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Newsline - October 4, 2002


PUTIN APPOINTS GOVERNOR IN KRASNOYARSK
One day after the Krasnoyarsk Krai Election Commission refused to certify the 22 September gubernatorial elections and instead insisted on 2 March 2003 as the date for new elections, President Vladimir Putin announced on 3 October that the acting governor of the krai, Nikolai Ashlapov, had resigned and that Putin is appointing Taimyr Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksandr Khloponin to replace him. Khloponin was earlier declared the winner of the 22 September election, only to see his victory snatched away by the election commission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1, 2, and 3 October 2002). Khloponin accused the commission of acting at the behest of Russian Aluminum (Rusal) head Oleg Deripaska and Khloponin's opponent in the race, krai legislature Chairman Aleksandr Uss. Putin said the "fact that Aleksandr Gennadievich Khloponin received the most votes is not disputed by anyone, including the territorial election commission. What the argument is about is the way the election was held, and I believe that this argument has to be concluded, in the manner prescribed by law, by the territorial or the Central Election Commission." JAC

...AS RUSSIAN ALUMINUM BELIEVED TO HAVE OVERSTEPPED THE LINE
"Kommersant-Daily" noted on 4 October that the intervention of the president in the Krasnoyarsk situation is itself "sensational," because the battle in the krai was essentially between two large financial-industrial groups: Interros, which supported Khloponin, and Rusal, which supported Uss. And on 3 October, Putin demonstrated his support for Interros. However, unidentified sources told the daily that even those members of the presidential administration who supported Rusal were disturbed by the krai election commission's conduct, which would have left one of the largest regions in Russia without leadership until the spring. The daily predicted that "serious unpleasantness" might await Rusal and not just from the new Krasnoyarsk Krai governor. Meanwhile, leaders of the pro-presidential groups in the Duma praised Putin's nomination of Khloponin. Yabloko Deputy Sergei Ivanenko, however, said it would have been more correct to resolve the situation in Krasnoyarsk Krai through the Supreme Court, ntvru.com reported. JAC

RUSSIA'S POSITION ON IRAQ RESOLUTIONS UNCLEAR
Russia has drafted its own United Nations Security Council resolution on Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2002) that envisages the immediate return of UN weapons inspectors and the gradual lifting of economic sanctions, Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Saltanov told reporters in Moscow on 3 October, RIA-Novosti reported. Saltanov said that Russia will not submit the draft resolution until after UN Commission for Monitoring, Control, and Inspection head Hans Blix files a report on his talks with Baghdad. However, the head of the Russian UN mission, Sergei Lavrov, said in New York on 3 October that his delegation will be ready to consider a new resolution "if our leadership learns that one is needed." He added that he sees no obstacles to resuming weapons inspections in Iraq or to fulfilling the existing UN resolutions, strana.ru reported on 3 October. VY

PUTIN CANCELS YELTSIN DECREE ON RFE/RL MOSCOW BUREAU
President Putin on 4 October canceled a 27 August 1991 decree by former President Boris Yeltsin that guaranteed the legal and operational status of the Moscow bureau of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Under Yeltsin's edict, the Russian government provided conditions for RFE/RL's journalistic activities "because of its role in the objective coverage of the march of democratic processes." Putin did not issue any statement in connection with the cancellation, but the Kremlin's information office said Yeltsin's decree was revoked because it had "lost its original significance," RIA-Novosti reported. According to the unidentified spokesperson, Yeltsin's decree was originally intended to demonstrate Russia's commitment to freedom of the press and to enhance Russia's image abroad. However, because of the progress of economic and political reforms in Russia since then, the decree put RFE/RL in "a privileged position compared to other foreign mass-media outlets working in Russia," the Kremlin statement was quoted as saying. Moreover, the statement continued, RFE/RL's editorial policies, "despite the end of the Cold War," have in recent years become "biased," especially those of its "Chechen" and Ukrainian services. Ever since Yeltsin's decree, nationalists, Communists, and other reactionary elements have regularly called for an end to RFE/RL's activities in Russia. The Kremlin conducted campaigns of pressure against RFE/RL in 2000 in connection with the case of RFE/RL correspondent Andrei Babitskii and his coverage of the Chechnya conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 2000) and this year in connection with RFE/RL's decision to begin broadcasts in three North Caucasus languages (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 25 April 2002). The Foreign Ministry said that Putin's decree is purely a technical measure designed to give equal status to all foreign media outlets in Russia and does not constitute a reaction to RFE/RL's policies, RIA-Novosti reported on 4 October. VY

DEFENSE MINISTRY SUES FORMER CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has ordered that a suit be filed against Colonel General Georgii Oleinik seeking the payment of $60 million in compensation for damages incurred to the ministry when Oleinik served as its chief financial officer, RIA-Novosti reported on 4 October. According to the suit, the losses resulted when Oleinik sold allegedly undervalued ministry bonds to a commercial bank. Oleinik was convicted in 2000 and sentenced to two years' imprisonment for embezzling $450 million in Defense Ministry funds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 19 August 2002), but he was amnestied in August. VY

PAVLOVSKII SUGGESTS BENEFICIARIES OF RUSSIA'S ECONOMIC GROWTH MAY WANT LARGER STAKE IN POLITICAL SYSTEM
In an interview with "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 3 October, Gleb Pavlovskii, head of the Foundation for Effective Politics, said there are currently "hundreds of thousands" of new groups of active voters in Russia's cities. These groups comprise members of the new middle class and the new intelligentsia, including the financial intelligentsia. Pavlovskii said some of these groups are not "dressed in white clothing" -- that is, they aren't saints -- but they already "have a sense of themselves as a potential ruling class." In all, this new force could amount to as many as 20 million people. Pavlovskii claims the members of these new groups "are closely linked to economic growth and are oriented toward [capitalist-style] success." They might run for office as early as 2003 with a "clear understanding of what they want." Pavlovskii mentioned these new groups in response to a question about whether there will be any "surprises" during the next parliamentary elections. JAC

ST. PETERSBURG GOVERNOR'S PLANS FOR THIRD TERM INCUR CRITICISM...
RosBalt reported on 3 October that only 7.8 percent of respondents in a survey designed to poll influential residents of St. Petersburg welcome the idea of St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev seeking a third term. According to ITAR-TASS, the Marko marketing and communications agency conducted the poll among 150 of the city's most influential residents, including members of Unified Russia, the Union of Rightist Forces, the Communist Party, Yabloko, and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. RosBalt's editor in chief is Natalya Chaplina, the wife of presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Viktor Cherkesov, whom many media sources have identified as a political opponent of Yakovlev's (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2002). RosBalt also quoted Olga Zastrozhnaya, secretary of the Central Election Commission, as saying that Yakovlev demonstrated his disrespect for the law when he recently expressed his willingness to run again (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2002). JAC

...AS SOME KREMLIN SUPPORT MIGHT NOT BE ENOUGH
Meanwhile, St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Anna Markova said the recent decision of the St. Petersburg Charter Court ruling Yakovlev ineligible to seek a third term (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2002) violated the Russian Constitution, and she called for experts to review the decision with deputy head of the presidential administration Dmitrii Kozak, RFE/RL's St. Petersburg correspondent reported. However, Ruslan Linkov, head of the St. Petersburg branch of Democratic Russia, told RFE/RL that even if Yakovlev has the hypothetical support of some members of the Kremlin, this cannot make his legal problems simply go away. "Neither Mr. Kozak nor anyone in the presidential administration will go so far as to directly violate the constitution," Linkov said. Political analyst Nikolai Petrov noted that the Kremlin "is hardly monolithic or homogeneous" and has interests of greater and lesser priority. Kozak was one of the few members of former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak's team to work for Yakovlev during the latter's first term (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 19 March 2001). JAC

SENATOR URGES REVISION OF LAW ON MASS MEDIA
Federation Council Information Policy Committee Deputy Chairman Yevgenii Yeliseev said on 2 October that the current law on the mass media must be changed in order "to increase compliance with the constitution and the Civil Code," RIA-Novosti reported on 3 October. He said an amended law must address issues such as the quality of information, and it must define different types of information, including drawing a distinction between commercial and noncommercial information. In the past, efforts to change the law have been counterproductive, because they treated information from the positions of the producer and distributor, not the user, Yeliseev said. VY

GOVERNMENT TO TIGHTEN CONTROL OVER SCIENTIFIC-INFORMATION TRANSFERS
At its 3 October meeting devoted to intellectual-property rights (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2002), the government approved measures for tightening state control over the transfer abroad of scientific and technical information, "Kommersant-Daily" and other Russian news agencies reported. The government ordered the Justice, Industry and Science, and Property Relations ministries and other state agencies to increase supervision over information generated by research and development conducted with federal funds and told them to submit plans for achieving this goal by 25 December. A State Audit Chamber probe in July found that federally funded intellectual projects brought the state just 5 percent of anticipated revenues. VY

MEMORIAL TO STALIN'S VICTIMS VANDALIZED
For the second time in less than a week, unidentified vandals defaced the stone marking the site of a future monument to victims of political repression in St. Petersburg on 3 October by smearing black paint all over its inscriptions, Interfax-Northwest reported. The vandals also drew a Star of David on the stone. The stone was defaced just three days earlier with black paint. JAC

CELL-PHONE USAGE CONTINUES TO CLIMB
The number of cellular-phone subscribers in Russia jumped 8 percent from 13.43 million at the end of August to 14.46 million at the end of September, Interfax reported on 3 October, citing ACM Consulting. According to the agency, three different cell-phone service providers have a combined 6 million customers in the Moscow licensing area. Two mobile-phone service providers based in Kazan have a total of more than 300,000 customers. JAC

TATARSTAN ASKS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO RESOLVE BATTLE WITH PROSECUTORS
Tatarstan's legislature announced on 2 October that it has launched two appeals to the Russian Constitutional Court in response to a protest lodged by Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev against the amended Tatar Constitution, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2002). In another appeal, the republican legislature is also asking the court to verify whether Article 27 of the federal law on the judicial system of the Russian Federation conforms to the Russian Constitution. The Tatar parliament is also asking the court to outline a full list of powers of the constitutional courts of federation subjects. According to "Vremya novostei" on 3 October, Tatarstan's legislators have concluded that the articles of the amended constitution that have proven so controversial for federal prosecutors can only be examined by the Constitutional Court. JAC

TATAR NATIONALISTS ATTACK ORTHODOX CHURCH CONSTRUCTION
Members of the moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center (TIU), most of them elderly, attacked the chapel of the St. Tatyana Russian Orthodox Church being built near Victory Park in Chally on 2 October and damaged its foundation, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported, citing tatnews.ru. According to Interfax, it took 30 people 90 minutes to destroy a wall that was 7 meters long and 1 meter high. The head of the chapel, Father Oleg Bogdanov, said the damage totaled 40,000 rubles ($1,290). The center's activists have protested the building of the chapel for more than a year, suggesting instead that a Tatar puppet theater be built on the same location despite the fact that such a theater already exists in the city and that the chapel construction was authorized by the city administration. One of the TIU members involved in the attack, who did not identify herself, said that as a result of building a Russian Orthodox chapel in the vicinity, the park itself would "become Orthodox," thus "leaving no room for Muslims." JAC

KARELIAN LEADER CALLS FOR ETHNIC QUOTAS
In a 2 October meeting with Helle Degn, commissioner for democratic development of the Council of Baltic Sea States, Karelian Congress head Anatolii Grigoriev said he believes it is necessary to introduce quotas for ethnic minorities in the Karelian Republic's legislature and to give the Karelian language the status of a state language in Karelia along with Russian, ITAR-TASS reported. Grigoriev said that indigenous Finno-Ugric people of the republic, the Karelians and Veps, are practically unrepresented in government bodies. JAC

NEW NIZHNII MAYOR MULLS REVIVING OLD TRADITION...
Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor-elect Vadim Bulavinov reportedly told reporters that he might revive an old political tradition of urinating on portraits of one's predecessor, VolgaInform reported on 3 October, citing NTA Privolzhe. "This tradition should be restored independently of who these people were," he said. "We should respect our history. On the one hand, it is necessary to act correctly, but on the other hand, [we should not] make the same mistakes and for that it is necessary to have a reminder." Bulavinov was elected in a very close race on 27 September (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 3 October 2002). JAC

...AND MAKES FIRST APPOINTMENTS
Bulavinov on 3 October announced the first appointments to his new administration, RosBalt reported. He named the deputy general director of LUKoil's local affiliate, Aleksandr Meleshkin, as first deputy mayor. His chief of staff will be Nina Sokolova, who formerly worked as a chief legal adviser in the administration of presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko. Sergei Gladyshev, who formerly served as director of the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast's Energy Department, was named deputy mayor for social questions. RosBalt reported that the appointments correspond to statements Bulavinov made regarding personnel during the election campaign. RC

FIT FOR A KING
For his 50th birthday on 7 October, President Putin will receive an exact copy of the Cap of Monomakh, the most potent symbol of Russian autocracy, RosBalt reported on 3 October. The copy was prepared by a group of jewelers from the Urals under the supervision of the Russian Jewelers' Academy and has been insured for $10 million. The original Cap of Monomakh, which is on display in the Kremlin Armory, was made in the 14th or 15th century and was used in the coronation ceremonies of virtually all the Russian tsars before Peter the Great. RC

CHECHEN FOREIGN MINISTER DENIES HE HAS RESIGNED
In a statement posted on chechenpress.com on 4 October, Ilyas Akhmadov rejected as untrue Russian media reports that he had resigned as Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's foreign minister. Russian media recently reported that Akhmadov is seeking political asylum in the United States. LF

EBRD WITHDRAWS FROM ARMENIAN ENERGY PRIVATIZATION
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced on 3 October that it will not purchase a 19.9 percent stake in the Armenian energy-distribution network that is being privatized, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. The EBRD decision is the latest blow to the $37 million sale and overturns an earlier understanding between the EBRD and the Armenian government under which the EBRD would have assumed a 20 percent share in the privatization deal once a foreign investor was found to buy the energy network in an open and competitive tender. The privatization has already been questioned by some observers, including the World Bank, after the Armenian government awarded the 80.1 percent share to a little-known offshore group with no experience in the energy sector (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 29 August 2002). RG

ARMENIAN GROUPS CONCERNED OVER ARREST OF ARMENIAN COMMUNITY LEADER IN DJAVAKHETI
Several Armenian nongovernmental organizations and some political parties have expressed concern over the recent arrest of Fedya Torosyan, a founding member of the ethnic Armenian Djavakhk movement in the southern Georgian Djavakheti region, according to "Yerkir" on 2 October. Torosyan, also a leading member of the Virk political party in Djavakheti, was arrested on vague charges of "financial negligence" during his tenure as head of the regional power-distribution company. The situation in the Armenian-populated Djavakheti region has been tense in recent years due to a serious socioeconomic crisis and mounting calls for autonomy for the Armenian region by the Javakhk and Virk groups. RG

ARMENIAN WTO MEMBERSHIP IMPERILED BY U.S. DECISION
Armenian Finance and Economy Minister Vardan Khachatrian announced on 3 October that the Armenian bid for membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been delayed by a U.S. decision to postpone Armenia's accession in order to allow for simultaneous Armenian and Azerbaijani entry into the trade body, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The nearly six-year Armenian bid for WTO membership is also hindered by more serious obstacles related to shortcomings in Armenian laws. For nearly two years, Armenian officials have been saying the country will imminently enter the 144-member WTO (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2002). RG

COUNCIL OF EUROPE OFFICIAL CALLS ON ARMENIA TO BAN CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights Alvaro Gil-Robles met with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian in Yerevan on 3 October and urged the Armenian government to abolish the death penalty, according to Arminfo and Mediamax, as cited by Groong. Gil-Robles cited Armenia's progress in improving human rights protections but stressed Armenia's obligation as a Council of Europe member state to end capital punishment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2002). The Council of Europe official also discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and reviewed the recent tension between Russia and Georgia, which he sees as exercising a "negative impact on regional security and stability." RG

FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER CALLS ON AZERBAIJAN TO PREPARE FOR WAR
A former adviser to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, Vafa Guluzade, recommended on 2 October that Azerbaijan "silently prepare for war" as the only way to strengthen its position in the mediation talks over Nagorno-Karabakh, according to the Azerbaijani Lider television station. The former adviser cited mounting frustration over the mediation effort by the OSCE and warned that Azerbaijan might face new Armenian or Russian aggression in the event of a U.S. attack on Iraq. RG

RUSSIA REDUCES MILITARY PRESENCE IN GEORGIA
Russian Defense Ministry officials announced on 2 October that Russia will reduce the number of troops stationed at two military bases in Georgia, Interfax and Civil Georgia reported. Russian troops stationed at the Batumi base in Adjaria are to be reduced by 300, and another 700 servicemen are to be withdrawn from the Russian base at Akhalkalaki. According to the agreement reached at the 1999 OSCE Istanbul summit, however, Russia is obliged to withdraw completely from its bases in Georgia. RG

GEORGIAN OFFICIAL ANNOUNCES PROGRESS IN HUNT FOR ABDUCTED BRITISH CITIZEN
Georgian National Security Council Secretary Tedo Djaparidze announced on 3 October that law-enforcement agencies have made "great progress in the investigation" of the kidnapping of British citizen Peter Shaw, Civil Georgia reported. The abduction in June of the consultant to the EU led to a warning by the European Union on 1 October that unless the Georgian authorities provide adequate security for foreign citizens, the EU will be forced to suspend nearly $40 million in EU-funded projects under way in Georgia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2002). Djaparidze stated there is evidence that Shaw is alive and is being held in the Pankisi Gorge and vowed that the next stage of the security operation targeting the gorge will result in his release. RG

GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER HOLDS TALKS AT NATO
During talks in Brussels on 2 October, Irakli Menagharishvili and NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson discussed the situation in the Pankisi Gorge, Caucasus Press reported on 3 October. Menagharishvili also met with other senior NATO officials to discuss his country's participation in the Partnership for Peace program and NATO's help in rehabilitating territory formerly used as military bases. Menagharishvili and a NATO official signed an agreement under which NATO will fund the rehabilitation of former rocket bases near Tbilisi that will subsequently be used for agricultural purposes. LF

HOUSTON INITIATIVE UNDER WAY IN KAZAKHSTAN
At a joint press conference on 3 October in Almaty, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev and U.S. Ambassador Larry Napper announced the launch of a multimillion-dollar partnership aimed at boosting business relations between the two countries and building a strong entrepreneurial class in Kazakhstan, RFE/RL and Interfax reported. Dubbed the Houston initiative, the project was conceived during President Nursultan Nazarbaev's official visit to the United States in 1999. According to Tokaev, the partnership envisages "massive support" for small and medium-sized businesses in the form of credits and investment, with special encouragement given to housing construction through the establishment of mortgage facilities and savings banks. Napper said Washington has pledged about $10 million to fund the initiative during its first year. AA

U.S. CASPIAN ENVOY WARNS THAT KAZAKHSTAN NEEDS STABLE BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT
Addressing the Kazakhstan International Oil and Gas Exhibition in Almaty on 3 October, the U.S. special adviser on Caspian issues, Steven Mann, criticized the Kazakh government for its recent attempts to revise existing contracts with international oil companies, warning that such moves will drive investors away, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The government's attempts to force companies to replace foreign personnel and equipment with local equivalents are "causing real concern," Mann said. He added that the country will lose investment unless it cuts red tape and eliminates corruption, and he emphasized the importance of transparent laws and an independent media. AA

ABLIYAZOV'S PRISON WOES
Gulam Mazanov, a defense attorney for former Kazakh Trade and Industry Minister Mukhtar Abliyazov, who was sentenced to six years' imprisonment in July, told journalists in Almaty on 3 October that his client is being subjected to daily humiliations and rights abuses in one of the worst labor camps in the country, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Abliyazov is being held near Kokshetau in central Aqmola Oblast in a prison with "no sewage system," Mazanov said. He complained that prison authorities have prevented Abliyazov from communicating with his lawyers and have maliciously harassed him. He added that his client might soon be transferred to another labor camp in Oskemen in the east of the country. AA

KYRGYZ DEPUTIES OVERRIDE PRESIDENTIAL VETOES
On 3 October, Kyrgyzstan's Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of parliament) overrode two presidential vetoes, one on an amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code and the other on an amendment to the Criminal Code, akipress.org reported. The first amendment gives defendants the right to contest in court the actions of prosecutors or police during arrests, detentions, and searches. The second makes it a crime to obstruct lawyers from performing their duties. Kubatbek Baibolov, the chairman of the parliamentary committee on criminal, procedural, and administrative legislation, told Interfax on 3 October that President Askar Akaev should understand that the articles -- although he vetoed them -- are conducive to democracy and human rights. Meanwhile, deputies upheld other presidential vetoes concerning arrest procedures, economic associations, and the amnesty law. AA

EU GROUP IN KYRGYZSTAN
On 3 October in Bishkek, President Akaev and Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev received a European Parliament delegation to discuss human rights, media freedom, and the war on terrorism, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Delegation leader Antonio Di Pietro said that democratic reforms require financial support and, consequently, the EU has decided to double its aid to the country. The same day, the Kyrgyzstan-EU Parliamentary Cooperation Committee held its first meeting in Bishkek, Interfax reported. The committee is intended as a forum for exchanging views on the political and economic situation in Kyrgyzstan and on combating terrorism, organized crime, and drug trafficking. AA

RENEWED APPEALS TO RELEASE FORMER KYRGYZ VICE PRESIDENT
Members of Kyrgyzstan's Constitutional Assembly, which wrapped up its work on 2 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2002), sent a signed appeal to President Akaev the following day to release jailed former Vice President Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kulov is serving a 10-year sentence on embezzlement charges, which he recently reiterated were politically motivated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2002). Akaev said the issue is beyond his competence, and the appeal should be redirected to Supreme Court Chairwoman Nelly Beishenavlieva. Representatives for the political party Moya Strana duly submitted it to her. Meanwhile, on 3 October, about 600 protesters demanding Kulov's release picketed the Bishkek municipal court that has been considering Kulov's appeal against his sentence since August. AA

IMF STUDIES TAJIK REFORMS
An IMF delegation led by Robert Christiansen arrived in Dushanbe on 3 October on a one-week mission, Tajik radio reported. The delegation will assess Tajikistan's progress in implementing the IMF staff-monitored reform program that the government agreed to in a Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies in March. Fund representatives met with Finance Minister Safarali Najmuddinov and National Bank Chairman Murodali Alimardonov. The delegation will also discuss the government's new draft cooperation program on reducing poverty levels by 2005. AA

TURKMENISTAN BUILDING UP CASPIAN COAST GUARD
Ukraine has supplied Turkmenistan with three more Kalkan-M patrol boats, bringing the number received since May to seven, turkmenistan.ru reported on 3 October. According to a gas-for-goods barter agreement signed in 2001, Ukrainian shipbuilders owe Turkmenistan a total of 10 Kalkan and 10 40-ton Grif patrol boats. Since last year, Turkmenistan has been steadily increasing its fleet patrolling its Caspian waters. AA

UZBEKS CUT IMPORT DUTIES
As of 1 October, import taxes on foodstuffs brought into Uzbekistan by private individuals and "shuttle traders" have been reduced from 50 percent to 40 percent and those on other consumer goods from 90 to 70 percent, uzreport.com reported on 3 October. The duties are now payable in the local currency, rather than in hard currency as before. Tradesmen in Uzbek markets have staged protests in recent months against what they believe are exorbitant import taxes. AA

BELARUSIAN VENDORS CONTINUE STRIKE...
Some 120,000 small traders on 3 September continued their strike over what they say is the government's financial and administrative pressure to destroy small business in Belarus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2002), Belapan reported, quoting United Council of Entrepreneurs (ASP) Chairman Anatol Shumchanka. Shumchanka said his council is planning to hold a convention within a month and to invite President Alyaksandr Lukashenka so vendors can present their problems and demands directly. Shumchanka insists Lukashenka is being deliberately misinformed about the situation in the small-business sector by his ministers and local authorities. Meanwhile, outdoor-market traders from a strike committee headed by Valery Levaneuski are demanding Lukashenka's ouster, blaming him personally for the suppression of small business in the country. JM

...WHILE LUKASHENKA VILIFIES THEM ON TV
During a visit to the Khimvalakno chemical-fiber plant in Svetlahorsk (Homel Oblast) on 3 October, Lukashenka explained to workers that he is forced to increase financial pressure on small traders in order to protect domestic producers. "Have you seen how these so-called 'poor entrepreneurs' are striking?" Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying. "Who is tormenting you? They go to Istanbul, to friendly China, or to some other place, buy goods there and bring them into Belarus without customs duties. They pay virtually no taxes here, that is, their goods are cheaper than those produced [in Belarus]. In this way, they ship out hard currency [abroad], feed foreign producers and importers, while [simultaneously] killing our production." JM

BELARUS SLAMS LITHUANIA OVER ANNOUNCED END OF VISA-FREE TRAVEL
Deputy Foreign Minister Alyaksandr Herasimenka told journalists on 3 October that Lithuania's intention to introduce full-scale visa requirements for all Belarusian citizens is an unfriendly step, Belapan reported. Last month, Vilnius announced that as of 1 January it will cancel the temporary agreement it concluded with Minsk in 1994 on visa-free entry into Lithuania for Belarusian pensioners, residents of border areas, and truckers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2002). "[This measure] runs counter to the principles of good-neighborliness and contradicts the nature and provisions of fundamental OSCE agreements, in particular, the Helsinki Final Act of 1975...under which OSCE member states made commitments gradually to simplify and apply flexible border-crossing procedures and facilitate travel on their territory," Herasimenka noted. He added that Lithuania is being too hasty in introducing visa requirements for Belarusians, since accession to the European Union does not automatically imply accession to the Schengen Treaty. JM

UKRAINIAN NEWS AGENCY SETTLES CONFLICT OVER ALLEGED CENSORSHIP
UNIAN, Ukraine's second-largest news agency, published a statement on 3 October saying the agency's leadership and journalists had reached a compromise over the recent conflict in which journalists complained of being subjected to political censorship and pressure (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2002). "Both sides declare that political censorship in UNIAN is inadmissible. We are unanimous in the opinion that major changes in materials released by UNIAN may be made only by the journalists who wrote them," the statement reads. The dispute in UNIAN began on 1 October when journalists accused UNIAN's new executive director, Vasyl Yurychko, of censoring their work and of refusing to run reports that could be construed as portraying President Leonid Kuchma unfavorably, AP reported. JM

UKRAINIAN NGO CLAIMS ITS LEADER KILLED FOR HIS POLITICAL ACTIVITY
The Public Control organization on 3 October claimed that its head, Ruslan Synyavskyy, was killed because of his public activity, AP reported. Police reported that an unidentified gunman shot and killed Synyavskyy, 44, late on 30 September near the entrance to his apartment building in downtown Kyiv. Interfax reported that the assailant shot several times in an attempt to rob Synyavskyy. "It's very doubtful that an ordinary thief carries a gun. We [think] this [killing] was linked to his activity in the organization," Oleh Sadanets from Public Control told AP. Public Control helps citizens defend their rights if they believe state officials abused their power or violated laws. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IN INDIA
President Kuchma is continuing a four-day official visit to India that began on 2 October. Kuchma's spokeswoman Olena Hromnytska told journalists on 3 October that the two countries signed four accords, including one on mutual legal assistance in criminal investigations and another on extradition, UNIAN reported. Kuchma reportedly said that Ukraine and India "have no divergent opinions" on any international issues. JM

ESTONIAN PREMIER SUGGESTS POSTS OF PRESIDENT AND PREMIER COULD BE COMBINED
At a forum of civil servants in Tartu on 3 October, Siim Kallas suggested that the position of prime minister could be eliminated in Estonia and the role handed over to the president, ETA reported. He added it appears likely that the constitution will be changed so that the president would be directly elected. Now the president is chosen by the parliament or by a special electoral body consisting of the parliament and representatives of local governments. Kallas said that if the next president is elected directly by the people, he or she would be able to play a greater role in governing the state. Combining the positions of president and prime minister would simplify foreign relations and make responsibilities and representative functions clearer, Kallas added. He also cautioned that his proposals were made simply for further discussion, with the aim of making the Estonian state more flexible. SG

EC PLEDGES TO SOLVE LATVIA'S FARM-QUOTAS ISSUE
European Commission (EC) President Romano Prodi told visiting Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga in Brussels on 3 October that the EC will make every effort to resolve the question of Latvia's agriculture quotas, BNS reported. He said the EC has received new statistical data about Latvia's agricultural output, which are being assessed by experts. But he added that all countries should be treated equally. Earlier that day, EC Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen assured Vike-Freiberga that there should be no problems for Latvia to become a member of the EU. Later, Vike-Freiberga discussed European security and defense policy with European Council Secretary-General Javier Solana, who expressed the hope that the EU will form a rapid-reaction force by 2003. SG

PUBLIC INITIATIVE TO CUT PERSONAL INCOME TAX IN LITHUANIA
Members of the right-of-center Liberal Union brought to the Chief Election Commission on 3 October a petition containing 60,891 signatures calling for the gradual reduction of the tax rate on personal income from 33 percent to 24 percent, ELTA reported. If the commission verifies that at least 50,000 of the signatures belong to Lithuanian citizens, parliament will have to consider a draft law on the tax cut. Liberal Union Chairman Eugenijus Gentvilas said his party took the initiative of gathering the signatures after parliament rejected its proposal for the tax reduction. He claimed the tax cut would boost the income of citizens by 950 million litas ($270 million) and lead to a revival of the economy and a decrease in unemployment. SG

BASQUE PARTY SUPPORTS AUTONOMY FOR POLAND'S SILESIA
Spain's Basque National Party is supporting the Silesian Autonomy Movement (RAS) in its bid to promote the idea of political and economic autonomy for Silesia (southern Poland) in the ongoing local election campaign in Poland, PAP reported. "I came [to Poland] to back the RAS in their campaign, because I believe in autonomy, thanks to which authorities are closer to people," said Jose Mari Etxebarria, who is in charge of foreign contacts of the Basque National Party. The RAS has fielded some 200 candidates in Silesian and Opole provinces for the 27 October local election. According to the RAS website (http://www.raslaska.org/ras/index2e.htm), the movement's long-term political objective is the "creation of Lower and Upper Silesian autonomous regions, within their historical borders." JM

MORE THAN TWO-THIRDS OF POLES WANT RESTORATION OF DEATH PENALTY
According to a poll conducted by OBOP in August among 1,017 Poles over the age of 15, 69 percent of respondents said they support the reintroduction of capital punishment, PAP reported on 3 October. Seventy-seven percent said they want to see harsher sentences for crimes, but only 31 percent declared their readiness to pay higher taxes to cover the cost of longer prison terms. JM

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS NO DECISION YET ON U.S. MISSILE-DEFENSE PROJECT
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda told journalists on 3 October that the Czech government is considering the possibility of joining the U.S. "missile-shield" defense program but stressed that no decision has been made, CTK reported. Svoboda added that the cabinet's attitude toward the prospect, which was first discussed with U.S. military experts by Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik during a recent visit to Washington, is "generally positive." Reports in the local media say the United States considers the Czech Republic's geographic location suitable for the deployment of missiles within the proposed system, which would be deployed to detect and destroy enemy missiles at high altitude. CTK reported that the view in Washington is that a single site in Europe is sufficient to provide defense against an enemy missile attack for the entire continent. Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia Deputy Chairman Vlastimil Balin said on 3 October that his party will demand a referendum on the matter if the government decides in favor of such a plan. MS

CZECH PREMIER MEETS AFGHAN PRESIDENT IN KABUL
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla met with Afghan Transitional Administration President Hamid Karzai in Kabul on 3 October and discussed Czech support for that country's postwar reconstruction effort and mutual trade, CTK and international news agencies reported. Spidla said after the meeting that the two had agreed to restore economic cooperation, which was effectively halted under the Taliban regime. Spidla and Defense Minister Tvrdik, who is accompanying him on the visit, also met with Czech soldiers staffing a field hospital as part of the Kabul-based International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Spidla said he does not believe that ISAF involvement will be extended to the rest of Afghanistan. Spidla and Tvrdik also met on 3 October with Afghan Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim and with the ISAF commander, Turkish General Akin Zorul. MS

FORMER CZECH PRIME MINISTER REPORTEDLY TO SEEK RE-ELECTION AS PARTY CHAIRMAN
Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus will seek re-election to his current position at the ODS national conference scheduled for December, CTK reported on 3 October, citing the daily "Vecernik Praha." After the ODS lost the June parliamentary elections, Klaus pledged to resign as chairman but refrained from saying whether he might run again for the post. Meanwhile, Moravia-Silesia Region Commissioner Evzen Tosenovsky last month announced his candidacy for the post. The daily says the Central Bohemian ODS regional council recently proposed that the ODS leadership in December be elected for one year only and that Klaus's mandate as re-elected chairman also be limited to that period. The proposal also calls for the creation of the post of first deputy chairman, to allow for a future successor to Klaus to gain experience, as well as the post of honorary chairman, which Klaus might occupy after 2003. MS

FOURTH BSE CASE REPORTED IN CZECH REPUBLIC
Preliminary tests detected what appears to be a fourth case of BSE (mad-cow disease) in the Czech Republic, AP reported on 3 October, citing a State Veterinary Authority spokesman. The spokesman said a 7-year-old bovine from a farm in Sestajovice, just outside Prague, tested positive for BSE. If the results of additional testing confirm the preliminary findings, 25 other bovines from the same farm are to be slaughtered as a precautionary measure, the spokesman said. The first BSE case in the country was detected last June, and the third case just last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September and 3 October 2002). MS

EMERGING SLOVAK COALITION AGREES ON GOVERNMENT PROGRAM
Four Slovak center-right parties on 3 October reached agreement on the next government program and said they might sign the coalition pact early next week, Reuters reported, citing Prime Minister-designate Mikulas Dzurinda. Dzurinda declined to disclose the names of ministers in the proposed cabinet, saying that on personal issues "nothing has yet been agreed 100 percent," according to CTK. The four parties -- the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union, the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), and the Alliance of New Citizens (ANO) -- agreed that the issue of the Benes Decrees, relating to the postwar expulsion of ethnic Germans and Hungarians, will not be raised by any of them, thus dismissing speculation that the SMK might do so. MS

BUSH CONGRATULATES SLOVAK PREMIER ON ELECTION SUCCESS
U.S. President George W. Bush on 3 October telephoned Dzurinda and congratulated him on his party's electoral performance, AP reported, citing White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. According to CTK, Bush also expressed U.S. support for Slovakia's quest to join Euro-Atlantic structures. Dzurinda told Bush that the election outcome demonstrates that Slovakia's citizens understand the need for democratic development and integration in NATO and the EU, as well as for the continuation of the reform process. Also on 3 October, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said in Brussels that the Slovak electorate made a very wise decision in the recent general elections. "Today they are part of the main democratic stream in Europe, and they voted for being part of integration, leading to stability and prosperity," Robertson told TASR. MS

NEW SLOVAK PARLIAMENT TO MEET ON 15 OCTOBER
The newly elected Slovak parliament will meet on 15 October in its first session, CTK and AP reported. According to the CTK report, the coalition is expected to appoint a parliamentary speaker and three deputy speakers, while one deputy speaker's post will go to the opposition. MS

FORMER HUNGARIAN PREMIER CLARIFIES EU STANCE
Former Prime Minister Viktor Orban told reporters in Budapest that he advocates speedy European Union accession, but, as the EU has adopted a tough negotiating stance, Hungary should also resort to "as tough a negotiating position as possible," "Magyar Nemzet" reported on 4 October. "I never said that Hungary should not join the EU," Orban said, adding that he "only wanted to point out that we must act to make sure that the competitiveness of the Hungarian economy improves by protecting farmers and small and medium-sized enterprises with low-interest credits and by defending farmland from the onslaught of foreign purchasers." He also remarked that he would like to see two referenda held next year, one on the sale of farmland and the other on media policy. MSZ

HUNGARIAN SUPREME COURT RULES IN SMALLHOLDERS' LEADERSHIP DISPUTE
The Supreme Court has ruled that Jozsef Torgyan is no longer chairman of the Independent Smallholders' Party, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 4 October. The court ruled that the 4 May national council meeting at which Miklos Reti, head of the party's Pest County chapter, was elected party chairman was legitimate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 May 2002). The Metropolitan Court previously declared the May meeting invalid. Torgyan was re-elected party chairman again at a 20 August meeting attended by a small group of people at the party headquarters. Torgyan told "Nepszabadsag" that he has not received the text of the ruling, but "there is no way that Reti can be the party leader, as I am the chairman of the party." MSZ

SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS YOUNG HUNGARIANS' PREJUDICES
According to a survey conducted during the 2000-01 school year, strong prejudices against Roma prevail among 32 percent of the 1,500 high-school students interviewed, Budapest dailies reported on 4 October. Some 75 percent of those surveyed are prejudiced to some extent and "would not have a Roma for a friend." Only 8 percent of 17-year-olds can be said not to harbor any prejudice against Roma, according to the poll. Another 2.1 percent of respondents are strongly prejudiced against disabled young people, while 42.3 percent are tolerant toward them. The survey was conducted by the Kurt Lewin Foundation at the request of the ombudsman for educational rights. MSZ

BOSNIA PREPARES TO VOTE...
Voters across Bosnia go to the polls on 5 October in general elections to select members of cantonal assemblies, the three-person joint Presidency, and the 42-strong House of Representatives, international and regional media reported on 4 October. Voters in the Muslim-Croat federation will elect their own House of Representatives as well. In the Republika Srpska, voters will select a president and vice president, as well as members of the People's Assembly. Members of the joint House of the Peoples are selected by the parliaments of the two entities: 10 from the federation and five from the Republika Srpska. Members of the joint House of Representatives are elected directly, with 28 coming from the federation and 14 from the Republika Srpska. About 2.3 million voters are registered, as are 57 parties, nine coalitions, and three independent candidates. Initial results are expected on 6 October. PM

...WITH THE NATIONALISTS EXPECTED TO WIN
Polls suggest the Bosnian general elections will be won by the three main nationalist parties: Alija Izetbegovic's Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), and the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), which is the Herzegovinian branch of the Croatian party founded by the late President Franjo Tudjman, international media reported on 4 October. Non-nationalist parties dominated the 11 November 2000 elections thanks in part to intervention by officials of the international community. But now, many Muslim voters are put off by mudslinging in the media between the Social Democrats (SDP) of Zlatko Lagumdzija and the Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina (SBiH) of Haris Silajdzic. Many Serbian voters feel that only the SDS can protect their interests. And the HDZ remains the favorite in Herzegovina despite the emergence of the New Croatian Initiative (NHI) and some other small, moderate parties oriented toward the Croats of Sarajevo, central Bosnia, and the northern Posavina region. AP stressed that many people are apathetic or cynical and unlikely to vote. PM

KOSTUNICA WARNS OF 'ALBANIAN EXTREMISTS' IN PROMOTING SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL VOTE
Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said: "One should participate in the [13 October presidential] elections so that Serbia does not definitively descend into chaos and anarchy, as well as so that the EU-mediated constitutional charter [replacing Yugoslavia with Serbia-Montenegro], admittance to the Council of Europe, and negotiations on a stabilization and association agreement with the EU are not delayed indefinitely. But there is one more reason: Instability in Serbia would lead to instability in the Balkans, I think above all by Albanian extremists in Kosovo, southern Serbia, and Macedonia," RFE/RL reported from Belgrade on 4 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2002). Asked by RFE/RL to clarify what he meant by Albanian extremists taking advantage of the situation, Kostunica backed off and said: "I was talking about Serbia, but this applies anywhere. Any instability can have an effect on [the situation of] others -- on Kosovo, Albania, or Macedonia and so on. That's clear, in the sense that any state -- not just Serbia -- should be firm, have institutions, a strong legal order and deal with organized crime." JN/PM

DEL PONTE: CROATIAN GENERAL MUST GO TO THE HAGUE...
Meeting in Brussels with EU security-policy chief Javier Solana on 3 October, Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor of the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, said Croatia is obliged to extradite General Janko Bobetko to the Netherlands, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. She added that if he is seriously ill, the tribunal could send him home, but he must first present himself in The Hague. Meanwhile, in Zagreb, Defense Minister Zeljka Antunovic said she takes NATO's recent warning in the Bobetko affair seriously (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2002). PM

...AND SERBIA MUST ARREST MLADIC
Del Ponte said in Brussels on 3 October that the tribunal knows that indicted war criminal and former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic is living in Serbia, apparently under the protection of the army, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. She stressed that what is lacking is the political will to arrest him. Del Ponte added that the situation of wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, who is also one of the most-wanted indicted war criminals, is quite different. Karadzic is living in the Republika Srpska, where everyone regards him as a hero and protects him, including the authorities, army, police, politicians, and ordinary people. PM

MORE BACKING FOR STEINER'S PLAN FOR KOSOVAR TOWN
The U.S. office in Prishtina said in a statement on 3 October that it strongly supports the plan of UN civilian administration (UNMIK) head Michael Steiner to reunite the divided city of Mitrovica (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2002). Elsewhere, Steiner said after a meeting with Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic that Belgrade authorities support his program in part if not in its entirety (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 August 2002), RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Covic called for the signing of a formal agreement on the matter. Any direct involvement by Belgrade in the affairs of Kosova is firmly rejected by the ethnic Albanian majority and its elected representatives. PM

KOSOVAR PRIME MINISTER REQUESTS FUNDS TO END TEACHERS' STRIKE
Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi has appealed to the IMF, World Bank, and UNMIK for funds to help end a strike by elementary and high-school teachers, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Prishtina on 4 October. The teachers began an open-ended strike on 1 October over pay, which is currently about $125 per month. The Kosovar parliament has expressed support for them. PM

NEW MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT HOLDS FIRST SESSION
In what was described as a "tense atmosphere," the new legislature elected on 15 September held its first session on 3 October, Macedonian media reported. After the verification of 119 out of a total of 120 mandates, the parliament elected Nikola Popovski of the Social Democratic Union (SDSM) as new parliamentary speaker (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2002). Three leading members of the Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) -- BDI Chairman Ali Ahmeti, former UCK commander Gezim Ostreni, and Fazli Veliu -- did not attend the first session because of "other engagements." The two deputies of the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) and the only deputy of the National Democratic Party (PDK) did not appear for unspecified reasons. The parliamentary group of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) boycotted the first session. Dpa reported that, "according to the sources within SDSM and BDI, the SDSM-led coalition will take 11 ministries, and three mandates will be given to the former rebels" in the BDI. Meanwhile, the government of outgoing Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski is continuing in office in a caretaker capacity until the new cabinet is formed. UB/PM

EU NAMES NEW REPRESENTATIVE FOR MACEDONIA
The European Union named Belgian diplomat Alexis Bruns as its new special envoy to Macedonia, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 2 October. Bruns will replace French Diplomat Alain Le Roy, whose mandate expires on 31 October. UB

HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT ENDS OFFICIAL PART OF ROMANIAN VISIT
Visiting Hungarian President Ferenc Madl met on 3 October with the two speakers of Romania's bicameral parliament and with Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Chairman Bela Marko, Romanian Radio reported. Madl and Marko discussed in particular the restitution of church property in Romania, with Marko complaining that the process is proceeding far too slowly. Madl praised the role played by the UDMR in Romanian politics and its contribution to mutual cooperation. Madl also lectured at Bucharest University. The official part of the Hungarian president's visit ended later that evening. On 4 October, he is visiting the famous monasteries of Bukovina and the Transylvanian town of Targu-Mures. MS

SWITZERLAND EXPELS ROMANIAN ROMA
Swiss authorities on 3 October deported a group of 40 Romanian Roma, who were then flown to Bucharest on a charter plane accompanied by 12 Swiss officers after their asylum applications were rejected, AP reported. Several hundred Roma asylum seekers are currently in Switzerland, having arrived there from France, where they also faced deportation. A Swiss-Romanian agreement will ensure their deportation in the coming weeks. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN DICTATOR'S BROTHER MAKES HISTORY ONE LAST TIME
Ilie Ceausescu, a brother of the executed president, died on 3 October in Bucharest, AP reported. He was 76. Ilie Ceausescu served as deputy defense minister when Nicolae Ceausescu was overthrown by popular revolt in December 1989. Ilie Ceausescu claimed to be a historian by profession and for many years headed the Bucharest-based Institute of Military History, which promoted the nationalist line in Romanian historiography. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES AGREEMENT ON MILITARY COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA
Moldovan lawmakers on 3 October ratified an agreement with Russia on military and technological cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported. The vote was 78 for and seven against, with the only votes against ratification cast by deputies representing the opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic. The agreement was signed in 1997, but previous parliaments refused to ratify it on the grounds that Moldova does not participate in Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) military-cooperation programs. Infotag reported that the agreement envisages joint design and production of military equipment. MS

BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS TURKEY
Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski arrived in Ankara on 3 October for a four-day official visit at the invitation of his Turkish counterpart Bulent Ecevit, BTA reported. Saxecoburggotski's talks with Ecevit and President Ahmet Necdet focused on bilateral issues including easing visa regulations for Turkish citizens and the improvement of cross-border infrastructure projects such as highways and the Upper Arda hydroelectric complex. The two sides also discussed Bulgaria's bid for NATO accession, for which the Turkish representatives reiterated their support. Saxecoburggotski and Ecevit also discussed the Iraqi crisis. Ecevit expressed his hope that there will be no armed conflict with Iraq, saying this would threaten all countries in the region. UB

CONSERVATIVE OPPOSITION IN BULGARIA THREATENS VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE
Ekaterina Mihailova, the deputy chairwoman of the conservative opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), announced on 3 October that her party will propose a vote of no confidence should the government fail to implement a parliamentary decision on shutdowns at the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September and 3 October 2002), mediapool.bg reported. She also demanded that Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi, Energy Minister Milko Kovachev, and European Affairs Minister Meglena Kuneva resign in connection with the government's position over Kozloduy. Government spokesman Dimitar Tsonev dismissed Mihailova's demands, saying there is no difference between the parliament's decision and the position adopted by the government. UB

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT DISMISSES HEAD OF STATE NEWS AGENCY, NAMES REPLACEMENT
Powered by votes from the ruling coalition of National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), parliament dismissed Panayot Denev as director of state-owned news agency BTA on 4 October, mediapool.bg reported. In the same vote, parliament elected Stoyan Cheshmedzhiev as the agency's new director. Cheshmedzhiev previously headed the local Radio Varna. Politicians of the ruling coalition have repeatedly called for Denev's dismissal, alleging a lack of loyalty toward the government. DPS Deputy Chairwoman Emel Etem accused the conservative opposition United Democratic Forces (ODS) of having used BTA management to tarnish the country's international reputation. When Cheshmedzhiev was first mentioned as a possible successor to Denev, unconfirmed media reports linked him to a number of scandals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 April 2002). UB

There is no End Note today.


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