Accessibility links

Newsline - January 10, 2003


MOSCOW, TOKYO EXPRESS CONCERN ABOUT NORTH KOREA...
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told "Izvestiya" and ITAR-TASS on 10 January that Japan will demand that North Korea rescind its decision to withdraw from the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. He added that he will discuss this issue with President Vladimir Putin during their summit this week and that he understands Russia can play an important role in resolving the conflict because of Moscow's good relations with Pyongyang. Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko also expressed concern about Pyongyang's renunciation of international controls over its nuclear program. VY

...AND MINISTER PROPOSES RUSSIAN SOLUTION...
Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev has said that Russia can resolve the conflict over North Korea and return that country to "the framework of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty," ITAR-TASS and other Russian news agencies reported on 10 January. To do so, he implied, the United States should allow Moscow to undertake an energetic aid program to North Korea. An unidentified Russian expert told ITAR-TASS that in order to withdraw from the nonproliferation treaty, North Korea must complete several technical procedures, including notifying the other signatories of the treaty and the United Nations Security Council. He estimated that will take about three months. VY

...AS RUSSIAN-JAPANESE SUMMIT OPENS...
President Putin met in the Kremlin on 10 January with Prime Minister Koizumi and said the summit should give new impetus to bilateral relations and help improve the international situation, Russian news agencies reported. Koizumi said he favors the quick signing of a Russian-Japanese peace treaty "after the resolution of the territorial problem." The two countries have formally been at war since World War II because a dispute over ownership of the Kurile Islands has prevented the signing of a peace treaty. In an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 10 January, Koizumi expressed the hope that a solution to the Kurile dispute will emerge through the general expansion of bilateral relations. State-run RTR television commented that the summit will focus on less contentious areas such as economic relations, because "one can argue for years, but profits can come now." In particular, Moscow hopes to attract Japanese investment into the Far East energy sector and to increase many times over the amount of Russian oil exports to Japan. "Rossiiskaya gazeta" wrote on 10 January that Moscow and Tokyo continue to see the Kurile problem differently. Japan is pushing the "Hong Kong option," under which Russia will govern the islands until a specified date and then transfer them to Japan. Moscow backs the so-called Falklands variant, under which the islands will come under permanent joint control. VY

MOSCOW CONTINUES TO PLACE BLAME FOR HEATING SHORTAGES AT LOCAL LEVEL...
As unusually cold temperatures continue across Russia, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov announced on 9 January that the federal government will help badly afflicted regions if local administrations are doing and have done their part, Interfax reported. At the same time, he warned that if local administrations "remain idle," then federal authorities will take "emergency measures." Officials in the far northern Komi Republic issued a statement saying that press reports about heating outages in their region are false and that there has been only a single incident of a heating outage, affecting a building with only 12 apartments. JAC

...AS EXPENSIVE INFRASTRUCTURE REPAIRS LOOM
Aging infrastructure such as heating pipes must be replaced in some regions and might require as much as 16 billion rubles ($500 million) nationwide over an unspecified period of time, "Vremya novostei" reported on 9 January. In the town of Valdai in Novgorod Oblast, officials estimate that 250,000 rubles will be needed to replace old pipes that burst, according to the daily. President Putin on 9 January met with Railways Minister Gennadii Fadeev and Railways Troop Commander Grigorii Kogatko and discussed how the country's railway system was functioning during the cold spell. Fadeev was shown on national television assuring Putin that the railway is getting fuel to power plants on time and in "far greater amounts than envisaged by previous government instructions." JAC

JURY TRIALS RETURN TO RUSSIA
Jury trials have resumed formally in 61 Russian regions this month, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 9 January. Although some regions -- such as Ivanovo, Moscow, and Saratov oblasts -- have had jury trials since 1993, other regions such as Leningrad, Sverdlovsk, and Novosibirsk oblasts restored the practice only this month after amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code came into force. The 1993 Russian Constitution stipulates that citizens have the right to jury trials in certain instances, but jury trials were not adopted in most localities because authorities were reluctant to require citizens to serve on juries without paying their wages or covering even their transportation expenses, according to the daily. In many cases, local courtrooms have also had to be remodeled to create space for juries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2002). JAC

PRIME MINISTER FORESEES DEVELOPMENT IN FAR NORTH
Speaking at an interbranch governmental meeting aboard the "Yamal" nuclear icebreaker in Murmansk, Prime Minister Kasyanov noted that Murmansk is the only year-round port in the Russian Far North and, therefore, it must be the central point of the Russian Arctic transportation system, strana.ru reported on 10 January. Kasyanov also said exploration of the Arctic shelf will sharply increase the flow of goods through the northern sea route and this will create the need for more nuclear icebreakers. VY

COMMERCIAL BLAMED FOR JUNE SOCCER RIOTS
The Moscow Arbitration Court has upheld a fine against the Ator advertising agency for a commercial aired in June during a World Cup soccer match that was deemed to have provoked a riot in downtown Moscow, lenta.ru reported on 10 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 2002). The agency was fined 200 minimum monthly salaries for the commercial, which showed a man destroying an automobile with a baseball bat. After the commercial was shown, a crowd of about 200 people who had been watching Russia play Japan on a large-screen television on Red Square began to riot, setting cars on fire, breaking shop windows, and beating passers-by. The arbitration court upheld the prosecutor's contention that the advertisement violated the law on advertising. In September, Ator was liquidated. RC

PARTY OF POWER FOUND TO BE WEAK...
Writing in "Argumenty i fakty" on 9 January, Dmitrii Oreshkin, director of the Mercator research group, concludes that with State Duma elections looming in December, Unified Russia is in the weakest position of any of the previous parties of power, such as Russia's Choice or Our Home is Russia. Oreshkin noted that the party's performance in St. Petersburg legislative elections last month is symptomatic. Unified Russia picked up only four of the 50 seats available, which is half as many as the bloc of the Union of Rightist Forces and Yabloko. One of Unified Russia's chief weaknesses, according to Oreshkin, is that it overestimates the value of "administrative resources" and underestimates the value of direct contact with voters. JAC

...AS SUPPORT FOR COMMUNIST PARTY SHIFTS
In the same article, Dmitrii Oreshkin noted the Communist Party has lost the active support of governors, who now consider it more important to have good relations with the Kremlin and big business. As an example, he asserted that it is more important for Volgograd Governor Nikolai Maksyuta to enjoy the good opinion of LUKoil than of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. At the same time, he concluded that the Communists have managed to broaden their support outside of the political elite -- among the "simple people." The Communist electorate has also become younger. JAC

ALL ROADS LEAD TO ST. PETERSBURG
The federal government will earmark an additional $600 million for the completion of roads in and around St. Petersburg, RosBalt reported on 9 January, citing the presidential press service. At the same time, President Putin announced that control over the expenditure of these funds will be given to presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Viktor Cherkesov, who will ensure the money is "directed to the government and is spent rationally." Putin said the money will be disbursed regularly starting this year upon completion of each stage of work. Part of the money for the construction will come from the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Putin also noted that the Northwest Federal District is one of the most actively developing regional economies and has many plans and tasks, including preparation for St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary in May. JAC

NEWSPAPER EDITOR ON TRIAL FOR INCITING ETHNIC AND RELIGIOUS HATRED
A preliminary hearing in the trial of the former editor of the anti-Semitic newspaper "Pravoslavnyi Simbirsk" Sergei Seryubinym opened on 8 January in Ulyanovsk, RFE/RL's Ulyanovsk correspondent reported. Seryubinym is accused of inciting national and religious enmity. In an issue of the newspaper on 24 April 2002, Seryubinym cautioned Russian Orthodox parents to be aware that Jews are continuing the ancient ritual of murdering of Christian youths. The newspaper has a print run of about 2,000 copies and is financed jointly by the eparchy of Ulyanovsk and the oblast administration. After the 24 April issue, Seryubinym was fired and the eparchy issued an official apology to the local Jewish community. JAC

POLITICAL PARTY SAYS IT'S NOT SEEKING TO ROLL BACK RIGHTS OF NON-RUSSIANS
The National Power Party of Russia (NDPR) has announced that it plans to appeal the warning issued earlier by the Justice Ministry regarding the "extremist" statements made by one of its leaders, Boris Mironov, in an interview with "Moskovskie novosti," lenta.ru reported on 9 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January 2003). The party plans to send a letter to the ministry laying out the position of the party's political council on the constitutional rights of non-Russian citizens. Mironov said in his interview that certain ethnic groups, including Jews, should be stripped of their voting rights. According to Ekho Moskvy, the party's Political Council does not share Mironov's views and will seek to have the ministry's warning annulled. JAC

ENVIRONMENTAL TERRORISM FEARED IN ROSTOV
The theft of a large batch of poisonous substances has raised fears among officials in Rostov Oblast that "environmental terrorists" might be planning to poison the area's water supply, TVS reported on 8 January. According to the station, more than 200 liters of fertilizer were stolen from an agricultural company, and the oblast's public-health directorate has tightened security at sources of drinking water. In addition, authorities have begun to monitor the quality of tap water. JAC

ARMENIAN COURT RULING ENDS FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER'S PRESIDENTIAL BID
A Yerevan court upheld on 9 January a decision by the Armenian authorities certifying that former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian has held Armenian citizenship since April 2001, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The ruling follows an appeal by the U.S.-born Hovannisian, contending that he has continuously resided in Armenia since 1991, although his repeated applications for citizenship were "illegally" rejected by the current and former governments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 December 2002). The decision effectively ends any hope that Hovannisian had of running in the February presidential election, as he is now unable to meet the 10-year residency and citizenship requirement to be certified as a candidate by the Central Election Commission. RG

ARMENIAN MINISTERS STRESS ECONOMIC GROWTH...
Armenian Finance and Economy Minister Vardan Khachatrian reported on 9 January that the Armenian economy grew by an "unprecedented" 12 percent in 2002, according to Arminfo and Azg. Attempting to bolster President Robert Kocharian's economic record, Minister of Social Security Razmik Martirosian also reported on 9 January that the national poverty rate has declined from 58 percent to 50.2 percent. RG

...AND HIGHLIGHT SUBSTANTIAL RISE IN TAX REVENUE
State Taxation Service chief Yervand Zakharian on 8 January said that President Kocharian's government has achieved a 26 percent increase in tax collections this year, the largest increase in over a decade, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Zakharian attributed the increased revenue to economic growth and government measures to improve tax collections. The Armenian government has vowed to increase tax collections by a further 20 percent in 2003, promising that the recently formed Tax Police will target the "shadow" economy's estimated 40 percent share of overall economic activity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 December 2002). RG

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL OFFERS REWARD IN INVESTIGATION OF MURDERED ARMENIAN JOURNALIST
The Armenian Prosecutor-General's Office offered a reward of $250,000 on 8 January for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators of the murder of Public Television and Radio head Tigran Naghdalian, Arminfo reported. The investigation of Naghdalian's 28 December murder (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 2003) is being conducted by the Prosecutor-General's Office, the National Police, and the National Security Service. After a flurry of interrogations in the 24 hours following the murder, all detainees have been released and there has been no recent progress reported in the case. RG

AZERBAIJAN APPEALS TO RED CROSS TO SECURE SOLDIER'S RELEASE
Azerbaijani State Commission for Missing Persons and Hostages head Gulsan Alieva submitted a formal appeal on 9 January to the Baku office of the International Committee of the Red Cross seeking assistance securing the return of an Azerbaijani soldier captured by Armenian forces, according to ANS TV. The Azerbaijani soldier was captured on 8 January following a clash with an Armenian unit in Agdam Raion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January 2003). RG

RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY MEETS WITH ABKHAZ LEADERSHIP
Russian President Vladimir Putin's special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, Valerii Loshchinin, met with senior Abkhaz leaders in Sukhum on 9 January, "The Georgian Times" and RIA-Novosti reported. The Russian envoy held talks with Abkhaz Prime Minister Gennadii Gagulia, Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Arshba, and Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba. Russia is attempting to restart negotiations between the Abkhaz and Georgians that remain stalled over the Abkhaz demand for a complete withdrawal of Georgian troops from the upper part of the Kodori Gorge as a precondition for talks. Georgian officials are also concerned over the Russian grant of citizenship to a number of Abkhaz residents, characterizing the act as "unacceptable." RG

GEORGIA PURCHASES AIR-SURVEILLANCE SYSTEM TO SAFEGUARD PROPOSED OIL PIPELINE
Georgian State International Oil Company President Georgia Chanturia reported on 7 January that Georgia has signed a contract with the U.S. Northrop Grumman Corporation to purchase a sophisticated airborne surveillance system to monitor and safeguard the proposed Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline, according to "Oil & Gas Journal" and the Civil Georgia online news agency. The unmanned "Global Hawk" aerial reconnaissance system is to be supplemented by a special military unit charged solely with pipeline security. Georgian officials reported they will receive some $11 million in U.S. financing for the purchase and related training. RG

KAZAKH OPPOSITION SAYS ELECTION RESULTS INVALID
At a press conference on 9 January in Almaty leaders of the opposition Republican People's Party, including party Executive Committee Chairman Amirzhan Qosanov, said last month's three by-elections for seats in the Mazhilis (the lower parliamentary chamber) were marred by irregularities and fraud, and consequently the results are illegitimate, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. All three seats were won by staunch government allies, while opposition candidates complained their campaigns were undermined by local authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2003). Meanwhile, four candidates who were defeated in a race in Qaraganda, including government opponent Bulat Abilov, appealed on 7 January to a local court to invalidate the by-election, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. They alleged numerous violations, including forgery of ballots with the complicity of the local election committee. AA

KAZAKH MILITARY TO BUY RUSSIAN HELICOPTERS
Kazakhstan has agreed to purchase 14 state-of-the-art Mi-17V-5 helicopter gunships from Russia, "Ekspress K" reported on 9 January, quoting Kazakhstan's air-defense commander, Major General Kopen Akhmadiev. The helicopters' key tasks will be to defend the airspace over the capital Astana, ferry paratroops to possible conflict zones, and escort the president, Akhmadiev said. The newspaper said "the final straw" that prompted the military to upgrade its aging helicopter fleet was when a chopper crashed two years ago, injuring the defense minister and killing one of his General Staff officers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001). AA

SOUTHERN KAZAKH REGION PREPARES TO ACCEPT MORE RETURNEES
The director of migration issues for South Kazakhstan Oblast, Shirim Asilbekov, announced at a press conference in Shymkent on 9 January that the annual quota of diaspora Kazakhs to be repatriated in the region is being doubled this year to approximately 420 families, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. He said they would all receive housing and a one-time payment worth $52 per person. He also acknowledged that more than 10,000 Kazakhs arrived in the region from abroad in 2002, exceeding the state quota by about 15 times. In October, President Nursultan Nazarbaev declared that all expatriate Kazakhs are welcome to return to their homeland (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 24 October 2002). Yet many Kazakhs lured back by promises of a warm welcome and government subsidies end up fending for themselves, an iwpr.net report commented on 19 December. AA

KAZAKHSTAN STRENGTHENS TIES WITH ISLAMIC DEVELOPMENT BANK
On 9 January, President Nazarbaev signed a law making Kazakhstan a member of the Islamic Corporation for Insurance of Investments and Export Credits, Kazakh television reported. The move is intended to boost investment and trade, according to a presidential spokesman. The primary mission of the corporation, which is a subsidiary of the Islamic Development Bank, is to expand economic links among member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference by insuring investments and providing export credits. AA

NUCLEAR-REACTOR MATERIAL STOLEN IN KYRGYZSTAN
On the night of 8 January, six armed, masked men overpowered guards at the Orlovka chemical and metallurgical plant in Kyrgyzstan's Chu Oblast and stole at least 430 kilograms of europium oxide, RFE/RL and Interfax reported. The rare-earth compound has various uses in the defense and aerospace industries and is also a component in the control rods of nuclear reactors. On 9 January, Interior Ministry spokesman Joldashbek Busurmankulov told journalists that "the crime was obviously committed on someone's order." However, speaking on Kyrgyz radio the same day, he downplayed the incident as "an ordinary robbery" and said it was not connected with terrorism. Meanwhile, Nikolai Shingarev, a spokesman for the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry, said in Moscow that the material cannot be used to build nuclear weapons because it does not produce radioactivity, but rather absorbs it, RIA-Novosti reported on 10 January. AA/VY

APPEAL FOR AID TO STABILIZE KYRGYZ URANIUM DUMPS
At a meeting with representatives of Western donor countries in Bishkek on 9 January, Minister of Ecology and Emergencies Satybaldy Chyrmashev appealed for international help to rehabilitate the Soviet-era uranium waste dumps at Mayli-Say in the south of the country, Kyrgyz Radio reported. Chyrmashev warned that five of the dumps require immediate attention due to the risk of radioactive material seeping into the soil and water table. Kyrgyzstan lacks the funds to tackle the problem itself, he added. There are about 100 uranium waste dumps throughout the country. AA

ISLAMISTS ARRESTED IN TAJIKISTAN
Two unidentified members of the banned religious party Hizb ut-Tahrir were arrested in Dushanbe after being caught distributing leaflets and brochures calling for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate, Interfax reported. The Interior Ministry said both were 32-year-old men and Tajik citizens of Uzbek ethnicity. According to the Ministry of Justice, some 60 activists of the outlawed group were detained in Tajikistan in 2002, and about 200 have been jailed over the past three years. AA

TURKISH LEADER VISITS TURKMENISTAN
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, arrived in Ashgabat on 9 January accompanied by a delegation of about 150 Turkish businessmen, ITAR-TASS and turkmenistan.ru reported. Talks with President Saparmurat Niyazov focused on economic issues and the prospects for closer cooperation in the energy sector, including the possibility of delivering Turkmen gas to Turkey via Iran. Niyazov noted that Turkey was one of Turkmenistan's main trading partners, with over $380 million in bilateral trade in 2002. He also thanked Turkey for its assistance since 1991 in modernizing Turkmenistan's textile industry, hydrocarbon facilities, luxury hotels, and its national army. AA

TURKMENISTAN POSTS 2002 GROWTH FIGURES
Turkmenistan's government unveiled impressive economic statistics for 2002, headlined by 21.2 percent growth in GDP, Interfax reported on 9 January. According to the government, that increase was powered by 27 percent growth in the services sector and a 22 percent rise in industrial production. Meanwhile, the statistics indicate that the private sector now accounts for more than 40 percent of GDP. The accompanying official report said private-sector development is especially strong in farming, trade, and construction. AA

UZBEK BORDER GUARDS JAILED
A military court in Uzbekistan's Jizzak Oblast has sentenced three border guards to prison terms of from four to six years and ordered them to pay total fines of 1.765 million sums ($1,500) for abusing their official position at a checkpoint on the Uzbek-Tajik frontier, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 9 January. The guards were found guilty of harassing Tajik citizens, extorting bribes, and in some cases beating them up. The checkpoint is frequented by Tajiks who cut across a sliver of Uzbek territory as a shortcut between Tajikistan's Zafarobod Raion and the city of Istaravshan. AA

HEAD OF BELARUSIAN UPPER HOUSE APPEALS FOR COOPERATION WITH OSCE...
Council of the Republic speaker Alyaksandr Vaytovich said on 9 January that "the legislative and executive should build their work with the [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] OSCE office so that it will help us resolve tasks facing the Republic of Belarus," Belapan reported. Vaytovich stressed that Belarus and the new OSCE mission will pursue similar objectives, such as assisting the government in consolidating the rule of law, developing relations with civil society, and tackling economic and environmental problems. "Some circles in Belarus" exaggerate the OSCE office's ability to influence developments in the country, while "the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group could not substantially influence developments in the country, the new office will be even less capable of influencing [events]," Vaytovich said. The mandate requires the office to discuss its activities with the authorities, he added. AM

...WHILE AIMS OF OSCE MISSION IN BELARUS REMAIN UNCLEAR
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's special rapporteur on Belarus, Wolfgang Behrendt, on 9 January told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service that one should not be optimistic about the new OSCE mission in Belarus as long as its real functions remain unclear. Behrendt expressed concern that the monitoring of human rights and media freedom was left out of an agreement on the new OSCE office in Belarus. He also pointed out positive changes in relations between Belarus and the Council of Europe, including the emergence of a pro-European group in the Belarusian legislature, efforts to launch an inquiry into the disappearances of regime opponents, and some progress in abolishing the death penalty. However, regarding freedom of the media and opposition rights, Behrendt said he receives only negative signals. AM

UKRAINIAN COURT TO RECONSIDER FORMER PREMIER'S IMMUNITY
Ukraine's Supreme Court ordered a lower court to reconsider the lifting of former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko's parliamentary immunity, AP reported on 8 January, quoting Lazarenko's lawyer. Lazarenko has unsuccessfully appealed to district and appellate courts in Kyiv to restore his immunity, lifted by the Verkhovna Rada in 1999 in connection with embezzlement charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 February 1999) and in 2002 following accusations of involvement in contract killings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 February 2002). Lazarenko is jailed in the United States pending the outcome of a trial on money-laundering charges. AM

UKRAINIAN AIR CRASH IN IRAN REMAINS UNEXPLAINED
A Ukrainian commission probing the crash of an Antonov 140 passenger plane in Iran (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 December 2002) was unable to determine the cause of the accident before a government-imposed 7 January deadline, AP reported on 8 January, quoting a transportation official. Ukrainian experts have excluded a technical malfunction but are still working to determine if errors by Ukrainian pilots, Iranian air-traffic controllers, or a combination of the two caused the crash. No date has been set for the final report. AM

PRICE INDEXES DIFFER AMONG BALTIC STATES
The Latvian Central Statistics Bureau announced on 9 January that Lithuania's consumer price index (CPI) rose most steeply among Baltic states in December, rising 0.4 percent primarily due to higher food prices, LETA reported. In Latvia, the CPI increased by 0.2 percent in large part due to rising vegetable and dairy prices. In Estonia, prices declined by 0.2 percent, mainly due to easing of communication-services and fuel prices. But Lithuania experienced deflation of 1 percent, primarily because of a repegging of the litas, while prices rose by 1.4 percent and 2.7 percent in Latvia and Estonia, respectively. Rimantas Rudzkis, chief analyst at Lithuania's Vilniaus Bankas, said the deflation in Lithuania resulted from a change in the pegging of the national currency, the litas, from the U.S. dollar to the euro in February, ELTA reported. The litas appreciated against the euro by about 6 percent from early 2002 to October and against the dollar by 13-14 percent. SG

ESTONIA'S REFORM PARTY PROPOSES RADICAL REFORMS
In a booklet published as part of the Reform Party's election campaign for the 2 March parliamentary elections, party Chairman and Prime Minister Siim Kallas proposes university-level tuition, the partial privatization of universities, and the creation of a professional army, ETA reported on 9 January. He suggests that higher learning effectively be separated from the state through privatization and tuition. The state would introduce a system of student loans to shoulder some of the burden. Kallas also calls for professionalization of the armed forces, rescue services, and border guards. Center Party Deputy Chairman Peeter Kreitzberg called the education proposals extreme liberalism of a kind not seen anywhere in the world. He said a large share of tuition fees in the United States is covered by scholarships and support that is unavailable in Estonia, while the European model emphasizes the development of state universities. SG

INITIATIVE TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON NATO MEMBERSHIP FAILS IN LITHUANIA
Central Electoral Committee Chairman Zenonas Vaigauskas on 9 January announced the failure of an initiative to hold a referendum on Lithuania's NATO membership, ELTA reported. He explained that its organizers failed to submit the necessary 300,000 signatures ahead of the three-month deadline on 8 January. The leader of the initiative, the parliamentary Education, Science, and Culture Committee Chairman Rolandas Pavilionis, who has expressed his opposition to Lithuania joining the alliance, called on parliament to hold a NATO referendum together with the required plebiscite on EU accession. Lawmakers have not set a date for the EU referendum, although parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas has proposed 11 May. SG

POLISH INSTITUTE SEEKING WITNESSES TO 1941 MASSACRE OF JEWS
The National Remembrance Institute (IPN) is seeking witnesses to the massacre in July 1941 of several hundred Jews in Radzilow, Podlasie Province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April 2001), PAP reported on 9 January, quoting a paid advertisement in the Bialystok-based daily "Gazeta Wspolczesna." The institute has been probing events in Radzilow for two years, and files on the case include the testimonies of more than 90 people. By placing an announcement in the local newspaper, the institute expects to attract further witnesses, include some who might not know the probe is continuing, PAP reported. AM

POLISH PREMIER PRAISES U.S. JET FIGHTERS
Prime Minister Leszek Miller on 9 January took a 30-minute flight in one of two F-16 jet fighters on show at Warsaw's Okecie Airport, PAP reported. Miller said he wanted to see for himself how the jet performs in the wake of its selection in a government tender (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 December 2002). Miller said he hopes for a positive conclusion to offset negotiations with the fighter's manufacturer, Lockheed Martin. AM

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS KUWAIT-BASED CONTINGENT MIGHT BE REINFORCED...
Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said on 9 January that the Czech antichemical-, antibacterological-, and antinuclear-warfare unit stationed in Kuwait might be reinforced by some 100 specialists, CTK and dpa reported. Some 250 soldiers from that unit have been stationed in Kuwait since March. The United States recently asked the Czech Republic to keep the unit in the region as part of preparations for possible military operations against Iraq. Tvrdik said dispatching more members of the unit to Kuwait would not affect Czech national defense. He also said the Czech soldiers would not be among front-line forces, but should stay in Kuwait and be deployed from that country only if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein uses weapons of mass destruction -- whether in Iraq, Kuwait, or anywhere else the region. CTK later cited Deputy Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra as saying the unit might be deployed in Turkey. MS

...AS FUNDING QUESTIONS TAKE A BACK SEAT...
Tvrdik also said on 9 January that the Czech Defense Ministry is likely to cover the costs of reinforcing the Kuwait-based unit itself, while NATO allies will provide transportation to Kuwait of personnel and equipment. Jan Kohout, deputy foreign minister, told CTK that the financial aspect of such an operation is not viewed in Prague as either the most serious or the most important issue. The possible operation in Iraq, Kohout said, is "more than about costs. It is about regional and ultimately about world stability." MS

...AMID MINISTER'S CONVICTION THAT IRAQ IS DEVELOPING WMD
Tvrdik said on 9 January on Czech Television that he will personally recommend that the Czech Republic dispatch troops to participate in action against Iraq even if the UN Security Council does not approve an additional resolution on the operation. He said it is evident that Iraq has been developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and, as defense minister, he cannot simply watch Saddam Hussein's regime prepare to use those weapons, CTK reported. Earlier, Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said action against Iraq may take place on the basis of Security Council Resolution 1441. Svoboda said the relevant resolution includes "a warning of consequences" that might follow if its stipulations are not fulfilled. However, Svoboda added that he is confident the Security Council will debate the matter again, stressing there is no need to speculate on whether Czechs might participate in operations against Iraq without a new resolution. MS

CZECH PLANS TO CONTROL SEMTEX PRODUCTION STALLED
A Czech government plan to tighten controls on the manufacture of the hard-to-detect plastic explosive Semtex have stalled in the Czech Republic, dpa reported on 9 January, citing "The Prague Post" website (http://www.praguepost.com/). In January 2002, the government approved a plan to transfer control of the Explosia chemical works in Pardubice, which produces Semtex, to the cabinet in order to monitor more closely the production and sale of the explosive, a favorite among terrorist groups, in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States. While some criticized the envisaged takeover as ineffective, Explosia and government officials now say the transfer might take another year. The English-language Czech weekly cites international terrorism expert Harvey Kushner as saying Semtex continues to be taken out of the Czech Republic and traded on the black market and is "highly likely" to have also fallen into the hands of Al-Qaeda members. MS

CZECH SENATE COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS SECRET VOTE IN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
The upper house's Committee on Agenda and Procedure on 9 January recommended that the next head of state be elected by secret vote, CTK reported. The elections are slated to begin on 15 January. The recommendation is not binding, and the decision on a voting procedure will be taken at the joint session of the bicameral parliament that will elect the president. CTK said a similar view appears to be gaining ground among deputies in the Czech lower house. The Senate committee also proposed that each candidate be granted a chance to address the session before the vote. The committee also recommends that if no one is elected president in the first two rounds of the vote, the third and final round should be held within 14 days. If the president is not elected in the first three-round contest, new candidates may be proposed for a second three-round ballot. MS

CZECH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE DIVULGES INVOLVEMENT IN FATAL ACCIDENT
Five days before the presidential vote, the sister publications "Lidove noviny" and "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported that Social Democratic Party (CSSD) candidate Jaroslav Bures was involved in 1983 in a car accident that resulted in the death of a pedestrian, CTK reported on 10 January. Bures's car reportedly struck an elderly woman who was crossing the road against a red light. Police established that Bures was not to blame for the accident and the case was shelved. Last month, media reported that Ombudsman Otakar Motejl, considered for the candidacy by the CSSD, was involved in a car accident that resulted in the death of a man. After Motejl's case was publicized, Bures criticized him for having failed to inform the public about it. Bures, whose candidacy was dealt a blow when local media exposed misleading statements he made in mid-December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 January 2003), admitted he made a mistake by speaking about his own accident only now, the dailies wrote. MS

HAVEL BIDS FAREWELL TO CZECH POLITICIANS
A farewell reception for Czech politicians and officials was hosted on 9 January by outgoing President Vaclav Havel at the Lany presidential estate near Prague, CTK reported. Among those who attended the reception were Civic Democratic Party Honorary Chairman and former Premier Vaclav Klaus and former Prime Minister Milos Zeman, both of whom often clashed with Havel during their tenures as premiers. Current Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and numerous other former and current officials were also among the guests. MS

U.S. ASKS SLOVAKIA TO EXTEND AFGHANISTAN MILITARY MISSION
The United States on 9 January asked Slovakia to extend by six months the mandate of its engineering unit serving in Afghanistan under the auspices of Operation Enduring Freedom, TASR reported. The unit was deployed in Afghanistan in September to carry out reconstruction work at an air base. The extension of its mission requires approval by parliament. In related news, Robert Kalinak, chairman of the parliamentary Defense and Security Committee, on 9 January said Slovakia is unlikely to participate actively in operations in Iraq in the event of war because its forces are not sufficiently prepared for such a mission. MS

WALL-TO-WALL SLOVAK PARLIAMENTARY AGREEMENT ON EU REFERENDUM
All Slovak parliamentary parties on 9 January agreed to support the government's campaign in favor of a "yes" vote in the referendum on EU accession scheduled for 16-17 May, Reuters and TASR reported. In related news, Slovakia on 9 December opened negotiations in Brussels on joining the European Economic Area (EEA). The EEA includes the 15 current EU members as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. Joining the EEA is a precondition of admission to the EU. MS

SLOVAK OPPOSITION PARTIES TO OPPOSE ANNULMENT OF FORMER PREMIER'S AMNESTY
Opposition parties Smer (Direction) and the Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS) are unlikely to support an initiative by the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) to amend the constitution to enable the cancellation of controversial amnesties granted in 1998 by former Premier Vladimir Meciar, TASR reported. Charges against those suspected of participating in the kidnapping of former President Michal Kovac's son in 1995 -- including those brought against former Slovak Intelligence Service chief Ivan Lexa -- had to be dropped after several courts upheld the amnesties. Smer parliamentary deputy Kalinak was quoted by TASR as saying that although the amnesties were "morally dubious," canceling them would be "de jure unacceptable." KSS Secretary Ladislav Jaca said his party's representatives in parliament cannot support the KDH initiative because it would "set a dangerous precedent." Amending the constitution requires the approval of three-fifths of parliament's 150 deputies. MS

RIGHTS GROUP CRITICIZES SLOVAK PRESIDENT FOR SILENCE IN CHINA
The Slovak branch of Amnesty International on 10 January criticized President Rudolf Schuster for failing to broach the topic of human rights violations during his current visit to China, CTK reported. "With full respect for the business interests of the Slovak Republic, Amnesty International in Slovakia points out that the president, as the supreme representative of the country, should also defend the principles the country endorses. His behavior during his visit...depicts Slovakia as a country which ignores human rights violations," the statement said. Schuster is to return from his nine-day visit on 12 January. MS

HUNGARIAN FREE DEMOCRATS WANT COALITION TALKS ON STATUS LAW
The coalition Free Democrats (SZDSZ) on 9 January invited Socialist Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs to consultations aimed at hammering out a common stance on the Status Law, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. SZDSZ deputy Matyas Eorsi said his party can only support a motion reconcilable with EU legal norms and, unless such an agreement is implemented, its deputies will vote against the amendment of the Status Law in parliament. Eorsi also said the Socialists would need SZDSZ support in parliament, since the opposition FIDESZ will most likely oppose any amendment to the controversial legislation, which in its current version imparts extra rights to ethnic Hungarians abroad. Kovacs replied by saying that it will not be difficult to come to terms with the SZDSZ, as the Socialists also envisage an EU-friendly law. FIDESZ Deputy Chairman Zsolt Nemeth said he finds it regrettable that the Socialists are now advocating the "anti-Status-Law" policy pursued by the Free Democrats and noted that the Socialists backed the bill when it was put to a vote in parliament by the FIDESZ-led government last year. MSZ

U.S., HUNGARIAN LOCAL OFFICIALS DISCUSS IRAQI TRAINING PROJECT
U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Brian Brown, in charge of public relations for the Taszar training task force, on 9 January met with Somogy County Defense Commission Chairman Istvan Gyenesei in Kaposvar to discuss the work of the information center that will open there next week, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Brown told Gyenesei that fewer than 3,000 U.S. Army-affiliated Iraqi personnel will be trained at Taszar. Trainees will not be permitted to leave the air base, but that ban will not apply to trainers. On 8 January, Gyenesei criticized the United States for not participating in the work of the information center (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January 2003). MSZ

HUNGARIAN EU REPRESENTATION TO BECOME PERMANENT BRUSSELS MISSION
Foreign Ministry State Secretary for EU Integration Peter Balazs on 9 January told reporters that Hungary's EU mission for accession negotiations will be transformed into a permanent representation office in Brussels, Budapest dailies reported. Balazs said the current 20-member delegation will be expanded into a 100-strong team. MSZ

FORMER SERBIAN LEADER LOSES A HOUSE...
Judge Gordana Mihajlovic of Belgrade's Second District Court told state-run television on 9 January that the court has ruled illegal former President Slobodan Milosevic's 1999 purchase of a house on Uzicka Street in the posh Dedinje district, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He bought the house for a tiny fraction of its market value although he was not legally entitled to purchase it. PM

...AND HAGUE PROSECUTORS LOSE A WITNESS
"Danas" reported on 10 January that former Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosic has refused a request by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague to testify against Milosevic. Cosic reportedly feels he has already said all he intends to say about Milosevic. Cosic's nationalist writings helped pave the way for Milosevic's rise to power in the late 1980s, but Milosevic did not admit Cosic into his inner circle of powerful politicians. PM

KOSOVAR SERB DEPUTIES WANT GUARANTEE THEY WON'T BE OUTVOTED
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said in Belgrade on 9 January that Serbian deputies belonging to the Povratak (Return) coalition will end their two-month-old boycott of the Kosova parliament if their demands are met, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January 2003). The deputies want an explicit legal guarantee that they can make full use of their mother tongue and the Cyrillic alphabet. They also demand an unspecified "mechanism" to ensure that the ethnic Albanian majority cannot always outvote them. Povratak holds 22 of 120 seats in the parliament. Serbs make up less than 10 percent of the population. PM

EU LEADERS TO VISIT WESTERN BALKANS
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose country holds the rotating EU Presidency, will soon begin a visit to Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Yugoslavia, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January 2003). He will be accompanied by the two EU commissioners dealing with foreign affairs, Chris Patten and Javier Solana. PM

ALBANIA AND MACEDONIA SEEK CLOSER TIES
Albanian Foreign Minister Ilir Meta and his visiting Macedonian counterpart Ilinka Mitreva agreed in Tirana on 9 January to step up cooperation on bilateral issues and in promoting European integration, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 November 2002). They said that combating organized crime and smuggling are at the top of their agenda. Meta said: "The basis of this...commitment to a new quality in Albanian-Macedonian relations [is] our numerous mutual and common interests. [Cooperation] brings peace and stability to the region, and overall it [reinforces] our common project to join the EU and NATO. Regarding bilateral cooperation, we are focusing on the economic aspect," including the Corridor 8 Project to promote east-west infrastructure links in the Balkans, RFE/RL reported. In related news, Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula arrived in Skopje on 10 January to discuss joint approaches to Euro-Atlantic integration with top Macedonian officials, Hina reported. PM

LEADING MACEDONIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN HANDS HIMSELF OVER TO A COURT
Vojo Mihajlovski, the secretary of the nationalist opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), surrendered to a Skopje city court on 9 January, "Dnevnik" reported. Mihajlovski, who is accused of misappropriating money during his recent tenure as director of the state Health Fund, said he has full confidence in the judiciary's independence, according to his party's official website (www.vmro-dpmne.org.mk) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 January 2003). In related news, authorities in the eastern Macedonian town of Stip detained local VMRO-DPMNE leader Ilko Gorgiev and Amdi Bajram, who is a former lawmaker and leader of the Union of the Roma, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. Both politicians were allegedly involved in the large-scale theft of products from a local textile factory. UB

IMF OFFICIAL UPBEAT ON CROATIA
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Executive Director Johannes de Beaufort Wijnholds, who is that body's chief official for Croatia, said in Washington on 9 January that Croatia enjoys both sound growth and low inflation, VOA's Croatian Service reported. He added that unemployment is declining and currency reserves stand at about $6 billion in a country of low interest rates and no balance-of-payments problems. He said that Croatia's foreign debt will not pose difficulties if energies are concentrated on reducing it. PM

MANDATORY DRUG TESTS IN CROATIA
All soldiers and secondary-school and university students will soon begin being tested for drug use twice each year as part of the government's program to reduce drug use, local media reported on 9 January. Experts estimate that Croatia has 15,000 drug addicts out of a population of 4.4 million. Drug-related issues are often discussed in the media. PM

BOSNIAN POLICE OFFICIALS TALK BUSINESS
High Representative Paddy Ashdown and Commissioner Sven Fredriksen, who heads the European Union Police Mission (EUPM) in Bosnia, met in Sarajevo on 10 January with a large number of police officials from all parts of Bosnia, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2003). The agenda includes a discussion of the increased role of the EU in Bosnia and that country's strategy for eventually joining the EU. Fredriksen will highlight the role of the EUPM in ensuring the security of returned refugees and displaced persons, as well as carrying out the fight against organized crime. PM

ROMANIA FINALIZES NATO-ACCESSION NEGOTIATIONS
A Romanian delegation headed by Foreign Ministry State Secretary Mihnea Motoc and Defense Minister State Secretary George Cristian Maior on 9 January concluded in Brussels the second and final round of Romania's NATO-accession negotiations, Romanian Radio reported. The talks focused on the protection of classified information and on harmonizing legislation with that of current NATO members. Constitutional amendments needed to facilitate the country's accession to the organization were also discussed. Maior said NATO negotiators praised Romania's commitment to allocate 2.38 percent of GDP for defense, stressing that this allocation is sufficient to ensure the continuation of military reform and interoperability with NATO forces. The sides also discussed Romania's future contribution to NATO's budget and decided to continue negotiations on this issue without making them public. The accession agreement is to be signed in March, after which current NATO members' parliaments are to ratify the document. MS

GREATER ROMANIA PARTY TO SUE PREMIER
The leadership of the Greater Romania Party (PRM) is launching judicial proceedings against Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, the daily "Curentul" reported on 9 January. The PRM claims Nastase is "guilty of treason and of insulting national symbols and national dignity" by signing last month a government ordinance requiring that official references to the Transylvanian capital Cluj be displayed in both Romanian (Cluj-Napoca) and Hungarian (Kolozsvar) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 2003). The PRM leadership also delegated Cluj Mayor Gheorghe Funar, who is the party's secretary-general, to use all legal venues to prevent the posting of the bilingual signs. MS

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES TO COOPERATE IN PARLIAMENT
Democratic Party Chairman Traian Basescu and National Liberal Party Chairman Theodor Stolojan on 9 December announced that the two formations will sign an agreement to cooperate in parliament, Romanian Radio reported. The agreement will seek to improve their abilities to act in concert against the ruling Social Democratic Party. The two formations are to support motions against the government and to explore the possibility of setting up a formal alliance in the long run. They will also coordinate legislative proposals, the radio station reported. MS

ROMANIAN CNSAS MEMBERS DEMAND DISMISSAL OF SPECIAL-COMMISSION HEAD
Six members of the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) on 8 January demanded that Social Democratic Party (PSD) Senator Ion Predescu be dismissed as head of a special parliamentary commission investigating the conflict among CNSAS members, the daily "Adevarul" reported the next day. The six members, who constitute a majority within the 11-member CNSAS, said Predescu, who is supposed to report to the ad hoc commission, attacked members of the group in an interview he gave to the BBC even before starting his investigation into the causes that led to the halt of the CNSAS's functioning. The daily "Cotidianul" wrote on 9 January that the PSD seeks to manipulate the situation in order to bring about the dismissal from the CNSAS of Andrei Plesu, Horia Roman Patapievici, and Mircea Dinescu, who have repeatedly criticized the Romanian Intelligence Service for obstructing access to information regarding former secret-police members and their current activities. MS

IMF PRAISES ROMANIA'S PERFORMANCE, BUT IS STILL CONCERNED
The IMF Executive Board discussed on 8 January Romania's economic performance, praising measures taken by the government to reduce the deficit and to improve revenue collection and expressing support for the cabinet's intention to further reduce the deficit to 2.7 percent of GDP in 2003, Mediafax reported. The IMF said there is still room for concern regarding wage policies in the state sector. It also said structural reforms must be intensified, the privatization process needs to be accelerated, and wage policies must be "prudent." In reaction, the government issued a statement saying it highly appreciates the IMF's praise of its performance and Finance Minister Mihai Tanasescu said on Romanian Radio that the performance evaluation is "an accurate X-ray" of Romania's economic situation. He said the fund's recommendations are viewed by the cabinet as "key points" in implementing its program in the future. MS

RUSSIA TO KEEP TROOPS IN MOLDOVA AFTER WEAPONS- WITHDRAWAL PROCESS ENDS
Russia intends to keep its military contingent in Moldova even after the full evacuation of its arsenal from the Transdniester, Infotag reported on 9 January, citing a Russian Defense Ministry statement issued "in the first days of 2003." The statement said that while Russian troops will no longer be needed to guard the evacuated munitions depot, they are "to perform new tasks and functions" in the region, in particular "the safeguarding of peace and stability." It said establishing peace and stability is becoming even more important as a genuine solution to the Transdniester conflict increasingly appears possible on the basis of the OSCE's proposals. The OSCE extended the deadline for the withdrawal of Russian troops at its December 2002 summit in Porto, Portugal, and the contingent is now supposed to evacuate the region by 31 December 2003. MS

PPCD DEPUTY WANTS PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE TO CHARGE TRANSDNIESTER LEADERS
Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) parliamentary deputy Vlad Cubreacov on 9 January sent a letter to Prosecutor-General Vasile Rusu, demanding that judicial action be instituted against the separatist leaders in the Transdniester, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Cubreacov wrote that the Transdniester leadership should be charged with undermining state power, violating the constitution, and infringing on [Moldova's] sovereignty and territorial integrity." Cubreacov said that if the charged separatist leaders fail to appear in court they can be tried in absentia and, if found guilty, international arrest warrants should be issued against them. MS

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT DECISION ON KOZLODUY CANCELED BY COURT
A first-instance body of judges at the Supreme Administrative Court ruled on 9 January that a government decision regarding the closure of the older blocks of the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant is null and void, mediapool.bg reported. The government decided on 1 October to comply with the EU's demand to decommission blocks No. 3 and No. 4 of the plant by the end of 2006. On 18 November, the government and the EU signed an agreement closing the energy chapter of the EU's acquis communautaire. Lawmakers of the opposition Socialist Party challenged the government decision before the Supreme Administrative Court, arguing that it contradicted a 2 October parliamentary decision and ran counter to national interests. The court supported the claimants by ruling that only parliament can decide on the closure of the blocks in question (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2002 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 2002). UB

BULGARIAN OFFICIAL SAYS INTERNAL TENSIONS MIGHT POSE PROBLEMS DURING NATO TALKS
Deputy Foreign Minister Lyubomir Ivanov said on 9 January that the country's internal political problems could negatively affect the country's NATO-accession negotiations, which are to begin in Brussels on 10 January, mediapool.bg reported. Ivanov, who is to head the Bulgarian delegation, added that he does not want to increase the amplitude of the political shock waves and that current NATO members are well aware of the issue. Ivanov repeated the government's position that the constitution must be amended to allow powers to be shifted from parliament to the government in order to give the executive more space for maneuver on defense issues, such as the presence of allied troops in the country's territory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2003). UB

BULGARIA REVISES PROCEDURE FOR CHILD ADOPTION
Deputy Justice Minister Mario Dimitrov announced on 9 January that the government has adopted a number of changes to the Family Code that would place restrictions on adoption and are intended to impede the illegal trafficking of children, "Sega" reported. According to the new regulations, which must be adopted by parliament, special district-level child-adoption councils would be introduced. The Justice Ministry would maintain special registers for foreigners seeking to adopt Bulgarian children, of children who have not been adopted by Bulgarians and would thus be eligible for adoption by foreigners, and of adoption agencies. In addition, the new measures would remove the possibility for foreigners to circumvent the adoption procedure by claiming legal responsibility for Bulgarian children. UB

PUTIN AND THE GOVERNORS: WARRING FOES OR COMRADES IN ARMS?
This year, there will be not only 15 new gubernatorial/presidential races in Russia's regions, but also a new contest for control of the State Duma on 14 December. A review of regional elections over the past two years suggests the Kremlin will be more successful than not in picking the winners in regional races. However, this doesn't mean the presidential administration can simply impose its will on regional electorates. On the contrary, the presidential administration appears to have mostly given up on trying to install its own people in the regions and is instead reaching accommodations with the forces that are already in power. In 2000, only seven candidates clearly backed by the Kremlin in 44 regional executive-branch elections won. But in 2001, there were seven victories in 14 races, and in 2002, 10 victories in 14 elections. In addition, there were only six clear losses by the Kremlin, and in the remaining races it remained neutral.

Of course, determining with any certainty which candidate the Kremlin supports in local races is always difficult, not least because candidates of all political affiliations, including Communists, invariably claim close, personal relationships with President Vladimir Putin. A second complicating factor is that the Kremlin is not monolithic, but divided into factions or clans. Sometimes one Kremlin clan will support one candidate, and another will support a different one. In the gubernatorial election in Krasnoyarsk Krai last fall, the so-called Family appeared to support krai legislature speaker Aleksandr Uss, while the St. Petersburg clan supported Taimyr Governor Aleksandr Khloponin. When Uss's forces within the krai election commission tried to snatch victory from Khloponin, Putin, who is often the arbiter in battles between clans, stepped in to declare Khloponin the victor. But these kinds of conflicts only happen in races that are considered fairly important. In the 2002 presidential race in Tuva, the St. Petersburg "chekisty" supported incumbent President Sherig-ool Oorzhak, while his opponents did not manage to attract any significant support from Moscow.

A third complication is that support from Moscow can vary in intensity. Incumbent Lipetsk Oblast Governor Oleg Korolev had only tepid backing in comparison with the efforts expended by Moscow for Gennadii Apanasenko in Primore. The timing of support also varies. It is not uncommon for Moscow to declare its support for a candidate at the last minute. In the Komi Republic and Nenets Autonomous Okrug, the two incumbents won endorsements from the Unity party only after it was clear the opposition didn't really have a chance. Komi incumbent Yurii Spiridonov won Unity's endorsement in early December for an election held on 16 December.

Despite the difficulties in determining the level and nature of support from Moscow for regional candidates, it is still possible to assert that the Kremlin-based political actors have had somewhat more success in promoting their own candidates in regional elections over the past two years, than they did during Putin's first nine months in office. There are any number of reasons for this improved track record, not the least of which is that the number of elections of regional executives declined considerably. But changes in strategy and tactics have been equally important.

First and foremost, members of the presidential administration apparently came to appreciate the limitations of the spin doctors and of their own ability to project the Kremlin's influence beyond Moscow's Ring Road. In 2000, Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko dropped out of the St. Petersburg gubernatorial race, in part because she recognized she had no chance of winning despite considerable expenditure of time and energy by the Kremlin.

A related second reason for the administration's improved performance was that it decided to support fewer outsiders. From 2000-02, while the Kremlin did not always support candidates with household names in their regions, there were fewer attempts to launch outsiders. In 2000, of the seven winning Kremlin-supported candidates, only two were incumbents. In 2001 and 2002, 10 of the 16 winning Kremlin candidates were incumbents. The Moscow-based apparat apparently chose loyalty over like-mindedness. In Buryatia and Orel Oblast, the presidential administration supported incumbents who were originally elected with the support of the Communist Party. But not just any Communist was acceptable. In Penza Oblast, the administration appeared to hold its collective nose and actively support the incumbent, scandal-plagued Governor Vasilii Bochkarev, mainly because the alternative appeared even worse. Bochkarev faced strong opposition from Viktor Ilyukhin, a member of the Communist faction in the Duma and head of the Movement to Support the Army.

A third lesson the Kremlin appears to have applied in the 2001-02 races is that it is easier to engineer victory for the candidate it supports by eliminating the strongest competition before election day. This technique was applied in Sakha and Ingushetia. In the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic, President Mikhail Nikolaev finally agreed to withdraw his candidacy after a long campaign of pressure from the center, after both Moscow and Yakutsk agreed on his replacement. In Ingushetia, former republican Interior Minister Khamzat Gutseriev was a clear favorite to win, but was barred from the ballot on the eve of the first round of voting.

With all of the Kremlin's successes over the past two years, there have been a few failures. The 2001 Primorskii Krai gubernatorial election, in which deputy presidential envoy Apanasenko wound up third in the first round despite a no-holds-barred, no-expense-too-great effort on his behalf, was perhaps the biggest fiasco. But politics in the Far East in general, and in Primorskii Krai in particular, are unusually volatile. Setbacks elsewhere -- in Altai Republic, for instance -- occurred more quietly and with less central media attention.

This year it is not unreasonable to predict the current trend of supporting whomever has the best chance of winning once their loyalty is ensured will continue. Putin's predecessor Boris Yeltsin once told regional leaders to take as much sovereignty as they can swallow in a bid to ensure their loyalty. The policy of the Putin administration appears similar in that its message to regional leaders is "take as many votes, as many terms in office as you can swallow," provided they don't act counter to the Kremlin's fundamental aims. In Putin's "war on the governors," the battles he has won have been mostly in Moscow, where regional heads no longer have a national political profile as senators in the Federation Council. In the regions, however, the record is considerably more mixed.

AFGHAN PAPER EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER DEVELOPMENT OF NEW CONSTITUTION
In a commentary about the work of the constitutional commission in charge of drafting a new constitution for Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2002), the Kabul newspaper "Fajr-e Omaid" wrote on 1 January that members of the commission have mentioned that the new constitution will take into account aspects of all four Sunni Islam schools of jurisprudence -- Hanafi, Shafei, Hanbali, and Maliki -- but have made no mention of the Shia school of jurisprudence. "Fajr-e Omaid" noted that not even 1 percent of Afghan Sunnis are followers of the Shafei, Hanbali, and Maliki schools combined, while 25 percent of Afghans adhere to the Shiite Jafari school. The commentary questioned how the commission can draft a constitution that could be considered democratic if the views of one-quarter of the Afghan population are ignored (see the forthcoming "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 16 January 2003). AT

FORMATION PROCESS OF AFGHAN NATIONAL LOYA JIRGA DELAYED
The 19-member commission tasked with forming the Afghan national Loya Jirga (national assembly) on 9 January chose as members of the future Afghan parliament 93 members of the emergency loya jirga convened in June 2002, Radio Free Afghanistan reported on 10 January. The commission, which began its work on 25 December, initially stated that it would complete its task in two weeks. However, some members of the body have raised concerns over the influence of political factions on their work and indicated that they would not meet the deadline, Radio Free Afghanistan reported. According to the report, the commission is currently working on a final document that will outline the roles and responsibilities of the body. The national Loya Jirga will comprise more than 100 members, but the mechanism of their selection has yet to be outlined, the radio added. AT

HIZB-E ISLAMI ISSUES A NEW COMMUNIQUE
Qutbuddin Hilal, a member of the radical Hizb-e Islami speaking on behalf of the party's council, issued a communique in Peshawar on 9 January outlining the party's policies in six points, Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. Hilal refuted recent reports of a rift within the party and denied any political or structural connections between Hizb-e Islami and the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, AIP reported. Hilal also condemned terrorism and said his side seeks understanding with President Hamid Karzai's administration and has initiated contacts with it, AIP reported. Among Hizb-e Islami's policies outlined by Hilal called for the "immediate formation of a national army in accordance with the wishes of the Afghans so there is no excuse for the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan," AIP reported. Hilal's statement differed from the calls for a jihad against U.S. forces in Afghanistan by Hizb-e Islami's leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who recently called for a holy war against U.S. forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 2003). Hilal has been trying to soften his approach toward Karzai's administration, but Hekmatyar has been doing the opposite. AT

U.S. TO AID AFGHAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
The United States will donate $1 million to the Afghan Human Rights Commission, Afghanistan state television reported from Kabul on 9 January. Visiting U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky made the announcement during a meeting with Sima Samar, who heads the commission, the report added. Samar told Dobriansky that Afghans need to work continuously to reverse the pattern of abuses of human rights that have plagued Afghanistan since 1978, the report added. The Afghan Human Rights Commission was set up under the 2001 Bonn Agreement and is to function independently from the government. AT

IRAN PROMISES EDUCATION AID TO AFGHANS
Bismillah Khan, who heads the education department in western Afghanistan's Herat Province, said on 9 January that the Iranian authorities have promised to assist his country's education sector, the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Mashhad-based Dari service reported. Bismillah said this assistance includes providing scholarships to Afghan students. The state-radio dispatch also described Iran's donation of 15 buses to the Afghan Education Ministry and the construction of a school in Herat Province. Afghan Education Minister Yunis Qanuni visited Iran for two days in early November, IRNA reported on 6 November, and during that time he met with his counterpart Morteza Haji-Qaem, President Mohammad Khatami, and other Iranian officials, and the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding on mutual cooperation in education and science. This agreement covered school construction, the development of textbooks, and pedagogical training. BS

COURT IN IRANIAN POLLING-INSTITUTE TRIAL IGNORES INTELLIGENCE MINISTRY
Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) chief Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi said after the 8 January cabinet meeting that the court dealing with the trial of institutions that conducted a controversial poll last year has not provided the MOIS with supposedly classified documents, the "Bahar" daily reported on 9 January. Several of the hearings have been held in camera because they supposedly address issues related to national security, and there have been allegations that the accused were provided with classified documents by the executive branch (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 23 December 2002). MOIS personnel have attended the closed hearings, but Yunesi said they still have not been granted access to the complete case files. BS

PARTY CONCERNED ABOUT DEFENDANTS' CONFINEMENT...
The Islamic Iran Participation Party (IIPP) in an 8 January statement expressed concern over the continuing solitary confinement of Abbas Abdi, Hussein Qazian, and Behruz Geranpayeh, the three main defendants in the polling-institute trial (see above), IRNA reported. The IIPP said the defendants should be granted bail and freed immediately, and it criticized the defendants' lack of free access to their lawyers. Solitary confinement is a form of psychological pressure, according to the IIPP statement. BS

...AS DEFENDENT WITHDRAWS FROM POLITICS
Abdi is rumored to have withdrawn from political life and his attorney, Saleh Nikbakht, confirmed this in the 8 January issue of "Bahar." Nikbakht explained that Abdi is waiting to see if the factional infighting of Iranian politics subsides. The withdrawal also could be associated with his statements during the 25 December court hearing, in which he apologized for conducting the poll, rejected the notion of a national referendum on the country's political future, and dismissed the idea of reformists leaving the political system. This rejection of his previous political stands could be based on a desire to protect his wife from a court case, or it could be "to avoid revelations to do with national security that could have sorely embarrassed senior reformists," "The Economist" reported on 9 January. If the latter reason is correct, then the allegations that the pollsters were granted access to classified documents by the president's office could be true after all. BS

SUPREME LEADER SAYS YOUTH RETAIN REVOLUTIONARY VALUES...
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a 9 January speech in Qom that was broadcast by Iranian state radio rejected suggestions that the generations born after Iran's 1978-79 revolution have turned their backs on Islam, and he said that people who make such allegations are "despondent, depressed, and sad at heart [and] think that everyone else suffers from the same ailment." Nevertheless, he warned, corruption and "carnal desires" could become "tools in the hands of the enemy." Khamenei said the enemy is waiting to attack."The enemy offensive might not always take the form of a military attack. It could take the form of a cultural attack, a psychological attack, an economic attack, a security attack, or an effort to penetrate sensitive departments [of the country]," he said. "Do not look to the enemy propaganda and the dirt spread by their propaganda trumpets. They are compelled to spread such propaganda." BS

...AND DESCRIBES U.S. MOTIVES IN IRAQ
In his 9 January speech, Supreme Leader Khamenei wondered whether a possible U.S. attack on Iraq is really part of the war on terrorism. "Or is it for Iraq's numerous oil wells, to dominate the region, to defend Israel, to lord it over the Islamic Republic of Iran? Today, these are the secrets of the global arrogance that have been exposed. Everyone knows about them," he said. Khamenei claimed that regional actors no longer trust the United States. "Arab nations and governments have totally lost their belief in America's pledges and statements," he said. BS

IRAQI OPPOSITIONIST RUN OUT OF TOWN
Shia Assembly of Iraq founder Abd-al-Majid Khoi's 8 January presentation at Qom's Imam Reza Mosque ended abruptly when the audience objected to his comments on possible cooperation with the United States, IRNA reported the next day. Khoi said the United States has its own reasons for changing the regime in Baghdad, but this coincides with the Iraqi peoples' interests and they should take advantage of this situation. "Iraqi groups must use the existing opportunity for the sake of the Iraqi people," Khoi said. "In order to be successful in this context, we shall participate in any meeting or dialogue with groups or countries that we see fit, and we shall pursue this with domestic and foreign circles." Khoi was criticized during the question-and-answer session and heckled with chants of "Long Live [Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir] Sadr" (a leading Shia cleric who was executed by the Iraqi regime in April 1980) and "Go Back to America." The organizers had to shelter Khoi in what IRNA described as "a small room on the mosque's balcony." BS

IRAN FEARS WAR COULD CREATE MANY PROBLEMS FOR IT
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said during his 9 January visit to Athens that Iran is ready to work with the European Union to avoid a war in Iraq, IRNA reported. "Any war in Iraq would have its impact on Iran. The simplest impact is the refugees that might come over to Iran, but there are many other issues -- deportation to Iraq, the future government of Iraq, the use of chemical weapons, and many other issues -- that are a matter of concern to Iran and other neighboring countries," RFE/RL quoted Kharrazi as saying. Greek Foreign Minister Yeoryios Papandreou, whose country currently holds the rotating EU Presidency, said Iran could be influential in avoiding a war, IRNA reported. BS

TURKS AND OTHERS TO VISIT TEHRAN
Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul is expected to meet with Iranian officials in Tehran on 12 January to discuss ways to avoid a military confrontation in the current Iraqi crisis, IRNA reported on 8 January. This visit appears to be part of Iran's efforts to avoid a war on its western border. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 9 January that similar discussions will take place with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah when they visit Tehran next week, Reuters reported. BS

UNMOVIC CHIEF SAYS NO EVIDENCE FOUND BUT CLAIMS IRAQ IS STILL NOT IN COMPLIANCE...
UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Mission (UNMOVIC) chief Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohammad el-Baradei briefed reporters following their meeting with UN Security Council members on 9 January, international media reported. Blix noted that while inspectors have found "no smoking gun" in Iraq, it is clear that the Iraqi declaration on weapons of mass destruction is incomplete. Blix cited as examples Iraq's failure to account for weapons known to exist as a result of previous UNSCOM inspections and its failure to provide the names of known Iraqi scientists to the UN. In addition, the declaration did not account for imports of missile engines, stocks of VX gas, and ingredients for the production of missile fuel and chemical bombs. "We know for a fact that there are weapons there," he said, according to Reuters. "We have been covering the country in ever-wider sweeps, and we haven't found any smoking guns." Blix said Iraq must account for the missing items or provide proof of their destruction. KR

...AS IAEA HEAD SAYS NO NUCLEAR ACTIVITY DETECTED...
El-Baradei said in regard to possible Iraqi nuclear activities that "to date, no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities has been detected, although not all of the laboratory results of sample analysis are yet available." El-Baradei added that an examination of aluminum tubes suspected of having dual-use potential determined they are not suitable for such purposes, Reuters reported. Blix and el-Baradei are scheduled to meet with Iraqi officials in Baghdad on 19-20 January. A status report of weapons inspections will be presented to the UN Security Council on 27 January, and the inspectors' first regular quarterly report is expected on 1 March. KR

...AND STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN CALLS IRAQI COOPERATION 'SUPERFICIAL'
U.S. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher on 9 January called Iraqi cooperation "superficial" during a daily press briefing posted on the State Department's website (http://www.state.gov). "The more that we analyze what Iraq provided [in its declaration], the less substantial it seems and the less current it seems.... There is no indication that Iraq has changed its approach from an approach based on deceit and deception," he said. "There is no indication that they've made a strategic decision to disarm." Regarding the failure of inspectors to interview Iraqi scientists outside the presence of National Monitoring Directorate representatives, Boucher said: "I think we want to see people to be in a position to be able to talk freely about what they know about Iraqi program. Honest Iraqis would talk freely because it's in the interest of their nation to disclose these programs, have the inspectors verify it and have the inspectors destroy that equipment. That's what necessary for a peaceful resolution. So we want people to feel free and to be able to do that." KR

IAEA INSPECTIONS CONTINUE IN IRAQ...
A team of five IAEA inspectors on 9 January visited the Al-Qadisiyah Electrical Industries State Company in Diyala where they questioned the director-general about the company's activities, the number of factories belonging to it, its electric-power capacity, its production of argon gas and oxygen, and the capacity of its electric generators, the Foreign Ministry announced in a statement. They also inquired about a new optical-cable factory, which has not yet opened, before visiting the company's argon- and oxygen-production facilities and factories for the manufacture of ceiling fans, electrical meters, and igniters. They also visited the optical-cable factory and two electrical-power plants to record the level of power consumption. Finally, inspectors conducted radiation testing, according to the ministry. KR

...AS MISSILE-INSPECTION TEAMS FAN OUT...
A group of 14 missile inspectors on 9 January returned to the Al-Milad State Company, according to the Foreign Ministry. Al-Milad is a military research-and-development company that "specializes in the design and development of missile guidance and control systems," UNMOVIC stated in its 9 January briefing. Inspectors divided into four groups, the first of which met with specialists working on the Al-Fatah missile's guidance-and-control system. The other three groups inspected facilities at the site and observed its gyro-testing system. A team of two inspectors returned to the Al-Harith State Company, a maintenance facility for antiaircraft missiles that belongs to the Military Industrialization Organization, where they replaced the tags on nine SA-2 missiles. Finally, a team of four inspectors returned to the Al-Rafah Factory, which is a missile-engine testing facility, in Al-Amiriyah (Al-Falluja), where they observed preparations to test the Al-Sumud engine with liquid fuel. The Foreign Ministry stated the test was postponed due to a "technical malfunction in one of the servos prior to the test." KR

...AND BIOLOGICAL, CHEMICAL INSPECTORS MAKE RETURN VISITS
A team of 12 UNMOVIC biological inspectors returned on 9 January to the Veterinary Diagnosis Laboratory in Baghdad belonging to the State Veterinary Company and the Agriculture Ministry, the Foreign Ministry announced. Inspectors inquired about the activities of the laboratory, its structure, the research conducted there, and cooperation between this lab and the "bovine plague" laboratory. A team of eight chemical inspectors returned to the Al-Rayah State Company, which according to UNMOVIC is a research center for materials and catalysts, where they asked about the "pioneer unit in the catalysts department," the ministry stated. They also extensively questioned the general director about the company's activities and employees. A group of 15 chemical inspectors went to the Company of Northern Refineries and Small Refineries in Al-Siniyah, Salah al-Din Province, where they asked about its refineries activities, production capabilities, and the origin of the equipment used there. A joint team -- chemical, biological, and missile -- of six inspectors went to the State Public Health Laboratory of the Ninawah Health Department to ask about the types of medical and food testing conducted there and whether the lab cooperates with the Central Health Laboratory in Baghdad. KR

XS
SM
MD
LG