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Newsline - October 31, 2002


RUSSIA ISSUES WARRANT FOR CHECHEN PRESIDENT...
Deputy Prosecutor-General Sergei Fridinskii said on 31 October that an international arrest warrant for Aslan Maskhadov has been issued, Interfax reported. Arrest warrants have also been issued for Kazbek Makhashev and Khozh-Akhmet Nukhaev, both of whom are members of Maskhadov's government. Fridinskii also said that Russia will demand the extradition of former acting Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev from Qatar. Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said on 31 October that the Kremlin wants to "wipe out" all members of Maskhadov's leadership, Russian news agencies reported. VY/RC

...AND WEBSITE WONDERS WHO ISSUED ZAKAEV'S PASSPORT...
Russia should ask Denmark to determine what kind of travel documents Chechen Vice Premier Akhmed Zakaev was using prior to his arrest in Copenhagen on 30 October, strana.ru wrote the same day. An unidentified Russian security official looking into the matter told the website there is a thriving black market for passports in Moscow for anyone who has problems getting one through official channels. Such documents cost from $50 to $2,000, and the classified-advertising sections of Russian newspapers are full of advertisements for such services. Therefore, the website concluded, before making claims on foreign states, Russia should look into its domestic situation and "stop the practice of members of illegal Chechen armed formations traveling abroad on Russian passports." VY

...AS POLITICIANS DEMAND ZAKAEV'S EXTRADITION
First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin, Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin, and Russian Security Council Deputy Secretary Valentin Sobolev all argued on 30 October that Denmark should extradite President Maskhadov's personal envoy Zakaev, who was arrested in Copenhagen earlier that day, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2002). The Prosecutor-General's Office has submitted a formal extradition request. LF

FSB PUBLICIZES DETAILS OF HOSTAGE TAKING...
Speaking at a news conference in Moscow on 31 October, Federal Security Service (FSB) Deputy Chairman Vladimir Yeremin said the Chechen fighters who took over a Moscow theater on 23 October had more than 30 explosive devices with them that were "of the highest professional construction," ORT reported. The hostage takers set up two 150 millimeter artillery shells packed inside containers of ball bearings in the center of the theater hall. If the terrorists had managed to detonate those explosives, they would have destroyed the entire building and killed everyone inside as well as a large number of the security troops surrounding the theater, Yeremin said. At the same news briefing, Interior Ministry Migration Service Director Andrei Chernenko said his agency has arrested 40 people suspected of providing assistance to the hostage takers. Moscow Oblast Governor Boris Gromov said that, according to his information, some of the fighters worked for months at a construction site adjacent to the theater and they used the site to accumulate and store explosives and weapons, polit.ru reported on 29 October. VY

...AND HEALTH MINISTER DENIES NEGLIGENCE IN TREATING FORMER HOSTAGES
Speaking to reporters in Moscow on 30 October, Yurii Shevchenko said the gas used during the 26 October storming of the Moscow theater where Chechen fighters were holding more than 800 hostages was an opiate derivative based on fentanyl, mednovosti.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. Shevchenko did not provide the precise name of the gas. The minister denied accusations that his ministry was negligent and failed to coordinate its activities with those of the security forces in order to provide prompt and effective treatment to the former hostages. He said he had been warned in advance about the impending use of the anesthetic, and the Health Ministry had prepared 1,000 doses of antidote. Nonetheless, the high number of casualties stemmed from the poor condition of the oxygen-starved former hostages after more than 50 hours of stressful captivity with extremely limited food, water, and movement. German doctors in Munich alleged after conducting blood tests on one former hostage that the gas was halothane, RIA-Novosti reported, citing Munich coroner Professor Ludwig von Meyer. VY

YAVLINSKII CRITICIZES FAILURES OF SECURITY SYSTEM...
Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii released a written statement on 30 October charging that the penetration of a large detachment of heavily armed Chechen fighters into the capital was a serious failure for the security services and the law enforcement system, regions.ru reported on 30 October. Yavlinskii alleged that the main cause of this failure is corruption within the ranks of the security community and that it is impossible to guarantee the security of Russian citizens without rooting out corruption. He also said the hostage taking again demonstrated the necessity of reaching a political settlement to the conflict in Chechnya and called for "an end to the harassment and to the unending physical violence that is essentially a cruel war aimed at the destruction of an entire nation." VY

...WHILE COMMUNIST DEFENDS PUTIN, BLAMES OLIGARCHS
Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, visiting Italy on 30 October, told "La Stampa" that the hostage taking represented a failure of Russian intelligence, but also charged that certain oligarchs are interested in destabilizing the country in order to expand their control over its natural resources, regions.ru reported. He said police should look for the main instigators of the incident in Moscow. "During the last couple of weeks, a governor was killed, a car bomb exploded, three helicopters crashed, and 800 hostages were taken in downtown Moscow," Zyuganov noted. He described these incidents as part of a strategy to destabilize Russia by weakening President Vladimir Putin and strengthening the positions of the oligarchs and the so-called Family from the era of former President Boris Yeltsin. VY

ALLEGED CHECHEN FIGHTER ARRESTED IN MOSCOW WITH EIGHT KILOS OF MERCURY
Fillip Zolotnitskii, a spokesman for the Moscow Interior Ministry's Economic Crimes Department, said on 31 October that his agency has arrested an alleged member of Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev's group and confiscated from him eight kilograms of poisonous mercury, newsru.com reported. Zolotnitskii identified the suspect as Sergei Krymgerei, a Tatar who fought with Basaev in Abkhazia in 1991-92, and alleged that Krymgerei intended to sell the mercury. The arrest took place "several days ago," and Krymgerei has refused to answer questions. VY

OLIGARCHS UNION, GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE AID TO FORMER HOSTAGES AND THEIR FAMILIES
The Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) will donate 30 million rubles ($1 million) to the victims of the 23-26 October hostage crisis in Moscow, RosBalt reported on 30 October. RSPP President Arkadii Volskii called on the Russian business community to join in the effort to provide aid. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said at a cabinet meeting on 31 October that the federal government and the Moscow municipal government are preparing a package of "psychological, material, and social" support for victims of the hostage taking and their families, strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. "Such measures are the government's debt to those who died," Kasyanov said. RC

RUSSIA ACCUSES TURKEY OF BIASED COVERAGE OF CHECHNYA
Russian Ambassador to Turkey Aleksandr Lebedev handed an official note of protest to the Turkish government on 30 October charging local media with biased coverage of developments in Chechnya, RIA-Novosti reported on 30 October. "Turkish newspapers and television have one standard for covering the fight against terrorism in Russia and another for covering it in Turkey," the note charges. It also said that the Turkish press covers "atrocities committed by Russian troops, but does not mention that Chechen fighters and Arab bandits have decapitated captured hostages." Moscow has also asked Turkey to close the mission representing Chechen President Maskhadov in Istanbul, Ekho Moskvy reported on 30 October. Russia has sent similar requests to Estonia and several other countries, AFP reported the same day. VY

DUMA SPEAKER LASHES OUT AT MEDIA'S HOSTAGE COVERAGE
Speaking to reporters in Rostov-na-Donu on 30 October, Gennadii Seleznev criticized Russian television for showing the actions of security forces during the 23-26 October Moscow hostage crisis, ITAR-TASS reported. "It is bad when they show the specific methods of fighting with terrorists," Seleznev said. "I did not like many things in the coverage. There are limits that the mass media should not transgress." Meanwhile, polit.ru reported on 30 October that Duma Information Policy Committee Chairman Konstantin Vetrov (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) had called for the creation of a Duma commission to study the media's performance during the crisis. Vetrov also expressed concern that several television channels are currently preparing programs about the crisis that will reflect badly on the government. RC

SOME JOURNALISTS EMBRACE CALL FOR MEDIA-ETHICS CODE
"Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 31 October published a lengthy transcript of remarks by journalists, state officials, and media experts who attended a 29 October roundtable to discuss the lessons of the recent hostage crisis. Speaking at that roundtable, presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii urged journalists to develop an unwritten code of conduct for crisis situations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2002). "Izvestiya" television critic Irina Petrovskaya similarly cited the "completely obvious" need to work out rules for covering extraordinary situations, but she emphasized that such a system should be self-imposed by journalists, not enforced by censors. The Union of Journalists has long promoted a general "journalist's code of ethics." Various documents containing recommendations for journalists working in "hot spots" or covering wars have been published in Russia as well (see the website of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, www.cjes.ru). LB

RUSSIA-EU SUMMIT RELOCATED TO BRUSSELS
The Russia-EU summit previously planned to be held in Copenhagen on 11 November has been relocated to Brussels, strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 31 October, citing presidential aide Yastrzhembskii. The relocation came at the request of the Russian government in protest against Denmark's decision to host the 28-29 October World Chechen Congress. The key issue to be discussed at the summit is the status of the Kaliningrad exclave following expected EU expansion to include Poland and Lithuania. RC

TAGANROG MAYOR MURDERED
Taganrog Mayor Sergei Shilo was shot dead by an unknown assailant near his home on the evening of 30 October, Russian news agencies reported on 31 October. Shilo was struck by two bullets in the chest and his driver, who is hospitalized in critical condition, was hit three times, newsru.com reported. According to the website, the murder was carried out with a gas pistol equipped with a silencer, and police recovered the weapon at the scene. Gazeta.ru, citing anonymous police sources, reported that Shilo had actively moved against local corruption in recent months and that the murder might have been ordered because this campaign "made life complicated" for local criminal groups. RC

COURT AUTHORIZES BEREZOVSKII'S ARREST
A Moscow district court on 30 October issued an arrest warrant for self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii and two close business associates, Badri Patarkatsishvili, former deputy chairman of the board of LogoVAZ and former LogoVAZ Deputy General Director Yulii Dubov, lenta.ru reported. All three men are currently living abroad and are charged with "large-scale fraud and theft" in connection with an allegedly bogus automobile-sales scheme (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September and 23 October 2002). According to the indictment, in 1994-5 the accused bought real estate and shares in ORT, TV-6 and the Ogonek publishing house on proceeds from the scam. Andrei Borovkov, a lawyer for the accused, said he will appeal the court's decision. VY

DUMA GIVES INITIAL NOD TO VOTING MACHINES...
The Duma on 30 October approved in its first reading a bill on the use of electronic voting machines, RosBalt reported. The bill was introduced by the Central Election Commission (TsIK) and includes provisions regulating the use of electronic voting machines and approving the vote protocols that they generate. Deputy Anatolii Lukyanov (Communist), who headed the opposition to the bill, charged that the use of electronic voting machines would make it easier for officials to falsify election results, while TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov, defending the bill on the floor of the Duma, said the new system would make falsification more difficult. Deputy Boris Nadezhdin (Union of Rightist Forces) said the bill lays the groundwork for completely automating the country's voting system and predicted that in the near future, Russians will be able to vote from their homes via the Internet. RC

...AND REDUCES LEGAL MARRIAGE AGE
Deputies on 30 October also unanimously approved in its third and final reading an amendment to the Family Code that would reduce the legal marriage age from 16 to 14 with the permission of the local executive branch. Although the amendment requires mayors to consider the opinions of the parents of prospective newlyweds, it does not obligate them to heed those opinions. The amendments must now be adopted by the Federation Council and signed by President Putin. RC

CIVIL PROCEDURE CODE PASSES UPPER HOUSE
The Federation Council on 30 October unanimously approved the new Civil Procedure Code, polit.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. The code was passed by the Duma on 23 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 24 October 2002). The new code, which regulates labor and family disputes, is considered a landmark in Russian legal reform and strictly limits the role of prosecutors in civil disputes. It also establishes strict deadlines for each phase of a civil dispute, a move that is intended to prevent long, drawn-out cases. If signed by the president as expected, the new code will take effect on 1 February. RC

RICH STILL GETTING RICHER
The richest 10 percent of Russians received 32 percent of all cash income during the first three quarters of 2002, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 October, citing the State Statistics Committee. The poorest 10 percent of the population received just 2.3 percent of the national income. These figures are virtually unchanged from last year. RC

NEW HEAD FOR CONSTRUCTION COMMITTEE NAMED
Colonel General Nikolai Koshman, who served from 1999-2000 as the government's representative to Chechnya, has been appointed to replace Anvar Shamuzafarov as chairman of the State Construction Committee, Russian news agencies reported on 30 October. Last week, unidentified Kremlin sources were cited as saying that Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii would be named to replace Shamuzafarov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2002). According to polit.ru, Yavlinskii met in the Kremlin with President Putin on 30 October and the two might have discussed the appointment. Strana.ru commented the same day that Koshman's appointment might signal that the government considers "the reform of the housing sector to be no less important than regulating the situation in the [North] Caucasus." Shamuzafarov was reportedly replaced as a result of his conflict with Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, who sharply criticized the construction committee's work in the wake of this summer's flooding in the Southern Federal District. RC

WORKING GROUP PREPARES LAW ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING
A working group including State Duma Deputy Yelena Mizulina (Union of Rightist Forces) is drafting a law to fight human trafficking, "Izvestiya" reported on 30 October. The project emerged from a Moscow conference convened this week by the Duma's Legislation Committee, presidential envoy to the Central Federal District Georgii Poltavchenko, and the U.S. Department of Justice. Russia contributes to both the supply and demand for women and children who are exploited in the sex trade. Thousands of Russian citizens are smuggled to Western countries, and many people from other former Soviet republics are similarly victimized in Russia. Experts say that although several articles of Russia's Criminal Code in some way touch on the issue, a separate article that thoroughly describes human trafficking is needed in order to prosecute those who organize smuggling networks. The working group hopes to submit a draft law to the Duma by the end of the year. LB

BURNED VLADIVOSTOK LAWYER DIES
Igor Khrabudskoi, a lawyer who worked for the Vladivostok's mayor's office and who was severely burned in a murder attempt on 30 October, died in the hospital on 31 October, newsru.com reported. According to the same report, the mayor's press service issued a statement saying the murder was not connected to Khrabudskoi's professional work. Police are reportedly questioning the people with whom Khrabudskoi spent the evening of 30 October. RC

BARAEV SUBORDINATES KILLED IN CHECHNYA
In an operation near Argun on 30 October, federal forces killed three members of the so-called Argun Wahhabi Jamaat, which was headed by Movsar Baraev, leader of the Chechens who undertook last week's hostage taking in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. Russian military spokesmen said some 30 Chechen fighters have been killed in 60 separate operations over the past few days. LF

ARMENIA CONFIRMS EXISTENCE OF NEW KARABAKH PEACE PROPOSAL
Speaking in Yerevan on 30 October at a seminar on security problems in the South Caucasus, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said "a serious shift is observed in the process of the Karabakh settlement and these are not mere words any more. Indeed, there is a proposal on the table now that might be admissible for all sides without jeopardizing our national interests," Noyan Tapan reported. He did not elaborate. In an interview that day with zerkalo.az, Russian Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin said Azerbaijan has proposed a new plan for resolving the Karabakh conflict, but he refused to divulge any details (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2002). Oskanian also praised what he termed Iran's "balanced policy" in the South Caucasus, which he contrasted with Turkey's "unilateral policy" that, Oskanian said, played a "negative role" in regional security issues. LF

RUSSIAN AUDIT CHAMBER HEAD VISITS AZERBAIJAN
During talks in Baku on 29 October, Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev and Russian Audit Chamber head Stepashin discussed cooperation in fighting terrorism, including control mechanisms at the border between their respective countries, Turan reported. Stepashin assured Azerbaijani parliament deputies the same day that Moscow will soon provide Baku with documentation concerning the transfer by Russia to Armenia in the mid-1990s of military hardware valued at $1 billion, according to ANS TV on 29 October, as cited by Groong (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3, 4, and 23 April 1997). Stepashin also met in Baku with his Azerbaijani counterpart Namik Nasrullaev and signed an agreement on cooperation between the two countries' audit chambers. LF

AZERBAIJAN, RUSSIA DISCUSS DEFENSE COOPERATION
On a two-day visit to Moscow on 28-29 October, Azerbaijan's Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Ivanov to discuss various aspects of bilateral cooperation, ITAR-TASS and Azerbaijani news agencies reported. Speaking at a joint press conference on 29 October, both men said bilateral military cooperation is assuming increasing importance in light of the growing threat posed by international terrorism. Ivanov noted Azerbaijan's participation in joint naval exercises in the Caspian in August, adding that similar exercises are planned for next year. He also thanked the Azerbaijani leadership for closing the Chechen representation in Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2002). LF

RUSSIAN STATE DUMA RATIFIES AGREEMENT ON AZERBAIJANI RADAR STATION
The State Duma voted on 29 October to ratify the agreement signed in January on the terms under which Russia will continue to lease the Gabala radar station in central Azerbaijan, ITAR-TASS reported. The Azerbaijani parliament ratified the agreement in March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January and 20 March 2002). LF

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ADDRESSES AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT, BUSINESS FORUM
Ion Iliescu told Azerbaijani parliament deputies on 30 October that his country has taken active measures to promote a solution of the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported. Iliescu spoke highly of the GUUAM alignment, of which Azerbaijan is a member, and said Romania cooperates with all its members. Addressing a business forum in Baku the same day, Iliescu again stressed Romania's willingness to cooperate in transport projects within the framework of the TRACECA (Asia-Caucasus-Europe transport corridor) and INOGATE (Interstate Oil and Gas Transport to Europe) programs. He suggested Azerbaijan could join the Romanian-Georgian agreement on ferry traffic among the ports of Batumi, Poti, and Constanta. He further noted that Romania has considerable experience in manufacturing equipment and pipes for the oil-and-gas transportation sector, and could therefore participate in construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Erzerum export pipelines, Interfax reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI, IRAN PLEDGE COOPERATION IN OIL, GAS SECTORS
Iran's Cooperatives Minister Ali Sufi arrived in Baku on 29 October to participate in the fifth session of the Iran-Azerbaijan joint economic commission, IRNA reported. The two sides signed an agreement on 30 October on cooperation in the oil, gas, and transport sectors, AP quoted Economic Development Minister Farhad Aliev as saying. They also discussed the possibility of restoring direct flights between Baku and the Iranian city of Tabriz, which were discontinued in 1996 due to lack of demand. Azerbaijan's Trend news agency reported on 30 October, quoting unnamed Azerbaijani diplomats, that talks on the opening of an Azerbaijani consulate in Tabriz have been suspended indefinitely. Visiting Baku in July, Mohammadali Subhanullakhi, the governor of Iran's East Azerbaijan Province, assured Azerbaijani President Aliev that the Iranian government had given the go-ahead for the opening of an Azerbaijani consulate in Tabriz (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2002). LF

BTC BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETS IN GEORGIA
The board of directors of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhen (BTC) oil-pipeline consortium held its first session in Tbilisi on 29-30 October, Caucasus Press and Prime News reported. The shareholders signed an agreement under which British Petroleum, the majority shareholder, sold a 2.5 percent stake in the project to ConocoPhillips. Board members also participated in a Georgian government session on 30 October that focused on the anticipated ecological impact of the planned pipeline and on financing security for it. AP quoted Georgian International Oil Corporation head Giorgi Chanturia and Azerbaijani State Oil Company (SOCAR) President Natik Aliev as both saying that guaranteeing the security of the pipeline will require significant financial resources and special equipment. LF

PARLIAMENT SPEAKER URGES INCREASE IN FUNDING FOR PROTECTING GEORGIA'S BORDERS
At a 29 October meeting between members of the Georgian parliament's Defense and Security Committee and the Georgian Border Protection Department, parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze called on the relevant government bodies to come up with new ways to provide adequate funding for protecting the country's borders, Caucasus Press reported. Border Protection Department head Lieutenant General Valeri Chkheidze said he has submitted a request for 26 million laris ($12 million) in funding for 2003, but he is not certain of receiving it. In a newspaper interview last month, Chkheidze said budget funding for border protection is totally inadequate and hinted he may resign unless more funds are made available (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2002). LF

GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ADVOCATES RESTRICTIONS ON RUSSIAN MILITARY PERSONNEL
Lieutenant General David Tevzadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 30 October that if Georgia wants to expedite the closure of the two remaining Russian military bases on its territory, it must abolish the "hothouse conditions" under which those bases currently function, Caucasus Press reported. He proposed imposing restrictions on the movement within Georgia of Russian military personnel and on the amount of supplies they might bring into the country duty-free. Tevzadze stressed that the Russian bases may negatively affect Georgia's aspiration to NATO membership, as no NATO member state may host military facilities belonging to a nonmember state. Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili told Caucasus Press the same day that Tbilisi has proposed resuming negotiations with Moscow on the timetable for the closure of the bases, but has not yet received a response. LF

ABDUCTED BRITISH BANKING CONSULTANT NO LONGER IN GEORGIA?
Interfax on 30 October quoted Georgian Intelligence chief Lieutenant General Avtandil Ioseliani as saying that British banking consultant Peter Shaw, who was abducted four months ago in Tbilisi, may have been transferred by his captors to a neighboring state, but he did not say which one. The Georgian Interior Ministry press service told Interfax that police are still searching for Shaw in the Pankisi Gorge. LF

OSCE CHAIRMAN IN OFFICE VISITS KAZAKHSTAN...
An OSCE delegation headed by Portuguese Foreign Minister Antonio Martins da Cruz arrived in Astana on 29 October for talks with Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev and Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev, according to RFE/RL's Kazakh Service and the 30 October issue of the weekly news bulletin distributed by Kazakhstan's embassy in Washington, D.C. Da Cruz told journalists after his meeting with Nazarbaev that their talks focused on economic and security cooperation, including the fight against drug trafficking and international terrorism. Terrorism also figured during his meeting with Toqaev, as did the death penalty (which Kazakhstan has not yet abolished), human rights issues, the optimum use of Central Asia's water resources, and the rehabilitation of such ecological disaster areas as the Semipalatinsk nuclear-test site and the shrinking Aral Sea. Da Cruz declined to comment to journalists on the situation of the embattled Kazakh media. LF

...AND UZBEKISTAN
The OSCE delegation arrived in Tashkent on 30 October and was received the same day by President Islam Karimov, uza.uz reported. The talks focused on continued cooperation, human rights, Uzbekistan's contribution to the international antiterrorism campaign, and aspects of regional security. Da Cruz also met with Uzbekistan's Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov. LF

PROTESTS IN SOUTHERN KYRGYZSTAN GATHER MOMENTUM
Support is increasing in Osh Oblast for former Deputy Prime Minister and Agrarian-Labor Party Chairman Usen Sydykov, whom an Osh court barred four days ago from contesting a 3 November runoff by-election in Kara-Kuldja, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2002). Some 1,000 people congregated on 30 October in front of the local administration building in Uzgen to demand Sydykov's reinstatement, while 1,200 more gathered in Kara-Suu with the same demand. Some 200 residents of Kara-Kuldja, including village administrator Rustam Anarbotoev, began a protest march to Osh. LF

KYRGYZ HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST FINED
A court in Chu Oblast fined Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan Chairman Tursunbek Akunov 1,000 soms (about $22) on 30 October for participating in an unsanctioned meeting, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Akunov was one of some 100 participants in a march on 29 October to mark the 54th birthday of jailed former Vice President Feliks Kulov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2002). Also on 30 October, First Deputy Prime Minister Kurmanbek Osmonov told Interfax that a special committee has been established to promote Kyrgyzstan's new image as a country that protects the human rights of its citizens. LF

BELARUSIANS HONOR VICTIMS OF POLITICAL REPRESSION
Some 50 representatives of the opposition United Civic Party and other public organizations formed a "chain of concerned people" in downtown Minsk on 30 October, the Day of Memory of Victims of Political Repression, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service and Belapan reported. Participants in this unauthorized demonstration held portraits of individuals persecuted for political reasons in the Soviet era as well as of Belarusian politicians who disappeared in 1999 and journalists recently sentenced to prison terms for slandering President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The same day, pickets and other events to pay tribute to victims of political repression were also held in Vitsebsk, Brest, and Kurapaty near Minsk (the execution and burial ground of victims of Stalin-era political repression). Police detained eight picketers in Vitsebsk. JM

NATO NOT TO INVITE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT TO PRAGUE SUMMIT...
NATO proposed on 30 October that a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission be held at the foreign ministers' level during the upcoming NATO Prague summit on 21-22 November, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported. "The [NATO] decision was that a meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Commission should be held at the level of foreign ministers," NATO spokesman Yves Brodeur told an RFE/RL correspondent. "Allies, as well, emphasized their commitment to the broadening and deepening of the relationship between NATO and Ukraine and, to that end, they also reiterated their commitment to the development and implementation of the action plan which we've been discussing with Ukraine," Brodeur added. Brodeur was asked if the alleged Ukrainian sale of a Kolchuga radar system to Iraq had something to do with President Leonid Kuchma not being invited to Prague: "I think that, essentially, we all know the circumstances that we've been dealing with here and, essentially, the decision was made taking into account those circumstances," Brodeur replied. JM

...AS KYIV SUGGESTS NATO 'MANIPULATION' OF UKRAINE
"Ukraine, as a great European state, cannot be an object of manipulation," UNIAN quoted Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko as saying on 30 October. Zlenko was commenting on the NATO proposal that would exclude the participation of the Ukrainian president in the Prague summit. "A decision on the format of the Prague meeting should be adopted while taking into account Ukraine's real place and role in the current architecture of European security and the attained level of our cooperation with the alliance," Zlenko said in his written statement. Zlenko added, "We are thoroughly studying the NATO-proposed format for a meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Commission as part of the Prague summit and we will soon inform our partners about our decision." He also stressed that Ukraine's strategic course toward Euro-Atlantic integration remains unchanged. JM

TAIWAN TO OPEN TRADE REPRESENTATION IN ESTONIA
After hearing a report by Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland, the cabinet decided on 29 October to approve Taiwanese plans to open a trade representation in Tallinn, ETA reported the next day. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tiina Maiberg said the Chinese Embassy has been informed of Taiwan's wish and expressed a neutral position, as China does not object to relations of a nongovernmental nature between Taiwan and other countries. The head of a pro-Taiwanese group in parliament, Pro Patria Union faction Deputy Chairman Andres Herkel, said the representation will be useful for the state. Estonia's exports to Taiwan totaled 26.6 million kroons ($1.7 million) and imports 316.4 million kroons in the first half of 2002. SG

LATVIAN PRESIDENT VISITS SWITZERLAND
Accompanied by Economy Minister Aigars Kalvitis, Riga Mayor Gundars Bojars, Bank of Latvia President Ilmars Rimsevics, and a delegation of 31 businesspeople, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga flew to Zurich on 30 October for a two-day state visit, LETA reported. She was welcomed at the airport by Swiss President Kaspar Villiger, with whom she held further talks in Berne on bilateral relations and global developments. In an address to the Swiss parliament, Vike-Freiberga said the common values of democracy, free markets, and human rights form a basis for friendly relations and mutual respect between their countries. She welcomed the Swiss decision to join the United Nations and expressed the hope that economic relations between the two countries will expand. SG

LITHUANIAN LIBERALS, MODERN CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS CONSIDER MERGER
Liberal Union Chairman Eugenijus Gentvilas and Modern Christian Democrat Union (MKDS) Chairman Vytautas Bogusis signed a memorandum "On Common Activities in Concentrating Center-Right Parties" in Vilnius on 30 October, BNS reported. It calls for cooperation in parliament, the formation of joint lists in local council elections slated for 22 December, and a possible merger. In Vilnius, incumbent Mayor Arturas Zuokas will head the joint list with Bogusis in the second slot. However, the two parties support different candidates for president with the MKDS backing Valdas Adamkus and the Liberal Union pushing its chairman, Gentvilas. The MKDS has three deputies in parliament and is part of the United faction with the Center Union and the Polish Electoral Action, while the Liberal Union has 23 deputies in the 141-seat chamber. SG

WARSAW MAYOR TO BE DECIDED IN RUNOFF
Lech Kaczynski from the center-right Law and Justice narrowly missed election to the Warsaw mayor's post in the 27 October local elections, receiving 265,994 votes (49.58 percent of the vote), PAP reported on 30 October. Kaczynski will thus face Marek Balicki from the Democratic Left Alliance (21.85 percent) in a runoff on 10 November. Andrzej Olechowski, a leader of the Civic Platform, finished third with 13.47 percent of the vote, which is widely regarded as a disappointing result. Olechowski subsequently announced his withdrawal from politics. Official results have not yet been announced, partly due to a failure of the computer system handling the vote count. According to incomplete results, the ruling Democratic Left Alliance appears to have won the ballot nationally but with less support than it received in the 1998 local elections. At the same time, center-right moderates (Law and Justice, Civic Platform) and far-right Euro-skeptics (the League of Polish Families) appear to have made gains in the polls. JM

CZECH PROSECUTORS TO ASK SENATE TO APPROVE SENATOR-ELECT'S PROSECUTION...
The Prague State Attorney's Office intends to ask the upper house of the Czech parliament to consent to the continuation of the prosecution of media magnate and Senator-elect Vladimir Zelezny, CTK reported on 29 October, citing the daily "Pravo." Zelezny, director of the privately owned TV Nova, is the only candidate to win a Senate seat outright in the first round of voting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2002). He is charged with tax evasion, among other things. Dagmar Lastovecka, chairwoman of the Senate's Constitutional and Judiciary Commission, told the daily that the matter must first be discussed by the upper-house's Mandate and Immunity Commission, which is to make a recommendation to the plenum after it studies all the evidence against Zelezny. She added that this would become possible after Zelezny takes his oath of office, or the end of December at the earliest. Zelezny's Senate seat grants him parliamentary immunity. MS

...WHILE CULTURE MINISTER WANTS TO DRAW LESSON FROM THE CASE
Culture Minister Pavel Dostal on 30 October told the daily "Hospodarske noviny" that the government is preparing legislation to replace the Council for Radio and Television (RRTV) with a state body that would be entitled to take measures preventing the use of the media for personal political aims, CTK reported. Zelezny, who ran as an independent for the upper house, used his station to support his Senate bid. The council did not react, arguing that current legislation under which it exercises its prerogatives makes no stipulation for such cases. Dostal said the council should be replaced by an office whose presidium and chairman are appointed by the country's president. Council Chairman Martin Muchka told the daily he does not agree with that proposal and that such a move would be particularly damaging since the media chapter in negotiations with the EU has been successfully closed. The opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) said the envisaged legislation is "a direct attack on an independent body regulating the activity of the electronic media," CTK quoted ODS Deputy Chairman and former Media Commission Chairman Ivan Langer as saying. MS

CZECH FARMERS PROTEST EU SUBSIDIES DECISION, DEMAND STATE COMPENSATION
Several thousand farmers marched on 30 October in central Prague demanding state compensation for damages stemming from natural catastrophes and the negotiation of a better deal on farm subsidies than that offered by the EU, AP reported. The farmers say bad weather and the August floods caused them losses of 15.5 billion crowns ($492 million) and want the state to pay at least 5 billion crowns in compensation. They are also opposed to the decision by the EU to offer its 10 anticipated new members agricultural subsidies initially amounting to only 25 percent of the subsidies paid to current members. Those subsidies are to be gradually increased and become equal for all EU members only by 2013. MS

CZECH ENVIRONMENT MINISTRY SETS LIMITS ON CHEMICAL PLANT'S REOPENING
The Environment Ministry on 30 October said only those parts of the Spolana chemical works that are guaranteed as safe can be reopened, dpa reported. The Spolana plant, north of Prague, was heavily affected by the August floods, when tons of hazardous chemicals were washed into the Labe (Elbe) River or released into the air. Environment Minister Libor Ambrozek, responding to citizens' requests, said he has asked the plant's director to restart only those operations "that pose the least security risk and cannot jeopardize the health of the [local] inhabitants." MS

CZECH PRESIDENT RESUMES REGULAR WORK
Vaclav Havel's office on 30 October announced that he will resume his regular duties on 31 October, having recovered from his latest bout with chronic bronchitis, Reuters reported. MS

SENIOR CZECH, SLOVAK POLITICIANS DISCUSS BENES DECREES
Visiting Czech Chamber of Deputies speaker Lubomir Zaoralek on 30 October agreed with Slovak President Rudolf Schuster and Premier Mikulas Dzurinda that the two countries should coordinate their responses to demands that the Benes Decrees be abrogated or that apologies be issued for the expulsion of Sudeten Germans and ethnic Hungarians following World War II, TASR and CTK reported. Zaoralek told journalists after meeting Schuster, "In the dispute over interpreting the past, one should not transform episodes of history into history as a whole," according to TASR. He said history must be assessed in a comprehensive way. CTK cited Dzurinda as saying the first Slovak National Council (parliament) approved an apology for the expulsion of the Carpathian Germans soon after the fall of the communist regime, adding that situation is more complicated where Hungarians are concerned. He said that while one must acknowledge that "something happened" to the Hungarian minority in Czechoslovakia after 1945, it is no less necessary to "realize that wrongs were also done to Slovaks following the 1939 Vienna arbitration and that a lot of Slovaks were harmed [by Hungary] as a result." MS

SLOVAK CABINET APPROVES AUSTERITY MEASURES
The cabinet on 30 October approved a package of measures aimed at cutting social spending, raising the price of fuel and of some excises, TASR reported. Public-transport fees are to be raised on 1 January. In a symbolic gesture, the cabinet revoked the former government's decision to buy new limousines for Slovak ministers and government officials, CTK reported. MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER PRESENTS VISION FOR FUTURE TO PARTY COLLEAGUES...
"We want Hungary to be a racetrack for talented people and a shelter for the needy," Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy told a meeting of his Socialist Party's (MSZP) parliamentary group on 30 October, Hungarian media reported. The cabinet has a vision of the future, as it wants "a successful European Hungary" and knows how to achieve that, Medgyessy added. The government aims to follow through on EU accession, he said. Commenting on the outcome of the 20 October local elections, Medgyessy said the MSZP won its second elections of the year. He attributed the victory to a correct campaign, a sound program and decisions, a calm approach, reliability, sincerity, and trustworthiness. MSZ

...AND SOLICITS OPPOSITION ASSISTANCE ON EU ACCESSION TERMS
Medgyessy on 30 October sent a letter to former Prime Minister Viktor Orban asking him to use his position as deputy chairman of the European People's Party to help Hungary achieve the most favorable terms during negotiations on EU accession, the Hungarian MTI news agency reported. Medgyessy reportedly said in the letter that he considers it particularly important to reduce the 10-year transition period for full EU agricultural subsidies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2002). MSZ

ROMANY AFFAIRS COUNCIL FORMED IN HUNGARY
A Romany Affairs Council presided over by Prime Minister Medgyessy was formed on 30 October with the aim of integrating Roma into society, Hungarian media reported. The deputy chairman of the 21-member body is Laszlo Teleki, political state secretary for Romany affairs in the prime minister's office. The members of the council are Romany and non-Romany public figures. Medgyessy said at its inaugural meeting that the question of whether the "decades-long debt to Roma can be paid off" and whether their exclusion and lack of equal opportunity can be ended is a measure of democracy. He said the number of segregated schools has not decreased in recent years, adding that unemployment is growing within the Romany population. MSZ

HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES MINORITY AFFAIRS WITH OSCE COMMISSIONER
Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said after a meeting on 30 October with OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Rolf Ekeus that the government in early December will submit a motion for amending the Status Law, Budapest dailies reported. Kovacs briefed his guest on those amendments, which the Foreign Ministry and the opposition parties will begin discussing within days and which will be introduced in the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2002). For his part, Ekeus argued in favor of continued consultations on amending the Status Law and said he is pleased there is political will in Hungary to resolve the issue. Kovacs and Ekeus also discussed the Romany situation in Hungary and the provision of parliamentary representation to ethnic minorities. MSZ

BRITAIN CALLS ON YUGOSLAVIA TO HALT ARMS SALES TO IRAQ...
Speaking in London on 30 October, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told his visiting Yugoslav colleague Goran Svilanovic that Britain has "serious concern" about reported Yugoslav arms sales to Iraq and Liberia, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 29 and 30 October 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 October 2002). Straw later told reporters that he "urged Dr. Svilanovic to ensure a thorough investigation into these arms sales, leading to prosecutions as necessary." Straw also called on Belgrade to cooperate fully with the war crimes tribunal based in The Hague. He stressed that Yugoslav authorities must provide the tribunal with access to archives and witnesses -- including officials and military personnel -- and arrest indicted war criminals on Yugoslav territory. In related news, Reuters reported from Belgrade that the United States has called on Yugoslavia to take action against several companies that allegedly have been helping Libya develop a cruise missile capable of striking targets in Israel. The project may have begun as early as 1996. The U.S. Embassy in Belgrade declined to comment on the report. PM

...AS CROATIA CHARGES FOUR IN THE 'BOKA STAR' AFFAIR...
Police in Rijeka have jailed the captain and first mate of the Montenegrin-owned freighter "Boka Star," which had 200 tons of explosives on board, possibly destined for Iraq, Reuters reported on 30 October. Police have issued arrest warrants for two members of the crew who are still at large. PM

...AND ASHDOWN TELLS BOSNIAN SERBS: IT'S BRUSSELS OR BAGHDAD
Paddy Ashdown, the international community's high representative in Bosnia, told NATO and EU officials in Brussels on 30 October: "I say to the [Bosnian Serb] authorities, you have a choice to make in this matter [of arms exports to Iraq by the Orao company] -- whether to take the road to Brussels or to Baghdad." He called for more Western pressure to stop illegal arms trading: "We need to be more muscular about this. Our assistance...should be rigorously connected to progress made." Ashdown also said, "The clear message which comes out of Orao is that mechanisms for civilian oversight of the [Bosnian] military and the military-industrial complex are hopelessly inadequate. We must now insist on proper civilian oversight at state level of the military-industrial complex and also a strengthening of borders, of the customs service," AP reported. He added that all of those responsible for the illegal sales must be punished. Meanwhile, in Banja Luka, Donald Hays, who is one of Ashdown's deputies, said more companies than just Orao were involved in illicit arms deals, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. Hays called for a thorough investigation. PM

HAGUE PROSECUTOR SLAMS YUGOSLAVIA AS OBSTRUCTIONIST
Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, told the UN Security Council on 30 October that Yugoslav authorities are deliberately obstructing the tribunal's work, RFE/RL reported. She noted that archives are closed, access to witnesses is blocked, and that the only major extradition of an indicted war criminal -- that of Slobodan Milosevic -- "is the sole credit of the Serbian government and was carried out despite the opposition of the [Yugoslav] authorities." Del Ponte noted that a "revealing remark was made recently by...President [Vojislav Kostunica] that 'cooperation with the [tribunal] has already gone too far.'" She stressed, "This behavior is calculated. It cannot merely be explained away by saying that the political situation is difficult at the moment. Of course it is difficult. That is to be expected in any country in the aftermath of armed conflict and political upheaval." Turning to Bosnia, she suggested that SFOR form a special unit to catch indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. PM

NO BAIL FOR TWO SERBIAN LEADERS
The war crimes tribunal based in The Hague ruled on 31 October that it will not permit two high-ranking Serbs to go back to Serbia until their trials begin in the Netherlands, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Service reported. The men are Nikola Sainovic and former General Dragoljub Ojdanic, both of whom were close confidants of Milosevic. PM

SERBIAN POLICE CHIEF WARNS GANGSTERS
Speaking in Belgrade on 30 October, Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic said he hopes his ministry's recent moves aimed at solving a recent high-profile murder "will be a warning to naive individuals in politics...not to deal with the underworld," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2002). He added, "This is a chance to all those on various payrolls of some quasi-businessmen to decide which salary they plan to live on," namely their official salary or that paid by the underworld. Mihajlovic warned criminals that the hands of the police "are no longer tied." He did not elaborate. PM

U.S. WRAPS UP MILITARY PROGRAM IN BOSNIA
On 30 October, the United States formally ended its program to train and equip the armed forces of the Muslim and Croat federation and bring them up to international standards, dpa reported. The program lasted over six years and was intended to reduce the gap in professional quality between the federal forces and their Bosnian Serb counterparts. PM

KOSOVAR LEADER HAILS DECISION TO POSTPONE DECENTRALIZATION TALKS
Kosovar Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi said the decision of Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian authority in Kosova (UNMIK), to put off decentralization talks with local Serbs is a wise idea, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Prishtina on 30 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2002). Rexhepi stressed that all of Kosova needs an administrative decentralization program, which should not be based on ethnic criteria. PM

MYSTERIOUS GRENADE ATTACK ON MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT...
Unknown assailants threw a grenade at the entrance of the parliament building in Skopje on 31 October, causing some material damage, Hina reported. The parliament met later in the day to debate approval of the new government, which includes ethnic Albanian former guerrillas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October 2002). The report of the grenade attack, like reports of several other recent violent incidents, was made by the police to journalists. Under the previous government, the Interior Ministry has been a stronghold of hard-line ethnic Macedonian nationalists. PM

...BEFORE AN IMPORTANT SESSION
Addressing the parliament on 31 October, Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski said: "A key question for the unity of Macedonia is whether our Albanian fellow citizens want to be together with us in a united front in the struggle for the defense of common values and a common state, or whether they want to be in solidarity with the other side -- the radical structures that fought last year," RFE/RL reported. Crvenkovski pledged full implementation of the August 2001 Ohrid peace agreement: "What we Macedonians have to understand whether we like it or not, is that Macedonia is a state not only for the Macedonian people -- with everyone else staying on as a necessary evil, a fate that must be accepted for better or worse. We have to understand and accept that Macedonia belongs to all of us equally, and that no one has an exclusive right of ownership over Macedonia." PM

MACEDONIAN TV DIRECTOR RESIGNS
The director-general of state-run Macedonian Radio and Television (MRTV), Ljubomir Jakimovski, announced his resignation on 30 October, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. Jakimovski, a high-ranking official of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), was appointed to the position after his party won the 1998 parliamentary elections. "Even though my mandate expires on 21 January 2002, I feel that my function should end" following the victory of the Social Democratic Union (SDSM) in the 15 September parliamentary elections, Jakimovski said. Representatives of MRTV employees, whose wages have not been paid since August, have accused Jakimovski of mismanagement. They called off a planned strike after his resignation was announced. UB

IRAQ BANS ROMANIA FROM PARTICIPATING IN INTERNATIONAL TRADE FAIR
Iraqi Trade Minister Muhammad Mahdi Salih announced on 30 October that his country has banned Romania from participating in the Baghdad International Trade Fair because of its "hostile policies" toward this country, Mediafax reported, citing AFP. MS

FITCH HIKES ROMANIA'S RATINGS
FitchRatings announced on 30 October that it has upgraded Romania's credit rating for long-term debt in both foreign and local currencies to BB- and BB, respectively, Romanian radio reported. The agency said Romania's positive macroeconomic performance, the rise in its foreign-currency assets, and the fiscal-austerity policy pursued by the government led to the decision to raise the ratings. The cabinet said the decision "confirms the substantial progress achieved in the implementation of economic reforms, which was also acknowledged by the EU and by international financial organizations. " MS

HUNGARIAN PARTY IN ROMANIA OPPOSED TO EARLY ELECTIONS
The Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) said on 30 October it is opposed to the idea of holding early elections, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. UDMR Chairman Bela Marko told journalists Romania currently enjoys "political stability" and that early elections are justified only if and when such stability does not exist and as a "last resort." Prime Minister and Social Democratic Party Chairman Adrian Nastase recently reiterated that his party might consider the possibility of early elections. The opposition National Liberal Party and the Democratic Party have already expressed their opposition to early elections, which Nastase apparently seeks in order to take advantage of the electorate's approval of Romania's likely invitation to join NATO at the alliance's 21-22 November Prague summit. MS

ROMANIAN OFFICIAL CRITICIZES LEVEL OF MINORITY REPRESENTATION FOLLOWING HUNGARIAN ELECTIONS
Public Information Ministry State Secretary Doru Vasile Ionescu on 30 October criticized the outcome of the local elections held in Hungary on 20 October, according to a ministry press release. Ionescu, who oversees issues relating to Romanian minorities abroad, said that, "as expected," the representation of the Romanian minority in Hungarian local councils' autonomous self-governments was negatively affected by the election law's deficiencies, which make possible "ethno-business." The law does not require proof from those running in the elections that they belong to the minority for whose seats they are competing. Ionescu said that, as a result, out of 90 councilors elected in Budapest to represent the Romanian national minority, only 30 are known to be ethnic Romanians. The situation is similar in four other localities, he said. Representation in the autonomous self-governing local councils brings government subsidies with it, and Bucharest has long complained that Hungarian Roma take over those seats. MS

EU-BULGARIA JOINT PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE ASSESSES ROMANY SITUATION...
During its session in Sofia on 30 October, the joint EU-Bulgaria Joint Parliamentary Committee assessed the situation of the Romany minority in Bulgaria, mediapool.bg reported. According to European Parliament Member Margot Kessler (Germany), large segments of the Romany minority in Bulgaria are extremely poor and have minimal education, which has resulted in their low social status. Bulgarian lawmakers were reluctant to accept Kessler's statement that Bulgaria is not effectively implementing its otherwise sound program for minority integration. Cetin Kazak of the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the junior coalition partner in the government, noted the government's National Program for Roma Integration and other plans intended to improve the situation of ethnic minorities. Some lawmakers, such as Dimitar Abadzhiev of the opposition United Democratic Forces, reiterated the widespread belief that the Romany minority's problems stem from their unwillingness to integrate into Bulgarian society. UB

...AND THE NUCLEAR QUESTION
The joint EU-Bulgarian Parliamentary Committee also discussed the closure of the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant, BTA reported on 30 October. In their joint final statement, the parliamentarians said a joint safety review of the plant should be carried out in 2003 by the Council of the European Union Special Working Group on Nuclear Issues. European Parliament Member Jose-Maria Gil-Robles Gil-Delgado (Spain) said he does not believe the European Commission will alter its demand that blocks No. 3 and No. 4 of the plant be shut down by 2006. Energy Minister Milko Kovachev defended the Bulgarian government's plans to extend the lifespan of the reactors in question. "It is difficult, even impossible to explain to Bulgarian constituents why an installation with characteristics identical to those of the reactors in Slovakia has to be closed much earlier, and why this should happen before Bulgaria becomes a full member of the EU," Kovachev said. UB

BULGARIAN FINANCE MINISTRY TO PROVIDE MONEY FOR NEW STATE AIRLINE
Finance Minister Milen Velchev announced on 30 October that the government is willing to provide up to $15 million for the planned new state airline Bulgarian Air Tour, mediapool.bg reported. At a joint press conference, both Velchev and Transport and Communications Minister Plamen Petrov declined to say whether employees of the bankrupt former state airline Balkan Air will be employed by the new airline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2002). UB

There is no End Note today.


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