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Newsline - September 11, 2002


PUTIN TELEPHONES BUSH ON 11 SEPTEMBER ANNIVERSARY...
President Vladimir Putin on 10 September interrupted his vacation in Sochi to telephone U.S. President George W. Bush on the occasion of the anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Putin expressed his "sympathy and support for the American people" and reaffirmed his "personal solidarity and devotion to continuing the common fight against international terrorism," according to presidential Press Secretary Aleksei Gromov. Bush recalled that Putin was the first foreign leader to telephone him after last year's attack. VY

...AS MEDIA, POLITICIANS REFLECT ON EVENTS...
All the national television channels marked the 11 September anniversary with special programming and extended newscasts. RTR reminded viewers that 96 Russian citizens were among the victims of the New York attacks. State Duma Deputy and Deputy Chairman of the Union of Rightist Forces Boris Nadezhdin said that the significance of 11 September for Russia is that its leadership has reoriented its policies toward partnership with the West and active participation in the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition, polit.ru reported on 11 September. Fatherland-All Russia official Konstantin Kosachev praised the Russian leadership for improving relations with the United States over the last year. However, he criticized the Bush administration for "irritating more and more countries because it is led by tactical, rather than strategic interests" and "presenting the interests of that country as if they were the world's interests." VY

...AND MILITARY BEGINS ANTITERRORISM EXERCISES
The Defense Ministry announced on 11 September that it has begun exercises aimed at preventing and coping with aircraft hijackings, Interfax reported. According to Air Force Commander Colonel General Vladimir Mikhailov, who is leading the drills, more than 30 airplanes and helicopters will participate in the exercise, together with units of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Emergency Situations Ministry. The exercise includes training in promptly informing the public about unauthorized flights and rehearsing measures to track and intercept such flights. Meanwhile, Moscow police reported that they have bolstered security around the U.S. Embassy, RIA-Novosti reported. VY

U.S., RUSSIA CONTINUE TALKS ABOUT IRAQ, IRAN...
U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton arrived in Moscow on 10 September for talks with his Russian counterpart Georgii Mamedov within the framework of the U.S.-Russian working group on strategic stability, Western and Russian news services reported. It is expected that Bolton will again emphasize U.S. concerns about Russia's program of long-term trade with Iraq and its nuclear cooperation with Iran. In this connection, Bolton will meet with Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev and Rosaviakosmos chief Yurii Koptev, AP reported. VY

...AS OFFICIAL SAYS RUSSIA WILL CONTINUE TIES WITH IRAN, IRAQ, AND NORTH KOREA
First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov told "Vremya novostei" on 11 September that, although Russia wholeheartedly supports U.S. antiterrorism efforts, "being in one coalition does not mean that all countries must be reduced to servile obedience." Trubnikov said that Russia has not been convinced by Washington that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein presents a threat and that Moscow would object to any U.S. military action against Baghdad. Trubnikov, who is a former chief of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), called Iran "an active and useful member of the antiterrorism coalition" and said Moscow will not sacrifice "the economic niche it occupies" with that country. Finally, he stated that North Korea is pursuing "the right line" in normalizing relations on the Korean Peninsula and "should not be pushed out of [this process]." VY

DUMA'S FALL SESSION GETS UNDER WAY...
The State Duma opened its fall session on 11 September and heard a report from Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in closed session, strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. The Duma is expected to consider as many as 500 bills this session and to adopt the 2003 state budget. "Much in the social and economic spheres depends on the decisions deputies will make in the fall session," Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said in his opening remarks. According to RosBalt, 150 of the pending bills are considered "high priority," including 78 that were introduced by the government. The chamber must also ratify 30 international accords. The first reading of the 2003 budget will be on 25 September. RC

...AS UNIFIED RUSSIA BECOMES A FACTION
On 10 September, 147 Duma deputies of the Unity, Fatherland-All Russia, and Russian Regions factions were presented with new Unified Russia party cards. Unified Russia is now the largest faction in the Duma, followed the Communist Party and the People's Deputy faction. RC

BOMB ROCKS WALKING TOGETHER HEADQUARTERS...
A previously unknown group called the Red Partisans on 11 September claimed responsibility for a bomb that exploded earlier that day outside the Moscow headquarters of the pro-Putin youth movement Walking Together, lenta.ru and ntvru.com reported. The bomb -- equivalent to about 400 grams of TNT -- exploded just after 1 a.m. local time, breaking windows and damaging the office door. No one was injured in the incident. According to a statement sent by the Red Partisans to the online newspaper gazeta.ru, Walking Together was targeted because it supports "the policies of [President] Putin, which are fatal for Russia and shameful to the youth of the country." "As a pro-presidential organization, you share the responsibility for all the crimes of the authorities against our people. Therefore, we declare war on you. Mark well, our struggle against you and the Putin regime will continue until total victory," the statement read. Walking Together leader Vasilii Yakimenko said that he does not believe the explosion was organized by supporters of writer Vladimir Sorokin, who faces charges of disseminating pornography on the basis of Walking Together's complaints. "Sorokin is not the kind of writer for whom anyone would commit a terrorist act. This explosion was mindless hooliganism and stupidity," Yakimenko was quoted by lenta.ru as saying. RC

...AND ANOTHER HITS APARTMENT OF KHABAROVSK HEALTH INSPECTOR
Unidentified assailants threw an explosive into the apartment of Dr. Rita Liberova, chief of the Khabarovsk Krai Sanitation Inspectorate, lenta.ru reported on 11 September. No one was injured in the incident, and police are investigating it as a case of hooliganism. RC

SOLDIERS COMPLAIN OF HAZING
The 54 soldiers who left their unit near Volgograd without permission on 8 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2002) did so to draw attention to the systematic and severe beatings that they endured, polit.ru reported on 11 September, citing a written statement that the men left with the nongovernmental organization Mothers' Rights. Tatyana Zozulenko, a spokeswoman for the organization, said that about 1,000 soldiers have left their units in Volgograd Oblast alone in recent years in order to seek Mothers' Rights' assistance. Chief Military Prosecutor Aleksandr Savenkov said that two commanders of the soldiers' unit, identified only as Lieutenant Colonel Kolesnikov and Major Shimov, have been suspended under suspicion that they personally took part in the alleged beatings, RIA-Novosti reported on 11 September. VY

NATIONALIST TO PUSH FOR REFERENDUM ON ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM
Deputy Duma Speaker and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Vladimir Zhirinovskii has said that his party will try to force a referendum on "substantial changes of legislation regarding the downsizing of the state apparatus and the enlarging of the country's territorial-administrative divisions," Russian news agencies reported on 11 September. He said that a referendum is necessary because it has been impossible over the last nine years to push the required legislation through the Duma. In a recent question-and-answer session with smi.ru (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2002), Zhirinovskii detailed his proposal to merge the present 89 subjects of the Russian Federation into 15 entities (gubernii), as well as to abolish the Federation Council and cut the state bureaucracy by 80 percent. He said that the money saved could be used to increase the budgets of security and law enforcement agencies. VY

FIFTH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST DENIED ENTRY INTO RUSSIA
For the second time in two days and the fifth time since April, a Roman Catholic priest has been denied permission to enter Russia, AP reported, citing a Vatican spokesman. Reverend Edvard Mackiewicz, a Polish national, was turned back at the border between Poland and Belarus after being told by immigration officials that his parish in Rostov-na-Donu had been eliminated and his church shut down. AP, however, reported that a priest at the church said it was open and functioning as usual, although it was vandalized on 7 September. On 10 September, a priest was refused entry in Khabarovsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2002), and in April, two other priests were also turned away (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 22 April 2002). The church spokesman said that the Vatican has never received an official explanation for the refusals. RC

LAST 'DOUBLE' ELIMINATED IN NIZHNII RACE
The Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Court on 10 September overturned a lower-court ruling and annulled the registration of Vadim Bulavinov as a candidate for mayor of Nizhnii Novgorod, RosBalt reported. Bulavinov had been registered as a "double" after legally changing his name to match that of State Duma Deputy Vadim Bulavinov (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 28 August 2002). Earlier, the same court annulled the registration of a double with the same name as oblast legislature Deputy Speaker Mikhail Dikin, meaning that now there are no doubles participating in the race. The vote will be held on 15 September. RC

DRIVER WHO COLLIDED WITH RUSHAILO TO FACE CHARGES
The driver of the Toyota sports-utility vehicle that ploughed into the motorcade of Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo on 9 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 2002) will face charges of manslaughter, ntvru.com reported on 11 September. Initial reports that indicated that the driver of the vehicle, Petr Chistyakov, had been killed in the incident were erroneous; he remains hospitalized in serious condition. Five people were killed in the incident and nine were injured, including Kamchatka Oblast Governor Mikhail Mashkovtsev, who is in critical condition. A further criminal investigation is under way into the conduct of traffic-police officers who were responsible for the security of the motorcade. RC

GENERAL KILLED IN ROAD ACCIDENT
Major General Valerii Gertsev, chief of Russia's Rocket-Artillery Force, was killed on 11 September in an automobile accident near Gatchina in Leningrad Oblast, ntvru.com and other Russian news agencies reported. According to the report, Gertsev's vehicle collided with a truck while illegally attempting to pass another car. RC

RUSSIA WARNS ITS CITIZENS THAT GEORGIA IS UNSAFE
In a statement released on 10 September, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned Russian citizens resident in or planning to travel to Georgia of the possible security risks they face, ITAR-TASS reported. It referred to a recent increase in attacks on and abductions of foreign citizens in Georgia, including Russians. Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze dismissed the Russian statement as "theatrical" and deliberately intended to discredit Georgia, Caucasus Press reported on 10 September. He said his ministry will not issue an official response to it. LF

FORMER RUSSIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR CHECHEN PEACE TALKS
In his new book "The World After 11 September," former Russian Foreign Minister and former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov advocates talks aimed at concluding an immediate cease-fire to end the Chechen war, as a preliminary to giving Chechnya some degree of local self-rule, AP reported on 10 September. But Primakov stipulated that only those Chechen field commanders who are prepared to denounce terrorism publicly should be invited to participate in such talks. He added that funding for the Chechen resistance has been much reduced as a result of the international antiterrorism campaign and that consequently its commanders have indicated their readiness for peace talks. Primakov also proposed that President Putin appoint his own representative to head the Chechen government, Interfax reported. Primakov said that representative would "be in charge of everything in Chechnya, including the economy, armed actions against rebels, and political work with the population," and would simultaneously command the forces of the Russian Defense Ministry, Interior Ministry and FSB deployed there. LF

RUSSIAN MILITARY NAMES SUSPECT IN MURDER OF CHECHEN ADMINISTRATOR
Colonel Ilya Shabalkin, who is a spokesman for the joint federal forces in Chechnya, told journalists on 10 September that the 9 September murder of Nadterechnyi Raion administration head Akhmed Zavgaev was carried out by fighters loyal to field commander Ali Paizullaev, who reports to Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov, ITAR-TASS reported. Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov and Security Council head Rudnik Dudaev both accused Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov personally of ordering the killing. LF

CORRECTION
"RFE/RL Newsline" on 10 September erroneously identified the victim of the 9 September attack as Akhmar Zavgaev. Akhmar Zavgaev is Chechnya's representative in the Federation Council.

EU BACKS ARMENIA'S ASPIRATION TO MEMBERSHIP
The Armenia-EU parliamentary commission on 10 September ended its fourth meeting since its foundation two years ago, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The commission issued a joint statement expressing support for Armenia's long-term goal of joining the European Union. Addressing the session on 9 September, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian hailed EU initiatives aimed at persuading Turkey to acknowledge the 1915 genocide and at raising the economic blockade of Armenia, Noyan Tapan reported. The session also focused on the Karabakh conflict, human rights questions, and Armenia's refusal to comply with an earlier commitment to close the Medzamor nuclear-power station by 2004. LF

NEW ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT FACTION FORMED
Ten Armenian parliament deputies, seven of them members of the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), formed a new parliament faction, Vox Populi, on 10 September, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The HZhK defections lower to 38 the number of deputies in the Miasnutiun bloc, which is composed of the HZhK (13 deputies) and the Republican Party of Armenia (25 deputies). Miasnutiun nonetheless remains the largest faction in the 131-member parliament, followed by People's Deputy (16), Hayastan (12), People's Agro-Industrial Union (11), the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (10), the Communist Party of Armenia (eight), Right and Accord (seven), Orinats Yerkir (five), and the People's Democratic Party (four). Nine deputies are nonaligned. LF

PACE CRITICIZES AZERBAIJAN
Meeting in Paris on 10 September, the Parliamentary Assembly's Monitoring Group for Azerbaijan harshly criticized the human rights situation and the plight of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, Turan and zerkalo.az reported. The meeting also noted serious violations during the 24 August referendum on constitutional amendments and deplored the fact that several crucial laws are not systematically implemented. LF

GEORGIAN OFFICIALS DENY CHECHEN MILITANTS IN SOUTH OSSETIA, ABKHAZIA
Koba Narchemashvili told Caucasus Press on 10 September there is no truth to reports that some Chechen militants have moved from the Pankisi Gorge to the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia. Caucasus Press and Interfax quoted a South Ossetian Interior Ministry official as saying earlier on 10 September that two separate groups of Chechens had been sighted the previous day, near the Ksani River and in the market place in the town of Leningori. Also on 10 September, Georgian Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze similarly denied that Chechen militants have made their way to the Kodori Gorge, Caucasus Press reported. Abkhaz National Security Service head Zurab Agumava said on 7 September that Chechen and Arab militants had been detected in Kodori (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 2002). Kakabadze also rejected claims by Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba that Georgia has failed to comply with its commitment to withdraw all its troops from the Kodori Gorge. LF

ADJAR LEADER DISCUSSES ABKHAZ CONFLICT WITH RUSSIAN OFFICIALS
Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze, who is also Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, met in Moscow on 10 September with Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin and with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. Abashidze and Loshchinin agreed on the need to lift the economic blockade of Abkhazia, to resume economic cooperation between the breakaway republic and the central Georgian authorities, and to ensure the safe return to their homes in Abkhazia of Georgian displaced persons. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov assured Abashidze that Russia will continue to do its best to resolve the Abkhaz conflict by political and diplomatic means, but that success depends on the "sincere political will" of both sides, ITAR-TASS reported. He also thanked Abashidze for his tactful attitude toward the presence in Adjaria of a Russian military base. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN CALLS FOR PRE-TERM PARLIAMENTARY, PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
Ertoba (Unity) Party Chairman Djumber Patiashvili, who succeeded Shevardnadze in 1985 as first secretary of the Georgian Communist Party, told parliament on 10 September that Shevardnadze is incapable of performing his constitutional duties and should resign to enable pre-term presidential and parliamentary elections to be held, Russian news agencies reported. Patiashvili argued that Shevardnadze has led Georgia into a "catastrophic dead end," and is unable to preserve the country's territorial integrity, defend Georgia's international interests, or establish "constructive" relations with Russia. LF

KAZAKH BUDGET PARAMETERS FOR 2003 OUTLINED
The budget for 2003 was drafted with extreme caution because Kazakhstan's economy remains vulnerable to shifts in world prices for its key exports, Imanghaliy Tasmagambetov told a cabinet session in Astana on 10 September, Interfax reported. He said that for the next three years, the government plans a budget deficit of 2 percent, and consequently "will not be able to finance all the projects proposed." Revenues in 2003 are set at 621.6 billion tenges ($4.04 billion), which is the equivalent of 15 percent of planned GDP, and expenditures at 704.4 billion tenges. Tasmagambetov said the national budget incorporates oblast budgets, and has been approved by all oblast governors. It must be submitted to parliament by 15 September. Addressing the same session, Economy and Budget Planning Minister Kairat Kelimbetov said revenues are predicated on world oil prices of $21.2 per barrel, ITAR-TASS reported. He said GDP growth is predicted at 6 percent and annual inflation at no more than 5.9 percent. Of total expenditures, 33 percent are earmarked for the social sphere, and defense spending will rise by 24.1 percent to 41.42 billion tenges, or 1 percent of GDP, Interfax reported. LF

KAZAKHS UNHAPPY WITH BORDER CONCESSIONS TO UZBEKISTAN
Numerous political figures and ordinary citizens telephoned RFE/RL's bureaus in Astana and Almaty on 10 September to register their dissatisfaction with the border agreement signed the previous day by President Nursultan Nazarbaev and his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The agreement cedes to Uzbekistan the village of Turkestanets, whose 1,100 population is predominantly Kazakh, together with three other villages in Kyzyl-Orda Oblast (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2002). Callers argued that a referendum should have been held to determine which country residents of the disputed villages would prefer to be citizens of. LF

KYRGYZ PROTEST MARCH CONTINUES
Some 700 local officials and public figures from the town of Kaka-Kul in Djalalabad Oblast met twice on 10 September with protest-march participants but apparently failed to dissuade all of them from continuing their march to Bishkek to demand the resignation of President Askar Akaev, akipress.org reported. Interfax on 10 September quoted opposition parliament deputy Adaham Madumarov as saying that 1,500 participants are proceeding to Bishkek despite the government's recent decree imposing a three-month moratorium on protests and demonstrations. The same agency quoted Interior Minister Bakir Subanbekov as saying that police are making no attempt to halt the marchers, whose number he gave as 420. RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported that 600 marchers remain in Kara-Kul, where local residents are providing them with food and accommodation. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT FIRES NATIONAL SECURITY COMMITTEE HEAD...
At a government session on 10 September, President Saparmurat Niyazov fired Colonel-General Poran Berdyev from the position of chairman of the National Security Committee to which he had been appointed in March, turkmenistan.ru and Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March 2002). Berdyev was named governor of Balkan Oblast. The reasons for Berdyev's demotion are unclear. At a meeting of top law enforcement officials the same day, Niyazov signed a decree transforming the National Security Committee into the National Security Ministry, and appointed to head it Colonel Batyr Busakov, who served as deputy head of the presidential guard before being named several months ago as deputy interior minister with responsibility for special assignments. National Security Committee First Deputy Chairman Geldymukhamed Ashirmukhamedov was named first deputy interior minister. Also on 10 September, turkmenistan.ru reported that Niyazov has posthumously rehabilitated five men who died at the hands of the previous, disgraced National Security Committee leadership. LF

...NAMES NEW AGRICULTURE MINISTER
At the same government session on 10 September, Niyazov named outgoing Balkan Oblast Governor Rustam Artykov minister of agriculture and chairman of the association of commercial cattle-breeding companies, turkmenistan.ru reported. Deputy Prime Minister Redjep Saparov was simultaneously stripped of the agriculture portfolio. LF

BELARUSIAN JOURNALIST GOES ON TRIAL ON CHARGES OF LIBELING PRESIDENT
A district court in Minsk on 11 September opened the trial of Viktar Ivashkevich, the editor in chief of the independent newspaper "Rabochy," Belapan reported. Ivashkevich is charged with libeling President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in August 2001, when a special issue of "Rabochy" published an article titled "A Thief's Place Is in Prison" alleging that the president and his entourage may be involved in serious economic crimes. If convicted, Ivashkevich could receive a five-year prison sentence. "I think this is a show trial to warn other journalists and editors that they should think well before publishing something bad about the president," Ivashkevich told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service the previous day. "The reprisals against the 'Nasha svaboda' newspaper and the journalists of 'Pahonya' [as well as] my trial are links of the same chain," he added. The judge announced that the trial will be conducted behind closed doors. JM

BELARUSIAN AGRARIAN TRADE UNION LEADER DISMISSED
On 10 September, some 50 delegates at a plenary meeting of the Trade Union of Workers of the Agro-Industrial Complex dismissed their boss, Alyaksandr Yarashuk, Belapan reported. Participants at the meeting accused Yarashuk of involvement in politics and failure to establish a dialogue with the authorities. Yarashuk, who unsuccessfully challenged President Lukashenka in the 2001 presidential election, was among the few branch union leaders who opposed the election of Leanid Kozik, the former deputy chief of the presidential administration, as head of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus. Yarashuk recently criticized Lukashenka for failing to integrate Belarus with Russia and set up an initiative group to seek a referendum on integration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August and 4 September 2002). JM

BELARUS TO DEPORT FORMER CHECHEN MILITARY LEADER
Belarus's KGB has announced that it will soon deport to Russia Saipudi Umkhaev, former deputy commander of deceased Chechen President Djokhar Dudaev's army, Belapan reported on 10 September. KGB spokesman Fyodar Kotau said Umkhaev, who was arrested on 29 August, will be deported for illegally staying in Belarus. Kotau added that Umkhaev is not wanted by Russian law enforcement agencies. JM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION MOBILIZES KYIV RESIDENTS FOR ANTIPRESIDENTIAL PROTESTS...
Some 3,000 people took part in a rally on Independence Square in Kyiv on 10 September organized by the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, the Socialist Party, and the Communist Party, UNIAN reported. The three opposition leaders -- Yuliya Tymoshenko, Oleksandr Moroz, and Petro Symonenko -- called on Kyiv residents to back the protest campaign that is scheduled to begin on 16 September and aims at ousting President Leonid Kuchma. JM

...AS SEVASTOPOL RESPONDS WITH PRO-KUCHMA RALLY
Some 4,000 people rallied in Sevastopol on 10 September to express support for President Kuchma and his initiative to reform the political system in Ukraine, UNIAN reported. In an adopted resolution, the demonstrators condemned "the provocative actions of the so-called opposition oriented toward discrediting the president of Ukraine and destabilizing the sociopolitical situation in Ukraine." JM

OUR UKRAINE LEADER TO PARTICIPATE IN 16 SEPTEMBER PROTEST
Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko said during an Internet chat hosted by the "Ukrayinska pravda" website on 10 September that he and "his political partners" will be on Independence Square in Kyiv on 16 September to take part in the antipresidential protest. Commenting on the democratic forum that Our Ukraine plans to hold on 15 September in Kyiv, Yushchenko said its goal is to find an answer to the question of how to overcome the political crisis in Ukraine. JM

UKRAINIAN PRO-PRESIDENTIAL GROUPS CONTINUE TO CONSTRUCT PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY
Parliamentarians of the nine pro-presidential groups -- the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs-Labor Ukraine (41), Ukraine's Regions (37), Social Democratic Party-united (36), European Choice (18), Democratic Initiatives (18), Popular Democratic Party (17), Power of the People (18), Ukraine's Agrarians (16), and People's Choice (15) -- as well as some nonaffiliated deputies, have been given blank forms to declare their willingness to join a parliamentary majority, UNIAN reported on 11 September. Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said leaders of the nine pro-presidential groups would meet with Our Ukraine head Yushchenko later that day to discuss the formation of a "viable" parliamentary majority. Meanwhile, on 10 September Yushchenko said during the Internet chat hosted by the "Ukrayinska pravda" website that he does not conduct talks on the formation of a parliamentary majority with the pro-presidential nine, but with individual parliamentary groups. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT PAYS TRIBUTE TO VICTIMS OF 11 SEPTEMBER 2001 ATTACKS
The Verkhovna Rada on 11 September honored the victims of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States with a minute of silence, UNIAN reported. The parliament adopted a resolution on establishing a memorial plaque in New York with the names of Ukrainian citizens who were killed in the attacks. JM

SEVENTEEN BALTIC RESIDENTS HAVE PROVIDED INFORMATION ON NAZI SUSPECTS
The $10,000 reward offered in July by Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Jerusalem Office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, for information leading to the trial and conviction of any Nazi war criminal in the Baltic states has resulted in the submission of 51 names by 17 persons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2002), ETA and BNS reported on 10 September, citing an article in the "Jerusalem Post." Of the 51 suspects, 47 are from Lithuania, three from Estonia, and one from Latvia, but 12 of those named are known to be dead. Zuroff said he is satisfied with the campaign thus far and hopes that it will provide results. However, Lithuanian officials who would be involved in any future prosecutions noted that neither the Lithuanian Jewish Community nor the Wiesenthal Center have presented any new evidence to Lithuanian law enforcement agencies. SG

SWEDEN OFFERS TO SUPPLY MILITARY AID UPON ESTONIA'S ACCESSION TO NATO
Commander of the Swedish armed forces General Johan Hederstedt during a visit to Estonia on 9-10 September assured his Estonian counterpart Vice Admiral Tarmo Kouts that Sweden will continue to provide Estonia with military aid even after it joins NATO, BNS reported. He also had meetings with President Arnold Ruutel, Defense Minister Sven Mikser, and State Secretary Aino Lepik von Wiren. Before traveling to Latvia, Hederstedt on 10 September observed the Baltic Eagle 2002 exercises conducted by Baltbat, and visited the military depots in Tapa where military equipment donated by Sweden last year is kept, and the Baltic Defense College in Tartu. SG

GOVERNMENT APPROVES LATVIA'S NATO MEMBERSHIP ACTION PLAN FOR 2003
The cabinet on 10 September approved Latvia's NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) for 2003, LETA reported. The MAP will be key to the evaluation of the country's readiness for NATO membership at the Prague summit in November and, if the country receives an invitation to join, during the subsequent NATO entry talks. The MAP has six chapters -- political and economic issues, defense and military issues, resources, information security, legal issues, and implementation plans. The MAP is based on the Law on Defense Financing, which stipulates that 2 percent of GDP is to be allotted for defense each year until 2008. SG

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT OVERRIDES ONLY ONE OF FOUR PRESIDENTIAL VETOES
On the first day of the fall session, 10 September, the parliament by a vote of 81 to 16, with 11 abstentions, overrode the veto of President Valdas Adamkus and passed again without any changes the "Law on Protection of Minors from Negative Public Information," BNS reported. The parliament accepted the president's proposed amendments to the law on financial institutions that are intended to ensure tighter security in the field of free movement of capital and of public order. However, the parliament failed to gain the necessary 71 votes needed to overturn the president's vetoes of two bills dealing with the controversial issue regarding the rights of former owners and current tenants of houses or apartments. SG

POLISH PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION REJECTS MOVE TO SACK EU CAMPAIGN CHIEF
The Sejm's European Integration Commission on 10 September voted by 21 to 18 to turn down a motion requesting that Prime Minister Leszek Miller dismiss Slawomir Wiatr, the government's commissioner for promoting European Union membership. Wiatr admitted in his lustration statement, which was published last month, that he collaborated with the communist-era political police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2002). "Campaigning for European integration among citizens of the Polish Republic by a person who quite recently served the secret services that fought against institutions of the Free World discredits the idea of integration domestically and painfully afflicts Poland's prestige abroad," the rejected motion read. JM

POLAND'S KASHUBS WANT NATIONAL MINORITY STATUS
The Kashubian-Pomeranian Association (Zrzeszenie Kaszubsko-Pomorskie) on 10 September asked the parliamentary Commission for National and Ethnic Minorities for the Kashubs in Poland to be legislatively given the status of a national minority, PAP reported. According to the association's estimates, there may be as many as 300,000 people in Poland who consider themselves Kashubs. Andrzej Jablonski, a leader of the Kashubian-Pomeranian Association, told PAP that the appeal is connected with Poland's expected European Union membership. "If we fail to guarantee our rights [as a national minority] in Polish legislation, we will not have them in the EU either," Jablonski said. The Polish parliament is currently preparing a bill on national and ethnic minorities. The Kashubs' ethnic territory is located on the left bank of the lower Vistula River, near the Baltic Sea coast. Kashubian, a Slavic language, includes Germanic elements. JM

POLISH PARLIAMENT COMMEMORATES VICTIMS OF 11 SEPTEMBER 2001 ATTACKS
The Sejm on 11 September paid tribute to the victims of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States with a minute of silence and a special statement, PAP reported. "We confirm our readiness for cooperation with states, nations, and governments fighting against international terrorism," Polish parliamentarians said in the statement. According to a poll conducted by CBOS earlier this month, 66 percent of Poles believe that 11 September 2001 was a "turning point in history," while 29 percent think it was an event of "great significance." JM

CZECH PRESIDENT URGES SOLIDARITY, REFLECTION ON 11 SEPTEMBER...
President Vaclav Havel said on 10 September that the first anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States should be an occasion for expressing "solidarity" with U.S. citizens, but also one of "reflection and contemplation," dpa reported. Havel said the terrorists attacked "the values on which our civilization is based," CTK reported. He said that the need to protect and strengthen those values has been addressed in the wake of the attack, but that "Looking back...will show us how much or how little we have progressed in our thinking about our civilization and our ways of cohabitation in the globalized world, [and in meeting] human responsibilities," according to dpa. MS

...AND SAYS MILITARY ACTION AGAINST IRAQ SHOULD HAVE BROAD INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT
Havel told journalists on 10 September after a meeting of the National Security Council that any military action against Iraq should have broad international support, CTK and AP reported. "I have always thought that evil has to be confronted," Havel said, but "the question is how." He said the Czech Republic will consider its future position on dealing with the Iraqi crisis after U.S. President George W. Bush's planned speech to the UN General Assembly on 12 September. The council discussed preparations for the November Prague summit, CTK reported. Havel also attended on 10 September a NATO Military Committee meeting discussing summit preparations. He later told journalists that organizing the summit following the catastrophic floods in August is a challenge, but will improve the Czech Republic's image abroad and "also mean economic profit for our country, especially for its capital." MS

CZECH PRESIDENT CALLS FOR CALM IN WAKE OF VZS SCANDALS
Havel also told journalists on 10 September that there is no reason to panic over suspicions about the involvement of former or current Military Intelligence Service (VZS) staff in the leaking of VZS secrets to the media, CTK reported. Havel said the Czech Republic's good reputation has not been harmed, but added that he has asked Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik to prepare a report on the matter. MS

KAVAN TO BE ASKED TO RESIGN FROM CZECH PARLIAMENT?
UN General Assembly President Jan Kavan, who is also a parliament deputy from the Social Democratic Party (CSSD), may be asked by the CSSD to renounce his Chamber of Deputies seat, CTK reported on 11 September, citing the daily "Lidove noviny." On 10 September, Kavan wrote to Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, asking for permission to be absent from the 12 December parliamentary debate on raising taxes to finance after floods reconstruction costs. Spidla agreed to the absence, but "Lidove noviny" cites CSSD parliamentary group leader Milan Urban as saying, "The moment is drawing near when I shall ask the CSSD [parliamentary] group to call on Jan Kavan to consider whether he can hold both positions." The ruling coalition has a majority of just one deputy in the lower house. MS

FORMER SLOVAK PREMIER'S CREDITOR EMERGES BEFORE ELECTIONS
German businessman Peter Ziegler on 10 September told SITA that he is the person who lent former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar 40 million crowns ($913,000) to reconstruct his villa in Trencianske Teplice, CTK reported. Ziegler said the loan is to be repaid over 10 years starting in 2005 at a low interest rate, which he did not specify. Ziegler said he met Meciar through common friends in 1998, when Meciar was no longer prime minister. The financing of the villa raised questions in Slovakia, and Meciar was questioned by police several times. Meciar had refused to identify the person who lent him the money but promised to do so before the September elections. Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) spokeswoman Zaneta Pittnerova said the party will not react to the Ziegler interview, since its chairman's private activities are not an HZDS concern. MS

LUXEMBOURG PREMIER PRAISES SLOVAK PROGRESS ON NATO, EU INTEGRATION
Visiting Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker on 10 September told journalists in Bratislava that the cabinet headed by Mikulas Dzurinda has made great progress toward Slovakia's integration into NATO and the EU, CTK reported. Juncker said he believes accession talks will be completed by the end of the year and that Slovaks will participate in the 2004 European Parliament elections. He said he hopes the 20-21 September ballot will be won by forces capable of leading Slovakia into the EU and NATO. MS

SLOVAK HACKER TRIES TO SABOTAGE ANO'S ELECTION CAMPAIGN
The Alliance of New Citizens (ANO) on 10 September launched a complaint with police against an unknown perpetrator who forged the signature of ANO leader Pavol Rusko and sent it in an e-mail with attachments infected with a computer virus, CTK reported. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT'S SURGEON MIGHT FACE JAIL
Slovak police concluded on 10 September an investigation of surgeon Frantisek Fabian, who operated on President Rudolf Schuster in June 2000 and recommended that the Prosecutor-General's Office indict Fabian for "negligence," TASR and CTK reported. If found guilty, Fabian faces from six months to five years in jail. After undergoing surgery in 2000 for a ruptured colon, Schuster had to be flown to Innsbruck, Austria, for additional surgery after developing life-threatening post-surgical complications. He was hospitalized for six weeks in Austria, where he called for an investigation and added that he would grant a presidential pardon if anyone is found guilty. MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER OPENS PARLIAMENT SESSION
Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy on 10 September opened parliament's fall session by stressing that "hopelessness and poverty, and not the opposition, are the government's enemies," Hungarian media reported. Medgyessy emphasized the importance of national unity, common action, and consensus, and declared that the country does not belong to the governing parties or the opposition, but to the 10 million Hungarians living within its borders and the 5 million ethnic Hungarians living abroad. He said society will not accept the opposition's false juxtaposition that the "dark forces of the past" and "champions of integrity representing the future" are at war with one another. Priority will be given to education, health care, regional development, and preparations for the country's accession to the EU, Medgyessy pledged. MSZ

HUNGARIAN POLICE TO QUESTION STAFF OF OPPOSITION DAILY
The Budapest police anti-organized crime unit is preparing to question the editor in chief and a journalist of the "Magyar Nemzet" on suspicion of violating data-protection legislation, "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 11 September. On 18 June, the "Magyar Nemzet" published documents relating to Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy's past in the communist-era secret services. "Magyar Hirlap" commented that the police stance is impossible to understand, as it contradicts an earlier ruling passed by Budapest Prosecutor's Office with respect to another case involving "Magyar Nemzet." In that case it was established that journalists cannot be charged with violating data-protection legislation. "Magyar Hirlap" also objected to the police action as the prime minister is a public figure and all citizens have a right to know about his past. In other news, FIDESZ officials said they suspect that political motives are behind the destruction of an automobile belonging to a FIDESZ candidate for the local council of Budapest's 8th District, Hungarian dailies reported on 11 September. MSZ

HUNGARY EXPRESSES RESERVATIONS ABOUT MILITARY SOLUTION IN IRAQ
Foreign Ministry spokesman Tamas Toth told "Napi Gazdasag" on 10 September that Hungary "would not like to see a military solution [in Iraq], nor would it like to see Iraq pose a threat in future." Toth said Hungary has not received any official request from the United States, nor have any talks begun on supporting a possible U.S. military attack against Iraq. MSZ

MONTENEGRO SET FOR ELECTIONS
After weeks of bickering and posturing, the parties represented in the parliament agreed in Podgorica on 10 September on the legal groundwork for the 20 October parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The parliament subsequently passed the necessary legislation. The parties agreed to reduce the number of seats for the Albanian minority from five to four and to set down rules for selecting judges of the Constitutional Court, members of the election commission, and members of the editorial board of state-run media. The Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and the Social Democrats agreed to form an electoral coalition with three parties not in the parliament. It will be called "The Democratic List for a European Montenegro -- Milo Djukanovic." The latest poll shows the Djukanovic coalition with 30.3 percent of the vote, and its pro-Belgrade rival, the Together for Yugoslavia coalition, at 25.6 percent. The Liberal Alliance has 4.7 percent, followed by several smaller parties. Djukanovic is the most popular politician, with 30.2 percent of respondents citing him as their first choice. The most popular institution is the Serbian Orthodox Church with 38.6 percent, followed by the Yugoslav Army with 25.1 percent. PM

BOSNIAN SERB GOVERNMENT WAFFLES ON IRAQ EXPORTS
A commission of the Republika Srpska General Staff and the Defense Ministry concluded in Banja Luka on 10 September that there is not sufficient evidence to prove that the Bijeljina-based Orao aircraft factory exported illegal equipment to Iraq, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 10 September 2002). The factory did not, however, seek government approval for its dealings with some other, unnamed businesses that had been under investigation in the past. The U.S. Embassy recently raised the charges against Orao. Paddy Ashdown, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, has called the charges serious. PM

ASHDOWN CALLS ON BOSNIANS TO VOTE
Ashdown said in a statement in Sarajevo on 10 September that Bosnians should vote in the 5 October general elections for candidates who will bring that country "closer to Europe," AP reported. He stressed that "one thing is absolutely certain: If you don't vote, it won't change.... 5 October is important because we cannot achieve the reforms that are necessary to give the people of this country and their children a different kind of future without reformers in government." Ashdown added that Bosnia needs reforms to make it "the cleanest political space of the Balkans..., the most friendly business place in the Balkans..., [and] the most trusted legal space in the Balkans." But recent polls suggest that nationalist parties are in the lead among Serbs, Muslims, and Croats alike, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 9 September. In addition, cynicism with politics and politicians has prompted many to say that they do not plan to vote. PM

WHAT DID KOSTUNICA SAY ABOUT BOSNIA?
The Bosnian Embassy in Belgrade has formally requested clarification from the office of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica about remarks he allegedly made to the effect that the Republika Srpska has only been "temporarily" divided from Serbia, to which it belongs, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Belgrade on 11 September. In Sarajevo, Ashdown said that Kostunica must have misspoken or that his remarks were not accurately translated. PM

STEINER TAKES HANDS-OFF APPROACH TO SERBIAN ELECTION
Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova, said on a visit to Tirana on 10 September that UNMIK does not oppose the 29 September Serbian presidential elections being held in Kosova but will not help organize them, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 2002). He added that he opposes Serbian pre-election campaigning in Kosova on security grounds. PM

11 SEPTEMBER COMMEMORATION IN SKOPJE
To mark the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September, the U.S. Embassy organized a ceremony in its front courtyard the previous day, RFE/RL's Macedonian Service reported. U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Lawrence Butler spoke and read parts of a message from U.S. President George W. Bush, as well as a letter from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski's wife, Snezana Georgievska, will stand in for her husband at the commemoration ceremony in Washington. UB

PRE-ELECTION ROWDINESS IN MACEDONIA
In the run-up to the 15 September parliamentary elections, armed persons fired machine guns into the air and threw stones at a rally of the opposition Social Democratic Union (SDSM) in Prilep on 8 September, Macedonian media reported. Nobody was injured. The SDSM leadership later said the rowdies were followers of the ruling Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE). The small Democratic Alternative of former Foreign Minister Vasil Tupurkovski subsequently called off a rally in Prilep slated for 9 September. The governing Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) postponed a party rally in the village of Aracinovo outside Skopje on 9 September after unknown persons prevented the party leadership from entering the settlement, "Dnevnik" reported. PDSH Deputy Chairman Menduh Thaci later accused "gangs [loyal to SDSM Chairman Branko] Crvenkovski" of being responsible for the incident. UB

BULGARIAN NEWS AGENCY RUNS MACEDONIAN OPINION POLL
The mediapool.bg news agency on 11 September published an opinion poll conducted by the Skopje-based Institute for Democracy, Solidarity, and Civil Society. The poll suggests that the SDSM is headed for victory in the 15 September parliamentary elections with 36.7 percent of the votes, or 59 of the 120 seats in parliament. A further 21.6 percent of the voters said they will cast their votes for the VMRO-DPMNE, which would give that party 32 seats. Its junior coalition partner, the PDSH, will garner 3.9 percent and four seats, according to the poll. The Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) of former rebel leader Ali Ahmeti seems set to become the strongest ethnic Albanian party with 10.7 percent of all votes and 15 seats. The poll indicates that other parties and independent candidates will receive a total of five seats. According to Macedonian law, opinion-poll results cannot be published in the two weeks prior to elections. UB

CROATIAN SCHOOL ROW RESOLVED
Officials of the Education Ministry, Medjimurje County, and a local Croatian parents' group agreed in Cakovec on 10 September that the parents will end their blockade of the local elementary school in Drzimurac, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2002). Croatian and Romany pupils will attend joint classes in cases in which the Romany children are able to follow the standard instruction program in Croatian. Those who cannot will attend special classes. PM

WAS TUDJMAN WILLING TO BARGAIN AWAY PIRAN?
Leading Istrian politician and member of the Croatian parliament Damir Kajin told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service on 10 September that the late President Franjo Tudjman once offered Slovenia all of the Bay of Piran in return for arms in 1992 when Croatia was under an international weapons embargo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2002). The Slovenian authorities rejected the deal, which was allegedly made by one unnamed Croatian minister to his Slovenian counterpart. PM

TUDJMAN'S PARTY TO SPLIT AGAIN
Six hard-line members of Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) in the parliament have left the party to found their own grouping, the Croatian Block, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Zagreb on 10 September. The group will be led by controversial Herzegovinian politician Ivic Pasalic. This is at least the second major split in the HDZ since Tudjman's death at the end of 1999 and the party's subsequent electoral defeat. Former Foreign Minister Mate Granic formed the Democratic Center in 2000. PM

ALBANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER CHARGES THEFT
Luan Rama called for a formal investigation of what he called the theft of millions of dollars in recent years. The missing money was part of $10 million that had been earmarked for printing new passports, AP reported from Tirana on 11 September. As a result of gross mismanagement (or worse), he said that 105,000 citizens did not receive the new passports to which they were entitled, while some who did get their documents had to pay up to $700 in bribes to do so. PM

PRIME MINISTER SAYS ROMANIA WOULD JOIN MILITARY ACTION IRAQ
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said on 10 September on the private Antena 1 channel that Romania would join a NATO military action against Iraq if the alliance launched such an attack, Mediafax reported on the next day. Nastase said that Romania decided last year to "behave as a de facto NATO member" and assume all the obligations of NATO membership. Therefore, he explained, "if the NATO allies agree on a common position on the Iraq problem, we cannot but join them. We cannot benefit from NATO-extended security on one hand, and ignore responsibilities when it comes to assuming obligations deriving from membership on the other hand." The premier added that he hopes the need for military intervention will not arise and that Iraq will understand that it must "eliminate suspicions" concerning its alleged biological and nuclear arsenal. MS

EARLY ELECTIONS IN ROMANIA?
Premier Nastase said on Antena 1 on 10 September that shortly after the November Prague summit his party might consider the possibility of early parliamentary elections, the daily "Evenimentul zilei" reported the next day. Nastase said that early elections would create an opportunity for forging in the parliament a "more stable political majority and a more ambitious reform program." Nastase said that "in theory," the elections could take place in early 2003. Nastase's cabinet is currently a minority government. Nastase also said he has cut off any contact with Greater Romania Party (PRM) Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor, whom he described as "[mentally] unstable," Mediafax reported. He said that people like Tudor "should not be in politics," and that the PRM leader "never offered a constructive project." "I know him from the days when he was writing bad poetry, which he still does," Nastase said, alluding to Tudor's reputation as a court bard to communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. MS

PRESIDENT SAYS ROMANIANS UNDERSTAND UNIVERSAL THREAT OF TERRORISM...
Commenting on the comparative public-opinion poll released by Gallup International on 9 September, President Ion Iliescu said on 10 September that his countrymen understand better than U.S. citizens that international terrorism has become a universal threat, Mediafax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2002). Iliescu said that Romanians also understand the need for international solidarity in the face of the terrorist threat, as well as the need to act to meet that threat. MS

...AND CRITICIZES CENTRAL, LOCAL ADMINISTRATION
President Iliescu on 10 September criticized central and local government administrations in his country, saying that civil servants are unresponsive to citizens' complaints, Mediafax reported. He said that the large number of people who write to him in the hope of enlisting his help in solving the problems they face attests to the deficiency of public administration. He also criticized what he called the "greediness of lawyers," who he said, "get rich from the problems people face." "The poor have no chance to be defended [in court]," he added. The presidential office announced that as of 10 September, complaints can be addressed directly to the chief of state via the Internet at http://www.presidency.ro. MS

ROMANIAN ROYAL BECOMES GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVE ON INTEGRATION
On 10 September, Prince Radu of Hohenzollern-Veringen was appointed special government representative on Euro-Atlantic integration, Romanian radio reported. The former Radu Duda was ennobled by the German Hohenzollern dynasty after his marriage to Princess Margareta, former King Michael's eldest daughter. MS

ROMPRES TO KEEP ITS NAME
The official Romanian news agency Rompres will keep its current denomination and will not be renamed Agerpres, as it was in the communist era, Mediafax reported on 10 September. A mediation commission of the parliament's two chambers decided to reject the text of the bill on the functioning of the agency that was approved by the Senate. Unlike the text approved by the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate voted to return the agency's name to Agerpres. The commission struck that provision from the bill, arguing that it would create association with the communist era and would require additional and unnecessary expenditures for the agency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March and 25 April 2002). MS

MOLDOVAN JUSTICE MINISTER: 'ROMANIAN, MOLDOVAN ARE IDENTICAL LANGUAGES'
Justice Minister Ion Morei said on 10 September in an interview with the government daily "Moldova suverana" that Moldovan and Romanian are the same language, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He said the Moldovan authorities should appeal to linguistic experts and that Article 13 of the constitution should be amended according to their ruling. Article 13 stipulates that the country's official language is "Moldovan." Morei emphasized he was speaking in his own name and not representing the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM). He nonetheless added that he hopes "common sense" will prevail among his PCM parliamentary colleagues. Observers expressed surprise at Morei's statement, as he is famous for his anti-Romanian postures. MS

GAGAUZ-YERI REFUSES ELECTORAL REGISTRATION TO FORMER GOVERNOR
On 10 September, former Gagauz-Yeri Governor Dumitru Croitor was refused registration by the autonomous republic's Central Election Commission, Flux reported. Croitor, who resigned earlier this year, decided to run again one day before the registration deadline. The commission said he failed to present the endorsement of 5,000 supporters, as is stipulated by law. The Gagauz-Yeri elections are scheduled for 6 October. MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE, SENATORS
President Georgi Parvanov met with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington on 9 September, Bulgarian media reported. During the talks, Parvanov presented the Bulgarian arguments in favor of its joining NATO: Bulgaria's consequent solidarity with the international antiterrorism coalition, the reform of its military, and its political stability. Parvanov said after the meeting that he received positive signals from the U.S. government. On the second day of his visit, Parvanov met on 10 September with U.S. Senators Trent Lott (Republican, Mississippi) and Chuck Hagel (Republican, Nebraska) of the Senate's NATO Observer Group. UB

BULGARIA AND RUSSIA HOLD CONSULTATIONS ON JOINT BUSINESS PROJECTS
Economy Minister Nikolay Vasilev and Russian Industry and Science Minister Ilya Klebanov met in Sofia on 10 September to discuss ways to improve bilateral economic cooperation, BTA reported. Klebanov presented a number of proposals regarding cooperation, particularly in military and mechanical engineering. The projects include the construction of a Bulgarian-Russian innovation center as well as technology parks in Sofia. Vasilev and Klebanov also discussed in detail the two countries' agreement on military-technological cooperation that was signed in Moscow on 5 September. UB

BULGARIAN CONSERVATIVE OPPOSITION AGREES TO COOPERATE WITH GOVERNMENT
Representatives of the ruling National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) and the conservative opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) held talks on 10 September on cooperation in the lawmaking process, mediapool.bg reported. The NDSV recently reached a similar agreement with the opposition Socialist Party (BSP). According to mediapool.bg, the difference between the two agreements lies in the role of the opposition parties. While the SDS holds only consultations over draft laws with the government, the BSP will actively participate in formulating the laws. In related news, SDS Deputy Chairman Edvin Sugarev has resigned from his post. He also left the party's National Executive Council because of differences between him and SDS Chairwoman Nadezhda Mihailova. Former Interior Minister Emanuil Yordanov took over Sugarev's position. UB

OPEN SEASON IN BULGARIAN POLITICS?


Since 4 September, when the Bulgarian parliament held its first session after the summer break, political parties have been trying to set the agenda for the coming fall and winter. At first sight, the opposition seems to have emerged from the state of paralysis into which it retreated in response to the government's repeated calls for political stability and national consensus before the NATO summit in Prague in November. These appeals were combined with a threat to denounce the opposition as traitors should the conservative Union for Democratic Forces (SDS) or the Socialist Party (BSP) try to destabilize the government of Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski.

In addition to the moral pressure from outside not to attack the government, the opposition parties also suffered from internal problems and a lack of public support. The SDS has not yet overcome the internal divisions that have plagued it since the election defeat of June 2001, when Bulgarians voted SDS leader Ivan Kostov from the government. The SDS's only serious attempt to put pressure on the government was to move a vote of no confidence earlier this year in a bid to strengthen the party leadership. But it was doomed to fail, given the numerical weakness of the SDS in parliament.

Nor has the BSP, despite its considerable efforts, succeeded in functioning as an effective and credible opposition force, partly because three of Saxecoburggotski's ministers are BSP members. BSP leader Sergey Stanishev has repeatedly distanced himself from Regional Development Minister Kostadin Paskalev, State Administration Minister Dimitar Kalchev, and Deputy Agriculture Minister Meglena Plugchieva. But many analysts predicted that it would only be a matter of time before Stanishev tries to destabilize the government by urging Kalchev and Paskalev to resign.

Now this time seems to have come. After President Georgi Parvanov, the former BSP leader, opened the hunting season by criticizing the government in an address to the nation on 30 August, Stanishev took the opportunity to demand the resignation of Kalchev, Paskalev, and Plugchieva. "If the incumbents' policy remains unchanged, persons involved in this country's government and linked to the [Socialists] should sooner or later make a...choice between loyalty to the prime minister and loyalty to [Socialist] values," Stanishev told a party meeting on 2 September.

But neither Kalchev, nor Paskalev, nor Plugchieva felt inclined to bow to Stanishev's demand. In telephone interviews with RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service, all three underscored their willingness to remain in the government. From their answers it also became clear that they had already made the choice in favor of loyalty to the government and the interests of the country. Kalchev added that it was too late to criticize their collective choice. "If the party leadership had something against our decision to become ministers, then it should have asked us not to join the government at all," Kalchev said.

After this defeat, Stanishev tried to pressure the government with another strategy. During the first parliamentary debate after the summer break, Stanishev said that "An abyss has emerged between politicians and the people, which may turn into a front line of an undeclared civil war sweeping us all away in a wave of public discontent by the end of the winter." It was street protests by hungry and impoverished citizens at the end of the winter that brought down the last Socialist-led government of Zhan Videnov in early 1997. The reasoning behind this statement was clear. If the Socialists want to bring the government down and hold early elections, then they would have to destabilize the cabinet -- by either withdrawing the BSP ministers, or by inciting social unrest.

But only one day later, on 5 September, Stanishev held talks with Plamen Panayotov, the leader of the National Movement Simeon II's (NDSV) parliamentary group. Stanishev and Panayotov agreed that in the future the NDSV will consult with the BSP over lawmaking initiatives at an early stage in order to reconcile the two parties' positions. Stanishev half-heartedly criticized the NDSV's plans for the coming parliamentary sessions as "too ambitious," but he also said the BSP would support the government in its efforts to amend legislation on social and economic questions. By this move, the NDSV managed to share responsibility with the BSP and to bring it closer to the government. It is not clear whether this is what the BSP leadership was hoping for. It neither managed to present itself as a serious opposition party with the will to bring the government down, nor did it become a full member of the ruling coalition.

As for the conservative opposition, SDS Chairwoman and former Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova made another inept move against the government. Speaking during the parliamentary debate, she warned that her faction would move a vote of no confidence in the government if Bulgaria is not invited to join NATO this fall. "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. But what sense would such a vote of no confidence make? The SDS parliamentary faction alone is too weak, and there is little chance that it could win sufficient support from other parliamentary factions.

President Parvanov believes that the government has become more open to cooperation after the recent criticism, which would be a personal victory for him. But one could also argue that the ruling majority is stable enough to counter any attempts at destabilizing it -- at least for the moment.

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