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Newsline - December 16, 2002


RUSSIA SLAMS IRAQ OVER LUKOIL CONTRACT...
The Russian government expressed bewilderment on 15 December over Iraq's decision to cancel a contract with LUKoil to develop the West Qurna oil field (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December 2002), polit.ru reported. The Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the decision is "a step that does not correspond to the friendly relations between our two countries." The statement also drew attention to the fact that Baghdad made the decision even as Moscow is expending considerable effort to find a peaceful solution to the Iraq situation. LUKoil Vice President Leonid Fedun said his company does not believe the Iraqi decision is irreversible, polit.ru reported. He said the contract states that the sides must apply to an international court if the contract's terms are violated, and added that LUKoil believes the contract remains in force until a court rules otherwise. VY

...AS COMMENTATORS SAY BAGHDAD IS PUSHING MOSCOW TOWARD WASHINGTON
Political analyst Vyacheslav Nikonov, head of the Politika Foundation, said that Iraq has made a serious mistake by "playing hardball" with Russia, polit.ru reported on 15 December. He noted Russia has been very conservative in its approach to Iraq and it has used its influence to restrain the United States. In doing so, Russia has been counting on the Iraqi leadership's willingness to defend Russia's economic interests. Commenting on the decision, Nikonov said, "This is not the tone with which one speaks to the Russian Federation." TV Tsentr commentator Aleksei Pushkov said on 14 December that the only reason Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is still in Baghdad is because of the political backing of Russia, China, and France. However, Moscow has never concealed that its position is determined largely by its own economic interests. By ignoring those interests, Hussein "has pushed Russia into America's embrace," Pushkov said. VY

IMPRISONED CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER DIES MYSTERIOUSLY...
Salman Raduev, one of the most notorious Chechen field commanders, died suddenly on 14 December in a labor camp in Perm Oblast from "internal bleeding of uncertain origin" after a one-week hospitalization, ORT and other Russian news agencies reported. Raduev, 35, was captured in Chechnya by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in 2000 and sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of terrorism, including 1996 raids on Kyzlyar and Pervomaiskoe, during which several dozen civilians were killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2001). Deputy Justice Minister Yurii Kalinin said an autopsy revealed "no evidence of violence." He added that he does not know the cause of Raduev's "internal bleeding," but speculated that it might have been caused by his numerous combat wounds or by a blood disease from which he reportedly suffered since childhood. An unidentified Justice Ministry official said the fatal illness might have been brought on by Raduev's strict observance of the fast during the month of Ramadan. He also said Raduev's body will not be turned over to his relatives, but would be buried in the prison camp's cemetery. Chechen Deputy Prime Minister and National Security Minister Turpal-Ali Atgeriev died in prison in August, reportedly of leukemia, although prior to his conviction he had enjoyed perfect health (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August 2002). LF/VY

...AS MEDIA SPECULATES THAT HE WAS KILLED
Raduev died as the result of a severe beating, "Kommersant-Daily" wrote on 16 December. According to unidentified sources within the labor camp's administration, Raduev failed to obey a prison warden's command and was severely beaten with a nightstick, dying several hours later. The daily noted that Raduev's death comes shortly after he gave testimony against Chechen Vice Premier Akhmed Zakaev that was used as part of Russia's unsuccessful case to secure Zakaev's extradition from Denmark. Russia is currently seeking Zakaev's extradition from the United Kingdom, and the loss of such an important witness could seriously hamper Russia's case as Zakaev's defenders will now argue that the Russian secret services forced Raduev to testify and then killed him to prevent him from changing his story, the daily commented. VY

GOVERNMENT TO PUT SLAVNEFT ON THE AUCTION BLOCK...
The government has announced that a 75 percent stake in the oil giant Slavneft that is owned by the governments of Russia and Belarus will be sold at auction on 18 December, Russian news agencies reported on 15 December. The starting price for the share package is $1.7 billion, but many brokers expect the final price to be more than $2 billion. According to the Antimonopoly Ministry, 12 bidders have been authorized to participate in the auction, including Russian oil giants Tyumen Oil Company and Sibneft and the state-owned Chinese National Petrochemical Corporation (CNPC). VY

...AS DUMA TRIES TO CUT THE CHINESE OUT
The State Duma on 15 December adopted a non-binding resolution calling upon the government to ban CNPC from participating in the Slavneft auction, nns.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. Lawmakers argued that allowing CNPC to buy Slavneft will harm Russia's economic interests, as the company might then ship crude oil directly to China, bypassing Russian refineries. Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov supported the resolution and said that selling such a vitally important national asset to China would be a political mistake. He added that although there has been a lot of criticism of fellow SPS leader Anatolii Chubais and his early 1990s privatization campaign, at least Chubais never sold important state assets to foreigners. VY

U.S. BEGINS RETURN OF HISTORIC STALIN-ERA ARCHIVE
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow attended a ceremony at the Culture Ministry on 13 December to turn over to Russia the famous "Smolensk archive," Russian and Western news agencies reported. The archive, which includes 541 files comprising 20,000 pages, is part of the archive of the Smolensk regional committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1917-38, which was captured by German troops in 1941 and ended up in the United States. It is one of the most important historical sources for the study of Stalin-era communism and, especially, the Great Purge of the 1930s. The United States offered to return the archive to the Soviet Union in 1958, but the communist government refused to acknowledge that the documents were genuine and denounced them as a CIA fabrication. President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski was one of the first people to study the Smolensk archive at Harvard University in the 1950s. The documents "gave us a truly authentic worm's-eye view of the social and institutional ugliness" of Soviet life at the time, Brzezinski was quoted by "The Washington Post" as saying. "I hope [President Vladimir] Putin enjoys reading it all," Brzezinski added. "You know, his grandfather was one of Stalin's security guards. And Putin was very close to his grandfather." Most Stalin-era secret-police and Communist Party archives in Russia remain closed to the public, and the Federal Security Service (FSB) has refused to assist human rights activists who are seeking mass graves of Stalinist purge victims (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September and 1 October 2002). RC

FSB DIRECTOR DETAILS U.S. SPYING IN RUSSIA
Speaking to the heads of Russia's main television channels and news agencies, Nikolai Patrushev said that his agency uncovered a U.S. intelligence operation in 2002 and arrested two Russian citizens on suspicion of gathering secret military information, ORT and other news agencies reported on 16 December. Patrushev said that many representatives of aid and religious organizations are "working for American intelligence," mentioning especially the U.S. Peace Corps. This year, the FSB instigated the refusal to renew the visas of 30 Peace Corps volunteers working in Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2002). He added that some Turkish and Azerbaijani organizations and citizens are also conducting intelligence work. He said that an Azerbaijani general who worked on the CIS staff for military cooperation was arrested and expelled earlier this year. At the same time, Patrushev emphasized that the FSB is cooperating closely with Western intelligence services to combat international terrorism and that through this cooperation several internationally wanted Islamic extremists were arrested in Russia in 2002. VY

ALL SPORTS, ALL THE TIME
Russia will have its own dedicated all-sports television channel within the next two to three months, lenta.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 16 December. State Sports Committee Chairman Vyacheslav Fetisov made the announcement following a 15 December meeting of the committee that was attended by President Putin. Russian Olympic Committee head Leonid Tyagchev emphasized that Putin supports the idea of creating such a channel. Putin told the committee that in 2003, the government will double its spending on athletics and sports. Putin also said he believes the composition of the State Sports Committee should be expanded to include at least one representative of an organization for handicapped athletes, strana.ru reported. RC

ELECTRONIC-VOTING BILL GETS SECOND NOD
The State Duma on 15 December passed in its second reading a bill on the use of electronic voting machines, RosBalt reported. The vote was 266 for and 136 opposed. The bill has provoked controversy, with some politicians and experts arguing that it will make it easier for the government to manipulate election results (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October and 6 November 2002). RC

'AWARD' FOR BAD JOURNALISM INAUGURATED
The Union of Journalists and the Duma's Subcommittee on the Youth Press have announced the creation of a prize for the most unreliable press report, RosBalt reported on 15 December. The Golden Duck (Zolotaya utka) award will be presented annually, and "anyone who feels they have been victimized by incorrect information published in the press" can make a nomination, said subcommittee Chairman Andrei Vulf (SPS). Organizers hope that the publicity will encourage greater journalistic accuracy and responsibility. RC

KAMCHATKA STRIKE ENTERS FOURTH WEEK
The number of striking municipal workers in the Far Eastern city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii continues to grow despite concessions on the part of the Kamchatka Oblast Council, Russian news agencies reported on 16 December. Street cleaners and other municipal workers in the city have been striking since 25 November seeking wage arrears, salary increases, distribution of benefits guaranteed by the law on northern territories, and the dismissal of several municipal officials. On 16 December, the oblast council voted to transfer responsibility for the workers from the city to the oblast administration and to finance a 5.3 million ruble ($171,000) wage increase in 2003 from the oblast budget, gazeta.ru reported. On 9 December, the legislature also allocated 12.3 million rubles from the oblast budget to pay the wage arrears. Nonetheless, on 16 December workers from the Tsentralnyi Municipal Enterprise joined the strike and those from the Dalnyi Municipal Enterprise announced they will begin striking on 19 December. According to a spokesman for the Kamchatka Oblast governor's office, electrical-sector workers might also join the strike in the near future, as the city owes Kamchatskenergo 33 million rubles. The spokesman said that Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii's embattled mayor, Yurii Golenishchev, has refused to provide the oblast administration with any information about the status of the municipal budget, gazeta.ru reported. RC

REGIONAL MEDIA TOLD TO KEEP MUM ABOUT PUTIN'S PHONE CHAT
Oleg Dobrodeev, chairman of the All-Russian State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK), has directed personnel at regional state-owned television companies not to release any information about preparations for President Putin's upcoming live call-in show, regnum.ru reported on 15 December, citing Svetlana Voitovich, the director of the Novosibirsk television studio. State television and radio will broadcast Putin's answers to questions collected from across the Russian Federation on 19 December. Voitovich told regnum.ru that only representatives of VGTRK in Moscow are authorized to comment on preparations for the call-in program. Putin answered 47 questions during a similar live program last December; commentators said that show had been rehearsed extensively in advance (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 31 December 2001). LB

AGRARIAN LEADER IN DUMA TO MAINTAIN ALLIANCE WITH COMMUNISTS
The Agrarian Party plans to campaign for the State Duma independently in 2003, but Agro-Industrial Duma faction leader Nikolai Kharitonov told Ekho Moskvy on 14 December that rural dwellers and workers linked to the agrarian sector will not support the party under its current leadership. Kharitonov campaigned for the Communist Party during the 1999 parliamentary elections, and in a lengthy interview he predicted the rural electorate will continue to support the Communist-led Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia. He blamed Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin for betraying his "ideological convictions" and consequently losing popular support during the 1995 and 1999 parliamentary campaigns. Even if Agriculture Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Gordeev replaces Lapshin as Agrarian Party leader, Kharitonov argued the rural electorate will view Gordeev as a representative of the government that proposed legislation to allow the purchase and sale of farmland. LB

REPORT DISCUSSES MEDIA CONTROL, SELF-CENSORSHIP IN DAGHESTAN
In the Republic of Daghestan, apparently complete freedom of speech masks the "complete absence" of that freedom, according to a new report prepared by the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations. Available at http://www.cjes.ru/bulletin/special/016.php, the report reviews the media landscape in Daghestan and describes the tactics used by the regional authorities, and to a lesser extent by local religious leaders, to maintain obedience from journalists even though Daghestan has no overt censorship and no media laws that contradict federal legislation. The author notes that "not a single newspaper that criticized the government has survived," and journalists who in theory can criticize anyone and anything are instead "fearful," preferring to "live harmoniously" with the powers that be. The center also posted similar reports on the press in Chechnya and Ingushetia. LB

AUDIT CHAMBER TO REVIEW AFFAIRS IN KRASNOYARSK
The Audit Chamber will in January 2003 conduct a comprehensive audit of affairs in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Radio Mayak reported on 14 December, citing an RIA-Novosti interview with Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin. Stepashin observed that the krai, once a thriving, revenue-generating region, is now bankrupt, owing some 4 billion rubles ($125 million) to the federal treasury. He also said the Audit Chamber has completed a thorough review of Magadan Oblast, the results of which will shed light on the assassination of Governor Valentin Tsvetkov in October. LB

PUTIN MEETS WITH CHECHEN LEADERS
President Putin met in Moscow on 15 December with Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov and with Chechen Prime Minister Mikhail Babich to discuss the socioeconomic situation in Chechnya, Russian agencies reported. The talks focused specifically on the creation of a banking system and the upcoming appointment of a Chechen interior minister. Babich also said that beginning in January 2003, inspection teams will be established to monitor the use of funds allocated for reconstruction in Chechnya. There are persistent rumors that huge sums of money earmarked for that purpose are embezzled (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 2002). LF

KARABAKH PRESIDENT MEETS WITH OSCE REPRESENTATIVE
Arkadii Ghukasian met in Stepanakert late on 12 December with Andrzej Kasprczyk, personal representative of the OSCE chairman-in-office, to discuss the situation on the Line of Contact between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces, according to Mediamax on 13 December as cited by Groong. There were several reported exchanges of fire along the Line of Contact last week, in one of which an Armenian lieutenant was shot dead. LF

FIRST U.S.-TRAINED GEORGIAN COMMANDO BATTALION GRADUATES
The first 558 Georgian commandos trained by U.S. instructors within the parameters of the U.S.-funded Train and Equip program graduated on 15 December in the presence of President Eduard Shevardnadze, U.S. Ambassador Richard Miles, and Georgian Defense Minister Lieutenant-General David Tevzadze, AP and Russian news agencies reported. Shevardnadze again expressed his gratitude for the U.S. help in raising the efficiency of Georgia's armed forces. The instructors who conducted the first training course are to return to the United States, but U.S. Marines will take over the training program in February 2003, Interfax quoted Miles as saying. Georgian National Security Council Secretary Tedo Djaparidze said at the graduation ceremony on 15 December that the U.S.-trained Georgian commandos will be responsible for the security of the planned Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil export pipeline, Caucasus Press reported on 16 December. LF

THREE DETAINED IN GEORGIA FOR KIDNAPPING LUKOIL EXECUTIVE'S FATHER
Georgian police detained three people on 13 December in connection with the abduction 12 days earlier of Sadi Sharipov, father of LUKoil Vice President Vagit Sharipov, from his home in Georgia's southern Dmanisi Raion, Caucasus Press and Russian news agencies reported. Two of the three men reportedly confessed to the kidnapping, telling police that the reason they did not demand a ransom was that their 79-year-old captive died of heart failure one hour after he was snatched from his home (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2002). The three men are reportedly all Svans who fled Abkhazia during the 1992-93 war. LF

GEORGIAN OFFICIAL REJECTS BRITISH CONSULTANT'S ABDUCTION ACCUSATIONS
Georgian State Security Ministry spokesman Nika Laliashvili on 14 December rejected as "groundless" British banking consultant Peter Shaw's statement to a Georgian investigator that Agriculture Minister David Kirvalidze and businessman Gocha Pipia were behind his abduction in Tbilisi in June, Caucasus Press and Russian news agencies reported. Shaw said that in his former capacity as head of Georgia's AgroBusinessBank he had arguments with the two men. Laliashvili said Shaw is clearly still suffering from stress following his five months' captivity. Shaw was seized in Tbilisi in June and released, reportedly as the result of an operation mounted by Georgian security officials, on 6 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November 2002). LF

PROSPECTS FOR RESOLVING SOUTH OSSETIAN CONFLICT IMPROVE
Socialist Party leader Vakhtang Rcheulishvili, whom President Shevardnadze recently named his special envoy for the conflict with South Ossetia, held talks in Tskhinvali on 15 December with the unrecognized republic's President Eduard Kokoyty, to whom he presented unspecified proposals for resolving the region's decade-long standoff with the central Georgian government, Caucasus Press reported on 16 December. Interfax on 15 December quoted Rcheulishvili as saying that he has established good, business-like relations with the South Ossetian leadership and that the key to resolving the conflict lies in Moscow. Rcheulishvili's Socialist Party aligned last month with the former ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia, Shevardnadze's erstwhile power base (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 November 2002). LF

UN REPRESENTATIVE MEETS WITH GEORGIAN PRESIDENT
During talks in Tbilisi on 13 December, Heidi Tagliavini, who is the UN secretary-general's special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, told President Shevardnadze the UN thinks that economic cooperation in Abkhazia should not be considered separately from the search for a political solution to the status of Abkhazia within Georgia, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 39, 12 December 2002). Meanwhile Abkhaz First Deputy Interior Minister Valerii Lagvilava told Interfax on 15 December that the Abkhaz authorities anticipate a renewed offensive by Georgian guerrillas in southern Abkhazia in the run-up to the New Year festivities. LF

KYRGYZ OMBUDSMAN TAKES UP DUTIES
Tursun Bakir Uulu was sworn in as Kyrgyzstan's first ombudsman on 13 December and met the following day in Bishkek with representatives of international human rights organizations, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. He said he is considering the choice of three deputies and hopes to open offices in every region of Kyrgyzstan, but that the 4 million soms ($87,000) allocated by the government for his budget is inadequate for that purpose. LF

KYRGYZ-TAJIK INTERGOVERNMENTAL COMMISSION MEETS
The first meeting for five years of the Kyrgyz-Tajik intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation took place in Bishkek on 12-13 December, Russian news agencies and RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The participants focused on establishing a free-trade regime, the joint exploitation of hydroelectric resources, and simplifying the process of obtaining citizenship by nationals of one country living in the other. They also agreed to hold a meeting of the joint commission on border delimitation and demarcation from 23-28 December. The last such talks took place two years ago. On 12 December, Interfax also announced the two countries are drafting a treaty on confidence-building measures in the region of their common border and a defense-cooperation agreement. LF

EU OFFICIALS VISIT TAJIKISTAN
Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov met in Dushanbe on 13 December with visiting EU officials Kurt Juul and Alan Waddams, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Noting that at present the EU's relations with Tajikistan are confined to commerce, investment, and humanitarian aid, Juul said the union is prepared to begin a political dialogue with Dushanbe, ITAR-TASS reported. The following day, Juul told ITAR-TASS that the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States impelled the EU to focus more clearly on Central Asia as a whole with the aim of promoting peace and stability there. A third EU official, Bryan Toll, told ITAR-TASS on 15 December that Tajikistan's commitment to the international struggle against terrorism has positively affected EU attitudes toward that country. LF

IMF APPROVES POVERTY-REDUCTION LOAN FOR TAJIKISTAN
The IMF Board of Directors has approved a new three-year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility loan of some $87 million for Tajikistan, according to an 11 December IMF press release summarized on 13 December by ITAR-TASS. IMF Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chairman Eduardo Aninat noted that over the past 18 months Tajikistan has achieved strong economic growth and reduced inflation and that fiscal performance has likewise been strong. He added, however, that the government should pay greater attention to monetary policy and extensive structural reforms, including the privatization of state farms. LF

FORMER PARLIAMENT SPEAKER IMPLICATED IN TURKMEN ASSASSINATION BID
Turkmen parliament speaker Ovezgeldy Ataev told a parliament session on 13 December that the Prosecutor-General's Office has established that his predecessor, Tagandurdy Khallyev, together with another parliament deputy, was one of the organizers of the 25 November bid to assassinate Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, Interfax and turkmenistan.ru reported. Ataev claimed that Khallyev met with the perpetrators on 24 November and promised them that if they succeeded in killing Niyazov he would endeavor to enlist the support of other parliament members for the planned new leadership. Khallyev was dismissed as parliament speaker in early November after serving in that position for less than six months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2002). LF

U.S. DIPLOMAT VISITS UZBEKISTAN
On a one-day visit to Tashkent on 13 December, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs Alan Larson met with President Islam Karimov and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Macroeconomics and Statistics Rustam Azimov to discuss broadening bilateral economic cooperation and expanding market reforms in Uzbekistan, uzreport.com reported. Larson told journalists after those talks that he expressed appreciation of Uzbekistan's contribution to the war against terrorism and of Karimov's insights into the situation in Afghanistan. He called for increased cooperation between Uzbekistan and the IMF, which he said would help to reassure potential foreign investors, and suggested that legalizing private ownership of agricultural land would contribute to increasing productivity. LF

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION GROUP REMAINS DIVIDED OVER 2003 LOCAL ELECTIONS
The Conservative Christian Party (KKhP) of the Belarusian Popular Front, which is led by exiled Zyanon Paznyak from Poland, has called on Belarusians and the international community to boycott next spring's local election in Belarus, Belapan reported on 15 December. "The existing regime has established a system of control and falsification of elections that guarantees it the result needed irrespective of the outcome of any election," the KKhP said in a public appeal. According to the KKhP, the only way out of Belarus's political crisis is immediate presidential voting under the supervision of the UN and other international organizations. Meanwhile, the other wing of the Belarusian Popular Front, which is led by Vintsuk Vyachorka, has approved a list of 200 activists who will seek registration as candidates in next spring's local elections. "We regard the local elections as a good opportunity for a massive political campaign," Vyachorka's group said in a statement. The Belarusian Popular Front, the country's largest opposition group in the 1990s, split into Paznyak's and Vyachorka's factions in 1999. JM

CONVICTED BELARUSIAN JOURNALIST TO BEGIN SERVING TWO-YEAR TERM
Viktar Ivashkevich, editor in chief of the Minsk-based independent newspaper "Rabochy" and deputy chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front (Vyachorka's faction), has been ordered by police to arrive by 17 December to a labor colony in Baranavichy (Brest Oblast), where he must serve a sentence of two years of "restricted freedom" for defaming President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Belapan reported on 13 December. Ivashkevich's case stems from an article titled "Thief Must Be In Prison" in a special edition of the newspaper published during last year's presidential campaign. The edition never reached readers, since all copies were seized by police. The story implicated Lukashenka and his entourage in serious economic crimes. JM

OUR UKRAINE LEADER PLEDGES TO STAND BEHIND NATIONAL BANK GOVERNOR...
Our Ukraine head Viktor Yushchenko on 14 December said the opposition will do everything possible to prevent the dismissal of National Bank Governor Volodymyr Stelmakh, UNIAN reported. "[Stelmakh] is our last bastion, and we will not move away," Yushchenko said. Following two abortive attempts to vote Stelmakh out of his post in the parliament, President Leonid Kuchma has filed a third motion to the Verkhovna Rada to replace Stelmakh with Serhiy Tyhypko. Meanwhile, Yuliya Tymoshenko, leader of the eponymous opposition bloc, has announced that the parliamentary opposition is ready to make "compromises" with the pro-government majority on some unspecified legislative issues if Stelmakh retains his post. JM

...WANTS UNITED OPPOSITION FRONT
Yushchenko and Tymoshenko on 14 December called on Ukraine's opposition forces to unite, UNIAN reported. "On behalf of the 10 political forces constituting the Our Ukraine bloc, we are conducting negotiations with opposition forces regarding [their] consolidation and agreement," Yushchenko said at a congress of the Sobor Party in Kyiv. Tymoshenko stressed at the same congress that the consolidation of opposition forces is necessary to challenge authorities efficiently in the next presidential election. "Today, power [in Ukraine] is exercised by cynical and pragmatic people who control enormous material and informational resources. Therefore, we should prevent the opposition from dissipating in the presidential election, as happened during the [March] parliamentary elections," Tymoshenko said. JM

BALTIC STATES SATISFIED WITH EU ACCESSION TERMS
The presidents and prime ministers of the three Baltic states joined representatives of seven other candidate states at the EU summit in Copenhagen on 12-13 December, where they received invitations to join the EU in 2004, BNS reported. The financial terms improved the final day when, primarily due to Polish demands, the EU agreed to offer an additional $442 million, mostly for agricultural subsidies. On a per-capita basis after subtracting payments to the EU budget, Lithuania will receive more assistance than any of the other candidates in the first three years -- 387 euros, followed by Estonia (357 euros) and Latvia (348 euros). Estonian officials, however, noted that aid to Lithuania is not fully comparable, since that figure includes expenditures for closing a nuclear-power plant at Ignalina and Russian transit subsidies with the Kaliningrad Oblast via Lithuania. SG

BALTIC ASSEMBLY SESSION SETS PRIORITIES FOR 2003
The Baltic Assembly session in Riga on 13 and 14 December adopted final documents, several resolutions, and a 2003 budget, BNS reported. Among the most important changes approved were extending the term of the Baltic Assembly presidency from six months to one year, timing the sessions to coincide with meetings of the Baltic Council of Ministers, and organizing annual conferences about issues of major importance to the Baltic states. The resolutions dealt with Baltic integration into NATO, antidrug measures, and greater cooperation in the areas of science and research. The presidency will pass to Lithuania at the end of the year, with Giedre Purnaveckiene heading the new presidium. The next Baltic Assembly session will take place on 28-30 November in Vilnius. SG

LATVIAN RIGHT-WING PARTY ELECTS NEW CHAIRMAN
The congress of the For the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK elected former parliamentary Chairman Janis Straume the party's new chairman in Riga on 14 December, LETA reported the next day. Maris Grinblats resigned as chairman after the parliamentary elections in October, in which the party lost 10 of its 17 seats. The 466 delegates at the congress gave Straume 309 votes and Riga City Councilman Valdis Kalnozols 134 votes. The congress also elected Janis Birks, Juris Boldans, Einars Cilinskis, Juris Dobelis, Maris Grinblats, Janis Grube, Guntars Krasts, Girts Valdis Kristovskis, Inese Vaidere, and Roberts Zile to a 10-member executive board. SG

POLISH PREMIER SEALS EU DEAL AFTER TALKS DRAG OUT IN COPENHAGEN...
Premier Leszek Miller held several rounds of talks with Danish Premier Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the EU summit in Copenhagen on 13 December over a span of 11 hours, the most conspicuous holdout in negotiations on financial supports to candidate countries upon EU membership, Polish and international media reported. "All the postulates with which we came to Copenhagen have been accepted," Miller told a news conference immediately after the talks ended. Under a deal brokered by Poland, farmers in new member countries will receive 55 percent of the amount of the EU's current direct subsidies in 2004, 60 percent in 2005, and 65 percent in 2006 (some 40 percent of these subsidies will be paid from domestic budgets, however, rather than EU funds). Poland also is to receive 1.5 billion euros ($1.53 billion) in financial assistance from Brussels in 2004-06. Other concessions won by Warsaw include 108 million euros in EU additional funds for border protection, maintaining a reduced, 7 percent value-added-tax rate on homes, and an annual wholesale-milk quota of 8.5 million tons. JM

...DRAWING WIDESPREAD PRAISE AT HOME...
Poland's largest dailies, "Gazeta Wyborcza" and "Rzeczpospolita," hailed the EU concessions negotiated by Miller in Copenhagen as a major achievement by the Polish premier, in particular, and Poland in general. "It is difficult not to have cause for satisfaction," Maciej Plazynski, a leader of the opposition Civic Platform, commented on the Copenhagen summit. But he added that Poland is entering the EU on "difficult" terms. "[The Copenhagen deal] opens for us potential opportunities for a real catch-up on the many years of losses in the economic sphere," Roman Catholic Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek said. "I am pleased that the Polish delegation managed to obtain so much in the last day [of EU negotiations]. I think this is a good result," Poland's first non-Communist premier, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, noted. JM

...BUT GETS CRITICISM FROM EURO-SKEPTICS
Roman Giertych, a leader of the anti-EU League of Polish Families, said Miller's tactics on 13 December "changed nothing," adding, "It was already obvious a week ago that it would not be possible to win anything more," PAP reported on 13 December. According to Giertych, Miller "manipulated" public opinion by not telling the media what portion of direct subsidies to farmers will be coming from the EU and what portion from the Polish budget. "It is known that at least half [of the concessions comprise] what we will have to pay ourselves," Giertych added. The "Nasz Dziennik" daily, linked to the ultra-Catholic Radio Maryja, wrote in a commentary on 14 December that on 13 December 1981, when communist authorities imposed martial law, Poles had their mouths shut "for their own good." The daily added that on the 21st anniversary of the imposition of martial law, "these same people are signing promises in Copenhagen that will deprive us of a sovereign state...'for our own good.'" JM

CZECH OPPOSITION PARTY ELECTS SUCCESSOR TO KLAUS...
Senator Mirek Topolanek on 15 December was surprisingly elected the opposition Civic Democratic Party's (ODS) new chairman at a congress held in Frantiskovy Lazne, CTK and AP reported. He replaces ODS founder and outgoing chairman, former Premier Vaclav Klaus, who in October announced his intention to run for Czech president. Topolanek's election to the post signals a "turn toward change" in the party and a desire to reunite the political right, the weekly "Respekt" wrote on 16 December. Topolanek, a deputy president of the Senate, was elected in the second round of voting, receiving 179 votes in a secret ballot. In the first round, Topolanek placed second, receiving 109 votes, seven less than Petr Necas, whom many regarded as the favorite. Necas received 168 votes in the second round of the secret ballot. He was later elected as a deputy chairman, as were Petr Bendl and Miroslava Nemcova. The post of ODS first deputy chairman went to Jan Zahradil. MS

...WHO APPEARS UNHAPPY WITH THE OUTCOME
Outgoing Chairman Klaus said after Topolanek's victory that it is not the personality of his successor that bothers him but he fact that Topolanek will not be capable of fulfilling expectations. Klaus and Topolanek have crossed swords several times in the past. Klaus described himself as "a more sober person" than Topolanek, who is famous in the party for his joviality. In a speech delivered to the forum before the vote, Topolanek said the ODS "does not need a new ideology, as its ideology is Klausism." After his election, he told journalists that his relations with Klaus were never bad, adding, "If we clashed, it is because we are radically different types of personalities, rather than due to differences of opinion." He said his priorities will be to preserve party unity and prepare the ODS for victories in the regional and Senate elections of 2004, as well as in the elections to the European Parliament. Topolanek also stressed that the party is open to "independents, members of other center-right parties, and former members of our party as well." MS

CZECH CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS CHOOSE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
Senate President Petr Pithart was selected on 14 December as the Christian Democratic Union-People's Party's (KDU-CSL) candidate for the presidential elections scheduled for January, CTK and AP reported. President Vaclav Havel's second term expires in early February. In related news, Ivan Pilip, acting chairman of the center-right Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU), said on 14 December that the survival of the coalition government will be threatened if former Premier Milos Zeman becomes president, CTK reported. US-DEU Deputy Chairman Petr Mares recently said that if that happened, the US-DEU would leave the three-party coalition that is led by the Social Democratic Party, of which Zeman is a member. MS

FORMER GUARD AT CZECHOSLOVAK CONCENTRATION CAMP DIES
Anton Malloth, a former Nazi guard at the Theresienstadt (Terezin) concentration camp who last year was sentenced to life in prison by a Munich tribunal, died of cancer on 31 October, CTK reported on 13 December. Malloth was released from prison shortly before his death for health reasons. He was 90. MS

CZECH PREMIER SATISFIED WITH OUTCOME OF EU SUMMIT...
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said on 14 December on his return from the Copenhagen summit -- where his country was one of 10 officially invited to join the EU -- that he is satisfied with the outcome of the negotiations that made a breakthrough possible, CTK reported. The expansion agreement came after the organization accepted the Danish Presidency's proposal that the EU contribute 40.83 billion euros ($42 billion) in farm and other subsidies for the 10 new member states -- about 420 million euros more than the initial Danish offer, according to AFP and other news agencies. Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic were the last aspirants to accept the agreement, according to international media reports. Spidla said his country will receive 83 million euros more from the EU budget than initially offered. The government also may subsidize farmers from its own budget beyond the EU subsidies. Czech farmers will be eligible for 55 percent of the subsidies offered to current EU members in 2004, rising to 60 percent in 2005 and 65 percent in 2006. MS

...INCLUDING FUTURE COMMITMENTS...
Spidla also said it is not realistic to expect the Czech Republic to adopt the euro sooner than 2009-11. Spidla met in Copenhagen with Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel and they agreed that a joint declaration on the safety of the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant should be attached to the EU accession treaty. The declaration is to mention the obligation of the sides to respect the so-called Melk agreement of 2001 between Schuessel and former Premier Zeman. MS

...AS ARE SLOVAK LEADERS
Slovakia's citizens could not possibly give themselves a better present for the 10th anniversary of their country's independence than the recent invitations to join NATO and the EU, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said on his return from Copenhagen on 14 December, TASR reported. Slovakia, he said, has now become "a part of the Euro-Atlantic security and economic structures." Dzurinda thanked a number of officials for their contributions, saying he is also grateful for opposition support during accession negotiations. He said Slovakia's referendum on EU membership should be held in early June. According to TASR, in the first three years of membership, Slovakia is to receive $838 million more than it contributes to the EU's budget, including some $23 million more than the initial EU offer in farm subsidies, $90 million for rural development, and $48 million for securing its eastern border. President Rudolf Schuster said in a statement cited by CTK on 14 December, "Slovakia is marching on the path that within a few years will markedly improve the quality of life" and the country will contribute to "the enrichment of united Europe." MS

SENIOR POLITICIAN HINTS AT EXIT FROM SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTY
Vojtech Tkac, deputy chairman of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), said on 15 December that he does not rule out the possibility of leaving the HZDS and setting up a different party, TASR and CTK reported, citing TV Markiza. He said "collective decision-making has ceased to exist" in the HZDS and the party has been turned into a one-man show -- that of Vladimir Meciar. MS

HUNGARY ACCEPTS EU OFFER, IS INVITED INTO UNION...
Hungary, among the last candidate countries to accept the EU's financial package in Copenhagen on 13 December, received an invitation to join the EU on 1 May 2004 along with nine other candidate states. Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy offered his thanks to the experts working on the accession talks and to previous governments that worked toward EU accession. Medgyessy also said he is certain the 12 April referendum will give him a mandate to sign the accession treaty in Athens on 16 April. Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs announced that Hungarian farmers will receive EU direct subsidies together with a supplement from the national budget, which in 2004 will represent 55 percent of what is available to their EU counterparts, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 14 December. "Magyar Nemzet," however, quoted unidentified Hungarian delegation members saying direct agricultural subsidies from the EU will remain at the original 25 percent levels, while the extent of state funding will rise from the initially planned 20 percent to 30 percent in 2004, to 35 in 2005, and to 40 in 2006. In the next three years, Hungary will obtain 56 million euros ($57 million) in budgetary compensation, compared to 420 million euros originally requested, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. MSZ

...AMID OPPOSITION CRITICISM
Former Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 14 December told reporters that while Hungary's EU accession is of historic significance, the Hungarian delegation conducted "weak and abortive talks" over the last few days with the EU, Budapest dailies reported on 16 December. Orban said that while Poland and the Czech Republic achieved considerable results at the very last moment, Hungarians "can present nothing." He added, "We only succeeded in getting approval to spend our own money." Opposition Democratic Forum deputy Sandor Lezsak said there is a danger that a considerable portion of Hungarian farmland will end up in foreign hands upon accession. MSZ

HUNGARIAN NATIONALISTS STAGE DEMONSTRATION AGAINST PRIME MINISTER
The World Federation of Hungarians and other civic groups staged a demonstration in downtown Budapest on 15 December, calling for the resignation of Premier Medgyessy for celebrating Romania's national day with his Romanian counterpart Adrian Nastase on 1 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2, 4, and 12 December 2002). The demonstrators also criticized the Hungarian government's policy toward ethnic Hungarians abroad, "Magyar Nemzet" reported. In other news, the same daily reported that former Premier Orban was awarded the Julianus Prize for his role in establishing the Sapientia Hungarian-language university in Transylvania. MSZ

HEARING FOR FORMER BOSNIAN SERB LEADER BEGINS IN THE HAGUE...
The hearing for crimes against humanity in the case of former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic opened in The Hague on 16 December, RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2002). Chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said the "hearing is of unusual importance in bringing to light what occurred during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina [in 1992-95]. It is the first time in the history of this tribunal that a senior figure in the former Yugoslavia indicted in a top leadership role has admitted responsibility for horrific crimes committed during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina." Del Ponte added, "In her dealings with my office, the accused has not sought to gain personal advantage or to evade responsibility for what she herself has done. But the fact of the [guilty] plea in itself must be an important step towards reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina." PM

...AMID WIDESPREAD ATTENTION
Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and former Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik are expected to be among the witnesses at Plavsic's hearing, Reuters reported on 16 December. The news agency noted that while many Muslims and Croats hailed her decision to plead guilty, they want her to receive at least some punishment for her prominent role in former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic's inner circle during the war. Other charges against Plavsic were dropped when she entered her guilty plea on one charge of crimes against humanity in October. Plavsic turned herself in to the war crimes tribunal after being publicly indicted by that body in 2000. After nine months of detention, she was released to Serbia pending her trial. PM

NEW NATO MISSION LAUNCHED IN MACEDONIA
NATO'S Operation Amber Fox ended on 14 December and was succeeded by the 450-strong operation called Allied Harmony the next day, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 October, 15 and 28 November, and 12 December 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 February, 8 March, 3 May, 16 August, and 15 November 2002). The new mission will focus on advising the Macedonian military and helping prepare that country for NATO membership (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 November 2002). Allied Harmony will also support international observers of Macedonia's peace process and maintain contacts with local authorities. Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski said in Skopje, "The new mission will be able to focus more on giving advice and assistance, which will enable Macedonia to fully safeguard its territory." In September 2001, NATO launched Operation Essential Harvest with about 3,500 troops to collect weapons. Amber Fox followed with about 700 troops to protect international monitors. PM

ALBANIAN AND MACEDONIAN PRIME MINISTERS MEET
Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano and his Macedonian counterpart Branko Crvenkovski met in the eastern Albanian town of Liqenas on 14 December, RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters reported. Their talks focused on the two countries' efforts aimed at EU accession as well as on the rights of the ethnic Macedonian minority in Albania. "We must not wait for other countries to take initiative. Macedonia and Albania will do this themselves [in seeking] to join NATO and the EU as early as possible," Crvenkovski said. Nano promised that Albania will improve the educational, cultural, and human rights of its Macedonian minority. The two leaders also agreed that military and police officials from the two countries will meet soon to discuss ways of controlling smuggling across their common border, dpa reported. UB

UN DELEGATION HAILS PROGRESS IN KOSOVA
Norwegian Ambassador to the UN Peter Kolby and a delegation of 15 ambassadors from the UN Security Council arrived in Prishtina on 14 December, dpa reported. After concluding their visit two days later, Kolby said: "Compared to what we saw here 18 months ago, there has been substantial progress." He added, however, that "much more" remains to be done in the province to make it a truly "multiethnic and democratic society." Kolby said his group will not recommend any changes to Resolution 1244, which governs the terms of the UN mission in Kosova. The visit was overshadowed by a bomb blast in central Bill Clinton Square that left 32 people injured. President Ibrahim Rugova and Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi condemned the bombing, which police are investigating. PM

YUGOSLAV AND SERBIAN OFFICIALS VISIT ALBANIA
Rasim Ljajic, who is Yugoslav minister in charge of minority rights issues, and Nebojsa Covic, who is Serbian deputy prime minister and Belgrade's point man for Kosova and southern Serbia, discussed bilateral relations in Tirana with Ilir Meta, who is foreign and deputy prime minister, Hina reported on 15 December. Meta stressed that Belgrade and Tirana cannot directly decide Kosova's future but can work to promote better interethnic relations there. PM

SERBIAN LOBBY GROUP SETS UP POLITICAL PARTY
The lobby group known as G 17 Plus has reorganized itself as a political party, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 15 December. The group is widely considered a nongovernmental organization, but it contains a number of top government officials, including Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus -- who will head the new party -- and National Bank Governor Mladjan Dinkic. Several members of the original 1997 group of independent economists, called G 17, quit that group in 1998 after a split with Dinkic, who reorganized the lobby group under a similar name. PM

CROATIA RESUMES CONTROL OF STRATEGIC PENINSULA
UN observers formally ended their mandate in Croatia's Prevlaka region on 15 December, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December 2002). PM

STABILITY PACT HEAD CALLS ON EU TO HELP BALKANS
Erhard Busek, who heads the EU-led Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, said in Vienna that the EU must not forget the Balkan countries that remain outside the new round of enlargement, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 15 December. He stressed the Balkan countries need to know what the next step in enlargement will be, including the possible admission of Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania in 2007. Busek also called for clarification of the status of Kosova and Bosnia. PM

EUROPEAN COUNCIL SETS 2007 AS TARGET ACCESSION DATE FOR ROMANIA, BULGARIA...
The EU Presidency conclusions of the 12-13 December Copenhagen European Council state that the EU's objective is to welcome Bulgaria and Romania as members in 2007. The statement calls on both countries to fulfill and implement their commitments undertaken in the accession negotiations. It stresses the importance of judicial and administrative reform that will facilitate the two countries' overall preparation for membership. The European Council also decided to provide Bulgaria and Romania with a "road map" for accession and to substantially increase the aid those two countries are to receive from the EU to facilitate their accession efforts. The presidency, which is currently headed by Denmark, called on Bulgaria and Romania to use the funding made available "in a flexible way, targeting the priorities identified, including in key areas such as Justice and Home Affairs," one of the chapters of the EU acquis communautaire. According to the conclusions, Bulgaria and Romania are participate in the next EU Intergovernmental Conference as observers. UB

...AS ROMANIAN LEADERS EXPRESS SATISFACTION WITH RESULT
President Ion Iliescu said on 14 December in Copenhagen that Romania "achieved all it could possibly achieve under the current conditions," Mediafax reported. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, who also attended the summit, said that one of the main achievements is the stipulation that Romania and Bulgaria are to negotiate the conditions of their accession under the same conditions as the 10 states that will join in 2004. The council's decision "gives us a chance to enjoy the same rules of the game as other candidate countries," Reuters quoted Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana as saying. MS

ROMANIA BEGINS NEGOTIATIONS ON NATO ACCESSION
The first round of negotiations between Romanian and NATO representatives on joining the organization was held in Brussels on 13 December, Romanian Radio and Mediafax reported. The talks focused on the military and political obligations to be assumed by Bucharest once it joins the Atlantic alliance. The Romanian delegation was headed by its co-chairmen, Defense Ministry State Secretary George Cristian Maior and Foreign Ministry State Secretary Mihnea Motoc. They pledged that their country intends to fully fulfill all the military obligations deriving from the North Atlantic Treaty regarding collective defense, security, and peacekeeping, as well as the political obligations stemming from promoting and defending the values of democracy, individual freedom, and a state based on the rule of law. The next round of negotiations is to be held on 9 January 2003. MS

GREATER ROMANIA PARTY LEADER WANTS POPE TO HEAD UNITED EUROPE
Greater Romania Party Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor said on 13 December that he believes the capital of a united Europe should be in Rome and that its "supreme chief" should be the pope, whom he called "the one and single moral authority capable of leading that Europe of different nations without serving the interests of a single country or of a group of states." Tudor, whose parents were neo-Protestant, usually expresses fundamentalist nationalist Romanian Orthodox views, but last week he pledged to tone down his own political discourse in order to improve the country's international image. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT 'COUNTS ON U.S. BACKING' FOR SOLVING TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT...
Speaking ahead of his visit to the United States scheduled to begin on 17 December, President Vladimir Voronin said in an interview with "Nezavisimaya Moldova" on 13 December that his country "counts on U.S. backing" for its efforts to "shape a new image of Moldova -- a unified, neutral, and demilitarized country," Infotag reported. Voronin said that although the United States is not a mediator in the conflict with the separatists, it has contributed to bringing "dynamism" to the negotiation process and to outlining the options that could serve a successful outcome. He said Washington is well aware that "as long as [in Moldova] there are two armies, two customs authorities, and two currencies," and as long as the Chisinau authorities "cannot control some 450 kilometers of the national border," a resolution of the conflict is unlikely. Voronin reiterated that Moldova's relations with Russia remain "a strategic partnership" that will not be affected by his talks in Washington. He said the Russian-U.S. partnership is "developing rapidly" and "it is unthinkable for us to ignore this cooperation." He added that he has discussed the visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who requested that Voronin "convey his best regards" to President George W. Bush." MS

...AND APPOINTS REINTEGRATION MINISTER
President Voronin on 12 December appointed Vasile Sova to the newly created portfolio of reintegration minister, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He is to coordinate the activities of all ministries and other governmental structures in the "elaboration and implementation of the process of the country's reintegration," -- by which is meant its reunification. Sova was Moldovan ambassador to China prior to his ministerial appointment. MS

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT HAILS EU DECISIONS...
In response to the European Council's decisions at its 12-13 December Copenhagen summit (see Romanian item above), the government issued a statement on its official website (http://www.government.bg) hailing "the progress by the European Council in uniting Europe." "The decision of the Copenhagen European Council...is the true start for Bulgaria toward a deserved comeback to the family of European countries," the statement reads. "The goal declared by the EU member states to welcome Bulgaria in the EU in 2007 is seen by the Bulgarian government as an expression of their resolve to guarantee the ongoing and irreversible process of the fifth enlargement of the union. We are proud of the fact that the clear expression of this goal happens during our rule." However, the government also noted that it is aware of the difficulties that lie ahead. "The time until 2007 will not be easy for Bulgarian politicians, but it will be a chance for them to prove that they put the interests of their people above all else. We are working and we are to work for that cause," according to the statement. UB

...AS DOES PARLIAMENT -- AFTER TRADING ACCUSATIONS
Parliament adopted a declaration on the results of the European Council on 13 December, confirming that full EU membership is an unconditional strategic priority of the Republic of Bulgaria. The declaration published on the parliament's official website (http://www.parliament.bg) stated that parliament "considers the member states' willingness to welcome Bulgaria as a European Union member in 2007 as recognition of the important progress achieved by the country toward European integration." "[Parliament] confirms Bulgaria's willingness to fulfill the commitments undertaken in the accession negotiations and to carry on the hard work toward successful accession." Before adopting the declaration by a vote of 178-3, with two abstentions, the ruling majority and the opposition traded accusations, mediapool.bg reported. The ruling coalition of the National Movement Simeon II and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms accused the opposition of trying to hinder the government's efforts in the EU accession talks, while speakers for both the opposition United Democratic Forces and the Socialist Party underscored their parties' positive role in the EU-accession process. The ruling majority voted down all amendments to the declaration proposed by the opposition. UB

BULGARIAN AUTHORITIES ARREST IRAQI ARMS DEALER
Bulgarian authorities arrested Sahib Abd-al-Amir al-Haddat, an Iraqi national suspected of arms smuggling, at Sofia's airport on 25 November, BTA reported, citing the German weekly "Der Spiegel" of 14 December. Al-Haddat was arrested on the basis of an outstanding international warrant issued by German authorities and will be extradited to Germany. UB

There is no End Note today.


AFGHAN PRESIDENT MOVES AGAINST WARLORDS
President Hamid Karzai has issued a decree banning political leaders from engaging in military activities, Kabul's Radio Afghanistan reported on 15 December. The decree, which goes into effect immediately, was released as Karzai headed for Oslo to participate in a conference on Afghanistan's reconstruction. The presidential decree said: " No military or civilian official is allowed to offer dual services in both military and civil affairs. The governors of the provinces, authorities, and commanders of the military-police units should legally operate within the limits of their authority. They have to strictly abide by the rules and regulations governing their duties." The independent power exercised by regional leaders -- politically, economically, and militarily -- is seen as undermining the central government's authority and power to act. BS

HIZB-I ISLAMI SEES NO NEED FOR FOREIGN TROOPS...
Qutbodin Hilal, a member of the central council of Gulbuddin Hikmatyar's Hizb-i Islami party, on 16 December told Mashhad radio's Dari-language service that the deployment of an Afghan national army would make the presence of foreign forces unnecessary. During a conference in Petersberg, Germany, earlier this month, Karzai issued a decree that set out his plan for the creation of a 70,000-strong Afghan national army. And on 15 December, Kabul's Radio Afghanistan broadcast an order from Karzai that decreed the creation of a national army as essential to Afghanistan's reconstruction. The order described a "sound plan" that was compiled after "comprehensive study and research," and it said that the army would meet Afghanistan's external and internal security requirements. BS

...AND DENIES AL-QAEDA LINK
Hilal added that the Hizb-i Islami has not cooperated with Al-Qaeda in any fashion because Al-Qaeda is a terrorist organization. Nevertheless, there are persistent reports that Hikmatyar, Al-Qaeda, and Taliban elements are working together against the Afghan central government. It should be noted, furthermore, that the Hizb-i Islami has splintered into several factions, and the faction of which Hilal is a member hopes to play a role in Afghanistan's transitional government. BS

TEHRAN CLOSES AFGHAN HIZBULLAH OFFICES
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Education and Research Affairs Alireza Moayeri said on 14 December that the police in Mashhad have closed the offices of Afghan Hizbullah, IRNA reported. Moayeri added that this step is in line with the stated Iranian policy of supporting the central Afghan government of President Karzai. "The operation of Afghan Jihadi groups in the Islamic Republic of Iran are based on the permits that the Interior Ministry issues under certain conditions, and these offices probably did not have such a permit," Moayeri said. BS

IRANIAN STATE RADIO CLAIMS ISRAELIS ACTIVE IN AFGHANISTAN
The Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Pashtu-language external service claimed on 15 December that Israeli intelligence personnel and military experts are operating in Afghanistan. Citing an anonymous Afghan source, the broadcast claimed that these individuals are active in southwestern Afghanistan's Helmand Province. Similar claims have appeared before. Afghan executive branch spokesman Fazl Akbar on 27 November denied that there are any Israeli intelligence personnel in the country, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported from Mashhad in Dari. Mashhad radio cited an Egyptian Internet site as the source of the information about the Israelis' presence. BS

POLLSTER'S HEARING TO BE HELD IN CAMERA
The Tehran Justice Department announced on 14 December that the third hearing of Ayandeh Research Institute Director Hussein Qazian will be held behind closed doors, IRNA cited "Hamshahri" as reporting. The decision is the result of security concerns voiced by Tehran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security regarding the use of classified documents, according to a Justice Department announcement. BS

IRANIAN COURT DENIES RECEIVING AGHAJARI'S APPEAL
Saleh Nikbakht, the attorney for political activist and university Professor Hashem Aghajari, said in the 14 December "Aftab-i Yazd" that when he contacted the Supreme Court on 11 December it denied receipt of his client's appeal. Nikbakht said he submitted the appeal to the Hamedan Court on 3 December, and this was to have been forwarded to the Supreme Court on 4 December. Nikbakht said he has not been in touch with his client since 22 November. BS

HRW MAKES RECOMMENDATIONS FOR IRAN-EU DIALOGUE
Human Rights Watch in a 14 December press release expressed regret that delegates from HRW or Amnesty International will not be allowed to attend the Iran-EU human rights dialogue that begins on 16 December in Tehran. HRW expressed concern about issues such as arbitrary detention, torture, and freedom of religion. It called for the release from prison of attorney Nasser Zarafshan; Berlin conference attendees Akbar Ganji, Khalil Rostamkhani, Said Sadr, and Hassan Yussefi-Eshkevari; and journalist Emadedin Baqi. HRW also called for the release of detained students and the freedom from house arrest of Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri-Najafabadi. HRW drew attention to the restrictive press law, the existence of secret detention centers, discrimination against minorities, and the forcible repatriation of refugees. BS

JUDICIARY OFFICIAL DESCRIBES HUMAN RIGHTS INTERACTION IN IRAN
Mohammad Javad Larijani, the judiciary's foreign-policy adviser, said during a 15 December meeting with Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Alfredo Mantica that Iran has a constructive human rights dialog with other countries and the UN, IRNA reported. Larijani spoke positively of the defeat of a draft resolution criticizing the situation in Iran during the April 2002 session of the UN Commission on Human Rights by a roll-call vote of 19 in favor to 20 against, with 14 abstentions (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 29 April 2002). "Today, the humanity has become the victim of the illogical and violent policies the U.S. officials are exercising," Larijani said. "Contrary to that, Iran introduces its own culture to the world community." "We respect the Western liberalism and expect the West to respect our own cultural democracy," Larijani added in a possible reference to acceptable standards of human rights and what exists instead in Iran. BS

IRANIAN HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIAL QUITS
Iranian parliamentarian Mohammad Dadfar, who serves on the legislature's Human Rights Committee, has resigned from the committee in advance of its talks with EU human rights officials, the ISNA reported on 15 December. The Human Rights Committee was established two weeks ago. Dadfar refused to elaborate on his decision, according to ISNA. BS

IRANIAN LEGISLATURE APPROVES TORTURE BAN
The Iranian parliament on 15 December approved a bill banning torture, Iranian state television reported on 15 December. Article 38 of the constitution bans torture already, and the Guardians Council, which must approve all legislation on Islamic and constitutional grounds, rejected a previous draft of the bill in June 2002 (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 4 November 2002). BS

GUARDIANS COUNCIL DOWNPLAYS CONCERN ABOUT REJECTION OF LEGISLATION
In a statement faxed to IRNA on 15 December, the Guardians Council said that it is complying with its constitutional obligations when it determines legislative compatibility with the constitution and with Islamic law, IRNA reported. One hundred fifty-four members of parliament signed a letter the previous week in which they said that the Guardians Council's rejection of some bills violated the law. The Guardians Council's fax pointed out that such disputes could be referred to the Expediency Council. The clerical members of the Guardians Council are ex officio members of the Expediency Council. BS

KERMAN STUDENTS ARRESTED
A rally scheduled to be held outside the Kerman Governorate-General's Office was cancelled following the arrest of some 90 students from Kerman's Shahid Bahonar University, "Hayat-i No" reported on 15 December. The students wanted to protest the poor provision of security for national-religious activist Ezatollah Sahabi when he arrived at Kerman Airport, and they also objected to being called "outsiders" by the governor-general. BS

'BEAN' BASHER BUSTED AGAIN IN IRAN
Hamid Ostad, the leader of the Mashhad branch of the Ansar-i Hizbullah vigilante group, has been released from jail after being held for one day, ISNA reported on 14 December. Ostad told ISNA that he was arrested on 11 December during a lecture at Mashhad's Medical College because he was protesting the arrest of a friend. While other participants who were arrested were released fairly quickly, Ostad claimed he was held longer because the city's police chief lodged a complaint against him. Ostad related the police chief's antipathy to Ostad's speech against him during Qods Day (28 November) rallies. Ostad was arrested and tried in the summer of 2001 because he and his posse disrupted a performance by Hamid-Reza Mahisefat, who is known as "Iran's Mr. Bean" (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 27 August 2001 and 3 September 2001). BS

IRAQI PRESIDENT'S HALF-BROTHER ESCAPES INDICTMENT IN SWITZERLAND
The London-based "Sunday Times" reported on 15 December that Swiss authorities allowed Barzan Tikriti to return to Iraq in October despite a request by the London-based human rights group Indict that he be prosecuted for war crimes. Tikriti is the half-brother of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein; his daughter is married to Saddam's son, Uday. Tikriti is a former Iraqi Ambassador to Switzerland who previously served as director-general of the Iraqi Mukhabarat intelligence agency. An Indict dossier presented evidence to Swiss authorities 15 months ago that claimed that Tikriti "had pulled out fingernails, thrown boiling water over prisoners, beaten them with cables, and administered electric shocks," the "Sunday Times" reported. The dossier also detailed the 1980 torture and death of Professor Muhammad Bakr al-Sadr, a Shiite mullah, who was "murdered with a nail that was pushed through his head." Other charges against Tikriti include the disappearance of thousands of males aged 14-70 from one tribe in northern Iraq; and statements documenting one mass grave containing up to 350 men near Kirkuk, some of whom were reportedly shot by Tikriti. "A total of 3,500 to 8,000 are believed to have been killed," the "Sunday Times" reported. KR

IRAQI OPPOSITION CONFERENCE MAKING PROGRESS...
Iraqi opposition groups meeting in London were expected to issue a conference declaration on 16 December detailing the achievements of the conference. Early reports indicate that the various opposition groups have largely been able to set aside their differences for the greater good of Iraq. Conference participants agreed on a list of 49 officials who should face war crimes charges, "and others who should be granted amnesty," AP reported on 15 December. "This committee will issue a general amnesty and start national reconciliation after regime change in Iraq," AP quoted conference spokesman Hamid al-Bayati from the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq as saying. Iraqi leaders listed for trial include President Hussein and his sons Uday and Qusay, Revolutionary Command Council Vice Chairman Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, and Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan. KR

...AND SEEKS TO FORM POSSIBLE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP
The most important item on the agenda of the 300-delegate conference is the formation of a leadership committee, which is expected to comprise some 45 members of the opposition. Some participants have indicated it could serve as the nucleus of a transitional authority, BBC reported on 15 December. "Our overriding interest is to form a major, broad-based committee representing all Iraqis," said Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurdish leader. "It will represent all Iraq but will not constitute a government in exile," globeandmail.com reported on 16 December. Zebari added that the committee would allow for extra seats to be filled by Iraqi dissidents currently inside Iraq. KR

SYRIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSSES PIPELINE...
Syrian President Bashar al-Asad has acknowledged that his country reopened a pipeline in November 2000 between Syria and Iraq. "We announced over a year ago that we have begun our tests to pump oil from Iraq to Syria," al-Asad told "The Times" of 13 December. "This pipeline is almost 50 years old. The maintenance and experimental process has shown the pipeline to be technically poor and ineffective," he said. "Since this pipeline is old, we have announced that we will build a new one." Construction of the new pipeline "will take place with the cooperation of several European firms," he added. "The talks are in progress and the project will certainly be in conformity with the UN resolutions." According to timesonline.co.uk, the pipeline runs from Kirkuk in northern Iraq to Banias in Syria. KR

...AS INTELLIGENCE INDICATES NEW PIPELINE IN OPERATION
Meanwhile, intelligence reports indicate that a new pipeline connecting the Ein Zalah oil field in northern Iraq to the Suwaydiyah oil field in northeast Syria began operating two months ago and is pumping some 60,000 barrels per day, according to timesonline.co.uk on 16 December. "Sixty thousand barrels a day over a period of 12 months is estimated to be worth about $500 million," "The Times" reported. Syrian President Al-Asad arrived in London on 15 December for talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. His trip marks the first time a Syrian leader has formally visited the United Kingdom. Al-Asad told timesonline.co.uk on 13 December that the leaders would discuss Iraq as well as Syria's role in the UN Security Council. In addition, he said bilateral cooperation, including administrative development, educational exchanges, technological development, and the privatization of Syrian banks, would be discussed. KR

INSPECTORS ATTEMPT FRIDAY PROBE OF DISEASE-CONTROL CENTER IN IRAQ...
UNMOVIC inspectors toured the Communicable Diseases Control Center in Baghdad on 13 December, according to a joint UNMOVIC and IAEA press statement. The center is run by the Health Ministry and listed as a "new" site on the Iraqi declaration list. UNMOVIC reported the difficulties of the visit due to the fact that Friday is the Muslim holy day and the center was closed. The statement said: "The site had only one guard and a duty officer, who is an assistant technician. The duty officer did not have the keys to the rooms and could not locate the central key holder. The team then decided to tag seals on several rooms they wanted to inspect later." A second UNMOVIC team visited the Al-Mussaib Pesticide Store, which sells ready-to-use pesticides. "On request the National Monitoring Directorate brought two facility representatives with keys to all buildings and rooms," UNMOVIC reported. In addition, IAEA inspectors took water, sediment, and vegetation samples at "three Major Iraq Surface Water Drainage Basins of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers" south of the 33rd parallel, UNMOVIC reported. Another IAEA team conducted a "wide-area gamma survey of the Baghdad area," including the Karama Sumud missile factory. KR

...AS UNMOVIC RETURNS TO ATOMIC ENERGY ORGANIZATION
A 22-member UNMOVIC team returned to the Iraqi Atomic Energy Organization (AEO) in Baghdad on 15 December, Iraq Satellite TV reported. Dr. Faiz al-Bayraqdar, adviser at the AEO, said that the team of biologists entered the AEO agricultural, biological, and environmental facilities at the site. "The AEO installations work in all areas of research except for the nuclear," he said. "Most of them [inspectors] know that there are no nuclear materials or equipment (in Iraq) to work on.... The tags are there just as they left them. The equipment is still as they left it and where they left it in 1998...the current activities are just activities that have to do with insects, plants, and the environment." Meanwhile, another team returned to the Al-Fatah State Company in Baghdad. KR

BULGARIAN AUTHORITIES ARREST IRAQI ARMS DEALER
Bulgarian authorities arrested Sahib Abd-al-Amir al-Haddat, an Iraqi national suspected of arms smuggling, at Sofia's airport on 25 November, BTA reported, citing the German weekly "Der Spiegel" of 14 December. Al-Haddat was arrested on the basis of an outstanding international warrant issued by German authorities and will be extradited to Germany. UB

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