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Newsline - November 18, 2002


DUMA MOVES TO TIGHTEN CONTROL OVER BROADCASTING LICENSES
The Duma on 15 November approved in its final reading an amendment to the law on the mass media that would authorize the government to withdraw the licenses of broadcasters that do not make full use of the radio and television frequencies for which they hold licenses, polit.ru reported on 16 November. The amendment would also authorize the courts, in addition to the government, to initiate license-withdrawal proceedings against media companies. VY

BUSH, PUTIN TO MEET IN ST. PETERSBURG AFTER PRAGUE SUMMIT
U.S. President George W. Bush will hold a summit meeting with President Vladimir Putin near St. Petersburg on 22 November, immediately following the historic NATO summit in Prague where several Eastern and Central European countries are expected to be invited into the trans-Atlantic alliance, pronews.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 17 November. The summit will take place in the St. Petersburg suburb of Pushkin. Analysts expect Bush will continue pressing Putin to accept possible U.S. military intervention in Iraq if the mission of UN weapons inspectors there is a failure. It will be difficult for Putin to resist Bush, who is politically strong following the Republican Party victory in U.S. congressional elections on 5 November, pronews.ru commented. The two leaders will also discuss the Middle East, international terrorism, strategic stability, and a number of bilateral issues. The Kremlin will attempt to convince the United States to add several Chechen separatist organizations to the U.S. State Department list of organizations accused of sponsoring or engaging in terrorism, polit.ru reported. VY

RUSSIA SENDS ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE AGAINST CHECHEN VICE PREMIER TO DENMARK
Leonid Troshin, senior spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office, said on 15 November that his agency has sent to Copenhagen an additional dossier of materials against Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's envoy Akhmed Zakaev, Russian news agencies reported. Zakaev was arrested in Copenhagen on 30 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October 2002) and is now fighting possible extradition to Russia. Troshin said Russia has evidence connecting Zakaev with the 1996 kidnapping of two Russian Orthodox priests in Grozny. One of the priests, identified as Father Fillip, has allegedly identified Zakaev as the commander of the band that carried out the kidnapping. Meanwhile, Sergei Karaganov, chairman of the Defense and Foreign Relations Council, said he does not understand what Russia hopes to gain by securing Zakaev's extradition or what Moscow would do with Zakaev if he is indeed extradited, strana.ru reported on 15 November. "[Zakaev] is one of the few in Chechnya with whom we can still talk," Karaganov said. VY

MOSCOW CONCERNED BY NORTH KOREA'S NUCLEAR-WEAPONS PROGRAM
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 17 November that Moscow is "deeply concerned by controversial statements coming from Pyongyang saying [North Korea] has 'the right' to possess nuclear weapons," ITAR-TASS reported. Russia expects Pyongyang -- which Yakovenko described as "friendly" to Russia -- to comply strictly with international agreements on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, which Moscow considers a guarantor of security and peace on the Korean Peninsula, Yakovenko said. VY

PRIME MINISTER TALKS ENERGY, AIRPLANES IN FRANCE
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov arrived in France on 17 November for a two-day official visit to Paris and Toulouse, Russian news agencies reported. Kasyanov's talks will center on cooperation in the energy and aviation sectors. "We are discussing such projects as the development of a major oil field on the Barents Sea shelf [and] construction of a Nordic [oil] pipeline across the Baltic Sea," Kasyanov was quoted by ITAR-TASS as saying on 18 November. While in Toulouse on 18 November, Kasyanov was expected to visit an Airbus plant and to participate in a signing ceremony of an agreement to open a joint French-Russian aircraft design bureau in Moscow. Kasyanov was quoted as saying that aerospace cooperation "is the most promising sphere" of bilateral economic relations. President Putin will visit France in the first quarter of 2003, Kasyanov was quoted by ITAR-TASS as saying following his 17 November meeting with French President Jacques Chirac. RC

DUMA SPEAKER TO CREATE NEW LEFT-WING COALITION...
State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev on 16 November announced that he will form a broad-based left-wing coalition around his Rossiya movement that will serve as an alternative to the People's Patriotic Union (NPS), headed by the Communist Party, strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. Speaking to Rossiya's second congress in Moscow, Seleznev said the creation of the left-wing Duma faction is a top priority, and he invited all NPS members to join it. He also emphasized the importance he attaches to his newly registered Party of Russia's Rebirth and its performance in next year's Duma elections. Seleznev said his party will be "oppositionist" but emphasized its opposition "will not be irresponsible and populist, but rather constructive and specific." RC

...AS BEREZOVSKII DENIES PLANS TO BUY SPOTS ON COMMUNIST LIST
Speaking to Ekho Moskvy on 16 November, businessman Boris Berezovskii denied a "Moskovskii komsomolets" report that day that accused him of trying to buy spots on the party list of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF). High-ranking KPRF member Valentin Kuptsov also told Ekho Moskvy his party is neither negotiating with Berezovskii nor pursuing an alliance with him. Half of the 450 State Duma seats are distributed among parties that gain at least 5 percent of the vote, and since the KPRF is one of the few parties guaranteed to clear that hurdle, candidates near the top of the Communist party list are virtually assured of winning Duma seats. Berezovskii has been a frequent target of "Moskovskii komsomolets" over the years. On 13 November, the newspaper published a document purportedly revealing the oligarch's plans to buy his way back into Liberal Russia. LB

YUKOS PREDICTS IT WILL PROVIDE 25 PERCENT OF CHINA'S OIL IMPORTS BY 2005
Sergei Prisyazhnyuk, Yukos's representative in China, has said that his company will provide about 25 percent of all China's imported oil by 2005, energy.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 17 November. Yukos will provide most of the oil through the 2,200-kilometer Angarsk-Datsin pipeline, which will be able to handle 20 million tons of oil annually. By 2005, that pipeline, which is controlled by the state-owned monopoly Transneft, will be connected to a network of Chinese pipelines managed by the state-owned Chinese National Petrochemical Company. Yukos is responsible for constructing the 1,450-kilometer Russian leg of the pipeline at a cost of $2 billion. Yukos will also export 3 million more tons of oil annually to China by rail via Mongolia, Prisyazhnyuk said. VY

MOSCOW MAYOR STILL PUSHING DZERZHINSKII MONUMENT
Yurii Luzhkov said on 15 November that he does not need legislative approval to restore the monument to Soviet secret-police founder Feliks Dzerzhinskii to Lubyanka Square, regions.ru reported. In September, Luzhkov created a controversy with his unexpected proposal to restore the huge statue, which was dismantled following the unsuccessful coup attempt against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 17 September 2002). Luzhkov noted that no legal decision had been made to authorize the dismantling of the statue and, therefore, no legal act is required to restore it. Luzhkov did not mention that he was the deputy head of the Moscow City Council in 1991 and personally authorized the crane that was used to bring the statue down. VY

CENSUS TURNS UP 2 MILLION MORE RUSSIANS THAN EXPECTED
According to preliminary results of the national census conducted in October, the population of the Russian Federation is more than 145 million, about 2 million more people than demographers had predicted, RTR and other Russian news agencies reported on 16 November. According to Vladimir Zorin, the government minister overseeing nationalities policies, the greatest growth was registered in the Central Federal District and the Southern Federal District, as well as in the city of Moscow, gazeta.ru reported on 16 November. Moscow's population now exceeds 10.4 million permanent residents and 3 million nonresidents. Zorin said the census results are now being tabulated and verified and will be released in full by March. VY

EDUCATION MINISTRY FLOATS PLAN FOR ORTHODOX COURSES
The Education Ministry has released a 30-page outline description of a course on Orthodox culture that is being considered for use in the public school system, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 18 November. Education Minister Vladimir Filippov was quoted by Interfax as telling journalists in Novosibirsk that there is "an objective need" to study Orthodoxy in the schools. According to "Izvestiya," presidential envoys Sergei Kirienko and Georgii Poltavchenko are among the state officials who have called for including the study of Orthodoxy in the curriculum of public schools. However, other officials have spoken against the idea. "This document smacks of the Middle Ages and obscurantism. If the Education Ministry considers it necessary to introduce religious studies, the course should include the basics of all religious world views and the history of atheism," government spokesman Aleksei Volin was quoted by "Gazeta" as saying on 15 November. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" warned that efforts to compel religious education might backfire. "In pre-revolutionary schools, where Church law was a required subject and lessons opened with prayers, a generation of people was produced that was indifferent to religion and aggressive toward the [Russian Orthodox] Church," the paper commented. RC

DUMA COMMITTEE PREPARING BILL TO ESTABLISH MINIMUM WAGE
The Duma's Labor and Social Policy Committee is drafting a bill to establish an hourly minimum wage of 10 rubles ($0.32) as of 1 January, TV-Center reported on 15 November. The government has opposed similar proposals in the past, pleading insufficient budget funds. The authors of the new bill are sidestepping that problem by making the minimum wage mandatory only for workers in the private sector. Since the average employee works 168 hours a month, the new minimum wage would guarantee a monthly wage of 1,680 rubles, which would be close to the subsistence minimum level defined by the government. Some 27 percent of Russian citizens have incomes below the subsistence minimum, according to figures released recently by the State Statistics Committee (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2002). LB

CAPITAL FLIGHT CONTINUES TO GROW
Some $16.3 billion left Russia during the first nine months of 2002, up 21.5 percent from the previous year, TV-Center reported on 15 November, citing data released by the State Statistics Committee. More than $8.4 billion was transferred from Russia to the United States during that period, a figure 10 times greater than the amount of capital invested in Russia from the United States. LB

POSTAL RATES TO GO UP AGAIN
On 1 December, postal rates will increase for the second time this year, according to Radio Mayak on 15 November. Under the new rates sending a postcard will cost 2.75 rubles ($0.09), up from 2.45 rubles, and the standard rate for printed matter will be 6.45 rubles, up from 5.65 rubles. Postal rates last went up on 15 May. LB

KRASNOYARSK GOVERNOR DEALS DERIPASKA IN
Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Khloponin on 14 November met with Russian Aluminum (Rusal) head Oleg Deripaska to discuss economic and energy policies, Radio Mayak reported. According to Khloponin's press secretary, the two men agreed to create a working group within the krai administration that will include representatives from Rusal. They also discussed other matters related to "cooperation between the authorities and business." Deripaska was the leading businessman who backed Khloponin's opponent in the September gubernatorial election. Khloponin, among others, accused the Krasnoyarsk Electoral Commission of acting on behalf of Rusal when it nullified the results and scheduled a new election, even though Khloponin had gained the most votes. President Putin eventually settled the matter by appointing Khloponin governor (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 4 October 2002), and the Central Election Commission overruled the local commission's ruling. LB

NEWTON BACK IN THE LIBRARY
Police have recovered all the rare books stolen earlier this month in a rash of thefts in St. Petersburg (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November 2002), RosBalt and utro.ru reported on 18 November. At least three alleged members of a criminal group from Saratov were arrested on 16 November, following the 12 November arrest of a woman who is also alleged to be a gang member (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 2002). Two first-edition volumes by Isaac Newton and several other rare books were recovered and will be returned to the libraries from which they were stolen. In addition, according to RosBalt, police believe the group was responsible for similar thefts from libraries in Moscow, Saratov, and Kazan, although no further details on those incidents were released. The first person arrested in the case was identified as 29-year-old Svetlana Danilova, a manager at a Saratov electronics plant. The other three suspects were identified only as unemployed residents of Saratov. RC

FORTY YEARS OF 'ONE DAY'
On 18 November 1962, the story "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" by the then-unknown author and former political prisoner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn appeared in an issue of "Novyi mir" under the editorship of Aleksandr Tvarkovskii, "Izvestiya" and other Russian news agencies reported on 18 November. The story describes a single day in the life of an ordinary Russian in a Soviet labor camp who, despite horrendous and debasing conditions, is able to find wellsprings of freedom and dignity within himself and in his relations with other prisoners. Solzhenitsyn went on to win the Lenin Prize for literature and briefly became a symbol of Nikita Khrushchev's post-Stalin thaw. Later, however, he was excluded from the Union of Writers, systematically harassed, arrested, and expelled from the country. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1972. RC

NEW CHECHEN PREMIER FOCUSES ON ECONOMIC RECONSTRUCTION
On 15 November, Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov introduced his new prime minister, Mikhail Babich, to government ministries and local officials in Grozny, Russian news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2002). Babich lauded the achievements of his predecessor, Stanislav Ilyasov, in stabilizing the social and economic situation and pledged to continue those efforts. On 16 November, Babich met with the commander of the combined federal forces in Chechnya, Lieutenant General Sergei Makarov, to discuss cooperation, Interfax reported. LF

RED CROSS OFFICIALS ABDUCTED, RELEASED IN CHECHNYA
Two Red Cross officials who were abducted near Grozny late on 13 November while accompanying an aid convoy headed for Ingushetia were freed unharmed four days later, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 November. An official from the Chechen Military Prosecutor's Office said on 15 November that militants loyal to field commander Ali Paizullaev were believed to have carried out the kidnapping. LF

EXPLOSIONS IN INGUSHETIA, NORTH OSSETIA
Four people were killed and nine injured on 14 November when a suspect exploded a hand grenade as police and security officials tried to arrest suspected Chechen militants at a bus station in Ingushetia's Malgobek Raion, Interfax reported. On 17 November, the Spartak Stadium in the North Ossetian capital Vladikavkaz was damaged by two explosions one hour after the end of a soccer match between a local team and one from Volgograd, Interfax reported. No one was injured in those blasts. LF

ARMENIAN JOURNALISTS DIVIDED OVER AMENDED DRAFT MEDIA LAW
Armenia's National Press Club is strongly opposed to including discussion of the amended draft media law on parliament's agenda prior to presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for the first five months of 2003, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 16 November. Its members believe the bill is intended to curtail critical media coverage in the run-up to the polls. But the Yerevan Press Club advocates dialogue with the Justice Ministry on removing the most unpalatable restrictions on reporting. One of the club's members, Mesrop Harutiunian, said the club has already proposed to the Justice Ministry a number of amendments to the bill. LF

AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT APPROVES PEACEKEEPERS' DISPATCH TO AFGHANISTAN...
By a vote of 91 to one, deputies passed on 15 November a resolution submitted by President Heidar Aliev on the deployment of a 22-strong Azerbaijani military contingent to Afghanistan to serve with the Turkish contingent to Operation Enduring Freedom, Turan reported. The United States will provide $1 million toward the expenses involved, U.S. Ambassador Ross Wilson informed President Aliev on 16 November, according to Caucasus Press. LF

...PASSES 2003 BUDGET
Also on 15 November, parliament deputies approved by 110 votes, with one abstention, the draft budget for 2003, Turan reported. Revenues are set at 6.09 trillion manats ($1.25 billion) and expenditures at 6.42 trillion manats, of which 56.8 percent is earmarked for social spending. The resulting deficit is equal to 1 percent of GDP, which is estimated at 32.8 trillion manats. Industrial output is predicted to grow by 6.1 percent and agricultural production by 7.9 percent compared with 2002. Inflation is predicted at 2.5 percent, and the exchange rate at 2,500 manats to the U.S. dollar. It is planned to extract 15.15 million tons of oil. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT OPPOSES CALLS FOR TBILISI MAYOR'S RESIGNATION
Meeting on 15 November in defiance of a 6 November ruling by the Tbilisi Municipal Court, the opposition-controlled Tbilisi Municipal Council voted to demand the dismissal of city Mayor Vano Zodelava, a long-time associate of President Eduard Shevardnadze, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 37, 14 November 2002). Shevardnadze categorically rejected that demand the following day. LF

LABOR PARTY LEADER TO CONTEST GEORGIAN PRESIDENCY
Labor Party Chairman Shalva Natelashvili announced on 15 November that he will run in the presidential elections due in 2005, Caucasus Press reported. Former parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania has already made clear his intention to contest the ballot, in which Shevardnadze is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 2002). LF

ABKHAZ-GEORGIAN WORKING GROUP MEETS
The third working group of the UN-sponsored Abkhaz-Georgian Coordinating Council met in Sukhum on 14 November, Caucasus Press reported. The third working group focuses on economic and social issues. The participants, including Georgian Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze and Abkhaz Deputy Prime Minister Beslan Kuprava, discussed plans to prevent the further erosion of the Black Sea coast and to introduce Georgian-language teaching in schools in Abkhazia's southern-most Gali Raion, the pre-war population of which was predominantly Georgian. LF

FORMER GEORGIAN GUERRILLA LEADER NAMED LOCAL ADMINISTRATOR
Abkhaz government-in-exile head Londer Tsaava has appointed David Shengelia, who won notoriety as leader of the Forest Brothers guerrilla formation, as deputy head of Gali Raion, Caucasus Press reported on 14 November. Shengelia said he has abandoned his guerrilla activities and will seek to restore Georgian control over Abkhazia by alternative means. LF

GEORGIA TO REMAND JAPANESE FOR THREE MORE MONTHS
A Japanese man detained in Georgia in August 2002 after entering the country illegally from Russia has been remanded in pre-trial custody for a further three months, Caucasus Press reported on 14 November. He had fought alongside the Chechen resistance against the Russian military (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2002). LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES NEW BODY TO PROMOTE DEMOCRATIZATION
Addressing the ninth session of the Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan on 15 November, Nursultan Nazarbaev said he has charged the government with establishing a permanent consultative body to draft proposals for the further development of democracy in the country, Interfax reported. The new body will include representatives from the parliament, government, presidential administration, political parties, and nongovernmental organizations. LF

CONSORTIUM SUSPENDS INVESTMENT IN KAZAKH OIL FIELD
Tengizchevroil, the consortium that is developing the Tengiz oil field, Kazakhstan's largest, has announced it will not proceed with plans to invest a further $3 billion into the project, AP and dpa reported on 14 November. A press release indicated that Tengizchevoil and the Kazakh government are at odds over funding for the planned second phase of development, which would increase output from 12.5 million tons to 30 million tons annually. Meeting with Kazakh officials in July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2002) and late September, Chevron executives had pledged to go ahead with the second phase of the project. The "International Herald Tribune" on 18 November quoted unnamed experts as saying the Kazakh government had tried to renegotiate the terms of the 1993 contract to develop Tengiz. LF

KYRGYZ POLICE DETAIN, THEN RELEASE PROTESTERS...
Police in Bishkek blocked one of the main roads leading into the city from the south and detained dozens of participants in the protest march that reached the city outskirts the previous day, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2002). On 16 November, police forcibly dispersed a group of several hundred protesters heading for the city center, where they planned to hold an open-air People's Congress to demand the resignation of President Askar Akaev and that those persons who gave orders to police to open fire on demonstrators in the southern district of Aksy in March be brought to trial. Some 129 delegates to the congress were detained, most of whom were released on 17 November. Former Deputy Prime Minister Usen Sydykov, who was among those arrested, was fined approximately $45, and Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Movement Chairman Tursunbek Akunov was sentenced to 10 days' imprisonment on charges of organizing an unauthorized meeting. LF

...AS ORGANIZERS OF ABORTIVE CONGRESS APPEAL TO KYRGYZ PEOPLE, PRESIDENT
Following the abortive attempt to convene the People's Congress in Bishkek, its organizers issued an appeal to the people of Kyrgyzstan in which they accused the authorities of violating the constitutionally guaranteed right of assembly, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 16 November. They also appealed to President Akaev "to restore the functioning of the constitution." LF

LEADERSHIP ACCUSES KYRGYZ OPPOSITION OF PLANNING COUP
Presidential adviser Bolot Djanuzakov, First Deputy Prime Minister Kurmanbek Osmonov, National Security Service chief Kalyk Imanaliev, and Central Election Commission Chairman Suleiman Imanbaev convened a press conference on 15 November at which Djanuzakov branded the protest marchers "political extremists" who want power at any price, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. On 16 November, Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev told journalists the opposition is driving the population toward "the abyss of civic dissent" and is intent on destroying the progress Kyrgyzstan has made toward democracy, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Djanuzakov named as organizers of the protests Asaba party Chairman Azimbek Beknazarov, Sydykov, Erkindik party Chairman Topchubek Turgunaliev, Communist Party leaders Absamat Masaliev and Klara Adjybekova, and Akunov. LF

FORMER KYRGYZ PREMIER ANNOUNCES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY
Kurmanbek Bakiev has told the newspaper "Aghym" that he will run in the presidential elections due in 2005 representing neither the present authorities nor the opposition, according to akipress.org on 15 November. He said he doubts President Akaev will participate in the ballot as the constitution does not permit him to run again. Bakiev, who stepped down as prime minister in May over the Aksy shootings scandal, was elected to parliament last month. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT FIRES FOUR REGIONAL ADMINISTRATORS...
As he had earlier threatened to do, President Saparmurat Niyazov on 15 November dismissed the heads of the Akhal, Mary, Balkan and Dashoguz oblasts for failing to harvest the planned 2 million tons of cotton, ITAR-TASS and turkmenistan.ru reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 13 November 2002). Niyazov then named Deputy Prime Minister Enebay Ataev, Energy and Industry Minister Annaguly Djumagylidjov, Turkmendokunkhimiya head Kakageldy Kurbyshov, and Deputy Agriculture Minister Ishankuly Gulmuradov to replace the disgraced local administrators. LF

...RESHUFFLES GOVERNMENT
At the same time, Niyazov named Deputy Prime Minister Redjep Saparov to a post in the presidential administration and appointed Dortkuly Aydogdyev deputy prime minister responsible for the textile industry, trade, and customs. He also appointed four new ministers: Yazkuly Kakalyev (economy and finance), Begench Atamuradov (agriculture), Tachberdy Tagiev (petrochemical industry and mineral resources) and Atamurad Berdyev (energy and industry). Former Petrochemical Industry Minister Kurbannazar Nazarov was appointed ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. LF

UZBEKISTAN MOVES TO LIBERALIZE BANKING SPHERE
President Islam Karimov signed a decree on 15 November on the creation of a Banking Council that is intended to improve the effectiveness and professionalism of the Central Bank and to promote the development of commercial banks, uza.uz reported. LF

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION STAGES PRO-INDEPENDENCE RALLY IN MINSK
Some 1,500 people participated in an authorized pro-independence demonstration organized by the Belarusian opposition in downtown Minsk on 17 November, Belapan and AP reported. Speakers at the rally, who included the leaders of major opposition parties, called on opposition parties to unite in their struggle against the authoritarian regime of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Demonstrators left a petition at the Russian Embassy, saying, "In the event of the continuation of the annexing policy by Russia in Belarus, there will be enough people to defend [Belarus's] independence." JM

BELARUSIAN UPPER-HOUSE HEAD OPPOSES PRESIDENTIAL CONTROL OVER ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
Council of the Republic speaker Alyaksandr Vaytovich said on 14 November that he opposes tightening presidential control over Belarus's Academy of Sciences, Belapan reported on 15 November. Vaytovich was speaking in the Council of the Republic prior to a vote in which lawmakers approved President Lukashenka's decree of 17 October 2001 giving the president the right to appoint and dismiss the president of the Academy of Sciences as well as to approve members of the Academy of Sciences' Presidium. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SACKS GOVERNMENT, APPOINTS NEW PREMIER...
President Leonid Kuchma on 16 November fired Premier Anatoliy Kinakh's cabinet and appointed 52-year-old Donetsk Governor Viktor Yanukovych as prime minister, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported, quoting presidential spokeswoman Olena Hromnytska. "The government of Anatoliy Kinakh will continue in a caretaker role until a new government is appointed," Hromnytska told Reuters. Yanukovych must be approved for the post by the Verkhovna Rada, whose next session begins on 19 November. JM

...AND REPORTEDLY PLANS TO ATTEND NATO SUMMIT DESPITE PERSONAL SNUB
National Security and Defense Council head Yevhen Marchuk told Interfax on 16 November that President Kuchma will attend the NATO summit in Prague despite NATO's decision to hold a meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Commission at the foreign ministers' level. Marchuk said Kuchma will attend a session of NATO's 46-member Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), while Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko will represent Ukraine in bilateral talks with the alliance. Kuchma spokeswoman Hromnytska declined to comment on the report, while press officials at the National Security and Defense Council said they can neither confirm nor deny the news, Reuters reported. NATO warned that Kuchma will not be welcome at the summit after Washington said it believes the Ukrainian premier approved the sale of a Kolchuga early-warning radar system to Iraq. "President Kuchma did not receive a personal invitation to come to the EAPC summit in Prague, but Ukraine, like any other EAPC country, has an invitation to come to Prague and is expected to be in Prague," NATO spokesman Yves Brodeur told RFE/RL on 18 November. JM

LATVIAN INTERIOR MINISTER CRITICIZES CONTRABAND PREVENTION CENTER
Following a meeting at the Contraband Prevention Center in Riga on 15 November, Maris Gulbis told reporters that he considers its work "unsatisfactory," LETA and BNS reported. He criticized its efforts at combating contraband in alcohol and oil, claiming that too few cases have been opened and even fewer sent to court. Gulbis said he will hand over information on the matter to Latvian Police chief Juris Reksna, Security Police chief Janis Reiniks, and Finance Minister Valdis Dombrovskis. Dombrovkis said just nine cases have reached court in the past three years, with only four cases resulting in convictions. His predecessor as finance minister, Gundars Berzins, praised the work of the center earlier in the month, asserting that the amount of confiscated contraband in fuel, meat, and cigarettes has increased by several hundred percent. SG

NEW LITHUANIAN EMBASSY BUILDING OPENED IN PARIS
Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus flew to Paris on 15 November to participate in the formal opening of new facilities of the Lithuanian Embassy, ELTA reported. The building was purchased using funds the French government paid in compensation for Lithuania's pre-World War II embassy building, which was handed over to the USSR and is still being used by Russia. Adamkus discussed bilateral relations, European integration, and parliamentary cooperation with French National Assembly Chairman Jean-Louis Debre and attended a dinner hosted by French Senate Chairman Christian Poncelet. The next day, Adamkus made a speech on traditions of tolerance in Lithuania and the dialogue among cultures, nations, and religions at celebrations in the French Senate of the 200th anniversary of the birth of noted French writer Victor Hugo. Adamkus returned to Vilnius on 17 November. SG

POLAND'S FIRST NON-COMMUNIST PREMIER ABANDONS HIS PARTY
Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Poland's first non-Communist premier in postwar history, announced on 17 November that he is leaving the Freedom Union, PAP reported. "I am leaving [the Freedom Union] because such things have taken place as [Freedom Union members] running for local councils in the Warmia and Mazury Province on Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) electoral lists and a Freedom Union coalition on provincial councils with Self-Defense, a party that makes a mess of democracy in Poland," PAP quoted Mazowiecki as saying. He added that his decision is the culmination of many years of differences between himself and others within the Freedom Union -- "its current board in particular." The Freedom Union's governing board on 16 November adopted a resolution forbidding the party from establishing local coalitions with Self-Defense or the League of Polish Families (LPR), but Mazowiecki considered the move "not principled enough." Mazowiecki said he will join "no other party" and hopes to maintain a friendship with the party's members. AM

POLISH OFFICIAL CAUTIONS AGAINST MAKING BELARUS A 'BLACK HOLE'
Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Tadeusz Iwinski on 15 November warned Europe against "ignoring" the need for dialogue with Belarus, according to PAP. "Belarus cannot be a black hole on the European continent," he said. "It's understandable when one avoids summit talks with this country [Belarus], but one should not ignore talks completely." European Commission spokesman Gunnar Wiegend announced on 15 November that the EU intends to forbid President Lukashenka and 51 senior Belarusian officials from entering EU territory. Iwinski countered, "Poland must strongly consider its response," according to PAP. Lukashenka has threatened the West with border chaos (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13, 14, and 15 November 2002). "We cannot forget that we have more than 400 kilometers of border with Belarus and a half-million-strong Polish minority there." Iwinski added that the Polish side is "certainly very critical" of the Belarusian regime and "holds no top-level contacts" with it. "I think this trend will be maintained, however there is a need for border cooperation and cooperation between nongovernmental organizations and local councils of both countries," Iwinski stressed. AM

NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL STRESSES HISTORIC NATURE OF PRAGUE SUMMIT...
NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson in an interview with the Czech daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 16 November said the organization's summit in Prague is an important symbol of the alliance's success in promoting European unification, CTK reported. He said the invitations that will be extended to aspiring states will definitively end the division of Europe on Cold War lines and will prevent the return of a dark chapter in the continent's history. Robertson said the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States were organized by a man who was born in Saudi Arabia and lived in Central Asia, planned by individuals from the eastern and southeastern coast of the Mediterranean living in Western Europe, and carried out in North America. There is no better proof, Robertson said, that a defense partnership reaching as far as Central Asia and the Mediterranean Sea is now needed. He said the joint struggle against terrorism will be intensified and the participation of NATO members in that effort will be suited to the interests and needs of individual NATO members following the summit. MS

...AS ANTI-NATO PROTESTS BEGIN BUT ARE PEACEFUL...
Some 70 people attended a demonstration in Brno on 16 November against the upcoming NATO summit, CTK reported. Speakers called the summit "a megaparty of assassins and the capitalist elite." The gathering ended without incident. In Prague, a similar protest attracted some 200 anarchists on 17 November, CTK reported. Participants carried banners reading "Against the state and capitalism," "Say no to NATO and the EU," and "Death for sale -- NATO joint-stock company." That gathering also ended without incident. More demonstrations are expected later this week. MS

...AND AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL URGES RESPECT FOR DEMONSTRATORS' RIGHTS
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International issued a statement on 16 November to highlight Czech authorities' responsibility ahead of the NATO summit "to ensure that people are able to exercise peacefully their rights of freedom of assembly and expression" in addition to protecting local inhabitants and property. The group claimed policing operations during the World Bank/International Monetary Fund meeting two years ago in Prague "resulted in numerous violations of international standards by law enforcement officials," including "on arrest and detention, the use of force and firearms, and the rights to freedom of expression and assembly." Amnesty International added, "The Czech government must ensure that the sorts of human rights violations seen in Prague in September 2000 are not repeated." AH

CZECH LEADERS MARK FALL OF COMMUNIST REGIME
President Vaclav Havel on 17 November laid a wreath at a memorial in Prague marking the site where the 17 November 1989 demonstrations against the communist regime began, CTK reported. Those demonstrations, now commemorated as Freedom and Democracy Day, led to the regime's collapse. Havel told journalists the new Czech generation, which grew up under different circumstances than those against which the 1989 protesters had stood up, "might not be much interested in what we experienced or in the Velvet Revolution," but it has internalized "many of the [democratic] values that were at stake then." Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said he is convinced "the struggle for freedom and a humane society...has not yet ended." MS

NEW CANDIDATES EMERGE FOR POST OF CZECH OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER
Miroslava Nemcova, Civic Democratic Party (ODS) deputy speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, on 16 November announced she will run for the post of ODS chairwoman, CTK reported. She said she took the decision in the wake of a meeting with the ODS parliamentary group the previous day, where support for her candidacy was strong. Last week, ODS Deputy Chairman Jan Zahradil and ODS Senate leader Miroslav Topolanek announced their candidacies for the position, which is likely to be vacated at a party conference next month so Chairman Vaclav Klaus can pursue the presidency. CTK said another possible contender for the post is Prague 6 Mayor Pavel Bem, a front-runner for the Prague lord mayor's post. MS

CZECH POLITICAL MAP UNDERGOING CHANGES
A group of senators on 15 November established the upper house's first-ever independent parliamentary group, CTK reported. The Senate will now have five instead of four parliamentary groups. The group calls itself The Independents and comprises three unaffiliated senators elected this year, second-term independent Senator Jitka Seitlova, and Helena Rognerova, who ran as a member of the centrist Christian Democratic Union-People's Party. Rognerova leads the new group. On 17 November, the Right-Wing Platform was officially established within the right-wing Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU), CTK reported. Many of the speakers who attended the meeting to approve the new platform's statutes in Jihlava, South Moravia, demanded that the US-DEU withdraw from the ruling coalition and elect a new party leadership. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT REACTS TO BELARUSIAN LEADER'S ISOLATION...
President Rudolf Schuster in an interview with TASR on 15 November said Belarus must heed signals that it will remain isolated unless the political situation in the country changes. Schuster was reacting to the Czech Republic's decision not to grant a visa to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, thus preventing him from attending the 21-22 November NATO summit in Prague. Schuster said the decision was the sole prerogative of the state hosting the summit, which is "a sovereign country." But he warned that "it would be a mistake" to isolate Belarus as a whole "just because of one controversial man." In an allusion to former Premier Vladimir Meciar, Schuster said that Slovakia has also been isolated in the past by the international community because of its "democratic deficit and minorities policies, but that has changed now." MS

...AND SAYS SLOVAKIA MUST RALLY AROUND ITS NEW NATO ALLIES
In the same interview with TASR, Schuster also said that if the United States requests it, Slovakia should immediately provide access to its airspace in the event of a strike against Iraq. It should also provide whatever other military support the country is capable of rendering, Schuster said. Slovakia has so far acted as if it is already a NATO member, and this cannot change after gaining membership in the organization, he emphasized. Schuster also said he is convinced that NATO membership will help revive Slovakia's military industry. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER HAILS EXPECTED NATO INVITATION...
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda in an interview with TASR on 17 November called his country's expected invitation to join NATO "a milestone in the historic journey of Slovaks and Slovakia." Dzurinda said there is no better or more effective collective defense that the Atlantic alliance, adding that Slovakia's NATO membership will also consolidate stability in Central Europe as a whole. He said Slovakia cannot "stand on the sidelines" when the alliance is militarily involved anywhere, because the country will be not only a security recipient but also a security provider. In the modern, increasingly global world, the premier added, there is no room to hide when someone is "becoming mad and trying to turn values upside down." Dzurinda added: "Every now and then, mankind is confronted with having to choose between supporting aggression [and] the genocide of innocent people, or displaying the capability and responsibility for repulsing the belligerence of dictators and murderers." MS

...AND STRUGGLE AGAINST COMMUNIST DICTATORSHIP...
In a reference to the Day of Freedom and Democracy (17 November) marking the overthrow of the communist regime, Dzurinda said in the same interview with TASR, "In November 1989, we all went into the streets and squares [expressing our will] for freedom, dignity, and a life without ideological lies." Nowadays, Slovakia is "irreversibly on the right path," but it should never be forgotten that 17 November 1989 "was the start of that path," CTK quoted Dzurinda as saying. MS

...BUT IS CONTRADICTED BY SLOVAK COMMUNISTS
In a statement released on 16 November, the Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS) said the 17 November 1989 events were "an antistate coup," TASR reported. The KSS called the Velvet Revolution nothing but a bluff that put Slovakia back 50-60 years. "Instead of the promised paradise, our life is affected by a multifarious and deep crisis," and "the biggest crime is that half a million people are unemployed and the capitalist system deprives the population of social security," the statement said. MS

SLOVAKS HELPED CATCH TERRORIST SUSPECT IN BRITAIN
Slovak police helped catch one of the three terrorist suspects detained in Britain in early November, CTK reported on 17 November, citing Slovak TA3 television channel. The man had lived in Slovakia with his local girlfriend, who converted to Islam, for about a year, the report said. Three North Africans were detained by British police on 9 November on suspicion of planning a lethal-gas attack on the London subway, according to a report in "The Sunday Times" on 17 November. MS

SLOVAK POLITICIAN BOYCOTTS CONSULTATIONS ON HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW...
Miklos Duray, executive chairman of the governing coalition's Hungarian Slovak Coalition (SMK), on 16 November announced he would not participate in talks in Budapest on Hungary's amendment of its controversial Status Law. The consultations were held under the Hungarian Standing Conference (MAERT) on 17 November. Duray is widely viewed as a supporter of former Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban, whose government passed the law in 2001. Duray said any amendment to the Status Law would be detrimental to the legislation and added that he is not ready to participate in talks whose outcome he cannot influence. MS

...BUT HUNGARIAN CONFERENCE AGREES ON AMENDMENT ANYWAY
The MAERT -- comprising government ministers and representatives of parliamentary parties and ethnic Hungarians abroad -- reached consensus on the Hungarian government's proposed amendments to the Status Law and the possible consequences of Hungary's EU accession for ethnic Hungarians, Hungarian radio reported. Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy told the gathering that Hungary is striving to play a stabilizing role in the region. The closing document included a proposal to eliminate preferential treatment of ethnic Hungarians in granting work permits. Participants also decided that ethnic Hungarian pupils abroad who attend Hungarian-language schools will receive a 20,000-forint ($85) annual subsidy. Opposition FIDESZ Deputy Chairman Zsolt Nemeth proposed that 0.5 percent of the nation's budget be set aside for subsidizing ethnic Hungarians. He complained that the 1.2 billion forints ($5 million) provided in next year's budget to implement the goals laid down in the law will not even cover educational benefits. MSZ

FORMER HUNGARIAN PREMIER WARNS OF LOST SOVEREIGNTY TO EU
Former Prime Minister Orban on 15 November told reporters that the opposition FIDESZ party does not support a draft constitutional amendment aimed at EU compliance that would supplant Hungarian legislation with EU law in some cases (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2002), as "it would give up a considerable portion of [Hungary's] independence." Orban insisted the national and EU spheres of authority must be exercised together and that EU legislation must not supersede the Hungarian Constitution. Orban said FIDESZ wants to apply the French formula to EU accession -- which he described as not surrendering any national sovereignty. Orban also alleged that the Socialist-led "internationalist government" relegated national interests into the background when it proposed the amendment of the constitution. More particularly, he said the government must not acquiesce in the area of competition policy, particularly regarding the withdrawal of tax benefits granted to large foreign companies. On 16 November, at a press briefing in Budapest with former Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar, Orban said the Hungarian public believes "an angel is arriving from the EU, but that is not so," Hungarian media reported. MSZ

HUNGARIAN DEMOCRATIC FORUM ELECTS NEW PARLIAMENTARY-GROUP LEADER
Opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) party spokesman Karoly Herenyi on 17 November was elected the party's parliamentary-group leader, Budapest dailies reported. Herenyi vowed that the group's style will be identical to the policy embodied in MDF Chairwoman Ibolya David and the party's leadership. Former group leader Istvan Balsai, who resigned last week amid clashes with David and ahead of a vote of confidence in his leadership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 2002), was proposed as chairman of parliament's Employment Committee. MSZ

FOUR-COUNTRY BATTALION AGREEMENT SIGNED IN BUDAPEST
The chiefs of staff of Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Ukraine on 15 November signed an agreement in Budapest on the establishment of an international military battalion dubbed Tisa, "whose task will be to ensure cooperation in tackling natural disasters," Czech news agency CTK reported. Hungarian Defense Ministry officials told CTK the document was signed by Hungarian Chief of Staff General Lajos Fodor and his counterparts Milan Cerovsky of Slovakia, Mihail Popescu of Romania, and Oleksandr Zatynayko of Ukraine. The agreement provides for the creation of a battalion of 800 troops that could be deployed at the request of any of the four countries involved in case of a natural disaster in the Tisa River basin. Each of the countries will provide 200 soldiers, including 100 military engineers, to the unit. When deployed, the unit will be under host-country command. MSZ

PRESIDENTS OF ALBANIA, CROATIA, AND MACEDONIA AGREE TO WORK TOGETHER FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski and his Albanian counterpart Alfred Moisiu agreed on 17 November to cooperate to win membership in the Atlantic alliance, AP and dpa reported. The two met in Ohrid on the Macedonian side of the border along Lake Ohrid, and later met in Pogradec on the Albanian side of the frontier. Moisiu and Trajkovski will present a "joint platform" at the NATO summit in Prague later this week. Croatian President Stipe Mesic agreed previously to support the platform but was not present at the Lake Ohrid meetings. The three presidents will address a Leadership Forum at RFE/RL headquarters in Prague on 21 November. Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia are not likely to be invited to join the alliance at the summit but are considered prime candidates for a subsequent round of enlargement. On 16 November, Trajkovski said in Skopje that it is "unfair" that his country will not be invited to join at the Prague summit. He noted that Macedonia allowed NATO to use its territory during the 1999 Kosova conflict. PM

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT SLAMS SERBIAN RIVALS, RATHER THAN NATIONALIST OPPONENTS, AHEAD OF PRESIDENTIAL VOTE
Registration for the 8 December Serbian presidential elections closed on 17 November, AP reported from Belgrade. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) will face far-right Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj and Borislav Pelevic of the Party of Serbian Unity, which was founded by the late Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan. Making a clear reference to Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, Kostunica said on 15 November that some individuals want the elections to fail. Kostunica stressed that recently revised electoral legislation should have included a provision that a simple majority of votes cast -- and not of all registered voters -- is enough to elect a president on the first ballot and not just on the second one. It is not clear why Kostunica has raised the matter only now, rather than when he and Djindjic struck their bargain that permitted the revision of electoral laws in the first place (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5, 6, and 14 November 2002). Djindjic's Democratic Opposition (DOS) coalition has not endorsed any candidate for the presidency. PM

KOSOVAR PRIME MINISTER PLEDGES TO REPAIR SERBIAN CHURCHES
Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi said in Prishtina that two Serbian Orthodox churches in the Istog district will be repaired following explosions that shook them on the night of 16-17 November, AP reported. Serbian Orthodox Bishop Artemije argued the international community has not done enough to protect the Serbian population or its churches. Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration (UNMIK), said the attacks are "an act of religious vandalism which does not fit the Kosovo of 2002." Steiner and Rexhepi visited the sites of the destruction together, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

UN CHIEF LAUNCHES BALKAN TOUR
On the first part of a five-day Balkan visit, Secretary-General Kofi Annan paid tribute in Sarajevo on 17 November to 275 UN employees who died in the course of the conflicts in former Yugoslavia since 1991, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. The UN will end its mission in Bosnia at the end of 2002, when a smaller EU police mission replaces that of the UN. Critics charge that UN police have been all too often at the center of scandals involving prostitution and human trafficking. Jacques Klein, who heads the UN police mission, has argued that such publicity is the result of his organization's efforts to clean its own house. He stresses that the Bosnian police force is first-rate. On 18 November, Annan will discuss cooperation with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague and Bosnian Serb arms sales to Iraq with Bosnian officials, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He then travels to Prishtina, Belgrade, and Zagreb. PM

U.S. PRESIDENT TO VISIT ROMANIA AFTER NATO SUMMIT
Presidential spokeswoman Corina Cretu announced on 15 November that U.S. President George W. Bush will pay a four-hour visit to Romania on 23 November, RFE/RL's Bucharest Bureau reported. Bush will address a meeting in Bucharest's Revolution Square and hold talks with President Ion Iliescu, who is to decorate him with Romania's highest state order. The U.S. president will be accompanied by first lady Laura Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. MS

GREATER ROMANIA PARTY REVERSES COURSE ON EARLY ELECTIONS
Greater Romania Party (PRM) Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor said on 15 November that the PRM's previously announced support for early elections is conditioned on the ballot being conducted under the stipulations of the current constitution, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Tudor said the PRM will not agree to what he called the "brutal modification" of the constitution envisaged by the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), nor will it agree to having parliamentary elections held separately from the presidential election, both of which are due in 2004. The current constitutional stipulations allow the president to dissolve the parliament only in the wake of a no-confidence motion followed by two unsuccessful attempts to set up a new cabinet. According to reports in the Romanian media, in its attempts to overcome President's Iliescu's opposition to an early ballot the PSD is proposing a constitutional amendment under which former heads of states will automatically become members for life of Romania's upper house. MS

ROMANIA'S PNL PRESENTS FURTHER INCRIMINATING EVIDENCE AGAINST PRIBOI
The National Liberal Party (PNL) told journalists on 17 November that it has further evidence demonstrating that PSD deputy Ristea Priboi participated in the quashing of the 1987 Brasov workers' uprising as a member of the Securitate, Mediafax reported. The PNL said another Brasov worker has identified Priboi as one of those who interrogated him and supervised his torture after he was detained. Interviews with the worker, Gheorghe Duduc, were published on 18 November in the dailies "Romania libera" and "Evenimentul zilei"(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 14 November 2002). MS

RULING PARTY CLAIMS VICTORY IN ROMANIAN LOCAL-ELECTION RUNOFFS
Public Administration Minister Octav Cozmanca said in an interview with Romanian Radio on 18 November that his PSD once again emerged on top in the local-election runoffs held the previous day. According to Cozmanca, the PSD won the mayoral positions in five localities, while the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania and the Democratic Party (UDMR) took one mayoral post each. One independent candidate was also elected mayor. According to Cozmanca, the two rounds of local elections produced 14 mayors for the PSD, three for the UDMR and one independent. He said the returns shows the PSD's leading position is not deteriorating, "as some have hoped." Cozmanca rejected allegations by the PNL that the PSD violated electoral regulations in a village in the Suceava district (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 2002). MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES FINAL BUDGET READING...
Parliament on 15 November approved the final reading of the 2003 budget, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The vote was 72 in favor to five against. Deputies representing the opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) did not participate in the vote. The budget envisages revenues of 3.9 billion lei ($285.7 million) and expenditures of 4.2 billion lei, resulting in a deficit of less than 1 percent of GDP. MS

...AND FIRST READING OF AMENDMENT ON PARTY-REGISTRATION LAW...
Also on 15 November, parliament approved the first reading of legislation that would raise from 5,000 to 15,000 the minimum number of members needed to register a political formation, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The bill was presented by PPCD leader Iurie Rosca and supported by deputies representing the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists, in what is a very rare instance of agreement between them. The Braghis Alliance and two independent deputies oppose the draft, saying it would infringe on the freedom of association. If approved in a final reading, the currently registered 33 Moldovan parties will have to re-register within three months, Infotag reported. MS

...AS WELL AS LAW AGAINST AUDIOVISUAL PIRACY
The Moldovan legislature approved a law on 15 November against the pirating of compact discs and videotapes, ITAR-TASS reported. Under the new regulations, all CD and video traders in Moldova must possess documents certifying the origin of their merchandise as well as the producers' consent to distribute on Moldovan territory. Authorization labels must then be carried on CDs and videotapes. Moldovan police claim that pirated CDs and videos account for 90 percent of the country's trade in that market. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SENDS DRAFT LAW ON COMBATING EXTREMISM TO PARLIAMENT
President Vladimir Voronin 15 on November submitted to the legislature a draft law on combating extremism, Flux reported. The draft law defines "extremist materials" as documents, whether signed or anonymous, that incite or justify actions related to war crimes or the full or partial elimination of an ethnic, social, racial, national, or religious group. It defines extremist organizations as those associations, parties, or media outlets that have been forbidden through a final court verdict from functioning due to their involvement in extremist activities. Before being charged with extremist activities, such organizations would be warned by the authorities and would have to take corrective measures within one month. The warning would be subject to appeal. If it is determined that such entities are engaging in extremist activities within one year of the initial warning they could either be forbidden or suspended from operation. Public officials and state employees engaging in such activities would face a ban on their activities for up to five years. MS

BULGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER DEMANDS REGISTRATION OF DUAL-USE GOODS
In reaction to the scandal stemming from a state-owned company's attempt to export dual-use goods to Syria (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12, 13, 14, and 15 November 2002), Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov said on 17 November that Bulgarian companies must register all civilian and dual-use goods they produce, mediapool.bg reported. Svinarov said the measure will help customs authorities intercept future attempts to export dual-use goods. In related news, Svinarov has hinted that he might take responsibility for the recent scandal and resign immediately after the 21-22 November NATO summit in Prague, "Standart" reported on 18 November. Meanwhile, U.S. State Department specialists arrived in Bulgaria on 17 November to investigate the TEREM arms exporter's attempt to ship dual-use goods to Syria, "Sega" reported. Together with representatives of the Interior Ministry and the Military Counterintelligence Service, the specialists visited the TEREM factory in Turgovishte. "We would like to show the Americans that TEREM is not a mafia company," Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Boyko Borisov said. "It is our duty to defend the authority of our military production and to show that we can work according to NATO standards," he added. UB

FOREIGN MINISTER CONFIDENT THAT BULGARIA WILL BE INVITED TO JOIN NATO
Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said on 15 November that he is confident Bulgaria will receive an invitation to join NATO at the alliance's Prague summit on 21-22 November, BTA reported. "We have absolutely reliable information that the [United States] will support Bulgaria and another six countries' NATO membership bids at the Prague summit," Pasi said. "The governments of the other 18 NATO member states confirmed over the past few months that they will support the same seven states, so we can claim with a great degree of confidence that these will be the countries that will be invited to join the alliance at the Prague summit," he added. Other leading Bulgarian politicians such as President Georgi Parvanov and parliamentary speaker Ognyan Gerdzhikov have also expressed their confidence that Bulgaria will receive a NATO invitation. UB

BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER WRAPS UP VISIT TO FRANCE
Simeon Saxecoburggotski wrapped up his three-day official visit to France on 17 November, BTA reported. In Paris, Saxecoburggotski met with his French counterpart Jean-Pierre Raffarin, President Jacques Chirac, and other high-ranking politicians. Chirac assured Saxecoburggotski that Bulgaria will receive an invitation to join NATO. "For France, the enlargement of NATO and the EU are priorities, and the support that Bulgaria receives from Paris is something that nobody in your country should doubt," Chirac was quoted as saying by bnn news agency. Deputy Justice Minister Sevdalin Bozhikov, who accompanied Saxecoburggotski, met with officials to prepare for a meeting of the Bulgarian-French team working on judicial reform in Bulgaria. UB

BULGARIAN, MACEDONIAN PRESIDENTS MEET INFORMALLY, HONOR MACEDONIAN REVOLUTIONARY
President Parvanov and his Macedonian counterpart Boris Trajkovski met informally in the southwest Bulgarian town of Bansko on 16 November, BTA reported. The talks focused on bilateral cooperation on infrastructure projects and the two countries' integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. To the surprise of many observers, Parvanov and Trajkovski laid flowers before the monument of Jane Sandanski in the town Melnik. Sandanski, who was murdered in 1915 in the vicinity of Melnik, is regarded as a national hero in Bulgaria and Macedonia and the ceremony could be an indication of improving bilateral relations, which have long been marred by insurmountable controversies over the countries' common history. The Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" quoted Parvanov as saying that "this was a gesture that was to show that history must be read in a responsible and rational way [and that] history must unite us and not divide us." UB

There is no End Note today.


U.S. SENATE PASSES AFGHANISTAN FREEDOM SUPPORT ACT...
The U.S. Senate on 14 November passed the Afghanistan Freedom Support Act (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2002), which would allocate $3.3 billion "in economic, political, humanitarian and security assistance for Afghanistan over the next four years," according to a statement released by the U.S. State Department on 15 November. The bill was sponsored by U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (Republican, Nebraska). "The United States must stay closely and actively engaged in helping Afghanistan through a very dangerous and difficult transition to stability, security, and, ultimately, a democratic government," Hagel said. "We are at the beginning of a long process, and we must not allow the Afghan government to unwind. We must make the appropriate investment of resources and capital to meet our objective of a stable and prosperous country. Afghanistan is the first battle in our war on terrorism -- we must not fail," Hagel added. The bill must now be approved by President George W. Bush. AT

...AND STATES ITS SUPPORT FOR EXPANDED ISAF ROLE...
In the bill, the U.S. Congress "urges" President Bush "to use [the] full diplomatic influence of the United States to expand the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) beyond Kabul" by "sponsoring in the United Nations Security Council a resolution authorizing such an expansion." In addition, the bill recommends "enlisting the European and other allies of the United States to provide forces for an expanded" ISAF (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13, 14, 15 November 2002). AT

...AS BRITISH LAWMAKERS FOLLOW SUIT...
A group of 56 members of British parliament have presented a petition to their government calling on it to explore the feasibility of extending the ISAF's peacekeeping activities beyond Kabul, the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported on 17 November. According to the radio station, the British members of parliament stressed in the petition that security is needed before Afghanistan can be reconstructed and that the issue has gone unanswered by the international community despite UN support. The radio added that the United States has "also called for the expansion of the international forces beyond Kabul." AT

...AND GERMANY VOTES TO KEEP TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN
The German parliament, by a vote of 573 in favor to 11 against, overwhelmingly supported a request by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to extend the stationing of approximately 1,110 German troops in Afghanistan, "The New York Times" reported on 15 November. Germany and the Netherlands are expected to assume joint command of the ISAF in December. Both countries have supported an NATO role in Afghanistan, particularly in the event that the ISAF's peacekeeping operations are extended beyond Kabul. AT

AFGHANISTAN'S SAYED KARAM DISTRICT OUT OF GOVERNMENT CONTROL...
Supporters of former Paktiya Province Governor Pacha Khan Zadran have retaken control of Sayed Karam district after government forces were pushed back, the weekly "Payam-e Mujahed," which is affiliated with former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, reported in its 14 November issue. The district is located approximately 50 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital of Khost. AT

...AND COALITION FORCES ARE ATTACKED IN THE AREA
Two rockets were fired at coalition forces in Khost from a southeastern direction, the Hindukosh news agency cited Afghan Army 3rd Corps commander Lieutenant General Atiqollah Ludin as saying on 17 November. According to the report, Ludin said the attack did not result in any casualties. "Rocket attacks on the positions of coalition forces in Khost and other provinces are increasing these days," according the report. AT

IRAN'S SUPREME LEADER INTERVENES IN AGHAJARI CASE...
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ordered the Hamedan Appeals Court to review the case of political activist and university Professor Hashem Aghajari, "Jomhuri-yi Islami" reported on 17 November. Khamenei gave the order following receipt of a letter from what the daily described as "hundreds of university lecturers." Aghajari was sentenced on 6 November to death, prison time, and a flogging for allegedly making blasphemous comments in a June speech. Aghajari's lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, and Speaker of Parliament Mehdi Karrubi confirmed the "Jomhuri-yi Islami" report. BS

...AS STUDENT DEMONSTRATIONS CONTINUE...
An anonymous student leader said there is no need for continuing the demonstrations that began on 9 November in light of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's intervention in the Aghajari case, Reuters reported on 17 November. However, Abdullah Momeni of the Office for Strengthening Unity (the Allameh branch) told RFE/RL's Persian Service on 17 November the demonstrations are not just about Hashem Aghajari. Momeni said there is dissatisfaction with the country's system of government, and the demonstrators want it reformed. Momeni said that there will be another demonstration at Sharif Industrial University on 18 November. The Student Basij at Allameh Tabatabai University also intends to hold a rally on 18 November, according to the Iranian Students News Agency. That rally is to protest "the infiltration of misleading ideas," insulting sanctities, boycotts of classes, unrest, and the weak performance of university administrators and the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology. Moreover, more than 1,000 students staged a sit-in at Allameh Tabatabai University on 17 November, and there were some scuffles between them and hard-line bystanders. BS

...AND INTERIOR MINISTRY TRIES TO PREVENT RALLIES
The Interior Ministry on 16 November rejected an application from the majority wing of the Office for Strengthening Unity (the Allameh branch) to hold a march on 18 November, the IRNA reported. Interior Ministry official Ali Baqeri explained that the organizers of such events cannot control them, and when this happens outsiders might interfere. "Counterrevolutionaries and foreign agents seek to stir up crises so that they can live in them like parasites," Baqeri said. "There is also the possibility of violent intervention by people who have their sensitivities inflamed by the slogans that are chanted." BS

PARLIAMENT PONDERS LIFTING SATELLITE-TV BAN...
Iran's Guardians Council, which is tasked with determining the Islamic and constitutional compatibility of all legislation, rejected on 16 November a bill that would require juries for all political and media-related trials, according to an Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) dispatch, as reported by AFP. The bill has been sent back to parliament, but if the legislature refuses to amend it further, the Expediency Council would have to arbitrate. The legislature will also begin consideration of a bill to lift the ban on satellite dishes and receivers. If that is approved, a committee chaired by the Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry and including representatives of the ministries of Intelligence and Security; Interior; and Post, Telegraph, and Telephone; and from the official Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) would determine which channels are safe for viewing. The ban against satellite dishes was passed in 1995, but the law is only sporadically enforced, and satellite television is very popular. The legislature considered ending the satellite-dish ban one year ago but failed to do so ("RFE/RL Iran Report," 29 October 2001). Parliament on 17 November debated a bill on taxes and duties that would be levied on goods producers and service providers. Large industrial organizations have indicated their opposition to the bill. BS

...AND CREATING NEW MINISTRY
Tabriz parliamentary representative Aliasqar Amir Sherdust said on 16 November that a government bill for the creation of a new Cultural Heritage and Tourism Ministry has been submitted to the legislature, IRNA reported. He went on to say this would require a merger of the Cultural Heritage Organization and the Sightseeing and Tourism Organization. Sherdust said the new ministry would encourage foreign investors and would develop plans and programs to boost the tourism industry. BS

IRANIAN DIPLOMATIC VISIT TO WASHINGTON CANCELLED...
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 18 November that Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has cancelled a trip to Washington to speak at the Middle East Institute (MEI) because American officials wanted to omit the question-and-answer session after his speech, according to IRNA. Reuters had reported on 15 November that the trip was cancelled because MEI did not coordinate the visit with the U.S. State Department. Zarif was scheduled to meet with members of the U.S. Congress during the visit. Iranian diplomats in the United States are subject to travel restrictions because of the absence of diplomatic relations between the two countries. BS

...WHILE OTHER CONTACTS OCCUR
An anonymous U.S. Defense Department official said on 14 November that there are "preliminary feelers" between Tehran and Washington concerning coping with military emergencies in the Persian Gulf region, "USA Today" reported on 15 November. The source said the contacts are taking place through Arab intermediaries in a small Gulf state. Former Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, who serves as the Supreme Leader's foreign-affairs adviser, has established an office in Dubai to facilitate such contacts, according to reports in the 28 and 29 August issues of "Al-Sharq al-Awsat." Tehran agreed to aid downed American aviators during the Afghan conflict last year, and during the 1991 Gulf War, it allowed American aircraft to pass through its airspace. BS

HAS IRAQI PRESIDENT ARRANGED SAFE HAVEN IN LIBYA?
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has reportedly struck a deal with Libya to provide a safe haven for members of his regime and his family in the event that he is driven from power in Iraq, "The Times" reported on 16 November. According to the London daily, Hussein sent General Ali Hasan al-Majid (otherwise known as Chemical Ali for his supervision of a chemical weapons attack on the Kurds in Halabja in 1988) to Libya on 8 September to make arrangements. The deal reportedly provides a safe haven for Saddam's family and about a dozen senior Iraqi officials and their families, including Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and Foreign Minister Naji Sabri. In return, $3.5 billion would be deposited into Libyan banks. Diplomatic sources in Tripoli said President Hussein and his son Uday would not be allowed to enter Libya, but it is unknown whether Saddam's younger son Qusay is on the list. The Libyan news agency JANA reported on 16 November that Hassunah al-Shawish, the assistant secretary for culture and information at the General People's Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation, called "The Times" report "totally unfounded" and "fictitious." He threatened to take legal action against the paper. KR

IRAQ REPORTEDLY HIDING WEAPONS
Baghdad has shifted weapons and documents from military installations to public spaces and has sent its scientists abroad as it prepares for the return of UN weapons inspectors, "The Daily Telegraph" reported on its website on 17 November. The report cited information provided by the Iraqi National Accord (INA) opposition group, which claimed that the Iraqi government has moved documents and materials from weapons laboratories and a ballistic missile site into hospitals, schools, and mosques in Mosul and Kirkuk. The operation is supposedly being overseen by Brigadier General Walid al-Nasri and President Hussein's son, Qusay Hussein. In addition, "The Daily Telegraph" reported that over the last two weeks two scientists have been sent to Yemen and two to undisclosed locations in the Middle East, while one each has been sent to Romania, Singapore, and Malaysia. The report also quoted an official from the U.S. Department of Defense as saying that Iraq has "trained large numbers of personnel in how to deal with an intrusive inspection regime," including how to rapidly sterilize the equipment that is used to produce and store chemical and biological agents. KR

IRAQI PRESIDENT SENDS MESSAGE TO NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
President Hussein sent a letter to the National Assembly concerning the Revolutionary Command Council's (RCC) decision to accept UN Security Council resolution 1441, Iraq TV reported on 16 November. In the letter, Hussein praised the assembly and the Iraqi people for their nationalism and religious devotion, and he called on them to remain strong, "not confuse right with falsehood," and to fearlessly confront the "Satan of the age." "Your enemy has once again covered its goals and intentions under the cloak of the Security Council, which has violated everything that represents the conscience of international unanimity in accordance with the UN Charter and international law through this resolution," he added. Hussein also vowed to protect Iraq's scientific progress and "independently achieved" technology. In an apparent reference to a possible war with the United States, he said that "if the unjust ones go too far in their injustice, you know that we can draw on the revolution's capabilities and principles against every injustice and unjust one." KR

IRAQI VICE PRESIDENT CRITICIZES IMPUTED U.S. PLANS FOR IRAQ
Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan told the Cairo weekly "Al-Musawwar" of 15 November that Washington is attempting to install a regime in Iraq akin to that established in Afghanistan -- and that it would fail. "This is political stupidity because they do not know the people of Iraq or how they view occupiers, or how they liberated their land from foreign occupation," he said in an interview from Baghdad. Ramadan also criticized Iraqi opposition groups, calling them a bunch of "dwarfs." "They are just collaborators living in the United States and Britain. I believe they are completely powerless," he said. He also contrasted the recent presidential referendum in Iraq to the U.S. presidential elections in 2000. Ramadan said the Iraqi referendum was "in accordance with the constitution," and he implied that the outcome of U.S. elections are determined by wealthy individuals, companies, and "Zionist groups." KR

INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC AGENCY DIRECTOR-GENERAL DISCUSSES UPCOMING INSPECTIONS
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Muhammad al-Baradei addressed upcoming UN inspections in Iraq during a speech at The Carnegie International Non-Proliferation Conference 2002, hosted in Washington on 14 November by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In a report posted on the organization's website (http://www.ceip.org), Baradei said that by December 1998 the inspectors had successfully neutralized Iraq's nuclear program and that "we had destroyed, removed, or rendered harmless all its facilities and equipment relevant to nuclear weapons production -- mostly by the end of 1992." He added that Iraq's weapons-useable material had been removed from the country by 1994. Baradei contended that while satellite monitoring of Iraq has continued for the last four years, it is necessary for inspectors to confirm Iraq's compliance through inspections on the ground. He added that the success of the inspections will depend on the Iraqi government's willingness to cooperate and to provide access to sites, as well as transparency and access to all information, including intelligence data. KR

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