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Newsline - November 15, 2002


RUSSIA, FRANCE CONVENE BILATERAL COUNCIL ON STRATEGIC SECURITY
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov arrived in Paris on 15 November for the inaugural meeting of the Russian-French Security Cooperation Council, Russian and Western news agencies reported. The new body comprises the foreign and defense ministers of the two countries and is modeled on the U.S.-Russian Consultative Group for Strategic Security (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 2002). Ivanov said the presidents of the two countries maintain daily contact on security matters, as do the defense ministers and military-intelligence services. He added that the new council will expand the quantity and quality of such contacts. VY

DEFENSE MINISTER DENIES CONNECTION BETWEEN IRAQ AND INTERNATIONAL TERROR
Speaking to journalists in Paris, Sergei Ivanov stressed that Moscow and Paris hold virtually identical views of the Iraq situation, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Ivanov added that Russia has no evidence linking Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime to Al-Qaeda or any other international terrorist organization. "During Russian antiterrorist operations in Chechnya, we have captured citizens of 30-40 countries, but none of them were Iraqis," Ivanov said. "We have no information about the participation of any Iraqi citizen in any terrorist attack." VY

RUSSIAN INSPECTOR CONFIRMS LEAKS OF NUCLEAR MATERIALS
Speaking at a Moscow press conference on 14 November, Yurii Vishnevskii, head of the State Nuclear Inspectorate (GosAtomNadzor), said his agency has registered cases of leaks of fissile materials from the country's nuclear facilities over the last decade, newsru.com reported. Vishnevskii said the disappearance of a few grams of weapons-grade materials qualifies as a "leak," as does the disappearance of a few kilograms of low-grade nuclear fuel. Among the installations where leaks have been registered, Vishnevskii named nuclear plants in Elektrostal and Novosibirsk. He added that following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, Russian nuclear facilities set up special antiterrorist barriers. VY

PUTIN PRESENTS CONCEPTION OF FEDERAL RELATIONS TO DUMA...
During a Kremlin meeting with Duma faction leaders on 14 November, President Vladimir Putin announced that the presidential commission headed by deputy administration chief Dmitrii Kozak studying the delineation of authority among the federal, regional, and local levels has prepared two draft bills, RTR and other Russian news agencies reported. One bill deals with the division of power between federal and regional authorities, while the second addresses the responsibilities of regional and local self-government organs. Putin stressed that a key principle of the two bills is that government bodies will only bear responsibilities for which they control the requisite funding. He also said that after the bills are approved, all treaties on power sharing between the federation and its constituents will be invalidated. VY

...AS DEPUTIES DISCUSS PROBLEM OF MERGING REGIONS
The Duma Regional Policy Committee on 14 November held a hearing on a draft bill on altering the administrative borders of Russian regions, polit.ru reported. Deputies and experts at the hearing expressed two main schools of thought. Some supported the government's efforts to merge some regions, while others back the so-called ethnic republics and urged expanding the independence of federation constituents. Deputy Boris Nadezhdin (Union of Rightist Forces) argued that the number of federation subjects -- currently 89 -- must be reduced. He argued that the criterion for each separate constituent must be its economic viability. "Small nations cannot be economically self-sufficient," Nadezhdin said. Polit.ru, however, commented that it is premature for the government to discuss implementing a concept for administrative reform when it has not yet articulated that concept. VY

GOVERNMENT SEEKS FURTHER LIBERALIZATION OF CURRENCY CONTROLS...
Addressing a government meeting on 14 November, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said existing currency regulations are hindering the development of the economy and making Russia less attractive to investment, abnews.ru reported. He described the regulations as a tall fence cutting off the Russian economy from foreign economies, saying that fence remains too high despite recent moves toward liberalization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 15 October 2002). Russia should shift from permitting hard-currency transactions to simply registering them, Kasyanov said. First Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin announced that by 2007 Moscow will renounce all government mechanisms for regulating the movement of capital into and out of Russia. VY

...AND DISCUSSES DEPOSIT INSURANCE
At the same meeting, Prime Minister Kasyanov initiated a discussion of a proposed bill on state insurance for individual commercial-bank deposits, polit.ru reported on 14 November. Kasyanov said individual savings are an important tool for developing the economies of Western countries. He called on the government to revitalize the weak banking sector and find ways to turn individual savings into domestic investment. The bill under discussion stipulates a 100 percent guarantee for individual accounts up to 20,000 rubles ($625) and 95 percent coverage for deposits up to 95,000 rubles. Individuals with more savings should distribute their funds among several banks, said Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref. VY

DUMA APPROVES CYRILLIC-ONLY BILL
The Duma on 15 November passed in its second and third readings an amendment to the law on the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation, newsru.com and other Russian news agencies reported. The amendment would mandate that the Cyrillic alphabet serve as the basis for the written languages of all peoples of the federation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February and 6 June 2002). The use of any other alphabet would have to be approved by a special federal law in each case, Interfax reported. Deputy Fandes Safiullin (Russian Regions), who represents a district in Tatarstan, spoke out against the bill, saying that "national alphabets cannot by made uniform" and "there is no precedent [for such a bill] in the world." Last year, Tatarstan officially adopted an alphabet based on Latin script (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September and 19 October 2001). RC

BASHKIR PARLIAMENT REJECTS DRAFT CONSTITUTION
Legislators in Bashkortostan have rejected in its first reading a new draft constitution that would abolish the post of republican president, strana.ru reported on 13 November. Although the draft has been endorsed by Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, deputies reportedly rejected it because it contains many contradictions with federal legislation and because of numerous requests from localities in the republic that they do so. According to strana.ru, the draft under consideration -- although nominally intended to establish a parliamentary system of government -- actually maintains the presidential system under a new guise. The republican head of state would be the prime minister, but he or she would be directly elected by the public. The prime minister would then have the authority to form a government without taking into account the makeup of parliament. "In this way, Murtaza Rakhimov could extend his reign by another eight years without any long debates over whether he is seeking a third term as president," the website commented. RC

POLICE NET HUGE HAUL OF PIRATE DISCS
Police in Moscow have confiscated more than 70,000 illegal DVD discs in a record seizure, lenta.ru reported on 15 November. The discs were reportedly worth up to $1 million. RIA-Novosti quoted an unnamed source at the Media Ministry as saying "this is the biggest haul [we've had] in all the years of combating piracy." AP cited an unidentified Interior Ministry source as saying the seizure was made on the grounds of a state research institute called the Scientific Research Institute for Precise Instruments in a warehouse and workshop leased by a firm called Miriam XXI. The institute is reportedly part of the Russian Space Agency (Rosaviakosmos). According to the AP report, the DVDs contained pornographic movies intended for sale in Russia and the Baltic states. In August, the United States formally complained to the Russian government about the alleged production of illegal CDs and DVDs at state-owned institutions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August 2002). RC

JUSTICE MINISTER PLEASED WITH PROGRESS ON PRISON REFORM
Speaking to reporters in Novosibirsk on 14 November, Justice Minister Yurii Chaika said considerable progress has been made in reforming Russia's prison system since responsibility for it was transferred from the Interior Ministry to the Justice Ministry, lenta.ru and Interfax reported. Chaika said there is a new emphasis on defending prisoners' human rights and noted that special human rights assistants had been appointed at all incarceration facilities. He also said that European inspectors have been making quarterly inspections of Russian prisons and have documented no serious violations of global standards. He said reforms over the last two years have reduced the number of prisoners held in pretrial detention by more than 50 percent and that the total prison population has been reduced by 200,000. RC

INTERIOR MINISTER TO HEAD UNIFIED RUSSIA?
Speaking to reporters in Dushanbe on 15 November, Boris Gryzlov commented on recent rumors that he will be named chairman of the Unified Russia party in preparation for the December 2003 State Duma election campaign, strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. Currently, the party has three co-chairmen: Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, and Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev. According to unnamed sources within the party, a consensus has developed that a single leader is needed to carry the party through the upcoming campaign, strana.ru reported. Gryzlov told journalists that he would not resign his government post if he were named party chairman. The work of party chairman "is not directly connected with party activity, and therefore I will be able to do both," Gryzlov said. "I have been helping the party during this difficult stage in its establishment and will continue to help in the future." RC

PLANNED EXTRA SPENDING ON COUNTERTERRORISM SPARKS CONTROVERSY
Generals representing the Defense Ministry persuaded members of the State Duma Budget Committee to reduce additional planned spending on counterterrorism in the 2003 budget from 3 billion rubles ($97 million) to 1.5 billion rubles, "Vedomosti" reported on 14 November. Plans to allocate an extra 3 billion rubles to fight terrorism alarmed Defense Ministry officials because that spending would require cuts in other defense-related budget articles (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2002). In late October, the Federation Council Budget Committee recommended the Duma increase expenditures on combating terrorism by 3 billion rubles, but that committee's chairman, Yevgenii Bushmin, told "Vedomosti" the senators had envisioned reallocating the extra 3 billion rubles from all parts of the budget, not just the defense and security articles. According to "Vedomosti," the government has so far not intervened in the dispute. LB

FSB CONDUCTS SEARCH AT REGIONAL NEWSPAPER
Local officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Perm searched the offices of the regional newspaper "Zvezda" on 12 November, lenta.ru reported on 15 November, citing the paper's website and the chairman of the local union of journalists, Vasilii Mosiev. According to Mosiev, the FSB also questioned "Zvezda" Editor in Chief Sergei Trushnikov for five hours and forced him to sign a pledge not to discuss the interrogation. According to the "Zvezda" website, FSB officers confiscated documents and computer hard disks. They also interrogated the paper's crime reporter, Konstantin Bakharev. Mosiev said only that the possible cause for the FSB's interest was a series of recent publications on local crime. Meanwhile, NTV reported on 15 November that local tax police in Petrozavodsk searched the offices of the independent newspaper "Guberniya" on 12 November. The paper's editor in chief, Larisa Zhdanova, accused local authorities of trying to prevent the next issue of the paper from appearing because it contains an investigation into how local bureaucrats are using their state-provided apartments. RC

MAJORITY FAVORS CENSORSHIP DURING HOSTAGE CRISES
Sixty-one percent of Russian citizens believe it is necessary to impose censorship during emergency situations involving hostages, according to a nationwide survey of 1,600 people conducted by the Agency for Regional and Political Research (ARPI), newsru.com reported on 13 November. About 35 percent of respondents oppose censorship in such situations. Meanwhile, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader and Deputy Duma Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovskii told reporters in Moscow on 14 November that "the state must control all processes in the country -- from the weather to the mass media," RosBalt reported. "Terror is a war in which the front is everywhere. Why in such a war should journalists have unlimited freedom while the rest of the public faces rights limitations?" Zhirinovskii was quoted as saying. "The number of insane people in the country is increasing, violence and debauchery are on the rise, and all this is the work of journalists." LB/RC

STUDY FINDS 7 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS BELONG TO MIDDLE CLASS
Seven percent of the Russian population can be considered "middle class," and an additional 12 percent have some middle-class characteristics, according to economist Yelena Avraamova, who participated in a nationwide study financed by the Carnegie Foundation. In an interview published in "Novye izvestiya" on 14 November, Avraamova explained that she and her colleagues based their analysis not on the self-reported incomes of survey respondents (members of some 5,000 families), but on a combination of three factors: education level and profession, material wealth, and self-identification. The ratio of men to women in the middle class is approximately 60:40. The survey found that husbands and wives often work in the same business and as a rule have no more than two children. LB

SUPREME COURT ORDERS DEFENSE MINISTRY TO PAY CONTRACT SOLDIERS
The Supreme Court on 13 November upheld a lower-court ruling in favor of more than 1,000 contract soldiers who sued the Defense Ministry for back wages, Moskoviya television reported. The wage arrears have accumulated over several years, and the ministry must pay the soldiers some 20 billion rubles ($645 million). The entire Defense Ministry budget for this year amounts to 284 billion rubles. Newsreader Gleb Pyanykh suggested the ministry could meet the demands of the Supreme Court ruling by using 16.5 billion rubles earmarked for military reform and 3 billion rubles allocated for an experimental program involving the Pskov Airborne Division. LB

ANOTHER ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PARTY NOMINATES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
The opposition National Democratic Union (AZhM) formally nominated its leader, Vazgen Manukian, as its candidate for the February presidential elections during its annual party congress on 14 November, according to "Azg" and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. Accepting the nomination, Manukian asserted his pro-Western stand by promising to lead the country "into Europe and not follow in Russia's footsteps." With experience as both prime minister and defense minister, Manukian was also the main opposition candidate in the September 1996 presidential election, but he lost to then-President Levon Ter-Petrossian. Manukian never accepted that defeat, maintaining that the 1996 election was -- as international observers certified at the time -- "neither free nor fair." The announcement is the latest nomination of an opposition candidate, seriously undermining the declared unity of the 16 opposition political parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002). RG

ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT INCREASES PENSIONS...
For the third time this year, the Armenian government announced on 14 November plans to increase monthly pension payments, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and "Azg" reported. The increase will raise pensions by 700 drams ($1.22) to a monthly payment of 6,700 drams and will take effective at the beginning of 2003. Even with these three increases in 2002, payments for the roughly half a million Armenian pensioners still remain among the lowest in the Commonwealth of Independent States. RG

...AND PROPOSES TO RAISE HEALTH SPENDING
In testimony to the Armenian parliament on 14 November, the government presented its draft 2003 budget increase for health spending to a planned level of 20.75 billion drams, according to "Azg." The state budget also proposed a set of smaller funding increases for social security, education, and nature conservation. RG

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER COMMENTS ON TURKISH ELECTIONS
Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian told reporters on 14 November that it is too early to determine what implications the recent elections in Turkey will hold for relations with Armenia, "Azg," and ArmenPress reported. "We shall have to wait and see what kind of policy toward Armenia and the region in general the Turkish government adopts," Oskanian said. Commenting on the 15 November meeting between Armenian and Azerbaijani deputy foreign ministers in Vienna, Oskanian stated that "neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan were expecting something special." The deputy foreign ministers were appointed by the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents in an attempt to maintain a dialogue between the two countries. RG

AZERBAIJANI VILLAGERS RENEW DEMONSTRATIONS OVER POOR LIVING CONDITIONS
Residents of Azerbaijan's Nardaran village on 14 November renewed demonstrations protesting the government's failure to address the severe socioeconomic conditions of the region, ANS reported. The situation in Nardaran remains tense despite several meetings with government officials in the wake of a clash between villagers and police in early June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 June 2002). Village elders condemned the authorities for not fulfilling their promises of economic aid and energy supplies and called for the release of all villagers detained after the 3 June clash. The situation in Nardaran has been simmering for many months, as villagers launched a series of protests and demonstrations against poor socioeconomic conditions in early 2002 (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 8, 28 February 2002). RG

NEW JOINT AZERBAIJANI-ARMENIAN EFFORT TO PROMOTE DIALOGUE LAUNCHED
An unprecedented new Internet-based effort to "promote dialogue" between Azerbaijanis and Armenians was unveiled in Baku and Yerevan on 14 November, Mediamax and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. A group of Azerbaijani and Armenian analysts established two linked websites (http://www.dialogueazarm.com and http://www.dialoguearmaz.nt.am), one in each country, featuring joint research and analysis aimed at resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Materials are available in Azerbaijani, Armenian, and Russian. The innovative effort, according to Armenian organizer Harutiun Khachatrian and Azerbaijani academic Ali Abbasov, "is an attempt to resist the harmful tendency of growing hostility" in the two countries and will "promote public opinion favoring reconciliation and mutual concessions." The effort also holds that "economic cooperation is possible and might facilitate the conflict's settlement." The project was financed by the British government and coordinated through the British embassies in both countries. RG

RUSSIAN BORDER OFFICIALS DISCUSS JOINT TRAINING WITH AZERBAIJANI COUNTERPARTS
Russian Federal Border Guard official Valerii Putov met with Azerbaijani Frontier Service Deputy Commander Inayat Khaliov on 14 November to discuss plans for a new joint-training program, ANS reported. The officials stated that expanded bilateral cooperation would include the "joint protection of borders" and antiterrorism measures. RG

GEORGIAN, RUSSIAN BORDER-GUARD OFFICIALS MEET TO PLAN NEW JOINT MEASURES...
Russian border-guard officials met in Tbilisi on 14 November with their Georgian counterparts to review plans for new joint patrols and measures aimed at extending and securing control over the Russia-Georgia border, Civil Georgia reported. The joint operation will include sharing intelligence information and stems from the agreement between the Russian and Georgian presidents reached early last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2002). RG

...WHILE RUSSIAN BORDER-GUARD COMMANDER CRITICIZES GEORGIA
Russian Federal Border Guard Service Commander Colonel General Konstantin Totskii criticized the Georgian government on 14 November for continuing to allow Chechen rebels to operate bases and launch military incursions into Russia from Georgian territory, AP and ITAR-TASS reported. Totskii also dismissed the planned joint border operations with the Georgians and stated that he has "little hope" of real cooperation because "there is no political will" in Georgia. RG

CRISIS MEETING WITH HELD BETWEEN KEY DEPUTIES AND GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY LEADERS
For the second time in less than a month, senior officers of the Georgian Defense Ministry's Military Council met with key parliamentarians on 14 November to discuss the severe shortfall in defense spending, Civil Georgia reported. The senior officers urged parliamentary Chairwoman Nino Burjanadze and Defense and Security Committee Chairman Irakli Batiashvili to take immediate steps to correct the roughly 11 million lari ($5 million) budget shortfall for the first 10 months of 2002. The parliamentary leaders promised to discuss the situation with Finance Minister Mirian Gogiashvili. RG

KAZAKH GOVERNMENT TURNS DOWN CHECHEN REQUEST FOR REFUGE...
Deputy Interior Minister Ivan Otto acknowledged on 14 November that the government has received a letter from some 300 Chechen families in Russia appealing for temporary refuge in Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 14 November 2002) but said their request could not be granted, Interfax reported. He explained that giving them refugee status would oblige the authorities to provide them with food, housing, and work. "We cannot afford this. Our budget is simply insufficient," Otto told the news agency. The obligations of host states toward refugees, to which Otto referred, are codified in the 1951 International Convention on Refugees. AA

...BUT REVISITS QUESTION OF CHECHENS ALREADY IN KAZAKHSTAN
Also on 14 November, Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev told parliamentary deputies in Astana that there are already 12,000 Chechens in the country "who are essentially refugees" although they do not have that legal status, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Toqaev complained that the Justice Ministry has not still approved a protocol setting out Kazakhstan's relations to Chechens who have fled from Russia since 1999 and asked Justice Minister Georgii Kim to speed up the process. Tokaev said these people should be given rights and opportunities, although they will not receive the full state benefits they would be entitled to as bona-fide refugees because Kazakhstan has not yet ratified the International Convention on Refugees, according to Toqaev. Kazakhstan joined the convention in January 1999. AA

KAZAKH DEFENSE CHIEF CONFERS IN WASHINGTON
Visiting the Pentagon on 14 November, Kazakh Defense Minister Mukhtar Altynbaev met U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to discuss the war on terrorism and ways to expand bilateral military ties, RFE/RL reported. Rumsfeld thanked Kazakhstan for its support of the antiterrorism coalition and assured his counterpart of Washington's commitment to a long-term relationship with the Central Asia countries. Altynbaev noted the importance of military training in the United States for Kazakh officers and of joint exercises conducted with American service personnel. Kyrgyzstan Defense Minister Colonel General Esen Topoev met Rumsfeld in Washington last week, also to discuss military cooperation and regional-security issues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2002). AA

DEPUTIES CONTINUE DEBATE OVER BY-ELECTION CRISIS
For the third time this week, Kyrgyzstan's Legislative Assembly (the lower parliament chamber) on 14 November discussed but took no decision on the political situation created by the decision to bar former Deputy Prime Minister Usen Sydykov from a runoff local by-election in Kara-Kuldja, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Deputies examined two draft resolutions -- one calling on the president and the government to resolve the situation and the other tasking a special commission to make recommendations -- and passed neither of them. Some deputies have argued the dispute does not lie within the parliament's competence and should be dealt with by the Central Election Commission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2002). AA

PROTESTORS, POLICE IN NEW STANDOFF OUTSIDE KYRGYZ CAPITAL...
Some 600-1,000 antigovernment protestors launched a march on Bishkek from a town 20 kilometers away on 14 November, only to be halted 1 kilometer from the city limits on the Bishkek-Sokuluk highway by a roadblock and hundreds of police officers, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and Interfax reported. The marchers, most of whom hailed from the south of the country, were calling for the impeachment of President Askar Akaev, the release of former Vice President Feliks Kulov, and the reinstatement of Sydykov as a candidate in a Kara-Kuldja by-election. Unable to proceed further, the protestors started a sit-down strike, blocking the road. The march was triggered by the government's alleged failure to respect an agreement made two months ago with protestors outside town of Toktogul, when it promised to punish three top officials for their roles in the shooting deaths of five demonstrators in Aksy in March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September and 11 November 2002). Protestors also expressed anger at parliament's indecisiveness over the Sydykov issue. AA

...WHILE KYRGYZ AUTHORITIES FAIL TO BROKER SOLUTION
Justice Minister Daniyar Narynbaev, presidential press chief Botol Zhanuzakov, the mayor of Bishkek, and other government officials met on 14 November with representatives of the protesters, including opposition lawmaker Azimbek Beknazarov, human rights activist Tursunbek Akunov, and Usen Sydykov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and Kyrgyz Radio reported. The representatives told RFE/RL they turned down the government's offer of talks aimed at finding a compromise. Meanwhile, the Kyrgyz government held an emergency meeting to discuss how to deal with the protesters and their demands. Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev told the meeting the authorities "will try to resolve this situation exclusively through negotiations, without using any force," Interfax reported.

ANTI-POPPY PATHOGEN UNVEILED
Researchers at the Tajik Academy of Sciences announced they have developed a biological pathogen that effectively destroys opium poppies without affecting humans or any other kind of plant or animal, Asia-Plus reported on 14 November. The pathogen kills 90 percent of poppy ovaries at an early stage of the flower's growth, and about 60 percent if the pathogen is unleashed after the bolls have ripened. The practical application of the pathogen as a weapon in the war against drugs, especially in Afghanistan, will be discussed in December at an international drug-control conference in Tashkent. AA

TURKMEN BANKS TOLD TO CLOSE HARD-CURRENCY ACCOUNTS
On 14 November in Ashgabat, President Saparmurat Niyazov told a group of senior banking and finance officials that in the near future only the Central Bank will be permitted to conduct foreign currency transactions in the country, Turkmen TV reported. He said he will soon issue a decree ordering all other local banks to close their hard-currency accounts. Centralizing control of Turkmenistan's hard-currency reserves is the only way to keep track of them, the president said. A scandal erupted in Turkmenistan in September when it was discovered that $41.5 million of state hard-currency funds had gone missing (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 26 September 2002). AA

TURKMEN BUDGET EMPHASIZES SOCIAL NEEDS
Turkmenistan's draft budget for 2003, due to be passed by the parliament in two weeks, amounts to 52 trillion manats ($10 billion), of which 70 percent is earmarked for social welfare, Interfax reported on 14 November. This includes a plan to double salaries in the country in February. Next year's projected revenue of 51.5 trillion manats derives primarily from oil and gas earnings. In order to save money, the government recently decided to employ 65,000 soldiers in various spheres of the economy, especially construction, health care, and agriculture. AA

UZBEKISTAN TO RAISE COTTON VALUE BY MORE PROCESSING
Addressing a forum on the cotton industry on 14 November in Tashkent, Deputy Prime Minister Elyor Ganiev announced that Uzbekistan plans to double the amount of cotton fiber it processes domestically by 2005, thus raising its value as an export commodity, Uzbek TV reported. Currently Uzbekistan processes only about 25 percent of the fiber it grows and exports the rest of the crop as cheaper raw cotton. This year, the country harvested some 3.2 tons of raw cotton. Typically one-third of a crop's total weight is fiber. AA

BELARUS THREATENS TO CUT DIPLOMATIC TIES WITH CZECHS...
Belarus's foreign minister suggested on 14 November that Minsk will break off diplomatic ties with Prague if the Czechs deny an entry visa to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka ahead of the 21-22 November NATO summit, Reuters reported. Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda on 15 November announced that Prague is rejecting Lukashenka's visa request (see Czech item below and "RFE/RL Newsline," 12, 13, and 14 November 2002). "Belarus sees a refusal of a visa as a serious step. We will respond strongly," Reuters quoted Belarusian Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastou as saying one day prior to the Czech announcement. "In diplomacy, there are numerous examples when diplomatic ties have been broken." Khvastou added: "The Czech Republic is [faring] better from of our trade relations.... Czech exports to Belarus are greater than Belarusian exports to the Czech Republic.... We will look for other partners." Lukashenka applied for the Czech visa last month. AM

...AND ACCUSES POLAND OF VIOLATING INTERNATIONAL LAW
Khvastou also accused neighboring Poland on 14 November of violating international law by preventing ethnic Chechens from entering its territory, Belapan news agency reported. "[These] Russian citizens have valid documents, and we view as unacceptable a ban on the movement of people based on nationality, especially if it is imposed on a category of persons 70 percent of whom are women and children," Belapan quoted him as saying. The lack of a response from the OSCE's Bureau for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in Warsaw constitutes "an apparent breach of OSCE regulations and the International Covenant on Civil and Human Rights, which asserts citizens' freedom to travel," he added. Chechens forced to stay in Belarus due to Poland's actions will receive accommodation and medical aid from the Belarusian government, Khvastou added (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2002). AM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT TO NOMINATE DONETSK GOVERNOR FOR PREMIERSHIP
Leonid Kuchma intends to nominate Donetsk Governor Viktor Yanukovych as a candidate for prime minister, a source close to the presidential administration told Interfax on 14 November. The source indicated the president will hold final consultations with caucus leaders and the parliamentary majority groups on 15 November. A measure to dismiss the current government has already been prepared, and Kuchma will announce his decision on 15 November, the source suggested, adding that Kuchma intends to submit Yanukovych's candidacy to the legislature soon to allow for a vote on 21 November. Ukraine's parliamentary majority has proposed four candidates for prime minister, including Yanukovych, current Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleh Dubyna, and State Tax Administration chief Mykola Azarov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October and 5 November 2002). AM

ESTONIAN, GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTERS DISCUSS EU MATTERS
In talks in Berlin on 14 November, Estonian Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland informed her German counterpart Joschka Fischer on the current state of her country's EU-membership negotiations, ETA reported. She said Estonia wants to see an efficient and equitable EU and supports reforms that will make its institutions more efficient, transparent, and democratic, also noting that the eventual implementation must be taken into account in planning related reforms. The ministers also discussed the work of the Future of Europe Convention, cooperation between Baltic Sea states, and the recent agreement between the EU and Russia on transit between the Kaliningrad Oblast and the rest of Russia. Fischer stressed that Germany strongly supports Estonia's membership in NATO. SG

NEW LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS BALTIC COUNTERPARTS
Less than a week after assuming her new post, Sandra Kalniete made her first official visits abroad to Parnu and Panevezys to hold talks with her Estonian and Lithuanian counterparts on 13 and 14 November, respectively, BNS reported. The talks in Parnu with Estonian Foreign Minister Ojuland focused mainly on the need for close cooperation in concluding EU membership negotiations and the anticipated invitations to join NATO at the Prague summit on 21-22 November. Kalniete discussed these issues with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis as well as the question of transit to and from Kaliningrad through Lithuania in light of the recent EU-Russia agreement. The ministers also discussed the planned visit to Vilnius on 22 and 23 November by U.S. President Bush and his expected meeting with the three Baltic presidents. SG

LITHUANIAN DRAFT BUDGET RETURNED TO GOVERNMENT FOR REVISION
Parliamentary debate of the government's proposed 2003 budget resulted in the draft being sent back to the cabinet for revision on 14 November, ELTA reported. The draft envisages revenues of 10.98 billion litas ($3.15 billion) and expenditures of 12.28 billion litas. A number of changes in committee or proposed by individual deputies would increase expenditures by 1.6 billion litas. Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Algirdas Butkevicius called most of the requests "impracticable," and his committee proposed increasing spending by 83.6 million litas of additional funding for education, health care, social security, and completing objects under construction. The government has 15 days for revision before parliament debates it a second time. SG

POLAND WILL RECEIVE STRUCTURAL FUNDS IN FULL, SAYS EU COMMISSIONER...
EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen assured on 14 November that Poland will not have to pay in full its expected contribution to the EU budget if its entry comes after 1 January 2004, PAP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline", 14 November 2002). Poland also would not get the full amount of direct subsidies but would receive structural funds in full, he added. Verheugen was in Warsaw attending 14 November debates of the Party of European Socialists (PES) of the European Parliament. Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller at the PES session stressed that the EU's new members should not be net contributors, PAP reported. Genuine unification is only possible through the elimination of disparities in development within Europe and within some countries, Miller added. AM

...WHILE FARMERS PROTEST TERMS OF POLAND'S EU ENTRY
Hundreds of Polish farmers demonstrated on 14 November in front of the European Union's mission in Warsaw, protesting the proposed terms of Poland's admission to the EU as unfair and ruinous for the country's 6 million farmers, AP reported. In the first year of membership, the EU is offering just one-quarter of the subsidies available to current member states' farmers, with the figure gradually increasing to parity in 2013. "I know that nobody is going to give us money for nothing, but there must be some balance, some justice," AP quoted 37 year-old farmer Tomasz Jaron as saying. Polish farmers are demanding subsidies equal to those offered to the 8 million farmers in current EU states. EU Commissioner Verheugen said on 14 November in Warsaw that full subsidies would kill farmers' initiative to adjust to new circumstances and create a feeling of injustice within other professions, according to AP. AM

CZECHS REJECT VISA FOR BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT...
The Czech Republic on 15 November denied a visa request by Alyaksandr Lukashenka, CTK reported the same day, seemingly dashing the Belarusian leader's hopes of turning up uninvited at the 21-22 November NATO summit and virtually ensuring a diplomatic rift with Minsk in the process. Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda was quoted as saying the visa was denied due to Belarus's lack of respect for human rights, the news agency reported. Svoboda said Czech officials do not wish to allow Lukashenka to use such a visit to "legitimize his position" in Belarus, and added that Minsk requested special protection the host country could not afford. "Our instructions to the Czech charge d'affaires in Minsk are to not grant a visa," Svoboda said, according to CTK. The news agency added that the Belarusian Foreign Ministry has not yet received official word of the decision. AH

...AND SAY THEY ARE READY TO 'PAY THE PRICE'
Svoboda said there will be "a price to pay" for the decision, CTK reported on 15 November, "but all those who value the basic human rights and liberties must be ready to face some repercussion." Czech officials acted without any pressure from either NATO or the European Union, he said. "This is our decision. But any support in this matter is welcome, as there are values that are worth protecting." Belarusian officials have repeatedly threatened retribution if the visa request is not granted (see Belarus item above and "RFE/RL Newsline," 12, 13, and 14 November 2002) AH

CZECH SENATE APPROVES BILL ON EU REFERENDUM...
The Senate on 14 November approved a government-sponsored bill requiring the country to hold a national referendum on joining the European Union, international news agencies reported. All 67 senators present voted in favor of the bill, which still requires President Vaclav Havel's signature. The bill requires the plebiscite to be held within 30 days after the Czech Republic signs an accession treaty with the EU. It stipulates that if voters reject joining the union, a new plebiscite cannot be called for at least two years. MS

...EXTENDS KUWAIT STAY OF CZECH ANTICHEMICAL-WARFARE UNIT...
The upper chamber on 14 November also extended the stay in Kuwait of the Czech antichemical-warfare unit, AP and CTK reported. The unit is likely to stay in that country through 2003. Before the vote, Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik told senators that the government decided to accept a Kuwaiti offer to finance the stay and to have members of the unit train a similar Kuwaiti unit in exchange. In related news, on 15 November the daily "Pravo" cited Tvrdik as saying that the Czech Army is building a 200-strong elite police unit to operate abroad as part of the joint NATO forces. The daily says the unit could be used in the search for war criminals in the Balkans. MS

...AND APPROVES NEW MINISTRY
Also on 14 November, the Senate approved a government-sponsored bill to set up a Ministry of Informatics. The Chamber of Deputies has already approved the bill, which has been expected since the July coalition agreement established the portfolio and named Vladimir Mlynar (Freedom Union-Democratic Union) to the cabinet-level post of minister of informatics. MS

NEW CANDIDATE EMERGES FOR CZECH OPPOSITION PARTY'S LEADERSHIP POST
Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Deputy Chairman Jan Zahradil will run for the post of ODS chairman at the party's national conference in December, CTK reported on 14 November, citing the dailies "Pravo" and "Mlada fronta Dnes." Zahradil is the first candidate to emerge for the position after Moravia-Silesia Commissioner Evzen Tosenovsky withdrew on 8 November. Zahradil, generally regarded as having strong loyalties to current Chairman Vaclav Klaus, told "Pravo" that he is conditioning his candidacy on strong support and a limited two-year mandate. He also said that if he decides to run for the position, "it would have to be after an exchange of views with Klaus," adding that he does not want to find himself in a position similar to that of Tosenovsky, who was opposed by Klaus after announcing his candidacy. The only chairman in the right-wing party's 11-year history, Klaus has said he will not seek re-election as he weighs a bid for the Czech presidency. MS

RIGHT-WING GROUP IN CZECH SENATE CHANGES LABELS
The Freedom Union-Civic Democratic Alliance (US-ODA) senators' group on 14 November announced it will call itself the Open Democracy group, CTK reported. The change in denomination is aimed at encouraging independent senators to join the group. But for now, one independent senator, Jitka Seitlova, has announced her exit from the former US-ODA faction. Senate Deputy Chairman Jan Ruml of the Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU) said some senators are still considering joining the new group, which comprises 15 members. MS

CZECH TELEVISION GENERAL DIRECTOR TO BE DISMISSED?
The Czech Television Council will vote on 18 November on the possible dismissal of the state broadcaster's general director, Jiri Balvin, Czech Radio reported on 14 November. The council said in a statement that Balvin, who took over the post in the wake of a divisive political power struggle in 2001, has proven to be a "disappointment" and has failed to implement restructuring at the station. The council also said he has failed to stem a ballooning budget deficit. Although some council members demanded Balvin's immediate dismissal, the council voted to wait for the vote until he returns from a business trip in Asia. MS

CUBANS DEFECT FROM CZECH EMBASSY IN PRAGUE
Two employees of the Cuban Embassy in Prague have requested political asylum in the Czech Republic, CTK reported on 15 November, citing the daily "Lidove noviny." The two are the driver of Cuban Ambassador David Paulovich and the driver's wife. Paulovich confirmed the defection, but denied that the two had diplomatic status. The ambassador said the two defectors disappeared with the embassy's car and that he has asked Czech police to track down and return the car. The couple is now in the Vysni Lahota refugee camp in northern Moravia. MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT WINS VOTE OF CONFIDENCE IN PARLIAMENT
The Slovak parliament on 14 November approved the government's four-year program in a vote of confidence in Mikulas Dzurinda's cabinet, TASR and international news agencies reported. The vote was 78 in favor and 63 against. Prime Minister Dzurinda told the chamber that the vote is important not only because it is required by constitutional provision, but also because Slovakia expects to receive an invitation to join NATO at next week's Prague summit and the invitation to complete accession negotiations with the EU at the European Council meeting in Copenhagen in December. "To use this chance, Slovakia needs to have a firm and stable government, and it is therefore important that the premier go to Prague and Copenhagen with the parliament's mandate," CTK cited Dzurinda as saying. MS

FORMER SLOVAK OFFICIALS TO STAND TRIAL FOR ALLEGED BRIBES
The Bratislava regional court on 14 November ruled that former Privatization Minister Peter Bisak and former Privatization Agency Chairman Stefan Gavornik are to stand trial for allegedly accepting bribes during their 1994-98 tenures in the government headed by former Premier Vladimir Meciar, TASR reported. The court thus overturned a decision by a district court to return the case to the prosecution for further investigation. Gavornik is alleged to have accepted a 15 million crown ($362,468 at the current exchange rate) bribe in connection with the privatization of the magnesium-processing plant Slovenske Magnetizove Zavody Hacava. The defendants are also alleged to have taken a 2 million crown bribe each for the privatization of the Elektrosystemy Bratislava company. Bisak is also charged with abuse of office. MS

HUNGARIAN JOINS IRAQ INSPECTION TEAM
Major Laszlo Foldi, a 35-year-old chemist and environmental-protection engineer, has been invited to join the UN team of weapons inspectors led by Hans Blix to monitor disarmament compliance in Iraq, "Nepszabadsag" reported. The first team of experts is due to arrive in Iraq on 25 November. Foldi completed a UN course on environmental management and protection in Austria. MSZ

HUNGARIAN NOBEL PRIZE WINNER CRITICIZED BY RIGHT-WINGERS
Imre Kertesz, a Holocaust survivor who won this year's Nobel Prize for Literature, on 14 November came under fire from the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) after the Budapest City Council voted overwhelmingly to make Kertesz an honorary citizen of the city, AP reported. Laszlo Zsinka, leader of the MIEP faction on the City Council, told the news agency that Kertesz could not say a good word about the Hungarian capital and did not deserve the award. Kertesz has consistently criticized his native Hungary for failing to confront its role in the Holocaust. Around 600,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to concentration camps and murdered in the last few months of World War II. "Whenever he makes a statement, he only does damage to Budapest's reputation," Zsinka said. "He says he does not belong to the Hungarian nation and that this nation and Budapest mean nothing to him, so why should we give him an award?" MSZ

NATO SET TO EXTEND ITS MISSION IN MACEDONIA
An unnamed senior NATO official told Reuters in Brussels on 14 November that the Atlantic alliance will most likely extend its Amber Fox mission in Macedonia for a further six months once the current mandate expires on 15 December because the EU is not ready to replace it. The EU's project has been held up for months by bickering between Greece and Turkey over what is known as Berlin Plus, which is a plan to guarantee the EU access to NATO planning, intelligence, and logistics (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 October 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 February, 8 March, 3 May, 16 August, and 15 November 2002). France is reportedly ready to go ahead with the EU project even without Berlin Plus. But an unnamed senior NATO official told London's "Financial Times" of 15 November that "the U.S., Britain, and some others did not want France to create a precedent of going in without NATO." PM

MACEDONIAN SUPREME COURT TO DECIDE ABOUT COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE
A Skopje city court has asked the Supreme Court to rule on cooperation between Macedonian courts and the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, "Dnevnik" reported on 15 November. The issue is whether cases of war crimes that are already being heard before Macedonian courts can be transferred to the tribunal. The city court's president, Bojan Eftimov, said The Hague has already asked Macedonia to transfer a case that is before a domestic court. Eftimov wants the government and the judiciary to have a common position on the issue, adding that the courts will decide on each case individually if the Supreme Court rules in favor of cooperation. UB

KOSTUNICA TO SEEK SERBIAN PRESIDENCY
Vojislav Kostunica announced in Belgrade on 14 November that he will run for the Serbian presidency in the 8 December contest, international and regional media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2002). "I decided to run for the Serbian presidency in the repeat election. I am not giving up, I will keep fighting for my political program, and, what is more important, for the building of institutions," he said in a statement. Yugoslav parliament speaker Dragoljub Micunovic called Kostunica's candidacy "the only viable solution" for Serbia, AP reported. He urged "all democratic forces to support Kostunica." Micunovic is an ally of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and had been considered a possible candidate of Djindjic's Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) for the presidency. It is not clear what stand DOS will officially take in the elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The only other declared candidate besides Kostunica is far-right Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj. The position of Yugoslav president may well not exist once Belgrade and Podgorica agree on the terms of their new joint state. PM

SPY CASE AGAINST FORMER SERBIAN GENERAL MIGHT BE DROPPED
The Yugoslav parliament confirmed on 14 November that former General Momcilo Perisic and three additional deputies continue to enjoy parliamentary immunity from judicial proceedings, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported from Belgrade. Chief prosecutor Nikola Petkovic said the legislature's ruling means the case against Perisic for allegedly spying for the United States is dead. Perisic, an ally of Djindjic and a former army chief, insists the charges are politically motivated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2002). PM

BOSNIAN HELICOPTERS GROUNDED FOR FILMING SFOR BASE
NATO officials said in Sarajevo on 14 November that they have banned further helicopter flights by the Muslim-Croat military because one of their helicopters hovered over an SFOR base and filmed it, AP reported. Local movie director Zijad Mehic told the news agency that the Muslim-Croat military had allowed his crew to use the helicopter in conjunction with filming a movie by local director Srdjan Vuletic called "Summer in the Golden Valley." Mehic added: "We are shocked. We had no clue it would produce such a problem." A NATO spokesman said, "The commander of SFOR, Lieutenant General William Ward, has no choice but to take immediate action pending the completion of a more thorough investigation." PM

CROATIAN PRIME MINISTER DEFENDS HIS 'HUMANITARIAN GESTURE'
Ivica Racan told parliament on 15 November that his government's decision not to extradite former General Janko Bobetko while he undergoes hospitalization was not an attempt to undermine the authority of the war crimes tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2002). Racan stressed that the government's action should be seen as a "humanitarian gesture." PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS PSD MUST POSE BETTER ARGUMENTS FOR EARLY ELECTIONS...
Speaking on Romanian Television on 14 November, President Ion Iliescu said the arguments he has heard from the leadership of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) in favor of early elections are "not sufficiently convincing," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Iliescu said the PSD must more thoroughly analyze the pros and cons of an early ballot. He did not rule out that the situation could change following the European Council meeting in Copenhagen in December, when the government will have a clearer picture of its tasks ahead. Iliescu also warned the PSD that the "psychological effect" of early elections could be different than the party expects. "Those who provoke early elections usually lose them," he said. MS

...SAYS 1987 BRASOV REVOLT SHOULD BE THOROUGHLY INVESTIGATED
Iliescu also said on Romanian Television that the 1987 Brasov workers' uprising against the communist regime should be thoroughly investigated to "give satisfaction to those who suffered" as a result of the regime's harsh response, Mediafax reported. Asked to comment on the recent dispute concerning PSD deputy Ristea Priboi's alleged participation in quashing the revolt as a Securitate member, Iliescu said: "It should not be complicated to elucidate it. Only 15 years have passed since then. Everything can still be verified on a concrete, factual basis." MS

FORMER ROMANIAN MONARCH SUMS UP EUROPEAN TOUR
Former King Michael I said on 14 November that his recent tour of European countries ruled by monarchs was not a "propaganda exercise" and that in every country he visited he tried to present an accurate account of Romania's realities, "with all their drawbacks," Romanian Radio reported. The former monarch made the comments regarding his tour for enlisting support for Romania's NATO and EU bids during a reception at his official residence in Bucharest. King Michael was to present the conclusions of his tour at the NATO House in Bucharest on 15 November. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT TELLS OSCE THAT CUSTOMS UNIFICATION IS KEY TO RESOLVING TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT
President Vladimir Voronin told an OSCE delegation on 14 November that the "creation of unified customs [procedures] is a task of utmost importance for resolving the Transdniester conflict," Infotag reported. The delegation visited several border-crossing points on the Moldovan-Ukrainian border -- particularly those located in Transdniester -- that Moldova claims are used for smuggling purposes. On 13 November, the Transdniester separatists prevented members of the delegation from reaching the Ukrainian side via the separatist region, ITAR-TASS reported. The separatists said the decision was prompted by the fact that Moldovan officials accompanied the delegation. The visiting delegation is to make a report to the OSCE Standing Committee in Vienna. MS

MOLDOVAN, RUSSIAN SECURITY OFFICIALS SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT
Visiting Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo and his Moldovan counterpart Valeriu Grubulea on 14 November signed in Chisinau an agreement on cooperation in combating international terrorism and on other security issues, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER FEARS EXPORT SCANDAL COULD HARM NATO BID...
Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said on 14 November that Bulgaria's NATO bid is in jeopardy following revelations that a Bulgarian company attempted to ship dual-use goods to Syria, BTA reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12, 13, and 14 November 2002). "The situation is by no means rosy. We are in trouble and I will personally insist that those responsible for this bear the brunt of the law in its full severity," Pasi said. Syria is on a list of countries the U.S. State Department has accused of sponsoring terrorism, as is Iraq, which some Bulgarian media has claimed was the intended recipient of equipment from the state arms-export company TEREM that was intercepted. Bulgaria was expected to receive a NATO invitation at the alliance's 21-22 November Prague summit, but Pasi noted that ratification of Bulgaria's membership by the United States will now be very difficult even if it does receive an invitation. He also expressed regret that Bulgaria's bid was negatively affected by "a handful of irresponsible persons." Pasi was the first Bulgarian legislator to propose in 1990 that Bulgaria should leave the Warsaw Pact and seek NATO membership. UB

...AS PRIME MINISTER, PRESIDENT REMAIN OPTIMISTIC...
Speaking before his departure for a visit to France, Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski said on 14 November that he expects Bulgaria to receive an invitation to join NATO despite the scandal, BTA reported. Saxecoburggotski declined to comment on speculation that the scandal was orchestrated as a political attack. Meanwhile, President Georgi Parvanov said that while the "criminal act" is unfortunate, "the government acted promptly and resolutely, which proves our capability of being a good and honest ally." "I cannot but congratulate almost all services, competent authorities, and the government on their prompt, timely and appropriate reaction to the situation," Parvanov added. However, he noted that some intelligence services had to be informed about the case by the presidential administration. UB

...WHILE MORE QUESTIONS EMERGE
In the wake of the scandal involving the export of spare parts that could be used for armored personnel carriers, the daily "Sega" reported on 14 November that the Interior Ministry knew for months about other cases of illegal exports of arms and dual-use goods by TEREM. Asked whether the Interior Ministry had knowledge of any other such deals, Deputy Interior Minister Rumen Stoilov said, "I want to say that there was a similar case." According to the daily, Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov confirmed on 14 November that this earlier deal was the reason the government replaced members of TEREM's management earlier this year. Meanwhile, Bulgarian media has said the deal involving the goods bound for Syria was initiated by "Rodeos Investment," a company reportedly registered in Washington, D.C. However, the Bulgarian Defense Ministry has said it cannot verify the name of the company because it does not have the English spelling, Reuters reported on 14 November. UB

There is no End Note today.


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCHDOG SAYS VIOLENCE AT KABUL UNIVERSITY IS LATEST IN TREND...
Steve Crawshaw, director of the London office of Human Rights Watch, told RFE/RL on 14 November that the violence at Kabul University this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11, 12, 13, and 14 November 2002) is the latest incident in a pattern of factional violence that is threatening stability throughout the country. "It is, to put it mildly, a worrying sign. What we have here is a growing sense of anarchy and a lack of accountability [on the part of the Interior Ministry]," Crawshaw said. "Human Rights Watch has repeatedly documented it in different parts of the country -- most recently, from the west, from Herat, and what [Herat Province Governor] Muhammad Ismail Khan is doing there. But even in Kabul, we can see that people who fundamentally have no interest in stability and democracy are gaining the upper hand [through this] kind of lawlessness and this violent imposition of their own will," he said. The investigation into the university shootings will be a vital test for the Afghan Human Rights Commission, according to Crawshaw, as it will reveal whether it has the independence and freedom to investigate alleged human rights abuses on the part of various factions whose leaders are either in the Afghan cabinet or who have representatives in the central government. AT

...AS KABUL DAILY BLAMES BOTH STUDENTS AND POLICE
In an editorial published on 13 November, the Kabul daily "Anis" "condemned" protesting students for "staging a violent action" and police for "opening fire on students, which is an illegal and wrong approach." The 11-12 November demonstrations that were "apparently staged to protest the indifference shown toward the well-being of students residing in the [university] dormitory...ended with violence and the murders of some students. This is a sad and tragic event for every Afghan individual," the paper commented. The editorial noted that the right to protest is fundamental to democratic societies and said Afghanistan's government is still experimenting with the idea of granting freedoms. The paper expressed its regret that the students chose a violent way of expressing their views when the country "is moving from a period of violence to an era of peace." AT

OFFICIAL CONFIRMS NATO WILL HAVE ROLE IN AFGHANISTAN
An unidentified NATO diplomat in Brussels has confirmed reports that NATO will provide logistical and communications support to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 2002), AP reported on 14 November. The alliance will be given a formal role in Afghanistan for the first time during NATO's Prague summit on 21-22 November, AP cited the diplomat as saying. However, there are "no plans to extend the force's role beyond Kabul when the Germans and Dutch take over the lead role" in the ISAF beginning in February 2003, AP quoted the diplomat as saying. President Hamid Karzai's administration has been calling on ISAF to expand its peacekeeping operations beyond Kabul and has received support from the United Nations and most European countries. The United States has recently expressed its support for changing the ISAF's mandate beyond Kabul, a policy it initially opposed. AT

AFGHAN PRESIDENT ACCEPTS FREEDOM AWARD IN NEW YORK
In New York on 13 November, Afghan President Karzai received the Freedom Award from the International Rescue Committee, a nongovernmental aid group active in Afghanistan and more than 30 other countries, RFE/RL reported on 14 November. In a speech during the award ceremonies, Karzai paid tribute to Afghanistan's people for their efforts in rebuilding the country during its first year of independence following the fall of the Taliban and thanked many countries, including the United States, Japan, and Muslim states, for their assistance. However, he also appealed to other countries in the region to desist from interfering in Afghan affairs. "Having said this, I hope our neighbors will leave us alone. And I hope Osama [bin Laden] will leave us alone. I heard he's alive," RFE/RL quoted Karzai as saying. After the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, many Afghans have accused Pakistan and Iran of interfering in their country's affairs. AT

VIGILANTES DECRY 'IRAN'S SALMAN RUSHDIE'...
Following the Tehran Friday prayers on 15 November, a group of people marched from Tehran University to Palestine Square chanting in support of the death sentence against Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization member and university Professor Hashem Aghajari (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11, 12, 13, and 14 November 2002), the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported the same day. They also called for the prosecution of those responsible for recent strikes and demonstrations at the country's universities. Hussein Allah-Karam, leader of the hard-line Ansar-i Hizbullah vigilante group, read out a resolution at this event, and then people chanted, "Iran's Salman Rushdie must be hanged." BS

...AS CONDEMNED PROFESSOR APPEALS FOR CALM IN IRAN
Aghajari's wife Zahra Behnudi said on 14 November that her husband has appealed to demonstrating students to stay calm, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). Aghajari was sentenced to death on 6 November for blasphemy during a speech in June, and students throughout Iran have been demonstrating on his behalf since 9 November. Behnudi quoted her husband as asking the students to make their demands known via legal means, and he warned that some people want to inflame the situation. BS

STUDENTS CALL FOR JUDICIARY CHIEF'S RESIGNATION...
Demonstrators in Tehran have chanted for the resignation of Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi, and the Office for Strengthening Unity student organization at Yazd's Shahid Saduqi Medical Science University has submitted an open letter calling for his resignation. Reproduced by the ISNA on 14 November, the letter said that the Judiciary has gone from bad to worse since Hashemi-Shahrudi took it over in summer 1999, and it advised him to leave before the actions of his subordinates discredit his religious rank. BS

...AS JUDICIARY LEAVES SOME WIGGLE ROOM
Hamedan's Judge Ramazani, who issued the 6 November verdict against Professor Aghajari, said in a 13 November interview with Iranian state television that one has 20 days to appeal a judgment. Moreover, the court could reduce the sentence if the accused makes an official apology. Aghajari has not apologized officially, Ramazani said. He added, "Obviously the verdict is not final. There can be a review. I said this clearly in my ruling." BS

IRANIAN RESISTANCE FORCE ESTABLISHES YAZD UNIVERSITY UNIT
A Basij unit was inaugurated at Yazd University on 14 November, according to ISNA. The Basij Resistance Force is a sort of reserve for the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and a number of local IRGC commanders attended the inauguration ceremony. The inauguration of the unit is significant because in an 11 November speech Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned of a possible reliance on "popular forces" -- often a reference to the Basij and the IRGC -- if the current political situation gets out of hand. University chancellor Dr. Vahdat said, "This active and faithful force must continue to remain for all the people, and, God forbid, it should not be placed at the service of factional aims and political motives of certain groups or political parties." BS

LEBANESE HIZBALLAH BACKS IRAN ON IRAQ
Lebanon's Hizballah organization backs the Iranian attitude toward Iraq regardless of Baghdad's effort to gain Hizballah's support, according to a 14 November report in London's Arabic-language "Al-Hayat." Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri made a surprise visit to Beirut earlier this month, but he only got to meet with Iraqi Embassy staff and to visit a commercial center. Lebanese officials confirmed that Sabri did not meet with Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, and the Hizballah leadership previously refused to meet with Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan when he visited Beirut a few weeks ago. Anonymous but well-placed sources told "Al-Hayat" that Hizballah feels solidarity with the Iraqi people but does not want to take any actions that could be misinterpreted as support for the Iraqi regime. Moreover, the sources added, Hizballah refuses to forgive the Iraqi regime for waging war against Iran or for its persecution of leading figures in the holy Shia city of Najaf. BS

BELGIAN ARMS TRIAL REVEALS IRANIAN CONNECTION
Belgian arms trafficker Jacques Monsieur appeared in a Brussels court on 12 November, Brussels' "Le Soir" reported two days later. A long-time supplier of Iran's who held an Iranian diplomatic passport, he was arrested in Tehran in November 2000 (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 27 September 1999 and 14 May 2001). The hearing in Brussels confirmed Tehran's provision to Croatia and Bosnia of artillery shells, white phosphorous, and other military goods via Monsieur, and he supplied Iranian 7.62 mm ammunition to Ecuador, although it was labeled for "use in the petrochemical industry." Jacques Monsieur said, according to "Le Soir," "I received no commission on arms sales to or from Iran, it was not profitable." In the current hearings, Monsieur is appealing a prison sentence for illegal import/export, forgery and use of forged documents, embezzlement, and money laundering. BS

SMUGGLED IRANIAN GASOLINE BEHIND STRIKE IN PAKISTAN
Gas stations in Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan Province on 14 November entered into the third day of a strike against the smuggling of Iranian gasoline, according to AFP. The secretary-general of the Baluchistan Petrol Dealers Association, Afzal Awan, said about 300 stations have shut down over the smuggling issue, almost 100,000 liters of Iran gasoline and diesel fuel -- which sell for some 30 percent less than their Pakistani counterparts -- are sold every day, and this is about double the amount of legal sales. Moreover, the Lahore-based newspaper "The Daily Times" reported that the Iranian gasoline is no longer confined to Baluchistan Province, and it is available in the central Pakistani state of Punjab, according to a report in the 13 November "Iran Daily." The Pakistani fuel is more expensive due to taxes and various duties. Gasoline, as well as drugs and other goods, are smuggled by residents of southwestern Iran's Sistan va Baluchistan Province. That province has the country's highest unemployment rate and is badly affected by a drought, and residents say smuggling is one of the only ways they can earn a living. BS

IRAQI NEWSPAPER HARSHLY CRITICIZES U.S., BRITISH ADMINISTRATIONS...
The Iraqi Bath Party newspaper "Al-Thawra" criticized the administrations of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush on 14 November, saying they had issued a "booby-trapped" resolution on Iraq. "Bush, [U.S. Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld, [U.S. Secretary of State Colin] Powell, and [U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza] Rice, together with Blair and [British Defense Secretary Geoffrey] Hoon...dance like cheerful clowns on the international scene and repeat what was dictated by the Zionist prompter [Israel]." The Bush administration behaves "as if the UN Security Council is the U.S. National Security Council, and also as if the Security Council's resolutions -- regardless of their theme, wording, and tendency -- ultimately serve U.S. ambitions," according to the paper. "Al-Thawra" also accused the United States of disregarding other Security Council resolutions, such as those pertaining to the Palestine question. In addition, the daily claimed the Bush administration is using the issue of weapons of mass destruction as an excuse to gain access to Iraq's oil and that administration officials have a personal interest in doing so. KR

...AND ATTACKS U.S. PRESS
"Al-Thawra" on 14 November also criticized "The New York Times" and the "Washington Post" for singing "the same tune of threats and aggressiveness" as the administration. "They have also published scenarios, plans, preparations, and whatever their tendentious minds can imagine," "Al-Thawra" said, referring to reports of war plans and troop movements the papers have published in recent months. KR

IRAQI TV EXPLAINS ACCEPTANCE OF RESOLUTION
Iraqi Satellite TV broadcast a commentary on 14 November that addressed Iraq's acceptance of UN Security Council Resolution 1441. The commentary said Iraq has "never failed to implement what it says and has never failed to fulfill its promises. This is the Iraqi people's nature." "These evil ones are lying in wait for Iraq and are harboring evil against it, as demonstrated by the claims and allegations in the...resolution." The commentary also said the American people have "denounced Bush's behavior [regarding Iraq and] realize they are being driven to the furnace of this war in order to serve the ambitions" of the White House and big business. As for the issue of weapons inspections, the commentary said: "In 1995, these committees [UNSCOM] admitted that Iraq was free of these weapons after the international inspectors themselves supervised the destruction of what they had claimed to constitute banned weapons. Had Washington not withdrawn these inspections [in preparation for] its large-scale aggression in 1998, Iraq's truthfulness would have been vindicated." KR

UN WEAPONS INSPECTORS ARRIVE IN CYPRUS...
Eight members of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) arrived in Cyprus on 14 November en route to Baghdad, Cyprus News Agency (CAN) reported. Chief UN inspector Hans Blix and 20 inspectors are scheduled to arrive in Cyprus on 17 November. UNMOVIC will set up a regional office on the island to facilitate travel for weapons inspectors, CNA reported. KR

...AS RUSSIAN UN REPRESENTATIVE COMMENTS ON THEIR ROLE
Russia's UN representative Sergei Lavrov told RTR on 14 November he hopes weapons inspectors will conduct themselves in a professional manner in Iraq, Interfax reported. "Hopefully, the inspectors have drawn the proper conclusions from the harsh experience of the previous special commission, which pursued irrelevant matters and was used for tasks that had nothing to do with the need to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," Lavrov said. He also said that previous weapons inspectors used "crude and arrogant methods...that ignored the sovereignty and dignity of Iraq and its people." He added that the current inspectors were chosen on a "genuinely international basis...so that one or two countries will not be able to dominate." KR

IRAQI OPPOSITION MEETING REPORTEDLY POSTPONED
"The Washington Times" reported on 15 November that a representative from the Iraqi National Congress (INC) has confirmed that a meeting of Iraqi opposition groups planned for 22-25 November in Brussels (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2002) has been postponed. The daily reported that Iraqi opposition groups gave conflicting reasons for the meeting's cancellation, including disputes between organizers and difficulties in obtaining visas for participants. Hamid al-Bayati, the London-based representative of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), told AFP that the meeting will not take place for at least two weeks. KR

PATRIOTIC UNION OF KURDISTAN LEADER MEETS WITH TURKISH OFFICIALS
Jalal Talabani tried to allay Turkish fears of a future Kurdish state when the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader met with Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ugur Ziyal on 14 November, the "Turkish Daily News" reported. Talabani told the press following the meeting that the Kurdish draft constitution is open for discussion both by the Iraqi opposition groups and Turkish authorities. "It is not the Koran -- something that remains forever. There are some proposals. It can be changed, it can be amended, it can be postponed to the next regime," Talabani said. Talabani also indicated that the PUK is on very good terms with the Turkomen in northern Iraq, the daily reported. KR

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