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Newsline - September 30, 2003


PUTIN SAYS MOSCOW WILL GO SLOW ON KYOTO PROTOCOL...
Speaking in Moscow at the opening of a global conference on climate change on 29 September, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia will not sign the Kyoto Protocol, which limits the amounts of gases believed to cause global warming that can be released into the atmosphere, until research leads to a better understanding of the mechanisms of climate change, Russian media reported. Science must define the dangers of climate change and determine to what extent human activity impacts the global climate system, Putin said. He noted that some scientists believe that global warming is a result of human activity, while others argue it is an inevitable natural process. He concluded that Russia will not cave in to pressure to sign the accord quickly, and will only do so if it is in Russia's national interests and after the phenomenon has been thoroughly studied. Putin joked that Russia has a severe climate and might benefit if global temperatures rose a few degrees. VY

...AS EXPERT EXPLAINS MOSCOW'S ATTITUDE
The Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997 and now boasts 157 signatory countries. It contains restrictive quotas on greenhouse-gas emissions. Russia's quota was calculated based on the industrial output of the Soviet Union, although Russian industry has declined by at least one-third over the last decade. Under the terms of the accord, Russia could sell its excess quota to other countries. Since the United States withdrew from the protocol in 2001, Europe is now the main driving force urging countries to ratify it. Mikhail Delyagin, director of the Institute of Globalization and former economic adviser to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, said that Russia is now in a unique position to determine the fate of the treaty, "Vremya novostei" reported on 29 September. If Russia ratifies the treaty, it will lose this advantage. Therefore, Moscow should maintain its position of power as long as possible and extract maximal advantages from it, Delyagin said. VY

FORMER NTV OWNER'S EXTRADITION HEARING DELAYED TWO WEEKS
The Athens Appeals Court on 29 September suspended hearings of Russia's extradition request against former Media-MOST owner and oligarch Vladimir Gusinskii for two weeks in order to allow the Russian government more time to assemble documentation supporting its allegations, Russian media reported. The court ruled that if Russian prosecutors fail to present convincing documents within 15 days, Gusinskii will be released and allowed to leave the country. Gusinskii was arrested in Athens on 21 August and was released on bond later that month pending the extradition hearing. VY

GERMANY SEEKS RETURN OF NEWLY DISCOVERED OLD MASTER
The Culture Ministry has announced that it has no objection to the return to Germany of the recently discovered masterpiece by Peter Paul Rubens that was removed from Germany at the end of World War II, newsru.com and "Izvestiya" reported on 29 September. The painting, "Tarquin and Lucretia," is claimed as private property by a Moscow businessman and is valued at up to $80 million. According to "Der Spiegel," No. 39, the painting disappeared in 1945 and was discovered last year after the Moscow businessman e-mailed a photograph of the painting to a German art expert with an offer to sell it. Initially, authorities suspected the painting was in the hands of criminals who were trying to sell it on the black market. However, "Izvestiya" reported that it was in the possession of Vladimir Logvinenko, who says he bought it from the daughter of a Red Army officer who took the painting from a German castle that belonged to Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels. Logvinenko has been recognized as the painting's "owner in good faith." German experts have verified the authenticity of the heavily damaged painting, and it has been seized by the Prosecutor-General's Office. It is expected that President Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will discuss the painting during their meeting in October, and that they will agree that the masterpiece should be returned to Germany in return for unspecified compensation from Germany to Logvinenko. VY

ATTACKS AGAINST ETHNIC CHECHENS ON INCREASE IN SOUTHERN REGIONS
Instances of racially motivated attacks against Chechens in Russian cities outside of Chechnya are increasing, presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya Abdul-Khakim Sultygov told a human rights conference in Moscow on 29 September, "Izvestiya" reported on 30 September. Anti-Chechen incidents have taken place most frequently in Krasnodar Krai and Kabardino-Balkaria. In Nalchik, assaults against Chechens on 15-17 September left one person dead and 54 injured. Participants in the conference noted that there were no anti-Chechen incidents in Moscow after the October 2002 theater hostage drama, and blamed the policies of Krasnodar Krai Governor Aleksandr Tkachev and Kabardino-Balkaria President Valerii Kokov for the incidents in their regions. JAC

ESPIONAGE CASE TO BE HEARD BY JURY
The Moscow Municipal Court ruled on 29 September that the case of political scientist Igor Sutyagin will be heard by a jury, Russian media reported. According to RBK, the court set 3 November as the date for selecting jurors. Sutyagin was arrested in 27 October 1999 on suspicion of passing classified information to a British consulting firm. A Kaluga Oblast court sent Sutyagin's case back for further investigation in December 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2001). Sutyagin maintains his innocence and denies that he had access to classified information. JAC

NORILSK MAYORAL ELECTION CALLED BELLWETHER FOR TRADE-UNION MOVEMENT
Writing in "The Moscow Times" on 30 September, sociologist Boris Kagarlitskii argues that the significance of the 26 October mayoral election in Norilsk "goes way beyond Norilsk, with potential ramifications for the Russian labor movement as a whole, and perhaps for the future of the country." In the last election in April, local trade union leader Valerii Melnikov won the first round, but was disqualified from participating in the second round because of alleged campaign irregularities. Now, Melnikov leads in opinion polls against his chief rival, Norilsk Nickel First Deputy Director Jonson Khagazhiev. Kagarlitskii argues that any candidate who runs in open opposition to the local elite rarely stands a chance of winning in the provinces, especially candidates whose main support base are trade unions. If Melnikov nonetheless manages to win, then the trade-union movement "would receive the long-awaited victory it needs to break its downward trend of recent years." JAC

PUTIN'S RATING KEEPS ON RISING...
President Putin's approval rating reached 75 percent in September, VTsIOM-A found in a poll conducted last week, Russian media reported on 29 September. According to Interfax, in August 74 percent of respondents in a similar poll said they would vote for Putin in a presidential election. Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov came in second and third, respectively. VTsIOM-A is an "autonomous noncommercial organization founded by former workers of the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion [VTsIOM]," according to Interfax. It was the center of a controversy recently when its director announced that VTsIOM was being reorganized as a result of political pressure (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 10 September 2003). JAC

...AS PRO-KREMLIN PARTY GAINS EDGE OVER COMMUNISTS
In the same opinion poll, the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party polled 28 percent among respondents, compared to 23 percent for the Communist Party, Interfax reported. According to the poll, just three other parties would surpass the 5 percent barrier for entry into the Duma: the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Yabloko, and the Union of Rightist Forces. Duma Deputy Gennadii Raikov's People's Party and Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov's Party of Life polled 1 percent, compared to 2 percent for the Agrarian Party, the Green party, and Sergei Glazev's Motherland bloc. JAC

ONE-THIRD OF ARMY RECRUITS EXPECTED TO BE EXEMPTED FOR HEALTH REASONS...
Russia's annual fall conscription period begins on 1 October and will end on 31 December. According to a decree from President Putin, the army is expecting to call up some 176,000 young men, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 September. According to figures compiled by the General Staff, more than half of all potential recruits are exempted from military service to pursue higher education, while one-third are released for health reasons. JAC

...AS REGIONAL HEALTH OFFICIAL SAYS SCHOOL MAKES CHILDREN SICK
Penza Oblast Health Minister Viktor Lazarev told a press conference on 29 September that his ministry believes that one out of every three school-aged children in the oblast suffers from a chronic illness. Lazarev also said children's health significantly worsens while they are in school. There are twice as many children with chronic illnesses over the age of 7 as there are among children who have not gone to school yet. JAC

MEDICS SAY CHECHEN PRIME MINISTER WAS NOT DELIBERATELY POISONED
Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Magomed Vakhaev and doctors in Moscow both told Interfax on 29 September that there are no indications that Chechen Prime Minister Anatolii Popov, who was hospitalized on 27 September with what seems to be acute food poisoning, was deliberately poisoned. Popov reportedly announced on 29 September that he was much better, and would return to Chechnya on 30 September. But ITAR-TASS reported early on 30 September that Popov's condition has deteriorated. According to ng.ru on 30 September, the toxin Popov ingested has a destructive effect on the liver. LV

PACE RAPPORTEUR PLANS TO VISIT CHECHNYA
Swiss parliamentarian and Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) rapporteur for Chechnya Andreas Gross said in Strasbourg on 29 September that he plans to visit Chechnya after the 5 October presidential election, Interfax reported. Gross predicted that Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov will win that election since his most serious rivals have dropped out of the race or have been disqualified. He added that the reason the Council of Europe decided against sending observers to monitor the ballot is not security considerations, but the fact that the choice of candidates has been restricted to the point that the ballot cannot be considered a free reflection of voters' preferences. Gross said that he intends to present Kadyrov with suggestions for resolving the Chechen conflict. LF

PUTIN SAYS CHECHEN ELECTION COMMISSION 'NEEDS SUPPORT'
Meeting on 29 September with the staff of Russia's Central Election Commission (TsIK), President Putin stressed that that body's Chechen counterpart is working "in extremely complicated conditions," and therefore needs "support and professional assistance," ITAR-TASS reported. Chechen Election Commission Chairman Abdul-Kerim Arsakhanov told journalists in Moscow the same day that all organizational preparations for the ballot have been completed, and ballot papers and other printed matter have been distributed to polling stations, Interfax reported. He said there will be 425 polling stations in Chechnya and an additional one or two in Sernovodsk and Assinovskaya in neighboring Ingushetia for the benefit of Chechen displaced persons who fled to that republic during hostilities. LF

PACE FAILS TO CENSURE ARMENIA
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) failed on 29 September at its ongoing autumn session to issue any formal criticism of this year's Armenian presidential and parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported from Strasbourg. The Council of Europe has criticized apparent fraud during both ballots, sparking fears that Armenia's PACE delegation could be stripped of its voting rights. The PACE voted last week to postpone a planned debate on democratization in the South Caucasus until after the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan and Georgia. LF

BANNED ARMENIAN TV STATION BIDS FOR NEW LICENSE
The independent television station A1+ submitted a bid on 29 September for two broadcast frequencies to be awarded by the National Commission on Television and Radio on 9 October, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 29 September. A1+ was forced to cease broadcasting in early April 2002 after losing a tender for the frequency on which it had broadcast for several years. Two subsequent tender bids for alternative frequencies were similarly rejected (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 April 2002 and 12 June and 15 and 18 July 2003). LF

AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTRY PROTESTS UNAUTHORIZED ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXCAVATIONS
Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry has issued a statement protesting the conduct of archaeological excavations by Armenian and other archaeologists at a cave in the Gadrut Raion of Azerbaijan, Turan reported on 29 September. The district borders on the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and has been under Armenian control for the last decade. LF

FORMER AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT SLAMS 'DIRTY' ELECTION CAMPAIGN
In a 29 September interview with Turan, former President Ayaz Mutalibov characterized the ongoing presidential-election campaign as "amoral, dirty, and dissolute." He said the authorities and the state-controlled media are "slinging mud" at opposition presidential candidates. He added that police reprisals on 21 September against supporters of opposition candidates in Baku, Lenkoran, and Masally (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2003) show that "the authorities are unable to hold democratic elections," and are preparing to falsify the outcome of the 15 October ballot. The Central Election Commission rejected an application by Mutalibov, who fled Baku in May 1992 following an abortive comeback attempt and has since lived in Moscow, to register as a presidential candidate. LF

'ISLAMISTS' SENTENCED IN AZERBAIJAN
Azerbaijan's Court for Military Felonies handed down prison terms of three and four years on 29 September to two residents of the city of Gyanja convicted of plotting a coup d'etat, Turan and zerkalo.az reported on 29 and 30 September respectively. The two men, both members of the congregation of Gyanja's Djuma mosque, were also found guilty of disseminating religious propaganda and of seeking to recruit an armed band of some 400-500 young men. One of the two men, Rasim Abbasov, told the court last month that his preliminary testimony was extracted under threat of torture (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 2003). LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CONCERNED BY 'CRIMINALIZATION' OF ELECTION CAMPAIGN...
Speaking on Georgian television on 29 September, Eduard Shevardnadze expressed concern at what he termed the resumption of the process of criminalizing Georgian politics, of which he said the 26 September clash in Bolnisi between supporters of his For a New Georgia (AS) bloc and those of opposition National Movement leader Mikhail Saakashvili was a manifestation, Interfax and Georgian media reported. Echoing a 26 September allegation by AS member Irakli Gogava (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 2003), Shevardnadze said the opposition is creating armed formations which, he added, is "a very dangerous development." Shevardnadze said that police will be placed on heightened alert for the two weeks preceding the 2 November parliamentary elections. LF

...AS HIS BLOC PROPOSES 'TRUCE'
Levan Mamaladze, who is a former governor of the region that includes Bolnisi and who plans to run for parliament as the AS candidate from a constituency there, on 29 September proposed a "truce" to the opposition under which each side would allow the other to campaign unhindered, Caucasus Press reported. He said destabilization of the situation in Bolnisi would only play into the hands of Georgia's foreign enemies. LF

GEORGIAN REGIONAL LEADER DISCUSSES ELECTION IN STRASBOURG
Aslan Abashidze, who is chairman of Georgia's Adjar Autonomous Republic and leader of the Revival Union, which polled second in the 1999 parliamentary election, has met in Strasbourg with Walter Schwimmer, secretary-general of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, to discuss the Georgian election campaign, Caucasus Press reported on 30 September. Abashidze told journalists after that meeting that he sees no obstacles to holding democratic elections in Adjaria. In 1999, observers charged that Abashidze resorted to intimidation and fraud to ensure his party won in all constituencies in Adjaria. LF

ABDUCTORS OF RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPER DEMAND RELEASE OF GEORGIAN POLITICIAN
The unknown people who abducted Russian peacekeeper Grigorii Derevyannikh in Zugdidi on 27 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 2003) offered on 29 September to release him in exchange for the release of Georgian politician Roland Changelia, who was kidnapped in Zugdidi on 25 September, Caucasus Press reported. Changelia's family, however, told Caucasus Press on 29 September that his kidnappers have demanded a $80,000 ransom for him. The family began a hunger strike outside the Zugdidi office of the UN Observer Mission on 29 September. Also on 29 September, a spokesman for the commander of the CIS Peacekeeping Force accused the Georgian government of distancing itself from the search for the missing peacekeeper, Interfax reported. But Zugdidi Prosecutor Mebrdzoli Chkadua told Interfax that "everything is being done" to investigate Derevyannikh's kidnapping. He claimed that both kidnapped men are being held on Abkhaz territory by a single group. In Sukhum, Abkhaz security service head Givi Agrba denied Chkadua's claim that Changelia is being held on Abkhaz territory, Interfax reported. He said his men have information that Changelia is being held somewhere north of Zugdidi. LF

ABKHAZIA DEMANDS SECURITY GUARANTEES FOR GOVERNMENT DELEGATION
The government of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia has demanded security guarantees for the delegation it will send to Tbilisi in early October to participate in talks on preventing the resumption of hostilities, Astamur Tarba, who is an aide to Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, told Interfax on 29 September. Tarba reasoned that "the hosting side is responsible for security, including moral responsibility." A delegation headed by Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba failed to travel to Georgia last week for UN-mediated talks after the head of the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government in exile, Tamaz Nadareishvili, said on Georgian television that Shamba could be arrested if he came to Tbilisi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 September 2003). LF

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH ASKS CHIRAC TO RAISE HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES WITH KYRGYZ PRESIDENT
The New York-based international human rights NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) has asked French President Jacques Chirac to raise the issue of human rights in Kyrgyzstan with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, because France's military and political connections with the Central Asian state provide opportunities for applying pressure, akipress.org reported on 29 September. In a letter to Chirac, HRW drew attention to the Kyrgyz leadership's actions to stifle its critics, including constant pressure on opposition leaders, the independent press, and human rights activists. As specific examples, the letter cites the shooting of antigovernment protesters in southern Kyrgyzstan's Aksy Raion in 2002, the failure of the judicial system to protect the civil rights of the participants in that peaceful protest, and the exclusion from the political process and jailing of popular leaders -- an apparent reference to jailed former Vice President Feliks Kulov. HRW appeals to Chirac to raise these and other human rights issues with Akaev during a scheduled meeting between the two leaders in connection with Akaev's trip to the UN General Assembly session in New York. BB

KYRGYZ NGO COALITION LEADER REPORTS HARASSMENT OF MEMBERS
Edil Baisalov, president of the coalition of nongovernmental organizations For Democracy and Civil Society, was quoted by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on 29 September as saying the authorities in Naryn and Issyk-Kul Oblasts have been harassing coalition members, appearing at their homes and questioning them about when and why they joined the coalition and asking them to sign certain unspecified papers. The head of the Justice Ministry's registration department, questioned the same day about the actions of the oblast authorities, insisted that ministry representatives were merely trying to verify the personal data of coalition members prior to re-registering the organization. The coalition, however, like many nongovernmental organizations in Kyrgyzstan, interprets such acts as an attempt to frighten its members into leaving the organization or muting their criticism of the government. BB

INVESTORS' CONFERENCE IN TAJIKISTAN NETS AGREEMENT ON INVESTMENT-HOLDING BODY
A three-day investors' conference in Dushanbe sponsored by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) concluded with the signing on 27 September by Tajik Economy and Trade Minister Hakim Soliev and IDB President Ahmad Muhammad Ali of an assistance agreement, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 29 September. The agreement covers the creation of an investment-holding body with an initial capitalization of $200 million. An unnamed official at the Economy and Trade Ministry told the agency that investors at the conference showed interest in development projects, particularly the construction of a cement plant and a luxury hotel in Dushanbe, as well as in rare-metals mining and hydropower projects. One hundred seventy investors from 11 IDB member states participated in the conference. BB

OSCE CHAIRMAN LECTURES TURKMEN FOREIGN MINISTER ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the current OSCE chairman in office, met with Turkmen Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Rashid Meredov on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York and used the opportunity to call on Turkmenistan to abide by its human rights commitments, RIA-Novosti reported on 29 September, quoting the OSCE secretariat in Vienna. De Hoop Scheffer called for wider cooperation between the OSCE and Turkmenistan, particularly in the implementation of human rights, an issue which, he reminded Meredov, he brought up with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov during his visit to Ashgabat in March. De Hoop Scheffer said he also raised the issue of democratic approaches to the issue of freedom of movement, an apparent reference to Turkmenistan's restrictive exit-visa regime. BB

TURKMEN PRESIDENT REMOVES TWO DEPUTY PRIME MINISTERS
President Niyazov announced the appointment of two new deputy prime ministers at a cabinet meeting on 29 September, turkmenistan.ru reported on 30 September. Defense Minister Rejepbai Arazov, whose replacement by the former head of the State Border Service Agageldy Mamedgeldiyev was announced earlier at a meeting with the military establishment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 2003), also lost his deputy premiership. Mamedgeldiyev's first deputy at the border service, Annageldy Gummanov, was promoted to head the service. Rejepdurdy Ataev, the head of Turkmenneftegazstroi, the state firm responsible for construction in the oil-and-gas sector, was given the post of deputy prime minister responsible for construction, transport, and communications. The former holder of that post, Muhammetnazar Khudaikuliev, retained his position as minister of construction and building-materials production. BB

UZBEK PRESIDENT PROMISES TO IMPROVE INVESTMENT CLIMATE
Islam Karimov on 29 September sent a message to the opening of an investors' conference organized by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) in Tashkent promising that Uzbekistan is taking measures to improve its investment climate, uzreport.com and Interfax reported. Uzbekistan joined the IDB earlier this month. More than 100 potential investors from IDB member states are attending the conference, which is focusing on investment opportunities in Uzbekistan. Karimov's message said the Uzbek government has already created a legal framework favorable to foreign investors and cited tourism, transportation, and humanitarian aid as the priority sectors in which Uzbekistan is seeking cooperation in the immediate future. Deputy Prime Minister and Economics Minister Rustam Azimov in his keynote speech told conference participants that Uzbekistan is ahead of schedule in introducing full convertibility of its currency and cited recent reforms intended to encourage the private sector, including private farming. BB

U.S. TRADE AGENCY GIVES UZBEKISTAN GRANT FOR WATER MANAGEMENT
The U.S. Agency for Trade and Development has given Uzbekistan a grant of $546,410 to improve water management, RIA-Novosti reported on 29 September, quoting the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent. The grant is intended to support the Uzbek national water-management plan to improve the efficiency of water use and to counter the salinization of irrigated land. BB

GERMANY DECRIES LATEST EXPULSION BY BELARUS
The German Embassy in Minsk said in a statement on 29 September that the recent expulsion of German citizen Stefan Kammerling from Belarus has further damaged bilateral relations, Belapan reported. The embassy said Kammerling, who had a valid visa and was expected to speak at a seminar sponsored by the German government, was deported without warning. "Following the expulsion of Jan Busch on 16 August 2003, the new move of the Belarusian authorities against a German citizen is absolutely unacceptable," the embassy said, adding that the step will incur consequences (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August and 29 September 2003). JM

UKRAINIAN VILLAGERS BLOCK NATO TRAINING GROUND OVER MYSTERIOUS ILLNESS
Some 300 residents of the village of Verblyany in Lviv Oblast blocked roads and military traffic leading to the Yavorivskyy training area on 29 September, thus halting joint exercises by Ukrainian troops and a NATO battalion from Italy, Interfax reported. The villagers maintain that about 120 children have suffered from severe coughing since shortly after the Italian troops arrived at the training range. They suggest that the apparent illness, which they say has affected local children during the course of military exercises in recent years, may be linked to exercises at the training ground. NATO has used the Yavorivskyy training facility since 1997. JM

UKRAINE, POLAND TO MAKE JOINT BID TO HOST EURO SOCCER CHAMPIONSHIPS
Ukraine and Poland have agreed to submit a joint bid to host the EURO 2012 soccer championships, Reuters reported on 29 September, quoting the Ukrainian Soccer Federation (FFU). "I think this is a great undertaking for both countries and we already asked the presidents of the two nations to give this project their full support," FFU President Hryhoriy Surkis said. Last year there was a proposal for a joint Russia-Ukraine bid to stage the 2008 European finals, but it was rejected by the Russians, who bid alone and lost. JM

ESTONIA INTENDS TO END MISSION IN AFGHANISTAN
Prime Minister Juhan Parts told the daily "Postimees" on 29 September that he does not think it is necessary for Estonia to replace its team of bomb-disposal specialists serving at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan when its mission wraps up in December, BNS reported. The plan to discontinue the Estonian mission results from the its annual cost of 6 million kroons ($440,000), shortage of explosives specialists and sniffer dogs at home, and lack of U.S. interest in continuing the mission, the news agency reported, citing "Postimees." The latter claim was subsequently rejected by U.S. Embassy press attache Thomas Hodges, who said Estonia's contribution is highly valued and the need for such capabilities is likely to increase. U.S. Ambassador to Estonia Joseph De Thomas said the United States was informed well in advance of the decision and understands that the teams need to rest. SG

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES 2004 DRAFT STATE BUDGET
The cabinet on 29 September approved without debate next year's draft budget, which predicts revenues of 1.92 billion lats ($3.34 billion), expenditures of 2.06 billion lats, and a deficit of 137 million lats, BNS reported. Based on predictions that the state's GDP will increase by 6.1 percent in real terms and that inflation will be 3 percent, the expected deficit would be 2 percent of GDP, well under the Maastricht requirement that it be less than 3 percent of GDP. Finance Minister Valdis Dombrovskis said the 2004 budget he will present to the parliament for approval on 30 September pays more attention to the social sphere by allocating funds for raising medical workers' and teachers' salaries as well as increasing the minimum monthly wage from 70 lats to 80 lats. SG

FORMER LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT NAMED UNESCO GOODWILL AMBASSADOR
Valdas Adamkus was inaugurated on 29 September as UNESCO goodwill ambassador for the construction of knowledge societies at the opening of the UNESCO general conference in Paris, "Lietuvos rytas" reported the next day. Adamkus thus became one of 40 such ambassadors, joining such well-known personalities as opera singer Montseratt Caballe, actress Catherine Deneuve, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, soccer celebrity Pele, and former Icelandic President Vigdis Finnbogadottir. Lithuanian parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas also attended the session and met with UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura. SG

POLAND, SPAIN WANT TO MAINTAIN EU VOTING SYSTEM AGREED IN NICE
Visiting Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and his Spanish counterpart Ana Palacio issued a joint statement on 30 September urging the EU to stick with the voting system spelled out in the Treaty of Nice for the Council of Ministers, PAP reported. That 2000 treaty grants Poland and Spain 27 votes each in the council, only two votes less than Germany, France, and Great Britain. The EU's current draft constitution makes voting in the council dependent on the population of member states (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 23 September 2003). Meanwhile, the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party has demanded that a national referendum be held in Poland to decide on the adoption of a European constitution. PiS deputy head Kazimierz Michal Ujazdowski told PAP that the current draft constitution centralizes the EU around France and Germany at the expense of smaller members. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT ATTACKS DRAFT EU CONSTITUTION AGAIN
President Vaclav Klaus wrote in the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" of 29 September that the proposed draft European Constitution would create a "superstate" in which Brussels will have the main say on fundamental matters, while the influence of Czech citizens on those matters will be close to nil, CTK reported. Klaus said that the proposed document would considerably weaken democracy and obliterate the advantages of the nation-state. If the European Constitution is approved as it now stands, "there will no longer be sovereign states with their own parliaments and governments representing the people's legitimate interests -- they will be replaced by a single state," Klaus said. Klaus is to be part of the Czech delegation at the Intergovernmental Conference on the European Constitution slated to open on 4 October in Rome. MS

CZECH OPPOSITION PARTY IN POLITICAL HANGOVER
After having lost its two battles in the lower house against the government on 26 September, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) vented its wrath at ODS parliamentary deputy Petr Kott, CTK and dpa reported. Party colleagues have accused Kott of being so drunk during the no-confidence vote and the vote on the 11 fiscal bills that he was unable to push the button during the voting, according to reports. Kott has denied those allegations, according to "Mlada fronta Dnes" of 30 September, saying he did not want to "take down the entire reform." Kott represents the Liberec constituency and the ODS branch leader in that town, Premysil Sobotka, told the daily "Pravo" on 29 September that Kott's behavior in parliament "severely damaged the good reputation of the ODS." ODS Deputy Chairman Petr Bendl said on TV Nova on 28 September that the ODS wants Kott to resign his seat in the legislature, CTK reported. Bendl said that if Kott does not do so, the ODS will expel him from its parliamentary group. MS

REPORT SAYS 10,000 SLOVAK ROMA LIVE IN CZECH REPUBLIC
A survey conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for the Czech Foreign Ministry found that some 10,000 Slovak Roma have moved to the Czech Republic, CTK reported on 29 September. The Slovak Roma are also among the most frequent applicants for asylum, but none of the applications has been approved. Roman Kristof from the IOM's Prague branch told CTK that in recent years, some 900 Slovak Roma applied for asylum annually. Most of these Roma live in very poor conditions, without electricity or drinking water. MS

SLOVAK CHRISTIAN DEMOCRAT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE LAUNCHES ELECTION CAMPAIGN
Frantisek Miklosko, presidential candidate of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) in the elections slated for May 2004, officially launched his presidential campaign on 29 September in Kosice, CTK reported. The post is also being contested by Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan, who is the candidate of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union. President Rudolf Schuster has not decided yet whether he will seek a second term. Also on 29 September KDH Chairman and parliamentary speaker Pavol Hrusovsky said in Kosice that if the current crisis in the coalition is not solved soon, the KDH would start "thinking of an alternative," TASR reported. MS

HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER URGES SPEEDY INVESTIGATION OF K&H SCANDAL
Peter Medgyessy said on 29 September that the embezzlement scandal at K&H Equities has created a public outcry and that delays in investigating that scandal might undermine investors' confidence in the Hungarian banking system, Hungarian radio reported. In a meeting with Prosecutor-General Peter Polt and leaders of the national security services and police forces, Medgyessy urged investigating authorities to cooperate more closely and to complete the probe as soon as possible. Although the meeting took place behind closed doors, "Nepszabadsag" reported that Medgyessy asked those present to explore the case in all its details regardless of the political affiliation of those involved. In other news, the Hungarian National Police have frozen 4.2 billion forints ($19 million) in the account of the State Highways Management Company (AAK) at the request of K&H Bank. The bank claimed the money was transferred to the AAK account illegally by broker Attila Kulcsar, a prime suspect in the K&H affair, "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 30 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June and 22 and 24 September 2003). MSZ

WAR OF WORDS CONTINUES OVER HUNGARIAN RADIO'S CHAIRWOMAN
Socialist Party deputy Istvan Ujhelyi was shouted down at a planned press briefing outside Hungarian Radio headquarters in Budapest on 29 September, as roughly 20-30 people booed and heckled him, Hungarian television reported. The senior governing Socialist Party's media expert wanted to address recent reports that Hungarian Radio Chairwoman Katalin Kondor served as an undercover agent for communist-era secret services (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2003). Ujhelyi later called the station's personnel policies and programming "unlawful, irresponsible, and in violation of public-service norms." He also claimed that Kondor is afraid that Karoly Szadai, chairman of the state broadcaster's board of trustees, possesses a document that could damage her reputation if it is made public, MTI news agency reported. Szadai vowed to sue Ujhelyi for slander, "Magyar Nemzet" reported. Szadai accused Ujhelyi of seeking to divert attention away from the "planned [Socialist] occupation of Hungarian Radio," the daily said. MSZ

HUNGARY SEEKS COLLECTIVE RIGHTS IN EUROPEAN CONSTITUTION
Laszlo Kovacs proposed at a conference of foreign ministers in Brussels on 29 September that the European Constitution include the legal protection of ethnic minorities and equality of rights for all EU member states, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Kovacs said it is a success that the Italian presidency said they would consider placing the topic on the agenda of discussions. Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan countered that it would be unfair to reopen the issue simply because "a certain country or a small group could not find support for its proposals," TASR news agency reported. Hungary is still seeking partners among EU countries on the collective-rights issue, Kovacs suggested to "Nepszabadsag." MSZ

SERBIAN OPPOSITION PARTY SEEKS NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE
The Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) led by former Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica announced on 29 September in Belgrade that it will gather signatures at 700 locations across Serbia to demand that legislators approve a no-confidence resolution against the government, AP reported. The DSS hopes to win the support of some legislators from the governing but shaky Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) in addition to the votes of opposition deputies, including supporters of former President Slobodan Milosevic. A no-confidence vote requires a simple majority among the 250 members of the parliament to pass. The DSS has 42 seats, while Milosevic's supporters and their allies have 70. The DSS is the strongest single party in recent opinion polls and has long demanded early parliamentary elections. Kostunica refuses to run in the 16 November Serbian presidential elections, which the DSS considers a ploy by the DOS to delay holding parliamentary elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 29 September 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 and 18 October, and 13 December 2002). PM

CASHIERED SERBIAN SECURITY POLICE OFFICER KILLS FOUR COLLEAGUES
Vladimir Rovcanin, a Kosova veteran of the Serbian security and intelligence agency (BIA), ran amok in Nis on 29 September, killing four colleagues and seriously wounding three, dpa reported. All eight men are from Kosova and work in a department dealing with its affairs. Rovcanin had been told that he will soon be laid off and allegedly threatened his colleagues the day before his shooting spree. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said that Rovcanin suffers from "Vietnam syndrome" as a result of his experiences in the 1998-99 Kosova conflict. Rovcanin is under arrest. PM

SERBIAN COURT SENTENCES EX-PARAMILITARIES FOR DEATHS OF MUSLIMS
On 29 September, a Belgrade court sentenced four men -- two of them in absentia -- to prison terms ranging up to 20 years for their roles in abducting 16 Muslims from a bus in 1992, killing them, and throwing their bodies in the Drina River, Reuters reported. The Muslims were Yugoslav citizens on their way to work in Bosnia. PM

SERBIAN ARMS DELEGATION LEAVES FOR THE UNITED STATES
A delegation representing an unspecified number of Serbian arms factories left for the United States on 29 September to study the experiences of former U.S. arms makers in converting to production of nonmilitary goods, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

CROATIAN PRIME MINISTER DEFENDS POLICY ON WAR CRIMINALS
Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan said in London on 29 September that his government is doing all it can to punish war criminals, Reuters reported. He stressed that "punishing war crimes is our principal goal, and our differences are being resolved with the [Hague-based war crimes tribunal].... We are doing everything in our power. Any problems that remain are those of perception, not real problems." The United Kingdom and the Netherlands refuse to ratify Croatia's association agreement with the EU until Zagreb convinces them that it is truly cooperating with the tribunal. In recent weeks, tribunal officials have charged that the Croatian authorities have failed to arrest former General Ante Gotovina, who is an indicted war criminal. Zagreb maintains that Gotovina is not on Croatian territory, which the tribunal disputes. In Brussels on 29 September, EU foreign ministers called on Serbia and Montenegro and Croatia to carry out much needed reforms and cooperate with the tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

BOSNIAN PENSIONERS ON STRIKE
Thousands of pensioners staged protests in several cities and towns in the Muslim-Croat federation on 30 September to demand the payment of back pensions and the indexing of their future pensions to the rate of inflation, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Some pensioners in Tuzla circulated petitions calling for a change of government and lawsuits against the authorities. PM

MACEDONIAN-ALBANIAN OPPOSITION LEADER SAYS NOBODY WILL RECOGNIZE CENSUS RESULTS
Abdulmenaf Bexheti, who chairs the ethnic Albanian opposition Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD), told the BBC's Albanian Service that neither the ethnic Albanians nor the ethnic Macedonians will recognize the results of the census carried out in October 2002, "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 30 September. Bexheti said the tallying procedure has become highly politicized because alleged results are leaked to the media on a daily basis. The official results are expected to be published in the coming weeks. They are important in that Albanian will become an official language in those municipalities where the Albanians make up at least 20 percent of the population. The proportion of ethnic Albanian officials in the state administration will also be defined on the basis of the census results (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September and 1 October 2002, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 April 2001). A controversy also surrounds the current census in Montenegro, where opposition parties claim that the government seeks to pressure citizens to declare themselves Montenegrin rather than Serbian. UB

ROMANIAN OPPOSITION ALLIANCE CO-CHAIRMEN PLEDGE TO RESIGN IF THEY FAIL TO WIN ELECTIONS
In a joint interview with Mediafax on 29 September, Theodor Stolojan and Train Basescu, co-chairmen of the recently established Alliance for Justice and Truth, said they will resign as chairmen of their respective parties if the alliance fails to win the parliamentary elections slated for late 2004 or early 2005. Stolojan, who is chairman of the National Liberal Party (PNL), said his formation will conduct internal elections after the parliamentary ballot and he expects PNL members to "appreciate performance and penalize failure." Democratic Party Chairman Basescu said that "no responsible politician has any other solution than resigning in case of failure, and I assure you I am a responsible politician." Basescu also said that his party's option for an alliance, rather than a merger with the PNL, stems from the Democrats' determination not to "leave the leftist electorate, which represents 70 percent of Romanian voters, the choice of opting between [the ruling] Social Democratic Party and [the opposition] Greater Romania Party." MS

ROMANIAN HEALTH MINISTER TO BE SANCTIONED FOR PLAGIARISM?
A Bucharest University commission decided on 29 September to recommend to the university's Senate to discipline Health Minister Mircea Beuran for plagiarism, Mediafax reported the next day. If the Senate approves the recommendation, Beuran is likely to be dismissed from the Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmaceutics. The commission found that as editor in chief, Beuran plagiarized a French and an American medical treatise, failing to mention the names of the authors who wrote the original tracts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 25 September 2003). MS

PPCD SUPPORTERS START PICKETING RUSSIAN EMBASSY IN CHISINAU...
Dozens of Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) members and supporters on 29 September began picketing the Russian Embassy in the Moldovan capital, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. They carried inscriptions saying "Out with the occupation army," "Federalization will not pass," "Don't Push the Russian language down our throats," and "Putin, stop the war against Bessarabia." PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca said at a protest rally the previous day that the picketing will continue every day for one month. According to PPCD Deputy Chairman Stefan Secareanu, however, the picketing is to continue until Russia pulls its troops out of Transdniester. MS

...AS OSCE OFFICIAL DEPLORES DELAY IN RUSSIAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL
In an interview with RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service on 29 September, Kimmo Kiljunen, Finnish deputy in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly, said he was "very disappointed" that the process of Russian troop withdrawal from Transdniester has not yet ended. Kiljunen also said that the plan for Moldova's federalization is "a compromise" between a unitary state and a confederation. Kiljunen said a federation in which powers would be "equitably divided" would be able to guarantee security to Moldova and its population. Kiljunen is taking part in an international parliamentary forum organized in Vadul lui Voda by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and that organization's mission to Moldova. MS

NEARLY FOUR MOLDOVANS IN FIVE LIVE BELOW SUBSISTENCE LEVEL
More than 79 percent of Moldova's population lives below the minimum subsistence level, Flux reported on 29 September, citing figures released by the Department of Statistics and Sociology. Forty-four percent are considered to live in poverty, as they do not even make half of the official minimum monthly subsistence level, which is 657 lei ($51.5). Of those living below the official subsistence level, 68.1 percent live in villages. More than 29 percent are aged 35-54 and 22.1 percent are 60 and over. MS

BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY, PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE ANNOUNCE ANTICRIME OPERATIONS
Emerging from a meeting with Prosecutor-General Nikola Filchev, Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Boyko Borisov announced on 29 September that operations against organized-crime structures will begin within the next two months, vsekiden.com reported. Borisov said the operations will target counterfeiters, smugglers, and drug traffickers. Meanwhile, Filchev announced on 29 September that a special commission has been formed to investigate the work of the Prosecutor's Office at the Supreme Court of Appeals, mediapool.bg reported. The commission is to determine whether prosecutors are jeopardizing trials by not meeting deadlines. UB

BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER CLINGS TO HIS NOMINATION
Government spokesman Dimitar Tsonev announced on 29 September that Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski has no intention of withdrawing his nomination of controversial retired General Brigo Asparuhov as his secret service adviser, mediapool.bg reported. U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria James Pardew on 26 September said that the government should carefully reconsider Asparuhov's nomination. The retired general was a member of the communist-era secret services. Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Borisov on 29 September told the radio/television program "Blitz" that Asparuhov should decline the nomination in order to protect the prime minister's reputation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16, 17, 23, and 29 September 2003). UB

BULGARIA STARTS E-GOVERNMENT
The first services of Bulgaria's planned e-government were to be launched on 30 September, bnn reported. Citizens now can register their addresses via the Internet and access information about social-insurance contributions and company registrations. Some 25 services such as car registration and customs declarations are expected to be available online by 2005. UB

SOLIDARITY TO GET TOUGHER ON POLISH GOVERNMENT
Solidarity held its 16th congress in Stalowa Wola in southeastern Poland on 26-27 September. Delegates to the congress obliged the National Commission of Solidarity in a special resolution to use all the means at its disposal -- including a general strike, if needed -- to defend the rights of employees.

"In the face of the dramatic situation of Polish employees, the bankruptcy of many plants, and the permanent violation of the rights of employees and trade unions, we demand that the government ensure the unconditional protection of the right to remuneration and take effective steps to restrict unemployment and shield people who are losing their jobs," the resolution reads. The resolution requires that the National Commission of Solidarity decide on the form of a future protest after weighing opinions among the regional branches of Solidarity.

The venue for the Solidarity congress appears to have been carefully chosen. Stalowa Wola is the seat of a large steel mill -- Huta Stalowa Wola -- that is threatened with bankruptcy. Workers of Huta Stalowa Wola have been demonstrating for more than a month, demanding financial assistance to their company from the government's Industry Development Agency and social benefits for laid-off colleagues. The general mood in the city is decidedly radical and antigovernment. Several thousand trade unionists arrived in Stalowa Wola on 27 September to stage an antigovernment demonstration and to call on their colleagues at the congress to adopt a tougher course with regard to government policies. "Let's do everything, dear brothers, to remove the reds from power!" read a placard displayed at the demonstration. Another read: "Apart from [Prime Minister Leszek] Miller, that son of a bitch, all Poles are one family."

Some of the delegates demanded that the congress immediately transform itself into a nationwide protest center and begin preparations for a general strike. But Solidarity Chairman Janusz Sniadek talked the delegates into adopting a somewhat milder stance that does not necessarily imply a general strike and a head-on collision between Solidarity and the government, led by the postcommunist Democratic Left Alliance. The National Commission of Solidarity is expected to make a decision on a "scenario of protest actions" by the end of October.

Some delegates to the congress, however, expressed doubts about whether Solidarity is capable of organizing a general strike in the country. Solidarity in 2003, with 800,000 members, is a much weaker trade union than it was in 1989, shortly after the political changeover in Poland, when its membership was 2.5 million. Now nearly 70 percent of trade unionists in Solidarity are over 40 years of age, while those under 30 account for just 5 percent of the union's membership. Solidarity is abandoned by more than 30,000 members every year.

Moreover, some moderate delegates pointed out that many state-owned companies in the country are doing well and argued that it would be rather difficult, if not impossible, to persuade their workers to take part in a general strike. They stressed that for Solidarity -- which has abandoned the political ambitions that characterized its activities during the 1990s -- the best option in the current economic situation would not be seeking to unseat the government, but negotiating within a trilateral commission with the government and employers.

FIGHTING BETWEEN NORTHERN AFGHAN WARLORDS CLAIMS FIVE LIVES
Five people have died thus far in armed clashes in three northern Afghan provinces that began on 28 September between commanders loyal to two major Afghan military commanders, Radio Afghanistan reported. One side is loyal to General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who is special adviser on security and military affairs to Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, while the other reportedly defends the interests of Afghan 7th Army Corps commander General Ata Mohammad. Unconfirmed early reports from the area of the fighting -- including the Sar-e Pol, Balkh, and Faryab provinces -- blamed forces loyal to Dostum for inciting the clashes. A source with the Afghan Defense Ministry said delegates representing both Dostum's Junbish-e Melli party and Ata Mohammad's Jamiat-e Islami are to discuss a cease-fire. Dostum and Ata Mohammad have clashed intermittently since the Taliban forces were defeated in Afghanistan in late 2001. In May, Karzai named Dostum as his special adviser and requested that Dostum be based in Kabul. Karzai threatened to resign if he is unable to impose government control on the country's warlords (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 May 2003). AT

AFGHANISTAN TO BOOST TROOP NUMBERS NEAR PAKISTANI BORDER
Paktika Province Governor Mohammad Ali Jalali said on 29 September that up to 500 troops loyal to the Afghan Transitional Administration are being deployed in the Barmal District on the country's border with Pakistan, Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. Jalali said that Afghan authorities decided to deploy more forces in the area after "taking into consideration the eastern border's current situation." General Dawlat Khan, security commander of Paktika, added that the deployment is a response to "increasing attacks in the area." Unidentified forces presumably loyal to the former Taliban regime have increased attacks on Afghan and coalition forces in Barmal and nearby Shkin, AIP reported. Shkin has been the scene of violence that has resulted in dozens of U.S. and Afghan troop and civilian deaths since December 2002 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 December 2002, 22 January, 11, 25, and 28 April, and 15 May 2003). AT

PAKISTAN REJECTS STATEMENT BY AFGHAN LEADER
Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan on 29 September rejected recent suggestions by Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai that there have been significant incursions by elements opposed to the Kabul-based administration from Pakistan, the Karachi daily "Dawn" reported on 30 September. Khan also denied that all Taliban (referring to the literal meaning of the term -- i.e., seekers of knowledge in Islamic seminaries) can be labeled terrorists, adding that many of the "Taliban" are students getting an education in Pakistan. It was unclear from the report which Karzai statement Khan had in mind, but the Afghan leader on 12 September accused Pakistani ulama (religious scholars) of trying to destroy Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 18 September 2003). AT

ICG HIGHLIGHTS LOCAL CONFLICTS IN AFGHANISTAN...
The Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) warns in a 22-page report titled "Peacebuilding in Afghanistan" (http://www.crisisweb.org) that was released on 29 September that the world's attention is drawn to threats from neo-Taliban but Afghanistan's security "requires a greater effort to deal with local disputes." The ICG suggests that particular attention should be devoted to conflicts over resources, namely land and water; ethnic disputes and conflicts between political parties; and family-based disputes, mostly revolving around women. The ICG also recommends that the Afghan Transitional Administration make the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration process "a key prerequisite to reconciliation at all levels." The group urges Chairman Karzai to remove governors, police chiefs, and other officials who "pursue factional, rather than central government, interests and/or who are corrupt." AT

...AND URGES INTERNATIONAL ACTORS NOT TO FAN THE FLAMES
The ICG report released on 29 September also urges "key international actors, particularly the United States, Russia, India, Pakistan and Iran," to ensure that their actions and resources bolster reconciliation processes at both the national and local level and to end support for factional leaders, which actively undermines such processes. AT

CORRECTION:
The 26 September "RFE/RL Newsline" item titled "Afghan Journalist To Receive International Press Freedom Award" should have said that the award is presented annually by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

EU CALLS ON IRAN TO HALT NUCLEAR ACTIVITIES
European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on 29 September called on Tehran to stop all its uranium-enrichment and reprocessing activities before the 31 October deadline established by an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution, EUobserver.com reported. They also urged Tehran to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty's (NPT) Additional Protocol, according to Reuters, and warned that failure to comply with their demands could jeopardize trade ties. BS

TEHRAN WON'T BACK DOWN ON NUCLEAR AMBITIONS
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said on 28 September, "Abandoning nuclear activities or enrichment is not something that Iran is ready to compromise on," Reuters reported. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said in an interview with the American ABC television network that was broadcast on 28 September that Iran is willing to accept the Additional Protocol as long as it can continue enriching uranium, Reuters reported. Iran government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said on 29 September, according to IRNA, that Iran has fulfilled all its NPT commitments, and "it is not at all prepared to accept any restrictions on its peaceful use of nuclear energy." The extent of future cooperation with the IAEA depends on upcoming negotiations, he said. An IAEA delegation is scheduled to arrive in Iran on 2 October. BS

IRANIAN SPY SENTENCED IN GERMANY
The Supreme Court in Berlin sentenced an Iranian man who is a naturalized German citizen to 2 1/2 years in prison on 29 September for spying on Iranian opposition groups in Germany, Deutschlandfunk radio reported. The trial of the Iranian spy, identified previously as "Iraj S.," began in late August, and he admitted that he reported to the Ministry of Intelligence and Security on the activities of Iranian royalists from 1991-2002 (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 21 July and 1 September 2003). BS

IRAN TO JOIN MIGA
Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Mohammad Khazai said on 29 September that Iran has commenced activities to become a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), IRNA reported. MIGA is affiliated with the World Bank, and its mission is promotion of "foreign direct investment into emerging economies to improve people's lives and reduce poverty," according to the agency's website (http://www.miga.org). This is accomplished by the provision of political-risk insurance and by helping countries attract and retain private investment. Khazai said MIGA cover could protect investors' capital, and MIGA membership provides access to technical assistance and promotion of Iranian investment overseas. Iranian legislation passed in July authorizes the government to subscribe to 1,659 shares of MIGA stock worth $17.5 million. BS

IRANIAN PILGRIMS TO IRAQ FALL VICTIM TO MINES
Javad Salari, head of the Ilam Province coroner's office, said on 29 September that land mines killed nine people trying to make the pilgrimage to holy sites in Iraq on 27 September, IRNA reported. Salari said that the victims were part of a 160-person group that intended to cross into Iraq illegally. He added that two of the victims were Afghans and the nationality of two others is undetermined (the others are presumably Iranian, although the report did not specify). Nemat Nazparvardeh, a local official in Qasr-i Shirin, Kermanshah Province, said on 22 September that land mines killed eight people the previous day, IRNA reported. Nazparvardeh described the victims as illegal pilgrims. BS

IRAQI OIL MINISTER INTERVIEWED ON RECONSTRUCTION EFFORTS
Iraqi interim Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum told London's "Al-Hayat" of 28 September that the rehabilitation of Iraq's oil fields is the priority of the Iraqi interim government. "The process of rehabilitating current producing fields may take two years," he said. "Therefore, we do not expect a boom in oil production for Iraq before around three to four years from now." Bahr al-Ulum stressed that his ministry intends to ask former oil workers dismissed from their jobs by the former regime to return, adding that Iraq will require the international community's help in rebuilding its oil sector. He said the ministry plans to develop its oil sector both vertically and horizontally, giving priority to oil refineries, petrochemicals, and liquid gas. The ministry will leave the issue of privatizing the oil sector to a future elected Iraqi parliament. Regarding oil contracts negotiated by deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Bahr al-Ulum said each contract will be subject to review, and contracts that "conflict with the interests of the Iraqi people" will be canceled. KR

JORDAN TO TRAIN 30,000 IRAQI SECURITY PERSONNEL
Jordan will soon begin training some 30,000 Iraqi security personnel, King Abdullah II told AFP in an interview published by Jordan News Agency on 29 September. King Abdullah said his country is in the final stages of preparation for the training course. "There will be eight-week courses, and every course will be attended by 1,500 Iraqis. Soon we will receive the first batch of 3,000," he said. "There will also be training for instructors, and an initial 100 Iraqi instructors will be trained in the Jordanian police academy." However, the king stressed that sending Jordanian soldiers to Iraq is not an option. "I don't think it is fair to the Iraqis, nor to any of [Iraq's] neighbors," he said. Meanwhile, the Jordanian government has reportedly acknowledged that "several dozen" Jordanians are among the prisoners of war now in coalition custody at Umm Qasr in southern Iraq, dpa reported on 29 September. KR

IRAQIS REPORTEDLY SAY THEY CANNOT MEET U.S. DEADLINE FOR CONSTITUTION
A leading Iraqi official has said the U.S.-imposed six-month deadline for drafting a constitution cannot be met, "The Washington Post" reported on 30 September. "It's impossible to do it in six months, as [U.S. Secretary of State Colin] Powell wants," said former Iraqi judge and Iraqi Governing Council member Dara Nur al-Din, who acts as the council's liaison to the constitutional drafting committee. "It's unreasonable. It takes much more time than this -- much more." Nur al-Din added that Iraqis must first decide how to select the members of the drafting committee. Once the committee is formed, they must then decide on a number of issues regarding the future state -- such as whether it will be Islamic and whether it will be based on a presidential or parliamentary system. An unidentified U.S. official told the daily that the U.S. administration is confident the Iraqis will meet the deadline. "If a constitution has to be drafted before there can be a government, you bet we'll get a constitution." KR

U.S. FORCES CAPTURE THREE SUSPECTED OF ABDUCTING U.S. SOLDIERS
U.S. forces have captured three individuals suspected of abducting two U.S. soldiers in June, according to a press release posted on the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) website on 29 September (http://www.centcom.mil). The incident occurred when the automobile the four were riding in "attempted to run a coalition traffic control point near Al-Dujayl," according to the press release. A gunfight then erupted between the vehicle's occupants and U.S. forces, and one suspect inside the vehicle was killed. U.S. troops then searched the vehicle and discovered two M16 rifles identified as the weapons assigned to two U.S. soldiers abducted on 25 June while guarding a cache of seized explosives near the village of Halabsa, northeast of Dujayl. The soldiers' bodies were later found in Taji on 28 June. The car search also yielded an AK-47 assault rifle, an Iraqi military uniform, and other "equipment," according to CENTCOM. KR

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