reported. Parvanov is scheduled to meet on 6 February with NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson and with Guenter Verheugen, the EU commissioner for enlargement. MS

There is no End Note today.


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