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Newsline - September 16, 2002


U.S. RULES OUT QUID PRO QUO ON IRAQ, GEORGIA...
Speaking to reporters in Moscow on 13 September, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton ruled out any "understanding" between Moscow and Washington concerning Iraq and Georgia, Interfax and other Russian news agencies reported. Bolton added, however, that he does see similarities between Iraq and Georgia and hopes bilateral Russian-Georgian talks will lead to a peaceful resolution of the Pankisi Gorge problem. VY

...AS KREMLIN EASES PRESSURE ON GEORGIA AFTER BUSH'S WARNING
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told "Kommersant-Daily" on 16 September that "Russians love the Georgian people and believe that Georgians love Russia." "Otherwise there wouldn't be so many Georgian nationals living in Russia," Ivanov said. Seemingly in response to a 14 September statement by U.S. President Bush in which he asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to give Georgia time to clear the Pankisi Gorge, Ivanov said that Russia would be satisfied "if terrorists are cut off there." But he added that it would be better and cheaper for Russian taxpayers if the "terrorists" were destroyed there. "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 14 September commented that the tensions will not be resolved before a likely meeting between Putin and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze at a CIS summit in Chisinau on 7 October. VY

EU, COUNCIL OF EUROPE WARN RUSSIA AGAINST USING MILITARY FORCE
In New York on 14 September, EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten and Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller advised Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov against any unilateral Russian military action against Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. Moeller also called on Georgia to restore control over the Pankisi Gorge. Turan on 14 September quoted Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer as saying in Strasbourg that "any preemptive use of military force by one member state against another member state would be a major setback and must be avoided." On 13 September, Portuguese Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairman in Office Antonio Martins da Cruz expressed concern over the spiraling tensions between Russia and Georgia and proposed holding urgent consultations with representatives of both countries and of other unnamed OSCE member states in a bid to defuse those tensions, Caucasus Press reported. LF

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS SUSPECT COLLUSION BETWEEN CHECHENS, GEORGIAN MILITARY
Referring to an article published in "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 12 September, Russian Duma Deputy Speaker Lyubov Sliska told Interfax on 13 September that "by coddling, resettling, and protecting them, Shevardnadze has done more for the Chechen guerrillas -- who are a link in the chain of international terrorism -- than any Arab state." The article cited what it claimed was the transcript of a telephone conversation in which Chechen field commander Uvais Akhmedov informed Chechen Islamist ideologue Movladi Udugov about meetings between fellow field commanders and senior Georgian Defense and Security Ministry officials. Also on 13 September, Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Sergei Fridinskii similarly told Interfax that his office is aware of connivance between Georgian Army officers and border guard and customs officials and members of "terrorist groups." LF

RUSSIAN BORDER GUARD COMMANDER ANTICIPATES NEW CHECHEN ATTEMPT TO ENTER RUSSIA FROM GEORGIA
Lieutenant General Valerii Putov, who heads the Russian Federal Border Guard North Caucasus Headquarters, told Interfax on 14 September that his service has "substantial evidence" that "bandits" are preparing for a new attempt to cross into Chechnya from their base in the Pankisi Gorge. Federal Border Guard Service Director Colonel General Konstantin Totskii for his part told RTR television on 14 September that the Chechens could head from Pankisi either toward Ingushetia, or Chechnya, or Daghestan, Interfax reported. Interfax quoted unidentified "well-informed sources" that Chechen militants, including fighters subordinate to field commander Ruslan Gelaev, who had temporarily left the Pankisi Gorge for the duration of the Georgian "antiterrorism" operation have now returned to their bases there. Speaking on Georgian state television on 14 September, Georgian Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili rejected those reports as "absurd" and intended to discredit his ministry, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. LF

MOSCOW MAYOR ADVOCATES RESTORATION OF DZERZHINSKII MONUMENT...
Yurii Luzhkov on 13 September called for the restoration of a monumental 15-ton statue of Feliks Dzerzhinskii, the founder of the Soviet secret police, Russian and Western news agencies reported. The statue, which formerly stood in front of the headquarters of the Soviet and Russian secret services on Lubyanka Square, was dismantled by the city council, of which Luzhkov was deputy chairman, following the collapse of the August 1991 coup attempt against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. After it was removed, it was quietly taken to a park where many Soviet-era statues have ended up and was repaired. Speaking to a meeting of the municipal architectural council, Luzhkov called the monument an "impeccable sculptural composition." Luzhkov, who has opposed restoring the monument in the past, justified his turnabout by focusing selectively on some of Dzerzhinskii's achievements, saying, "We should remember that he solved the problem of homeless children and that he bailed out the railroads in a period of devastation." Luzhkov downplayed Dzerzhinskii's role in the "excesses" of the Red Terror. VY/RC

...AS LIBERALS VOW TO OPPOSE THE MOVE...
Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader and Duma Deputy Boris Nemtsov said that the proposal to restore the Dzerzhinskii monument is part of a clear trend toward increasing authoritarianism, "Izvestiya" reported on 16 September. He said the SPS will attempt to gather 1 million signatures in protest against Luzhkov's proposal. Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko party also came out against the restoration, RosBalt reported on 16 September. "The personality of Dzerzhinskii is inseparably linked to the creation of the system of concentration camps and the destruction of millions of people, including the best representatives of the intelligentsia, the clergy, the Cossack community, the working class, and the peasantry during the period of the Red Terror," a Yabloko statement asserted. The party once again urged the city to place a monument to the victims of political repression on the spot where the Dzerzhinskii monument stood. VY/RC

...AND MONUMENT TO ALEKSANDR II IS APPROVED
In the same "Izvestiya" interview, Nemtsov also said that the presidential administration approved on 13 September a site on the territory of the Kremlin for a monument to Tsar Aleksandr II, who carried out a series of liberal reforms in the middle of the 19th century, including the liberation of the serfs. Nemtsov noted that this news reached him just hours after he heard of Luzhkov's proposal. "Perhaps this is the essence of Russian centrism," he quipped. VY

RUSSIA REJECTS 'ILLEGITIMATE' U.S. SANCTIONS ON WEAPONS FIRMS
Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Malakhov said that he had handed to U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Bolton a note of protest concerning U.S. sanctions imposed against three Russian state enterprises for allegedly supplying weapons to countries that the United States claims support international terrorism (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2002), NTV and the ABNews reported on 13 September. The Kremlin's note says that Moscow considers the U.S. sanctions "illegitimate" because there are no internationally approved bans on selling weapons to Sudan, Syria, or Libya. VY

POLICE CLASH WITH LEFTIST DEMONSTRATORS
Moscow police on 15 September detained 92 leftist, antiglobalist protestors, lenta.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 16 September. Approximately 500 protestors attended the Anticapitalism-2002 rally, which was organized by the left-wing party Working Russia. Most of those arrested were members of the Union of Communist Youth, the National Bolshevik Party, and the Avant-garde Communist Youth. The protestors attempted to block traffic on Tverskaya Ulitsa and clashed with police who tried to prevent them doing so. According to lenta.ru, one young woman was hospitalized in the altercation, and several of the detained protestors were allegedly found to have Molotov cocktails in their possession. RC

MAYOR, DUMA DEPUTY MOVE TO SECOND ROUND IN NIZHNII VOTE...
Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor Yurii Lebedev and State Duma Deputy Vadim Bulavinov will face off in a second round of voting for the post of Nizhnii Novgorod mayor on 29 September, Russian news agencies reported on 16 September. Lebedev picked up 31.4 percent of the controversial first-round vote on 15 September, while Bulavinov garnered 30.85 percent. "Against all" came in a strong third with 30.35 percent of the vote in the 12-candidate race. According to Interfax, just under 30 percent of eligible voters came to the polls. RC

...AS COURT STRIKES A LEADING CANDIDATE FROM THE BALLOT...
A city court on 14 September annulled the registration of businessman Andrei Klimentiev, just hours before polls opened in Nizhnii Novgorod, RosBalt and other Russian news agencies reported. Some pre-election polls had shown Klimentiev leading in the race (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2002). Another candidate in the race, pensioner Oleg Gryaznov, filed the complaint with the court alleging irregularities in Klimentiev's campaign financing. "The court's decision to cancel my registration as a candidate for mayor of Nizhnii Novgorod was extremely unexpected because there was no evidence to support the complaint," Klimentiev was quoted as saying. "The court was bought." Klimentiev also said that the hearing was intentionally dragged out so that he would not have time to appeal the verdict to the oblast court. RC

...AND ONE VOTER WALKS AWAY DISSATISFIED
A young Nizhnii Novgorod voter filed an official complaint with election officials saying that no one at his polling station congratulated him or shook his hand on the occasion of his first-ever participation in the electoral process, regions.ru reported, citing the Privolzhe News Agency. RC

DUMA VOTES TO PROTECT PROSECUTORS
At its plenary session on 13 September, the State Duma approved the final reading of a series of amendments to the law on prosecutors that will extend state protection to prosecutors, investigators, other judiciary officials, and members their families in order to enable them to carry out their duties, RosBalt and other Russian news agencies reported on 13 September. According to Deputy Viktor Ilyukhin (Communist), who drafted the amendments, the increasing frequency of violent attacks against law enforcement officials has created the need to change the law. VY

RACISTS ALLEGEDLY VIDEOTAPE MURDER
Skinheads in St. Petersburg who allegedly beat to death an Azerbaijani watermelon trader on 13 September reportedly videotaped the murder, lenta.ru reported on 16 September, citing police sources. Magomed Magomedov, 55, was reportedly beaten to death by five young men armed with metal bars, who are allegedly members of an extremist nationalist group. Police said they recovered the videotape at the home of one of the suspects. On 14 September, another Azerbaijani citizen was beaten by several young men dressed in army fatigues, lenta.ru reported. Police do not believe the incidents are related and do not consider them race-related incidents, RosBalt reported on 16 September. RC

PRESIDENT, MEDIA MINISTER DISCUSS PUBLISHING INDUSTRY
President Putin met on 14 September with Media Minister Mikhail Lesin in Sochi to discuss possible modifications to the legislative framework regulating the publishing industry, ITAR-TASS reported. The two reportedly discussed tax incentives for the publication of textbooks, scientific books, and classical literature. Lesin also informed the president about planning for the 300th anniversary of the Russian press, which will be celebrated in 2003. RC

MORE CHECHEN CIVILIANS KILLED BY RUSSIAN ARTILLERY ATTACK
Two Chechen sisters were killed on 12 September by a mortar attack on the village of Dyshne-Vedeno southeast of Grozny, Interfax reported. A woman wounded in the attack died two days later. Some 5,000 village residents blocked the main Vedeno-Grozny highway on 13 September to protest the attack and demand that those responsible be punished. Movsur Khamidov, who is deputy prime minister in charge of law enforcement, told Interfax on 14 September that an investigation established that a Russian military unit fired the shell in response to repeated attacks by Chechen militants. The previous day, Colonel Ilya Shabalkin, who is a spokesman for the joint federal forces in Chechnya, claimed that it had been fired by Chechen militants. Three people died and several were injured in a similar attack in Shali last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 16 August 2002). LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY REVIVES NEWSPAPER
Vazgen Manukian's National Democratic Union (AZhM) will resume publication of its weekly newspaper "Ayzhm" after an interval of almost four years, Noyan Tapan reported on 14 September. The paper's new editor, National Press Club Chairwoman Narine Mkrtchian, explained the revival of "Ayzhm" in the run-up to next year's presidential and parliamentary elections as "a natural phenomenon," reasoning that it is important for any party to have its own media outlet. Vigen Sargsian was fired as "Ayzhm" editor in September 1998 following disagreements with the AZhM leadership which, he told "Respublika Armeniya," wanted to exert the maximum control over editorial policy (see "RFE/RL Armenia Report," 17 September 1998). LF

ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTERS TRADE CRITICISM AT UN
Addressing the UN General Assembly on 15 September, Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev insisted that Armenia be constrained to comply with four UN resolutions of 1993 calling for the unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied Azerbaijani territory, Reuters and AFP reported. Quliev characterized the current state of "not peace but not war" as "explosive" and "a time bomb." Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said he was "shocked and dismayed" by Quliev's "frivolous" accusations. He stressed that Armenia has done "exactly what the international community expected: used its good office with the leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh to help find a peaceful solution to the conflict," Reuters reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION STAGES MASS DEMONSTRATION
Between 7,000 and 10,000 people attended an opposition march in Baku on 14 September to protest the falsification of the outcome of the 24 August referendum on constitutional amendments and to demand the resignation of President Heidar Aliev, whom they accused of anticonstitutional acts, Turan and Western news agencies reported. Other demands included a reduction in unemployment, the formation of a national government capable of resolving the Karabakh conflict, and the release of persons detained after clashes between police and residents of the village of Nardaran in early June. The Baku city administration gave permission for the demonstration; no clashes with police were reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ON COLLISION COURSE WITH IMF
President Aliev said in Baku on 13 September that Azerbaijan will not accede to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) demand to raise domestic oil prices, Turan reported. The IMF wants the price of oil increased from $55 to $80 per metric ton by January 2003, but Aliev argued that doing so "could seriously hinder the development of agriculture and other sectors of the economy and deliver a blow to the private sector." He accused the IMF of failing to take into account the unique conditions in Azerbaijan. LF

U.S. PRESIDENT AFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR GEORGIA
At an unplanned meeting in New York on 13 September, U.S. President George W. Bush assured Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili of Washington's support for the ongoing Georgian campaign to establish order in the Pankisi Gorge, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. Prior to a meeting the following day at Camp David with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Bush said that he has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to "give the Georgians a chance to achieve a common objective -- and that is to get the Al-Qaeda killers and bring them to justice," Reuters reported. Meeting with students in Tbilisi on 13 September, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze expressed his appreciation of President Bush's expression of support, Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT RESPONDS TO RUSSIAN COUNTERPART
On 13 September President Shevardnadze formally responded to President Putin's 11 September statement warning that Russia may resort to unilateral military intervention if Georgia fails to take resolute action to neutralize "international terrorists" in the Pankisi Gorge, Russian news agencies reported. Shevardnadze expressed his readiness to discuss with Putin personally "all outstanding issues that are preventing closer ties" between Russia and Georgia, Interfax reported. Caucasus Press on 16 September quoted Shevardnadze as saying in his traditional Monday radio interview that he assured Putin that Georgia is able to resolve the Pankisi problem with minimal or no loss of life. But Caucasus Press also quoted Shevardnadze as saying in that same interview that the Pankisi operation is "dangerous," and that casualties cannot be excluded. Shevardnadze expressed optimism that the Pankisi operation could be concluded in approximately three weeks; observers suggest he and Putin may meet face to face to discuss the Pankisi problem on the sidelines of the CIS summit to be held in Chisinau on 7 October. LF

WHO IS PLANNING TO ATTACK WHOM IN KODORI?
General Kazi Ashfaq Ahmed, who is the UN's chief military observer in Georgia, met in Sukhum on 14 September with Abkhaz Defense Ministry General Staff Commander Vladimir Arshba to discuss the situation in the Kodori Gorge, Caucasus Press reported. Arshba claimed that Kodori Gorge Governor Emzar Kvitsiani has established contact with Chechen militants formerly encamped in the Pankisi Gorge and is trying to recruit them to launch a new offensive against Abkhazia. Kvitsiani, whom the Abkhaz accuse of fighting last fall alongside the Chechen militants who infiltrated the Kodori Gorge, told Caucasus Press on 12 September that Russia is pressuring the Abkhaz to launch an attack on the Georgian forces currently in the Kodori Gorge. On 13 September, Interfax quoted Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Djergenia as saying that the Abkhaz armed forces have been placed on high alert in anticipation of a new Chechen offensive. LF

SOUTH OSSETIA ACCUSES GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT OF SUPPORTING TERRORISM
In a statement adopted on 13 September, the parliament of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia accused the central Georgian government of supporting "international terrorists," and expressed the fear that it intends to co-opt those terrorists to launch a new offensive against South Ossetia, Caucasus Press reported. Deputies appealed to Russia "to prevent the fire of war from spreading over South Ossetia." On 14 September, South Ossetian Deputy Foreign Minister Alan Pliev told Caucasus Press that a police search together with OSCE observers has established that there are at present no Chechen gunmen on the territory of the unrecognized republic. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT ESTABLISHES COMMITTEE TO WORK FOR NATO ACCESSION...
At the initiative of the "New Rightists," the Georgian parliament voted late on 13 September to establish a committee, to be chaired by Foreign Minister Menagharishvili, that will draft by 1 October concrete measures to launch a formal bid by Georgia for NATO membership, Caucasus Press reported. At the same time, the parliament's Defense and Security Committee was tasked with developing a program to raise the efficiency of the Georgian armed forces to conform with NATO standards. On 16 September, President Shevardnadze said Georgia might formally submit its application for NATO membership at the alliance's Prague summit in November, Caucasus Press reported. LF

...RAISES DEFENSE SPENDING
Also on 13 September, the Georgian parliament voted unanimously to increase defense spending for 2002 by 11 million laris ($5.04 million), or almost 30 percent, of which 7.5 million laris will be earmarked for new weaponry, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. Defense Minister Lieutenant General David Tevzadze last month demanded 12.8 million laris for antiaircraft systems alone. LF

KYRGYZ PROTEST MARCH ENDED
Government and opposition representatives reached agreement late on 12 September in the town of Toktogul that the approximately 800 protesters who began a march on Bishkek to demand President Askar Akaev's resignation will abandon that undertaking, and drop their demand for the revision of the Sino-Kyrgyz border agreement signed in May, in return for the release of 12 protesters arrested in the town of Tash-Komur in June and in Djalalabad earlier this month, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2002). But as of 14 September none of the 12 detainees had been released, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported, quoting an aide to parliamentarian Azimbek Beknazarov. In addition, the government pledged that by 15 November President Akaev will punish three top officials for their role in the shooting deaths of five demonstrators in Aksy in March. Meeting the following day with relatives of those killed, Akaev again promised that those responsible will be brought to justice. LF

EBRD DELEGATION VISITS KYRGYZSTAN
A 14-member delegation from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development held talks in Bishkek on 12-13 September with President Akaev, Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev, Deputy Prime Minister Djoomart Otorbaev, and National Bank Chairman Ulan Sarbanov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Delegation members said their priorities in cooperating with Kyrgyzstan remain unchanged. According to akipress.org, those priorities are seeking foreign investment for the gold-mining sector, strengthening the financial sector and providing technical help to Kyrgyz banks, supporting privatization and attracting investment in key state monopolies in the communications and power sectors, and supporting small and medium business by extending credits and providing technical assistance. LF

BELARUSIAN EDITOR GETS TWO-YEAR SENTENCE FOR LIBELING LUKASHENKA
A district court in Minsk on 16 September sentenced Viktar Ivashkevich, the editor in chief of the independent newspaper "Rabochy," to two years of "restriction of freedom" in a corrective-labor facility for libeling President Alyaksandr Lukashenka prior to the 9 September 2001 presidential election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2002), Belapan reported. Ivashkevich's trial was conducted behind closed doors. "The verdict is absolutely politically motivated, because my newspaper reported on [true] facts that testified to the president's illegal activities," Ivashkevich told the news agency. "The journalist's profession is becoming dangerous in Belarus," he added. JM

BELARUS TO MULL MODERNIZING IRAQ'S ENERGY SECTOR
An Iraqi delegation led by Sahaban Faisal Mahjub, the head of Iraq's electricity authority, arrived in Minsk on 14 September, Belapan reported, quoting the Foreign Ministry press service. The two sides are to discuss Belarus's possible participation in upgrading Iraq's energy sector. The Iraqi delegation will stay in Belarus until 18 September. It is expected to hold talks with officials of the Belarusian Energy Ministry and visit enterprises of Belenerha, Belarus' power-generation and distribution monopoly. JM

COUNCIL OF EUROPE HEAD URGES BELARUS TO LAUNCH REFORM
Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer on 13 September called on Belarus to "implement the necessary political reforms," saying that without them the country's membership of the Council of Europe cannot be considered, Belapan reported. "Belarus...must show solidarity with the primary political values of the Council of Europe -- democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Only by taking these steps toward genuine political reform can Belarus hope to re-join the European family of nations," Schwimmer said. The special-guest status of Belarus's legislature in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was suspended in 1997. JM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION LAUNCHES ANTIPRESIDENTIAL PROTEST CAMPAIGN
On 16 September, some 20,000 demonstrators in three separate columns led by Yuliya Tymoshenko, Oleksandr Moroz, and Petro Symonenko marched across Kyiv and converged peacefully on the capital's European Square to inaugurate a nationwide campaign to oust President Leonid Kuchma, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Moroz opened the protest with a minute of silence to commemorate the death of Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and other "victims of the [Kuchma] regime." The rally was timed to mark the second anniversary of Gongadze's disappearance. "We will protest until our demands have been met; until Kuchma steps down," Reuters quoted Moroz as saying. JM

UKRAINIAN CHIEF PROSECUTOR ADMITS JOURNALIST'S MURDER WAS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED...
Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun on 14 September confirmed for the first time officially that the murder of Internet journalist Gongadze in 2000 was politically motivated, Interfax reported. "This was not an ordinary murder, this was a very complex murder," Piskun said. "It is camouflaged. It was a political killing that was contracted." Piskun announced that a team of U.S. experts will arrive in Ukraine in a week to help investigate the Gongadze case. He also said that the Prosecutor-General's Office will conduct an examination, with the participation of international experts, of the tape recordings made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko's tape recordings from President Kuchma's office. Piskun noted that Ukrainian investigators have evidence that some of Melnychenko's tapes were doctored. JM

...PLEDGES TO CONTINUE PROSECUTION OF TYMOSHENKO
Piskun said he will once again address the Verkhovna Rada with a motion to lift the parliamentary immunity of Tymoshenko, the leader of the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, in order to allow for her prosecution for a number of crimes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 2002), UNIAN reported. Last week, parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn returned a similar motion to Piskun, saying that it should be better substantiated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2002). Piskun also announced that he has initiated a criminal case against Tymoshenko for illegally calling for the overthrow of President Kuchma. Piskun said that, at a rally in Zhytomyr on 4 September, Tymoshenko pledged to oust Kuchma by "paralyzing Ukraine's vital functions" during the upcoming protest campaign. Meanwhile, Tymoshenko, along with Socialist Party leader Moroz and communist Party leader Symonenko, mobilized support for the antipresidential-protest campaign at rallies in Mykolayiv on 13 September (6,000 participants), Odesa on 14 September (5,000), and Vinnytsya on 14 September (10,000). JM

DEMOCRATIC FORUM SEARCHES WAYS OUT OF UKRAINE'S CRISIS...
More than 1,200 delegates from some 50 political parties and organizations participated in a two-day forum "For Democratic Development of Ukraine" that was organized in Kyiv on 14-15 September by Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine, UNIAN reported. Yushchenko told the forum that Our Ukraine proposes five steps to overcome the current political and socioeconomic crisis in the country: creating a parliamentary majority without interference from the presidential administration; forming a coalition cabinet; signing a trilateral accord on joint actions by the president, the parliament, and the government; abolishing media censorship and lifting the information blockade against the opposition; and establishing dialogue between the authorities and society. Yushchenko said he believes the authorities will move toward a dialogue with society. According to him, the current Verkhovna Rada has the largest "democratic potential" in comparison with other legislatures in Ukraine's 11 years of independence. JM

...AND SAYS POWER SYSTEM 'GRAVITATES TOWARD DICTATORSHIP'...
In a political resolution signed by 42 parties and organizations, the forum stated that the current Ukrainian power system "is inefficient, nontransparent, unstable, and gravitates toward dictatorship," UNIAN reported. Even harsher assessments were voiced by political leaders addressing the forum. "The behavior of the authorities in 2002 actually does not differ from that in 1970 -- only the Political Bureau of the Communist Party is now called the presidential administration," Ukrainian Popular Rukh leader Yuriy Kostenko said. "Ukraine is heading toward dictatorship, the state is facing the threat of losing its sovereignty," Popular Rukh of Ukraine head Hennadiy Udovenko warned. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz appealed to the forum to adopt a resolution on joining the protest campaign "Rise Up, Ukraine!" but the forum did not heed him. Yushchenko confirmed that he personally will take part in the planned antipresidential rally in Kyiv on 16 September. JM

...AS PRESIDENT EXPLAINS HIS ABSENCE
In a special message read at the forum on 15 September, President Kuchma said he was absent because his invitation was formulated in the "tone of an ultimatum," UNIAN reported. Kuchma said he was invited as late as 13 September, adding that the invitation did not include either a program of the forum or a list of participants. "[Such an invitation] for dialogue with the head of state elected by the whole nation contradicts the practice used in civilized countries," Kuchma said. Simultaneously, the president stressed that he is ready for dialogue and pledged to study attentively proposals voiced at the forum. Participants in the forum began to chant "Down with Kuchma!" after the president's message was read. Kuchma is now attending an economic forum in Salzburg, Austria, that opened on 15 September. JM

OUR UKRAINE SIGNS DECLARATION ON FORMING PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY
Our Ukraine leader Yushchenko signed a declaration on 15 September with the leaders of four parliamentary groups -- Party of Entrepreneurs-Labor Ukraine (led by Serhiy Tyhypko), Democratic Initiatives (Stepan Havrysh), Ukraine's Agrarians (Kateryna Vashchuk), and the Popular Democratic Party (Anatoliy Tolstoukhov) -- on creating a democratic majority in the Verkhovna Rada, UNIAN reported. The five parliamentary groups control some 200 votes in the 449-member Verkhovna Rada. Tyhypko told the agency that Raisa Bohatyrova, the leader of Ukraine's Region's (37 deputies), will also sign the declaration. "We will pursue the goal of creating a majority until the end, since otherwise we will have to take to the streets," Tyhypko added. JM

BALTIC PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMEN MEET IN PALANGA
Parliament Chairmen Toomas Savi (Estonia), Janis Straume (Latvia), and Arturas Paulauskas (Lithuania) met in the Lithuanian resort city of Palanga on 13 and 14 September, BNS reported. They agreed that their countries should hold referendums on European Union membership in the fall of 2003, but did not decide whether the referendums would be held simultaneously. The chairmen supported Paulauskas's suggestions that a meeting of the "Vilnius 10" countries seeking NATO membership be held in Vilnius next May and that the Baltic states hold a meeting with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia to share the Baltic states' experience in democratic and economic development. The chairmen also agreed that their respective parliaments will discuss Georgia's recent appeal to the world community against possible Russian aggression. SG

CONFERENCE IN LATVIA DISCUSSES EDUCATION IN RUSSIAN LANGUAGE
Some 1,000 delegates attended the "To Learn in the Native Language" conference at the Riga Congress Center on 14 September, LETA reported. In opening the conference, Igors Pimenovs, the chairman of the board of the Russian-language Schools Support Association, said that his association has developed a detailed curriculum for the approximately 120,000 students attending Russian-language schools in Latvia. The curriculum was presented to the Latvian Education and Science Ministry but was turned down. The association has also sent letters to all political parties participating in the parliamentary elections on 5 October demanding that the education law be amended by removing stipulations that classes be conducted in Latvian only. The law is to go into effect in 2004. SG

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT AGAIN
At the meeting of the council of the New Union (Social Liberals) in Palanga on 15 September, parliament Chairman Paulauskas expressed his willingness to run for president again and the council voted unanimously to support his candidacy, ELTA reported the next day. He said that his candidacy will strengthen the party and have a positive effect on its success in the local elections, which will be held simultaneously with the presidential elections on 22 December. Paulauskas noted that it would have been better had the ruling coalition backed a single candidate, but the Social Democrats last week nominated their deputy chairman, Vytenis Andriukaitis. Although 16 people have announced their intention to run for president, opinion polls indicate that Paulauskas and incumbent Valdas Adamkus have the best chance of competing in the run-off elections in January, as they did in the previous elections in 1998. SG

POLAND'S AGRICULTURE, ECONOMY MINISTERS DISAGREE OVER TARIFF ACCORD WITH HUNGARY
Agriculture Minister Jaroslaw Kalinowski has criticized last week's agreement with Hungary on lifting some export-import tariffs, PAP reported on 15 September. Kalinowski said he had no knowledge of the signing of the agreement and added that it could have negative effects for Poland. Economy Minister Jacek Piechota said the agreement is good for Poland. He added that Kalinowski's protest is a "misunderstanding" and promised to explain it at a government session this week. Under the agreement initialed in Budapest on 12 September by Deputy Economy Minister Marek Wejtko, Poland is to lift tariffs on Hungarian wheat, poultry, pork, tomatoes, and tomato products as of 15 September. In response, Hungary will lift tariffs on Polish confectionaries and dried vegetables. JM

FORMER EMPLOYEES OF POLAND'S STATE-RUN FARMS DEMAND COMPENSATION
Former employees of state-run farms (PGRs) have demanded that the state pay compensation to those who lost jobs due to the dissolution of the PGR system in the early 1990s, PAP reported on 15 September. "We demand that we are paid compensation for losing our jobs, as was the case with miners, railway workers, and workers of the [state] postal and telecommunications [services]," participants of the 14 September congress of the Union of Former PGR Employees wrote in a statement. The union, which has some 43,000 members, wants the government to prepare a relevant compensation bill. JM

POLISH PARLIAMENT AMENDS LUSTRATION LAW
The Sejm on 13 September voted by 226 to 196, with six abstentions, to exclude officers of the intelligence and counterintelligence services and the Border Guards from the lustration procedure, which obligates state officials to provide written statements as to whether they collaborated with the communist-era secret services. The amendment was proposed by senators of the ruling Democratic Left Alliance. JM

POLAND CALLS FOR NEW UN CHARTER
Speaking to the UN General Assembly on 15 September, Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz proposed that a "group of wise men" prepare a new UN Charter in a bid to address more efficiently "challenges of the forthcoming decades," PAP reported. Cimoszewicz said certain clauses of the current UN Charter have already become obsolete. According to Cimoszewicz, the new charter should address not only the threat of global terrorism but also combating poverty; ensuring balanced development; and strengthening human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. "Let's build an axis of good that will restore true significance to the notion of the United Nations, of which we are so proud," Cimoszewicz said. JM

U.S. PRESIDENT NAMES POLISH PRESIDENT AMONG MOST LOYAL ALLIES
In his weekly radio address on 14 September, U.S. President George W. Bush included Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski among those world leaders who share his views on the Iraqi regime, PAP reported. Bush said Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the leaders of Britain, Spain, and Poland "have reached the same conclusion I have -- that Saddam Hussein has made the case against himself." JM

FATE OF CZECH COALITION GOVERNMENT UNCLEAR...
The 13 September legislative defeat of a government-proposed tax bill threw into doubt the fate of Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla's cabinet after a coalition deputy broke ranks to defeat the legislation. A government reshuffle now appears almost certain, local media reported after deputy Hana Marvanova voted against the legislation. A crisis meeting on 15 September by the leaders of the three-party governing coalition apparently failed to head off a rift, and those same three men will discuss possible solutions with President Vaclav Havel late on 16 September. Earlier on 16 September, Social Democrat Spidla formally requested that Marvanova's Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU) withdraw its three cabinet ministers, according to CTK. The strongest ruling party, the Social Democratic Party (CSSD), has threatened options ranging from reducing the number of US-DEU ministers to abandoning the US-DEU and governing in minority along with the Christian Democratic Union-People's Party (KDU-CSL). MS/AH

...AS EMBATTLED DEPUTY REFUSES TO RESIGN FROM PARLIAMENT
Spidla said on 13 September that government participation by the US-DEU will only be possible if former party leader Marvanova resigns from the lower house, CTK reported. He accused Marvanova of violating the coalition agreement. The leadership of Marvanova's party urged her to surrender her mandate, but she refused. US-DEU acting Chairman Ivan Pilip said the other deputies of the party "will stick with the coalition government." On 14 September, the CSSD Central Executive Committee empowered Spidla to conduct negotiations with the KDU-CSL on setting up a reshuffled cabinet. MS

CSSD VOWS TO 'OPEN' SEARCH FOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
CSSD Chairman Spidla told journalists on 14 September that his party will select its presidential candidate in a referendum, CTK reported. Spidla said participation in the referendum will be open not only to CSSD members but also to the public at large. He said a preselection of suitable candidates will be made by the CSSD leadership. CSSD Deputy Chairwoman Marie Souckova, in charge of the process for the party, said five possible candidates will be selected for the referendum. On 16 September, the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" quoted Souckova confirming that former Prime Minister Milos Zeman was offered inclusion on that shortlist, along with Ombudsman Otakar Motejl, physician Zdenek Dienstbier, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, and former Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures. But the paper reported that Zeman conditioned his candidacy on the selection process occurring via an intraparty referendum. President Vaclav Havel's second mandate ends on 20 January. MS

FORMER SLOVAK PREMIER ASSAULTS, REPORTEDLY THREATENS JOURNALIST...
Former Premier Vladimir Meciar on 13 September denied he attacked a journalist from the private channel TV Joj, while television images showed Meciar grabbing the reporter by the neck after he was asked about expensive renovations to his Slovak villa, TASR and Reuters reported. Reporter Luboslav Choluj said that after he asked Meciar where he got the money for the reconstruction, the former premier "grabbed my neck with his left hand and reached back with his right fist to punch my face," adding that Meciar also used vulgar language in threatening him. A Reuters journalist who saw footage of the incident confirmed Choluj's version. In a statement issued on the same day, Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) said its chairman merely "protected himself against the physical attack by the journalist." Meciar later told journalists, "If you had colleagues who behaved decently, it would be possible to talk to them politely," and added: "I neither attacked anyone nor used any vulgar language." MS

...WALKS OUT OF TV DEBATE
Meciar on 15 September walked out on a live debate with Pavol Rusko, leader of the Alliance for new Citizens, CTK reported. He did so after the moderator asked him to explain again the financing of his Trencianske Teplice villa reconstruction. Meciar refused to do so, saying the issue has been debated for four years and "all that is necessary has [already] been said." He said the moderator should switch to other questions or he would walk out. When the moderator asked a related question, Meciar made good on his threat -- just five minutes into the TA3 debate. MS

EMBATTLED FORMER INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR REMAINS A FREE MAN IN SLOVAKIA
A Bratislava court district judge on 13 September rejected a request by prosecutor Michal Serbin that former Slovak Information Service chief Ivan Lexa be returned to custody, TASR and CTK reported, the latter citing TA3 television. The judge ruled that Lexa cannot be detained because parliament has in the past refused to lift his political immunity in relation to fraud charges. He also said that Lexa, who was extradited from South Africa in July after being a fugitive for two years, is cooperating with the police and has notified police of his address. He added that there is no justification for believing he will attempt to flee again. Serbin said he will appeal the decision before the Bratislava regional court. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER ATTACKS FRONT-RUNNER FICO
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda on 15 September accused Smer (Direction) Chairman Robert Fico of populism, irresponsibility, and lack of morality, TASR reported. In a debate on TV Joj ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled for the end of this week, Dzurinda told Fico, whose party is currently leading polls: "You have presented only populist proposals." He added, "Your great ambitions do not give you the right to attack anyone." In turn, Fico accused Dzurinda of using "phraseology." The Smer leader also said a stable coalition would need to enlist the support of the HZDS, but ruled out cooperation with Meciar personally. MS

SLOVAK DEMOCRATIC PARTY WITHDRAWS FROM PARLIAMENTARY RACE
Democratic Party Chairman Ludovit Kanik on 15 September announced his formation's withdrawal from the parliamentary race and called on supporters to vote for Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union, TASR and CTK reported. Kanik said it is necessary for right-wing forces to unite for the sake of continuing reforms. Opinion polls estimated support for the Democrats at about 1 percent. Former Democratic Party Chairman Jan Langos, who was listed second on the party's lists for the 20-21 September elections, said he was taken by surprise by Kanik and first learned about the decision when Kanik announced it on Slovak Television. MS

CEFTA ENDS BRATISLAVA SUMMIT
Leaders from Central European Free Trade Agreement member states met in Bratislava on 14 September, issuing a declaration that calls for the continued removal of mutual trade barriers, TASR reported. The premiers of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia said they want differing views reconciled on the basis of direct consultations among the parties involved but warned that trade imbalances are growing within CEFTA. They also pledged to support each other in accession talks with the EU and expressed the hope that negotiations over Croatia's inclusion in CEFTA will be concluded by the end of this year. MS

FORMER HUNGARIAN PREMIER'S REMARKS STIR CONTROVERSY
Remarks made recently at several forums by former Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban linking support for EU accession to domestic conditions have triggered a new political controversy in Hungary, local media report. Orban said opposition support for amendments to the Constitution required for EU accession should be tied to resuming the implementation of the Szechenyi economic-development plan dropped by the current cabinet; to granting loans to farmers; and to a higher increase in salaries than the 3 percent offered by the government. Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy said Orban is ready to subordinate the EU accession talks to "personal and party political interests," while Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said he considers Orban's remarks irresponsible and believes his FIDESZ parliamentary group will not back him. Ibolya David, chairwoman of the FIDESZ-allied Democratic Forum, also criticized the remarks, saying parties should support EU accession without political reservations. MS

HUNGARY BACKS ICC
Foreign Minister Kovacs on 15 September told the UN General Assembly in New York that Hungary will field a candidate for the bench of the proposed International Criminal Court in an indication of its support of the court, Hungarian media reported. Kovacs also said his country is concerned that Iraq is not fulfilling UN Security Council resolutions, adding that it is regrettable that Tehran is rejecting cooperation with the UN. In an interview with a "Nepszabadsag" correspondent in New York, Kovacs said Hungary is prepared to participate together with its allies in a global antiterrorist coalition. In related news, on 13 September Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz in Brussels handed a letter to NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson in which the Hungarian government details how it intends to contribute to NATO over the next few years. Juhasz said Hungary is asking the alliance for "patience," as it can make definite pledges only after a review of its armed forces currently under way is concluded. MS

HUNGARIAN CONTROVERSY OVER 'SEGREGATIONIST' SCHOOL CREATES TENSION
Parents protesting a decision by regional authorities to close down a private school in Jaszladany, central Hungary, on 13 September blocked a road leading to the town to protest the decision, Hungarian media and AP reported. It was the second protest last week against the school's closure. Authorities say the school, which charges a monthly fee of 3,000 forints ($12), has not obtained all necessary permits. The intention to open the school was protested by the town's Romany community, which regards its launch as an attempt at segregation because most Romany parents cannot afford the fees. MS

MACEDONIA VOTES FOR CHANGE...
Some 70 percent of 1.6 million eligible voters went to the polls on 15 September to elect a 120-seat parliament, international and domestic media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline" and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 September 2002). More than 3,300 candidates from 30 parties and eight coalitions competed in the fourth general election since independence in 1991 and the first since the ethnic unrest in 2001. A record 900 OSCE monitors were present, as were 3,500 specially trained police. Minor, isolated incidents were reported in Kumanovo, Lesok, and elsewhere. State Election Commission Chairwoman Mirjana Lazarova-Trajkovska said in a first statement that "The people of the Republic of Macedonian have shown that it is possible to hold fair and democratic elections in this country." She called on the candidates to "wait for the State Election Commission's official announcement of the result in a dignified and peaceful way." PM/UB

...BY TOSSING OUT GEORGIEVSKI...
Final returns are expected by midweek, but soon after polls closed it became clear that the opposition Social Democratic Union (SDSM) swept the ethnic Macedonian vote, international and Macedonian domestic media reported on 16 September. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski of the nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Movement (VMRO-DPMNE) admitted defeat, saying, "It is crystal clear that the VMRO-DPMNE and [its coalition partner] the Liberal Party will not be able to form the new government of the Republic of Macedonia." Georgievski said that he "congratulates the winner," adding that "these elections were the fairest and most democratic ones [Macedonia has had].... This is very important for the image and the standing of...Macedonia in the Balkans and in the international community." PM/UB

...AND ELECTING CRVENKOVSKI...
SDSM leader Branko Crvenkovski said in his victory statement in Skopje on 16 September that the election proved that the voters are "wise people who knew to choose who should rule the country from now on," AP reported. He added that "We proved that Macedonia is going to survive for eternity." Most observers noted, however, that he will have his work cut out for him in a country with about 40 percent unemployment, a reputation for corruption even by Balkan standards, and high expectations by the electorate that the country can now put the recent ethnic strife behind it. Political parties are organized along ethnic lines, and Crvenkovski has already formed a coalition with parties representing some of the smaller minorities. The question now is what kind of coalition will he be able to form with which of the parties representing the ethnic Albanian minority, which makes up nearly one-fourth of the total population. PM

...AND AHMETI
The clear winner of the ethnic Albanian vote is former guerrilla leader Ali Ahmeti, who heads the Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), international and domestic media reported from Skopje on 16 September. Ahmeti enjoys the reputation among many Albanians of having obtained more rights for them after a few months of fighting and the August 2001 Ohrid agreement than the established parties won in a decade of participating in the parliament and government. He also has the big advantage over all other major politicians in Macedonia of being untainted by corruption. Ahmeti, who took a conciliatory and moderate stance in most of his pre-election speeches, said that his victory reflects "a big desire [by the voters] to install a real democracy." Arben Xhaferi, who heads the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), which was part of Georgievski's cabinet, pledged to "cooperate with Ahmeti's party and work for the Albanian cause." Shortly before the election, Ahmeti said: "The [2001] conflict was imposed on us. Nobody likes war.... Macedonians should not be afraid [of his victory] because Albanians in Macedonia do not want a Greater Albania or a Greater Kosova. All Albanians want is to be equal," Reuters reported. PM

YUGOSLAV MINISTER HAILS MACEDONIAN VOTE
Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said that "the very fact that Macedonia, in a complex political environment and after months and months of soaring tensions, was able to organize democratic elections is an enormous contribution not only to its future stability but to the entire region," AP reported from Skopje on 16 September. He added that the Macedonian vote proves that "democracy has roots in the Balkans." PM

BOSNIA CALLS ON KOSTUNICA TO APOLOGIZE...
On 14 September, the Bosnian joint Presidency called on Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica to apologize for his recent remarks in which he said that the Republika Srpska has only been separated from Serbia "temporarily," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11, 12, and 13 September 2002, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 30 August and 6 September 2002). Beriz Belkic, who holds the rotating chair of the Presidency, said that "the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina expects from Mr. Kostunica and his party an apology and explanation." Belkic added that the Presidency also wants a clarification of "the official position of Yugoslavia with regard to these statements." Belkic stressed that "our bitterness is ever greater as President Kostunica, by signing a joint statement at the recent summit of leaders of Bosnia, Croatia, and Yugoslavia, has taken responsibility to respect the sovereignty of a single and undivided Bosnia." PM

...BUT BOSNIAN SERB LEADER SAYS HE DOESN'T NEED TO
Republika Srpska Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic said that Kostunica simply stated his position and does not need to apologize for anything, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Banja Luka on 16 September. Ivanic charged that the Bosnian Presidency's statement reflected the desire of some politicians to score political points in the run-up to the 5 October general elections. PM

ARE BOSNIAN SERB WEAPONS EXPERTS IN IRAQ?
Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported from Bijeljina on 15 September that some staff members of the Orao aircraft company have recently visited Iraq individually and in groups, and that some engineers from Orao may be there at the moment. The Bosnian Presidency will investigate various charges against Orao, which the company and the Bosnian Serb authorities have denied (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9, 10, 11, and 13 September 2002). PM

SERBIAN PATRIARCH REDEDICATES CATHEDRAL
Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle officiated at the rededication of the Sarajevo Cathedral on 14 September, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. It was his first such reading of the liturgy there since the end of the Bosnian conflict in 1995. Top officials of the Republika Srpska and Serbian members of the Bosnian government attended. PM

NATO STAGES BALKAN EXERCISE
Some 33,000 troops from Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, the United States, Romania, and Argentina began a 10-day exercise in Bosnia and Kosova called Determined Response, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Prishtina on 15 September. The purpose of the drill is to demonstrate the Atlantic alliance's ability to reinforce its forces in the Balkans on short notice and thereby demonstrate its commitment to peace and stability in the region. PM

ROMANIA BACKS U.S. PRESIDENT'S POSITION ON IRAQ
The Romanian cabinet on 13 September issued a statement saying that after "careful examination" it has concluded that it "shares" the views of the United States on the responsibility the UN and the international community have for taking immediate and efficient measures against those threatening world security and stability. The cabinet said Romania will continue to be a "trustworthy partner" in the international struggle against terrorism. The governmental statement denounced the "obstructionist and uncooperative attitude of the Baghdad authorities" toward UN Security Council resolutions and appealed to Iraq to implement them "without delay." He said failure to do so would squarely place responsibility on the leaders of Iraq. Addressing the UN General Assembly on 14 September, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana echoed the Romanian cabinet's opinion. MS

CROATIAN PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO ROMANIAN COUNTY DERAILED BY ASSASSINATION PLOT
A presidential communique in Zagreb has confirmed that Croat President Stipe Mesic's planned 13 September visit to Caras-Severin County, which has a small Croat community, was canceled due to "trustworthy information" received from the Romanian authorities regarding a plot to assassinate Mesic, Mediafax reported on 15 September, citing AFP. The Romanian Guard and Protection Service, in a press release aired on 16 September by Radio Bucharest, said that during Mesic's visit "all measures to prevent and thwart an attempt on his life" were taken. The radio station said that Mesic initially insisted on visiting Caras-Severin despite the threat, but agreed later to meet in Bucharest with Croat minority members. The daily "Evenimentul zilei" reported on 16 September that suspicion of a possible attempt on Mesic's life arose after the disappearance last week of a machine gun from a Romanian military unit in Caransebes, which Mesic intended to visit. Mesic on 13 September had denied media reports that the visit was cancelled due to an assassination plot, saying it was canceled because he had a heavy agenda, Romanian radio and Mediafax reported. President Ion Iliescu the same day said the reports reflected "media sensationalism." MS

MOLDOVAN OFFICIAL SAYS TELERADIO MOLDOVA LAW MIGHT BE AMENDED...
Foreign Policy Committee Chairman Andrei Neguta said on 13 September that the law approved in July under which Teleradio Moldova was transformed into a public company might be amended, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Neguta spoke after meeting with two rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) who have criticized the law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2001). Neguta said that although Moldova has fulfilled the 24 April PACE recommendation and Teleradio Moldova is no longer state-owned, representation on the company's managing council could be increased to include persons recommended by nongovernmental organizations and by unions of writers and artists. Under the current law, the council includes 15 members nominated by the president, the government, and the parliament. MS

...AND REJECTS OPPOSITION CLAIMS OF GOVERNMENT'S FAILURE TO IMPLEMENT PACE RECOMMENDATIONS
Neguta also said on 13 September that 11 out of the 16 recommendations PACE made on 24 April have been fully implemented, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Rejecting complaints by Popular Party Christian Democratic Chairman Iurie Rosca that the government has defied the PACE recommendations and has not canceled judicial proceedings launched against him and his deputy Stefan Secareanu, Neguta said the recommendations spoke about "suspending" those proceedings, not canceling them. He also said that the ruling party has not renounced its intention to introduce compulsory "History of Moldova" classes in Moldovan learning institutions, as the PACE recommendations spoke only of a "moratorium" on the dispute. He said the moratorium has been respected, but he added that a decision on the matter will have to be made. MS

BESSARABIAN METROPOLITAN CHURCH COMPLAINS TO PACE RAPPORTEURS
In a letter addressed to the PACE rapporteurs on Moldova, Josette Durrieu and Lauri Vahtre, the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church on 13 September said the government is violating worshipers' property rights, Infotag reported. Bessarabian Church representatives said that although the church has been registered with the authorities, the properties of the church are not being returned to it. They drew attention to the fact that a resolution approved by the government on 26 September 2001 stipulates that the rival Metropolitan Church of Moldova is the lawful successor and inheritor of the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia, which functioned in Moldova until 1940. MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT WRAPS UP VISIT TO NEW YORK...
President Georgi Parvanov held separate talks with Albanian President Alfred Moisiu and Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga at the United Nations on 13 September, BTA reported. Presidential International Affairs adviser Zlatin Trapkov said that Parvanov assured Moisiu of Bulgarian support for Albania's efforts to join NATO. Moisiu reportedly said that current visa regulations hinder trade between the two countries. In Parvanov's meeting with Vike-Freiberga, the two agreed that the two countries should improve bilateral relations and exchange expertise on EU integration. Parvanov also met with representatives of the Anti-Defamation League as well as with Bulgarians studying and working in the United States. Late on 15 September, Parvanov left for Salzburg in Austria, where he was to attend the European Economic Summit on 16 and 17 September. UB

...AS DOES BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER
After a meeting in New York of representatives of the non-permanent members of the UN Security Council with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on 13 September, Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said, "Obviously, a future UN resolution [on Iraq] cannot be open-ended. It must set specific deadlines for meeting the demands it puts forth," BTA reported. "We can wait for another 12 days or 12 weeks, but not for 12 years," Pasi told CNN. Pasi added that Bulgaria will seek to use its September presidency of the UN Security Council as well as its two-year membership in that body to reconcile the U.S. and European positions over Iraq. In related news, Pasi met on 13 September with Abd Al-Rahman Shalgam, Libya's secretary of the General People's Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation, to discuss the ongoing court case involving Bulgarian medics charged with deliberately infecting Libyan children with HIV. Pasi also held separate talks with Greek Foreign Minister Georgeos Papandreou, Portuguese Foreign Minister Antonio Martins da Cruz, and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher. UB

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO RATIFY FOREIGN-DEBT EXCHANGE
Due to the lack of the necessary quorum, parliament failed on 13 September to ratify an agreement under which parts of the country's foreign debt in "Brady bonds" would have been exchanged for U.S. dollar-denominated Eurobonds, BTA reported. Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski said the failure to ratify the agreement was "regrettable" and "it is not very responsible politically either," but dismissed speculation that members of the ruling National Movement Simeon II had failed to support the agreement in an attempt to harm the party's reputation. Former Finance Minister Muravey Radev of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) said the failure to ratify the measure is the first sign that Saxecoburggotski is losing the support of the parliamentary majority. UB

There is no End Note today.


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