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Newsline - October 23, 2002


RUSSIA UNHAPPY WITH U.S. IRAQ RESOLUTION...
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the latest draft of a new UN resolution on Iraq proposed by the United States is unacceptable to Russia, RTR and other Russian news agencies reported on 23 October. "We want the UN resolution to ensure the efficient work of the UN [weapons] inspectors. It must be realistic and not include a provision for the automatic use of force," he said. Ivanov added that Russia will continue to work on a compromise version of the resolution. VY

...AS WEBSITE SUGGESTS MOSCOW MIGHT TOPPLE HUSSEIN BEFORE WASHINGTON DOES
The Russian government and Russian oil giants, especially LUKoil, have serious concerns that a post-Saddam Hussein Iraqi government installed by the United States might be unfriendly to Russia and its economic interests, pravda.ru wrote on 23 October. LUKoil has more than $20 billion in contracts in Iraq, and company Vice President Leonid Fedun has expressed the fear that a post-Hussein regime might break some or all of those agreements. He said the company has had no reassurances from the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush. At the same time, Hussein's regime also irritates Russia's oil majors by urging them to undertake projects that challenge international sanctions against Iraq. Therefore, the website speculated, it is not inconceivable that forces of Russian military intelligence (GRU) could appear suddenly in Baghdad and arrange the quick, honorable surrender of Hussein "in order to save the country from the horror of another war." The website recalled the rapid movement of Russian paratroopers into the Prishtina airport in Kosova in 1999, which took NATO completely by surprise. VY

ENVOY SAYS TRANSITIONAL SOLUTION TO KALININGRAD ISSUE PENDING...
The EU's Council of Foreign Ministers has decided to postpone a final decision on the Kaliningrad issue, presidential envoy to the EU on Kaliningrad Dmitrii Rogozin told reporters on 22 October, ITAR-TASS reported. Rogozin said that Lithuania "will be allowed to find, together with Russia, a form of control over railway transit that will satisfy both sides," and, in the meantime, the current status of such transit will continue until 1 July 2003. According to Rogozin, while a final decision on Kaliningrad will not be adopted in the near future, a solution for the transition period will be "legally formalized." Speaking on the same day, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said a solution to the problem of access to Kaliningrad Oblast following expected European Union expansion will be resolved at an EU-Russia summit in Copenhagen on 11 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2002). JAC

...AS ATOMIC ENERGY MINISTER ADDS TO RUSSIAN PRESSURE ON EU...
Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev told Ekho Moskvy on 22 October that his ministry is considering constructing a floating nuclear-power plant in Kaliningrad. Rumyantsev said the future prospect of the closure of the Ignalina nuclear-power plant in Lithuania has prompted the ministry to look into the feasibility of building a floating station using nuclear reactors decommissioned from atomic icebreakers or submarines. He said the ministry already has about 20 blueprints. Ekho Moskvy reported that Rumyantsev described the move not as a threat but as an economic necessity. JAC

...AND PRIME MINISTER ORDERS FERRY SERVICE FOR KALININGRAD
Speaking at a session of the Naval Collegium in Kaliningrad, Prime Minister Kasyanov said he has directed authorities to launch a ferry service between the Kaliningrad Oblast port of Baltiisk and St. Petersburg by 1 January 2003, Russian news agencies reported. The ferry "Rus," capable of carrying 70 cars, 40 trailer trucks, and up to 400 passengers, will be brought to the exclave from the Far East, Kasyanov said. He also said that, under the terms of a bilateral agreement, Russian cargo trains crossing Lithuanian territory after that country enters the EU will not have to undergo customs inspections. VY

MORE RESOURCES, STAFF DEVOTED TO KALININGRAD ISSUE
State Duma Deputy Sergei Shishkarev (People's Deputy) has been named head of Rogozin's Kaliningrad office, BNS reported on 22 October. Rogozin, who is also chairman of the Duma's Foreign Relations Committee, is a member of the People's Deputy faction. It was not clear from the BNS report whether Shishkarev will give up his Duma seat or will continue in both capacities as Rogozin has. Shishkarev was elected from a single-mandate district in Krasnodar Krai. JAC

SPS PERSUADES UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION LEADER TO DROP DEMAND FOR KUCHMA'S RESIGNATION
Speaking to reporters after a 22 October meeting in Moscow with Viktor Yushchenko, head of the Our Ukraine opposition bloc, Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leaders Boris Nemtsov and Irina Khakamada said they have convinced Yushchenko to drop his call for Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's resignation, ntvru.com reported. Nemtsov also said that Yushchenko was invited to Moscow by SPS in order to strengthen his ties with the Kremlin. Yushchenko has agreed to open an Our Ukraine office in Moscow as part of an effort to dispel his image as a "pro-American" politician. VY

RUSSIANS, IRANIANS DISCUSS NUCLEAR TIES
A delegation from Iran's Atomic Energy Organization met in Moscow on 22 October with Atomic Energy Minister Rumyantsev, Interfax-AVN reported. Iranian Ambassador to Moscow Gholam Reza Shafei also attended the meeting, at which the two countries discussed the possibility of amending the agreement on Russian assistance in the construction of a nuclear-power plant in Bushehr ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 2002). The amendment concerns the return of spent nuclear fuel to Russia. "The Washington Post" reported the same day that U.S. officials have failed to persuade their Russian counterparts to cease work on the Bushehr plant. The U.S. officials reportedly promised that the White House would work on lifting restrictions on Russia's import of spent nuclear fuel in exchange for an end to Moscow's nuclear cooperation with Tehran. The Russians indicated their skepticism of U.S. promises, noting that the U.S. commitment to lift the Jackson-Vanik trade restrictions has not yet been fulfilled. Atomic Energy Ministry spokesman Yurii Bespalko said Russia would rather have the $800 million from the Bushehr project than depend on U.S. promises of future benefits, according to "The Washington Post." BS

RUSSIAN-TURKISH GAS PIPELINE COMPLETED
Turkish Energy Minister Zeki Cakan on 20 October welded together the last two sections of the $3.2 billion Blue Stream gas-export pipeline in the Black Sea port of Samsun, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 21 October. The underwater section of the pipeline extends 360 kilometers from the Russian port of Dzhubga to Samsun. A separate 501-kilometer section extends from Samsun to Ankara. The first test deliveries of gas will be made in December. The agreement to build Blue Stream was signed in December 1997, and construction began in September 2001. The pipeline will increase Turkey's reliance on Russian natural gas from 66 percent to around 80 percent. In 2003, Turkey will import 3 billion cubic meters of Russian gas, rising to 16 billion in 2008. LF

OPPOSITION CANDIDATE IN KALMYKIA CALLS FOR FEDERAL INTERFERENCE...
In an interview with RFE/RL's Russian Service aired on 22 October, High Technology Bank Chairman Baatyr Shondzhiev, who is a candidate in Kalymkia's presidential race, said he hopes federal government officials will intervene in Kalmykia. Shondzhiev will compete against incumbent President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in the second round of elections on 27 October. "[Ilyumzhinov's] regime is that of a typical Asian despot, but fortunately the republic is located in the Russian Federation. Therefore, the smallest federal interference will pull down the whole system, the whole pyramid of Eastern despotism," Shondzhiev said. Ivan Ryzhkov, head of Yabloko's regional organization, told RFE/RL that the federal election law, which stipulates that all candidates be allowed some free airtime on local television and radio, was not observed during the election's first round. JAC

...AS QUICK TURNAROUND FOR SECOND ROUND SAID TO BENEFIT LEADER
"Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 October that holding the second round so quickly after the first all but guarantees that Ilyumzhinov will win. Ilyumzhinov received 46.7 percent of the vote in the first round (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2002). According to the daily, the republican election commission announced the date of the second round in record time, one minute after midnight on the date established by law. JAC

PROSPECT OF KOKH AS BOSS HAS TVS JOURNALISTS THREATENING TO BOLT
Journalists at TVS, which holds the license for Russia's Channel 6 and was formerly known as TV-6, have reportedly declared their intention to quit if former Gazprom-Media head Alfred Kokh is named the station's general director, lenta.ru reported on 22 October. The possibility of Kokh serving in that capacity was raised at a session of the station's board of directors on 22 October. According to "The Moscow Times," all the station's shareholders had agreed to Kokh's candidacy. "Kommersant-Daily" on 21 October quoted Yevgenii Kiselev, who heads the station's journalists, as saying Kokh's nomination is "absolutely unacceptable." The board subsequently announced that the decision of who will be appointed general director will be taken up at the board's next session, which is expected to be held next week. Meanwhile, "The Moscow Times" cited an unidentified source at the Media Ministry as saying that TVS has lost as much as $180 million so far this year. JAC/RC

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL ISSUES FRAUD INDICTMENT FOR BEREZOVSKII
Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnikov announced on 22 October that his office has issued an indictment against self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii for "particularly massive fraud," polit.ru reported. Indictments were also issued against two close Berezovskii associates, Badri Patarkatsishvili and Yurii Dubrov. Kolesnikov said the indictment stems from an investigation into a car-sale fraud allegedly arranged through Berezovskii's automobile dealership LogoVAZ (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2002), where Patarkatsishvili and Dubrov worked as executives. Because all three men are currently living abroad, Kolesnikov said Russia will ask Interpol to expedite their extradition to Russia. Kolesnikov said that arrest warrants for all three men will be issued soon and that prosecutors will seek to freeze all of Berezovskii's assets in Russia. VY

CONSORTIUM BIDS FOR CONTROL OVER FAIRCHILD DORNIER
The Base Element holding, which is controlled by aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, and Irkutsk Aviation Corporation (IAPO), Russia's leading producer of Sukhoi combat aircraft, have submitted a joint bid for control of bankrupt German aircraft producer Fairchild Dornier, "Vedomosti" and other Russian news agencies reported on 22 October. Fairchild Dornier controls 20 percent of the global market in regional jets. Aircraft producers Ilyushin and OKB Sukhoi have also submitted a bid together with U.S. producer Boeing, while MiG is bidding jointly with Tupolev. VY

BATTLE BETWEEN SARATOV GOVERNOR AND MAYOR HEATS UP...
Saratov Oblast Vice Governor Aleksandr Miroshin has sent a telegram to the oblast's prosecutor asking that Saratov Mayor Yurii Aksenenko be held criminally liable for not fulfilling his duties, regions.ru reported on 22 October. According to the website, Miroshin contends that Aksenenko's neglect was responsible for the lack of heat in downtown Saratov that day, which left 18 schools and the homes of some 300,000 residents in the cold. Because of the lack of heat, more than 16,000 schoolchildren were sent home. This is only the most recent attempt by Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov and his deputies to dismiss Aksenenko. Last May, according to the local newspaper "Bogatei," Miroshin was coordinating the collection of signatures demanding Aksenenko's resignation. JAC

...AS COLD CLOSES FAR EASTERN SCHOOLS...
Five schools and four kindergartens in Kamchatka were closed on 22 October because of a lack of heat, ntvru.com reported. According to the report, Unified Energy Systems has not yet agreed to supply heat to homes and businesses in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii because debts from last year have not yet been restructured. Temperatures inside the closed schools fell to 8-10 degrees Celsius. There is also no heat in Municipal Hospital No. 2, according to the report. RC

...AND COUNTRY BRACES FOR ANOTHER WINTER
Deputy Chairman of the State Construction Committee Sergei Kruglik said the winter heating season is in full swing in 42 subjects of the Russian Federation, RosBalt reported on 21 October. Eighty-eight percent of the country's housing is prepared for the coming winter, as are 92 percent of its heating plants and 92 percent of the heating pipelines. He reported that 58 percent of the needed coal and 46 percent of the necessary fuel oil has been stockpiled. He conceded that the two latter indicators are about 20 percent lower than at the same time last year, primarily because suppliers are withholding shipments over debt issues. RC

ALL IN THE FAMILY
Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov is reportedly grooming his son, Ural, to replace him as president following the end of his current term, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 22 October citing "Ekspert-Ural." The weekly said recent changes in Bashkortostan's economic policy, including the privatization of the republic's largest industrial companies, such as the Bashkir Fuel Company, Bashneftekhim, and Bashneft, were likely initiated by Ural Rakhimov. In the same commentary, the weekly added that resentment over Ural Rakhimov's growing influence is rising among Bashkir politicians. The paper said that Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov is losing his traditional role supervising economic policy, and influential Deputy Prime Minister Engels Qolmokhemetov, who used to be in charge of the oil sector in the republican cabinet of ministers, was recently given the task of monitoring a less important sector of the economy. The paper said a broad coalition of disgruntled politicians has emerged, although they are not likely to voice their displeasure too loudly yet. JAC

LEBED MUSEUM IN THE WORKS
The government of the Republic of Khakasia decided on 22 October to open a museum dedicated to late Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed in the city of Chernogorsk, ntvru.com reported on 22 October. Lebed's younger brother, Aleksei, is president of Khakasia. The small museum will be located in a wing of a veterans' hospital, which will itself be named for Aleksandr Lebed. According to the website, the Cadets Corps in Krasnoyarsk Krai also plans to open a Lebed museum. JAC

WALKING TOGETHER MARCHES ON LENIN'S TOMB
The pro-Putin youth movement Walking Together held a demonstration in front of Vladimir Lenin's mausoleum on Red Square on 22 October, dni.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. "Young people don't understand well Lenin's place in the history of Russia, and this enables contemporary proletarian leaders to continue speculative maneuvers with his corpse, drawing from it new political and financial profits," Walking Together leader Vasilii Yakimenko was quoted by Interfax as saying. Activists handed out brochures with figures on the number of people who died during the Civil War of the 1920s and the amount of gold that was sold abroad by the Bolsheviks, as well as a list of writers, scientists, and philosophers who fled the country after the revolution. The group symbolically visited the mausoleum "one last time" before calling for Lenin's body to be buried. RC

SENATOR WONDERS IF KYOTO ACCORD IS IN RUSSIA'S INTERESTS
Russia should not rush to ratify the Kyoto Accord on Global Climate Change, Federation Council Science, Culture, Education, Health, and Ecology Committee Chairman Viktor Shudergov said on 21 October, RosBalt reported. "We must calculate and anticipate the maximum possible improvement for our own industry so that in a few years we don't find ourselves purchasing [pollution] quotas," Shudergov said. He said Russia is currently the world's "major supplier" of oxygen in the atmosphere and that other countries are using Russia's biological resources to develop their industries. He was also sharply critical of the United States, saying that that country has every possibility to reduce its own emissions but refuses to do so. Commenting on the recent global development summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, Shudergov said, "It would have been more useful if the main source of ecological pollution, the United States, had participated." RC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT SAYS HE CONTROLS 'ALMOST' ALL RESISTANCE FIGHTERS...
In an interview carried by chechenpress.com on 23 October, Aslan Maskhadov admitted that at the beginning of the current war, Chechnya's "numerous enemies" succeeded in driving a wedge between the various contingents of Chechen fighters. (It is not clear whether that statement is intended as direct corroboration that the FSB played a role in persuading field commander Shamil Basaev to launch his ill-fated incursion into Daghestan in August 1999.) But, he added, since then, those commanders who initially fought independently have come to him and requested to fight under his leadership. Maskhadov professed to be "extremely satisfied that almost all those bearing arms are under my control." But elsewhere in the interview he claimed, "All armed fighters are under my leadership." LF

...DENIES LINKS WITH AL-QAEDA...
Maskhadov also categorically denied that any of the guerrillas fighting under his command have any connections with Al-Qaeda. He said that if concrete evidence is provided to the contrary, he will act "in accordance with accepted international practice." Maskhadov estimated the number of mercenaries who have fought in the Chechen ranks since the outbreak of the 1994-96 war as "a couple of hundred, most of whom are Caucasians." He said the number of Arab mercenaries who came to fight for the Chechen cause "can be counted on the fingers [of both hands]." LF

...EVALUATES PEACE PROPOSALS
Maskhadov described the Chechen peace plan proposed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Alexander Haig, and Max Kampelman, which envisages Chechnya remaining a subject of the Russian Federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2002), as a demonstration of U.S. concern over the ongoing war, and he expressed the hope that the initiative will be developed. He hailed former Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin's involvement in the search for a settlement of the conflict, noting Rybkin's contribution to the signing in May 1997 of the bilateral Treaty on Peace and the Principles of Mutual Relations, which Maskhadov termed a basis for determining future relations between Russia and Chechnya. Maskhadov also stressed that former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov's call for peace talks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2002) is "a good sign," coming from "a very experienced and knowledgeable politician." Maskhadov was clearly less enthusiastic about former Russian Supreme Soviet Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov's proposal that Chechnya be granted internationally guaranteed autonomous status (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 15 February 2002 and 19 July 2002). Maskhadov said he does not agree with all its provisions, but that it could become "a basis for negotiations." He added that he maintains regular contact with Khasbulatov. LF

FEDERATION COUNCIL SPEAKER RULES OUT TALKS WITH MASKHADOV
Sergei Mironov told journalists in Moscow on 22 October that he considers the upcoming talks in Switzerland between Maskhadov's envoy, Chechen Vice Premier Akhmed Zakaev; Rybkin; and Khasbulatov pointless, Interfax reported. He argued that, instead, Moscow should seek contacts in Chechnya with "those healthy and constructive forces that are clearly observing the laws and the Russian Constitution." LF

CHECHEN PREMIER SAYS WESTERN ESTIMATES OF WAR CASUALTIES TOO HIGH
Interfax on 22 October quoted Stanislav Ilyasov as claiming that Western estimates of the number of people killed during the first and second Chechen wars are too high. He said the combined death toll is no higher than 10,000. Western estimates put the death toll in the 1994-96 war at between 80,000 and 100,000 and in the second war at between 20,000 and 40,000. Ilyasov further argued that it is impossible to try to estimate the current Chechen population on the basis of the 1989 Soviet census figures, because since 1989 "many people have left Chechnya." LF

PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY QUESTIONS REPORTED OUTCOME OF ARMENIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS
Speaking at a press conference in Yerevan on 22 October, Artur Baghdasarian, chairman of the Orinats Yerkir (Law-Based State) party, accused Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) of using its leverage with local officials to "distort" the outcome of the 20 October local elections in which the HHK won an impressive victory, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Baghdasarian claimed that some voters cast two ballots for HHK candidates and that some ballots were cast on behalf of deceased voters. At the same time, Baghdasarian said his party is satisfied with the outcome of the poll, in which it appears to have won the second largest representation on local councils after the HHK. In an interview with Armenian Public Television, Central Election Commission Chairman Artak Sahradian admitted the voting was marred by shortcomings, according to Arminfo, as cited by Groong. LF

ARMENIAN JOURNALIST INJURED IN GRENADE ATTACK
Caucasus Media Institute Deputy Director Mark Grigorian was hospitalized late on 22 October with serious injuries after a grenade exploded under his feet on the street in Yerevan, according to Noyan Tapan and Arminfo, as cited by Groong. LF

DETAINED SPY IMPLICATED IN THWARTED ARMENIAN HOTEL BOMB ATTACK
One of the four persons arrested two months ago on charges of spying for Azerbaijan was allegedly involved in a failed bid to explode a bomb at Yerevan's Erebuni Hotel in May 1993, Noyan Tapan reported on 22 October, quoting the National Security Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 28 August 2002). LF

AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTIES VOTE TO DONATE PART OF SALARY TO DEFENSE FUND
Parliamentary deputies voted on 22 October to contribute 25 percent of their monthly salary of 2 million manats (approximately $408) to a charitable fund created two months ago by President Heidar Aliev to help modernize and equip the Azerbaijani armed forces, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2002). Donations to the fund to date total 500 million manats. Organizations that have donated money or announced their intention to do so are named daily on the main television news programs, Turan added. LF

GEORGIAN OFFICIALS DENY HANDING AL-QAEDA MEMBERS OVER TO U.S.
Georgian presidential press secretary Kakha Imnadze on 22 October denied that in a telephone conversation the previous day with the "Washington Post" he confirmed a "Time" magazine report that Tbilisi has "very probably" handed over to the United States more than a dozen Arab militants apprehended in a raid on the Pankisi Gorge, including two alleged Al-Qaeda operatives, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. Imnadze said that he neither confirmed nor denied the "Time" report. But he admitted to journalists in Tbilisi on 22 October that several Arabs have been detained in Pankisi. Deputy Interior Minister Nika Laliashvili said on 22 October that the "Time" report is untrue, Interfax reported on 22 October. LF

GEORGIAN INTERIOR MINISTER ANNOUNCES 'NEW PHASE' OF PANKISI OPERATION
Following a visit with Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili to eastern Georgia on 22 October, Georgian State Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania announced that a new stage of the antiterrorism operation in the Pankisi Gorge will be launched soon, Caucasus Press reported. The new phase will entail locating and apprehending the estimated 50-60 Chechens still on Georgian territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2002). Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 30 September that the "active phase" of the antiterrorism operation in Pankisi was over, while RIA-Novosti quoted Narchemashvili on 1 October as announcing the beginning of the fourth stage. The next stage will therefore presumably be the fifth. LF

PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTIES FROM ADJARIA FAIL IN BID TO IMPEACH GEORGIAN PRESIDENT...
The opposition Aghordzineba (Revival) faction collected only 30 signatures on 22 October in support of its bid to impeach President Shevardnadze, less than half the minimum 79 required, Caucasus Press reported. Faction head Djemal Gogitidze argued that Shevardnadze's "weak" and "criminal" policy has resulted in the central authorities' loss of control over the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Caucasus Press observed that other factions are unlikely to support the impeachment initiative, which they consider an extension of the ongoing standoff between Shevardnadze and Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze over Adjaria's systematic withholding of the tax revenues it should transfer to the central Georgian budget. LF

...ACCUSE ABKHAZ PARLIAMENT-IN-EXILE CHAIRMAN OF PLANNING ABASHIDZE'S MURDER
In a 22 October statement, Gogitidze accused Tamaz Nadareishvili, chairman of the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz parliament-in-exile, of planning Abashidze's assassination, Caucasus Press reported. Gogitidze claimed that Nadareishvili controls most of the Georgian guerrillas active in the Abkhaz conflict zone. LF

GEORGIAN MINISTER OF STATE APPEALS TO EU TO RELEASE GRANTS
Meeting in Tbilisi on 22 October with ambassadors from EU member states, Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze pleaded for the EU to release the grants earmarked for Georgia and upon which fulfillment of this year's budget largely depends, Caucasus Press reported. The EU has said it will not make the grants available until the Georgian authorities secure the release of British consultant Peter Shaw, who was abducted in Tbilisi four months ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 10 October 2002). LF

GEORGIAN NGOS, OPPOSITION PROTEST DELAY IN LOCAL-ELECTION VOTE RECOUNT
Members of the opposition National Movement blocked traffic on Tbilisi's main Rustaveli Prospect on 22 October to demand that the Central Election Commission speed up the recount of votes cast for the Tbilisi City Council in the 2 June local elections, Caucasus Press reported. Commission Chairman Djumber Lominadze promised NGOs last week that the recount will be completed by the end of this month. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES CONCORDAT
By a vote of 203 in favor and one against, deputies on 22 October ratified the Concordat signed last week between the Georgian State and the Georgian Orthodox Church, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2002). The Holy Synod ratified the accord on 17 October. LF

NEW KAZAKH DRAFT LAW ON LAND OWNERSHIP UNVEILED
At its first session in Astana on 22 October, Kazakhstan's National Council -- which comprises representatives from the government, parliament, trade unions, presidential administration, and business community -- approved a draft Land Code that would legalize private ownership of farm land and ordered the government to submit the final version to parliament by 1 December 2002, Interfax reported. Addressing the council, President Nursultan Nazarbaev said he would agree to a national referendum on private land ownership. An earlier draft bill allowing private ownership of agricultural land was abandoned due to widespread protests. The long-term leasing of agricultural land is, however, permitted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 December 2000). LF

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT HAILS 'STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP' WITH KAZAKHSTAN
In a message to Nazarbaev to mark the 10th anniversary of diplomatic relations between their two countries, Russian President Vladimir Putin characterized bilateral relations as "a strategic partnership," and Kazakhstan as "Russia's closest and most consistent ally," Interfax reported on 22 October. During a telephone conversation the same day, the two presidents discussed Nazarbaev's proposal to designate 2003 the Year of Kazakhstan in Russia and ways to increase the effectiveness of the CIS Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union, according to Interfax. LF

NEW CHAIRMAN OF KAZAKH 'PRESIDENTIAL PARTY' APPOINTED
Nazarbaev signed a decree on 22 October removing former Premier Sergei Tereshchenko from the post of chairman of the pro-Nazarbaev OTAN party, which he has occupied since the party was established in the wake of the January 1999 presidential elections, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 1999). Tereshchenko's new post has not yet been disclosed. His successor is Almaty businessman Amangeldy Ermegiyaev. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT COMPLAINS THAT AID PLEDGES NOT MET
During talks on 21 October with visiting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Imomali Rakhmonov said that post-war reconstruction has been hampered by donors' failure to provide more than a fraction of the more than $1 billion in aid they pledged at the end of the Tajik civil war in 1997, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. He noted that donors are now similarly failing to make good on promises of aid for post-war reconstruction in Afghanistan. Rakhmonov and Annan discussed post-war reconstruction and democratization in Tajikistan -- which Annan praised -- and the struggle against drug trafficking. Rakhmonov requested that the UN continue to provide funding for the Tajik Drug Control Agency. LF

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL VISITS TURKMENISTAN
During talks in Ashgabat on 22 October with Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov, Annan expressed the hope that Turkmenistan will continue providing comprehensive assistance to restore peace and stability in neighboring Afghanistan, ITAR-TASS reported. Turkmenistan has to date done no more than permit the use of its transport infrastructure to ship aid to Afghanistan. Annan noted Turkmenistan's role in mediating peace in both Tajikistan and Afghanistan, according to turkmenistan.ru. Niyazov, for his part, solicited UN support for the planned gas-export pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan. LF

TURKMENISTAN SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH DANISH OIL COMPANY
President Niyazov and a top Maersk Oil Company official signed a production-sharing agreement in Ashgabat on 22 October for blocks No. 11 and No. 12 of Turkmenistan's sector of the Caspian Sea, which contain estimated reserves of 300 million tons of hydrocarbons, Russian agencies reported. Precise details of the agreement were not disclosed. LF

CHINA GRANTS UZBEKISTAN INTEREST-FREE LOAN
Uzbek Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov and Chinese Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation Wei Tsang-Go have signed an agreement under which China will make available to Tashkent a 30 million-yuan ($3.6 million) interest-free loan, uza.uz reported on 21 October. The purpose of the loan is unclear. LF

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT WANTS TO EXPAND TIES WITH IRAQ
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 22 October charged presidential administration deputy head Mikalay Ivanchanka with the task of expanding Belarus's ties with Iraq by involving Belarusian enterprises in mutual-cooperation programs, Belapan reported, quoting the presidential press service. Ivanchanka, who co-chairs the Belarusian-Iraqi Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation, was briefing Lukashenka on his recent trip to Iraq. Ivanchanka said Belarus has an opportunity to participate in a number of humanitarian programs in Iraq by supplying medical equipment and sending Belarusian medical personnel to Iraq on a paid basis. The presidential press service stressed that Belarus cooperates with Iraq strictly within the framework of the UN oil-for-food program. JM

BELARUSIAN SCHOOLGIRL, SEEKING INSTRUCTION IN MOTHER TONGUE, PLAYS HOOKY
Maryya Karalkova, a fifth-grader from the town of Horki (Mahilyou Oblast), has skipped her classes for the past two months to protest her school's inability to ensure instruction in the Belarusian language, Belapan reported on 22 October. Maryya's parents told the agency that in previous years it was sufficient for the girl to miss school for a couple of weeks to make local authorities open a Belarusian-language class. "We have been promised that our demand [to educate Maryya in Belarusian] will be satisfied as soon as [local authorities] get an instruction 'from the top,'" Maryya's mother said, according to Belapan. JM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL FAILS TO HALT CASE AGAINST KUCHMA...
The Supreme Court on 22 October rejected an appeal by Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun to rule the criminal case initiated against President Leonid Kuchma earlier this month illegal, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. On 15 October, Kyiv Court of Appeals Judge Yuriy Vasylenko opened the case against Kuchma in which the president is charged with violating 11 articles of the Criminal Code, including his alleged involvement in the illegal sale of military technology to Iraq and the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2002). Piskun argued that the constitution grants Kuchma prosecutorial immunity, but the Supreme Court sent his appeal to the Court of Appeals, which is expected to proceed with the case. JM

...AND CLAIMS TO HAVE CONVINCED U.S. OFFICIALS THAT UKRAINE DIDN'T SELL KOLCHUGA RADAR SYSTEMS TO IRAQ
"I feel I have managed to convince American experts and lawyers that Ukraine didn't sell Kolchugas to Iraq," Piskun told journalists on 22 October, referring to his trip to Washington last week. Piskun also announced that a group of U.S. experts is to come to Kyiv "soon" to consult Ukrainian officials investigating Gongadze's killing. Moreover, Piskun said Ukraine has proposed to the United States that a group of German and Russian experts, with the participation of specialists from the United States and Ukraine, examine the authenticity of audio recordings allegedly made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko in Kuchma's office. JM

MORE THAN 100,000 UKRAINIAN CHILDREN SAID TO BE HOMELESS
Valentyna Shevchenko, chairwoman of the State Committee for Family and Youth Matters, said on 22 October that there are more than 100,000 homeless children in Ukraine, UNIAN reported. Shevchenko noted that nearly 20 percent of these children have lost both of their parents. She also said there are nearly 70,000 families in Ukraine that are poorly provided for. "We need to work with such families, since most homeless children and child beggars come from families that are socially dysfunctional, have many children, or have lost at least one parent," Shevchenko said. JM

ESTONIA'S CULTURE FUND GETS NEW MANAGER
The Culture Promotion Fund's (Kultuurkapital) governing council elected Raul Altmae, a 30-year-old former security-police official, from a list of 17 candidates for managing director on 22 October, BNS reported. Former Director Avo Viiol was fired after admitting he embezzled some 8 million kroons ($533,000) from the fund's account and gambled it away (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 2002). The scandal resulted in the resignation of Culture Minister Signe Kivi on 16 August. Her successor, Margus Allikmaa, complained it was not easy to find a manager capable of restoring the fund's reputation and credibility. Altmae will start working on 1 November. SG

ESTONIA WON'T CANCEL ILLEGALLY ISSUED PASSPORTS
The Estonian cabinet on 22 October endorsed amendments to the citizenship law that allow people who were ineligible for citizenship but were given passports 10 years ago due to administrative errors to keep them, BNS reported. The amendments also would authorize new identification cards for those whose passports have expired. At least 1,500 passports were issued on the basis of defective documents or unchecked data, according to research by the Citizenship and Migration Board. The board sent letters to these individuals telling them they will have to apply for naturalization again and pass language tests to gain citizenship. Prime Minister Siim Kallas said people who acted in good faith should not suffer because of mistakes by officials, but added that this will not apply to people who knowingly submitted false information. SG

OFFICIAL RESULTS OF LATVIAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS ANNOUNCED
The Central Election Committee said on 22 October that official results of this month's parliamentary elections differ slightly from the preliminary results (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002), LETA reported. The left-wing For Human Rights in a United Latvia (PCTVL) was awarded an additional seat, raising its total to 25, which the rightist People Union lost to put the number of its deputies at 20. Of the 100 deputies -- 82 men and 18 women -- 33 served in the previous parliament. Four deputies chose not to list their nationalities, while the others declared themselves as Latvian (79), Russian (14), Polish (1), Karelian (1), and Jewish (1). SG

EURO TO BECOME LEGAL TENDER IN LITHUANIA
Parliament voted 63 to one with four abstentions on 22 October to adopt amendments to the laws on foreign currency and money that eliminate a provision defining the litas as that the sole legal tender in Lithuania, ELTA reported. Settlements in foreign currencies will also be allowed in noncash transactions, and use of the euro will be permitted by mutual agreement for both cash and noncash settlements. Parliament Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Algirdas Butkevicius said, according to ELTA: "This amendment makes the euro equal to the litas in terms of settlements, except for the provision that these settlements can be made only upon mutual agreement of the parties." The move is intended to ease transactions when banks are closed, for instance, and there is no place to exchange currency. SG

LITHUANIA DEEMED 'MOST DEPENDENT' ON NUCLEAR POWER
The International Atomic Energy Agency (TATENA) released a report on 22 October that put Lithuania's share of nuclear-generated electricity at 77.6 percent of the total 2001 national output, BNS reported. Nuclear plants produced 11.36 billion of the country's total, 14.64 billion kilowatt hours, the study found. Lithuania was followed by France (77.1 percent), Belgium (58 percent), Slovakia (53.4 percent), Ukraine (46.4 percent), Sweden (43.9 percent), Bulgaria (41.5 percent), South Korea (39.3 percent), Hungary (39.1 percent), and Slovenia (39 percent). At the end of 2001, there were 438 nuclear power plants worldwide generating 16.2 percent of total electricity. In 2000, France was the leader with a 76.4 percent share and Lithuania second at 73.7 percent. SG

SOLIDARITY PROTESTS POLISH GOVERNMENT POLICY IN SHIPYARD INDUSTRY...
Some 5,000 Solidarity trade unionists led by Solidarity's newly appointed head, Janusz Sniadek, staged a protest in front of the prime minister's office in Warsaw on 22 October against what they call the government's "bad policy" in the shipyard industry, Polish media reported. Demonstrators demanded a comprehensive rescue plan for Polish shipyards. Protesters threw firecrackers and set several tires alight during the rally. A small group clashed with riot police, who cordoned off the government office. JM

...AND STRIKES COOPERATION DEAL WITH LEFTIST TRADE UNION IN SILESIA
Solidarity and the left-wing National Trade Union Accord (OPZZ) in Silesia Province have agreed to cooperate in defending jobs and employee rights, PAP reported on 22 October. An accord to this effect is to be signed by leaders of the regional branches of Solidarity and OPZZ "soon," the news agency added. "This kind of [cooperation] is taking place in this country for the first time," said Henryk Moskwa, chairman of the OPZZ in Silesia. "[It is a signal to the authorities] that, in the face of threats, we are capable of pushing the divisions of the past away and standing together above those differences in defense of our mutual union and employee interests," he added. JM

POLISH DAILY ACCUSES MILITARY INTELLIGENCE OF PROFITING FROM ILLEGAL ARMS TRADE
"Rzeczpospolita" on 22 October published a lengthy report charging the Military Information Services (WSI) with profiting from illegal arms sales conducted by the companies Steo and PHU Cenrex in 1992-96 with the participation and collaboration of WSI officers. According to the daily, weapons from Polish Army arsenals were allegedly sold -- through a middleman, suspected international terrorist Monzer al-Kassar -- to Croatia and Somalia (which were under UN embargo) and to the Russian mafia. The District Court in Gdansk on 22 October resumed the trial of a dozen defendants in a case involving illegal arms trading by Steo and PHU Cenrex before immediately postponing it due to the report in "Rzeczpospolita." Meanwhile, Defense Ministry spokesman Eugeniusz Mleczak told PAP that some information in the daily's report came from WSI classified files. Mleczak added that the ministry is considering suing "Rzeczpospolita" for disclosing state secrets. JM

CZECH OPPOSITION PARTY SUBMITS AMENDMENT AIMED AT DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
A group of lawmakers from the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) on 22 October submitted a draft amendment to the Czech Constitution providing for a one-round direct election of the president, CTK reported, citing ODS legislator Jiri Pospisil. On 15 October, the ruling government coalition submitted a separate draft amendment for a two-round popular vote to elect a president (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 October 2002). The ODS in early October reversed its position and said it supports a direct vote. Analysts and politicians regard the move as stemming from the party's realization that ODS leader Vaclav Klaus does not have sufficient support in parliament to win the presidency. Vaclav Havel's second term as president ends early next year. BW

EU HOPEFULS HOLD TALKS IN PRAGUE
Foreign ministers from 10 countries vying to join the EU in 2004 held talks in Prague on 22 October, Czech media reported the same day. Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, who initiated the talks, said that while EU aspirants have their own specific national interests, certain matters are important to all of them. Among these, Svoboda named budgetary issues and agricultural policy. BW

REPORT: CZECHS WILL MAKE 'MORAL GESTURE' ON BENES DECREES
The Czech government is planning to make a "moral political gesture" to address German and Austrian concerns about the post-World War II Benes Decrees, dpa news agency reported on 22 October. The gesture would include a joint declaration of regret by Prague and Berlin, similar to the 1997 declaration issued by the Czech and German governments. Despite demands from politicians in Germany and Austria, the Czech government has refused demands to repeal the decrees, which expelled ethnic Germans and Hungarians and resulted in the confiscation of their property while also amnestying crimes against them at the conclusion of the war. BW

SLOVAKIA SEEKS TO INCREASE ROLE IN WAR ON TERRORISM
Contributing meaningfully to the fight against international terrorism is a high priority for the new Slovak government, newly appointed Defense Minister Ivan Simko said on 22 October, TASR reported the same day. Slovakia's armed forces should be actively engaged in fighting terrorism rather than playing a supporting role, Simko said, adding that he will propose reforms to create rapid-reaction forces. Simko said he will seek to raise defense spending in the 2003 budget to 2 percent of gross domestic product. BW

LARGE MAJORITY OF SLOVAKS SAID TO SUPPORT EARLY EU MEMBERSHIP
Slovakia's goal of joining the European Union in 2004 is supported by 68 percent of the population, with 27 percent opposed, TASR reported on 22 October, citing a poll by the UVVM agency. The survey of 1,067 people was conducted from 1-10 October. Support for joining the EU was highest among young people between 18 and 29 years of age, university graduates, businesspeople, and city dwellers. BW

HUNGARIAN BY-ELECTIONS DUE IN 38 MUNICIPALITIES
By-elections must be held within six months in 38 Hungarian settlements where balloting was canceled for lack of candidates or where a runoff is required, the National Election Office reported on 22 October on its website (http://www.valasztas.hu). Local voting on 20 October was not held in seven communities due to a lack of candidates. Mayoral elections in 18 villages resulted in ties. The office also reported that mayoral candidates ran unopposed in a total of 645 settlements. MSZ

HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT ADRESSES EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
President Ferenc Madl on 22 October delivered a speech at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, commemorating the outbreak of the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising, Hungarian television reported. Madl told reporters afterward that support for EU membership in Hungary is the highest among candidate countries, and therefore it is likely that the country will be the first among candidates to hold a referendum on the matter. During his one-day working visit to Strasbourg, Madl conferred with the heads of the major groupings in the European Parliament and held talks with European Commission President Romano Prodi on Hungary's EU accession. In other news, Hungarian government spokesman Gal Zoltan announced on 22 October that President Bush has invited Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy for an official U.S. visit between 6 and 11 November, the MTI news agency reported. MSZ

HUNGARIAN RADIO PROGRAM'S EDITOR FIRED FOR VIOLATING CAMPAIGN SILENCE
Andras Haeffler, editor of the "Vasarnapi Ujsag" (Sunday News) program on Hungarian radio, on 22 October was suspended from his post after the National Election Office ruled that two interviews broadcast on the program on the day of the 20 October local elections violated a ban on campaign publicity, the MTI news agency reported. "Vasarnapi Ujsag" has been strongly criticized by representatives of the Socialist-Free Democrat government as well as by local and international media organizations for its right-wing propaganda. MSZ

WASHINGTON WARNS BELGRADE OVER ARMS SALES TO IRAQ...
The Untied States has "accused two state-owned companies in Yugoslavia and Bosnia of repairing the engines of Iraqi MiG fighters and demanded that the two countries' governments act to stop the trade," the "Washington Post" reported on 23 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2002). Serbian experts are also believed to be helping Iraq improve its air defenses. Speaking in Washington on 22 October, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said there is "clear evidence" of dealings with Baghdad by the Belgrade-based Yugoimport firm and the Orao company, which is located in Bijeljina in the Republika Srpska. In Sarajevo, the U.S. Embassy repeated the accusations in a statement. NATO spokesman Lieutenant Commander Yves Vanier said SFOR peacekeepers "did find something very significant" in their recent search of Orao's premises, AP reported. He did not elaborate. Reuters reported from Sarajevo on 22 October on Orao's involvement with Iraq and its alleged attempt to cover up the evidence. Donald Hays, a deputy to High Representative Paddy Ashdown, confirmed that Orao exported goods to Iraq via a third party. PM

...AS YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT MEETS IN EMERGENCY SESSION...
The government held an emergency session on 22 October to discuss the growing scandal over illegal arms sales to Iraq, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The cabinet did not formally admit that Yugoimport has been dealing with Baghdad but fired two generals involved in arms trading. They are Deputy Defense Minister Ivan Djokic and Jovan Cekovic, who heads Yugoimport. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic blamed the deals on "remnants of the past regime [of President Slobodan Milosevic], spurred on by pro-fascist and criminal elements," AP reported. Covic stressed, "We must not allow the entire country to be dragged into problems created by [Milosevic's] deals." Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic argued that, "The very suspicion of such an embargo-busting trade endangers our top state interests." The government has promised an investigation of the charges, as has Dusan Mihajlovic, who is both Yugoimport's chairman of the board and Serbian police chief. The "Washington Post" noted that, "Yugoslav leaders view the alleged trade as the biggest threat to relations with the United States" since the ouster of Milosevic at the end of 2000. PM

...AND QUESTIONS REMAIN
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac expressed what appears to be Belgrade's official position in the Iraqi arms-deal affair, saying the illegal trade was carried out by "individuals who are beyond control," The "Washington Post" reported on 23 October. The Yugoslav Defense Ministry denied in a statement that it approved any deals with Iraq, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. But many questions remain. Given that the current authorities ousted Milosevic in 2000, why did it take so long for the affair to come to light? Put differently, what did the Belgrade authorities know about illegal arms sales and when did they know it? What is the role of Mihajlovic, who holds key positions in the Serbian government and Yugoimport? Will Washington be content with Belgrade's reaffirmation that it is cooperating in the war against terrorism, or will the United States want to take a closer look at the possibility that some Serbs have been involved in other unsavory dealings? PM

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT ACCUSED OF HOLDING UP THE ARREST OF MLADIC
Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the war crimes tribunal based in The Hague, said in Sarajevo on 22 October that Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica is holding up the arrest of former General Ratko Mladic and his extradition to The Hague, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 21 October 2002). Earlier that day, she said in Prishtina that she expects to have an indictment against an unnamed member of the ethnic Albanian Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) ready by the end of the year. This would be the first indictment from The Hague of an UCK member for crimes committed during 1998-99 conflict in Kosova. PM

HAGUE TRIBUNAL REJECTS CROATIAN APPEAL
The war crimes tribunal turned down a request by Croatia that it reconsider its indictment of former General Janko Bobetko, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from The Hague on 22 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 October 2002). The tribunal called on Croatian authorities to arrest and extradite him immediately. In Zagreb, Prime Minister Ivica Racan said he regrets the tribunal's decision. In Sarajevo, Del Ponte said she is unhappy that Croatia has not arrested and extradited Bobetko and General Ante Gotovina. She added that cooperation with the tribunal by the various Balkan states has never been worse during the past three years than it is now. PM

KOSOVA'S CIVILIAN HEAD OUTLINES IDEAS ON DECENTRALIZATION...
Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), announced a plan on 21 October to discuss and develop his ideas on decentralization of self-government in areas where there are large ethnic minorities, namely the Serbs, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported the next day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 October 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 August 2002). Steiner stressed that his plan for self-government will involve only areas where there will have been significant participation in the 26 October local elections. He will discuss his ideas with representatives of political parties that take part in the local elections after the vote, namely on 1 November in Gjilan. Self-government will center on education, health, community planning, and some elements of infrastructure. PM

...TO A LUKEWARM RECEPTION FROM THE SERBS...
Following a meeting with Kostunica on 22 October, the Serbian National Council agreed to take part in the elections, but only in areas where Serbs form a majority, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Prishtina. Kostunica said Steiner's latest statement indicates some progress from the Serbian point of view but that it does not meet enough Serbian demands to be completely acceptable. PM

...AND A MIXED RESPONSE FROM THE ALBANIANS
Representatives of President Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) hailed Steiner's latest statement as evidence of continued engagement by the international community in Kosova, Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service reported on 21 October. But officials of the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) said Steiner's statement involves concessions to the local Serbs and to Belgrade. The PDK added that the concessions could have an adverse effect on the long-term status of Kosova. The Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK) said Steiner's plan is "wrong" because it amounts to a partition of Kosova along ethnic lines. PM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VISITS MACEDONIA
Leonid Kuchma arrived in Skopje on 22 October for a two-day official visit, MIA news agency reported. Kuchma met with President Boris Trajkovski, parliamentary speaker Nikola Popovski, and outgoing Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski. Kuchma's talks focused on future economic relations. At a joint press conference, Kuchma and Trajkovski said relations are good -- as was evident during the conflict in Macedonia in 2001, when Ukraine supported the Macedonian Army with helicopter gunships, fighter jets, and pilots. Kuchma stressed that both countries were in constant touch with NATO regarding their military cooperation during that conflict. UB

FORMER QUEEN OF ALBANIA DIES
Geraldina Zogu, the wife of the late King Zog, died in Tirana after a series of heart attacks on 23 October, aged 87, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2002). PM

ROMANIAN RULING PARTY AND ALLY EVALUATE COOPERATION
On 22 October, central and local leaders of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) evaluated their cooperation, Mediafax reported. PSD Chairman and Premier Adrian Nastase said the leaders revealed no major problems, adding that they decided to continue their cooperation next year. The parties' cooperation has provided political stability domestically and facilitated successes at the international level, such as the lifting of visa restrictions for Romanian citizens traveling to EU member states and the increasing likelihood of Romania joining NATO, according to Nastase. UDMR Chairman Bela Marko said he expects any issues stemming from the 2002 cooperation agreement to be resolved by the end of the year and that there are prospects for signing a new agreement for 2003. While not a formal PSD ally, the UDMR supports the ruling party's initiatives in parliament and holds some government positions. ZsM

DUMA SPEAKER ADMITS RUSSIA HAS SUPPORTED TRANSDNIESTER SEPARATISTS...
In Chisinau on 22 October, Russian Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told a news conference that Russia supported the Transdniester separatists in the early 1990s when Russia feared that Moldova was on the verge of merging with Romania, an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported. "Someone had to say 'no' [to a Romania-Moldova merger]," he said, "Tiraspol did so," Flux reported. Russia considers Transdniester's "tough actions against Chisinau...absolutely justified," Seleznev said. "At that moment that was necessary." However, Seleznev said Moldova's aspirations to merge with Romania are not so strong today and that, as a sovereign state, Moldova "should solve its territorial problems on its own." He also said that last year he personally asked Tiraspol leader Igor Smirnov to "help [Moldovan President Vladimir] Voronin win the [parliamentary] elections." Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) Chairman Iurie Rosca responded that this "uncovers Russian diplomacy for good," as Russia has consistently insisted that it had no influence on the Tiraspol regime. ZsM

...HINTS THAT RUSSIA MIGHT NOT MEET OSCE DEADLINES ON TROOP REMOVAL...
Seleznev also said Russia might not be able to remove its troops and armaments from the breakaway Transdniester region by the end of this year, as required in the 1999 OSCE Istanbul Summit resolution, Flux reported. "We are aware of our commitments," Seleznev said, but "there are some problems." He argued that if Russia cannot meet the deadline it will discuss with the OSCE "the possibility of delaying the process." Seleznev added that it is important that not meeting the OSCE deadline should not be considered "a serious violation of the OSCE decisions." ZsM

...AND WANTS RUSSIAN LANGUAGE TO HAVE MORE PROMINENT ROLE IN MOLDOVA
Seleznev also spoke of the importance of the Russian language in Moldova, saying he would like to see Moldova proclaim Russian as its second official language, Flux reported. However, he said he understands that "there are problems" associated with doing so. The importance of the Russian language in Moldova "is an objective reality," as there are 600,000 ethnic Russians in Moldova and all Moldovan citizens speak Russian, according to Seleznev. Furthermore, the two languages "enrich the culture," he said. In related news, Seleznev said that he believes it is "natural" for Moldovan authorities to try to boost bilateral economic relations with Russia, as "the Russian market is very accessible for Moldovan goods." ZsM

BULGARIAN SOCIALIST PARTY OPPOSES CALLS TO AMEND CONSTITUTION
Opposition Socialist Party (BSP) spokesman Angel Naydenov said on 22 October that his party opposes making amendments to the constitution prior to 2003 local elections, as proposed by the conservative opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) and President Georgi Parvanov, mediapool.bg reported. The SDS proposals include strengthening local self-government. Naydenov said the BSP will assess the situation and come up with counterproposals of its own, adding that the constitution itself is not the problem, but compliance with it. BSP member and Regional Development Minister Kostadin Paskalev, however, has expressed his support for any legal changes that would strengthen local authorities. Paskalev also supports the SDS's proposal that district governors be elected rather than appointed by the central government. UB

There is no End Note today.


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