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Newsline - November 22, 2002


KREMLIN CHANGES TONE ON NATO EXPANSION
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told journalists in Moscow on 21 November that Russia is "absolutely calm" about NATO's membership invitation to seven former Soviet-bloc countries earlier that day, ORT reported. "We are not a member of NATO or a candidate for membership, and so this is none of our business," Ivanov said. He repeated, however, that the Kremlin hopes the Baltic states will sign the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) before they join the alliance. In Prague, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters following a meeting with Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda that Russia will intensify its cooperation with a reformed NATO, strana.ru reported on 21 November. "We have noted the statements by the U.S. president and other NATO-member leaders that the alliance should be transformed to face new realities and challenges," Ivanov said. He also mentioned the CFE treaty, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that if the alliance's transformation improves security globally and in the Euro-Atlantic region, Russia will intensify its partnership with NATO. On 22 November, Ivanov participated in a session of the Russia-NATO Council that discussed a cooperation plan for 2003. Afterward, he joined U.S. President George W. Bush on Air Force One for the flight to St. Petersburg, where Bush was to meet with President Putin. VY

SOLID AGENDA FOR BUSH, PUTIN SUMMIT...
Although U.S. President Bush was expected to spend only a few hours in Russia before departing for Lithuania on 22 November, an intensive agenda has been proposed for his talks with President Putin, ORT reported on 21 November. Bush was expected to inform Putin about the decisions of the Prague NATO summit and to ask Putin to explain Russia's position on a possible military intervention against Iraq if the current mission of UN weapons inspectors there fails. Moreover, the presidents were expected discuss international terrorism, North Korea's nuclear program, the Middle East, and bilateral relations. The meeting was scheduled to replace a planned meeting between the two leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Mexico, which was canceled because of the 23-26 October hostage crisis in Moscow, strana.ru noted. Presidential foreign policy aide Sergei Prikhodko stressed the global importance of relations between the two countries. The high level of confidence and mutual understanding that has been achieved allows the two presidents to talk openly about the issues dividing them without provoking unduly strong reactions, Prikhodko noted, according to strana.ru on 22 November. VY

....AS BUSH TO PRESS FOR SETTLEMENT IN CHECHNYA...
In an exclusive interview broadcast on NTV on 21 November, U.S. President Bush said that Chechnya is Russia's domestic problem but that it should be resolved by peaceful means. Bush said that in his 90-minute meeting with President Vladimir Putin near St. Petersburg on 22 November, he will encourage Putin to find a peaceful settlement. Bush stressed that the United States and Russia are now cooperating to combat the common threat of international terrorism and that never has cooperation between the two countries' intelligence services been so productive. VY

...IN AN ATMOSPHERE OF TSARIST SPLENDOR
The two presidents will meet in the 18th-century Catherine Palace in the St. Petersburg suburb of Pushkin, RIA-Novosti reported. The palace was the summer residence of Russia's imperial family and is considered one of the country's cultural treasures. While the presidents meet, it was expected that first lady Lyudmila Putina would give her counterpart Laura Bush a tour of the palace, including the world famous Amber Room, which is in the process of being fully restored after it was looted by the German Army during World War II. VY

KREMLIN PREPARES CIVIL-SERVICE REFORM...
First deputy chief of the presidential staff Dmitrii Medvedev has announced that President Putin has signed a decree on reforming the civil service and that a corresponding bill will soon be submitted to the Duma, gazeta.ru reported on 22 November. According to Medvedev, the reform will divide the federal bureaucracy into civil, military, law enforcement and regional-level federal services. It will include a table of civil-service ranks modeled on the hierarchy codified in the Table of Ranks that Peter the Great introduced in 1722. VY

...AND CONTINUES PUSH TO REORGANIZE FEDERAL RELATIONS
Speaking to a State Council meeting devoted to a discussion of how to divide authority between the federal government and the regions on 22 November, President Putin called for more strict control and increased efficiency in spending funds allocated by the federal budget to the regions, polit.ru reported. Putin said that the reform of federal relations that is being developed will "not only open up new opportunities for the regions, but also impose additional responsibilities upon them." Gazeta.ru editorialized that the Kremlin's reform plan will allow it to remove any regional governors that it considers ineffective by 2006. The governors, however, have been resisting the reform, and the website reported that they recently succeeding in removing from the bill a provision that would have given the Kremlin the ability to remove governors through the courts. VY

OFFICIAL: AMNESTY WON'T BRING CAPITAL BACK
Maksim Kulikov, a senior Finance Ministry official, has said most Russian experts doubt that a tax amnesty for capital illegally transferred out of Russia will significantly increase repatriation, RosBalt reported on 22 November. Participating in a roundtable discussion of the issue, Kulikov noted that about half of all capital leaving the country was acquired illegally in the first place and that no one is going to attempt to return it to Russia after it has already been invested in real estate and businesses in the West. He cited the example of Kazakhstan, which declared an amnesty in 2001 and managed to return only 8 percent of the capital that had been taken out of that country. Deputy Duma Speaker Georgii Boos (Fatherland-All Russia) told the panel that an estimated $200-300 billion has been transferred out of Russia over the last decade. VY

FOREIGN JOURNALIST CLAIMS POLICE ERASED TAPES
A Norwegian journalist on 21 November accused the Russian security forces of seizing and erasing videotapes that he shot for a story on Chechen displaced persons in Ingushetia, Western and Russian news agencies reported on 22 November. Hans-Wilhelm Steinfeld, the Moscow correspondent of Norwegian state television NRK, claimed he was stopped by security forces at an airport in Ingushetia and four tapes were seized from him and later returned. He later discovered that more than an hour of footage on two tapes had been erased. According to Steinfeld, the missing material included a segment filmed at the Bart refugee camp and an interview with an unidentified senior Ingushetian official. A Federal Security Service (FSB) spokesman in Moscow said his agency had no information about the incident. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry in Oslo summoned an official from the Russian Embassy and demanded an explanation. "We said this is something we take seriously and if this was done intentionally, it is a violation of [press freedom]," Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kaare Eltervaag was quoted by AP as saying. RC

INTERIOR MINISTRY TO BRING DISCIPLINE TO UNIFIED RUSSIA
Boris Gryzlov was named chairman of the High Council of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party on 20 November, Russian news agencies reported. The party was formerly headed by a triumvirate of Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, and Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu -- who nominally remain co-chairmen -- but the High Council decided that unified leadership was necessary to guide the party through next year's Duma elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2002). According to Russian law, ministers are not allowed to be members of political parties, and Gryzlov confirmed on 21 November that he is not formally a member of Unified Russia, strana.ru reported. Gryzlov, however, headed the Unity Duma faction -- on which Unified Russia is based -- for one year prior to his appointment as interior minister in March 2001. "Gryzlov is one of the few Unity founders who showed by his actions that [the movement] is not just a talking shop," said Federation Council member Aleksandr Nazarov, according to RosBalt. Under Gryzlov, "the discipline and order that characterized Unity will become the firm basis for uniting all centrists within Unified Russia," he added. RC

OLIGARCH TIED TO SPANISH OIL DISASTER
Ownership of the 77,000 tons (20.6 million gallons) of fuel oil aboard the "Prestige," which sank off the coast of Spain on 19 November and now threatens the coast with a major ecological disaster, can be traced back to Russia's Alfa Group, which is controlled by oligarch Mikhail Fridman, "The Times" of London reported on 21 November. The daily reported that the "Prestige" was chartered by an oil-trading company called Crown Resources AG, which is owned by commodities trader Alfa-Eco. Reuters reported on 22 November that oil traders such as Crown typically insure such shipments for 110 percent of their value, meaning that the accident could result in a $1 million profit for Fridman's company. The news agency also cited Joe Nichols, deputy director of the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds, as saying the Switzerland-based Crown Resources AG will not be liable for any of the damage caused by the accident unless evidence emerges that the company was negligent. Spanish officials have estimated that the spill has caused $42 million in damages already, CNN reported on 22 November, and most of the oil remains within the tanks of sunken vessel. By comparison, the "Exxon Valdez" spilled 11 million gallons in Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989. RC

MOSCOW MEDICAL PROFESSOR VICTIM OF HIT
Boris Svyatskii, a professor at Moscow State Medical University and a specialist in children's viral diseases, was shot and killed in an apparent contract killing near his Moscow home on 20 November, Russian news agencies reported on 21 November. According to "Izvestiya" on 22 November, Svyatskii is the eighth leading academic to be murdered in Russia this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July 2002), including fellow Medical University Professor Valerii Korshunov, who was murdered on 8 February. No arrests have been made in connection with any of the cases, "Izvestiya" reported. Svyatskii was shot twice in the chest and once in the head as he returned home from work. In addition to his scientific work, Svyatskii was the co-founder of four commercial entities, including one co-owned by Aleksei Soskovets, son of former Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets. RC

KOREAN WORKERS ATTACKED IN KRASNOYARSK
A group of about 15 teenaged skinheads in downtown Krasnoyarsk on 19 November attacked and beat seven laborers from North Korea, regnum.ru reported on 22 November, citing police sources. The teens reportedly attacked the workers with stones and metal pipes. One of the Koreans remains hospitalized in serious condition. Four of the teens were questioned by police and one of them has been formally detained. According to the report, the teens openly label themselves "skinheads" and claim to be sympathetic to the National-Bolshevik Party and Russian National Unity. RC

CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD DENOUNCES 'DESTRUCTION OF AN ENTIRE NATION'...
At a 21 November session of the Chechen government attended by newly appointed Premier Mikhail Babich and his predecessor, Russian Minister for Chechnya Reconstruction Stanislav Ilyasov, and broadcast on Chechen television, administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov and district administrators voiced unprecedentedly harsh criticism of human rights violations by Russian troops, chechenpress.com reported on 22 November. The local officials accused Russian troops of abducting civilians, engaging in unsanctioned searches, looting, and blowing up homes. Kadyrov said the Russian forces are "engaged in a fratricidal war and to all intents and purposes are exterminating an entire nation." LF

...ARGUES PLANNED CONGRESS SHOULD BE HELD IN CHECHNYA, NOT MOSCOW
Kadyrov told Interfax on 21 November that a planned congress of peoples of Chechnya should be held in Grozny, as many would-be participants are unable to travel to Moscow to attend. ITAR-TASS on 21 November quoted Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who represents Chechnya in the Duma, as saying the congress will take place in Moscow on 16 December and some 900 delegates from all over Russia, elected at their current place of residence, will attend. "Chechens from the other side," meaning supporters of President Aslan Maskhadov, may participate if they are not implicated in "crimes or murder," Aslakhanov added. Kadyrov also told Interfax the final changes have been to the new draft Chechen constitution and it will be put to a referendum in March 2003, after which presidential elections could take place in August or September 2003. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION ALIGNMENT BEGINS TO UNRAVEL
Three of the 16 opposition parties that aligned in late August with the aim of forging a common strategy and fielding a single candidate in the presidential poll scheduled for February 2003 announced on 21 November that they have created a separate alliance to field joint candidates in both the presidential and parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The three parties -- the National Accord Party (AMK), the Communist Party, and the Socialist Armenia bloc -- are all left-wing and pro-Russian. It is widely anticipated they will back the presidential candidacy of AMK Chairman Artashes Geghamian. Geghamian told RFE/RL it would be "premature" to construe the creation of the new bloc as heralding the collapse of the "union of 16." National Democratic Party leader Shavarsh Kocharian hailed the new alignment as "a positive step" but warned that it must not lead to a split within the opposition. LF

DATE SET FOR ARMENIA'S WTO ACCESSION
The Armenian government announced late on 21 November that a meeting in Geneva of the World Trade Organization's ad hoc "working party" gave the go-ahead for Armenia to be accepted into that body on 10 December, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Speaking at that meeting, Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian reaffirmed Armenia's commitment to free trade and integration into the world economy. LF

ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS DISCUSS KARABAKH
Robert Kocharian and Heidar Aliev met one-on-one in Prague for almost one hour on 21 November on the sidelines of the NATO summit to continue their talks on approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict and were joined by the French, Russian, and U.S co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian told journalists the talks were "productive," while Aliev said they contributed to the ongoing search for peace. Turan quoted Kocharian as stressing that it is important he and Aliev not become "hostages" to preelection sentiment; both men are seeking reelection next year. Meanwhile, Ashot Ghulian, who was named last month as foreign minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, told Armenpress in a 20 November interview cited by Groong that progress toward a settlement of the conflict cannot be expected as long as the unrecognized enclave's representatives are excluded from the negotiating process. LF

AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS STAGE PROTEST
Some 50 journalists participated in a protest demonstration on 21 November outside the Appeal Court in Baku to protest what they termed "unfair and illegal" verdicts handed down by courts in cases involving media outlets, Turan and zerkalo.az reported on 21 and 22 November, respectively. Ganimat Zakhidov, who heads the journalists' organization Azad sez (Free Word), pointed out that since the formal abolition of censorship in 1998, media outlets whose reporting reflects badly on the Azerbaijani leadership are treated by the courts far more harshly than they were by the censors' office. Also on 21 November, Turan reported that the Nakhichevan municipal authorities have banned the sale of the opposition newspapers "Azadlyg," "Yeni Musavat," and "Hurriyet." LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES TO TAX RUSSIAN MILITARY BASES
Deputies voted on 21 November to ratify a resolution drafted two days earlier by the parliament's Defense and Security Committee that would require the Russian military bases located on Georgian territory to pay land taxes, Caucasus Pres reported. The resolution is retroactive dating back to the collapse of the USSR in December 1991. Committee Chairman Irakli Batiashvili told fellow deputies on 21 November that if Russia refuses to pay the taxes, they will be deducted from Georgia's $170 million debt to Russia. Interfax, however, on 21 November quoted a spokesman for the Russian military contingent in Georgia as saying any decision to impose taxes on the Russian bases is premature as their status has not been legally defined. An agreement on the Russian military presence in Georgia concluded in 1995 has not yet been ratified by either country's parliament. LF

GEORGIA'S ARMENIAN COMMUNITY PROTESTS EXCLUSION FROM DEVELOPMENT FORUM
Virk, a political party representing the predominantly Armenian population of Georgia's southern region of Djavakheti, released a statement on 20 November protesting the failure to invite its representatives to a conference held in Tbilisi the previous day on development programs for the region, the A1+ news agency reported on 21 November. The conference was jointly organized by the OSCE High Commission on National Minorities and the UN Development Program. The Virk statement argued that attempts by the Georgian authorities to address the serious social and economic problems of Djavakheti without consulting the local population only compound tension and mistrust. It pointed out that "integration is not synonymous with assimilation, nor is autonomy the same as secession." It deplored the fact that Armenians, who constitute the majority of the region's population, are not adequately represented in local government and reaffirms its members' readiness to operate within the Georgian legal-constitutional framework and participate in the search for solutions to the problems facing Djavakheti. LF

U.S. REAFFIRMS INTENTION TO EXPAND INVESTMENT IN KAZAKH ECONOMY
Kazakhstan's Deputy Prime Minister Karim Massimov told journalists in Washington on 21 November after talks with U.S. Trade Secretary Donald Evans and other senior officials that Washington has reaffirmed its commitment to the so-called Houston initiative agreed on during President Nursultan Nazarbaev's visit to the United States in December 2001, ITAR-TASS reported. That initiative entails increased U.S. investment outside the oil-and-gas sector, especially small and medium businesses. It is intended to expedite economic diversification and the emergence of a stable middle class, according to "Kazakhstan News Bulletin," Vol. 4, No. 9, of 21 November. Massimov also predicted Kazakhstan will soon resolve the problems that have arisen with investors in the Tengizchevroil consortium over the financing of the second phase of development of the giant Tengiz oil field, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 21 November 2002). He said that dispute is commercial rather than political, adding that the Kazakh government respects the contracts it has concluded with foreign investors and believes that "neither side has the right to violate them." LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT ELECTS OMBUDSMAN
The Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of the Kyrgyz parliament) on 21 November elected opposition Erkin Kyrgyzstan party Chairman Tursunbai Bakir Uulu from a field of six candidates as the country's first ombudsman, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Former Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev withdrew his candidacy on 20 November. In the second round of voting, Bakir Uulu received 34 votes, compared with 29 for Asel Mambetalieva, who was nominated by the president's office. Referring to the current political tensions, Bakir Uulu pledged to act as a mediator between the Kyrgyz authorities and the population at large. He told Interfax his first action in his new capacity will be to visit the 25 detained demonstrators from Aksy Raion sentenced earlier this week to several days' administrative arrest and try to persuade them to abandon their hunger strike (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 21 November 2002). LF

KYRGYZSTAN SCHEDULES REFERENDUM ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
The planned referendum on proposed constitutional changes could be held on 22 December, Interfax on 21 November quoted Central Election Commission Chairman Sulaiman Imanbaev as saying. Imanbaev added that voters will be asked to approve or reject all the proposed changes in one package, rather than to vote on them individually. A proposal by the My Country party that in the future 50 percent of the seats in parliament be allocated on the basis of party lists was not included, according to akipress.org on 19 November. Meanwhile Legislative Assembly speaker Abdygany Erkebaev on 21 November rejected calls by unidentified government officials to abolish the lower chamber, apparently as a means of restricting opposition participation in politics, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT ADVOCATES CLOSER COOPERATION WITH NATO
Addressing journalists in Tashkent on 21 November before his departure for Prague to attend the NATO summit, Islam Karimov expressed thanks for the help Uzbekistan has received from NATO in reforming and reequipping its armed forces and reinforcing its borders, according to uzreport.com. Faced with the threat of international terrorism, Karimov said, Uzbekistan "would be making a big mistake" if it rejected the support of those countries, including NATO members, that seek to establish friendly relations. NATO-Uzbek cooperation is an important factor contributing to the maintenance of the country's security and territorial integrity, Karimov said. In that context, he advocated studying the conditions on which terrorism feeds in order to combat it more effectively. That entails seeking to narrow the gap between the rich countries of the northern hemisphere and the poorer countries of the south and, in Uzbekistan, providing employment and education opportunities to young people. LF

LABOR GROUP ACCUSES BELARUS OF VIOLATING WORKERS' RIGHTS
The International Labor Organization (ILO) has accused the Belarusian government of seriously infringing workers' rights, Reuters reported on 21 November, quoting a report by the ILO's Governing Body. The report says new elections might be needed at the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus (FPB) after Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's longtime aide, Leanid Kozik, took charge of FPB in July by "virtual appointment" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2002). The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the world's largest union grouping, in a complaint filed with the ILO accused Lukashenka of making a number of veiled or open threats against the independence and autonomy of trade unions. JM

BORDER GUARDS LIQUIDATE ALCOHOL PIPELINE FROM BELARUS TO LITHUANIA
Belarusian Television reported on 21 November that Belarusian and Lithuanian border guards discovered and shut down a plastic pipeline that illegally supplied alcohol from Belarus into Lithuania. The pipeline spanned the Belarusian-Lithuanian border along the bed of a small river separating the countries. Police arrested one Lithuanian and one Belarusian suspected of illegally pumping alcohol along the pipeline. JM

NATO SUMMIT RESORTS TO FRENCH LANGUAGE TO SNUB UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT FURTHER
The Atlantic alliance turned to the French language at its summit in Prague on 22 November to add insult to injury to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, who came to a session of the 46-member Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council despite blunt warnings that he is not welcome, Reuters and AP reported. The summit organizers used French, NATO's second official language, to arrange alphabetically the nations at the session table, thus preventing "Ukraine" from being next to "United Kingdom" and "United States" and avoiding the potential embarrassment of close encounters with the Ukrainian president for British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President Bush. According to the French alphabetization, Kuchma found himself next to the president of Turkey, seven seats away from Blair of "Royaume-Uni" and more than 30 seats away from Bush of "Etats-Unis." "We didn't want to make a big scene and appear undignified, but we wanted him [Kuchma] to know what we think," Reuters quoted a NATO official as saying. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS 2003 BUDGET, ANTI-MONEY-LAUNDERING BILL ON SECOND READING
The Verkhovna Rada on 21 November endorsed with 272 votes on second reading the 2003 budget bill proposed by the parliamentary Budgetary Committee, UNIAN reported. The bill projects 2003 revenues of 54.8 billion hryvnyas ($10.3 billion) and expenditures of 54.2 billion hryvnyas. In another vote, a government-proposed 2003 budget bill calling for revenues of 49 billion hryvnyas and spending of 49.8 billion hryvnyas was supported by only five deputies. Later the same day, the Ukrainian parliament adopted with 294 votes on second reading an anti-money-laundering bill. The bill must pass a third and final reading and be signed by the president before it becomes law. The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force Against Money Laundering has threatened to freeze the operations of Ukrainian commercial banks abroad if the country does not enact "comprehensive [anti-money-laundering] legislation that meets international standards" by 15 December. JM

UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR LAUNCHES PROBE INTO POSSIBLE 'FORCED SUICIDE' OF JOURNALIST
Ukrainian prosecutors have opened an investigation into whether former Ukrayinski novyny news agency Director Mykhaylo Kolomiyets was a victim of "forced suicide," UNIAN reported on 21 November, quoting Deputy Prosecutor-General Viktor Shokin. Shokin ordered the probe after a meeting with Kolomiyets's mother, who recently identified a body found hanging from a tree in Belarus as that of her son (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 2002). "He had no reasons to commit suicide. I need to prove this," Kolomiyets's mother said, according to Ukrayinski novyny. JM

KYIV 'FRUSTRATED' OVER PERSISTING KOLCHUGA ALLEGATIONS, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS
Anatoliy Zlenko told journalists at the NATO summit in Prague on 22 November that "we are really frustrated by the unreasonable conclusions of the [U.S.-British] expert team" that investigated allegations that Ukraine sold a Kochuga radar system to Iraq in contravention of UN sanctions, RFE/RL reported. The expert team said in its conclusion earlier this month that Ukraine failed to present convincing evidence that it did not sell a Kolchuga to Iraq (see "RFE/RF Newsline," 6 November 2002). "Ukraine did everything possible to ensure the U.S. and British team's access to information and all necessary documents of the Kolchuga specifications, productions, and sales. They are open to our American counterparts, except for the information as for the Kolchuga transfer to some countries. You must understand -- we're obliged to protect this information under the bilateral agreements," Zlenko said in Prague. JM

ESTONIAN RIGHT-WING PARTY EXPELS MEMBERS OVER COALITION WITH CENTRISTS
Res Publica's executive board on 20 November officially expelled the six members of its Kohtla-Jarve chapter who signed a local-coalition agreement with the Center Party, BNS reported. Acting directly against the instructions of Res Publica Chairman Juhan Parts, four deputies to the Kohtla-Jarve City Council on 14 November backed the election of the Center Party's Valerii Korb as mayor. Parts had singled Korb out for criticism in light of charges of embezzlement pending against the latter. On 17 November, the Res Publica board ruled that if members want to remain in the party they must end the coalition with the Center Party. The Kohtla-Jarve chapter disagreed and nominated former City Council Deputy Chairman Hans Hint, who had broached the possibility of a local coalition with the Center Party, to chair the council. It also stated that the signing of cooperation agreements is within the rights of local chapters and that the board acted unethically when it took the issue public before discussion within the party. SG

LATVIAN POLICE DETAIN SEVEN NATIONAL BOLSHEVIKS
Deputy Security Police chief Didzis Smitins announced on 21 November that police raided five locations in Riga and Daugavpils and detained seven members of Pobeda (Victory), a Latvian civic group that serves as a front for the Russian National Bolsheviks, for alleged illegal possession of explosives and weapons, BNS reported. An international arrest warrant is reportedly being prepared against Pobeda head Vladimir Linderman. who was in Russia planning to attend the trial of National Bolsheviks leader Eduard Limonov. Linderman later informed BNS in Moscow that the explosives claims are absurd and that such materials were either planted or reports of any explosives are false. Linderman is rumored to have become the leader of the National Bolsheviks after the arrest of Limonov. SG

LITHUANIA REOPENS BORDER CHECKPOINT WITH BELARUS
World Customs Organization Secretary-General Michel Danet participated in opening ceremonies for a reconstructed border checkpoint with Belarus in the Salcininkai district on 21 November, ELTA reported. The checkpoint, whose reconstruction cost 18.9 million litas ($5.4 million), covers 54,000 square meters and has a daily capacity of 1,000 transport vehicles instead of the previous 500. It is equipped with modern veterinary and phytosanitary control posts financed in part by the EU's PHARE program. Danet called the new post a good example of how Lithuania is beginning to attend to the security of a future external EU border but also pointed out the need for Lithuania to upgrade technical facilities in all its customs offices. SG

ESTONIAN, LITHUANIAN LEADERS STRESS RESPONSIBILITIES ACCOMPANYING NATO INVITES...
Estonian Prime Minister Siim Kallas and Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus on 21 November expressed their Baltic countries' hopes for contributing to European security following an invitation to NATO membership extended the same day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2002), RFE/RL reported. "We consider this invitation [to join NATO] as a serious indication of trust and we fully understand the obligations we are accepting in this context," Kallas said at the NATO summit in Prague. "We believe that every country, no matter what its size or economic resources, can contribute substantially to the fight against contemporary threats to international security, and Estonia is committed to continuing the ongoing reforms to its national-defense system. We are ready to further develop and improve our military capabilities in the years to come." Adamkus said of his country: "Lithuania desires to become a member of a strong and effective alliance. We will make sure that our membership strengthens the alliance's capability to perform present tasks and to take on new ones." AH

...AS RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER HIGHLIGHTS MUTUAL RESPECT IN RELATIONS WITH BALTIC STATES
Igor Ivanov told a news conference at the NATO summit on 22 November that Moscow wants "mutually advantageous relations" with the Baltic states, according to RFE/RL. "We have always emphasized that we are interested -- Moscow and Russia are interested -- in the development of neighborly, mutually advantageous relations with Latvia and other Baltic countries -- relations that are based on respect for international law and respect for each others' interests." AH

POLISH POLICEMEN DEMAND HIGHER WAGES
More than 1,000 police officers demonstrated in front of the parliamentary building in Warsaw on 21 November, demanding more pay, Polish media reported. Protesters also demanded that the government allocate some $65 million to reintroduce bonuses for the best officers. The bonus program was introduced two years ago but quickly suspended as Poland's budget deficit widened. Demonstrators carried banners reading "Thieves" and "Don't turn us into beggars," blew whistles, and threw firecrackers onto surrounding sidewalks. Their colleagues, who were on duty cordoning off the parliament, did not intervene. JM

POLISH OPPOSITION TO SEEK DISMISSAL OF FINANCE MINISTER
The Civic Platform has announced that it will file a no-confidence motion regarding Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko if he fails to resign by the end of this week, PAP reported on 21 November. Civic Platform leader Donald Tusk said the immediate reason for the motion is the "crushing verdict of the Constitutional Tribunal on the [tax-amnesty] law proposed by Grzegorz Kolodko." The Constitutional Tribunal ruled the previous day that the tax-amnesty law is unconstitutional, thus curtailing planned 2003 budget revenues by some $150 million (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2002). Kolodko told the Sejm on 21 November that the government plans to balance the 2003 budget revenue shortfall -- resulting from the Constitutinal Tribunal ruling and a shortfall from a government program to restructure corporate debt -- by obtaining extra money from Polish National Bank profits and higher revenues from excises on alcohol and customs tariffs as well as by cutting debt-servicing costs. JM

PRAGUE SUMMIT RESULTS IN NATO REORGANIZATION...
Apart from extending invitations to seven postcommunist countries and approving a 20,000-strong NATO Response Force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2002), NATO decided on the first of its two-day summit to back the UN in its efforts to force Iraq to disarm in line with Security Council Resolution 1441, CTK and international news agencies reported. It also approved a package of 408 obligations (called the Prague Capability Commitment, or PCC) assumed by individual countries listing their intended contribution to improving defenses against weapons of mass destruction, exchanging information, and improving communication within the alliance as well as streamlining command structures and cooperation to enhance global capabilities. The PCC replaces the Defense Capability Initiative approved at the organization's 1999 Washington summit. MS

...ALONG WITH STREAMLINING AND PRESENCE IN AFGHANISTAN...
NATO also decided to slash its current 467 committees by 30 percent and increase the executive powers of its secretary-general at the Prague summit on 21 November. NATO and EU forces will also conduct joint military exercises in 2002, the membership decided. NATO will also give logistical support to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan, and a joint German-Dutch command will replace the Turkish commanders of the ISAF mission in February. Finally, the NATO leaders approved a declaration on intensifying the struggle against terrorism. MS

...AS GERMANS, FRENCH ARE CAUTIOUS OVER U.S. OVERTURES ON IRAQ...
While signing the NATO statement on backing UN efforts to disarm Iraq, France and Germany distanced themselves from some aspects of U.S. policy, Reuters reported from NATO's Prague summit on 21 November. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer reaffirmed Bonn's opposition to military action against Iraq, saying German troops would not participate in it. Following a meeting between Presidents Bush and Jacques Chirac, a French official was cited by Reuters as saying Paris would not commit itself before the UN Security Council discussed any possible use of force and reaffirming France's insistence on the primacy of the UN. NATO diplomats said Washington has asked Germany to open its airspace and military bases for possible anti-Iraq coalition but requested nothing that would involve German troops directly, Reuters reported. Fischer told reporters Germany will have to consider the request, but Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was cited on 22 November by CTK as saying his country cannot obstruct the movement of U.S. troops or overflights of allied planes over its territory. MS

...AND AIR THEIR 'DIFFERENT OPINIONS'
Schroeder told journalists on 21 November that "in politics, friends sometimes have different opinions" and the media should not blow them out of proportion, according to CTK. The agency also cited a spokeswoman for President Chirac as telling Bush that no French promise of assistance in the event of intervention in Iraq was made and Paris will consider the Bush request and make its own decision. Chirac said France is opposed to any attack on Iraq that is not previously approved by the Security Council but does not rule out the possibility of intervention if the decision comes from the UN. MS

ANTI-NATO PROTESTS MUTED ON FIRST DAY OF PRAGUE SUMMIT
The main demonstration on 21 November in the Czech capital attracted between 600 and 1,000 people -- most of them anarchists, according to CTK -- and ended without incident after protesters marched on several streets and chanted anti-NATO slogans, the news agency reported. Authorities were bracing for higher turnouts and potential violence accompanying the NATO summit. Police President Jan Kolar told CTK the battle against protest demonstrations was decided at the Czech Republic's borders. "Foreign security services were of great help in doing everything they could to keep the number of protesters coming here as low as possible," he said. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said on 21 November he would be satisfied "if the only criticism [about the summit] is that security measures were too high and too expensive," according to CTK. MS

CZECHS SUPPORT GERMAN INITIATIVE TO PUT ISAF UNITS UNDER NATO COMMAND
During a meeting between Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik and his German counterpart Peter Struck on the sidelines of the NATO Prague summit on 21 November, Tvrdik said his country supports Germany's efforts to place the ISAF units in Afghanistan under NATO command, CTK reported. Czech First Deputy Defense Minister Stefan Fuele said the Czechs "told the Germans that in a situation in which 90 percent of the ISAF soldiers are from [NATO] member countries' armed forces, it seems entirely logical that the operational command should be taken over by the alliance," CTK added. AT

CZECH PREMIER MEETS GERMAN CHANCELLOR
Premier Vladimir Spidla on 21 November met with Chancellor Schroeder on the sidelines of the NATO summit, CTK reported. Spidla told journalists after the meeting that although relations between the two countries are improving, "they are not trouble-free." He said he has agreed with Schroeder to exchange visits in the foreseeable future, but neither dates nor venues were set. It was also agreed that Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda is to visit Germany in early 2003. In March, Schroeder "postponed" a planned visit to Prague in reaction to a controversial statement by former Czech Premier Milos Zeman about Sudeten Germans. Spidla also said after the meting with Schroeder that he is encouraged by the fact that Germany does not view the Benes Decree as an obstacle to Czech accession to the EU. MS

FIRE CONTAINED AT CZECH CHEMICAL PLANT
Czech fire fighters on 22 November contained a fire that broke out the previous night at a chemical plant in the northern town of Usti nad Labem, CTK and dpa reported. Authorities ordered the residents of the town to close windows and stay indoors to avoid toxic smoke. The Spolchemie plant manufactures synthetic resins, dyes, and cosmetics. No injuries were reported. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT SAYS NATO INVITATION WILL HAVE POSITIVE IMPACT ON ECONOMY...
President Rudolf Schuster said in Prague on 21 November that the invitation extended to his country on that day to join NATO will have a positive impact not only on the country's security but also on its economic development, TASR reported. He said the invitation is bound to gradually change negative perceptions of Slovakia among foreign investors in general and U.S. investors and particular. However, he added, the invitation will not immediately solve the country's economic problems. "We have obligations, we must [now] spend 2 percent of the gross domestic product on defense, and the army must undergo reforms," Schuster explained. MS

...WHILE SLOVAK PREMIER SAYS NATO ENLARGEMENT MUST CONTINUE
Speaking in Prague, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said NATO enlargement must continue and the organization must leave its door open to all candidates that cherish democratic values and are able to fulfill membership criteria, CTK reported. Dzurinda also said he does not expect the seven countries that received invitations to join NATO on 21 November to set up a separate bloc within the alliance, according to TASR. This agency also cited Defense Minister Ivan Simko as saying in the Czech capital that the invitation issued to his country confirms that Slovakia has always belonged to Western civilization and is now joining the organization that is capable of preserving that civilization's security. Opposition Smer (Direction) Chairman Robert Fico warned that, "as long as weapons are silent, popular support for [NATO] membership stands at around 50-60 percent; but if Slovakia has to become engaged in military action, support will certainly drop," according to TASR. MS

SLOVAK OFFICIAL SAYS CONTRIBUTION TO NATO FORCES TO BE DECIDED LATER
Defense Ministry State Secretary Ivan Korcok was quoted by CTK on 22 November as saying Slovakia's contribution to NATO forces will be decided during the accession talks, which will take place in March. Korcok said the accession negotiations will be based on the Membership Action Plan that deals with political, economic, military, security, legal, and budgetary issues as well as with the protection of classified data. MS

NATO OPPONENTS DEMONSTRATE IN BRATISLAVA
A group of some 150 anarchists, mostly young people, rallied on 21 November in Bratislava's Hviezdoslavovo Square to protest the country's invitation to join NATO, TASR reported. The demonstration ended without incident after two hours. Participants were cited by CTK as saying the protest was also directed against NATO's existence, saying the organization represents the interests of a small group of states and is oblivious to the interests of "common people." But a poll conducted the same day by the Polis Institute concluded that more than 60 percent of Slovaks believe the invitation to join NATO is positive for the country, CTK reported. However, only 40 percent back the deployment of Slovak soldiers abroad, while 46 percent oppose it and 13.5 percent have no opinion. Some 39 percent do not object to the possibility of NATO troops being deployed in Slovakia, and 48 percent would oppose such a deployment. MS

U.S. REPORTEDLY HAS ASKED HUNGARY TO PARTICIPATE IN POSSIBLE IRAQ INTERVENTION
President Bush has asked Hungary to participate in a potential operation aimed at Iraq if such an action occurs, "Magyar Hirlap" reported, adding that the news emerged at the 21-22 November NATO summit. Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy said he is convening a four-party meeting on 24 November to discuss the request, adding that Hungary is prepared to send soldiers to Afghanistan. Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz told "Nepszabadsag" that NATO is aware Hungary is unable to take part in specific military operations and can only play a part in peacekeeping operations. Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs has said Hungary could mainly offer airspace and airstrips to the alliance. MSZ

HUNGARIAN PREMIER WELCOMES NATO EXPANSION
Medgyessy told the NATO summit in Prague on 21 November that the further enlargement of the military alliance "marks another step toward eliminating the division of Europe," Hungarian media reported. Medgyessy said the admission of the seven states invited to join the alliance will mean greater stability and security, and will improve the new members' relations with one another and with other member states. Medgyessy stressed the alliance's door must remain open to other states. MSZ

HUNGARIAN EXTREMIST PARTY CAMPAIGNS AGAINST EU ACCESSION...
Officials from the far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) on 21 November told reporters they have organized four groups of politicians and experts who are touring the country and "trying to redress the damage that stems from one-sided [EU accession] persuasion," "Nepszabadsag" reported. The MIEP leaders said they are not against the EU in general but are convinced the Hungarian economy in its present state is not ready for accession. The daily notes that MIEP is the only party campaigning against EU accession, as the far-left Hungarian Workers Party has indicated it wants to take part in the joint EU campaign by parliamentary parties and said the best option for Hungary is to "escape into the EU." MSZ

...AND WINS LAWSUIT ALLEGING ANTI-SEMITISM BY PROMINENT LEADERS
The Metropolitan Court on 21 November rejected lawsuits filed by individuals against MIEP Chairman Istvan Csurka, Deputy Chairmen Lorant Hegedus, Jr. and Laszlo Bognar, and journalist Tibor Franka for violating their human rights, "Magyar Nemzet" reported. The plaintiffs filed suit over remarks the defendants made about Jewry and asked the court to ban the defendants from such actions. The court ruled that only an individual who has personally suffered as a result of the statements may assert such a claim. Hegedus was sued for an article he contributed to a district MIEP paper, in which he claimed the presence of Jews in Hungary is harmful to the nation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 September 2001). Csurka was sued over an article in which he defended Hegedus and Bognar over his statement of the party's position on the sale of the football club FTC to Gabor Varszegi, an entrepreneur of Jewish origin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 July 2001), while Franka was sued over remarks he made at a local forum in Budakalasz. MSZ

ALBANIA, CROATIA, AND MACEDONIA WORK TOGETHER FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP
Albanian President Albert Moisiu, Croatian President Stipe Mesic, and Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski said in a panel discussion at RFE/RL headquarters in Prague on 21 November that they will deepen regional cooperation and coordinate their efforts their respective bids for NATO membership (see "End Note" below). Mesic later told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service that Serbs outside Serbia should become a bridge between Serbia and the peoples with whom they live and not grounds for Serbia to seek to change borders. He added that bilateral relations between Croatia and Serbia will improve once Serbia extradites war criminals who have taken refuge there. Elsewhere, Presidents Moisiu, Mesic, and Trajkovski were scheduled to meet with U.S. President Bush on 22 November, an unnamed member of the Croatian delegation told RFE/RL. Finally, German Chancellor Schroeder said on 21 November that NATO's "door remains open" to those three Southeast European countries for future membership, Deutsche Welle reported. PM

SLOVENIA TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON NATO MEMBERSHIP
Following NATO's invitation to Slovenia to join the Atlantic alliance on 21 November, Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek told Slovenian media that the government will hold a referendum in the first six months of 2003 on NATO membership, dpa reported from Ljubljana (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2002). PM

U.S. INSPECTING SERBIAN ARMS FACTORY
A group of U.S. weapons experts inspected the Sloboda arms factory outside Cacak on 21 November, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 November 2002). Radomir Ljujic, Sloboda's general manager, said the Americans are "trying to assess our production, our products, how we sell, and who we sell to," adding, "We asked the Americans about possibilities for better cooperation between our and their defense industries." PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER SAYS NO CONSENSUS ON COOPERATING WITH THE HAGUE
Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 21 November that the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition has not reached a consensus as to whether to arrest and extradite war criminals in Serbia, Reuters reported. "There is no consensus for cooperation within the ruling coalition. Some would like to gain politically at home by criticizing the tribunal, and [score points] abroad as leaders of a country that is cooperating with The Hague," he said. "If there were political will, we could sit and talk again about it, and about who's protecting whom and what's going on." He added that the tribunal never gave him a specific address where Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic could be found. RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported that Djindjic said the police will do all they can to arrest indicted Bosnian Serbs but that most indictees are not in Serbia. He added that he did not meet with Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor at the tribunal, during her recent visit to Belgrade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 2002). PM

COMPROMISE REACHED ON NEW STATE OF SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO?
The subcommittee charged with drafting the Constitutional Charter for the proposed loose confederation of Serbia and Montenegro has reached an agreement on the thorniest question, which is the manner by which representatives to the joint parliament will be elected, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Belgrade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September and 22 October 2002). The deal reportedly specifies that legislators will be appointed by the respective republican parliaments for the first two years of the new state and directly elected thereafter. Under the March 2002 agreement, each republic has the right to call a referendum on independence three years after the new state comes into being (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March 2002). PM

FOUR KOSOVARS INDICTED FOR WAR CRIMES
An international prosecutor in Prishtina has indicted four former members of the disbanded Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) with war crimes allegedly committed in 1998 and 1999 against ethnic Albanians suspected of collaboration with Serbian authorities, Reuters reported. One of the four is former commander Rrustem Mustafa, better known as Remi, according to the news agency. Remi's lawyer called the charges unfounded. On her recent visit to Kosova, Del Ponte said she has had difficulty indicting ethnic Albanians because witnesses are too frightened to testify. PM

ETHNIC MACEDONIANS JOIN ETHNIC ALBANIAN PARTY
In an apparent first for Macedonian politics, a group of 21 ethnic Macedonians has joined the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), which is led by former guerrilla leader Ali Ahmeti, AP reported on 21 November. The new BDI members then set up a chapter of the party in Kocani, an ethnic Macedonian community 110 kilometers east of Skopje. BDI member Venco Arsov said: "I have read the party's political platform and found all their ideas acceptable. I know that for most people it is still difficult to accept that a legitimate political party can emerge from the former insurgents. Many [ethnic Macedonians] are still convinced Mr. Ahmeti will [work to aggravate] Macedonia's divisions. But we know this is not so [and believe that] there will be more [ethnic Macedonians] like us" who will join the BDI. In Tetovo, BDI spokesman Agron Buxhaku said the Kocani group is "very welcome." He added that there are more "intellectuals from eastern Macedonia willing to join [the BDI]." Buxhaku stressed: "We are not a party only for ethnic Albanians. We favor ethnic integration, [ethnic] coexistence, and making Macedonia a truly multiethnic state." PM

MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT MEMBERS DECLARE THEIR ASSETS
Cabinet members listed their property assets in a special report presented by Deputy Prime Minister Radmila Sekerinska on 21 November, "Dnevnik" reported. Under new anticorruption legislation, government officials are obliged to declare their property. The materials will be handed over to the newly formed State Anticorruption Commission and to the Administration for Public Revenues. "With this [documentation], we want to introduce a new practice [aimed at greater transparency]," Sekerinska said. "We expect other institutions to follow this example" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2002). UB

COALITION BETWEEN BOSNIAN MUSLIM AND CROATIAN PARTIES
Two of Bosnia's three governing nationalist parties have formed a coalition, Hina reported from Sarajevo on 21 November. Leaders of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) and the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) signed a protocol on cooperation that will enable them to govern together in all cantons in the Muslim-Croat federation except Sarajevo canton. Both parties pledged themselves to carrying out political and economic reforms. PM

SFOR FINDS BOSNIAN SERB WEAPONS CACHE
An SFOR spokesman said in Sarajevo on 21 November that NATO peacekeepers have confiscated a "significant amount of illegally held weapons" in Prijedor, dpa reported. The haul reportedly includes two truckloads of mortars, grenades, and other kinds of ammunition found on the premises of the Laki Pro company. Dragan Dragojevic, the firm's director, denied any knowledge of the weapons or any link between his company and the illegal cache. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS INVITATION FROM NATO IS CHANCE TO CLOSE HISTORICAL GAP...
President Ion Iliescu said in Prague on 21 November that as a Romanian he feels proud that the country that refused to participate in the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia received an invitation to join NATO in the Czech capital, Romanian Radio reported. In an interview with RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service, Iliescu said: "The main challenge for Romania at this moment is to deal with its economic problems. We are very far behind in this respect. We must recoup this great historical backwardness that Romania inherited." Iliescu said the 21 November NATO invitation reflects the effort and sacrifices made by all Romanian citizens and expressed his gratitude for their perseverance. MS

...AS PREMIER SAYS NATO DECISION WAS ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF ROMANIA'S EFFORTS...
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said in Prague on 21 November that NATO's decision to invite Romania to join the alliance represents an acknowledgment of Romania's progress and its contribution to Balkan stability and the international efforts to combat terrorism, Romanian Radio reported. The government published a separate declaration hailing the invitation, while Foreign Minster Mircea Geoana said in an interview with RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service that one must not forget in these festive moments that there are countries less fortunate than Poland was "a few years ago or Romania is today." "We have to help them return to our natural family of democracies and we have to fight to have Europe [as a whole] returned to its natural contour," Geoana said. Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu was quoted by dpa as saying, "Romania's way to Prague was via Kandahar," where a Romanian unit is participating alongside U.S. forces in the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan. MS

...AND FORMER ROMANIAN MONARCH SAYS ONE OBJECTIVE OF 1989 REVOLUTION HAS BEEN FULFILLED
Former King Michael I said in a press release issued on 21 November that with the NATO invitation came the fulfillment of one of the objectives of the 1989 anticommunist revolution. He said the Cold War chapter in the country's history is now closed and Romania has "every right to celebrate." And celebrate it did. Romanian Radio reported that throughout the country people took to the streets waving the national flag, singing, and dancing. MS

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS COUNTRY MUST IMPROVE IMAGE IN EU
In an interview from Prague broadcast on Romanian Radio, Foreign Minister Geoana said on 22 November that while the damage caused by the issue of abandoned children in Romania has largely been mended, Romania's image in the EU still suffers, largely due to illegal immigration and illegal activities on the part of Romanians in EU countries. Geoana said the government must pay particular attention these issues to ensure that the country's efforts to join the EU do not suffer. Meanwhile, Mediafax reported on 21 November that a group of 100 Romanian citizens expelled from Italy landed at Bucharest's airport on a chartered Italian plane. The agency did not specify the ethnicity of the expelled Romanians. MS

OSCE OFFICIAL SAYS TIRASPOL ACCEPTS FEDERALIZATION
OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Vice President Kimmo Kiljunen said on 21 November that he was encouraged by the Tiraspol talks he participated in as the head of a visiting OSCE delegation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2002), RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Kiljunen said the separatist leadership assured him during the discussions that it accepts Moldova's federalization -- the core of the OSCE's proposals for solving the ongoing conflict. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Parliament on 21 November approved the second and final reading of constitutional amendments dealing with dual citizenship and the restructuring of the judiciary, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. President Vladimir Voronin must now promulgate the legislation, which would allow Moldovans to hold dual citizenship and reduce the court hierarchy from four levels to three. MS

MOLDOVAN OFFICIALS DENY DISMISSED MINISTER IS BEING PROSECUTED
Moldovan officials cited by Infotag on 21 November denied that former Transportation and Telecommunications Minister Anatol Cuptov has been detained on suspicion of embezzlement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 19 November 2002). The sources, whose identities were not specified, said no charges whatsoever have been brought against Cuptov. MS

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT REJECTS RUSSIAN OFFER FOR MOLDTELCOM PRIVATIZATION
The government on 21 November decided to reject the $20 million offer from the Russian company MGTS for a 51 percent stake in the currently state-owned telecommunication monopoly Moldtelcom, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The Russian company was the only bidder in the tender, but government sources said the cabinet is holding out for an offer of $60 million-$200 million. A new tender is to be issued next year. MS

BULGARIANS GREET NATO INVITATION WITH CHAMPAGNE, RESTRAINT
Hundreds of citizens staged a party outside the National Culture Palace in downtown Sofia on 21 November, while in Kardzhali, in southeast Bulgaria, a large video screen was erected to broadcast NATO's decision to invite Bulgaria to join the alliance, Bulgarian media reported. One Bulgarian citizen following the events of the NATO Prague summit was quoted by the bnn news agency as saying: "Today Bulgaria is leaving its bleak past and is joining the family of free and prospering nations.... NATO will neither raise our salaries nor reduce unemployment, but it will give us security and credibility that will help Bulgaria solve these problems itself." While members of the ruling coalition of the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) as well as those of the conservative opposition United Democratic Forces enthusiastically celebrated the invitation with champagne toasts, members of the Socialist Party reportedly greeted the NATO decision with restraint. UB

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT PLEDGES COOPERATION WITH OTHER PROSPECTIVE NATO MEMBERS
In an official statement, the government expressed its satisfaction with NATO's 21 November invitation to Bulgaria. "While the government views the invitation as an expression of the alliance's appraisal of the consistent and decided effort on the part of the seven invited countries in their preparation for membership and as recognition of their major contribution to regional and global security, we reiterate our determination not to decelerate work on the whole range of reforms related to NATO accession," the declaration stated. "Bulgaria unreservedly supports the continuation of NATO's 'open-door policy' and will actively interact with all candidate countries in their preparation for membership," the statement added. UB

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS DECLARATION ON NATO MEMBERSHIP...
By a vote of 201 in favor to one against, with two abstentions, parliament adopted a declaration on the country's likely NATO membership that said the invitation conclusively ended the Cold War legacy of a divided world, BTA reported. "The National Assembly regards the extended invitation as a unique opportunity for the country's full-fledged participation in international efforts to build peace and assert democratic values, especially in the wake of 11 September 2001, which led to radical shifts in the foundations of international peace and security in the form of a common global-scale fight against terrorism," the declaration stated. It added that parliament is resolved "to press ahead with its persevering and focused work on guaranteeing and successfully completing the accession process." UB

...AND ADOPTS 2003 DRAFT BUDGET ON FIRST READING
Despite warnings from the Supreme Judicial Council that the 2003 draft budget does not abide by the constitution, lawmakers of the ruling coalition of the NDSV and the DPS on 21 November adopted the budget on first reading, bnn news agency reported. The draft budget projects economic growth of 4.8 percent with 3.5 percent inflation for the year. It plans revenues of $6.9 billion and expenditures of $7.04 billion, representing a deficit of $136 million, or 0.7 percent of GDP. Finance Minister Milen Velchev said the new budget will help curb the country's 17 percent unemployment rate. International Monetary Fund officials have criticized the budget projections as unrealistic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2002). UB

THREE PARTNERS FOR NATO: ALBANIA, CROATIA, AND MACEDONIA
The presidents of Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia participated in a panel discussion at RFE/RL on 21 November on their countries' aspirations for NATO membership in the next round of expansion. The three made it clear that they intend to work together to promote regional cooperation and integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions.

The RFE/RL panel, entitled "The Next Round Of NATO Expansion: A Southeast European Perspective," included Presidents Alfred Moisiu of Albania, Stipe Mesic of Croatia, and Boris Trajkovski of Macedonia. Each president stressed what his country has to offer the Atlantic alliance and why it seeks NATO membership.

President Moisiu noted that Albania has long conducted its foreign and security policies as though it were already a member of NATO. He added that Albanian commandos went to Afghanistan in August.

Moisiu argued that Albania and the ethnic Albanians of the region have shown that they are a factor for regional stability and cooperation. He noted the recent meeting between himself and Trajkovski during which they worked out a joint plan to promote their membership in the Atlantic alliance, a program to which Mesic has agreed. Moisiu said a new and deeper form of regional cooperation has been launched.

Mesic stressed that membership in NATO and the EU are two sides of the same coin. He noted that only a united Europe can be a good partner for the United States and an effective actor in the international arena as well as a serious participant in progress in science and technology.

Mesic argued that NATO membership would make the countries of the region participants in a security system and help develop values and standards that would improve their chances for EU membership. He added that the EU -- particularly through the example of Franco-German reconciliation -- has shown that it is possible to end Europe's age-old problem of frequent wars for territory or political gain.

Trajkovski pointed out that Macedonia's peaceful political solution to its crisis in 2001 strengthened that country's democratic institutions and regional stability alike. He added that Macedonia's international democratic credentials have been enhanced as a result. Trajkovski argued that the role of small countries in promoting peace and stability is considerable and stressed that his country is ready to do its part.

The Macedonian president noted that the countries of the region need to speed up the reform of their military and defense systems as well as to promote more "strategic thinking" in line with the latest trends in NATO. He said it makes little difference whether the important Western security presence in his country is under NATO or EU supervision, because these are all allied forces that have played an important part in stabilizing Macedonia.

When asked about the fact that Serbia seems a long way from Partnership for Peace membership because of its illegal arms sales, its failure to reform its military, and its lack of cooperation with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, each president noted that Serbia still has much work to do.

Moisiu stressed that Serbia caused a decade of wars in the Balkans but pointed out that one must look to the future rather than to the past. He noted that Serbia must meet the prerequisites for Partnership for Peace before it can become a member, but its neighbors should try to help it through cooperation. He added that he hopes and believes the forces of democracy in Serbia will eventually prevail.

Mesic argued that it is important for Serbia to have a "catharsis." He argued that it must face up to both its past and to having started and lost four wars if it is to move forward. It must try and punish war criminals, he added.

Trajkovski said that security and defense issues still remain a problem for Serbia. He added, however, that one should look at the bigger picture and note the "courageous steps" that the current leadership has taken toward democratization.

Turning to the matter of regional cooperation, Moisiu noted that one can choose one's friends but not one's neighbors. He argued that it is important to promote the free movement of people as well as cross-border projects, such as in tourism. The president proposed regular meetings in each of the three countries' capitals, adding that "regional security, economic market reforms, military reform, and the fight against terrorism can all be better resolved through closer cooperation."

Mesic again stressed the importance of a European dimension to regional cooperation. He noted that the EU could help set up joint business ventures and infrastructure projects.

Trajkovski highlighted the military and security aspects of cooperation, noting that NATO's values and thinking can help play a role in regional integration. He added: "The Balkan region today still is not safe, it is not yet a place of decent life. We are surrounded by a large arsenal of weapons and a large number of people who are getting rich through smuggling, corruption, and murder." He strongly argued that regional cooperation is the best approach for dealing with regional issues.

AFGHAN OFFICIAL WELCOMES NATO'S DECISION TO SUPPORT ISAF...
Zalmay Rasool, national security adviser to President Hamid Karzai, on 21 November welcomed NATO's decision that day at its Prague summit to provide military and logistical support to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul when Germany and the Netherlands take joint command of the force sometime this winter. "As long as Afghanistan lacks a competent national army, it will be dependent on such help to ensure [its] security," VOA quoted Rasool as saying. VOA reported that it is not clear what kind of support NATO will provide for what would be its "first formal involvement in the Afghan operation" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 19 November 2002). NATO's involvement would require modification of the current mandate of the ISAF, which was established under UN Security Council Resolution 1386 (2001). AT

...AS CZECHS SUPPORT THE INITIATIVE...
During a meeting between Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik and his German counterpart Peter Struck on the sidelines of the NATO Prague summit on 21 November, Tvrdik said his country supports Germany's efforts to place the ISAF units in Afghanistan under NATO command, CTK reported. Czech First Deputy Defense Minister Stefan Fuele said the Czechs "told the Germans that in a situation in which 90 percent of the ISAF soldiers are from [NATO] member countries' armed forces, it seems entirely logical that the operational command should be taken over by the alliance," CTK added. AT

...WHICH MIGHT BE FURTHER DEFINED AT ANNIVERSARY CONFERENCE
NATO has not officially commented on the possibility of its assuming command of the ISAF, but it is believed that the alliance's role will be further defined at the recently announced Reconstructing Afghanistan -- Peace and Stability conference in Petersberg, Germany, on 2 December. President Karzai and international officials will attend the conference commemorating the first anniversary of the establishment of the post-Taliban Afghan administration in Petersberg. The event will be hosted by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who will be traveling to Afghanistan on 26 November to meet with Afghan authorities and members of German forces serving with the ISAF, according to ddp. AT

ROMANIA SAYS ITS ROAD TO NATO RAN 'THROUGH KANDAHAR'
Romanian Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu, referring to his country's invitation to join NATO at the alliance's Prague summit on 21 November, said that "Romania's way to Prague was via Kandahar," dpa reported. "This is obvious, as it was there [in Afghanistan] that we could show we were prepared for the level of the alliance's missions," Rompres quoted Pascu as saying. AT

KABUL DAILY CRITICIZES AFGHAN OFFICIALS
The Kabul daily "Anis" on 18 November called on Afghan government officials to abide by their promises and not blame international aid agencies for all of Afghanistan's woes. It said certain Afghan authorities' claims that the country is war-torn and requires foreign assistance are fair when considering the implementation of large reconstruction projects. However, the daily added, "issues and problems that can be solved by some senior and junior government authorities should not be postponed," citing price controls and the provision of electricity to residents of Kabul. "Responsible authorities of the ministries and the organs that are accountable for social services -- including Kabul municipality -- voluntarily and confidently announced" that during the month of Ramadan they would provide Kabul residents with essential facilities such as first aid, control prices, and supply them with electricity, according to the daily. However, it argues that none of these promises has been kept, which has nothing to with foreign assistance but rather shows a "lack of concern" for public welfare on the part of the Afghan government, the paper added. AT

IRAN WARNS IT WILL NOT ALLOW BELLIGERENTS TO USE ITS WATERS
Navy Commander Rear Admiral Abbas Mohtaj said on 20 November that Iran "will never let any country use its territorial waters to wage a war on another country," "Tehran Times" reported the next day. Motaj added that the Iranian Navy is capable of defending the country in case of an "unexpected event," adding that in order to "maintain defense readiness, the Iranian Naval Forces have conducted some 16 war games this year," the paper reported. AT

IRAN ASKS U.S. NOT TO INTERFERE IN ITS INTERNAL AFFAIRS
Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh told reporters on 20 November that the U.S. "administration should mind its own business and don't [sic] interfere in Iran's internal affairs," "Tehran Times" reported 21 November. Ramezanzadeh was responding to a U.S. State Department spokesman who said on 19 November that Washington "shares the view of Iranian students who have been protesting a death sentence handed down to academic Hashem Aghajari for blasphemy against Shiism," the report added. AT

NATO ISSUES JOINT STATEMENT ON IRAQ...
NATO members issued a joint statement at the alliance's Prague summit on 21 November endorsing UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1441 with regard to Iraq. The statement issued by the 19 member states expressed "serious concern" over terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. "We deplore Iraq's failure to comply fully with its obligations.... NATO allies stand united in their commitment to take effective action to assist and support the efforts of the UN to ensure full and immediate compliance by Iraq, without conditions or restrictions, with UNSCR 1441," the alliance stated. "We recall that the Security Council in this resolution has warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violation of its obligations." The statement can be read in its entirety on NATO's website (http://www.nato.int). KR

...GERMAN CHANCELLOR, FOREIGN MINISTER, SAY GERMANY WOULD NOT PARTICIPATE IN STRIKE ON IRAQ
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told Germany's ZDF television in Prague on 21 November that while Germany endorses the NATO declaration on Iraq, it would not participate in a U.S.-led military strike on the country. "We have made it clear...that we will not participate in any military action in Iraq. This is still true," he said. "We had no problem with this [NATO] resolution, because it is identical to the UN Security Council resolution, which we welcomed." Asked what Germany's role would be in the event of a strike against Iraq, he said Germany would discuss some "issues" with its partners. "These are our obligations in the [NATO] alliance [and under] international treaties." Foreign Minister Fischer echoed Schroeder's statements at a news conference in Prague on 21 November, saying: "Our attitude is absolutely clear: we will not take part. There can be no doubt about it. This is certain," ZDF television reported. KR

U.S. PRESIDENT SAYS U.S. WON'T 'RUN THE SHOW' IN IRAQ
Speaking from the Prague NATO Summit on 21 November, U.S. President George W. Bush told Russia's NTV television that the United States does not intend to run the show in Iraq and intends to work with Russia and other UN Security Council members to see that UN Security Council Resolution 1441 is fulfilled. When asked whether the United States would encourage a new Iraqi government to consider Russia's economic interests there in the event of a regime change, Bush gave assurances that those interests would be taken into account and said the United States would concentrate on forming a new leadership that would recognize the rights of all Iraqi citizens and preserve the country's territorial integrity, according to NTV. Bush was scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg on 22 November to discuss Iraq, the NATO summit, and Chechnya. KR

MORE ON JORDANIAN-IRAQI OIL DEAL
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has given Jordan a $300 million grant following the renewal of an annual trade agreement between the two states, Iraq TV announced on 21 November. According to the report, the grant will be deducted from the total value of the oil agreement between Jordan and Iraq for 2003. The agreement will provide Jordan with 4 million tons of crude oil and 1 million tons of oil products in 2003 at subsidized prices, according to Iraq TV. Jordanian Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Muhammad Batayneh told reporters at the signing ceremony in Baghdad that "we also agreed to cooperate in transporting crude oil in the future through the Iraqi-Jordanian pipeline," Iraq TV reported. Batayneh said work on the pipeline, which will stretch from the Iraqi-Jordanian border to the Jordanian Oil Refinery, will commence in 2003. KR

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