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Newsline - December 6, 2002


CHECHEN PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FACES SECOND EXTRADITION THREAT
British police detained Akhmed Zakaev on his arrival in London from Copenhagen on 5 December and informed him of the new Russian charges leveled against him, but then released him on bail, dpa and chechenpress.com reported on 6 December. Zakaev will, however, have to appear before a London magistrate's court on 11 December in connection with the Russian extradition demand. Former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovskii, one of those who stood bail for Zakaev, told RFE/RL's Russian Service on 6 December that there is an agreement on mutual recognition of judicial decisions within the EU, so the United Kingdom will not act contrary to Denmark's decision not to extradite Zakaev According to Reuters, British government officials have declined to comment on reports that Zakaev requested political asylum in the United Kingdom. In an interview published on 5 December in "Kommersant-Daily," Zakaev predicted that Moscow would continue to try to secure his extradition from any country he visits. He also again affirmed his determination to bring about negotiations on a peaceful settlement of the Chechen conflict. LF

PUTIN AIDE CRITICIZES NATO EXPANSION...
Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii, speaking at a conference on Russia-NATO relations in Moscow on 6 December, emphasized that Russia "calmly disapproved" of NATO's decision last month to invite seven new countries -- including the three Baltic states -- to join the alliance, RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported. Yastrzhembskii said that NATO is a Cold War relic that has "revealed its inability to respond to new challenges," adding that Central European countries want to join "mostly because of their historical complexes." He claimed that unspecified surveys have shown "an overall public disapproval of NATO" among the populations of the seven invitees. He concluded that expansion will weaken the alliance. RC

...AND SAYS THAT MOSCOW IS WATCHING THE BALTICS
Presidential aide Yastrzhembskii also told the conference that once the three Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia join NATO, their attitude toward their Russian-speaking populations will change, RIA-Novosti reported on 6 December. He said that Moscow will "keep an eye" on developments. "The Russian public is very sensitive to the policies pursued regarding our compatriots in the Baltic states," he was quoted by ITAR-TASS as saying. RC

AIR-TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS PROTEST LOW WAGES
Nearly 200 domestic and international flights in the northern part of Russia were rerouted as a result of a work action and hunger strike by air-traffic controllers in Surgut, Khanty-Mansiisk, Kogalym, Nizhnevartovsk, and Vologda, "Izvestiya" reported on 6 December. As a result, controllers in Omsk, Novosibirsk, and Rostov-na-Donu found their workload greatly increased and announced that they will join the work action on 6 December. Air-traffic controllers in Surgut launched their hunger strike seven days ago in protest of low wages. An experienced controller there receives 11,000 rubles ($355) a month. Since air-traffic controllers are legally barred from striking, the hunger strikers intend to continue refusing food until they are hospitalized. According to the head of the Federation of Air-Traffic Controllers Unions, Sergei Kovalev, "[officials] in the Civil Aviation Service are calling us terrorists," "Izvestiya" reported. According to newsru.com, service to most northern Russian airports on 6 December was either closed or strictly limited. RC

JUSTICE MINISTER TO WORK FOR ABOLITION OF DEATH PENALTY
The Council of Europe has urged Russia finally to ban the death penalty, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 December. The council's first secretary-general, Maud Buer-Bukikkio, met in Moscow with Justice Minister Yurii Chaika and called on Russia to ratify the convention on the ban of capital punishment. For his part, Chaika said that he personally opposes the death penalty and that his opposition is based on the fact that he "worked as an investigator and [knows] what crime is." He said his ministry will urge the Duma formally to end capital punishment, but warned that in the run-up to next year's legislative elections some candidates will use the issue as "a trump card." RC

RADICAL WRITER DENIES TERRORISM CHARGES
Writer and National-Bolshevik Party leader Eduard Limonov vehemently denied all charges against him in a 10-hour statement delivered on 4 and 5 December during his trial in Saratov, newsru.com and "The Moscow Times" reported on 6 December. Limonov faces four counts of terrorism, illegal weapons possession, and creating an illegal armed formation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2002). He has been held in prison since 7 April 2001. "This case is aimed at immersing our society in fear...and returning the country to a one-party system where only the party of power has a right to exist," Limonov said, according to "The Moscow Times." Limonov has written seven books during his time in jail. If convicted, he faces 12-20 years' imprisonment. RC

SPS DUMA FACTION MIGHT SHRINK BY TWO
The Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) State Duma faction might expel Vladimir Koptev-Dvornikov and Vladimir Semenov for violating party discipline, "Kommersant" reported on 5 December. Last week the two men voted for proposed amendments to the law on the status of Federation Council deputies, although SPS leaders believe those amendments violate key constitutional principles (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 December 2002). Deputy Boris Nadezhdin subsequently proposed expelling the pair. Koptev-Dvornikov told "Kommersant" that he decided to leave the SPS faction months ago, intending to join "one of the centrist factions that makes up the Unified Russia party." At the time, SPS leader Boris Nemtsov talked him out of the move. Semenov does not wish to leave the SPS and will plead his case to his colleagues next week. In April 2001, Koptev-Dvornikov and Semenov were among four Duma deputies who deserted the Unity faction for the SPS. LB

RUSSIAN BOOKER PRIZEWINNER NAMED
The Russian Booker Prize for literature was awarded to 32-year-old Oleg Pavlov on 5 December for his novella "Karagandinskie devyatiny" (Karaganda Nines), Russian news agencies reported. Pavlov was quoted by RIA-Novosti as saying that the most important thing is "to remain human, not to betray oneself, to follow one's own path." The prizewinner receives $12,500. RC

REPORT OUTLINES RELIGIOUS THREATS TO NATIONAL SECURITY...
"Gazeta" on 5 December summarized what it said was a draft report on religious extremism prepared under the supervision of Vladimir Zorin, government minister responsible for nationalities policy, and Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov for an upcoming joint session of the Security Council, the State Council, and the Council on Cooperation With Religious Organizations. According to "Gazeta," the report lists five religious threats to national security: the Roman Catholic Church, which is allegedly trying to convert Orthodox believers; "representatives of foreign pseudo-religious communities" such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientologists; Islamic extremism, which the report blames on foreigners and foreign special services; attempts to promote the idea of a "clash of civilizations" and inevitable conflict between Christians and Muslims; and Protestant organizations, which "under the guise of humanitarian aid...are forming attitudes of self-alienation with respect to the Russian state,...popular traditions, ways of life, and culture." LB

...AND RECOMMENDS BUREAUCRATIC, LEGAL CHANGES
The draft report on religious extremism calls for considering "the creation of a federal organ to manage ethnic and state-religious relations," "Gazeta" reported on 5 December. Citing unnamed sources, newspaper it said Chechen administration head Kadyrov is a leading candidate to lead a proposed Ministry on Religious and Nationality Affairs. The report also recommended several legal changes. One would define "inciting ethnic, racial, and religious hatred" as a felony punishable by up to six years' imprisonment. Another would introduce criminal penalties for publishing and distributing printed or video materials with extremist content. The law on freedom of conscience and religious associations would be amended to make "centralized religious organizations" responsible for the unlawful activities of local branches, to ban the use of hypnosis or narcotics to sway individuals, and to include a standard consent form parents could sign to allow children to participate in religious organizations. LB

NEW LIFE FOR ILL-FATED SUBMARINE
The outer hull of the nuclear submarine "Kursk," which sank in the Barents Sea on 12 August 2000 killing al1 118 aboard, will be melted down and used to provide steel for new military vessels, "Izvestiya" reported on 6 December. According to Aleksandr Gorbunov, deputy director of the Nerpa shipyard in Murmansk, the nuclear fuel in the "Kursk" reactors will soon be removed and sent away for reprocessing. Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry Ambassador at Large Aleksei Alekseev announced on 6 December that Russia and NATO have negotiated a framework agreement on cooperation to rescue stricken submarines, ITAR-TASS reported. The agreement will be formally signed during NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson's visit to Moscow next week. RC

PRIMORE DEPUTIES DEFY GOVERNOR
The legislature of Primorskii Krai on 28 November selected businessman Oleg Kozhemyako as its representative to the Federation Council, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 6 December. Kozhemyako has long been a harsh critic of the economic policies of Primore Governor Sergei Darkin and, according to the paper, the governor's administration applied harsh pressure on legislators to prevent Kozhemyako's appointment. Unnamed deputies reportedly complained that administration officials threatened their business interests and those of their relatives. Darkin, who was in Moscow when the deputies voted, returned to Vladivostok and immediately cancelled a scheduled 3 December meeting with deputies, the daily reported. RC

REFORM OF PARDON COMMISSIONS PRAISED...
Representatives of pardon commissions across the Russian Federation met in Moscow on 4 December, nearly one year after President Putin abolished the Presidential Pardons Commission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2001 and "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2002). Robert Tsivelev, head of the presidential administration's department on pardons, declared the conference "a sign of the country's democratic development" and hailed the creation of pardon commissions in every region of the federation, REN-TV reported on 4 December. Appearing on RTR, Anatolii Pristavkin, who headed the national commission that Putin abolished last December, said he had doubts about Putin's decision at the time. However, having visited dozens of regions and attended many meetings of regional pardon commissions, Pristavkin concluded "the reform has succeeded." LB

...AS NUMBER OF PARDONS GRANTED DROPS PRECIPITOUSLY
"Kommersant" pointed out on 5 December that President Putin has pardoned only 182 people so far in 2002, a 98.5 percent decline from last year, when he granted more than 12,000 pardons. Far fewer recommendations for pardons reach his desk under the current system, prompting "Kommersant" to speculate that this was Putin's intention when he abolished the Presidential Pardons Commission. According to RTR, several participants in the 4 December conference emphasized that avoiding mistakes is more important than the number of pardons issued. Many human rights advocates support pardoning thousands more convicts in order to alleviate prison overcrowding, an extensive problem in Russia. LB

PAPER ALLEGES CENSUS RESULTS FACILITATE FRAUD, CORRUPTION
The national census conducted in October counted many nonexistent citizens who can be used in various corrupt ways, according to "Novaya gazeta," No. 89. The "dead souls" -- reportedly up to 10-15 percent of the population in some areas -- will yield extra state funding, which can be embezzled. Having more nonexistent citizens on the voter rolls will enable officials to fill out more fraudulent ballots for the "correct" candidates in local and federal elections. In addition, census figures on ethnicity might be manipulated for political gain. Some 15 new ethnic groups were identified in the Republic of Daghestan, comprised of citizens previously counted as Avars. As a result, the Avar elites who have dominated Daghestani politics might lose clout. In Bashkortostan, officials embarrassed by the fact that ethnic Bashkirs are the republic's third-largest group -- following Russians and Tatars -- allegedly instructed census takers to record at least 30 percent of the population as Bashkir. LB

OFFICIALS CONTINUE TO DENY REPORTS OF FORCED REPATRIATION TO CHECHNYA
Displaced persons from Chechnya are not being pressured to return there from tent camps in Ingushetia, Chechen Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudaev told Interfax on 5 December. He said reports of the forced repatriation are being spread by supporters of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and "criminal structures" who misappropriate humanitarian aid sent to those camps. Federal Migration Service First Deputy Director Igor Yunash similarly told journalists in Moscow on 5 December that Maskhadov's envoys are lobbying the displaced persons and offering them money to remain in the camps in Ingushetia, Interfax reported. Yunash said the rationale for doing so was to disprove Russian officials' statements that the situation in Chechnya has returned to normal and there are no longer any obstacles to the displaced persons' collective return there. Dudaev, however, said in late November that the main obstacle to the displaced persons' return is that there are no guarantees of their safety (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 December 2002). LF

ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS DIFFERENCES AMONG PRESIDENT'S SUPPORTERS RESOLVED
Interfax on 5 December quoted Serzh Sarkisian as saying in an interview published in "Golos Armenii" that there is currently "complete mutual understanding" among supporters of Armenian President Robert Kocharian, although "certain problems" existed six or eight months ago. It is still unclear whether Sarkisian has formally assumed the duties of head of Kocharian's campaign staff for the February 2003 presidential ballot, in which Kocharian is seeking a second term. The A1+ website, as cited by Groong, noted on 4 December that Sarkisian attended a closed session of Kocharian's election campaign staff that day even though he has not yet requested three months' leave of absence from his ministerial duties, as he said he would last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 2002). LF

ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT MOVES TO EXPEDITE RELEASE OF WORLD BANK LOAN TRANCHE
On 5 December the Armenian government approved a new draft bill on business insurance and other legislation aimed at improving the business environment, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The government hopes passage of the bills will induce the World Bank finally to release the first tranche, worth $20 million, of the new Structural Adjustment Credit approved earlier this year. The government is counting on that money to clear spending arrears dating back to 2000-01. LF

GEORGIAN COURT REJECTS CHECHENS' APPEAL AGAINST EXTRADITION TO RUSSIA
A Tbilisi court on 5 December upheld a 29 November ruling by Prosecutor-General Nugzar Gabrichidze that three Chechen militants apprehended in early August after having illegally entered Georgia from Russia be extradited to Russia, Russian agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 December 2002). The three men now plan to appeal to the Georgian Supreme Court. LF

GEORGIAN POLICE DENY REPORTS THAT OIL EXECUTIVE'S MOTHER KIDNAPPED
A Georgian Interior Ministry official said on 5 December that Russian media reports of the abduction for ransom last month of Elene Tkebuchava, the mother of Slavneft Deputy President Djumber Tkebuchava, are disinformation, Caucasus Press reported. However, Caucasus Press also quoted Abkhaz Deputy Interior Minister Valeri Lagvilava as confirming that Tkebuchava was abducted on 11 November from her home in the Abkhaz town of Tkvarcheli and that her son is negotiating with the kidnappers. ITAR-TASS on 5 December quoted a member of the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government-in-exile as saying there is no evidence that Tkebuchava is being held in the Zugdidi Raion of western Georgia, which borders on Abkhazia. LF

ABKHAZ ACCUSE GEORGIAN AUTHORITIES OF ABETTING TERRORISM
At the regular Thursday meeting of Abkhaz and Georgian officials and representatives of the UN Observer Mission and the CIS peacekeeping force deployed in the Abkhaz conflict zone, the Abkhaz accused the Georgian government of condoning terrorist acts by Georgian guerrillas against the Abkhaz, Caucasus Press reported. They cited three separate incidents over the past 10 days: the kidnapping of two Abkhaz on 24 November by Georgian guerrillas who seek to exchange the men for two of their fellow fighters, an explosion near the local administration building in Gali on 29 November, which an Abkhaz security official likewise blamed on Georgian guerrillas, and the deaths of three Abkhaz militiamen on 30 November when their car hit a landmine. LF

GEORGIAN PROGRAM FOR NATIONAL MINORITIES FAILS TO APPEASE
Representatives of Armenian and Azerbaijani youth organizations who attended the formal presentation in Tbilisi on 5 December of Georgia's new program for national minorities staged a walkout to protest the organizers' refusal to permit them to comment on that document, Caucasus Press reported. Irakli Lagvilava, who spent two years drafting the program, told the agency it will include special government programs for teaching Georgian to members of minorities and for providing alternative employment to Georgian citizens -- most of them ethnic Armenians -- who are currently employed at the Russian military base in Akhalkalaki. He said he hopes for 500,000 laris from the state budget in 2003 to finance the drafting of the language-teaching program. LF

'THE ECONOMIST' HONORS KAZAKH JOURNALIST
"The Economist" announced in its 5 December edition that it has awarded this year's Freedom of the Press Award to Kazakh journalist Lira Baysetova, owner and editor of the opposition newspaper "Respublika." Baysetova's daughter disappeared in late May, shortly after Baysetova published an interview with Geneva prosecutor Bernard Bertossa about rumored secret Swiss bank accounts belonging to President Nursultan Nazarbaev and members of his family. Baysetova's daughter died under unclear circumstances shortly afterward (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2002). LF

GAZPROM HEAD, KAZAKH PRESIDENT DISCUSS COOPERATION
At a meeting in Astana on 5 December, Gazprom head Aleksei Miller and President Nazarbaev discussed the prospects for expanding gas production at the giant Karachaganak field and Gazprom's participation in exporting that gas, Russian agencies reported. Miller told journalists that KazRosGaz, which is a joint stock company formed by Gazprom and the Kazakh state oil company KazMunaiGaz, might soon receive a license to develop gas fields located near Karachaganak. LF

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VISITS KYRGYZSTAN
Vladimir Putin paid a one-day visit to Bishkek on 5 December on his way home from India, Russian agencies reported. Following talks with his Kyrgyz counterpart Askar Akaev, Putin told journalists there are no unresolved problems in bilateral relations, either in the sphere of politics or economic cooperation, Interfax reported. He said he and Akaev discussed bilateral relations, regional issues, the arms trade, and the role of the CIS, the Eurasian Economic Community, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Both countries are members of all three organizations. Akaev, for his part, said that Kyrgyzstan aspires to become Russia's "main strategic partner" in Central Asia. Putin and Akaev signed the Bishkek Declaration affirming their shared commitment to "a democratic multi-polar world order, based on the supremacy of international law;" a treaty on security cooperation, which Putin stressed is not aimed against any third country; and an agreement on restructuring Kyrgyzstan's $59.6 million debt to Russia, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. LF

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER OVERSEES AIR FORCE DEPLOYMENT IN KYRGYZSTAN
Sergei Ivanov witnessed the arrival at the Kant airbase near Bishkek on 5 December of two Russian Su-25 combat aircraft to be deployed there together with other Russian aircraft to increase the effectiveness of the CIS Collective Security Forces, Russian agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 2002). He said that in the event of an attack on Kyrgyzstan or any other member of the CIS Collective Security Treaty, the air contingent will "fulfill its basic mission" of bombing and destroying the enemy, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

POPULATION OF KYRGYZSTAN'S SECOND CITY CALLS FOR MORATORIUM ON DEMONSTRATIONS
In response to an appeal from city residents, the Osh municipal council has imposed a three-month moratorium on all meetings, marches, and pickets, akipress.org reported on 5 December. Residents of Bishkek have similarly appealed to the city authorities to impose such a ban (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2002). In September, the Kyrgyz parliament shelved a government-proposed bill that would have imposed a three-month nationwide ban on such measures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 17 September 2002). LF

FORMER TURKMEN INTERIOR MINISTER MURDERED?
Porran Berdyev, who served as interior minister and then as National Security Committee chairman until September 2002, when he was named head of Balkan Oblast, was found dead at his home on 25 November, the day of the abortive attempt to kill President Saparmurat Niyazov, "Vremya novostei" reported on 2 December, quoting Deutsche Welle. Niyazov fired Berdyev as oblast administrator last month for his failure to meet the cotton-harvest target (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2002), but "Vremya novostei" suggested he was killed because he knew too much about the activities of Niyazov and his closest associates. LF

UZBEKISTAN PARTIALLY ABOLISHES NEW DUTY ON IMPORT OF CONSUMER GOODS
On 4 December President Islam Karimov issued a decree exempting legal entities from a tax introduced in July on the import of non-food consumer goods, uza.uz reported. Private individuals, however, will apparently still have to pay the new tax, originally set at 90 percent of the value of the goods in question and then reduced to 70 percent after protests by market traders. LF

U.S. CONGRESSMAN 'APPALLED' BY 'OUTRAGEOUS LIES' OF BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT...
"I categorically refute the December 4 press release issued by Belarusian President [Alyaksandr] Lukashenka," U.S. Congressman Curt Weldon (Republican-Pennsylvania) said in a statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Minsk and dated 4 December. "I am appalled that anyone would take such blatant action and put out such outrageous lies." The Belarusian president's office had issued a press release on the recent meeting of Weldon and two other U.S. congressmen with Lukashenka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 December 2002). That statement said the U.S. congressmen called the 2001 presidential election in Belarus "fair and democratic." The release added that "an understanding was reached that the talks should start a new, constructive stage in the relationships of the Republic of Belarus with the U.S. and the Euro-Atlantic community." The press office also asserted that the U.S. congressmen expressed readiness to establish contacts with the current Belarusian legislature in the future. "Many of the statements in the press release concerning alleged agreement on the part of the delegation had been proposed to them but were categorically rejected," Weldon noted. "The delegation went to Minsk in good faith and what they have seen is the lowest form of politics." JM

...WHILE BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADERS CALL IT A SNAFU
United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 5 December that Lukashenka's regime used the president's meeting with those U.S. congressmen not to combat the country's isolation but as "a cheap propaganda action." Belarusian Social Democratic Party leader Stanislau Shushkevich said he is particularly indignant over the assertion by Lukashenka's press service that the U.S. congressmen expressed readiness to establish contacts with the current Belarusian legislature. "This is Goebbelsian propaganda -- they have no shame," Shushkevich added, in a reference to Adolf Hitler's chief propagandist. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PLEDGES 'CARDINAL CHANGES' IN ARMY
President Leonid Kuchma on 5 December predicted 2003 will be a "period of cardinal changes" in the Ukrainian armed forces, UNIAN reported. Kuchma added that the army's numerical strength and the amount of military equipment will be reduced, while the combat value of troops will be enhanced. Earlier this week, Kuchma ordered the Defense Ministry to work out a plan for discharging up to 20 percent of the officer corps. Under a program approved in April, Ukraine's armed forces are to shrink to 375,000 by the end of 2005. On 5 December, Kuchma appointed General Colonel Petro Shulyak as commander in chief of the country's land troops. Kuchma fired Shulyak from his post as chief of General Staff on 28 July, in the wake of an air-show disaster in Lviv that claimed 76 lives. JM

UKRAINIAN JOURNALISTS SNUB PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE IN SOLIDARITY PROTEST
A dozen journalists from several Ukrainian television channels and newspapers left a news conference by Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasyl Prysyazhnyuk in Kyiv on 4 December to protest the refusal of the Prosecutor-General's Office to accredit a journalist from the Internet publication "Ukrayinska pravda" for the event, UNIAN reported. "Because you present the position of the Prosecutor-General's Office and use the information obtained at news conferences in a biased manner, we think that our further cooperation is inexpedient," the "Ukrayinska pravda" website quoted a representative of the Prosecutor-General's Office as saying to justify the rejection. JM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION LEADER BECOMES HONORARY PROFESSOR OF RUSSIAN ACADEMY
On 4 December in Kyiv, Yuliya Tymoshenko, the leader of the eponymous opposition bloc, received the title of honorary professor of the Russian Federation's Academy of Security and Defense, UNIAN reported on 5 December. According to Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc press service, the title came in recognition of Tymoshenko's efforts to reform Ukraine's fuel and energy sector, combat corruption in this sphere, and develop new ways to provide security for the power-engineering sector. Tymoshenko was deputy prime minister for fuel and energy in Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet from December 1999 to January 2001. The Russian Federation's Academy of Security and Defense was set up in 1999 at the initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin. JM

ESTONIA BACKS UKRAINE'S ENTRY INTO EU, NATO
Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland told visiting Ukrainian parliament Chairman Volodymyr Lytvyn in Tallinn on 5 December that Estonia backs Ukraine's efforts to join NATO and the EU and is willing to share experience gained during accession talks, BNS reported. She also pledged support for Ukrainian membership in the World Trade Organization, asserting, "It is in our common interest for the continuation of day-to-day, close trade." Lytvyn arrived in Tallinn the previous day at the head of a delegation from the Verkhovna Rada and, in talks with Estonian counterpart Toomas Savi, called for closer cooperation between the two legislatures. He also met with Prime Minister Siim Kallas, who noted that Ukraine's progress in economic and government reforms is in Estonia's interest. SG

U.S. MILITARY BRASS VISITS LATVIA
Vice Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace arrived in Riga on 4 December to discuss bilateral military cooperation and examine Latvia's plans for restructuring its army, BNS reported. The next day, he met with Prime Minister Einars Repse, Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis, and defense chief Brigadier General Raimonds Graube. Pace also visited the armed forces training center at Adazi. Pace was scheduled to continue his Baltic tour with a trip to the Estonian capital, Tallinn. SG

COMMISSION APPROVES CANDIDATE LISTS FOR LITHUANIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS
Local election commissions published the lists of candidates to municipal-council elections in 60 cities and raions to be held on 22 December, BNS reported on 5 December. More than 10,000 people from 25 political parties will compete for 1,560 seats. The number of parties decreased from 26 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 2002) to 25 because the Lithuanian Socialist Party, which was running solely in the city of Kaunas, failed to fulfill the requirement that lists contain at least 10 members after some of its candidates were crossed off for not being permanent residents of Kaunas. The Central Election Commission also removed from the list of candidates 76 individuals who failed to mention in their candidacy applications that they were found guilty of crimes after 1991 or of serious crimes previously. The Social Democratic Party and the New Union (Social Liberals) will run in 59 districts, the Christian Democrats in 55, the Farmers and New Democracy Union in 54, the Center Union in 52, and the Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) and Liberal Democrats in 51. SG

POLISH PREMIER IN ROME
Premier Leszek Miller met with his Italian counterpart Silvo Berlusconi in Rome on 5 December, Polish media reported. Berlusconi reportedly assured Miller that Italy will support a Danish proposal to increase the EU's financial aid to new EU members following the planned expansion in 2004 (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 3 December 2002). Later the same day, Miller met with Pope John Paul II and invited the pontiff to visit Poland. "God permitting, [I'll come,]" the pope replied, according to "Rzeczpospolita." JM

CZECH REPUBLIC FILES LANDMARK SUIT AGAINST FOREIGN INVESTOR NOMURA
The Czech Republic has lodged a 263 million-crown ($8.5 billion) suit with a London arbitration court in an effort to recover damages it alleges were caused by financial powerhouse Nomura, the Czech daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 6 December. The accusations stem from Nomura investments and alleged activities concerning the failed Czech IPB financial group, whose spectacular decline into insolvency in 2000 was preceded by widespread accusations of fraud, abuse of minority shareholders, and financial mismanagement. The case marks the first time the Czech Republic has ever sought such relief from a foreign investor -- in this case an investor whose cozy ties with senior politicians from the ruling Civic Democratic Party (ODS) left it vulnerable following the ODS's fall from power in late 1997. Nomura spokeswoman Claire Williams called the Czech Republic's suit groundless, according to the daily. Nomura has already filed a suit alleging the Czech state's imposition of forced administration at IPB cost shareholder Nomura 40 billion crowns. AH

SLOVAK POLICE CHARGE FORMER INTELLIGENCE CHIEF WITH ORDERING MURDER...
Police on 5 December arrested and charged Ivan Lexa, a former head of the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS), with criminal counts that include ordering the murder of a former policeman, local and international news agencies reported the same day, citing Interior Minister Vladimir Palko. Robert Remias, who was killed by a car bomb in April 1996, was friends with a key witness who implicated the SIS in the abduction of former President Michal Kovac's son in 1995. Palko added that prosecutors will ask that Lexa -- who spent two years as a fugitive before being arrested and extradited from South Africa in connection with other charges stemming from his 1994-98 tenure -- remain in custody, CTK reported. Speaking through his lawyer, Lubomir Hlbocan, Lexa called the charges "fabricated and politically motivated," according to TASR. Lexa faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of instigating the murder, which Palko said was carried out to "hamper the investigation of the kidnapping," Reuters reported. Palko said additional charges have been filed against Lexa, including abuse of power, CTK added. Critics have accused Lexa of using the secret service to intimidate political opponents of then-Premier Vladimir Meciar's strong-arm regime. BW/AH

...AS FORMER PRESIDENT LAUDS ARREST
Former President Kovac called Lexa's arrest a sign that the country's political and social climate is improving, TASR reported on 5 December. Kovac said the arrest should give a boost to police and prosecutors working on the case. Former Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner said Slovaks should be pleased that police are progressing toward solving what he called "the first political murder in the history of the new Slovak Republic." Jan Kovarcik, deputy head of Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), said the accusations are unproven and represent an attempt to criminalize the opposition. Kovarcik also accused the government of trying to turn public opinion against the HZDS prior to municipal elections. Meciar's party received the highest number of votes in September's national elections but failed to win a majority or find a coalition partner. BW

SLOVAK PRESIDENT INVESTIGATES PROSECUTOR'S LIBEL ALLEGATIONS AGAINST JOURNALIST
Slovak President Rudolf Schuster is studying a prosecutor's threat to sue newspaper reporter Vanda Vavrova, TASR reported in 5 December. A prosecutor has said he is considering charging Vavrova, a journalist for the daily newspaper "Pravo," for criminal libel over a series of stories she wrote on alleged corruption within the judiciary. If convicted, Vavrova could face up to five years in jail and be fined and banned from working as a journalist. The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI), which sees the threat as an assault on free press, has asked Schuster to look into the matter. "Although it has not been activated, the threat is seen as an attempt to subdue the local media and prevent them from reporting on judicial matters," the IPI wrote in a letter to Schuster on 4 December. The IPI noted that many other countries have removed criminal defamation laws from their books and urged Slovakia to do the same. "If the objections are justified, the president is willing to do his best to help the journalist," Schuster's spokesman, Jan Fule, said. BW

SLOVAK SECURITY GUARD CHARGED IN OCTOBER SOCCER SHOOTING
A security guard charged with shooting and wounding an England football fan in Bratislava in October should remain in pretrial custody, Bratislava's Regional Court ruled on 4 December, TASR reported the same day. An employee of the private security firm Vesuv KP Security allegedly shot Gareth Jones in the neck after the firm was called in to clear rowdy fans from a bar ahead of a European Championship qualifier between England and Slovakia on 12 October. BW

HUNGARIAN INDUSTRIALISTS CALL FOR CENTRAL-BANK HEAD'S HEAD
The National Federation of Employers and Industrialists and four employers' organizations of the National Interest Coordination Council have called on Hungarian National Bank Chairman Zsigmond Jarai to resign, Hungarian radio reported on 5 December. Federation Chairman Gabor Szeles said exporters are being hit hard by the strengthening forint, adding that a choice has to be made between tight monetary policy or helping improve the competitiveness of enterprises and safeguard jobs. The groups believe Jarai has shown no inclination toward the latter. DW

HUNGARIAN NOBEL PRIZE WINNER ACCEPTS BUDAPEST CITIZENSHIP
Imre Kertesz, who won this year's Nobel Prize for Literature, accepted honorary citizenship of Budapest from Mayor Gabor Demszky at a ceremony on 4 December, AP reported the next day, citing "Magyar Hirlap." Kertesz signed his name in the book of the city's honorary citizens simply: "I am proud, thank you," the daily reported. Kertesz said at the ceremony that he remembers the three years between the end of World War II and the communist takeover of the country as one of the happiest periods of his life. "There was a wonderful atmosphere in the city," he said. "The will to live has survived, but perhaps its memory is missing." DW

BOSNIAN SERBS MUST EXPLAIN IRAQ TRADE BY 3 JANUARY
A spokesman for High Representative Paddy Ashdown said in Sarajevo on 5 December that SFOR will head an investigation into illegal Bosnian Serb arms sales to Iraq, Hina reported. The spokesman said top international officials in Bosnia told Republika Srpska President Dragan Cavic in a letter that they are "angry" over what they regard as Bosnian Serb foot-dragging in the Serbs' own investigation into arms sales by the Orao company, the Croatian news agency added. The international community has set a deadline of 3 January for obtaining answers to important questions, including who approved the illegal sales and the visit of unnamed Iraqis to Bosnia. On 6 December, court authorities in Bijeljina ruled that three senior Orao executives detained by police in November may be held for an additional month, Beta reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 October and 8 and 29 November 2002). PM

SERBIAN HEALTH WORKERS TO STRIKE
Serbian Health Minister Tomica Milosavljevic said in Belgrade on 6 December that there is no money in the budget for further wage hikes for health workers, Beta reported. He criticized a strike called by the Independence trade union for later in the day as "inappropriate." The union wants wage hikes of 7 percent immediately and 20 percent after 1 January. Croatia and Macedonia have also experienced waves of labor unrest in recent weeks (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 December 2002). PM

'FINAL' SESSION OF SERBIAN-MONTENEGRIN CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION SCHEDULED
The "final" meeting of the commission charged with drafting the Constitutional Charter governing relations between Serbia and Montenegro is scheduled to open on 6 December in Belgrade, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 5 December 2002). PM

TRAFFICKING SCANDAL SHAKES MONTENEGRO
Police recently arrested Zoran Piperovic, the deputy state prosecutor, and six additional government officials for their alleged roles in "running a major sex-trafficking operation," London's "The Independent" reported on 6 December. The men are accused of forcing women from Moldova, Romania, and elsewhere into prostitution and selling them. The allegation of the officials' roles came to light when one of the Moldovan women told her story to people at Podgorica's Safe House for Women. Ljiljana Raicevic, who heads the shelter, passed the information on to police. The daily added that the Moldovan woman said she "entertained prominent members of the judiciary, police, and political officials.... [She also provided] the names of the 20 most frequent 'customers.' She alleged that...these included the state prosecutor of Montenegro, Bozidar Vukcevic. Mr. Vukcevic denies the allegations, as well as...rumors that he [is] willing to talk about the affair in exchange for not being arrested." The investigation is expected to be concluded shortly, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

'TEMPORARY' CROATIAN-YUGOSLAV BORDER AGREEMENT READY
Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan said in Zagreb on 5 December that the government has approved a provisional border agreement with Yugoslavia to settle the dispute over the Prevlaka Peninsula, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He did not elaborate on the provisions of the pact but said it is not intended as a permanent arrangement. The foreign ministers of the two countries are expected to issue a joint statement at an OSCE conference in Lisbon on 6 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 2 October 2002). PM

BOMB EXPLOSION DESTROYS MACEDONIAN HONORARY CONSULATE IN PAKISTAN
A bomb destroyed the Macedonian honorary consulate in the Pakistani port city of Karachi early on 5 December, dpa reported. Three Pakistani citizens who were found dead in the rubble had obviously been killed before the blast. The honorary consul, a Pakistani businessman, was not injured in the explosion. The Macedonian Foreign Ministry condemned the incident and called on Pakistani authorities to investigate the case and protect the Macedonian honorary consul. According to unconfirmed information provided by the ministry, the act was most likely carried out by the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. Borjan Jovanovski, a spokesman for President Boris Trajkovski, dismissed media speculation that the blast was connected to the killing of seven Pakistanis by Macedonian police earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 March, 9 May, and 5 June 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 May 2002). U.S. and British experts are participating in the investigations, MIA news agency reported. UB

EU WARNS ALBANIA OVER CRIME
Chris Patten, the EU commissioner for foreign affairs, said in Tirana on 5 December that he hopes to launch talks on a stabilization and association agreement with Albania in February, Reuters reported. He added, however, that the outcome of the negotiations is likely to be linked to Albania's progress in fighting crime and corruption (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 November 2002). PM

ROMANIA'S PRIBOI CASE RESURFACES
National Liberal Party Senator Radu Alexandru on 5 December accused Social Democratic Party Deputy Ristea Priboi of involvement in secret-police activities after the fall of the communist regime, Romanian Television reported. At a press conference in Bucharest, Alexandru presented documents from writer Ion Gheorghe's Securitate files that prove Priboi was in charge of investigating him. Priboi, a former Securitate officer, was recently cleared of accusations of having personally tortured one of the workers arrested after the 15 November 1987 demonstrations in Brasov against the former regime. A former adviser to Premier Adrian Nastase, Priboi chaired the parliamentary commission supervising the activity of the Foreign Intelligence Service until April 2001, when he was forced to step down after revelations in the media that he had been in charge of supervising Securitate activities against RFE/RL (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 2001, and 11, 12, and 14 November 2002). ZsM

ROMANIAN INFORMATION SERVICE OFFICER ARRESTED ON CORRUPTION CHARGES
The National Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office on 5 December arrested Romanian Information Service (SRI) Lieutenant Colonel Valentin Carali on charges of abuse of office, Romanian media reported. Carali is accused of colluding with Gheorghe Dabela, director of the state-owned Bucharest central-heating company, to influence the contract terms of a 10 million euro ($10 million) contract with a German company. Dabela has been arrested on corruption charges. The two are accused of receiving a total of 150,000 euros from Marian Fatu, who is accused of acting as an intermediary on behalf of the undisclosed German company in setting up the bribe and who has also been arrested in the case. The SRI has suspended Carali from his post pending an investigation. ZsM

OPINION POLL INDICATES THAT ROMANIANS OVERWHELMINGLY REJECT EARLY ELECTIONS
Some 75 percent of Romanians reject the idea of holding early parliamentary elections in 2003, according to an opinion poll recently conducted by the CURS polling institute and released on 5 December, RFE/RL'S Bucharest bureau reported. Just 15 percent of respondents are in favor of holding early elections, which was recently proposed by the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD). However, should early elections take place, 60 percent of respondents believe the PSD would win. Romanian media also reported that the same poll indicates that 48 percent of Romanians support the PSD; the National Liberal Party and the Greater Romania Party have 14 percent support each; 9 percent support the Democratic Party, and 7 percent back the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania. While PSD Chairman and Premier Adrian Nastase is the most trusted politician with 60 percent support, 33 percent of respondents consider the PSD the most corrupt party in the country, according to the poll. ZsM

PPCD DEPUTY CHAIRMAN SAYS MOLDOVA SHOULD AVOID BECOMING 'EUROPE'S CUBA'
Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) Deputy Chairman Vlad Cubreacov has said that Moldova should beware of becoming "Europe's Cuba," Flux reported on 5 December. Cubreacov said that beyond declarations of support for democracy in Moldova, Romania and Europe should "export democracy and stability" to the country, which he said "traditionally, historically, and through its population" is European. He further argued the situation in Moldova is a European and international issue and said the PPCD is considering renewing protests against the Moldovan government. ZsM

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN REVEALS MORE EXPORTS OF DUAL-USE GOODS...
Government spokesman Dimitar Tsonev issued a statement posted on the government's official website (http://www.government.bg) on 5 December that revealed that inspections of the state-owned TEREM ordnance company found that the company has been involved in exporting dual-use goods for the past six years. The statement said that TEREM signed about 50 export contracts with the company Poldis, which was also a key player in the recent scandal over the sale of dual-use goods exports to Syria that were possibly destined for Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12, 13, and 18 November 2002, and 5 December 2002). The circumstances of these contracts and the modalities of the payments suggest that the companies tried to hide the illegal export of dual-use goods, Tsonev said. The government has taken all possible measures to prevent such violations of foreign-trade regulations in the future, the statement added. UB

...AS INTERIOR MINISTER SAYS NOTHING HAS BEEN PROVEN YET
Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov said on 5 December that it has not yet been established whether TEREM and Poldis violated Bulgaria's export regulations, mediapool.bg reported. Petkanov said it is possible that the deals under investigation were legal, but did not rule out that the companies might have illegally exported arms to countries that are under embargo. The news agency also quoted sources from the National Investigation Service saying that any conclusions from the investigations are premature. UB

BULGARIA URGES IRAQ TO REPAY DEBT
Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi announced on 5 December that the ministry has officially asked Iraq to repay its $1.7 billion debt to Bulgaria, bnn reported. The debt accrued from Iraqi imports of Bulgarian arms and other goods. Iraq has refused to repay the debt, citing the UN embargo as a reason. "If we have waited for 12 years, it is not a reason to wait for another 12," Pasi said. "The more persistently we raise the issue, the greater are the chances to resolve it." On 29 November, Pasi told parliament that "the sad truth is that a government that has been refusing to repay its debt for 12 years will never repay it." UB

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT TO CONSULT CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ON NATO ACCESSION
President Georgi Parvanov said on 5 December that he will ask the Constitutional Court to decide whether the constitution must be amended in order to comply with NATO-membership requirements, mediapool.bg reported. Parvanov said the ruling majority's belief that the constitution requires amendments is "controversial, to say the least." Under the current constitution, the transit of foreign soldiers via Bulgaria can only be approved by parliament. Stanimir Ilchev, the chairman of the parliamentary commission on foreign policy, defense, and security, said on 4 December that the government should be able to decide whether to allow foreign troops to enter Bulgarian territory without consulting parliament. In addition, he said that the government should be allowed to decide on the deployment of Bulgarian troops abroad. UB

SQUARING THE CIRCLE IN THE BALKANS
Most countries of Southeastern Europe are proceeding on the road toward Euro-Atlantic integration. The problem is what to do about those that are not.

The 21-22 November NATO summit in Prague brought Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia invitations to membership in the Atlantic alliance. At the same time, Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia firmly established themselves as the Ohrid-Adriatic group of candidates for membership in the next round of NATO expansion, whenever that may be.

Slovenia, moreover, is slated for EU membership in the upcoming round of that body's expansion. For its part, Croatia has made contact with Bulgaria and Romania about coordinating their efforts aimed at seeking EU membership in a subsequent round.

This leaves Bosnia-Herzegovina and Yugoslavia outside the pattern of integration. Bosnia's problem is relatively straightforward: Until it forms a single Defense Ministry, NATO is unwilling to consider it even for the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program, let alone membership. The EU, for its part, has noted that Bosnia is still far from being ready to conclude a stabilization and association agreement, let alone be a candidate for membership.

Yugoslavia's situation is similar to Bosnia's as far as the EU is concerned in that both countries lag well behind their neighbors. Belgrade had hoped to qualify for PfP at the Prague summit, but those hopes were dashed by continuing NATO concern about Yugoslavia's failure to reform its military and place it under transparent civilian control, as well as about Belgrade's reluctance to arrest and extradite numerous war criminals to The Hague. Moreover, any hopes Yugoslavia might have held onto for a breakthrough in Prague were put to rest by fresh American and British concerns over Belgrade's possible continuing arms sales to Iraq.

It thus appears that Bosnia and Yugoslavia are on the fringes of the process of Euro-Atlantic integration due primarily to problems of their own making. Neither the EU nor NATO has shown any willingness to lower their standards to help these countries catch up. Nor is either organization likely to do so, lest it send the unintended message to other candidates that standards are flexible and can be adjusted or ignored. This is particularly the case where cooperation with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague is concerned.

But the region as a whole has several important problems, and both Bosnia and Yugoslavia are caught up in them. These include poverty, unemployment, and organized crime. While many economic issues will be affected primarily by national policies, regional cooperation will be essential for thorough and long-term solutions. Organized crime, moreover, can only be dealt with on an international basis, since the various mafias in the region have long proven willing and able to cooperate with each other, even during the conflicts of the 1990s.

During their recent visit to RFE/RL headquarters in Prague, Albanian President Albert Moisiu, Croatian President Stipe Mesic, and Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski stressed the importance of international cooperation to solve common problems. Mesic in particular pointed to European integration rather than just regional efforts as the key.

Western policy makers will be dealing in the coming months with the problem of how to bring Yugoslavia and Bosnia into regional efforts to solve regional problems, even though both countries lag behind their neighbors in meeting many of the important criteria for Euro-Atlantic integration.

To the extent that the leaderships in Belgrade, Sarajevo, and Banja Luka are willing to cooperate, it is to be hoped that they will find encouragement and a warm welcome. In any event, Western policy makers will need to square the circle of maintaining clear EU and NATO standards without allowing an impoverished and lawless gray zone to emerge in the Balkans outside the framework of Euro-Atlantic integration.

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH CRITICIZES AFGHAN WARLORDS...
In a reported issued on 5 December entitled "Afghanistan's Bonn Agreement One Year Later: A Catalog of Missed Opportunities," Human Rights Watch (HRW) concluded that in key areas such as "human rights, public security, the rule of law, and economic reconstruction" the processes that were set in motion by the 2001 Bonn Agreement "are now faltering." In the area of human rights, "the primary problem is the continuing power of Afghanistan's warlords," according to HRW. The report also claims that warlords are "the primary threat to peace and stability" in Afghanistan and the reason it has been "impossible for the Afghan Transitional Administration to establish its authority beyond Kabul." The report also criticizes the United States for arming Afghan warlords "as late as October 2002." Furthermore, HRW alleges that Iran and Pakistan "continue to supply and assist" the Afghan warlords. AT

...AND RECOMMENDS EXPANSION OF ISAF
The HRW report adds that the marked improvement of security and the human rights situation in Kabul is "largely because of the introduction of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the heavy international presence" there. In support of President Hamid Karzai's requests that the United Nations extend the ISAF's mandate beyond Kabul, HRW recommends that the force "should be expanded as soon as possible" and the "U.S. and coalition forces should offer necessary assistance to enable ISAF expansion." On 2 December, German Foreign Minster Joschka Fischer categorically rejected that expansion of the ISAF's mandate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 2002). AT

DISPLACED AFGHAN CHILDREN FREEZE TO DEATH
At least six Afghan children have frozen to death in a camp for displaced persons in Spin Boldak, located on Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) reported on 5 December. An additional four children at a camp in Toba Achakzai, which is located on the Pakistani side of the border near Chaman, have died as a result of a recent cold snap. Dropping temperatures have facilitated the "spread of deadly diseases, especially pneumonia, among Afghan children and grownups" in the displaced-persons camps, APP added. A refugee named Abdullah who lives at the Abdollah camp in Spin Boldak told APP that the camp has no heating facilities and doctors left the camp to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the last day of the fasting month of Ramadan, leaving the children at the weather's mercy. AT

AFGHANISTAN'S KHOST AIRPORT HIT BY ROCKET ATTACK
Four rockets were fired at Khost airport in eastern Afghanistan by unidentified attackers on 5 December, Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported the same day. Rocket "attacks on Khost airport, where American forces are based, have increased in the past few weeks," AIP added (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November and 2 December 2002). The report did not give any details on casualties or damage caused by the 5 December attack. AT

ROTARY INTERNATIONAL TO REOPEN KABUL OFFICE
Rotary International will reopen its offices in Kabul, representative Fawzia Etemadi told Radio Free Afghanistan on 5 December. According to Etemadi, who recently accompanied a delegation of Rotary members to Kabul, the organization opened its first office in Kabul in 1966 but relocated it to Karachi, Pakistan, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. AT

KANDAHAR GOES WIRELESS
Afghan Wireless Communications Company (AWCC) has launched mobile GSM voice services in Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city, the Asia Pulse news agency reported on 5 December. The Kandahar operation is the company's "fourth key city launch in Afghanistan," the news agency cited an AWCC statement as saying. The company first launched GSM service in Kabul, where AWCC also provides Internet services, in April 2002, and launched services to Herat and Mazar-e Sharif prior to expanding to Kandahar. Jalalabad is slated to be the next Afghan city to receive AWCC's GSM services, the report added. AT

IRAN'S SUPREME LEADER CRITICIZES U.S. DURING EID AL-FITR SERMON
The traditional Friday prayer sermon at Tehran University was replaced for 6 December with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's sermon marking Eid al-Fitr, the last day of the fasting month of Ramadan, Iranian state radio reported. Khamenei noted in his second sermon that Islamic states are closing ranks in the face of the enemy's presence and its designs on the region. Awareness of such designs, Khamenei said, is the reason why Islamic states hate America and Zionism and global arrogance. Khamenei also warned that the enemy opposes the Basij, the clergy, and the seminaries, and plans to break up the country. He advised officials not to make remarks that the enemy can exploit. He warned: "Those inside the country who, for various motives, sometimes repeat the enemy's remarks must be very careful. Although, in most cases, God willing, they do so out of ignorance and inadvertently and unwittingly. But, they have to be careful." BS

STUDENTS DENIED PERMISSION TO HOLD RALLY IN TEHRAN
Iran's Students Day (a.k.a. 16 Azar, its date on the Iranian calendar) is scheduled for 7 December this year, but it appears there will be no officially permitted commemoration of this event in Tehran. The Tehran Province Governor-General's office has turned down the request for a rally permit from the majority faction of the country's main student organization, the Office for Strengthening Unity's Allameh branch, the Iranian Students News Agency reported on 4 December. "It is not expedient to hold any form of rally or march in the current circumstances, and therefore it is not possible to issue a permit for such a rally," the Governor-General's letter said. BS

IRANIAN PRESIDENT TURNS HIS BACK ON STUDENTS...
Some of President Mohammad Khatami's "radical aides" were pressuring him to participate in Students Day ceremonies on 7 December or to speak at Tehran Teachers Training College (Tarbiat Mudariss) the next day, but he refused to do so, "Resalat" reported on 4 December. An editorial in the 5 December issue of the "Aftab-i Yazd" newspaper noted that this will be the first time that Khatami has not addressed the students, adding that the president is in a delicate position. It said he can no longer "respond with generalizations or expressions of hope" or "skirt around issues with a dignified silence," but he is not a point at which he can give clear answers to their questions. BS

...AS DAILY ADVISES HIM TO TREAD CAUTIOUSLY...
The "Aftab-i Yazd" editorial noted that Khatami's refusal to meet with the students can be interpreted several ways. The newspaper said some will see it as the end to dialogue between society and officialdom, while others will take it as a sign of Khatami's confusion. Nevertheless, according to the editorial, Khatami must act cautiously in the current tense atmosphere. If anything, Khatami's refusal to meet with "ordinary people" should serve as a "serious warning" to those who have created such an atmosphere, according to "Aftab-i Yazd." BS

...WHILE STUDENT ACTIVISTS UNDERGO QUESTIONING
A number of student activists were summoned to the Intelligence and Security Ministry (MOIS) in the first week of December for questioning, "Iran" newspaper reported on 5 December. Hadi Kahalzadeh from Allameh Tabatabai University, Mojtaba Tardast from the Science and Technology University, and Arash Pahlavan-Nasir of the Office for Strengthening Unity's central council visited the MOIS building on 4 December, and a student from Shahid Beheshti University was there on 2 December. Most of the questions reportedly related to the recent campus demonstrations and some of the students had to complete inquiry forms. Some observers said that it is better to be summoned to the MOIS than to be interrogated at an undisclosed location, according to "Iran," whereas others fear the documentation could be used against them later. BS

U.S. DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY DISCUSSES TURKISH ROLE IN IRAQ
U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Istanbul's "Hurriyet" daily on 5 December that it is necessary for the United States, Turkey, and the opposition forces in northern Iraq to reach a consensus on the role each would play during and after possible regime change in Iraq. Regarding the possibility of Turkey establishing a security corridor in northern Iraq, Wolfowitz said: "The correct step would be to act within a clear agreement and partnership with the United States concerning what can and what cannot be done with the people in north Iraq. The Turkish side has guaranteed us this: If Turkey takes any step, this will not be an invasion, but will rather be certain temporary measures to defend Turkey's interests." Wolfowitz told that daily that the issue of oil in Mosul and Karkuk was not discussed during the U.S.-Turkish meetings this week. "It is necessary to ensure that the central government in Iraq continues to control the national assets of the country," he said, adding that "the petrol fields...are an important part of this." The best way to create a feeling of security in northern Iraq following the possible fall of President Saddam Hussein's regime would be for the United States to assume an influential role, Wolfowitz told the daily. KR

IRAQI PRESIDENT ADDRESSES PARTY AND STATE OFFICIALS
President Hussein addressed party and state officials on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, Iraq News Agency reported on 5 December. In a speech to leading members of the Bath Party, the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), and his cabinet, President Hussein said the Iraqi people are being "put to the test" regarding weapons inspections. "For that reason, we shall provide them with such a chance, after which if the weaklings remain weak, and the cowardly remain coward, then we shall take the stand that befits our people, principles, and mission," he said. Hussein added that victory belonged to the Iraqi people and concluded, "Your patience, brothers and comrades, and that of the Iraqi people is noteworthy, but your anger and revolt are also great when the situation calls for it. However, for every situation there is an answer, for every phase there is a certain behavior, and for every action there is a reaction." KR

IRAQI VICE PRESIDENT SAYS JIHAD IS DUTY OF EVERY MUSLIM
Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan told an Egyptian delegation visiting Baghdad that jihad has become the duty of every male and female Muslim in defense of the nation's values and heritage, Al-Jazeera television reported on 5 December. He asserted that the goal of the United States is to divide the Arab nation into petty states, and control them politically and economically. Ramadan denied that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction and said that if the United States and Britain truly believe that Iraq possesses such weapons they should submit "information" regarding them to UN inspectors. KR

IRAQI SHIITES PLEAD FOR UPCOMING CONFERENCE TO ELIMINATE SECTARIANISM
Several Iraqi Shiites have issued a statement calling for the meeting of Iraqi oppositionists in London next week to "formulate a unified political message and common vision" for Iraq's future, the London-based daily "Al-Hayat" reported on 5 December. "What the Shiites of Iraq are calling on the upcoming opposition conference to do is to endorse the principles in the (Iraqi Shiites' Declaration) and adopt it as one of the conference's official documents," the statement read. "Briefly, these principles call for getting rid of the dictatorship, confirming the Iraqis' determination and natural right to build the new Iraqi state, not squandering the great sacrifices they have made in the fight against the dictatorship, maintaining the Iraqi society's Islamic identity, and stamping out the sectarian policies whose main victims were Iraq's Shiites." The signatories also expressed their hope that the conference will adopt the idea of a decentralized Iraqi administration and democracy as a constitutional mechanism. The "Al-Hayat" report listed about 16 signatories to the statement. KR

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN REVEALS MORE EXPORTS OF DUAL-USE GOODS...
Government spokesman Dimitar Tsonev issued a statement posted on the government's official website (http://www.government.bg) on 5 December that revealed that inspections of the state-owned TEREM ordnance company found that the company has been involved in exporting dual-use goods for the past six years. The statement said that TEREM signed about 50 export contracts with the company Poldis, which was also a key player in the recent scandal over the sale of dual-use goods exports to Syria that were possibly destined for Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12, 13, and 18 November 2002, and 5 December 2002). The circumstances of these contracts and the modalities of the payments suggest that the companies tried to hide the illegal export of dual-use goods, Tsonev said. The government has taken all possible measures to prevent such violations of foreign-trade regulations in the future, the statement added. UB

...AS INTERIOR MINISTER SAYS NOTHING HAS BEEN PROVEN YET
Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov said on 5 December that it has not yet been established whether TEREM and Poldis violated Bulgaria's export regulations, mediapool.bg reported. Petkanov said it is possible that the deals under investigation were legal, but did not rule out that the companies might have illegally exported arms to countries that are under embargo. The news agency also quoted sources from the National Investigation Service saying that any conclusions from the investigations are premature. UB

BULGARIA URGES IRAQ TO REPAY DEBT
Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi announced on 5 December that the ministry has officially asked Iraq to repay its $1.7 billion debt to Bulgaria, bnn reported. The debt accrued from Iraqi imports of Bulgarian arms and other goods. Iraq has refused to repay the debt, citing the UN embargo as a reason. "If we have waited for 12 years, it is not a reason to wait for another 12," Pasi said. "The more persistently we raise the issue, the greater are the chances to resolve it." On 29 November, Pasi told parliament that "the sad truth is that a government that has been refusing to repay its debt for 12 years will never repay it." UB

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