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Newsline - September 5, 2002


PUTIN PRESSURES GEORGIAN PRESIDENT...
President Vladimir Putin sent Eduard Shevardnadze a response to the Georgian president's recent message on the heightened tensions between the two countries, RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported. In his message, Putin wrote that he is "seriously concerned by the further activity" of Chechen fighters on Georgian territory. Putin said Russia does not accept Georgia's "tactic of peacefully squeezing out the terrorists from the Pankisi Gorge" and "insists on decisive, concrete, and purposeful actions for the destruction of bandit formations." Putin also said Russia wants to see the Pankisi Gorge blocked and all the fighters there disarmed and turned over to Russia. He offered to send Russian security and law enforcement officials to help Georgia achieve these goals. VY

...GENERAL STAFF DISMISSES GEORGIAN ANTITERRORISM OPERATION...
Russia's military leadership doubts the effectiveness of the Georgian operation against terrorists and criminal elements in the Pankisi Gorge and sees it as "buffoonery and an imitation of a fight against terrorism," Colonel General Yurii Baluevskii, first deputy chief of the General Staff, told Interfax on 4 September. Baluevskii also said that he will send a delegation of Russian generals headed by Deputy Air Force Commander Colonel General Aleksandr Zelin to Tbilisi to prove to the Georgians that Russia has not bombed its territory. VY

...DUMA SUPPORTS FEDERATION COUNCIL'S ANTI-SHEVARDNADZE PUSH...
Aleksandr Chernyshenko, deputy chairman of the State Duma's Committee on the Problems of the North and the Far East, said on 5 September that the Duma backs a recent Federation Council initiative to renegotiate the 1990 U.S.-Russian agreement delimiting the border between the two countries in the Bering and Chukchi seas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 September 2002), strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. Deputy Dmitrii Rogozin, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, stated that both chambers are united in the belief that "[former Soviet Foreign Minister] Shevardnadze sold out Russia's interests." Rogozin added that the problem of fishing rights in the Bering Sea is not "a territorial, but an issue-based question." He said that only U.S.-Russian cooperation can preserve the biological resources of the region. VY

...AND 'IZVESTIYA' PUBLISHES INTERVIEW WITH GEORGIAN PRESIDENT'S ARCHENEMY
General Igor Giorgadze, the former head of the Georgia's secret service who is wanted by Interpol at Georgia's request for allegedly organizing an attempt on Shevardnadze's life, told "Izvestiya" on 5 September that he has numerous followers in Georgia and that Shevardnadze's adversaries are united. Giorgadze -- whose extradition from Russia has been repeatedly demanded by Tbilisi -- also denied that he had anything to do with the 1995 assassination attempt against Shevardnadze. "If I had organized his assassination, we'd be speaking at his graveside," said Giorgadze, who is a veteran of the Soviet KGB's special task force Cascade. VY

SPS LEADER CAUGHT CONSPIRING WITH BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION
Duma Deputy and Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov said on 5 September that he will sue the newspaper "Sovetskaya Rossiya" for publishing on 4 September a transcript of a late-August telephone conversation between Nemtsov and a leader of the Belarusian opposition, polit.ru reported on 5 September. According to the report, Nemtsov has acknowledged that the conversation took place. In the transcript, Nemtsov discussed with Anatol Lyabedzka possible models for uniting Russia and Belarus that would be amenable to the opposition lined up against Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Nemtsov said that he supports President Putin's line toward Lukashenka and discussed developing a joint strategy against the Belarusian president. "Sovetskaya Rossiya" reported that it acquired the tape from the nationalist weekly newspaper "Zavtra," which in turn purchased it from a man who offered an entire collection of taped telephone conversations featuring leading Duma members. "Zavtra" claimed that it only had enough money to purchase one of the tapes. Nemtsov also said that he will ask the Prosecutor-General's Office to explain how the telephone conversations of Duma members could have been illegally recorded. VY

GENERAL: RUSSIA'S NUCLEAR ARSENAL IS SAFE
Speaking to journalists in Moscow on 4 September, Colonel General Igor Volynkin, who is responsible for the safety of Russia's nuclear arsenal, said that over the last two years the security measures around nuclear objects have been strengthened considerably, Russian news agencies reported. Volynkin said that access to the installations of the Defense Ministry's 12th Main Directorate, which is in charge of nuclear weapons, is so sophisticated that even within the directorate itself only authorized personnel have access to sensitive objects. Volynkin added that nuclear-weapons storage sites are guarded by special mobile units armed with the most advanced equipment and weapons provided with help from the United States. VY

ANOTHER UNDOCUMENTED TANK FOUND NEAR MOSCOW
For the second time in a week, law enforcement authorities have discovered a T-72 tank in battle-ready condition in an unguarded warehouse outside Moscow, ntvru.com and other Russian news agencies reported on 5 September. The undocumented tank was found in a warehouse belonging to the firm Metallist near the town of Pavlovskii Posad. On 28 August, police found another T-72 tank, two Smerch multiple-launch rocket systems, and several tracked vehicles mounted with machine guns in a separate unguarded warehouse belonging to a firm called Konversiya near the Moscow Oblast village of Novyi Byt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 2002). According to ntvru.com, Colonel General Nikolai Svertilov, commander of the Main Rocket-Artillery Force, later said that Konversiya is a branch of a state agency that has a contract to test and repair military equipment. However, RIA-Novosti reported on 29 August, citing police sources, that members of a "terrorist organization" had attempted to purchase the weapons found at Konversiya. RC

COURTS RULE IN FAVOR OF LEADING KRASNOYARSK CANDIDATES
Two leading candidates for the post of governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai won court rulings that will enable them to participate in the 8 September poll, RosBalt reported on 5 September. Krasnoyarsk Mayor Petr Pimashkov will remain on the ballot after a krai court ruling on 5 September. Pimashkov had been accused by another candidate, Igor Priimak, of holding a campaign event that was not paid for out of campaign funds when he addressed a meeting of krai farmers and industrialists. Meeting organizers had invited all the candidates to address them, but only Pimashkov responded. Priimak, however, was unable to present evidence of a violation and his complaint was dismissed. Meanwhile, another local court on 4 September dismissed more than 20 allegations against another candidate, Krasnoyarsk Krai legislature Speaker Aleksandr Uss, brought by an "anti-Uss coalition" of three other candidates, RosBalt reported. RC

DRAFT BASHKIR POWER-SHARING AGREEMENT NEARLY COMPLETED
The draft of a new agreement on power sharing between Moscow and Bashkortostan is nearly completed, RosBalt reported on 5 September. The working group in the administration of Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov will reportedly present the draft to the president in the next few days. The draft updates a 1994 agreement between the republic and the center and reportedly includes a mechanism for resolving conflicts between federal and republican organs. Meanwhile, RIA-Novosti reported that President Putin and North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov signed on 4 September an agreement dissolving a 1995 power-sharing agreement between Moscow and that republic. RC

SECURITY COUNCIL SECRETARY ARRIVES IN VLADIVOSTOK
Vladimir Rushailo continued his inspection tour of the Far East (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2002), arriving in Primore on 5 September, polit.ru reported. In Vladivostok, Rushailo will meet with presidential envoy to the Far East Federal District Konstantin Pulikovskii, Primore Governor Sergei Darkin, and other officials. Before leaving Khabarovsk, Rushailo told journalists that he is preparing materials for a fall Security Council session devoted to the problems of the Far East. On 7 September, Rushailo will fly on to Sakhalin, and later he will also visit Kamchatka. RC

WRITER APPEALS TO PRESIDENT
The full text of an open letter from writer Viktor Yerofeev to President Putin was printed in "Vremya MN" on 5 September. In the letter, Yerofeev draws the president's attention to the recent actions against contemporary writers by the pro-Putin youth movement Moving Together (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2002). He notes that Moving Together has created a list of "harmful" writers and has interfered with the presentation of new books, in addition to urging criminal cases against writers Kirill Vorobev and Vladimir Sorokin. "Does not this violence against the creative personality remind you of Germany in the 1930s?" Yerofeev writes. He adds that he is not writing "in order to break off relations with the authorities, but so that the authorities would understand and think about what is happening in Russia. In the center of Moscow, books are being destroyed and writers are being brought into court. This situation is absolutely not normal." Yerofeev predicted that there will be "show trials" against writers this fall. Sorokin supports Yerofeev's initiative, ntvru.com reported. "All this reminds one of the dark times when writers were destroyed," he was quoted as saying. RC

MOSCOW, ST. PETERSBURG ENGULFED BY SMOKE
Thick smog choked Moscow and St. Petersburg on 5 September as hundreds of fires blazed in the surrounding areas, Russian and Western news agencies reported. In Moscow, visibility was reduced to just a few hundred meters, and flights were affected at the city's three major airports. Domodedovo Airport closed for more than five hours. According to Interfax, more than 900 separate fires -- many of them smoldering peat bogs -- are burning in Moscow Oblast and about 240 are blazing near St. Petersburg. According to strana.ru, work was affected at the Kremlin, the White House, and the State Duma. The Emergency Situations Ministry briefly grounded its firefighting aircraft because of poor visibility, but by late afternoon flights had been resumed. Firefighting trains were also being used to keep the fires away from rail lines. RC

DUMA DEPUTY KILLED IN CAR ACCIDENT
State Duma Deputy Vladimir Semenkov (Unity) was killed on 5 September in a road accident near the city of Achinsk in Krasnoyarsk Krai, polit.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. Semenkov, who was elected to the Duma as a member of Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia before switching to Unity last year, was driving his Toyota when it collided with a truck on a highway. Semenkov was taken to a hospital, where he died without regaining consciousness. According to AP, Semenkov's car veered into the oncoming lane just before colliding with the truck. RC

'SOMEONE LIKE PUTIN' COMPOSER TELLS WHAT IS COMING NEXT
In a long interview with utro.ru on 5 September, composer Kirill Kalashnikov described how he wrote the music to the pop song "Someone Like Putin," the first release by the all-female band Singing Together that is currently receiving a lot of play on Russian radio stations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2002). Kalashnikov said that he wrote the song in about an hour and that the song was not written "to convey some super-social meaning," but rather "from the perspective of light humor." As for the future, Kalashnikov said Singing Together will prepare a Spanish-language version of "Someone Like Putin" and an antiabortion song that "will speak of the positive role of motherhood and, maybe, if you think on a global level, influence questions of the demography of our country." Another song in the works will have "an antimilitary character," Kalashnikov said. Asked about the effect of "Someone Like Putin" on the public, the composer said: "We are not using nefarious methods to influence the conscious mind. Other agencies are doing that. We simply wrote a good, happy tune." RC

KIROV GOVERNOR WINS LIBEL CASE
A raion court in Kirov Oblast ruled on 5 September that the independent newspaper "Novyi variant" and a journalist identified only as I. L. Veletminskii libeled Kirov Oblast Governor Vladimir Sergeenkov in an article published earlier this year. The court order the newspaper to pay Sergeenkov 5,000 rubles ($161) and Veletminskii to pay 1,500 for the article "The Governor Has Managed To Get the Cold Water Turned Off in Kirov," which alleged that more than 80 million rubles allocated by the federal budget to pay for city water had been misspent with Sergeenkov's consent. RC

DEPUTY PREMIER DENIES CHECHEN PRESIDENT IS DEAD
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov is alive and well and preparing his fighters for decisive battles, Chechen Deputy Premier Akhmed Zakaev told Russian journalists, according to chechenpress.com on 5 September. On 4 September, "Moskovskii komsomolets" suggested that Maskhadov might have been killed, noting that Russian intelligence has not intercepted any radio communications by him for two months. Interfax noted on 4 September that there has been no reaction from Russian law enforcement agencies to the reports of Maskhadov's alleged death. Zakaev also rejected as a lie Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov's 4 September claim that someone from Maskhadov's entourage approached him and tried to persuade him to meet with the Chechen president. Interfax quoted Kadyrov as saying he rejected that proposal. LF

SHALI POLICE DEATHS CAUSED BY BOOBY-TRAP BOMB
Chechen Prosecutor-General Nikolai Kostyuchenko told journalists in Grozny on 4 September that the explosion that killed eight Chechen police officers in Shali two days earlier was caused by a booby-trap bomb packed with metal bolts, not a landmine or an artillery shell fired in error, Russian agencies reported on 4 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2002). LF

PACE DELEGATION VISITS GROZNY
A delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe headed by Lord Frank Judd traveled to Grozny on 3 September and met the following day with Kadyrov, Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov, and Chechen displaced persons who recently returned from Ingushetia to Grozny, Interfax and "The Moscow Times" reported. Judd described the conditions in hostels for displaced persons as "grim," noting the absence of running water, disruptions in power supplies, and shortages of food. He expressed concern over widespread reports that displaced persons are being pressured to leave Ingushetia (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 21, 14 June 2002), and that during searches for Chechen fighters Russian soldiers indiscriminately target civilians or abduct them and hold them for ransom. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION RELEASES JOINT DECLARATION
The 16 opposition parties that aligned last week with the aim of fielding a single candidate to oppose incumbent Robert Kocharian in the presidential ballot scheduled for 19 February 2003 unveiled their joint declaration on 4 September. According to Noyan Tapan, it accuses Kocharian of neglecting the country's interests in his determination to retain power at all costs, and stresses the 16 parties' shared determination to bring about a change of leadership. The 16 parties pledge to coordinate their political activities and to agree on a single presidential candidate and program. But Albert Bazeyan, one of the leaders of the opposition Hanrapetutiun Party, told journalists on 4 September that the opposition may in fact field several candidates in the first round of the presidential ballot, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Doing so would offer voters a choice of alternatives to the incumbent president and thus lessen his chances of gaining the 50 percent-plus-one vote needed for a first-round victory. "Haykakan zhamanak" observed on 5 September that at least six of the 16 opposition leaders have said they plan to contest the upcoming presidential election. LF

ARMENIAN INTERNET PROVIDER SABOTAGED
Up to 4,000 Armenians have been deprived of their Internet access following deliberate damage to the fiber-optic cable of Arminco, one of the country's largest Internet providers, according to Arminfo on 3 September as cited by Groong. An Arminco official said the cable was severed in two places several kilometers apart within the space of five minutes on 2 September. Arminco threatened a lawsuit last month against rival Internet provider Armentel after the latter demanded that Arminco immediately vacate the premises it was leasing from Armentel. LF

SOME CADETS RETURN TO AZERBAIJANI MILITARY COLLEGE
Some 800 of the 2,000 cadets who walked out of the Azerbaijani Higher Military College on 3 September to protest poor living conditions and unfair treatment on the part of teaching staff returned on 4 September, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2002) The remainder will not return until 6 September unless their demands for improved conditions and the return of Turkish instructors are met, according to zerkalo.az on 5 September. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT, OPPOSITION ANGERED BY CHOICE OF PIPELINE CONSTRUCTION FIRM
Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev has expressed his dissatisfaction to British Petroleum, which is the operator of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline-construction project, over the choice of Consolidated Contractors International Company to build the Azerbaijani sector of the pipeline, zerkalo.az reported on 5 September. The website claims that although registered as Greek, CCC is owned by Lebanese Arabs, and that one of its top advisers is of Armenian origin and has reportedly rendered unspecified "assistance" to the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Moreover, unlike other bidders in the tender such as Bechtel (United States) and Tekfen (Turkey), CCC specializes primarily in mechanics and its only experience in pipeline construction is in Kazakhstan in alliance with Italy's Saipem. Several leading Azerbaijani opposition parties demanded on 4 September that the government ask the state oil company SOCAR, which is a participant in the pipeline consortium and whose president heads the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline Company that was formally established in London on 3 September, to explain the choice of CCC to build the Azerbaijani section of the pipeline. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER THREATENED AFTER PUBLISHING CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS
Aydyn Guliev, who is editor in chief of the opposition newspaper "Hurriyet," has appealed to the State Security Ministry for protection after receiving threats from unnamed senior officials and persons connected with Mubariz Panakhov, who heads the Sadarak customs office, Turan reported on 4 September. On 30 August, "Hurriyet" published an article claiming that profits from oil smuggled from the exclave of Nakhichevan to Turkey with the connivance of customs officials at the Sadarak border crossing have been channeled to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The Turkish government recently banned the import of oil from Nakhichevan. On 3 September, some 150 tanker drivers picketed the Turkish Consulate in Nakhichevan to protest the ban, which they say deprives them of their livelihood. LF

GEORGIA TO BAN STRIKES AT STRATEGIC FACILITIES
Following weeks of strikes by power-sector workers demanding the payment of wage arrears, President Eduard Shevardnadze proposed at a government session on 4 September drafting legislation banning strikes at strategic facilities, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. He also ordered Energy Minister David Mirtskhulava to pay all outstanding wages in the energy sector. Addressing the same session, National Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania said he has information that some opposition factions are planning to incite energy sector workers to mass strikes in the autumn and winter months. LF

GEORGIAN OFFICIALS DENY GELAEV IS ON GEORGIAN TERRITORY
Responding to a statement by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko demanding that the Georgian authorities immediately apprehend and extradite Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev, Georgian National Security Minister Khaburzania said on 4 September that Gelaev is no longer in Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. An official at the Georgian Prosecutor-General's Office told ITAR-TASS the same day that Georgia received a request from Moscow in November to extradite Gelaev, but has been unable to locate him. The official added that if Gelaev is found and captured, the Prosecutor-General's Office "will consider" the extradition request. LF

KAZAKH POWER MINISTERS MEET WITH JOURNALISTS
Interior Minister Qayirbek Suleymanov, National Security Committee Chairman Nurtai Dutbaev, Justice Minister Georgii Kim, Deputy Prosecutor-General Onalsyn Zhumabekov, and Minister of Culture and Social Accord Mukhtar Kul-Mukhammed met on 4 September with heads of independent media outlets to discuss recent reprisals against journalists, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Zhumabekov accused unnamed media outlets of distorting facts or publishing unverified information, while Dutbaev accused them of ascribing political motives to simple crimes and of seeking to drive a wedge between his committee and the Interior Ministry. LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT REJECTS CALLS FOR PARLIAMENTARY REPUBLIC
Chairing the first session of the Constitutional Council on 4 September, Askar Akaev rejected calls by some opposition parties to abolish the presidency, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Akaev argued that a parliamentary republic is not viable because Kyrgyz political parties are weak and "do not represent public views and sentiments." He said the experience of other CIS states has demonstrated the advantages of strong presidential rule combined with "a competent parliament." Akaev did, however, offer to replace the present bicameral legislature with a unicameral one. Council members rejected an opposition proposal to rename the council a consultative council and to appoint an opposition representative as co-chairman. Some opposition politicians left the session in protest. LF

MOSCOW EXTRADITES TURKMEN DISSIDENT
The Russian authorities sent Turkmen dissident Gulgeldy Annaniyazov back to Kazakhstan on 2 September after he arrived at Domodedovo Airport on a flight from Aqtau earlier that day with false travel documents, Yevgeniy Zhovtis, who heads the Kazakh Bureau of Human Rights, told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service on 4 September. Annaniyazov, who is 42, has been forbidden to leave Turkmenistan because of his political activities; he reportedly crossed the Turkmen-Kazakh border in late August. In a 3 September press release, Amnesty International noted that as a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, Kazakhstan is legally obliged not to return Annaniyazov to Turkmenistan, where he might be subject to torture in detention. LF

PUTIN URGES BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT TO RESPOND TO INTEGRATION PROPOSAL...
Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent a letter to his Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka assuring him that the development of integration with Belarus remains a priority task for the Kremlin, Russian and Belarusian media reported. The letter was passed to Lukashenka by Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loschinin on 4 September in Minsk. Putin reportedly confirmed in his letter that Moscow sees three possible integration scenarios: a full merger of Russia and Belarus into a single state, a suprastate formation like the European Union, and unification on the basis of the 1999 union treaty. Putin proposed to set up a joint team to analyze these three integration models. Putin also said he is waiting for Lukashenka's answer to his offer on 14 August to introduce the Russian ruble as the single currency for Belarus and Russia as of 1 January 2004 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 2002). JM

...AS LUKASHENKA CONSULTS WITH RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION SECRETARY
President Lukashenka and Russia-Belarus Union Secretary Pavel Borodin met in Minsk the same day to discuss issues related to Russian-Belarusian integration, ITAR-TASS reported. Borodin said after the meeting that their talks focused on economic matters. "There are different approaches to and opinions [about the union of the two countries], and the two presidents may have somewhat different views as well, but we will reach agreement eventually -- I do not have any doubts about it," Borodin noted. JM

BELARUSIAN TRADERS CONTINUE STRIKE OVER FISCAL PRESSURE
Some 1,000 market vendors staged a demonstration in Minsk's central square to protest tax increases, insurance fees, and regulations they say are intended to make small business unprofitable, AP reported. Anatol Shumchenka, a representative of the United Council of Entrepreneurs, told the agency that some 70 percent of the 180,000 people registered as individual entrepreneurs are taking part in the strike that began on 1 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 2002). Shumchenka said half the markets in 20 cities are effectively shut. He added that the 1 September strike was planned as a one-day action, but vendors groups decided to prolong it indefinitely because there was no reaction from the government. JM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS MUSTER REGIONAL SUPPORT FOR PLANNED PROTEST
Some 10,000 people attended a meeting with Yuliya Tymoshenko, Oleksandr Moroz, and Petro Symonenko in Zhytomyr on 4 September, UNIAN reported. According to what the agency was told by the Socialist Party press service, participants in the rally voiced "whole-hearted support" for the opposition protest campaign that is scheduled to start on 16 September. Later the same day, the three opposition leaders met with some 9,000 people at a similar rally in Rivne. "[The rally in Rivne] took place under slogans demanding that President Leonid Kuchma be ousted, early presidential elections be held, and honest politicians come to power," the Fatherland Party press service told UNIAN. JM

UKRAINIAN OFFICIAL PROPOSES TO PROLONG KUCHMA'S TERM BY TWO YEARS
Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Seminozhenko has said that Kuchma's presidential term should be prolonged by two years beyond 2004 in order to give him time to fulfill the systemic reforms he announced last month (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 27 August and 2 September 2002), UNIAN reported on 4 September. "Prolonging the term of presidential powers in the process of the constitutional reform will provide an additional resource of stability under circumstances when the legislative power will be subject to qualitative changes," Seminozhenko said in a statement. According to Seminozhenko, the presidency in Ukraine could be abolished altogether after the conclusion of the constitutional reform and Kuchma's prolonged presidential term in 2006. "Those opposing this idea do not want to change anything in Ukraine apart from replacing the president with another figure," Seminozhenko added. JM

ESTONIAN PREMIER DISCUSSES NATO ASPIRATIONS DURING WHITE HOUSE VISIT
After meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House on 4 September, Prime Minister Siim Kallas said that "Bush confirmed that the United States gives its strong support to Estonia's accession to NATO, but added that nothing has been conclusively decided and Estonia must do a lot of work," BNS reported the next day. Bush praised Estonia's success in reforming its economy and also raised the issue of Estonia signing an agreement that would exempt U.S. citizens from extradition to the proposed International Criminal Court, but he noted that Estonia's NATO accession is not dependent on such an accord. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, the president's Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones were also present at the meeting. Kallas met earlier on 4 September with representatives of the Joint Baltic-American Committee and Estonian National Council and also met with IMF Director General Horst Kohler. Kallas was scheduled to meet with former Vice President Al Gore on 5 September and give a press conference at the International Press Club. SG

LATVIAN, RUSSIAN RAILWAYS TO COOPERATE
A delegation from the state-owned Latvijas Dzelzcels (Latvian Railways), headed by its board Chairman Andris Zorgevics, held talks with Russian Railways Minister Gennadii Fadeev, BNS reported on 4 September. They signed an agreement on the establishment of representation offices of the Latvian and Russian railways in each other's territory and discussed ways to increase transit cargo flow and maintain international passenger transportation at the current level. The transportation of cargo to Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast was one of the key subjects of the talks, with Zorgevics suggesting possible cargo transit via Latvia. Russia also agreed to revise existing tariff policy and regulations concerning transportation of perishable goods by Latvian refrigerator trains. SG

LITHUANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS BELGIUM
Linas Linkevicius traveled to Brussels on 3 September for an official three-day visit, BNS reported. The main point of the visit was a meeting the next day with his Belgian counterpart Andre Flahaut, during which it was agreed to sign an accord in the nearest future on protection of classified information. The two countries signed a military cooperation agreement last year. Linkevicius accepted the Belgian offer to assist the Lithuanian Navy in military training and to allow Lithuanian soldiers to study mine-sweeping at the Belgian-Dutch military academy. The ministers agreed that small European countries should hold regular bilateral consultations to help implement various initiatives in the defense sphere. Linkevicius was scheduled to visit the defense headquarters of the Belgian armed forces on 5 September as well as meet with ambassadors from NATO countries. SG

POLISH, CZECH PREMIERS AGREE TO COORDINATE EU REFERENDUM PREPARATIONS
Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller and his Czech counterpart Vladimir Spidla agreed during their meeting in Warsaw on 4 September that Central European countries seeking entry to the European Union should coordinate the preparation and holding of national referendums on EU accession, Polish and Czech media reported. "We agreed that the referendums both in Poland and in the Czech Republic should be coordinated, that we should exchange information and study the methods used to inform the public," Polish television quoted Miller as saying. The premiers stressed that relations among the two countries are very good and tension free. Spidla, who is on his first foreign visit as prime minister, thanked Poland for assistance it has provided to the Czech Republic following the recent floods. JM

STILL NO ANSWER TO LUKOIL'S OFFER TO BUY INTO POLISH REFINERY
LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov held a working meeting with Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller in Warsaw on 4 September, Interfax reported, quoting a source in the LUKoil press service. Alekperov confirmed LUKoil's intention to acquire, together with Britain's Rotch Energy, a 75 percent stake in the Polish oil refinery Rafineria Gdanska from the state company Nafta Polska. "Now we are waiting for a reaction from the Polish side," the source said. In mid-June, Rotch Energy and LUKoil submitted a joint bid to acquire a 75 percent stake in Rafineria Gdanska. According to the offer, Rotch Energy would hold a 51 percent stake in the Russian-British consortium. In view of the country's great dependence on Russian energy resources, making a decision on the sale of Rafineria Gdanska to the British-Russian consortium seems to be a tricky issue for Miller's cabinet. JM

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER TAKES TOUGH STAND ON IRAQ
Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik on 4 September told journalists that the Czech Republic must insist that Iraq unconditionally implement the UN Security Council resolutions, CTK reported. In response to a journalist's question, Tvrdik admitted that he advocates a harder line than that recently displayed by Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda. He said he finds himself closer to the views of Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, whom he quoted as saying the West was surprised by the 11 September terrorist attack on the United States but cannot afford to be surprised again. Asked about the Czech position in the event of a U.S. attack on Iraq, Tvrdik said the answer to that question "will be sought by all political representatives, not just by the defense minister." MS

INVESTIGATION REVEALS MILITARY INTELLIGENCE INVOLVEMENT IN ILLICIT DEALS, CZECH DAILY CLAIMS
An investigation launched by Tvrdik last month revealed that senior commanders in the Czech Military Intelligence Service (VZS) abused their positions and manipulated Defense Ministry funds, the daily "Hospodarske noviny," cited by CTK, reported on 5 September. Tvrdik ordered the investigation after it was revealed that former Foreign Ministry Secretary-General Karel Srba (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July and 27 August 2002) was a VZS agent. "Hospodarske noviny" also said authorities have reopened an investigation into allegations that former VZS head Andor Sandor and two other officials were involved in the illegal export of strategic-missile equipment. The daily also published a photocopy of what it claimed is a monthly pay slip showing a gross salary of 95,000 crowns ($3,129), while Sandor's official basic salary was 15,760 crowns. It says such discrepancies at the VZS command level were "part of a mechanism" that included ways to boost benefits high above official incomes. MS

CZECH PRESIDENT URGES WORLD LEADERS TO 'ACCEPT GLOBAL RESPONSIBILITY'
In a message to world leaders taking part in the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, President Vaclav Havel on 4 September urged them to learn from the natural disaster that his own country recently faced, dpa reported. Havel said the international community must accept "global responsibility" to change human behavior, the agency reported. Central Europe's recent floods, Havel said, proved that man's "encroachment on the countryside must change, and that our relation to the world cannot be determined exclusively by the level of our production or of our exports." MS

CZECH REPUBLIC TO IMPLEMENT SCHENGEN AGREEMENT IN 2006
Government spokesman Jiri Marek said after a cabinet meeting on 4 September that all legislation needed for joining the so-called Schengen zone will be enacted by January 2003 and the Czech Republic will meet the target of joining the zone in 2006, Reuters reported. Under the EU's Schengen agreement, mutual border controls were eliminated by the signatories, which include all EU members except the U.K. and Ireland, as well as Norway, which is not an EU member. To join the zone, countries must toughen controls at their borders with non-EU countries and at airports to stem the flow of illegal immigration and combat international crime. MS

CZECH MEDIA CARRY CONFLICTING REPORTS ON CSSD-BACKED PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACIES
The daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 4 September that the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD) has asked former Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures to run for the position of Czech president, CTK reported. The daily "Hospodarske noviny," on the other hand, reported that Dr. Zdenek Dienstbier, chairman of the Czech League Against Cancer, has been asked to run for the post by Premier Spidla. Bures, 48, confirmed that he has been "unofficially" approached by the CSSD, but said he would consider running only after a "binding offer," according to "Mlada fronta Dnes." Dienstbier told "Hospodarske noviny" that he was "surprised" by the offer made to him and needs time to "think it over." He added that at the age of 76 he is "not young anymore." President's Havel's term ends in early 2003. MS

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS SLOVAKIA
In his first visit abroad as Czech Foreign Minister, Cyril Svoboda on 4 September agreed with his Slovak counterpart Eduard Kukan that the two countries will continue coordinating their positions in accession talks with the EU, TASR and CTK reported. They said the coordination will be particularly close on the two difficult chapters of agriculture and budget. Kukan and Svoboda also agreed to coordinate their joint opposition to demands to abolish the Benes Decrees, though Svoboda added that this does not mean refusal to discuss the decrees. Svoboda also briefly met with Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and was briefed by Christian Democratic Movement Chairman Pavol Hrusovsky about the political situation in Slovakia ahead of the 20-21 September elections. MS

CONFLICTING POLLS PREDICT CLOSE RACE IN SLOVAK ELECTIONS
Contrary to trends shown by the latest opinion polls, the prestigious Institute for Research of Public Opinion (UVVM) on 4 September released a survey showing the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) ahead of Smer (Direction), TASR and CTK reported. According to the UVVM, the HZDS has the support of 18.7 percent of voters, while Smer is backed by 15.2 percent. The UVVM poll was conducted in late August and early September. The MVK polling institute on the same day released a survey showing Smer ahead of the HZDS. This poll was also conducted in late August-early September and shows Smer backed by 18.5 percent, with the HZDS garnering 17.6 percent. Sociologist Pavel Haulik of the MVK was quoted by CTK as saying the outcome of the elections will be "a lottery" and is less predictable than ever before. Since Slovak law forbids publication of opinion-poll results in the final two weeks before the ballot and in view of the close race between the HZDS and Smer, it will not be possible for pollsters to do more than measure the mood of the public two weeks ahead of the vote, and that mood may change, Haulik said. MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT APPOINTS NEW STATE NEWS AGENCY CHIEF
The Slovak government on 4 September appointed Peter Nedavska as the new director of the state-run TASR news agency, AP reported. Nedavska, 48, has worked for TASR for 24 years and was chosen from among four candidates. The government fired the previous director, Ivan Ceredejev, in June after Ceredejev purchased a BMW as an office car. The car cost 1.48 million crowns ($33,260) -- almost double the maximum allowed for state-agency directors' cars. MS

MECS COMMISSION FALLOUT CONTINUES IN HUNGARY
Szabolcs Fazakas, former Industry Minister in Gyula Horn's cabinet in 1994-98, told Inforadio on 4 September that during his youth he provided information to the Interior Ministry as a tourist guide and later as a Foreign Trade Ministry official and as a secretary at the Vienna trade office as part of his job. "I see nothing wrong with that," he declared, "this was part of our life -- I was no informer or spy." Fazakas said he will attend a hearing of the parliamentary commission headed by Imre Mecs probing the links of former and present cabinet members with the communist-era secret services. In other news, Imre Boros, former minister in charge of overseeing PHARE funds, on 4 September made it clear that he will not voluntarily leave the Democratic Forum parliamentary group, despite being asked to do so by the party's leadership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2002). Boros said leaving would indicate he agrees with the ruling and methods of the party's leadership. MSZ

HUNGARIAN YOUTH AND SPORTS MINISTER ACCUSES PREDECESSOR OF MISMANAGEMENT...
Youth and Sports Minister Gyorgy Janosi announced on 4 September that the ministry leadership will file a criminal report to the authorities regarding suspicion of misappropriation of funds by the ministry's previous leadership, Hungarian dailies reported. The ministry will cancel illegal contracts and attempt to amend those that are disadvantageous to the state. Janosi claimed the ministry's former leaders violated the law on public finances by signing commitments for which they had no funds. In response, former Youth and Sports Minister Tamas Deutsch told a press conference that the present ministry leaders "have not done anything of value" since they took office in May and want to cover that up by making accusations and expressing lies and nonsense to discredit FIDESZ politicians in the local election campaign. MSZ

EXTREMIST HUNGARIAN LEADER REFUSES TO QUIT MAYORAL RACE
FIDESZ Deputy Chairman Tamas Deutsch recently met Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) Chairman Istvan Csurka and asked him to withdraw from the Budapest mayoral election for the benefit of right-wing candidate Pal Schmitt, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 5 September. Csurka confirmed that he had a "friendly conversation" in the lobby of a Budapest hotel with Deutsch on the matter. "Deutsch called me on the phone, asked for a meeting and I willingly complied, but I let him know that I have no intention of stepping aside," he said. Deutsch denied that he held consultations with Csurka. He acknowledged that they met in the lobby of a hotel, and exchanged a few sentences, but he said "this cannot be called consultations." MSZ

FIRST BLACK CANDIDATE RUNS FOR OFFICE IN HUNGARY
Bailo Amadou, who arrived to Hungary from Mali in 1984 and has been a Hungarian citizen since 1994, is the first black person to run for local office in Hungary, "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 5 September. He will run as a Socialist candidate for local council in the southern town of Bacsalmas. Amadou said his color will help him in the elections as he is known to everyone in the town because of it. Amadou obtained a degree from the University of Agriculture in Godollo. MSZ

MONTENEGRIN ELECTIONS POSTPONED
The parliamentary elections planned for 6 October will be held on 20 October instead, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Podgorica on 4 September. The decision by the parties represented in the parliament follows weeks of bickering by the governing coalition and its opponents over recent opposition-backed electoral and media legislation, which was widely criticized by the international community. A final agreement on electoral legislation is expected shortly. Opposition representatives said that it has already been agreed that all parliamentary parties will enjoy proportional representation in the republican and district electoral committees, that the number of legislative seats for the ethnic Albanian minority will be reduced from five to four, and that all parties will be consulted before new judges are named to the Constitutional Court. But a session of the parliament at which media legislation was scheduled to be discussed was postponed at the request of the governing Democratic Party of Socialists. PM

MONTENEGRIN JOURNALISTS SEE PINK
The Association of Independent Electronic Media (UNEM) protested the decision of one government agency to allow Serbia's biggest private television station, TV Pink, to broadcast programs on 12 frequencies in Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Podgorica on 4 September. UNEM called the decision illegal and demanded its reversal. PM

SLOVENIA AND CROATIA ON THE SAME FREQUENCY?
Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan sent a letter on 4 September to his Slovenian counterpart Janez Drnovsek in which he said that the two men's agreement of one year ago on their joint border is a dead letter because the Croatian parliament will not approve it, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 September 2002, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 August 2001 and 30 August 2002). Racan said that he is willing to put the border issue to international arbitration but wants the matter linked to a number of other bilateral issues, including those regarding the Krsko nuclear plant. In response, Drnovsek said in Ljubljana that Racan's proposals suggest a step in the right direction and that he is "moderately optimistic" that the two men can reach an agreement. Elsewhere, Croatian and Slovenian representatives reached an agreement in Zagreb on cooperation in education. But the Slovenian government sent its Croatian counterpart two protest notes regarding recent incidents in the Bay of Piran. PM

EU SLAMS BOSNIAN SERB REPORT ON SREBRENICA
In the name of the European Union, the Danish Embassy in Sarajevo released a statement saying that it fully supports the objections raised by Paddy Ashdown, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, to a recent Bosnian Serb report denying that a massacre took place in Srebrenica, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported on 5 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 September 2002). The EU called on "all responsible people and institutions" to reject the study. In Banja Luka, Republika Srpska President Mirko Sarovic said that the report should not be dismissed out of hand but merits careful study, "Nezavisne novine" reported. PM

ASHDOWN MARKS 100 DAYS IN OFFICE
British politician Ashdown marked his first 100 days in office as the international community's high representative in Bosnia on 5 September, dpa reported from Sarajevo (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 26 April and 10 May 2002). Principal Deputy High Representative Donald Hays, a U.S. diplomat, told the news agency that the international community still has "much, much more" to do to turn Bosnia into a normal country. Hays added that "the biggest security threats to this country are criminality, corruption, and unemployment." With an eye toward the general elections on 5 October, he argued that "the great good sense of the people of this country suggests that pragmatism is going to triumph over nationalist grandstanding. The people of this country and their elected leaders will find willing partners in the international community to make this country a prosperous part of Europe." PM

ETHNIC ALBANIAN PARTIES REJECT PROPOSAL FOR COOPERATION IN FUTURE MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT
Spokesmen of the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) and the smaller National Democratic Party (PDK) rejected a recent coalition proposal by Arben Xhaferi, the chairman of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), Makfax news agency reported on 4 September. Xhaferi had called upon all ethnic Albanian parties to participate together in the new government to be formed after the 15 September parliamentary elections. "In practical terms, [it is clear that] the party that wins the majority of votes [among the ethnic Albanian voters] will form a coalition with the major [Macedonian] parties," BDI spokesman Agron Buxhaku said. "The PDSH has no mandate to speak on behalf of all Albanian political [parties]," PDK Secretary-General Xhevat Ademi said. Ademi ascribed Xhaferi's proposal to his possible fear of an election defeat. Polls suggest that the BDI of former guerrilla leader Ali Ahmeti will do well in the upcoming vote. Many Albanians say that Ahmeti did more for them in a few months than all the established parties did in a decade. UB/PM

MACEDONIAN JOURNALISTS UNION PUBLISHES HANDBOOK ON ELECTION COVERAGE
The Macedonian Journalists Union (ZNM) presented its "Handbook on Election Coverage" to the public on 4 September, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. The handbook is intended as a guideline for providing "unbiased, independent, and correct information" about the elections to the general public. "It contains guidelines...that are meant to be truly useful rather than patronizing," SNM Secretary-General Saso Colakovski said. UB

U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE REPORTEDLY ASSURES ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON NATO MEMBERSHIP BID
President Ion Iliescu said on 4 September after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on the sidelines of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, that Powell gave him very clear signals of U.S. support for Romania's NATO bid at the November Prague summit, Romanian media reported. Iliescu said on Romanian television that Powell reiterated U.S. support for a substantial NATO enlargement at the summit and that Romania is considered to be "a reliable partner" that has demonstrated its friendship by its actions after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States. Iliescu quoted Powell as saying that "this solidarity is not forgotten and the U.S. sees it as its duty to support Romania's efforts." The daily "Ziua" on 5 September reported that U.S. President George W. Bush, in a message conveyed to Iliescu by Powell, said he regards as "inconceivable" an enlargement of NATO that would not include Romania and Bulgaria. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS ICC TREATY WILL AWAIT PARLIAMENTARY RATIFICATION...
Iliescu also met in Johannesburg with Danish Premier Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who currently chairs the rotating EU Presidency, and told him that the parliament will not ratify the treaty Romania recently signed with the United States on the proposed International Criminal Court (ICC) until the EU officially formulates its own position on the treaty, Romanian Radio reported. EU officials have criticized Romania's accord with the United States, which stipulates that U.S. citizens will not be extradited to the court. Iliescu said after the talks with Rasmussen that the Danish premier told him Denmark will insist that at the December EU summit in Copenhagen Romania and Bulgaria receive a so-called "road map" stipulating deadlines for them to meet conditions in order to advance their EU membership bids. Rasmussen said Denmark will also insist on increased EU aid to the two countries to assist them in progressing toward membership and assured Iliescu of Danish support for Romania's NATO membership bid. MS

...WHILE ROMANIAN PREMIER FORESEES EU-U.S. 'COMPROMISE' ON ICC
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said on 4 September that Bucharest must be "sensitive" to its relations with the both the United States and the European Union, and that he believes the sides will reach a compromise on the contentious ICC issue by the end of this month, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase said that the EU must understand that in 1997 Romania failed in its NATO bid because it lacked U.S. support and that none of the EU countries stood up for Romania at that time. This, he said, should make the EU better understand the position Romania has taken on the ICC issue, but Romania should not be held responsible by the EU for the position of the United States. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER RECEIVES HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER
Premier Nastase on 4 September received Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs and told him Romania is paying particular attention to its relations with Hungary, Romanian Radio reported the next day. Kovacs was to attend as a special guest on 5 September a Foreign Ministry meeting of diplomats stationed abroad. Nastase told Kovacs that Romania hopes the forthcoming local elections in Hungary will create conditions for "authentic self-governance" by the Romanian minority in that country. Kovacs acknowledged problems resulting from the current Hungarian legislation that stipulates that national identity is established on the basis of a person's declaration. He said the Hungarian government regards it as "unacceptable" that people [meaning members of the Romany minority in Hungary] declare their identity as Romanian in order to benefit from local autonomy funds, calling this "ethno-business." MS

UDMR LEADER EXPLAINS POSITION ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Chairman Bela Marko told journalist on 4 September that the UDMR will not submit a proposal to amend Article 1 of the constitution, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Marko said that UDMR legal experts reached the conclusion that amending the provision of the constitution's Article 1, which defines Romania as a "national state," requires the prior amendment of Article 148. This article prohibits amending several constitutional stipulations, including those in Article 1. Marko also said the UDMR's proposals for amending the constitution include several improvements of national minority rights, such as the right to use native languages in courts. He said that if these proposals are not accepted, the UDMR will not support other proposed amendments. MS

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION BACKS DRAFT FORBIDDING FORMER NAZIS' ENTRY
The Senate's Judicial and Defense commissions on 4 September approved an amendment to the Law on the Status of Foreign Nationals, Mediafax reported. The amendment prohibits entry to Romania of foreign nationals if proof exists that they participated in the perpetration of "crimes against peace" or war crimes. Three former Nazis of German origin born in Romania were expelled from the United States to Romania this year, and if the amendment is approved by the Senate's plenum, similar action will not be possible in the future. MS

GEORGIAN DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER IN ROMANIA
In Bucharest on 4 September, visiting Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili and his Romanian counterpart George Maior discussed bilateral relations, NATO expansion, and the international struggle against terrorism, Mediafax reported. Maior said the international community is displaying a growing interest in the stability of the Black Sea zone in light of the new geostrategic framework for combating international terrorism. He said Romania is willing to share with Georgia its experience on meeting NATO membership requirements. Bezhuashvili said Romanian progress on military reforms is "visible" and thanked Maior for the aid extended by Romania's armed forces to Georgia. The Romanian military has made donations to Georgia of uniforms and special military equipment. He said his country is paying special attention to the need for "good-neighborly relations" with Russia, adding that the bombing of Georgian territory last month, which he blamed on Russia, has not contributed to improving relations between the two countries. The sides signed an agreement on cooperation in military medicine. During his 3-6 September visit, Bezhuashvili is to be received by Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu and other Romanian officials. MS

MOLDOVAN PUBLICATION ACCUSES PPCD OF ENCROACHING ON PRESS FREEDOM
Valeriu Renita, editor in chief of the publication "Sens," on 4 September told Infotag that on 31 August two bodyguards of Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) Chairman Iurie Rosca assaulted a "Sens" employee who was distributing the publication on the streets. Renita said the bodyguards ordered the man to throw his copies of the publication in a garbage container and set them on fire. They also warned him against "selling this filth again" and threatened to beat him up if he does so again. Renita said a complaint has been filed with the Prosecutor-General's Office. He said law enforcement authorities must take measures against the "offensive against the freedom of the press." Infotag reported that Renita was earlier attacked in the pro-PPCD daily "Flux" for allegedly supporting the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists. Renita is also a member of the BASA-press managing board. MS

FORMER GAGAUZ-YERI GOVERNOR STEPS INTO ELECTION RACE
The Democratic Party and the "For Gagauz" movement on 4 September nominated former Gagauz-Yeri Governor Dumitru Croitor as their joint candidate in the elections for that post scheduled for 6 October, Infotag reported. Croitor, who resigned from that office in June, said that after his resignation he was urged by numerous people to run again. The registration deadline for candidates for the post expires on 6 September, and Infotag reported that the autonomous region's Election Commission Chairman Ivan Petrov said he does not believe Croitor can obtain in one day the 5,000 signatures of support required for registering in the race. Six candidates have already registered to run for the position, with Comrat Mayor Constantin Tausandji being the last to do so. MS

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT TO STEP UP EFFORTS AGAINST ILLICIT ARMS TRADE
Economy Minister Nikolay Vasilev announced on 4 September that the government will tighten controls over the export of dual-purpose technologies, BTA reported. Vasilev spoke after a meeting of the Interdepartmental Council on Military-Industrial Complex Affairs, during which its members discussed measures to coordinate the efforts of the state institutions to prevent illicit arms trade. Vasilev said the council has urged the Finance Ministry and the Customs Agency to pay special attention to exports of possible dual-use goods to a number of areas. UB

BULGARIA'S CONSERVATIVE OPPOSITION ANNOUNCES VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE...
During the first parliamentary debate after the summer break, Nadezhda Mihailova, the leader of the conservative opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), said on 4 September that her party will move a vote of no confidence in the government if Bulgaria is not invite to join NATO this fall, BTA reported. "For the SDS a failure to receive an invitation to join NATO would mean not only that the incumbents have failed but also that a historic chance for Bulgaria has been missed," Mihailova said. Sergey Stanishev, the chairman of the opposition Socialist Party (BSP), warned of looming social unrest. "An abyss has emerged between politicians and the people, which may turn into the front line of an undeclared civil war sweeping us all away on a wave of public discontent by the end of the winter," Stanishev said. UB

...WHILE RULING COALITION STRESSES NEED FOR POLITICAL CONSENSUS
Replying to Mihailova's and Stanishev's threats, Plamen Panayotov, the chairman of the parliamentary group of the ruling National Movement Simeon II (NDSV), said on 4 September that it is time for the opposition to show whether it places national interests above increasing its popularity rating by a few points, BTA reported. "Let us discuss the country's real problems: its economic development, social policies, and the fight against crime and corruption," Panayotov said. Lutfi Mestan of the NDSV's junior coalition partner, the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), also stressed the need for political stability prior to the NATO summit in Prague. Mestan underscored the role of the country's economic development. "Regardless of all political juggling, if we fail to meet the economic standards, membership in the EU will remain a dream," Mestan said. UB

There is no End Note today.


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