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Newsline - September 17, 2003


PUTIN'S CHIEF OF STAFF SAYS NO PRIVATIZATION REVERSAL, BUT 'OBVIOUS VIOLATIONS' ARE FAIR GAME
Presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin said on 16 September that the results of Russia's privatization process will not be revised, but that there are "specific cases that are being investigated," Interfax reported. "There will not be a revision of the results of privatization," Voloshin said during a press conference in Baku. "However...this is not a simple issue for us, either from the political or the legal point of view. The process of privatization does not go anywhere easily. Legislation during the period of privatization was not complete and suffered from defects and, if sought, a defect could be found in any privatization deal." In instances of "obvious violations," Voloshin said, the law enforcement organs cannot be told that they must "close the Criminal Code and go home." Interfax quoted Voloshin as saying, that Russia must "quietly exit the initial period of capital accumulation without shaking the foundations of its economy. The law will triumph, and the results of privatization will not have to be reviewed." JB

OFFICIAL SAYS MOVING AGAINST ARAFAT COULD CAUSE 'MAJOR EXPLOSION'
Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Fedotov said on 16 September that the UN Security Council should do more to pressure the parties to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to comply with the so-called road-map peace plan drawn up by Russia, the United States, the European Union, and the UN. "The UN Security Council's potential should be concentrated precisely on this strategic aim," Interfax quoted Fedotov as saying. He also said any attempts to expel Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat from the West Bank or to kill him "would be fatal for the peace process and lead to a major explosion in the entire region." On 14 September, Israeli Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said killing Arafat is an option, but he was contradicted the next day by Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. On 16 September, the United States vetoed an Arab-backed Security Council draft resolution demanding that Israel stop threatening to expel Arafat because the draft did not condemn groups like Hamas, AP reported. Russia voted in favor of the draft resolution. JB

U.S. IMPOSES SANCTIONS ON RUSSIAN FIRM FOR ALLEGEDLY SELLING WEAPONS TO IRAN
The United States on 16 September accused Russia of supplying "lethal military equipment" to "state sponsors of terrorism" and imposed sanctions on KBP Tula, which produces antiaircraft and antitank systems, for allegedly selling laser-guided Krasnopol-M artillery shells to Iran, "The Moscow Times" reported on 17 September. The sanctions, which will last one year, prevent the state-owned firm from doing business with the U.S. government or buying U.S. military equipment. KBP Tula spokesman Valerii Vazbrannii denied the firm has any contacts with Iran, telling Ekho Moskvy radio on 16 September that Washington has made similar accusations against the firm on four separate occasions over the last three years. In 1999, Washington imposed sanctions on KBP Tula for allegedly selling Kornet antitank missiles to Syria, "The Moscow Times" reported. Andrei Morozov, the firm's deputy chief engineer, told Radio Mayak on 16 September that the real reason for the sanctions is that "the Americans are just scared of our developments, which are far more advanced than their own when it comes to technical features." JB

OFFICIALS DISCUSS NEW WAYS OF COMBATING MONEY LAUNDERING...
Security Council Deputy Secretary Vyacheslav Soltaganov said on 16 September that capital flight from Russia last year amounted to $12 billion, about half the $24.8 billion estimated to have left Russia in 1999, Prime-TASS reported. He said that Russia's shadow economy accounts for 20 percent-25 percent of its GDP. Soltaganov, who made his comments during a conference in Moscow on ways to counter money laundering, said that Russia's banking, customs, and fiscal legislation needs to be revised to make it more effective in the fight against money laundering, ITAR-TASS reported. Deputy Central Bank chief Viktor Melnikov said that new money-laundering methods appear "faster than the legislative process can keep pace," and called for more effective banking regulations. Deputy Aleksandr Gurov (Unity-Unified Russia), chairman of the State Duma's Security Committee, said his committee is preparing legislation that would, among other things, allow the law-enforcement authorities to request information on any bank customer, not just those facing criminal prosecution. JB

...WHILE ANTI-MONEY-LAUNDERING TSAR REVIEWS RESULTS TO DATE
Viktor Zubkov, chairman of Russia's Financial Monitoring Committee, told the same conference that since Russia adopted an anti-money-laundering law in 2001, Russian law-enforcement has launched more than 200 criminal cases involving the laundering of criminal proceeds through the country's banks, ITAR-TASS reported. Still, 170 banks have not supplied the committee with any information on suspect operations by clients as the law requires, Zubkov said, adding that a majority of banks "deliberately distort information and details about customers." He said his committee is currently compiling a list of banks allegedly involved in financing extremist activity. Zubkov also said a presidential commission on money laundering is being set up that will include officials from various ministries, law enforcement agencies, and the Central Bank. On 15 September, Zubkov said that a delegation from the Council of Europe's Select Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money-Laundering Measures recently visited Moscow and praised Russia's progress in battling money laundering and the financing of terrorism, Prime-TASS reported. JB

DUMA APPROVES LAWS ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SMALL BUSINESS
The State Duma on 16 September passed in its second and third readings a draft law on local self-government, Russian media reported. Although deputies had already approved the law in its second reading during the Duma's spring session, centrist and rightist factions orchestrated a return to the second reading to allow more amendments to the text, according to RTR. One of the new amendments delayed the date on which the law will take effect from 1 January 2005 to 1 January 2006. Also, the Duma on 16 September approved in its third reading a draft law on defending the rights of legal entities and individual entrepreneurs when state inspections are carried out, RIA-Novosti reported. Among other things, that bill stipulates that certain inspections may be done no sooner than three years after an enterprise is registered. LB

ZHIRINOVSKII DEMANDS INVESTIGATIONS OF FELLOW DEPUTIES
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii on 16 September asked the Duma's Mandate Commission and Security Committee to investigate the activities of Duma deputies, Russian media reported. Zhirinovskii alleged that 10 percent of Duma deputies are engaged in business activities in violation of the law on the status of members of parliament, and that some are members of criminal groups. Duma Security Committee member Deputy Gennadii Gudkov (People's Deputy) said his committee is looking at some Duma deputies and party lists, searching for people with criminal records. RTR reported that the committee will release the results of its investigation next month. Because State Duma deputies enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution, every Duma campaign to date has spawned allegations that criminals are buying spots on various party lists. LB

JUSTICE MINISTRY APPEALS RULING ON PRO-BEREZOVSKII LIBERAL RUSSIA FACTION
The Justice Ministry has asked the Astrakhan Oblast Court to overturn a lower-court ruling that validated a congress held by Liberal Russia activists who remain loyal to self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2003), Russian media reported. The ministry has refused to recognize the legitimacy of that congress, which in mid-June expelled Duma Deputy Viktor Pokhmelkin and other Liberal Russia leaders who orchestrated Berezovskii's expulsion from the party last year. LB

BORODIN TO LEAD EURASIAN BLOC IN DUMA RACE
The Great Russia-Eurasian Union bloc, an alliance of several obscure parties, held its founding congress in Moscow on 16 September, Russian media reported. Its top three candidates will be Russia-Belarus Union Secretary Pavel Borodin, former Ingush President Ruslan Aushev (leader of the Party of Peace), and retired General Leonid Ivashov (leader of the Military-Great Power Union of Russia). Abdul-Vakhed Niyazov, chairman of the Eurasia Party of Russia's political council, told NTV that hockey star Pavel Bure will be the bloc's No. 4 candidate. Borodin long served as the head of the Kremlin property department in former President Boris Yeltsin's administration, and the so-called Family of Yeltsin advisers reportedly backs the Eurasia Party of Russia (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 29 May 2003). Borodin's last foray into electoral politics was a failure. Despite being backed by the Family in the 1999 Moscow mayoral election, Borodin finished a distant third with some 6 percent of the vote. LB

FIRST OPENLY GAY CANDIDATE TO RUN FOR THE DUMA
A Nizhnii Novgorod man hopes to become the first openly gay candidate for the State Duma, regions.ru reported on 16 September, citing "Nezavisimaya gazeta." Denis Gogolev and Mikhail Morozov, who made headlines recently by paying a Russian Orthodox priest to marry them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2003), have confirmed that one of them will run for the Duma, although they have not officially announced which partner will run for a seat from a single-mandate district. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" quoted one of the men as saying he hopes to advance the cause of gay rights and promises to be a "friend to women" and a feminist in the parliament. He is counting on the support of female voters. Regions.ru noted that when Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor Vadim Bulavinov was a member of the People's Deputy Duma faction, he supported recriminalizing homosexual relations, as did People's Deputy faction leader Gennadii Raikov. LB

FEDERATION COUNCIL MEMBERS CHALLENGE PART OF 2003 BUDGET
Forty-five Federation Council deputies have filed a Constitutional Court appeal challenging the legality of an article in the 2003 budget, Interfax reported on 16 September. The article in question suspends passages in the law on the Audit Chamber dealing with that chamber's obligation to provide parliament with a report on how the budget is being fulfilled. Without such a report, the court appeal argues, the Federation Council and State Duma cannot monitor the execution of the budget. In the post-Soviet period, federal expenditures have not always corresponded to budget allocations, causing friction between government officials and parliamentarians. LB

LENINGRAD OBLAST REPLACES FEDERATION COUNCIL REPRESENTATIVE
The Legislative Assembly of Leningrad Oblast on 16 September recalled Damir Shadaev, who has served as its representative in the Federation Council since March 2002, and elected legislator Grigorii Naginskii to replace him, Russian media reported. In July, a court in Vyborg invalidated Shadaev's election to the upper house of the federal parliament, upholding a lawsuit that accused Shadaev of lying to Leningrad Oblast legislators about his education and military-service background. LB

BARRED CHECHEN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE APPEALS TO SUPREME COURT
The Chechen Supreme Court has received a complaint from Moscow-based Chechen businessman Malik Saidullaev about an 11 September decision by the Chechen Central Election Commission (TsIK) to revoke his registration as a candidate in the 5 October presidential ballot, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 September, quoting court Deputy Chairman Isa Edilov. The TsIK upheld an allegation by rival candidate Nikolai Paizullaev that at least 40 percent of the signatures Saidullaev's campaign staff collected in support of his registration were invalid (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2003). Saidullaev's campaign staff refute that allegation and demand the annulment of the TsIK ruling and Saidullaev's reinstatement as a candidate. In an interview published in "Novaya gazeta," No. 68, Saidullaev accused members of the armed formation loyal to Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov and his son, Ramzan, of attempting to kill Saidullaev and members of his campaign staff. Saidullaev has been regarded as one of Kadyrov's main rivals in the presidential ballot. LF

DUMA DEPUTY FORMALLY QUITS CHECHEN PRESIDENTIAL RACE
The Chechen TsIK received on 15 September and has complied with a formal request from Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who represents Chechnya in the Russian State Duma, to remove him from the list of Chechen presidential candidates, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 September, quoting TsIK secretary Khusein Sadykov. Aslakhanov announced on 11 September that he had decided to pull out of the race and to accept an offer to become an aide to President Vladimir Putin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2003). LF

ARMENIAN MURDER TRIAL LAWYER PROTESTS SUSPENSION
A shouting match erupted on 16 September during the ongoing trial in Yerevan of 13 men charged with the December 2002 murder of Armenian Public Television and Radio head Tigran Naghdalian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Hovik Arsenian, a lawyer representing one of the accused, businessman Armen Sargsian, denounced as illegal and politically motivated his suspension from the proceedings by presiding judge Saro Aramian on the grounds that Arsenian allegedly concealed his criminal record when applying for a license to practice law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2003). Aramian declared Arsenian in contempt of court and ordered his removal by force from the courtroom. Also on 16 September, a commission formed by the International Union of Lawyers asked the Union of Lawyers of Armenia to rule on the legality of the license issued to Arsenian, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS ARMENIAN POSITION ON KARABAKH SETTLEMENT REMAINS UNCHANGED
There have been no changes in either the format or the content of Armenia's strategy with regard to resolving the Karabakh conflict, Vartan Oskanian told a press conference in Yerevan on 16 September, according to Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. Oskanian predicted that following the 15 October Azerbaijani presidential election, the three co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group will intensify their efforts to mediate a solution to the conflict. But he said it is not clear whether those efforts will bear fruit. Visiting Yerevan and Baku last week, the newly appointed Russian co-chairman, Yurii Merzlyakov, said the co-chairmen will unveil a new peace plan when they visit Armenia and Azerbaijan in late October or early November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2003). Oskanian said on 16 September that the new peace proposal will be "a new version of the old proposals" with "new emphases." He did not elaborate. LF

PACE SLAMS PRESIDENTIAL-ELECTION CAMPAIGN IN AZERBAIJAN
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) delegation currently visiting Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2003) issued a statement on 16 September listing its concerns over the country's ongoing presidential-election campaign, Turan reported. They said the composition of the Central Election Commission (CEC), 10 of whose members are nominated by political parties loyal to the authorities and five by opposition parties, "is a source of major concern," and called on the CEC to "take urgent steps to meet the requirements of the election law." They advocated that the outcome of the ballot be made public immediately, even though the Election Law provides for a delay of 48 hours. They criticized "the heavy media bias in favor of the incumbent president and his supporters," and noted numerous complaints by opposition candidates and NGOs of harassment and intimidation by the authorities. They said the resulting "prevailing climate of overall political mistrust...creates a tense if not explosive political situation," and called on the authorities to use the remaining four weeks before the ballot to create equitable conditions for all candidates in order to ensure the election is free and fair. LF

TOP RUSSIAN OFFICIAL VISITS AZERBAIJAN
Russian presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin met in Baku on 16 September with Azerbaijani Prime Minister Ilham Aliev, Turan and Russian news agencies reported. Aliev expressed satisfaction at the improvement in relations between the two countries in recent years, adding that "our task is to ensure that the relations...develop like [those of] strategic partners." Voloshin, too, said the close historic ties between the two countries should serve as the impetus for closer integration. He added that no date has yet been set for a planned visit to Baku by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Voloshin also met with Azerbaijani presidential administration head Ramiz Mekhtiev. LF

FUGITIVE GEORGIAN EX-MINISTER REGISTERED AS PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE
Former State Security Minister Igor Giorgadze has been registered as a candidate to contest the 2 November parliamentary election in a constituency in Samtredia, western Georgia, according to "Mtavari gazeti" on 17 September, as quoted by Caucasus Press. Giorgadze fled Georgia in the fall of 1995 after being accused of masterminding the car-bomb attack on then-parliament Chairman Eduard Shevardnadze. Although Interpol has issued a warrant for his arrest, he has given numerous interviews to Russian media outlets, in which he claims to enjoy popular support in Georgia (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 11 February and 7 April 2000). The Central Election Commission has asked the Interior Ministry to clarify whether Giorgadze has been resident in Georgia for the past two years, as required by the Election Law, Caucasus Press reported. Giorgadze was denied registration as a candidate in the 1999 parliamentary and 2000 presidential elections because he did not meet that residence requirement. LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITION SAYS ZHAQIYANOV FILM WAS FAKED
Members of the political council of the opposition Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) association Asylbek Kozhakhmetov and Petr Svoik told a news conference in Almaty on 16 September that a film shown the previous day by the National Security Committee of imprisoned DVK co-founder Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov was faked, Interfax-Kazakhstan and Deutsche Welle reported. The film was shown to journalists to back up the National Security Committee account of Zhaqiyanov's request for a presidential pardon (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2003). The National Security Committee asserts that Zhaqiyanov offered to leave politics in return for a pardon and a promise that no further criminal cases would be filed against him. Kozhakhmetov and Svoik asserted that the film had been heavily edited to create the impression desired by the authorities in an effort to discredit the opposition before the 20 September local elections. Svoik added that the authenticity of the film could not be checked with Zhaqiyanov himself, because he is not allowed to use the telephone in prison. BB

KAZAKH PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER CONSIDERS CREATING OWN POLITICAL PARTY
Dariga Nazarbaeva, head of the official Kazakh television system and eldest daughter of President Nursultan Nazarbaev, told journalists in Pavlodar on 16 September that she is considering turning the public association Asar into a political party, centrasia.ru reported today. She and nine other prominent figures founded Asar in May 2003 with the stated goal of providing help to less-well-off segments of the population and to young people. The name of the association means "mutual assistance." Nazarbaeva has been promoting Asar, which reportedly now has branches in almost all oblast administrative centers, to groups of university students during her current trip through northern Kazakhstan, telling them that young people should play a greater role in the country's political life. BB

KYRGYZSTAN RECEIVES $5 MILLION FROM WORLD BANK FOR WASTE-DUMP RENOVATION
The World Bank is financing a $5 million project to rehabilitate uranium-tailings dumps in Kyrgyzstan, Interfax reported on 16 September, quoting the Kyrgyz government press service. Most of the money will be used for the renovation of the waste dumps around the town of Maili-Suu in southern Kyrgyzstan, which have attracted international attention because of their potential to contaminate the Syr-Darya River. Two grants of $370,000 each have been allocated for feasibility studies of renovating the Maili-Suu dumps and the nuclear-waste storage facilities at Kajisai in Issyk-Kul Oblast. The World Bank has estimated that rehabilitation of all nuclear-waste sites in Kyrgyzstan will cost more than $20 million. BB

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTY FILES SUIT AGAINST NATIONAL GUARD CHIEF
The Kyrgyz opposition Ar-Namys Party has carried out its threat, made in April, to file a libel suit against National Guard commander General Abdygul Chotbaev, gazeta.kg reported on 16 September. The party charges that it was slandered in an article by Chotbaev that appeared in "Argumenty i fakty Kyrgyzstana," No. 17, on 23 April, in which he asserted that through its opposition activities Ar-Namys was "earning" the financial support of the United States. The party, and the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek, vehemently rejected Chotbaev's assertion that the United States was supporting Ar-Namys (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2003). The party is demanding a public apology from Chotbaev, a printed retraction, and 5 million soms ($116,000) each from the general and the newspaper in compensation for damages to party members. BB

FOREIGN NGOS CALL FOR PROTECTION OF KYRGYZ HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE
Representatives of foreign nongovernmental organizations working in Kyrgyzstan distributed a statement on 15 September calling for protection of the Kyrgyz Human Rights Committee (KCHR), RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Deputy Justice Minister Nurlan Alymbaev on 15 September told journalists that neither side in the dispute over the leadership of the KCHR has applied to re-register the organization. Long-time Chairman Ramazan Dyryldaev was voted out of office during a special meeting of people who, according to the KCHR board, had no right to remove him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 28 August 2003). The same meeting elected Bolot Tynaliev, who had previously resigned his membership of the KCHR, to replace Dyryldaev. Now both Dyryldaev and Tynaliev consider themselves to be the chairman of the KCHR, which has been one of Kyrgyzstan's most prominent and uncompromising human rights groups. BB

TAJIK LICENSING AGENCY DELAYS DECISION ON INDEPENDENT TV STATION
The licensing commission of Tajikistan's state Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting has delayed for six months its decision on an application from the independent media holding Asia Plus to launch a television station, Deutsche Welle reported on 15 September. Committee officials said the application documents indicate that Asia Plus lacks the technical base and personnel necessary to operate a broadcast entity. Asia Plus already has a newspaper, an information agency, and a radio station, which began broadcasting in 2002. The report noted that it took Asia Plus four years to obtain the license to operate its radio station, and it only received the license after the personal intervention of President Imomali Rakhmonov. There are more than 20 private television stations in Tajikistan, but most broadcast only at the raion level. BB

TURKMENISTAN SHUTS DOWN CABLE TV OPERATORS AGAIN
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov had ordered the closing down of cable-television operations for the second time in two years, prima-news.ru reported on 15 September. He first ordered the closing of cable-television distributors in the spring of 2002, allegedly because he was offended by a program critical of him that was broadcast on a Russian channel included among cable offerings in Turkmenistan. The closing of cable operations was a serious blow to people who cannot afford their own satellite antennas to receive programs from outside the country, mostly from Russia. The cable operation in Turkmenabat -- Charjou -- was even broadcasting self-produced local news, which is practically unheard of in Turkmenistan. According to prima.news, cable operations started up again in a number of oblast centers soon after Niyazov's decree appeared. Now they are being shut down again, and according to the report, there are rumors that ownership of satellite dishes will soon be prohibited. These have sprouted throughout the country in recent years in both urban and rural areas. BB

RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION LEGISLATORS BEMOAN STALLED INTEGRATION
The Belarusian-Russian Parliamentary Assembly at its session in Mahilyou, eastern Belarus, on 16 September adopted a statement expressing "deep concern" about the lack of progress in the two countries' integration, Belapan reported. The assembly pointed out that the Russia-Belarus Union remains without a constitution that would establish a union government and allow elections for a common parliament. The assembly also deplored that the introduction of a common currency has been repeatedly delayed. Russian State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev, who also heads the Belarusian-Russian Parliamentary Assembly, called on Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to make a decision on the union constitution draft that was submitted the Supreme State Council of the Russia-Belarus Union in April. "The silence should not continue any longer," Seleznev said. JM

DISAPPEARED BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION FIGURES REMEMBERED
Some 80 people gathered in downtown Minsk on 16 September to mark the fourth anniversary of the disappearance of opposition politician Viktar Hanchar and his friend, businessman Anatol Krasouski, Belapan reported. Demonstrators held pictures of Hanchar and Krasouski, as well as those of opposition politician Yury Zakharanka and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski, who also disappeared in Belarus under unknown circumstances in 1999 and 2000, respectively. Hanchar and Krasouski were last seen on 16 September 1999 when they were leaving a public bathhouse in Minsk. In June 2001, some media outlets in Belarus received a videotaped interview with two former investigators who accused authorities of sponsoring a death squad to eliminate political opponents. The squad allegedly killed their victims with a pistol used for executions of people on death row (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 28 August 2001). JM

UKRAINIANS HONOR SLAIN JOURNALIST
Some 3,000 people gathered in Kyiv on 16 September to honor Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze on the third anniversary of his disappearance, Ukrainian media reported. Gongadze's decapitated body was found at Tarashcha near Kyiv in November 2000. The secret tapes made by presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko linked President Leonid Kuchma and former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko to Gongadze's killing. "[Gongadze] was the only journalist who took a solitary stand against the authorities," opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko told the gathering. "Kuchma and Kravchenko should be at this meeting and [should] beg for forgiveness on their knees," she added, according to the "Ukrayinska pravda" website. Earlier the same day, a cross was erected at the site near Tarashcha where Gongadze's body was found. "This is not just a symbol of the death of a man, this is a symbol of truth, of the fight for truth," Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz said during the ceremony. JM

GERMAN PILOT PAYS FINE FOR TRESPASSING, LEAVES UKRAINE
Erhard Ulver, a 74-year-old German pilot, has paid a fine of 3,400 hryvnyas ($640) and left Ukraine with two other German senior citizens, Interfax reported on 16 September. Ukrainian police on 18 August detained Ulver and his two passengers for flying a private airplane to Dnipropetrovsk, eastern Ukraine, without permission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 2003). According to the agency, the three Germans were meeting friends and doing some sightseeing during their one-month stay in Dnipropetrovsk. JM

RUSSIAN INTERIOR MINISTER WELCOMES ESTONIAN REFERENDUM DECISION
Boris Gryzlov hailed the results of the recent EU membership referendum in Estonia at a press conference with his Estonian counterpart, Margus Leivo, in Tallinn on 16 September, BNS reported. Gryzlov and Leivo had discussed fulfillment of the agreement -- signed in September 2002 -- on cooperation in combating crime and international drug trafficking in 2003 and 2004. Gryzlov also mentioned that he had asked about easing visa procedures for certain categories of Estonian and Russian citizens, such as students, business people making frequent trips to the other country, and representatives of specified organizations and political parties. He also had talks with Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar about the upcoming visit to Tallinn of Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Aleksii II. Savisaar noted he will pay a visit to Moscow before the end of the year, during which the two capital cities should conclude a cooperation protocol. SG

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES EU ACCESSION TREATY
The parliament ratified the European Union Accession Treaty on 16 September by a vote of 84-2, with one abstention, "Lietuvos rytas" reported the next day. The negative votes were cast by Julius Veselka, the leader of the non-influential, leftist political group "For Justice in Lithuania," and Stanislovas Buskevicius, the chairman of the rightist Young Lithuania. The result was expected as the EU membership referendum was approved in May by 91 percent of voters. The treaty will go into effect after it is ratified by the parliaments of the 15 EU members and 10 EU candidate countries. So far only the parliaments of EU members Denmark and Germany, and of EU candidates Cyprus, Malta, the Czech Republic, and Poland have done so. SG

VISITING ESTONIAN PREMIER CALLS ON LATVIANS TO VOTE 'YES' IN EU REFERENDUM
Juhan Parts joined by his Latvian counterpart, Einars Repse, urged the people of the town of Cesis in northeast Latvia on 16 September to vote in favor of EU membership in the referendum on 20 September, BNS reported. Parts said Estonia had chosen "to correct one of the largest mistakes in history" and to return to Europe with its vote for EU membership on 14 September, and expressed the hope that Latvia would do the same. Cesis was evidently chosen for the premiers' meeting as it was the site of a joint victorious battle by Estonian and Latvian soldiers in their fight for independence in June 1919. The prime ministers also held talks with Cesis Mayor Gints Skenders and other district officials, and inspected part of the Riga-Adazi span of the "Via Baltica" highway, which is being reconstructed. SG

POLISH, GERMAN POLITICIANS ARGUE OVER CENTER AGAINST EXPULSIONS
German lawmaker Erika Steinbach, who is also chairwoman of the League of Expellees (Bund der Vertriebenen), took part in a discussion with Polish politicians in Warsaw on 16 September of the controversial Center Against Expulsions that she wants to be established in Berlin, Reuters and PAP reported. "I was shocked by the Polish reaction," Steinbach said. "It disturbs me that the impression has arisen that we want to rewrite history." Steinbach offered to create a permanent Polish exhibit at the center in an apparent move to alleviate Polish fears that the center in Berlin would blur the distinction between perpetrator and victim in World War II. "You will not find acceptance for the project in Poland," Sejm deputy speaker Donald Tusk said. "Those in Poland who work for [German-Polish] reconciliation have lost some of their faith in the success of that process, and you are to blame for it," he added. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT OFFICIALLY APPOINTS NEW JUSTICE MINISTER
President Vaclav Klaus officially appointed Karel Cernak as the new Czech justice minister on 16 September, CTK and international news agencies reported. Cernak replaced Pavel Rychetsky, who resigned after being appointed a judge on the Constitutional Court. MS

REPORTS SAY CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER'S EARLY-ELECTIONS DRIVE SELFISHLY MOTIVATED
The daily "Hospodarske noviny" wrote on 16 September that the insistence of Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Miroslav Topolanek on early elections has personal motivations, CTK reported. The daily said Topolanek's Senate mandate runs out in December and he is seeking to be elected instead as a deputy in the lower house, where his influence on the ODS parliamentary group would become wider. It quotes Topolanek as saying, "We all know that it is a handicap for me not to be a member of the ODS's group of deputies." According to "Hospodarske noviny," Topolanek runs the risk of finding himself outside parliament if the parliamentary elections were to be held on schedule, in 2006. This would also considerably affect Topolanek's chances to defend his ODS chairmanship at the party's conference next year. Both "Hospodarske noviny" and the economic weekly "Euro" expect Topolanek's leadership to be challenged at that conference by opponents in the party, and above all by Vlastimil Tlusty, leader of the ODS parliamentary group in the lower house. Tlusty enjoys the support of President Vaclav Klaus, who did not back Topolanek's election as party chairman in December 2002. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER OFFICIALLY ASKS PRESIDENT TO DISMISS DEFENSE MINISTER...
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda officially asked President Rudolf Schuster on 16 September to dismiss Defense Minister Ivan Simko from the cabinet, CTK reported. The step follows Simko's refusal to support Dzurinda's demand to fire National Security Office (NBU) head Jan Mojzis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2003). Simko has already been dismissed as deputy chairman of Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU). Schuster is bound constitutionally to accept the premier's demand but did not say when he would do so. Reports say Simko's successor is likely to be SDKU parliamentary deputy Pavol Kubovic. MS

...AND VETOES BRUSSELS TRIP FOR NBU CHIEF
A spokesman for the NBU confirmed on 16 September that Premier Dzurinda refused last week to approve a trip to the NATO headquarters in Brussels by NBU chief Mojzis, TASR reported. The trip should have taken place on 10 September and Mojzis was to use it for talks with his NATO counterparts. MS

SLOVAKIA TO RAISE AGRICULTURAL SUBSIDIES
Finance Minister Ivan Miklos announced on 16 September that the government has decided in principle to raise subsidies for farmers from 45 percent to 50 percent of the subsidies paid in the EU, TASR reported. A final decision depends on the structure of the 2004 budget, which is to be submitted to parliament in October. TASR said the amended figure falls short of the maximum 55 percent the EU agreed to in the accession negotiations. MS

HUNGARY'S K&H EQUITIES AFFAIR BECOMES MORE AND MORE POLITICALLY ENTANGLED
Peter Kiss, who heads the prime minister's office, and opposition FIDESZ Parliamentary Group Leader Janos Ader on 16 September testified before Parliament's National Security Committee in connection with the K&H Equities embezzlement scandal, Hungarian media reported. Kiss admitted he was aware that National Police Organized Crime Unit leader Janos Bacskai met with broker Attila Kulcsar several times attempting to find out who was involved in the K&H Equities embezzlement and money-laundering scheme. FIDESZ had charged earlier that Bacskai acted as a mediator between Kiss and Kulcsar. For his part, Ader characterized his own meeting with Kulcsar as a "deliberate act of provocation" on the broker's part, and he charged that Kulcsar had probably been "sent" to him. Ader admitted, however, that he met Kulcsar after a friend's suggestion that "a big scandal is about to erupt at K&H Bank, and its threads could affect the top echelons of the [ruling] Socialist Party and the cabinet," "Nepszabadsag" reported. Ader told the committee that he met the former broker because, as a parliamentary member, he is obliged to try to pursue a matter to the end if he receives information regarding an issue of public interest. MSZ

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ENDS HUNGARIAN VISIT
On the second day of his official visit to Hungary, Romanian President Ion Iliescu on 16 September held separate talks with Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy and parliamentary speaker Katalin Szili, the MTI news agency reported. All three politicians stressed during the related press briefings that relations between the two countries have become more balanced in recent years. Iliescu told reporters that Romania appreciates the proposal put forward by the Hungarian cabinet that the Mano Gozsdu (Emanuel Gojdu in Romanian) Foundation be re-established under joint supervision and cofinancing. Gozsdu was the founder of a cultural foundation in the second half of 19th century that supported Orthodox ethnic Romanians in Hungary and Transylvania. During the communist regime, the foundation's properties were nationalized. As the final item on his visit, Iliescu participated at a celebration marking the 140th anniversary of the establishing of the Romanian department at Budapest University, and met with ethnic Romanians in Hungary's southeastern town of Gyula. Iliescu said the situation of the Romanian minority in Hungary is worse than that of the Hungarian minority in Romania and that Romanians have "sinned" by neglecting the fate of their brethren, Mediafax reported. MSZ

IS THE U.S. PLANNING TO PULL ITS TROOPS OUT OF THE BALKANS...
London's "Financial Times" reported on 17 September that unnamed "senior American military officers, particularly in the beleaguered U.S. Army, are pushing the Pentagon to withdraw all U.S. peacekeepers from the Balkans to make resources and troops available for overstretched operations in Iraq. Although the number of U.S. forces in the two NATO operations in the former Yugoslavia is relatively small -- 1,500 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, two-thirds of which are logistics personnel, and 2,000 in Kosovo -- people [familiar with] the internal Pentagon debate said the army has insisted on the move." The daily noted that "a pull-out would be a significant reversal for the Bush administration, which as recently as June brushed off EU overtures to take over the 12,000-strong force in Bosnia, arguing that [the United States] needed to keep a presence to hunt down Islamic militants in the region. Colin Powell, secretary of state, has repeatedly said U.S. Balkan policy is: 'We went in together and we will come out together.'" The daily suggested that the Pentagon wants the EU to do more for security in Europe because some key EU members are unwilling to be helpful in Iraq, calling this a "division of labor" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 10 September 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 November 2002, and 27 June and 5 September 2003). PM

...DESPITE POSSIBLE POLITICAL RAMIFICATIONS?
The "Financial Times" reported on 17 September that "opposition [to the pullout] from some Pentagon civilians, as well as State Department officials, centers on the diplomatic impact of withdrawing, as well as whether European allies -- particularly the French and Germans -- can successfully take over operations.... A withdrawal of U.S. forces could be particularly problematic in Kosovo, where local leaders have insisted only American forces can serve as neutral arbiters." Other observers note that many Bosnian Muslims as well as Kosovars regard the United States as the only "serious" military security force in the region and do not trust the EU to do the job. Such observers argue that a withdrawal of U.S. forces would prompt some leaders in the region to take security matters into their own hands again rather than trust the EU (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 10 September 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 November 2002, and 27 June and 5 September 2003). PM

SERBIA TO VOTE FOR A PRESIDENT -- AGAIN
Natasa Micic, who is speaker of the Serbian parliament and acting Serbian president, announced on 17 September that a presidential vote will be held on 16 November, dpa reported. She stressed that "the authority and legitimacy of an elected president would contribute to the adoption of the new [Serbian] constitution more than any acting president could," adding that campaigning can begin on 18 September. Anticipating her announcement, the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition announced the previous day that it will nominate a candidate "next week," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Serbia and Montenegro's Defense Minister Boris Tadic said that it would be "irresponsible" of him to seek the presidency because he has important tasks to carry out in reforming the military. Previous Serbian presidential elections in October and December 2002 were inconclusive or invalid (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 and 18 October and 13 December 2002). Critics say that the new election is likely to fail too, unless the rules are changed first. The post is little more than symbolic, since real power lies with the prime minister and the government. The last president, Milan Milutinovic, left office in January. PM

PRESEVO ALBANIANS SEEK INCLUSION IN BELGRADE-PRISHTINA TALKS
Presevo Mayor Riza Halimi said on 15 September that representatives of southern Serbia's ethnic Albanian population should be included in the Belgrade delegation in upcoming Belgrade-Prishtina talks, just as some Serbs from Kosova should be members of the Prishtina team, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic has previously rejected similar proposals from Presevo Valley Albanian leaders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23, 25, and 30 June 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 and 20 June 2003). PM

KOSOVA GETS ITS 'OWN' AIRLINE
Kosova's Minister of Transport and Telecommunications Zef Morina signed an agreement in Prishtina on 16 September with Hamburg International to make that small private German airline Kosova's "designated carrier," dpa reported. Morina hailed the move, saying "this is a big day for Kosova. The designated air carrier will bring important revenues to the Kosova budget." Hamburg International won over rival bids from Slovenia's Adria Airways, Serbia's JAT, and Kosova Airways, which is a joint project of several Kosovar travel agents. Norbert Grella said on behalf of the German company that it will fly under the name of Kosova Airlines with one aircraft to Munich and other destinations in Germany, and with a second plane to Switzerland, Scandinavia, Italy, and France. The UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) reported that 1 million people traveled in and out of Prishtina airport in 2002, making it the region's second-busiest airport after Sofia, Bulgaria. PM

NATO AMBASSADOR PLAYS DOWN SECURITY THREAT TO MACEDONIA
NATO Ambassador to Macedonia Nicolaas Biegman told the Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" of 15 September that Macedonia is capable of dealing with its own security problems by itself, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. He dismissed the recent unrest in the north as the work of "young criminals, who terrorize the local population. And that's it" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8, 9, and 10 September 2003, "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 and 12 September 2003). Biegman denied any link between problems in Kosova and those in Macedonia, saying that he knows no politician in Kosova who shows much interest in the situation in Macedonia, which is "too far away" for Kosovars. The ambassador nonetheless doubts that Macedonia will qualify for NATO membership before 2006, since it has many criteria to fulfill in the meantime (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 November 2003). PM

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES EXTRADITION-IMMUNITY AGREEMENT
On 16 September, the Macedonian parliament ratified a bilateral agreement with the United States prohibiting the handover of each other's citizens to the International Criminal Court (ICC) without parliamentary debate, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. The document does not use the constitutional name, the Republic of Macedonia, but only Macedonia. This is nevertheless seen in Skopje as a victory because the text does not contain the term Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, by which the country is recognized by the UN and other international institutions as a result of Greek pressure (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 8 July 2003). UB

BOSNIAN SERBS BEGIN TRIAL ON IRAQI ARMS SALES
The trial opened in Bijeljina on 16 September of five top managers of the Orao company which allegedly engaged in illegal arms sales to Iraq as late as 2002, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 2002 and 31 March 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report, " 25 October and 8 and 29 November 2002). Former Orao director Milan Prica said he was unaware that Iraq was under a UN arms embargo at the time, adding that trade was not conducted directly but through the Belgrade-based Jugoimport company. Critics have charged that Jugoimport enjoyed protection from top Belgrade authorities even after the ouster of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000. PM

CROATIA PLANS DIPLOMATIC OFFENSIVE
Following a meeting on 16 September between Croatian and Slovenian experts, Croatian Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Simonovic told the Croatian news agency Hina in Zagreb that his ministry will soon launch a diplomatic initiative to take its case for establishing an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Adriatic to a wider audience from the EU and Mediterranean countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 September 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 and 22 August, and 5 September 2003). Croatian and Italian experts are scheduled to meet in Rome on 18 September, and a multilateral meeting on the Adriatic will take place in Brussels the following week. In Ljubljana, Slovenian President Janez Drnovsek said he does not believe that Croatia will make a final decision on declaring an EEZ before the next elections, which must be held by the spring of 2004. He stressed that the two countries must have what he called a "European-style," rather than a "Balkan-style," dialogue on the issue. PM

EU URGES ROMANIAN PREMIER TO PUSH AHEAD WITH REFORMS
European Commission President Romano Prodi urged Romania on 16 September to continue implementing reforms and respect the engagements taken in order to prove that the country deserves the status of a "functioning market economy," Romanian Radio and AP reported. Prodi spoke after a meeting in Brussels with Prime Minister Adrian Nastase. The European Commission is expected to decide whether to grant this status to Bucharest in its next country report, due on 5 November. Nastase presented a series of measures that he said are to be implemented within one month to meet the EU expectations. According to Mediafax, these include: the selling of 25 percent of the Commercial Bank to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; selling a majority stake in the Roman Brasov-based Romanian truckmaker and in the Campulung-based ARO automaker or starting the liquidation procedure for the two loss-making state companies; the privatization of two electricity companies; continuation of restructuring of the Romanian railways; and presenting convincing guarantees that the privatization of the Petrom oil and gasoline distributor company would become irreversible. MS

ROMANIAN OFFICIAL SAYS UKRAINE TRIES TO CHANGE STATUS OF SERPENTS' ISLAND
Senate Foreign Policy Committee Chairman Ghiorghi Prisacaru said on 16 September that Ukraine is trying to transform the uninhabited Serpents' Island in the Black Sea into a settled island in order to claim exclusive rights over the oil-and-gas seabed surrounding the island, Mediafax reported. Prisacaru said this is inadmissible and if Kyiv persists in the attempts, Romania will take the dispute over the shelf surrounding the island to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Serpents' Island was ceded by Romania to the Soviet Union in 1946 and Ukraine inherited it after the breakup of the former USSR. In the basic treaty between the two countries that was ratified in 1997, Ukraine pledged to deploy no "aggressive weapons" on it and to consider it "uninhabited," which, under international maritime legislation, means that Kyiv cannot claim an exclusive economic zone around it. MS

ROMANIAN LOWER HOUSE ENDORSES 'TACIT APPROVAL' LEGISLATION
The Chamber of Deputies approved on 16 September a governmental ordinance aimed at cutting bureaucratic red tape and encouraging business, Mediafax reported. The legislation stipulates that an application for opening or extending businesses is considered to have been approved unless the authorities issue a negative response within 30 days of submitting the application. MS

SOLANA CONFIRMS EU READINESS TO PARTICIPATE IN TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT SETTLEMENT
In a telephone conversation with Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana officially confirmed that the EU is " ready and willing to support the quest of the Moldovan Republic in searching for a solution to the Transdniester problem," Flux reported on 16 September. Solana initiated the telephone talks after Voronin said last week that his country would welcome the EU's involvement in the current negotiations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2003). According to Infotag, Solana also responded positively to Voronin's invitation to the EU to open an office in Chisinau. MS

NEARLY TWO CANDIDATES RUNNING FOR EVERY ONE SEAT IN GAGAUZ-YERI ELECTIONS
Sixty-four candidates registered with the Gagauz-Yeri Central Electoral Commission for the parliamentary election slated for 16 November, Infotag reported. There are 35 seats on the Popular Assembly. The list of candidates includes 21 independents, 19 candidates of the Party of Moldovan Communists, nine Party of Socialists candidates, five from the Ravnopravie Movement for equal rights, four from the Socialist Party, and three from the Our Moldova Bloc. Several parties named only one candidate. MS

MOLDOVANS LEADING ON INTERPOL SEARCH LISTS
Since the beginning of 2003, Interpol has launched searches for 621 Moldovans suspected of different crimes, Infotag reported. These make up 23 percent of the suspects for which the organization is searching. Of the 1,349 cars stolen in various states that are Interpol members, 57 were found in Moldova. MS

MORE LAWMAKERS LEAVE BULGARIAN RULING PARTY
Two lawmakers of the governing National Movement Simeon II (NDSV), Emil Koshlukov and Dimitar Lambovski, announced on 16 September that they will leave the party, Focus news agency reported. They did so to protest the nomination of former National Intelligence Service Director-General Brigo Asparuhov as coordinator for the country's special services in the prime minister's political cabinet. Koshlukov said, "My convictions as an anti-communist and democrat make me believe that I cannot work with a former official of the [communist-era] secret services, a former lawmaker of the [postcommunist Socialist Party (BSP)], especially in this position." Lambovski said the main reasons why he left the party are the manner in which decisions are being made, the party's rules, and its name -- which refers to Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski's former role as the country's King Simeon II. Following the latest defections, the NDSV now has 107 seats in the 240-seat parliament. Both defectors hinted they have no intention of leaving the NDSV parliamentary group, which is possible -- at least in theory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February and 16 September 2003). UB

CONTROVERSIAL RUSSIAN REFORMER HEADS TO BAGHDAD
The Cold War ended not with a bang, or even a whimper, but a murky, messy series of events that sounds somehow tidy in a history-book retelling -- the decisive defeat of an entire political and economic system.

As change remade whole societies, the two sides that had officially glowered at each other across barbed wire for decades were already settling on the shorthand they would use to reduce history's murk and mess to simple, vivid images. For the West, those images would be the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disappearance of the "Soviet threat" -- the East's stifled masses rushing toward freedom, missiles vanished from Red Square, Gorbymania. For the East, the image would be "shock therapy" and privatization, at once more material and more abstract -- the sudden squall of market forces and the great redistribution of property in societies where no one had really owned anything.

In Russia, shock therapy and privatization call to mind two names: Yegor Gaidar and Anatolii Chubais. Gaidar's tenure in government was brief: deputy prime minister in charge of finance and the economy from November 1991 to June 1992, and then acting prime minister until December 1992. Working in conditions of chaos and crisis, Gaidar implemented a policy of "shock therapy" that aimed to wrench Russia into capitalism, most famously through the 2 January 1992 elimination of Soviet price controls. Although the policy eased goods shortages, it unleashed skyrocketing inflation that soon rendered Russians' savings worthless. Specialists continue to mull the minutiae of Gaidar's decision, but the vast majority of Russians returned their judgment long ago -- Gaidar impoverished them.

Though he was involved in parliamentary politics and pro-market party building, Gaidar faded from the front ranks of the public political elite in the 1990s. Today, as director of the Institute for the Economy in Transition, Gaidar has settled into the role of expert elder statesman on transitions to capitalism (at the ripe old age of 48).

And Gaidar's expertise on transition is once again in demand. Russia's chattering classes were abuzz last week with the news that the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority has invited Gaidar to participate in a three-day conference in Iraq on 19-21 September. An official at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow told "The Moscow Times" on 9 September that experts from nine Central and Eastern European countries will speak to 50 Iraqi leaders "with a view to explaining how European experience with economic reform might help Iraq manage its transition." According to "Izvestiya," other invitees include former Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov and former Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar.

For his part, Gaidar told a 8 September press conference, "Many of the problems they are encountering in Iraq stem from the collapse of a totalitarian regime with heavy state involvement in the economy," "Vedomosti" reported the next day. "[The Americans] want to figure out how to minimize the risks and privatize the economy as quickly as possible." Beyond that, he would only say that he needs to study the situation.

Gaidar left an ambiguous legacy, and many of the reactions to his upcoming Baghdad engagement were flush with faint praise. Sergei Aleksashenko, former Central Bank deputy chairman and current deputy director of the Interros holding company, told "Vedomosti" on 9 September: "Gaidar is one of the few people who knows how to reform an economy in a crisis situation. It's better to learn from other people's mistakes, and no one knows better than Gaidar the mistakes that can be made here." Marshall Goldman, associate director of Harvard University's Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, echoed the sentiment, telling "The Moscow Times": "Maybe this is not such a bad idea. Having seen what happened to Russia, he will be aware of the pitfalls. He can help Iraq avoid making the same mistakes."

Others were considerably less enthusiastic. A 9 September article in the London-based, Saudi-owned Arab daily "Al-Hayat" pilloried Gaidar, describing him as "one of the heroes of the 'reform' process that led to the collapse of the Russian economy and paved the way for the theft of the country's wealth." Evoking the Russian "national-patriotic press," "Al-Hayat" called Gaidar "one of Russia's most disreputable politicians, accused by nationalist parties of 'systematically destroying' the Russian economy. They charge that his policies were directly responsible for what they describe as the 'genocide of the Russian people.'" As if all this were not bad enough, the daily added that "Gaidar has, in past years, remained a faithful ally of the West, and especially the United States; he is also considered close to extremely influential Jewish circles in Russia."

The Russian business daily "Vedomosti" voiced a different variety of gloom in an editorial the same day. The editors concluded: "Gaidar...has suggested that privatization would be beneficial. If we recall that, aside from the oil business, there is nothing to privatize in Iraq, certain questions immediately present themselves: The United States would manage the transfer of oil fields to foreign companies on its own, and former Ba'ath Party members can't be allowed to have them. That leaves those who made money during the anarchy of recent months. These 'new Iraqis' are unlikely to be more popular with their fellow countrymen than the oligarchs are with Russians."

In point of fact, Gaidar is unlikely to have any decisive influence over the future course of the Iraqi economy. But the furor over his possible involvement in Iraq's transition -- which drew coverage and comment from virtually every Russian newspaper of note -- shows how many passions still stem from the period when Gaidar made the fateful decision to free prices and release the genie of market forces from its Soviet bottle.

The focus in Iraq today is mainly on political passions, the same passions that blazed so brightly in the early days of change in Russia and Eastern Europe. But the reaction to Gaidar's invitation illustrates one lesson from earlier transitions that could prove instructive in Iraq -- long after the political fires burn out, the economic embers smolder.

TOP AFGHAN JUDGE SAYS WOMEN CAN WORK, BUT MUST OBSERVE HIJAB
Commenting on the Council of Ulama of Afghanistan's recent recommendation that Afghan women should not work with foreign NGOs, Chief Justice Mawlawi Fazl Hadi Shinwari said on 16 September that women can work in these organizations but only if they observe Islamic hijab (dress code), Radio Free Afghanistan reported. "Only a woman's face can be left uncovered," Shinwari said, adding that Afghan women cannot travel for more than three days without a mahram (a husband or male relative she cannot legally marry). Deputy Chief Justice Fazel Ahmad Manawi supported Shinwari, saying some religious rulings cannot be changed. He added that in Afghanistan democracy can only function within the framework of Islamic rulings and asserted that mahram does not violate women's rights. Until the ulama (religious scholars) can find another solution, Manawi said, Afghan women cannot travel outside of the country without a mahram. Women's groups both inside and outside Afghanistan regard the travel limitations imposed on women as an infringement on women's basic human rights. AT

AFGHAN LEADER SIGNS NEW BANKING LAW
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai on 16 September signed a new banking code into law, Radio Free Afghanistan reported on 17 September. According to the new provisions, Afghanistan's central bank (Da Afghanistan Bank) will be separated from commercial banks and become an independent entity. In addition, the establishment of private commercial banks, both Afghan and foreign, will be allowed. Under the previous Afghan banking system, Da Afghanistan Bank was part of the Finance Ministry and all commercial banks were state-run. AT

PAKISTAN TO PUSH FOR TAP PIPELINE EVEN IF INDIA STAYS OUT
Pakistani Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister Nauriz Shakoor said on 16 September that his country will implement the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) gas-pipeline project with or without Indian participation, Associated Press of Pakistan reported. Construction of the TAP pipeline project, which is to transit natural gas from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan to Pakistan and beyond, is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2004. New Delhi's participation in the project as a purchaser of gas is crucial to TAP's economic feasibility, as Pakistan alone is not a large enough market for Turkmen natural gas and Afghanistan is not a significant consumer of natural gas (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 27 February 2003 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 28 May 2003). AT

ROCKETS TARGET AIRPORT IN EASTERN AFGHAN PROVINCE
The airport in Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar Province, came under rocket attack on 16 September, dpa reported on 17 September, citing Afghan Islamic Press. Only one of the four rockets fired landed near the airport, and no damage was incurred, according to the report. The identity of the attackers is unknown. The same airport came under rocket fire in August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2003). AT

IRANIAN POLITICAL PRISONERS' SUPPORTERS STAGE HUNGER STRIKE
Relatives and supporters of Iranian political prisoners ended a hunger strike on 15 September (reports did not specify when the prisoners' supporters started their hunger strike) with a meeting at the central office of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Party (IIPP), ISNA reported on 16 September. In addition to the families of Abbas Abdi, Hashem Aghajari, Said Razavi-Faqih, and Mohsen Sazgara, senior figures in the IIPP and the mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization were present at the meeting. Deputy Speaker of Parliament and IIPP Secretary-General Mohammad Reza Khatami expressed concern about the prisoners' health and the situation in the country's prisons, and he suggested that the killing of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi while she was in custody is indicative of this situation. Reformist cleric Mohsen Kadivar called for the unconditional release of the prisoners and described the meeting as a protest against the judiciary's method of operating. National-religious activist Ezatollah Sahabi described fasting as a symbolic way of giving hope to the prisoners. BS

CONSERVATIVE IRANIAN PARLIAMENTARIAN DISMISSIVE OF 'TWIN BILLS'
Boin-Zahra parliamentary representative Qodratollah Alikhani, who is a member of the conservative Tehran Militant Clergy Association (Jameh-yi Ruhaniyat-i Mubarez-i Tehran), said the executive branch's "twin bills" will get nowhere, "Resalat" reported on 16 September. These are two pieces of legislation introduced last September that would reduce the Guardians Council's ability to eliminate candidates for elected office and increase the president's powers vis-a-vis other branches of government. The Guardians Council, which must approve all legislation on constitutional and religious grounds, has already rejected the bills several times. Alikhani dismissed reports that the conservative political faction is willing to compromise. The conservative faction "will never be prepared to accept and approve the twin bills," he said. "The twin-bills question is not a small matter that can be resolved through negotiation and talks, since the principal leaders and decision makers have already repeatedly tried to hold talks without achieving any result." As a result, Alikhani said, "the issue of a compromise over the bills and the possibility of their approval is completely ruled out." Nevertheless, he predicted, there will be enthusiastic public participation in the upcoming parliamentary election. BS

IRANIAN PRESIDENT ENCOURAGES PARTICIPATION IN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION
President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami said in a 16 September speech in Sepidan, Fars Province, that the state must get ready for the upcoming parliamentary election and make preparations for massive public participation, Iranian state radio reported. "The people's presence in the arena will be an important source of support for the state and even for military forces," Khatami said. "That is because if the people are in the arena, military forces, which enjoy popular support, will smack all aggressors in the mouth." According to state radio, Khatami stressed the importance of supervising elections and the contribution of such supervision to the choice of candidates. However, according to IRNA, Khatami stressed the need for supervising elections but added that this does not imply an absence of choice. Furthermore, people should exercise free will in selecting their parliamentary representatives, according to the news agency. BS

REFORMIST IRANIAN POLITICAL PARTY CRITICIZES IAEA RESOLUTION
The Islamic Iran Participation Party in a 16 September statement criticized the 12 September International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution on Iran, saying, "No noble Iranian can accept the tone and content of such a resolution," IRNA reported. The statement went on to say that Iran and the rest of the world have the right to peacefully use nuclear science and technology. It expressed serious opposition to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, said nuclear weapons have no place in Iranian military doctrine, and added that Iran sees "political deterrence" as the most effective method of dealing with foreign threats. The statement said Iran advocates a nuclear-free Middle East and it encouraged all countries to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Turing to domestic politics, the statement said the best way to deter foreign threats is to meet public demands and strengthen national unity. BS

IRANIAN OFFICIAL SAYS U.S. AT WAR WITH ISLAM
Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said in a 16 September speech to seminarians in Mashhad that what he alleges is a U.S. campaign against Iranian nuclear activities is nothing other than a war on Islam, IRNA reported. The United States does not want the Islamic world to be equipped with modern and sophisticated scientific and technological knowledge, he said, and would not oppose Iranian nuclear activities if Iran was not an Islamic state. Hashemi-Rafsanjani said Iran should acquire nuclear technology to keep pace with the rest of the world. Hashemi-Rafsanjani praised the work of Iranian scientists and called on Iranian political parties to maintain unity. BS

U.S. ACKNOWLEDGES HOLDING U.S., U.K. CITIZENS IN IRAQI PRISON
The U.S. acknowledged on 16 September that it is holding purported U.S. and U.K. citizens at the Abu Ghurayb prison, 20 kilometers west of Baghdad, on suspicion that they participated in attacks against coalition forces, AP reported. Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, told reporters that eight individuals -- two claiming British citizenship and six purporting to be U.S. citizens -- are considered security detainees because of their suspected involvement in attacking or helping to carry out attacks against coalition forces. The individuals are currently under interrogation, she added. According to international media, the United States is currently holding some 4,000 individuals as security detainees for their suspected involvement in attacks on coalition troops in Iraq. KR

FORMER UNMOVIC HEAD SAYS IRAQ PROBABLY HAD NO WMD...
Hans Blix, former head of the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), has said he now believes that Iraq destroyed its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the early 1990s and that the United States and United Kingdom wrongly made the case for war, Reuters reported on 17 September. Citing an interview that Blix gave to Australian radio the same day, the news agency quoted the former chief weapons inspector as saying, "I'm certainly more and more to the conclusion that Iraq has, as they maintained, destroyed almost all of what they had in the summer of 1991." "The more time that has passed, the more I think it's unlikely that anything will be found," he said. Blix told the radio that Iraqis in the early 1990s spoke of "weapons concretely," but later talked only about weapons programs. "Maybe [U.S. weapons inspectors] will find some documents of interest," he said. Blix headed UNMOVIC for three years before retiring in June (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 12 June 2003). He was succeeded by Demetrius Perricos. KR

...AS IRAQI SCIENTISTS CONFIRM THERE WAS NO NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iraqi scientists working for the Iraqi Governing Council have confirmed that the regime of deposed President Saddam Hussein did not have an active nuclear-weapons program for more than a decade, AFP reported on 16 September. The revelation corresponded with recent statements by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Muhammad el-Baradei that his agency's inspections uncovered no proof that Iraq had a functioning nuclear program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2003). Albas Balassem of the newly established Iraqi Science and Technology Ministry said in Vienna on 16 September following a meeting with IAEA officials that "there was no way [for Iraq] to revive those attempts" to produce nuclear weapons. "There was noting left" following the 1991 Gulf War, he added. Meanwhile, another ministry official, B.A. Marouf, told reporters that U.S. inspectors working for the Iraq Survey Group have not "found anything to date" indicating that Hussein had an active nuclear program. KR

OPEC APPROVES IRAQI ATTENDANCE AT UPCOMING MEETING
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has approved Iraq's attendance at the next gathering of OPEC ministers, scheduled to be held in Vienna on 24 September, international media reported on 16 September. New Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum will head the Iraqi delegation to the conference, Reuters reported. The invitation signals an at least tacit acknowledgement of the U.S.-led interim Iraqi government. Iraqi officials did not attend the oil cartel's last three meetings, held in April, June, and July, because there was not an officially recognized government in place (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 4 July 2003). KR

U.S. COMMANDER APPEALS TO FORMER IRAQI DEFENSE MINISTER TO SURRENDER
David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in charge of northern Iraq, reportedly issued an appeal to former Iraqi Defense Minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad through a letter dated 28 August, asking Ahmad to surrender in exchange for Petraeus's guarantee that he will be treated with the "utmost dignity and respect" while in Petraeus's custody, AP reported on 16 September. The news agency was given access to the letter, in which Petraeus acknowledges Ahmad's reputation as "a man of honor and integrity." "I am concerned that your perceived resistance to the coalition's efforts to bring back this country's honor is detrimental and will result in further...loss of lives," Petraeus wrote. AP reported that a Kurdish human rights activist, Dawud Bagistani, has been mediating Ahmad's surrender to U.S. forces. It is widely believed that Ahmad fell out of favor with former President Hussein and was under house arrest in March when the war began. "If we were not certain of his innocence, we wouldn't have intervened," Bagistani said in an interview, adding that Ahmad is liked by Arabs, Kurds, Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims, and Christians. It appears that the former defense minister will surrender to U.S. forces in the coming days. KR

RELIGIOUS, NOTABLE, AND TRIBAL LEADERS IN SOUTHERN IRAQ WORKING ON DISARMAMENT, SECURITY
The religious authorities in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Najaf have entered into a dialogue with local tribal leaders to discuss ways of safeguarding public order and establishing security in the region, Baghdad's "Al-Zaman" reported on 16 September. The daily also reported that notable figures in Al-Basrah have met with tribal leaders to discuss disarmament -- specifically, the possibility of both groups handing over their weapons to coalition forces. A number of meetings were also held to discuss the need for the tribes to not grant safe haven to criminals, the daily reported. KR

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