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Newsline - November 19, 2002


FORMER MINISTER PROPOSES PLAN FOR COMBATING TERRORISM...
Former Interior Minister and army General Anatolii Kulikov, who chairs the Duma Subcommittee on International Crime and Terrorism, has said he will propose legislation to reform the country's defense and domestic-security agencies to meet the challenge of combating terrorism, RTR and "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie," No. 43, reported on 19 November. Kulikov, who coordinates contacts on these issues with the U.S. House of Representatives, said Russia should revise its legislation in conjunction with the United States so that both countries can operate using the same terms and definitions. He also proposed revising the law on the National Security Council to make that body the main coordinating organ for Russia's antiterrorism operations. Finally, Kulikov proposed creating a strictly centralized command for the joint armed forces in Chechnya with a special first deputy prime minister appointed to control all military and security forces in the republic. "This will help keep the power structures under the control of the prosecutor-general" and prove that "a merciless war has been declared against terrorists and bandits, not against the Chechen people," Kulikov said. VY

...AS MAGAZINE WARNS RUSSIANS OF THE LONG WAR AHEAD...
Russians should brace themselves to live in a state of war for the coming years or even decades, warns an editorial in "Ekspert," No. 41. The magazine notes that Russians, especially those who grew up in the peaceful 1960s and 1970s, now find themselves experiencing considerable shock at the sudden appearance of war. However, citizens should realize that the peace of those decades was the exception rather than the rule, brought on by the "lucky" combination of a politically stable bipolar world and economic prosperity based on high global energy prices. The remainder of the 20th century, the magazine notes, was characterized by war and social instability. It notes the current war in Chechnya is a sort of continuation of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, which began in 1979. The war in Chechnya, the weekly continues, cannot be won even in 30 years as long as the factors underlying it persist. VY

...AND PUTIN'S ENVOY SAYS JOBS ARE THE KEY TO FIGHTING TERRORISM
Presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Viktor Kazantsev said that the war against terrorism should begin with the liquidation of unemployment, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 November. Speaking to an expanded meeting of the government Council for Combating Terrorism in Nalchik, Kazantsev said, "Unemployment is the breeding ground for terrorism." He said the council's "main task is to provide employment to the population" in order to "reduce social tension." RC

EDUCATION MINISTER URGES MORE RAPID MILITARY REFORM...
Vladimir Filippov said in a long interview with the magazine "Itogi," No. 46, that the failure of military reform is creating an "army of overqualified unemployed people." He said that fear of serving in the army is leading too many young Russians to seek higher education, creating more college graduates than the economy needs. Filippov said the problem could be solved by adopting a law requiring all young men to complete their military service before entering an institution of higher learning. However, he noted that such a law would be extremely unpopular and that a two-year hiatus between graduating from school and entering the university would cause considerable problems. In view of these difficulties, the only real solution is to complete the transition to a volunteer army quickly and end conscription. "But this is a long road and we will have to put up with the current situation for many years yet," Filippov said. RC

...AND DISCUSSES 'MODERNIZATION' OF EDUCATION SYSTEM
In the same interview, Filippov noted that 40 percent of schoolchildren responding to a recent survey in Tula said they "hate [Fyodor] Dostoevsky and [Leo] Tolstoy" and that they find the education system "boring." At the same time, Filippov said, employers say that school graduates are ill prepared for work and "are not in demand on the labor market." "Therefore we are busy today modernizing education, trying to maintain its fundamentals while making it...correspond better to the demands of the interested segments of society," Filippov said. He also noted with concern the rapid expansion of paid higher education. "The commercialization of higher education is extremely dangerous from the point of view of the quality of graduates," Filippov said. He noted that nearly half of Russian college students are now paying for their studies. RC

PRIEST RENOUNCES TESTIMONY AGAINST CHECHEN VICE PREMIER...
The Russian Orthodox priest who, according to the Prosecutor-General's Office, accused Akhmed Zakaev of leading the band of Chechen fighters that kidnapped him in Grozny in 1996 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2002) has renounced his claim, "Izvestiya" reported on 18 November. "[The report] that I identified Zakaev with certainty is an invention," Father Filipp (Sergei Zhigulin) was quoted as saying. Father Filipp added that he was summoned to the Prosecutor-General's Office on 16 November to clarify statements he made in 1996 following his release from captivity. However, he said, neither in 1996 nor during his latest interview with prosecutors was there any mention of Zakaev being involved in the kidnapping. Father Filipp declined to answer questions about whether prosecutors pressured him during questioning, lenta.ru reported on 19 November. On 17 November, the RTR program "News of the Week" aired an interview with Father Filipp in which he said he had identified a close associate of Zakaev's, Asman Farzauli, as "his jailer in Chechnya," lenta.ru reported. Father Filipp also said that Zakaev, who Father Filipp knew personally before the kidnapping, was present when he was released from captivity. Zakaev was arrested in Copenhagen on 30 October and is currently fighting extradition to Russia. VY

...AND PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE DENOUNCES PRESS REPORTS
Reports in the Russian press casting doubt on the government's charges against Zakaev are "paid" and "a fabrication," according to Leonid Troshin, a spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office, lenta.ru and Interfax reported on 19 November. "All of these publications [concerning Father Filipp's testimony regarding Zakaev's alleged involvement in his 1996 kidnapping in Grozny] have one purpose -- the obstruction of justice," Troshin was quoted as saying. RC

RACE FOR SLAVNEFT LAUNCHED
The government expects to turn over its 74.95 percent stake in oil giant Slavneft to the winner of the 18 December tender by 15 February, ITAR-TASS and other Russian news agencies reported on 18 November. The government has established a minimum bid for the stake of $1.7 billion and will accept bids until 15 December, State Property Fund Chairman Vladimir Malin said, according to strana.ru. The stake is worth an estimated $40.5 billion and is expected to be the single largest privatization deal of the post-Soviet period. Meanwhile, the government on 18 November denied press reports that it intends to sell its stake in Rosneft, ITAR-TASS reported, citing Deputy Property Relations Minister Aleksandr Braverman. Braverman said the government will retain its stake because Rosneft is taking part in production-sharing agreements in the Chechen Republic. RC

KREMLIN TO CREATE DATABASE OF FOREIGNERS IN RUSSIA
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has ordered the Foreign Ministry, the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Federal Agency of Government Information and Communications (FAPSI), and the Federal Border Guard Service to create a consolidated database of information on all non-residents in Russia by 2005, RIA-Novosti reported on 18 November, citing the government's press office. The database will be used to issue machine-readable visas and will be controlled by the Interior Ministry. VY

AEROFLOT INKS DEAL FOR 18 AIRBUS JETS
Prime Minister Kasyanov presided on 18 November over the signing of a deal between Aeroflot and Airbus in Toulouse for the purchase of 18 Airbus medium-range passenger jets for an estimated $600 million, AP and Russian news agencies reported. Airbus also signed a protocol on the creation of an aviation design bureau in Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2002). "We are very pleased that the links we began 11 years ago with the Russian aviation sector...have developed in to a close and mutually beneficial partnership," Airbus President Noel Forgeard was quoted by AP as saying. RC

KRASNOYARSK RACE RESULTS ARE OFFICIAL
The Supreme Court on 18 November confirmed the election of Aleksandr Khloponin as governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai on 22 September, utro.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. The court rejected an appeal by the krai election commission, which had earlier invalidated the vote because of alleged campaign irregularities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3, 7, and 15 October 2002). A local court rejected the commission's decision, and the Supreme Court upheld that local-court decision. On 4 October, President Vladimir Putin appointed Khloponin to the post pending the Supreme Court decision. RC

ECONOMIST'S CANDOR SURPRISES U.S. INVESTORS
Presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov and Unified Energy Systems (EES) Deputy General Manager Sergei Dubinin clashed at the Sixth Annual Russian Investment Symposium in Boston on 16 November, gazeta.ru reported. Speaking to a crowd of more than 500 U.S. investors and executives, Dubinin noted that the Russian electrical-energy sector needs investment to create additional generating capacity and urged the Economic Development and Trade Ministry to create a state-guaranteed investment fund to attract that investment. Illarionov, who spoke after Dubinin and who is a long-time critic of EES Chairman Anatolii Chubais, said such a fund would be a return to the worst practices of the Soviet system. Although he urged investors to put their money in Russia, Illarionov said he does not list the electrical-energy sector among the most attractive sectors of the economy. RC

DUMA SENDS BACK KEY GOVERNMENT BILL
Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev told journalists on 19 November that the Duma will not consider the state-sponsored communal-services reform bill on 20 November as had been previously announced, strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. Seleznev said that a coordinating committee representing four centrist Duma factions has sent the government a list of proposed amendments to the bill, and he urged the government to resubmit the bill with the changes. The government considers the communal-services reform one of its top priorities. RC

EBRD TO FINANCE PETERSBURG, MOSCOW PROJECTS
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will provide a $418 million loan to complete the flood-control system in St. Petersburg, AP reported on 18 November, citing Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Kolotukhin. Kolotukhin also said the EBRD will lend Russia an additional $14 million to complete repairs to the Ostankino television tower in Moscow, which was damaged by a fire in September 2000. RC

OFFICER REPORTEDLY SOLD SOLDIER INTO SLAVERY
An unidentified officer of the 503rd Motorized Infantry Regiment deployed in Vladikavkaz allegedly sold Sergeant Mikhail Fedorov into slavery in 1999, "Izvestiya" reported on 18 November. According to the report, the officer sent Fedorov to do manual labor for a private businessman near the unit's base in the summer of 1999. According to Fedorov, such agreements were common, with officers hiring out soldiers to locals for 100-500 rubles ($3-15) a day. Fedorov said the man he was sent to work for then took away his documents and imprisoned him after the work was finished. He was later sent to another "owner" and changed bosses several times over the next three years, during which he performed manual labor in several villages in Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkaria. During all this time, the Defense Ministry considered him a deserter. Eventually, Fedorov said, he was able to get a message to a Duma deputy who secured his release, "Izvestiya" reported. VY

TATARSTAN JOURNALIST RESIGNS IN WAKE OF HOSTAGE CRISIS
The head of Tatarstan Television, which is owned by the republican government, has resigned, citing pressure from Moscow over his coverage of the 23-26 October Moscow hostage crisis, "The Moscow Times" reported on 19 November. Irek Murtazin hosted a talk show on 24 October in which participants called for an end to the war in Chechnya and made critical comments about the government's domestic policies. Excerpts from the show were later rebroadcast by another Tatarstan-owned station, Efir. "Moscow put pressure on the Tatarstan authorities, saying a man who sympathizes with Chechen terrorists cannot run a state company," said Murtazin, who served as Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev's spokesman before being appointed head of Tatarstan Television in June. He did not say which Moscow officials might have been involved. Shaimiev accepted Murtazin's resignation on 14 November. RC

TATAR PRESIDENT REJECTS CYRILLIC-ONLY BILL
President Shaimiev has stated that a bill adopted by the Duma on 15 November requiring that all alphabets of national languages in the Russian Federation be based on the Cyrillic alphabet (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2002) is unconstitutional and violates international norms, strana.ru reported on 18 November. Shaimiev said that if the bill becomes law, it will not be enforced in Tatarstan. RC

'LE MONDE' REPORTER DENIES LAWSUIT RUMORS
Laurent Zecchini, the French journalist with "Le Monde" whose provocative question at a Brussels press conference on 11 November led President Putin to invite him to Moscow to be circumcised, denied on 19 November Russian press reports that he intends to sue Putin over the incident, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. In an interview with the daily, Zecchini said that as far as he is concerned the incident is closed and "he is tired of the story." Zecchini said he would not hesitate to travel to Moscow if "Le Monde" sent him and that "no threats have been made against me." RC

MOSCOW LAWMAKER CALLS FOR CURFEW
The Moscow City Duma's Law and Security Committee on 18 November discussed a draft law that would make it illegal for children under the age 14 to be on city streets and in public places without their guardians between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m., regions.ru reported on 19 November. Under the proposed law, which was drafted by Deputy Yevgenii Balashov, parents of children caught violating the curfew would be fined from three to five minimum salaries. According to city police, minors committed 2,150 crimes during these hours over the last 10 months. However, according to an unidentified source in the city prosecutor's office, the proposed law is not legal because restricting a citizen's liberty on the basis of age can only be done at the federal level. RC

SUSPECTED ABDUCTORS OF RED CROSS PERSONNEL DETAINED IN CHECHNYA
The FSB and Russian military personnel have detained 10 persons in the village of Raduzhnoe near Grozny suspected of involvement in the 13 November abduction of two Chechen drivers employed by the Red Cross to transport humanitarian aid from Ingushetia to Chechnya, Interfax reported on 18 November. The men were freed on 17 November in circumstances that remain unclear (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2002). Chechen deputy administration head Movsar Khamidov denied on 17 November that a ransom had been paid. LF

TERRORISM SUSPECTED IN NORTH OSSETIA BOMB BLASTS
Experts investigating the two blasts at a soccer stadium in Vladikavkaz on 17 November are inclined to classify them as terrorist acts rather than hooliganism, judging by the quantity of explosive used and the professionalism with which it was planted, a member of the North Ossetian branch of the FSB told Interfax on 18 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2002). LF

CORRECTION
An item entitled " Duma Moves to Tighten Control Over Broadcasting Licenses" on 18 November should have stated that the Duma adopted the amendments to the law on the mass media in their first reading. RC

ARMENIAN COMMUNISTS NOMINATE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
At a congress held in Yerevan on 17 November, the Communist Party of Armenia nominated 71-year-old First Secretary Vladimir Darpinian as its candidate for the February 2003 presidential poll, Noyan Tapan reported the following day. On 18 November, Darpinian told RFE/RL he would nonetheless be prepared to step down in favor of a joint opposition presidential candidate should the 16 opposition parties that in September aligned to contest the election agree on a single candidate. LF

ARMENIAN NATIONAL SECURITY MINISTRY DENIES RESPONSIBILITY FOR PORNOGRAPHIC VIDEO
In a statement to the Noyan Tapan news agency on 18 November, the Armenian National Security Ministry denied responsibility for a videotape that has circulated in Yerevan for the past two years showing Aram Abrahamian, editor of the opposition newspaper "Aravot," engaging in sex with an unidentified woman. The daily "Or" published several stills from the video on 14 November, triggering widespread criticism and the expulsion of "Or" Editor Gayane Mukoyan from the National Press Club, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 15 November. LF

GEORGIAN, RUSSIAN BORDER OFFICIALS DENY REPORTED AGREEMENT
In separate statements on 18 November, a spokesman for the Russian Federal Border Protection Service (FPS) and Georgian Border Guards Chief of Staff Korneli Salia denied a report published in that day's issue of "Kommersant-Daily" claiming that at a meeting in Tbilisi on 14-16 November, the two countries signed a protocol under which Russian aviation and artillery would be authorized to penetrate 1 kilometer into Georgian territory in pursuit of Chechen fighters, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. The Russian spokesman explained that the protocol signed covers joint air patrols of sectors of the border that are difficult to access on foot and improved communication between the two services. LF

TBILISI RESIDENTS RALLY TO SUPPORT EMBATTLED MAYOR
Some 300 supporters of Tbilisi Mayor Vano Zodelava, whose resignation the opposition-dominated municipal council has demanded (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2002), congregated outside City Hall early on 18 November, Caucasus Press reported. They threatened to convene mass demonstrations if Zodelava is sacked and refused to discuss the issue with municipal council Chairman Mikhail Saakashvili. Zodelava said on 18 November he is still willing to cooperate with the council in order to improve conditions in the capital despite the council's stated intent to initiate a vote of no confidence in him, Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER DISCLOSES DETAILS OF 'BODEN DOCUMENT'...
The daily "Tribuna" on 18 November quoted Georgian presidential adviser on international law Levan Aleksidze as saying the UN-drafted document "Basic Principles for the Distribution of Responsibilities between Tbilisi and Sukhumi" defines Georgia as a sovereign state and Abkhazia as a sovereign entity within -- and an integral part of -- Georgia. The extent of Abkhazia's sovereignty is to be decided during further talks between Georgian and Abkhaz officials. The Abkhaz leadership has consistently refused to accept the so-called Boden document as a basis for negotiations, arguing that the unrecognized republic's population voted in a referendum three years ago to endorse the article of the constitution defining Abkhazia as an independent sovereign state (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4, 5, and 13 October 1999). LF

...AS UN SECURITY COUNCIL POSTPONES DISCUSSION OF ABKHAZ CONFLICT
Also on 18 November, Georgian Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze told Caucasus Press that the UN Security Council session to discuss the Abkhaz conflict, which was originally scheduled for 19 November, has been postponed. It is not clear whether the reason for the delay is Abkhazia's request to send representatives to the session. Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin, who is Russian President Vladimir Putin's special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, reportedly endorsed that request last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2002). Also on 18 November, Caucasus Press reported that Abkhaz parliament speaker Nugzar Ashuba met in Moscow with Russian State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev to discuss the socioeconomic situation in Abkhazia and Abkhaz attitudes toward a settlement of the conflict. During the 1992-93 war, the Duma consistently adopted a pro-Abkhaz, anti-Georgian position. LF

TURKEY INTERCEPTS WEAPONRY SMUGGLED VIA GEORGIA
Turkish customs officials on 17 November intercepted a truck entering the country from Georgia that was transporting weaponry from an unnamed Central Asian state, Caucasus Press and the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 18 November, quoting Turkish State Minister Mehmet Kececiler. The arms included 10 tank shells, seven flamethrowers, ammunition, and various other bombs and mines. Kececiler said the quantity was enough "to arm a small unit." LF

MORE INTERNATIONAL EXPRESSIONS OF SUPPORT FOR ARRESTED KAZAKH JOURNALIST
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and more than 60 other members of the Communities of Democracies Non-Governmental Forum wrote on 11 November to Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev to express their concern over what they term the "ongoing persecution" of journalist Sergei Duvanov. They further appeal to Nazarbaev to ensure "an open, independent, fair, and objective examination" of the rape charges brought against Duvanov to rule out the possibility that those charges are politically motivated and to end "harassment and political persecution" of opposition politicians and independent journalists in Kazakhstan. On 15 November, 20 U.S. congressmen appealed to U.S President George W. Bush on Duvanov's behalf. Duvanov himself in an open letter dated 14 November and carried on forumkz.org, thanked those of his colleagues who embarked on a hunger strike in solidarity with him. He further explained that his original intention to fast to death was motivated by anger, not despair. Duvanov abandoned his protest hunger strike on 9 November after prison officials began force-feeding him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 2002). LF

KYRGYZ POLICE PREVENT OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATION IN BISHKEK...
Police dispersed 63 supporters of parliament Deputy Azimbek Beknazarov and of the opposition Ar-Namys Party who attempted to stage a protest demonstration in the center of Bishkek on 18 November, akipress.org and RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Also on 18 November, some 6,000 people attended a pro-government rally in Bishkek at which district Mayor Tokon Shalieva denounced the opposition parliament deputies for allegedly "instigating public disturbances," RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. LF

...AS NEW PROTEST REPORTED IN SOUTH
Some 1,500 people attended a demonstration in Kerben, Aksy Raion on 18 November to protest the authorities' reprisals against participants in last week's march from southern Kyrgyzstan to Bishkek, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. They also demanded the Kyrgyz government fulfill pledges contained in a memorandum signed by government and opposition representatives two months ago. In Bishkek, Altai Borubaev, who is speaker of the upper parliament chamber and one of the signatories of the 12 September memorandum, said on 18 November that the government has indeed fulfilled one point after another of the accord. Also on 18 November, parliament Deputy Ishenbai Kadyrbekov told Interfax that following the failure to convene a People's Congress in Bishkek on 17 November, the opposition now plans to hold such a gathering in Osh. He said government representatives will be invited to attend that forum as the current tensions can only be resolved by a dialogue between the authorities and supporters of Beknazarov and former Deputy Prime Minister Usen Sydykov. LF

U.S. WILL NOT HELP PROTECT TAJIK BORDER
U.S. Ambassador to Dushanbe Franklin Huddle told journalists on 18 November following a meeting with President Imomali Rakhmonov there is no truth to media reports that representatives of the two countries are engaged in talks on possible U.S. cooperation in guarding Tajikistan's borders, Interfax reported. Rakhmonov is to visit the United States next month. LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH VISITING CENTRAL ASIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS
Islam Karimov met in Tashkent on 18 November with parliamentary speakers, deputy speakers, and committee chairmen from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, uza.uz reported. The discussion focused on strengthening interparliamentary ties and the legal foundations for multilateral cooperation. The visiting parliamentarians and their Uzbek counterparts also reached agreement on 18 November on establishing a permanent consultative body representing the parliaments of member states of the Central Asian Union. LF

CORRECTION:
"RFE/RL Newsline" on 18 November incorrectly stated the exchange rate on which Azerbaijan's draft budget for 2003 is based. The correct rate is 5,000 manats to the U.S. dollar.

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT REBUKES RUSSIA FOR FAILING TO SUPPORT HIM AGAINST THE WEST...
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka met with Russian Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev in Minsk on 18 November and assured him that Belarus will not change its course toward rapprochement with Russia, Belarusian Television reported. "No matter how some, particularly in Russia, are trying to drive a wedge in our relations, they will achieve nothing," Lukashenka said. However, he expressed bitterness over what he sees as Russia's lack of support for him in his stand vis-a-vis the West. "Russia does not have the right to make compromises on Belarus. Belarus is a frontier where the Russian people should stand today to the death, despite any pressure from the West," Lukashenka said. Lukashenka also referred to a recent Russian-Belarusian gas row in which Gazprom reduced gas supplies to Belarus over payment for previous deliveries. "There are states that owe Russia billions of dollars, not $165 million, but for some reasons no sanctions against them are taken," the Belarusian leader noted. JM

...AS RUSSIAN DUMA HEAD SLAMS CZECHS FOR VISA DENIAL TO LUKASHENKA
Seleznev slammed the Czech Republic for denying a visa to Lukashenka, who wanted to take part in the NATO summit in Prague despite discouragement from NATO and the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2002). "I think this [denial] is outrageous. Belarus is not an outcast country," Belarusian Television quoted Seleznev as saying, and adding in an allusion to the United States: "Most likely, an order came from across the ocean -- I don't doubt it, because it's the main country in NATO -- not to allow the participation of the presidents of Ukraine and Belarus in this summit.... Of course, it's a blow to Belarus, another blow, but Belarus took it with dignity." JM

U.S. SAYS IT'S UP TO UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT TO DECIDE ON TRIP TO NATO SUMMIT
Reuters on 18 November quoted a U.S. State Department official as saying that it is up to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to decide whether to go to Prague for a NATO summit to which he is not invited. "In the end,... the decision for President Kuchma to travel to Prague is for President Kuchma and the Ukrainian government to take," the official said. "The United States has no plans for any high-level meeting with Kuchma in Prague. Nevertheless, we remain committed to a broad robust relationship with Ukraine and a strong NATO-Ukraine relationship." According to Czech news agency CTK, Czech Premier Vladimir Spidla told journalists on 18 November that his country will grant an entry visa to Kuchma, who reportedly applied earlier the same day. JM

MISSING UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST REPORTEDLY FOUND HANGED IN BELARUS
The Ukrainian News (Ukrayinski novyny) agency said on 18 November that its missing director, Mykhaylo Kolomiyets, has been found dead in Belarus. Kolomiyets had been missing since 25 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2002). Belarusian police said Kolomiyets' death was most likely suicide, adding that the body still had to be formally identified. "The corpse has yet to be formally identified, therefore by law we cannot confirm that it is him. But we are 90 percent sure it is Kolomiyets's body," Reuters quoted Belarusian Interior Ministry spokesman Dzmitry Parton as saying. "The body was found hanged in a forest in Maladzechna," Parton added. JM

ESTONIA'S TWO LARGEST CITIES SIGN HIGH-TECH ACTION PLAN
City-council representatives from Tallinn and from Estonia's second city, Tartu, signed an information-technology (IT) action plan in Paide on 18 November, BNS reported. The cities signed an IT cooperation agreement in early October, and the plan supplements it with clear targets and concrete dates. The first priority is the introduction of services provided to citizens via the Internet. The agreement also provides for cooperation in the spheres of so-called e-services and e-elections along with increasing the availability of the Internet and the security of technology in schools and municipal institutions. SG

TWENTY-SIX PARTIES TO COMPETE IN LITHUANIA'S LOCAL ELECTIONS...
The Central Election Commission announced on 18 November that 26 political parties have submitted documents to compete on 22 December for seats on local councils, ELTA reported. The voters will elect 1,560 deputies to 60 city and raion councils. The only parties expected to compete in all the districts are from the governing coalition: the Social Democratic Party and the New Union (Social Liberals). The Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) will nominate candidates in 59 constituencies; the Lithuanian Christian Democrats in 57; the Farmers and New Democracy Union, the Lithuanian Liberal Union, and the Center Union in 55; and the Liberal Union in 54. Other parties will compete on a more modest scale, with 16 parties fielding candidates in eight or fewer contests. SG

...WHILE SPOTLIGHT REMAINS ON PRESIDENTIAL RACE
The media is devoting considerably more attention to Lithuania's looming presidential elections, which will also be held on 22 December. On 17 November, the Central Election Commission reported that 17 candidates have garnered the 20,000 voter signatures necessary for their candidacies to proceed, according to ELTA. In recent polls, presidential favorites include incumbent Valdas Adamkus; parliamentary Chairman Arturas Paulauskas, who is currently chairman of the New Union (Social Liberals); and former Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas, who is chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party. Under Lithuanian law, the president must relinquish party ties once elected. SG

POLISH GOVERNMENT PLEASED WITH ANNOUNCED EU ACCESSION DATE
Premier Leszek Miller said on 18 November that the EU's decision earlier the same day to accept new members on 1 May 2004 is "not a bad idea," PAP reported. "Joining the EU in May will mean we won't have to pay the full EU contribution for 2004 although we will get the full aid assigned to us for that year," Miller explained. Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz also said the Polish government "will not protest" the new target date. ""We will not protest if we are guaranteed that we will participate in elections to the European Parliament on an equal-footing basis, if we have the same rights as other union members during the intergovernmental conference that is to decide about the future of the EU, and if the postponement of our membership is tantamount to the reduction of our contribution," PAP quoted Cimoszewicz as saying. JM

FORMER POLISH MINISTER CHARGED WITH REVEALING STATE SECRETS
Prosecutors on 18 November accused former Interior Minister Andrzej Milczanowski of revealing state secrets when in 1995 he accused then-Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy of having spied for the Soviet Union and subsequently Russia, Polish media reported. One of the charges against Milczanowski relates to a speech in the Sejm in 1995 in which he said Oleksy spied for Moscow for more than a decade by passing classified documents and information to a KGB agent in Warsaw. Oleksy resigned in 1996, following the launch of an investigation based on Milczanowski's allegations. Milczanowski could face up to five years in prison if convicted. JM

POLISH GOVERNMENT PLANS TO SLASH 35,000 MINING JOBS
Social Democratic Premier Leszek Miller's cabinet on 18 November presented a restructuring program for Poland's coal-mining sector envisaging the closure of seven mines by June 2004 and the elimination of 35,000 jobs by 2006, PAP reported. The plan will go to the Tripartite Commission and then on to the Sejm for a vote. According to the plan, the government would earmark 4.8 billion zlotys (1.2 billion) for the program: 2.8 billion zlotys would be covered by the budget while almost 2 billion would come from World Bank funds. Trade unions oppose the restructuring program. "If there is talk about 35,000 sacked miners, then in reality four times that number of people will lose their jobs," a mining unionist told the agency. JM

U.S. PRESIDENT SAYS NEW MEMBERS CAN CONTRIBUTE 'LOVE FOR FREEDOM' TO NATO...
U.S. President Bush, in an exclusive interview with RFE/RL on 18 November ahead of the 21-22 November NATO summit in Prague, said the countries that will be admitted into the organization "can contribute something really important:... their love for freedom." Bush said these countries had a totalitarian system imposed on them "and now they love freedom, just as America loves freedom." He said the new members will "add some vigor to the relationship in NATO" and help the organization militarily. Bush added that "the [former] Warsaw Pact is becoming NATO, slowly but surely." The president said the real threat now is one of "global terrorist attacks" and added, "The more you like freedom, the more likely it is you'll be attacked." The Prague summit, he said, is also to address the common objective of defeating terrorism. MS

...AND SEES CZECH REPUBLIC AS VALUABLE NATO MEMBER
In an interview with the Czech daily "Pravo" on 19 November, President Bush called the Czech Republic a valuable member of the NATO alliance, CTK reported. In view of the new international terrorist threats, Bush said, NATO is creating new response capabilities that call for specialization. The Czech Republic, he added, understands these needs and the issue will certainly be discussed by its representatives with NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson (see Czech item below on specialization). Bush said he was grateful the Czech Republic did not hesitate to support the applicability of NATO's Article 5 in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. He also said U.S. authorities have good ties with the Czech intelligence services, and intelligence is an important part in the struggle against international terrorism. Bush said he is impressed by the fact that the Czech Republic is willing to host the summit despite August's disastrous floods. He also said that he hopes that those who oppose the summit will be given the opportunity to freely express their views without, however, provoking violence. MS

CZECH PRESIDENT SAYS NATO MEMBERSHIP ENTAILS ADVANTAGES, BUT ALSO RISKS
President Vaclav Havel on 18 November in an interview with Czech Radio said that membership in NATO entails not only advantages, but risks as well, although the advantages outweigh the risks, CTK reported. Havel said international terrorism is far from having exhausted all its resources and "enormous catastrophes," such as a bacteriological war, cannot be ruled out. "These threats are so serious that we cannot plan to counter them alone," Havel said. He also said that being a U.S. ally does not automatically mean being someone else's enemy. MS

CZECH GOVERNMENT OFFICIALLY CANCELS GRIPEN DEAL
The government on 18 November officially canceled the planned purchase of 24 Gripen fighter jets from the British-Swedish consortium BAE Systems-SAAB, CTK and international news agencies reported. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Spidla after a cabinet meeting. Spidla said Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik has been empowered to start negotiations with Slovakia on possible cooperation in the defense of the two countries' airspace, provided Slovakia receives an invitation to join NATO at this week's NATO summit. Tvrdik said a joint Czech-Slovak air-force unit would be capable of defending the airspace of both countries if allocated sufficient funds and if approved by both their parliaments. He emphasized that the two countries' armies face similar problems -- including planned modernization and professionalization at a time when funds are short. Slovakia has not yet commented on the proposals MS

CZECH REPUBLIC TO PROPOSE MOBILE ANTICHEMICAL UNIT WITHIN NATO
Deputy Defense Minister Stefan Fuele told journalists on 18 November that the Czech Republic will pledge to create a mobile antichemical- and antibacteorological-warfare unit within NATO at this week's summit, CTK reported. Each current NATO member is expected to announce at the summit how it intends to contribute to the organization's joint defense and set a timetable for that contribution. A Czech antichemical-warfare unit is already deployed in Kuwait. Fuele also said the Czech Republic is offering NATO its Vera radar system and participation in financing NATO's new AGS radar system. The Czechs also intend to offer NATO their Russian-made Antonov-70 transport planes for the quick deployment of forces, as well as a 50-bed field hospital, to become operational by 2008. Premier Spidla told journalists on 18 November that at his planned talks with President Bush in Prague, he intends to propose that NATO station its antichemical-warfare command in the Czech Republic. MS

CZECH MINISTER VOWS TO RESIGN IF POLICE BEAT PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATORS
Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, in an interview with the daily "Pravo" of 18 November, said he will resign if police "encircle peaceful demonstrators anywhere and start to beat them" during the NATO summit, CTK reported. He has already pledged to step down if there is a major security failure at the event. In related news, CTK reported on 18 November that 197 foreigners have been denied entry to the Czech Republic since 19 September because they could threaten security during the summit. The news agency also reported the same day that anarchists plan their largest demonstration against the summit to take place on 21 November in Prague. On 19 November, the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes," citing police sources, reported that at least 15 foreign activists have been in Prague since summer preparing demonstrations. The daily said these activists are veteran protesters, some of them U.S. citizens, who participated in events such as protesting the World Trade Organization at the "Battle in Seattle" and the curtailed IMF/World Bank meeting in Prague in 1999. They are posing as journalists but in fact are preparing the demonstrations, "Mlada fronta Dnes" cited police sources as saying. MS

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS EU DOES NOT CONSIDER BENES DECREES AN ACCESSION PROBLEM
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said in Brussels on 18 November that EU foreign ministers do not consider the postwar Benes Decrees an issue that will affect Czech accession to the organization, CTK reported. Svoboda spoke after a meeting of foreign ministers from current EU members and candidate countries. CTK cited EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen as saying a symbolic Czech "gesture" on the decrees -- presumably expressing regret over the suffering caused by them -- would be welcomed but that there can be no question on the compatibility of EU legislation with the 1946 decrees at issue. Regarding the EU's rigid position on new members' accession conditions (see Slovak item below), Svoboda said he expects the union to show more flexibility during bilateral negotiations. MS

CZECH NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICE SUSPECTS INTERIOR MINISTRY EMPLOYEE OF CONTACTS WITH RUSSIAN SPIES
The National Security Office (NBU) in October revoked the security clearance of a Czech Interior Ministry inspector accused of improper ties to Russian consular staff in the western spa town of Karlovy Vary, CTK reported on 19 November, citing the daily "Pravo." Miroslav Soulej, head of the ministry's inspection office in that city, is alleged to have breached the law on classified-data protection through his contacts with the Russians. Soulej told the daily: "They stripped me of the certificate and nobody explained anything to me, because the information is confidential." He did not deny having acquaintances among the Russian consular staff but said he was unaware that any of them engaged in activities other than those implied by their official positions. An NBU spokeswoman declined to comment, saying the matter is subject to secrecy laws. MS

CZECH TELEVISION COUNCIL ONE VOTE SHORT OF DISMISSING BALVIN
A motion to dismiss Czech Television General Director Jiri Balvin fell one vote short of approval by the Czech Television Council on 18 November, CTK reported. Nine of the 13 council members present backed the measure -- one vote short of the two-thirds required on the 15-member body. Balvin, who has been criticized over his management and chronic budget shortfalls, countered that he was neither surprised nor disappointed by the vote. He added that he intends to continue in his position, saying he was has had to fend off political pressure while defending his professional standards. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER TO SEEK RE-ELECTION AS PARTY LEADER
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda told TASR on 18 November that he intends to seek re-election as chairman of the ruling Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU). An SDKU congress on 24 November will elect a chairman, and Dzurinda is expected to run uncontested. The forum is also to elect the party's secretary-general, five deputy chairmen, and other members of its leadership as well as approve the SDKU's program through 2006. MS

SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER UNCONVINCED BY EU COMMISSIONER
Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan on 18 November said in Brussels after a joint meeting of EU and candidate countries' foreign ministers that he sees no reason why Slovakia should renounce attempts to reach better accession terms with the EU, TASR reported. Kukan's declaration came in response to a statement by Guenter Verheugen, EU commissioner in charge of enlargement, who described candidate countries' attempts to change the proposed terms of accession on agricultural subsidies and contributions to the EU budget as "unrealistic." Verheugen said the EU insists on a 10-year transition period before agricultural subsidies are equally available, and wants new EU members to make full contributions to the organization's budget from the start and no further negotiations on structural funds. Kukan said the postponement of accession for new members approved by EU foreign ministers -- from 1 January 2004 to 1 May 2004 -- will pose no problems as long as the new members are able to participate in European Parliamentary elections in 2004 and receive EU budget funds from 1 January 2004. MS

SLOVAK INTERIOR MINISTER PRAISES POLICE CONTRIBUTION TO CAPTURING TERRORIST SUSPECT
Interior Minister Vladimir Palko on 18 November praised the contribution of Slovak police to the capture in Britain of Rabah Kadrih, suspected to be a member of a terrorist group that planned an attack in that country, TASR reported. Kadrih, who lived in Slovakia for about one year, was detained on a tip from Slovak police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2002). MS

HUNGARIAN FINANCE MINISTER, DERIDING KEYNESIAN POLICIES, PRESENTS DRAFT BUDGET...
Csaba Laszlo on 18 November said in parliament during his presentation of the 2003 draft budget that the days of "artificial economic stimulation" are over in Hungary because the practice is expensive and provides diminishing returns, Budapest dailies reported. Laszlo hinted that 2003 looks glum for the Hungarian economy, as there are no signs of a global recovery. The competitiveness of Hungarian companies must be enhanced, he said, adding that his Socialist-led government proposes cutting the budget deficit from the present 8.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to 4.5 percent next year. State revenues are forecast at 4.735 trillion forints ($20 billion), while expenditures are set at 5.304 trillion, representing a 569-billion-forint budget deficit, Laszlo said. Despite the lower deficit target, education spending would rise by 20 percent, health-care spending by 10 percent, and welfare spending by more than 8 percent, he said. Laszlo predicted that GDP growth will rise from the recent 3.5-4 percent to 4-4.5 percent next year, while inflation will fall from 5.5 percent to 5 percent. MSZ

...DRAWING DISTINCTLY LEFTIST FIRE FROM THE RIGHT-WING OPPOSITION
Opposition FIDESZ parliamentary group leader Janos Ader on 18 November said his party will not support the government's proposed 2003 budget, "Nepszabadsag" reported the following day. Ader described the government's draft budget as "a budget of decay" and a betrayal of the ruling Socialist Party's campaign promises, and added that it contains unnecessary austerity measures and does not support Hungary's EU accession, according to the paper. Ader criticized government plans to lower taxes, an absence of hikes in the minimum wage or in public-sector wages, and no provision for the traditional "13th-month" pension payment. He also objected that the government plans to spend 40 percent less on boosting tourism and 25 percent less on support for small and medium-sized enterprises. State Audit Office (ASZ) head Arpad Kovacs warned that projected value-added-tax (VAT) revenues for next year are too high. Local governments have yet to receive the funding necessary to pay for a 50 percent increase in public servants' wages that was to have gone into effect in September, Kovacs added. MSZ

SERBIAN PARLIAMENTARY GROUPS BALK AT REFERENDUM ON INDEPENDENCE
Party leaders in the Serbian parliament on 18 November agreed that the assembly should not at the present time debate a referendum on Serbian independence, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The agreement was reached at a meeting that included parliamentary speaker Natasa Micic and the heads of the parliamentary caucuses. Last week, lawmakers interrupted their session when Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) deputies and some members of the ruling Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition objected to Misic's decision to put the referendum on the parliamentary agenda (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2002). Several hundred thousand voters have demanded a referendum on Serbia's independence on the initiative of Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic's Christian Democrats. According to the Serbian Constitution, parliament must vote on whether to hold a referendum if such a plebiscite is supported by at least 100,000 voters. UB

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL VISITS KOSOVA
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with a number of international and senior Kosovar and Serbian leaders following his arrival on 18 November in Prishtina, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Annan visited the head of the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), Michael Steiner; Kosovar President Ibrahim Rugova, Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi, and parliamentary speaker Nexhat Dacija; and Serbian representatives. Annan said he supports a multiethnic Kosova and initiatives for a dialogue between the governments in Belgrade and Prishtina. He is expected to visit the Serbian part of the ethnically divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica on 19 November. On the next leg of his Balkan tour, Annan will be in Belgrade, where he is to meet with representatives of the Serbian and Montenegrin governments as well as with the chief prosecutor of the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Carla Del Ponte. UB

CROATIAN GOVERNMENT PASSES ALONG REQUEST BY WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL
The Croatian government on 18 November forwarded a request by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague to question retired General Ivan Korade, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Korade, a former commander of the Croatian Army's 7th Guard brigade, is to be questioned as a suspect. His lawyer announced that Korade will respect the tribunal's request within 30 days. In related news, the Croatian government announced that it has not yet established official contacts with Mladen Markac, who headed a special unit during the war and is also wanted by the tribunal for questioning. UB

CROATIANS MARK FALL OF VUKOVAR
Tens of thousands of people on 18 November commemorated the 11th anniversary of the fall of the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Vukovar fell after a three-month siege by Serbian troops in the fall of 1991, during which thousands of defenders and civilians died. After the fall of the town, Serbian forces drove out more than 20,000 people, while several thousand ended up in Serbian jails. The commemoration was attended by the speaker of the Croatian parliament, Zlatko Tomcic, and Defense Minister Zeljko Antunovic. UB

REPUBLIKA SRPSKA DEFENSE COUNCIL FINDS EVIDENCE OF GENERAL STAFF'S INVOLVEMENT IN ARMS TRADE TO IRAQ
The Bosnian Serb Supreme Defense Council on 18 November presented its preliminary findings concerning arms trades with Iraq by the Bijeljina-based Orao company, "The Balkan Times" reported. The group concluded that Orao violated the international arms embargo against Iraq and found that members of Republika Srpska's General Staff were involved in establishing business ties with Baghdad, according to the report. A final report will be submitted to the joint Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina as well as to international organizations later this week. Similar investigations carried out by the Muslim-Croat federation's Defense Ministry did not discover violations of the embargo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 November 2002). UB

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT FORMS COMMITTEE ON ETHNIC RELATIONS
Lawmakers on 18 November voted to form a standing Committee on Relations between Ethnic Communities, "Utrinski vesnik" reported the following day. The committee will include 19 members, including seven seats reserved for ethnic Macedonian legislators and seven for ethnic Albanian deputies. The Serbian, Vlach, Turk, Romany, and Bosnian minorities will each field one member. The interests of minorities not represented within the parliament will be represented by the national ombudsman. The formation of the committee is part of the implementation of the Ohrid peace agreement that last year ended the conflict between ethnic Albanian rebels and Macedonian security forces. UB

BUSH SAYS ROMANIA WILL BE 'NATO'S SPEARHEAD IN EUROPE'...
U.S. President George W. Bush said during a briefing for journalists from current and candidate NATO countries held in Washington on 18 November that Romania will become "NATO's spearhead in Europe," the daily "Adevarul" reported the next day. "There will be no more Munichs and no more Yaltas" in Europe, President Bush said in response to a question posed by a Romanian journalist. He said the United States considers Romania an important part of a continent that is free and defends its freedom. "Romania's story is an extraordinary one," President Bush said, because during its anticommunist uprising its people "assumed responsibility for their own lives." He added that he is "eagerly looking forward" to coming to Bucharest at the end of this week to "bring your people the assurances they need." "I will go to the statue of Liberty's Heroes [erected in the memory of those] who believed in freedom...and I will be pointing to the balcony [in Revolution's Square] where [Communist] dictator [Nicolae Ceausescu] had lost his sense of reality," Bush said in an apparent reference to Ceausescu's attempt to address booing crowds on 22 December 1989. MS

...BUT ONLY MINORITY OF ROMANIANS BELIEVES NATO INVITATION WILL BE OFFERED
A public-opinion poll conducted by the Metro Media Transilvania institute on behalf of the Soros Foundation shows that only 43 percent of Romanians believe their country will be invited to join NATO at the alliance's 21-22 November Prague summit, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Thirsty-seven percent of respondents said they do not think an invitation will be extended and 20 percent said they do not know. Seventy-seven percent have a positive opinion of NATO, but only 51 percent support the possibility of having NATO military bases on Romanian territory. Fifty-three percent agree with Romanian participation in NATO missions abroad and 46 percent support allowing NATO to use Romanian airspace. MS

IS ILIESCU HINTING THAT NASTASE'S DAYS AS PREMIER ARE NUMBERED?
President Ion Iliescu told journalists on 18 November that following the Prague NATO summit and the December EU summit in Copenhagen, the government needs to analyze its performance and "improve efficiency," Mediafax reported. Asked whether this implies changing some cabinet members or changing the prime minister, Iliescu said any possible reshuffle of the government must be preceded by an analysis of the record of goals set and achieved. He said the government's structure is a "marginal question" when compared to the major issue of setting priorities for the future. The daily "Romania libera" on 19 November interpreted the statements as a hint that Prime Minister Adrian Nastase will be replaced as the head of the cabinet. The daily "Curentul" commented that Iliescu is hinting he might retaliate if ministers loyal to him are replaced in a government reshuffle that Nastase earlier said might come after the NATO and EU summits. MS

POLL SHOWS PRESIDENT IS ON PAR WITH PREMIER IN PUBLIC TRUST
The Metro Media Transilvania poll (see above) also shows that Iliescu and Nastase are about even in terms of public trust, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Forty-four percent of respondents said they have "great trust" or "trust" in the president and in the prime minister. Fifty-three percent said they have "little trust" or "no trust" in Iliescu, and 50 percent have "little trust" or "no trust" in Nastase. Thirty-two percent said they would vote for Iliescu if presidential elections were held now, although Iliescu is barred by the constitution from running again. Of these, 57 percent said they know Iliescu cannot succeed himself but said that "there's no one better around." Twenty-percent would back Nastase in a presidential contest, and 17 percent would vote for Greater Romania Party (PRM) Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor. National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman Theodor Stolojan would garner 15 percent in a presidential contest held today, and Democratic Party Chairman Traian Basescu would be backed by 12 percent. If parliamentary elections were held now, the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) would get an absolute majority of 53 percent. In second place would be the PRM (19), followed by the PNL (12), the Democrats (10), and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (4 percent). MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER IN SPAIN
Prime Minister Nastase met on 18 November with his Spanish counterpart Jose Maria Aznar as part of his two-day visit to Spain, Romanian Radio reported. The two politicians signed a joint declaration on improving bilateral relations and Aznar expressed his country's support for Romania's bids to join NATO and the EU. Nastase was received by Crown Prince Felipe de Bourbon and also addressed a forum of Spanish businessmen, whom he urged to invest in Romania. MS

ROMANIAN PRM LEADER OFF THE JUDICIAL HOOK
Justice Minster Rodica Stanoiu announced on 18 November that PRM Chairman Tudor will not have to stand trial for "offending authority" in 1999, Mediafax reported. She said the offense was recently removed from the Penal Code. Former Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica in 1999 requested that the Senate lift Tudor's parliamentary immunity because of an article he wrote for the PRM weekly "Romania mare" that was considered offensive to President Emil Constantinescu and former Senate Chairman Petre Roman. Stoica's request has never been debated by the Senate. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN DISSIDENT TO APPEAL TO ICHR OVER PRM DEPUTY'S SECURITATE PAST
Dumitru Iuga, a former anti-communist dissident, said on 18 November in an interview with RFE/RL's Romanian-Moldova Service that he intends to appeal to the International Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg concerning the Romanian judiciary's refusal to deal with his complaint against PRM parliamentary Deputy Ilie Merce. Iuga, who is now a trade-union leader at Romanian TV, said he has attempted to launch judicial proceedings against Merce and other former Securitate members for "violation of domicile" during the communist regime but was told the crime's statute of limitations has expired. Iuga said he could not have complained before 2001, because only then did he gain access to his Securitate file under the law that established the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives. MS

MOLDOVAN PREMIER SAYS PRIVATIZATION UNDER PREVIOUS GOVERNMENTS WAS 'GREAT MISTAKE'
Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev said in an interview with RFE/RL on 18 November that the privatization strategies pursued by the previous governments amounted to "a great mistake." Tarlev said those strategies do not deserve to be called "privatization," but rather "takeover." He referred in particular to the privatization of the three energy distributors sold to the Spanish group Union Fenosa during Dumitru Braghis's tenure as prime minister. In an interview with Infotag on 18 November, Braghis defended the privatizations as perfectly in line with legal provisions. "The communists are claiming now we sold [the three companies] too cheap, for a mere $25.3 million. But did anybody offer more?" he asked. Popular Party Christian Democratic Deputy Chairman Stefan Secareanu said Tarlev's statements were part and parcel "of a long row of actions by the communist power aimed at intimidating Western investors, as well as small local businesses." MS

DISMISSED MOLDOVAN MINISTER SUSPECTED OF EMBEZZLEMENT
Anatol Cuptov, who was dismissed last week as Transportation and Telecommunications Minister, is suspected of embezzlement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2002), Infotag and Flux reported. According to the reports, judicial proceedings have been launched against the former official. He faces up to 25 years in prison if found guilty. MS

BULGARIA CLOSES ENERGY CHAPTER IN EU ACCESSION TALKS -- PROVISIONALLY...
Bulgaria closed the energy chapter of the European Union's acquis communautaire at a meeting of the EU-Bulgaria Association Council on 18 November, BTA reported. However, "Standart" reported that the chapter was closed only temporarily. According to a Foreign Ministry press release, the Bulgarian government and the EU overcame their differences regarding the closure of blocks No. 3 and No. 4 of the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant. According to mediapool.bg, the government agreed to close down the blocks in question by 2006, as was demanded by the EU, and the EU member countries agreed to carry out a peer review of the security standards of the nuclear-power plant. Should the peer review of Kozloduy conclude that the power plant's security standards are state-of-the-art, the chapter will be opened again, "Standart" reported. UB

...AS BULGARIAN OPPOSITION THREATENS TO INITIATE A VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE
Sergey Stanishev, the leader of the opposition Socialist Party (BSP) said on 18 November that his party is prepared to move a vote of no confidence against the government together with the conservative opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), mediapool.bg reported. According to Stanishev, the government's position on the closure of Kozloduy is not in accordance with the country's social and economic interests (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2002). Furthermore, he claimed that the government has destroyed the balance of power between the parliament and the government. SDS Deputy Chairman Vladimir Kisyov refused to comment on Stanishev's proposal to initiate a joint vote of no confidence. He added that the SDS must first review the latest documents signed in Brussels before it decides on further steps. UB

There is no End Note today.


U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY VISITS KABUL...
U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill paid a one-day visit to Kabul on 18 November and told President Hamid Karzai that the purpose of his visit to Afghanistan was to "have a close look at the economic situation and the process of reconstruction in Afghanistan, study the existing economic difficulties of the country, and to attract more aid for the reconstruction of Afghanistan," Afghanistan Television reported. President Karzai thanked the United States for assisting in reconstruction projects and in the restructuring of the country's armed forces. He added that Afghanistan's allies should provide assistance to the country until its "problems are over and terrorism is wiped out, and make Afghanistan an economically developed country," Afghan Television reported. AT

...AND SAYS AFGHANISTAN REMAINS A PRIORITY
U.S. Treasury Secretary O'Neill's Kabul visit highlights the U.S. policy shift from military operations to reconstruction projects and security maintenance by helping the Afghan government become more economically and politically viable, "The New York Times" commented on 19 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2002). O'Neill said that the change in U.S. policy does not mean Afghanistan is not a priority, adding that there "is absolutely no change in the importance and the priority accorded to Afghanistan.... The president [George W. Bush] has made a commitment that we would come here and we would get rid of the Taliban, and that we would help the Afghan people to build a civil and just society, and there is no change in that," the daily reported. Last month, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson's visited Afghanistan. AT

CHINA WRITES OFF AFGHAN DEBT
After a meeting between Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and his Chinese counterpart Tang Jiaxuan in Beijing on 18 November, the Peoples Republic of China announced that it has written off all of the debt it is owed by Afghanistan, Afghanistan Television reported. The debt is "estimated to be in the tens of millions of U.S. dollars," Xinhua news agency reported the same day. AT

U.S. OFFICIAL DOUBTS INTERNATIONAL ASSISTANCE FORCE IN AFGHANISTAN WILL BE EXPANDED
Ambassador David Johnson, U.S. coordinator for Afghanistan, said in New York on 19 November that increasing the number of U.S. military personnel currently deployed in Afghanistan to help in small-scale reconstruction projects would be "more effective than an expanded force under UN auspices" in addressing security issues in the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2002), RFE/RL reported. President Karzai's administration has requested that the UN International Security Assistance Force's (ISAF) authority be extended beyond Kabul, an idea that has received support from U.S. Congress (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 18 November 2002). Johnson repeated the U.S. position that it is not opposed to an expansion of the ISAF, but that most states are not interested in contributing to such an expansion, RFE/RL reported. It is expected that a possible role for NATO in Afghanistan will be on the agenda of the 21-22 November NATO summit in Prague, and that one way to avoid having an expanded force under UN auspices is to have NATO lead the ISAF. AT

IRAN'S JUDICIARY CHIEF SAYS AGHAJARI CASE MUST PROCEED NORMALLY
Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi said on 18 November that, although Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ordered that political activist and university Professor Hashem Aghajari's case be reviewed, "like other court verdicts, this verdict will also have to go through its necessary judicial procedure and it must be revised accordingly," Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported. Hashemi-Shahrudi urged the State Supreme Court to investigate the case carefully. "Our country's problem is that everything is viewed from a political and partisan point of view," Hashemi-Shahrudi said in a possible reference to the uproar surrounding the Aghajari case. "Thus, some people use everything to further their own political aims. However, in no other part of the world are parties permitted to impose their views on judges," he said. BS

HARD-LINE IRANIAN CLERIC CRITICIZES AGHAJARI
Islamic Documentation Center chief and Special Court for the Clergy Judge Hojatoleslam Ruhollah Husseinian said in a letter to parliament speaker Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi that the legislature should not have criticized the death sentence against Hashem Aghajari, RFE/RL's Persian Service reported on 18 November. He said the legislature claims to follow the line of Imam Khomeini and at the same time it wants to be free of any obligations. Husseinian wrote that Aghajari is ill-behaved and more Marxist than Marx, and he asked Karrubi how he -- whose "very essence" is Islamic -- could defend Aghajari. Husseinian claimed that by ridiculing the school of jurisprudence and religious hierarchy, Aghajari is ridiculing Islam. Husseinian concluded his letter by asking if it is not time to return to the values of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of Iran's Islamic revolution. BS

TEHRAN COURTS ISSUES HARSH SENTENCE IN IRANIAN BUSINESSMAN'S CORRUPTION TRIAL
The last of 26 hearings in Shahram Jazayeri-Arab's corruption trial took place on 11 November and the Tehran Public Court issued the final verdict on 18 November. Jazayeri was sentenced to 20 years in prison for disrupting the export system, three years for paying bribes, and four years for forging his conscription card, the Iranian Students News Agency reported. "We do not accept the verdict and we will appeal against it," said Jazayeri's attorney Seyyed Mohammad Sadeq Al-e Ahmad. Attorney Nemat Ahmadi attended the last hearing, and he told RFE/RL's Persian Service that although giving money to officials and religious leaders is not illegal, Jazayeri did so with funds that were not his. Jazayeri's trial was especially significant because it revealed the influence of "aqazadehs" (the offspring of high-ranking clerics) in the system. The trial's politicization also became apparent when the court allowed the media to reveal the names of reformist political figures identified by Jazayeri but would not permit the revelation of other names (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 28 January 2002, 4 February 2002, and 18 February 2002). BS

IRANIAN PARLIAMENTARIAN ORGANIZES ANOTHER PRO-PALESTINIAN CONFERENCE
Hojatoleslam Ali-Akbar Mohtashami-Pur, a former ambassador to Syria and a founder of Lebanese Hizballah, said that a seminar entitled Solidarity with the Palestinian Nation will be held in Tehran on 27 November, the "Hayat-i No" newspaper reported on 18 November. "Ambassadors and envoys of Arab and Islamic countries and the envoys of European and African countries who favor the restoration of the rights of the oppressed Palestinian nation" will attend the seminar, he said. Mohtashami-Pur has experience as an event organizer -- he served as secretary of the Support for the Palestinian Intifada conferences Tehran hosted in April 2001 and June 2002. Representatives of Hizballah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist organizations attended those events. BS

DENMARK REWARDS IRAN'S 'DEMOCRATIC PROGRESS'
The Danish parliament, or Folketing, has given the green light for the government to continue with a new policy on Iran so that Tehran is "rewarded for democratic progress with political and commercial agreements," the "Jyllands-Posten" daily reported on 14 November. Denmark, which currently holds the rotating EU Presidency, previously had a policy of politically boycotting Tehran and dealing with the so-called National Council of Resistance of Iran (a cover name for the terrorist group known as the Mujahedin-i Khalq Organization). Danish Ambassador to Iran Jurgen Reimers described his country's new approach in the daily "Aftab-i Yazd" of 30 October. He said the EU will discuss terrorism and human rights with Iran and is also working to improve bilateral economic relations. Reimers said there are no human rights-related preconditions to improving economic relations or signing commercial treaties. BS

U.S. PRESIDENT VOWS TO DISARM IRAQ IF IT FAILS TO COMPLY WITH UN RESOLUTION
President George W. Bush said in an exclusive interview with RFE/RL on 18 November that he will seek to form a coalition to disarm Iraq should it refuse to comply with the latest UN resolution. Bush said in Washington that he intends to make UN Security Council resolution 1441 -- the 17th resolution on Iraq -- stand. Asked whether he would encourage the use of NATO forces against Iraq, Bush said, "If he [Hussein] doesn't disarm...I'll lead a coalition of the willing to disarm him and there's all kinds of ways for that coalition to be formed. It could be formed with NATO, if they chose." Bush said he assured the UN Security Council that the United States would further discuss the matter of Iraq before taking action, but he added that "Mr. Saddam Hussein must understand he will be disarmed, one way or the other." The interview can be accessed in its entirety on RFE/RL's website (http://www.rferl.org). KR

U.S. CHARGES IRAQ VIOLATED NO-FLY ZONE...
White House Deputy Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters during a press briefing posted on the White House website (http://www.whitehouse.gov) on 18 November that UN Security Council resolution 1441 "makes very clear that Iraq needs to stop hostile acts against members who are carrying out previous UN resolutions." "The United States believes that firing upon our aircraft in the no-fly zone or British aircraft is a violation, it is a material breach," McClellan added. Four such incidents have been recorded in the last week, according to AP. While he said the United States will not take the matter up with the Security Council at this time, "What the UN resolution allows us to do is it gives us the option, if we choose, to take that to the Security Council." Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on 18 November that before the United States pursues the issue in the Security Council, first "a pattern of behavior will evolve and then people will make judgments with respect to it," AP reported. Western coalition forces set up the no-fly zones at the end of the 1991 Gulf War, outside the framework of the United Nations, to protect the Kurdish and Shiite populations living in northern and southern Iraq. KR

...BUT UN MEMBER STATES MIGHT DISAGREE...
UN Security Council members could criticize the White House's contention that Iraq has committed a "material breach" of UN Security Council resolution 1441 by firing on U.S. and British aircraft in the no-fly zone. The issue at hand involves Paragraph 8 of Resolution 1441, which stipulates that Iraq cannot "take or threaten hostile acts" against a UN member state while that state is actively enforcing "any council resolution." British Ambassador to the UN Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who cosponsored resolution 1441, assured the Security Council before the 8 November vote that Paragraph 8 would not apply to the no-fly zones in Iraq, Reuters reported on 19 November. "The Daily Telegraph" reported on 19 November that sources in the British government told the daily that the legality of the no-fly zones was disputed by key Security Council members before it was approved and that Prime Minister Tony Blair would not consider threats to allied aircraft sufficient to go to war. KR

...AS IRAQ SAYS CHARGES ARE PROOF OF U.S. ILL INTENTIONS
In a statement issued on 18 November, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said the charges are "proof" that the United States is determined to use resolution 1441 as a cover to attack Iraq. "The entire international community had condemned the imposition of the two no-fly zones as an illegitimate and flagrant violation of the UN Charter and the firm provisions of international law," said an Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman, Iraqi TV reported. He added that Russia and China condemned the establishment of no-fly zones by the United States and Britain, while France withdrew from allied participation in the zones in 1996. KR

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER SAYS IRAQ WILL COOPERATE
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told Britain's ITV Television on 18 November that his country will cooperate with UN weapons inspectors, but added that he is not sure it will be enough to prevent a U.S. attack on Iraq, according to ITV's website (http://www.itv.org.uk). "To be honest, we don't know if dealing with this resolution and the deception of the inspectors [is] going to prevent this war," Aziz said. "I have to be objective and honest in saying that we in Iraq do not feel that the possibility of American aggression on Iraq has been totally removed." Aziz added that Britain and the United States would suffer the consequences of another Gulf war and responded to U.S. charges that Iraq violated the no-fly zone in contravention of Security Council resolution 1441. "The warmongers in Washington and London will use any pretext...to say that this is material breach," he said. "The others [UN Security Council members] are not going to support such a description of any small event." KR

UNIDENTIFIED VEHICLE CROSSES KUWAIT BORDER INTO IRAQ
A vehicle with Kuwait license plates broke through Kuwaiti and UN checkpoints and entered Iraq on 18 November, KUNA news agency reported. An unidentified security source told KUNA that the UN Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM) is investigating the matter and has requested that Iraq provide Kuwait with details of the driver's identity and his whereabouts. KR

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