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Newsline - December 2, 2002


PRESIDENT TO BOLSTER 'STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP' WITH CHINA...
President Vladimir Putin on 1 December arrived in Beijing for a three-day official visit, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Putin met the same day with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who will step down from his post in the spring. Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Putin said that there are no "points of irritation" in Sino-Russian relations and that the talks were "very friendly, but extremely businesslike." The presidents signed a joint declaration committing both countries to "deepening [their] strategic partnership." Both Jiang and Putin called for a reduction of tensions between North and South Korea and for the normalization of relations between Pyongyang, Tokyo, and Washington. The purpose of Putin's visit is to correct an imbalance in relations between Russia and China that emerged following recent Kremlin agreements with Washington and NATO, the BBC commented on 2 December. Russia is the only country with which China has signed a strategic-partnership treaty. Putin intends to bolster Russia's position in China's changing political landscape. He will seek to cement his ties with Vice President Hu Jintao, who took over from Jiang as head of China's Communist Party last month and who is expected to succeed Jiang as president, ORT and "Izvestiya" added on 2 December. VY

...AS THE TWO COUNTRIES LOOK FOR QUANTUM LEAP IN TRADE
Russia's Vneshtorgbank has signed a memorandum for a $300 million credit line with the Bank of China and other Chinese financial institutions, nns.ru reported on 2 December. This increases China's total credit line to Russia to $500 million. Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev, who is accompanying President Putin in Beijing, said his ministry is hoping to get an order to build three new nuclear reactors in China. "Russian-Chinese nuclear cooperation is permanent and serious," Rumyantsev said. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 2 December that the two countries have ambitious plans to boost bilateral trade, which they hope will someday reach the level of Japanese-Chinese or U.S.-Chinese trade. VY

PUTIN DISHES OUT THE PUBLIC RELATIONS
In an interview with Chinese central state television CCCT on 30 November, President Putin stressed his family's interest in Chinese culture, ORT reported the same day. Putin said that one of his daughters is studying Chinese and the Chinese martial art of wushu. Putin also said that he attributes his high popularity rating in Russia to the fact that he has brought stability to a people who are weary of constant reforms since 1985. "God forbid that you live in a time of change," Putin said, quoting a Chinese proverb. He added, however, that stability does not imply stagnation or decay. He concluded that he manages to get a lot done because he enjoys what he does. VY

REPORT: MEDIA BOSSES, KREMLIN AGREED ON NEW MEDIA LAW
The Industrial Committee of leading media corporations and the government and Duma have agreed that a new mass media law should be adopted rather than simply amendments to the old one, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 29 November. According to the committee's head, ORT General Director Konstantin Ernst, the new media law will not directly restrict the activity of journalists, but it will contain reference to the law on combating terrorism and other relevant legislation. Ernst said that in addition to the new law, the journalistic community will draft and adopt a voluntary code of professional conduct for the coverage of extreme situations. VY

GENERAL LAUDS INTERIOR MINISTRY TROOPS
Army General Vladislav Tikhomirov, commander of the Interior Ministry's internal troops, announced that he currently commands 193,000 men and that the number will be reduced by 3,000 as the force is transformed into a National Guard (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October and 20 November 2002), RIA-Novosti reported on 28 November. Tikhomirov added that he believes his forces did a good job in 2002, despite "the expansion of international terrorism" and the increasing tensions in some regions of the country. He said that his force assigned additional 4,200 troops to protect strategically important installations in 2002 and began the creation of six new special-forces units. Tikhomirov said the ministry's internal troops lost 133 men this year in Chechnya. VY

DUMA PREPARES TO FINALIZE 2003 BUDGET
The State Duma's Budget Committee is preparing the 2003 state budget for its fourth and final reading in the Duma, strana.ru reported on 2 December. Deputies are expected to vote on the budget for the last time on 11 December. Budget Committee Chairman Vitalii Shuba said the committee's meeting will be "purely formal" and no changes to the budget will be introduced. Shuba said that the committee will recommend that the Duma adopt the budget. RC

UPPER CHAMBER WORRIED ABOUT RUSSIA'S IMAGE
The Federation Council will soon begin work to improve Russia's image abroad, RosBalt reported on 29 November. Dmitrii Mezentsev, chairman of the council's Information Policy Commission, spoke to a gathering of editors and journalists in St. Petersburg and said that the goal of the project is to bring an end to "double standards" in foreign reporting about Russia. "The importance of this matter became evident after an analysis of the reports in the foreign press about the [23-26 October Moscow hostage crisis]," Mezentsev said. "It is necessary that the voice of our domestic mass media resound loudly and that the activity of our journalistic community is clear." Mezentsev said that the Federation Council will seek to project an image of Russia as a dynamically developing country. RC

RUSSIAN AIDS CASES NEAR 1 MILLION MARK
There are about 220,500 officially registered cases of HIV infection in Russia, newsru.com reported on 1 December, citing the head of the Federal Center for Preventing and Combating AIDS Vadim Pokrovskii. However, he added, the real number of HIV cases in Russia is likely to be nearly 1 million. "In such circumstances, the issue of preventing the further spread of the disease becomes extremely important," Pokrovskii said. "The epidemic can be stopped only by educating the public about safe practices." Pokrovskii marked International AIDS Day on 1 December by urging the government to devote more resources to combating the disease, noting that at present the state spends about 6 million rubles ($194,000) a year on AIDS treatment and diagnostics. RC

PEOPLE'S PARTY CALLS FOR DEATH PENALTY, CRIMINALIZING HOMOSEXUALITY
Speaking to the founding congress of the People's Party of the Russian Federation (NPRF) in Moscow on 30 November, party leader and Duma Deputy Gennadii Raikov (People's Deputy) said the NPRF will call for the recriminalization of homosexuality, newsru.com reported the same day. He added, however, that the party's focus will be on revitalizing family and spiritual values. Raikov also said that, although it is desirable to ban the death penalty in countries where murder is an extraordinary thing, Russia needs it because there are more than 100,000 murders there each year. VY

CANDIDATES LINE UP FOR MAGADAN RACE
Viktor Cherchenko, a carpenter from the village of Yagodnoe, on 2 December became the second person to register to compete in the 2 February election for governor of Magadan Oblast, RIA-Novosti reported. The first candidate was Magadan Mayor Nikolai Karpenko, who submitted his documents on 29 November, the first day of registration for the ballot. Meanwhile, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich has announced that he will not participate in the election, newsru.com reported on 2 December, citing Abramovich's press secretary. The election is being held to replace Valentin Tsvetkov, who was murdered in Moscow on 18 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2002). RC

RUSSIAN SETS WORLD ROWING RECORD
Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov set a world record for solo rowing by crossing the Atlantic Ocean on 2 December when he reached the Caribbean island of Barbados, lenta.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. Konyukhov's 7-meter boat made the 5,400 kilometer crossing in 45 days, smashing the previous record for an east-west crossing of 57 days set by Frenchman Emmanuel Coindre in 2001. Konyukhov is the first Russian to row across the Atlantic Ocean. RC

INTERIOR MINISTER ENDORSES PARTY MEMBERSHIP FOR MINISTERS
Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, who was recently elected chairman of the High Council of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2002), said on 29 November that he believes government ministers should be allowed to be members of political parties, Interfax reported the same day. "In such cases, the responsibility of public officials would be increased -- [responsibility] before the party and, that means, before society as well," Gryzlov said, speaking to a Moscow conference of regional journalists sponsored by Unified Russia. RC

SARATOV CRAWLING WITH FOREIGN AGENTS?
Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov estimated on 1 December that there are "about 50" foreign spies working in his oblast, izvestia.ru reported on 2 December. Ayatskov was speaking to reporters on the eve of a visit to Saratov by U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow. RC

FORCED REPATRIATION TO CHECHNYA CONDEMNED
The EU and international human rights organizations have expressed concern over reports that the Chechen and Ingush authorities plan to expedite the closure of displaced-persons camps in Ingushetia and send all Chechen fugitives back to their home republic by early 2003, Interfax reported on 28 and 29 November. In Grozny, a spokeswoman for Chechen Prime Minister Mikhail Babich told Interfax on 28 November that no one will be forced to return and that those who do so will receive a daily allowance of 20 rubles ($0.66). But Chechen Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudaev said that until the Chechen authorities succeed in establishing close cooperation with the Russian forces to prevent reprisals by the latter against the civilian population, it will prove difficult to persuade Chechen displaced persons to return from Ingushetia, Interfax reported on 25 November. LF

TEN ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES NOMINATED...
Since 26 November five more candidates have been formally nominated for the February 2003 Armenian presidential election, bringing the total to 10. The five most recent nominees are United Armenians Party Chairman Ruben Avagian, former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian, Democratic Party of Armenia Chairman Aram Sarkisian, National Democratic Union Chairman Vazgen Manukian, and Garnik Markarian, deputy chairman of the Fatherland and Honor Party, Noyan Tapan reported on 29 November. LF

...INCLUDING FORMER ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER...
In a 27 November statement confirming his intention to contest the presidential ballot, Hovannisian said he feels duty-bound to do so in order to rectify "the present chaotic socioeconomic and ethical state" of Armenia, Noyan Tapan reported. But observers anticipate that Hovannisian, who was born in the United States, will be denied registration on the grounds that he has not been a citizen of the Republic of Armenia for 10 years as stipulated by the constitution. He was granted Armenian citizenship only in August 2001. LF

...BUT NOT FORMER PRESIDENT
The former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) held its 13th congress in Yerevan on 28 November, but the 350 delegates failed to address the issue of nominating a presidential candidate, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. HHSh Chairman Alexander Arzoumanian said the party has not decided whether to nominate its own candidate or endorse a candidate from another party. Observers surmised that former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, who attended the congress, has finally let it be known that he is not willing to run (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 23, 1 July and No. 37, 14 November 2002). LF

CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST KARABAKH PRESIDENT UNREALISTIC
Azerbaijan's Prosecutor-General Zakir Qaralov admitted on 26 November that his office cannot bring criminal charges against Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), because the Azerbaijani central government does not control that territory, according to ANS television as cited by Groong. Qaralov's deputy, Ramiz Rzaev, had said the previous day that a criminal case is being prepared against Ghukasian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November 2002). Vahram Atanesian, who chairs the NKR parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, argued that Azerbaijan's parliament abolished the NKR's autonomous status in 1991 and thus deprived itself of the opportunity to apply any legal measures against the unrecognized republic, according to Arminfo on 27 November as cited by Groong. LF

GEORGIA GIVES GO-AHEAD FOR OIL-EXPORT PIPELINE
Following lengthy talks between British Petroleum President David Woodward, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Georgian Minister of Natural Resources Nino Chkhobadze on 30 November, Georgia withdrew its objections to routing the planned Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan export pipeline for Caspian oil via Georgia's Borzhomi Gorge, just hours before the deadline for doing so, Georgian and Russian agencies reported. Georgian experts and environmentalists had expressed concern that the pipeline could destroy the ecological balance in the gorge, which is noted for mineral springs whose water provides some 10 percent of Georgia's exports (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November 2002). On 1 December, the Ministry of Natural Resources issued a formal permit allowing the commencement of construction to the BP-led consortium formed to build the pipeline, Interfax reported. LF

GEORGIA TO EXTRADITE THREE CHECHENS TO RUSSIA
Three of the six Chechen fighters still being held in Georgia after entering the country illegally in early August will be extradited to Russia, Georgian Prosecutor-General Nugzar Gabrichidze told journalists in Tbilisi on 29 November. Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze said the same day the Georgian decision is consistent with both Georgian and Russian legislation and international regulations, according to Interfax. Lawyers for the three men have appealed that decision in a Tbilisi district court, Caucasus Press reported on 30 November. In a statement released on 2 December and posted on chechenpress.com, Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov condemned the 26 November ruling by the European Human Rights Court not to prolong its recommendation to Tbilisi not to hand over the Chechens to Moscow. Akhmadov appealed to the Georgian leadership not to extradite the three men. LF

ABKHAZ PREMIER FIRED
Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba dismissed Anri Djergenia as prime minister on 29 November, reportedly for his failure to ensure fulfillment of budget targets, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. The previous day, however, Finance Minister Lili Bghanba had reported that the budget for the first 11 months of 2002 was fulfilled by 107 percent. Ardzinba appointed to succeed Djergenia Gennadii Gagulia, who served as prime minister from 1995-98 and most recently as chairman of Abkhazia's Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Abkhaz Vice President Valerii Arshba said Gagulia's appointment does not herald any changes in the unrecognized republic's policy of close political and economic ties with Russia. In Tbilisi, Georgian National Security Committee Chairman Tedo Djaparidze expressed the hope that Gagulia's appointment will expedite a settlement of the unresolved conflict, Interfax reported on 29 November. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT SAYS ARRESTED JOURNALIST'S GUILT PROVEN
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels on 29 November following talks with European Commission President Romano Prodi, Nursultan Nazarbaev claimed that biological tests have proven that arrested journalist Sergei Duvanov is guilty of raping an underage girl, Reuters reported. Duvanov claims he is innocent and that the charges against him are fabricated. No date has been set for his trial. LF

KAZAKH PARLIAMENT ADOPTS 2003 BUDGET
In a joint session on 26 November, the two chambers of Kazakhstan's parliament approved in the first reading the draft budget for 2003, Interfax reported. Parliament approved the budget in the second and final reading on 29 November, Russian agencies reported. The draft sets revenues at 631.6 billion tenges ($4.1 billion) and expenditures at 714.4 billion tenges. The resulting 82.2 billion tenge deficit is equal to 2 percent of GDP. GDP growth for 2003 was projected at 6 percent; inflation is not expected to exceed 5.9 percent; the average exchange rate for the tenge is predicted at 161 to the U.S. dollar; and export prices for Kazakh oil at $15.60 per barrel. Prime Minister Imomaliy Tasmaghambetov described the budget as "creative" and geared toward the social sector, in contrast to the budgets for 1998-2000 which, he said, were geared toward "survival," according to Interfax. LF

THREE POLICE SENTENCED FOR ATTACK ON KAZAKH JOURNALIST
An Almaty district court has sentenced three former police officers to 12 months' imprisonment for attacking and injuring television journalist Artur Platonov in August, Interfax reported on 27 November. Platonov suffered a broken nose in the assault (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19, 21, and 22 August 2002). LF

FORMER KAZAKH MINISTER CHARGED WITH EMBEZZLEMENT
Ablay Myrzakhmetov, who was fired as minister of transport and communications one year ago after an audit revealed financial irregularities in the railroad system, which he had earlier headed, has been formally charged with embezzling over 3.3 billion tenges, Interfax reported on 28 November. Myrzakhmetov threatened in April 2002 to sue the Prosecutor-General's Office for damaging his reputation after it announced that he would be charged with corruption and affirmed that he is innocent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 2002). LF

KYRGYZ OFFICIALS RESPOND TO U.S. STATEMENT
Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov, presidential aide Bolot Djanuzakov, and First Deputy Prime Minister Kurmanbek Osmonov held a press conference in Bishkek on 28 November to address issues raised in a statement released two days earlier by the U.S. embassy in Bishkek, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and Interfax reported. The U.S. statement expressed support for the Kyrgyz people's right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and proposed a dialogue between the authorities and the opposition. Aitmatov stressed that the authorities have used exclusively constitutional methods to disperse protesters and maintain stability. Djanuzakov and Osmonov again accused the opposition of seeking to seize power at any price (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2002). LF

DISCUSSION OF KYRGYZ CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS EXTENDED
President Askar Akaev signed a decree on 29 November extending from 2 December until 2 January 2003 the public discussion of constitutional amendments proposed by the Constitutional Assembly in October, akipress.org and RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Those proposals focus on the redistribution of power between the legislature and executive to grant greater powers to the former (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2002). A national referendum on the changes was tentatively planned for 22 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2002). LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT VISITS SOUTH
Askar Akaev met on 28 November with residents of Djalalabad and assured them that opposition allegations that Kyrgyzstan accepted money in return for territorial concessions to China are untrue, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Akaev said if the opposition acted more constructively, the government would agree to enter into a dialogue with its representatives. He appealed to the population to participate in the upcoming referendum on constitutional amendments. Also on 28 November, Akaev dismissed Justice Minister Daniyar Narynbaev at Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev's suggestion, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. On 30 November, Akaev visited Batken Oblast where he warned that the authorities will no longer tolerate opposition actions that violate the law or the constitution, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. LF

KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT ADOPTS 2003 BUDGET
The People's Assembly (the upper parliament chamber) on 28 November approved in its second and final reading the budget for 2003, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Despite IMF criticism that both revenue and expenditure targets are unrealistic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October and 1 November 2002), the final draft increased planned spending by 464 million soms to 13.96 billion soms ($297.9 million), partly in order to cover a planned 50 percent pay increase for the country's police force. LF

TAJIK DEFENSE OFFICIAL DENIES TAJIK WEAPONS FOUND IN CHECHNYA
Chief of the General Staff Ramil Nadirov told journalists in Dushanbe on 29 November there is no truth to Russian media reports that Igla anti-aircraft missile systems that Tajikistan inherited from the Soviet army have been found during antiterrorism operations in Chechnya, Interfax reported. He said the Tajik armed forces never received any such armaments from the Soviet armed forces. Colonel Akbar Kayumov, who commands Tajikistan's Air Defense troops, admitted that they now have such weapons but that stringent controls preclude any going missing. LF

RUSSIA DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN BID TO KILL TURKMEN PRESIDENT
Russian Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov on 26 November dismissed as absurd Turkmen presidential aide Sardar Durdyev's claim that unnamed Russian political figures were involved in the abortive 25 November assassination attempt on President Saparmurat Niyazov, Interfax reported. On 1 December, Interfax also quoted an unnamed official from the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office as denying a 28 November statement by the Turkmen embassy in Moscow that Ashgabat had requested Moscow's help in finding former officials suspected of having planned the assassination attempt. "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 30 November quoted one of those officials, former Deputy Prime Minister Khudaiberdy Orazov, as suggesting that Niyazov staged the apparent attack himself. LF

AFGHAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS UZBEKISTAN
Visiting Tashkent on 27 November, Abdullah Abdullah met with his Uzbek counterpart Abdulaziz Komilov to discuss bilateral relations, the restoration of the Afghan economy, and cooperation in the fight against international terrorism and drug trafficking, Russian agencies reported. Abdullah expressed thanks for Uzbekistan's participation in restoring Afghanistan's infrastructure and its efforts in ensuring the delivery of humanitarian aid. LF

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARIANS NOTE LACK OF DEMOCRATIC PROGRESS IN BELARUS
Following their trip to Minsk last week, a European Parliament delegation composed of Jan Marinus Wiersma of the Netherlands, Elisabeth Schroedter of Germany, and Robert Goodwill of the United Kingdom noted the lack of progress Belarus has made toward democracy since the 2000 parliamentary and 2001 presidential elections, Belapan reported on 29 November. Wiersma told journalists that if the OSCE foreign ministers at their forthcoming meeting in Porto, Portugal, succeed in resolving the standoff over the OSCE's presence in Belarus, the country can expect the European Union to lift its travel restrictions on President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and other officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2002). Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS quoted President Lukashenka as saying in Moscow last week that Belarus is ready to begin talks with the OSCE at any moment in order to discuss the mandate of its mission in Minsk. JM

BELARUSIAN KGB CHIEF SAYS HALF OF U.S. DIPLOMATS ARE SPIES
KGB Chairman Leanid Yeryn told the Minsk-based Mediafact news agency on 29 November that agents of the Central Intelligence Agency and other U.S. security agencies have recently increased their activities in Belarus under cover of the U.S. Embassy. "Over the past few years the KGB has been recording the permanent presence of some 20 professional spies among Minsk-based foreign diplomats, which makes almost one-half of the U.S. Embassy staff," Yeryn said. JM

BELARUSIAN EX-AMBASSADOR REPORTEDLY REFUSES TO RETURN FROM JAPAN
Former Belarusian Ambassador to Japan Pyotr Krauchanka has refused to return to Belarus after his four-year term of service there, Belapan reported on 1 December, quoting Foreign Ministry spokesman Pavel Latushka. "The Foreign Ministry does not know his whereabouts at present and has no contact with him," Latushka added. Krauchanka was Belarus's foreign minister from 1990-94. He sided with the opposition after President Lukashenka disbanded the Supreme Soviet in 1996. Despite his criticism of Lukashenka's policies, Krauchanka was appointed as ambassador to Japan in January 1998. "One hundred percent of the Foreign Ministry personnel dream of going as far away from Minsk as possible. It is impossible to work for an agency that operates as a propaganda rather than a diplomatic office," former Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Sannikau commented on Krauchanka's step. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT APPROVES NEW CABINET
President Leond Kuchma has issued decrees appointing a new government headed by Premier Viktor Yanukovych and dismissing the old one headed by Anatoliy Kinakh, UNIAN reported on 1 December, quoting presidential spokeswoman Olenka Hromnytska. Yanukovych's cabinet consists of First Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Mykola Azarov, Deputy Premier Ivan Kyrylenko, Deputy Premier Dmytro Tabachnyk, Deputy Premier Vitaliy Hayduk, Environment Minister Vasyl Shevchuk, Education Minister Vasyl Kremen, Agriculture Minister Serhiy Ryzhuk, Economy Minister Valeriy Khoroshkovskyy, Emergency Situations Minister Hryhoriy Reva, Labor Minister Mykhaylo Papiyev, Industrial Policy Minister Anatoliy Myalytsya, Culture Minister Yuriy Bohutskyy, Transport Minister Heorhiy Kirpa, Interior Minister Yuriy Smyrnov, Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych, Defense Minister Volodymyr Shkidchenko, Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko, Fuel and Energy Minister Serhiy Yermilov, and Health Minister Andriy Pidayev. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO SACK NATIONAL BANK HEAD
The Verkhovna Rada on 28 November turned down President Leonid Kuchma's motion to dismiss National Bank Governor Volodymyr Stelmakh and replace him with Serhiy Tihipko, Ukrainian media reported. The motion was supported by 214 deputies, 12 votes short of the required majority. Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said the legislature will return once again to the issue of sacking Stelmakh and appointing Tihipko. Meanwhile, Our Ukraine lawmaker Yuriy Kostenko commented that the pro-government parliamentary majority is not workable, adding that it is "even unable to resolve those personnel problems in which it is interested." Kostenko predicted that "when it comes to the implementation of the government's program, the majority will face even more problems." JM

ESTONIA'S MODERATES ELECT NEW LEADERS
In Tallinn on 30 November, an extraordinary congress of the Moderates elected former Agriculture Minister Ivari Padar as the party's new chairman, BNS reported. He received 250 votes and parliament deputy Enn Tarto 33. Former Chairman Toomas Hendrik Ilves noted in his address to the congress that although the party fared as well or even better in many local-council elections in October, the public categorized the parties as winners and losers mainly on the basis of the results in Tallinn, where the Moderates failed to win any seats, taking 4.9 percent of the vote and failing to overcome the 5 percent barrier for parliamentary representation. The congress elected two deputy chairmen -- Katrin Saks with 108 votes and Ilves with 91 votes. It also approved its basic principles for the election campaign entitled "Working Estonia." It calls for introducing a progressive income tax, an annual tri-party national-income-policy agreement among the government, employers, and employees, as well as a 50,000 kroon ($3,200) per-child childbirth payment. SG

LATVIA'S PEOPLE'S PARTY ELECTS NEW CHAIRMAN
People's Party founder and leader Andres Skele unexpectedly told the party's congress in Riga on 30 November that he will not seek another term and urged it to elect former Agriculture Minister Atis Slakteris as his replacement, LETA reported. Slakteris was then elected chairman, receiving 526 votes while Ainars Vasilis took 80. One hundred seventy-five ballots were declared invalid. Slakteris told the congress after his election that he does not foresee introducing any major changes in the party's work. Slakteris said that he hopes the People's Party becomes a position party in the parliament because there is no antagonism between the People's Party and the ruling coalition headed by the New Era party, and their cooperation in parliament could bring the parties closer. SG

'BUILDING A WIDER EUROPE' CONFERENCE HELD IN LITHUANIA
Some 50 high-ranking officials and experts from EU member and candidate states as well as eastern neighbors participated in the Building a Wider Europe conference on 30 November, ELTA and BNS reported. Among the Russian participants were President Putin's envoy to the EU on Kaliningrad and Duma Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin, Yabloko party Chairman Grigorii Yavlinskii, and Kaliningrad Oblast Governor Vladimir Yegorov. Yavlinskii said bilateral relations will improve after Lithuania joins NATO and expressed the hope that "NATO enlargement will eradicate old prejudices." Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt said that the Baltic states' relations with their eastern neighbors will improve and become more stable after they join NATO. In addition, he said that in three or four years Sweden might even give up its neutrality and join the alliance. SG

POLAND HOPES TO STRIKE BETTER FINANCIAL DEAL WITH EU IN LAST-DITCH TALKS
Prime Minister Leszek Miller's cabinet on 28 November said last week's proposal by Denmark to give Poland and other countries seeking EU membership up to 40 percent of the EU's full farm subsidies in the first year of their EU membership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2002) is "almost satisfactory" but requires "corrections," Polish media reported. Miller said Poland's final EU-entry negotiations will continue "until the very last minute" and are to be finalized at the EU summit on enlargement in Copenhagen on 12-13 December. Poland wants the EU to increase aid to Polish farmers by shifting the majority of funds earmarked for infrastructure to direct subsidies. Deputy Premier and Agriculture Minister Jaroslaw Kalinowski told Reuters last week that he wants EU farm subsidies to Poland to be at the 60 percent level, suggesting that his Peasant Party could quit the ruling coalition and vote "no" in an entry referendum if entry terms were not improved. JM

POLISH TAX INSPECTORS TO PROBE FINANCES OF CATHOLIC RADIO
Polish tax authorities said last week that they will investigate the finances of Radio Maryja, a radical Catholic radio station headed by Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, after it was accused in the media of involvement in tax evasion and illegal money transfers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2002), Reuters reported on 28 November. "Our job is to find out whether laws are being broken and by whom and to stop it," Deputy Finance Minister Wieslaw Ciesielski told journalists. Poland's chief prosecutor Karol Napierski said Radio Maryja avoided paying import taxes on cars by saying they were donations, failed to obtain a permit to remove large amounts of currency from the country for foreign equipment purchases, and made large public collections for nonreligious purposes, AP reported. Father Rydzyk has refused to comment on the allegations of financial misdemeanors, saying only that he will pray for his accusers. JM

ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH TO URGE POLES TO VOTE IN EU REFERENDUM
Gniezno Archbishop Stanislaw Muszynski on 29 November said Poland's Roman Catholic Church will appeal to Poles to vote in next year's EU-membership referendum, PAP reported. "The church has always urged people to take part in elections, which it considers a civic duty. If you really want the best for your country, you have to speak up in such matters. Those who stay away from the ballot will have no moral right to criticize it," Muszynski said. The archbishop declined to confirm whether the church will urge Poles to back EU membership in the referendum, saying that the church is not a side in the issue and will only "provide certain values and criteria" for voters. He added he believes the referendum will approve Poland's EU entry. Commenting on recent media allegations against Radio Maryja (see above), Muszynski said the campaign against the station "carries all the signs" of being directed against the entire church. JM

DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS CZECH ANTICHEMICAL UNIT WOULD BE PROVIDED FOR WAR WITH IRAQ
Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said on 30 November in an interview with the daily "Pravo" that if a military conflict with Iraq breaks out, the Czech Republic will provide no forces other than its Kuwait-stationed antichemical- and antibacteriological-warfare unit, CTK reported. Tvrdik said that "the Czech Republic is a sovereign nation, which means that if NATO launches the action as an alliance, it will only depend on the Czech Republic whether to participate or not." "The U.S. decides nothing in our place, it only conveys to us its views," he added. Tvrdik also said that "from the intelligence sources to which I have access, I know that [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction" and that, in his opinion, Hussein is "a sort of Hitler of Iraq." MS

SECOND BOMB DISCOVERED ON CZECH RAILWAY
An unexploded bomb was discovered on 29 November on a railway track about 30 kilometers east of Prague, dpa and CTK reported. Trains were temporarily rerouted while police defused the device. It was the second such discovery in the past two weeks; shortly before the 21-22 November NATO Prague summit police defused a homemade bomb on tracks east of the Czech capital. MS

CZECH REPUBLIC APPOINTS NEW CHIEF OF STAFF
Major General Pavel Stefka was appointed on 27 November as the new chief of staff of the Czech Army, effective on 1 December, CTK reported. Stefka replaces General Jiri Sedivy, who served in that position for over four years. Upon his appointment, General Stefka named Miroslav Kostelka as his first-deputy and Emil Pupis as operational commander. MS

FORMER CZECH PREMIER WINS CSSD PRIMARY FOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
Former Premier Milos Zeman was declared the winner of the Social Democratic Party's (CSSD) 29 November primary for the nomination of the party's presidential candidate, CTK and dpa reported. Zeman received 12,636 votes, just under half of the 25,994 votes cast. Former Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures finished second with 6,428 votes, followed by Ombudsman Otakar Motejl (5,323) and university Professor Martin Potucek (1,400 votes). Zeman reiterated on 1 December that he will not be a candidate in the first round of voting, but is willing to run in the second round if the first fails to elect a president. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla told the daily "Pravo" on 30 November that he has invited Zeman for talks and that if the former premier persists in refusing to run in the first round, the CSSD will have to rethink its strategy lest another party's candidate be elected. On 27 November, the Chamber of Deputies rejected two draft bills for direct presidential elections, and President Vaclav Havel's successor will therefore be elected at a joint session of the two chambers of parliament on 15 January. Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus on 28 November became the first officially registered candidate for the position. MS

PRAGUE HAS NEW MAYOR
Pavel Bem (ODS) became the new mayor of Prague on 28 November, replacing Igor Nemec, who served as interim mayor after Jan Kasl's resignation in May as mayor and from the ODS, CTK and dpa reported. Bem was chosen in a secret ballot over Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia candidate Frantisek Hoffman, his only opponent. Upon his election, Bem announced that he will not run at the ODS national conference in December for the post of ODS chairman but will seek a deputy chairman position. MS

CZECH TELEVISION DIRECTOR DISMISSED
The Council of Czech Television on 27 November dismissed Jiri Balvin as director of Czech Television, CTK reported. The dismissal followed a failed attempt to dismiss Balvin on 18 November, when a similar resolution was one vote short of the needed majority. Balvin has long been accused of managerial failures, of failing to cope with budgetary problems, and of violating the law by secretly installing cameras to watch Czech Television staff. He took office in October 2001 after a prolonged crisis at Czech Television that led to strikes and street protests. MS

CZECH PREMIER IN SLOVAKIA
Visiting Czech Premier Spidla and his Slovak counterpart Mikulas Dzurinda on 30 November agreed on the need to draft a "feasibility study" regarding the Czech "Joint Sky" proposal for jointly defending the two countries' airspace, CTK and TASR reported. Experts representing the two sides are to present a report within one month. Defense Minister Ivan Simko and his Czech counterpart Tvrdik are also to continue consultations on the proposal, but told journalists after their meeting in Bratislava that the possibility of the countries jointly purchasing supersonic fighters was not discussed at their meeting. Dzurinda and Spidla also agreed to terminate the 1993-established customs-union agreement between the two countries on the day either of them, or both, join the EU. They also agreed that funds previously spent on strengthening the Czech-Slovak border should be diverted to strengthen the border between Slovakia and Ukraine. Finally, Spidla and Slovak parliamentary speaker Pavol Hrusovsky agreed to coordinate schedules for the two countries' plebiscites on joining the EU, with Slovakia holding the referendum ahead of the Czech Republic. MS

SLOVAKIA READY TO ENGAGE IN NATO MILITARY OPERATIONS BEYOND 'NATO TERRITORY'
Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said in London on 28 November that his country is ready to participate in military operations conducted beyond the territory of NATO-member states if no other alternative for preventing human rights violations or the loss of human life can be found, TASR reported. Speaking at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Kukan said Slovakia continues to abide by the principle of not interfering in other states' internal affairs, but if such violations occur or when human life is endangered "the international community cannot stand idly by and must act." In related news, Defense Minister Simko said on 27 November that he supports extending by six months the mission of the 40 Slovak military engineers deployed in Afghanistan under Operation Enduring Freedom, TASR reported. MS

SLOVAK CHIEF OF STAFF ENDS TERM
Chief of Staff General Milan Cerovsky ended his term on 27 November, TASR reported. His deputy, Peter Nova, is to be acting chief of staff until President Rudolf Schuster appoints Cerovsky's successor. MS

SLOVAK RULING COALITION STRAINED OVER HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW...
Slovakia's Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) said in a statement released by its Standing Board on 30 November that it "regrets" that Premier Dzurinda, at his meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy on 27 November, adopted a different position than that previously agreed with the SMK regarding the Hungarian Status Law, TASR reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2002). The SMK said Dzurinda had accepted an SMK proposal that Hungary would have agreed to as well, but failed in Budapest to follow up on the SMK's suggestions, thus harming confidence between the premier and the SMK. Dzurinda responded that the SMK's position was "incorrect and exaggerated." He said he had agreed with SMK Chairman Bela Bugar's proposal that Hungarian minority institutions, rather than individuals, could receive support from Budapest, but that there are other aspects of the law that have "extraterritorial effect" and are unacceptable as such. Dzurinda also said Slovakia is ready to reconsider its stance if those objectionable aspects are removed from the Status Law, and he added that the meeting in Budapest between Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase with Medgyessy could facilitate the removal of those aspects of the law (see below). MS

...WHILE HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IS 'SURPRISED' AT THE SLOVAK POSITION
Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs on 27 November expressed his surprise at the tough stance Slovak Premier Dzurinda took regarding Hungary's Status Law during his meeting with Hungarian Premier Medgyessy in Budapest, Hungarian television reported. However, Kovacs added that Slovakia has not yet adopted a final position on the Status Law and that the two sides can discuss the matter again after the Slovak local elections in December. He said the Hungarian government intends to bring the law into line with European norms, adding that the law will be short-lived and will probably have to be invalidated once Hungary and Slovakia join the European Union, as the EU bans any type of differentiation on ethnic grounds. Kovacs told journalists in Budapest on 1 December that Hungary remains willing to find a compromise and that the best way to do so is to have experts representing the sides meet to find solutions. In related news, EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said in Brussels on 28 November that the European Commission does not intend to play the role of mediator between Hungary and Slovakia over the Status Law. "Our position has not changed and will not change," Verheugen said after meeting Slovak Deputy Premier Pal Csaky. "The Status Law must correspond with the recommendations of the Venice Commission and can only be applied on the basis of agreements with [Hungary's] neighboring countries," CTK reported. MSZ/MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER IN HUNGARY
Visiting Romanian Premier Nastase and his Hungarian counterpart Medgyessy on 29 November signed in Budapest a new "strategic partnership" between the two countries, Hungarian and Romanian media reported. The partnership is to include cooperation on political, economic, military, and cultural matters, as well as international cooperation. The sides agreed to continue consultations on amending the Hungarian Status Law after Nastase expressed objections to some Hungarian-proposed changes in the legislation. Foreign ministers Kovacs and Mircea Geoana are to meet this week to agree on the text of the amendments in line with the recommendations of the OSCE high commissioner on national minorities, the Council of Europe, and that council's Venice Commission. Nastase also met with President Ferenc Madl, Foreign Minister Kovacs, and parliamentary speaker Katalin Szili. Nastase returned to Budapest on 1 December to participate in a conference on flood prevention in the Hungarian capital and hosted a reception to mark Romania's national day that was attended by Medgyessy. MS

HUNGARY CONSIDERING U.S. REQUEST TO TRAIN PERSONNEL AT AIR BASE
The Hungarian government is studying a U.S. request to permit the training of some 3,000 interpreters and other support personnel at a U.S. military air base in Hungary ahead of a possible military strike on Iraq, government spokesman Zoltan Gal told reporters on 28 November. "Magyar Hirlap" reported that high-ranking government officials have set four conditions to accepting the U.S. request: no military offensive may be launched against Iraq from Hungary's territory; those taking part in the training must not leave the U.S. military air base in Taszar; the trainees must have U.S. documents and after training they must return to the United States and leave for Iraq only from there; and that in agreeing to the plan Hungary will have thus fulfilled all its commitments as an ally and will make no other contribution in the event of a war against Iraq. Andras Toth, state secretary overseeing the secret services, said the secret services are already examining the risks involved and will brief the government before late December. The U.S. State Department said Washington has approached a number of countries, including Hungary, to discuss possible arrangements for hosting training courses for the "Iraqi opposition," according to Reuters. MSZ/MS

HUNGARIAN PARTIES APPROVE EU REFERENDUM DATE
The parliamentary groups of the four parties represented in parliament on 28 November accepted Premier Medgyessy proposal to hold a referendum on Hungary's European Union accession on 12 April, Hungarian radio reported. The government earlier wanted to hold a referendum on 15 March, a national holiday, while the opposition said a referendum should only take place after the planned 16 April signing of the EU-accession treaty. In his address to parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Foreign Minister Kovacs stressed the need for a national consensus on EU accession, pointing out that negotiations are not expected to close before the Copenhagen EU summit on 12-13 December. Kovacs stressed that the government is making efforts to ensure that Hungary does not pay out more money to the EU than it receives in its first year of membership. MSZ

VISEGRAD FOUR PREMIERS SHOW UNITY BEFORE EU NEGOTIATIONS
Meeting in Budapest on 1 December ahead of the final stage of EU accession negotiations, the premiers of the Visegrad Four countries agreed to coordinate their positions on financial and budgetary issues, Hungarian media reported. Hungary's Medgyessy, the Czech Republic's Spidla, Polish Premier Miller, and Slovakia's Dzurinda said the recent Danish proposal is a good basis for negotiations but insisted that they still find the amount of EU agricultural funding offered to candidate countries in the first years after accession unacceptable. The four premiers agreed to seek 35 percent instead of the 25 percent offered by the EU in initial direct agricultural subsidies and said the nine-year transition period until those subsidies are equal to those received by current EU members is too long. MS

FORMER PREMIER DRNOVSEK WINS SLOVENIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
According to preliminary results, former Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek won the 1 December presidential-election runoff, Hina reported. More than 56 percent of the voters cast their ballots in favor of Drnovsek, while former Justice Minister Barbara Brezigar took nearly 44 percent. Voter turnout was approximately 63 percent. "Now we are going together into a challenging future, and as president, I will work for this future to be as bright and secure as possible," Drnovsek said after the elections. Brezigar said that despite her defeat she was satisfied with the results, which she said indicate a positive trend in Slovenian politics. UB

SLOVENIAN OFFICIAL DENIES THAT DOMESTIC PORT WAS USED FOR YUGOSLAV-IRAQI ARMS DEALS
A customs official in the Slovenian Adriatic port of Koper has denied reports by the London daily "The Guardian" that the harbor was used as a base for smuggling arms from Serbia to Iraq, Hina reported on 28 November. "For two years we have had a service that deals exclusively with the control of the content of containers. We analyze all documents on the cargo and the ships' papers," said Milan Bogatic, the director of the Koper customs office. "The Guardian" report was based on a recent report by the International Crisis Group. Authorities of other former Yugoslav republics have already dismissed the allegations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25, 26, and 27 November, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 October and 8 November 2002). UB

INTERNATIONAL WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL INSISTS ON BOBETKO'S EXTRADITION, SENTENCES BOSNIAN SERB
The Hague-based international war crimes tribunal on 29 November rejected the ruling by a Zagreb court that former Chief of Staff General Janko Bobetko cannot be extradited to The Hague due to health reasons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1, 12, 13, and 20 November 2002), "The Balkan Times" reported. In related news, the tribunal has sentenced Bosnian Serb Mitar Vasiljevic to 20 years' imprisonment on charges of crimes against humanity, "The Balkan Times" reported on 1 December. The court convicted Vasiljevic for executing five Muslims in 1992, but acquitted him of charges that he burned 135 persons to death in the town of Visegrad the same year. UB

HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATIONS BANNED IN BOSNIA
Bosnian authorities banned three humanitarian organizations on 29 November, "The Balkan Times" reported. At the request of the United States, the Saudi-based Islamic Al-Haramain Foundation, the U.S. Global Humanitarian Foundation, and the Sarajevo-based Bosnian Ideal Future [Bosanska Idealna Futura] were banned following allegations that they cooperate with and fund terrorist organizations. UB

SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO AGREE ON NEW UNION...
Javier Solana, the EU's high representative for foreign and security policy, announced on 28 November that the leaders of Serbia and Montenegro have agreed on the constitutional charter of the future union between the two countries, "The Balkan Times" reported. After meeting with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, and Montenegrin Prime Minister-designate Milo Djukanovic, Solana said a "total consensus" had been reached. During the talks, the disagreement over the election of the future joint parliament was ironed out, according to RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service. It is expected that the new constitutional charter will be signed on 3 December. UB

...WHICH DOES NOT MAKE EVERYONE HAPPY
Representatives of the Montenegrin opposition Socialist People's Party (SNP) announced on 28 November that they will not support the Constitutional Charter in the Yugoslav parliament, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The SNP is opposed to the provision in the draft charter under which lawmakers in the future joint parliament are to be elected by the parliaments of the two member republics rather than in a direct vote. In other news, the SNP decided to boycott the Montenegrin presidential elections slated for 22 December. UB

NATO CHANGES MISSION TO MACEDONIA
Answering a request from President Boris Trajkovski, the North Atlantic Council has agreed to continue supporting Macedonia with a new mission beginning on 16 December 2002, an official NATO press release stated on 29 November. The North Atlantic Council decided to replace the current Operation Amber Fox with a new mission called Allied Harmony, which will be "significantly smaller in numbers." The mission is to assist the Macedonian authorities in establishing security throughout the country by liaising with local authorities and cooperating with international monitors. The modalities of the new mission will be reviewed in February 2003. UB

ROMANIA CELEBRATES NATIONAL DAY
With a military parade in Bucharest and ceremonies in the rest of the country, Romania marked National Day on 1 December, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. President Ion Iliescu said this year's celebrations are after many years of hardship marked by "good, encouraging omens for all citizens." He said the invitation to join NATO and U.S. President George W. Bush's visit last month "to a certain extent are an acknowledgment of, and an indication of respect for, what the [Romanian] people have achieved...and for what we are about to embark on achieving." Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu said that for the first time this year the dream of those who in 1918 forged Romania's unification has come true. The country now "has those security guarantees so many generations dreamt about and hoped for," he said. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, who marked the day in Cluj, said in a message that in the 84 years since 1918, Romanians have learned to cherish the need for national unity and for allies. He said he hopes the invitation to join NATO is an indication of a less stormy and less apprehensive future. Nastase said that today "Romanians feel at home not only in their own country, but everywhere in the European house." MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS GOVERNMENT FAILING IN COMBATING CORRUPTION
President Iliescu said on 29 November that corruption is growing in Romania, and the government's efforts to change illegal practices are failing, AFP reported. "I have stated more than once that we must go beyond declarations and attack this flood of corruption at its source," Iliescu said. He added that corruption is keeping foreign investors away from Romania, that such investors "face a bureaucracy that makes things difficult," and that when, in addition, that bureaucracy is "asking for under-the-table payments, it is clear they will shrink from investing." MS

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SEES COUNTRY AS NATO BRIDGE TO RUSSIA
Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said in an interview with AFP on 28 November that he hopes the basic treaty with Russia will be signed before the end of this year. He said Romania is ready to be NATO's bridge to Russia and that his country's recent invitation to join the alliance created "favorable conditions for a rapid and complete normalization of our relations with Moscow." Speaking on private Antena 1 television on the same day, President Iliescu said the delay in signing the treaty was due to amendments proposed by Moscow that Romania rejected and by actions in Moscow "where some are still harboring anti-Romanian sentiments," as well as by the recent Chechen terrorist actions in the Russian capital, Romanian Radio reported. MS

UDMR OPPOSITION WING TO BOYCOTT ELECTIONS IN ROMANIA'S HUNGARIAN ORGANIZATION
The Reform Bloc in the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) on 1 December decided to boycott elections for the UDMR leading bodies scheduled for January 2003, Mediafax reported. They said they made the decision because current UDMR Chairman Bela Marko has refused for the last 10 years to conduct internal elections in accord with UDMR statutes. Reform Bloc leader Tibor Toro said he is personally opposed to the decision, which will prevent the bloc from presenting its proposals for amending the statutes. On 30 December, representatives of the bloc meeting in Cluj approved 300 proposals for amending the statutes and decided that at the January congress the bloc will propose a candidate of its own to replace Marko at the head of the UDMR. MS

PROTEST DEMONSTRATIONS RESUMED IN CHISINAU
Defying freezing temperatures, some 3,000 protesters participated on 1 December in a rally organized by the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) in Chisinau coinciding with Romania's National Day, international agencies and Romanian Radio and Television reported. The demonstrators carried Moldovan and EU flags and banners reading "Democracy is in danger" and "Down with the communists," according to AP. They also chanted slogans denouncing the "Russification of the country," dpa reported. PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca addressed the rally, which was described by its organizers as a "meeting with voters," calling on the authorities to stop infringing on the independence of the judiciary and to allow opposition access to state television. According to Romanian reports, participants approved several resolutions, among them one saluting NATO enlargement and calling for Moldova's eventual membership in that organization. A second resolution calls on Russia to "end its aggression against, and occupation of, Moldova" and unconditionally withdraw its forces from the Transdniester. An additional resolution calls on European democracies to mediate in the Transdniester conflict. The participants also approved a letter drawing the attention of U.S. President Bush -- who will host President Vladimir Voronin at the White House later this month -- to infringements of democratic rights and said that if these do not end, they are ready to renew the "non-stop protest demonstrations" of early 2002. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT DENIES INTENTION TO ENLIST NATO HELP IN TRANSDNIESTER...
President Voronin, in an interview with the Russian-language governmental daily "Nezavisimaya Moldova" on 27 November, denied allegations by Tiraspol authorities that he intends to enlist NATO's help to settle the Transdniester conflict, ITAR-TASS reported. "We seek to settle this problem in a civilized way and are hoping for international support, including from NATO," he said. "Moldova is a neutral country. Russia, which is our strategic partner, has established close relations with NATO...We no longer need to make a choice between West and East." MS

...BUT IS REFUTED BY TIRASPOL OFFICIAL
Transdniester Supreme Soviet Chairman Grigorii Marakutsa, in an interview with Russian and local media, said on 29 November that Voronin's speech at the NATO summit in Prague presented the Transdniester as "an evil that must become the next objective of NATO and other forces and which Europe must [also] struggle against," Infotag reported. He also called the envisaged withdrawal of the Russian contingent from Transdniester "a strategic blunder that might influence the balance of power in this region of Europe." Marakutsa said that the withdrawal of Russian weapons from the separatist region could pose "ecological hazards" and that instead Tiraspol wants to negotiate with Moscow the possibility of destroying the arsenal on the spot under the control of all interested parties. The statement is in stark contradiction with Tiraspol's position in late 2001-early 2002, when the separatists opposed the destruction of the weaponry in Transdniester -- claiming this would pose ecological dangers for the population -- and prohibited the entry of equipment financed by the OSCE for the purpose of scrapping the weapons. MS

MOLDOVA WILL NOT RECEIVE IMF FUNDS IN 2002
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has postponed "for technical reasons" disbursement of two installments -- totaling $24 million -- of loans granted to Moldova for development and fighting poverty, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 27 November, citing Finance Ministry officials. An IMF delegation visited Moldova in October and said that in order to receive the installments, the 2003 budget and the law on social insurance must reflect several conditions imposed by the fund. The law on social insurance has only been approved in its first reading, however. On 29 November, Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev confirmed that Moldova will not participate in the December meeting of the IMF's Executive Board, where the disbursement of the loans was earlier scheduled for discussion, and added that Moldovan representatives will participate in the board's meeting in early 2003. Tarlev added that although the two installments are very important, Chisinau's priority at this stage is to have the Paris Club agree to the rescheduling of Moldova's foreign debt, Flux reported. MS

PRODI REITERATES: MOLDOVA HAS NO CHANCE TO JOIN EU
European Commission President Romano Prodi, in an interview with the Dutch newspaper "De Volkskrank" on 29 November, said he can see "no reason whatever why Morocco, Ukraine, or the Republic of Moldova should become EU members," Infotag reported. Prodi added that "Russia cannot be a member either, because the country is too large to be integrated." In October, Prodi said in an interview with an Italian newspaper that Moldova, Belarus, and Russia cannot join the EU, stirring negative reactions from some in the Moldovan leadership. MS

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT SURVIVES TWO NO-CONFIDENCE VOTES...
With the votes of the ruling coalition of the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), parliament turned down two votes of no confidence in the government on 29 November, bnn reported. Both the opposition Socialist Party and the conservative United Democratic Forces (ODS) had accused the government of violating the constitution by flouting a parliamentary decision regarding the country's nuclear-power plant in Kozloduy. While the ODS underscored the legal reasons for their motion, the Socialists argued that the government has acted against national interests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 November 2002). "The government, which I head, has abided by and will abide by the Bulgarian Constitution and will continue to defend the national interests," Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski said. UB

...AND PROMISES TO BUILD NEW NUCLEAR-POWER PLANT
During the debate over the vote of no confidence on 29 November, Saxecoburggotski repeated his promise to build a second nuclear-power plant near the Danube port of Belene, bnn reported. "Bulgaria is and will continue to develop as a regional energy leader not only with the Kozloduy [nuclear-power plant] but also with the Belene nuclear-power plant," the premier said. The construction of the Belene plant started under communist rule, but was halted in 1990 after protests by environmentalists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April and 25 July 2002, and "End Note" "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2002). UB

NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER OFFICIALLY VISITS BULGARIA
During his two-day official visit, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Joseph Ralston assessed Bulgaria's implementation of its military reform and NATO's Membership Action Plan, bnn reported on 29 November. He lauded Bulgaria's contribution to the peacekeeping forces in Bosnia. Ralston met with Prime Minister Saxecoburggotski, Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi, Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov, Chief of Staff General Nikola Kolev, and with President Georgi Parvanov, who awarded Ralston the country's highest award, the Stara Planina Order (first class). UB

BULGARIAN STATISTICIANS UNVEIL 2001 CENSUS RESULTS
In an official press release on 29 November, the State Statistics Institute announced preliminary results of last year's census (for complete results, see http://www.nsi.bg/Census/Ethnos-final-n.htm). The data concerns the ethnic, religious, and linguistic composition of Bulgaria's population. According to the statisticians, the population totaled 7.93 million people at the beginning of 2001, of whom 6.55 million (84 percent) were ethnic Bulgarians. The country's largest minority, ethnic Turks, amounted to some 747,000 people (9.4 percent). The Romany community was placed at about 371,000 people (4.7 percent), but many observers believe that the real Romany population is much higher. Russian, Armenian, Vlach, Ukrainian, and Jewish diasporas each account for less than 1 percent of the total population. Almost 83 percent of the population is Bulgarian Orthodox, while the country's 967,000-strong Muslim community accounts for more than 12 percent of the total population. UB

There is no End Note today.


FIGHTING IN WESTERN AFGHANISTAN INTENSIFIES...
The longstanding rivalry between Herat Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan and Amanullah Khan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2002), a commander in southern parts of the province, erupted into a full-scale battle on 1 December when Ismail Khan launched an attack using tanks and heavy artillery on the village of Zayrkoh near the Shindand air base, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) agency reported. Abdul Karim Afghan, a spokesman for Amanullah Khan, told AIP that the area of Zayrkoh has been under artillery attack by Ismail Khan's forces since 20 November, but that on 1 December his forces launched a full-scale ground attack using infantry and tanks. Dozens of men were killed in the operation in which Ismail Khan's forces initially advanced but were eventually pushed back by Amanullah Khan's forces, which captured one tank and several other vehicles, according to Afghan. AT

...AS KABUL'S INTERVENTION IS REQUESTED...
Afghan also told AIP that Amanullah Khan has once again requested that the central government intervene to help stop the fighting. "We have informed the head of the transitional government...[of] Hamid Karzai, about the situation, and he has promised to send a delegation to the area soon," Afghan was quoted by AIP as saying on 1 December. Amanullah Khan told AIP on 1 December that "fighting is continuing, and commander Ismail Khan is on his way to the front line with a number of fresh troops." According to international media reports, Amanullah Khan sent a delegation to Kabul in early November to ask President Hamid Karzai to intervene in his dispute with Ismail Khan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2002). AT

...AND U.S. LAUNCHES AIR ATTACK IN RESPONSE TO ATTACK
A convoy of U.S. Special Forces troops patrolling the area near Shindand air base came under fire on 1 December, after which U.S. B-52 bombers attacked positions in the area, "The New York Times" reported the next day, citing a spokesman at Bagram Air Base, the headquarters for the United States military operations near Kabul. The daily reported that it was not clear whether Special Forces troops were involved in the fighting that day between Mohammad Ismail Khan's and Amanullah Khan's forces. "But a small team of Special Forces, or Green Berets, is based in nearby Herat, with the most powerful warlord in the region, Ismail Khan, and may have been with his forces. Or they may have been visiting the area to find out about fighting that had begun the previous evening," according to "The New York Times." Ismail Khan, who is "suspected of possible ties to Iran and has caused concern because he runs his area like a private fief, offering a minimum of cooperation to President Hamid Karzai's central government," the daily added. AT

KABUL DAILY WELCOMES EXTENSION OF ISAF
The UN Security Council on 27 November unanimously adopted Resolution 1444, thus extending the International Security Assistance Force's (ISAF) mandate in Kabul for one year, beginning on 20 December, international media reported. The decision also granted the Security Council's approval for handing joint command of the force over to Germany and the Netherlands. In a commentary on 1 December, the Kabul Pashto-language daily "Hewad" welcomed the Security Council's decision, but stressed that "the people of Afghanistan also believe that the military power of this force [ISAF] should be sent to the centers of some of the important provinces, because the ruined Afghanistan, which has been continuously hit by drought and some other disasters of the heavens, needs speedy reconstruction." According to the commentary, in some provinces of Afghanistan security has not been established and "warlords rob the rights of the people," thus harming reconstruction efforts. "Hewad" added that the people "are satisfied with the government when their property and lives are safe. On the other hand, they should have jobs" to be able to live with dignity. Therefore, according to the commentary, security and reconstruction "have reciprocal effects." President Karzai's administration has repeatedly requested the expansion of ISAF beyond Kabul (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 27 November 2002), but has thus far been unable to persuade troop-contributing countries to do so. AT

U.S. BASE IN EASTERN AFGHANISTAN ATTACKED
A U.S. military base near an airport in Khost Province, eastern Afghanistan, came under missile attack on 1 December according to an eyewitness report published by AIP. The report gave no details of the attack other than that a pickup truck was burned out and smoke was coming from the airport. The report has not been confirmed by U.S. sources. AT

AFGHAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS UZBEKISTAN
Visiting Tashkent on 27 November, Abdullah Abdullah met with his Uzbek counterpart Abdulaziz Komilov to discuss bilateral relations, the restoration of the Afghan economy, and cooperation in the fight against international terrorism and drug trafficking, Russian agencies reported. Abdullah expressed thanks for Uzbekistan's participation in restoring Afghanistan's infrastructure and its efforts in ensuring the delivery of humanitarian aid. LF

SATELLITE-DISH CONFISCATION RESUMES IN TEHRAN
Law enforcement personnel in Tehran have resumed the drive against satellite television reception by confiscating satellite dishes and then issuing summons to their owners, according to a report in the 30 November issue of the "Etemad" newspaper. Earlier in November the legislature began consideration of a bill to lift the ban on satellite dishes and receivers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2002). BS

RADIO AZADI OF RFE/RL'S PERSIAN SERVICE GOES OFF AIR
After serving listeners for four years, Radio Azadi of RFE/RL's Persian Service broadcast its last program on 1 December. It will be succeeded later in the month by Radio Farda, which means Radio Tomorrow in Persian, according to a press release from the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors. Radio Farda will be a joint effort of two BBG entities -- RFE/RL and the Voice of America (VOA). Radio Farda is aimed at listeners under 30 years of age, and it will broadcast news, features, and other information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, it will broadcast a combination of popular Persian and Western music designed to appeal to a young audience. Radio Farda broadcasts will be available on medium wave (AM), shortwave, digital-audio satellite, and via the Internet. Until Radio Farda begins its programs, the RFE/RL frequencies will be used for 30-minute newscasts and 2 1/2 hours of music. BS

IRANIANS COMMEMORATE QODS DAY...
The last Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan is marked in the Islamic Republic of Iran as Qods Day (Jerusalem Day, 29 November), and "tens of thousands" of people -- including Basijis wearing the white shrouds of martyrs -- participated in state-organized rallies in Tehran, Reuters and AP reported. Participants chanted "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" as they marched to the Friday Prayers sermon at Tehran University, and they burned U.S. and Israeli flags. Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani gave the sermon, which he concluded by saying: "Do not think that the Palestinians will always fight inside Palestine, in Gaza, and the West Bank. If you make them frustrated, they will come up from other places, an example of which we saw in Kenya, and such incidents can take place in many other places." A resolution passed at the end of the rallies called for the repatriation of all Palestinians and a referendum on the establishment of an independent Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital. The resolution condemned any sort of a military build-up against any Muslim state, including Iraq, and it called on the Organization of the Islamic Conference to take concrete measures to deter the United States and its allies from waging war against the Islamic community. BS

...AND 'SOLIDARITY WITH THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE'
The UN General Assembly in 1977 designated 29 November as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (see http://www.un.org). President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami attended the Qods Day rallies on 29 November (see above), and he issued a statement relating to the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Khatami voiced his support for any steps that would guarantee Palestinians' rights, according to IRNA. Khatami's statement also said that Israel has taken advantage of the post-11 September atmosphere to step up its actions against the Palestinians. BS

IRAN COMMEMORATES 'NAVY DAY'
Iran's Navy Day was celebrated on 28 November. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei commended a group of naval officers for the navy's achievements in attaining self-sufficiency, IRNA reported on 29 November. At the same gathering, regular naval forces commander Rear Admiral Abbas Mohtaj said that the navy will launch the "Sina-1" missile frigate by March 2003. Mohtaj also told reporters that the navy is prepared to defend Iran's territorial waters and its national interests. Mohtaj also said Iranian naval forces using sonar had detected a foreign submarine in the Caspian Sea and had chased it out of Iranian territorial waters, "Siyasat-i Ruz" reported on 23 November. He did not say when this incident occurred, and he could not identify the country to which the submarine belonged. BS

STUDENT LEADERS DETAINED, THEN RELEASED
Agents of the Revolutionary Court's Branch 26 arrested on 26 November four student leaders who have been heard on RFE/RL Persian Service broadcasts several times in the last two weeks -- Abdullah Momeni, Mehdi Aminzadeh, Amir-Hussein Balali, and Said Razavi-Faqih -- all of whom are members of the Office for Strengthening Unity's majority wing (the Allameh branch). They were accused of insulting the president, blasphemy, and endangering national security. They were released on 27 November, and Faqih said they had been treated well, according to the Iranian Students News Agency. Aminzadeh, however, alleged abuse. "While questioned, I was continuously insulted.... While questioned, in addition to being subjected to violence, we were subjected to psychological threats. Moreover, accusations were also leveled against us. This was done in a bid to undermine the confidence of those arrested," he said, according to the 1 December "Hayat-i No." Their hearing has been delayed indefinitely. BS

ANOTHER STUDENT STILL IN DETENTION
The mother of Arash Keykhosravi, who was arrested during the 22 November memorial ceremony held for murdered national-religious activists Dariush Foruhar and Parvaneh Foruhar, says that her son is still being held, "Hayat-i No" reported on 1 December. Some 35 people were arrested that day in what became a six-hour brawl and, according to "Hayat-i No," the police said they released everybody later that day. BS

CONDEMNED PROFESSOR'S LAWYER FILES APPEAL
Saleh Nikbakht, the attorney for political activist and university professor Hashem Aghajari, has filed an appeal on his client's behalf, "Mardom Salari" quoted Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization Secretary-General Mohammad Salamati as saying, IRNA reported on 2 December. Aghajari was sentenced to death for blasphemy in early November, and the sentence led to some two weeks of demonstrations across the country. Ayatollah Bojnurdi, who heads Iran's Islamic Human Rights Commission, said on 29 November at a conference in Spain that he did not care for the comments Aghajari made in June, but the verdict against him is illegal, IRNA reported. "He has definitely not insulted the Prophet (peace be upon him)," Bojnurdi said. He added that Aghajari will not be executed, and he criticized the damage the sentence has inflicted on Iran's image. BS

WOMEN'S LEGISLATION ADVANCES
The 12-member Guardians Council, which must determine the Islamic and constitutional compatibility of all legislation before it becomes law, has approved the bill to reform sections of the Civil Act in which women are given the right to sue for divorce, Iranian state radio reported on 1 December. A woman can petition for divorce on grounds of hardship. Moreover, the legislature is considering a bill that would permit abortion in some cases, according to the Women in Iran website (http://www.womeniniran.com) as cited by dpa on 28 November. Parliamentarian Fatimeh Khatami said the bill does not relate to pregnancies outside marriage, but an August legislative proposal would legalize abortion when the mother is in danger or if three physicians and the coroner's office consider the unborn child severely unhealthy. BS

IRAQ PROVIDES DETAILS ON INSPECTORS' WORK
An unidentified Foreign Ministry spokesman on 1 December made a statement on the inspection activities of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that day, Iraq TV reported. According to the spokesman, a team of seven IAEA inspectors visited the Ibn Firnas State Company north of Baghdad, which he said is "affiliated with the Military Industrialization Organization," a government body associated with weapons manufacturing. The spokesman said it was included in the list of nuclear-inspection sites because it "contains measurement equipment of interest to the IAEA. Since 1996, the company has been entrusted with the task of manufacturing drones for air-reconnaissance purposes for the armed forces." A second team of 14 inspectors from UNMOVIC inspected an agricultural air base in Khan Bani Saad, east of Baghdad, belonging to the Agriculture Ministry. The spokesman said this site was on the list because it "contains planes for combating agricultural diseases," meaning they are capable of spraying pesticides. Finally a UNMOVIC team of communications specialists visited the Al-Rashid air base to test antennas and equipment used for communication between the building being used by the inspectors at the air base and their hotel in Baghdad. KR

IAEA HEAD SAYS ARAB STATES HOLDING OUT ON PROVIDING INSPECTORS...
IAEA Director-General Mohammad El-Baradei said in a 30 November interview that Arab states might not want to participate in the inspections in Iraq, "Al-Bayan" reported. "There is a fairly good number of Arabs among the inspectors," El-Baradei said, "there are about 20 of them." However, he added that UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Hans Blix "has asked the Arab states to send lists containing [additional] names of those who have experience in this field. But only Jordan sent three names. It seems that the Arab states do not want to participate in the inspection operation." El-Baradei reiterated that the inspections are the last opportunity for Iraq to avoid a war with the United States. Current inspectors will consider the work of previous inspectors but are investigating under the assumption that Iraq has renewed its programs for weapons of mass destruction since inspectors left the country in 1998, El-Baradei added. El-Baradei said in a separate interview that he expects inspections in Iraq to last one year, AFP reported on 1 December, citing the BBC. KR

...AS ARAB LEAGUE SAYS IT IS COMPILING LIST OF EXPERTS
An Arab League spokesman said on 1 December that the organization is gathering names of qualified Arab nuclear experts who could participate in the weapons inspections in Iraq, AFP reported. Arab League head Amr Musa has requested that the Arab Atomic Energy Agency provide a list of names that he can send to Blix and El-Baradei to "include them in nuclear-weapons inspection teams," spokesman Hisham Yussef said. Musa sent a list of Arab chemical- and biological-weapons experts to Blix and El-Baradei last week, according to the agency. MES

UNMOVIC CHIEF SAYS IRAQ MUST PROVE IT HAS NO WEAPONS
UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Blix said in an interview published by "El-Pais" on 1 December that if Iraq declares it does not possess weapons of mass destruction in its report to the UN Security Council due on 8 December, then it will have to provide proof. He told the Spanish daily that the most difficult challenge will be detecting underground as well as mobile biological and chemical installations. "Our job is not to exchange information," Blix said, referring to the issue of inspectors spying for foreign states. "We are not a branch of the CIA or MI6,... it would be inadmissible for the findings of the inspectors to be used to determine military targets." He added that the inspections provide an opportunity for Iraq to avoid a war. KR

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS ANTICHEMICAL UNIT WOULD BE PROVIDED FOR WAR WITH IRAQ
Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said on 30 November in an interview with the daily "Pravo" that if a military conflict with Iraq breaks out, the Czech Republic will provide no forces other than its Kuwait-stationed antichemical- and antibacteriological-warfare unit, CTK reported. Tvrdik said that "the Czech Republic is a sovereign nation, which means that if NATO launches the action as an alliance, it will only depend on the Czech Republic whether to participate or not." "The U.S. decides nothing in our place, it only conveys to us its views," he added. Tvrdik also said that "from the intelligence sources to which I have access, I know that [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction" and that, in his opinion, Hussein is "a sort of Hitler of Iraq." MS

HUNGARY CONSIDERING U.S. REQUEST TO USE TRAINING BASE AHEAD OF POSSIBLE ANTI-IRAQI OPERATION
The Hungarian government is studying a U.S. request to permit the training of some 3,000 interpreters and other support personnel at a U.S. military air base in Hungary ahead of a possible military strike on Iraq, government spokesman Zoltan Gal told reporters on 28 November. "Magyar Hirlap" reported that high-ranking government officials have set four conditions to accepting the U.S. request: no military offensive may be launched against Iraq from Hungary's territory; those taking part in the training must not leave the U.S. military air base in Taszar; the trainees must have U.S. documents and after training they must return to the United States and leave for Iraq only from there; and that in agreeing to the plan Hungary will have thus fulfilled all its commitments as an ally and will make no other contribution in the event of a war against Iraq. Andras Toth, state secretary overseeing the secret services, said the secret services are already examining the risks involved and will brief the government before late December. The U.S. State Department said Washington has approached a number of countries, including Hungary, to discuss possible arrangements for hosting training courses for the "Iraqi opposition," according to Reuters. MSZ/MS

SLOVENIAN OFFICIAL DENIES THAT DOMESTIC PORT WAS USED FOR YUGOSLAV-IRAQI ARMS DEALS
A customs official in the Slovenian Adriatic port of Koper has denied reports by the London daily "The Guardian" that the harbor was used as a base for smuggling arms from Serbia to Iraq, Hina reported on 28 November. "For two years we have had a service that deals exclusively with the control of the content of containers. We analyze all documents on the cargo and the ships' papers," said Milan Bogatic, the director of the Koper customs office. "The Guardian" report was based on a recent report by the International Crisis Group. Authorities of other former Yugoslav republics have already dismissed the allegations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25, 26, and 27 November, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 October and 8 November 2002). UB

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