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Newsline - September 15, 2003


MOSCOW RATCHETS UP PRESSURE ON MINSK
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov announced on 13 September that Russia will end the practice of supplying natural gas to Belarus at dramatically subsidized prices as of 1 January, RTR reported. Since 1994, Russia has sold natural gas to Minsk for $28 per 1,000 cubic meters, while Belarus has resold it to domestic consumers at prices more than double that amount, RTR said, alleging that the profits have been directed to a fund controlled by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Kasyanov also expressed concern about information that Belarusian courts have frozen some assets of the Russian firms Slavneft and Transneftprodukt. Noting that Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller recently announced the suspension of a gas-transport project with Minsk because of "insurmountable differences" (see End Note), Kasyanov said Gazprom's caution is understandable in the light of the actions against Slavneft and Transneftprodukt. " We will not allow either the West or the East to put us on a leash," Lukashenka told RTR on 14 September. VY

OFFICIAL SAYS RUSSIA SHOULD PLAY LEADING ANTITERRORISM ROLE IN THE CIS
Writing in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 September, First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov said that Russia is playing a decisive role in combating organized crime and terrorism throughout the CIS, acting through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and other regional structures. Trubnikov criticized the United States and its partners among the former Soviet republics for "wasting the international community's resources in the struggle against terrorism." In particular, Trubnikov, who is also a former director of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), expressed skepticism about the need for a U.S. initiative to create a regional antiterrorism center under GUUAM (whose members are Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova). He also criticized the expanded U.S. military presence in Central Asia, although Russia gave its consent to such expansion in 2001. Trubnikov said that this presence can only be a stabilizing factor in the region if it is strictly tied to the timetable and the goals of the antiterrorism operation in Afghanistan, Trubnikov wrote. VY

ELDER BUSH MEETS WITH PUTIN
President Vladimir Putin on 14 September received former U.S. President George Bush and his wife, Barbara, at his vacation residence in Sochi, Russian media reported. The Bushes are making a business trip to Russia, accompanied by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former U.S. national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, and former New York City Mayor Rudolf Guliani, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 15 September, although the daily did not say whether any of them participated in the meeting with Putin. According to media reports, Putin and Bush held an informal discussion of a range of international topics and the upcoming summit in Washington between Putin and Bush's son, U.S. President George W. Bush. VY

BRITISH COURT DROPS EXTRADITION PROCEEDINGS AGAINST FORMER OLIGARCH...
London's Bow Street Magistrates Court on 12 September dismissed the Russian government's extradition case against self-exiled former oligarch Boris Berezovskii, ruling that the case is pointless now that Berezovskii has been granted political asylum in Great Britain (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2003), Russian media reported. In an interview with "Vremya novostei" on 12 September, Berezovskii said his new status enables him to travel freely to any country except Russia. Globalrus.ru on 12 September commented that the British court's decision only superficially appears to be a defeat for the Kremlin, which does not really desire the return of Berezovskii or that of former Media-MOST owner Vladimir Gusinskii, who was arrested in Athens on 21 August and currently faces extradition proceedings (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August 2003), which is most interested in ending their involvement in Russian politics. VY

...AS THE BEREZOVSKII-LED LIBERAL RUSSIA SPLINTER GROUP GATHERS
The Liberal Russia splinter group that supports Berezovskii held a congress in Moscow on 13 September, Interfax reported. Berezovskii addressed the congress from London via a video hook-up, telling delegates that while they could not alone "put an end to the destruction of democratic institutions in Russia," this might be possible in conjunction with other political forces. He also said the party must create an "effective opposition" in the Duma. The party congress confirmed its election list, with the top three spots going to Berezovskii; former Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin; and Yulii Dubov, the former deputy general director of Berezovskii's LogoVAZ company. Berezovskii and Dubov are wanted in Russia on charges of large-scale fraud. JB

WILL THE REAL LIBERAL RUSSIA PLEASE STAND UP?
Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov on 12 September called Berezovskii's plans to draw up a list of Liberal Russia candidates for the State Duma elections "absurd," Interfax reported. He said that there is a Liberal Russia on the list that the TsIK received from the Justice Ministry of parties permitted to participate in the Duma elections, but it is the one led by the same people who registered the New Course-Automotive Russia bloc -- namely, Viktor Pokhmelkin, the Liberal Russia co-chairman whose faction ousted Berezovskii -- not the pro-Berezovskii group (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 2003). On the other hand, an Astrakhan court recently overturned the Justice Ministry's refusal to validate decisions adopted by the pro-Berezovskii splinter group during its 14-15 June congress, seemingly designating it the real Liberal Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2003). Veshnyakov said that if the pro-Berezovskii group is unable to win a court case ruling that it can use the Liberal Russia name, then the likelihood of its participating in the Duma election is "legally almost nonexistent," Interfax reported on 12 September. JB

NEW LEFTIST BLOC HOLDS FOUNDING CONGRESS...
Motherland National-Patriotic Union, the new left-oriented election bloc headed by Duma deputies Sergei Glazev and Dmitrii Rogozin, held its founding congress in Moscow on 14 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 12 September 2003). The bloc's constituent parties include the Party of Russia's Regions, the Socialist Unity Party of Russia (formerly, the Spiritual Heritage movement), and the Party of National Rebirth (also known as the People's Will Party, headed by Sergei Baburin), RosBalt reports. Glazev, Rogozin, and 1991 coup plotter Valentin Varennikov will occupy the top three spots on the bloc's election list, respectively. Also on the list are Baburin; former Central Bank chief Viktor Gerashchenko; former Airborne Forces commander Colonel General Georgii Shpak; and Aleksandr Lebedev, chairman of National Reserve Bank and president of Russia's National Investment Council. The bloc plans to run Lebedev, who worked in London as an intelligence officer under diplomatic cover in 1988-92, as its candidate in the 7 December Moscow mayoral race, "Gazeta" reported on 15 September. Glazev said the bloc's program "makes it possible to combine the demands of social justice and the demands of economic growth, the demands of economic efficiency and the provision of all social guarantees," ORT reported on 14 September. JB

...AND THE PEOPLE'S PARTY ALSO GATHERS...
The People's Party on 14 September held its second extraordinary congress in Moscow, during which 550 delegates from across Russia confirmed the party's election list, RIA-Novosti reported. The top three names on the list are, respectively: party leader Gennadii Raikov; Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, a former commander of Russian forces in Chechnya who is now the presidential adviser for Cossack affairs; and Nikolai Derzhavin, an aide to Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II. Earlier this month, Foundation for Effective Politics head Gleb Pavlovskii claimed that the siloviki faction within the Kremlin, led by deputy presidential administration heads Viktor Ivanov and Igor Sechin and Mezhprombank head Sergei Pugachev, is backing the People's Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2003). JB

...AS DOES THE PARTY OF LIFE
The Party of Life, which is headed by Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov, on 14 September held its second congress in Moscow, regions.ru reported. The delegates approved plans to forge an electoral bloc with the Party of Russia's Rebirth, headed by State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2003). The delegates also approved the top three names on the party's election list -- Mironov; Valentina Tereshkova, the world's first woman in space; and Oksana Fedorova, an Interior Minister officer who was briefly Miss Universe in 2002, but was stripped of her title following allegations that she failed to live up to her commitments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 2002). Leaders of the Party of Life and the Party of Russia's Rebirth were set to meet late on 14 September to finalize the bloc's formation and agree on a single set of names for its election list and of candidates running in single-mandate districts. Mironov told delegates that Russia needs a Social Code that would lay out the state's obligations to citizens and specifying which agencies should fulfill them. He also said the authorities should be concerned with "information security," given that the media's information flow includes "evil" as well as "good." While ruling out censorship, Mironov said Russia should have a "National Council to Defend Morality" made up of "respected people." "The spiritual health of the people is an issue of national security," he said. JB

COURT UPHOLDS CANDIDATE MATVIENKO'S REGISTRATION
On 12 September, the St. Petersburg Municipal Court ruled against two candidates in the city's 21 September gubernatorial election, Anna Markova and Konstantin Sukhenko, who had filed suits seeking the revocation of the registration of Valentina Matvienko, presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District, as a candidate in that race, Interfax reported. Markova, who was the first to sue, charged that a nationally televised meeting between President Putin and Matvienko on 2 September, during which Putin praised her proposals and wished her success in the governor's race, violated election legislation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2003). The court ruled that Putin's meeting with Matvienko was a "working meeting" between the president and a person who possessed information he needed to draw up the federal budget, and thus is not grounds for revoking Matvienko's registration. Markova said she and Sukhenko will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, possibly as soon as 23 September, Interfax reported on 13 September. JB

PROBLEM OF COUNTERFEIT MEDICATIONS WORSENING
Speaking to journalists in Moscow on 13 September, Major General Aleksei Orlov, who heads the Interior Ministry's Main Directorate for Combating Economic Crimes, said that the market in illegal and counterfeit medicines in Russia has reached $300 million per year, newsru.com reported. According to Orlov, 67 percent of such medications are produced in Russia, while 2 percent came from other CIS countries and 31 percent from other foreign countries, mainly in Southeast Asia. He said the problem is particularly acute in the market for antibiotics and heart and digestive-system medications. He said his agency has investigated 31,000 drug-related complaints and closed down 140 pharmaceutical companies. VY

CHECHEN PARLIAMENT IMPEACHES MASKHADOV...
Deputies to the Chechen parliament elected in July 1997 voted on 5 September by 43 votes to 42 to remove Aslan Maskhadov from the post of Chechen president, acting Chechen parliament speaker Isa Temirov told journalists in Moscow on 12 September, Russian media reported. Temirov said Maskhadov violated the Chechen Constitution by introducing Shari'a law and had plunged Chechnya into war. He said the presidential powers now devolve upon Maskhadov's deputy, Vakha Arsanov. Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii characterized the Chechen deputies' move as "a political sensation" that demolishes the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's argument that Moscow should embark on peace talks with Maskhadov as the legitimately elected Chechen leader, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

...THEREBY ACKNOWLEDGING HE WAS ELECTED LEGITIMATELY
The pro-Maskhadov website chechenpress.com noted on 12 September that the Chechen deputies' statement constitutes formal recognition that Maskhadov was democratically elected. In a 12 September statement carried by chechenpress.com the following day, the Chechen Foreign Ministry said that Temirov was stripped of his parliament deputy's mandate in May 2003 for allegedly collaborating with the pro-Moscow Chechen authorities. According to that statement, following the murder in August 2000 of parliament speaker Ruslan Alikhadzhiev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May and 6 September 2000), deputy speaker Selim Beshaev took over as acting parliament speaker. LF

HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIAL WANTS CHECHEN MILITIA CONFINED TO BARRACKS
Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 11 September, Ella Pamfilova, who heads the Russian presidential commission for human rights, argued that the Chechen militia commanded by Ramzan Kadyrov, the son of Chechen administration head Akhmad-hadji Kadyrov, should be confined to barracks for the duration of the presidential election campaign, Interfax reported. Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov is the clear favorite among the eight remaining candidates for the 5 October Chechen presidential ballot. Pamfilova said either federal troops or Chechen police should guarantee order at polling stations, and that "people affiliated with [presidential] candidates" should not be in a position to influence the outcome of the vote. Pamfilova expressed regret at the decision of some Russian human rights activists not to participate in monitoring the 5 October ballot. LF

EXPLOSION AVERTED OUTSIDE HOME OF INGUSHETIAN PRESIDENT
An explosive device consisting of two artillery shells was discovered and disabled on 12 September outside the residence of Ingushetia's President Murat Zyazikov, Interfax reported quoting the presidential press service. LF

MURDER SUSPECT ARRESTED IN ARMENIA
The Armenian police and Prosecutor-General's Office announced on 11 September the arrest of Artur Sargsian, who they claim commissioned the 25 June murder of the nephew of former parliament deputy Ruben Gevorgian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 12 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2003). Two other men were killed in the drive-by shooting, which was allegedly perpetrated by three men hired by an associate of Sargsian. It is not clear if there is any connection between Sargsian and millionaire businessman and parliament deputy Samvel Aleksanian, whom Gevorgian has accused of waging a vendetta against his family. LF

ARMENIA, RUSSIA END JOINT MILITARY MANEUVERS
A five-day training exercise involving hundreds of Armenian and Russian troops backed by tanks, artillery systems, and helicopter gunships and other military aircraft ended on 12 September at a training ground west of Yerevan, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The exercise entailed repelling a simulated enemy assault. President Robert Kocharian, who is commander in chief of the armed forces, and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, both in military uniform, watched the final day of maneuvers. Also present were most cabinet ministers and provincial governors. LF

SENIOR AZERBAIJANI OFFICIALS IMPLICATED IN BRIBERY SCANDAL
Four unnamed senior Azerbaijani officials are implicated in an indictment unsealed last week by a U.S. court against a Swiss lawyer, the "Financial Times" reported on 13 and 15 September. The lawyer is charged with transporting millions of dollars in cash from Zurich to Baku beginning in late 1997 to bribe senior officials allegedly in a position to influence the privatization of the Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR, of which incumbent President Heidar Aliev's son and current prime minister, Ilham Aliev, was then first deputy chairman. The state privatization program for 1995-98, which was published in "Bakinskii rabochii" on 4 January 1996, listed enterprises engaged in the extraction and refining of oil and gas among those enterprises that can be privatized only with the permission of the president of the Azerbaijan Republic. LF

AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENTARIANS INSULT OPPOSITION LEADERS...
During a parliament debate on 12 September, deputies from the pro-presidential Yeni Azerbaycan Party branded opposition Musavat Party Chairman Isa Gambar, Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (reformist wing) leader Ali Kerimli, and Azerbaijan National Independence Party Chairman Etibar Mamedov as dishonest mediocrities willing to accept bribes, Turan reported. Parliament speaker Murtuz Alesqerov described them as "criminal elements," while Djalal Aliev -- brother of incumbent president Heidar Aliev -- referred to Gambar as "a mad dog whose head should be cut off." All three opposition figures are registered as candidates in the 15 October presidential election. LF

...AS RIVAL PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ACCUSES THEM OF PLOTTING DESTABILIZATION
Hafiz Hadjiev, leader of the pro-presidential Modern Musavat Party, told a campaign rally in Baku on 13 September that opposition party leaders have stockpiled weapons with the aim of destabilizing the situation on election day and seizing power, Interfax reported. On 12 September, ADR Secretary-General Sardar Djalaloglu told journalists in Baku that party Secretary Taliyat Aliev was released that day after being held under administrative arrest for five days, during which he was beaten, tortured, and threatened by police with execution in an attempt to force him to confess to storing arms in preparation for a coup d'etat, Turan reported. LF

COURT EXONERATES TOP GEORGIAN ELECTION OFFICIAL
A Tbilisi district court on 15 September threw out a suit brought by the opposition Labor Party against Central Election Commission chairwoman Nana Devdariani, Caucasus Press reported. The court ruled that Devdariani did not exceed her authority by selecting the 75 district election-commission heads. Georgian opposition parties accused the authorities last week of pressuring Devdariani to appoint members of the pro-presidential For a New Georgia bloc and of the Revivial and Industrialists parliament factions to head the 75 district election commissions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2003). Devdariani told journalists on 10 September that she selected district commission personnel without keeping a tally of how many of them belonged to which political group. LF

MORE ESCAPED PRISONERS ROUNDED UP IN GEORGIA
As of 15 September, 57 of the 129 prisoners who escaped on 10 September from the Rustavi jail had been recaptured, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2003). A further eight turned themselves in voluntarily in response to assurances from the Prosecutor-General's Office that escapees who do so by 15 September will not be prosecuted. After 15 September, recaptured prisoners will face charges, and police are authorized to use force against any who resist recapture. LF

U.S. LAUNCHES FINAL PHASE OF TRAINING FOR GEORGIAN MILITARY
The fourth and final phase of the U.S.-funded "Train and Equip" program for the Georgian armed forces was inaugurated at the Krtsanisi training ground near Tbilisi on 13 September in the presence of President Eduard Shevardnadze, Defense Minister Lieutenant General Davit Tevzadze, and U.S. Ambassador Richard Miles, Caucasus Press reported. Caucasus Press on 12 September quoted Miles as saying a decision will be made next month on whether to prolong the two-year program, which expires next spring. But Shevardnadze said the previous day that the program will continue until Georgia is accepted into NATO membership. LF

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT ENDS VISIT TO GEORGIA
Rolandas Paksas paid a three-day visit to Georgia on 11-13 September, meeting with President Shevardnadze and parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze, Caucasus Press reported. During talks on 11 September, the two presidents discussed the prospects for Georgia's integration into Euro-Atlantic bodies. Paksas said Lithuania is ready to share with Georgia its experience in joining NATO and the EU. They also pledged to expand economic cooperation and trade. On 15 September, Caucasus Press quoted an unnamed state chancellery official as saying that Tbilisi is interested in creating a road and rail corridor via Ukraine to Lithuania that would give Georgia access to Scandinavia without transiting Russia. LF

KAZAKH JOURNALISM COUNCIL ASKS THAT TAX BENEFITS BE EXTENDED
Representatives of the Kazakh Public Council on Mass Media told a press conference in Almaty on 11 September that the council has asked President Nursultan Nazarbaev to extend for another seven years the tax benefits granted to the media in 1995, the CASCFEN website (http://www.cascfen.org) reported on 14 September, quoting khabar.kz. The print media has been exempt from value-added tax for the last seven years, and the electronic media has been exempt for two years. The general director of the newspaper "Ekspress-K," Aleksandr Gubert, was quoted as saying that the exemption from the 16 percent VAT is significant for the majority of media enterprises, and its loss would force many regional media to close because of insufficient advertising revenues. BB

KAZAKHSTAN WANTS TO JOIN ASEAN
Kazakhstan wants to become a full member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), President Nazarbaev told the visiting king of Malaysia, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin, in Astana on 12 September, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. In particular, Nazarbaev said, Kazakhstan wants to take part in ASEAN's regional forum on security. He praised Malaysia's contribution to the international fight against terrorism, including the establishment of the Southeast Asian Antiterrorism Center. The Kazakh leader was quoted as telling the king that Kazakhstan considers Malaysia one of the most influential countries in the region, one with which Kazakhstan would like to expand trade and economic ties. BB

NEW INTERIOR MINISTER NAMED IN KAZAKHSTAN...
President Nazarbaev has appointed Zautbek Turisbekov, who has served in various government posts but never in law enforcement, to head the Interior Ministry, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 12 September. The appointment came two days after the president called for the country's law enforcement and security agencies to be headed by civilians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2003). Turisbekov was trained in engineering, political science, and economics, and has served as governor of South Kazakhstan Oblast and State Migration Agency head, and has worked in the presidential administration. BB

...AS MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND INFORMATION IS SPLIT INTO TWO
The day after Interior Minister Turisbekov's appointment, President Nazarbaev signed a decree splitting the Ministry of Culture, Information, and Public Harmony into a Ministry of Culture and a Ministry of Information, Kazinform reported on 14 September. Dyusen Kaseinov, a professional musician, was appointed to take over the new Ministry of Culture, according to khabar.kz on 13 September. He has served as deputy minister of the old Ministry of Culture, Information, and Public Harmony, in which he headed the culture committee. The same day, Sautbek Abdrakhmanov, a professional journalist, was named information minister. Since December 2000, Abdrakhmanov has headed the company that publishes "Egemen Qazaqstan," the official Kazakh-language daily, according to Interfax-Kazakhstan on 14 September. Before that, he held various government posts. BB

KYRGYZ OFFICIALS CONCERNED ABOUT ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION
Officials and migration experts in southern Kyrgyzstan are concerned over the growing numbers of illegal immigrants into that part of the country, akipress.org reported on 13 September, quoting the UN news agency IRIN. The officials warned that the immigrants, who come primarily from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in search of work, are causing reductions in local wage rates and worsening the socioeconomic situation, which could result in destabilization. According to these officials, 4,000-5,000 Uzbek citizens are working in the areas near the border of the two countries, earning less than $1 a day, if they are paid at all. Reportedly, Kyrgyz farmers are particularly interested in the cheap labor. An official of the NGO Center for Support of Civil Initiatives told IRIN that the Uzbek government wants to combat the problem by strengthening controls along the border, but the Kyrgyz side finds this approach unhelpful. BB

TAJIK ISLAMIC PARTY RE-ELECTS CHAIRMAN
Said Abdullo Nuri, who has headed the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) since the start of the 1992-97 Tajik civil war, was re-elected to another four-year term at the party's fourth congress on 13 September in Dushanbe, RIA-Novosti reported. As leader of the United Tajik Opposition, Nuri was one of the two Tajik signatories -- the other was President Imomali Rakhmonov -- of the peace accord that ended the civil war. Nuri told the congress that the party's most important task for the immediate future is to participate in the 2004 parliamentary elections. At present, the IRPT has only two deputies in the lower house of the Tajik parliament. The party, the only legal religion-based political party in Central Asia, has 40,000 members nationwide. BB

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PICKETS TURKMEN EMBASSY IN MOSCOW
The Moscow branch of Amnesty International picketed the Turkmen Embassy in Moscow on 12 September to protest political repression in Turkmenistan, PRIMA and newsru.com reported on 12 September. They were joined by demonstrators from the human rights organization Memorial; exiled former Turkmen Foreign Minister Avdy Kuliev; and Larisa Shikhmuradova, sister of imprisoned former Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov. The picket was organized in connection with the second anniversary of the publication of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's book on Turkmen history and traditions, the "Rukhnama," which has become the basic subject of study in Turkmen schools at all levels and extensive knowledge of which is required of all government officials. The demonstrators noted the absence from the book of a chapter on human rights. Embassy officials refused to accept an appeal to Niyazov to release political prisoners and to investigate allegations of torture. BB

BELARUSIAN VENDORS PROTEST KIOSK CLOSURES
Some 400 private-kiosk owners picketed the building of the Minsk City Executive Committee on 13 September, demanding a meeting with Minsk Mayor Mikhail Paulau, Belapan reported. Protesters wanted Paulau to give clear answers to questions about the future of private retail kiosks, which continue to be closed everywhere in the capital despite Minsk Deputy Mayor Mikalay Yarokhau's promise that kiosks will only be removed from central streets and thoroughfares. JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ENDORSES ACCORD ON CIS COMMON ECONOMIC ZONE AS 'BASIS FOR TALKS'
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka decreed on 12 September that the draft agreement on the formation of a common economic zone by Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine worked out earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 2 September 2003) should serve as a "basis for talks," Belapan reported. The draft agreement has reportedly provoked serious controversies within the Ukrainian government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2003). JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ALLAYS FEARS OVER CIS COMMON ECONOMIC AREA...
Leonid Kuchma said in Luhansk on 12 September that the draft agreement on the formation of a common economic zone by Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine worked out earlier this year provides that every signatory to the agreement may independently adopt resolutions regarding the "format" of its integration with the others, Interfax reported. Kuchma's words seemed to address the fears shared by some Ukrainian lawmakers and cabinet members that the agreement, if signed, could deprive Ukraine of some of its sovereignty and hamper Kyiv's integration with the EU and NATO (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 September 2003). JM

...AND SAYS NEARLY 300 LAWMAKERS SUPPORT CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
President Kuchma also said in Luhansk on 12 September that 292 lawmakers now back the constitutional-reform draft that was recently submitted to parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2003), Interfax reported. Constitutional amendments in Ukraine need 300 votes in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada for approval. JM

ESTONIA APPROVES EU MEMBERSHIP IN REFERENDUM
Slightly more than two-thirds of participating voters, 66.92 percent, voted "yes" in the EU membership referendum on 14 September, BNS reported. Voter turnout of 63.4 percent of the 865,000 eligible voters was higher than the 58.2 percent in the March parliament elections or the 52.37 percent in the local government elections in October 2002. Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, whose country will hold a similar referendum on 20 September, was the first foreign head of state to telephone President Arnold Ruutel to congratulate Estonia on the positive vote. Ruutel, along with Prime Minister Juhan Parts and parliament speaker Ene Ergma, issued a joint statement declaring that the Estonian people have chosen a steady path of development and a safe future by voting for joining the EU. SG

JEWISH CEMETERY IN LATVIAN CAPITAL VANDALIZED
Unknown vandals overturned more than 20 gravestones in the Bikernieki Forest Cemetery in Riga and defaced others with Nazi slogans and swastikas on the night of 12-13 September, LETA reported. Israeli Ambassador to Latvia Gary Koren visited the cemetery and declared that its defilement is a crude form of anti-Semitic expression. Riga's Jewish community leaders linked the vandalism with two upcoming events: the visit to Latvia by Israeli Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on 17-19 September, and Latvia's EU membership referendum on 20 September. The Latvian Jewish Community issued a statement noting that the vandalism at the cemetery indicates that there are forces in Latvia that want to disrupt the normal, friendly relations between the Jewish community and Latvia's leaders, and the vandalism is not only anti-Semitic but also anti-government. SG

RUSSIAN NATIONAL BOLSHEVIKS PROTEST LITHUANIAN TRANSIT
Lithuanian State Border Service officials checking passengers on the Moscow-Kaliningrad train at the Kena border post on 14 September were confronted by 17 youths who refused to show any identification and began shouting "Freedom for Kaliningrad transit," "Lietuvos zinios" reported the next day. Some of the youths, who claim to be members of Russia's National Bolshevik Party, tore up their transit documents and bound themselves to their seats with handcuffs and chains. Firefighters had to be called to cut the chains so the protesters could be removed from the train, which departed almost 1 1/2 hours late. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement later that day condemning the protest as political hooliganism aimed at attracting attention before the 7 December Russian State Duma elections. SG

POLISH OPPOSITION PARTY MOVES TO OUST EUROPEAN-INTEGRATION MINISTER
The right-wing League of Polish Families (LPR) on 12 September submitted a motion to Sejm speaker Marek Borowski to hold a no-confidence vote on Minister for European Affairs Danuta Huebner, PAP reported. "Even before the government's stance [on a draft EU Constitution] was announced and before negotiations that are to take place in Rome on 4 October started, Minister Huebner said the Polish government ruled out the possibility of vetoing the draft EU Constitution," LPR parliamentary caucus deputy head Roman Giertych said in the Sejm while seconding the motion. According to the LPR, the draft EU Constitution includes provisions that are unfavorable for Poland. JM

POLISH CABINET PLEDGES TO CUSHION LAYOFFS IN MINING
Deputy Prime Minister Jerzy Hausner told the Sejm on 12 September that nobody in the coal-mining sector will be laid off without being covered by a cushion program, PAP reported. Hausner said the cushion program envisages paid vacations for those miners who are soon to retire, job offers in other mines, and assistance to employers who will give jobs to workers laid off from the mining sector. Hausner was addressing lawmakers in connection with the 11 September riots in Warsaw over the planned closure of four mines (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2003). Interior Minister Jerzy Janik told journalists the same day that miners who inflicted injuries on police officers during the clashes on 11 September will be treated as criminals. "Yesterday, we experienced an attempted direct attack against people," Janik said on Polish Radio. "Well, I can't use any other word than a criminal [for those throwing] Molotov cocktails at police officers. Two police officers suffered burn injuries." JM

THOUSANDS DEMONSTRATE IN PRAGUE AGAINST PLANNED REFORMS
Between 12,000 and 20,000 marched in Prague on 13 September, demonstrating against the cabinet's planned cuts in public spending, CTK and international news agencies reported. Milan Stech, chairman of the CMKOS trade-union umbrella organization, said the unions are considering launching a general strike. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla told journalists on 14 September that "there is still room for negotiations" on the final cuts, which the cabinet is to discuss on 15 September. Parliament is to vote on the cuts later this month and observers wonder whether the coalition will have sufficient backing in the lower house to ensure approval (see below). The premier has threatened several times to resign if parliament rejects the proposals. President Vaclav Klaus on 14 September called the envisaged cuts "half-hearted." He said the proposed measures are insufficient and, if he could, he would also demonstrate against the cabinet's plans, "but from the opposite side." MS

MAIN CZECH OPPOSITION PARTY WANTS EARLY ELECTIONS
Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Deputy Chairman Jan Zahradil said on 13 September that the ODS will seek early elections in the event that Premier Spidla's cabinet resigns or is forced out by a no-confidence vote, CTK reported, citing Czech Television. Zahradil denied rumors in the media that his party is conducting negotiations with Social Democratic Party (CSSD) Deputy Chairman and Interior Minister Stanislav Gross to join a cabinet headed by Gross or support it in parliament. "We would only be ready to assume responsibility for a situation leading to a rearrangement of political forces [in parliament], and this means early elections," Zahradil said. Also on 13 September, Josef Hojdar, who resigned from the CSSD parliamentary group on 22 July in protest against the planned budgetary cuts, told "Mlada fronta Dnes" that he does not believe Spidla's cabinet will survive the year, CTK reported. Hojdar's departure left the ruling center-left coalition without a parliamentary majority in the lower house. MS

POPE ENDS SLOVAK VISIT
Pope John Paul II on 14 September wrapped up his four-day visit to Slovakia after beatifying two Slovaks who were persecuted by the communist regime, TASR and international news agencies reported. On 13 September, the pontiff, appearing fatigued and frail as he did throughout his trip, presided over Mass in Roznava, eastern Slovakia, but was unable to complete his sermon. In an apparent gesture to support the Roman Catholic Church's stance against abortion, the pope lifted his arms to stroke the faces of two girls who were born conjoined at the pelvis and successfully separated in 2002, telling the crowd: "Be protectors of life." The girls' mother, however, told journalists she was unaware the church intended to use her daughters in its antiabortion campaign and added that had she been aware of the twins' problem before birth, she might have considered abortion and would "not have exposed them to such suffering," AFP reported. On 14 September, the pontiff presided over Mass in Bratislava before some 250,000 believers, many from abroad, and beatified Bishop Vasil Hopko of the Greek Catholic Church (Uniate Church) and Sister Zdenka Cecilia Schelingova of the Roman Catholic Church. Thousands bode the pontiff farewell as he departed. MS

REPORTS SAY NATO ALARMED OVER SLOVAK DEVELOPMENTS...
According to diplomatic sources cited by TASR on 12 September, NATO is becoming increasingly alarmed over the latest developments in Slovakia and with Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's decision to dismiss National Security Office (NBU) head Jan Mojzis and Defense Minister Ivan Simko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 September 2003). The agency cited a NATO spokesman as saying the organization "is closely monitoring the situation." The spokesman declined to confirm that NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson telephoned Dzurinda on 11 September. On 13 September, the daily "Sme" reported that NATO official Wayene Rychak unexpectedly arrived in Bratislava the previous day. The daily cited a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman as saying Rychak's mission to Bratislava was "initiated by NATO and the content of his talks is confidential." MS

...AND MECIAR SAYS 'SO AM I'
Three-time former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, chairman of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), said in a debate on Slovak Television on 14 September that the recent turmoil created by Prime Minister Dzurinda's decision to dismiss NBU head Mojzis and Defense Minister Simko might seriously harm Slovakia's NATO-integration efforts, TASR reported. Meciar said the country's accession to NATO and the EU are priorities for his party and, as a consequence, the HZDS is likely to initiate a no-confidence motion in the cabinet. Meciar also accused Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan, who also participated in the debate, of "eating out of Dzurinda's hand" to ensure that he does not lose the premier's backing for his presidential candidacy. Kukan said Dzurinda's loss of confidence in Mojzis was reason enough to dismiss the NBU head and added that Slovakia did not receive an invitation to join NATO just because the organization's representatives liked one Slovak official or another. MS

SLOVAK INFORMATION SERVICE ATTRIBUTES EAVESDROPPING TO 'TECHNICAL FAILURE'
The Slovak Information Service (SIS) announced on 12 September that its investigation conducted jointly with Interior Ministry experts determined that eavesdropping on the "Sme" daily and on Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO) Chairman Pavol Rusko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18, 22, 24, and 31 January and 11, 15, 16, and 17 July 2003) was "an accident" due to "technical failure." The SIS said in its report that the equipment at fault has been replaced to prevent such failures from recurring. MS

ETHNIC HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS MEET IN BUDAPEST
Speaker Katalin Szili on 12 September opened in the Hungarian parliament the first-ever conference in Budapest of ethnic Hungarian parliamentary members from neighboring countries, Budapest dailies reported. Many of the visiting politicians stressed in their addresses at the conference that while it is desirable to strengthen by means of the institution of dual citizenship the bonds that connect ethnic Hungarians, such a move might encourage the undesired process of resettlement in the mother country. Several of them also pointed out that the EU rejects the institution of citizenship based solely on ethnicity. MSZ

CONFLICTING REPORTS ON SERBIA'S POSITION TOWARD DUAL CITIZENSHIP
Serbia and Montenegro's Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandra Joksimovic said on 13 September that Belgrade is not opposed to dual citizenship being granted to ethnic Hungarians in Vojvodina, Hungarian radio reported. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic made a similar statement in June during a visit by Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy to Subotica. Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs, however, told reporters on 12 September that Belgrade has sent official notice that Serbia and Montenegro will not accept dual citizenship based on ethnicity, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 13 September. MSZ

MACEDONIAN COALITION LEADERS WORK TO DEFUSE TENSIONS
At a meeting on 13 September, Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski and Ali Ahmeti, who are the leaders of the governing Social Democrats (SDSM) and the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), respectively, overcame their differences sparked by a controversial ultimatum issued by Interior Minister Hari Kostov on 11 September, "Utrinski vesnik" and "Dnevnik" reported. Kostov had ordered three of his ethnic Albanian subordinates to work out a plan to arrest two ethnic Albanian criminals -- Avdil Jakupi "Jackal" and Hamdi Bajramovski "Breza" -- or face dismissal because of incompetence. The BDI rejected the demand as "blackmail." Ahmeti and Crvenkovski agreed that an ethnically mixed Interior Ministry working group will prepare an action plan for the arrests by 16 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8, 9, 11, and 12 September 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 and 12 September 2003). UB

MYSTERIOUS GUNFIRE IN SERBIAN CAPITAL
Unknown persons fired three shots into the air from a car driving past the Serbian government's offices in Belgrade's Nemanjina Street in the evening of 13 September, "Vesti" reported. Police are investigating (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 March, 9 May, and 25 July 2003). PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT STANDS BY HIS APOLOGY TO SERBS...
President Stipe Mesic said on 13 September that he is not bothered by public opinion polls that show a fall in his popularity since his recent apology to Serbs for wrongs done to them by Croats, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 September 2003). Mesic stressed that the president's duty is to do what is right and not what is popular, slamming unnamed critics as "unhappy, semi-literate people in politics who don't understand" his recent actions in Belgrade. Mesic told Serbian Radio and Television on 14 September that he has proposed a meeting between himself, the president of Serbia and Montenegro, and members of the Bosnian presidency to provide an impetus to refugee returns. PM

...AS MONTENEGRO'S PRIME MINISTER BACKPEDALS ON GOING TO THE HAGUE
Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 13 that he will testify before the Hague-based war crimes tribunal at the trial of former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic if he is indeed summoned, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 September 2003). Djukanovic added that it is his obligation to testify if he is summoned. PM

UN REPRESENTATIVE SAYS TALKS ON KOSOVA COULD BEGIN SOON...
Harri Holkeri, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), said in Prishtina on 12 September that the six-member international Contact Group will discuss Kosova in New York on 23 September, adding that he will outline his plan for talks between Belgrade and Prishtina "very soon" after that, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 June, and 1 and 15 August 2003). Holkeri noted that "the biggest problem is the very tight time schedule. We do not necessarily have this momentum for a long period of time ahead. If we want to begin the technical talks on practical issues, we have to start them now, almost immediately.... Everybody has accepted the basic [principles for the talks], but of course there are many details to be prepared. We are not just calling people together to say it's nice to be together. We need a good start, even on a technical level." He ruled out talks on the "Cyprus model...where you say nothing has been agreed until everything is agreed." PM

...AND SERBIAN LEADER AGREES
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said in Belgrade on 13 September that Kosova talks could begin right after the session in New York, noting that the Serbian position was well received the last time the UN Security Council discussed Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 August 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 August 2003). PM

SLOVENIAN AMBASSADOR RETURNS TO ZAGREB
Slovenian Ambassador to Croatia Peter Bekes, who had been recalled to Ljubljana "for consultations" in August, returned to Zagreb on 12 September, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2, 3, 9, and 10 September 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 and 22 August, and 5 September 2003). Experts from both countries are slated to begin talks on 16 September on Croatia's plans to declare an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Adriatic. But in Varazdin on 12 September, Croatian President Mesic said he does not consider Slovenian objections to a Croatian EEZ justified because Croatia runs the risk of being cut off from the open sea by Italian, Montenegrin, and Albanian EEZs if Zagreb does not act soon. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT APPEALS FOR 'CIVILIZED CLARIFICATION' OF SRI-COMMISSION DISPUTE...
President Ion Iliescu said on 12 September that the dispute between the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) and the parliamentary commission supervising its activity must be clarified in "a normal, civilized manner" and that he will try to mediate to bring that about, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Iliescu said he will not heed SRI Director Radu Timofte's demand to have the Supreme Council for National Defense (CSAT) call commission head Ion Stan to order because the commission is not subordinated to CSAT. Iliescu said it is the task of the commission to control the SRI and criticize it when warranted, but this task should be fulfilled "in a normal, civilized framework, and not by agitating." He added that there is no need to exacerbate tensions. MS

...WHILE PREMIER SAYS DISPUTE IS 'COUNTERPRODUCTIVE'
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said on 13 September in Brasov that the dispute between the commission and the SRI is "counterproductive," Romanian Radio reported. Nastase said: "We have important responsibilities toward our NATO partners, we have responsibilities not only in the country itself but also at international level, in the struggle against terrorism, where there is still much to be done; we must not encourage such conflicts." He said he believes the dispute can be settled "in manly discussions within the commission and within the SRI." The premier added he does not want anyone to believe the dispute is due to "positioning" for a better starting place ahead of the forthcoming local and parliamentary elections. He stressed that some of his own declarations have been distorted by the media. On 12 September, the daily "Adevarul" printed the transcript of a Nastase statement at a conference with Social Democratic Party (PSD) leadership. The premier said that statement is old -- it dates back a few weeks -- and was taken out of context. In it, Nastase said that in the SRI "some play at both ends of the scale." MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER PROPOSES 'COMPROMISE SOLUTION' TO HUNGARIAN COUNTERPART
In a 12 September letter to his Hungarian counterpart Peter Medgyessy, Prime Minister Nastase proposed a "compromise solution" to the dispute over the Liberty Monument in Arad, Romanian Radio and Mediafax reported. Nastase said in his letter that a "reconciliation park" should be constructed in Arad and the monument be placed in that park. Nastase said he does not question the "artistic value" of the Liberty Monument, but in Romania there is "a great sensitivity" towards "its [symbolic] message" and to re-place it without any change would be interpreted as "a step towards the past rather than one towards the future." The letter was a response to one received from Medgyessy the previous day, in which the Hungarian prime minister asked Nastase to intervene in favor of re-erecting the monument. In July 1999, Andrei Plesu and Janos Martonyi, who were then the foreign ministers of the two countries, reached precisely such a compromise, deciding to have the monument placed in a "reconciliation park." Nastase, who was then in opposition, attacked the compromise as a betrayal of national interest (see "RFE/RL Newsline" End-Note, 11 October 1999). MS

LEADING NAZI HUNTER MAKES OFFER IN ROMANIA
Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, offered in Bucharest on 12 September a $10,000 reward to anyone providing information leading to the prosecution of war criminals, Reuters and AFP reported. Zuroff has headed a similar "Operation Last Chance" in the Baltic states and Ukraine, which exposed 241 suspected war criminals and sent 55 of them to prosecutors. Zuroff said "Romania was a satellite state of Nazi Germany and actively participated in the implementation of the Final Solution." Yet, "not a single Holocaust perpetrator has been investigated, let alone prosecuted in postcommunist Romania," according to AFP. Reuters cited him as asking: "Does Romanian society, Romanian leadership have the courage to bring these people to justice? This is what we hope will happen." MS

CONTRADICTORY REPORTS ON ROMANIAN EU INTEGRATION MINISTER'S CASE
The daily "Evenimentul zilei" reported on 12 September that the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has decided to open an investigation into the allegations that European Integration Minister Hildegard Puwak mishandled EU funds to favor family members. Contrary to this report, Romanian Radio announced on the same day that the European Commission team of experts that visited Bucharest in connection with the case has concluded that Puwak has not influenced the selecting of companies headed by her husband and her son as recipients of EU funds. The radio said a decision has nonetheless been made to investigate whether the funds have been spent as intended. Mediafax on the same day said OLAF has opened an "assisting investigation" at the request of the National Anticorruption Prosecution and the premier's control department office. Finally, OLAF spokesman Alessandro Buttice told RFE/RL on 11 September that his office is opening a case meant to assist the Romanian authorities in investigating allegations against Puwak (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2, 3 and 5 September 2003). MS

U.S. BACKS EU PARTICIPATION IN TRANSDNIESTER NEGOTIATIONS PROCESS...
Rudolf Perina, U.S. special negotiator for Eurasian problems, said on 12 September that his country believes the EU can make a substantial contribution to the settlement of the Transdniester conflict by joining the negotiations, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Addressing an international conference on frozen conflicts in Chisinau, Perina thus backed Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin's proposal of last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2003). Perina said the international community "can do more for identifying possible solutions than the [current] mediators," but ultimately a positive outcome depends on the two sides involved in the conflict. The international community can nonetheless use means available to it to influence the sides, including imposing sanctions as the United States and the EU did in February, when they banned travel to their countries by 17 Transdniester top leadership figures. On 13 September Perina met with Voronin. They said they agree that the Transdniester conflict has ceased to be an internal Moldovan conflict and now endangers regional security and stability, Flux reported. MS

...WHILE RUSSIA SIGNALS OPPOSITION
Addressing the same forum in Chisinau on frozen conflicts, Alexander Grushko, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's department of European cooperation, said on 12 September his country will "seriously consider" the Voronin's proposal. He added, however, that participants already involved in the negotiations should be in agreement about any new parties that join the talks, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Grushko also said the EU can contribute to the region's economic rehabilitation, but not to the political process, which is already underway and whose current five-side format -- Chisinau, Tiraspol, Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE -- has achieved substantial progress that will hopefully soon lead to success. Grushko said it is "premature" at this point to debate the participation of EU peacekeepers in the post-settlement peacekeeping forces. He said that process would "certainly require military guarantees" but it is too early now to engage in talks on whether the "current peacekeeping forces" -- meaning the 1,500 Russian troops stationed in Transdniester -- should "change their character." MS

TRANSDNIESTER REFUSES TO MATCH MOLDOVAN 'TRANSPARENCY'
Yurii Matveev, Transdniester representative on the Joint Control Commission (CUC) for the security zone that has separated the belligerent sides since 1992, refused on 11 September to accept data from Moldovan representative Ion Socolenco on the number of Moldovan National Guard carabineers stationed in the region, Flux and Infotag reported. Matveev said Transdniester "does not trust" Moldova and the situation will not change before an accord is reached at a meeting between separatist leader Igor Smirnov and Moldovan President Voronin. Matveev also said Tiraspol will not match the Moldovan offer of "transparency" with a similar action of its own. MS

MOLDOVA, TRANSDNIESTER LAUNCH 'TELEPHONE WAR'
Moldova and Transdniester launched a mutual telephone war on 12 September, accusing each other of blocking the other side's signal, Reuters reported. Moldovan Transportation and Telecommunication Minister Vasile Zgardan accused the separatists of having completely blocked telephone calls from Moldtelcom since 11 September. He said Chisinau had earlier stopped Tiraspol from using a mobile telephone frequency because Moldova is using the same frequency for a digital television channel and Tiraspol has no right to use it. The separatists say Moldova is jamming mobile phones in their region and Vladimir Belayev, who holds the information and telecommunication portfolio in the Transdniester government, called Moldova's move a "large-scale action against Transdniester." MS

CONFUSION OVER POSSIBLE BULGARIAN PARTICIPATION IN INTERNATIONAL MILITARY MISSION TO LIBERIA
Following a statement by Jacques Klein, the United Nation's special representative for Liberia, that Bulgaria and Ireland might participate in an upgraded UN peacekeeping mission to the west African country, Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi and Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov said on 13 September that Bulgaria lacks the resources for such cooperation, mediapool.bg reported. Chief of the General Staff General Nikola Kolev has denied there were any talks between Bulgaria and the UN on possible Bulgarian participation in the Liberian mission, the "Sofia Morning News" reported on 14 September. The leader of the opposition Socialist Party (BSP), Sergey Stanishev, added on 14 September that Bulgaria is already participating in enough peacekeeping operations, according to mediapool.bg. Stanishev said, based on the country's population and economic situation, a maximum of 800 Bulgarian troops can be deployed abroad. Currently, Bulgarian troops are stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Kosova. UB

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS SAY PRESIDENT ABUSES POWER
During the 11 September parliamentary debate preceding the overriding procedure of a presidential veto, two lawmakers of the governing National Movement Simeon II (NDSV), Emil Koshlukov and Borislav Tsekov, accused President Georgi Parvanov of the BSP of abusing power and aiming at the introduction of a presidential republic, mediapool.bg reported. That criticism was triggered by Parvanov's latest veto to a proposed Law on Organ Transplantation. Parvanov, who is on an official visit to Thailand, replied to the accusations by saying, "Nobody works better in the interest of a presidential republic than some unsuccessful politicians." Parvanov charged that the statement is part of the campaign for the local elections slated for 26 October. UB

KREMLIN DECLARES GAS WAR ON MINSK
There is but a step from love to hate, as an old saying asserts. A recent twist in the history of Belarusian-Russian integration seems to amply confirm this maxim.

Earlier this month, Gazprom head Aleksei Miller appealed to the Russian government to end talks about the creation of a joint-stock gas-transportation company based on Russia's Gazprom and Belarus's Beltranshaz. Simultaneously, Miller requested that the government terminate the Russian-Belarusian intergovernmental accord that allowed Belarus to obtain Russian gas in regions neighboring Belarus at prices set for Russian domestic consumers. Miller also sent a relevant notification to Beltranshaz head Pyotr Pyotukh. According to Russian media, Miller wrote to Pyotukh: "The controversies [between Gazprom and Beltranshaz] are insurmountable, and the work on the creation of a joint [gas-transportation] company cannot be concluded."

On 8 September, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said the 2002 package of agreements between Russia and Belarus on cooperation in the gas sector, including on a unified gas-pricing policy, may be reconsidered "in the nearest future," Russian media reported. Kasyanov added that he instructed relevant ministries and departments to analyze the situation in connection with the Gazprom request and prepare appropriate proposals.

What is the immediate reason for this conflict? On 12 April 2002, Moscow and Minsk signed two accords on extending Russia's domestic prices for its energy resources (natural gas and electricity) to Belarus as of 1 May 2002, and Russia's domestic railway tariffs on shipments of Belarusian goods as of 1 June 2002. The accords allowed Belarus to obtain Russian gas at a price set for consumers Russia's Smolensk Oblast, currently about $29 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas. At the same time, the accords committed Minsk to create a joint-stock gas transportation corporation with Gazprom as of 1 July 2003 and to sell a share in Beltranshaz to Gazprom.

However, subsequent talks between Minsk and Gazprom on the sale of Beltranshaz have produced no results, and no joint-stock gas-transportation company has been created. Reportedly, Minsk estimated that Beltranshaz is worth $5 billion, while Gazprom was prepared to pay only $600 million for a 50 percent stake in the Belarusian operator of gas pipelines.

But Belarusian and Russian commentators say that this "insurmountable controversy" regarding the privatization of Beltranshaz is only one reason for Gazprom's call to increase the price of Russian gas supplied to Belarus. The other reason, they assert, is Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's recent backpedaling on the introduction of the Russian ruble in Belarus as of January 2005. Apparently aware that the currency union with Russia will give the Kremlin significant levers of control over Belarus, Lukashenka said he wants the introduction of the Russian ruble to be the last stage in the process of creating a common economic space with Russia.

According to the Belarusian president, the common economic area means unimpeded movement of people, commodities, services, and capital across the Belarusian-Russian border; the same prices for gas, oil, and electricity for consumers in both countries; compensation for losses incurred by Belarus because of Russia's collection of value-added tax on its exports to Belarus as of 2000; and coverage by Russia of expenses connected with the introduction of the Russian ruble in Belarus. Lukashenka also wants Russia and Belarus to adopt a constitutional act of the Russia-Belarus Union before pursuing monetary and economic unification.

Talks on the price of Russian gas supplies to Belarus in 2004 are due to start in October. Will Lukashenka bend to this economic pressure from the Kremlin and become more malleable as regards both the sale of Beltranshaz and the currency union with Russia? Former Belarusian Premier Mikhail Chyhir, who resigned in 1996 in protest against Lukashenka's policies, believes that "Gazprom will win the dispute in the end" and Minsk will be forced to sell a controlling stake in Beltranshaz for a more acceptable price than it is demanding now.

Meanwhile, Leanid Zaika, head of the Minsk-based think tank Stratehiya, says an increase in the Gazprom price for gas supplied to Belarus could become a favorable factor for the Belarusian economy and spur economic reforms in Belarus. Cheap Russian gas, Zaika argues, is like a narcotic to which the uncompetitive Belarusian economy is addicted. Zaika also points out that higher prices for Russian gas will hurt Belarusian companies rather than households, since individual consumers in Belarus already pay $70 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas. The difference ($70-$29 = $41) is taken by the government to subsidize loss-making enterprises.

Minsk is expected to exhaust its 2003 quota of cheap Russian gas from Gazprom -- 10.2 billion cubic meters -- sometime in October. Will Belarusians be confronted with a cold winter this year? Not necessarily. Belarus has already begun to diversify its gas supplies. The Russian gas firm Itera is due to supply 6.3 billion cubic meters of gas to Belarus in 2003 at a price of $42 per 1,000 cubic meters. And Russia's TNK began to sell gas to Belarus last month at $37 per 1,000 cubic meters.

Moreover, it seems unlikely that Russian President Vladimir Putin will begin tough talks with Lukashenka on gas prices in particular, and integration in general, prior to Russia's parliamentary elections in December or presidential elections in March. After all, for many "national-patriotic" forces in Russia the integration with "fraternal Belarus" will be a political trump card in the upcoming electoral campaigns, and the Kremlin will hardly resort to outright economic blackmail with regard to its closest ally in the post-Soviet area during this vulnerable electoral period. Thus, for the time being, Lukashenka has some room for presenting himself in the media as a tough defender of Belarusian sovereignty and Putin as a callous "elder brother."

AFGHAN LEADER CRITICIZES PAKISTANI CLERICS WHO ENCOURAGE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN...
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai in an address to the Council of Ulama of Afghanistan (CUA) on 12 September accused some Pakistani ulama (religious scholars) of attempting to destroy Afghanistan. According to a transcript of the address obtained by RFE/RL, Karzai said some "madrassa managers and so-called ulama of Islam sitting in Pakistan" are sending Afghanistan's sons -- to whom he referred as "the innocent Afghan talib [a student in Islamic seminary, not the political movement]" -- across the border to "kill and/or be killed." Karzai added that while the Pakistani ulama are sending Afghans to destroy their own country, they ensure that their own sons receive an "education, build a career, and live a normal life." The Afghan leader indicated that he does not place the blame on all madrassas in Pakistan or the Pakistani government, which he referred to as a brother of the Afghan government. Karzai urged Afghan and Pakistani ulama to "sit together and consider the problem of those elements that are damaging [the Islamic] religion under the banner of religion." AT

...AS PAKISTANI INTERIOR MINISTER CONFIRMS SOME CLERICS ARE TO BE BLAMED, BUT NOT ONLY IN PAKISTAN
Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat on 13 September said in response to Karzai's speech to the CUA that "there is no denying the fact that certain elements within the clergy have been engaged in activities that have been leading the world to believe the clergy are involved in terrorism," Reuters reported. Hayat added that while Karzai's "assertion does have some logic," it is not only the clergy in Pakistan who are backing the neo-Taliban, as they "certainly have some sympathizers within Afghanistan." Hayat suggested that it would be in Karzai's "own interest" to take "complete and positive steps to tackle the situation within Afghanistan." AT

AFGHAN LEADER CALLS ON 'ORDINARY' TALIBAN TO RETURN TO THEIR HOMES
Transition Administration Chairman Karzai said in his 12 September speech to the CUA that he has received messages from some of the former leaders of the ousted Taliban regime in Afghanistan indicating "they are not intent on destroying their own land, but that some among them are forced to do so." Karzai called on "all those ordinary Taliban of the past to return to their homes and villages and be left alone to live their lives without pressure." However, he added that this applies only to those Taliban members "who have not caused damage in their homeland," and not to those "who committed atrocities under the name of Taliban, who destroyed Afghanistan and sold it to the foreigners." The latter group, Karzai said, "have no rights" to Afghanistan. Karzai has been trying to gain the support of some elements of the former Taliban regime in an effort to limit the destructive activities of the neo-Taliban in addition to bolstering his own political standing among Pashtuns (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 2003 and "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 3 July 2003). AT

THREE NEO-TALIBAN REPORTEDLY KILLED IN KANDAHAR PROVINCE
During fighting on 13 September between suspected neo-Taliban forces and pro-government troops in Maruf District of Kandahar Province, three neo-Taliban fighters were killed, Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported on 14 September. One neo-Taliban fighter was taken prisoner, according to the report. AT

NEO-TALIBAN THREATEN TO ENFORCE OLD BEHAVIOR CODE
Iranian state radio's Mashhad-based Dari-language service reported on 15 September that suspected neo-Taliban in southeastern Paktiya Province stopped cars and told passengers that if they listen to music or shave their facial hair the neo-Taliban will cut off their ears and noses. Provincial Governor Asadollah Wafa said the 14 September incident occurred in Zadran, about 140 kilometers south of Kabul on the road to Khost city, according to the report BS

IAEA BOARD OF GOVERNORS PASSES RESOLUTION ON IRAN...
The 35-country board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on 12 September adopted a resolution in which it urged Iran to accelerate its cooperation with the agency and to behave in a fully transparent manner (http://www.iaea.org/worldatom/Press/Focus/IaeaIran/gov2003-69.pdf). The resolution expressed concern that information provided by Iran contrasted with earlier information it provided, and it also noted the tardiness and incremental nature of Iranian information sharing. Concerns were expressed about environmental samples taken from Natanz that showed highly enriched uranium, Iran's introduction of nuclear material to its centrifuge-enrichment cascade at Natanz, efforts to modify the Kalaye Electric Company that would affect the accuracy of environmental sampling, and significant changes in Iran's statements to the IAEA. The resolution called on Iran to "remedy all failures identified by the agency" and gave it until 31 October to ensure it is in compliance with the safeguards agreement. To achieve compliance, Iran must grant unrestricted access to all locations, provide complete answers, and provide all the information required to resolve outstanding issues. BS

...AS TEHRAN PROTESTS...
The IAEA resolution did not sit well with Tehran. Iranian representative to the IAEA Ali Salehi and the rest of his country's delegation walked out of the meeting, and on 14 September AFP reported that he told "Der Spiegel" magazine that Tehran might stop cooperation with the IAEA and withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said on 13 September that the resolution is "immature" and "politically motivated," IRNA reported. "Naturally, we should now decide about our cooperation with the [IAEA]," he said. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi echoed this sentiment on state television on 14 September. BS

...AND THEN BACKS OFF
Iranian representative to the IAEA Salehi appeared to back off from the threat of Iranian withdrawal from the NPT when he said in the 14 September issue of "Iran" newspaper that "Iran's cooperation with the agency will continue, while our blatant criticisms shouldn't be translated into severing cooperation," the "Financial Times" reported on 15 September. Meanwhile, Ali Akbar Velayati, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's foreign-affairs adviser, said on a 14 September call-in television program that even if Iran wants to cooperate with the IAEA, the resolution's deadline is too short. Velayati also said Iran's cooperation with the IAEA goes beyond its NPT commitments, whereas the IAEA has not cooperated with Iranian nuclear activities at all. Iran is a recipient of the agency's Technical Cooperation Program and there are 13 related projects under way there, according to the IAEA website (http://www-tc.iaea.org/tcweb/projectinfo/default.asp). BS

DATE SET FOR IRANIAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
An Interior Ministry communique announced on 14 September that the ministry and the Guardians Council have set 20 February 2004 as the date for Iran's next parliamentary election, IRNA reported. Candidates can register from 13-20 December, according to IRNA's 14 September citation of the Interior Ministry, but on 13 September IRNA cited the Interior Ministry as saying that registration will take place on 12-19 January. BS

EFFORT TO BAN GUARDIANS COUNCIL PROVINCIAL OFFICES ANNULLED
The Administrative Justice Organization on 14 September annulled an Interior Ministry circular stating that the Guardians Council's provincial supervisory offices are illegal, Fars News Agency reported. Hojatoleslam Qorban-Ali Dori-Najafabadi, who heads the Administrative Justice Organization, presided over the session at which the subject was discussed. Also in attendance were representatives of the Guardians Council, the Interior Ministry, and the Management and Planning Organization. Creation of the provincial supervisory offices represents the Guardians Council's effort to extend its control over the election process and is opposed by the executive branch and reformist legislators (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 18 August 2003). BS

ANOTHER SHOOTING AT BRITISH EMBASSY IN TEHRAN
Andrew Greenstock, a spokesman for the British Embassy in Tehran, said two shots were fired at the facility on the evening of 14 September, according to dpa and Reuters on 15 September. Nobody was hurt, he said, and no one has claimed responsibility. Greenstock cited witnesses who said two men on a motorcycle fired the shots. This is the third such shooting; others occurred on 3 and 9 September. BS

SECURITY COUNCIL'S PERMANENT FIVE MOVE CLOSER TO RESOLUTION ON IRAQ...
The foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council appeared to move closer toward consensus on the issue of Iraq following a 13 September meeting in Geneva, international media reported. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell characterized the five-hour talks as "constructive," telling reporters in Geneva that "we didn't put any particular proposals on the table to discuss.... We had a general discussion about the way forward," according to the U.S. State Department's website (http://usinfo.state.gov). French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin suggested in a 12 September article in "Le Monde" that an Iraqi provisional government be established in a month, a constitution drafted by year-end, and elections held in the spring of 2004. KR

...AS UN SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR 'STRONG' RESOLUTION
Kofi Annan told reporters that "consensus is not enough. We want a strong and valid resolution which will support our efforts on the ground," latimes.com reported. Meanwhile, Iraqi Governing Council member Adnan Pachachi told reporters that Security Council members will eventually bridge their differences, but he said the French proposal that calls for Iraqi sovereignty within a month is "a little too optimistic," nytimes.com reported. The latimes.com quoted French spokesman Herve Ladsous as saying, "Our proposals remain on the table." KR

U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE MAKES FIRST TRIP TO IRAQ
Colin Powell traveled to Iraq on 13 September following his meetings with Security Council members in Geneva, AP reported on 14 September. Powell met with Coalition Provisional Authority head L. Paul Bremer, interim Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, and attended a Baghdad City Council meeting before dining with a leading Shi'ite cleric in Baghdad. Speaking about Iraq's future, Powell told a Baghdad press conference that "the worst thing that could happen is for us to push this process too quickly, before the capacity for governance is there and the basis for legitimacy is there, and see it fail." He added that Iraq remains vulnerable to the threat of "terrorists who are trying to infiltrate into the country for the purpose of disrupting this whole process." However, Powell commented that "there is vibrancy to this effort, a vibrancy that I attribute to the winds of freedom that are now blowing through this land." KR

U.S. TROOPS MISTAKENLY KILL IRAQI POLICE OFFICERS
U.S. soldiers mistakenly fired on Iraqi police in the area of Al-Fallujah on 12 September, killing eight officers and wounding at least six others, "The Washington Post" reported on 13 September. A Jordanian soldier guarding a nearby Jordanian hospital was also killed, and five others inside the hospital were wounded. U.S. military spokesman Captain Michael Calvert said U.S. troops came under fire from a white van and responded, but Iraqi police said the attack was unprovoked. According to the Iraqi police, some 19 police officers traveling in three vehicles were chasing a white BMW outside Al-Fallujah on the evening of 12 September, and were fired on by U.S. troops as they headed home after giving up the chase. They said the attack lasted for nearly an hour despite their attempts to identify themselves in English and Arabic. Two of the vehicles were reportedly clearly marked "Iraqi Police, Al-Fallujah." The incident sparked a mass protest on 13 September as Iraqis turned out in the town to bury the dead officers. KR

SCIRI OFFICIALS CONFIRM BADR CORPS REMAIN ACTIVE...
Leaders of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Resistance in Iraq (SCIRI) have confirmed that the group's armed force, the Badr Corps, remains active despite a U.S. demand that the militia disband, international media reported. SCIRI political adviser Muhsin al-Hakim told ISNA that the Badr Corps will now focus on the rebuilding of Iraq, saying the group is working to uncover terrorist plots against Shi'ite leaders and to foil acts of sabotage, the news agency reported on 12 September. Meanwhile, SCIRI's new head and Iraqi Governing Council member Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim on 12 September criticized the United States for failing to integrate Badr fighters into the new Iraqi police force, nytimes.com reported the next day. The United States has said all militia forces are welcome to apply to join the new Iraqi police and army but declined to guarantee that all applicants will be accepted. KR

...UNDER A NEW NAME
Al-Hakim also told a Baghdad news conference on 12 September that the Badr Corps has changed its name to the Badr Organization in light of the group's new focus. He then criticized the coalition for its approach to security and maintained that religious scholars or tribal leaders may form security groups to protect their regions, Baghdad's "Al-Dustur" reported on 13 September. KR

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