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Newsline - October 8, 2002


POLL SHOWS RUSSIANS DO NOT SUPPORT IRAQ
A survey of 1,500 people throughout Russia conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation on 21 September revealed that only 4 percent of Russians think Moscow should support Baghdad in the event of a military conflict between the United States and Iraq, gazeta.ru reported on 2 October. Furthermore, 33 percent of those polled think that Russia should not intervene if there is a conflict, while 45 percent think a peaceful solution should be found. Only 7 percent of those surveyed said Russia should back international pressure on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, while a mere 2 percent support military intervention by the United States. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they believe Iraq is an aggressive state that supports international terrorism, while the same number said this is not the case. Finally, 57 percent of those polled said they were generally ignorant of the situation in Iraq, while 22 percent think it is in Russia's interests to keep Hussein in power, and 24 percent think it would be better if he were removed. VY

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL FOLLOWS KREMLIN'S FLIP-FLOPS ON GEORGIA
Just hours after the appearance of reports that President Vladimir Putin and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze managed to iron out some of the difficulties in relations between the two countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002), Deputy Prosecutor-General Konstantin Chaika told reporters that his office had found nothing criminal in Shevardnadze's conduct as Soviet foreign minister in negotiating a 1990 border agreement with the United States, polit.ru reported on 8 October. Last month, the Federation Council asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to look into allegations of abuse of office stemming from the signing of the agreement delimiting the border between the two countries in the Bering Sea (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3, 4, and 5 September 2002). Two hours after Chaika's statement, however, reports were issued that Georgia might suspend the previously promised extradition of suspected Chechen militants, and the Prosecutor-General's Office issued another statement saying that the investigation into Shevardnadze's case is not yet complete and he remains "under suspicion." VY

UKRAINE, RUSSIA MOVE FORWARD ON NATURAL-GAS COOPERATION
At a meeting on the sidelines of the CIS summit in Chisinau on 7 October, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Ukrainian Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh discussed progress on the formation of a joint natural-gas transportation consortium, ITAR-TASS and other news agencies reported. Kasyanov told reporters that Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftohaz will submit their proposals for the participation of foreign companies in the project by the end of the year, after which "the proposals will be discussed by the heads of government, and concrete decisions will be made." Kinakh hailed the bilateral agreement on strategic cooperation in the natural-gas sector signed on 7 October and said that decisions about the management and financial arrangements of the consortium will be made at a later date. Under the agreement, the consortium will be based in Kyiv and registered in Ukraine. Decisions regarding the participation of foreign companies will be made jointly, and the agreement will remain in effect for at least 30 years. RC

PARTY OF POWER SUGGESTS HIGHER HURDLE FOR DUMA ENTRY
The pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party has suggested that the barrier for political parties to enter into the State Duma be raised from 5 percent of the total vote to 12.5 percent, Russian news agencies reported on 7 October. In an interview with Ekho Moskvy the same day, Gennadii Raikov, head of the People's Deputy group in the State Duma, said he doubts that anyone in his group will support the proposal. According to Raikov, his group supports a more realistic alternative of 7 percent. In interviews with Interfax, Oleg Morozov, coordinator of the Russian Regions group in the Duma, and Vladimir Zhirinovskii, head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, said they consider 12.5 percent too high. Communist Deputy Sergei Reshulskii said he supports raising the barrier, but not above 10 percent. Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov sharply criticized Unified Russia's proposal, charging that "no civilized country" in the world has established such a high barrier. JAC

SIBERIAN ELECTION OFFICIALS MAINTAIN COMBATIVE STANCE
Krasnoyarsk Krai's election commission plans to appeal to the Supreme Court the recent decision by the Central Election Commission (TsIK) to invalidate its cancellation of the results of the 22 September gubernatorial elections, Russian news agencies reported on 7 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002). Georgii Kostrykin, head of the krai's commission, told reporters in Krasnoyarsk that his Moscow counterparts have exceeded their legal authority with their recent ruling, ITAR-TASS reported. In addition, he said there is no legal basis for the TsIK to seek to disband the krai's commission, which TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov has pledged to do. JAC

LOCAL PROTESTS COULD AFFECT THE CENSUS...
On the eve of the official beginning of Russia's 9-16 October national census, State Statistics Committee head Vladimir Sokolin said he is satisfied with work on the project so far, Ekho Moskvy reported on 8 October. Sokolin noted, however, that a large number of census takers have quit, complaining of onerous working conditions. He also said that many citizens are confusing the census with elections and are making demands of census takers for everything from more heat to apartment repairs in exchange for their participation. Gazeta.ru reported on 8 October that a significant percentage of citizens will refuse to participate as a form of social protest in order to attract attention to their problems. Local groups in the Far East, Perm, Ulyanovsk Oblast, and other locations are calling on citizens to boycott the census for various reasons. "As cynical as it sounds, these people are only making things worse for themselves and their loved ones," said Irina Zbarskaya, head of the State Statistics Committee's census department. The website cited the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) as reporting that 15 percent of Muscovites intend not to participate in the census. RC

...AS FIRST INCIDENT OF VIOLENCE REPORTED
Gazeta.ru also reported on 8 October that a census worker in Khabarovsk was beaten while conducting preliminary research. The 20-old-student reportedly presented her passport and identification to a man who, without warning, pulled her into his apartment and began beating her. Neighbors heard her screams and called the police, who said that the 46-year-old ex-convict allegedly thought the woman was an extortionist and tried to beat a confession out of her. Yurii Averyanov, deputy presidential envoy to the Far East Federal District, told the website that the police are to blame for the incident since they were supposed to have long ago warned census takers of the addresses of "all antisocial elements." RC

PUTIN SEES STRONGER FEDERATION AS BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT...
In a television interview aired on 7 October, President Putin said he considers the main achievement of his term thus far the curbing of centrifugal forces in the country. "If we look at the situation two years ago, I think many will agree with me that centrifugal forces had gained such momentum that they were threatening the destruction of the state itself," he said. JAC

...AS NEW WAY TO DISMISS ELECTED REGIONAL LEADERS REPORTEDLY IN THE WORKS
"Vedomosti" reported the same day that the presidential commission headed by deputy head of the presidential administration Dmitrii Kozak plans to introduce legislation that would empower not only the president to dismiss governors or regional leaders who violate federal laws. Under the bill, the government could appeal to the president to introduce external rule if, for example, budget resources were used improperly or if a region's outstanding debt exceeds 30 percent of its budget revenues. Aleksei Novikov, general director of the Russian branch of Standard & Poor's, told the daily that theoretically all governors could be dismissed if the latter stipulation were strictly enforced. However, the bill did not elicit a negative reaction from governors interviewed by the daily. Samara Governor Konstantin Titov noted that he has no problem with "powers of the president that must be confirmed by the courts." According to the daily, independent experts, and even many governors, believe the bill will fly through the Duma. JAC

A NEW KIND OF TOWN IS BORN
The Kozak commission also intends to propose the introduction of a new type of municipality, RosBalt reported on 7 October. The term "urban or rural settlement" (gorodskoye ili selskoye poselenie) will be introduced to replace the previous categories of "village" (derevnya) and "small town" (gorodok). According to the commission, there will be about 28,000 of the new municipalities after the reform is introduced, and their borders will be defined by the beginning of 2004. Their local governments will begin functioning as of 1 January 2005. Kozak told the agency that he does not know when his package of reforms will be submitted to the Duma and that it has not yet undergone legal analysis. RC

JUST WHAT HE ALWAYS WANTED
In addition to receiving good wishes from a host of world leaders including U.S. President George W. Bush on his 50th birthday on 7 October, President Putin received a number of unusual gifts. A resident of Kursk knitted one of the world's largest scarves -- some 50 meters long -- while the town of Bagrationovsk in Kaliningrad Oblast has prepared an ostrich egg featuring a miniature portrait of Putin as its gift, ntvru.com reported on 7 October. Schoolchildren across the country sent the president letters of congratulations. For example, the city of Barnaul in Altai Krai forwarded some 16,000 letters. The diamond monopoly Alrosa decided to name an 80-karat diamond "The President" in honor of Putin's birthday, Interfax reported. Some St. Petersburg residents suggested that Nikolai Kropachev, the chairman of the court that decides matters relating to the St. Petersburg City Charter, gave Putin his birthday present early when he ruled that St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev is ineligible to seek a third term, RFE/RL's St. Petersburg correspondent reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2002). Kropachev is reportedly a friend of Putin's, and both men graduated from the law department of Leningrad State University. JAC

NEW BASHKIR CONSTITUTION READY TO RUN THE GAUNTLET
The Republic of Bashkortostan has completed work on its new draft constitution, strana.ru reported on 7 October. A constitutional committee appointed by republican President Murtaza Rakhimov in May held its final session on 7 October. The new draft contains more than 400 changes from the current republican constitution and reportedly conforms to the Russian Constitution and existing national legislation. The republican parliament will consider the draft in the near future. RC

RUSSIA, JAPAN AGREE TO SIMPLIFY VISAS
Russia and Japan announced on 8 October an agreement significantly simplifying the visa regime between the two countries, ntvru.com reported. Under the agreement, Russian citizens will be able to receive simplified visas for visits of less than four days to Japan, and the procedure for receiving multiple-entry business visas will likewise be simplified. In exchange, Moscow agreed to expedite the process of issuing invitations to Japanese citizens. The cost of visas in both directions will also be reduced. It was unclear exactly when the new system will come into effect. RC

FOREIGN MINISTRY OFFICIAL DIES
The Foreign Ministry on 8 October confirmed the 7 October death from a heart attack of Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgenii Gusarov, ITAR-TASS reported. Gusarov was appointed deputy foreign minister in 1999 and oversaw Russian relations with Europe and NATO. RC

SOBCHAK'S WIDOW BECOMES A SENATOR
Lyudmila Narusova, the widow of former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak, was approved to represent the legislature of the Tuva Republic in the Federation Council, polit.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 8 October. Immediately after her confirmation, Narusova said she "would have preferred to be a senator from St. Petersburg, but with the current administration there, that is impossible," according to polit.ru. Narusova replaces Chanmyr Ydumbar, while banker-oligarch and fellow St. Petersburger Sergei Pugachev will continue to represent the republic's executive branch. Narusov's appointment must be confirmed by the Federation Council. JAC/RC

KALININGRAD INCUMBENT RETAINS POST WITH FIRST-ROUND WIN
Incumbent Mayor Yurii Savenko is the winner of the 6 October mayoral election in Kaliningrad, RosBalt and other Russian news agencies reported on 7 October. Savenko received 61.4 percent of the vote, while Kaliningrad Oblast Duma Deputy and local newspaper editor Igor Rudnov came in second with 17.04 percent. Slightly less than 32 percent of eligible voters turned out for the poll. RC

BRIDGE TAKES THE NIGHT OFF
Navigation along St. Petersburg's Neva River was closed on the night of 7-8 October when the famous Palace Bridge failed to open, Ekho Moskvy and other Russian news agencies reported on 8 October. According to the radio station, the cause of the failure was "metal fatigue," resulting in a broken gear tooth. According to ITAR-TASS, the bridge should be functioning normally on 8-9 October. The bridge is one of the largest drawbridges in Europe and was built in 1908-14. RC

MORE MOBILE PHONES, MORE MOBILE-PHONE THEFTS
The Interior Ministry in Novosibirsk Oblast reported on 7 October that the number of reported thefts of cellular phones rose 37 percent during the first nine months of 2002, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 7 October. According to the ministry, women and youngsters were the victims in the majority of cases. Meanwhile, Interfax reported last week that the number of cellular-phone subscribers jumped 8 percent nationally from August to September this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2002). JAC

CIS PRESIDENTS TACKLE CRAMMED AGENDA
The agenda for the 7 October CIS summit in Chisinau, which Turkmenistan's Saparmurat Niyazov again failed to attend, comprised at least 10 issues, according to RBK. They included an attempt by Moscow to persuade CIS member states to refrain from either direct or indirect involvement in a possible U.S.-led military operation against Iraq, according to ITAR-TASS, as cited by "The Moscow Times" on 8 October. The 11 presidents approved establishing a division of the joint CIS antiterrorism center in Central Asia and a concept for joint measures to combat drug trafficking. They also discussed economic issues, including the CIS free-trade zone first agreed on in 1994 and measures to reverse the ongoing decline in trade between CIS member states, ITAR-TASS reported. The presidents of Armenia. Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan signed a charter formalizing the upgraded status, to that of an international organization, of the CIS Collective Security Treaty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 2002). The six parliaments are required to ratify that charter by May 2003. LF

ARMENIAN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS MEET
Robert Kocharian and Vladimir Putin met in Chisinau on 7 October on the sidelines of the CIS summit, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Putin noted a positive qualitative change in bilateral relations in recent months, but added that "much remains to be done" to finalize the "assets-for-debt" swap initialed three months ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2002). Putin said he hopes that deal will be finalized during a visit to Yerevan by Russian Premier Mikhail Kasyanov, which is tentatively scheduled for next month. LF

PRESIDENTS HOLD FURTHER KARABAKH TALKS
Also on the sidelines of the Chisinau CIS summit, Kocharian met for 90 minutes on 6 October with his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev to continue their ongoing talks on approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict, Armenian and Western news agencies reported. Neither president disclosed details of the discussions. Kocharian said they were "useful," adding that "there is a sincere desire to find a solution" to the conflict, according to Noyan Tapan. Aliev said he was "satisfied" with the meeting, according to Lider TV, as cited by Groong. He said he favors continuing bilateral talks, which "allow us to discuss various options and move forward." The two presidents will meet again in Prague on the sidelines of the NATO summit in November. LF

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER REJECTS FORMER SECURITY OFFICIAL'S SUMMARY OF 'PARIS PRINCIPLES'
Vartan Oskanian told journalists in Yerevan on 4 October that a purported summary by former National Security Department head Eduard Simoniants of the so-called "Paris principles" for resolving the Karabakh conflict is far from accurate, according to Arminfo, as cited by Groong. At a press conference in Yerevan on 3 October, Simoniants had listed what he claimed were the main conditions for resolving the Karabakh conflict agreed on during talks in Paris in March 2001 between Kocharian, Aliev, and French President Jacques Chirac. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SAYS TALKS WITH PUTIN SHOULD BE 'TURNING POINT'
Eduard Shevardnadze said on 7 October upon his return to Tbilisi from Chisinau that his talks the previous day with his Russian counterpart Putin should serve as a "turning point" in relations between their two countries, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reported. Putin for his part told journalists in Chisinau the same day that provided Georgia makes good on Shevardnadze's pledges to coordinate measures aimed at detaining any remaining Chechen militants in the Pankisi Gorge and preventing others from entering Georgia from Russia, he sees no need to act on his 11 September threat of a preemptive strike against Georgia, Reuters reported. Shevardnadze agreed to closer coordination between the two countries' border guards and special services. He told journalists on 7 October that State Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania has already arrived in Moscow to discuss with Russian security officials joint action to prevent militants from crossing the Russian-Georgian border, Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION LEADER SAYS SHEVARDNADZE SCORED 'OWN GOAL'
National Movement leader Mikhail Saakashvili told journalists in Tbilisi on 7 October that the agreements reached between Shevardnadze and Putin differ very little from proposals to defuse Russian-Georgian tensions that he and Russian State Duma co-Chair Irina Khakamada (Union of Rightist Forces) drafted in late September, Caucasus Press reported. The sole difference, Saakashvili continued, is that the provisions of the Putin-Shevardnadze agreement are binding only for the Georgian side. By agreeing to permit Russian forces to enter Georgia in the course of a joint operation in Pankisi Shevardnadze has scored an own goal, Saakashvili commented. LF

GEORGIA SHELVES EXTRADITION OF REMAINING CHECHEN DETAINEES
The European Court of Human Rights on 4 October asked the Georgian Prosecutor-General's Office to delay the extradition to Russia of eight Chechen militants detained in early August after crossing the Russian-Georgian border illegally in order to allow for further checks on their identity, ITAR-TASS reported. Also on 7 October, Caucasus Press quoted Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov as saying the Georgian government made a "mistake" in handing back to Russia five other Chechen militants detained at the same time (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002). On 8 October, "Akhali taoba" reported that Georgia's Chechen community is likewise angry that Tbilisi handed over the five Chechens and is intent on unspecified "revenge." "Mtavari gazeti" the same day quoted unnamed members of the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government in exile as claiming that the five men had fought on the Abkhaz side against Georgia during the 1992-93 war, Caucasus Press reported. LF

RUSSIA WARNS IT WILL TAKE COUNTERMEASURES IF GEORGIA JOINS NATO
Interfax on 7 October quoted Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin as saying that while Moscow was not surprised by the Georgian parliament's recent proposal to expedite Georgia's efforts to join NATO (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2002), Russia has the right "to protect its national interests" by taking whatever measures it deems necessary to counter that decision. LF

GEORGIAN OFFICIALS DENY ANTICRIME OPERATION PLANNED IN SOUTH OSSETIA
Georgian Ambassador to Moscow Zurab Abashidze told journalists on 3 October that although some members of Georgia's National Security Council advocate an anticrime operation in the vicinity of Tskhinvali, the capital of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, no firm decision has yet been taken on launching such an operation, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2002). "Akhali taoba" on 7 October similarly quoted Georgian Interior Ministry press spokesman Paata Gomelauri as saying that no such operation is necessary, as the crime situation in the region has improved markedly over the past year. Interfax on 7 October quoted an unidentified South Ossetian military official as saying that the breakaway republic has 5,000 men under arms ready to repel any Georgian offensive. Meanwhile, Georgian and South Ossetian officials met on 3 and 4 October in Tskhinvali under the aegis of the OSCE, but apparently failed to make any progress toward formalizing the unrecognized republic's status vis-a-vis Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. LF

SHEVARDNADZE TO BECOME GEORGIAN PRESIDENT FOR LIFE?
Five members of Shevardnadze's Union of Citizens of Georgia have asked the Constitutional Court to rule on the legality of declaring a state of emergency, postponing elections for a period of five years, and designating Shevardnadze president for life, Caucasus Press reported on 8 October. Giorgi Korghanashvili, the author of that initiative, argued that "Eduard Shevardnadze is the only person who can complete the process he began 10 years ago." Shevardnadze said last week he plans to retire from politics when his current term expires in 2005 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2002). LF

KAZAKHSTAN REJECTS DEMAND TO EXTRADITE TURKMEN DISSIDENT
The Kazakh authorities have finally rejected a request from Ashgabat to extradite dissident Gulgeldy Annaniyazov, who was sent back from Moscow to Kazakhstan after entering the Russian Federation in late August with invalid travel documents, AP reported on 7 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 9 September 2002). On 4 October Annaniyazov flew from Almaty to Norway, where he has been granted political asylum. LF

KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT AMENDS 2003 DRAFT BUDGET
At the insistence of the Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of the Kyrgyz parliament), the government has increased projected revenues in 2003 from 13.55 billion soms ($296.2 million) to 13.65 billion soms, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 3 October. Planned expenditures remain at 13.31 billion soms, resulting in a surplus of 247 million soms. The budget is predicated on an exchange rate of 48 soms to $1, and an annual inflation rate of no more than 5 percent, according to akipress.org on 7 October. Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev observed on 4 October that this is the first time that the government has presented its draft budget to parliament within the legally stipulated time frame. LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTY APPEALS FOR CHAIRMAN'S RELEASE
The Ar-Namys party has addressed an appeal to Supreme Court Chairwoman Nellia Beishenalieva for the release of party Chairman Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 7 October. Kulov is currently serving a 10-year sentence on charges of abuse of his official position while serving first as Chu Oblast governor and then as national security minister. The appeal claimed that the charges against him were politically motivated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2002). LF

RUSSIAN POLICE DETAIN TURKMEN IN BANK-FRAUD CASE
Acting on a request from Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, Russian police have detained in Moscow Murad Garabaev, one of two fugitive former Turkmen Central Bank officials suspected of the embezzlement of over $40 million from Turkmenistan's foreign-currency reserves, according to "Vremya novostei" on 4 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 2002). It is not clear whether Garabaev has already been extradited to Ashgabat. LF

OSCE REPORTEDLY TO DISCUSS MISSION IN MINSK WITH BELARUSIAN GOVERNMENT
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is expected to begin talks with the Belarusian government this week on the future of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk, Belapan reported on 7 October, quoting Alina Josan of Moldova, the group's last remaining member in the Belarusian capital. Josan told the agency that her diplomatic accreditation expires on 29 October. If the Belarusian authorities refuse to extend it, she will have to leave Belarus and the OSCE group in Mink will cease to exist. JM

PRO-PRESIDENTIAL MAJORITY EMERGES IN UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT...
Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn on 8 October formally announced the creation of a 231-member majority in the 449-strong legislature, UNIAN reported. The majority reportedly consists of lawmakers of the pro-presidential groups -- Labor Ukraine-Party Entrepreneurs (42 deputies), Ukraine's Regions (37), the Social Democratic Party-united (37), Democratic Initiatives (20), Power of the People (18), European Choice (18), Popular Democratic Party (17), Ukraine's Agrarians (16), People's Choice (13), and United Ukraine (seven) -- and six deputies who left opposition caucuses. The Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc was abandoned for the majority by three legislators, the Communist Party by two, and Our Ukraine by one. JM

...BUT FAILS TO VOTE EFFECTIVELY FROM THE VERY START
In its first practical test, the newly created majority failed to include on the agenda the issue of creating an ad hoc parliamentary commission to investigate the allegations that Ukraine may have illegally sold radar systems to Iraq. The motion was supported by 225 deputies in the first vote and by 213 in the second (226 votes were necessary to approve the motion). The caucuses that boycotted the votes -- Our Ukraine, the Communist Party, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, and the Socialist Party -- reacted to the results with applause, UNIAN reported. JM

AMENDMENTS TO ESTONIAN CONSTITUTION PROPOSED
Toomas Varek, the chairman of the Center Party faction in the parliament, on 7 October presented two bills that would require amending the constitution, BNS reported. The first, signed by 39 deputies from different parliamentary factions, calls for the direct election of the president, but would diminish the power of that office. Presidential candidates, who would have to be Estonian citizens by birth and at least 40 years old, could be nominated by political parties or by gathering signatures of 10,000 eligible voters. The bill would abolish the president's position as commander in chief of the armed forces as well as presidential power to declare martial law or mobilization in the event of aggression against Estonia. The president would also lose the right to nominate a candidate for the commander of the defense forces. The second bill, initiated by 41 deputies, proposes extending the terms of local councils from three to four years. It would go into effect only after October 2005. Thus, parliamentary elections would be in 2003 and 2007, etc., and local elections in 2005 and 2009, etc. SG

U.S. UNDERSECRETARY OF COMMERCE UPBEAT ON LITHUANIA
U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce Grant Aldonas told President Valdas Adamkus in Vilnius on 7 October that the United States is currently reviewing Lithuania's status and expects the country to be recognized as having a market economy in the near future, ELTA and AFP reported. The two officials addressed ways to increase bilateral economic cooperation and exchanged opinions on Lithuania's investment climate. Aldonas said the withdrawal of Williams International from Lithuania was not indicative of an unfriendly investment climate in the country, but a consequence of the company's internal financial problems. He also conveyed a message from President George W. Bush saying that the "U.S. attaches a great importance to relations with Lithuania." Aldonas mentioned that he sees significant changes in the country since he last visited Lithuania nine years ago. He is scheduled to meet with Economy Minister Petras Cesna, officials of the Lithuanian Development Agency, and to visit several enterprises in Kaunas during his visit. SG

LATVIA'S NEW ERA PARTY DECIDES ON WHICH MINISTERIAL POSTS TO SEEK
At a general meeting on 7 October, the New Era Party, which won the most seats (26 of 100) in the parliamentary elections on 5 October, decided to seek the posts of prime minister and eight other ministers in its negotiations to form a coalition with other parties, BNS reported. Party Chairman Einars Repse would head the government and likely nominees would include Maris Gulbis for interior minister, Valdis Dombrovskis for finance, Grigorijs Krupnikovs for foreign affairs, Karlis Sadurskis for education and research, Krisjanis Karins for agriculture, and Aivars Aksenoks for transportation minister. No nominees were decided for the health and regional development ministerial posts. SG

POLAND APOLOGIZES TO CZECH REPUBLIC OVER DETENTION OF MURDER SUSPECT
Deputy Foreign Minister Andrzej Byrt on 7 October formally apologized to the Czech ambassador to Poland for the action of Sejm deputy and private detective Krzysztof Rutkowski, who detained a 23-year-old Polish man in the Czech border town of Cesky Tesin on 29 September and brought him into Poland, AP reported. The detained man is suspected of having murdered a notary in Oswiecim, Poland. The incident prompted a protest by the Czech Foreign Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2002). The ministry argued that Rutkowski had no authority to order the detention on Czech territory. Rutkowski, who traveled to Cesky Tesin on his diplomatic passport to oversee the detention, has since been banned by Sejm speaker Marek Borowski from traveling again with the document. CTK reported that Rutkowski held a news conference in Prague on 6 October in which he said, "I apologize to Czech society for having arrested the murderer," in what the agency called an "ironic voice." JM

POLISH RADICAL FARMERS OPPOSE NEW POSITION IN EU TALKS
Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper said on 7 October that his organization will sue people representing the government in EU negotiations -- Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kalinowski, Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Minister for European Affairs Danuta Huebner, and Poland's chief EU negotiator Jan Truszczynski -- over the recently voiced proposal to change Poland's position on agriculture, PAP reported. Polish media reported that the government will soon discuss a scheme allowing it to compensate lower-than-expected EU subsidies to Polish farmers from EU funds assigned for rural development and customs control. According to Lepper, this new position substantially violates Polish legal and economic interests and is detrimental to the country. Meanwhile, the Polish Peasant Party, a ruling coalition partner of the Democratic Left Alliance, has adopted a statement saying that the EU membership conditions for Poland "fall short of the expectations of the Polish side" and of the EU's earlier announcements. JM

FORMER POLISH COMMANDER TO FACE COURT MARTIAL
Colonel Ryszard Chwastek, the former commander of the 12th Mechanized Division (which is part of the NATO corps in Szczecin), will be court-martialed on charges of refusing to obey an order, PAP reported on 7 October. Military prosecutors have accused Chwastek of refusing to call off a press conference on 6 August, which he was ordered to do by the commander of the First Mechanized Corps in Bydgoszcz. During that press conference Chwastek accused the top brass of violating the law, creating a structural and organizational "mess" in the armed forces, and preparing changes to military structures in a secretive manner (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 13 August 2002). JM

FORMER CZECH MINISTER ALLEGEDLY RESPONSIBLE FOR DUBIOUS LEASING CONTRACT
The daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" alleged on 8 October that former Czech Regional Development Minister Petr Lachnit is responsible for signing a lease contract that deprived the state treasury of up to 10 million crowns (roughly $310,000), CTK reported. The daily says that under the five-year contract signed by Lachnit on 10 July, shortly before the Zeman cabinet resigned, a private company rented a hotel complex near Prague's famous Charles Bridge from the ministry for only 223,000 crowns a year, or 19,000 a month. In the same area, "Mlada fronta Dnes" wrote, such a figure represents the monthly rent for a 50-square-meter apartment. Lachnit, who has battled rent scandals in the past, denied any wrongdoing, saying he merely signed papers that were forwarded to him by the ministry's staff. Ministry spokesman Petr Dimun said the lease contract violates several legal provisions but declined to say whether the ministry intends to sue Lachnit, a member of the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD). MS

THREE-COUNTRY MILITARY BRIGADE TO BE READY BY 2005
A military brigade combining forces of the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia will be established by the end of this year and will be ready for action by January 2005, dpa reported on 7 October, citing a Czech Defense Ministry spokesman. The brigade is to be headquartered in Slovakia, and the post of commander is to rotate annually among the three participating countries. The force of some 2,500 soldiers will serve on peacekeeping missions under NATO or EU command and is aimed at boosting regional stability, according to the agency. MS

CZECHS REPORT SIGNIFICANT RISE IN NUMBER OF SLOVAK ASYLUM SEEKERS
The Czech Interior Ministry on 7 October reported that the number of Slovaks seeking asylum in the country has grown significantly over the last three months, TASR reported. Ninety-nine Slovak citizens applied for asylum in July, 111 in August, and there were 135 Slovak applications in September, bringing the total number of applications by Slovaks in 2002 to 472. The Czech Interior Ministry does not provide data on the ethnicity of applicants for asylum, but TASR said that among Slovak applicants ethnic Roma represent the overwhelming majority. No Slovak citizen has ever been granted asylum in the Czech Republic. The overall number of asylum seekers in the country is, however, dropping, according to the Czech Interior Ministry. There were 6,395 applications in the first nine months of the year, compared to 18,084 for all of 2001. MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT LINEUP RELEASED
All four parties making up the new Slovak coalition on 6 and 7 October approved a coalition agreement, which is to be signed on 8 October, TASR and CTK reported. The Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) will have six portfolios, including the premiership (Mikulas Dzurinda), the Foreign Ministry (Eduard Kukan) and the Finance Ministry (Ivan Miklos) -- all of whose incumbents will remain in their posts -- as well as the Defense Ministry (Ivan Simko, who leaves the Interior Ministry), Transportation (Pavol Prokopovic), and Social Affairs (Ludovit Kanik). The Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) is to hold the Interior (Vladimir Palko), Justice (Daniel Lipsic), and Education (Martin Fronc) portfolios. Current chief negotiator with the EU Jan Figel (KDH) is to become chairman of the parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission. The Alliance for New Citizens (ANO) will be represented in the cabinet by Health Minister Rudolf Zajac, Economics Minister Robert Nemcsics, and Culture Minister Rudolf Chmel. The Hungarian Coalition (SMK) will have the only deputy premiership (Pal Csaky) and the portfolios of Construction and Regional Development (Laszlo Gyurovzky) and Environment (Laszlo Kovacs). MS

SLOVAK EX-PREMIER'S PARTY BRANCHES DEBATE EXTRAORDINARY CONFERENCE
Meeting in the presence of embattled party Chairman Vladimir Meciar, the Kosice regional board of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) on 7 October narrowly defeated a motion to call an extraordinary HZDS conference that would decide whether Meciar should remain in his post, CTK reported. Twelve of the 23 board members present voted against the proposal, which CTK said reflects discontent within the second echelon of HZDS leadership with the September electoral outcome. The proposal will also be discussed by the HZDS Presov and Banska Bystrica branches, and has already been approved by the Bratislava and Trnava branches. It takes a request from three regional branches to convoke such a conference. Meciar refused to talks to journalists after the Kosice board meeting, saying, "There is nothing to comment on." MS

EU REPORT SAYS SLOVAKIA FULFILLS MEMBERSHIP CRITERIA
TASR reported on 7 October that the draft of the European Commission's evaluation report of candidate countries' performance, expected to be released on 9 October, says Slovakia fulfills all political criteria for membership. The draft also reportedly says Slovakia meets one of two economic criteria and will meet the second before accession. "Slovakia is a functioning market economy. The continuation of reforms which already started should enable it to meet competition pressure in the union" by the time it joins the organization, TASR cited the draft as saying. But the document also reportedly warns that corruption remains a "reason for concern" despite some progress. The draft says Slovakia respects human rights and freedoms and has made significant progress in protecting minority rights. TASR noted that last-minute changes to the draft cannot be ruled out. MS

SLOVAK NEGOTIATOR FORESEES EU ACCESSION IN APRIL 2004
Slovakia's outgoing chief negotiator with the EU, Jan Figel, said on 7 October that he believes the referendum on Slovak accession to the EU could be held in May 2003, and that Slovakia could become an EU member on 16 April 2004, CTK and TASR reported. Figel told journalists in Banska Bystrica that some European politicians believe Slovakia should be the first among EU candidates to hold a plebiscite on joining the EU because support for accession is strongest in that country. MS

HUNGARIAN COALITION PARTNERS VERBALLY SPAR OVER LOCAL ELECTIONS
Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs on 7 October denied Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky's recent claims that the Socialists have struck a bargain with right-wing mayoral candidate Pal Schmitt in order to knock Free Democrat Demszky out of the race in the 20 October local elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002), Hungarian media reported. Kovacs told reporters that the Socialists need no such a deal to win a majority in the Budapest Municipal Council, adding that the withdrawal of their candidate, Erzsebet Nemeth, was not discussed at a meeting of the party leadership. Nemeth also insisted that there is no such deal. MSZ

FIDESZ POLITICIAN RECEIVES SUSPENDED SENTENCE
Pest County Court on 7 October sentenced FIDESZ Director Attila Varhegyi to a one-year suspended sentence and fined him 500,000 forints ($2,000) for mismanagement of funds during his term as mayor of Szolnok in the mid-1990s, Hungarian media reported. The court said Varhegyi caused losses of 154 million forints to Szolnok's local government in the sale of valuable plots of land. The decision revised a November 2001 ruling by a lower court that cleared Varhegyi of bribery charges in the same case and fined him 300,000 forints for mismanagement. Varhegyi, a former political state secretary at the Culture Ministry, is the first member of parliament to be sentenced by a court since the fall of communism. MSZ

HUNGARIAN RIGHT-WING GROUPS PROTEST RESTORATION OF SOVIET MONUMENT
Some 200 right-wing demonstrators on 7 October protested the return of the Soviet heroes monument in downtown Budapest, chanting that it should be torn down, "Magyar Nemzet" reported the following day. Gyorgy Budahazy, leader of the Hungarian Revision Movement, said the group will send a letter to the government, parliament, and the Budapest and district councils asking them not to return "the monument of the occupying Soviet Army." The Soviet military monument was temporarily removed with the consent of the Russian government, to be returned upon the completion of an underground garage. MSZ

BUDAPEST PROSECUTOR TO ANALYZE MIEP CAMPAIGN PUBLICATION
The Budapest Prosecutor-General's Office has requested a copy of a campaign publication issued by the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) to determine whether there is evidence the group sought to provoke hatred against a community, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 8 October. The publication, written by MIEP Chairman Istvan Csurka, says Budapest is controlled by forceful, egotistical, predominantly Jewish bankers who "if their interests so desire, will even have their own kinsfolk driven to slaughterhouses." MSZ

NATIONALISTS CONSOLIDATE GAINS IN BOSNIAN ELECTIONS...
With more than 93 percent of the votes in the 5 October Bosnian general elections counted, the three main nationalist parties are the clear winners, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 7 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 7 October 2002). In votes cast for the joint House of Representatives, the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) won 31.98 percent, while the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) took 16.64 percent of the votes cast in the Muslim-Croat federation. The Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina (SBiH) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) each garnered about 15 percent. In Republika Srpska, the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) won 37 percent in the race for the joint House of Representatives. The Party of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) received 24.77 percent, and the Party of Democratic Progress (PDP) took 11.35 percent. In the contest for the federation's House of Representatives, the SDA won 32.27 percent of the votes cast, while the HDZ got 16.70 percent, the SBiH 16 percent, and the SDP 15.3 percent. In the race for the People's Assembly of Republika Srpska, the SDS took 33.7 percent of the votes cast, while the SNSD won 24.2 percent and the PDP 11.89 percent. PM

...AS PUNDITS FIGURE OUT WHAT IT MEANS
Paddy Ashdown, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, said soon after the vote that voters sought to punish the SDP-led government for not fulfilling its promises and did not embrace traditional nationalism, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported on 7 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002). That same station noted in a commentary that the nationalists' room to maneuver will be limited, since the international community has already laid down the law in certain key areas such as refugee returns. The nationalists will also be hard-pressed by their voters to attract foreign investment that helps create jobs. Vienna's "Die Presse" wrote on 8 October, however, that the voters showed that they remain true to nationalist values and do not want foreigners telling them they must live together with people of other ethnic groups. The commentary added that the vote was a clear rebuke to the efforts of the international community, which should now rethink its strategy in Bosnia. PM

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT LAUDS BOSNIAN SERB NATIONALISTS FOR 'WISE' POLICIES
Commenting on the Bosnian elections, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said the voters "rewarded [the SDS] for its wise and rational policies," AP reported from Belgrade on 7 October. Elsewhere, SDS leader Dragan Kalinic told Reuters on 8 October that his party is "completely ready for active cooperation with the international community and the adoption of all laws that are in line with European standards and will help Bosnia's integration into Europe." PM

U.S. HOUSE PASSES YUGOSLAV TRADE BILL
In a voice vote, the House of Representatives passed legislation on 7 October restoring normal trade relations with Yugoslavia, AP reported. The measure now goes to the Senate and, if passed there, to President George W. Bush for his signature. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic recently urged approval of the measure. In May, Secretary of State Colin Powell certified that Belgrade is cooperating with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2002). But Carla Del Ponte, who is the tribunal's chief prosecutor, said recently that Belgrade lacks the political will to arrest General Ratko Mladic, who is living in Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2002). PM

YUGOSLAV DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES HELPING IRAQ
On 7 October, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry denied a story in the London "Sunday Times" claiming that unnamed senior Yugoslav military personnel are in Iraq, Hina reported from Belgrade. The officers allegedly decided to help Iraq in order to avenge NATO's role in bombing Serbia in 1999. The British newspaper wrote that the officers' families confirmed the men are in Iraq. The ministry spokesman said, however, that there are no Yugoslav officers in that country on an official or unofficial basis. He added that Belgrade's policy is to seek a return to the international community and membership in NATO's Partnership for Peace. PM

SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE TAKES SHAPE
Three private broadcasters -- TV Pink, Karic Brothers, and the independent ANEM network -- will join state-run television in carrying the 9 October debate between Kostunica and Miroljub Labus, his rival in the 13 October Serbian presidential runoff, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 7 October. The debate will run from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Moderator Vladan Radosavljevic will ask the candidates questions on various topics for the first one hour and 15 minutes. For the remaining 45 minutes, the candidates will answer one question from each member of a group of 15 leading Serbian media organizations. PM

KOSOVAR SERBS WANT TO PICK AND CHOOSE FROM STEINER'S PLAN
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said in Belgrade on 7 October that the Kosovar Serbs will participate in 26 October local elections only if the UN civilian administration (UNMIK) formally agrees in advance to the decentralization of Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 August 2002). Covic stressed that the Serbs will interpret UNMIK head Michael Steiner's seven-point plan for Kosova as they see fit, "Vesti" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2002). Covic ruled out any consideration of the administrative reunification of Mitrovica, which is central to Steiner's plan. PM

CRIME FALLS IN KOSOVA
UNMIK announced on 7 October in Prishtina that homicide and other crime continues to decline, Hina reported. Almost 600 murders were committed in 2000, followed by 136 in 2001 and 35 in the first six months of 2002. A UNMIK spokesman added that ethnically motivated killings are also on the decrease. PM

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT PLEDGES MEDIA REFORM
Milo Djukanovic said in Danilovgrad on 7 October that his Democratic Party of Socialists (DSP) and its Social Democratic (SDP) allies will submit to a parliamentary vote proposals on media reform worked out by a government group and the Council of Europe if those two parties win the 20 October parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Djukanovic slammed the current parliamentary majority for politicizing the state-run media (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002). PM

MACEDONIAN POLICE RELEASE FORMER ETHNIC ALBANIAN REBEL
Following a decision by a Skopje court, police released former National Liberation Army (UCK) commander Sadullah Duraku on 7 October, RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002). Duraku is now a senior member of Democratic Union for Integration (BDI). He was arrested on charges of war crimes committed during the 2001 interethnic conflict. Duraku's arrest on 5 October triggered protests by his party, which is conducting negotiations with the Social Democratic Union (SDSM) to form a new government. According to the court decision, the activities Duraku was charged with fall under the amnesty law passed on 7 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 2002). The Interior Ministry, which arrested Duraku, is headed by hard-liner Ljube Boskovski, who previously threatened to arrest BDI leader Ali Ahmeti. UB/PM

SOCIAL DEMOCRATS AND EX-REBELS TO FORM A GOVERNMENT IN MACEDONIA?
President Boris Trajkovski has formally asked Branko Crvenkovski, who heads the SDSM, to form a government, international and local media reported on 7 October. The prime minister-designate told reporters he is negotiating with the BDI, which received two-thirds of the Albanian vote in the 15 September elections, on forming a cabinet. Crvenkovski said that he and the BDI have "agreed about the general principles of the future government coalition, and I believe that those principles will be acceptable not only for the participants in the government but also for the citizens. We will work to create a better future, but in order to have a better future we need to have a clean past," Reuters reported. It is widely expected that neither Ahmeti nor any other former guerrilla will hold a cabinet post (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2002). PM

BANKERS AGREE ON DIVIDING UP EX-YUGOSLAV GOLD
Bankers from the five successor states to former Yugoslavia agreed in Sarajevo on 7 October on dividing up the $87 million worth of gold that belonged to the now-defunct state, AP reported. Kemal Kozaric of Bosnia said the gold will be divided on a percentage basis as follows: Bosnia, 15.5 percent; Croatia, 23 percent; Macedonia, 7.5 percent; Serbia and Montenegro, 38 percent; and Slovenia, 16 percent. Before the gold can be distributed, Croatia must ratify a previous agreement on the overall division of former Yugoslav assets, which has been approved by the other four successor states. PM

ROMANIAN DAILY ACCUSES SENATE SPEAKER OF CORRUPTION
The daily "Romania libera" on 6 October published documents alleging that former Premier Nicolae Vacaroiu, who is currently the speaker of the Senate, continued to receive a monthly "salary" of $3,000 from the Investment and Development Bank (BID) after he left his position of BID director to become Senate speaker. The monthly installments are alleged to have been paid from the private account of his successor at BID, Corneliu Croitoru. Last September, Vacaroiu said he severed all of his links with the BID after he took his Senate post (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2001). Journalists trying to contact Vacaroiu on 7 October were told by his spokesman that he is refusing to see them, according to "Romania libera." President Ion Iliescu said he is convinced the allegation is "a calumny." MS

U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES APPROVES RESOLUTION ON NATO 'BIG BANG' ENLARGEMENT
Romanian Radio reported on 8 October that the U.S. House of Representatives has approved by a large majority the resolution sponsored by Representative Elton Gallegly (Republican, California) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2002). The resolution recommends that seven new members, including Romania, be admitted to NATO at the organization's November summit in Prague. MS

U.S. NATO AMBASSADOR SAYS ROMANIA IS 'SERIOUS CANDIDATE' FOR NATO ENLARGEMENT
U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns said in Bucharest on 7 October that he believes Romania "remains a serious candidate" for NATO enlargement, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Burns praised Romania's progress in meeting NATO membership criteria and its contribution to the struggle against international terrorism, noting the country's dispatch of a military contingent to Afghanistan. But he added that in talks with Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana he also raised other issues affecting Romania's NATO candidacy, including the fight against corruption as well as military and economic reform. Burns said President George W. Bush has not yet made a decision on his recommendations for new members to be invited to join the organization. Also on 7 October, Geoana received U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Heather Conley to discuss the future of bilateral relations following the NATO summit and the "strategic partnership" between the two countries, Mediafax reported. Finally, Geoana and Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu on 7 October presented to NATO countries' ambassadors in Romania the recently approved government program for NATO accession for 2002-03. MS

PREMIER SAYS ROMANIA MIGHT ASK WORLD COURT TO RULE ON DISPUTE WITH UKRAINE
Prime Minister Nastase said on 7 October that Romania might ask the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) to rule on the country's dispute with Ukraine over the delimitation of their border in the vicinity of Serpents Island in the Black Sea as well as control over several islets in the Danube River estuary, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase spoke after meeting in Bucharest with ICJ President Mohamed Bedjaoui. Last month, President Ion Iliescu agreed with his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma during a visit to Kyiv that, in line with the provisions of the 1997 basic treaty between their countries, experts representing the two sides would try to reach an agreement by 1 June 2003 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2002). The 1997 treaty includes an option for asking the ICJ to rule on the matter in the event that the sides fail to reach agreement. MS

ROMANIAN PATRIARCH ON VISIT TO VATICAN
Romanian Greek Orthodox Patriarch Teoctist began a visit to Vatican on 7 October that was described in the Romanian media as "historic." Teoctist is returning a visit paid to Romania by Pope John Paul II in May 1999. Romania was the first country with an Orthodox majority to be visited by the pope. John Paul II introduced Teoctist to thousands of pilgrims who traveled to Vatican Square to attend the ceremony of the canonization of Spanish priest Josemaria Escriva, Mediafax reported. Teoctist addressed the pilgrims. MS

ROMANIAN COMPANIES PROTEST 'LANGUAGE POLICING'
Romanian commercial companies on 7 October protested a bill approved one day earlier by the Senate that would require them to provide Romanian-language translation of foreign terminology used in business activity, such as in the display of company names and advertising, AP reported. Under the legislation intended for the protection of the Romanian language, whose main promoter was Senator George Pruteanu, any company that fails to translate foreign terms would face fines of up to 50 million lei (approximately $1,500). The companies argue that the measure would add unnecessary expense and difficulty. The Chamber of Deputies has yet to approve the legislation, under which words such as "summit" would have to be translated. MS

MOLDOVAN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS DISCUSS TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT, COOPERATION...
On the sidelines of the Commonwealth of Independent States summit on 7 October, President Vladimir Voronin and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed ways to resolve the Transdniester conflict as soon as possible, ITAR-TASS reported. Voronin said the best way to resolve the conflict would be to grant the breakaway region the status suggested by the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has proposed the federalization of Moldova. Upon arriving in Chisinau on 6 October, Putin said he does not regard the regime in Tiraspol as a "terrorist regime" and added that all efforts toward finding a solution to the conflict must be based on respect for Moldova's territorial integrity, according to Flux. Voronin also praised Russian efforts to complete the withdrawal of its arsenal stationed in the breakaway region, adding that "a more constructive position" by Tiraspol could speed up the process. Discussing bilateral economic cooperation, Voronin emphasized that Russia is his country's primary trade partner and that 40 percent of Moldovan exports are destined for Russia. MS

...AS BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT OFFERS MEDIATION
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who also attended the CIS summit in Chisinau, said on 7 October that the Transdniester conflict can be resolved with a display of political will on both sides and that he is personally ready to mediate and travel to Tiraspol if that could speed up the process, Flux reported. MS

GAGAUZ-YERI GOVERNOR ELECTIONS DECLARED INVALID
The gubernatorial elections in Gagauz-Yeri were declared invalid because voter turnout was only approximately 41 percent, Flux and Infotag reported. The law stipulates that voter turnout must be at least 50 percent for the elections to be valid. The candidate of the Party of Moldovan Communists, George Tabunshik, garnered the highest number of votes, followed by Ciadir-Lunga Mayor Mihail Formuzal. A new round of elections is to be held on 20 October. MS

BULGARIAN DELEGATION VISITS GREAT BRITAIN
Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski and Economy Minister Nikolay Vasilev met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on 8 October as part of a three-day working visit. The visit will focus on Bulgaria's bid for NATO accession, bilateral cooperation within international institutions, the relaxation of the visa regime for Bulgarian citizens, and other bilateral issues. Meanwhile, a business conference attended by British and Bulgarian companies opened in London on 7 October. UB

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT LEADS DELEGATION TO KUWAIT
President Georgi Parvanov arrived for a two-day official visit in Kuwait on 7 October and met with Emir Jabir al-Ahmad al-Sabah and Foreign Minister Sheik Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah, BTA reported. The main goal of Parvanov's visit is to improve bilateral economic relations. Parvanov is accompanied by Agriculture Minister Mehmed Dikme, Transport and Communications Minister Plamen Petrov, Deputy Finance Minister Gati Al-Djeburi, and Deputy Economy Minister Dimitar Hadzhinikolov. As a result of the visit, the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development agreed on 7 October to grant a $48 million loan to Bulgaria, mediapool.bg reported. UB

BULGARIA'S CREDIT RATING UPGRADED
Standard & Poor's has upgraded Bulgaria's long-term credit rating, BTA reported on 7 October. The long-term, state-guaranteed local-currency rating was upgraded to BB+, and the foreign-currency rating to BB. The agency said the positive development in Bulgaria's credit rating is mainly due to the fall in government debt and the favorable prospects for production and export. In related news, former Deputy Finance Minister Plamen Oresharski on 7 October contradicted Finance Minister Milen Velchev, who had said the country's foreign debt has fallen, mediapool.bg reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002). According to Oresharski, Bulgaria's foreign debt has remained at the same level for the past year. UB

There is no End Note today.


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