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Newsline - November 25, 2002


PUTIN, BUSH SATISFIED WITH SUMMIT RESULTS...
Speaking to journalists following his 22 November summit meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush near St. Petersburg, President Vladimir Putin described the talks as productive and useful, Russian and Western news agencies reported. The two presidents discussed "many matters," including NATO expansion, bilateral relations, Iraq, and combating international terrorism. Bush and Putin also issued a joint written statement on Iraq, warning that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein will face serious consequences if he does not comply completely with UN Security Council Resolution 1441 and cooperate unconditionally with UN weapons inspectors. Putin also said that the United States and Russia will work together to identify those who support and finance international terrorism. "We must not forget that 16 of the 19 people who carried out the 11 September [2001] terrorist attacks in the United States were Saudi citizens," Putin said. Putin also expressed Russia's displeasure with NATO expansion. "However, as a pragmatist who realizes that it is pointless to argue against the inevitable, Putin is seeking to gain maximum benefits from the situation," "Izvestiya" commented on 22 November. VY

...AS ACCORD ON ENERGY DIALOGUE SIGNED
A two-page statement on the U.S.-Russian energy dialogue was the only written economic document produced by the 22 November summit, "Izvestiya" reported. In the statement, the two presidents said they will energetically support the efforts of Russian and U.S. oil companies to develop Russia's energy sector and energy-transportation system. President Bush also reportedly told Putin that the United States would respect Russia's economic interests in a post-Hussein Iraq, the daily continued. The U.S. administration wants to maintain global oil prices above $21 a barrel, which is in the interests of both U.S. and Russian oil companies, "Izvestiya" added. VY

MEDIA QUESTIONS THE ROSY SUMMIT REPORTS
Both President Bush and President Putin seemed much more gloomy after their summit meeting than they did when they greeted one another before the talks, NTV noted on 22 November. The channel speculated that the two presidents made no substantive progress and that Putin was irritated by Bush's calls for a political solution to the war in Chechnya and for the strict observance of human rights there. "Izvestiya" noted that, at a recent press conference in Brussels, Putin sharply responded to a provocative question about Chechnya from a Belgian reporter. The paper added that he could not speak to Bush in such a way. VY

FSB GOES AFTER ENVIRONMENTALISTS...
Federal Security Service (FSB) agents on 22 November searched the Irkutsk offices of an environmental group called Baikal Ecological Wave, seizing documents and computers, Russian and Western news agencies reported. The group, which works closely with Greenpeace, monitors radioactive contamination in and around Lake Baikal. According to initial FSB statements, at least five secret documents were found in the office and a criminal investigation was launched over the weekend, RosBalt reported. However, lenta.ru on 25 November reported that no charges will be filed against the activists, although the FSB will continue trying to identify those who gave the allegedly secret documents to the group. The allegedly secret information concerns maps of environmental contamination surrounding a chemical plant in Angarsk, lenta.ru reported. AP cited a Greenpeace spokesman in Moscow as saying that the likely reason for the search was Baikal Ecological Wave's opposition to plans by oil giant Yukos to build a pipeline through a national park along the shore of the lake. RC

...AS MINISTER REACHES OUT TO THEM
Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev on 23 November proposed creating supervisory boards that would include legislators and environmental activists to oversee the import and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, AP and Russian news agencies reported. "We want to find a point of contact with serious environmentalists," Rumyantsev was quoted by Interfax as telling journalists in Nizhnii Novgorod. RC

'VERSIYA' PROBE CONTINUES
FSB agents in Moscow on 22 November returned computers seized on 1 November during a search of the offices of the newspaper "Versiya," lenta.ru reported. They also questioned another employee of the paper, journalist Irina Borgan, in connection with an investigation of an article by Andrei Soldatov that was published in May. Borogan is the fifth employee of the paper to be interrogated in the investigation. RC

PUTIN TO VISIT CHINA IN DECEMBER
After meeting in the Kremlin with Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan on 23 November, President Putin said that Moscow is attentively following developments in Beijing after a Communist Party congress there elected Vice President Hu Jintao as the party's new general secretary recently, Russian news agencies reported. Putin said he is looking forward to meeting Hu and other Chinese leaders during his scheduled 1-3 December trip to Beijing. Tang also met in Moscow with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who briefed him about the recent NATO summit in Prague. "China has taken note of the results of the alliance's summit," Tang said, "and hopes NATO will concentrate more on combating international terrorism." VY

CONTROVERSY OVER NUMBER OF HOSTAGE-CRISIS VICTIMS CONTINUES
One more former hostage from the 23-26 October hostage crisis in Moscow died on 24 November, bringing the official death toll to 129, Russian news agencies reported. Almost all of the victims died from the effects of the sleeping gas used by special-forces units during the storming of the theater where more than 700 people were being held hostage by Chechen fighters. Gennadii Raikov, head of the People's Deputy faction in the Duma, said on ORT that the actual number of victims is 190. However, ORT host Nikolai Svanidze commented that it remains unclear whether Raikov has additional information or whether the remark was just a slip of the tongue. Law enforcement agencies on 24 November released the names of three people who have been arrested as "accomplices" of the hostage takers. They were identified as Khampash Sobraliev of Chechnya, Arman Menkeev of Kazakhstan, and Yurii Yankovskii of Moscow Oblast. VY

AGRARIANS MAP OUT THEIR STRATEGY
A Central Committee plenum of the Agrarian Party of Russia on 23 November decided that the party will contest the December 2003 State Duma elections independently, Russian news agencies reported. Party leader and Altai Republic head Mikhail Lapshin told the plenum that the party will not ally with either the Communist Party or Unified Russia and will instead rely "on the support of the many millions of rural dwellers" to surmount the 5 percent barrier for party-list seats, lenta.ru reported. Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev, who is deputy head of the party, criticized Lapshin at the session for dividing the party into "reds" and "whites," ITAR-TASS reported. "Izvestiya" commented that Gordeev believes the Agrarian Party is capable of drawing considerable support away from the Communist Party and becoming a "powerful pro-governmental lobby in the agricultural sector." RC

OLIGARCH, COMMUNISTS FLIRTING
Self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii on 20 November published an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" calling for the Communist Party to cooperate with him during the December 2003 State Duma elections. Recent developments prove that only the Communist Party represents any real, vital opposition to the Kremlin, Berezovskii wrote. He proposed joining forces with the party in order to prevent a pro-Kremlin majority from forming in the Duma. Berezovskii said that a genuine opposition must gain at least 150 seats in the Duma and should try for a majority of 226 seats. On 21 November, "Nezavisimaya gazeta," which is controlled by Berezovskii, published a response by Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov, who wrote that the party will not bargain with those "who betrayed the Motherland" and who for many years led it into disaster. He added, however, that when considering alliances, one should count the resources that both sides have to offer. VY

RUSSIAN GIANT MOVES TO CONTROL PALLADIUM MARKET
Norilsk Nikel, which is owned by Vladimir Potanin's Interros group, is attempting to purchase a 51 percent stake in U.S. palladium producer Stillwater Mining Company for a reported $341 million, gazeta.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 22 November. Stillwater, which produces about 640,000 ounces of palladium per year, is the only producer in the United States and is the largest in the world outside of South Africa and Russia, gzt.ru reported on 22 November. "Now Norilsk Nikel is becoming on the palladium market something like DeBeers is on the diamond market," gazeta.ru commented, "and it will be able to cushion itself from the effects of the drawn-out crisis in the [palladium] market." RC

'VOTER FATIGUE' STRIKES KRASNODAR
Krai-level legislative elections in seven of the 70 districts in Krasnodar Krai on 24 November were declared invalid because of insufficient voter turnout, newsru.com reported. Throughout the krai, only 29 percent of voters came to the polls. "In recent months across Russia there has been a tendency toward lower turnouts..." said Central Election Commission representative Sergei Danilenko, who was observing the vote. "Most likely this tendency reflects voter fatigue, as elections are going on constantly." The local election commission must set a new date for elections in the seven districts within 10 days. RC

FOUR ARRESTED IN ST. PETERSBURG SUBWAY TUNNEL
Three men and a woman were arrested in a tunnel of the St. Petersburg subway system in the early morning hours of 24 November, RosBalt and other Russian news agencies reported. The four were reportedly carrying a video camera and keys to a restricted area within the subway system. Subway service was shut down for a few hours following the arrests, although the part of the tunnel where the suspects were found is closed for repairs. An investigation has been launched. RC

MINISTER SAYS CHECHEN REFERENDUM PLANNED FOR MARCH 2003...
Former Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov, who is currently minister responsible for reconstruction in Chechnya, told journalists in Moscow on 22 November that the planned referendum on a new draft Chechen constitution will take place in March 2003, Russian news agencies reported. He said the constitution defines Chechnya as a presidential republic with a unicameral legislature. The parliament, he said, will be empowered to approve or reject candidates for key ministerial posts. An earlier draft constitution prepared under the supervision of Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov reportedly provided for a bicameral parliament (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 17, 17 May 2002). Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Beslan Gantemirov, who has publicly clashed with Kadyrov on several occasions, told "Ekspert," No. 43, that he favors a parliamentary republic as the only way to prevent one person from usurping control in Chechnya which, he argued, is the main ill that has plagued Chechnya over the past 10-12 years. LF

...DETAILS ECONOMIC PROGRESS
Ilyasov also told journalists on 22 November that 120,000 new jobs have been created in Chechnya since 2000, ITAR-TASS reported. He said the republic's budget has expanded to 7.1 billion rubles ($222.8 million) in 2002 from 2.3 billion rubles in 2000 and 6.4 billion in 2001. Ilyasov also argued, however, that Chechnya does not make the most effective use of its oil resources, as none of the oil extracted is legally refined in Chechnya. He proposed that 300,000 tons of oil be refined in Chechnya in 2003. That amount is equal to local consumption. Oil output so far this year is marginally over 1 million tons, according to Interfax on 12 November. Ilyasov told ITAR-TASS on 19 November that daily output is some 4,000 tons, of which up to 500 tons is stolen. LF

BASAEV WARNS OF NEW ATTACKS ON RUSSIAN TARGETS
In an open letter addressed to NATO heads of state and posted on kavkazcenter.com (which is currently inaccessible), Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev has warned that his fighters will launch new attacks on "military, industrial, and strategic facilities" on Russian territory unless Moscow withdraws its troops from Chechnya, Reuters reported on 23 November. He advised NATO leaders to pressure Russia to comply with that demand and to embark on peace talks. In Grozny, Chechen Interior Ministry head Major General Said-Selim Peshkhoev told Interfax he believes Basaev might be in Chechnya's southern Vedeno Raion, but that he and his men are not currently strong enough militarily to undertake a large-scale terrorist attack. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT ACCUSES AZERBAIJAN OF BACKTRACKING ON KARABAKH
Robert Kocharian said in his address to the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council session in Prague on 22 November that Azerbaijan subsequently rejected a settlement of the Karabakh conflict that the two sides agreed on during talks last year in Paris and Florida, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Had Baku not done so, "we would have already been halfway through the implementation of the peace agreement," Kocharian said. Kocharian further stressed Armenia's commitment to deepening ties with NATO and cooperating with the U.S.-led war on terrorism. He said Armenia plans to expand cooperation with NATO within the parameters of the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program. Kocharian added that harmonizing NATO's individual cooperation programs members of the PfP program at the sub-regional level would contribute to preserving peace and stability in regions with unresolved conflicts. LF

SUPPORT GROWS FOR ARMENIAN PRESIDENT'S RE-ELECTION BID
So many Armenian politicians, government officials, and prominent intellectuals are eager to endorse President Kocharian's candidacy in the presidential elections scheduled for February 2003 that the planned membership of an initiative group currently being formed to nominate Kocharian has been increased from 200 to 300, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 23 November. Sources close to Kocharian said he wants the group to be as broad-based and nonpartisan as possible. Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian is likely to be named to manage Kocharian's re-election campaign, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau predicted. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION WEIGHS DANGER OF ELECTION ALLIANCE COLLAPSE
Representatives of the 16 Armenian opposition parties that aligned in late September with the intention of fielding a single candidate in the February 2003 presidential ballot differed on 22 November in their assessments of the decision by three of those parties to nominate their own candidate, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2002). Vagharshak Harutiunian of the Hanrapetutiun party downplayed its significance, saying that all 16 parties continue to pursue the same agenda. But Shavarsh Kocharian of the National Democratic Party admitted that the decision by the three left-wing parties will make it more difficult to reach consensus on a single opposition candidate. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT APPEALS TO INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO RESOLVE KARABAKH CONFLICT
In his 22 November address to the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in Prague, Heidar Aliev singled out "aggressive nationalism and violent separatism" as a major threat to the South Caucasus and appealed to the international community to do its utmost to resolve the Karabakh conflict "before it is too late," according to Azerbaijani State Television and ANS TV, as cited by Groong. Aliev also reaffirmed Azerbaijan's commitment both to the international antiterrorism campaign and to integration and "intensive partnership dialogue" with NATO. Acknowledging NATO's growing interest in the South Caucasus, Aliev added, "Any regional initiatives and proposals should first of all be directed toward the elimination of the consequences of all conflicts and wars and the restoration of internationally recognized borders." Both Aliev and Kocharian met separately on 22 November with French President Jacques Chirac to discuss the Karabakh mediation process. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION CALLS ON PRESIDENT TO RESIGN
Four influential Azerbaijani opposition groups -- the Musavat, National Independence, and Democratic parties and the progressive wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party -- organized a march and demonstration in Baku on 24 November, during which participants demanded President Aliev's resignation; the creation of conditions that will ensure next year's elections are free and fair; and an end to reprisals against inhabitants of the village of Nardaran on the outskirts of Baku, Interfax and Turan reported. Attendance at the rally, which was approved by the municipal authorities, was estimated by the police at between 1,000-2,000 and by the organizers at 30,000. LF

GEORGIA ANNOUNCES ASPIRATION TO JOIN NATO
In his address to the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council session in Prague on 22 November, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze formally announced his country's desire to become a full-fledged NATO member but acknowledged that it will take time for Georgia to meet NATO's standards, CTK and Caucasus Press reported. He said Georgia's survival as an independent state is contingent on receiving firm guarantees of support. Shevardnadze also met separately on 22 November with NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson. The final communique adopted at the NATO summit contained no specific time frame for additional rounds of expansion. Instead, it advocated the adoption of individual action plans for aspirant countries. Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 23 November that NATO will send specialists to Georgia to help draft such a plan, Caucasus Press reported. He implied that resolving the Abkhaz conflict with the help of the Friends of the UN Secretary-General group of countries is one of the keys to Georgia ultimately being accepted into NATO. LF

GEORGIAN, U.S. PRESIDENTS MEET
Also on 22 November, Shevardnadze met briefly in Prague on the sidelines of the NATO summit with U.S. President Bush, Interfax reported. Georgian National Security Council Secretary Tedo Djaparidze said the two presidents discussed the ongoing anticrime and antiterrorism operation in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge and the progress of the U.S.-funded $64 million Train and Equip program for the Georgian armed forces. He also said that Bush expressed support for Georgia's bid for NATO membership. But Interfax on 23 November quoted an unnamed member of the Russian delegation to the Bush-Putin summit as saying that Washington is not satisfied with Georgia's efforts to isolate and apprehend suspected terrorists in Pankisi. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN ACCUSES AUTHORITIES
Addressing the Georgian parliament on 22 November, former Communist Party First Secretary Djumber Patiashvili, who currently heads the Unity Party, accused the authorities of seeking to infiltrate opposition parties under the guise of combating terrorism, according to Caucasus Press and Rustavi-2 Television as cited by Groong. Patiashvili produced a 24-page classified document he claimed was drafted by the National Security Ministry and which called for infiltrating Unity, Mikhail Saakashvili's National Movement, supporters of former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the Georgian Orthodox Church, and Georgia's Armenian and Azerbaijani minorities. Those measures, Patiashvili said, violate the Georgian Constitution. National Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania told deputies the document was drafted by one of his subordinates who was subsequently dismissed and that he had refused to endorse it. A similar document naming Patiashvili was leaked to parliament two months ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 September 2002). LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT WANTS CLOSER INTELLIGENCE TIES WITH NATO
Nursultan Nazarbaev proposed to the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council on 22 November that interested countries explore the possibility of forging "working contacts" among their intelligence services, Interfax reported. He explained that doing so would help prevent the infiltration into Europe of an international terrorist organization that, he claimed, is currently seeking to recruit new members in the Central Asian states. He also proposed the creation of a training center under PfP auspices to train border guards and help prevent the smuggling of dangerous substances. Nazarbaev told journalists in Prague on 22 November that Kazakhstan's participation in the PfP program is beneficial, noting in particular the establishment of a NATO information center and NATO's advice on reforming Kazakhstan's armed forces. Meanwhile Kazakhstan's Defense Ministry on 22 November dismissed as "speculation" media reports that Defense Minister Colonel General Mukhtar Altynbaev's plane had been forced to land at Pardubice en route for the Prague summit because it had failed to secure air-traffic-control clearance, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2002). LF

KAZAKHSTAN AIMS FOR ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION
Kazakhstan hopes to reduce its economic dependence on the oil-and-gas sector and become a regional leader in software production, pharmaceuticals, nuclear energy, and aerospace, Deputy Prime Minister Karim Massimov told Reuters on 21 November. Massimov was visiting the United States for talks with administration officials and aid and investment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2002). LF

KYRGYZ FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS NATO MEMBERSHIP UNLIKELY, WHILE OPPOSITION DEPUTY FAVORS IT
Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov, who headed the Kyrgyz delegation to the NATO Prague summit, said on 22 November that it is premature to raise the issue of possible NATO membership for his country or for other Central Asian states, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. He noted that the alliance has not reached agreement on further rounds of expansion. In Bishkek, however, former Deputy Defense Minister Ismail Isakov, who is now an opposition parliament deputy, argued that the states of Central Asia should aspire to join NATO, which he said is a guarantee of further democratization. Neither President Askar Akaev nor Defense Minister Colonel General Esen Topoev attended the Prague summit. LF

KYRGYZ DEPUTY PARLIAMENT SPEAKER MEETS WITH FORMER DEPUTY PREMIER'S SUPPORTERS
Sooronbai Djeenbekov, who is deputy speaker of the People's Assembly (the upper chamber of Kyrgyzstan's parliament), met on 22 November with some 500 supporters of former Deputy Premier Usen Sydykov who are demanding that Sydykov be allowed to contest a runoff ballot in the southern constituency of Kara-Kuldja, where he polled 46 percent of the vote in a 20 October by-election, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The following day, Djeenbekov held a similar meeting in the Osh Oblast town of Uzgen with some 600 Sydykov supporters who warned they might demand autonomous status within Kyrgyzstan for Djalalabad, Osh, and Batken oblasts if Sydykov is not allowed to participate in the runoff, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. They also vowed to boycott the planned 22 December referendum on constitutional amendments. LF

DETAINED KYRGYZ PROTESTERS RELEASED
Thirty-three people detained in Bishkek to several days' administrative arrest for attempting to participate in an unsanctioned opposition rally on 18 November were released on 24 November, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 21 November 2002). The detainees, most of them from the southern district of Aksy, appealed on 24 November to the Kyrgyz people to condemn reprisals against the opposition and to the government to bring to trial those people -- including former Interior Minister Temirbek Akmataliev and former presidential administration head Amanbek Karypkulov -- suspected of having ordered police to open fire on demonstrators in Aksy during a protest on 17-18 March. LF

OPINION POLL IDENTIFIES FUTURE KYRGYZ POLITICAL HEAVYWEIGHTS
The Sotsinform sociological research center on 22 November unveiled the findings of an anonymous poll conducted in October among government employees, NGOs, and journalists, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Respondents were asked to rank Kyrgyz politicians in terms of their current political influence, the quality of their political activities, and their anticipated future importance on the political scene. While incumbent President Akaev ranked first in the first category, Deputy Prime Minister for foreign investment Djoomart Otorbaev and former Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev topped the third category. Bakiev recently announced his intention to run for president in 2005 as an independent candidate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2002). Other influential political figures included imprisoned former Vice President Feliks Kulov moderate opposition parliament deputy Adaham Madumarov, and Social Democratic Party leader and businessman Almaz Atambaev. LF

RUSSIA EXPELS FIRST ILLEGAL TAJIK IMMIGRANTS
A group of 115 Tajiks found to be working illegally in the Russian Federation, mostly in the construction sector, were flown back to Dushanbe on a Russian military transport aircraft on 21 November, ITAR-TASS reported. A second contingent of 80-100 Tajiks was to be flown home the following day. On 20 November, the Tajik government approved a three-year program setting quotas for Tajiks wishing to work abroad. The question of Tajiks wishing to work in Russia will be resolved by a separate bilateral agreement to be signed within the next two months, Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Rafika Musaeva told ITAR-TASS on 20 November. Visiting Tajikistan on 15 November, Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said Russia will set a ceiling of 530,000 migrant workers from other former Soviet republics in 2003. At present an estimated 600,000 Tajiks travel to Russia annually in search of seasonal employment. LF

TURKMEN PRESIDENT ESCAPES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT
Saparmurat Niyazov escaped unscathed on the morning of 25 November when his motorcade was subjected to machine-gun fire, Reuters and RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported. An unidentified member of the presidential convoy was injured in the attack. Niyazov later chaired an emergency cabinet meeting, at which he accused former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov and former Agricultural Minister Imanberdy Iklymov of organizing the attempt on his life. LF

CHANGES IN UZBEKISTAN'S CRIMINAL-PROCEDURE CODE ASSESSED
The staff of the Prosecutor-General's Office has reviewed the implementation of a law passed one year ago that introduced milder punishment for certain offenses, uza.uz reported on 22 November. Over that period, more than 4,800 criminal cases have been closed and the accused released from pre-trial detention. A further 1,400 cases under investigation were also closed. The percentage of people arrested who were remanded in pretrial detention has fallen from 52 to 29 percent. LF

BELARUSIAN ENVOY SLAMS NATO FOR NOT INVITING PRESIDENT...
Belarusian Ambassador to NATO Syarhey Martynau told a sitting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) on 22 November that the Czech Republic's denial of an entry visa to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka -- preventing him from attending last week's NATO summit -- was an "ignominious act without precedent," Belarusian and Czech media reported. "Your decision is an act of disrespect not only toward the Belarusian president but, first of all, toward the Belarusian people," CTK quoted Martynau as saying. "Each and every day, we stop an unprecedented flow of drugs [flowing] to the West at the crest of the migration avalanche and suppress the flow of arms and nuclear materials coming the opposite way and destined to wind up in the hands of terrorists.... Is this not, in your mind, a contribution to Europe's security? Is this not a contribution to the antiterrorist coalition?" Martynau expounded. "It was a pretty angry message," NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson commented. JM

...BUT SAYS BELARUS WILL HARBOR NO GRUDGE OVER LUKASHENKA SNUB
Martynau pledged at the EAPC session on 22 November that despite NATO's snub of President Lukashenka, Belarus will "continue and intensify its contribution to the common cause of the [antiterrorism] coalition," Belapan reported. "Given the potential of Belarusian military-industrial and scientific complex [and] the country's strategic location, we do not have the right to abandon the responsibility for participation in the coalition," Martynau added. He said Belarus could host a Partnership for Peace exercise in the Chornobyl-affected zone to train troops in combating radioactive contamination. He also said Belarus could contribute a rescue team to the NATO Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center "to provide urgent assistance in overcoming consequences of a possible nuclear, biological, or chemical attack." JM

BELARUS TO HOLD LOCAL ELECTIONS IN EARLY MARCH
President Lukashenka has decreed that local elections be held on 2 March 2003, Belarusian media reported on 22 November. Belarusians are expected to elect more than 24,000 representatives on the village, raion, and oblast levels on that day. "Women and young people in the local soviets should constitute no less than 40 percent of their membership," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying. "The woman is a stabilizing factor that is able to secure the efficient operation of any organ of the authority," the Belarusian leader added. JM

NATO-UKRAINE COMMISSION SESSION IN PRAGUE RESULTS IN 'ACTION PLAN'
The NATO-Ukraine Commission at the NATO summit in Prague on 22 November endorsed an "action plan" to take the bilateral relationship to a "qualitatively new level," Reuters reported, quoting NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alessandro Minuto Rizzo. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko, who headed the Ukrainian delegation at the session, said the plan will put Kyiv on the road to membership of the alliance. Rizzo said allegations that Ukraine sold a Kolchuga radar to Iraq were also discussed at the session. "Ministers concluded that transparency and trust were indispensable features to continue to forge a solid community of values between the alliance and Ukraine," Rizzo told journalists. ITAR-TASS on 23 November quoted a source from Ukraine's National Defense and Security Council as saying the "action plan" spells out a long-term program of adopting European standards in Ukraine's defense sector, the economy, science, counterterrorism, and dealing with emergency situations. JM

U.S. AMBASSADOR DETAILS UKRAINE'S OBSTRUCTION TO KOLCHUGA PROBE
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual has sent a letter to the media charging that Ukrainian officials stonewalled U.S. and British arms experts invited in October to verify whether Ukraine sold any Kolchuga radar systems to Iraq, AP reported on 22 November. Pascual's letter came as Ukrainian officials were denying the Kolchuga charges at the NATO summit. Pascual said inspectors were not allowed to see full reports of investigations by Ukraine's National Defense and Security Council, the Defense Ministry, or the prosecutor-general. "While Ukraine's export system is supposed to have checks and balances, such checks were either not exercised or they were not documented, precluding a reconstruction of the events that surrounded the authorization of the sale of the Kolchuga system in 2000," Pascual wrote. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAYS 1932-33 FAMINE IN UKRAINE WAS AN ACT OF GENOCIDE
President Leonid Kuchma on 23 November addressed the nation on television with a speech devoted to the famine in Ukraine in 1932-33, which, according to various estimates, claimed 5-10 million lives, Ukrainian media reported. Kuchma said Ukraine should insist that the world recognize the 1932-33 famine as an act of Bolshevik genocide against the Ukrainian people. "The famine became a national catastrophe. In 1932-33 alone, one-fifth of Ukraine's rural population was killed," Kuchma said. "This [act of] terror through famine was a cynical response of the Bolshevik authorities to the resistance of the Ukrainian peasantry to total collectivization and to the policy of transforming free farmers into silent slaves." Kuchma said a "grand memorial to the victims of famine" should be built in Kyiv and smaller monuments in other parts of Ukraine. JM

RUSSIAN RIGHTIST LEADER APPROVES OF ESTONIA'S NATO ENTRY
Leader of the Russian Union of Rightist Forces and Duma Deputy Boris Nemtsov delivered a speech entitled "Democratic Reforms In Russia: Myth Or Reality?" at a conference called Putin's Russia: Partner or Rival? in Tallinn on 23 November, ETA reported. At the event, organized by the Baltic Center of Russian Studies, Nemtsov congratulated Estonia on its invitation to join NATO and said relations between Russia and Estonia might improve with the NATO invitation because both sides might be free of their complexes. Nemtsov praised Estonia's economic reforms and asserted: "For Russia, it would be a plus to join the EU, but for liberal Estonia it is a minus.... The EU is too socialist and bureaucratic for capitalist Estonia." During his visit he also held talks with Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland, Res Publica Chairman Juhan Parts, and Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar. SG

CANADA TO REOPEN ITS PORTS TO ESTONIAN FISHERMEN
In talks in London on 21 and 22 November, Ain Soome, head of the Estonian Environment Ministry's fishery department, and representatives of the Canadian Fishing Administration reached an agreement under which Canada will again open its ports to Estonian fishing boats, BNS reported. Canada on 9 April closed its ports to fishing boats from Estonia because of what it called "clear evidence of violations" of shrimp-fishing quotas off its east coast (see "Baltic States Report," 17 April 2002). Estonia countered that the Canadian estimates were incorrect and that it was not exceeding the quotas. Estonia has agreed to permit Canadian observers to be assigned to all of its vessels fishing in Canadian waters. SG

LATVIA'S SOCIAL DEMOCRATS REPLACE EMBATTLED CHAIRMAN
The 34th congress of the Latvian Social Democratic Workers' Party (LSDSP) was held in Riga on 23 November, LETA reported. LSDSP Chairman Juris Bojars declared that the party's failure to overcome the 5 percent barrier in October's parliamentary elections was due to inefficiency and the "objective conditions of the political situation." Bojars spoke out against a merger of all parties with social democratic views -- some of which include politicians who left the party in response to Bojars's leadership -- declaring that the LSDSP is the only genuine social democratic party in Latvia. Dainis Ivans, the chairman of the Popular Front in 1988, was elected the party's new chairman, winning 373 votes, while Bojars won 169 and former Deputy Chairman Valdis Lauskis got 164. The replacement of Bojars might clear the way for mergers among the self-described social democratic parties. The congress elected Lauskis and Viola Lazo as deputy chairmen from a list of 19 candidates. SG

U.S. PRESIDENT MEETS BALTIC HEADS OF STATE IN LITHUANIA
President Bush flew to Vilnius on 22 November following a meeting in St. Petersburg with President Putin, ELTA reported. Bush was greeted at the airport by Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis. On 23 November, Bush was officially welcomed at the Lithuanian president's office, where he held talks with Adamkus, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, and parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas. Adamkus presented Bush with one of Lithuania's highest honors -- the Order of Vytautas the Great. The U.S. president then spoke in front of Vilnius Town Hall, congratulating Lithuania on its NATO invitation, declaring: "Our alliance has made a solemn pledge of protection, and anyone who would choose Lithuania as an enemy has also made an enemy of the United States of America." He then had a meeting with Adamkus, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, and Estonian President Arnold Ruutel. SG

POLISH PRESIDENT VISITS LITHUANIA
Accompanied by his wife Jolanta and a large group of relatives, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski traveled to Vilnius on 23 November to celebrate the invitations to NATO given to the Baltic states and his 23rd wedding anniversary, "Lietuvos rytas" reported on 25 November. He arrived in Vilnius shortly after the departure of President Bush. Together with the three Baltic presidents, Kwasniewski celebrated the NATO invitations at the Vilnius Opera and Ballet Theater. The next day at the Lithuanian president's office, he participated in the presentation of Jerzy Giedroyc Foundation awards to four Lithuanians and Poles active in Lithuanian-Polish cooperation. SG

POLISH LOWER HOUSE PASSES 2003 BUDGET...
The Sejm on 23 November voted 249 to 150 with no abstentions to pass a 2003 budget with a planned deficit of 38.7 billion zlotys ($9.8 billion), compared with 40 billion zlotys in 2002, Polish media reported. The bill projects 2003 revenues of 154.9 billion zlotys and expenditures of 193.7 billion zlotys. The 2003 budget act includes a forecast of 3.5 percent economic growth, versus a growth forecast of 1.4 percent for 2002. Annual inflation is predicted at 2.2 percent and unemployment at 17.8 percent. The budget bill now will go to the Senate and will be sent back to the Sejm if there are amendments in the upper house. The president, who cannot veto a budget bill, must sign it within seven days after it is cleared by the parliament. JM

...AND LIFTS TRADE SECRECY ON PUBLIC ORDERS
The same day, the Sejm voted 385 to zero with no abstentions to amend the law on public orders so as to lift the seal of trade secrecy on public orders in the country, Polish media reported. The amendments were proposed by the coalition Peasant Party, which argued that trade secrecy in public orders contributes to greater corruption, including in the recently mismanaged computerization at Poland's ZUS insurer and the introduction of the EU's Integrated Administration and Control System. JM

POLISH PRESIDENT SAYS WEST MUST NOT ISOLATE UKRAINE
At a news conference following the NATO summit in Prague on 22 November, President Aleksander Kwasniewski said the West must not isolate Ukraine, Polish Radio reported. "Much depends upon President [Leonid] Kuchma himself, and on his circle, and whether he has drawn the conclusions from the fact that the world expects a Ukraine that is moving forward and not one that is marking time," Kwasniewski said. "The world wants a Ukraine that resolves problems and does not seek successive justifications." Commenting on the NATO ploy to arrange countries' representatives at the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council session according to their names in French in order to move Kuchma farther away from Tony Blair and George W. Bush (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2002), Kwasniewski said Kuchma was treated "like a partner, critically but openly." JM

NATO SUMMIT ENDS IN PRAGUE...
A meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) held on 22 November -- the second and last day of the NATO summit in the Czech capital -- approved a statement expressing determination to meet the new challenges posed by a changing global environment and increase EAPC members' contribution to the struggle against international terrorism, CTK reported. The EAPC includes the current 19 NATO members and 27 states participating in the Partnership for Peace. The final communique approved by the session stated that participants welcome the Partnership Action Plan Against Terrorism designed by NATO members and consider that plan to be "a concrete expression of their desire to join forces against the terrorist menace, consistent with their national policies and capabilities," according to NATO's website (http://www.nato.int). Addressing the forum, U.S. President Bush pledged his country's support for the EAPC, saying its aims are to extend freedom and democracy and strengthen security and stability. Before the summit's closure, a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council was also held (see "Russia"). MS

...AS INCIDENT MARS SECRETARY-GENERAL'S PRESS CONFERENCE...
NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson was interrupted at a press conference on 22 November by two men shouting in Russian "NATO is worse than Gestapo" and throwing tomatoes, CTK and international news agencies reported. One of the men took off his jacket to show off an armband with the hammer and sickle. The two hecklers were posing as journalists, and one said they are members of the extremist National Bolshevik Party of Russia. The two were escorted out by security guards, and a Prague police spokesman said they will be charged with disturbing the peace, noting that they were not detained. President Vaclav Havel, who earlier said security measures during the summit might have been unnecessarily high, apologized to Robertson for the incident. CTK said the two were from Belarus and from Ukraine and were posing as Russian journalists. MS

...BUT NO VIOLENCE REPORTED AMID ANTI-SUMMIT PROTESTS
Several hundred drum-beating anarchists wearing masks protested in Prague against the NATO summit on 22 November, chanting "It is not worth dying for NATO" and "Enough of NATO violence," CTK reported. The demonstration ended without incident. A spokesman for the protesters said they were satisfied with protests staged during the summit and added that people had expected a "mega-event that would block the meeting" because they "listened to [Czech Interior Minister Stanislav] Gross and not to us." Between 150 and 1,000 people took part in several anti-summit demonstrations organized by anarchists and other leftist groups. Also on 22 November, a group of members of the ultranationalist National Party demonstrated against the summit in Prague's Old Town Square, but CTK said they attracted little attention. MS

CZECH PREMIER DISCUSSES EU ENLARGEMENT ON NATO SUMMIT'S SIDELINES
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla on 22 November told journalists he discussed various aspects of EU enlargement with his counterparts from the Netherlands and Luxembourg on the sidelines of the NATO Prague summit, CTK reported. Spidla also met with the premiers of Romania and Bulgaria and said he and Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase discussed the possibility of Romania's purchase of Czech-made L-159 subsonic aircraft. On 25 November, Spidla is to head the Czech delegation at the final round of EU accession negotiations in Brussels, CTK reported on 24 November. MS

U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY TALKS NATO, MILITARY REFORMS IN SLOVAKIA
Arriving in Bratislava on 22 November, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld discussed with Slovak leaders Slovakia's future contribution to NATO, Slovak military reforms, and the battle against corruption, RFE/RL's Slovak Service, TASR, and international news agencies reported. Rumsfeld met with President Rudolf Schuster, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, and Defense Minister Ivan Simko. After the talks, Rumsfeld said Slovakia can offer peacekeepers, special forces, and military engineers to NATO, AP reported. On Slovakia's military reforms, Rumsfeld said he has "great confidence" they will continue "while recognizing that navigating from where one was 10 years ago to where you are heading today is not an easy path," according to RFE/RL's Slovak Service. He said he expressed "appreciation" to the Slovak leaders for the country's contribution to the war against international terrorism "and particularly for the assistance in Afghanistan, which is so important." Rumsfeld also warned, "Corruption strikes at the heart of a democratic system, because a democratic system is to serve the people; and if there is anything that corruption does, it steals from the people," according to Reuters. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT THANKS COUNTRYMEN FOR SUPPORT IN NATO ACCESSION EFFORTS
In a speech broadcast live on state radio and television on 24 November, President Schuster thanked Slovaks for their contribution to the effort to secure a NATO invitation, TASR reported. Schuster said, "Through no fault of our own, we were left behind the Iron Curtain...by the superpowers after World War II," and he added in an allusion to the government headed by former Premier Vladimir Meciar: "We needlessly complicated our return [to the democratic world] and, unlike our neighbors, were left behind. Today...the [NATO] alliance has definitely ceased to follow the demarcation of borders created by the Cold War." The invitation to join NATO was celebrated on 23 November at an official Slovak-U.S. festive dinner at a Bratislava hotel, where the key speaker was former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She said: "All the negative comments I made in the past were not about the country and its people, but about its government [at the time]. I like Slovakia very much. I have never considered myself as being simply Czech but rather Czechoslovak," the Prague-born former U.S. official said. MS

SLOVAK DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS NATO BASES IN SLOVAKIA NOT UNDER DISCUSSION FOR NOW
Defense Minister Simko said on Slovak Television on 24 November that it makes no sense to ask now whether NATO will set up military bases in Slovakia, TASR reported. Simko said global security has undergone rapid changes in 2002 and what NATO will do in the future is hardly predictable at this stage. Simko added that, in general, the alliance has been closing down military bases around the world rather then opening new ones. Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan, who also participated in the televised debate, said NATO membership entails duties and Slovakia must be prepared to fulfill them. Kukan said Slovak soldiers will not be deployed abroad, except when "absolutely justified." MS

GERMAN CHANCELLOR WARNS SLOVAK PREMIER AGAINST 'EXCESSIVE DEMANDS' ON EU
During a discussion on the sidelines of the NATO Prague summit on 22 November, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told Slovak Premier Dzurinda that his country "understands" the concern of EU candidate states not to contribute to the EU budget more than they receive in the first years after accession, CTK reported, citing the Slovak premier. However, Dzurinda said that Schroeder also warned that excessive and unbearable demands might endanger the successful completion of the enlargement process at the upcoming Copenhagen summit. The Slovak premier said Schroeder promised support for additional EU aid to facilitate closing down the Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear power plant after 2006. Dzurinda said the chancellor "did not raise" the subject of the Benes Decrees and added, "And I hope he will never raise it." Dzurinda said he has invited Schroeder to visit Slovakia. The Slovak premier also met on the NATO sidelines summit with U.S. President Bush, discussing mostly the Iraqi crisis, TASR and CTK reported. He extended an invitation to Bush to visit Slovakia. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER RE-ELECTED TO PARTY CHAIR
Prime Minister Dzurinda was re-elected chairman of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) at a party convention in Bratislava on 24 November, TASR reported. He ran unopposed, garnering 229 votes. Two votes were cast against and 11 votes were deemed invalid. As SDKU deputy chairmen, the forum elected Foreign Minister Kukan, Defense Minister Simko, Finance Minister Ivan Miklos, deputy parliamentary speaker Zuzana Martinakova, and the SDKU parliamentary group's second in command, Deputy Milan Hart. Ivan Harman was elected SDKU secretary-general, replacing Simko in that position. The forum also approved a document stating that the SDKU "rejects any experiment in social engineering, leftist demagogy, [or] the vain populism of the so-called Third Way" -- the last a clear reference to Smer (Direction) Chairman Robert Fico. MS

SLOVAK PROSECUTORS CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION
A Kosice regional investigator on 23 November charged three of the region's prosecutors and two other citizens with bribery, CTK reported, citing Slovak Television. A police spokesman said one of the prosecutors in January accepted a 100,000-crown ($2,330) bribe from a lawyer and another individual in order to free two Ukrainian nationals charged with cigarette smuggling. Accompanied by a colleague from the Kosice prosecutor's office, he allegedly then traveled to Humenne, eastern Slovakia, securing a promise from the local prosecutor to release the two men within a fortnight. If found guilty, the three prosecutors face up to eight years in jail, while the two who offered the bribe face three years behind bars. This is the first time prosecutors have been charged with accepting bribes in Slovakia. MS

HUNGARIAN LEADERS DISCUSS EU ACCESSION AT NATO SUMMIT
Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy on 22 November held bilateral talks on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Prague with his Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Portuguese, and Belgian counterparts, primarily to discuss Hungary's expected entry to the EU, Hungarian dailies reported the next day. Regarding the abolition of tax breaks that do not conform to EU regulations, Medgyessy said Hungary cannot accept any retroactive measures that disadvantage employers who create jobs in Hungary. He also reiterated that the EU's preferred level of 25 percent of direct agricultural funding is low and the 10-year transition period to full funding is unacceptable for Hungary. Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs urged German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer after the summit to use their influence to ensure that Hungary is granted a number of seats in the European Parliament that is proportionate to its population level. MSZ

HUNGARIAN CONSERVATIVE OPPOSITION THREATENS STREET PROTESTS OVER PRIVATIZATION
The opposition FIDESZ is setting up a "privatization monitoring" body and will organize demonstrations, if necessary, to protest the sale of particular companies, the party's deputy parliamentary group leader, Antal Rogan, told journalists on 22 November. FIDESZ has submitted 35 amendments to the 2003 budget in an effort to prevent what Rogan called "the almost-total privatization" of 400 billion forints ($1.6 billion) in state assets, "Magyar Nemzet" reported. It appears the cabinet wants to finance the budget deficit with privatization revenues, Rogan continued, claiming that the government "urges, supports, and even finds desirable a Russian presence in Hungary." The Russians left Hungary only 11 years ago and are now once again back, "not with weapons but with money," he said. Rogan noted Economics Minister Istvan Csillag's recent announcement that Hungary expects Russian participation in privatizations within the oil and gas industries, including plans to sell state shares in Hungarian oil company MOL to Russia's LUKoil. MSZ

'THE GUARDIAN' ALLEGES YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT KNEW OF ARMS SALES TO IRAQ...
London's "The Guardian" reported on 25 November that: "Yugoslavia is the hub for East European arms smugglers and military experts who have been supplying [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein with crucial equipment and know-how to help him frustrate a U.S. air campaign against Iraq. Senior Western officials and regional analysts say that Serbia is the center of the illicit trade.... The trade has been going on for some time, and has even increased since the toppling of [President] Slobodan Milosevic, a Saddam ally, in 2000." The daily added: "Despite claims by senior Yugoslav officials, including President Vojislav Kostunica, that they knew nothing of the trade, documents seen by 'The Guardian' show that the Kostunica administration was warned in January [2002] by its Foreign Ministry of the damage being done by its trading with Iraq. The Kostunica cabinet then voted to continue with the clandestine deals" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 October and 8 November 2002). PM

...WHICH REMAINS A BOOMING BUSINESS...
"The Guardian" also reported on 25 November that a new study by the NGO International Crisis Group (ICG) concludes that, "According to [unspecified] diplomatic sources, the pace of arms sales to Iraq may have increased during 2002." The daily added that an unnamed "senior Western official told 'The Guardian': 'Just about every defense company in [Yugoslavia] sold to Iraq via Syria or via a third country.'" The paper also noted that unnamed "U.S. diplomats in the Balkans say a string of defense plants in Serbia, Bosnia, and Montenegro have supplied Baghdad with -- among other weapons -- armor-piercing missiles, rockets, anti-tank ammunition, tank engines, various explosives, chemical stabilizers, and grenade launchers, as well as missile fuel, MiG aircraft engines, spare parts, and expert advice on how to configure air defenses against the U.S." PM

...WITH IMPLICATIONS FOR THE WAR AGAINST TERROR...
On 25 November, "The Guardian" quoted the new ICG report as saying that the group's findings "show the urgency of Yugoslavia taking steps to stop exports of any kind of arms or technology that could be used in any way for terrorist activities, or that could be used by these countries to manufacture weapons of mass destruction." The daily quoted the Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic as saying the arms trade is not the government's responsibility. PM

...AS YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT'S ALLIES BASH 'AMERICAN IMPERIALISM' IN BAGHDAD
"The Guardian" noted on 25 November that: "The ICG investigation also claims that [unnamed] allies of Mr. Kostunica visited Baghdad last year for a conference devoted to attacking U.S. policy in the Balkans and the Middle East. 'The conference resolution unanimously condemned 'American imperialism and hegemony' and everything the U.S. was doing in Afghanistan, Palestine, and Iraq, and had done in Yugoslavia.'" PM

MACEDONIA, YUGOSLAVIA, AND BULGARIA MARK THEIR COMMON BORDER
In a ceremony near Gradiste on 24 November, Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva, Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic, and Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Petkov officially began the process of demarcating the border between Yugoslavia and Macedonia, MIA news agency reported. The ministers set up a symbolic column marking the point where the three countries' borders come together. After the ceremony, Mitreva and Svilanovic met with their Bulgarian counterpart Soloman Pasi in the monastery of St. Joakim Osogovski. Asked about the objections by Kosovar leaders to the right of Belgrade to determine the border between Kosova and Macedonia, Mitreva noted that "all relevant factors" in the international community recognize the border as agreed between Skopje and Belgrade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March 2001). Svilanovic ruled out any further border changes that would impinge on the sovereignty of the countries involved. He did not rule out minor adjustments on practical grounds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 May 2002). UB

U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE VISITS SLOVENIA
Donald Rumsfeld paid a brief visit to Slovenia on 23 November, where he watched crack specialized troops perform a mock exercise, Reuters reported. "The country is on a good track," he said. Recent polls suggest that public opinion is about evenly split over NATO membership, which some Slovenes fear will expose their country to terrorist attacks and higher defense costs. But Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek said during Rumsfeld's visit, "The security that we [enjoy] today is also a result of NATO's and the U.S.'s intervention in the Balkans. We expect now that the invitation has been issued [for Slovenia to join NATO], support [for membership] will only increase" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2002). Slovenia plans to end conscription by 2004 and increase the number of professional soldiers from 5,000 to 18,000 by 2010. The number of reservists will drop during the same period from 30,000 to 19,000. PM

MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT SET TO RESIGN
In a widely expected move, Milo Djukanovic is slated to resign as president of Montenegro on 25 November, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Shortly afterward, parliamentary speaker Filip Vujanovic is expected to propose Djukanovic to the legislature as the new prime minister (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 21 November 2002). PM

BOSNIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC LEADER RETURNED TO PARTY OFFICE
Delegates to the congress of the Social Democratic Party (SDPBiH) voted in Sarajevo on 24 November to keep Zlatko Lagumdzija as party leader, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The new deputy chairmen are Alija Behmen, Zeljko Komsic, and Mladen Grahovac, while the general secretary is Svetozar Pudaric. Four of the party's leading members -- Sejfudin Tokic, Sead Avdic, Miro Lazovic, and Ivo Komsic -- resigned to protest the decision to keep Lagumdzija as party chairman. They hold him and his leadership style responsible at least in part for the party's defeat in the 5 October general elections. The four men are expected to found a new party. PM

CONFISCATED BOSNIAN SERB ARMS CACHE PROVES HUGE
SFOR spokesman Yves Vanier said in Sarajevo on 22 November that the cache of arms that NATO peacekeepers found recently in Prijedor is "very, very large," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2002). "We are talking about more than 20 types of extremely dangerous material," he added. Vanier noted that the cache included an unspecified quantity of mortars, mortar shells, bazookas, mines, and machinegun ammunition, as well as 300,000 rounds of small ammunition. Vanier declined to answer a reporter's question as to how peacekeepers learned about the hidden weapons. PM

CONTROVERSIAL CROATIAN JUDGE FREES EIGHT AFTER WAR CRIMES ACQUITTAL
Judge Slavko Lozina freed eight former military officers after declaring them not guilty of involvement in war crimes against Serbs at the Lora military prison in 1992, AP reported from Zagreb on 22 November. The Split-based judge said atrocities were committed at the prison, adding, however, "There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that any of these suspects committed them." Tonci Majic, who heads the independent human rights group that monitored the trial, called Lozina's verdict "a complete outrage." Lozina has made no secret of his nationalist views, and many critics have demanded his exclusion from war crimes trials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July and 19 September 2002). PM

U.S. PRESIDENT ADDRESSES CHEERING CROWD IN BUCHAREST...
President George W. Bush told a cheering crowd in Bucharest's Revolution Square on 23 November that Romania "brings moral clarity to our NATO alliance.... You know the difference between good and evil, because you have seen evil's face," AP reported. Bush also said that the courage of Romanians, who rose to topple dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, should inspire others to tackle aggressive dictators like Iraq's Saddam Hussein, dpa reported. Bush told his listeners that "the path of freedom you have chosen is not easy, but is the only path worth taking," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Bush stressed that he is aware of the fact that "your hardships did not end with [the end of] your oppression," and emphasized that "America respects your labor, your patience, your daily determination to find a better life." "Your effort has been recognized by an offer for NATO membership. We welcome Romania into NATO," he said. MS

...SAYS ATTACK ON ROMANIA IS ATTACK ON U.S. AND NATO
U.S. President Bush assured his audience in Bucharest on 23 November that "the promises of our alliance are sacred and we will keep our pledges to all the nations that join us. Should any danger threaten Romania...the United States of America and NATO will be by your side," RFE/RL reported. "God smiles on us," Bush said after a rainbow appeared in the sky on the rainy November day. President Ion Iliescu, who decorated Bush during his brief four-hour visit, said the moment was a "historic one, marking the definitive break from the past and a new beginning," according to AP. Former King Michael I and former President Emil Constantinescu were also on the official podium at the ceremony. In an interview with Romanian Radio on 24 November, President Iliescu said representatives of the U.S. administration will soon come to Romania to discuss the "concrete implementation" of bilateral cooperation plans agreed to during the discussions between the U.S. and Romanian delegations during Bush's visit. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER SAYS U.S. MISSILE BASES UNDER CONSIDERATION
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said in an interview with dpa on 22 November that Romania is ready to consider hosting U.S. missile bases on its territory, if asked by NATO to do so. He said Romania and Bulgaria could play a "strategic role" in NATO due to their access to the Black Sea and their geographic location between non-NATO states and the western Balkans and Eurasia. Nastase said in an interview with Romanian Radio on 23 November that the results of President Bush's visit will have a "cumulative effect" that will reveal itself over time. Nastase said that in order to enhance these potential effects Romania must improve its economic performance and eliminate corruption, as well as finalize the restitution of property and the privatization process. Finally, the premier said on Romanian Television on 24 November that the government has worked out a precise timetable for meeting objectives in order to ensure that Romania joins the Atlantic alliance by 15 May 2004. MS

FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE ALBRIGHT IN ROMANIA
At the Social Democratic Party Institute in Bucharest on 24 November, Madeleine Albright warned that "the road ahead to NATO accession is still difficult, and much remains to be done," Romanian Television reported. Interviewed on Romanian Television later that day, Albright said the 1997 NATO Madrid summit statement that "NATO's doors remain open" has now materialized. She said that in 1997 Romania was not sufficiently prepared to become a NATO member because at the time it lacked a free-market economy and was not a state based on the rule of law. Since then, she said, the country has made much progress. Albright is visiting Romania as part of the international campaign against HIV/AIDS and is to be received during her visit by President Iliescu and Premier Nastase. MS

ISRAEL REFUSES ENTRY TO PAN-FLUTE VIRTUOSO ZAMFIR
Romanian citizen Gheorghe Zamfir was refused entry to Israel on 22 November on the grounds that he lacked a work permit for the five concerts he was scheduled to perform, AP reported, citing an Interior Ministry spokeswoman. The spokeswoman added that Romanian Jews in Israel had lobbied heavily for Zamfir to be denied entry because of his alleged anti-Semitic views and denial of the Holocaust in Romania. Zamfir occasionally publishes ultranationalist articles in the Greater Romania Party's weekly "Romania mare." A Romanian Television correspondent in Israel said Zamfir vowed to hold a public press conference to distance himself from the opinions attributed to him and to donate to a fund for Romania's Holocaust survivors. The Interior Ministry spokeswoman added that Zamfir never applied for a work permit and therefore his alleged anti-Semitic views were not investigated and thus did not play any role in his being denied entry. According to AP, the only person in the group of artists accompanying Zamfir who was eligible for entry was his Jewish wife. Zamfir can still apply for a permit next week, according to the spokeswoman. Zamfir refused to comment on the incident, telling Romanian Television only that he had been contacted by former Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and by the mayor of Tel Aviv, adding that he "awaits a clarification" before reacting publicly. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER SAYS HE EXPECTS RELATIONS WITH MOLDOVA TO IMPROVE
Prime Minister Nastase said in Prague on 22 November that relations between Bucharest and Chisinau should improve following Romania's invitation to join NATO, Romanian Radio reported. Nastase said that "there is no rational reason" to believe bilateral relations will deteriorate as a result of the invitation. He added that the two sides must focus on finding the best channels of communication to solve current disagreements. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT RAISES TRANSDNIESTER ISSUE AT PRAGUE SUMMIT
Addressing the Euro-Atlantic Council during the Prague NATO summit on 22 November, President Vladimir Voronin said NATO's Euro-Atlantic Partnership should urgently focus its attention on solving pending regional conflicts, citing the Transdniester conflict as a good example, Flux reported. That conflict, he said, not only endangers regional security but is triggered by the existence of "a totalitarian enclave" that "grossly thwarts the democratic rights of my countrymen." Furthermore, he said, the separatist region's political problems have been dwarfed by criminal aspects. He said the Transdniester produces illegal weapons and traffics in them, having transformed itself into a "black" offshore zone that endangers the security of Southeastern Europe as a whole. Voronin said that not long ago he used to be opposed to NATO expansion, which he viewed as a path to renewed East-West confrontation. However, now he believes those perceptions belong to the past because today's world is confronted with an entirely different set of problems, such as international terrorism. MS

MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES BILL DEPRIVING CHISINAU MAYOR OF CABINET SEAT
Parliament approved a bill on 22 November that would annul the automatic cabinet post given to the mayor of Chisinau, Flux reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2002). The bill was supported by the Party of Moldovan Communists majority and opposed by deputies representing the opposition Braghis Alliance and the Popular Party Christian Democratic. MS

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT FACES VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE FROM CONSERVATIVE OPPOSITION...
The conservative opposition United Democratic Forces (ODS) moved a vote of no confidence on 22 November because of what it called a "gross and unprecedented violation of the constitution" by the government, BTA reported. According to the ODS, the government violated the constitution when it signed an agreement with the EU closing the energy chapter of the EU's acquis communautaire (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 2002). Under the agreement, Bulgaria committed itself to close down blocks No. 3 and No. 4 of the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant by 2006 at the latest. Parliament, however, has decided that the blocks in question should under no circumstances be closed down prior to Bulgaria's EU accession, which will be in 2007 at the earliest. UB

...AND FROM THE SOCIALIST OPPOSITION...
Socialist Party (BSP) Chairman Sergey Stanishev has signaled that his party has also decided to move a vote of no confidence in the government, mediapool.bg reported on 22 November. He added that the BSP will possibly support the ODS's vote of no confidence if their rationale coincides. However, he also accused the ODS of causing the current problems involving the nuclear-power plant when Prime Minister Ivan Kostov's ODS-led government signed a memorandum with the EU in 1999 under which blocks No.3 and No. 4 must be decommissioned by 2006. "Apparently, the [ODS] feels...guilty for the whole situation with the nuclear-power plant and now it wants to clear its record with [this] move," Stanishev said. UB

...AS RULING COALITION SAYS VOTE WOULD BRING BAD PUBLICITY AT THE WRONG TIME
Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski said on 24 November that he believes a vote of no confidence in the government at this time would be "a bad advertisement for Bulgaria," BTA reported. "I always think of Bulgaria first," Saxecoburggotski added. Parliamentary speaker Ognyan Gerdzhikov of the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) said the ODS's move was "ill-considered" at a time when Bulgaria has scored two major foreign-policy successes -- its invitation to join NATO and the EU's verification of 1 January 2007 as the target date for Bulgaria's accession to the union. According to Gerdzhikov, the vote of no confidence will strengthen the ruling coalition of the NDSV and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS). "The ruling majority can categorically cope with the no-confidence motion submitted by the ODS, as well as with a no-confidence motion proposed by the [BSP] because there are no grounds for such motions," NDSV parliamentary group leader Plamen Panayotov said. UB

There is no End Note today.


AFGHAN SECURITY FOILS ATTEMPT TO ASSASSINATE DEFENSE MINISTER...
The Afghan National Security Department prevented an attempt to assassinate Defense Minister Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim on 22 November in the affluent Wazir Mohammad Akbar Khan district of Kabul, Radio Afghanistan reported the next day. The would-be assassin identified himself as an Iraqi citizen named Nur Mohammad but later reports identified him as Bukan Akram Taufiq Herami and as Bukan Akram Taufiq Muramy. The individual reportedly has links to Taliban commanders Jalaluddin Haqqani, Mawlawi Mansur, and Akhtar Mohammad Usmani. The man spent four months in Kashmir before entering Afghanistan, according to the radio report. Afghan resistance leader Ahmad Shah Masud, who was the defense minister of the pre-Taliban regime, was assassinated on 9 September 2001 by two Arabs posing a journalists. AT

...IN WHICH PRESIDENT WAS REPORTEDLY THE INITIAL TARGET OF THE PERPETRATOR...
"The New York Times" reported on 24 November that the would-be assassin, whom it named as Bukan Akram Taufiq Herami, is a 22-year-old Iraqi Kurd who "admitted under interrogation that he had planned to ambush...[Afghan President Hamid] Karzai's motorcade as the president returned from the airport on his arrival from New York." He reportedly strapped 10 kilograms of explosives to his body in a bid to ambush President Karzai's motorcade. However, when he "found that the president was still abroad, he changed to his fallback plan, which was to throw himself at Marshal Fahim's car," according to the New York daily. AT

...WHO IS SAID TO HAVE PAKISTANI CONNECTION
Afghan intelligence officer Amrollah Salehi told a news conference on 23 November that the would-be assassin had "clear links with Taliban leaders and some Pakistani extremist groups," Reuters reported. Salehi also said that the incident "clearly demonstrated that the enemy of peace and the enemy of Afghanistan, the terrorist who we fight against together with the international community, has time, resources, expertise, and the network for such operations," "The New York Times" reported on 24 November. AT

AFGHAN PRESIDENT'S BODYGUARDS TO BE REPLACED
The U.S. Special Forces officers who guard President Karzai are to be replaced by guards from DynCorp Inc., a U.S.-based private military contractor, "The Daily Telegraph" reported on 25 November. "The move by Washington, which had detailed elite soldiers to replace a motley band of local bodyguards amid constant death threats, comes despite the extreme risk" the Afghan president faces, the daily commented. Karzai has survived three assassination attempts in the past three months, including one on 5 September in Kandahar in which the president's U.S. bodyguards shot a gunman who fired on Karzai. While Karzai is said to have personally requested that U.S. forces protect him, many Afghans reportedly do not like seeing their president constantly surrounded by foreign forces. AT

AFGHAN PAPER REPORTS THAT U.S. CHOPPER DOWNED
The Kabul newspaper "Sahar" published an unconfirmed report on 23 November that a U.S. helicopter involved in operations against Taliban commander Mulla Mansur in the Shahi Kot area of Paktiya Province was shot down, killing 12 personnel on board, the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported. Mulla Mansur is one of the people named by Afghan authorities as being behind the attempt to assassinate Defense Minister Fahim. The reported downing of the helicopter was not confirmed by any other source. AT

ISAF COMMANDER WORRIED ABOUT IRAQ SITUATION
Major General Hilmi Akin Zorlu, the Turkish commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, said at a 22 November news conference at the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C., that he and other ISAF commanders fear that "if there is any Iraq operation, it means terrorist attacks against ISAF may start," AP reported. Zorlu said he does not believe the ISAF will soon be deployed beyond its current mandate of protecting Kabul, as the international community "could not agree on this necessity," AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 November 2002). AT

BASIJIS RALLY IN TEHRAN AGAINST ARROGANT AMERICAN POLICIES
Volunteer militias known as the "Basiji" forces rallied in Tehran on 24 November in front of the former U.S. Embassy to protest U.S. "interventionist and arrogant policies," IRNA reported. "Iran became outraged after U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in Washington recently that he saw signs of an early overthrow of the Islamic Republic by the Iranian people, or the government collapse," the news agency added. Two weeks ago, former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani responded to Rumsfeld's comments by saying that "Mr. Secretary can take this hope into hell," IRNA reported. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi has said that "despite a slight change of tone in U.S. rhetoric toward Iran recently" the two countries remain at odds with even "more distrust" between them, according to IRNA. AT

HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP WARNS AGAINST MORE VIOLENCE IN IRAN
Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned in a report released on 22 November that the threats Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made against student demonstrators during his Friday prayer sermon on 22 November "could spark a repeat of [the July] 1999 paramilitary violence in Iran" conducted against students. According to HRW, Khamenei ordered students who participated in protests this month against the death sentence imposed on university Professor Hashem Aghajari to "return to their homes" or "the people will intervene" against them. HRW said "it was concerned that the leader's apparent threat to act extra-constitutionally reflected the depth of the crisis in Iran and could lead to bloodshed." The report noted that in 1999, several hundred students were injured "when irregular, unidentified forces stormed student dormitories and assaulted students in the streets in Tehran and other [Iranian] cities." AT

EXPERT SAYS U.S. AND IRAN HAVE MUTUAL INTEREST IN DISARMING IRAQ
David Phillips, an expert from the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations think tank commented in the "International Herald Tribune" on 25 November on many of the goals he believes the United States and Iran share regarding Iraq. According to Phillips, both countries have an interest in disarming and, perhaps, removing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power. Phillips added that the United States and Iran share an interest in "managing Iraq after a regime change" and "are adamant about preserving Iraq's territorial integrity." In addition, he said, "Both are committed to contain vigilantism and revenge taking that might destabilize the country. And both want to ensure that Iraq's ethnic and religious [groups] secure their political and cultural rights in a post-Saddam Iraq." AT

IRANIAN BORDER GUARD KILLED
Unidentified gunmen shot and killed one Iranian border guard and wounded another on 21 November near the Iranian-Turkish border town of Chaldoran in West Azerbaijan Province, IRNA reported on 25 November. The shots were fired from Turkish territory and an investigative committee has been set up to look into the matter, according to the report. AT

IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER SENDS FOLLOW-UP LETTER TO UN
Iraqi Satellite TV on 24 November reported on the text of Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri's second letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan addressing Iraq's concerns over UN Security Council Resolution 1441. Sabri's letter dated 23 November stated that the terms of the resolution violate international law, previous UN resolutions, and the UN Charter, according to the television station. He said in the letter that the resolution distorts Iraq's cooperation, "for it is this cooperation with the former UN Special Commission [UNSCOM] and the IAEA that enabled the two bodies to accomplish their tasks in the disarmament field," according to the report. Sabri also criticized the inclusion of the term in the resolution "giving Iraq a final opportunity to comply with its obligations." "Despite the withdrawal of the inspectors and the fact that some of them carried out espionage on Iraq's security and vital national interests and also provoked crises; and despite the fact that the report by the last UNSCOM chairman was used by the United States and Britain as a cover for their treacherous aggression on 16 December 1998, Iraq has taken the initiative and held a dialogue with the secretary-general since February 2000," Sabri's s letter stated. KR

IRAQI PRESIDENT REDEPLOYS REPUBLICAN GUARD
Cairo's "Al-Qanat" reported on 24 November that President Saddam Hussein has redeployed Republican Guard troops outside Baghdad in the areas of Al-Suwayrah, Al-Rashidiyah, Al-Nahrawan, and Al-Taji. Citing an "informed source," the report said the decision came as a result of "suspicion" by the regime that the Republican Guard forces might try to launch a coup if left in Baghdad. However, these areas have been suspected in the past of harboring chemical and biological weapons facilities, and the deployment of troops could somehow be related to UN weapons inspections. KR

PUK LEADER PREDICTS 'CHAOS' IF OPPOSITION IS EXCLUDED FROM MILITARY OPERATION IN IRAQ...
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Secretary-General Jalal Talabani told London's "Al-Hayat" on 25 November that there would be "sweeping chaos, disasters, and possible sectarian clashes" in Iraq if the opposition is not allowed to participate in a U.S.-led attack to bring down President Hussein's regime. Talabani said he expects the situation inside Iraq to get out of control but said the opposition "is capable of controlling the situation in Baghdad if there is a popular uprising." When asked about the possibility of sectarian clashes, he said there "is an understanding with other parties operating inside the country." He added that it will be necessary for the opposition to organize well in order to control the streets in Iraq, should Hussein be removed from power. Talabani also predicted that a U.S.-led attack will occur between February and March 2003. Talabani earlier predicted that the United States would attack Iraq in the first week of December 2002. KR

...AS 'NATIONAL-ACCORD PLAN' FLOATED IN BAGHDAD
The European-based opposition group The Iraqi National Alliance has sent a delegation to Baghdad to discuss a "national-accord plan" that would allow for the inclusion of opposition parties in a Saddam Hussein-led government, "Al-Hayat" reported on 23 November. The plan calls for the dissolution of the Bath party, as well as the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), which would be replaced by a national-security council. A transitional national-unity government would then be established and a new constitution written. A general amnesty would also be issued to allow for the return of exiles and dissidents to Iraq. "We were surprised to see that the Iraqi leadership...proposed formulating a new constitution and reactivating political life through political pluralism and issuing a law on parties and the press," National Alliance spokesman Awni al-Qalamji told Al-Jazeera on 23 November. Al-Qalamji added that Iraqi RCC Vice Chairman Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri will head the committee to draft a new constitution. KR

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