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Newsline - December 13, 2002


RUSSIA WEIGHS IN ON IRAQI DECLARATION
Russia's Ambassador to the United Nations Sergei Lavrov told IRAR-TASS on 12 December that his country has issued "concrete proposals" pertaining to Iraq's 7 December declaration to the UN. Lavrov said that United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) Executive Chairman Hans Blix asked the five permanent Security Council member states to review the Iraqi declaration and submit proposals or suggestions by 13 December regarding which sections of the Iraqi declaration should remain confidential. "The Russian representatives carried this work out at the interagency level in the course of 24 hours, and today I've been instructed to inform Mr. Blix about [the] concrete assessment of each section of the Iraqi declaration in order [for him to] take into account our professional views in deciding what sections should remain confidential," Lavrov said. On 11 December, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell commented on the United States' intentions with regard to examining the report (see RFE/RL "Iraq Report," 13 December 2002). KR

IRAQ CANCELS RUSSIAN OIL DEALS...
Iraq has reportedly canceled a $3.7 billion oil deal with three Russian firms to develop the West Qurna field, Interfax and international media reported on 12 December. "LUKoil, Russia's largest oil group by reserves, was informed this week, along with two minority partners [Zarubezhneft and Mashinoimport] in the project, that their contracts in the second phase of the West Qurna field had been terminated," ft.com reported. A LUKoil spokesman said that an Iraqi deputy oil minister on 9 December sent a letter to LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov informing him that the contract has been canceled. The action reportedly resulted from failure on the part of the Russian companies to develop the field, which has reserves estimated at 7.3 billion barrels. Iraq has repeatedly tried to pressure the Russian firms to begin developing the fields. However, the firms are currently banned from doing so under UN sanctions. KR

...AS LUKOIL VOWS TO TAKE LEGAL RECOURSE
Aleksandr Vasilenko, the head of LUKoil's public relations office, said his company did not violate its contract with Iraq and will fight the cancellation through international legal channels, NTV and other Russian news agencies reported on 12 December. He said LUKoil's contract with Iraq was passed by Iraq's parliament and "we cannot understand how an official can break it," NTV quoted him as saying. "LUKoil is under the strong protection of the Russian state and hopes that [the Russian state] will do everything necessary to foil this shallow blackmail." VY

RUSSIAN OFFICIAL CLAIMS IRAN'S CASPIAN STANCE IS CHANGING
Russia's presidential envoy for the Caspian and Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi told reporters in Moscow on 10 December that, after visiting Iran last week, he believes Tehran is ready to conduct bilateral negotiations with its immediate neighbors (Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan) on use of the Caspian Sea, Interfax reported on 10 December. Moscow has already secured bilateral agreements with Baku and Astana. Kalyuzhnyi said Russia has invited Iran to demarcate the Caspian by resources rather than by a percentage. Iran has consistently demanded an equal 20 percent division among all five littoral states. Kalyuzhnyi said Iran is considering an invitation to participate in developing the Turkmen shelf. Kalyuzhnyi explained this generosity somewhat when he said, "We asked that Iran enter into negotiations on this issue with Turkmenistan, because without Tehran's consent, not a single Russian company would go to work in the Turkmen sector." President Khatami told reporters on 4 December that "any decision concerning the Caspian Sea should be taken unanimously by all five littoral states." BS

NORTHERN GOVERNOR LAUDS BENEFITS OF PIPELINE PROJECT
Murmansk Oblast Governor Yurii Yevdokimov said on 12 December that a new oil-pipeline project with a terminus in the city of Murmansk could provide the equivalent of one-quarter of the oblast's budget revenues, PRT and Finmarket reported. Russian oil majors Yukos, Tyumen Oil Company (TNK), Sibneft, and LUKoil signed a memorandum of understanding in late November on the project, which would run from Western Siberia to a deep-water port in Murmansk (see "RFE/RL Business Watch," 3 December 2002). Yevdokimov said the venture will revitalize the local economy and provide at least 6,000 jobs by 2007. VY

YAMAL AUTHORITIES SET UP CHECKPOINTS, EXTRA PATROLS
Authorities in Yamal Peninsula, which is home to huge oil and gas deposits, have established a host of new measures to combat potential terrorism and the threat of organized crime, ORT reported on 11 December, quoting the presidential representative to the Urals Federal District, Viktor Pogorelov. The precautions include checkpoints on highways and around key energy installations along with round-the-clock document checks at airports. Meanwhile, the presidential envoy to the district, Petr Latyshev, called the measures insufficient and vowed to demand amendments to the law on terrorism to "provide security and stability to energy-rich regions like Yamal," ORT reported. VY

GOVERNMENT MOVES FORWARD IN PIPELINE INTEGRATION PROJECT
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed a document calling for the integration of Russia's dominant Druzhba pipeline through Belarus, Ukraine, and Slovakia with the Adria pipeline that transits Hungary and Croatia, abnews.ru reported on 11 December. The Russian government should sign an accord in Zagreb on 16 December related to the Druzhba-Adria Pipeline Integration Project. The accord, with the relevant governments, will place those two pipelines under a single economic entity and guarantee a supply of 15 million tons of Russian oil (90 million barrels) to the world market through the Croatian port of Omisalj. State-owned Transneft, which initiated the scheme, will operate the project for the Russian side. VY

PROTESTERS DEMAND OUSTER OF EDUCATION MINISTER...
A group of protesters picketed the Education Ministry on 12 December, demanding the dismissal of Education Minister Vladimir Filippov, who recently recommended that schools teach a course on the foundations of Orthodox culture, Ekho Moskvy reported. The demonstrators maintain that such a course would constitute religious discrimination, which is prohibited under Article 14 of the Federal Constitution. Education Ministry officials have defended the course on the grounds that the course is "culturological" rather than religious, according to a special report by the Keston News Service on 4 December. Officials have also emphasized that schools will be able to choose whether or not to offer the course (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2002). However, the Keston report noted that the document on the course that Filippov sent to regional education departments in October "does not specify that [the course] is optional, nor that it is a purely 'culturological' subject." LB

...AS NEWSPAPER SAYS PLANS TO TEACH ORTHODOXY COURSE ARE NOT FEASIBLE
"Novye izvestiya" argued on 10 December that plans to include the foundation of Orthodox culture course in Russian schools cannot be implemented because of a lack of qualified teachers. There are hundreds of thousands of schools in Russia but only about 20,000 Orthodox priests, most of whom have no teaching experience. Patriarch Aleksii II has said more than once that "a father should be a preacher; teachers should teach." A "Novye izvestiya" correspondent visited one Moscow school and found that only one teacher out of 35 on staff considered himself qualified to teach such a class. However, he said he would decline to take on the subject because of his extensive workload. He added that a neighboring school does not even teach history because there is no qualified teacher on staff. LB

DUMA APPROVES BILL ON STATE LANGUAGE IN SECOND READING...
The State Duma on 11 December approved in the second reading a draft law that would establish Russian as the state language, ORT reported. According to "The Moscow Times" on 28 November, the bill requires that Russian be used in all official contacts and bans "foreign words that have commonly accepted Russian equivalents" as well as "vernacular, disdainful, or foul" language. However, it does not specify how the law would be enforced or how language offenders would be punished. ORT noted that contrary to earlier speculation, the latest version of the bill does not impose fines for distorting the Russian language in public. "The Moscow Times" also commented that since the Duma approved the bill in the first reading in June, deputies have loosened proposed restrictions on journalists and television personalities, who would be able to use prohibited language if it is "an inalienable part of an artistic concept." LB

...BUT EXPERTS SAY IT WILL NOT WORK
Professor Vitalii Kostomarov of the Pushkin Institute of the Russian Language in Moscow told ORT on 11 December that while he has long advocated state policies to preserve the Russian language, he expects the bill approved by the Duma to be a dead letter. Similarly, Professor Maksim Kronhaus, director of the Linguistics Institute of the Russian State Humanities University, described attempts to legislate foreign borrowings as absurd, "The Moscow Times" reported on 28 November. In addition, Kronhaus said the draft law under consideration in the Duma is too vague to be effective. For instance, it states that the rules on using Russian as the state language apply to "activities" of private organizations as well as to official contacts by state bodies. It also covers advertising but not brand names or "'functional' signs such as exit markers or stop signs." LB

RUSSIA KICKED OUT OF GLOBAL FREIGHT-INSURANCE SYSTEM
The International Union of Automobile Transportation announced on 12 December that the worldwide system of freight insurance will cease to operate on Russian territory, effective 24 December, Ekho Moskvy reported. A document issued by the union asserted, "In essence an instrument of international trade has been turned into an effective means of defending organized crime.... More than 75 percent of all violations [of rules regarding insurance payouts] take place in Russia." As of 24 December, Russian transportation companies will no longer be able to use the worldwide system of freight insurance either in Russia or abroad. In addition, foreign freight companies will be barred from renting vehicles registered in Russia or from establishing business contacts with Russian transport planes. LB

JUSTICE MINISTRY STARTS CHECKING REGISTERED POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS...
The Justice Ministry has begun checking officially registered political organizations to make sure they meet the requirements of the law on political parties, NTV reported on 11 December. The goal is to avoid numerous court appeals shortly before next year's elections to the State Duma. In order to participate in elections, political parties must clear three stages of the registration process, Deputy Justice Minister Yevgenii Sidorenko explained in an interview with "Vremya MN" on 11 December. After receiving initial registration from the Justice Ministry, parties have six months to register regional branches in at least half of the 89 regions of the Russian Federation and then one additional month to show the Justice Ministry evidence that they have registered enough regional branches. Sidorenko noted that, so far, 47 political parties have passed the first stage but only 20 of them have confirmed that they have the required number of regional branches. LB

...AS OFFICIAL DEFENDS REGISTRATION OF NATIONAL POWER PARTY
In his interview with "Vremya MN" on 11 December, Deputy Justice Minister Sidorenko defended the registration of the National Power Party of Russia (NDPR), which has ignited controversy because of anti-Semitic and xenophobic comments by its leaders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2002). Sidorenko said the Justice Ministry closely scrutinized the NDPR and had no legal reason to deny registration to it. The party may have "odious personalities," but "a person's activities before a party's formation and his activities as a party leader are different things," Sidorenko reasoned. He added that some media have "distorted" the facts by quoting from alleged NDPR documents that are not the official documents submitted by the party to the Justice Ministry. According to Sidorenko, the documents highlighted by the media have been referred to the Prosecutor-General's Office, since investigating "what was said and where it was said" is not in the Justice Ministry's jurisdiction. LB

NATIONAL POWER PARTY LEADER EXPLAINS VIEWS ON 'NON-NATIVE PEOPLES'
Boris Mironov, co-chairman of the NDPR, discussed nationality questions in an interview published in "Moskovskie novosti" on 10 December. He acknowledged that he dislikes Jews, asking rhetorically, "What [ethnic] Russian person can like them after what they did to Russia?" But Mironov rejected the slogan "Russia for ethnic Russians," which in his view sets Russians and other "native peoples" (such as Tatars and Buryats) against each other. He defined "non-native peoples" as groups represented by foreign states, such as Israel, Armenia, Azerbaijan, or Georgia. Mironov advocated depriving "non-native peoples" of the right to vote, even if they were born in Russia and their ancestors lived in Russia for centuries, on the grounds that they are "genetically disloyal." Mironov chaired the State Press Committee early in Boris Yeltsin's first presidential term but was sacked in 1994 after making controversial statements such as, "If Russian nationalism is fascism, then I am a fascist." LB

YABLOKO MEMBER DISCUSSES PARTY'S FINANCES
Yabloko's fundraising capacity has improved recently, according to Duma Deputy Sergei Ivanenko, who is in charge of financial matters for the party. In an interview published in the weekly "Moskovskie novosti" on 10 December, Ivanenko said dues of 20 rubles ($0.60) per year from some 20,000 members are insufficient to cover Yabloko's spending needs. He said the party raises the bulk of its funds from "several dozen sponsors" whom the party refuses to identify unless the sponsors themselves publicize their support for Yabloko, as the Yukos oil company does. Asked whether authorities exert pressure on those who help finance Yabloko, Ivanenko said, "Our situation is changing for the better," compared to a "relatively recent" time when the party could not collect enough revenues to cover expenses. He attributed the improvement to "our contacts with the president," adding that "business pays attention" to such matters. LB

EXPERT QUESTIONS GOVERNMENT'S TAX POLICIES
Despite the government policy of significant tax reduction in 2002, tax evasion in Russia has hardly been dented, "Komsomolskaya pravda" quoted the head of the Moscow independent Economic Expert Group, Yevsei Gurvich, as saying on 11 December. The government paints the introduction of a flat income-tax rate of 13 percent as a great success, but statistics do not substantiate that claim, he said. If before the introduction of the flat-rate tax an average of 35 percent of Russian wages were paid "under the table," today the level is nearly the same at 32 percent. As for profit tax, the situation is worse now than before the tax reduction. If before the tax cuts businessmen paid taxes on 60 percent of their true profits, today they are paying tax on just 30 percent, Gurvich said. Low taxes damage the economy just as much as taxes that are too high, he added. If the state does not collect enough money to finance the functioning of the judiciary and police, the business community begins to settle disputes through criminal methods rather than in the courts, Gurvich said: It begins to give huge bribes and to maintain an enormous pool of lawyers and a vast private-security network comparable to the police personnel of an entire region. VY

SAUDI BILLIONAIRE LOOKING FOR INVESTMENTS IN RUSSIA
The Saudi Arabian tycoon Prince Valid bin Talal met on 12 December in Moscow with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to discuss the implementation of joint economic and trade projects, ITAR-TASS and other Russian news agencies reported. Bin Talal said he would like to enhance the political dialogue between the two countries by investment projects that will serve as a basis for closer cooperation. Bin Talal is generally regarded as one of the 10 richest people in the world and owns the Four Seasons hotel network, ITAR-TASS noted. VY

BASHKORTOSTAN'S PRESIDENT STILL BELIEVES IN PARLIAMENTARY RULE
Parliamentary rule is the "correct" form of government for the Republic of Bashkortostan and will be adopted "sooner or later," Bashkortostan's President Murtaza Rakhimov said in an interview published in "Parlamentskaya gazeta" on 11 December. Rakhimov sought to eliminate the presidency this autumn, but the republican legislature rejected that proposal. Bashkortostan's new constitution, which was adopted earlier this month, preserves the presidency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2002 and "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 6 December 2002). Rakhimov explained that federal legislation does not currently allow a purely parliamentary republic to be formed within the federation. Moreover, the majority of Bashkortostan's population supports retaining the presidency. But he noted that the new constitution broadens the authority of the republican State Assembly, makes that parliament unicameral, extends its term from four years to five, and creates a presidium to improve the efficiency of its work. LB

CHECHEN OFFICIALS HAIL PUTIN'S DECREE ON REFERENDUM
Chechen officials on 12 December expressed approval of the decree signed earlier that day by President Vladimir Putin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2002) providing for the holding of a referendum in Chechnya on a new draft constitution and draft laws on electing a new president and legislature, Russian news agencies reported. Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov said the Chechen authorities will make every effort to comply with the timeframe set out in the decree, ITAR-TASS reported. But he also warned that it is important that the Russian military desist from committing "crimes" against the civilian population in Chechnya in the run-up to the vote, according to Interfax. Presidential Human Rights Commissioner for Chechnya Abdul-Khakim Sultygov termed Putin's decree as " a dramatic step toward resolving the so-called Chechen problem," but declined to forecast when the referendum is likely to be held. Russian Minister for Chechen Affairs Stanislav Ilyasov predicted that once Chechnya adopts a constitution and elects a president and parliament it will cease to lag behind other Russian republics, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

RUSSIAN TROOPS LAUNCH NEW 'SWEEP' OPERATION IN SOUTHERN CHECHNYA
Russian troops apprehended eight civilians on 10 December during a "sweep" operation in the village of Elistandzhi in Vedeno Raion, chechenpress.com reported on 12 December. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION ALIGNMENT PLEDGES TO COMBAT ELECTION FRAUD
Representatives of the 16 opposition parties that formed a loose alignment in August aimed at preventing President Robert Kocharian's re-election in February 2003 agreed on 12 December on a joint measure to prevent falsification of the outcome of the ballot, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Specifically, they agreed to set up joint bodies in all 55 electoral districts to monitor the vote and investigate reported irregularities. LF

AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS STAGE PROTEST
Several hundred journalists and human rights activists staged a protest in Baku on 12 December against increasing pressure on the independent media, Turan reported. Participants noted in particular the 10 lawsuits brought against the independent newspaper "Yeni Musavat" over the past month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 10 December 2002). LF

RUSSIAN ENVOY MEETS WITH NEW ABKHAZ PREMIER...
Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin, whom President Vladimir Putin named in March as his envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, met in Moscow on 12 December with newly appointed Abkhaz Prime Minister Gennadii Gagulia, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. The two men reportedly identified the mutual distrust between Tbilisi and Sukhum as the primary obstacle to the peace process. According to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement, "the Russian side put forward a series of proposals that would allow both sides to resume a constructive dialogue and search for mutually acceptable solutions to the problem," and Gagulia "showed interest" in those proposals. Russia and Abkhazia have recently stressed the need for confidence-building measures, while Tbilisi continues to insist on talks on the UN-drafted document "Basic Principles for the Division of Competencies Between Tbilisi and Sukhumi" (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 39, 12 December 2002). LF

...AS GEORGIA ACCUSES RUSSIA OF PLAYING SPOILER...
Speaking in Tbilisi on 13 December, Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Merab Antadze told journalists that Russia is to blame for the lack of progress in resolving the Abkhaz conflict, as it consistently blocks all initiatives by the remaining members of the so-called "Friends of the UN Secretary-General" grouping aimed at achieving a settlement, Caucasus Press reported. He said that for the past six months Moscow has prevented any discussion of the "Basic Principles." LF

...AND U.S. DIPLOMAT VISITS SUKHUM
U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the UN Richard Williamson held talks in Sukhum on 12 December with Abkhaz Vice President Valerii Arshba and Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba, Caucasus Press reported. Williamson reportedly told Shamba that the United States advocates autonomous status for Abkhazia within Georgia, but added that "the rights of the Abkhaz people must not be infringed on." LF

DATE SET FOR KAZAKH JOURNALIST'S TRIAL
The trial of opposition journalist Sergei Duvanov on what are widely believed to be fabricated charges of raping a 14-year-old girl, will begin next week, according to a 12 December press release Duvanov's daughter, Dinissa Duvanova, sent to "RFE/RL Newsline." Duvanova noted that although the Kazakh authorities have backed down and agreed that foreign experts will allowed to attend the trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2002), it is unlikely that those experts will be able to make arrangements to travel to Kazakhstan in time for the court proceedings. LF

KAZAKHSTAN, U.S. SIGN MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
U.S. Ambassador Larry Napper and Kazakhstan's First Deputy Foreign Minister Kairat Abuseitov signed a memorandum of understanding in Astana on 12 December under which Washington will provide a $530,000 grant to Kazakhstan's law enforcement agencies to bolster the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime, Interfax reported. LF

KAZAKH METAL WORKERS BEGIN HUNGER STRIKE
Some 800 metallurgists dismissed from the Irtysh copper smelter in Eastern Kazakhstan Oblast have begun an open-ended hunger strike to demand the payment of layoff allowances, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 December. The state-owned copper giant Kazakhmys with which the loss-making smelter is affiliated decided in August to close it. Kazakhmys is now engaged in talks with the Urals Metallurgical Company, which has expressed an interest in purchasing it and resuming production. In related news, a senior Kazakh government official told Interfax on 12 December that the sale of a 24.65 percent stake in Kazakhmys will contribute to expanding the corporation's charter capital to 14 billion tenges ($90.32 million). LF

KYRGYZSTAN, CHINA SIGN ANTITERRORISM PACT
Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov met in Beijing on 11 December with his Chinese counterpart Tang Jiaxuan to discuss bilateral and regional cooperation within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, ITAR-TASS reported. They also focused on recent border agreements, which Tang praised, according to akipress.org, and signed a bilateral agreement on combating terrorism, separatism, and extremism, especially on the part of the Uighur population of China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Tang expressed appreciation of Bishkek's refusal to recognize Taiwan. Aitmatov also met with senior economic officials to discuss expanding cooperation in the spheres of energy, oil extraction, mining, and the processing of agricultural produce. LF

KYRGYZ GENERALS CRITICIZE AMENDMENTS TO LAW ON CONSCRIPTION
Kyrgyz National Guard Commander Lieutenant General Abdygul Chotbaev on 12 December harshly criticized amendments to the Law on Conscription passed by the upper chamber of parliament earlier this month, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau and akipress.org reported. Those amendments reduce the duration of compulsory military service from 18 to 12 months and allow for young men to be exempted from serving upon payment of 25,000 soms (some $530). Chotbaev argued that the duration of military service should, on the contrary, be extended to two years, as one year is not sufficient to train servicemen. Defense Minister Colonel General Esen Topoev has expressed similar criticisms of the amendments, prompting their author, parliament deputy and former Deputy Defense Minister Ismail Isakov, to predict that President Askar Akaev will veto them. LF

OSCE CRITICIZES TURKMEN MEDIA COVERAGE OF PRESIDENTIAL ASSASSINATION BID
OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Freimut Duve told the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna on 12 December that Turkmen state television's coverage of the investigation into the reported 25 November attempt to assassinate President Saparmurat Niyazov is reminiscent of the show trials of the Stalin era, Reuters reported. Duve reminded Turkmenistan that, as a member of the OSCE, it is part of the "family of declared democracies." It nonetheless uses the media, Duve continued, "to humiliate and terrorize" any perceived critics of the regime. LF

UZBEK PARLIAMENT ADOPTS BILL TO CREATE BICAMERAL LEGISLATURE
In accordance with the outcome of the referendum held in January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January and 4 February 2002), Uzbekistan's parliament adopted two bills on 12 December on the election of a bicameral legislature when the powers of the current parliament expire in December 2004, Interfax reported. Addressing the session, President Islam Karimov characterized the transition to a two-chamber parliament as "yet another important step along the path to further democratization." He said the Senate (the future upper chamber) will take over some powers hitherto vested in the president, including the appointment of the prime minister and his deputies. LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST MILITARY RIVALRY IN CENTRAL ASIA
Karimov told journalists in Tashkent on 12 December that the presence of military bases in Central Asia can be regarded as positive only where they serve to ensure security, peace, and stability, Interfax reported. "Military rivalry between the great powers in an overheated region is counterproductive," akipress.org quoted him as saying. In a clear allusion to Kyrgyz President Akaev's expressions of loyalty to Russia during President Putin's 5 December visit to Bishkek, Karimov noted that "some of my co-presidents are constantly concerned to demonstrate their closeness to the body of Russia." Akaev had also hailed the temporary deployment in Kyrgyzstan of Russian warplanes seconded to the CIS Collective Security Treaty Rapid-Reaction Forces. Also on 12 December, Karimov told ITAR-TASS that Russia's importance for Central Asia is considerable, and that there are no unsolvable problems in political, economic, trade, or cultural relations between Uzbekistan and Russia. LF

UZBEKISTAN, MOLDOVA PLEDGE TO EXPAND ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Moldovan Premier Vasile Tarlev paid a three-day visit to Tashkent on 9-11 December, uza.uz reported. Tarlev and his Uzbek counterpart Utkir Sultanov co-chaired a session of the intergovernmental commission on cooperation, which focused on developing trade and financial ties and cooperation in the food-processing industry, tourism, science, and technology. Agreement was reached during the session to restructure Moldova's $3.3 million debt to Uzbekistan, uzreport.com reported on 13 December. LF

BELARUS TO CLEAN UP CHORNOBYL-HIT AREAS WITH INTERNATIONAL AID
The Belarusian government intends to implement a program next year to rehabilitate four raions that were heavily contaminated with radioactive substances in the wake of the 1986 Chornobyl disaster, Belapan reported on 12 December. The plan will target Brahin and Chechersk (Homel Oblast), Stolin (Brest Oblast), and Slauharad (Mahilyou Oblast). A government official told journalists that implementation will be aided by the European Commission, the UN Development Program, the World Bank, the French Embassy in Belarus, and the Swiss Foreign Department's Development and Cooperation Office. Newly appointed French Ambassador to Belarus Stephane Chmelewsky said EU ambassadors will monitor the program to ensure that the assistance goes directly to residents of those areas. "There are certain tensions in relations between Belarus and the European Union," Chmelewsky noted. "However, assistance to the affected population is beyond these political tensions." JM

BELARUSIAN OFFICIALS DENY PLAN TO FLOOD POLAND WITH ILLEGAL MIGRANTS
Officials from Belarus's KGB, Border Troops, and Security Council denied a recent report in the Polish weekly "Wprost" claiming that Belarus wants to relax the policing of its border with Poland to let huge numbers of illegal migrants from Asia and the Caucasus enter that country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2002), RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. "It is at least nonsense, if not a provocation," State Committee for Border Troops spokesman Uladzimir Nestserovich commented on the report. An official from the Belarusian Security Council requesting anonymity told RFE/RL that the "Wprost" report might have been spawned by Polish border guards who, the official added, are seeking higher funding for the protection of Poland's eastern border. JM

NORWAY JOINS EU VISA BAN ON BELARUSIAN OFFICIALS
Norway on 12 December announced it is imposing a visa ban on Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and seven senior officials, following the example of 14 European Union countries (excluding Portugal) and the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 27 November 2002), Belapan reported. JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS TRADE ACCUSATIONS IN WAKE OF BRAWL
A group of opposition lawmakers has appealed to parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn in a letter demanding that he ban deputy Hryhoriy Surkis from participating in parliamentary sessions for a week, UNIAN reported on 12 December. The letter claims that, during a wild fracas that erupted in the Verkhovna Rada on 12 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2002), Surkis struck opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko. Meanwhile, Surkis told journalists that it was Tymoshenko who "intended to beat him." Surkis, widely believed to be Ukraine's wealthiest oligarch, added that Tymoshenko kicked him in the leg, trying "to damage his only new shoes." The 12 December brawl in the Verkhovna Rada was sparked by a second attempt on the part of the pro-government majority to dismiss National Bank Governor Volodymyr Stelmakh and install Serhiy Tyhypko in the post. JM

U.S. AMBASSADOR WARNS KYIV AGAINST 'ISOLATION'
Speaking to students and lecturers of Ukrainian private universities in Kyiv on 12 December, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual said President George W. Bush and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma are "unlikely to meet in the near future," UNIAN reported. Pascual said Ukraine is threatened with finding itself in "isolation" now, as practically every European country is either a member of NATO or the EU, or has been invited to join one of those two organizations. He stressed that demonstrating adherence to the Euro-Atlantic choice would be the only right decision for Ukraine. The ambassador also said Ukraine's Ministry of Economy has so far failed to permit the registration of two U.S. institutions -- the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute -- in Ukraine despite a year of talks on the issue. "The U.S. Congress considers [this failure] a sign that Ukraine fears transparency," UNIAN quoted Pascual as saying. JM

ESTONIAN PARTIES MOSTLY FAVOR EU ACCESSION, ALBEIT GRUDGINGLY IN SOME CASES
Despite widespread public opposition to EU membership, all the major political parties in Estonia have declared their support for EU accession, ETA reported on 13 December. Right-wing parties, such as the Pro-Patria Union and Reform Party, have previously expressed their support. People's Party Chairman Villu Reiljan meanwhile said on 12 December that joining the EU is a better option than remaining outside the group, but he added that it is the lesser of two evils. However, the ruling Center Party has not expressed an unequivocal position. Chairman Edgar Savisaar declared that the party's official position on the issue will only be decided by a party congress next summer, while Deputy Chairman Peeter Kreitzberg asserted that the party will definitely support EU membership SG

LATVIA ASKS RUSSIA TO EXTRADITE EXTREMIST LEADER
Prosecutor-General Janis Maizitis on 12 December signed a request to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Ustinov to extradite Vladimir Linderman, chairman of the Latvian civic group Pobeda (Victory), which serves as a front for the Russian National Bolsheviks, BNS reported. Linderman and three other Pobeda members arrested in November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2002) are charged with illegal possession of explosives and preparing appeals calling for the overthrow of the Latvian authorities. Linderman told BNS that he hopes the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office "will carry out its own investigation into the matter and conclude that there are no grounds to extradite me to Latvia" SG

OIL TANKER RUNS AGROUND OFF LITHUANIA
The Argentinean tanker "Princess Pia," sailing under a Panamanian flag and carrying 49,500 tons of fuel oil, ran aground on the evening of 11 December shortly after leaving the port of Klaipeda, ELTA reported the next day. The tanker, built in 1979, is single-hulled but has a double bottom. Although there are at least three holes in the bottom of the hull, the largest of which is 30 centimeters wide, reportedly no oil had leaked out by early on 13 December. Efforts by five tugboats to tow the tanker off the seabed were unsuccessful. Plans to pump some of the oil out of the tanker and tow it back to port got under way on 13 December. The Lithuanian Transport and Communications Ministry's Water Transport director, Juozas Darulis, noted on 12 December that Lithuania plans to ban single-hull oil tankers from entering Klaipeda. SG

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT STRESSES UKRAINE'S PLACE IN 'VISION OF EUROPE'
Valdas Adamkus on 12 December said Lithuania will use its emerging place in Europe to help stabilize nearby Ukraine and enhance ties with Russia, Reuters reported. His remarks came on the eve of the Copenhagen summit on EU expansion, at which Lithuania and nine other countries hope to conclude talks on joining the bloc. "Our vision of Europe is incomplete without Ukraine," Adamkus said, urging the West to avoid isolating that country despite reservations about President Kuchma. "Today the most important thing is that countries like Ukraine have not reversed their policies and continue to struggle for an open and democratic society and free market." He declined to comment on neighboring Belarus, Reuters reported, where strongman President Lukashenka is increasingly isolated by the international community. Adamkus also said Lithuania's long-standing ties to Ukraine can help the EU engage its neighbor, Russia, adding that he is pleased with the gradual shift away from the threatening tone that dominated bilateral relations between Vilnius and Moscow after Lithuania regained its independence in 1991. AH

POLAND FIGHTS FOR MORE MONEY IN LAST-DITCH EU TALKS...
Polish Premier Leszek Miller and his Danish counterpart Anders Fogh Rasmussen concluded their morning round of EU talks in Copenhagen on 13 December, PAP reported. Another round was scheduled to begin at noon. Polish government spokesman Michal Tober declined to comment on the outcome. The previous day, the Polish government pledged "to fight to the end" for the best possible EU membership deal. Meanwhile, Office for European Integration official Jaroslaw Pietras told PAP that Poland will demand half of the sum that the EU adds to what it has already earmarked for EU aspirants. Tadeusz Iwinski, Premier Miller's economic adviser, said the additional sum might reach 1.5 billion euros ($1.53 billion). President Aleksander Kwasniewski said on Polish Radio on 13 December that Poland must not give up its bid to join the European Union even if it fails to negotiate better financial terms for membership. JM

...AMID MISUNDERSTANDING OVER CONCESSIONS SO FAR
Spokesman Tober told Polish media on 11 December that the EU agreed to an increase in direct subsidies to Polish farmers in 2004-06 -- to 50 percent of the EU average from the previously proposed level of 40 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2002) -- and to an extension of the EU's "general protection clause" to Polish farming. But Danish Premier Rasmussen, who represents the EU Presidency, told the Danish news agency Ritzaus on 12 December: "I know absolutely nothing about this [deal]. I have seen it in the press. But there is a lot that isn't right [in the press]." Tober explained the same day that his statement reflected the content of an official stance by the European Council that was passed to the Polish government. JM

ANGRY CZECH FARMERS BLOCK BORDER OVER EU TERMS
Czech farmers, angry over the level of subsidies the European Union is offering new members, blocked several key border crossings on 12 December, CTK reported the same day. The protests came as a two-day summit opened in Copenhagen at which the EU plans to admit up to 10 new members. For two hours, hundreds of farmers used tractors and other equipment to cut off roads to Austria and Germany, leaving trucks, buses, and tourists stranded on both sides of the border. "Is liquidation of Czech agriculture a ticket to [the] EU?" read a banner held up at the Breclav border crossing on the highway to Vienna. The EU has proposed phasing in income support for farmers, starting at 25 percent of the level received by farmers in the current member states and allowing new members to use cash from EU rural-development funds and national budgets to increase the payments to 40 percent or more. BW

CZECH OPPOSITION PARTY CONVENES TO LAUNCH POST-KLAUS ERA
The opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) began a three-day conference on 13 December at which the center-right party will replace the only chairman in its 11-year history, Vaclav Klaus, CTK reported on 13 December. On 15 December, 350 ODS delegates are expected to elect a new party leadership and possibly change the party's statutes. After the ODS suffered a crushing defeat in the June general elections, the party began discussing changing its message and leadership. Klaus, for his part, has said he wants to concentrate on running for Czech president in January. The early favorite to succeed him, according to analysts, is the party's longtime defense and security specialist and deputy chairman, Petr Necas. Other declared candidates include another deputy chairman, Jan Zahradil, parliamentarian and shadow Culture Minister Miroslava Nemcova, and Senator Miroslav Topolanek. BW

CZECHS SUPPORT JOINING EU, BUT SKEPTICISM ENDURES
Although the majority of Czechs favor joining the EU, the country displays the highest level of "Euro-skepticism" among next-wave candidates, CTK reported on 12 December. According to a poll conducted by the Central European Opinion Research Group Foundation (CEORG) in November, 62.4 percent of Czech respondents said they would vote for EU entry while 28.7 percent would oppose it. Some 73.5 percent of Poles would vote for EU accession and 17.7 would be against it. In Hungary, the proportion would be 75.1 percent to 14.3 percent. The portion of Czechs favoring a referendum before joining the EU increased to 77.4 percent in the most recent CEORG poll, up from 63 percent in May. BW

JEWISH COMMUNITY APPEALS FOR PROPERTY RESTITUTION
Jewish communities in the Czech Republic have appealed to the government in a bid to convince the state to return about 20 buildings owned by Jews in the past, CTK reported on 12 December, citing the Federation of Jewish Communities' secretary, Tomas Kraus. The structures include synagogues in Louny, North Bohemia, and in Slany, Central Bohemia, that currently house district archives. "We are not saying that they [the archives] cannot be there. We only want to own the synagogues; we would like to get a minimum rent for their maintenance," Kraus said. In Kolin, about 50 kilometers from Prague, local authorities have refused to return the local synagogue, saying no Jewish families live in that city. Kraus rejected that argument, saying that after the Czech Republic joins the EU, Jews might move into town. BW

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT RIFT OPENS...
A dispute over health-care and energy policies has sparked a crisis within Slovakia's ruling center-right coalition, TASR reported on 12 December. The impasse emerged on 11 December, when eight lawmakers from the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) failed to vote for health-care and public-service legislation favored by the New Citizens Alliance (ANO), also of the four-party coalition. The legislation, a move toward reforming the nation's health-care sector, is aimed at setting new wage categories and giving head doctors a greater say in setting salaries. ANO Chairman Pavol Rusko accused the KDH of not supporting the bill because it is dissatisfied with its role in managing the country's energy sector. The privatization of Slovakia's electric power plants is to be carried out by the merged Economy and Privatization ministries, under ANO leadership and without the KDH's participation. Rusko said the KDH's failure to support the health-care bill threatens to create "a hole in the budget" because "it was not satisfied with the redistribution of some posts in energy companies." He would not say whether or not his party is willing to leave the government over the issue. BW

...AS CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS ACCUSE COALITION PARTNER OF TRYING TO CONTROL ENERGY PRIVATIZATIONS...
Some KDH members, meanwhile, have accused ANO of trying to control the privatization of key Slovak utilities, TASR reported on 12 December. KDH lawmaker Frantisek Miklosko said specifically that ANO wants to control the privatization of Slovak electricity company Slovenske Elektrarne. The privatization should take place under the joint control of all coalition partners, Miklosko said. In an apparent effort to resolve the dispute, ANO offered the KDH control of the Health and Economy ministries, but that offer was refused. BW

...AND PREMIER AND SPEAKER DOWNPLAY DISPUTE
Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and parliamentary speaker Pavol Hrusovsky said on 12 December that, despite the current problems, the government is not in crisis, TASR reported the same day. "The ruling coalition is not in crisis; it continues working, although there are some problems with internal relations," Hrusovsky, who chairs the KDH, said after the two politicians met with President Rudolf Schuster on 12 December. "Let's not exaggerate. Even in the most decent families, thunder roars every now and then," Dzurinda said. "We will take measures required for elimination of possible damage." BW

PRESSURE BUILDS ON HUNGARY OVER POSSIBLE ROLE IN AFGHAN AND IRAQ MISSIONS
A conference in Potsdam on preparing a UN peacekeeping mission for Afghanistan welcomed on 12 December Hungary's offer to contribute a medical unit to the force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 12 December 2002), Budapest dailies reported. The Hungarian government, however, still plans to propose to parliament that Hungary send an armed-guard unit to Afghanistan, as originally requested by the UN. The cabinet also plans to reach a decision soon on a U.S. request to use the Taszar air base to train Iraqi opposition personnel in noncombat activities. Kyle Scott, a political adviser at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, warned parliament's NATO Club that Hungarian wavering over participation in a mission as important as that in Afghanistan is causing great harm to the country's reputation in NATO and particularly in the eyes of the United States, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Iraqi Ambassador to Hungary Mukhlif Yasin al-Samarree, however, told "Magyar Nemzet" that Iraq would consider such training in Hungary interference in Iraqi domestic affairs. He said granting the U.S. request pertaining to Taszar air base would lead to the deterioration of Hungarian-Iraqi relations. MSZ

HUNGARIAN CABINET TO SUBMIT AMENDED STATUS LAW TO PARLIAMENT THIS YEAR
The government wants to submit an amendment to the controversial Status Law to parliament later this month despite the fact that consultations on the law with Romania and Slovakia are still in progress, Elemer Kiss, head of the Prime Minister's Office, told parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee on 12 December, Hungarian media reported. Committee Chairman Zsolt Nemeth of the opposition FIDESZ said the cabinet is hesitating on issues affecting ethnic Hungarians abroad and thus encouraging certain neighboring countries. He said Hungary and ethnic Hungarians abroad now find themselves on the defensive in asserting their interests. "Nepszabadsag" reported that the Romanian press has described the 11 December meeting between the two countries' foreign ministers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2002) as "a diplomatic failure for Hungary." MSZ

DISGRACED HUNGARIAN POLITICIAN GETS SIX YEARS IN JAIL
The Supreme Court on 12 December confirmed a Budapest Metropolitan Court's six-year jail sentence against former Smallholder legislator Zoltan Szekely for abuse of office, Hungarian media reported. Szekely was caught accepting a 20 million-forint ($85,000) bribe in Budapest two years ago when he was chairman of parliament's Public Procurement Committee. Szekely was also ordered to pay a 9 million-forint ($38,000) fine for damaging public confidence in the legislature. The court ordered that Szekely serve his time in a minimum-security facility, however, rather than the higher-security institution prescribed by the lower court. MSZ

WILL EU TAKE OVER FROM NATO IN BOSNIA?
A draft EU summit statement includes a call for the EU to take over the peacekeeping mandate in Bosnia from NATO, Reuters reported from Copenhagen on 13 December. Unnamed diplomats said the offer reflects a new division of labor under which the EU takes on greater responsibilities in the Balkans so the United States can concentrate its efforts elsewhere. The U.S. will remain present in the Balkans, but the EU will take the lead, the "International Herald Tribune" reported on 12 December. The statement does not include a timetable for the EU to take over from NATO, but called for internal EU consultations to start in February. The EU has so far been unable to assume responsibility for peacekeeping from NATO in Macedonia, and many EU members are cash-strapped (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 October and 15 and 27 November 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 February, 8 March, 3 May, 16 August, and 15 November 2002). The EU takes over supervision of the international police operation in Bosnia from the UN shortly. PM

UN FORMALLY ENDS BALKAN PEACEKEEPING OPERATION...
The UN has formally ended its police mission in Bosnia and monitoring duties in the Prevlaka area of Croatia, Reuters reported from New York on 12 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 December 2002). Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who headed UN peacekeeping operations from 1993-95, told the Security Council: "This era has seen some of peacekeeping's bitterest moments, which have left a lasting impression on the organization and on all of us who were personally involved." Jacques Klein, who heads the UN police force in Bosnia, called on that republic's leaders to "bring their bloated bureaucracies under greater fiscal discipline." He also urged Bosnians to rid their country of the "malignant blight" of war criminals still at large, especially former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic. PM

...IN THE PRESENCE OF BOSNIAN LEADERS
The three members of the Bosnian joint Presidency were on hand in New York on 12 December to mark the end of UN operations in their country, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Ethnic Serb Presidency member Mirko Sarovic, who also holds the rotating chair, said the conclusion of the UN mandate marks "the end of an era of dependence by Bosnia-Herzegovina on peacekeeping operations and the start of building a self-supporting and stable country." Muslim Presidency member Sulejman Tihic argued that Bosnia will still need UN aid, especially to promote the return of refugees and displaced persons. Croatian Presidency member Dragan Covic said the full legal equality of Croats, Serbs, and Muslims throughout the country is a precondition for establishing political stability. PM

CONTROVERSIAL CHIEF QUITS BOSNIAN SERB RED CROSS JOB
Karadzic's wife, Ljiljana Zelen-Karadzic, has resigned as head of the Bosnian Serb Red Cross (ICRC), Reuters reported from Pale on 12 December. Her move comes in response to long-standing international pressure, including from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Pascal Cuttat, who heads the ICRC mission in Bosnia, said her presence put off many potential donors. PM

SFOR APOLOGIZES TO CROATIA
Guglielmo Zavattoro, who is assistant to SFOR's supreme commander, said in a letter to the Croatian Foreign Ministry that SFOR expresses "deep regret over conduct of their soldiers, which was unacceptable" in a recent incident, dpa reported from Zagreb on 12 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2002). Unidentified "visibly intoxicated" soldiers damaged a Croatian memorial to war victims in the incident, which provoked widespread outrage in Croatia. In related news, the memorial, known as the Wall of Pain, will be moved in 2003 from its present location to the Mirogoj cemetery, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

CROATIA ADOPTS PLAN FOR EU MEMBERSHIP
The government approved a program on 12 December aimed at applying for EU membership in March 2003 and being prepared to join that body in 2006, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 November and 6 December 2002). PM

CROATIA TO SEND MILITARY POLICE TO AFGHANISTAN
The parliament voted on 12 December to send 44 Croatian military police to Afghanistan as "peace enforcers" in early 2003, Reuters reported. Croatia has similar UN experience in Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. PM

ITALY TO DONATE ARMED TROOP TRANSPORTERS TO MACEDONIAN ARMY
Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski and his Italian counterpart Antonio Martino agreed that Italy will donate 30 U.S.-manufactured M-113 armored troop transporters to the Macedonian Army, dpa reported from Skopje on 12 December. The Macedonian Army now uses German-built Hermelin transporters, which proved "vulnerable in action" during the 2001 conflict, the news agency added. The two ministers met on the sidelines of a meeting of defense ministers in Rome, where Buckovski also held bilateral talks with Turkish National Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul, according to "Utrinski vesnik." Gonul agreed to Buckovski's proposal that NATO members Turkey and Greece support Macedonia's and Albania's bid for NATO accession under the so-called 2+2 formula, according to which Athens and Ankara backed Bucharest and Sofia in their bids for NATO membership (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 November 2002). UB

UN ADMINISTRATION APPOINTS JUDGES WITHOUT KOSOVAR ASSEMBLY'S APPROVAL
Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), appointed 44 judges and prosecutors, 21 of whom are from the province's Serbian minority, which makes up less than 10 percent of the population, dpa reported from Prishtina on 12 December. UNMIK is legally authorized to make such appointments from lists of candidates put forward by the Kosovo Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (KJPC) and endorsed by the parliament. The legislators did not endorse the appointments but asked for more information on some of the Serbian appointees' backgrounds, particularly regarding their activities during Serbian rule in Kosova and the 1999 war. UNMIK went ahead with the appointments, saying in a statement: "In the absence of any objections from the Assembly, the candidates were appointed according to the recommendation of the KJPC as they stand." Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic hailed the appointments as the start of a new relationship between UNMIK and the Serbs, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

TRAIN SERVICE RESUMES BETWEEN SERBIA AND KOSOVA
Rail connections between Kraljevo and Fushe Kosova via Raska resumed on 12 December after an interruption of nearly four years, Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service reported. The connection is expected to be of special importance for ethnic Serbs living in enclaves in central Kosova. PM

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT SPEEDS UP ANTICORRUPTION FIGHT
A day after the release of a new report indicating a high corruption rate in Romania, the government on 12 December decided to step up efforts to fight corruption, Romanian Television reported. Premier Adrian Nastase said his cabinet will make all efforts to create a legal framework that will help "eradicate this virus form our society." The cabinet will adopt a series of measures aimed at combating corruption in the justice system, the public administration, and in the business sector. The cabinet intends to assume responsibility in parliament next February for a set of bills aimed at reducing corruption. According to Mediafax, the opposition Democratic Party accused the ruling Social Democratic Party of merely to fight corruption. Democratic Party leaders reminded the premier that last April he announced that a set of anticorruption bills would be adopted prior to Romania's reception of an invitation to join NATO, and that none of these bills have yet been approved. ZsM

ROMANIA'S SENATE APPROVES SETTING UP NEW NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICE
The Romanian Senate on 12 December approved a government ordinance setting up the National Registry Office of State Secret Information (ORNISS), RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. ORNISS is a national security authority directly under the premier's control and will oversee the protection of classified information. ORNISS is the Romanian liasion organization to NATO's Security Office as well as with similar organizations from countries Romania has signed bilateral agreements with regarding the protection of classified information. The draft bill was approved with 79 votes in favor, 43 against, and one abstention. Parliament's lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, must still vote on the draft bill. ZsM

NEW ARRESTS IN ROMANIAN BRIBERY CASE
The National Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office (PNA) on 12 December arrested Mihai Cucuiu, production director of the state-owned Bucharest central-heating company RADET, Romanian media reported. Cucuiu is accused of having received some $7,800 and a free trip abroad from a German company, allegedly to gain his favor pertaining to a 10 million euro ($10 million) contract. In addition to Cucuiu and RADET Director Gheorghe Dabela, who was arrested as part of the same case on 5 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December 2002), PNA prosecutors on 9 December arrested RADET Commercial Director Liana Uzunov on charges of having received bribes. PNA Spokeswoman Gabriela Neagu on 12 December announced that the PNA has also initiated an investigation into German citizens Rudi Donath and Knud Guenter Gerdes, representatives of the PRS Rorhsanierung GmbH company, to determine whether they bribed RADET officials. The German company's officials have denied all charges. ZsM

REVOLUTIONARIES UNITE TO FIGHT FOR RIGHTS IN ROMANIA
Two of the main organizations of revolutionaries participating in the December 1989 regime change decided to unite and create the National Bloc of Revolutionaries, Romanian Television reported. Participants at the Bucharest meeting argued that Romanian society has forgotten them, even though the country would not have received a NATO invite or be a candidate for EU accession had it not been for their action. The new organization is to promote democratic values and fight for the rights of the revolutionaries. A 1990 law provides special rights for revolutionaries, including tax break and financial support for opening businesses. The organization elected Social Democratic Party Deputy Dorin Lazar Maior as chairman. ZsM

MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS LEAD OPINION POLL
An opinion poll conducted in late November by the Civis Center in Chisinau and released on 12 December revealed that in the event of early parliamentary elections, 67 percent of respondents would vote for the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM), the BBC's website reported. The main opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic would only receive 6 percent of the vote, while the Independent Alliance and the Liberal Party would each receive 4 percent support. Respondents have the most confidence in the presidency, the mayoralties, and the army. President Vladimir Voronin is the most popular politician, with an approval rating of 73 percent backing, followed by Premier Vasile Tarlev (53 percent) and Chisinau Mayor Serfaim Urechean (48 percent). Despite of the large support for the PCM, 46 percent of respondents believe Moldova is heading in the wrong direction. ZsM

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS EU AID FAR EXCEEDS PROFITS FROM NUCLEAR-POWER PLANT
Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said on 12 December that the aid Bulgaria expects to receive from the EU is 12 times higher than the annual profit brought in from the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant blocks slated for closure, bnn reported. In an agreement that provisionally closed the energy chapter of the EU's acquis communautaire, Bulgaria committed itself to decommission blocks No. 3 and No. 4 by the end of 2006. The agreement prompted harsh criticism from the opposition, which said the country stands to suffer economic losses from the decommissioning (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2002). In related news, the government announced that the EU has granted $94.4 million so far this year. The money has been allocated for legal, administrative, and economic reforms, infrastructure projects, and for minority-integration efforts. UB

INFIGHTING BETWEEN BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT AND JUDICIARY CONTINUES
On 12 December, government spokesman Dimitar Tsonev accused State Television of violating the law when it broadcast a statement made by the Supreme Judicial Council, mediapool.bg reported. Referring to an interview that Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski gave to Milan's "Corriere della Sera" of 3 December, the council stated that the prime minister offended the judiciary and harmed the country's international reputation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 December 2002). In response, Tsonev said the only aim of the council's statement was to defame the prime minister and belittle his dignity. Tsonev said that the Supreme Judicial Council broke the law by using airtime designated to the Supreme Court of Appeals. The government is in conflict with the judiciary over a number of issues, including the government's attempts to restrict the judiciary 's influence on privatization processes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 December 2002. UB

FORMER BULGARIAN BANKER ARRESTED IN SKOPJE
Macedonian authorities arrested Ivan Mironov, the former director of the Sofia-based Balkanbank, in Skopje on 10 December, mediapool.bg reported. Mironov was apprehended on the basis of an international arrest warrant issued by the Bulgarian authorities. He faces bank-fraud charges. Mironov headed Balkanbank from 1987-95, when he was dismissed by then-Prime Minister Zhan Videnov. Following his arrest on other charges in 1995, Mironov left Bulgaria to live in the United States. UB

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ORCHESTRATES OLIGARCHIC TAKEOVER
At his ninth meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, this time in Moscow on 9 December, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma lauded the fact that he and Putin understand each other and speak the same language, both figuratively and literally. "We do not need to try to convince one another about many matters -- while at the same time, in our conversations with our Western colleagues they often do not understand us," Kuchma told Putin. This, Kuchma said, is because Ukraine and Western Europe evolved "in different conditions -- we have different problems, different mentalities."

This is certainly the case with regard to the manner in which Kuchma's domestic policies are completely undermining his declared strategic goal of Euro-Atlantic integration. It has taken only nine months for Kuchma to reverse the outcome of the 31 March parliamentary elections in which pro-presidential blocs won only 18 percent of the vote in the proportional half compared to nearly 60 percent for four opposition blocs. Kuchma has now ensured himself a trouble-free transition to retirement after October 2004, when the next presidential elections are scheduled to be held.

In May, Social Democratic Party-united (SDPU-o) strongman Viktor Medvedchuk was appointed head of the presidential administration. Medvedchuk has orchestrated, on behalf of the executive, a drive against the opposition and a takeover of all key state institutions by three main oligarchic clans (the SDPU-o [Kyiv], Labor Ukraine [Dnipropetrovsk], and Ukraine's Regions [Donetsk]); five smaller satellite clans (Democratic Initiatives, European Choice, Power of the People, People's Choice, and the Agrarian Party); and the former "party of power," the Popular Democratic Party. All of these clans, with the exception of the SDPU-o, ran within the For a United Ukraine (ZYU) bloc that won only 11 percent of the vote in the March elections and fell apart immediately afterward.

The former head of the presidential administration and leader of ZYU, Volodymyr Lytvyn, was installed as parliamentary speaker in May. Lytvyn received 226 votes, only one more than required, with the help of former Prosecutor-General Mykhayko Potebenko. Potebenko was elected on the Communist Party list but was expelled after voting for Lytvyn. In 2000-02, he stalled the inquiry into the still-unresolved murder of opposition journalist Heorhiy Gongadze that sparked the "Kuchmagate" crisis. In July, Kuchma's candidate Svyatoslav Piskun was appointed to replace him as prosecutor-general.

Although ZYU and the SDPU-o only elected 54 deputies in the proportional half of the elections, this faction has grown in number to 234 through the addition of deputies elected in districts that use the first-past-the-post system, which favors "independent" pro-presidential centrists, as well as through bribery and the intimidation of opposition deputies. The culmination of the executive's takeover of parliament is its redistribution of the position of heads of its committees, many of which have been controlled by the opposition since the March elections.

Because of the close corporatist links between business and politics, businessmen within the opposition or those funding the opposition are routinely intimidated through raids by the State Tax Administration (STA) and court cases. This is probably the reason why Yuriy Kravchenko was appointed head of the STA. Kravchenko is the discredited former interior minister whom parliament forced to resign in February 2001. He is heard bragging on the audio recordings illicitly made in the president's office by former security guard Mykola Melnychenko about his "Eagles" special unit after Kuchma demanded that action be undertaken against Gongadze. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is now undertaking an analysis of this fragment of the Melnychenko tapes. Kravchenko, who is highly loyal to Kuchma and is not a member of any clan, is of key importance to the president's efforts to ensure that no single clan can dominate Ukraine and is reportedly Kuchma's favorite to succeed him in 2004.

The appointment of Donetsk Governor Viktor Yanukovych as prime minister in November by a vote of 234 deputies heralded another step in taking control of state institutions. Nine pro-presidential factions representing the "parliamentary majority" have signed an agreement of cooperation with the new government after government positions were divided among the three main and six smaller clans.

Kuchma's candidate for the head of the Supreme Court, Vasyl Malyarenko, was elected in November. The Supreme Court will be important to head off any legal challenges to Kuchma's immunity deal and to regulate any potential disputes over the 2004 election results. Medvedchuk is also head of the Union of Ukrainian Lawyers.

The only temporary setback for the Kuchma strategy was his failure to appoint as National Bank chairman the head of the Labor Ukraine oligarchic clan, Serhiy Tyhypko. The National Bank will be crucial to ensure a relaxation of financial discipline to support populist social measures by the new government and to have "administrative resources" available for the 2004 elections. Tyhypko's election to this post would have effectively divided the plum top-three positions between the three main oligarchic clans -- presidential administration (Kyiv's SDPU-o), government (Donetsk's Ukraine's Regions), and the National Bank (Dnipropetrovsk's Labor Ukraine). Tyhypko obtained only 214 votes in the first attempt to place him in the position of National Bank chairman, but it is likely that the parliamentary majority will eventually succeed in having him elected. National Bank Chairman Volodymyr Stelmakh is under severe pressure to resign, and an inconclusive vote on 12 December to replace him with Tyhypko ended in scuffles between oligarchs and the opposition.

The final element of Kuchma's strategy is to take over the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine (FPU), which is headed by Oleksandr Stoyan. Stoyan was No. 2 on Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc and defected this week to the parliamentary majority, which represents a major blow to Yushchenko's prestige and election chances in 2004. Stoyan has been quoted as saying, "I should not be in opposition to this government, I should work with it."

At the annual congress of the FPU this week, Medvedchuk's SDPU-o backed the first serious challenge to Stoyan's decade-long leadership by his first deputy, Valentyn Pozhydayev. Regional governors attended the FPU congress for the first time to pressure delegates from their regions to vote for Pozhydayev. Stoyan defected to the Kuchma camp in return for this pressure being called off and was thus able to retain his position as head of the FPU.

The political system emerging in Ukraine sees no role for the opposition and current trends would seem to herald an entrenchment of oligarchic control. This politically authoritarian and economically "liberal" model is more typical of CIS states, including Russia, than of postcommunist Central and Eastern Europe, or of Western Europe, to which Ukraine ostensibly wishes to integrate.

Dr. Taras Kuzio is a resident fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies and adjunct staff in the department of political science, University of Toronto.

AFGHAN DEFENSE MINISTRY TO EXPAND DISARMAMENT PROGRAM...
Deputy Defense Minister General Baryalai told RFE/RL on 12 December that after the initial success of the disarmament program in northern Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2002), the program is to be extended to other Afghan provinces. Baryalai said the program in the northeast is being conducted by General Abdul Rashid Dostum "under the supervision of the Defense Committee and the defense minister, and is in its initial stages. But our next program, which will start next week with seminars and courses that will take up to three weeks, will involve all of Afghanistan," he said. AT

...BUT DENIES TIME LIMIT OR ISAF INVOLVEMENT
Deputy Defense Minister General Baryalai, responding to 3rd Army Corps spokesman commander Mohammad Ismail Zazai's 11 December statement that unofficial armed units have 10 days to hand over their weapons before action is taken against them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2002), told RFE/RL that the "matter of 10 days was not official." "The process of collecting weapons, which was discussed at the Defense Ministry and was announced to the head of the government, was [estimated to take] three to six months," he said. "Of course, if there is such an entity that considers itself a part of the Defense Ministry and the national army, and uses the weapons against the national interest, then [their deadline will be immediate]." He also rejected Zazai's claims that the ISAF is involved in the disarmament operations. AT

NATO SLOWLY ENTERS AFGHANISTAN
As decided during the 21-22 November NATO Prague summit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 November 2002 and "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 28 November 2002), "NATO has quietly begun supporting" the ISAF in Afghanistan, "The Washington Post" reported on 12 December. So far, NATO has provided support to German and Dutch contingents in the ISAF, as the two countries are preparing to take command of the force by mid-February 2003, the report added. Some with the alliance are pushing NATO to assume command of the ISAF (see RFE/RL's special report entitled "The NATO Prague Summit," 19 November 2002 [http://www.rferl.org/specials/nato/specialreport.asp]), reported the daily, which quoted an unidentified NATO official as saying that "if it happens, it will be very significant." AT

INTERNET PROVIDER TAKES ON AFGHAN MARKET
Dubai-based Savanna International Telecommunications on 11 December launched Internet service in Afghanistan in an early bid to tap private-sector demand for connectivity, company Chairman Ahmed Khan Achikzai told RFE/RL in Dubai the same day. Afghanistan's notoriously poor high-tech infrastructure has hampered the development of anything resembling an Internet culture in the past. "We want to reach out to the private sector," Achikzai said, adding that Internet access is largely limited to "a handful of offices -- mostly government, hotels, and NGOs" at the moment. Two Internet cafes that will soon be opened in Kabul and eight other customers in Kandahar and Jalalabad will receive Internet access through Savanna, according to Achikzai. TG

IRANIAN COVERT NUCLEAR FACILITIES PHOTOGRAPHED...
The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) on 12 December released an issue brief (http://www.isis-online.org/publications/iran/iranimages.html ) expressing concern that Iran is trying to develop "the capability to make separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium, the two main nuclear-explosive materials." ISIS has acquired satellite imagery of a site near the town of Arak that is under construction and which appears to be a heavy-water plant. Heavy water is used in a type of nuclear reactor, but not at the type being built in Bushehr. ISIS also has imagery of a site in Natanz, about 40 kilometers southeast of Kashan, that could possibly be a gas-centrifuge facility for uranium enrichment. BS

...BUT TEHRAN DENIES HIDDEN NUCLEAR ACTIVITIES
Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh told reporters on 13 December that "we don't have any hidden atomic activities. All our activities are for nonmilitary fields," Reuters reported. Ramezanzadeh said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is informed about Iranian nuclear activities, "and they can visit wherever in Iran that either we have informed them about or they have information about." According to the ISIS issue brief, however, Tehran has not fulfilled the IAEA's wish to visit these and other facilities, and under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty it is not required to do so until six months before nuclear materials are introduced into any facility. Moreover, Tehran postponed until February 2003 a visit to Iran by IAEA Director-General Mohammad el-Baradei, who was scheduled to visit these sites in December and meet with President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami. BS

IRAN PURSUES ARMORED SELF-SUFFICIENCY
The transport section of the Iranian Army's ground forces on 12 December began a self-sufficiency project to build the Timaz tank-carrier, state television reported. This section's experts also have rebuilt 84 tactical-transport vehicles and tank-carriers that were damaged during the Iran-Iraq War. Ground forces transport chief Colonel Faridmehr described the rebuilding of the vehicles as strategically and economically important. "The reconstruction and the improvement of the vehicles inside the country have saved thousands of dollars of foreign currency," he said. BS

TEACHERS DEMONSTRATE IN TEHRAN
A 13 December gathering of schoolteachers in Tehran who were protesting low salaries and poor working conditions turned violent when plainclothes vigilantes and security forces attacked them, RFE/RL reported. In January 2002, teachers staged demonstrations in Arak, Boir-Ahmad, Isfahan, Kermanshah, Shiraz, and Tehran (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 4 February 2002). The teachers demanded a salary increase and the right to establish unions, and they complained that they have the lowest government salaries and that other workers receive better health, housing, and welfare benefits. BS

TEHRAN DISAPPROVES OF QATAR-U.S. DEFENSE AGREEMENT
A 12 December analysis on Iranian state radio spoke disapprovingly of the defense agreement signed one day earlier in Doha by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim bin Jabir al-Thani. Under the agreement, the U.S. can use air bases in Qatar and it will upgrade other defense facilities it has been using under a long-standing agreement, dpa and Reuters reported. An analyst from Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting identified only as "Mr. Kazemzadeh" claimed in the broadcast that Qatar has double standards on regional developments, saying its agreement with the United States contravenes "the official and declared policy of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Arab League, and the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council" to resolve the Iraq crisis peacefully. Kazemzadeh said that relying on foreign powers to provide regional security is a mistake, adding that "foreign powers have adopted a policy of sowing discord to further their own interests, particularly those of increasing their weapons sales, and bolstering their military presence in the region." BS

RUSSIAN OFFICIAL CLAIMS IRAN'S CASPIAN STANCE IS CHANGING
Russia's presidential envoy for the Caspian and Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi told reporters in Moscow on 10 December that, after visiting Iran last week, he believes Tehran is ready to conduct bilateral negotiations with its immediate neighbors (Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan) on use of the Caspian Sea, Interfax reported on 10 December. Moscow has already secured bilateral agreements with Baku and Astana. Kalyuzhnyi said Russia has invited Iran to demarcate the Caspian by resources rather than by a percentage. Iran has consistently demanded an equal 20 percent division among all five littoral states. Kalyuzhnyi said Iran is considering an invitation to participate in developing the Turkmen shelf. Kalyuzhnyi explained this generosity somewhat when he said, "We asked that Iran enter into negotiations on this issue with Turkmenistan, because without Tehran's consent, not a single Russian company would go to work in the Turkmen sector." President Khatami told reporters on 4 December that "any decision concerning the Caspian Sea should be taken unanimously by all five littoral states." BS

TEHRAN MEETING DESCRIBED AS 'MINI CONFERENCE' FOR IRAQI OPPOSITION
Bayan Jabr, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq's (SCIRI) representative in Syria and Lebanon, described the recent meeting in Tehran of SCIRI leader Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masud Barzani, Iraqi National Congress (INC) leader Ahmad Chalabi, and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) deputy leader Kosrat Rasul as a "mini conference for the opposition," Beirut's "Al-Safir" newspaper reported on 12 December. The gathering took place in the run-up to the opposition conference being held in London on 13-15 December. The SCIRI's military wing, the Badr Corps, reportedly has 10,000-15,000 men under arms in Iran, but Jabr said the SCIRI would depend more on its forces in Iraq, should it participate in possible military action in Iraq. He described the capabilities of SCIRI-trained personnel in northern and southern Iraq and the Al-Kut region, and said the SCIRI would not depend on forces outside Iraq. BS

IRAQI NATIONAL ACCORD DESCRIBES RELATIONSHIP WITH TEHRAN
Iraqi National Accord Secretary Ayad Allawi described his organization's relationship with Iran in an interview published in the 11 December issue of "Al-Safir." "We respect Iran and hope to have excellent relations with it. But regrettably we have not had such relations so far," Allawi said. "Iran is almost the only country in the region with which we maintain no relationship." BS

IRAQ CANCELS RUSSIAN OIL DEALS
Iraq has reportedly canceled a $3.7 billion oil deal with three Russian firms to develop the West Qurna field, Interfax and international media reported on 12 December. "LUKoil, Russia's largest oil group by reserves, was informed this week, along with two minority partners [Zarubezhneft and Mashinoimport] in the project, that their contracts in the second phase of the West Qurna field had been terminated," ft.com reported. A LUKoil spokesman said that an Iraqi deputy oil minister on 9 December sent a letter to LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov informing him that the contract has been canceled. The action reportedly resulted from failure on the part of the Russian companies to develop the field, which has reserves estimated at 7.3 billion barrels. Iraq has repeatedly tried to pressure the Russian firms to begin developing the fields. However, the firms are currently banned from doing so under UN sanctions. LUKoil spokesman Aleksander Vasilenko told reporters on 12 December that the Russian firms intend fight the cancellation of the contract through legal channels. "We do not understand how a petty bureaucrat from the Oil Ministry of Iraq can cancel a law that has been passed by Iraq's parliament," abcnews.com quoted Vasilenko as saying. KR

RUSSIA WEIGHS IN ON IRAQI DECLARATION
Russia's Ambassador to the United Nations Sergei Lavrov told IRAR-TASS on 12 December that his country has issued "concrete proposals" pertaining to Iraq's 7 December declaration to the UN. Lavrov said that United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) Executive Chairman Hans Blix asked the five permanent Security Council member states to review the Iraqi declaration and submit proposals or suggestions by 13 December regarding which sections of the Iraqi declaration should remain confidential. "The Russian representatives carried this work out at the interagency level in the course of 24 hours, and today I've been instructed to inform Mr. Blix about [the] concrete assessment of each section of the Iraqi declaration in order [for him to] take into account our professional views in deciding what sections should remain confidential," Lavrov said. On 11 December, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell commented on the United States' intentions with regard to examining the report (see RFE/RL "Iraq Report," 13 December 2002). KR

U.S.-U.K. INTERCEPTION OF SHIPS PROTESTED BY BAGHDAD
Iraqi Ambassador to the UN Mohammad al-Duri lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations over the issue of the United States and the United Kingdom stopping Iraqi ships in the Persian Gulf and in Iraqi territorial waters, Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported on 12 December. Al-Duri's letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the president of the UN Security Council, Colombian Ambassador Alfonso Valdivieso, charged that U.S. and U.K. troops "intercept ships by force, assault their crews, interrogate them, and sometimes hold these ships and their crews for long periods of time, INA reported. Al-Duri said the U.S. and U.K. military presence in the Persian Gulf and Iraqi territorial waters is a "flagrant violation" of the UN Charter, international law, and the international laws pertaining to the safety of maritime shipping, and constitutes an "act of aggression and terrorism." KR

IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTRY ISSUES STATEMENT ON UNMOVIC BIOLOGICAL INSPECTIONS
The Foreign Ministry has issued a statement on the 12 December activities of UNMOVIC inspectors, Iraq TV reported. According to the statement, a team of 13 inspectors visited the Arab Company for Antibiotics Industry (ACAI), which the ministry describes as a joint Arab company operating in Iraq that is affiliated with the Arab Company for Drug Industries and Medical Appliances (ACDEMA), located 25 kilometers southeast of Baghdad. The company "carries out scientific, technical, and industrial activities and conducts tests on drug products and antibiotics, including syrup, injections, and capsules," according to the ministry. "The company is subject to biological monitoring and presents biannual declarations," the statement added. It was reported that the company is closed on Thursdays and Fridays, but inspectors checked the areas for which keys were available and looked through the windows of other facilities at the site. A second team of eight inspectors checked a "site for testing missile activities" that is located 125 kilometers north of Baghdad. KR

UNMOVIC CONTINUES INSPECTIONS AT IBN SINA COMPANY...
A team of 17 inspectors returned to the Ibn Sina Company on 12 December and questioned the general director on the company's activities since 1998, according to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry statement. The team then searched the company's facilities and computer files and "scrutinized the declarations on the chemical equipment and material of dual usage, and the declarations on biological material that are subject to the monitoring system." The Foreign Ministry also noted that a telecommunications group went to the Al-Rashid airport where a telecommunications tower was permanently installed. KR

...AS DOES IAEA...
A team of three IAEA inspectors also revisited the Ibn Sina Company north of Baghdad on 12 December. The Foreign Ministry reported that the company specializes in researching industrial chemicals and "the manufacture of organic and inorganic primary material needed for local industry." It also provides "chemical analysis" to universities and scientific centers. The ministry reported that Ibn Sina was visited by previous inspectors from the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) and provided biannual declarations. The team checked equipment and their tags. The ministry said the inspection provided "conclusive evidence on the falsity of Tony Blair's allegations" against Iraq. Another team comprising two inspectors arrived at Ibn Sina soon after the first team and conducted a radiation check of "all facilities and roads in the company." KR

...WHILE OTHER IAEA TEAMS SCOUR MANUFACTURERS
A third IAEA inspection team visited the Al-Nida State Company outside Baghdad. Al-Nida is an "affiliate" of the State Military Industrialization Organization and specializes in manufacturing molds for the industrial sector and railways, as well as "spare parts" for pharmaceutical factories, according to the Foreign Ministry. The site is subject to monitoring and was bombed by coalition forces in 1993 and 1998, the ministry stated. The group also toured the nearby Al-Khazin site, which specializes in providing electrical-engineering designs to the industrial and electricity sectors. It then visited the Al-Zawra Company, also located nearby, which manufactures electronic boards for the electricity and industrial sectors. A fourth group and fifth group of 11 inspectors split into two vehicles headed in different directions from their hotel and met at the Al-Mutasim factory, 75 kilometers south of Baghdad. The factory belongs to the Al-Rashid State Company and specializes in testing the engines of limited-range missiles in accordance with "Security Council resolutions." The ministry noted that it is a declared site and was visited by UNSCOM in the past. The teams reportedly conducted sampling of water, soil, and felt on the premises. KR

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