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Newsline - December 3, 2002


PUTIN COMMENTS ON U.S., NATO...
Speaking to students at Beijing University on 3 December, President Vladimir Putin said Russia and China agree that "globalization must be given a more manageable and more predictable character," Russian and Western news agencies reported. "Otherwise, short-sighted egoism [that now drives globalization] could turn into a threat to even the most powerful countries," Putin said. The president also said Russia has not changed its negative attitude toward NATO and continues to believe that NATO expansion does not increase the security of its members. However, he said, Russia does not see NATO as a direct threat. He said that the emergence of new threats such as international terrorism and political and religious extremism created challenges necessitating the formation of the Russia-NATO Council and that Russia is satisfied with this mechanism. He described the United States as Russia's "partner" in the antiterrorism coalition and as one of Russia's leading trade partners. Despite some disagreements with Washington over key issues touching on Russia's national interests, Putin said, "It would be completely counterproductive to bring our relations into the sphere of confrontation." VY

...AND ON CASPIAN REGION, INDIA
Answering questions at the same appearance, Putin said Russia will defend its economic and political interests in the Caspian Sea region, nns.ru reported on 3 December. He noted the world is searching for stable new energy supplies, and the Caspian -- as well as Siberia and the Russian Far East -- are among the few such regions. He added that there are opportunities in the region for all those willing to act "decently." Speaking with Indian journalists the same day in the run-up to his state visit to that country, Putin described his China trip as a "milestone" and called for strengthening cooperation among China, Russia, and India, ORT reported on 3 December. He also said Russia sells arms to both China and India because it believes the two countries have no conflicts with one another. VY

RUSSIA STEPS UP COOPERATION WITH NATO...
Chief of the General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin arrived in Brussels on 3 December for a session of the Russia-NATO Council devoted to expanding military cooperation between Russian and the trans-Atlantic alliance, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Before leaving Moscow, Kvashnin said he will discuss joint peacekeeping and rescue missions, cooperation during crisis situations, and joint tactical exercises on both land and sea. He is also expected to prepare the agenda for the 9 December visit to Moscow of NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, which is expected to focus on Russia's role in the global antiterrorism coalition. VY

PRIME MINISTER CALLS FOR NATO TO SHOW GOOD WILL...
Speaking at a German-Russian forum in Berlin, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov called on NATO to confirm that it has changed its view of Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 December. He said that the Russian people continue to suffer from a syndrome of mistrust. "If NATO member states show that their missiles are not aimed at Russia, then the Russian people will believe that NATO expansion is not directed against them," Kasyanov was quoted as saying. VY

...TAKES HARD LINE ON CHECHNYA...
Prime Minister Kasyanov also said his government will not make any "concessions to terrorists" in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 December. Russia faces the same problem in Chechnya that Spain faces with Basque separatists or the United Kingdom faces in Northern Ireland, Kasyanov said. However, he added, "terrorists in Chechnya" are bolstered by the global terrorism network. He emphasized that his government is trying to solve the Chechen conflict "through an active political process" that includes a referendum on a new draft constitution for the republic followed by new elections. VY/LF

...AND SAYS DEMOCRACY IS HERE TO STAY
Prime Minister Kasyanov also said in Berlin that "Russia will never return to its totalitarian past," RosBalt reported, citing the government's press service. According to Kasyanov, democratic principles have taken root in Russia and have been fully manifested in the constitution and in "the repeated conduct of freely democratic elections." He also said that in the immediate future, the Duma is expected to pass a law on information openness and public access to state decision-making processes. "This will be yet one more crucially important step in the construction of a civil society in Russia," Kasyanov said. However, he cautioned as well that the country has not yet recovered from "totalitarian syndrome." "Although democratic mechanisms work well at the highest levels of government, they nonetheless still need work at the lower levels, particularly at the level of local self-government," Kasyanov said. RC

FORMER HOSTAGES SUE MOSCOW GOVERNMENT
Eight people who were taken hostage during the 23-26 October crisis in which Chechen fighters took more than 700 hostages at a Moscow theater have filed a $7.5 million lawsuit against the Moscow city government demanding compensation for psychological damage, RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported on 3 December. According to Igor Trunov, a lawyer for the former hostages, the suit is based on a provision in the law on combating terrorism that allows victims of terrorist acts to claim compensation from the authorities of the region where the act occurred. Trunov said he will argue that the negligence of city authorities made the hostage taking possible. He added that the purpose of the suit is to discipline the responsible officials. Sergei Tsoi, a spokesman for the city administration, said Mayor Yurii Luzhkov considers the suit unjustified and unsubstantiated, since the problem of Chechnya and its consequences are not within the city's jurisdiction. The court is expected to begin hearing the case on 24 December, strana.ru reported. VY

JUSTICE MINISTRY MIGHT FILE SUIT TO BLOCK 'PROPISKA' SYSTEM
The Justice Ministry will go to court against the Moscow city authorities if legal analysis indicates that documents imposing a mandatory residence-registration system violate federal laws, "Vremya novostei" reported on 29 November, citing Tatyana Khomchik, who heads a Justice Ministry department that registers and monitors legislation. Moscow Mayor Luzhkov has recently advocated making the capital's voluntary residence-registration system compulsory in order to fight terrorism and crime (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October and 27 November 2002). During the 1990s, the Constitutional Court repeatedly ruled that so-called "propiska" systems violate Article 27 of the constitution, which guarantees citizens the right to choose their place of residence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 1997 and 3 February 1998). LB

TATARS ASK PUTIN TO REJECT CYRILLIC-ONLY LAW
The World Tatar Congress has issued an appeal to President Putin asking him to veto recently passed amendments to the law on the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation that would require all written alphabets of such languages to be based on the Cyrillic script (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 27 November 2002), lenta.ru reported on 2 December. "Such a decision by the state...without considering the views of the people involved is unprecedented in history," the appeal reads. It also claims that the amendments are unconstitutional and that they are harmful to ethnic relations in the federation. On 29 November, the Tatarstan State Council also appealed to Putin to veto the amendments and said that it will appeal the amendments in the Constitutional Court if Putin signs them, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 3 December. Meanwhile, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev has also criticized a recent Education Ministry proposal to introduce a course on Orthodox culture into the public-school curriculum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2002), saying that it violates the principle of the separation of church and state, the daily also reported. RC

TWO OFFICIALS TO FACE CHARGES
Two criminal cases against state officials have been filed in connection with the investigation into the 18 October murder in Moscow of Magadan Oblast Governor Valentin Tsvetkov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2002), polit.ru reported on 28 November. According to a spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office, abuse-of-office charges have been filed against State Fisheries Committee Deputy Chairman Leonid Kholod and the director of the Magadan State Fisheries and Oceanography Research Center, Aleksandr Rogatnykh. Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnik told Interfax that neither of the men is currently a suspect in the Tsvetkov murder, although the cases were filed as a result of the investigation into that incident. RIA-Novosti cited the State Fisheries Committee press office as saying that Kholod is innocent of any wrongdoing. RC

DEPUTY ATTACKED, ROBBED
State Duma Deputy Valentin Lednev (independent) was beaten and robbed of 40,000 rubles ($1,290) outside his Moscow home on the evening of 2 December, polit.ru reported on 3 December. A Duma spokesman was quoted as saying that the attack was most likely not related to Lednev's legislative work, although police are investigating all possibilities. Lednev is currently in satisfactory condition at the Central Clinical Hospital. RC

DUMA WANTS REPORT ON NON-PRISON CRIMINAL PUNISHMENTS
The Duma will ask Justice Minister Yurii Chaika to appear at its 15 January session to report on proposals for criminal punishment that do not involve serving time in prison, polit.ru reported on 27 November. The invitation comes at the initiative of Liberal Russia party co-Chairman Viktor Pokhmelkin, who noted that the 1997 Criminal Code mandated the introduction of "probation, movement restrictions, and required labor" as punishment for minor offenses by 2001, but that this has not yet been done. He said that people in Russia continue to be sentenced to prison terms for crimes such as stealing a piece of fruit. In a commentary for politcom.ru on 22 November, human rights activist Valerii Abramkin wrote that Russian prisons are "crime factories" and "factories for the marginalization of the population." Abramkin writes that it is virtually impossible for anyone who has gone through the prison system to be reintegrated into the legal economy. Deputy Justice Minister Yurii Kalinin reported on 26 November that more than half of all prison inmates -- nearly 500,000 people -- are suffering from serious illnesses, RosBalt reported. Some 150,000 suffer from tuberculosis; 37,000 are HIV positive; and 38,000 have venereal diseases. Kalinin added, though, that TB infection rates have fallen by 13 percent over the last five years thanks to increased funding to combat the illness. RC

RUSSIA EXPELS TWO SWEDISH DIPLOMATS IN TIT-FOR-TAT MOVE
The Foreign Ministry has informed Sweden's Ambassador Sven Hirdman that two Swedish embassy workers have been declared persona non grata and asked to leave the country, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 2 December. The ministry stated that the activity of the two diplomats was harmful to Russia's national security. The two diplomats were not named, and no information about their alleged activity was released. The Swedish Embassy declined to comment. On 11 November, Sweden expelled two Russian diplomats for allegedly conducting espionage at telecommunications giant and military contractor LM Ericsson (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November 2002). At the time, Moscow declared that it would make a "proportionate" response. Ericsson, which has refused to comment on the case, produces mobile telephones, radar systems, and the navigation system for the JAS 39 Grippen jet fighter. RC

NO WINNER IN DARYAL-LICENSE COMPETITION
The tender for the television frequency formally held by Daryal-TV was nullified on 27 November, polit.ru reported. Media Minister Mikhail Lesin declared that none of the concepts for developing the channel were judged acceptable. He said that Daryal, ORT, a project called "New Television Project" by former RTR General Director Aleksandr Akopov, and a joint project by Rambler and Unknown Planet participated in the competition. A new competition will be held early next year, and Daryal-TV will continue broadcasting on the frequency under a temporary license until then. In August, the ministry declined to renew Daryal's license, citing alleged media-law violations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July and 30 August 2002). RC

DEPUTIES TO COME CLEAN?
The Duma will consider this week amendments to the law on the status of deputies that would allow them legally to combine business activity with their legislative work, gazeta.ru reported on 3 December. Currently, the law forbids deputies (like other state officials) from engaging in commercial activity. As a result, "they hypocritically reregister their businesses in the names of their wives, relatives, and friends and nothing changes," said Deputy Vladimir Semenov (Union of Rightist Forces), who is sponsoring the amendments. According to the report, deputies and former deputies including Boris Berezovskii, Iosif Kobzon, Vladimir Semago, Vladimir Bryntsalov, and Aleksei Mitrofanov have all acted in this way. Federation Council members are also banned from commercial activity, although its members include Mezhprombank head Sergei Pugachev, Severnaya Neft head Andrei Vavilov, and Ukrainskii Alyuminii Director German Tkachenko. Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich, who is also barred from commercial activity, has stated publicly that he paid $18 million in income tax last year, gazeta.ru reported. RC

LABOR MINISTRY DEFINING BOUNDARIES OF ALTERNATIVE SERVICE
At least 100 types of civilian jobs will qualify as alternative service for young men wishing to avoid the military, Labor and Social Development Minister Aleksandr Pochinok announced on 27 November, "Gazeta" reported the next day. The ministry is preparing a list of occupations that may be considered alternative service -- including lumberjack, hospital janitor, firefighter, and polar-station worker -- based on proposals from ministries, departments, and regions of the Russian Federation. The law on alternative service will go into effect on 1 January 2004. Education and special skills will be considered in assigning jobs to those who request alternative service, but draft boards will not be required to take the petitioners' preferences into account, "Izvestiya" reported on 28 November. The Labor Ministry's list is expected to be ready for consideration by the government in February 2003. LB

THIEVES SNUFF OUT ETERNAL FLAME
The main World War II victory memorial in Tver has been looted, izvestia.ru reported on 3 December. According to the report, thieves stole the natural-gas mechanism for the monument's eternal flame, as well as all the obelisk's marble facings and its cast-iron railing. According to police, the monument is vandalized "nearly every week," but it is expected to be restored by 16 December, which is the anniversary of the city's liberation from German occupation. RC

MAJORITY HAS A MIDDLE-CLASS STATE OF MIND
More than 50 percent of Russian citizens consider themselves middle class, although experts taking income and education levels into account would apply that label to only 14 percent of the population, "Vedomosti" reported on 29 November, citing a study by sociologists from the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Philosophy. Dr. Lyudmila Belyaeva explained that respondents who identify themselves as middle class consider themselves to be living no worse than the people around them. "Vedomosti" noted that according to the research firm Premier-TGI, the middle class comprises 19 percent of the Russian population. That study analyzed incomes, professional status, education, and spending on non-essential goods and services such as travel abroad or a second automobile. Another recent study estimated that 7 percent of Russians belong to the middle class, and a further 12 percent have certain middle-class characteristics (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2002). LB

NEW QUALITY CONTROLS EXPECTED TO RAISE PRICE OF MEDICINE
New rules for certifying the quality of medicines will likely cause significant price hikes for consumers, "Gazeta" reported on 29 November. The rules went into effect on 1 December. All imported medicines must now receive a customs certificate of quality, and special pharmaceutical inspectorates are to be set up in Russia's seven federal districts, Ekho Moskvy reported on 29 November. "Gazeta" cited Health Ministry statistics showing that prices for medicines rose by 15 to 16 percent during the first eight months of 2002. Subjecting medicines to value-added tax accounted for an 11.3 percent increase in prices, and the rest was due to inflation. Although Deputy Health Minister Anton Katlinskii has predicted that price increases will be negligible next year, "Gazeta" reported that pharmaceuticals producers expect the new certification procedures to push prices of domestically produced medicines up by 10 percent and imports up by 30 percent. LB

FSB ALLEGES MISUSE OF FUNDS IN CHECHNYA
Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev has announced that his agency and the Audit Chamber have uncovered evidence that 700 million rubles ($23.3 million) in federal funding allocated for Chechnya was misspent, nns.ru reported on 3 December. The funds were intended to pay for restructuring the republic's social-welfare infrastructure. He did not say who was responsible for the misuse of the funds or for what they had been spent. Patrushev said that he believes far more federal spending has actually been misappropriated in the republic. In 2000, the federal government allocated 7.5 billion rubles for reconstruction there, and in 2001 it allocated 11.4 billion rubles. VY

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY DOUBTS CHECHEN PRESIDENT CONVENED MEETING IN GROZNY
Defense Ministry officials quoted by "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 2 December cast doubts on the veracity of a 29 November chechenpress.com report that President Aslan Maskhadov convened a meeting with field commanders in Grozny during the night of 25-26 November. According to chechenpress.com, Maskhadov presented awards to members of field commander Aydamirov's unit who shot down Russian military helicopters at the Russian base at Khankala. LF

RUSSIAN OFFICIAL PROPOSES REVISING MANDATE OF OSCE CHECHNYA MISSION
Moscow wants to revise the mandate of the OSCE mission in Chechnya to make it reflect more closely the specific tasks that Russia, as the host country, believes that mission should fulfill, Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Chizhov told journalists in Moscow on 2 December, Russian news agencies reported. Chizhov noted that at an unspecified time some members of the mission had tried to resume the political-mediation activities that were written into the mission's original 1995 mandate, but that "it soon became clear this was unnecessary." LF

ONE FORMER CHECHEN DISTRICT ADMINISTRATOR MURDERED...
Malika Umazheva, a former head of the Alkhan-Kala village administration, was shot dead during the night of 29-30 November by Russian servicemen who forced their way into her home demanding to know where "the Wahhabis" were hiding, chechenpress.com reported on 1 December, quoting the Russian human rights group Memorial. LF

...AS SUSPECT ARRESTED FOR MURDER OF A SECOND
Police officials from Chechnya's Nadterechnyi Raion arrested Visit Baigeriev in Ingushetia on suspicion of the murder in September of Nadterechnyi District administration head Akhmed Zavgaev and his secretary, Interfax reported on 1 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 September 2002). Police are still hunting for three other suspects. LF

CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER SENTENCED
A court in Pyatigorsk on 25 November sentenced Said-Magomed Chupalaev to 16 years' imprisonment on charges of creating an illegal armed unit, illegal arms trafficking, and participation in an armed revolt, Interfax reported. Chupalaev, who served as a battalion commander under now deceased President Djokhar Dudaev in 1994-96, was arrested in March 2002 in a displaced persons' camp in Ingushetia. LF

TWO MORE ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES NOMINATED
The Central Election Commission on 30 November received notice of the nomination of National Accord Party board Chairman Aram Harutiunian as its presidential candidate, and on 2 December, that of National Democratic Party Chairman Arshak Sadoyan, Noyan Tapan reported. Those nominations raise the total number of candidates to 12. The deadline for nominations is 6 December. LF

PRESIDENT SAYS ARMENIA SHOULD AIM FOR EU STANDARDS
Addressing Armenian diplomats in Yerevan on 30 November, Robert Kocharian noted the country's economic successes, in particular the 12 percent GDP growth registered during the first 11 months of 2002 and the decision last month to admit Armenia into the World Trade Organization, Noyan Tapan reported on 2 December. Kocharian said one of Armenia's most important priorities remains to reach EU standards in both the political and economic spheres. LF

ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER TO MANAGE PRESIDENT'S RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN
Serzh Sarkisian told senior military officials in Yerevan on 29 November that he will take three months' leave of absence to run President Kocharian's campaign for the February 2003 presidential election, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 2 December. Sarkasian said Colonel General Mikael Harutiunian, who is his first deputy and chief of staff, will take over his ministerial duties during that time. Sarkisian, who is a civilian, stressed that there are no legal obstacles to his acting as Kocharian's campaign manager and warned that he will not condone pressure from army officers on servicemen to vote for the incumbent. But National Democratic Union Chairman Vazgen Manukian told journalists on 29 November that as defense minister, Sarkisian should not become involved in Kocharian's election campaign, despite his considerable skills as an administrator and organizer, according to Arminfo as cited by Groong. LF

ARMENIAN COURT FINDS IN FAVOR OF EMBATTLED TV STATION
Armenia's Economic Arbitration Court ruled on 2 December that the state commission that distributes broadcast frequencies must accept a bid by the private television station Noyan Tapan for one of several broadcast frequencies up for tender last month, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Noyan Tapan had appealed the commission's decision to bar it from the tender on the grounds that its bid did not stipulate the specific frequency for which it was bidding (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November 2002). LF

AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS APPEAL TO OSCE
Rauf Arifoglu, editor of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," has appealed to Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer and Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe President Peter Schieder to take unspecified measures to safeguard freedom of the press in Azerbaijan, Turan reported on 2 December. Seven criminal cases for libel were brought against "Yeni Musavat" last month alone. The paper is notorious for not always checking its facts before publication. In July 2001 it prematurely reported the death of President Heidar Aliev. LF

RUSSIAN ENERGY MINISTER VISITS AZERBAIJAN
On a one-day working visit to Baku on 29 November, Igor Yusifov discussed with President Aliev Azerbaijan's oil exports via Russia, imports of natural gas, and the possibility of Russian exports of electricity to third countries via Azerbaijan, Turan reported. Aliev said Azerbaijan will honor its commitment to export 2.5 million tons of oil annually via the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline but did not offer to increase that amount. Analysts doubt Azerbaijan could do so given its total annual extraction of only 9 million tons. Yusifov offered to increase Russian gas exports to Azerbaijan, but no firm agreement was reached on specific quantities or prices. He also proposed adapting Azerbaijan's power infrastructure to permit the export of Russian electricity via Azerbaijan to Turkey and joint cooperation between Russian and Azerbaijani companies to develop oil and gas fields in Iran, Iraq, and other Arab countries. LF

TWO OF FOUR GEORGIAN BY-ELECTIONS INVALID
Parliamentary by-elections on 30 November in Tbilisi's Saburtalo District and in Rustavi were declared invalid as fewer than one-third of all registered voters cast their ballots, Caucasus Press reported, quoting Central Election Commission Chairman Djumber Lominadze. But opposition National Movement candidate Givi Targamadze, who contested the ballot in Saburtalo, disputed that figure and claimed the poll was valid. In Samtredia, Union of Citizens of Georgia candidate Avtandil Tevzadze defeated Zviad Dzidziguri (National Movement), Caucasus Press reported on 2 December, quoting "Mtavari gazeti." Meanwhile observers from the NGO Fair Elections told Caucasus Press that voters' lists in all four constituencies contained so many errors and omissions that it will be impossible to preclude fraud in the parliamentary elections due in 2003 unless they are corrected. LF

GEORGIA FINES TURKISH FISHING VESSEL
A Georgian court has ordered the owners of a Turkish fishing boat intercepted off Abkhazia last month to pay a fine of 65,000 laris (some $30,000) for fishing illegally in Georgian territorial waters, Interfax reported on 28 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2002). LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITION RESPONDS TO PRESIDENT'S PROPOSAL OF DIALOGUE
In a statement posted on forumkz.org on 2 December, the opposition Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan (DVK) and Forum of Democratic Forces of Kazakhstan (FDSK) set down two conditions for their participation in the new council proposed last month by President Nursultan Nazarbaev that is to discuss further democratization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 21 November 2002). The opposition is demanding that the primary interlocutors are Nazarbaev personally and representatives of the DVK and FDSK. It is also asking that the verdicts handed down in the "illegal and falsified trials" of former Energy, Industry, and Trade Minister Mukhtar Abliyazov; former Pavlodar Oblast Governor Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov; and former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin be annulled, and that the criminal charges against independent journalist Sergei Duvanov be dropped. In a separate statement, Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan board Chairman Amirzhan Qosanov interpreted Nazarbaev's proposal as an admission that a serious political opposition exists in Kazakhstan. He recalled that in the fall of 1999 Kazhegeldin was the first to propose a dialogue between the authorities and the opposition, forumkz.org reported. Qosanov too proposed that Nazarbaev alone should represent the authorities in any such dialogue, as the president is responsible for all political decisions. LF

KAZAKH OFFICIALS DISCUSS OIL EXPORT VIA AZERBAIJAN
Kairgeldi Kabyldin, who is transportation manager for Kazakhstan's state-owned oil company Kazmunaigaz, held talks in Baku on 29 November with Natik Aliev, president of the state oil company SOCAR, and with top executives of BP Azerbaijan, Russian agencies reported. Kabyldin told journalists after those talks that the two sides agreed on the export of an unspecified quantity of Kazakh crude via the planned Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil export pipeline. But he added that Kazakhstan sees no need to extend that pipeline eastward across the Caspian. No pipelines should be laid on the Caspian Sea bed before agreement is reached among the five littoral states on the legal status of the Caspian, ITAR-TASS quoted him as saying. Instead, Kazakhstan will continue to transport crude oil by barge across the Caspian to Baku, either for refining there or for export. LF

RUSSIA DEPLOYS FIGHTERS AT AIRBASE IN KYRGYZSTAN
Four Russian combat aircraft landed at the Kant military airfield in Kyrgyzstan on 2 December as part of a buildup of the air power of the CIS Rapid Reaction Force, Interfax reported, quoting Kyrgyz Defense Minister Colonel General Esen Topoev. In all, Russia plans to station at Kant 10 fighters, five training aircraft, two transport planes, and two multi-purpose helicopters. LF

TAJIKISTAN DEPLORES ITS CITIZENS' DEPORTATION FROM RUSSIA
Many of the Tajiks forcibly deported from Russia last week were law-abiding citizens in possession of the necessary work permits, which Russian police deliberately destroyed, Tajik Foreign Ministry spokesman Igor Sattarov told journalists in Dushanbe on 29 November, according to Interfax and Asia Plus-Blitz. He characterized the deportation as "an unfriendly act" that violated legal agreements between the two countries. He also expressed concern at the "tendentious and humiliating" coverage of the deportations in the Russian press. LF

TAJIK PRESIDENT CALLS FOR CRACKDOWN ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Meeting on 30 November with senior law enforcement officials, Imomali Rakhmonov urged them to step up efforts to prevent human trafficking, including the recruitment of women and girls to work as prostitutes abroad, Interfax and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. He said 250 Tajik citizens have been forcibly taken to just one unspecified country, where 15 of them are currently in jail. Rakhmonov recommended that parliament draft appropriate legislation banning human trafficking. LF

TURKMEN OPPOSITION LEADER CONDEMNS BID TO ASSASSINATE PRESIDENT...
In a statement posted on gundogar.org on 27 November and signed by former Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov, the opposition Temporary Executive Council of the People's Democratic Movement of Turkmenistan condemned the reported attempt to assassinate President Saparmurat Niyazov two days earlier, asserting that violence cannot resolve political crises. The statement warned that Niyazov's unpredictable policies and extreme cruelty will inevitably trigger an outburst of popular anger at some point. It said Niyazov blamed the attempt to kill him on the opposition precisely because the opposition poses a threat to his political survival. The statement called on the OSCE to take steps to prevent mass arrests of innocent people in the wake of the assassination attempt. LF

...WHICH HIS SPOKESMAN DESCRIBES AS ATTEMPTED COUP
Niyazov's spokesman Serdar Durdyev told a press conference in Ashgabat on 2 December that the reported attempt to kill the president was aimed at overthrowing the constitutional system and seizing power, Interfax and turkmenistan.ru reported. He said 23 people, most of them foreigners, have been arrested, but that in most cases it is difficult to determine their citizenship as they carry fake passports from several countries. They have been charged with terrorism and seeking to seize power by military means. Durdyev again named Shikhmuradov, together with former Deputy Premier Khudaiberdy Orazov and former Deputy Agriculture Minister Sapar Iklymov -- all of whom now live in exile abroad -- as the masterminds behind the assassination attempt. He also accused businessman Guvanch Djumaev of organizing the attack in Ashgabat together with his son Timur. LF

UZBEKISTAN, EBRD CHART FUTURE COOPERATION
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development President Jean Lemierre visited Tashkent on 27-29 November for talks with President Islam Karimov and senior government officials, Uzbek and Russian agencies reported. Interfax on 29 November quoted Lemierre as telling journalists the bank will lend Tashkent some 100 million euros ($99.6 million) next year, including 30 million euros for reconstruction of the Syrdarya power plant and 49 million to modernize a power line. He also said the EBRD recommended that Uzbekistan finally make its currency fully convertible, which was the condition imposed by the IMF for resuming standby loans to Uzbekistan. He said making the som convertible and improving the business climate are necessary preconditions for attracting foreign investment. LF

DISMISSED BELARUSIAN AMBASSADOR DECLARES INTENTION TO RETURN FROM JAPAN
Pyotr Krauchanka, who last month was discharged from his duties as Belarus's ambassador to Japan, told Russia's RTR on 2 December that he intends to return to his homeland, adding that media reports claiming he is disobeying an order to go home and planning to seek asylum are politically motivated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 December 2002), Reuters reported. Such reports are "a political provocation, the reasons for which are a mystery to me," Krauchanka commented. "In the afternoon [of 2 December], I paid a visit to the Japanese Foreign Ministry and made an official statement that I was not seeking political asylum in any country and would return to my motherland shortly," he added. Belarusian Television reported the same day that the Belarusian Foreign Ministry has had no contact with Krauchanka "for a prolonged time" following his discharge on 19 November. The network added that Krauchanka appeared on 2 December at the Belarusian Embassy in Tokyo. JM

UKRAINIAN, SLOVAK PRESIDENTS WANT TO BOOST ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his Slovak counterpart Rudolf Schuster said at an economic forum in Kyiv on 2 December that they are in favor of more intensive mutual economic cooperation, UNIAN reported. CTK quoted Schuster as saying he also discussed "delicate issues" with Kuchma, but he did not elaborate. Kuchma said he is pleased with relations with Slovakia, which are not burdened by "any political problems," as well as with the recent NATO Prague summit, according to CTK. JM

GAZPROM REDUCES SUPPLIES OF CENTRAL ASIAN GAS TO UKRAINE
As of 29 November, Gazprom reduced by 65 percent supplies of Central Asian gas to Ukraine from Itera, a Florida-based gas trader that has controversial ties to current and former Gazprom managers, UNIAN reported on 2 December. Gazprom said the reduction is connected with Itera's reluctance to repay a debt of more than $30 million to Russian monopoly Gazprom. Itera, which uses Gazprom's network to pump Central Asian gas, has been supplying gas to Ukraine for the past nine years. JM

UKRAINE ASKS AZERBAIJAN TO HELP OPERATE GAS, OIL PIPELINES
Premier Viktor Yanukovych on 2 December offered Azerbaijan participation in an international consortium to operate Ukraine's gas-transit pipelines as well as involvement in completing and running the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline, UNIAN reported. Yanukovych made the offers during his meeting with Azerbaijani parliamentary speaker Murtuz Alesqerov. Ukraine and Russia struck a deal to create a consortium to run Ukraine's gas-transit pipelines in October 2002. JM

LEADER OF RUSSIAN EXTREMISTS IN LATVIA REPORTEDLY ASKS PUTIN FOR POLITICAL ASYLUM
The Latvian Russian-language newspaper "Panorama Latvii" of 2 December wrote that Vladimir Linderman, chairman of the Latvian civic group Pobeda (Victory) -- which serves as a front for the Russian National Bolsheviks -- sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin requesting political asylum, BNS reported. The letter was also signed by nine members of the Russian State Duma from the group Russian Regions and later received support from four deputies from the Russian Liberal Democratic Party, including leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii. Linderman, who is currently in Russia, has been charged along with three other Pobeda members with illegal possession of explosives and weapons (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2002). He denies the charges and claims they were fabricated to stop Pobeda's activities, such as defending the rights of noncitizens, protesting trials of former Soviet officials for war crimes, and demanding that a street in Riga named after former Chechen President Djokhar Dudaev be renamed. SG

LITHUANIA, LUXEMBOURG SIGN DEFENSE-COOPERATION ACCORD
Luxembourgian Minister of Cooperation, Humanitarian Actions, and Defense Charles Goerens began his first visit to Vilnius on 2 December with a meeting with President Valdas Adamkus, BNS reported. The two discussed bilateral relations, the fight against terrorism, and the cooperation of small countries in NATO. Later, Goerens and Lithuanian Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius signed a defense-cooperation agreement that includes security and defense policy, democratic control of the armed forces, defense and budget planning, peacekeeping, and search and rescue as well as humanitarian-assistance operations. Luxembourg has an army of just 900 servicemen, but its personnel have participated in peacekeeping operations in the Balkans since 1992. SG

LITHUANIA'S CHIEF EU NEGOTIATOR PREDICTS CONCLUSION OF EU ACCESSION TALKS
Petras Austrevicius said he was virtually assured after a meeting with European Commission officials in Brussels on 2 December that Lithuania will complete the remaining EU membership negotiations on time and receive an invitation to join the EU in Copenhagen on 13 December, ELTA reported. He mentioned the acceptance of a Lithuanian proposal to increase EU aid for strengthening its borders to 136 million euros instead of the previously proposed 113 million euros, additional funding for closing the Ignalina nuclear-power plant, and greater agricultural support. Lithuania hopes to complete accession talks with the EU by 9 December. SG

POLISH PREMIER URGES PARTIES TO SUPPORT EU ENTRY
During a meeting with representatives of parties that are signatories to the Pact in Support of European Integration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November 2002), Premier Leszek Miller said Poland's integration in the EU is more than just a matter of concern for a few parties, PAP reported. Miller called it an opportunity for Poland and a necessary decision for the country. At the meeting, Miller represented the Democratic Left Alliance, Marek Pol the Labor Union, Janusz Lewandowski the Civic Platform, Janusz Onyszkiewicz the Freedom Union, Artur Balazs the Conservative Peasant Party-New Poland Movement, Krzysztof Piesiewicz the Social Movement, and Roman Jagielinski the Peasant Democratic Party. Miller intends to meet with several European leaders this week in an effort to convince them to offer better financial terms for Poland's accession prior to the EU summit on 12-13 December (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 3 December 2002). JM

POLISH DOCTORS CHARGED IN BIZARRE AMBULANCE DEATHS
Prosecutors in Lodz, central Poland, have charged two doctors with deliberately allowing 18 patients to die, Reuters reported on 2 December. The charges follow a probe into reports in January by investigative journalists from "Gazeta Wyborcza" and Polish Radio alleging that ambulance crews in Lodz allowed patients to die and subsequently sold their bodies to the highest bidders among local funeral homes (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 5 February 2002). "The doctors are accused of endangering the lives of patients by failing to use their medical knowledge to give proper treatment," prosecutor Jolanta Badziak told Reuters. Badziak said 70 cases were examined in which patients died during or shortly after a visit by Lodz ambulance staff, with the investigators concluding that 18 of the deaths were suspicious. The investigators still expect to examine another 200 cases. JM

MORE DEPUTIES LEAVE PARLIAMENTARY CAUCUS OF POLAND'S SELF-DEFENSE
Dorota Kwasniewska, Waclaw Klukowski, and Wojciech Mojzesowicz have left the parliamentary caucus of the radical farmers union Self-Defense led by Andrzej Lepper, PAP reported on 2 December. The Self-Defense caucus, which initially had 53 lawmakers, thus has shrunk to 44 deputies. JM

CZECH RULING PARTY TO FIELD CANDIDATE IN FIRST ROUND OF PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION...
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla on 2 December said in a BBC interview that his Social Democratic Party (CSSD) will field its own candidate in the first round of presidential elections scheduled for 15 January, CTK reported. Former Premier Milos Zeman -- who last week emerged as the winner of a CSSD presidential primary in which the party leadership ultimately selected a candidate -- has reiterated that he will run only if nobody is elected in the first ballot (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 December 2002). Spidla said he is convinced the next president will be elected in the first round, adding that if the CSSD does not field a candidate of its own, "We would exclude ourselves from the competition." He added that the most likely winner in that case would be Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman and former Premier Vaclav Klaus, saying such an outcome would not be in the country's best interests. MS

...AS CZECH PREMIER DOWNPLAYS PARTY RIFT OVER ZEMAN'S CANDIDACY
Spidla conceded in the same interview that the CSSD is not united behind Zeman's presidential candidacy, but he said speculation in the media that the party is on the verge of splitting due to these differences is exaggerated. He also denied media reports that Zeman has created a rival power center in South Moravia, where he retired to his summer home following the September elections. Spidla also said he does not expect differences over the presidential elections to trigger a coalition crisis, saying strains in the government are no greater than normal under the circumstances. Spidla also dismissed reports that if Zeman is elected president, the former premier will engineer an ouster from the coalition of CSSD's current partners -- the Christian Democratic Union-People's Party and the Freedom Union-Democratic Union -- expecting the ODS and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) to support him in the endeavor. Finally, Spidla also dismissed speculation of a "grand coalition" comprising the CSSD and either ODS or KSCM. MS

CZECH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE FACES MEDIA BARRAGE
Presidential CSSD candidate and Ombudsman Otakar Motejl in an interview with the daily "Pravo" of 3 December admitted to having caused the death of a pedestrian due to negligent driving in 1978. The accident happened in Tabor, South Bohemia, and Motejl was given a suspended one-year sentence and lost his driving license. He said the incident should not impact his presidential candidacy, noting that his record is now clean, but admitted that it might be viewed as "an ethical question, which can be [openly] discussed." Motejl said he believes the information on the accident surfaced due to his presidential candidacy, and added that this is probably why other rumors are being circulated -- including his allegedly having been convicted to five years' imprisonment or his alleged pledge to serve as an informant for the communist secret services while under investigation for the accident he caused. MS

CZECHS COUNTER DANISH COMPROMISE ON EU ENLARGEMENT
The Czech government's EU negotiator, Pavel Telicka, on 2 December told journalists in Brussels that his country has submitted its own, alternative proposals to the package presented last week by the Danish Presidency, CTK reported. The Danish offer came on 26 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2002), just two weeks ahead of the 12-13 December Copenhagen European Council. Telicka refused to elaborate, saying only that if negotiations fail now, responsibility will be borne entirely by the EU. MS

CZECH GOVERNMENT HIKES MINIMUM WAGE
The Social Democrat-led government on 2 December decided to raise minimum monthly wages by 500 crowns, to 6,200 ($209) crowns, from January, CTK reported. MS

EU COMMISSIONER WARNS EXPANSION DECISION NOT CERTAIN IN DECEMBER
Speaking at a meeting of the joint Slovak-EU Parliamentary Committee on 2 December in Brussels, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen said he no longer believes that accession negotiations will be concluded in time for the EU's Copenhagen summit to approve the expansion. Those who imagine that leaders attending the summit "can just arrive for a glass of champagne" are mistaken, Verheugen said. He added that he nonetheless believes the enlargement effort will be successful in the end, saying: "We cannot afford to fail in this project." Earlier on 2 December, EU spokesman Jean-Christophe Filori warned that the organization's expansion could be delayed by months or even years if candidate countries fail to agree to entry terms at the Copenhagen summit, AP and Reuters reported. MS

SLOVAK INTERIOR MINISTRY SAYS COUNTRY FACES TERRORIST THREAT
The government will soon discuss a report drafted by Interior Minister Vladimir Palko warning that Slovakia faces a serious threat of terrorist actions organized by Islamic and extremist groups, TASR reported on 28 November. The report says terrorist activities might be launched on Slovak territory in order to thwart the country's entry to NATO and the EU, and that Slovakia could be used as a springboard for attacks on Western Europe. MS

HUNGARY'S EU REFERENDUM DATE APPROVED BY PARLIAMENT
Parliament on 2 December approved the earlier decision by caucus leaders to set 12 April 2003 as the date for a referendum on EU accession, Hungarian media and international news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 December 2002). The four parliamentary parties also agreed on amendments to the constitution, transferring sovereignty to the EU on a number of supranational issues, Reuters reported. The plebiscite will ask Hungarians: "Do you agree that the Republic of Hungary should become a member of the European Union?" Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy said the agreement is a victory for neither the opposition nor the ruling coalition, but for Hungarian parliamentary democracy. MS

VERHEUGEN WARNS HUNGARY AGAINST CANCELING FOREIGN INVESTORS' TAX BREAKS
EU Commissioner Verheugen said in Vienna on 2 December that if Hungary retroactively terminates tax breaks granted to major investors, the decision will "pose a serious problem, giving cause for concern," Hungarian media reported. "Nepszabadsag" wrote on 3 December that such a move could lead to lawsuits and the withdrawal of major investors, thus jeopardizing thousands of jobs. MS

HUNGARIAN RADIO AND TELEVISION'S CHAIRWOMAN ANNOUNCES PLANS TO RESIGN
National Radio and Television Board (ORTT) Chairwoman Judit Kormendy-Ekes on 1 December announced she is resigning, Hungarian media reported the next day. In an interview on state television, Kormendy-Ekes said she has made up her mind about quitting but has yet to decide when she will officially submit her resignation. As grounds for the decision, she mentioned heavy political pressure, particularly related to government's decision to cut ORTT's 2003 budget -- a move that will result in a 450-million-forint (nearly $1.9 million) deficit -- and the fact that parliament has rejected ORTT's report on its 2001 activities. On 2 December, Kormendy-Ekes told journalists she did not consult with anyone on her decision to resign aside from former Premier Viktor Orban, who appointed her to the position. She also said she does not know why the current coalition government wants her to be removed as ORTT chairwoman, adding that she never made a secret of her FIDESZ sympathies. MS

HUNGARY'S 'BLACK ANGEL' GETS NINE YEARS IN JAIL
A Hungarian nurse dubbed the "Black Angel" was sentenced on 2 December to nine years in jail for killing terminally ill patients by lethal injection, Reuters reported. A Budapest court found Timea Faludi, 25, guilty of multiple counts of attempted murder and four counts of professional recklessness. Faludi has confessed to giving lethal injections to some 40 elderly patients in a Budapest hospital between May 2000 and February 2001. She later withdrew the confession. During the trial, she admitted killing eight patients but insisted she only wanted to ease their suffering. Euthanasia is illegal in Hungary. The court also banned Faludi from working as a nurse again. MS

SLOVENIAN PRESIDENT-ELECT MEETS WITH PREDECESSOR
President-elect Janez Drnovsek resigned as prime minister on 2 December following news that he was elected to the presidency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 December 2002), Beta reported. Drnovsek, who is expected to be sworn in as president on 23 December, met with outgoing President Milan Kucan to discuss the transfer of office. Finance Minister Anton Rop will most likely be Drnovsek's successor as prime minister, according to RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service. UB

YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT SAYS GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBLE IF PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS FAIL AGAIN
In an interview with Studio B television, President Vojislav Kostunica said on 2 December that the Serbian government is leading a campaign against the country's presidential elections slated for 8 December, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Kostunica, who is running for the Serbian presidency, has repeatedly blamed Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic for the failure of presidential elections on 29 September and 13 October. That voting was ruled invalid because less than half of voters turned out to cast ballots in the runoff (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5, 6, 14, and 15 November 2002). UB

YUGOSLAVIA TO DROP LAWSUIT AGAINST NATO
Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic announced on 2 December that the Yugoslav government has dropped a lawsuit filed against NATO with the International Court of Justice, "The Balkan Times" reported. Dropping the lawsuit is one of the preconditions for membership in a number of international organizations, including the Council of Europe and NATO's Partnership for Peace program. UB

MONTENEGRIN ELECTION COMMISSION CONFIRMS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES...
The Montenegrin Election Commission announced on 2 December that at least four candidates will run in the 22 December presidential elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The commission confirmed the candidacy of Filip Vujanovic of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), independent candidates Dragan Hajdukovic and Milivoje Bakic, and Aleksandar Vasilijevic of the Serbian Radical Party calling itself Dr. Vojislav Seselj. The commission has yet to decide whether independent aspirants Milan Scepanovic, Jovan Pejovic, and Djordije Milic, as well as Serbian Radical Party candidate Ilija Darmanovic, will be allowed to run. The candidacies of the independent Mihajlo Markovic and Obrad Markovic of the Party of Yugoslav Communists of Montenegro were rejected because they failed to collect the necessary number of signatures. UB

...AS MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT AMENDS ELECTION LAW
Parliament amended the country's law on presidential elections on 2 December, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. According to the amendments, the elections will be valid even if voter turnout in a possible runoff is under 50 percent. Under Montenegrin law, a second round is necessary if neither candidate in the first wins more than half of all votes or if voter turnout is less than 50 percent. UB

MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT CONSIDERS NULLIFYING PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLISHING HOUSE
The government decided on 2 December to nullify the privatization of Nova Makedonija publishing house, Makfax news agency reported. The previous government of Ljubco Georgievski sold the publishing house to the Slovenian consortium Jug-Storitve (Jug-Uslugi in its Macedonian form) in August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2002). Striking employees of the publishing house protested the sale and demanded that the government revise the decision and pay their unpaid wages. Workers there went on strike four weeks ago. UB

STRIKES CONTINUE IN MACEDONIA, GOVERNMENT PLEDGES TO PAY WAGES
Government spokesman Saso Colakovski announced on 2 December that the government decided to pay striking railway workers one month's wages, Makfax news agency reported. The workers went on strike last week, demanding that the government pay September and October wages. The strike halted all domestic and international rail traffic in the country. On 2 December, the workers also blocked railroad crossings. Hundreds of freight cars are blocked at the Greek-Macedonian border. The railroad workers were the last to join some 8,000 employees of state-owned companies who have been striking to demand the payment of unpaid wages. In other news, the government also pledged to pay the back wages of police reservists, who have not received their salaries for months. UB

ROMANIA TO EXTEND PARTICIPATION IN OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM
Romanian Radio reported on 3 December that Romania will extend its participation in Operation Enduring Freedom in Kandahar, Afghanistan, by an additional six months. Defense Ministry State Secretary Sorin Encutescu, who returned the previous day from a visit to Afghanistan, said the soldiers stationed in Afghanistan will be rotated, according to the station. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER MEETS WITH GERMAN CHANCELLOR, RUSSIAN PREMIER
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase inaugurated the new Romanian Embassy in Berlin on 2 December, Romanian Radio reported. Nastase also met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and with Russian Premier Mikhail Kasyanov at an economic forum in Berlin. Schroeder promised continued German support for Romania's efforts to join the EU, although he added that he believes the 2007 target date set by the European Commission is "quite ambitious." After his talks with Kasyanov, Nastase said that either ways of increasing Romanian exports to Russia must be found, or Romanian imports from that country must be curtailed, which he said would be difficult given the large share that energy makes up of Russian imports to Romania. Kasyanov said that he accepted an invitation to visit Romania in 2003. MS

CEAUSESCU CARS SOLD AT AUCTION IN ROMANIA
Six sports-utility vehicles produced in Romania on the special order of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were auctioned off on 2 December, AP reported. The vehicles, which were produced between 1977-87, sold for prices ranging from 121 million lei ($3,600) to 382 million lei. The money will go to the state budget. MS

MOLDOVAN POLITICAL PARTIES MERGE
The extraparliamentary Social Liberal Party (SLP) and the Party of Democratic Forces (PFD) merged on 2 December into a single formation under the name of the SLP, Infotag reported. SLP Chairman Oleg Serebreanu was elected chairman of the unified formation, while former PFD Chairman Valeriu Matei was named SLP deputy chairman. Alexandru Mosanu, formerly a PFD deputy chairman, was elected SLP honorary chairman at the unification congress. MS

TRANSDNIESTER TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON LAND PRIVATIZATION
The Transdniester Supreme Soviet on 2 December approved a resolution on conducting a referendum on land privatization, Infotag reported. The plebiscite has been scheduled for 2 March 2003. Passage of the referendum would require amending the separatist region's constitution. MS

BULGARIAN MINISTRIES SET UP COUNCIL TO CURB TAX EVASION
Finance Minister Milen Velchev and Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov have agreed to set up a council that would control revenue collection, novinite.bg reported on 3 December. In a joint declaration, the two ministers pledged to improve efficiency in the collection of revenues and cracking down on tax evasion. Deputy Finance Minister Gati al-Jeburi said on 30 November that the state loses some $550 million annually as a result of unpaid social-security contributions and income taxes, according to BTA. Al-Jeburi added that lawsuits against companies owing taxes often end without success. UB

PROTESTERS IN BULGARIAN CAPITAL DEMAND REFERENDUM ON KOZLODUY
Parties and trade unions staged a protest march in downtown Sofia on 2 December in which they demanded that a referendum be held on the closure of blocks No. 3 and No. 4 of the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant, novinite.bg reported. The protest was organized by the small Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO) and the Civil Committee for the Protection of Kozloduy and was also supported by the opposition Socialist Party and the country's two largest trade-union organizations. "We want to make the government consider the will of the people, we want [a] referendum, we want the Council of Ministers to take serious, relevant measures to save the two units," VMRO leader Krasimir Karakachanov said. The government recently signed an agreement with the EU under which the blocks in question must be shut down by the end of 2006 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 2002 and "End Note" "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2002). UB

CONSERVATIVE OPPOSITION ACCUSES GOVERNMENT OF VIOLATIONS IN BULGARIAN TELECOM PRIVATIZATION
On 2 December, lawmakers of the conservative opposition United Democratic Forces (ODS) handed over documents to the Supreme Court of Appeals that are to prove that the state Privatization Agency and the government breached privatization rules during the sale of the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTK), BTA reported. The ODS argues that when the government and the Privatization Agency chose Austria's Viva Ventures Holding as the winning bidder for BTK they violated provisions of the privatization strategy adopted by parliament. "We believe that the office holders...are [allowing] legal violations to be committed that will inflict losses on the state instead of bringing income from the BTK privatization," said Dimitar Abadzhiev of the ODS. The ODS is demanding that the privatization process be halted until the allegations are investigated by a court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 24 October 2002). UB

There is no End Note today.


PETERSBERG CONFERENCE DISCUSSES PROMISES, PLANS FOR AFGHANISTAN...
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on 2 December opened a one-day conference in Petersberg, near Bonn, that focused on reconstruction and security in Afghanistan, ddp reported the same day. Schroeder said that a year ago Afghanistan got a "chance to return to the community of peoples" and that today Afghanistan must take advantage of that opportunity to accomplish the task, adding that "we will maintain our solidarity with Afghanistan," ddp reported. However, the German chancellor emphasized that only Afghans in Afghanistan can decide the future of their country, not the UN or conferences such as the one in Petersberg, ddp added. The conference entitled "Rebuilding Afghanistan: Peace and Stability" comes a year after a conference at the same site where the current Afghan administration was agreed upon by various Afghan parties following the defeat of the Taliban regime. A large Afghan delegation headed by President Hamid Karzai attended the conference. AT

...AS KARZAI DECREES THE FORMATION OF NEW AFGHAN ARMY...
The Afghan delegation at the 2 December Petersberg conference circulated a decree issued by Karzai on the formation of the Afghan national army. The 11-point decree dated the same day, a copy of which was obtained by RFE/RL (full text to be published in "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report" on 5 December), calls for the formation of a national army for Afghanistan that "will not exceed 70,000 soldiers, officers, and noncommissioned officers." The army will eventually be transformed into four major commands, "with the exception of the central command in Kabul," and the "location of the remaining commands will be determined on the basis of strategic and geographical factors." The envisioned Afghan national army will "be voluntary and inclusive of all social and ethnic groups" of Afghanistan. AT

...AND GERMANY CATEGORICALLY REJECTS ISAF ROLE BEYOND KABUL
On the sidelines of 2 December Petersberg conference, German Foreign Minster Joschka Fischer categorically rejected President Karzai's requests that the role of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) be expanded beyond Kabul (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 27 November 2002), ddp reported. "The [ISAF] mandate will not be extended," Fischer was quoted by the news agency as saying, adding that "other possibilities" should be used to guarantee security in the country's provinces. AT

FIGHTING CONTINUES IN WESTERN AFGHANISTAN...
The fighting between Herat Province Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan and his rival Amanullah Khan that began on 1 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 December 2002) was continuing on 3 December, Radio Free Afghanistan reported the same day. The fighting began when troops loyal to Amanullah Khan tried to advance on positions held by Ismail Khan's forces near the village of Zayrkoh, according to the report. Earlier reports indicated that Ismail Khan's men instigated the fighting. A delegation from Kabul that was sent to mediate between the two sides has thus far been unsuccessful, Radio Free Afghanistan reported. According to the report, Ismail Khan told the delegation that Dost Mohammad, security chief of the town of Shindand, made a secret arrangement with Amanullah Khan and attacked his forces. Amanullah Khan accused his rival of controlling Herat by himself, and not allowing him or his supporters any role in the affairs of the province, Radio Free Afghanistan reported. AT

...AS FOUR ARE KILLED IN U.S. BOMBING
The air raid carried out on 1 December by a U.S. B-52 bomber on the area where Ismail Khan's and Amanullah Khan's forces are engaged in battle resulted in the death of four soldiers loyal to Ismail Khan, Radio Free Afghanistan reported on 3 December. A U.S. military official in Afghanistan said the air raid was ordered after U.S. Special Forces in the area came under attack (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 December 2002). AT

PAKISTANI CITIZEN ARRESTED IN KHOST
A Pakistani national named Mohammad Amir has been arrested in the eastern Afghanistan city of Khost, Radio Free Afghanistan reported on 3 December. Mohammad Amir, who was working as a chef at the police headquarters in Khost, has admitted that he slipped illegally into Afghanistan from Pakistan where he had killed two people, according to the report. Afghan authorities' suspicion that the Pakistani is a spy has not been established thus far, the report added. AT

IRANIAN DAILY ACCUSES AFGHANS OF INGRATITUDE
As Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi headed for Petersberg to participate in a conference on Afghanistan (see Afghan item above), the Iranian daily "Aftab-i Yazd" editorialized on 2 December that Afghanistan has shown its appreciation for 20 years of Iranian hospitality by shutting off the flow of the Hirmand (Helmand) River's water into Iran. The daily suggested said that upon his return, Kharrazi will have to explain what he won for the Iranian people in exchange for their help to Afghanistan, because they "cannot accept the closure of the Hirmand to their farmers while they continue to show generosity and munificence." Indeed, Kharrazi met with Afghanistan's President Karzai on 2 December to discuss resumption of the water flow, IRNA reported. Karzai said the drought is to blame. The river's water resumed flowing to Iran on 25 October, and it stopped about 10 days later (see "RFE/RL Newsline." 6 November 2002). A 1973 Tehran-Kabul agreement established how much Hirmand River water should reach Iran. BS

TEHRAN COMMENTS ON RADIO FARDA
The "Kayhan" daily newspaper reported on 1 December that as part of its psychological warfare program against Iran, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is closing down RFE/RL's Persian Service and replacing it with the new Radio Farda (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 December 2002). "Kayhan," which is affiliated with the Iranian Supreme Leader's office, reported incorrectly that RFE/RL is "funded and managed by the State Department and the American espionage organization." In addition, RFE/RL's Persian Service is not closing but will broadcast Radio Farda in partnership with Voice of America.

OPINION POLLSTERS' TRIAL BEGINS IN TEHRAN...
The trial of the managing directors of the Ayandeh Research Institute -- Hussein Qazian, Abbas Abdi, and Ali Reza Alavi-Tabar -- began in Tehran on 3 December, the Iranian Students News Agency reported. Also in attendance was Behruz Geranpayeh, the managing director of the National Research and Opinion Poll Institute. The trial relates to a poll in which the majority of Tehran respondents favored a resumption of Iran-U.S. relations, and the accused face espionage charges because their research institutes conducted the poll in cooperation with the Washington-based Gallup Organization (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 7 October 2002 and 2 December 2002). Presiding Judge Said Mortazavi announced: "It has become clear in the course of the investigations and according to the statements of Geranpayeh himself that the National Research and Opinion Poll Institute, where Behruz Geranpayeh was the managing director, was cooperating with foreign institutes in collecting information and sending information to them, and, on this basis, the deputy head of the Justice Department filed charges with Bench 1410." BS

...BUT DEFENDANTS HAVE LITTLE TIME TO PREPARE
Qazian's lawyer, Ramazan Haji-Mashhadi, said in the daily "Entekhab" of 30 November that he had not yet had a chance to meet with his client. Geranpayeh's wife said her husband has been in solitary confinement for 45 days and added that "I still have not met the lawyers of the case and have no idea when his trial is going to take place." The trial was set to start on 1 December but was delayed for two days following a request Haji-Mashhadi made to Judge Mortazavi. According to "Siyasat-i Ruz" as cited by IRNA on 1 December, Haji-Mashhadi said in the request that he had only had time to study one out of the five dossiers related to the case and was not ready to defend Qazian. Saleh Nikbakht, who is representing Abdi, told "Siyasat-i Ruz" that he had not been informed of the charges against his client. Asked how he would defend his client, Nikbakht replied, "You should ask this question to Judge Mortazavi." BS

NEW COURT TO BE ESTABLISHED IN IRAN
Judiciary Spokesman Mir Mohammad Sadeqi announced on 2 December that the judiciary has decided to establish a "Discernment Bench," Iranian state television reported. Sadeqi said this court would be used in cases when "a definite verdict is issued by the Court of First Instance and endorsed by the Appeals Court, but the convicted person still claims that the verdict against him is contrary to the Sharia [Islamic law] principles or the legal principles." Any defendant can send a request to the State Supreme Court for investigation by a Discernment Bench. Sadeqi explained that five experts on religious law will serve on each Discernment Bench, and they will be authorized to investigate and make judgments on cases without the presence of the plaintiff, a judge of the Court of First Instance, or the defendant. Legislation proposed by the executive branch in September would enable it to overturn court decisions, and the creation of the Discernment Bench might be intended to preclude the necessity of allowing the executive the right to overturn cases. BS

IRANIAN MINISTER TO FACE INTERPELLATION
Some 20 conservative members of the legislature have submitted a motion to interpellate Science, Research, and Technology Minister Mustafa Moin, "Resalat" reported on 1 December, according to an IRNA the next day. The legislators are critical of the ministry's officials for provoking Iranian students to stage rallies against political activist and university Professor Hashem Aghajari's death sentence. "Resalat" cited Kuhdasht representative Ali Emami-Rad as saying that some university deans turned the campuses into "rooms of war and devising plots against the system." BS

U.K. RELEASES DOSSIER ON IRAQ'S HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES...
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office released a dossier on Iraq on 2 December entitled "Saddam Hussein: Crimes and Human Rights Abuses," which it labeled as the "deliberate policy of the regime." The dossier, which is posted on the office's website (http://www.fco.gov.uk), cites eyewitness accounts from Iraqi exiles and human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, information provided by the Iraq Research and Documentation Project at Harvard University, as well as intelligence material. It gives a detailed account of systematic harassment and torture, including such policies as tongue amputation for those who criticize the regime, and the torture of men, women, and children. It also criticizes Iraq's treatment of women, including the systematic rape of women as a means of pressuring Iraqi men and the beheading without trial of women accused of prostitution. Horrendous prison conditions were described, such as the practice of keeping prisoners in rows of coffin-like rectangular steel boxes at some prisons. The dossier also highlights the persecution of the Kurds and Shia in Iraq and provides official Iraqi documents on topics such as "How to Deal With Demonstrations" and the "Execution of Criminals." KR

...AND DRAWS PRAISE, CRITICISM
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw commented on the dossier on 2 December, saying it "makes it clear these [human rights abuses] are carried out as part of the deliberate policy of the regime. The aim is to remind the world that the abuses of the Iraqi regime extend far beyond its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction in violation of its international obligations," AP reported. Meanwhile, Amnesty International Secretary-General Irene Khan criticized the dossier for manipulating the human rights situation in Iraq. "This selective attention to human rights is nothing but a cold and calculated manipulation of the work of human rights activists," "The Times" quoted her as saying. "Let us not forget that the same governments turned a blind eye to Amnesty International's reports of widespread human rights violations in Iraq before the [1991] Gulf War," she added. KR

IRAQ ADMITS TO ATTEMPTING TO PURCHASE ALUMINUM TUBING...
Iraqi officials have reportedly told UN weapons inspectors that the country attempted but failed to purchase aluminum tubing that U.S. officials believe could be used to produce nuclear weapons and would be in violation of UN sanctions. The Iraqis said they sought the tubing for their conventional-rocket program, rather than for nuclear use, Cairo's MENA news agency reported on 2 December. A "high-ranking official close to UN inspectors" who attended 19 November meetings between weapons inspectors and Iraqi officials in Baghdad told MENA the Iraqis admitted that their government made six unsuccessful attempts to purchase aluminum tubing. The Iraqi officials reportedly provided UN inspectors with the diameter and thickness of the tubes they sought. According to MENA's source, this specific size of tube could not be used as centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium. KR

...AS WEAPONS INSPECTIONS CONTINUE IN IRAQ
UN weapons inspectors commenced their fifth day of inspections on 2 December, visiting the Al-Kamarah military-industrial complex outside Baghdad, cnn.com reported. Al-Kamarah is suspected of producing missiles capable of a range of more than 640 kilometers. Under the 1991 UN-brokered cease-fire agreement (UN Security Council Resolution 687), Iraq is only allowed missiles with a range of under 150 kilometers. The director of the Al-Kamarah complex said short-range missiles are still produced there, according to cnn.com. UN inspectors also visited a distillery outside Baghdad on 2 December, AP reported. Alcohol is used in the production of certain chemical weapons. KR

BAGHDAD TELLS UN THAT U.S., BRITAIN COMMITTING CRIME
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri has sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in which he said the U.S.-British bombing on 1 December of South Oil Company facilities was a crime, Iraqi News Agency reported on 2 December. Sabri claimed in the letter that the bombing occurred in an area alongside a residential neighborhood in Basra. He reported that the bombing killed four and injured 27 people. Sabri asserted that the bombing is part of an "aggressive, terrorist campaign of escalation against Iraq." Sabri claimed that Iraq is subjected to an average of 30-40 air raids per day that target civilian and military installations. Sabri reminded Annan, as he had stated in his previous letter to him on 24 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 November 2002), that the air raids violate the UN Charter and the principles of international law. Sabri called on the UN to take action against the United States and the United Kingdom. KR

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