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Newsline - October 29, 2002


RUSSIAN OFFICIALS LAMBASTE DENMARK OVER CHECHEN CONGRESS
State Duma International Relations Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin, Russian human rights commissioner for Chechnya Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, and the Russian Foreign Ministry have all harshly criticized Denmark for its failure, in the wake of the Moscow hostage crisis, to cancel the 28-29 October World Chechen Congress, Russian news agencies reported. The Russian Foreign Ministry termed the failure to cancel "a gathering in support of Chechen terrorists" as "an unfriendly act" toward Russia, and hinted that it could result in the cancellation of the upcoming Russian-EU summit in Copenhagen, which is scheduled for 11 November. It accused the Danish government of "acting against the policy of the European Union, which has repeatedly declared its firm respect for Russia's territorial integrity," according to Interfax on 26 October. Foreign Ministry spokesman Boris Malakhov said a visit to Denmark by President Vladimir Putin scheduled for 11-12 November "is no longer possible," RIA-Novosti reported. Sultygov said on 26 October that a "country that currently holds the chairmanship of the European Union does not have the moral right to connive with international terrorists," ITAR-TASS reported the following day. LF/VY

PUTIN: ARMY WILL PLAY GREATER ROLE IN FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM
During a cabinet meeting on 28 October to discuss the recent hostage crisis in Moscow, President Putin said that Russia "is now paying the price for the weakness of the state and the consequences of its inaction [in the past], but the country will make no 'understandings' with terrorists nor surrender to their blackmail," ITAR-TASS and other Russian news agencies reported. Putin also said Russia will more actively use its army to combat international terrorism and that he has already issued instructions to that effect to the General Staff. "If anyone uses weapons of mass destruction or the equivalent against our country, Russia will respond with measures commensurate with the threat wherever terrorists, the organizers of their crimes, and their ideological and financial supporters might be," Putin said. Earlier this month, influential political consultant Gleb Pavlovskii wrote that the Kremlin considers suicide bombers to be a new type of weapon of mass destruction (see "RFE/RL Security and Terrorism Watch," 15 October 2002). VY

MOSCOW COUNTS AND RECOUNTS THE CASUALTIES
By the end of 28 October, officials reported that 118 former hostages were killed as a result of the 26 October operation to end the hostage standoff, according to Russian and Western news agencies. The dead included 63 men and 54 women. According to initial reports citing medical personnel, only two victims died from gunfire, and the remaining 116 died from the effects of the sleeping gas used by security forces during the operation. However, on 29 October, gazeta.ru, citing Moscow Prosecutor Mikhail Avdyukov, reported that 45 former hostages had died of bullet wounds. Later in the day, Avdyukov retracted this statement, saying that his figure of 45 included 41 hostage takers and that only four innocent people had died of gunshot wounds. Among the dead were at least one U.S. citizen, as well as citizens of Austria, the Netherlands, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Ukraine. An estimated 30 people are still listed as missing and slightly more than 400 former hostages remain hospitalized. Putin declared 28 October a national day of mourning, and the Moscow city government announced it will pay 100,000 rubles ($3,000) to the families of each victim to cover burial expenses. Other former hostages will receive 50,000 rubles. VY/RC

SPECULATION ABOUT THE MYSTERIOUS GAS CONTINUES
Russian authorities still refuse to identify the gas used by security forces during the 26 October storming of the Moscow theater where more than 800 people were being held hostage by Chechen fighters, Russian and Western news media reported. Even medical personnel treating the former hostages remain in the dark about the gas, gazeta.ru and "Izvestiya" reported on 28 October. According to some reports, doctors were treating gas victims with narsan, leading to speculation that the gas was fentanyl, which is widely used as an anesthetic, or a derivative of it, possibly trimethylphenyl. Fentanyl is harmless when used under strict control, chemical-weapons experts from Moscow State University told gazeta.ru, but can be fatal otherwise even in small amounts. The specialists noted that the gas could have fatal consequences for people weakened and dehydrated by three days of stressful captivity. In such circumstances, the only way to prevent death would be to immediately ventilate the lungs, but doctors were not able to carry out this procedure in many cases, gazeta.ru reported. VY

EXPERTS DEBATE THE PERFORMANCE OF SECURITY SERVICES
An unidentified veteran of Israel's elite antiterrorism squad told RFE/RL's correspondent in Tel Aviv on 28 October that the special-forces operation to free the hostages was very successful because "never before in a single operation were so many hostages released and so many terrorists killed." He emphasized that the antiterrorism units faced an extremely difficult task, having to seize a building filled with 2 tons of explosives scattered in more than 30 locations, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. He said any such operation resulting in fewer than 30 percent casualties should be considered a success. However, dissident former Federal Security Service (FSB) Colonel Aleksandr Litvinenko, who was granted political asylum in Great Britain in 2001, said he sees the incident as a failure for the security services, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 28 October. He said he believes the hostage takers could not have pulled off such a raid in the center of Moscow without important accomplices within the security community. Litvinenko also finds it significant that, reportedly, no police or security agents died during the theater takeover. He said there are almost always police present at events such as this performance. However, there are no reports that the Chechen fighters encountered any police as they approached the theater or that any police officers attempted to resist them, Litvinenko said. VY

FSB ARRESTS INTERIOR MINISTRY OFFICER WHO ALLEGEDLY HELPED THE HOSTAGE TAKERS
FSB agents on 28 October arrested a senior Interior Ministry officer who allegedly spoke by cellular phone to the hostage takers from the crisis-management headquarters during the hostage drama, "Izvestiya" reported on 28 October. An unidentified FSB spokesman is cited as reporting that the officer might have been able to reveal information about the preparation of the operation to storm the theater. The spokesman added that the FSB is looking for other possible moles within the law enforcement agencies. Moscow's Interior Ministry reported on 28 October that three Chechens were arrested with weapons, explosives, and a plan of a Moscow railroad station, NTV reported. The Interior Ministry on 28 October also arrested in a Moscow hospital a Chechen woman who was among the released hostages, charging her with being one of the hostage takers, RTR reported. VY

LEADING JOURNALIST SAYS CENSORSHIP ACCEPTABLE DURING CRISES...
Noted television anchorman and president of the Russian Television Academy Vladimir Pozner endorsed "censorship constraints on the mass media during wartime, including during the war against terrorism," strana.ru reported on 29 October. However, he added that since there currently is no appropriate law, journalists should not be punished. "If a journalist sees that the government is lying, he should report this, if he has solid evidence," Pozner said. VY

...AS PSKOV RESIDENTS SIC THE FSB ON LOCAL JOURNALIST
Several residents of Pskov telephoned the local office of the FSB on 27 October with complaints against a local radio journalist who reportedly advocated independence for Chechnya, regions.ru reported, citing the Pskov Information Agency. According to one of the callers, Dmitrii Osherov said "offensive" things about the special-forces operation to release the hostages, offered justifications for the hostage takers' actions, and said Russia "should give Chechnya its independence and let them live as they please." It was unclear from the report whether the FSB intends to investigate the complaints. RC

CHECHEN PRESIDENT EXPRESSES CONDOLENCES TO DEAD HOSTAGES' RELATIVES
In a statement carried on chechenpress.com on 26 October, Aslan Maskhadov expressed condolences to the relatives of those hostages who died during what he termed the "inglorious" and unnecessary storm of the Moscow theater by Russian troops earlier that day. Maskhadov again stressed that he condemns terror as a means to any end. He said that although the hostage taking was not carried out in consultation with any official Chechen body, and although "we did everything we could to avoid bloodshed," as president he nonetheless feels responsibility "for those who in despair decided to sacrifice themselves." But greater responsibility, Maskhadov continued, lies with the Russian leadership, whose barbaric policies have reduced thousands of Chechens to the conviction that there is no point in remaining alive. LF

CHECHEN NGO SAYS IT CAN DISPROVE RUSSIAN CLAIMS OF MASKHADOV'S INVOLVEMENT IN HOSTAGE TAKING
The Chechen Committee for National Salvation (ChKNS), based in Nazran, released a statement on 25 October rejecting as "an outrageous lie" claims by FSB spokesman Sergei Ignatchenko and Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Vasilev that Russian intelligence intercepted a videocassette that proves Maskhadov's complicity with the hostage takers, according to chechenpress.com on 25 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 25 October 2002). The statement says the ChKNS is ready to furnish the media with proof that Maskhadov did not give the orders for the hostage taking. It further explains that on the videocassette in question Maskhadov merely informed foreign journalists that the Chechen armed forces are strong enough to undertake an action that would fundamentally change the course of the war and compel the Russian Army to withdraw from Chechnya. LF

MASKHADOV'S ENVOY WARNS MORE 'TERRORIST ACTS' POSSIBLE
In telephone interviews with Reuters and dpa on 26 October, Maskhadov's envoy, Chechen Vice Premier Akhmed Zakaev, predicted that radical Chechen fighters who do not acknowledge Maskhadov's authority might undertake new acts of terrorism in an attempt to force Russia to withdraw its troops from Chechnya. He said the possibility cannot be ruled out that they might try to seize a nuclear-power plant with catastrophic results not only for Russia but for all of Europe. Zakaev also said he fears the Russian leadership might retaliate for the hostage taking with large-scale reprisals against the Chechen community in Moscow. LF

YANDARBIEV CHALLENGES RUSSIAN ACCOUNT OF EVENTS PRECEDING STORMING OF THEATER
Former acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev argued in a statement carried by chechenpress.com on 28 October that there was no need for Russian troops to storm the occupied theater on 26 October. He said the hostage takers gave the Russian authorities a three-day ultimatum to comply with their demands that was due to expire only late on 26 October and that, during talks on 25 October with Russian representatives including former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov and former Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev, the hostages were assured that a personal representative of President Putin would come to the theater to speak with them at 11:00 a.m. Moscow time on 26 October. Yandarbiev said he spoke with Movsar Baraev, the leader of the hostage takers, late on 25 October and Baraev assured him he would "make a final decision" whether to act on his threat to kill the hostages only after that meeting with Putin's representative. Yandarbiev explicitly denied that the hostage takers executed two hostages early on 26 October, that some of them were high on drugs, or that Baraev had been drinking cognac shortly before the assault, as some Russian media alleged. LF

CRIMEAN TATARS CALL FOR TALKS BETWEEN MOSCOW, MASKHADOV
In a 24 October statement signed by its chairman, Mustafa Dzhemilev, the Crimean Tatar Mejlis branded the Moscow hostage taking by Chechen militants "alien to Islamic norms," but also condemned the "eight-year war" Moscow has waged in Chechnya with the aim "of physically annihilating the Chechen people." The Mejlis called on foreign governments to pressure Moscow to end hostilities and embark on peace talks with the legitimate Chechen government headed by Maskhadov and affirmed its readiness to mediate such talks. The statement further observed that the scale of reprisals against the Chechen people has long since exceeded that which impelled the international community to intervene in Bosnia, Kosova, and Macedonia. It called on the UN, the OSCE, NATO, and the Council of Europe to use those levers at their disposal to bring the war to a swift end. LF

KREMLIN REJECTS ZAKAEV'S DENIAL OF MASKAHDOV'S INVOLVEMENT
In a statement released on 28 October, the Russian presidential administration rejected as "a blatant and outright lie" Chechen Vice Premier Zakaev's statement at the World Chechen Congress in Copenhagen earlier that day that President Maskhadov was not involved in any way in last week's hostage-taking drama in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. Responding to Zakaev's affirmation that Maskhadov is ready for unconditional peace talks, the Kremlin statement asked rhetorically what remains to be discussed with those whose role in terrorist acts "is more than clear," according to Interfax. Interfax further quoted Deputy Prosecutor-General Sergei Fridinskii as likewise ruling out any talks with Maskhadov except on the terms for his surrender and the criminal charges against him. LF

GROZNY ADMINISTRATION HEAD CALLS ON CHECHEN FIGHTERS TO SURRENDER
Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov has issued an appeal to all Chechen militants to lay down their arms and surrender, assuring them that if they do so he will guarantee their safety and ensure they are provided with employment, provided they "do not have blood" on their hands, Interfax reported on 28 October. Kadyrov warned that if they fail to do so, they will be killed. LF

ARAB PRESS WEIGHS IN ON MOSCOW DRAMA
While Western reactions to the Moscow hostage crisis focused on the death toll and the use of sleeping gas, the Arab press analyzed the event's implications for the Russian stance on Iraq and, more generally, the American-led war on terrorism. An editorial in the London-based "al-Hayat" on 28 October drew a parallel between Russian and Israeli policies, arguing that "both [countries] claim to be 'victims of terror' in order to justify the worst sorts of state violence and terror." Layla al-Atrash wrote in Jordan's "al-Dustur" the same day, "America will exploit the tragedy...to pressure Russia into unconditionally accepting a strike against Iraq and perhaps even giving up its economic interests and oil agreements with Iraq." Lebanon's "al-Nahar" echoed the theme the same day, claiming that "elastic" American definitions of weapons of mass destruction could be applied to the Russian use of gas, leaving Moscow "no room to reject the war against Iraq." Writing in the London-based "al-Quds al-'Arabi" on 28 October, Tawfiq al-Rabahi lamented that "Russian life is cheap, like Arab life and life in the third world." The author concluded that if there were more concern for the lives of citizens in underdeveloped countries like Russia, world leaders would have made greater efforts to find a "less costly" solution rather than waiting to send "congratulations for a massacre." A 28 October editorial in the London-based "al-Sharq al-Awsat" was more circumspect, stating that terrorism harms any cause, no matter how just, and calling for a solution to the Chechen dilemma that will "grant the Chechen people their demands and safeguard Russia's legitimate interests." DK

COSSACKS CALL FOR DEATH PENALTY FOR TERRORISM
The Council of Atamans of the Don Cossacks called on 28 October for the reinstatement of the death penalty as a tool in combating international terrorism, Interfax reported. The council unanimously adopted the resolution calling for the death penalty for those convicted of organizing or carrying out acts of terrorism and forwarded it to President Putin and both chambers of the legislature. According to First Deputy Ataman Dmitrii Rubanov, "Our society has not yet matured enough to be called a democracy." He said Russia should use the U.S. Constitution as a model, because it does not forbid the death penalty. RC

PATRIARCH HOSPITALIZED AFTER BLOOD-PRESSURE ATTACK
Patriarch Aleksii II was hospitalized in serious condition on 28 October in Astrakhan, Russian news agencies reported. Doctors were reported as saying the patriarch suffered from an acute attack of high blood pressure after spending the day in solitary prayer for the victims of the 23-26 October hostage crisis in Moscow. Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Aleksandr Kabachek told regions.ru that the illness might have been brought on by the patriarch's anxiety during the 56-hour hostage ordeal. According to Interfax, Aleksii was transferred to a Moscow hospital on 29 October. He is expected to make a complete recovery. RC

EXPERTS SAY MOST SECTORS OF ECONOMY DIPPED IN OCTOBER
The Institute of Transition Economics stated in its monthly report that most sectors of the Russian economy experienced decline in October, lenta.ru reported on 29 October. The energy, machine-building, and food sectors were the only ones to experience general growth for the month, and October demand for labor was the lowest for the 1999-2002 period, with the exception of the forestry industry. VY

INCUMBENT RE-ELECTED IN KALMYKIA
Kalmykia President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov won re-election in a second-round ballot on 27 October, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Ilyumzhinov received 57 percent of the vote, while High Technology Bank Deputy Chairman Baatyr Shondzhiev polled just less than 39 percent. Ilyumzhinov was elected to his first seven-year term in an uncontested election in 1993. Under the republic's current constitution, he is eligible to run for a third term in 2009, strana.ru reported. RC

ELECTION CHIEF TO LAY DOWN THE LAW IN ST. PETERSBURG
Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov will travel to St. Petersburg on 31 October to oversee preparations for local legislative elections on 8 December, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 October. Veshnyakov told journalists he thinks the Petersburg elections are "rather complex from the legal point of view" because of contradictions between existing local legislation and the newly adopted federal law on the main guarantees of voters' rights. Veshnyakov said he intends to make sure the local election commission has prepared the necessary normative acts and to meet with law enforcement officials to discuss security issues and control over campaign spending. RC

ONE FAR EASTERN BUSINESSMAN GUNNED DOWN...
Far East businessman and local Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Viktor Aksinin was shot dead at the door to his apartment in Nakhodka by unknown assailants on 29 October, RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported. Local prosecutors are treating the murder as a contract hit, and investigators are working now to establish possible motives for the murder. According to gazeta.ru, Aksinin was a staunch opponent of Nakhodka Mayor Viktor Gnezdilov, against whom Aksinin had filed numerous complaints with local prosecutors. However, prosecutors told the website that none of those complaints had ever led to a criminal investigation against Gnezdilov. According to the report, investigators are also looking into Aksinin's interests in the local fishing industry. Ekho Moskvy reported on 29 October that Aksinin also had interests in a company retailing oil products. RC

...AND ANOTHER ONE BLOWN UP
A businessman in Vladivostok is in serious but stable condition after the elevator in his residential building was blown up on 29 October in an apparent murder attempt, gazeta.ru reported. Yurii Safonov, general director of the state enterprise Primgosavtonadzor, suffered head and spinal trauma when the device detonated between the sixth and seventh floors. A criminal probe has been launched. RC

REPORT: THREE MCDONALD'S-BLAST SUSPECTS ARRESTED
Police in Moscow arrested on 27 October three unidentified Chechens in connection with the 19 October explosion outside a McDonald's restaurant that killed one and wounded about a dozen (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2002), Russian news agencies reported. Police declined to confirm the reports officially, although ITAR-TASS cited an unidentified police source as saying they are true. RC

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION MARKS THIRD ANNIVERSARY OF PARLIAMENT SHOOTINGS
Thousands of people attended a rally in Yerevan on 25 October to mark the third anniversary of the shooting of eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament, which they blamed on Armenian President Robert Kocharian, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Albert Bazeyan, chairman of the Hanrapetutiun Party, affirmed that the killings were intended to give Kocharian "unlimited" power and ensure his victory in future elections by removing his possible rivals, Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian and parliament speaker Karen Demirchian. LF

DETAILS OF CHARGES AGAINST ALLEGED ARMENIAN SPY FOR TURKEY DIVULGED
Murad Bojolian, whose trial on charges of espionage for Turkey opened in Yerevan on 24 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2002), was allegedly tasked by his Turkish handlers with determining the location of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) training camps in Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Noyan Tapan reported on 25 October. The Armenian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly rejected as untrue Turkish allegations that such camps exist. LF

THOUSANDS CALL ON AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT TO RESIGN
Azerbaijani opposition parties staged another mass demonstration in Baku on 27 October with the consent of the municipal authorities, Turan reported. Turan estimated the number of participants at "tens of thousands," while ITAR-TASS calculated it at 6,000-8,000. The participants demanded the resignation of President Heidar Aliev; concentration of the country's resources on solving the Karabakh conflict; the annulment of the outcome of the 24 August referendum on constitutional amendments; an amnesty for political prisoners and the return to Azerbaijani of political emigres; the involvement of the UN and the OSCE in preparing for next year's presidential elections; airtime for the opposition on the state-controlled media, and permission to stage opposition demonstrations on Baku's Azadlyg Square; and the trial and sentencing of persons responsible for the use of force against participants in the standoff between police and villagers in Nardaran on 3 June. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITIONIST DROPPED FROM DELEGATION TO VISIT NATO
Ali Kerimli, opposition parliament deputy and chairman of the reformist wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, was excluded at the last minute from a parliamentary delegation that was to travel to Brussels on 27 October to participate in a NATO seminar, zerkalo.az reported on 26 October. LF

WERE TERRORISTS RESPONSIBLE FOR SINKING OF AZERBAIJANI FERRY?
Azerbaijani political analyst Rovshan Novrozoglu believes that both the Azerbaijani ferry "Mercury-2" that sank in the Caspian on 22 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2002) and the Azerbaijani tanker "General Shikhlinskii" damaged by an explosion in the Turkmen port of Turkmenbashi (former Krasnovodsk) three months earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 2002), were targeted by terrorists, according to the Azerbaijani paper "Hurriyet" on 24 October, as cited by Groong. On 25 October, an official from the Caspian Shipping Company that owned the vessel confirmed reports that neither the "Mercury-2" nor any other of the company's 75-strong fleet are insured. Up to 40 of the "Mercury 2"'s passengers and crew are still missing. On 26 October, President Aliev designated 28 October a day of mourning for the victims. LF

CHECHEN REPRESENTATION IN AZERBAIJAN CLOSED DOWN
Russia's Ambassador to Azerbaijan Nikolai Ryabov on 26 October expressed appreciation for the Azerbaijani government's decision the previous day to close the Chechen representation in Baku in the wake of the Moscow hostage taking by Chechen militants, Turan reported. LF

AZERBAIJAN TO RAISE DOMESTIC OIL, GAS PRICES
President Aliev has approved raising domestic prices for oil and natural gas, Interfax quoted Finance Minister Avaz Alekperov as saying on 28 October. The International Monetary Fund had recommended that Azerbaijan double crude-oil prices over a period of six to 12 months from $45.5 to $80-100 per ton; Aliev said in Gyandja last month that he would not do so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2002). LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ACCUSES RUSSIAN MILITARY IN GEORGIA OF SUPPLYING ARMS TO CHECHEN MILITANTS
Eduard Shevardnadze has told a Georgian newspaper that weaponry from the Russian military base at Vaziani, which was closed last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2001), was delivered to Chechen fighters encamped in the Pankisi Gorge, Caucasus Press reported on 28 October. LF

BALTIC SPECIALISTS CONTRIBUTE TO GEORGIA'S PROGRAM FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP
A team of experts from the Baltic states is in Tbilisi to advise Georgia on the drafting of its program for integration into NATO, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported on 25 October. Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze said the plan encompasses measures to ensure that Georgia reaches NATO's military and economic standards. Also on 25 October, Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili told journalists that the process of adapting Georgia's legislation to NATO standards has already begun, Caucasus Press reported. He added that the process may necessitate some amendments to Georgia's constitution. LF

GEORGIAN NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL TO BE REFORMED
Georgian President Shevardnadze chaired a session of the National Security Council on 25 October that discussed and agreed upon reforms that will expand the council's role and functions, Caucasus Press reported on 25 October, quoting council Chairman Tedo Djaparidze. In future, the council will coordinate foreign policy and oversee the Foreign Ministry, and it will also oversee the Energy Ministry with the aim of ensuring Georgia's energy sufficiency. The reform, which will take effect over a three-year period, is to be funded by the United States. LF

GEORGIAN CONSTRUCTION MINISTER DISMISSED
In line with his warning of 23 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2002), President Shevardnadze has fired Merab Chkhenkeli as minister of construction and urban planning, Caucasus Press reported on 28 October. Shevardnadze said Chkhenkeli is "a man of crystal honor and high professionalism," but that he had failed to prevent illegal construction that does not harmonize with Tbilisi's traditional architecture. LF

GEORGIA PURGES POLICE FORCE
Eighty-five police officers have been dismissed so far this year for various violations and criminal proceedings have been opened against 32 of them, including 20 officers, a senior Interior Ministry official told journalists on 29 October, Caucasus Press reported. Over the same time period, a total of 296 human rights violations by police were recorded. On 28 October, Ombudsman Nana Devdariani told Caucasus Press that 97 citizens who incurred injuries at the hands of the police over an unspecified time period have requested medical assistance. LF

UN SAYS SITUATION IN KODORI 'STABLE'
UN officials and Kodori Governor Emzar Kvitsiani told Caucasus Press on 29 and 28 October, respectively, that a joint patrol of the Kodori Gorge conducted between 24-26 October detected no illegal armed groups or munitions dumps. The UN characterized the situation in the gorge as stable and under control. But on 28 October, Abkhaz Vice President Valerii Arshba requested that the Russian peacekeeping force deployed in the Abkhaz conflict zone under the CIS aegis and the UN observers establish a joint observation post in Kodori to prevent Chechen militants descending from the upper, Georgian-controlled sector of the gorge into the lower sector, which is controlled by the Abkhaz, Caucasus Press reported. LF

NEW GEORGIAN OPPOSITION PARTY UNITES SUPPORTERS OF FORMER PRESIDENT
The founding congress of the Union of National Concord and Justice took place in Tbilisi on 28 October, the anniversary of Zviad Gamsakhurdia's election in 1990 as Georgian parliament chairman, Caucasus Press reported. The union is headed by Guram Absandze, who served as finance minister under Gamsakhurdia. Gamsakhurdia's former Prime Minister Nemo Burchuladze is a member of its political council. Absandze was sentenced in August 2001 to 18 years' imprisonment on multiple charges, including involvement in the February 1998 attempt to assassinate Shevardnadze, but that sentence was subsequently reduced for lack of evidence of his role in that assault. Shevardnadze pardoned him in April 2002 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August and 14 November 2001, and 31 January and 22 April 2002). LF

OPPOSITION KAZAKH JOURNALIST DETAINED ON RAPE CHARGE
Police detained independent journalist Sergei Duvanov at his home in Almaty early on 28 October on suspicion of raping a 14-year-old girl, Reuters and forumkz.org reported. Duvanov, who edits a human rights bulletin, said in a statement he lost consciousness after drinking strange-tasting tea prepared by an underage girl who accompanied neighbors who visited his dacha on 27 October to use his banya. AFP on 28 October quoted Evgenii Zhovtis, head of Kazakhstan's International Bureau of Human Rights and the Rule of Law, as condemning the arrest as "a provocation." In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher declined to comment on Duvanov's arrest, saying he lacked sufficient information to do so, but noted a "string of abuses, the pattern of harassment" against the independent media in Kazakhstan. LF

KAZAKH OFFICIAL CONCERNED OVER INFLUX OF CHECHENS
Vladimir Bozhko, the first deputy chairman of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee, told a recent session of the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly's Commission for Defense, Security, and International Cooperation that the number of Chechens entering Kazakhstan has risen sharply, "Vremya novostei" reported on 25 October. In November 1999, Kazakhstan temporarily suspended ferry traffic with Azerbaijan to curb the influx of Chechen refugees (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 30 November 1999). LF

TURKEY, U.S. ASSIST KAZAKH MILITARY
Under a protocol recently signed in Almaty, the Turkish military will provide computer and communications equipment and vehicles worth some $1 million to the Kazakh armed forces, Russian news agencies reported on 28 October. Also on 28 October, Russian news agencies reported that a team of U.S. experts has arrived in Kazakhstan to assess the combat readiness of Kazakhstan's peacekeeping battalion and make recommendations on how much financial assistance it requires. LF

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTY CALLS ON PRESIDENT TO RESIGN
The Asaba party issued a statement in Bishkek on 25 October arguing that during the 12 years he has held power, President Askar Akaev has led Kyrgyzstan into a deep political and economic crisis, and he should therefore step down voluntarily, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF

KYRGYZ HUNGER STRIKER HOSPITALIZED
One of the supporters of jailed former Vice President Feliks Kulov who embarked on a hunger strike on 8 October to demand Kulov's release was hospitalized in Bishkek on 26 October after losing consciousness, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. According to Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan Chairman Tursunbek Akunov, 30 people across Kyrgyzstan are still on hunger strike (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 16 October 2002). LF

POLISH PRESIDENT VISITS KYRGYZSTAN
Visiting Bishkek on 24-25 October, Aleksandr Kwasniewski met with President Akaev to discuss expanding political and economic cooperation, regional security, and combating international terrorism, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Among the economic projects discussed were Polish participation in exploiting coal deposits in Kyrgyzstan and supplies of Polish machinery for Kyrgyzstan's textile industry. Kwasniewski brought quantities of humanitarian aid to Bishkek, including 170,000 doses of anti-malaria drugs. He thanked Akaev publicly for Kyrgyzstan's willingness to host at the international base at Manas airport a Polish military contingent participating in Operation Enduring Freedom. LF

NEW KYRGYZ GENERAL STAFF HEAD APPOINTED
On 24 October, President Akaev named First Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Alik Mamyrkulov head of the Kyrgyz armed forces General Staff, akipress.org reported the following day. Mamyrkulov replaces Kubanychbai Tynaliev, who reportedly resigned of his own volition. On 26 October, Akaev appointed former First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Sadyrbek Dubanaev and Nurdin Chomoev as deputy heads of the newly created State Border Service, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Former Deputy Interior Minister Kalmurat Sadiev was named head of that service on 16 October; his successor at the Interior Ministry is former Bishkek police chief Abdulla Suranchiev. LF

TAJIKISTAN TO RAISE PENSIONS, MINIMUM WAGE
President Imomali Rakhmonov signed a decree on 25 October raising pensions, state sector salaries, student grants, and the minimum wage by 20 percent, effective 1 April 2003, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 28 October. The new minimum wage will be 5 somonis ($1.7). Rakhmonov decreed a similar increase 11 months ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2001). In order to fund next year's increase, Rakhmonov ordered a 5 percent reduction in the staff of national and local government bodies. Asia Plus-Blitz reported in July 2002 that in the southern oblast of Kulyab, workers in the agrarian sector receive on average 15 somonis per month; in the education sector, 17 somonis; in health care, 8 somonis; and in the culture sector, 11 somonis. LF

SIGNING OF TURKMEN-AFGHAN-PAKISTAN PIPELINE AGREEMENT POSTPONED
The signing in Ashgabat, scheduled for 26 October, by the presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan of a framework agreement on building an export pipeline for Turkmen natural gas was postponed at Pakistan's request, Russian news agencies reported on 26 October. Government officials from the three countries initialed the agreement one week earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2002). AP said Islamabad cited as its reason for requesting the postponement the ongoing talks on forming a new cabinet and questions raised by the Asian Development Bank, which had indicated willingness to co-fund the project. In a message to President Niyazov pegged to the 11th anniversary of Turkmenistan's independence, Pakistan's President Parviz Musharraf proposed rescheduling the signing ceremony for a date after 20 December, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 October. LF

OSCE OFFICIAL VISITS UZBEKISTAN
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Rolf Ekeus met in Tashkent on 24 October with Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov and parliament Chairman Erkin Khalilov, uza.uz reported on 25 October. Their talks focused on expanding cooperation between Uzbekistan and the OSCE and on Uzbekistan's achievements in strengthening regional security and safeguarding human rights. LF

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS HEAVILY FINED FOR ANTI-INTEGRATION PICKET
A district court in Minsk has fined Pavel Sevyarynets the equivalent of $900 and Syarhey Markoyts and Alena Lazarchyk some $120 each for staging a picket in Minsk on 23 October to protest Belarusian-Russian integration, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 28 October. "This shows that the Lukashenka regime is not going to change," Sevyarynets said. "As before, it punishes [individuals] for [displaying] the slogans 'No to Union with Russia' and 'Belarus into Europe.'" The picket took place in front of the International Educational Center, where some opposition leaders were participating in a conference on Belarus's possible integration with Russia. Russia's Union of Rightist Forces leader Boris Nemtsov planned to take part in the conference but was prevented from doing so by the KGB (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 29 October 2002). JM

BELARUSIAN GOVERNMENT ORDERS OSCE MISSION'S LAST MEMBER TO LEAVE MINSK
The Foreign Ministry on 28 October notified Alina Josan of Moldova, the last remaining international member of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group (AMG) in Belarus, that her diplomatic accreditation has expired, Belapan reported. "The Belarusian authorities have kindly given me 36 hours for preparations [to leave the country]," she told the news agency the same day. Belarusian authorities have "phased out" other international members of the AMG by denying visa extensions to them. Josan said the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna is to decide on further activities of the AMG. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY PROPOSES FOUR CANDIDATES FOR PREMIER
Ukraine's fragile parliamentary majority has proposed four candidates for the post of prime minister and submitted their names to President Leonid Kuchma to select one for parliamentary approval, UNIAN reported on 25 October. According to the news agency, the European Choice caucus proposed State Tax Administration chief Mykola Azarov, the Ukraine's Regions caucus proffered Donetsk Oblast Governor Viktor Yanukovych, the People's Choice caucus put forward First Deputy Prime Minister Oleh Dubyna, and the Labor Ukraine-Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs caucus jointly with the Social Democratic Party-united caucus advanced current Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh. Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn told journalists on 28 October that "the fate of the government is to be decided" by 19 November, when the parliament resumes its session. JM

UKRAINIAN NEWS AGENCY HEAD IS REPORTED MISSING
The news agency Ukrayinski novyny (Ukrainian News) on 28 October stated that its director, Mykhaylo Kolomiyets, has been missing since 21 October, Ukrainian media reported. "Reporters of the agency are very concerned over the fate of Kolomiyets. They fear that the incident could be the result of the agency's policy of providing independent information," Ukrayinski novyny said in a statement. The agency on 25 October reportedly notified the police of Kolomiyets's disappearance. JM

CHAIRMAN OF ESTONIA'S RIGHT-WING PRO PATRIA UNION RESIGNS
Former Prime Minister Mart Laar resigned as chairman of the Pro Patria Union during an extended meeting of the party's governing board in Tallinn on 26 October, citing poor results in the 5 October local elections, ETA reported. Laar said he will remain in politics and seek a seat in the March parliamentary elections. Parliament Deputy Chairman Tunne Kelam will serve as acting chairman until a party general assembly in November or December elects a new leader. SG

COALITIONS FORMED IN ESTONIAN CITIES
Center Party Chairman Edgar Savisaar and Tallinn Deputy Mayor Rein Lang from the Reform Party signed a coalition agreement in Tallinn on 25 October, BNS reported. It appears likely that Savisaar will continue as Tallinn mayor and Maret Maripuu of the Reform Party will lead the City Council. The two parties signed a similar coalition in Tartu that day in which the roles were reversed, as Andrus Ansip from the Reform Party will remain mayor and the Center Party's Aadu Must will stay on as City Council chairman. In Parnu, although the Reform and Center Parties won 17 of the 33 seats, they are considering expanding the coalition by including the Pro Patria Union's five deputies. SG

AMBASSADOR TO FRANCE, UNESCO TABBED FOR LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER'S POST
New Time Chairman Einars Repse announced on 26 October that his party will nominate Ambassador to France and UNESCO Sandra Kalniete for the post of foreign minister, BNS reported. He said Kalniete, who does not belong to any political party, was chosen because the approaching conclusion of EU and NATO membership talks requires that an experienced diplomat be named to the post. The other likely members of the envisaged coalition, the Union of Greens and Farmers, Latvia's First Party (LPP) and For the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK expressed agreement with the selection. SG

DANISH MILITARY COMMANDER VISITS LITHUANIA
The commander of Denmark's armed forces, General Jesper Helso, held talks in Vilnius on 28 October with Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius and his Lithuanian counterpart Major General Jonas Kronkaitis, ELTA reported. Linkevicius said Denmark provided crucial support for the development of the Lithuanian armed forces by launching a joint project in 1994 in which Lithuanian peacekeepers participated in a mission in Croatia as part of a Danish battalion. They also discussed the planned reorganization of international peacekeeping forces in the Balkans, which would shift the Danish battalion with servicemen from the three Baltic states from Bosnia-Herzegovina to the Kosova province in Serbia. Helso will also visit the Grand Duke Algirdas Motorized Infantry Battalion and the Lithuanian War Academy before returning to Denmark on 29 October. SG

POLAND HOLDS LOCAL ELECTIONS, NEEDS RUNOFF IN MOST CITIES
According to estimates by the State Election Commission, no more than 37 percent of Polish voters took part in local elections on 27 October, PAP reported on 28 October. "It is still a long way to building a civil society," commented President Aleksander Kwasniewski, who was disappointed by the turnout. Poles had to choose nearly 47,000 councilors at the communal, district, and provincial levels, as well as some 2,500 communal (gmina) leaders and mayors. The voting marked the first time in postcommunist Poland that local administrators were elected by direct vote. Preliminary results show that a second round on 10 November will be necessary in most major cities, as none of their mayoral candidates won more than 50 percent of the vote. Mayors were reportedly elected in the first round in Katowice, Gdynia, Opole, and Gorzow Wielkopolski. Official election results are expected later this week. JM

POLISH PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER SURVIVES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE
The Sejm on 28 October voted 286-105, with five abstentions, to reject a no-confidence motion in its speaker, Marek Borowski (Democratic Left Alliance), Polish media reported. The motion was opposed by the Democratic Left Alliance-Labor Union coalition, the Peasant Party, and the opposition Civic Platform, and backed by the opposition Law and Justice, Self-Defense, and League of Polish Families (LPR). The motion was filed by the LPR. The LPR charged Borowski with violating parliamentary regulations by ordering Sejm guards to remove LPR lawmaker Gabriel Janowski from the session hall when he staged a sit-in to protest the sale of a state-owned energy company (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 October 2002). JM

CZECHS VIRTUALLY IGNORE SENATE ELECTIONS...
Only 24.1 percent of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot on 25-26 October in the first round of Senate elections in which one-third of the upper house's 81 seats are being contested, CTK and international news agencies reported. Only one seat was decided outright, as the controversial director of TV Nova and independent candidate Vladimir Zelezny won election in the Znojmo district of South Moravia. It is still unclear how parliamentary immunity will affect outstanding legal issues concerning Zelezny, who is being prosecuted for tax evasion and is entangled in several lawsuits with foreign firms. The remaining 26 Senate seats will be decided in two-way runoffs to be held on 1-2 November. The opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) appears better placed for the second round than the parties of the governing coalition, whose majority in the Senate is a slim one seat. CTK said ODS is likely to win in six of the runoffs, while the governing Social Democratic Party (CSSD) is likely to win in four constituencies. CSSD's coalition partners, the Christian Democratic Union-People's Party (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU) are favorites in two and one race, respectively, while the opposition Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) is likely to win in one district. The fate of the other races is unclear, according to CTK. MS

...PROMPTING COALITION PARTNERS TO AGREE ON MUTUAL SUPPORT
Following the announcement of first-round, Senate-election results, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said that, "in principle," an agreement has been reached with the leaders of the KDU-CSL and of the US-DEU to mutually support each other's best-placed candidates in the runoffs, CTK reported on 27 October. Spidla said the agreement is "natural," but its details have yet to be worked out. In effect, he thus rejected a move by the KSCM, which called on voters to support left-wing candidates in the second round and said the CSSD should issue a similar appeal. MS

CZECH PREMIER SAYS EU COMPROMISE AGREEMENT IS JUST 'BASIS FOR NEGOTIATION'
Premier Spidla said in Copenhagen on 28 October that he welcomes the compromise reached on 25 October by the current EU members on the expansion of the organization, CTK reported. But he stressed that the EU proposal is just a good basis for further negotiations, and not a closed issue, the news agency added. Under the compromise over farm subsidies, there will be a phase-in of the subsidies after the 2004 enlargement and a freeze on them as of 2007, dpa reported. Spidla said the Czech Republic belongs to what he called the "harder-core" candidates, unlike the majority of countries that wish to join the organization. He reiterated that Prague intends to negotiate conditions that would place Czech farmers in an "incomparably better" position than would be the case if the country did not join the union. MS

CZECH PRESIDENT ADDRESSES NATION ON STATE HOLIDAY
Addressing his countrymen on the anniversary of the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918, President Vaclav Havel said on 28 October that he is "proud" of the reputation his country has earned in the postcommunist "era of freedom," CTK reported. Havel, speaking at a Prague Castle ceremony at which he decorated 77 individuals with state medals, said he is proud of "those of my fellow citizens who in the past opposed the totalitarian regimes" as well as of those whose accomplishments in various areas of arts and sciences "enrich our common existence and increase our country's reputation in the world." Havel also emphasized the importance of the NATO summit, scheduled in Prague on 21-22 November. Many of those Havel awarded are former dissidents. Havel, suffering from another bout of chronic bronchitis, was forced to cancel other official duties earlier in the day. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER APPLAUDS OFFICIAL EU ANNOUNCEMENT ON ENLARGEMENT
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda on 25 October said the official EU announcement that 10 candidate members, Slovakia among them, are to be included in 2004 enlargement is "a joy," even though the decision was expected following the European Commission's country-performance report, TASR reported. Dzurinda said he expects Slovakia to close the two remaining chapters in EU negotiations this year and to sign the agreement on accession by 16 April. Chief Slovak negotiator with the EU Jan Figel said his country welcomes the compromise-agreement reached on agricultural subsidies (see above) but added that there are "both positive and negative sides" to that agreement. The negative aspects, he said, pertain to the reduction by $2 billion of funds allocated to the protection of new members against the negative aspects of accession on their economies. On 28 October, Slovakia and the EU reached an agreement stipulating that in the first three years of membership in the organization, Bratislava is to contribute $880 million to the EU budget and to receive up to $1.6 billion in funds allocated for regional development and agriculture. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT RECEIVED BY POPE
President Rudolf Schuster, paying a visit to Italy, was received on 28 October at the Vatican by Pope John Paul II, TASR reported. Schuster thanked the pope for the beatification last year of Slovak Bishops Pavol Peter Gojic and Dominik Trcka. Schuster said after the audience that he assured the pontiff that Slovakia will safeguard its specific character after joining the EU. In the 2001 census, 69 percent of Slovaks declared their faith to be Roman Catholic. He also invited the pope to visit Slovakia. MS

FORMER SLOVAK INTELLIGENCE SERVICE CHIEF TO BE PROSECUTED AT LARGE
An enlarged forum of judges at a Bratislava regional court on 28 October rejected an appeal by the prosecution aimed at detention during trial for former Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) chief Ivan Lexa, TASR reported. The court said there was insufficient evidence to prove that Lexa might attempt to flee Slovakia while on trial. The former SIS chief is charged with abuse of office, fraud, and sabotage during his tenure as SIS head in 1994-98. He was extradited to Slovakia from South Africa in July following two years as a fugitive from the law. MS

HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS DROP PROPOSAL ON CONTROVERSIAL EU REFERENDUM DATE
The Justice Ministry's proposed constitutional amendment no longer includes a date for a referendum on Hungary's EU accession, as neither the opposition FIDESZ and Democratic Forum nor the coalition Free Democrats agreed with the 15 March date -- a national holiday -- favored by the senior coalition Socialist Party (MSZP), Hungarian media reported on 26 October. The new version, drawn up after four-party consultations, stipulates that parliament will determine the date of the referendum. Opposition parties are unlikely to support that tack, however, because it allows the governing parties to set the date for a referendum with a simple majority, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. MSZ

HUNGARIAN LEADERS REACT TO EU ENLARGEMENT 'BREAKTHROUGH'
Speaking to reporters in Copenhagen, where leaders of EU candidate countries were briefed on last week's EU summit, Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy on 28 October pledged that Hungary will take a firm negotiating stand to achieve equal treatment in the allocation of EU agricultural and regional development subsidies, Hungarian media reported. Medgyessy said he finds it reassuring that EU leaders declared they not only expect concessions from the candidates but will themselves be flexible negotiating partners. Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs, who accompanied Medgyessy, said, "The good news is that there is no bad news, and the enlargement process is going ahead." However, Kovacs added, "The bad news is that there is no good news: The financial conditions are just as stone-hearted as before." MSZ

HUNGARIAN DEMOCRATIC FORUM VOWS TO SAFEGUARD INDEPENDENCE
The national council of the opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) on 26 October declared that the party is independent and will not subordinate itself to the interests of any other political party, Budapest dailies reported on 28 October. The council's statement came one day after former Prime Minister Viktor Orban, discussing the possibility of uniting Hungary's conservative parties, told Hungarian radio that FIDESZ's goal is to establish a center-right party that can guarantee voters that their ballots will not be wasted. MDF spokesman Karoly Herenyi said his party is committed to the idea that Hungary must have a moderate, right-wing government after the next elections. Party Chairwoman Ibolya David said the MDF welcomes those proposals that envisage election victory in "proper partnership cooperation among [right-wing] parties," "Nepszabadsag" reported. However, in reply to a question on an umbrella party, David said, "How FIDESZ renames itself is its own internal affair," the daily reported. MSZ

HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW AMENDMENTS IN THE OFFING
A Hungarian intergovernmental working group is recommending mostly technical but also some substantial changes to the country's Status Law, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 29 October. When proposing the changes, the group has taken into account comments made by the Council of Europe's Venice Commission and by the OSCE, as well as objections leveled by neighboring Romania and Slovakia. Regarding education benefits to ethnic Hungarians abroad, the proposal would considerably expand the number of those eligible for educational support. Institutions rather than people would be granted educational subsidies. The chapter on employment would be removed from the law. Instead, general laws pertaining to the employment of foreigners in Hungary would prevail unless an international treaty stipulates otherwise. In line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission, the issue of Hungarian certificates would be also modified. MSZ

TOP BOSNIAN SERB DEFENSE OFFICIALS OUSTED OVER IRAQ ARMS SCANDAL...
The Supreme Defense Council of the Republika Srpska announced in Banja Luka on 28 October that Defense Minister Slobodan Bilic and General Novica Simic, who heads the General Staff, have resigned in conjunction with the scandal over the recent sale of military equipment to Iraq, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline" and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 October 2002). Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic said he hopes the resignations will help prevent any "negative consequences" -- meaning sanctions -- as a result of the arms sales by the Bijeljina-based Orao company. A statement from the Republika Srpska president's office said Bilic and Simic are not "directly responsible" for the affair but that their replacement "will contribute to repairing the international position of Republika Srpska and Bosnia-Herzegovina," AP reported. PM

...AS YUGOSLAV GOVENMENT ADMITS VIOLATION OF SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAQ...
In Belgrade on 28 October, President Vojislav Kostunica chaired a meeting of the Yugoslav government that concluded that the Yugoimport-SDPR company violated the UN arms embargo against Iraq, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Present were Prime Minister Dragisa Pesic, Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus, Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic, Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic, and Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic, who is also chairman of Yugoimport's board of directors. Those present at the meeting called for the formation of a commission to look into Yugoslav arms sales abroad. It is not clear what further information Belgrade's investigators might have discovered about the affair so far, AP noted. Belgrade's official line has been that any arms sales have involved only repairing out-of-date aircraft. PM

...AND WASHINGTON EXPECTS MORE...
In Washington, D.C., on 28 October, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher hailed recent personnel changes in Belgrade and Banja Luka but said the United States expects more to be done as a result of the arms sales, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Boucher repeated Washington's assertion that it has "firm evidence" that Orao and Yugoimport violated the sanctions. He did not, however, answer a question regarding recent media reports that Serbia has exported fuel and materials for the manufacture of missiles to Iraq. In Sarajevo, U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia Clifford Bond said on 25 October that the personnel changes are not enough and that investigations must continue, Hina reported. The United States maintains that the involvement of Orao in arms sales to Iraq constitutes not only a violation of the UN sanctions against Baghdad but also of the Dayton peace agreement. PM

...AND ASHDOWN SEES A 'REGIONAL' DIMENSION...
Paddy Ashdown, the international community's high representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 28 October that he wants a thorough investigation into the Orao affair, which will involve Bosnian central authorities as well as those from the Republika Srpska, AP reported. He added, "We do not know the extent of this matter, but my guess is it is going to be very wide-ranging. It's going to be regional, and it's going to extend into areas which will surprise us." Ashdown did not elaborate. PM

...WHILE BOSNIA BANS WEAPONS TRADE
Bosnian authorities have banned the import and export of military weapons and equipment, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Sarajevo on 29 October. Any such trading after 20 October will be considered illegal because no official permits have been issued since that date. PM

HAVE SERBS HELPED IRAQ DEVELOP A CRUISE MISSILE...
The "Washington Post" reported on 28 October that: "Yugoslav defense companies have been working for two years on the development of a cruise missile for Iraq, according to a document delivered by U.S. diplomats to Yugoslav government officials this month. The allegations were made in a 'non-paper,' or aide-memoire, accompanied by a stern letter to the country's top officials from the U.S. ambassador in Belgrade. The letter asked Yugoslavia to end its breach of the U.N. arms embargo on Iraq, according to a senior Yugoslav official who has knowledge of the U.S. document." The daily added that unnamed "sources within the Yugoslav government said the evidence presented by the [United States]...suggested Yugoslav firms had been working to update Iraq's military arsenal and equip Iraq with a weapon that could accurately target neighboring states. In February 2000, the U.S. document alleges, Yugoimport concluded a contract with a company called Al Fatah for the development of a cruise missile. Until now, Iraq has had access only to ballistic missiles, which are more difficult to control." PM

...AND PROVIDE IT WITH EXPLOSIVES?
Croatian police have found 200 tons of explosives on the Montenegrin-owned ship "Boka Star" in Rijeka harbor, dpa reported from Zagreb on 28 October. Police are investigating the nature of the explosives, which were packed into 14 containers, all of which were labeled as being something other than explosives. The ship's documents do not list explosives. The "Washington Post" reported that, "Police will try to determine whether the powder could be used in Iraq's weapons program." It is not clear whether there is a link between the explosives and the reports about the development of a cruise missile. The owner of the "Boka Star" is a Montenegrin citizen, Marko Balic. PM

PRESIDENT'S PARTY LEADS IN KOSOVA VOTE...
Officials of the OSCE said in Prishtina on 29 October that 54 percent, or 713,000, of the 1.32 million eligible voters cast their ballots in the 26 October local elections, Hina reported. With 87 percent of the votes counted, President Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) is ahead in 19 of 30 municipalities. Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) leads in seven municipalities, while Ramush Haradinaj's smaller Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK) is ahead in an unspecified number of municipalities but will not have an absolute majority. Serbian parties appear to have won in three northern municipalities and one southern one. Final results are expected by 1 November. PM

...WHICH WAS MARRED BY A LOW TURNOUT...
Dpa reported from Prishtina on 28 October that Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), has postponed plans for a meeting on 1 November to discuss his local self-government plan aimed at giving the Serbian minority a degree of autonomy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2002). He reportedly dropped plans for the meeting because of the low turnout among Serbian voters, which was not higher than 20 percent. Steiner previously told the Serbs that they must vote if they want a say in the running of Kosova. Many Serbs did not vote because they are angry over the low rate of refugee returns and their poor security situation, AP reported. Some have difficulty accepting their status as a minority in a province whose political life is dominated by Albanians (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 August 2002). For their part, many Albanians did not vote because they are disappointed by the political parties' failure to improve the economy. PM

...AND A SHOOTING DEATH
Unnamed political rivals shot Mayor Uke Bytyqi of Suhareka and two of his bodyguards on 27 October as he was trying to calm a dispute between some supporters of his LDK and some of their political opponents, international and regional media reported. Police have detained two suspects and are investigating. Hundreds of people protested the murder. President Rugova declared 28 October a day of mourning throughout Kosova, saying the assassination was "directed against the freedom and independence of Kosova." Suhareka Deputy Mayor Vitor Markaj told Reuters the killing was "well planned and organized." Ethnically based killings are on the decrease in Kosova, but "inter-Albanian political bloodshed and other violent crime persists, defying international efforts" to put an end to it, AP reported. PM

NEW BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY TAKES OFFICE
Sulejman Tihic of the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Dragan Covic of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), and Mirko Sarovic of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) were inaugurated in their new posts in the country's three-member presidency in Sarajevo on 28 October, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. PM

INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS MONITOR MACEDONIAN CENSUS
Forty-four international observers from the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the EU arrived in Skopje on 28 October, RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters reported. The observers -- statisticians and demographic specialists -- will monitor the counting and tabulation processes during the census that will start on 1 November. They will stay until the end of the month. Army conscripts, hospitalized persons, and inmates of correctional facilities were counted at the beginning of October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 April 2001). UB

MAYORS OF MACEDONIAN, SERBIAN, AND BULGARIAN CITIES SET UP EUROREGION
Skopje Mayor Risto Penov and his counterparts from Sofia and the southern Serbian town of Nis, Stefan Sofiyanski and Goran Ciric, respectively, signed the founding protocol for a new Euroregion in Skopje on 26 October, MIA news agency reported. The Euroregion is to unite the border regions of Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Serbia. In his address, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski said, "The founding of regions of trans-border cooperation...contributes to the development of democracy, the resolution of problems, the improvement of human rights, and the [growth of the] rule of law." Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic -- a former mayor of Nis -- proposed to dub the new Euroregion "Central Balkans" or "Balkan Soul." UB

ROMANIAN LEADERS WELCOME EU ENLARGEMENT DECISION
President Ion Iliescu and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 25 October welcomed the European Union's official decision to admit 10 new members, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The two leaders emphasized the importance of the EU's announcement that it considers 2007 the "target date" for Romania and Bulgaria to join the union. They also welcomed the EU's declaration that its expansion is "irreversible" and that it intends to provide funds help the two countries achieve their accession objectives by 2007. In an official press release, the government on 26 October called on the EU to establish 1 January 2007 as the accession date. Nastase and Iliescu attended a summit meeting of current and candidate EU states in Copenhagen on 28 October. MS

CRISIS IN ROMANIAN CNSAS INTENSIFIES
On 28 October, two groups in the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) accused each other of impeding the council's activity, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The group led by CNSAS Chairman Gheorghe Onisoru and his deputy Mihai Gheorghe, which is considered to be close to the ruling Social Democratic Party, told journalists that the rival group -- particularly former Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu, former anti-Ceausescu dissident poet Mircea Dinescu, and essayist Horia Roman Patapievici -- are "creating tensions" by pursuing "chimerical solutions" in their quest to unmask all who worked with the former "political police." The Onisoru-led group -- a minority within the CNSAS -- said it seeks to inform the parliament about the situation that has developed and to prompt it to intervene. CNSAS members are appointed by the legislature. The rival group, which comprises six CNSAS members, said Onisoru, Gheorghe, and three others have boycotted CNSAS meetings ever since the initiative to publicize the names of former Securitate members was launched. The group also claimed that Onisoru and his deputy boycott the CNSAS meetings to avoid being dismissed by the majority. Chamber of Deputies speaker Valer Dorneanu, who met with Onisoru, said the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate judicial commissions will examine the situation. MS

ROMANIAN ANTIFRAUD DIRECTOR CAUGHT RED-HANDED
Florica Dinculescu, the director of the Ministry of Agriculture Control and Antifraud Department, was detained on 25 October on bribery charges, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. She is suspected of receiving a $190,000 bribe from two Italian citizens to facilitate their bid to purchase state farms below market value. If convicted, Dinculescu faces up to 10 years in prison. In other news, the ministry's disciplinary commission on 28 October dismissed Stefan Mitrache, who oversaw EU-allocated funds intended for the modernization of the country's agriculture industry. The commission said Mitrache created a "conflict-of-interests situation" through his association with four companies that offered consultancy for obtaining EU-allocated funds. MS

ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER IN ROMANIA
In Bucharest on 28 October, Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian met with his Romanian counterpart Ioan Mircea Pascu to discuss bilateral relations and the situation in the Balkans, the Black Sea region, and the Caucasus, Mediafax reported. Pascu said after the meeting that they also discussed preparations for a 2003 Partnership for Peace exercise that is to be held for the first time in Armenia, and the possibility of Romanian forces taking part in it. Sarkisian said bilateral military and economic cooperation, particularly in the transportation sphere, was also discussed. He said that "military cooperation with NATO" is an integral part of Armenia's national-security policy and that this cooperation must not be viewed as negatively affecting "cooperation with Russia or the military system of which we are a member." He also said Armenia "can learn from Romania how to restructure its military forces," since both countries' armed forces had been based on Soviet military standards. Sarkisian is also to meet with Premier Nastase, Senate speaker Nicolae Vacaroiu, and other officials. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN MONARCH PLEADS ROMANIA'S CAUSE IN LONDON
Former King Michael I said during a lecture at the Royal United Services Institute of Defence Studies on 28 October that Romania joining NATO is important not only for the country's security and the security of the region as a whole, but also for the security of the rest of the continent, Romanian Radio reported the next day. The former monarch and Prince Radu von Hohenzollern-Veringen, who was recently appointed special government representative to oversee Euro-Atlantic integration, are scheduled to meet on 29 October with British officials to plead Romania's case for EU and NATO integration. On 30 October, King Michael and Prince Radu will be received at Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth II. MS

ROMANIAN, MOLDOVAN LIBERALS SIGN POLITICAL-PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT
In Chisinau on 25 October, leaders of the Liberal Party of Moldova (PLM) and the National Liberal Party (PNL) of Romania signed a "political-partnership agreement," Romanian Radio and Infotag reported. Under the agreement, local branches of the two formations will "exchange experience" on political issues and the PNL will back the PLM in its effort to establish relations with liberal parties in Europe and to gain membership of Liberal International and in the European Liberal Party. In related news, retired General Vyacheslav Untila was elected on 28 October as PLM chairman in a primary in which all PLM members were eligible to vote. This is the first time that a Moldovan party leader has been selected in a primary, rather than by the party's leading structures. Untila was backed by 1,500 PLM members, while his competitors -- former parliamentary deputy Sergiu Mocanu and Chisinau municipal council member Vladimir Braga -- received 1,227 and 240 votes, respectively. The PLM was established in March 2002 through the merger of the Party of Revival and Accord, the "Forta Moldovei" Social Liberal Union (whose leader was Untila), and the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES 2003 BUDGET
The parliament on 25 October approved both readings of the 2003 budget bill submitted by the government, Infotag reported. The bill was backed by the 68 deputies representing the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists and by three independent lawmakers and was opposed by 20 deputies representing the Braghis Alliance and the Popular Party Christian Democratic. The budget envisages revenues of 5,564 million lei (some $406 million) and expenditures of 5,765 million lei. It forecasts a 6 percent rise in GDP compared to 2002. MS

RUSSIA, SEPARATISTS REINFORCE MUNITIONS-WITHDRAWAL AGREEMENT
In Tiraspol on 25 October, a Russian delegation headed by Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Isakov signed a new agreement on the withdrawal of the Russian military arsenal from the separatist region, Infotag and ITAR-TASS reported. The agreement restates the provisions of a similar document signed in Tiraspol on 26 September that wrote off $100 million from the debt Tiraspol owes Gazprom for gas deliveries. As a result of that agreement, a train of 24 cars was allowed to leave the region on 4 October, but the evacuation was later stopped again. Transdniester Foreign Minister Valerii Litskay told journalists that the former agreement "looked beautiful on paper" but encountered some "technical problems" in its implementation. He said those problems have been clarified and that the new agreement covers all details, including train-departure schedules. MS

BULGARIAN ENVIRONMENT MINISTER THREATENS TO SHUT DOWN STEEL FACTORY
Environment Minister Dolores Arsenova said on 28 October that the government will shut down the Kremikovtsi steel mill outside Sofia should the factory continue fail to meet its commitments to protect the environment, mediapool.bg reported. A recent inspection carried out by the Environment Ministry showed that the plant's emissions of dust, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide are above the acceptable norms. The ministry fined the steel plant in June for exceeding its emissions limits. UB

BULGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL COUNSELOR DEMANDS CRISIS-MANAGEMENT LAW
Presidential National Security Counselor Nikolay Slatinski urged the government on 28 October to draft a new law on crisis management, mediapool.bg reported. "The global security situation has changed, and we need to adapt our national security system to it -- [our system] has to respond more effectively...to the modern challenges," Slatinski said. He also demanded that state-security institutions improve coordination. Although the government committed itself to drafting a new crisis-management law prior to the 21-22 November NATO summit, it has not put the law on its agenda. At present, 35 laws and more than 1,000 legal acts regulate crisis management in Bulgaria, according to an unnamed legislator of the ruling coalition. UB

EMPLOYEES PROTEST IN BULGARIA OVER PLANS TO LIQUIDATE BALKAN AIRLINES
Employees of Bulgaria's formerly state-owned Balkan Airlines staged protests in front of the parliament building on 28 October, bnn news agency reported. According to Balkan Airlines spokesman Victor Melamed, some of the company's creditors plan to take over the company and to continue operating it under the terms of insolvency. The protesters demanded that the creditors delay a scheduled meeting that would decide on the issue. The Sofia City Court placed the airline under receivership in 2001 after four creditors filed bankruptcy suits against the company. The Israel-based Zeevi Group, which purchased the company in 1999, has filed suit at the International Court of Arbitration in Paris, claiming the Bulgarian government breached the privatization contract. UB

There is no End Note today.


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