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Newsline - November 4, 2002


NEW MILITARY OFFENSIVE IN CHECHNYA
Speaking to journalists in Khabarovsk on 3 November, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russian troops have begun "large-scale and tough but precisely targeted operations in all areas of Chechnya," Russian news agencies reported. He said the decision to launch the operation was made because the ministry is "receiving more and more information that on the territory of Chechnya -- and not only there -- new preparations are being made for additional terrorist acts." "In some villages, there have been reports of the recruitment of suicide attackers," Ivanov added. Ivanov also said all troop withdrawals from the republic have been stopped. Meanwhile, the deputy commander of the Russian forces in Chechnya, Colonel Boris Podoprigora, reported that Chechen fighters used a shoulder-launched missile to shoot down an Mi-8 helicopter on 3 November, killing all nine men on board. VY

RUSSIA WILL PARTICIPATE IN PRAGUE NATO SUMMIT...
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told journalists in Moscow on 1 November that President Vladimir Putin has instructed him to attend the NATO summit in Prague on 21-22 November at which it is widely expected a number of Central and Eastern European countries will be formally invited to join the alliance, ITAR-TASS and the Foreign Ministry's website reported. "President Putin has asked me to take part in events within the framework of the NATO summit," Ivanov said. "We are also discussing the possibility of holding a foreign-minister level meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Prague." Previously, the Kremlin had said Russia would not attend the summit because Moscow opposes NATO expansion, particularly the inclusion of the Baltic states. VY

...AND SAYS U.S., RUSSIAN POSITIONS ON IRAQ NEARING
At the same news conference, Foreign Minister Ivanov said the positions of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council on Iraq are growing closer, RIA-Novosti reported on 1 November. The main remaining difference is the issue of using force to disarm Iraqi President Saddam Husayn. Russia, France, and China continue to demand an additional authorization of force in the event that Iraq fails to comply with a new UN resolution, while the United States and Great Britain are seeking a resolution that includes authorization for the automatic use of force. Ivanov's statement might indicate that Russia is ready for further compromise on this issue, the BBC commented. VY

COMMITTEE TO LOOK INTO FINANCING OF TERRORISM
The government's Financial Monitoring Committee has begun investigating financial operations that are allegedly supporting terrorism, strana.ru reported on 1 November. Committee Chairman Yurii Chikhanchin told the website that the committee's formal authorization to conduct such work will be approved as of 1 January and that in the meantime his office is compiling a list of organizations and foundations "suspected of financing terrorism." Chikhanchin said that his committee will look into alleged links between the Chechen fighters who took more than 800 people hostage in Moscow last month and a number of foreign countries, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. RC

EMBATTLED OLIGARCH TO AID ARRESTED CHECHEN
The Civil Liberties Foundation, a nongovernmental organization funded by self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii, will provide legal counsel to Chechen Vice Premier Akhmed Zakaev, who was detained in Denmark on 30 October and who now faces possible extradition to Russia, gazeta.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. Usman Ferzauli, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's representative in Denmark, said Zakaev will seek political asylum in that country, gazeta.ru reported. Danish Justice Minister Lene Espersen said in televised remarks on 2 November that Russia has not yet provided convincing proof that Zakaev has committed any crimes and that if such evidence is not provided by 30 November, Zakaev will be released. Berezovskii told Ekho Moskvy on 4 November that he considers the case against Zakaev "fabricated" and said "a team of Dutch and English lawyers has been formed to defend him." RC

PRESIDENTIAL AIDE REJECTS BASAEV'S CLAIM OF SOLE RESPONSIBILITY FOR HOSTAGE TAKING
Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 1 November rejected as an attempt to exonerate President Maskhadov field commander Shamil Basaev's claim that he organized and oversaw preparations for the 23-26 October Moscow theater hostage taking without Maskhadov's knowledge, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2002). Also on 1 November, Federal Border Guard Service head Colonel General Konstantin Totskii told Interfax he cannot confirm reports that Maskhadov has left Russia and doubts those reports are true. LF

AUDIT CHAMBER TO WEIGH IN ON BERING SEA BORDER TREATY
The Audit Chamber intends to look into the impact on Russia's fisheries industry of a 1990 agreement between the Soviet Union and the United States delimiting the border between the two countries in the Bering Sea, lenta.ru reported on 1 November. The audit will be conducted at the request of the Federation Council and is expected to be completed on 20 December. Some council members have alleged the treaty costs Russia more than $200 million per year in lost fishing revenues. The treaty has never been ratified by the Russian legislature. RC

ELECTION CHIEF TO WATCH HOW THEY DO IT IN THE U.S.
Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov on 3 November flew to the United States to observe Congressional elections there on 5 November, lenta.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. He is traveling with a delegation from the Association of Election Officials of Central and Eastern Europe. RC

RUSSIAN AUTO GIANTS HALT PRODUCTION
Domestic car production in Russia has come to a virtual halt as the main GAZ production line was shut down on 2 November for modernization, strana.ru reported. The main car production line of AvtoVAZ has been closed since 26 October. According to market analysts cited by the website, the real reason for the shutdowns is overproduction. United Financial Group analyst Yelena Sakhnova noted that this is the third time the GAZ line has shut down this year. The website predicted layoffs at both GAZ and AvtoVAZ in the near future, although an unnamed AvtoVAZ manager was quoted as saying that there will be no layoffs there. RC

FSB SEARCHES NEWSPAPER OFFICE...
Federal Security Service (FSB) officers on 1 November searched the offices of the weekly newspaper "Versiya" for several hours, Russian news agencies reported. According to TVS, the FSB officers confiscated a server, the computer used by the editor of the national-security desk, and the personal effects of some newspaper staffers. Editor in Chief Rustam Arifdzhanov told TVS that the FSB officers produced a document concerning a criminal case opened in connection with an article published in the newspaper's 27 May edition about the construction of housing on sites formerly used for secret establishments. However, Arifdzhanov claimed that all of the information in that article had come from open sources. He charged that the raid was actually intended to prevent the publication of an issue entirely devoted to the recent hostage crisis in Moscow, as well as to send journalists the message that "times are changing and you have to behave more quietly." LB

...AS JOURNALIST ORDERED TO PAY COMPENSATION
A Moscow district court on 4 November ordered muckraking journalist Aleksandr Khinshtein to pay 100,000 rubles ($3,333) in compensation for "moral harm" to the former deputy head of Moscow's Interior Ministry, Vasilii Kuptsov, lenta.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. The court found that a story published in "Versiya" in June 2001 that accused Kuptsov of assisting an organized-crime group, accepting bribes, and covering up crimes was without foundation. RC

SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE
The Railways Ministry on 1 November began paying compensation to passengers whose trains arrive late, RBK reported, citing the ministry's press service. According to the report, passengers will receive refunds equal to 3 percent of the cost of their tickets for each hour that their train is late. Passengers must apply for the refund within 45 days of travel, and payment must be made within 30 days of the application. RC

ACTING LIKE GROWNUPS
Two schoolchildren in Chita Oblast on 4 November allegedly kidnapped a seven-year-old schoolmate and demanded ransom from her parents, lenta.ru reported. The two reportedly led the girl into a nearby forest, where they tied her up and hid her in a previously prepared pit, which they covered with leaves. They then contacted the girl's parents and demanded an unspecified ransom. The parents called the police, who were able to quickly apprehend the children and release the girl. No information about the girl's condition was available. RC

TATAR LAWMAKER ARRESTED FOR MURDER OF LOCAL ADMINISTRATION CHIEF...
Rustam Zakirov, a deputy in Tatarstan's State Council, has been arrested and charged with organizing the murder of the head of Tatarstan's Egerje Raion, Refis Seyetov, who was killed outside his home in Nizhnee Kuchukovo early on the morning of 31 August (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 September 2002), tatnews.ru reported on 1 November, citing an unidentified source in the republic's Prosecutor's Office. According to the source, two members of an organized criminal group in Izhevsk, the capital of Udmurtia, had previously been arrested on suspicion that they carried out the killing. Investigators are focusing on Seyetov's professional activities to find a motive for the crime, suggesting the possibility that a criminal group from Izhevsk was trying to extend its influence to the Egerje Raion, of which Zakirov is a former head. CB

...AS FORMER PSKOV OFFICIAL ARRESTED ON CHARGES OF MURDERING SUCCESSOR
Police in Pskov on 31 October confirmed that they have arrested the former head of the Loknyan Raion on suspicion of ordering the 26 August murder of his successor, Leonid Volkov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2002), "Izvestiya" reported on 1 November. The report cites unidentified police sources as saying that Sergei Vasilev, who is one of the richest people in Pskov Oblast, has partially confessed to the crime. Pskov Oblast Deputy Prosecutor Petr Ishchenko told journalists that three men have been arrested in the case, including the suspected triggerman, who was found to be in possession of the apparent murder weapon. RC

ANOTHER REGIONAL OFFICIAL ATTACKED
An unknown assailant on 4 November attacked and seriously wounded Saratov Oblast Duma Secretary Igor Zakharov near his home, RTR-Vesti reported. Zakharov was stabbed several times in the stomach and is reported in serious condition. Police have refused to comment on the case. RC

VOLSKII CALLS FOR CHECHEN TRUCE
Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Chairman Arkadii Volskii, who in 1989-90 headed the Special Administration Committee formed to govern the then Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast and who participated in Chechen peace talks in 1995, told Ekho Moskvy on 1 November that the Chechen conflict can only be resolved through peace talks, Interfax reported. He said that as a necessary precondition for such talks the Russian military should declare a truce and that representatives of Chechen clans should participate in the peace talks with Russian officials who have experience of such negotiations, including former Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, Nationalities Minister Vladimir Zorin, and presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Viktor Kazantsev. Volskii did not exclude the participation of the OSCE in such talks. Also on 1 November, Human Rights Ombudsman Oleg Mironov similarly advocated beginning peace talks with those commanders subordinate to President Maskhadov who want to negotiate, Interfax reported. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY SELECTS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE...
At its third congress in Yerevan on 2 November, the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) approved the nomination of party chairman Stepan Demirchian as the HZhK's candidate in the February 2003 presidential ballot, Noyan Tapan reported. The leaders of 15 other opposition parties that aligned with the HZhK in late August with the aim of ultimately fielding a joint presidential candidate to challenge incumbent President Robert Kocharian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August and 5 September 2002), including Vazgen Manukian of the National Democratic Union and Vladimir Darpinian of the Communist Party of Armenia, signaled they would support Demirchian's nomination as the opposition joint candidate. National Accord Party Chairman Artashes Geghamian, who has made no secret of his aspiration to the joint candidacy, was the sole opposition leader who did not address the congress. LF

...AT WHICH CHAIRMAN OUTLINES ELECTION PROGRAM
In his speech at the 2 November HZhK congress, Demirchian called for stronger state support for farmers and the nascent middle class, stabilization of the national currency, closer monitoring of the use of international credits, and an increase in pensions and public-sector salaries, according to Arminfo on 2 November, as cited by Groong. He argued that Armenia's economic cooperation with Russia should be based on the creation of joint ventures rather than surrendering Armenian assets to Moscow to pay off Armenia's debts. As the country's top foreign-policy priorities, Demirchian named securing international recognition for the right of the population of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to self-determination and intensifying relations with Russia. LF

ARMENIAN PREMIER SACKS NEWSPAPER DISTRIBUTION OFFICIAL
Citing unspecified "serious violations," Andranik Markarian fired a manager at the state-owned newspaper-distribution agency on 1 November following the mysterious disappearance the previous day of the entire print run of the independent newspaper "Aravot," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The 31 October issue of "Aravot," which is consistently critical of the Armenian leadership, carried an article implicating two close associates of Markarian in blackmail (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2002). President Kocharian is believed to have demanded an explanation of the incident from Markarian. LF

ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS TO MEET ON SIDELINES OF NATO SUMMIT
President Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev will meet in Prague on 22 November on the sidelines of the NATO summit for further talks on resolving the Karabakh conflict, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told journalists in Yerevan on 1 November, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. But Oskanian warned against any "special expectations" from the presidents' meeting. He also denied that Azerbaijan has proposed a new plan for resolving the conflict, saying any new peace initiative must come from the OSCE Minsk Group. On 30 October, Noyan Tapan quoted Oskanian as saying that progress had been made toward resolving the conflict and that a proposal is currently on the table that might prove acceptable to all sides (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2002). Oskanian and Kocharian both met on 1 November with the new French co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, Henri Jacolin, to discuss the conflict-mediation process, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

U.S. STEPS UP PRESSURE ON AZERBAIJAN OVER CORRUPTION
Caucasus Press on 2 November quoted U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ross Wilson as saying that if Azerbaijan had used the considerable amounts of financial aid it has received from the United States for the purposes for which it was intended, the country would long since have become the most developed state in the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Wilson reportedly implied that the money has been embezzled and that Washington might therefore withhold further aid. Speaking on 25 October at the presentation of Azerbaijan's new antipoverty program, Wilson reportedly called on the Azerbaijani leadership to "speed up the struggle against corruption...and tackle corrupt officials who exploit state property," according to Armenpress on 28 October as cited by Groong. LF

FORMER GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER ANNOUNCES PRESIDENTIAL BID
Zurab Zhvania announced on 1 November at the founding congress of his United Democrats Party that he will contest the 2005 presidential elections, Caucasus Press reported. Incumbent President Eduard Shevardnadze is barred by the constitution from seeking a third term. Zhvania called on Georgia's political forces to align in a bid to oust the present leadership. He outlined the nine basic principles of his party's program, which include defense of the national heritage, freedom of speech, and social solidarity. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITIONISTS IN FIGHT AT CEC HQ
Some 50 members of the opposition New National Movement (AEM) headed by former Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili, some of them reportedly armed, on 1 November forced their way into the building housing the Central Election Commission to protest that body's delay in announcing the results of the recount of votes cast in Tbilisi in the 2 June local elections, Caucasus Press reported. On 31 October, Saakashvili told the independent television station Rustavi-2 that the leaders of the Adjar Autonomous Republic had paid a huge bribe to unnamed CEC members. They engaged in a fight with guards employed by the Abkhaz parliament-in-exile, which has its premises in the same building, causing considerable material damage. The military prosecutor's office has opened a criminal case in connection with the fracas. On 2 November, Kote Kemularia, who is a member of the AEM leadership, blamed the guards -- who he claimed were drunk -- for trying to prevent the AEM delegation from entering the building although they had passes permitting them to do so. LF

GEORGIAN FINANCE MINISTER REJECTS OPPOSITION CRITICISM OVER BUDGET SHORTFALL
Five Georgian opposition parliament factions -- the New Rightists, the Democrats, the Union of Traditionalists, the Movement for Democratic Reforms, and New Abkhazia-Christian Democrats -- have drafted a resolution blaming Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze and the finance and economy ministers for the 177 million laris ($81.7 million) budget shortfall over the first nine months of this year, Caucasus Press reported on 1 November. They called on President Shevardnadze to dismiss the ministers in question. Finance Minister Mirian Gogiashvili criticized the five factions for "politicizing" the budget shortfall, which he pointed out is due partly to the EU's suspension of grants in the wake of the abduction four months ago in Tbilisi of banking consultant Peter Shaw. LF

PACE DELEGATION VISITS GEORGIA'S PANKISI GORGE
A visiting Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe delegation traveled on 31 October to the Pankisi Gorge where they toured the village of Duisi, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported the following day. Caucasus Press quoted a member of the delegation as saying the situation in the gorge "has improved," but failed to specify over what time period. Also on 1 November, Major General Giorgi Shervashidze, who commands Georgia's Interior Ministry troops, said that beginning that day operations in Pankisi will be reduced in scale but "more focused and precise," Interfax reported. On 2 November, Georgian parliament deputy Giorgi Baramidze (United Democrats) said the ongoing anticrime and antiterrorism operation in Pankisi will be assessed at the upcoming NATO summit in Prague, Caucasus Press reported. He added that a recent delegation from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly that visited Pankisi is now aware that Russia is spreading disinformation about the situation in the gorge. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Lieutenant General David Tevzadze said on 1 November that Russia's current troop presence in Georgia is inadequate to conduct a serious antiterrorism operation, Caucasus Press reported. LF

IS RUSSIA AGAIN PLAYING SPOILER IN ABKHAZIA?
A 4 November meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the Abkhaz conflict has been postponed as Moscow has withdrawn its support for the document drafted by former UN special envoy Dieter Boden entitled "Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competencies Between Tbilisi and Sukhumi," Caucasus Press on 1 November quoted Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharuldze as saying. Russia blocked approval of that document by the Security Council for months but withdrew its objections late last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April and 5 November 2001). Meanwhile the Georgian parliament's interim committee for Abkhazia has adopted a statement condemning as an "attempt to exacerbate tensions" between Russia and Georgia the 21-22 October visit by a Russian State Duma delegation to the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported. LF

DETAINED KAZAKH JOURNALIST REMANDED FOR 10 MORE DAYS
On 31 October a local prosecutor's office in Almaty extended for a further 10 days the term for which independent journalist Sergei Duvanov is to remain in custody on suspicion of rape, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 1 November. Duvanov, who has said the charges are unfounded and politically motivated, began a hunger strike on 29 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 October and 1 November 2002). LF

KYRGYZ SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS BY-ELECTION RULING
The Supreme Court on 1 November upheld a 27 October ruling by an Osh court barring former Deputy Prime Minister Usen Sydykov from contesting a 3 November runoff election in the southern constituency of Kara-Kuldja, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Sydykov polled 46 percent of the vote in the 20 October ballot, but the Osh court ruled that he violated electoral procedures by not resigning as Kyrgyz representative to a CIS body in Minsk prior to the ballot. Meanwhile, some 350 supporters of Sydykov who embarked on a protest march to Bishkek to demand that he be allowed to contest the runoff reached the town of Kochkor-Ata on 2 November. LF

AGA KHAN VISITS TAJIKISTAN
Prince Aga Khan IV arrived in Dushanbe on 2 November where he met with Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov to discuss humanitarian projects being funded by the Aga Khan Foundation, Interfax and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. On 3 November, the two men, together with Afghanistan's Deputy President Hedoyat Amin Arsalo, attended the ceremonial opening of a bridge linking Tajikistan and Afghanistan in Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast. LF

NEW RUSSIAN EMBASSY OPENS IN TAJIKISTAN
Russian State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev attended the ceremonial opening on 2 November of the new Russian embassy building in Dushanbe, Interfax and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The previous day Seleznev met with President Rakhmonov to discuss bilateral economic cooperation and cooperation in the fight against international terrorism and drug trafficking. LF

OSCE CHAIRMAN-IN-OFFICE VISITS TURKMENISTAN
Portuguese Foreign Minister and current OSCE Chairman-in-Office Antonio Martins da Cruz met in Ashgabat on 1 November on the final leg of his tour of Central Asia with Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov, but apparently not with President Saparmurat Niyazov, ITAR-TASS and turkmenistan.ru reported. Their talks focused on combating international terrorism and humanitarian and ecological projects. LF

BELARUS SLAMS RUSSIA FOR CURBING GAS SUPPLIES
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry on 2 November issued a statement criticizing Russia's decision to halve supplies of natural gas to Belarus from 1 November, Belapan reported. In it, the ministry said the decision is a "deliberate action to exert economic pressure on the Republic of Belarus." Russia's Gazprom said last week that it is reducing its gas sales to Belarus by 50 percent because it has already met its export target to that country. Gazprom has accused Belarus of consuming considerably more gas this year than allowed under their contract (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 29 October 2002). "Apart from this [reduction], the Russian side refuses to compensate for the losses suffered by the Belarusian budget as a result of [the application of the country-of-origin principle to] the collection of indirect taxes in mutual trade," the statement reads. "It is evident that these steps by the Russian side lead to the destruction of agreements at the highest level and cause serious damage to Union relations between Belarus and Russia." JM

WASHINGTON DEPLORES BELARUSIAN LAW ON RELIGIONS
The U.S. State Department said a recently enacted law on religions in Belarus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2002) "contradicts international principles of religious freedom and human rights," Reuters reported. "We join the European Union and members of many faiths in our opposition to this law, which appears intended primarily to hinder and prevent the activities of religious groups that the Lukashenka regime considers 'nontraditional' faiths," U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said in a written statement. "We call upon the Lukashenka regime to take the necessary measures to ensure that Belarusian citizens, regardless of religious faith, have the same opportunities to conduct worship without hindrance and in keeping with international norms on the freedom of religion." JM

WILL BELARUSIAN, UKRAINIAN LEADERS CREATE PROBLEMS FOR NATO SUMMIT?
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has applied for a Czech visa to come to the NATO summit in Prague as the head of the Belarusian delegation, CTK reported on 3 November, quoting the Czech weekly "Tyden." "Tyden" noted that Belarus is a full-fledged member of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. According to the weekly, if the council fails to find a method of preventing Lukashenka from coming to the summit, the refusal to issue a visa would become the only possibility. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told journalists in Simferopol on 1 November that he will go to Prague during the summit despite NATO's decision to conduct a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council during the summit at the foreign ministers' level, presumably to exclude Kuchma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October and 1 November 2002), UNIAN reported. JM

WASHINGTON REPORTEDLY WANTS TIES WITH UKRAINE DESPITE KOLCHUGA ALLEGATIONS...
A U.S. State Department official requesting anonymity told Reuters on 1 November that the United States wants to maintain a relationship with Ukraine despite the suspicion that Kyiv might have sold a Kolchuga radar system to Iraq in violation of UN sanctions. "We've already downgraded relations. We don't want to put Ukraine in the Belarus category. We do want to have a relationship," the official is quoted was saying. The previous day, an anonymous U.S. official told AP that the United States expects to impose additional sanctions against Ukraine over the Kolchuga allegations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2002). Meanwhile, President Kuchma suggested on 1 November that he does not expect the team of U.S. and British experts that worked last month in Ukraine to return a clear-cut verdict on whether Ukraine sold the Kolchuga system to Iraq. "Approximately, they'll say that Ukraine has not proved sufficiently [that it did not sell the radar]," UNIAN quoted Kuchma as saying. JM

...AS OPPOSITION LEADER SAYS KUCHMA'S INTERNATIONAL ISOLATION IS 'OBVIOUS'
Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko told journalists on 1 November that NATO's decision not to invite President Kuchma to its summit in Prague is a "dramatic page in Ukraine's modern history [and] an obvious sign of international isolation," UNIAN reported. Yushchenko said Ukraine's current international situation is another argument for a political dialogue between Ukrainian authorities and rival social and political forces. Yushchenko also said Our Ukraine continues to conduct talks with the Labor Ukraine and Ukraine's Regions parliamentary caucuses on the creation of a democratic parliamentary majority. He admitted, however, that it has recently become "more and more difficult" for these forces to talk with one another. JM

MAYOR OF ESTONIA'S CAPITAL RE-ELECTED
By a vote of 43 to 13, the Tallinn City Council re-elected Center Party Chairman and incumbent Mayor Edgar Savisaar on 1 November, BNS reported. The results were widely expected, since the ruling coalition of the Center and Reform parties won 43 of the 63 seats on the council. Indrek Raudne from Res Publica said that his right-wing party did not support Savisaar because it believes he will devote excessive attention to the parliamentary elections in March. "Tallinn needs a full-time mayor," Taudne said. Savisaar avoided the question of whether he intends to run for parliament. The council also endorsed with 37 votes the election of six deputy mayors, three each from the coalition parties. The only change from the previous government is that Aivar Parna replaced Jaan Moks as one of the Center Party deputy mayors. Moks, who also participated in the local elections in Saue, may be elected that town's mayor in coalition with Res Publica. SG

AGREEMENT REACHED ON LATVIAN PARLIAMENT'S LEADERSHIP
The would-be governing parties agreed on the composition of the parliament's presidium, LETA reported on 1 November. Union of Greens and Farmers Chairwoman Ingrida Udre will be the parliament's new speaker, with Latvia's First Party (LPP) Chairman Eriks Jekabsons and Janis Straume of For the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK as her deputies. New Era deputy Janis Reirs will be the parliament's secretary, with Aleksandrs Bartasevics of For Human Rights in a United Latvia remaining deputy secretary. SG

RIGHTIST LATVIAN PARTY TO UNDERGO REORGANIZATION
The For the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (TB/LNNK) executive council decided on 2 November that the party should be reorganized through amendment of its charter at a party congress on 14 December, LETA reported. The proposed changes include the election by the party congress of a new chairman to a four-year term. The current council would be abolished and replaced by a 10-member board proposed by the new chairman and approved by the congress. The party would no longer have any deputy chairmen, as board members collectively would serve that function. The council also elected parliamentary deputies Roberts Zile, Guntars Krasts, and Janis Straume as party co-chairmen until the congress. SG

BRAZILIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS LITHUANIA
Celso Lafer arrived in Vilnius on 3 November for a four-day visit, BNS reported. The trip represents the highest-ranking Brazilian visit ever and was in part influenced by the fact that Lafer's ancestors were born near the town of Sirvintos in southeastern Lithuania. On 4 November, Lafer is scheduled to visit a Holocaust victims museum in Paneriai and the Vilnius synagogue before holding talks on bilateral economic and cultural cooperation with President Valdas Adamkus and Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis. SG

POLISH PREMIER SEES PEASANT PARTY AS COALITION PARTNER AT LOCAL LEVEL
Premier Leszek Miller said on Polish Radio on 4 November that the ruling bloc Democratic Left Alliance-Labor Union (SLD-UP) gained 37 percent of provincial-council seats, thus winning the 27 October local elections in 13 of Poland's 16 provinces. Miller added that the "most natural" coalition partner for the SLD-UP in local self-government is the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), the SLD-UP's government coalition partner. Meanwhile, deputy Sejm speaker Janusz Wojciechowski (PSL) said the Supreme Audit Chamber should immediately inspect the National Election Office, which was responsible for the organization of the 27 October elections and the vote count. Due to a failure of the computer system handling the vote count, the State Election Commission has not yet announced official results of the elections. JM

CZECH RULING COALITION LOSES CONTROL OF UPPER HOUSE
The ruling coalition parties lost their narrow one-seat majority in the Senate in the 1-2 November runoffs in which 26 seats in the upper house were decided, CTK and international news agencies reported. The center-left coalition lost seven seats, leaving it with 34 seats in the 81-member body. The senior coalition Social Democratic Party (CSSD) was voted out in four of 11 constituencies it held and now has 26 senators. Its coalition partner, the Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU), picked up one seat and now has nine senators. The third coalition member, the Christian Democratic Union-People's Party (KDU-CSL), lost all but one of the six seats it was defending and now has 14 senators. The main opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) won in nine constituencies, picking up four seats for a total of 26 seats. Voter turnout was 32.55 percent. The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) won one seat and now controls three seats. Seven seats were won by independents or by candidates representing hitherto extraparliamentary parties. MS

FORMER CZECH PREMIER SAYS ELECTIONS BODE WELL FOR PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT
ODS Chairman Vaclav Klaus suggested on 2 November the success of his party in Senate runoffs and in local elections over the weekend is a good omen for the presidential elections, in which he intends to run to succeed the outgoing Vaclav Havel in early 2003, CTK reported. The ODS has proposed a constitutional amendment to allow for direct presidential elections, though just two months remain before Havel is to step down. If the constitution is not amended, the president will be elected in a joint session of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Social Democratic Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, on the other hand, was cited by CTK as saying on 3 November that the Senate voting will not have any substantial impact on the presidential contest. Spidla said he does not believe there are Klaus supporters among the independents elected to the Senate. MS

RIGHT-WING OPPOSITION PARTY EMERGES AS WINNER IN CZECH LOCAL ELECTIONS
In the local elections held on 1-2 November, the ODS garnered the strongest voter support, winning 25.23 percent of the ballots cast, CTK and international news agencies reported. The CSSD was second with 15.58 percent, while the KSCM placed third with 14.49 percent. Turnout was 43.38 percent, higher than in the accompanying senatorial contest. In Prague, the ODS gained 30 of 70 municipal council seats on 35.54 percent of the vote. CTK reported on 3 November that ODS's candidate for the post, Prague 6 district Mayor Pavel Bem, has a strong chance to be the city's next lord mayor. MS

U.S. PLANES TO GUARD CZECH AIRSPACE DURING NATO SUMMIT
The U.S. Embassy in Prague on 2 November announced that the United States has agreed to a Czech request that Washington deploy military fighters to guard Czech airspace during the 21-22 November NATO summit, CTK and international news agencies reported. Ambassador Craig Stapleton met on 1 November with President Havel, Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik, and Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, to announce the decision. The government on 3 November approved a draft bill that will be submitted to the parliament for debate in shortened procedure between 4 and 14 November. The bill stipulates that 15 U.S. planes and 250 soldiers are to participate in enforcing security between 15 and 30 November. In the event of any attack, U.S. pilots will not be held responsible and any eventual damages would be covered by the Czech government. The pilots will be able to use force only with the consent of the Czech defense minister or a person delegated by him, although they will remain under U.S. command (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2002). MS

CZECH REPUBLIC SENDING AMMUNITION TO GEORGIA
Defense Ministry spokesman Milan Repka announced on 1 November that the Czech Republic will make a donation of surplus ammunition to Georgia, CTK and dpa reported. The donation, worth 5 million crowns ($161,000), is being made at the request of the United States to help Georgia in the struggle against international terrorism, the news agencies reported. MS

FITCH IMPROVES SLOVAKIA'S RATINGS
FitchRatings on 1 November announced it has upgraded Slovakia's country-risk rating for long-term foreign-currency loans to BBB- from the former BB+ rating and from B to F3 for short-term local-currency loans, TASR reported. The rating for long-term credits in local currency remains unchanged at BBB+. The agency said the September elections cleared the way for Slovakia's admission to the EU and thus significantly reduced risk. But it added that the government still needs to take quick and decisive action to reduce the budget deficit and tighten fiscal policy. MS

'WASHINGTON POST' DESCRIBES HUNGARY AS NATO'S WEAK LINK...
According to an article in "The Washington Post" on 3 November, Hungary's dilapidated military structure makes it a weak link in the NATO alliance. Reporter Keith Richburg wrote that Hungarian Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz was "shocked" two days after taking office in May at a lecture he received on his introductory visit to NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson in Brussels. Robertson reportedly told him Hungary must honor its promises to modernize and better equip its armed forces. Robertson told Juhasz, "You do not have any time," according to the article, which cited the Hungarian minister's version of events. Juhasz told the "Washington Post," "We are treated like an unreliable partner." He blamed the state of affairs on neglect by previous government of the transformation of the army's structure, according to the U.S. newspaper. MSZ

...AS HUNGARIAN POLITICIANS COMMENT ON SWIPE AT BUDAPEST IN 'FOREIGN AFFAIRS'
Commenting on an article in the influential "Foreign Affairs" magazine that criticized Hungary for failing to fulfill its NATO commitments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2002), Juhasz said Hungary has moved further from NATO in the previous four years than at any time previously, Hungarian media reported on 2 November. Istvan Simicsko, a former national security state secretary, said the author of the article, Celeste Wallander, made "unrealistic claims," "Nepszabadsag" reported on 4 November. The suggestion that Viktor Orban's cabinet had anything to do with anti-Semitism is baseless, he said. He recalled that the Balkan crisis was under way when Hungary joined NATO and the alliance had at least as much interest in Hungary's accession as vice-versa. Yves Brodeur, spokesman to NATO's secretary-general, told Hungarian MTI news agency on 31 October, "We do not keep tabs on NATO members, nor are the value of individual member states weighed, and never is the performance of the allies commented on publicly." Brodeur said the author was merely stating her own opinion. MSZ

HUNGARIAN PREMIER TO ACCEPT U.S. REQUEST FOR TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN?
Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy will reportedly accept a U.S. request that Hungarian units be deployed in Afghanistan to fight terrorists, "Magyar Nemzet" reported on 4 November. The newspaper also reported that the Hungarian cabinet has indicated through both diplomatic and unofficial channels that it is prepared "to review previous decisions not favorable to the U.S." and therefore might cancel a contract to lease British/Swedish Gripen fighter jets in favor of U.S.-made F-16s or at least provide U.S. weaponry for the Gripens. Medgyessy on 6 November will begin a five-day trip to the United States. MSZ

YUGOSLAVIA MAY REGAIN 'PARIAH STATUS'...
London's "The Times" wrote on 2 November that, "Britain is preparing to confront Yugoslavia at the highest level...over new and irrefutable evidence that Belgrade has been secretly selling crucial military technology to Saddam Hussein [Husayn]," which could threaten the lives of British forces "in the impending war with Iraq" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October and 1 November 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 October 2002). The daily added, "The revelations have enraged London and Washington,... [which] consider Yugoslavia's breaches [of sanctions] so serious that it risks regaining the pariah status that it endured before" the fall of President Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000. British Foreign Minister Jack Straw will travel to Belgrade on 5 November to make Britain's concern known to officials there. PM

...AS ARMS SCANDAL DEEPENS
"The Times" noted on 2 November that, "The crisis, compounded by Belgrade's refusal to hand over indicted war criminals,... is the most serious diplomatic clash" since Milosevic's ouster. Yugoslavia has allegedly supplied "sophisticated weapons" to Iraq, Libya, Liberia, and possibly Burma. It has been "helping Baghdad upgrade aircraft, supplying rocket fuel for Iraqi Scud missiles, and transferring technology for guidance systems," according to the paper. Yugoslavia may also have helped Iraq improve its air-defense systems and provided the skills of professors and other specialists, "The Times" added. In Belgrade, Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic admitted that a "private" Yugoslav firm illegally sold arms to Liberia, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 1 November. The broadcast also quoted Montenegrin customs officials as saying the munitions ship "Boka Star," which was found to be transporting 200 tons of explosives, possibly bound for Iraq, was cleared by federal Yugoslav customs officials in the Serbian town of Kraljevo and not in Montenegro. The "International Herald Tribune" reported on 2 November that the United States provides $135 million in aid each year to Yugoslavia, which is seeking trade benefits and membership in NATO's Partnership for Peace. PM

YUGOSLAV MINISTER SAYS ARMY KNEW OF ARMS DEALS
Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic told AP in Belgrade on 4 November that the army knew about the illegal arms trade but remained silent. He added: "I am sure that the military security service...knew it all, to the last document. But they failed to warn the government." PM

KOSTUNICA'S PARTY REJECTS SERBIAN COALITION'S OFFER
The Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica rejected an offer made by the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition to restore at least 20 parliamentary seats to the DSS if it agrees to support the DOS platform, AP reported from Belgrade on 3 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 June 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 May 2002). Kostunica likened the offer to horse trading, and the DSS repeated its call for early elections. Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said on behalf of the DOS that there is no more room for negotiations with the DSS. PM

MONTENEGRIN PARTY ANNOUNCES LEGISLATIVE BOYCOTT
Officials of the Liberal Alliance, the big loser in 20 October Montenegrin parliamentary elections, announced in Podgorica on 1 November that the party will boycott the legislature, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2002). The Liberal Alliance maintains that President Milo Djukanovic bought some votes, but international observers called the elections generally free and fair. PM

KOSOVARS TO USE MONTENEGRIN PORT?
A delegation from the Kosova Chamber of Commerce discussed possible use of Bar by Kosova with local officials in the Montenegrin port town on 1 November, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

KOSOVAR PRESIDENT'S PARTY WINS IN LOCAL VOTE
The Democratic League of Kosova of President Ibrahim Rugova won in 30 municipalities in the recent local elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 3 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2002). Supporters of former guerrilla leader Hashim Thaci and his Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) finished second. A coalition of five Serbian parties won in five municipalities. In related news, Michael Steiner, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), discussed the future of local government in northern Mitrovica with Kostunica on 2 November. Local Serbs there boycotted the vote. And in a village near Vushtrri, 20 Serbs attacked an international police patrol, seriously injuring one police officer and injuring several more. PM

U.S. HAILS NEW MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT, NATO APPLICANTS
Speaking in Washington, D.C., on 1 November, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said, "Building on September's peaceful fair elections, the smooth formation of the new government reaffirms Macedonia's positive orientation on the path of Euro-Atlantic integration," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October and 1 November 2002). Elsewhere, spokesman Richard Boucher said Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage met with Macedonian Ambassador to the U.S. Nikola Dimitrov, Albanian Ambassador Fatos Tarifa, and Croatian Ambassador Ivan Grdesic. Armitage "reiterated U.S. support for their aspirations to join NATO," AP cited Boucher as saying. "He also welcomed their commitment to cooperate and support each others' candidacies, while reaffirming that each country will be evaluated on its own merits." PM

MACEDONIAN AND ALBANIAN ORGANIZATIONS CLAIM RESPONSIBILITY FOR GRENADE ATTACK
A Macedonian and an Albanian organization claimed responsibility for the grenade attack on the Macedonian parliament on 31 October, Makfax news agency reported on 1 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2002). In a communique to the media, a previously unknown group calling itself the Macedonian National Front claimed responsibility for the attack. The group also threatened to kill President Boris Trajkovski, Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski, former Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, and legislators of the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI). In a separate communique, the shadowy Albanian National Army (AKSH) also claimed responsibility for the attack. It is not clear who indeed threw the grenade. UB

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER CALLS FOR END TO OPPOSITION BOYCOTT
Parliamentary speaker Nikola Popovski called on the opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) to rethink its decision to boycott the parliament until the end of the year, RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters reported on 1 November. The VMRO-DPMNE, which is led by Georgievski, staged a walkout during the plenary session on 31 October to protest the election of BDI members as ministers. Popovski called on VMRO-DPMNE legislators to rethink what he called "an ill-considered" decision. UB

ETHNIC ALBANIAN POLITICAL LEADER ARRESTED IN MACEDONIA
Police spokesman Voislav Zafirovski said in Skopje on 3 November that police arrested Xhevat Ademi, a leading politician of a small nationalist party, at a border crossing with Albania, dpa reported. Zafirovski stressed that Ademi is wanted for terrorism and is not covered by the amnesty that was part of the overall peace settlement in 2001. Ademi told AP by telephone, "This was a deliberate act by the Interior Ministry [and] is not a good start for the new government," which has pledged to respect the peace settlement. Since 1998, the Interior Ministry has been a stronghold of Macedonian hard-liners led by former Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski of the VMRO-DPMNE (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 November 2002). PM

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS 'SECURITATE PROBLEM' IS COMBINATION OF 'MYTH AND REALITY'
Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said on 1 November that the image in the West that former members of the Romanian communist secret police remain in service and could thus jeopardize Romania's chances for NATO membership is a "combination of myth and reality," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Geoana said some 80 percent of the current Romanian Intelligence Service staff was recruited and trained after the fall of the former regime. However, he said that former Securitate members might have a "residual influence from outside the system" as businessmen and managers of private companies. Geoana said a vetting system will be in place as of 23 November, when the newly founded Office of National Register for Secret State Information (ORNISS) will begin functioning, but "other mechanisms" will have to be considered to mitigate the economic influence of former Securitate members. He nonetheless called that influence "largely mythical and folkloric." MS

ROMANIA'S CSAT ORDERS INCREASED VIGILANCE AFTER MOSCOW HOSTAGE CRISIS
Meeting on 1 November in Bucharest, the Supreme Council of National Defense ordered "increased measures for protecting the security of Romanian citizens and possible foreign targets" in the wake of the 23-26 October hostage crisis in Moscow, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The council also examined ways of improving Romania's participation in the struggle against international terrorism. MS

ROMANIAN SUPREME COURT RETURNS MAVERICK SENATOR'S FILE TO PROSECUTOR-GENERAL
The Supreme Court ruled on 1 November that evidence submitted against Greater Romania Party Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor is insufficient for indicting him and sent his case file back to the Prosecutor-General's Office, requesting additional evidence. Tudor's parliamentary immunity was lifted after he was accused of spreading false information relating to Romania allegedly having trained Hamas terrorists. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN MONARCH CONTINUES CAMPAIGN FOR EURO-ATLANTIC MEMBERSHIP
Former King Michael I met in Stockholm on 1 November with journalists from the dailies "Svenska Dagbladet" and "Aftonbladet" and with Swedish officials, according to a press release issued by the king's office in Bucharest. That evening, Michael I was received by King Carl XVI Gustav and members of the Swedish royal family. He also met with members of Sweden's Romanian community, Romanian Radio reported. On 31 October, special Romanian envoy for Euro-Atlantic integration Prince Radu von Hohenzollern-Veringen lectured on "Romanian spirituality" at the Royal Swedish Library in Stockholm. King Michael and Prince Radu are touring Western capitals to facilitate Romania's efforts to join NATO and the European Union. MS

DEAL REACHED IN ROMTELCOM PRIVATIZATION
Romania and the Hellenic Communication Organization (OTE) reached an agreement on 1 November under which OTE would gain a majority stake in the national telecommunications operator RomTelcom, AP reported. The proposed deal includes a $243 million capital increase provided by OTE and the Greek company's direct acquisition of "a limited number of shares" in RomTelcom. OTE already owns 35 percent of RomTelcom and has voting rights of an additional 16 percent. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said on 3 November that the government will examine the deal at its next meeting, Romanian Radio reported. MS

BRITISH POLICE ARREST ROMANIANS, ALBANIANS SUSPECTED OF PLOTTING TO KIDNAP SPICE GIRL
British police on 2 and 3 November arrested nine members of a gang, many of them originally from Romania, suspected of conspiring to kidnap Victoria Beckham -- also known as "Posh Spice" of the pop group Spice Girls, international news agencies reported. Victoria Beckham is married to English national soccer team captain David Beckham. The "News of the World" tabloid, which is said to have tipped Scotland Yard about the plot, reported that the gang planned to ambush the pop star in front of her home and also intended to kidnap her two sons. The gang members lived in London and were born in Romania and Kosova, according to AP. MS

ROMANIAN MINISTER SAYS MOLDOVAN AMENDMENT IS 'STEP IN RIGHT DIRECTION'
Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said on 1 November that the Moldovan parliament's approval on first reading of a constitutional amendment that would allow dual citizenship is "a step in the right direction," Romanian Radio reported. Geoana added that Bucharest is awaiting completion of the amendment procedure. But Gheorgi Prisacaru, chairman of the Romanian Senate Foreign Affairs Commission, dismissed the envisaged change in the Moldovan basic document as "merely cosmetic." Prisacaru said on 1 November that the change is not aimed at helping Moldovans acquire Romanian citizenship, but rather that of Russia and other CIS countries. He pointed out that Moldovan legislation specifically aimed at obstructing Moldovans from acquiring Romanian citizenship remains in force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2002). MS

MOLDOVAN EDUCATION MINISTRY DISTRIBUTES 'HISTORY OF MOLDOVA' TO SCHOOL LIBRARIES
The Education Ministry has begun distributing the "History of Moldova" textbook to Moldovan school libraries, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The distribution is taking place despite the fact that the ministry has revoked its decision to change the curriculum by replacing the teaching of the "History of Romanians" with the "History of Moldova." The textbook is authored by Vasile Stati, a former parliamentary deputy from the Party of Moldovan Communists and one of the chief promoters of "Moldovianism." MS

BULGARIAN MINISTER REPORTEDLY RESIGNS OVER BUDGET DISPUTE
Deputy Prime Minister and Regional Development Minister Kostadin Paskalev has resigned because of a dispute over the 2003 budget, mediapool.bg reported on 2 November. Finance Minister Milen Velchev rejected Paskalev's concept for financial decentralization, and the government was unwilling to accept his proposals for administrative reform. Government spokesman Dimitar Tsonev said Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski accepted Paskalev's resignation on 2 November but added that Saxecoburggotski regretted having to do so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2002). UB

BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER WRAPS UP VISIT TO GREECE
Prime Minister Saxecoburggotski wrapped up a one-day visit to Athens on 1 November, BTA reported. During his visit, Saxecoburggotski met with his Greek counterpart Kostas Simitis, Foreign Minister Georgios Papandreou, and Archibishop Christodoulos, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church. The two governments signed an agreement on environmental protection and sustainable development. UB

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES PLAN FOR ALTERNATIVE DEVELOPMENT
Agriculture Minister Mehmed Dikme announced on 3 November that the government will invest some $51 million in alternative agriculture and infrastructure projects in the Rhodope Mountains' region in southern Bulgaria, BTA reported. The announcement came following a working meeting of the cabinet held in Kardzhali. The five-year development plan envisages the introduction of alternative farming methods, the cultivation of herbs and fruits, and the breeding of buffalo, goats, and rabbits. The farmers of the underdeveloped region on the country's border with Greece traditionally grow primarily tobacco and potatoes. UB

MOSCOW'S CHECHEN HOSTAGE SAGA: THE IMPLICATIONS FOR THE CAUCASUS


The seizure of more than 800 hostages in a Moscow theater by a group of armed Chechens on 23-26 October has led many to predict an even more aggressive Russian policy toward Chechnya. But while this might prove to be the case, the gravest implications of the hostage saga might extend beyond Moscow's handling of the Chechen issue. It is also somewhat difficult to envision how Russian policies in Chechnya can become any more aggressive than they have been over the last three years of renewed conflict and casualties.

The most disturbing developments in the immediate aftermath of the incident were Russian President Vladimir Putin's call for a revised national-security doctrine and his vow to expand his own war on terrorism, extending the Russian fight to a broadened arena beyond Russia's borders and targeting "all places where terrorists and their ideological supporters and financial backers are based." This expanded mandate is modeled on U.S. President George W. Bush's doctrine of preemptive strikes and has given rise to serious concerns in the southern Caucasus.

This Russian variant of preemptive force is nothing new, however, and merely reinforces an already active reassertion of Russian power in the former Soviet republics. Although most notable in the Caucasus, this Russian reassertion has also been seen in recent moves regarding Belarus and Ukraine and seems to be held in check in Central Asia only by the U.S. military presence there.

Moreover, this reassertion is also an element in Moscow's overall strategic alignment with the United States and, in terms of Moscow's role in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, capitalizes on an inherent Western fear of instability and renewed conflict in the volatile southern Caucasus. This Western fear is reinforced by the likelihood of instability in Azerbaijan and Georgia following the departure from the political scene of the septuagenarian presidents of those two countries. And with construction of the long-awaited Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan export pipeline for Azerbaijan's Caspian oil finally set to get under way early next year, Washington generally accepts an increased role for Moscow to promote regional stability.

Such acquiescence to this bolder Russian agenda holds dangers, however. The most troubling development in the short term is the accelerated strengthening of the Russian state, complete with a broadening of restrictive measures on the media and an increase in the power of the security apparatus. This danger can already be seen in the recent return to Soviet-style secrecy and was even reflected in the government's handling of the hostage crisis.

The lack of transparency throughout the three-day crisis reveals the fundamental dilemma facing Russian society: a clash between security and civil liberties. Although this dilemma is also seen in the United States, the lack of strong democratic institutions and the concomitant fragility of rule of law in Russia only bolster the worst characteristics of an increasingly autocratic Russian state.

The first measures stemming from this new Russian national-security doctrine have already been implemented, as security forces have begun rounding up hundreds of Chechens and other people from the Caucasus for questioning. The sweeps also include the fingerprinting of Caucasians. Some reports indicate that these measures might be extended to large urban areas in many parts of the Russian Federation. Following numerous assaults and hate crimes directed against immigrants from the Caucasus in many Russian cities in the past year, such security measures might actually inflame ethnic tensions and trigger new waves of migration. A mass return to Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia of nationals of those countries who have for years worked in Russia would compound already high unemployment and result in the loss of huge sums of capital regularly remitted from Russia by those migrant workers to their extended families in their home countries.

The second danger is that the West might find itself too accepting of a return of Russian imperialism and even be quickly drawn into a spiral of renewed conflict in the regional hot spots of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh. The danger lies in Russia going too far beyond Chechnya, thereby upsetting the delicate balance of power in the region and actually exacerbating instability in the conflict-prone Caucasus.

The most vulnerable target of this expanded Russian doctrine is undoubtedly Georgia, although the implications extend throughout the region to include Azerbaijan and even Armenia. Aware of the inherent dangers, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has hurriedly revised his confrontational stance over the past few months and adopted a new cooperative approach, demonstrated by the extradition to Russia of five suspected Chechen fighters and suggestions of cooperation in the lawless Pankisi Gorge.

This shift also results from Georgia's realization that the limited U.S. military presence in the country does not provide enough leverage in the face of the U.S.-Russian strategic partnership. Georgia has now adopted a prudent strategic reliance on pipeline politics as a new avenue to securing Georgian statehood, with the expectation that pipeline security offers the most realistic means to counter Russia. This strategy is further strengthened by the growing Turkish military role in Georgia, only encouraged by Turkey's bid as a guarantor of Caspian export routes.

For Azerbaijan, even before the hostage saga, the past two years have seen a general improvement in relations with Russia, as reflected in the quick extradition of Chechens to Russia and cooperation in gathering intelligence on Chechen groups in Azerbaijan and neighboring Daghestan. Even prior to the Moscow hostage taking, Azerbaijani authorities moved against the unofficial representation of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov by closing the Chechen cultural center in Baku. They have since followed up by closing an independent school whose pupils were mostly the children of Chechen refugees. In marked contrast to its tacit support for the Chechens in the 1994-96 war, Baku is now seeking to prevent any entanglement in the Chechen issue.

Thus the implications of the hostage saga suggest an empowered Russian state and a reassertion of Russian power in the Caucasus. It remains to be seen, however, whether Russia can temper its desire to subjugate Chechnya at any cost with the flexibility needed to maintain a delicate regional balance of power. But with a looming period of transition only exacerbating its vulnerability, the Caucasus might be subject to a resurgence of the conflicts that plagued the region in the first half of the last decade.

AFGHAN SUPREME COURT DISMISSES 'UNCOVERED' FEMALE JUDGE
The Afghan Supreme Court has dismissed Marziya Basil, a female judge and one of 14 female Afghan government officials who attended management and computer-literacy courses in Washington last month at the invitation of the U.S. government, Reuters reported on 2 November. Basil was seen without a headscarf in photographs taken during her meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush at the time. "The decision to dismiss Basil "was made by top authorities of the Supreme Court," according to an unidentified source quoted by Reuters. In a related story, the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran from Mashhad reported on 2 November that the Afghan delegation's trip and the publication of pictures showing them without their headscarves "caused some reaction in Afghanistan." Iranian radio went on to quote the Kabul daily "Suhbat" as commenting that it considers the delegation's U.S. trip a "disgrace to the dignity of Afghanistan." AT

AFGHAN DAILY CALLS FOR EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL ETHNIC GROUPS...
An editorial published on 27 October in "Anis," the oldest Dari-language daily in Kabul, commented that the existence of different minorities with religious and linguistic differences is an undeniable reality in Afghanistan, therefore the government must strive to create a social model that ensures the rights of minorities. The paper went on to argue that equal rights can be ensured by establishing a government based on law, recognizing the rights of all citizens of the country, and prohibiting any discrimination or privileges stemming from one's nationality, language, or religion. The paper added that all of these issues are addressed "very well in the constitution launched under the monarchy system in 1964." The Afghan government on 5 October appointed a committee to draft Afghanistan's new constitution. It is conceivable that the 1964 constitution -- with certain modifications, particularly considering that the country is no longer a monarchy -- could be used as the basis for the new constitution. AT

...AS AFGHAN PRESIDENT DECREES FORMATION OF A JUDICIAL COMMISSION
In order to improve and introduce reforms in the judicial system of Afghanistan, a commission comprising Afghan legal and judicial experts has been set up by a decree from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran from Mashhad reported on 3 November. The commission is tasked with drawing up programs for the judiciary, using the experience of developed countries and in cooperation with international organizations. The commission is also responsible, in coordination with the Independent Commission for Human Rights of Afghanistan, for presenting periodic reports to the Afghan president and the office of the United Nations' special envoy to Afghanistan. The formation of this commission was part of the December 2001 Bonn Agreement. Furthermore, the commission will cooperate with the Constitutional Commission in presenting judicial drafts and bills to be included in the new Afghan Constitution. AT

U.S. CLAIMS TALIBAN, HIZB-I ISLAMI HAVE JOINED FORCES TO FIGHT AFGHAN GOVERNMENT...
Taliban forces are regrouping in the border areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan to lay the groundwork for guerrilla assaults against President Karzai's government, according to "The New York Times" of 3 November. The daily reported that unidentified Pentagon officials have said Taliban fighters are using Kunar Province in northeastern Afghanistan as a gateway to enter the country from Pakistan and that Kunar has also become a base for guerrillas belonging to the radical Hizb-i Islami (Islamic Party) led by Gulbuddin Hikmatyar. The newspaper also reported that Pentagon officials said Hikmatyar has formed allegiances with elements loyal to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. As for Pakistani involvement in these subversive operations, a State Department official was quoted by the paper as saying, "all this stuff happens on the fringes" and anyone -- from Pakistani intelligence officers to "rogue operators" to retired officers -- might be involved. But many U.S. and Afghan officials believe elements inside Pakistan's military-intelligence agency continue to support the Taliban and their sympathizers, according to "The New York Times." AT

...PROMPTING DENIAL FROM HIZB-I ISLAMI LEADER
In an interview with the London-based Arabic-language daily "Al-Hayat" of 2 November, Hizb-i Islami leader Hikmatyar denied that his group is allied with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. However, Hikmatyar said he has declared jihad against the United States and that his forces have carried out military operations against U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan. Hikmatyar was the closest Afghan ally of the Pakistani intelligence agencies during Afghan resistance to the Soviets (1979-89) and the Pakistanis channeled the lion's share of weapons and money that the United States and other countries were supplying to the Afghan resistance, to which the anti-American Hizb-i Islami belonged. For that reason, Hikmatyar's reemergence in Pakistan could be viewed as an another attempt on the part of dissatisfied elements within Pakistan's military intelligence to reestablish their presence in Afghanistan as they had with the Taliban. AT

IRAN LETS BIN LADEN'S SON PASS THROUGH...
An anonymous Iranian official has claimed that one of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's 23 sons and about 200 other people linked with Al-Qaeda have been detained by Iranian security forces, according to the "Financial Times" on 2 November. The anonymous source went on to say that the son was turned over to Pakistani or Saudi Arabian authorities. An anonymous "senior U.S. intelligence official" was quoted in "The Washington Post" on 3 November as saying, "We don't have anything to substantiate this," and the source asserted, "We would have known about it," because the Saudis and Pakistanis are close U.S. allies. Iranian Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mohammed Ali Abtahi told "The Washington Post" that he is aware of the report but "wouldn't confirm it unless credible information is available." Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh told Reuters on 3 November that the son "was one of 20 people who were arrested and immediately expelled from Iran around two months ago," but he was not identified because he was not carrying identification. BS

...AS DO OTHER TERRORISTS
A 29 October report in "The Washington Post" asserted that six men are now running Al-Qaeda operations because most of the organization's top leadership is "dead, captured, or on the run." One of the new leaders is an Egyptian named Saif al-Adel -- the new Al-Qaeda and Taliban military chief in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region -- and he hid out in Iran during the summer. A Jordanian named Abu Musab Zarqawi also traveled to Iran, and an anonymous "European source" described Zarqawi as Al-Qaeda's "highly mobile top operator and facilitator." BS

U.S. OFFICIAL EXPRESSES CONCERN ABOUT IRAN'S WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton said at the Second Global Conference on Nuclear, Bio/Chem Terrorism in Washington, D.C., on 1 November that Iran is one of the states "most aggressively seeking to acquire WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and their means of delivery." Iran, Bolton said, "is known to be seeking dual-use materials, technology, and expertise for its offensive biological- and chemical-weapons programs" and it is trying "to upgrade its large ballistic-missile force." He added, "Iran seeks to acquire a nuclear-weapons capability." BS

IRAN COMMEMORATES OCCUPATION OF U.S. EMBASSY AND HOSTAGE CRISIS
The Iranian government on 4 November staged a rally at the site of the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran to mark the day in 1979 that a mob of so-called students stormed the facility and then held American personnel hostage for 444 days. The previous day, according to IRNA, students at Tehran University held a sit-in in front of the Swiss Embassy -- which now represents U.S. interests in Iran -- to protest "unilateral and belligerent" U.S. policies. Also on 3 November, a one-day conference on "America's plots to interfere in Islamic countries" after 11 September was held at the former U.S. Embassy, according to Iranian state television. Presidential adviser Hassan Ghafuri-Rad on 2 November accused the United States of meddling in regional affairs on the pretext of counterterrorism, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. Ghafuri-Rad accused the United States and Israel of bullying Muslim countries in the Middle East. BS

ANOTHER RESEARCH CENTER CLOSED IN IRAN
Abbas Abdi, one of the "students" who occupied the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and who now is a director of the Ayandeh Research Institute, was arrested on 4 November, according to IRNA. The Ayandeh Research Institute was closed and its head, Hussein Qazian, was detained on 31 October, according to IRNA one day later. This incident occurred one day after the arrest of Mohsen Gudarzi, director of the Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry's National Plan for Assessing Iranians' Opinion and Values. Behruz Geranpayeh, head of the Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry's National Institute for Research Studies and Opinion Polls, was detained on 16 October (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 21 October 2002). These arrests are connected with the September publication of a poll in which the majority of Tehran respondents favored a resumption of Iran-U.S. relations, but the charges against Geranpayeh include espionage. BS

IRANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES BLOOD-MONEY EQUALITY
Iran's parliament on 3 November approved a bill that would make the amount of "blood money" (diyeh) paid by a perpetrator for the killing or wounding of a Christian, Jew, or Zoroastrian the same as it would be for the killing or wounding of a Muslim, IRNA reported. The Iranian Constitution states that Iran is a Shia Muslim state and Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism are recognized minority faiths. Nevertheless, the blood money for minorities is less than that for Muslims -- currently $18,750 for a Muslim male and half that amount for a minority or a female. As a condition, the legislature required that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approve of it and set the amount. The Guardians Council also must approve the legislation on Islamic and constitutional grounds before it becomes law. BS

IRAQI PRESIDENT GIVES INTERVIEW, WARNS ARAB STATES...
Iraqi President Saddam Husayn gave an interview to Egyptian pro-Iraqi weekly "Al-Usboua" of 3 November. In the interview, President Husayn appealed to the Arab states to defend Iraq in the event of a U.S. attack, saying, "The United States wants to destroy the centers of power in all the Arab homeland, whether these are in Cairo, Damascus, or Baghdad," according to AP. He claimed that the United States intends to gain hegemony over the resources of the Arab world and turn the Arab states into small emirates. He said, "From this premise, all the big countries like Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia will be divided into small emirates and the oil regions and its sources would be placed in the hands of these 'statelets' that will act as their guardian and not as their owners," Al-Jazeera reported on 3 November. Husayn concluded, "The Arab oil will be under U.S. control and the region, especially where oil flows, will be under full American hegemony. All this serves Israel's interest with the aim of turning it to a vast empire in the region." His most revealing comment, however, was on the present situation with the United States. Husayn first vowed, "We will never make it a picnic for the American and British soldiers." He later added, "Time is in our favor, and we have to buy more time hoping that the U.S.-British alliance might disintegrate because...of the pressure of public opinion" in those states, AP reported on 3 November. KR

...AND CONFERS WITH ARMY COMMANDERS, SONS...
President Husayn met with a number of advisors and his sons on 3 November, Iraq TV reported. Those attending the meeting included: Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and Military Industrialization Minister Abd-al-Tawwab al-Mulla Huwaysh; sons Qusay Saddam Husayn, leader of the Republican Guard and Uday Saddam Husayn, head of the "Saddam Fedayeen"; Iraqi Atomic Energy Organization head Fadil Muslim al-Janabi; as well as Iraqi Defense Minister Staff General Sultan Hashim Ahmad; commanders of the Air Defense and Air Force; and the dean of the Military Engineering College. Huwaysh opened the meeting by assuring President Husayn that the Iraqi fighters would "make extraordinary efforts to unleash the potentials of Iraqis with a view of elevating the edifice of their lofty homeland and defending it against evil aggressors." Husayn then "listened to a briefing on the progress the fighters and mujahedin have made in the course of their efforts to promote the process of rebuilding great Iraq, and also on the capabilities of his smart sons and their steadfastness in the face of the forces of darkness and tyranny." KR

...AS IRAQI VICE PRESIDENT ACCUSES U.S. OF INFLUENCING UN OFFICIALS
Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan on 1 November accused the United States of exerting political, military, and economic pressure on UN states in an effort to influence the upcoming Security Council vote on a resolution against Iraq, Al-Jazeera reported. Ramadan said Iraq's acceptance of the Vienna agreement does not leave any pretext for issuing a new UN Security Council resolution, saying: "two days after the meeting in Vienna and during the deliberations at the Security Council, Blix announced that he does not need a new resolution legally and that the agreement reached [between Iraq and the United Nations] would enable him to carry out his mission in a good manner. Now we see Powell and finally the U.S. president and all the U.S. administration staff meeting those UN employees to put pressure on them and make them change their positions. This is an immoral method and it exceeds all limits," Al-Jazeera reported. KR

BAGHDAD INTERNATIONAL FAIR OPENS
Iraqi Vice President Ramadan inaugurated the 35th Annual Baghdad International Fair on 1 November, with 1,200 Arab and foreign companies from 49 countries attending the fair, including firms from U.S. antiterrorism coalition partners France, Germany, and Saudi Arabia. "The Washington Times" reported that the three largest delegations came from Lebanon, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. In his inaugural speech, carried by Iraq TV on 1 November, Ramadan said the UN blockade on Iraq is coming to an end due to the steadfastness of zealous Iraqis. He added that Iraq and its trade partners have established new areas of joint economic and technical cooperation, noting that Iraq has in recent months signed 10 free-trade agreements with the Arab states. Items on display at the fair include consumer goods and food allowed under the UN's oil-for-food program. In addition, automobiles and heavy machinery were on display for the first time. The theme of this year's fair is "An Embodiment of Iraq's Will for Development, Steadfastness, and Broader Arab and International Economic Relations." KR

IRAQI ARTISTS DISCUSS CENSORSHIP WITH PRESIDENT
President Husayn met on 2 November with a number of artists -- including actors, directors, and writers, according to Iraqi Satellite TV. The president discussed a number of issues with the artists and addressed the issue of censorship. Husayn explained that he does not "like" the word "censorship," since Iraq is a small country where most people in a town know each other. Therefore, he prefers the word "interaction" to "censorship." He then added that censorship should be turned into "dialogue" and "interaction," and that Iraqis should show respect for each other. Husayn said Iraqis should exercise self-censorship in their writings, songs, plays, novels, and stories, and added that the word "censorship" in culture and media does not befit the Iraqis. KR

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