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Newsline - September 18, 2003


MOSCOW SAYS MIDEAST PEACEKEEPERS UNDER UN MANDATE WOULD BE 'USEFUL'
Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Fedotov said on 17 September that Russia might participate in international peacekeeping forces in the Middle East if "a relevant decision is made by the UN Security Council," Russian media reported. Fedotov said it would be "useful" to bring "international forces or international observers" into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict zone in order to pressure the parties to the conflict to fulfill their obligations under the so-called road-map peace plan. In an oblique criticism of the United States' veto on 17 September of a draft UN resolution demanding that Israel halt threats to expel Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, Fedotov added that the Security Council's "inability" to adopt the resolution confirmed the need to step up international efforts to resolve the crisis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2003). JB

U.S., RUSSIA DISCUSS PROLIFERATION AND IRAN...
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton held talks in Moscow with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak on 17 September, Russian and international media reported. Bolton told Interfax following the meeting that he and Kislyak discussed arms control and arms proliferation, and the issue of Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran. Asked about Washington's decision this week to impose sanctions on KBP Tula (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2003), a state-owned Russian company that the United States accuses of selling laser-guided artillery sells to Iran, Bolton said such sanctions are required by U.S. law and will be imposed on other Russian companies if they are determined to be doing similar business with Iran. "This issue is the subject of our constant attention," Interfax quoted Bolton as saying. JB

...WHILE MOSCOW SAYS RUSSIA WILL NOT BOW TO U.S. PRESSURE
Deputy Foreign Minister Kislyak was resolute in an interview conducted prior to his meeting with U.S. Undersecretary of State Bolton and published in "Vremya novostei" on 17 September. Asked whether the United States is exerting pressure on Russia about its "contacts" with Iran and North Korea, Kislyak responded: "I think our American colleagues understand very well that it is pointless to put pressure on us. We have our points of view. To the extent that they coincide with those of the Americans, we are ready to work and we are working together to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons." Kislyak also said it is "extremely disappointing" that the so-called Jackson-Vanik amendment -- a trade-restriction measure passed by the U.S. Congress in 1974 to punish the Soviet Union for limiting Jewish emigration -- remains in effect against Russia. Earlier this month, U.S. Representative Curt Weldon (Republican, Pennsylvania) called on U.S. President George W. Bush to lift the restrictions before he meets with President Vladimir Putin at Camp David in late September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 2003). JB

OLIGARCH THREATENS TO GO TO STRASBOURG...
Yukos oil company CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii has said his company might take the Russian government to the European Court of Human Rights over the case of Yukos shareholder Platon Lebedev, London's "Times" reported on 18 September. Khodorkovskii demanded an "open trial" for Lebedev, who has been charged with fraud and tax evasion in connection with the 1994 privatization of a fertilizer company. "We know the courts, especially at the lower levels, are subject to influence by the authorities," Khodorkovskii told the newspaper. "If the court's decision is what we expect the court's decision will be, we will take [the matter] to Strasbourg." On 17 September, the Moscow Municipal Court upheld a ruling handed down by the Basmannii District Court last month that searches conducted by law-enforcement officials at three Yukos affiliates -- Yukos-Moskva, M-Reestr, and Yukos-Lizing -- in August were legal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2003). Those searches were carried out in connection with the Lebedev case. JB

...AND EXPRESSES CONCERN ABOUT 'THE SINGAPORE MODEL'
Yukos CEO Khodorkovskii also told the "Times" that a battle is going on now within the Russian political elite between supporters of Western-style democracy and what he called "the Singapore model." "It is a term that people understand in Russia these days," he said. "It means that theoretically you have a free press, but in practice there is self-censorship. Theoretically, you have courts; in practice the courts adopt decisions dictated from above. Theoretically there are civil rights enshrined in the constitution; in practice, you are not able to exercise some of these rights." JB

INTERIOR MINISTER TARGETS PYRAMID SCHEMERS
Boris Gryzlov has complained to top ministry officials that some regional police forces have failed to pay sufficient attention to instances of stealing government funds earmarked for social programs for children, the handicapped, and pensioners, Interfax reported on 17 September. Gryzlov also said that "police do not fully use their capabilities for exposing, finding, and punishing members of criminal groups specializing in financial pyramid schemes," and ordered that a working group be set up to tackle the problem. According to the Interior Ministry, more than 500,000 people have fallen victim to financial pyramids in Russia over the past nine years, losing an estimated at 9.5 billion rubles ($300 million at current exchange rates) and $240 million in U.S. currency. During the same period, 324 criminal cases involving pyramid schemes were launched, 52 of which are currently on hold because the suspected perpetrators remain at large. The trial of Sergei Mavrodi, mastermind of the infamous MMM pyramid scheme, began in Moscow on 15 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2003). JB

DUMA VOTES TO INSURE MOST BANK DEPOSITS...
By a lopsided vote of 389-2, the State Duma on 17 September approved in its first reading a draft law that would provide government guarantees for most private bank deposits, Russian media reported. The law would cap government guarantees at 95,000 rubles ($3,100). The first 20,000 rubles in a citizen's bank deposit would be fully insured, and the next 100,000 rubles would be 75 percent insured. The proposed cap was controversial, but Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Arkadii Dvorkovich pointed out that most private bank deposits are smaller than 20,000 rubles, Radio Mayak reported. Reuters characterized the bill as "a critical move to restore the trust of millions of Russians in the private banking system" and "a central part of banking-sector reform needed to create a competitive environment for private and state-run banks." LB

...TO RAISE MINIMUM WAGE...
The Duma on 17 September unanimously approved in its third and final reading a draft law to raise the minimum monthly wage to 600 rubles ($19.61) from 450 rubles, Russian media reported. If passed by the upper house and signed by the president, the law would take effect on 1 October 2003. Its impact would extend far beyond Russians working for low wages, as numerous payments -- including some social benefits and civil fines -- are calculated in terms of multiples of the monthly minimum wage. During the last 10 years, Russian parliaments and governments have frequently approved wage and pension hikes in the run-up to national elections. LB

...AND TO EXPAND SOME OFFICIALS' AUTHORITY TO ISSUE FIREARMS
The Duma on 17 September passed in its first reading an amendment to the law on weapons that would increase the number of "militarized" state organizations, Russian media reported. According to Interfax, the top officials in such organizations would be authorized to issue firearms, not only to employees of their own agencies, but also to private citizens who are carrying out "tasks and functions of state militarized organizations." The amendment passed narrowly with 229 votes over the objections of the Communist faction and former Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, a deputy in the Fatherland-Unified Russia faction, lenta.ru reported. Also on 17 September, the Duma overwhelmingly rejected in the first reading another proposed amendment to the law on weapons that would have expanded the list of firearms that citizens may own and carry for purposes of self-defense. LB

RIVALRY AMONG PARTIES OF POWER HEATS UP
Valerii Bogomolov, secretary of the Unified Russia General Council, on 17 September accused Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov of using his official position to promote his Party of Life, Russian media reported. While Mironov was on a visit to Chita Oblast, Bogomolov complained to journalists in Moscow that "for the last five or six months, the Federation Council has been turning into a branch of the Party of Life." At first glance, the electoral bloc of Mironov's party and Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev's Party of Russia's Rebirth appears to pose little threat to front-runner Unified Russia. However, the Mironov/Seleznev bloc could deprive Unified Russia of a first-place showing on the party-list ballot if it attracts even a small percentage of voters inclined to back a "party of power." Unified Russia's previous incarnation, Unity, was the leading beneficiary of so-called "administrative resources" during the 1999 Duma campaign. LB

JUSTICE MINISTRY SCORES COURT VICTORY IN LIBERAL RUSSIA CONTROVERSY
The Astrakhan Oblast Court on 17 September dealt a blow to businessman Boris Berezovskii and the Liberal Russia activists who remain loyal to him. According to gazeta.ru, the oblast court upheld the Justice Ministry's appeal of a lower-court ruling that lent legitimacy to a party congress called by the pro-Berezovskii Liberal Russia faction (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September 2003). The Justice Ministry refused to recognize documents approved at that congress, which would have named Berezovskii as a party-list candidate for the Duma and would have expelled the Liberal Russia leaders who orchestrated Berezovskii's expulsion from that party last year. The oblast court returned the case to the Turusovskii District Court for review. LB

ANTI-YAVLINSKII GROUP TO SUE YABLOKO DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
Igor Morozov, leader of the Yabloko Without Yavlinskii movement, on 17 September announced plans to sue Yabloko Deputy Chairman Sergei Mitrokhin for calling the movement a "provocation" and "black public relations," REN-TV reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 2003). Morozov claimed his movement is genuine, and that regional Yabloko activists are leaving the party in droves. He also predicted that Yabloko will cease to exist as a political party in 2004, regardless of what happens in the December elections to the State Duma. Some Yabloko members have accused Alfred Kokh, campaign manager for the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), of creating the Yabloko Without Yavlinskii movement in order to discredit Yabloko and its leader, Duma Deputy Grigorii Yavlinskii, on the eve of the Duma campaign. LB

MAIN RIVALS TO REMAIN ON ST. PETERSBURG BALLOT
Time has run out on lawsuits aimed at striking gubernatorial candidates off the ballot for the 21 September election in St. Petersburg, gazeta.ru reported on 17 September, citing Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov. St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Anna Markova sought to revoke the registration of presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District Valentina Matvienko, while rival candidate Viktor Yefimov sued to have Markova removed from the ballot. The St. Petersburg Municipal Court has rejected both of those lawsuits. Although the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear Yefimov's appeal on 18 September, Veshnyakov pointed out that under Russia's new election law a court can remove a candidate from the ballot no later than five days before the election. Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies have filed criminal libel charges against the general director of the printing company that allegedly produced fabricated -- and unflattering -- versions of Matvienko's official campaign newsletter, Interfax reported on 17 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2003). LB

CHECHEN SUPREME COURT REJECTS ELECTION COMPLAINT...
The Chechen Supreme Court rejected on 17 September a suit by presidential candidate and former district administrator Shamil Buraev, Reuters and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. Buraev argued that Chechen administration head Akhmad-hadji Kadyrov, widely regarded as the favorite in the 5 October presidential ballot, violated the election law by broadcasting television footage of his meeting with President Putin to discuss compensation for Chechen families whose homes have been destroyed in the war. The court ruled that the broadcast did not constitute unfair use by Kadyrov of "administrative resources" in his election campaign. LF

...AS ANOTHER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE WITHDRAWS FROM RACE
Colonel Said-Selim Tsuev, who is Chechnya's deputy military commandant, informed the Chechen Central Election Commission on 17 September that he is withdrawing his candidacy in the 5 October presidential election, ITAR-TASS reported. But Tsuev said that he will "continue to contribute to the political process in the republic," and that he is "ready to support the popularly elected president of Chechnya." The number of presidential candidates is now down to seven, including Kadyrov and Bugaev. LF

KREMLIN AIDE ADVOCATES 'EXECUTION SQUADS' FOR KIDNAPPERS
In a 17 September interview with Ekho Moskvy summarized by Interfax, Chechen Duma Deputy Aslanbek Aslakhanov, who recently accepted a post as an aide to President Putin, called for tough measures to put an end to abductions. "We need to do everything possible, even establish special execution squads, which would wipe out those who abduct people," he was quoted as saying. Aslakhanov argued that "we cannot speak of stabilization in Chechnya until every family ... can live without the fear of their father or son or brother disappearing, which can happen at any moment." Many experts believe a security squad commanded by Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov's son, Ramzan, is responsible for many such abductions. Kadyrov himself recently blamed them on an unidentified "third force," but a senior Russian officer serving in Chechnya has questioned that claim (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August and 2 September 2003). LF

MAN ARRESTED FOR ALLEGEDLY PLOTTING TO KILL ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER
A former Armenian National Security Ministry officer, Levon Abrahamian, has been arrested on suspicion of plotting to assassinate Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, Interfax and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 17 September, quoting Deputy Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian. A 16 September statement issued by the Prosecutor-General's Office announcing Abrahamian's arrest said only that he was suspected of planning to commit a serious crime using explosives. Abrahamian was sentenced to an eight-year prison term in 1998 on charges of kidnapping an Armenian businessman from Iran, but was released under an amnesty in 2001. LF

MANAGEMENT OF ARMENIAN NUCLEAR-POWER STATION TRANSFERRED TO RUSSIA'S EES
The Armenian government formally approved on 17 September the transfer for a five-year period of management of the Medzamor nuclear-power station to the Russian state electricity monopoly Unified Energy Systems (EES), ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. A spokeswoman for Armenia's Energy Ministry explained that under the relevant agreement signed earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 2003), Armenia will retain ownership of Medzamor and responsibility for its safety and technical condition. EES will be responsible for the station's finances and has undertaken to invest in safety measures specified in a separate agreement between the Armenian government and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). LF

ARMENIAN OFFICIALS DISCUSS PLANNED WORLD ORGANIZATION
Millionaire businessman Ara Abramian, who is chairman of the Union of Armenians of Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 2000), met in Yerevan on 17 September with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian to discuss plans for establishing a World Organization of Armenians, ITAR-TASS reported. Abramian told journalists after the meeting that the founding congress of the new organization will take place in Moscow on 6-7 October. According to ITAR-TASS, the main objectives of the new organization will be to strengthen the Republic of Armenia, to obtain international recognition of the 1915 genocide of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey, to achieve a peaceful solution to the Karabakh conflict, and to combat international terrorism and poverty. LF

TWO AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION LEADERS SIGN COALITION AGREEMENT
As widely anticipated, the leaders of the Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP) and the progressive wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHCP), Etibar Mamedov and Ali Kerimli, signed a formal agreement in Baku on 17 September under which Kerimli will withdraw his candidacy in the 15 October presidential election in favor of Mamedov, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2003). Reuters on 17 September quoted Mamedov as saying that "the overall goal of the coalition is to strengthen integration among democratic rightist forces in the fight against the governing regime." Should Mamedov be elected president, the AHCP will participate on a parity basis in forming the new government and will nominate the prime minister. If Mamedov is not elected, the agreement becomes void after 15 October. LF

LEADING AZERBAIJANI NEWSPAPERS SIGN MEMORANDUM ON ELECTION COVERAGE
Reacting to an initiative by Azerbaijan's recently created Press Council, the editors of Azerbaijan's leading print media signed a memorandum in Baku on 17 September undertaking to observe strict objectivity in their coverage of the ongoing presidential-election campaign and to refrain from libelous statements, zerkalo.az reported on 18 September. The signatories further pledge to give all presidential candidates the opportunity to publicize their campaign programs and to respond to criticism. LF

U.S. DIPLOMAT SAYS AZERBAIJANI ELECTION MUST BE FREE AND FAIR
At his first press conference since his arrival in Baku, new U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Reno Harnish called on the Azerbaijani leadership on 17 September to ensure that the 15 October presidential ballot is "free and fair...in line with international standards," and to punish severely anyone who tries to falsify the outcome, Turan reported. Harnish stressed that Washington does not support a specific presidential candidate, and that it is for the electorate to exercise its right to choose a new president. He said Washington is concerned not only about the actual voting, but also the conduct of the election campaign. He said all candidates should have equal access to the media and be able to meet with voters and hold campaign rallies. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT DEMANDS REVISION OF 2004 DRAFT BUDGET
A Georgian government meeting scheduled for 17 September was postponed after President Eduard Shevardnadze sent back to the Finance Ministry for amendment the 2004 draft budget, which was to have been discussed at the session, the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. Finance Minister Mirian Gogiashvili admitted to journalists that the draft budget contains a 120 million lari ($56.9 million) deficit. According to Caucasus Press, the total volume of the budget is estimated at 1.7 billion laris, and the deficit could be as large as 150 million laris. LF

TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS GEORGIA
Abdullah Gul met in Tbilisi on 15 September with his Georgian counterpart Irakli Menagharishvili and with President Shevardnadze, according to Caucasus Press and Anadolu News Agency, as cited by Groong. Gul and Menagharishvili discussed integration into European structures and stability in the South Caucasus. In a subsequent press conference, Gul stressed the importance of resolving the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in a manner that preserves Georgia's territorial integrity. Shevardnadze thanked Gul for the assistance Ankara has provided to Georgia in strengthening and modernizing its armed forces, Caucasus Press reported on 16 September. On 16 September, Gul met with Georgian Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze, who is the Georgian government's point man for the Abkhaz conflict, Interfax reported. LF

GEORGIA SIGNS NEW AGREEMENTS WITH BRITISH AIRWAYS
Georgian Transport Minister Merab Adeishvili and British Ambassador Deborah Barnes-Jones signed a memorandum of understanding in Tbilisi on 17 September on the resumption of regular air communications between their respective countries by British Airways and the Georgian carrier Airzena, Caucasus Press reported. The agreement must be ratified by the parliaments of both countries before scheduled flights can resume. The Georgian government suspended British Airways' license in April on the grounds that it allegedly owed some $13 million in unpaid taxes. Turkish Airlines was similarly barred in late February from operating further flights to Georgia for the same reason. The dispute was resolved in July, and Adeishvili told Caucasus Press on 17 September that flights between Georgia and Turkey resumed that day. LF

ABKHAZ POWER-PLANT OFFICIAL ABDUCTED
The authorities of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia have threatened to suspend the delivery to Georgia of electricity from the Inguri hydroelectric station to protest the abduction of Amiran Uratadze, an Abkhaz who is responsible for security at that power plant, Georgian Energy Minister Mamuka Nikolaishvili told the independent television station Rustavi-2 on 17 September. Uratadze and a Georgian colleague were abducted by four masked men on 16 September in the village of Saberio in Abkhazia's Gali Raion. The Georgian was released after two hours. Abkhaz security officials blame Georgian guerrillas operating in Gali for the abduction, Interfax reported on 17 September. LF

UN ENVOY, ABKHAZ FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSS POLICE TRAINING
Heidi Tagliavini, who is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, met in Sukhum on 17 September with Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba to discuss the Abkhaz-Georgian talks scheduled to take place in Tbilisi under the UN aegis on 23 September, Apsnypress reported. They also discussed the proposed 20-man UN-sponsored police force that is to be deployed in Gali to protect Georgian displaced persons who fled Abkhazia during the 1992-93 war who decide to return to their abandoned homes. Tagliavini told journalists that Abkhaz police might visit Bosnia and Kosova to familiarize themselves with similar UN policing operations. Tagliavini dismissed as "a misunderstanding" media reports that Turkey has been invited to join the Friends of the UN Secretary-General group of states -- the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Russia -- engaged in trying to promote a solution to the Abkhaz conflict. Interfax on 17 September quoted Shamba as saying Sukhum would not accede to Georgia's proposal that Turkey join the Friends group. LF

PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW SOUTH OSSETIAN PREMIER
The parliament of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia has approved the nomination as prime minister of Igor Sanakoev, a businessman from North Ossetia and a citizen of the Russian Federation, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported on 17 September. Eduard Kokoyty, president of the unrecognized republic, sacked the entire government last month for failing to fulfill the budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2003). LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT SAYS UNIFIED ECONOMIC SPACE NOT AN ALTERNATIVE TO CIS
Nursultan Nazarbaev, on an official visit to Moldova, told journalists in Chisinau on 17 September that as far as he is concerned, the unified economic space being formed by Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan is not intended as an alternative to the CIS, nor is it intended to wreck the CIS as it presently exists, RIA-Novosti and khabar.kz reported. He was presumably responding to speculation in the Russian media that the association grouping the four strongest economies in the CIS would put an end to the commonwealth. Nazarbaev described the unified economic space as another attempt to create an association within the framework of the CIS to promote regional integration. The Kazakh president's visit to Moldova is intended to expand economic ties between the two countries, he said (see Moldova item, "RFE/RL Newsline II"). BB

CHAIRMAN OF KAZAKH LOWER HOUSE QUESTIONS USE OF ARMS BY UZBEK GUARDS ON KAZAKH BORDER
The chairman of the Mazhilis (lower house) of the Kazakh parliament, Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, told journalists on 17 September that he has asked Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov to clarify the situation along the Kazakh-Uzbek border, where there have been at least 16 cases of Uzbek border guards using weapons against Kazakh citizens since the common border was delimited, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The most recent incident was reported on 9 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2003). Tuyakbai asserted that such use of weapons by border guards is illegal. During the parliamentary session on 17 September, members questioned Deputy National Security Committee Chairman Maksut Narimanov about the shootings and were told that usually the Kazakh citizens were to blame for not using official border crossing points, and that the Uzbek guards defended their use of firearms by asserting that the Kazakhs were stealing cattle. BB

KYRGYZ FOREIGN MINISTER REJECTS U.S. CONCERN OVER JOURNALISM IN KYRGYZSTAN...
Speaking to the annual OSCE-sponsored regional conference on media in Central Asia that opened in Bishkek on 17 September, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov rejected concerns expressed recently by a U.S. State Department official about freedom of the press in Kyrgyzstan, akipress.org reported. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Lorne Craner, at a hearing of the U.S. congressional Helsinki Commission on 9 September, condemned Kyrgyz officials' use of criminal-libel charges against journalists and media outlets to stifle criticism, and cited the U.S. legal practice of requiring that officials prove malicious intent on the part of editors and journalists in cases of libel. Aitmatov said that neither Kyrgyz officials nor journalists are sufficiently mature for this practice to be introduced in Kyrgyzstan. In the minister's view, journalists first need to understand their responsibilities to society and to individuals. While officials should be open to public criticism, such criticism should be objective and based on solid evidence, he said. BB

...AND GIVES FIGURES ON MEDIA IN KYRGYZSTAN
In his opening speech on 17 September to an OSCE regional conference on the media in Central Asia, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov gave official figures on the number of media outlets registered in the country, kabar.kg reported. According to Aitmatov, 500 print media and 128 electronic media are registered. There are also about 800 websites, with that figure increasing rapidly. Aitmatov said the government seeks to expand Internet use by opening free Internet centers in rural areas and by providing schools with computers linked to the Internet. All national-level government agencies are getting websites, which is supposed to improve transparency and access for journalists and the general population. Kabar noted that Aitmatov's figures differ from those given by international organizations, which say that Kyrgyzstan has 689 print media and 126 electronic-media outlets. The news agency noted that only a few dozen newspapers and television and radio stations are functioning stably. BB

TAJIK ISLAMIC PARTY CHAIRMAN DENIES MURDER ALLEGATIONS
Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) Chairman Said Abdullo Nuri has denied allegations posted on the official Khovar website [http://khovar.tojikiston.com] that he was involved in the murder of a party member who had been appointed a raion-administration head, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 17 September. Nuri told journalists during a roundtable on the development of a multiparty system in Tajikistan that the article, which asserted that he had ordered the killing of Sobir Begjonov, head of Jaborrasulov Raion in northern Tajikistan, for "disobedience" was the handwork of the special services that are seeking to "discredit Tajik society." Nuri was quoted as saying he intends to demand that the authorities investigate the case. Begjonov was killed by unidentified gunmen on 24 May. BB

TURKMEN PRESIDENT WILL NOT PARTICIPATE IN YALTA SUMMIT
Saparmurat Niyazov let it be known on 17 September that he will not take part in the 18-19 September summit of CIS leaders in Yalta, ITAR-TASS and other Russian media reported. The quasi-official website turkmenistan.ru reported that the Turkmen delegation to the summit will be headed by Rejep Saparov, deputy chairman of the Halk Maslahaty (People's Assembly) and coordinator of CIS relations, and will include Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov. Niyazov will be making a working trip to the Caspian coast, according to turkmenistan.ru. Interfax, however, reported on 17 September that Niyazov is taking a brief vacation. BB

THREE HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS DETAINED IN UZBEKISTAN
Three members of the unregistered Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan were briefly detained in Tashkent by police on 17 September after they had visited the Tashkent office of the U.S. nongovernmental organization Freedom House, centrasia.ru reported on 18 September, citing information from the Human Rights Society. The three -- Muimidinjon Kurbanov, Egamnazar Shaimanov, and Alikul Sarimsakov -- are from Dzhizak Oblast. Kurbanov was released almost immediately and informed Freedom House of the detentions. Representatives of Freedom House and the Tashkent office of Human Rights Watch, accompanied by the head of the Tashkent branch of the Human Rights Society, demanded that the police explain the detentions and were shown an article critical of Interior Minister Zokirjon Almatov that had allegedly been found in the possession of one of the detainees. BB

FORMER EAST-CENTRAL EUROPEAN LEADERS URGE ACTION AGAINST CASTRO REGIME
In a letter published in the British "Daily Telegraph" on 18 September, three former East-Central European presidents denounced Fidel Castro's regime in Cuba as "Stalinist" and demanded action from the West to support the Cuban opposition, AFP reported. Former Czech President Vaclav Havel, former Hungarian President Arpad Goncz, and former Polish President Lech Walesa said the Castro regime is exhibiting signs of "weakness and desperation," but they condemned current EU and U.S. policies vis-a-vis Cuba as a failure. "Europe ought to make it unambiguously clear that Fidel Castro is a dictator, and that for democratic countries a dictatorship cannot become a partner until it commences a process of political liberalization," they said. The signatories also criticized the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, saying that Europe and the United States should instead seek a common policy to pressure Castro. Critics of the trade embargo say it allows the Castro regime to deny responsibility for the acute privations suffered by ordinary people, AFP reported. Meanwhile, in Prague, Havel announced the establishment of an International Committee for Democracy in Cuba, CTK reported on 17 September. MS

BELARUS SAID TO HAVE SUPPLIED SYRIA WITH ANTIAIRCRAFT WEAPONRY
Belarus has provided Syria with hundreds of shoulder-fired, SA-18 antiaircraft missiles and launchers in a deal estimated to be worth more than $30 million, "Middle East Newsline" (http://www.menewsline.com) reported on 17 September, quoting "Western intelligence sources." The supply was reportedly sent in three shipments -- one in March on the eve of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the next in early summer, and the last in August. JM

BELARUSIAN PARTY THREATENED WITH CLOSURE
The Belarusian Justice Ministry has deprived the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPB) of its right to act as a political party, threatening to close the LDPB if it fails to respect its charter and submit correct membership data within three months, Belapan reported on 17 September. The ministry barred the party from holding conventions, street rallies, or demonstrations; forming political alliances; or having contacts with other parties or nongovernmental organizations during that three-month period. The move follows the ouster of LDPB leader Syarhey Haydukevich and an apparent split within the party at a recent LDPB congress (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2003). Haydukevich, who had asked the Justice Ministry to invalidate the congress, told Belapan that he believes the authorities have taken his side in the conflict. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT BACKS ACCESSION TO CIS ECONOMIC ZONE...
The Verkhovna Rada voted 291-13 to adopt a resolution vowing to support an accord on the creation of a single economic zone with Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2003) provided that it does not contradict the Ukrainian Constitution, laws, or international commitments, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website (http://www2.pravda.com.ua) reported. The resolution was supported by lawmakers from the pro-presidential majority as well as from the Communist Party and the Socialist Party. Our Ukraine and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, which oppose such a step, did not take part in the vote. In the resolution, the Verkhovna Rada expressed its hope that a single economic zone including Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus would enhance "the level of cooperation and international labor distribution," as well as help create new jobs, boost economic growth, and improve living standards in Ukraine. President Leonid Kuchma is expected to sign the accord during a CIS summit in Yalta on 18-19 September. JM

...AS DOES GOVERNMENT
Premier Viktor Yanukovych's cabinet has also endorsed the draft accord on the creation of a single economic zone by those four CIS countries -- with one reservation -- "Ukrayinska pravda" reported on 17 September, quoting government spokesman Taras Avrakhov. Avrakhov said the reservation essentially says Ukraine should commit itself only to those provisions of the accord that do not contradict Ukraine's constitution or international agreements. "The formation of a single economic zone should be implemented in the forms and within limits that will not hamper the pursuit of Ukraine's course toward European and Euro-Atlantic integration, and will not obstruct Ukraine's accession to the World Trade Organization in the shortest possible time," Avrakhov added. JM

ESTONIAN TRANSPORT TRADE UNIONS SIGN STRIKE AGREEMENT
Representatives of the Estonian Seamen's Independent Trade Union, Estonian Railway Workers Trade Union, and Estonian Transport and Road Workers Trade Union signed a joint strike agreement in Tallinn on 17 September, BNS reported. The unions have nearly 8,000 members and a strike fund of 5 million kroons ($360,000). Through a joint strike, they would be able to halt all airplane, ship, railroad, bus, and truck traffic in the country. "We have made a very powerful weapon for the protection of our members that we hope we are never going to need," Transport and Road Workers Trade Union head Peep Peterson said of the agreement. SG

CZECH PREMIER CALLS ON LATVIANS TO VOTE FOR EU ACCESSION
Vladimir Spidla paid a two-day working visit to Latvia on 16-17 September during which EU issues were the primary focus, LETA reported. In talks with President Vaira Vike-Freiberga in Riga on 17 September, the two officials agreed that it is unacceptable to divide the EU into large and small countries or old and new members and that each EU country should have a commissioner. Spidla noted that the countries have similar cultures and share the common history of regaining independence and having the opportunity to rejoin European institutions at the same time. Similar topics were also discussed with Prime Minister Einars Repse. Spidla also traveled to the city of Dobele, central Latvia, to take part in a discussion on EU membership with Justice Minister Aivars Aksenoks. SG

LITHUANIA NOT SATISFIED WITH PROPOSED REPLACEMENT FOR FORMER EMBASSY IN ITALY
Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Secretary Neris Germanas met with his Italian counterpart Paolo Pucci di Benisichi in Rome on 17 September in an effort to settle a dispute over Lithuania's former embassy in Italy, BNS reported. Lithuania purchased the building in Rome in the 1930s, but had paid off only 47 percent of the building's cost before it was turned over to the USSR. Russia, which still uses the building for diplomatic purposes, has rejected Lithuania's requests for its return. France resolved a similar situation in Paris by paying compensation with which a building suitable for use as a Lithuanian embassy was purchased. Italy has offered Lithuania another building, asking only a symbolical rent of 1 euro for a 99-year renewable lease. Germanas inspected the building and said it does not meet embassy requirements. It is reportedly located in an unprestigious area, lacks adequate parking, and requires extensive repairs. SG

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARY LEADER ADDRESSES POLISH LAWMAKERS
European Parliament President Patrick Cox told Polish legislators on 17 September that Poland will not lose its national identity by joining the EU, Polish media reported. "I'm convinced that participation in the European Union will allow you to preserve your Polishness more effectively in the present and future Europe," Cox asserted. Cox appealed to Polish lawmakers for cooperation in preparing Poland for accession regardless of political divisions. Lawmakers of the right-wing League of Polish Families (LPR) walked out of the session during Cox's speech. LPR deputy head Roman Giertych told journalists that the LPR's walkout was a protest against Cox's statement earlier this year describing the expulsion of Germans from Poland after World War II as unjust and illegal. JM

BERLIN CONDEMNS COVER OF POLISH WEEKLY
A German government spokesman on 17 September rebuked the Polish weekly "Wprost" for what he said was a "tasteless" picture on the cover of the weekly's latest issue showing German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder being ridden by Erika Steinbach, the chairwoman of the League of Expellees, dpa reported. The cartoon-style photomontage shows Steinbach dressed in a Nazi SS uniform, wearing a swastika, and riding on Schroeder's back. "This Nazi depiction has no merit whatsoever and is tasteless," the spokesman said. Polish-German relations have been strained in recent weeks owing to renewed debate over the idea -- promoted by Steinbach -- to build a Center Against Expulsions in Berlin in order to commemorate 15 million ethnic Germans expelled from Eastern Europe after World War II. Steinbach visited Warsaw earlier this week to explain the idea to Polish politicians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2003). JM

CZECH GOVERNMENT PLANS ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR EDUCATION, R&D AMID CUTS...
The government voted on 17 September to set aside 11.4 billion crowns (nearly $394 million) within its public-spending reform plan, CTK reported. Part of that sum would be used for education and for research and development, according to Deputy Premier Petr Mares. CTK said the Education Ministry would receive an additional 1.7 billion for higher education, while 800 million would be allotted to research and development. The cabinet thus disregarded a protest made earlier the same day by trade unions, which announced that parleys with the government failed because of the cabinet's "stubbornness." Unions spokeswoman Alena Vondrova said the government has refused to allocate an additional 6 billion crowns for the civil service, which will result in wage cuts for employees in sectors such as education. Vondrova said the 1 September "warning strike" by teachers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 2003) might expand into a more extensive labor conflict as a result. She also said Vladimir Spidla's government has violated a written agreement in which it pledged that annual incomes of civil servants will not decline. MS

...AS MAVERICK CSSD POLITICIAN HINTS HE WILL SUPPORT CUTS IN PARLIAMENT
Josef Hojdar, who earlier this week threatened to vote against the planned cuts in public spending (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2003), told the daily "Pravo" of 18 September that he might support the planned reforms after all, CTK reported. Hojdar, who left the Social Democratic Party's (CSSD) parliamentary group in July to protest the intended cuts, told the daily that he merely wants the government to make some minor concessions in its plan. His vote in the lower house is crucial in light of the slim one-vote majority of the center-left coalition. "I never said it was my intention to cause a government crisis...and bring about early elections," Pravo quoted him as saying. Hojdar also said he does not intend to resign from the CSSD and might return to its parliamentary group after the vote on the envisaged cuts, expected to take place after parliament convenes for its fall session. MS

CZECH PRESIDENT HAS 'NO NEW MESSAGE' FOR SUDETEN GERMANS
President Vaclav Klaus told journalists in Passau, Germany, on 17 September that he has "nothing new to tell" Germans who were deported from Czechoslovakia under the post-World War II Benes Decrees, CTK and dpa reported. Klaus said the past can be neither forgotten nor changed and the only solution is to look to the future. Klaus also criticized plans to set up a Center Against Expulsions in Berlin, adding that relations between the Czech Republic and Germany have never been better. Klaus said that for his country, the lifting of border restrictions is more important than adopting the European currency, and he predicted that restrictions will be lifted within three years of Czech accession to the EU. The Czech president was in Passau for an international forum that was also to be attended by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, former Polish President Lech Walesa, and Hungarian parliamentary speaker Katalin Szili. MS

SLOVAK INTELLIGENCE SERVICE SAYS NO LAWS BROKEN IN MOJZIS CASE
A spokesman for the Slovak Information Service (SIS) denied on 17 September that the SIS broke any law in connection with the screening of National Security Office (NBU) head Jan Mojzis, TASR reported. The SIS was accused by the daily "Sme" in its 17 September issue of improperly passing information to Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda on Mojzis's screening. "If the NBU director believes the law was broken or that the SIS illegally provided information to Premier Dzurinda, he should inform [police] investigators," the SIS spokesman said. Dzurinda failed in an attempt to have the government dismiss Mojzis, but continues to insist that it does so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2003). Earlier on 17 September, an NBU spokesman had described the "Sme" article as accurate. Slovak legislation prohibits the release of information on the screening process. The SIS spokesman said neither Dzurinda, President Rudolf Schuster, nor parliamentary speaker Pavol Hrusovsky has been granted access to such information. MS

SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS 'COMPROMISE' NEEDED ON EUROPEAN CONSTITUTION
Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan on 17 September presented cabinet ministers with Slovakia's negotiating position ahead of the Intergovernmental Conference on the European Constitution, slated to start on 4 October in Rome, TASR reported. Kukan said Bratislava will insist on the principle of "one country, one commissioner" and on national veto rights regarding EU decisions in the areas of taxation, defense, social policy, and economic cohesion. Slovakia will seek a mention of the continent's Christian values to be introduced in the European Constitution's preamble. Kukan said Bratislava also wants a clarification of wording in the draft document with regard to the rotation of the European Commission's chairmanship. He said the negotiations are likely to be difficult, adding that "it will probably be necessary to make acceptable compromises" during the talks. MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER ORDERS MINISTERIAL CUTS...
Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy on 17 September ordered a 10 percent reduction in staff at ministries and their subordinate institutions in a move designed to help save the government 300 billion forints ($1.3 billion), "Magyar Hirlap" reported. That figure represents the total decrease the government is seeking among budgetary institutions in 2004. Meanwhile, in a house debate called for by opposition party FIDESZ, its parliamentary leader Janos Ader charged that the country has slipped to near-bankruptcy in the past 18 months, since the Socialist-Free Democrat coalition came to power. MSZ

...AS CABINET APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL TAX CHANGES
The government on 17 September approved tax reforms that were recommended by the Finance Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2003), Hungarian media reported. While income-tax rates would be reduced by several percentage points, health-care contributions would rise from 3 percent to 4 percent and pension-fund contributions would lose their tax-deductibility. Those earning under 800,000 forints ($3,480) in annual income would be subject to an 18 percent income tax, while those earning 800,000-1.5 million forints would pay 26 percent and those making over 1.5 million forints would be subject to a rate of 38 percent. The plan would also raise the minimum monthly wage from 50,000 forints ($220) to 53,000 forints. The plan envisages a value-added tax of 25 percent on electricity and alternative heating sources, such as wood and coal. MSZ

HUNGARIAN DAILY CONFESSES TO TELLER HOAX
Hungary's "Nepszabadsag" daily admitted on 17 September that it published a bogus letter that was purported to have been written by nuclear physicist Edward Teller shortly before his recent death in the United States. Attributed to the Hungarian-born physicist who played a crucial role in the development of the hydrogen bomb and appearing on 15 September, the letter criticized Hungary's conservative opposition for behaving "like an internal enemy rather than a political opposition." "Nepszabadsag" conceded that the letter was written by a retired journalist who claimed to have been in contact with Teller before the controversial scientist died. The "letter" triggered a storm of protest in Hungary's increasingly fractious political arena, with the opposition FIDESZ party saying the newspaper "disgraced...Teller's memory." Teller was an avowed anticommunist, and his friends said he was unlikely to have backed Hungary's current Socialist-led government, which includes a number of former communists. Media groups demanded the resignation of the "Nepszabadsag" editor, with the Hungarian Electronic Press Association (MEUSZ) saying that "Hungarian journalism has hit a new low," Reuters reported on 17 September. MSZ

U.S. REEXAMINING BALKAN TROOP OPTIONS...
General Richard Myers, who chairs the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Prishtina on 17 September that the United States is reassessing its troop-deployment priorities, adding that one option "on the table" is for EU troops to take over in the Balkans, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 17 September 2003). He argued that the various U.S. troop commitments around the world "all add up." Myers nonetheless noted that Kosova or Bosnia-Herzegovina would be "a much bigger operation" for the EU than Macedonia, and hence "more difficult," adding that Washington will not act "unilaterally" on reducing troop deployments. He suggested, however, that the international community's emphasis in Bosnia and Kosova has changed over time from military tasks to ones involving policing and training. An unnamed NATO diplomat told the news agency that, in any event, further cuts in the overall size of SFOR and KFOR are likely in 2004. PM

...AS A BOSNIAN LEADER ISSUES A WARNING
Bosnian Prime Minister Adnan Terzic said in Brussels on 18 September that it is too early to withdraw U.S. and NATO forces from Bosnia-Herzegovina because they have not yet finished the job they came to do, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 17 September 2003). Terzic stressed that they must complete their mission before leaving, adding that any withdrawal must first be discussed at length with the Bosnian authorities. PM

PEACEKEEPERS MAKE MAJOR WEAPONS HAUL IN BOSNIA
An SFOR spokesman said in Banja Luka on 18 September that peacekeepers have found 40 tons of weapons and ammunition in four arms caches in the Prijedor area, two of which were in a cave, dpa and Reuters reported. SFOR confiscated a total of 2,330 mortar rockets, 433 rounds of small-caliber ammunition, 10 rifle grenades, two M-48 mountain guns, 917 kilograms of explosives, 238 antitank mines, four complete mortar systems, and one M-57 antitank gun. The discoveries were made over the course of three weeks. It is not clear when the weapons were hidden away, but many were improperly stored, rendering some of them unstable and hence potentially dangerous. PM

HAGUE TRIBUNAL DOUBLES BOSNIAN SERB'S PRISON SENTENCE
Appeals Court judges at the Hague-based war crimes tribunal decided on 18 September to increase the sentence for former Bosnian Serb prison-camp commander Milorad Krnojelac from 7 1/2 to 15 years, thereby overturning a lower-court ruling acquitting him on charges of murder and torture. Reuters reported. Prosecutors had appealed a 2002 ruling, saying that the lower court did not take sufficient account of his responsibility for the overcrowding, starvation, and forced labor at the KP Dom prison camp near Foca (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March 2002). PM

CROATIAN OPPOSITION LEADER WANTS CLARIFICATION ON ELECTIONS
Ivo Sanader, who heads the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), said in Zagreb on 18 September that the time has come for the government to set a date for parliamentary elections, which must be held by April 2004, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Sanader also demanded clarification of rules for Croatian citizens living abroad to cast their votes, particularly those in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The diaspora has traditionally been a bedrock of support for the HDZ, having helped launch and bankroll the late President Franjo Tudjman's party in the late 1980s. Polls suggest that the HDZ stands a chance of winning the largest single bloc of votes in a new parliament, but the government is likely to be formed by whoever can put together a sufficiently large coalition. PM

MACEDONIAN JUSTICE MINISTER PUTS AMNESTY BACK ON AGENDA
Justice Minister Ismail Darlishta told "Utrinski vesnik" of 18 September that he wants more people to be pardoned under the amnesty law covering guerrilla fighters in the 2001 interethnic conflict. Darlishta said he will discuss the issue with Public Prosecutor Aleksandar Prcevski, who believes the amnesty has been fully implemented. Darlishta acknowledged that relatives of some individuals charged with war crimes dating from 2001 have raised the subject with him. "I feel ashamed [before representatives of the international community] because we go back to the amnesty issue time and again," Darlishta added. An EU spokeswoman said on 17 September that the relevant international organizations believe the amnesty has been fully implemented, "Dnevnik" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January and 8 March 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 March 2002). UB

OPPOSITION SLAMS SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL VOTE
Officials of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and the G-17 Plus political party said separately in Belgrade on 18 September that the government's decision to call a Serbian presidential election on 16 November is politically motivated, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The DSS questioned the legality of the decision, while G-17 Plus called the move a political ploy aimed at putting off a parliamentary election as long as possible (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2003). PM

IMPORTANT GRAVE SITE BELIEVED FOUND IN SERBIA
Archaeologists in Serbia have found what appears to be the long-lost mausoleum of Roman soldier-emperor Caius Valens Hostilianus Messius Quintius in Viminatium near Kostolac in eastern Serbia, dpa reported on 19 September. He died of plague in 251 AD and was buried near the fortress settlement. Samples of DNA from the tomb have been sent to Australia for tests to see if traces of plague are present. Viminatium has been described as the "Pompeii of the Balkans" because it is well preserved under a layer of earth. PM

MONTENEGRIN OPPOSITION EDITOR ARRESTED
Police in Ulcinj arrested Dusko Jovanovic, the editor of the opposition pro-Belgrade daily "Dan," his paper reported on 19 September. He was taken to Kragujevac, Serbia, where the District Court is investigating him on unspecified charges. It is not clear exactly why Jovanovic was arrested. PM

RUSSIA AND EX-YUGOSLAV REPUBLICS AGREE ON DEBT SETTLEMENT
Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Kolotukhin and diplomats from the former Yugoslav republics signed a memorandum in Moscow on 18 September regarding Russia's payment of the former Soviet debt to Yugoslavia to the Yugoslav successor states, ITAR-TASS reported. A total of $1.29 billion will be divided on the following basis: Bosnia-Herzegovina 15.5 percent, Croatia 23 percent, Macedonia 7.5 percent, Serbia and Montenegro 38 percent, and Slovenia 16 percent. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT, PREMIER DISCUSS ENVISAGED SOCIAL MEASURES...
President Ion Iliescu and Premier Adrian Nastase met on 17 September for a "working session" in which they discussed measures envisaged by the government to help low-income families, Romanian Radio reported. According to the report, the government plans to double pensions for farmers in 2004, keep heating prices at the 2003 level, increase aid granted to poor families for winter heating and increase such allocations to families with numerous children. Observers stress that 2004 is an election year. The two politicians stressed that Romania must make all efforts necessary to meet the EU criteria of a "functional market economy." MS

...AND SPEAK ABOUT SECURITATE-FREE SECRET SERVICES
President Iliescu said on 16 September that he supports the drive to "cleanse the secret services of former Securitate members," Romanian Radio reported. Iliescu said the next meeting of the Supreme Council of National Defense will analyze the progress the Romanian Intelligence Service and the Foreign Intelligence Service have made in ridding themselves of members of the former communist secret police. Iliescu also said he supports making public the names of those who acted as "political police." In a message to an international conference on lustration in Eastern Europe last week, Premier Nastase said the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives' decision to make those names public must be "appreciated and encouraged." However, speaking in Baia-Mare on 17 September, Nastase said that not all those who served in the Securitate acted as "political police" and that "the Securitate cannot be condemned as a whole." He said that while some of its members acted as "political police," others "defended the national interest," Mediafax reported. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS HUNGARY OPEN TO COMPROMISE REGARDING MONUMENT
President Iliescu said on 16 September upon his return from an official visit to Hungary that politicians there proved "receptive" to a compromise solution suggested by Bucharest regarding the re-erecting of the Liberty Monument in the Romanian city of Arad, Mediafax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 September 2003). Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Chairman Bela Marko said the same day that his formation considers the compromise solution -- which is based on placing the monument, which commemorates the 1848 Hungarian revolution, in a "reconciliation park" alongside other monuments dedicated to Romanian historical figures -- to be "reasonable," according to Mediafax. However, Marko said, the UDMR is insisting that a deadline be established for the re-erection of the Liberty Monument and that the UDMR participate with its own specialists in the commission tasked with choosing the monuments that will be displayed in the future park. MS

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER OUTLINES POLICY OBJECTIVES
Addressing the two commissions on foreign policy of Romania's bicameral parliament on 17 September, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said the country's immediate foreign-policy goals are completing accession negotiations with the EU and seeing the NATO Accession Treaty ratified by all of the alliance's current members, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. "The year 2007 is certain for accession [to the EU] and we hope that the year 2004 will become certain for concluding accession negotiations," Geoana said. He added that he hopes Romania will finalize negotiations on five additional chapters in 2003 and close all chapters of the EU's acquis communautaire by next year. According to Mediafax, Geoana also said negotiations with the EU will continue even if Romania fails to receive the status of a "functioning market economy" in this year's European Commission report. MS

STANDARDS & POOR'S UPGRADES ROMANIA'S RATINGS
The international rating agency Standards & Poor's on 17 September raised Romania's long-term foreign-currency risk rating from BB- to BB, Mediafax reported. Short-term ratings for foreign currency and local currency remained at B. The agency said the upgrade reflects the stronger competitiveness of the economy and ongoing restructuring and modernization, combined with "continued robust growth driven by exports and investment." MS

ROMANIA LAUNCHES PROGRAM TO EDUCATE YOUTH ABOUT HOLOCAUST
At a ceremony in Bucharest on 17 September introducing a manual for teaching high-school students about the Holocaust, Culture and Religious Affairs Minister Razvan Theodorescu said that "Romania participated in the Holocaust and we have to face history," Reuters reported. Theodorescu also said that "the barbarism of the Holocaust was unique in history and should not be repeated." His statement contradicts a subsequently retracted statement made on 25 July by Romanian President Ion Iliescu and Theodorescu's own previous attempt to present the Holocaust as "not having been perpetrated on Romanian territory" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 17 June and 28 July 2003). Observers expressed dismay that at the ceremony, which was organized by the Wilhelm Filderman Foundation, Premier Nastase, Theodorescu, and Patriarch Teoctist -- a member of the Iron Guard in his youth (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 2001) -- were honored with distinctions by the Jewish foundation for supporting "the integration of Romanian Jews in Romania's history and in its present." MS

KAZAKH PRESIDENT IN MOLDOVA
Visiting Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev agreed in talks with his Moldovan counterpart Vladimir Voronin on 17 September to export 100,000 tons of wheat to Moldova at a moderate price in order to help Moldova overcome the effects of this year's drought, BASA-press and ITAR-TASS reported. The two presidents said they agreed to base future economic relations on the "principle of the free market." Nazarbaev and Voronin also discussed the possibility of Moldova purchasing Kazakh gas. Asked by reporters about the likelihood of Russia objecting to such a deal, since it would undercut prices charged by Russian gas suppliers, Economy Minister Marian Lupu said the Kazakh gas would transit Russian and Ukrainian territory and transit fees would help compensate Russia for possible losses. Officials representing the two sides signed agreements on boosting economic cooperation, exchange of information in the struggle against economic crime and tax evasion, and cooperation in culture. Nazarbaev invited Voronin to pay a visit to Astana. He also met with Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev and parliamentary speaker Evgenia Ostapciuc. MS

OSCE WANTS EU PEACEKEEPERS TO REPLACE RUSSIANS
OSCE mission chief to Moldova William Hill said on 17 September that an international peacekeeping force composed of 500 European soldiers should replace the Russian forces in Transdniester as soon as possible, according to Romanian Radio. He said the Russian troops should be "fully and immediately withdrawn" from the region. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SAYS GAGAUZ-YERI TO BE FEDERATION SUBJECT
President Voronin said at a meeting with Gagauz-Yeri Popular Assembly deputies on 17 September that the autonomous region should be the third subject of the envisaged federation, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Voronin said that "an asymmetric federation suits best Moldova's needs," and added that the autonomous region's separate status already figures in the current Moldovan Constitution. Tiraspol is rejecting the "asymmetric model" and wants the envisaged federation to be based on two equal subjects. It was announced in Chisinau on 17 September that members of the joint Moldovan-Transdniester commission tasked with drafting the federal constitution have concluded negotiations on the basic document's first section. The OSCE and the Venice Commission are to be consulted on some issues in line with an agreement reached when the joint commission was set up. Meanwhile, separatist leader Igor Smirnov said in Tiraspol that Transdniester will never be the side that breaks the negotiations off. "Otherwise we will lose forever our current position as an equal-right partner in the dialogue with the Republic of Moldova," Infotag quoted him as saying. MS

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT, UNIONS AGREE ON WAGE HIKES
Wages in the public sector will rise by 15 percent as of this month, Moldovan government and trade-union representatives agreed on 17 September, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The unions demanded a 50 percent raise but Trade Unions Federation Chairman Petru Chiriac said at the end of the negotiations that the unions are aware of the country's poor economic situation and intend to raise the issue again when the 2004 budget is discussed. MS

BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER EXPECTS 'DE-POLITICIZED' LOCAL ELECTIONS...
Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski told the private bTV television in a rare public interview on 17 September that for him, "it is important that [the 26 October local elections] be depoliticized." Saxecoburggotski explained that he expects the voters to pay more attention to the candidates' expertise than to their political agenda. The prime minister also called on citizens to go out and vote, because he believes in "the theory that a person who does not participate does not have the right to protest later." UB

...AS ONE OF HIS MINISTERS DREAMS OF A BULGARIA WITHOUT POLITICAL PARTIES
Sports and Youth Minister Vasil Ivanov "Luchano," the governing National Movement Simeon II's (NDSV) candidate for Sofia mayor, on 18 September told the radio/television program "Blitz" aired by RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service and bTV that in the 2001 parliamentary elections, the NDSV broke up the two-pole political model dominated by the Socialist Party (BSP) and the conservative Union of Democratic Forces (SDS). Vasilev added that the NDSV's aim is to eventually do away with political parties altogether and for the country to no longer be governed by political parties. Some observers note that it was under the rule of King Boris III, Saxecoburggotski's father, that all political parties were abolished and basic constitutional rights limited in 1934. UB

DEFECTIONS CONTINUE IN BULGARIA'S GOVERNING PARTY
Following two NDSV lawmakers' recent announcements that they will leave the ruling party, but not its parliamentary group, legislator Klara Petkova on 17 September said she will also leave the NDSV, RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service reported. Petkova cited the NDSV's nomination procedure for mayoral candidates as the reason for her decision. Another legislator, Hristo Mehandov, said he is still considering leaving the NDSV because he believes that "the model on which the party works is not good," "Dnevnik" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2003). UB

KREMLIN PREFERS ECONOMIC UNIFICATION WITH BELARUS


Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on 15 September to discuss recent controversies in bilateral relations. Discussions focused on the Kremlin's decision to stop selling natural gas to Belarus at preferential prices and on Minsk's reluctance to sell a stake in the Beltranshaz gas-transportation company to Gazprom and adopt the Russian ruble as the Belarusian currency in 2005. Judging by the news conference that both leaders held following their six-hour informal talks in Sochi, the above-mentioned controversies have not been overcome in full.

The most important outcome of the meeting seems to be both presidents' agreement that Moscow and Minsk should now switch to "market relations" in the gas sector. "We have come to the conclusion that it is necessary to change over to market relations in this sphere without stopping the negotiations about the creation of a joint venture [to operate] a single gas-pipeline system," Putin told journalists. He added that Moscow may also consider allowing Belarusian enterprises to participate in gas extraction on the territory of the Russian Federation.

At present, Gazprom sells gas to Belarus at about $29 for 1,000 cubic meters. How much will Belarus have to pay after switching to the "market relations?" Lukashenka said Putin assured him during the talks that a new price of gas for Belarus will be determined in talks with Gazprom and that it will not be higher than that paid by Russia's other CIS partners. Lukashenka said Minsk will react to the higher gas price by increasing tariffs for the transit of Russian gas across Belarus, to which Putin reportedly agreed. And Lukashenka presented his own calculation, according to which Belarus will not lose on this forthcoming price switch. "Ukraine takes $1.5 for the transit [of 1,000 cubic meters] of gas from Gazprom, while Belarus takes $0.40, that is, three times less," Lukashenka said. "If Gazprom starts selling gas to us at the Ukrainian price [$50 per 1,000 cubic meters], then our tariffs for transit will become equal to the Ukrainian ones, and in such a case neither we nor Gazprom lose anything."

Both presidents also discussed the introduction of the Russian ruble in Belarus. Addressing Lukashenka's recently voiced demands that Russia provide guarantees that Belarus's sovereignty will not be impaired in the planned currency union, Putin said during the news conference that Russia sees no need for providing such guarantees since the currency union "has no relation to sovereignty." To alleviate Lukashenka's fears about the introduction of the Russian ruble, Putin cited examples of the present EU currency union and the late currency union between Belgium and Luxembourg -- in these monetary unions, Putin claimed, no country had to surrender its sovereignty.

Lukashenka, however, seemed to be unconvinced. He repeated his position voiced earlier this month in a letter to Putin that the introduction of the Russian ruble in Belarus should be connected with the adoption of a constitution of the Russia-Belarus Union. "We see a currency accord within the framework of a constitutional act [of the Russia-Belarus Union] and a broad package of [other] agreements," Lukashenka told journalists. "For the time being, we are not leaving these positions, even if we concur with the Russian side that we can take any issues out of this process and resolve them, including monetary ones." Lukashenka pledged to continue talks on the currency union with Russia.

The question of whether and when the Kremlin will make Minsk pay higher gas bills is open. But one thing seems to be obvious after the 15 September meeting between Putin and Lukashenka: Moscow has solidly placed its relations with Minsk on a pragmatic foundation and is firmly set to pursue economic, rather than political, integration. It is not clear, however, whether Lukashenka fully realizes this new situation. Some of his pronouncements in Sochi testify to the fact that he may not yet have grasped these new circumstances.

"There are some bad processes going on behind our backs, but I think our meeting will help put an end to all sorts of insinuations coming from both sides," Lukashenka told Putin in Sochi. "I will tell you face to face what is going on behind our backs, but those processes are bad and I think the unity -- the aspiration for unity between our two peoples -- has suffered a most serious blow." Russian journalists immediately took the clue and asked Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov -- who ordered Gazprom to stop selling cheap gas to Belarus and who, moreover, is often seen behind Putin's back on official occasions in the Kremlin -- if he is the instigator of those "bad processes" Lukashenka referred to. Kasyanov said Lukashenka's words have no relation to the Russian government. Putin in Sochi also seemed to be ignorant of any wicked deeds being done behind his back. This may mean that what Lukashenka sees as "bad processes" in Russian-Belarusian integration is what Moscow perceives as politically appropriate and expedient.

Apart from his criticism of the allegedly backstage "bad processes," Lukashenka seemed to have no other weighty arguments to support his vision of Belarusian-Russian integration. "We in no way should move down to a lower level [of integration] than we are now," Lukashenka said in what Belarusian commentators construed as a reference to the 1999 union treaty he signed with then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin. In particular, this treaty provides for the creation of supranational bodies with controlling powers over the Russia-Belarus Union. But the Yeltsin days in Belarusian-Russian integration are long over. Now the Kremlin appears to have "forgotten" some political provisions of the 1999 treaty while pushing for the economic integration that will arguably give Moscow considerable levers of political control over Belarus without surrendering any political control over Russian affairs to Minsk.

"I want to confirm once again that Belarusians and Belarus, including Lukashenka, have never opposed and will never oppose the unity of our nations. For Lukashenka it would mean political death," Lukashenka said during the news conference in Sochi. The first assertion seems to be fairly questionable. The second one -- about Lukashenka's possible political demise in the event that he drops the integration game with Russia he began nine years ago -- may be prophetic.

KABUL POLICE CHIEF SACKED
Kabul Police commander General Abdul Basir Salangi has been removed from his position and replaced by General Abdul Wahid Baba Jan, Afghanistan Television reported on 17 September. Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai ordered Salangi's removal on Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali's recommendation after the police chief ordered the destruction of more than 30 homes in Kabul's Shayr Pur District to make room for luxury homes intended for use by government officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 16 September 2003), Radio Free Afghanistan reported on 18 September. Salangi is an ally of Defense Minister Marshall Mohammad Qasim Fahim, but his removal is not expected to affect Fahim's "substantial power base, which is the first thing anyone looks for whenever there is talk of shake-up in security or cabinet structures," the BBC commented on 17 September. Baba Jan was an alternate member of the Central Committee of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan and held high-level positions during the era of communist rule, but after the demise of the communists in 1992 he joined the Jamiat-e Islami party, of which Fahim is also a member. AT

OFFICE OF AFGHAN WOMEN'S ASSOCIATION ATTACKED
Four armed civilians attacked the Kabul office of the All-Afghan Women's Association (AAWA) on 16 September, demanding lists of the organization's members, RFE/RL reported on 17 September, quoting officials from AAWA. When AAWA officials refused to hand over the lists, the unidentified attackers searched the office and "turned it upside down." AAWA described the incident as a "political theft," because the attackers did not take any valuables, although they succeeded in removing the lists and videotapes. AAWA was founded in the early 1990s and continued working under the Taliban regime when it organized illegal home schools and literacy and handicraft courses for women. Due to this work, AAWA head Suraya Parlika -- sister of Abdul Wakil, foreign-affairs minister in communist Afghanistan -- gained prominence abroad, but remains a controversial figure in Afghanistan because she served as the head of the Red Crescent Society under the communist regime. Parlika was also involved in the recent establishment of the National United Party, which was subsequently banned for espousing communist ideals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 26 August 2003). JH

NEO-TALIBAN CLAIM TO CONTROL DISTRICT IN PAKTIKA PROVINCE
According to unconfirmed reports, neo-Taliban forces have taken control of Paktika Province's Jani Khayl District, Hindukosh news agency reported on 17 September. An unidentified neo-Taliban commander told the news agency that his forces captured the district after a brief clash with pro-government forces. An unidentified security official from Paktika Province confirmed that the neo-Taliban attacked and set fire to the Jani Khayl district headquarters. However, the official said the district is still controlled by provincial forces. The official added that six neo-Taliban were killed in the clash. AT

THREE NEO-TALIBAN KILLED, TWO COMMANDERS CAPTURED IN KANDAHAR PROVINCE
Khaled Pashtun, who heads Kandahar Province's foreign-relations department, has said three neo-Taliban members were killed and two of their commanders were captured in fighting that took place in Kandahar Province's Shah Wali Kot District on 17 September, Reuters reported the next day. Pashtun named the two captured commanders as Mulla Abdullah and Mulla Baz Mohammad, but did not provide any further details about them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2003). AT

IRANIAN SUPREME LEADER BRAGS ABOUT ENRICHMENT OF NUCLEAR MATERIAL
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's 17 September speech to young Iranians in Tehran was broadcast by state radio and state television. He warned his audience that Iran's enemies are trying to discourage and misportray young people, but they will fail. Khamenei said Iran is rich in terms of natural and human resources, and furthermore, the spirit of self-sufficiency that was evident during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War continues. Most of the people working in the scientific field, he said, are from the wartime era and they work with the same spirit and motives. Khamenei said: "Today, one example of their amazing work is the enrichment of nuclear material. This is the most secret component of world knowledge and technology. The world powers have exclusively claimed this to be theirs, yet our young people, relying on their talent, knowledge and skills, have achieved this great task." He added that the international outcry over Iran's nuclear pursuits is a "reaction against your talents, abilities, and achievements." BS

IRANIAN OFFICIAL PUTS NUCLEAR PURSUITS IN RELIGIOUS, REGIONAL CONTEXT
Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting director Ali Larijani defended his country's nuclear pursuits during a 17 September speech at the two-day International Conference for Arab and Islamic Media in Support of the Palestinian People, which is being held at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Beirut, the official Radio Lebanon reported. He said Iran obtained nuclear technology for peaceful purposes but that the unspecified "they" do not want regional states, "particularly the Islamic countries," to make more progress in this area. Nevertheless, he said, "We publicly announce today that we will not abandon our right to obtain nuclear technology, and that, pursuant to the Prophet's saying, we believe that defending the Palestinian people is an Islamic and human duty." Larijani added, "We will not be scared by the childish threats by the American president to launch a crusade." BS

HIZBALLAH DEFENDS IRAN'S NUCLEAR ACTIVITIES
Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah also gave a speech in Beirut at the International Conference for Arab and Islamic Media in Support of the Palestinian People, Al-Manar television reported on 17 September. Nasrallah defended Iran's nuclear pursuits in terms similar to those of Larijani, contrasting "their" treatment of Israel with "their" treatment of Iran. "Iran seeks to obtain nuclear power for peaceful purposes, but preparations are made to besiege it internationally. This may reach the point of declaring war on it," he said. "This happens while Israel, which possesses lethal nuclear weapons, is protected and is given easy loans and annual aid on all levels." BS

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSSES AL-QAEDA DURING VISIT TO SAUDI ARABIA
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi visited Saudi Arabia on 16-17 September, international news agencies reported, and upon his return to Tehran's Mehrabad Airport he said that Iraq, Palestine, the Persian Gulf, and bilateral trade were among the issues he discussed with his hosts, IRNA reported. He added that they discussed the upcoming Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faysal bin Abd al-Aziz al-Sa'ud and Kharrazi discussed the possibility of extraditing Saudi Al-Qaeda suspects from Tehran to Riyadh, London's "Al-Hayah" reported on 17 September. Kharrazi conveyed a letter from President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami to Deputy Premier and National Guard Commander Crown Prince Abdallah bin Abd al-Aziz al-Sa'ud, the SPA news agency reported on 16 September. BS

DISSIDENT IRANIAN CLERIC CRITICIZES REGIME
Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri-Najafabadi criticized the government in a 17 September speech to about 300 students in Qom, AP reported. Montazeri told his audience that "the majority of our population is now dissatisfied with the ruling establishment," adding that "the matter should be put to popular vote." After the speech, Montazeri told AP that the path to reform is through public choice of the country's leadership. "If people are not satisfied," he said, "the establishment is not legitimate." Montazeri also called for greater freedom for writers and intellectuals. Placed under house arrest in 1997 after criticizing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Montazeri regained his freedom on 30 January 2003 (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 3 February 2003). BS

SOLDIER SHOOTS COMRADES IN TEHRAN
Ali Taali, director-general for security affairs in the Tehran Governorate, told ISNA on 18 September that a soldier on guard duty in front of the Judiciary Palace shot at his comrades, killing the officer in charge and wounding several other soldiers. Taali said the wounded have been taken to a hospital and the incident is being investigated. BS

BRITISH FORCES DISMISS POLICE CHIEF IN SOUTHERN IRAQI CITY
British forces have reportedly fired Al-Basrah police chief Khudayr al-Abbudi, citing his failure to establish security in the southern Iraqi city, Voice of the Mujahedin radio reported on 17 September. Al-Abbudi headed a force of some 3,700 policemen working out of 34 police stations, according to an interview he gave to Al-Jazeera television on 16 August. Gerard Russell, a spokesman for the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told Kuwait Satellite Television on 25 July that al-Abbudi reported an 80 percent decrease in the city's crime rate, but recent weeks of violence appear to have prompted the decision to remove al-Abbudi from his position. Kuwait's "Al-Ra'y al-Amm" reported on 13 June that al-Abbudi previously served as a brigadier general in the Iraqi Army under the former regime of Saddam Hussein. KR

PURPORTED NEW AUDIOTAPE OF DEPOSED IRAQI LEADER SURFACES
An audiotape purporting to carry the voice of deposed Iraqi President Hussein was aired on Al-Arabiyah Television on 17 September. The speaker addresses U.S. President George W. Bush, saying, "You lied to yourself, to your people, and to all others." The speaker adds that a U.S. defeat in Iraq is "inevitable," and calls on the United States and United Kingdom to "withdraw your armies as soon as possible, and unconditionally." The speaker then says that, should Washington want to discuss withdrawal arrangements, it can do so with the senior Iraqi officials currently in its custody, who will help to facilitate the withdrawal and "guarantee the security" of coalition soldiers during the withdrawal process. The speaker also addresses the UN Security Council, cautioning it not to "slide into the pitfalls of the dark U.S. policies." He then addresses European leaders, noting, "We hope that Europe will develop its relatively balanced position so that this position becomes legitimate and clear." The authenticity of the audiotape, reported to have been recorded in "mid-September," remains unconfirmed by other sources. KR

WASHINGTON NOW SAYS IT IS NOT HOLDING U.S., U.K. CITIZENS
United States officials say there is "no firm evidence" that eight individuals in its custody in Iraq are citizens of the United States or United Kingdom, as they claim, AP reported on 17 September. The news agency previously reported that the United States is holding the individuals for interrogation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September 2003). U.S. Brigadier General Janis Karpinski later told reporters, "We have detained individuals for criminal or suspected subversive activity [who] have initially claimed various nationalities or nations of residence. Usually the people do not carry passports or personal identification or have documents with multiple identification from several nations." "The details [of prisoners' claims] become sketchy and their story changes" during the interview process, she added. Karpinski said the United States is currently holding 700 "third-country nationals" in Iraq. At the Pentagon, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters that, in many cases, detainees are "quite skilled at confusing people as to what their real nationality is or where they came from or what they're doing," according to AP. KR

JAPAN MIGHT PLEDGE $1 BILLION FOR IRAQI RECONSTRUCTION
Japan is reportedly set to pledge some $1 billion in aid to fund the reconstruction of Iraq, "Kyodo News" reported on 18 September (http://home.kyodo.co.jp). The pledge reportedly has yet to be finalized, with sources telling the newspaper that Japan's ultimate contribution for 2004 to Iraq could be as high as $3 billion. Sources cited by the paper added that the money will be transferred to a fund set up by the United Nations and the World Bank. Japan's financial contribution might come in lieu of a troop contribution, a possible move that has proven widely controversial among the Japanese public. U.S. Ambassador to Japan Howard Baker met with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi on 17 September to discuss a potential contribution, telling reporters after the meeting that "it's entirely up to Japan" to determine the type of contribution it makes. "But I believe Japan is committed to full participation in the efforts to restore not only stability but rehabilitation of Iraq," Baker added. The total cost of rebuilding Iraq could soar as high as $75 billion, U.S. officials have said. KR

U.S. TO PAY COMPENSATION FOR KILLING IRAQI POLICEMEN
The United States will reportedly meet with tribal chiefs and dignitaries in the Iraqi town of Al-Fallujah to determine compensation for the families of eight Iraqi policemen killed by U.S. forces in that city on 12 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2003), AP reported on 18 September. The payment is considered a cultural norm in the Arab world, where compensation is paid for bodily injury or accidental death committed by a perpetrator to the victim or his family. Representatives of the victims -- in this case, apparently the tribal leaders and other notable figures from the community -- usually negotiate the compensation agreement. The U.S.-installed mayor of Al-Fallujah said that the meeting will also address heightened tensions in the city since the shooting. Al-Fallujah is located within the so-called Sunni Triangle and has been the site of continuing hostility aimed at U.S. forces since the downfall of the Hussein regime in May. Meanwhile, U.S. military spokesman Captain Jimmy Cummings denied that the incident occurred because the U.S. soldiers -- who had only been in the city for one day -- were ill prepared. "They did receive training. They had just gotten back from Afghanistan and...before they went [to Iraq] they got the training again," he said. KR

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