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Newsline - August 16, 2002


FSB CHARGES FBI WITH HACKING
The Federal Security Service (FSB) has opened a case against FBI Special Agent Michael Schuler, who investigated two accused Russian hackers arrested in the United States in 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2001), "The Moscow Times" and "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 16 August. The two Russians from Chelyabinsk -- Vasilii Gorshakov and Aleksei Ivanov -- were indicted by the FBI for breaking into the computer systems of American banks and stealing credit-card numbers. The case against Schuler was initiated by the territorial FSB directorate in Chelyabinsk and charges that Schuler illegally accessed Russian Internet servers to gather evidence against Gorshakov and Ivanov. The two were eventually lured to the United States and arrested. According to the FSB public-relations center, the case is "a matter of principle." "If FBI agents used hackers' methods against hackers, they might also use them on other occasions." VY

U.S., RUSSIAN DEFENSE CHIEFS PREPARE FOR MEETING
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov held telephone consultations on 15 August with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in which they discussed preparations for a September meeting of the two countries' national security chiefs, AP and other news agencies reported. The two agreed that the meeting in Washington will focus on security guarantees, arms proliferation, and the international war against terrorism. The Consultative Group for Strategic Security, which includes the two defense chiefs, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, was set up during the U.S.-Russia summit in Moscow in May. RC

NORTH KOREAN LEADER TO VISIT RUSSIA AGAIN
President Vladimir Putin has invited North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il to visit Russia for the second-straight summer, AP and other news agencies reported on 16 August, citing a Kremlin press release. According to Interfax, Kim will spend three days at the end of August visiting Khabarovsk, Komsomolsk-na-Amure, and Vladivostok. Recent Russian press reports have said that Putin will visit the region at that time, but the Kremlin statement did not say that he would meet with Kim. Kim traveled across Russia by train last summer and met with Putin in Moscow. Putin visited Pyongyang in 2000. RC

CENTRISTS, RIGHTISTS SUPPORT PUTIN'S PROPOSAL ON BELARUS...
State Duma Deputy Gennadii Raikov, leader of the centrist People's Deputy faction, said on 15 August that he welcomes President Putin's proposal to accelerate the unification of Russia and Belarus on the basis of the Russian Constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 2002), polit.ru reported. "This is not an ultimatum, but a business-like offer to which Belarus should give a clear answer," Raikov was quoted as saying. Meanwhile, Deputy Duma Speaker and co-Chairwoman of the Union of Rightist Forces Irina Khakamada said that Putin's proposal does not reflect "imperial ambitions, but a path for the democratic development of the Russia-Belarus Union." "Moscow is giving Belarus a chance to get away from the path of Lukashenka, and if Belarus ignores the offer, Russia should refuse to play along with pretending to move closer," Khakamada said. However, a senior member of the Communist Party, Duma Deputy Anatolii Lukyanov, said that the United States and Germany pushed Putin to make such a proposal to Lukashenka. "The West does not like the fact that Russia has privatized 82 percent of its state property, but Belarus [has privatized] only 7 percent and that Lukashenka maintains collective farms and soviets," Lukyanov said. VY

...AS PUBLIC BACKS CLOSE RELATIONS
Sixty-eight percent of respondents in a national public opinion poll believe that cooperation with Belarus is in Russia's interests, RosBalt reported on 16 August. Moreover, 79 percent agree that closer relations are in Belarus's interests. Thirty-seven percent said that cooperation between the countries is more important for Belarus and 7 percent said it is more important for Russia. The poll of 1,500 respondents was conducted by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM). RC

OFFICIAL: RUSSIA FACES FIVE-YEAR DELAY ON WTO MEMBERSHIP
Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister and Russia's envoy to the World Trade Organization Maksim Medvedev said in a 16 August interview with "Gazeta" that if Russia does not enter the WTO next year, its accession will likely be delayed until at least 2007. "In 2004, there will be a new Duma and presidential elections in Russia and the United States. The negotiating resources of our partners will be overtaxed because 2004 will see the conclusion of the global round of WTO negotiations," Medvedev said. He added that it would take Russia at least a year to bring its legislation into accord with the new WTO standards and only after that can accession talks begin again. Even if the talks go smoothly, he concluded, Russia could enter the WTO only in January 2007. RC

WILL MANAGERS REPLACE MAYORS?
The government commission on reforming local administration headed by deputy presidential administration head Dmitrii Kozak might include a mechanism for replacing elected municipal executive-branch heads with hired managers, gazeta.ru reported on 16 August. "At present the idea of contract managers is only being discussed. But if it is accepted, then local administrations will have the opportunity to hire managers," Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister and commission member Vitalii Shipov told the website. Duma Deputy Nikolai Brusnikin (Union of Rightist Forces) commented that mayors and mayor's offices should be "merely corporations for providing services to the population." He added that hired managers "would not be able to hide behind their mandates" and would focus their energy on their work rather than engaging in politics. However, Novgorod Mayor Aleksandr Korsunov, who is also a member of the Kozak commission, considers the idea "bad for Russia." He said that it would give the Kremlin another tool of control, since it would be able to pressure local administration to hire managers it supports. RC

BLACK SEA FLEET CANCELS MEDITERRANEAN EXERCISES BECAUSE OF ADMIRALS' CONFLICT?
The commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Vladimir Komoedov, announced that his ships will not conduct planned exercises in the Mediterranean Sea, which were to have included visits to ports in France and Italy, because of a lack of fuel, Russian news agencies reported on 15 August. Komoedov said that he received this order from Russian Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov. However, Komoedov added that, to the best of his knowledge, the fleet has been fully supplied with fuel. Earlier this year, the Russian media reported on the alleged animosity between Kuroedov and Komoedov and wrote that the Kuroedov was seeking to dismiss Komoedov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2002). VY

SOURCE: RUSSIA TO NIX DALAI LAMA TRIP
Russia will most likely refuse to grant visas to the Dalai Lama and his delegation for a planned visit to Kalmykia, Buryatia, and Tuva in September, strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 15 August, citing an unidentified Foreign Ministry source. According to the source, visas will be refused because the visit "is acquiring a political character." The source also said that Russia has consulted with the Chinese Embassy concerning the proposed visit. The Dalai Lama was invited to Russia by Kalmykia's president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who, in an interview with RFE/RL in 2001, called for international recognition of Tibetan independence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2002). RC

COURT REJECTS NEW ACCUSATION AGAINST FORMER MILITARY CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
The Moscow Arbitration Court ruled that former chief military financial officer Colonel General Georgii Oleinik did not abuse his office in 1998 by selling $54 million in Defense Ministry bonds to a bank at 8 percent of their real value, polit.ru reported on 14 August. The court also declared the deal null and void. The latest charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2002) were filed earlier this month against Oleinik, who is already serving a three-year prison term after being convicted of embezzling $450 million in Defense Ministry funds through a Ukrainian company. VY

ALCOHOL POISONING ON THE RISE
The National Alcohol Association has published its statistics on fatal incidents of alcohol poisoning in Russia for the first five months of this year, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 August. According to the association, 18,224 Russians died of acute alcohol poisoning during that period, up from 16,858 in the same period of 2001. For comparison, the paper reported that the number of military and civilian casualties in the 1994-96 Chechnya campaign is estimated at 35,700. The daily reported that cases of alcohol poisoning fell noticeably during former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign, but that they rose by more than 230 percent in the period from 1991-94. "Unfortunately, we must admit that the massive death of people from overwhelming drunkenness has either not been recognized by the public or is considered a natural process," said Aleksandr Nemtsov, an expert with the Academy of Science's Center for Demography and Ecology. RC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT'S REPRESENTATIVE, RYBKIN DRAFT NEW PEACE PROPOSAL
Meeting in Zurich on 15 August, President Aslan Maskhadov's representative Akhmed Zakaev and former Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin reached agreement on "serious, realistic" measures for resolving the Chechen conflict peacefully, Ekho Moskvy radio reported. The two men declined to divulge details of their plan, which they intend to present to Maskhadov and President Putin. Rybkin said only that if Putin demonstrates a clear sign of goodwill, hostilities could be halted immediately. Rybkin appealed to Putin in an open letter in late June to embark on peace talks with Maskhadov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2002). LF

CHECHEN PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE OPENS CRIMINAL CASE OVER SHALI BLASTS
The Chechen Prosecutor-General's Office has brought charges of negligence against an artillery officer responsible for the blasts in Shali in the early morning of 13 August that killed three people and injured several others (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2002), Interfax reported on 15 August. Two of the dead were the young daughters of a local Chechen official. On 15 August, Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov declared a three-day period of mourning, describing the blasts as "a tragic error." LF

THIRD MAN CHARGED IN CONNECTION WITH KASPIISK BOMBING
A third man, whose identity has not been disclosed, has been charged in connection with the 8 May bombing in Kaspiisk that killed 45 people, Interfax reported on 15 August, quoting Seifudin Khazimedov, who heads the investigation team. In all, 16 residents of Daghestan have been arrested in connection with the blast. LF

RUSSIA SLAMS EU STATEMENT ON RUSSIAN-GEORGIAN TENSIONS...
The Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 15 August taking issue with an earlier EU statement expressing concern over rising tensions on the Georgian-Russian border, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. That EU statement called on all sides to show restraint, to respect the territorial integrity of the countries of the region, and to cooperate more closely in issues of border security to promote mutual trust. The Russian statement expressed "surprise" that the EU statement failed to mention "aggressive actions against Russia by Chechen rebels based on Georgian territory," which the Russian statement said are the cause of the heightened tensions. Nor, the Foreign Ministry statement continued, did the EU statement make any mention of the need to fight international terrorism. LF

...DEMANDS GEORGIAN RESPONSE TO STATEMENT ON CONTACTS WITH CHECHEN PRESIDENT
Also on 15 August, the Foreign Ministry posted on its website a statement saying it has received no response from the Georgian government to an earlier note demanding clarification of statements by President Maskhadov's representative Zakaev claiming that the Georgian leadership has maintained constant contact with Maskhadov via the unofficial Chechen representation in Tbilisi, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. The Foreign Ministry repeated its earlier demands that that office be closed. In Tbilisi, Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze said on 15 August that neither his ministry nor the Georgian Embassy in Moscow received the note to which the Foreign Ministry statement refers, Caucasus Press reported. LF

RUSSIA DEMANDS EXTRADITION OF THREE POLICEMEN DETAINED IN GEORGIA
The Russian Embassy in Tbilisi on 15 August demanded that the Georgian government hand over three Russian police officers from Stavropol who were apprehended in the Pankisi Gorge on 31 July after entering Georgia illegally, "Izvestiya" reported on 16 August. The men have declared a hunger strike to protest the 9 August ruling by a Tbilisi court that they be held in detention for three months. LF

VISITING U.S. CONGRESSMAN COMMENTS ON FUTURE U.S. AID TO ARMENIA
Arriving in Yerevan from Nagorno-Karabakh, U.S. Representative Frank Pallone (Democrat, New Jersey) said on 15 August that "the prospects are good" for U.S. assistance to Armenia to remain at the same level, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. The current proposal includes $90 million in U.S. economic aid and $3.7 million in military assistance to Armenia for 2003. Congressman Pallone, who serves as co-chairman of the Congressional Caucasus on Armenian Issues, added that the recent presidential election in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which he observed, was free and fair. He expressed "disappointment" with the European Union's recent criticism of the election. Pallone went on to say that the United States should welcome democratic elections in Karabakh, and in response to a reporter's question on the recently introduced Senate bill recognizing the Armenian genocide, he said that he supports the legislation and noted that the bill "was the best approach at this time." RG

OPPOSITION PARTY ACCUSES ARMENIAN AUTHORITIES OF PLANNING TO RIG ELECTIONS
The opposition People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) accused the Armenian government on 15 August of planning to ensure the re-election of President Robert Kocharian through voting manipulation, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and A1+ television reported. The opposition claimed that Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's pro-government Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) has prevented HZhK party members from being appointed to the new electoral commissions empowered to supervise the upcoming presidential, parliamentary, and local elections. According to the amended election laws adopted last month, the electoral commissions are to comprise members appointed by the president and parties represented in the parliament. The HZhK also urged all opposition parties to unify in a common effort seeking "the establishment of a democratic government through free and fair elections." RG

FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT DENIES CONNECTION WITH COUP TRIAL WITNESS
Nizami Guliev, who is an assistant to former President Ayaz Mutalibov, said in Moscow on 15 August that Teylor Ibragimov, who testified the previous day at the trial in Baku of five Mutalibov supporters accused of planning a coup d'etat in October 2001, has never served as Mutalibov's spokesman, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 2002). Guliev said Ibragimov occasionally came to Mutalibov's headquarters in Moscow to help out, but all connections with him were severed after one of Ibragimov's relatives cast doubts on his probity. Guliev characterized Ibragimov's 14 August testimony as "gibberish." LF

AZERBAIJAN TO FINANCE EXCLAVE'S AIRPORT
In a 14 August announcement, the Azerbaijani government announced plans for the reconstruction of the airport in the Nakhichevan exclave, according to the Caspian News Agency. The project will be financed with some $18-20 million from the Azerbaijani government and will be carried out by a Turkish construction company. RG

RESIDENTS REQUEST DEPLOYMENT OF GEORGIAN TROOPS IN PANKISI GORGE...
Djafar Khangoshvili, administration head of the village of Duisi in the Pankisi Gorge, on 15 August presented to President Eduard Shevardnadze a request adopted the previous day by residents of the gorge for the deployment there of Georgian Army troops to establish order, Caucasus Press reported. The statement referred to recent Russian official statements alleging that Georgia is incapable of containing the threat posed by Chechen militants encamped in the gorge, and affirming that Russian military intervention is the only effective way of neutralizing that threat (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July and 12 August 2002). On 14 August, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili again stated that Georgia would welcome Russian "assistance" in its struggle with terrorism, but excludes any joint military operation with Russia against the Chechens in Pankisi, Caucasus Press reported. LF

...AS POLL SAYS ONE-THIRD OF RUSSIANS OPPOSE MILITARY ACTION IN GEORGIA
A poll released on 15 August by the Moscow-based Public Opinion Foundation revealed that 37 percent of Russians oppose any military intervention in Georgia, while 25 percent believe that military action is only possible with Georgian assent, according to Interfax. Another 20 percent said Russian military action should be initiated on Georgian territory regardless of Georgia's position. The poll, conducted on 10 August, follows increased consideration in Moscow of a possible Russian military operation targeting Chechen fighters allegedly hiding in the Pankisi Gorge. RG

U.S. EMBASSY ASKS GEORGIAN AUTHORITIES TO PROTECT JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES
In a statement released on 15 August, the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi asked the Georgian authorities to take preventive action to preclude any violence at the congress of Jehovah's Witnesses scheduled to take place in the west Georgian town of Kaspi on 16 August, Caucasus Press reported. Parliament deputy Guram Sharadze, who recently accused Jehovah's Witnesses of harassing Georgian Orthodox believers and burning icons, has announced his intention of disrupting the gathering. Unfrocked Georgian Orthodox priest Basil Mkalavishvili, whose followers have launched numerous assaults on Jehovah's Witnesses in Georgia in recent years, will accompany Sharadze to Kaspi (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 25, 19 July 2002). LF

GEORGIAN AUTHORITIES OFFER REWARD IN HUNT FOR KILLER OF AES TELASI OFFICIAL
Georgian law enforcement authorities offered a 20,000 lari ($9,000) reward on 15 August for information regarding the recent murder of an official of the American AES TELASI energy-distribution company, "The Georgian Times" and civil.ge reported. The body of the murdered official, Nika Lominadze, was discovered in his Tbilisi home during the night of 12-13 August. RG

GEORGIAN COLONEL ABDUCTED IN SOUTH OSSETIA
Colonel Zurab Durglishvili, who is a member of the Georgian contingent to the Georgian-Russia-Ossetian peacekeeping force in South Ossetia, was abducted by unknown masked men near Tskhinvali on 16 August, Caucasus Press reported. LF

KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT WARNS NEW MOVEMENT
Deputy Prime Minister Kurmanbek Osmonov said on 15 August that the Movement for the Resignation of President Askar Akaev, founded the previous day, is an illegal formation that contravenes the Kyrgyz Constitution, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Osmonov added that the authorities are considering taking legal steps against the group. The new opposition movement stressed in its inaugural statement that it will employ only peaceful and constitutional means to achieve its ends (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 2002). AA

U.S. CONGRESSMEN ARRIVE IN KYRGYZSTAN
A U.S. Congressional delegation led by Richard Quick arrived in Kyrgyzstan for a two-day visit that will include meetings with President Akaev, Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev, and other government officials, akipress.org reported on 16 August. Quick heads the independent USA-Asia Foundation, whose goal is to strengthen democratic institutions in the Asia-Pacific region, and Akaev is expected to award him the Kyrgyzstan's Dank medal for his contribution to Kyrgyz-American relations, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The delegation also plans to visit troops stationed at Manas air base. AA

OPPOSITION BLAMES BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT FOR RUSSIA'S 'PLANS' TO ABSORB BELARUS
The Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces has urged President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to step down, blaming him for what it calls Russia's "plans" to end Belarus's independence, Belapan reported on 15 August. The council was responding to Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal on 14 August that referendums be held in Belarus and Russia next year on the unification of the two countries into a single state on the basis of the Russian Constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 2002). "The existence of such explicitly aggressive plans to incorporate the Republic of Belarus into the Russian Federation has become possible only thanks to Alyaksandr Lukashenka's antinational and adventurous policy," the council said in a statement. JM

BELARUSIAN COURT UPHOLDS VERDICT AGAINST JOURNALISTS FOR LIBELING PRESIDENT
The Hrodna Oblast Court on 15 August upheld the guilty verdict passed by a district court in June on journalists Mikola Markevich and Pavel Mazheyka, who were convicted of libeling President Lukashenka ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 2 July 2002), Belapan reported. At the same time, the court shortened the sentences of "restriction of freedom" and corrective labor -- 2 1/2 years for Markevich and two years for Mazheyka -- by one year for each of them, saying that the journalists' sentences fall under an amnesty law. Markevich called the 15 August ruling "a crime against freedom of speech, morality, and justice." JM

UKRAINE, ROMANIA DISCUSS BORDERS
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko and his Romanian counterpart Mircea Geoana met in Yalta on 15 August to discuss the regulation of border problems between the two countries, Ukrainian media reported. The ministers reportedly have not reached any specific decisions. Asked whether a document regulating state borders will be signed during an expected meeting of the Ukrainian and Romanian presidents in September, Geoana said he does not deem it necessary for the presidents to discuss this issue at their meeting. Answering a question about how much time Romania has to solve the border issue considering its efforts to join NATO, Geoana said "Romania is not under any time pressure from the point of view of European and Euro-Atlantic integration." The two countries have long been at loggerheads over the delimitation of the border in the vicinity of Serpents Island in the Black Sea and the control over several islets in the Danube estuary. JM

UKRAINE REJECTS ASYLUM REQUESTS OF THREE BELARUSIANS
Ukrainian authorities have turned down an asylum requests of three Belarusian citizens -- Uladzimir Bukhanau, Svyataslau Shapavalau, and Syarhey Korneu -- who claimed they were persecuted in Belarus for opposition views and activities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2002), UNIAN reported on 15 August. The Kyiv City administration's Department for Nationalities and Migration Issues said the three missed the deadline for requesting political asylum and refused to accept their application. JM

ESTONIAN CULTURE MINISTER OFFERS TO RESIGN AMID EMBEZZLEMENT SCANDAL
Signe Kivi announced on 15 August that she has submitted his letter of resignation to Prime Minister Siim Kallas after an audit alleged that the manager of Kultuurkapital (Fund for Furthering Culture), Avo Viiol, embezzled 6.5 million kroons ($425,000) from the fund's account and gambled it away, ETA reported. Kivi said that as chairwoman of the fund's supervisory council, she feels she has to accept political responsibility for the scandal. Kallas has not yet decided whether to accept the resignation. SG

ESTONIA, TURKEY SIGN DEFENSE-COOPERATION AGREEMENT
Estonian Defense Minister Sven Mikser and his Turkish counterpart Sabahattin Cakmakoglu signed a bilateral defense-cooperation agreement in Tallinn on 15 August, BNS reported. It is an updated version of an agreement signed in 1995 and aims to promote military training and technological and scientific cooperation between the two states, as well as the exchange of information to facilitate the fight against terrorism. Cakmakoglu met with armed forces commander Vice Admiral Tarmo Kouts before visiting the air base in Amari and later met with President Arnold Ruutel at the presidential summer residence in Paslepa. The previous day Cakmakoglu held talks with Prime Minister Siim Kallas and expressed Turkey's support for Estonia's efforts to join NATO. SG

LATVIAN COMPETITION COUNCIL MEMBER QUITS IN PROTEST OVER TELIA-SONERA MERGER
Aleksandrs Vasiljevs on 14 August announced his resignation from the Competition Council to protest its decision the previous day to approve the merger of the Swedish Telia and Finnish Sonera telecommunications companies, LETA reported. The council set two conditions for the merger's approval. The fixed-telephone-line operator Lattelekom, 49 percent of which is owned by Sonera, and Telia-owned Internet provider Datatel will have to allow any third party free and nondiscriminatory access to the international telecommunications infrastructure between Latvia and other countries. Additional liabilities were also placed on the license of Latvijas Mobilais Telefons, of which both Telia and Sonera hold 24.5 percent stakes. Vasiljevs said that the council now has only three of its original five members and that had he not voted for the approval no restrictions would have been placed on the merger. SG

POPE ARRIVES IN POLAND
Pope John Paul II arrived in Krakow in the afternoon of 16 August, his ninth visit to his homeland during his papacy, PAP reported. Some 20,000 policemen, firefighters, and volunteers will provide security for the pope and his entourage during his four-day visit. More than 140 doctors at two hospitals will be on standby to treat the pontiff if necessary. A total of 3,000 medical personnel, including doctors, nurses, volunteers, and rescue workers, have been mobilized for the visit. Two Polish photographers plan to take a picture of the more than 1 million worshippers expected to attend a Mass that will take place in the outskirts of Krakow on 18 August. They claim it will be the world's largest photograph in which every face in the crowd will be recognizable. The "Family Portrait of Poles with the Holy Father" will be published in the form of an album and a 2x26-meter poster, and given to the pope as a gift. JM

POLISH PRESIDENT PLEDGES TO CONTINUE ARMY MODERNIZATION
President Aleksander Kwasniewski, who is the commander in chief of the Polish armed forces, made an address at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw on 15 August to mark Polish Army Day, Polish media reported. Kwasniewski said the country's armed forces will continue to be modernized and gradually equipped with new armaments. "We are aware of the fact that the modernization of the armed forces is a difficult task, particularly at a time when the financial condition of the state is not the best," Kwasniewski said. "Personal problems and frustrations cannot be an excuse for breaking the rules and for behavior that goes against officers' and soldiers' honor," Kwasniewski added, in an apparent allusion to a recent call for a "vote of no confidence" in the country's military leadership by Colonel Ryszard Chwastek (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 13 August 2002). Kwasniewski presented nominations to the rank of four-star general to General Staff chief Czeslaw Piatas, and to the rank of three-star general to General Staff deputy chief Jozef Flis and Air Force commander Ryszard Olszewski. JM

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER SAYS AGRICULTURE IS LAST BASTION OF 'POLISHNESS'
Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Jaroslaw Kalinowski said on 15 August that the agricultural sector is "the last bastion of Polishness" in the national economy, PAP reported. He pledged that his party, the Polish Peasant Party, will do everything in its power "to retain the land and freedom and to consolidate justice.... Polish land will remain in Polish hands; we are in the government and coalition so as to make sure that our farmers will be treated the same [way] as farmers from the European Union and so that after our entry to it they will have identical opportunities to compete in the market," he added. Kalinowski said the state will subsidize the purchase of 5.4 million tons of grain from farmers this year, which is 1.4 million tons more than last year, but added that "the whole system of intervention by the state [on the agricultural market] is faulty" and requires changes. "By next year, as in the EU, we want to assure subsidies for the production of every hectare of grain," Kalinowski promised. JM

FLOOD DAMAGE CONSIDERABLE IN CZECH CAPITAL...
Flooding ebbed in many parts of Prague on 15-16 August as attention turned to cleanup efforts and damage estimates began to pour in, local and international media reported. The Prague subway system has revised its damage estimate to 2 billion crowns ($63 million), Reuters reported, while 17 stations remained closed on 16 August due to flooding. Some may remain shut for months. Prague Mayor Igor Nemec told journalists that damages in the capital are likely to be "in the tens of billions of crowns." The floods have caused extensive damage to the archives of the Military Historical Archive, the Academy of Science, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Czech Statistics Office. National Central Archive official Miroslav Kun told CTK that "thousands of shelves with unique and irreplaceable documents" are likely to have been destroyed. Many cultural historical sights in Prague, among them the 13th-century Old-New Synagogue and the Pinkas Synagogue in the Jewish quarter along with the National Theater, have been affected. MS

...WHILE OTHER AREAS ARE FAR WORSE OFF
Officials said some towns and villages north of Prague were near complete destruction, and there is extensive damage throughout Bohemia, CTK and Reuters reported. The town of Zalezice, 30 kilometers north of Prague, saw 90 of its 120 buildings damaged, 30 of which have been leveled, according to Reuters. Fifteen houses collapsed in the town of Melnik, also north of Prague. Terezin, northern Bohemia, was completely cut off by floodwaters, and the adjacent memorial at the former Theresienstadt Nazi concentration camp is completely under water. In the south, where waters are receding, roughly half of historic Cesky Krumlov's houses have been flooded. Pisek Mayor Lubos Prusa is estimating damage there at 4-8 billion crowns, including the loss of a statue from the oldest stone bridge in the country, a 13th-century structure spanning the Otava River. Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda called the situation "a catastrophe" and said this applies to both southern and northern Bohemia. Former Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik said the negative effect on 2002 GDP will be about 0.3 percentage points, according to "Mlada fronta Dnes," while investment bank JP Morgan reportedly reduced its growth forecast by 0.5 percentage points, to 2.3 percent. MS

CHLORINE LEAK CAUSES CONTAMINATION ALARM IN FLOODED CZECH NORTH
A chlorine spill from the Spolana chemical plant into the Labe (Elbe) River on 15 August nearly resulted in evacuation of the town of Neratovice -- later called off -- and raised concern in neighboring Germany, CTK and dpa reported. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, Environment Minister Libor Ambrozek, and a spokesman for the plant said there was no reason for concern, as chlorine concentrations measured in nearby municipalities reached only one-fifth of permissible levels. MS

EU COMMISSION PRESIDENT TOURS FLOOD-AFFECTED AREAS
European Commission President Romano Prodi, accompanied by Czech President Vaclav Havel, on 16 August inspected areas devastated by flooding in Usti nad Labem and its surroundings, CTK reported. Prodi inquired particularly about the possible ecological damage posed by chemical works situated along the Labe. The EU has already announced that it is earmarking 58 million euros (nearly $57 million) for immediate aid to the Czech Republic. Meanwhile, aid offers and help continued to arrive from all over the world. Six Belgian experts equipped with pumps and ventilators arrived in Prague on 14 August, and France announced it is also sending pumping specialists. They will be joined by similar specialists from Slovakia, Finland, Denmark, and Sweden. In Poland, 120 firefighters are awaiting orders to leave for the Czech Republic. The Hungarian Foreign Ministry announced it has set aside 5 million forints (nearly $20,000) from its budget in aid for Czech flood victims, and the Budapest mayoralty offered accommodation to 200 children from Prague. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi wrote to his Czech counterpart Vladimir Spidla that Italy is ready to offer "our resources and our knowledge and experience" in saving the cultural heritage. The French Red Cross launched a fundraising campaign. Aid offers also came from Taiwan and other Asian countries. MS

CZECH PREMIER SAYS NATO SUMMIT, ELECTIONS WILL TAKE PLACE AS SCHEDULED
Prime Minister Spidla on 15 August told journalists that the floods will affect neither the Senate and local elections nor the NATO summit scheduled to take place in Prague in November, CTK reported. Spidla was speaking after a cabinet meeting which, he said, did not even discuss the possibility of postponing those events. Earlier on 15 August, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia called for the cancellation of the NATO summit. Spidla said the floods may, however, delay the final stage of local public-administration reform, as local governments will lack the necessary funds to cope with the flood damages. He also announced that 5,000 soldiers are being deployed to help remove flood damage. The cabinet decided to set up a special commission in charge of reconstruction work whose task will be to coordinate reconstruction between the central government and local authorities. MS

SLOVAK CAPITAL EXPECTS LESS FLOODING THAN INITIALLY FEARED
The water level of the Danube River early on 16 August was 9.86 meters, down some 4 centimeters from a few hours earlier and less than the 10.05-meter crest initially expected, TASR reported. Experts said on 15 August that they do not expect the Danube to inundate Bratislava and that the water level has risen more slowly than expected. However, the Devin suburb is cut off from the rest of the city, power supplies there have been shut off, and several people had to evacuate their homes. City authorities are still discussing the possibility of evacuating some neighborhoods in addition to Devin. The Slovak National Gallery has removed its collection from downtown Bratislava. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda confirmed on 16 August that he will participate in a summit of Central European premiers afflicted by the flooding. The summit is to be held in Berlin on 18 August with the participation of heads of governments from Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Slovakia, as well as European Commission President Prodi and Michael Barnier, EU commissioner for regional policy. MS

HZDS LEAD SLIPPING IN SLOVAK ELECTORAL POLLS...
Former Premier Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has lost further support ahead of the September parliamentary elections but continues to lead the field, TASR and CTK reported on 15 August, citing a poll conducted by Focus between 31 July and 8 August. The party is now backed by 19.8 percent, which is 4.2 percentage points less than in July. In second place is Smer (Direction), backed by 16.3 percent of those polled, followed by the Hungarian Coalition Party, or SMK (11.7 percent). The Alliance for New Citizens is next (10.1 percent), trailed by the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (9.4 percent) and the Christian Democratic Movement (6.0 percent). The Slovak Communist Party (4.8 percent), the Slovak National Party, or SNS (4.7 percent), the Real Slovak National Party (3.8 percent), and the Party of the Democratic Left (2.7 percent) are among those below the 5 percent parliamentary threshold. MS

...WHILE GASPAROVIC REJECTS COALITION WITH MECIAR
Movement for Democracy (HZD) Chairman Ivan Gasparovic told journalists in Banska Bystrica on 15 August that he rules out cooperation with Meciar but not with the HZDS in general, CTK reported. Observers attribute the loss in HZDS popularity to the recent defection of the HZD from Meciar's party. "It is obvious that no one in Slovakia or in Europe wants to share the same public space with Meciar," Gasparovic said. He added that HZD leaders left the HZDS because they could not promote their democratic views inside Meciar's party. MS

ARE FORMER STB AGENTS RUNNING ON SNS LISTS IN SLOVAK ELECTIONS?
The daily "Novy Cas" wrote on 15 August that the lists of parliamentary candidates of the SNS include former agents of the Czechoslovak communist secret services, or StB, TASR reported. It alleged that Jozef Prokes and Ivan Eibner had links to the StB, citing former SNS member Eva Slavkovska as saying Prokes's and Eibner's names are included in the StB files published on a website. SNS Chairwoman Anna Malikova, Prokes, and Eibner all denied the allegations. Prokes said all his screenings since 1990 have rendered negative results, signaling his innocence. Eibner said his file probably dates back to the 1970s when he was a member of Czechoslovakia's athletics team and had to report to the StB each time he returned from a competition abroad. MS

SLOVAK EXTREMISTS KNOW WHY HUNGARY WON'T BE FLOODED
The Real Slovak National Party (PSNS) said on 15 August that the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) and Hungarian politicians should be reminded that Budapest and Hungary in general are protected from the current catastrophic floods in East-Central Europe only thanks to the Gabcikovo Dam, SITA reported. The PSNS said that Hungarians everywhere should apologize to the Slovaks who built the dam and revise their "chauvinistic stand" on the waterworks. Hungary, the PSNS said, must now stop hindering the completion of the project. The twin Gabcikovo-Nagymaros project was abandoned by Hungary in 1992 following protests by environmentalists. The case reached the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 1997. The court ruled that each side must compensate the other for damages caused by the suspension of the 1997 project on the twin dam. MS

HUNGARIAN FLOOD THREAT TURNED INTO POLITICAL ISSUE
Environment and Water Minister Maria Korodi on 15 August rejected opposition criticism that the government has been slow to react to the threat posed by floods reaching Hungary from neighboring Slovakia and Austria, Hungarian media reported. The daily "Magyar Nemzet" wrote that Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy is vacationing in France while people are having to abandon their homes. The head of the government office, Elemer Kis, announced after a meeting of the cabinet that the government has released 500 million forints (roughly $2 million) from the general budget reserves, adding that more money will be made available if and when it is needed. In addition, a 1 billion forint fund has been set up to help local authorities meet damage costs, with the first 130 million forints already allocated to several local councils affected by heavy rains. Meanwhile, Danube River levels are rising in Budapest, with the crest of the flood expected on 18 August, when the peak water level is expected to be between 8.50 and 8.75 meters. Normal level is around 3 meters. Some 750 people in two Budapest districts were told on 15 August to evacuate their homes, while as many as 2,000 may have to do the same in the coming days. MS

MEDGYESSY COMMISSION ENDS WORK IN ACRIMONY
The parliamentary commission set up to investigate Premier Medgyessy's past as a counterintelligence officer under communism ended its work on 15 August without agreement on a final report, Hungarian media reported the next day. Government and opposition members blame each other for the commission's failure. While representatives of the coalition insist that Medgyessy's counterintelligence activities served the national interest at the time and that he is not morally responsible for the wrongdoing of communism, commission Chairman Laszlo Balogh said Medgyessy was involved in activities typical of an oppressive regime. Opposition members of the commission insist that Medgyessy poses a particular threat to national security because he is vulnerable to blackmail. Although the commission's mandate ended on 15 August, Balogh said that his own Hungarian Democratic Forum will press for the mandate to be extended. He said a number of documents were either not examined by the commission or even sent to it for that purpose. Balogh also said Medgyessy failed to appear before the commission a second time and that there are inconsistencies between the premier's statements and what some documents suggest. MS

FORMER HUNGARIAN PREMIER DENIES SECRET SERVICE INVOLVEMENT...
Former Premier Gyula Horn said on 15 August that he has authorized the parliamentary commission headed by Imre Mecs to release any information it has uncovered related to his own past, Hungarian media reported. Horn revealed that the communist secret services had tried to recruit him in the 1960s, saying that he refused to cooperate because (as he put it) he was not willing to serve more than one master, and his master was the Foreign Ministry. The former Socialist premier added that it is high time to move on from the issue of who was and who was not a communist secret agent. He said that dwelling on the past is not in the country's interest and might damage Hungary's image abroad and play into the hands of those who would like to block Hungary's admission into the EU. MS

MNB GOVERNOR SAYS HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT WANTS TO PUSH HIM OUT OF HIS JOB...
National Bank (MNB) Governor Zsigmond Jarai told the daily "Magyar Nemzet" on 15 August that the government is trying to force him out of his position as the head of the MNB, but he does not intend to resign. Jarai reiterated he is unwilling to authorize the Mecs commission to release data on him. He added that although he rejected attempts by the communist secret services to recruit him, he did have some links with the Interior Ministry. Jarai, who was the first finance minister in the cabinet headed by Viktor Orban, explained that after pressure had been put on him he signed a statement agreeing to write reports on his foreign trips and on foreign assessments of the Hungarian economy. He said he does not believe this makes him in any way into a former Interior Ministry agent. MS

...WHILE KOVER JOINS HIM IN BOYCOTTING MECS COMMISSION
Laszlo Kover, who in 1998-2000 was in charge of the secret services in the cabinet headed by Orban, told MTI on 15 August that he is unwilling to cooperate with the Mecs commission probing links with communist secret services of post-1990 members of successive Hungarian governments. In contrast, former Justice Minister Ibolya David and former Economy Minister Gyorgy Matolcsy, who were members in the Orban cabinet, as well as current parliamentary Speaker Katalin Szili and two members of the 1990-94 cabinet headed by Horn -- Istvan Balsai and Balazs Horvath -- gave their consent to have the commission make public its findings on them. MS

KOSOVARS CLASH WITH UN POLICE
A clash between UN police and angry Kosovars demanding the release of recently arrested former guerrillas left 47 protesters and 11 police injured in Decan on 15 August, Hina reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12, 13, and 14 August 2002). Some 20 demonstrators were arrested. UN civilian administration (UNMIK) spokeswoman Susan Manuel said that she understands why tempers were high but added that the rule of law must prevail. The news agency added that local media criticized elected officials for not commenting publicly on the arrests. The Kosova Committee for the Protection of Human Rights charged that the police overreacted. Reuters reported that the mainly Spanish, Argentinean, and Ukrainian police used tear gas to repel stone-throwing protesters. UN press officer Andrea Angeli said that the police are trying to identify the ringleaders. Observers note that many Kosovars are suspicious over what they regard as UNMIK's determination and efficiency in arresting Albanians while failing to arrest Milan Ivanovic, a prominent Serbian extremist, in what some liken to a "Keystone Kops" operation. The police maintain that they are continuing to search for him. PM

MACEDONIAN STATE ELECTIONS COMMISSION TO CARRY OUT ELECTION EDUCATION
The State Elections Commission announced on 15 August that it has adopted a special program for voter education, MIA news agency reported. The program will inform citizens about their right to vote and the voting procedure for the parliamentary elections slated for 15 September. The program will be carried out by means of radio and video spots, posters, brochures, and other information in cooperation with the public media. The six regional elections commissions will also conduct similar voter-education programs through the end of August. The parliamentary elections will be conducted for the first time under a proportional-representation system. The parliamentary elections had previously been conducted under a mixed system of majority and proportional voting. UB

ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER CALLS ON MACEDONIAN ALBANIANS TO UNITE
Fatos Nano called on Macedonia's fractious ethnic Albanian politicians to bury their differences and form a coalition for the 15 September parliamentary elections, AP reported from Tirana on 15 August (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 August 2002). Nano said in a statement that "all Albanian political parties should work together so that not a single vote in Macedonia is lost in representing the Albanian candidates." The prime minister made his remarks directly to former guerrilla leader Ali Ahmeti in a telephone conversation. Recent polls suggest that Ahmeti's recently formed Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) might win more votes than the established parties, which some Albanians regard as a compromised or a spent force. PM

UN POLICE SACK ANOTHER LOCAL POLICEMAN OVER WARTIME RECORD
International Police Task Force (IPTF) Commissioner Sven Frederiksen fired Zoran Ikonic as a police inspector for fire protection, dpa reported from Sarajevo on 15 August. An IPTF spokesman said that "Ikonic has been identified as having taken part in the arrest and transportation of non-Serb civilians from the village of Gornja Bioca to detention centers near Ilijas," which is just north of Sarajevo, in 1992. He is also suspected of killing one Muslim civilian. The IPTF regularly sacks local police when details of their previous unacceptable behavior come to light. PM

CROAT-MUSLIM JOINT INTELLIGENCE SERVICE LAUNCHED
The joint Information Security Service (OSS) began work on 16 August, dpa reported from Sarajevo. Director Munir Alibabic said that it is a "depoliticized, professional institution to protect the federation's constitutional institutions from threats to the constitution and possible terrorist attacks." The new organization replaces the Muslim Intelligence Agency for Information and Documentation (AID) and the ethnic Croat Service of National Security (SNS), both of which were regarded as highly politicized. Officials of the international community have long demanded that the two be merged into a single and nonpolitical agency. PM

NATO WRAPS UP KARADZIC MISSION
SFOR spokesman Scott Lundy said in Sarajevo on 16 August that NATO troops have completed an operation in eastern Bosnia near the Montenegrin and Serbian borders aimed at collecting information on the support network of indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 2002). PM

YUGOSLAV FOREIGN MINISTER AGAINST BILATERAL PACT WITH U.S.
Goran Svilanovic said in Nis on 15 August that he is against signing a bilateral agreement with the United States pledging not to turn U.S. citizens over to the new International Criminal Court (ICC), RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 2002). The minister added that his country must work out an agreement with the United States together with the European Union and the ICC. He added that Yugoslavia "does not want to and will not compromise its relations with that court." PM

DJINDJIC SEES 'NO PROBLEM' IN WORKING WITH KOSTUNICA
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 15 August that his Democratic Party will support Miroljub Labus in the Serbian presidential vote on 29 September, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added that the Democratic Party will be able to work with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica "without any problems" if Kostunica wins the Serbian presidential race. In related news, Justice Minister Vladan Batic of the Christian Democrats said that the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition will not run a joint candidate in the presidential poll. He accused Labus of "seeking the support of DOS while at the same time being ashamed of DOS." Finally, the Socialist Party of Serbia will decide on 17 August whether to follow former President Slobodan Milosevic's recommendation and endorse Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj for the Serbian presidency. Only 17 local party organizations agree with Milosevic's idea, while 29 are opposed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2002). PM

EU DENIES IT IS INVESTIGATING ALLEGED MISAPPROPRIATION OF ROMANIAN PHARE FUNDS
The EU mission to Romania on 15 August denied reports that it has launched an investigation into allegations made by the media that PHARE funds were misappropriated in central Romania, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The mission said that no such investigation is under way and added that the reports probably stem from a January 2002 EU demand that the implementation of some PHARE programs for the year 2000 be "reevaluated." It said its experts have concluded its January examination of those programs' implementation and the results of the report are now "under consideration." The mission also denied that the EU is considering freezing PHARE funds for Romania or demanding that they be returned. European Integration Minister Hildergard Puwak said allegations such as those carried by the media regarding the launching of an investigation are damaging the country's international image and its credibility (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 2002). MS

FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT STUMPS EURO-ATLANTIC INTEGRATION
In an interview with RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service on 15 August, former President Emil Constantinescu said that the goal of Euro-Atlantic integration must be pursued with "solidarity" by all political forces in the country. Constantinescu said the display of such solidarity would also imply acknowledgment of the contribution made by former leaderships toward the effort. This, he said, is what in the United States is called "bipartisanship." MS

TRANSDNIESTER EXPERTS REJECT MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT'S SUMMIT PROPOSAL
Transdniester experts cited by the official Transdniester news agency Olivia Press on 15 August rejected Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin's initiative for a "marathon summit meeting" to take place in Chisinau, Flux reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2002). The experts said Voronin is "usurping the prerogatives of the mediators" in calling for the meeting, stressing that only the three mediators -- Russia, Ukraine, and OSCE -- are empowered to establish dates, venues, and agendas for such negotiations. MS

MOLDOVAN LAW ON PUBLIC RADIO, TV TAKES EFFECT
With its publication in the official gazette "Monitorul oficial," the law approved by the parliament on 31 August on setting up Teleradio Moldova as a "national public institution" has gone into effect, Flux reported on 15 August. Deputies representing the opposition boycotted the final debates on the law, stressing that the legislation disregards the recommendations of European Council experts. As passed by deputies of the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) on President Voronin's recommendation, the law stipulates a three-layer managerial hierarchy for Teleradio Moldova: a supervisory board, an administrative council, and the director-general. The board will have 15 members appointed for a five-year term by the country's president, the parliament, and the government. The board will also appoint the general director of Teleradio Moldova, who must then be approved by parliament. All current Teleradio Moldova employees are to be dismissed under the new law, although they are eligible to apply for re-employment at the company when the new administrative council chooses new employees. MS

SIX CANDIDATES IN GAGAUZ-YERI GOVERNOR ELECTIONS
Six candidates have registered to run in the election for Gagauz-Yeri governor that is scheduled for 6 October, Infotag reported. Each candidate must raise at least 5,000 signatures in support of their candidacy. Of the six candidates, four have already submitted the required number of signatures. They are former Governor George Tabunshik, who is backed by the PCM; Ilya Stamat, who is a former member of the autonomous region's Executive Committee; Mikhail Formuzal, who is mayor of Chadyr-Lunga; and Stepan Topal, who was leader of the region before its autonomy was officially recognized. Also running but still collecting signatures are Gagauz-Yeri Popular Assembly official Ivan Burguji and Comrat Mayor Constantin Taushanji. MS

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT PASSES BILL ON COMBATING HUMAN TRAFFICKING
At its 15 August session, the Bulgarian government approved on first reading a bill on combating human trafficking that provides for the formation of a "National Anti-Human Trafficking Committee," BTA reported. The committee would collect information, analyze cases of human trafficking, and prepare strategies for combating it. The new committee would include representatives of various ministries, state agencies, judicial bodies, as well as NGOs and international organizations. The bill also calls for the formation of local committees with similar functions as well as a witness-protection program, and is based on international conventions dealing with the problem of human trafficking. UB

BULGARIA'S SS-23 MISSILES TO BE SCRAPPED ABROAD?
Responding to the results of an analysis conducted by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAN) on the environmental dangers posed by plans to scrap the country's stockpile of SS-23, Scud, and Frog missiles, Environment Minister Dolores Arsenova told journalists on 15 August that the government will consider scrapping the missiles outside Bulgaria, BTA reported. The BAN report found that the proposed method of burning the missile fuel could result in considerable pollution. Arsenova said that following the publication of an independent study commissioned by the Environment Ministry, the government will decide on the method for the missile destruction and on where it will be carried out. UB

BULGARIAN EMPLOYMENT AGENCY APPLIES INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS
For its latest calculation of the countries unemployment figures, the state Employment Agency for the first time applied the standards of the Geneva-based International Labor Organization (ILO), BTA reported on 15 August. As a result, the unemployment rate in some municipalities rose by as much as 16 percent, while in others it dropped by up to 6 percent. According to the daily "Sega," the employment agency also for the first time used the census data of 2001 as the basis for its latest calculation, which showed that the economically active population dropped by 3.1 percent over the past nine years. The national unemployment rate for July 2002 was 17.6 percent, a slight drop that is mainly accredited to more seasonal employment. The average unemployment rate for the first six months of 2002 was 18.15 percent. UB

BULGARIA FACES DEMOGRAPHIC PROBLEMS
According to the latest figures provided by the National Statistics Institute (NSI) on the prospects of the country's demographic development, between 12-15 percent of Bulgarians under the age of 29 plan to emigrate from Bulgaria in the coming years, "Dnevnik" reported. The current population of the country stands at about 7.97 million, but is expected to continue to fall as a result of outmigration, a low birthrate, and a high death rate. In 1992, the total population of the country was 8.48 million. UB

There is no End Note today.


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