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Newsline - August 26, 2002


MOSCOW READY TO COOPERATE WITH IRAQ
The Russian government is ready to begin implementing a long-term partnership program with Baghdad, an unidentified "high-ranking" source told RIA-Novosti on 26 August. The source also said the document "has practically been agreed to" and is being finalized by the government. The total volume of the trade contracts in energy, transportation, telecommunications, agriculture, and metallurgy is about $40 billion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 2002). The program has been under discussion for two years and is not linked to the present tension surrounding Iraq and a possible U.S. military intervention there, the source said. According to the program, Russia will build pipelines and factories in Iraq and will explore new oil fields. VY

PUTIN: IF RUSSIA DOESN'T BUILD TRANSPORT CORRIDOR, CHINA WILL
Speaking to journalists after his 23 August meeting in Vladivostok with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2002), President Vladimir Putin said the two leaders had discussed in detail the projected merging of the North and South Korean rail networks and connecting them with Russia's Trans-Siberian Railroad, Russian news agencies reported on 24 August. The transcontinental route that would emerge as a result would stimulate the Russian Far East's economy, Putin noted. Russia is extremely interested in having the main transit route from the Asia-Pacific region to Europe run through its territory, which is why it intends to bankroll to construction works. Putin added that if Russia does not move ahead with the project immediately, China will do so instead. Meanwhile, according to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, the project could ultimately bring Russia $3 billion per year in new revenues. The country currently takes in about $1 billion a year on transit-transportation fees, gazeta.ru reported on 23 August. VY

CHINA RELUCTANT TO BE TIED TO RUSSIAN ENERGY SUPPLIES
Despite a number of agreements signed by Kasyanov during his recent trip to China (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21, 22, and 23 August 2002), the Chinese government is reluctant to make specific commitments to import Russian natural gas from Irkutsk Oblast, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 23 August. This project could potentially bring Russia up to $10 billion. Moreover, the Kremlin views it as a chance to win concessions from Beijing in other foreign-trade sectors. However, the daily added, the Kremlin's efforts have not yet paid off, although Gazprom did get a 15 percent share in the construction of a trans-China gas pipeline as a sort of consolation prize. VY

PUTIN SAYS HE'S READY TO REDUCE TERM OF MILITARY SERVICE...
Talking with officers and sailors on board the antisubmarine ship "Marshal Shaposhnikov" on 26 August, President Putin stated that Russia's leadership is planning to reduce the length of compulsory military service, RIA-Novosti, Interfax, and other news agencies reported on 26 August. He added, however, that this measure probably will not affect the navy. Putin said that, in the future, the Russian Army will have more professional servicemen than draftees, although he conceded that financial difficulties will make it impossible to switch to a 100 percent volunteer army. He said the recent experiment with transforming the 76th Paratroop Division to professional status (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2002) has shown that merely raising salaries is not sufficient, since most professional soldiers have families and cannot live in army barracks. VY

...AS DEFENSE MINISTER READY TO DRAFT WOMEN?
Speaking in Novosibirsk during an inspection of the Siberian Military District, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said he does not exclude the possibility of drafting women into military service along with men, RIA-Novosti reported on 26 August. Many armies around the world have adopted this practice, Ivanov noted. He added, however, that such a policy would mean changes to existing legislation, which would take some time. Ivanov noted that many women are currently serving as professional soldiers in the Russian armed forces and their number is constantly increasing. VY

INTERIOR MINISTRY SETS PRIORITIES ON ECONOMIC CRIME
Speaking in Khabarovsk, First Deputy Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev said the Interior Ministry (MVD) is focusing on three areas in its battle against economic crime, RIA-Novosti reported on 26 August. The priorities are crimes linked with marine resources, forestry, and gold and diamond mining, Nurgaliev said. Speaking to MVD officers of the Far East Federal District, Nurgaliev said that illegal fishing in the Russian Far East is worth an estimated $3 billion per year. Moreover, it generates collateral spheres for organized crime such as shipbuilding and sales, the illegal sale of fishing quotas, and conflicts over shares in fishing companies. He also said that organized crime controls up to 40 percent of Russia's timber exports and a considerable portion of the mining and sale of gold and diamonds. VY

LOCAL OFFICIALS TARGETS OF APPARENT CONTRACT KILLINGS...
Two local officials were assassinated in apparent contract hits on 26 August, Russian news agencies reported. In Pskov, Leonid Volkov, who was elected head of the Loknyan Raion in April, was shot twice in the head as he left his home to go to work, dni.ru reported. Police are investigating the murder. Meanwhile, in Novosibirsk, City Council Deputy Aleksei Karpunin was shot several times with a Kalashnikov assault rifle outside his dacha by an unknown assailant. According to dni.ru, police believe the murder was most likely connected to Karpunin's commercial activity as co-owner of the local Sinad casino and several other businesses. As a member of the Novosibirsk City Council, Karpunin served on the Committee for Municipal Property and Economic Development and the Committee on Finance, the Budget, and Tax Policy. RC

...AS IS ST. PETERSBURG DOCTOR
Aleksandr Voitovich, deputy director of the Trauma and Orthopedics Institute, was killed on 23 August, fontanka.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. Voitovich was apparently shot in the mouth near his home as he was leaving for work. Police are investigating the incident. RC

ORTHODOX ELDER DIES
One of the most respected elders of Russian Orthodoxy, Father Nikolai, died on 24 August on a tiny island in a lake near Pskov, regions.ru reported on 26 August, citing the Pskov Information Agency. Father Nikolai, who was 93, was reputed to have been able to locate missing people by studying their photographs and to heal the sick. He was reported to have appeared in a vision to Igor Stolyarov, a submariner who survived the sinking of the "Komsomolets" in 1989, instructing him how to swim to safety. Pilgrims from across Russia and around the world have traveled to Pskov Oblast to consult with Father Nikolai. RC

GOVERNMENT TAKES STEP TO ELIMINATE WAGE ARREARS
Prime Minister Kasyanov has ordered the government to free up 1.5 billion rubles ($47.5 million) by the end of the month to pay wage arrears to state-sector workers in the regions, RIA-Novosti reported on 26 August. According to a government press release, the amount should be sufficient to completely cover "debts for wages and vacation pay for teachers." RC

COURT UPHOLDS BAN ON HEADSCARVES IN DOCUMENT PHOTOS
The Supreme Court of Tatarstan on 26 August upheld a Kazan court ruling that rejected a complaint by local women who sought the right to be photographed for their passports wearing traditional Muslim headscarves (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 5 August 2002), Interfax reported. According to the report, the plaintiffs intend to appeal to the federal courts and to write letters to Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev and presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko. RC

UNITY OFFICIAL OPPOSES EXTENDING PUTIN'S TERM
Duma Deputy and Deputy Chairman of the Unity faction Vladislav Reznik implicitly rejected a recent initiative by the Magadan Oblast legislature urging the Duma to initiate the process of extending the presidential term to seven years (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August), dni.ru reported on 22 August. Reznik said, "We must be guided by the president's position." In the past, President Putin has said that he opposes radically altering the constitution. RC

DOUBLE GOES MISSING IN NIZHNII RACE
A candidate in the Nizhnii Novgorod mayoral race has disappeared, RTR reported on 26 August. Vadim Bulavinov -- a candidate who apparently was registered because he has the same name as Duma Deputy Vadim Bulavinov, one of the leading candidates in the race -- has not been heard from since 19 August, and he has not appeared at the local election commission to pick up his certification (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 2002). RC

KRASNOYARSK SCIENTIST STILL MISSING
Police continue to search for nuclear scientist Sergei Bakhvalov, who disappeared from his home in Krasnoyarsk on 18 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2003), dni.ru reported on 26 August. According to the website, police are investigating Bakhvalov's commercial activities as head of the Kristall research center. In recent months, Kristall has been working on a government grant to research ways of isolating zinc, aluminum, and other metals from scrap. According to the report, the center has received several million rubles in state grants for this work, although Bakhvalov's colleagues insist that all revenues from the center were given to Krasnoyarsk State University, where Bakhvalov teaches. RC

THE PRESIDENT'S A HIT
A new, all-female band called Singing Together has taken the airwaves by storm with its new single, "A Man Like Putin," dpa reported on 24 August. "I want someone like Putin, full of strength, someone like Putin, who doesn't drink, someone like Putin, who will not shame me...," the song's lyrics run. According to the report, the group is the brainchild of Nikolai Gastello, a press spokesman for the Russian Supreme Court. "The music should help Russians to finally shake off depression and decadence," Gastello was quoted as saying. According to "Izvestiya" on 24 August, many Russian women particularly respect Putin for abstaining from hard liquor. RC

OSCE DENIES PLANS TO AID CHECHEN MILITANTS' FAMILIES
Jorma Inki, who heads the OSCE mission to Chechnya, on 23 August rejected as untrue a report circulated by the joint Russian forces in Chechnya claiming that his mission will soon receive some $100,000 to allocate to the families of Chechen men who died while fighting against the Russians, Interfax reported. He said the mission has never received such a large sum and that the Russian representative to the OSCE in Vienna is free to check the existing records of the mission's financial transactions. Inki added that the mission provides aid to schools and hospitals in Chechnya. LF

ARMENIAN POWER GRID FINALLY SOLD
Midland Resources Holding, the only bidder, was on 24 August declared the winner of a tender for an 81.1 percent stake in Armenia's low-voltage power-distribution networks, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The company, which is owned by a Canadian citizen and registered in the Channel Islands, paid $37.15 million for the controlling stake; it is anticipated that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will acquire the remaining stake. Two earlier tenders failed after all potential bidders withdrew (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 April, and 3 December 2001). LF

AUTHORITIES CLAIM AZERBAIJANIS OVERWHELMINGLY ENDORSE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS...
Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission (CEC) announced on 25 August that 88.47 percent of the country's estimated 4.4 million voters participated in the previous day's referendum on 39 constitutional amendments, of whom between 96.53 and 97.09 percent endorsed those changes, Turan reported. CEC Chairman Mazahir Panahov, who claimed on 24 August that the voting was "well-organized" and that no reports of serious procedural violations were received, termed the public support for the proposed changes "a turning point," while Ali Akhmedov, who is executive secretary of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, said it "once again demonstrated that the Azerbaijani people trust [President] Heidar Aliev." Officials in Aliev's native Nakhichevan claimed the turnout there was even higher, at 92.6 percent, of whom only 0.9 percent voted against the proposed changes, Turan reported on 26 August. LF

...AS OPPOSITION SAYS OUTCOME FALSIFIED
Azerbaijani opposition politicians claimed on 24 August that the Azerbaijani authorities resorted to massive manipulation of the referendum vote, Turan reported. Dpa on 25 August quoted Arif Gadjiev of the Musavat Party as saying that the level of vote rigging was "unprecedented," while Andreas Gross, who is the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's rapporteur for Azerbaijan, told Reuters that, "I observed aggression and I heard a lot of allegations, and these figures are so extremely one-sided that it shows you something was not correct." Gross predicted that the outcome of the referendum "will contribute more to the stagnation than to the progress of the country." LF

ANOTHER SUPPORTER OF FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT DETAINED
Djanpolad Guliev, who heads the Sabail (Baku) branch of the Civic Unity Party that supports former President Ayaz Mutalibov, was detained by police on 21 August and has been remanded in detention for 10 days on charges of resisting the police, Turan reported on 24 August. Five Mutalibov supporters are currently on trial, charged with planning a coup d'etat. LF

OSCE CONFIRMS BOMBING OF GEORGIAN TERRITORY...
The OSCE observers deployed along Georgia's border with Chechnya confirmed that unmarked aircraft flying at a high altitude bombed Georgian territory over a period of 40 minutes in the early morning of 23 August, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. Several people are reported dead in that attack, for which Russian military spokesmen have denied any responsibility (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2002). Reuters on 23 August quoted an unnamed U.S. official as stating that "the planes were Russian." LF

...WHICH U.S. CONDEMNS...
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said in a statement on 23 August that the United States is "deeply concerned" at the "credible" reports of the Russian air raid on northern Georgia, "The Boston Globe" and "The Guardian" reported on 26 August. He affirmed Washington's "strong support" for Georgia's independence and territorial integrity and called for a political settlement of the conflict in Chechnya that would contribute to ensuring stability and establishing peace in the Caucasus. U.S. Senator Sam Brownback (Republican, Kansas), who is a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed shock and dismay at the air raid, Reuters reported. "Russia needs to stop such activity immediately and apologize to the Georgian government," Brownback said. LF

...AS RUSSIA DENIES RESPONSIBILITY...
Speaking in Novosibirsk on 23 August, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov rejected Georgian allegations that Russian planes were responsible for the air raid on northern Georgia, Interfax reported. He again claimed that there are still "at least several hundred" Chechen fighters in Pankisi. On 24 August, an expert from the Sukhoi design bureau argued that Russian Su-25 jets cannot fly at night, and could therefore not have been involved in the air raid, ITAR-TASS reported. (Ivanov adduced the same argument after a similar bombing raid on Georgia earlier this year.) The expert added that Georgia's Scorpio jet fighters, which are based on the Su-25 but modernized by Israeli engineers, are capable of night flying and may have been used for the raid on Pankisi, ITAR-TASS reported. But Georgian Air Force deputy commander Djolbert Berozashvili told ITAR-TASS on 25 August that "the Georgian Defense Ministry does not have a single Scorpio jet because it does not have the money to buy one." LF

...WHILE MOSCOW, TBILISI EXCHANGE ACCUSATIONS...
The Georgian Foreign Ministry passed a protest note to Russian Ambassador Vladimir Gudev on 23 August in connection with the air raid earlier that day on the Pankisi Gorge, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili condemned the attack as cold-blooded murder and a violation of international norms, Caucasus Press reported. He laid the blame on "aggressive" Russian factions including the Russian military. On 24 August, the Russian Foreign Ministry responded to the Georgian protest note by repeating its earlier demands that Georgia take decisive action to "block, disarm, and extradite terrorists" still in the Pankisi Gorge rather than simply pressure them to leave Georgia for Russia. The statement again affirmed Russia's readiness to help Georgia do so. LF

...AND COUNTERACCUSATIONS...
A Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on 25 August that Tbilisi is "perplexed" by the Russian note, which it considers "inadequate," ITAR-TASS reported. He said Tbilisi had expected condolences in connection with the civilian casualties. Also on 24 August, Interfax quoted an unidentified Kremlin source as saying that the Chechen "terrorists" in Pankisi have links to Al-Qaeda, and that Russia and Georgia should cooperate in apprehending them, otherwise they will simply move backward and forward between the two countries and ultimately "trigger the decay of the Georgian state." On 23 August, Interfax quoted an unidentified senior Russian military official as blaming Georgia for the bombing raid, which he linked to the maneuvers due to begin two days later (see below). LF

...AS UKRAINE OFFERS TO MEDIATE
Speaking in Kyiv on 23 August, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma offered to mediate between Georgia and Russia, explaining that the deterioration in relations between those two countries has placed Kyiv in "an extremely difficult situation," Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. Kuchma said he did not have complete details of the most recent events in the Pankisi Gorge, but added that any actions against Chechen militants there should be "strictly coordinated." LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER SAYS INTRUDING AIRCRAFT SHOULD BE SHOT DOWN
Speaking at an emergency parliament session on 24 August, Nino Burdjanadze described the 23 August bombing raid as "outrageous" and argued that Georgia should shoot down aircraft that violate its airspace, Caucasus Press reported. Defense Minister Lieutenant General David Tevzadze said on 23 August that Georgia does not have antiaircraft weapons capable of downing planes flying at 8,000 meters, according to Caucasus Press and Interfax. But President Eduard Shevardnadze said the same day that Georgia does have the capability to down intruding aircraft but will not use it in order not to exacerbate Russian-Georgian tensions. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION BLAMES PRESIDENT FOR RUSSIAN AGGRESSION
Opposition National Movement head and former Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 23 August that the Russian bombing raid was a response to President Shevardnadze's pathological helplessness and inability to protect the country's interests, Caucasus Press reported. Saakashvili said that between 80 million-90 million laris ($36 million-41 million) have been spent annually to maintain Shevardnadze' presidential guard, while funding for the Border Guards is one-tenth that amount. LF

GEORGIAN POLICE LAUNCH ANTITERRORISM OPERATION IN PANKISI...
Some 1,000 heavily armed Georgian Interior and National Security Ministry troops entered the Pankisi Gorge on 25 August and set about establishing up to 10 new control posts, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. Defense Ministry troops are not participating in the operation, according to Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili who is coordinating the operation from a location near Pankisi. Deputy National Security Minister Lasha Natsvlishvili told Interfax that "criminal elements" will be identified and apprehended on the basis of intelligence information and not by conducting search operations of the type regularly undertaken by Russian forces in Chechnya hunting for suspected militants. On 26 August, regional police chief Zurab Tushuri told Caucasus Press that the first stage of the operation, which is expected to last for several weeks, has been concluded successfully, and that seven control posts have been set up in the villages of Dediseuli, Birkiani, Qvarelchkali, Khalatsani, and Omalo. LF

...AS MANEUVERS BEGIN IN NEIGHBORING REGION
Also on 25 August, Defense Minister Tevzadze and National Security Council Secretary Tedo Djaparidze attended the opening of war games codenamed "Kakheti-2002" in which some 1,000 military personnel will participate, Caucasus Press reported. The maneuvers are scheduled to continue for several weeks. Tevzadze told journalists on 15 August that the maneuvers are intended to improve the efficiency of Georgia's antiterrorism troops and simulate providing humanitarian and medical aid to the civilian population in crisis situations. But on 26 August, Caucasus Press quoted President Shevardnadze as saying the army troops will protect the rear of the Interior Ministry and National Security Ministry troops conducting the "anticrime and antiterrorism" operation in the Pankisi Gorge. LF

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS FOUND DEAD ON BORDER WITH GEORGIA
Eight Russian border guards were found shot dead from close range on the border between Ingushetia and Georgia on 24 August, Russian agencies reported. Two more members of the same patrol are missing. A spokesman for the North Caucasus regional office of the Federal Border Service told Interfax on 25 August it is not clear if the dead men were ambushed or murdered by their missing colleagues. LF

KYRGYZSTAN POSTS FOREIGN TRADE DEFICIT
Kyrgyzstan's foreign-trade turnover grew by 18.5 percent during the first six months of 2002 to $507.3 million, compared with $431.9 million during the same period in 2001, akipress.org reported on 23 August. Imports increased by 31.7 percent and exports by 6.1 percent, resulting in a negative trade balance of $33.7 million. LF

RED CROSS TO PROVIDE FUNDS TO TREAT TB IN KYRGYZSTAN, TURKMENISTAN
The International Red Cross is to provide some 300,000 British pounds ($455,971) to fund a program to prevent the spread of tuberculosis in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan, akipress.org reported on 23 August. The organization estimated the number of persons suffering from that disease in Kyrgyzstan at 100,000, and in Turkmenistan at 90,000, with some 9,400 new cases diagnosed annually in each country. (The population of Kyrgyzstan is 4.99 million, and of Turkmenistan, 5.72 million). A Western diplomat in Ashgabat recently told "RFE/RL Newsline" that tuberculosis is so prevalent in Turkmenistan that doctors have been ordered not to keep records of the number of cases they treat. LF

RENEGADE TAJIK FIELD COMMANDER SENTENCED TO DEATH
Tajikistan's Supreme Court has sentenced Umedjon Davlatov to death and two of his accomplices to 16 and 20 years' imprisonment for their role in a series of murders, including that of Garm Oblast Governor Sergei Davlatov two years ago, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2000). The three men belonged to a group that has been accused of hundreds of serious crimes, including the murder in 1999 of three UN officials and their driver. LF

TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN SIGN TRANSIT AGREEMENTS
Following talks in Dushanbe on 23 August, the prime ministers of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Oqil Oqilov and Utkir Sultanov, signed agreements on rail transit, television broadcasting, and the procedure for servicing Tajikistan's debt to Uzbekistan, Russian news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2001 and 14 February 2002). They also signed a protocol on the functioning of border checkpoints, and discussed progress in delimitation of their shared border, 70 percent of which has been demarcated. Oqilov said the accords will stimulate bilateral economic cooperation. Meanwhile, two young Tajik women trying to cross the border into Uzbekistan were killed by a landmine the same day, Interfax reported. Almost 60 people have been killed by border mines over the past three years. LF

TAJIK BORDER GUARDS HIT BY TYPHOID OUTBREAK
More than 20 border guards on the Vanch sector of the Tajik-Afghan frontier have been hospitalized with typhoid, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 August, quoting Tajik Border Guards commander Lieutenant General Abdurakhmon Azimov. He admitted that his force cannot afford to vaccinate its personnel at a cost of $30 a shot. On 14 August, Tajik Health Minister A. Akhmedov denied that Tajikistan is suffering an epidemic, according to "Bizness i politika," as cited by Asia Plus-Blitz. He gave the number of registered cases during the first seven months of this year as 1,582, which, he said, is 11 percent fewer than during the same period for 2001. LF

U.S. GENERAL, CONGRESSMEN VISIT UZBEKISTAN
On his fourth visit to Tashkent since the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom in neighboring Afghanistan, General Tommy Franks, who is head of U.S. Central Command, met with Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov and Defense Minister Kadyr Gulyamov to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, the fight against international terrorism, religious extremism and drug trafficking, and expanding bilateral military cooperation, Russian news agencies reported. Also on 23 August, Karimov met with an 11-person U.S. Congressional delegation headed by Peter Hoeckstra to discuss broader aspects of bilateral cooperation. ITAR-TASS quoted Hoeckstra as saying that Washington's policy in Central Asia is aimed at promoting positive change in the region. LF

NEW SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY EMERGES IN BELARUS
A congress of 163 delegates from the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (led by Alyaksey Karol), the Women's Party Hope (led by Valyantsina Palevikova), and the Belarusian Social Democratic Assembly (led by Stanislau Shushkevich) set up the United Social Democratic Party (ASDP) in Minsk on 24 August, Belapan reported. Karol's and Palevikova's groups reportedly ceased to exist following this unifying congress. However, the array of social-democratic forces in Belarus has not became less complex than before. Apart from the ASDP, there is still Shushkevich's party (Shushkevich did not attend the congress), the Social Democratic Party (National Assembly) headed by Mikalay Statkevich, and the Women's Party Hope led by Valyantsina Matusevich (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 2002). JM

TRADE UNION BOSS SLAMS BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT FOR 'DEAD' UNION WITH RUSSIA
Alyaksandr Yarashuk, the head of the Trade Union of Workers of the Agro-Industrial Complex, told journalists on 23 August that the 1999 treaty on the creation of a Russia-Belarus Union state is "dead." Yarashuk accused Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka of failing to integrate Belarus with Russia, Belapan reported. According to Yarashuk, there are "wide strata" of the Belarusian population for whom Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal to incorporate Belarus into the Russian Federation is "acceptable." Yarashuk proposed to launch a "broad social discussion" of the integration with Russia and invite Putin to Belarus to take part in legislative hearings devoted to this. Trade Union Federation leader Leanid Kozik commented that Yarashuk's pronouncements are "intrigues of the fifth column in our state" and accused him of intending "to split the Belarusian people." JM

BELARUSIAN POLICE LAUNCH HUNT FOR PROTESTERS AGAINST MERGER WITH RUSSIA
Police officers on 23 August arrested Yauhen Afnahel who, along with some 20 colleagues from the Zubr opposition youth movement, took part in a street protest in Minsk on 21 August against the merger of Belarus with Russia, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Police, who were not present during the protest, made the arrest after seizing videotapes of the rally from the Minsk bureau of Russia's NTV channel. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT WANTS COUNTRY TO BE PARLIAMENTARY-PRESIDENTIAL REPUBLIC...
In a televised address to the nation to mark the 11th anniversary of Ukraine's independence on 24 August, President Leonid Kuchma said the country needs to move to a different political system -- a parliamentary-presidential republic. Kuchma said he has already ordered that a working group be set up to prepare a draft of political reform, and appealed to all political forces, including the opposition, to take part in this task. According to Kuchma, Ukraine may achieve this systemic shift by amending its constitution and giving the right to form a government to a parliamentary majority. Kuchma called on the Verkhovna Rada to create such a majority in order to form a coalition cabinet "in the near future," without waiting for relevant constitutional changes. JM

...CALLS FOR PROPORTIONAL ELECTION SYSTEM...
Kuchma said the country's shift to a parliamentary-presidential republic would require changes to election legislation, UNIAN reported. "In other words, we need a proportional election system, but of a European type," Kuchma said. The president also noted that Ukraine urgently needs a reform of territorial administration. "Shifting to a parliamentary-presidential model and strengthening the role of local self-governments is what we call our 'European choice,'" he added. Last year, Kuchma repeatedly vetoed bills proposing to elect all or a majority of Ukraine's parliamentarians under a party-list proportional system. JM

...AND MAKES HIMSELF 'PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE' FOR FOUR SOCIAL ISSUES...
Kuchma said that as of now he will be "personally responsible" for tackling four major social problems in the country: combating poverty, making health care accessible for everyone, reforming the pension system, and securing high-quality education for everybody irrespective of income, UNIAN reported. JM

...AS OPPOSITION REACTS WITH DISTRUST
Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko told UNIAN that Kuchma's announcement of political reform is a populist step intended to weaken the opposition's political demands ahead of protests planned for next month. Oleksandr Turchynov from the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc said Kuchma's reformist proposals are "insincere" and made "out of fear" of the upcoming opposition protests. Turchynov added that Kuchma's address lacked the main message -- an announcement of his resignation. Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko said Kuchma's proposal to form a coalition government coincides with Our Ukraine's postulates, but added that "we read the notion of coalition in a different way" than the president. "I think Ukraine does not need a government formed by political forces that will be artificially herded into a parliamentary coalition," Yushchenko added. JM

OUR UKRAINE REPORTEDLY AGREES TO PARTICIPATE IN OPPOSITION PROTESTS
Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz, Yuliya Tymoshenko, Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko, and Our Ukraine leader Yushchenko met on 23 August to discuss details of the opposition protest actions planned for next month, UNIAN reported. Moroz told the agency that Yushchenko agreed to take part in the upcoming protests in September. Meanwhile, Yushchenko's spokeswoman Iryna Herashchenko told journalists that Yushchenko submitted a draft political agreement to Moroz, Tymoshenko, and Symonenko during the meeting. JM

KYIV MARKS INDEPENDENCE DAY WITH MILITARY PARADE
Some 4,000 servicemen took part in a parade on Kyiv's main thoroughfare, Khreshchatyk, to mark the 11th anniversary of Ukraine's independence on 24 August, UNIAN reported. Meanwhile, the Our Ukraine website cited a recent poll by the Razumkov Center for Economic and Political Studies, according to which only 32.4 percent of respondents consider Ukraine a "really independent country" 11 years after its declaration of independence, while 56.3 percent are of the opposite opinion. Asked if they would support Ukraine's independence in a referendum today, 48.8 percent of respondents said "yes" and 33.9 percent answered "no." JM

WORLD WAR II ESTONIAN POLICE BATTALION PARTICIPATED IN NAZI MASSACRE IN BELARUS
The International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity established by former Estonian President Lennart Meri concluded at its meeting on 23 August that the 36th Estonian Police Battalion had some part in the events related to the mass murder of Jews in Belarus during the Nazi occupation in 1942, ETA reported. Based on Estonian and German archival material, the commission found that the battalion was involved in the guarding of the Novogrudok ghetto and the transportation of detainees, BNS reported. The head of the commission, Max Jakobsen, told reporters after the meeting that, "According to the documents we have, we can't say that the Estonians were directly involved in killing Jews." Vassili Arula, probably the only member of the battalion who is still alive, told the daily "Eesti Paevaleht" that the battalion did not take part in the murder of Jews, ETA reported. Jakobsen said that the investigation will continue and the commission will meet again in October. AB

HIGH AND DRY IN LATVIA
August has been the driest month since 1881, when Latvia began keeping meteorological records, LETA reported on 24 August. According to the Latvian Hydrometeorological Department, there has been no rain in half of Latvia's territory, including the capital Riga, for 29 days. In eastern Latvia, the Zemgale and Daugavpils districts have been without rain for 35 days. A state of emergency has been declared around Riga and in the southern regions of Latgale and Kurzeme because fire hazard is extremely high in forests and marshes due to the drought conditions and high temperatures. Fires have already consumed many hectares of forest and marshland in neighboring Estonia and Lithuania. AB

LITHUANIA'S SMALL FARMERS APPEAL TO PRESIDENT FOR RELIEF
President Valdas Adamkus met with 10 representatives of the small farmers of the Suvalkija region (southwestern region) after they arrived in the capital after having walked from their county seat, Marijampole, for four days, ELTA reported on 23 August. The farmers were calling attention to rural problems that plague small landholders such as low purchase prices for milk, the failure of dairies to pay farmers promptly, and the lack of equitable subsidies. Currently, only farmers with five or more dairy cows are paid subsidies by the state. The petitioners also met the same day with Agriculture Minister Jeronimas Kraujelis, who told them that the state cannot afford to earmark more than the current 11 million litas ($2.9 million) in support the smallholders receive. The minister, however, did promise the farmers that they will be paid a minimum of 0.35 litas (about $0.01) per liter of milk for at least the next two months. AB

MOLOTOV-RIBBENTROP VICTIMS MEMORIALIZED IN LATVIA, LITHUANIA
Several hundred people in Riga and Vilnius attended memorial services for the victims of Soviet and Nazi aggression during World War II launched by the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of August 23, 1939, BNS reported on 24 August. The Vilnius service was organized by the same political and religious dissidents who held a service on that occasion 15 years ago, setting off the country's democratic and independence movement. The participants of this year's service adopted a declaration "on the colonial war and genocide perpetrated by Russia in Chechnya," calling on the United Nations, the Holy See, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the OSCE, as well as many heads of state to stop Russia's war in Chechnya. In Riga, the participants solemnly marched from the Latvian Occupation Museum to the Freedom Monument, LETA reported on 24 August. Five representatives of the "Helsinki 86" were the first to place flowers at the monument, and numerous politicians attended, including Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis. AB

FORMER POLISH DEFENSE OFFICIAL INDICTED FOR CORRUPTION
Prosecutors have indicted Zbigniew Farmus, an adviser to former Deputy Defense Minister Romuald Szeremietiew, for trying to extort bribes worth $150,000 from companies that participated in tenders for equipment for the Polish armed forces, Polish Radio reported on 24 August. Farmus is also supposed to have unlawfully accessed documents classified as state and NATO secrets. Farmus, who is now in custody, was detained in July 2001 while trying to escape to Sweden aboard a ferry. JM

POLISH INVESTIGATOR SAYS PRIEST SPIED ON FUTURE POPE
Prosecutor Marek Lasota from the Krakow branch of the National Remembrance Institute (IPN) has revealed in an interview published on the IPN website (http://www.ipn.gov.pl/) last week that a high-ranking priest spied on church officials on behalf of communist authorities from 1948-64, including on Bishop of Krakow Karol Wojtyla. Lasota's interview was the first official statement confirming that Karol Wojtyla was spied on before he was elected pope in 1978. Lasota did not disclose the identity of the priest, who died in the 1960s. Lasota said the priest "was not the only one [who spied on church officials], but the most valuable from the viewpoint of operational activities." According to Lasota, the priest wrote "long, detailed, and well-informed" reports, but they nevertheless contained no information that could incriminate anyone for anticommunist activities. Lasota suggested that the secret service made the priest an agent by threatening to reveal his involvement in an earlier scandal. "Rzeczpospolita" reported last week that some 1,500 priests may have worked as secret-service agents in communist Poland. JM

NEW CHLORINE LEAK AT SPOLANA PROMPTS CZECH POLICE INVESTIGATION...
Czech police have launched an investigation into repeated chlorine leaks at the Spolana chemical factory in Neratovice in the wake of flooding, CTK and international agencies reported on 25 August. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said on Czech television that several hundred kilograms of highly poisonous chlorine gas was released into the air on 23 August and that the plant's management has lost the government's trust. Gross said that, in breach of an earlier agreement, the management had not announced the leak. He said new managers from Spolana's state-owned parent company, petrochemical conglomerate Unipetrol, have taken over. Jan Papez, head of the committee in charge with assessing flood damages, was quoted on the website of the daily "Pravo" on 25 August as saying the situation "threatened a large number of lives" and was comparable to a "mini-Chornobyl." The management of Unipetrol later announced it has ended cooperation with Papez because it disagrees with his statements on the situation at Spolana. Reportedly there has been no loss of life, but the gas burned trees and crops in surrounding areas. MS

SPIDLA SAYS CZECHS 'PASSED TEST' DURING FLOODS
Addressing an emergency session of the Senate on 25 August, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said the Czechs "passed the test" of the recent floods, demonstrating that the Czech Republic is a welfare social state prepared to support its citizens while at the same time respecting democratic principles, CTK reported. Spidla said the floods are probably the worst natural disaster in the country's history. Ten of the country's 14 regions were affected, he said. The Senate on the same day approved a government request for an extension till the end of October in the deadline for submitting the 2003 draft budget. The one-month delay will allow the cabinet to assess flood damage. The upper house also approved an amendment to the law on the Housing Fund, following up on a 23 August vote in the lower house and allowing lending for new homes to people whose houses were destroyed by the flood. The lower house on that date approved a government-sponsored bill that postpones the deadline for submitting candidate lists for the autumn local elections from 27 August to 3 September. MS

CZECHS RECONSIDER, WILL DEPLOY TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN
Defense Ministry spokesman Milan Repka told CTK on 23 August that a part of the Czech contingent deployed within Operation Enduring Freedom in Kuwait will be deployed to Afghanistan at the request of allies. Repka refused to elaborate on numbers or tasks of the soldiers, citing military secrecy. Last week, Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said the government decided it could not meet a U.S. request to send more troops to Afghanistan because of the costs involved and a shortage of funds in the wake of recent flooding. The 250-strong contingent operating in Kuwait specializes in antichemical warfare, while a Czech military medical unit is already in Afghanistan. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT REHOSPITALIZED, FAMILY FILES CRIMINAL COMPLAINT
President Rudolf Schuster was readmitted to the Bratislava Military Hospital on 24 August with a recurring fever, one day after having been discharged, TASR and international agencies reported. Schuster's son, Peter, told journalists the family has filed a criminal complaint against an unidentified perpetrator, suspecting the president was poisoned last week. Schuster was reported to be feeling better on 25 August. After first diagnosing Schuster's illness as sunstroke, doctors later said blood tests indicated toxic substances in his blood. They released him after an improvement in his condition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2002) but still have not identified the source of the problem. Doctors said the latest examinations indicated either drinking poison or a staphylococcus infection stemming from dental problems. Presidential spokesman Jan Fuele said on 25 August that Schuster might be transported to Austria, where he went in June 2000 after developing post-surgical complications. MS

FORMER SLOVAK INTELLIGENCE SERVICE CHIEF FILES COMPLAINT AGAINST 'ABDUCTION'
Former Slovak Intelligence Service head Ivan Lexa on 23 August filed a complaint with the Prosecutor-General's Office in connection with his detention on 14 July and subsequent transport to Slovakia, TASR reported. Lexa's complaint targets Robert Kirnak, Slovak consul in Cape Town, South Africa, and unknown perpetrators, TASR added. Lexa said that after his arrest in South Africa, Kirnak refused to provide him with the "mandatory aid" to which a Slovak citizen is entitled in line with international agreements. He also said Kirnak has declined to provide him with a passport. (Lexa, for years a fugitive from the law, was reportedly carrying a false passport when he was detained.) Lexa was released from detention on 16 August following a decision by the Slovak Supreme Court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 20 August and 16 and 18 July 2002). MS

SLOVAK AIR FORCE UNITS TO JOIN SFOR MISSION
Two helicopter units will be sent by Slovakia this week to join the SFOR peacekeeping mission in Bosnia as part of the Dutch contingent serving there, Defense Minister Jozef Stank, cited by CTK, announced on 23 August. Stank told members of the mission that their service will bring Slovakia closer to NATO. He said this is the first time that a Slovak air force unit is being dispatched to serve in an international peacekeeping mission. MS

SLOVAK POLICE DETAIN MOURNING SKINHEADS
Police in Prievidza, central Slovakia, on 24 August detained some 40 skinheads, who participated in a ceremony at the graveside of Jaroslav Bahna, who was killed by a Slovak Romany man six years ago, TASR and CTK reported. The ceremony was attended by some 200 skinheads. Police said the detained skinheads wore T-shirts with racist and fascist inscriptions and symbols, and some are alleged to have used the Nazi salute and chanted fascist slogans. MS

'MAGYAR HIRLAP' SCORES WEEKEND SCOOP...
"Magyar Hirlap" on 24 August published the names of 11 ministers and state secretaries who are alleged to have ties to the communist-era secret services. The daily published the names without the consent of the parliamentary commission leading the investigation in the matter. The list included five officials who worked in the cabinet headed by Viktor Orban between 1998-2002 -- former prime minister's office State Secretary Laszlo Bogar; Imre Boros, a former minister who oversaw PHARE funds; former Finance Minister Zsigmond Jarai; former Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi; and former Transport Minister Laszlo Nogradi. According to the list the following members of the Jozsef Antall government had ties to the communist-era secret services -- Bela Kadar, international economic trade relations minister from 1990 to 1994; the late Ferenc Rabar, finance minister from May-December 1990; Erno Raffay, former defense state secretary from 1990-93, and Laszlo Sarossy, agriculture political state secretary from 1990-93. The list also included Szabolcs Fazakas, trade minister under the Gyula Horn government from 1996-98; and Peter Medgyessy, finance minister from 1996-98 and current prime minister. MSZ

...AS POLITICIANS DENOUNCE PUBLICATION OF OFFICIALS WITH COUNTERINTELLIGENCE PASTS
Data Protection Ombudsman Attila Peterfalvi told "Nepszabadsag" of 24 August that personal data can only be made public with the consent of the person it involves and under the express authorization of the law. Karoly Herenyi, spokesman for the opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum, said that until the documents are proven authentic, his party will not comment on the matter, but that it is upsetting that while government leaders debate whether to publish the names of involved politicians, information "runs rampant through the press." FIDESZ deputy parliamentary group leader Tamas Deutsch said that "the goal of the commission [headed by Imre Mecs to investigate government officials' secret-service pasts] is to sling mud on as many people as possible -- if Peter Medgyessy cannot be cleared." He said FIDESZ is unaware of any members of the Orban cabinet being implicated. MSZ

FORMER HUNGARIAN PREMIER URGES MOBILIZATION AHEAD OF LOCAL ELECTIONS...
Former Prime Minister Orban told supporters in Hungary's southwestern town of Zalalovo on 23 August that they "each must convince one person" who did not vote for right-wing parties in the April parliamentary elections to participate in the upcoming October local elections. "We cannot give up, we cannot stop trying to heal the wounds inflicted in the April elections," Orban said. He also called for establishing a "second media" so that messages from the right wing reach people every day. He said press freedom is in danger as 90 percent of print and electronic media support the left, Budapest dailies reported. MSZ

...AND CALLS FOR MAGYAR 'SPIRITUAL UNITY'
Speaking on 25 August in the Romanian village of Sic, Orban said that "it is necessary to unite, at least in spiritual terms, all ethnic Hungarians, no matter in which state they live," the Romanian Mediafax news agency reported. At a ceremony commemorating the village's 1,000th anniversary, Transylvanian Calvinist Bishop Laszlo Tokes, honorary chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, said a "symbolic bridge" should be build to link ethnic Hungarians from Romania's central part of Szekelyland with those who live in the Partium area near the Hungarian-Romanian border. For his part, Miklos Patrubany, chairman of the World Federation of Hungarians, said his organization will initiate a census to count all ethnic Hungarians who live outside Hungary's borders, arguing that the official Romanian census data showing a significant fall in the number of ethnic Hungarians in Romania are "unrealistic." MSZ

HUNGARIAN EXTREMIST LEADER WANTS REFERENDUM AHEAD OF EU ACCESSION
Istvan Csurka, chairman of the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party, on 24 August called for a countrywide referendum to determine if Hungarians "truly want to join the EU," the MTI news agency reported. Csurka argued that the country's population is not well informed on accession and that politicians only speak about its advantages. He said Hungary's admission to the European Union would constitute an end to the Hungarian nation. He added that members of the former and current governments act as "servants to EU countries." In other news, the Budapest Prosecutor-General's Office recently pressed charges against Sandor Gede and Tibor Gede for publishing arrow-cross literature. (The Arrow Cross Party was an anti-Semitic fascist party led by Ferenc Szalasi that ruled Hungary from October 1944 to January 1945.) The Gede brothers were accused of fomenting hatred against a community and misusing personal data after they published anti-Semitic works in reprint editions, "Nepszabadsag" reported. MSZ

SERBIAN MINISTER SEEKS EXTRADITION OF KOSOVAR LEADERS...
Justice Minister Vladan Batic asked the UN civilian administration of Kosova (UNMIK) on 23 August to arrest and extradite to Serbia three prominent Kosovar leaders, Reuters and AP reported. Belgrade wants to try them for acts of terrorism and genocide allegedly carried out during former President Slobodan Milosevic's 1998-99 crackdown in Kosova. The three are Hashim Thaci of the Democratic Party of Kosova, Ramush Haradinaj of the Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK), and General Agim Ceku, who heads the civilian Kosova Protection Force (TMK). The three are among the most influential ethnic Albanian leaders in Kosova. Batic said in a letter in Belgrade that "their arrest and extradition to Serbia's judicial bodies should be carried out by UNMIK and KFOR." He added that Thaci has already been sentenced by a Prishtina court to 10 years in prison for "terrorism." Batic did not add that the "trial" in absentia took place during Milosevic's rule, when the judicial system carried out his orders. PM

...WHICH UNMIK REJECTS
In Prishtina on 23 August, UNMIK spokeswoman Susan Manuel said that only UNMIK has a mandate to prosecute and try war criminals in Kosova, AP and Reuters reported. She added that the UN has received no letter from Batic and that the extraditions are not likely to take place. Observers note that Batic's call for the three extraditions comes during the run-up to the 29 September Serbian presidential elections, with parliamentary elections expected later in the year. His letter also comes shortly after several prominent Westerners called for involving Belgrade in the affairs of Kosova (see "End Note"). Batic has long taken a hard line on Kosova. PM

KFOR ARRESTS ONE MORE EX-GUERRILLA
NATO-led peacekeepers arrested Colonel Bashkim Hamdiu of the TMK on 24 August in Malisheva, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2002). His arrest brings the total number of former fighters of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) arrested by KFOR and UNMIK recently to about 20. The arrests have been sharply criticized by other former guerrillas and the government, and have led to massive protests. The Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) of President Ibrahim Rugova has, however, stressed that the judicial process must be allowed to run its course (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2002). PM

SERBIAN PATRIARCH ASKS STEINER NOT TO ARREST IVANOVIC
In Belgrade, Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle called on UNMIK head Michael Steiner not to arrest extremist leader Milan Ivanovic and to allow Ivanovic to defend himself in court without being detained, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 24 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2002, and "End Note"). Elsewhere, Ivanovic said that UNMIK seeks to arrest him simply to "calm the rage of the Albanians" after the recent detentions of former UCK fighters. PM

SERBIAN AND MONTENEGRIN GOVERNMENTS AGREE ON NEW CONSTITUTION
Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said in Podgorica on 23 August that the Montenegrin and Serbian governments have agreed on terms for the Constitutional Charter to define the future relations between them, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. On 25 August, Miodrag Vukovic of the governing Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) said that the two governments may submit their version of the charter directly to their respective parliaments for approval if the Constitutional Commission tries to block it (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2002). Kostunica has called a meeting for 26 August of the two chairmen of the commission and the signatories of the March Belgrade agreement. PM

KOSTUNICA'S PARTY APPROVES HIS NOMINATION
As expected, the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) endorsed Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica as its candidate for the Serbian presidency, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 25 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2002). Kostunica promised to work for transparent economic reforms, the rule of law, and an end to crime. In related news, the leader of the small Democratic Center, Dragoljub Micunovic, who is also speaker of the Yugoslav parliament, announced his candidacy for the Serbian presidency. And in The Hague, Milosevic demanded that several leaders of his Socialist Party of Serbia be replaced after that party defied his "recommendations" and nominated a popular actor for the presidency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2002). Those Milosevic wants sacked include his deputy, Mirko Marjanovic, whom Milosevic seeks to replace with party insider Bogoljub Bjelic. PM

TWO YEARS LATER: WHERE IS IVAN STAMBOLIC?
On 25 August, many Serbs marked the second anniversary of the disappearance of communist-era leader Ivan Stambolic, who disappeared without a trace while out jogging in 2000, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He is widely believed to have been abducted and killed on the orders of his former protege Milosevic, who allegedly feared Stambolic's lasting political influence in Serbia. The Frankfurt-based diaspora daily "Vesti" noted that the case continues to be shrouded in mystery. It is one of several Milosevic-era political murders that remain unsolved. PM

SERBIAN NUCLEAR DANGER REMAINS
Serbian Technology, Science, and Development Minister Dragan Domazet told AP in Belgrade on 23 August that some nuclear fuel and waste remain at the Vinca nuclear institute following the shipping of a large quantity of hazardous materials to Russia recently (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2002). An unnamed Vinca scientist said that enough nuclear materials remain there to develop an unspecified weapon. In Vienna, a spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency also noted that problems remain. Milosevic hoped to develop nuclear weapons at the communist-era institute but lacked the means to do so. PM

MACEDONIAN PARTIES SPAR OVER COOPERATION WITH FORMER REBELS
On 25 August, the ruling nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) called for an agreement with the Social Democratic Union (SDSM) -- its main rival -- to politically isolate the former ethnic Albanian rebels, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. With the agreement, the VMRO-DPMNE hopes to bar the Union for Democratic Integration (BDI) from entering any future government. The BDI is headed by Ali Ahmeti, the former political leader of the disbanded National Liberation Army (UCK). The SDSM rejected the proposal, noting that the VMRO-DPMNE already is in a coalition with the former rebels. The VMRO-DPMNE's current coalition partner, the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), has included some former UCK commanders in its candidates lists for the upcoming elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 26 July 2002). UB

POLICEMEN SHOT IN MACEDONIA
The government said in Skopje on 26 August that two police reservists were killed in a drive-by shooting in Ciglana near Gostivar, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Representatives of the United States, NATO, and the OSCE condemned the killings. To help defuse tensions, Ahmeti cancelled a planned rally, Reuters reported. PM

SLOVENIAN AND CROATIAN LEADERS IN CONTACT
Prime Ministers Janez Drnovsek and Ivica Racan spoke by telephone on 23 August regarding recent border incidents, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 August 2002). Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula has accepted an invitation by his Slovenian counterpart Dimitrij Rupel for a meeting. Picula stressed, however, that a meeting must be well prepared and aimed at achieving concrete results. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT DISCOUNTS TALK OF ADDITIONAL TERM
President Ion Iliescu on 23 August said two conditions would have to be met for him to run for an additional term as Romanian president, and "none of the two are fulfilled," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. According to Iliescu, the constitution would first have to be amended, and second, he himself would have to want to run for an additional term. Iliescu was responding to statements made last week by Prime Minister Adrian Nastase in an interview with the daily "Romania libera" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2002). Speaking at a Social Democratic Party (PSD) forum in Costinesti on 23 August, Nastase reiterated his proposal to allow Iliescu to run for an additional term. He later told journalists that it would be "premature" to announce whether he himself would run for the office. On 25 August, new National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman Theodor Stolojan (see below) said that accepting Nastase's proposals would be tantamount to "a return to the [communist] past, when a single person wielded power for a long time." The constitution, Stolojan said, "cannot be amended to suit anyone's whims." MS

FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS ROMANIA PREPARED FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP
Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said on 24 August at the PSD forum in Costinesti that by the time the NATO summit takes place in Prague in November, Romania will have completely fulfilled its integration program, Romanian Radio reported. Geoana cited a "senior U.S. official" who recently told him that only something "wholly extraordinary and unexpected" can now stop Romania from gaining membership, provided the country sticks to its program. MS

ROMANIAN LIBERALS ELECT NEW CHAIRMAN
Former Prime Minister Stolojan was elected as new PNL chairman at the party's extraordinary congress on 24 August, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Stolojan won by a wide margin (944 to 193) over his rival Ludovic Orban. Earlier on 24 August, the congress approved the new party statutes proposed by Stolojan. Stolojan later announced his leadership team, including six deputy chairmen, two of whom (Calin Popescu-Tariceanu and Dan Radu Rusanu) belong to the rival "Dinu Patriciu wing." He said in an interview with Romanian television on 25 August that apprehensions within the party that the PNL might "slide to the left" under his leadership are groundless. He also said he does not intend to run for president in 2004, adding that his expertise makes him more suitable as a candidate for the premiership. MS

MAVERICK HUNGARIAN BISHOP LAUNCHES NEW ATTACK ON UDMR
Speaking in the Transylvanian locality of Sic, near Cluj, Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Honorary Chairman Bishop Laszlo Toekes on 26 August accused the party's leadership of "monopolizing funds" and distributing them arbitrarily, Mediafax reported. Toekes said the funds of the UDMR must be distributed "democratically," via Hungarian churches in Transylvania and via organizations representing Transylvanian Hungarian civil society. Toekes said that "if the problems are not solved internally, people must leave the UDMR." But he added he does not intend to do, since this would only serve the interests of those who wish to "marginalize" him. He said the UDMR leaders have stopped acting as representatives of the Hungarian minority and act instead as "Romanian politicians of ethnic Hungarian origin." He also said "there is no difference between UDMR and PSD leaders." UDMR Chairman Bela Marko responded that he is personally opposed to demands by the UDMR leadership that Toekes be sanctioned for his declarations, saying that doing so would be "undemocratic." MS

ROMANIAN STEELWORKERS RENEW PROTESTS
Workers from the CSR and Otelul Rosu steelworks in Resita, both of which are foreign-owned, renewed protests on 26 August and blocked a major road near Caransebes, Romanian radio reported. The steelworkers had halted their protests on 23 August, but the government failed at its meeting that day to address the issue of the two troubled privatized plants. Both plants -- one owned by the U.S.-based Noble Ventures and the other by the Italian Gavazzi Steel -- have halted production because of debts to suppliers, and wages have not been paid for several months. MS

ROMANIAN POLICE START DEMILITARIZED ERA
As of 24 August, the new statutes of Romanian police went into force and the country's police thus became demilitarized, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The process is to be gradually implemented and is to be completed by the end of 2006. MS

MOLDOVAN REPORTS SAY NEGOTIATIONS OVER OSCE PROJECT NOT ENCOURAGING...
An unidentified member of the Moldovan delegation that took part in last week's initial negotiations on the OSCE's proposal for settling the Transdniester conflict told Infotag on 23 August that the meeting was a "hard, painful experience." The source said the only positive aspect of the meeting was that the negotiations began, but that no real progress was made because Chisinau and Tiraspol each stuck to their previous positions. The source also said that while Moldova wants the OSCE proposal to serve as a basis for negotiations, the separatists insist that the project is to serve only as a "framework" for concrete proposals. "Nobody is declining the mediators' proposed draft, but huge work is yet ahead of us," he was quoted as saying. MS

...WHILE TRANSDNIESTER OPPOSITION COMES UP WITH OWN PROJECT
Leaders of the opposition parties in Transdniester on 23 August praised the OSCE draft proposal, but at the same time touted their own proposals for settling the conflict, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Transdniester Supreme Soviet deputy and Narodovlastie (People's Power) Party leader Alexander Radchenko -- backed by Alexander Yavorskii, chairman of the Vlasti naroda (Power to the People) movement and the Komsomol Association -- said at a press conference in Chisinau that Smirnov's "antinational and authoritarian" regime will forever procrastinate in agreeing to a solution. Radchenko proposed a draft described by Yavorskii as "more realistic" than the OSCE proposals and "an auxiliary" proposal on implementing the OSCE draft. Radchenko's proposal envisages setting up a federation in three stages within 18 months. An All-State Council composed of representatives of the two sides would draft a constitution within six months and submit it for approval by the Moldovan parliament. In a second stage, the proposal would be put to a referendum and in the last stage a bicameral parliament would be set up. MS

BULGARIAN PRIVATIZATION AGENCY NAMES WINNER IN BULGARTABAC TENDER...
The state Privatization Agency on 23 August announced the consortium Tobacco Capital Partners, which is supported by Deutsche Bank, as the winner of the final round of the tender for the state tobacco company Bulgartabac, mediapool.bg reported. The Tobacco Holding Consortium and the Rosbulgartabak Consortium came in second and third place, respectively, and Metatabak Consortium was disqualified from the competition after it failed to submit additional information regarding its bid. Privatization Agency Director Apostol Apostolov said he expects the privatization deal to be signed by the end of September. UB

...WHILE LOSING BIDDERS AND TRADE UNIONS PROTEST DECISION
Following the announcement, representatives of Metatabak, Tobacco Holding, and Rosbulgartabak said they will legally contest the outcome of the privatization procedure, mediapool.bg reported. They claim that Tobacco Capital Partners was given preferential treatment by the government. Bulgarian media have claimed that both Metatabak and Tobacco Holding have ties to Russian businessman Mikhail Chernoi, who has been barred from entering Bulgaria since September 2000. Bulgaria's largest trade-union organizations, the Labor Confederation Podkrepa and the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (KNSB), were to meet on 26 August to discuss the Privatization Agency's decision, as they fear the privatization will lead to job cuts at Bulgartabac. UB

BULGARIAN MISSILE-DESTRUCTION SAGA CONTINUES
Speaking on Bulgarian National Radio on 25 August, Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov said that the engines of Bulgaria's stockpile of SS-23 missiles may have to be destroyed abroad, mediapool.bg reported. After members of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAN) warned against the environmental hazards posed by incinerating the missile engines, a Bulgarian expert team visited Slovakia last week to learn more about the method that country used to scrap its SS-23 missiles. The experts are expected to propose alternative methods that must then be assessed by both the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. company CDI, which has been hired to scrap the missiles. Svinarov said that the deadline for the destruction of Bulgaria's stockpile of Scud, Frog, and SS-23 missiles will be met in any event. UB

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON OFFICIAL VISIT TO SYRIA
Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi arrived in Syria on 25 August for a two-day official visit, news.bg reported. The talks between Pasi and his Syrian counterpart Farouk al-Sharaa will focus on the situation in the Middle East, and political and economic relations and cooperation between the two countries in the UN Security Council, of which they are both non-permanent members. Pasi's delegation includes Deputy Finance Minister Gati al-Djebouri, Deputy Economy Minister Milen Keremedzhiev, and Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Petkov, as well as a number of business representatives. UB

A BOTTLE OF GIN
A professor of history at Indiana University used to compare sending a certain unfocused graduate student into a bookstore to giving an alcoholic a bottle of gin. The recipient of the favor might have been happy at the time, but it was ultimately to his detriment, if not undoing.

In recent weeks, calls have been heard from the Western policy community on both sides of the Atlantic for Belgrade to be given a role in determining Kosova's final status. The advocates of this idea present it as the best way to ensure regional stability and peace.

Unfortunately, bringing Belgrade back into a political role in Kosova is only likely to make matters worse. This is true both for what has been called by some Serbian intellectuals the de-Nazification of Serbia, as well as for the decolonization of Kosova.

If Serbia is to make the transition from an aggressive dictatorship with a political culture steeped in blame and denial to a modern European democracy, one of its first tasks is to focus on its internal problems of poverty, crime, corruption, and political instability.

That means that Serbia will need to forget about adventures involving the Serbs beyond its borders. At the same time, those Serbian populations in other parts of former Yugoslavia will have to get used to being minorities in what is essentially someone else's state, albeit with appropriate rights and guarantees.

This is not just an academic or constitutional issue. The refusal of the Serbs of Croatia to accept minority status in 1990 and 1991 provided President Slobodan Milosevic with the opportunity for his wars of conquest and destruction. The refusal of the Serbs of Kosova to similarly accept minority status led them to become a bedrock of support for Milosevic from the mid-1980s until the late 1990s. They ultimately abandoned him -- not because he started wars but because he lost them.

Milosevic's defeat in Kosova in 1999 opened the possibility for that province to proceed on the road traveled by so many other former colonies around the globe since 1945, namely the road to self-determination and majority rule.

The question now is whether the Albanian majority will be able to convince the international community that it is indeed able to manage its own affairs. That includes treating the Serbian and other minorities according to contemporary European standards. If the Albanians fail to do so, they will not deserve, or likely receive, the independence that all their political parties seek.

But this is a matter between the inhabitants of Kosova and the international community -- not for Serbia, which lost Kosova through a conflict of its own making and, in any event, has plenty of pressing internal tasks at hand.

Recent calls to involve Belgrade in Kosova's affairs served only to make Serbia's representative, Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, tougher and more outspoken in his public demands. A commentary in the Belgrade daily "Glas javnosti" on 19 August also indicated that well-meaning efforts to placate Serbia by involving it in Kosova's affairs will meet with scant gratitude and achieve little except to whet nationalist appetites.

The international community has its hands full in the Balkans. It must manage protectorates in Bosnia and Kosova and prepare those two polities for a future in which they can oversee their own affairs as part of an integrated Europe. A delicate peace in Macedonia must be fostered and developed. The relationship between Serbia and Montenegro will need attention if those two countries are to develop into stable and prosperous democracies. The last thing one needs under the circumstances is to encourage the forces of Serbian nationalism.

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