PUTIN CALLS FOR BOLSTERING BORDER SECURITY...
Speaking at a Security Council meeting on 30 September, President Vladimir Putin called for a new border-protection strategy, Russian media reported. Whereas now the country attempts to guard the entire border with an unbroken line of border troops, Putin suggested that in the future it concentrate resources on areas where there are perceived threats to Russia's national security. Among such threats, Putin named international terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, and illegal migration. He noted that among these threats only terrorism has a military component and said that therefore the military element of the border-protection forces should be reduced. He called upon the Foreign Ministry and the security organs to work more actively with foreign countries to delimit Russia's borders. Russia has a total of more than 61,000 kilometers of borders. Its longest border with a single foreign state -- 7,500 kilometers -- is with Kazakhstan. VY
...AS FSB DIRECTOR FOCUSES ATTENTION ON SOUTHERN BORDERS
Speaking to reporters following the 30 September Security Council session, Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev, whose agency controls the country's border troops, said the FSB will adopt differentiated approaches to guarding Russia's borders with Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and China in accordance with new threat assessments, RTR and RIA-Novosti reported. Moreover, the borders in the Caucasus -- especially the border between Chechnya and Georgia, where the threat of terrorism is very high -- will be more heavily guarded. Patrushev also expressed frustration with the Security Council's inability to define border policy, noting that the 30 September meeting was the 20th time the council had discussed the issue in the last 10 years. Commenting on that statement, TV-Tsentr said on 30 September that security officials should make no further mistakes in determining where security threats are and which countries are Russia's friends and which are not. VY
OIL GIANT EAGER TO BUY FOREIGN ASSETS
Embattled oil giant Yukos wants to transform itself into an international company by acquiring new assets abroad and selling some of its Russian assets to foreigners, "Finansovye izvestiya" reported on 29 September. The company plans to complete this process by 2007, at which time Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii intends to step down, the newspaper added. Yukos manager Yurii Beilin told the daily that the company intends to arrange "a swap of assets with major foreign companies." "Investors want to come to Russia as much as we want to leave, and we will negotiate about this with all [major] companies," he said. "Finansovye izvestiya" reported that an industry expert named the U.S. companies ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco as potential purchasers of up to 25 percent of Yukos. VY
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT UNDER INVESTIGATION
The Interior Ministry's Central Federal District criminal-investigations unit announced on 30 September that it has opened a criminal investigation against former Vice President and former Kursk Oblast Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi on charges of abuse of office while he was governor, RBK reported. Rutskoi stands accused of misappropriating a multimillion-ruble loan issued by Pareks Bank in 1997-98 to his administration. VY
U.S. FIRST LADY ATTENDS BOOK FESTIVAL IN MOSCOW
Laura Bush, wife of U.S. President George W. Bush, arrived in Moscow on 30 September to participate in a festival of children's literature organized by Lyudmila Putina, wife of President Putin, Russian and international media reported. Laura Bush, who is a librarian by training, and Putina, who is a philologist, told journalists that the goal of the festival is to disseminate the idea that reading, language skills, and family education are part of the process of developing good values. The two first ladies will be joined in Moscow by Cherie Blair, wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as by the first ladies of Bulgaria and Armenia. VY
POLAND INTRODUCES VISAS FOR RUSSIANS
As of 1 October, Poland has introduced entry visas for citizens of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Razov told RIA-Novosti. Razov noted that the move does not reflect the will of either Moscow or Warsaw, but is a requirement of the European Union, which Poland expects to join next May. Although the introduction of visas "is causing no enthusiasm," Russia has managed to reach an acceptable arrangement with Poland regarding the issuance of visas to its citizens, Razov said. The application process will be simple, and many categories of Russian citizens -- including businesspeople, government officials, students, people under age 17, and people over age 70 -- will be exempted from paying visa fees. Currently, about 3.5 million people a year travel between Russia and Poland, but the new visa system could cause this figure to fall dramatically, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 September, noting that many small, private traders might stop making the trip. VY
BRYANSK ELECTION COMMISSION WARNS THREE NEWSPAPERS...
The Bryansk Oblast Election Commission on 30 September officially warned three local newspapers for violating recent changes to the law on guaranteeing the rights of voters that regulate the coverage of election campaigns, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 1 October. "Bryanskii perekrestok" and "Bryanskie fakty" were warned for publishing polling results concerning the possible outcome of the 7 December State Duma elections, while "Desnitsa" was warned for publishing an interview with Igor Artemev, the No. 3 candidate on Yabloko's federal party list. Bryansk Oblast Election Commission Chairman Viktor Goncharenko said "Bryanskii perekrestok" and "Bryanskie fakty" failed to identify who ordered and paid for the polls, while "Desnitsa" published the Artemev interview after the Central Election Commission (TsIK) approved Yabloko's party list, but before the official start of the campaign period on 7 November. The warnings against the three newspapers marked the first application of the new law. That law permits the authorities to close down for the duration of an election campaign any media outlet that receives two warnings for violating the restrictions on coverage. JB
...WHILE TSIK HEAD CLAIMS LEGAL CHALLENGE TO THE RESTRICTIONS WAS PAID FOR
TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said on 30 September that the complaints that three journalists and more than 100 State Duma deputies filed with the Constitutional Court about the restrictions on media coverage of campaigns prove the restrictions' "correctness," RosBalt reported. Veshnyakov claimed that after the restrictions were adopted, "millions in funds no longer had anywhere to be spent and were directed into a campaign against the Central Election Commission." "We even know who is paying for this, and we see that the law is working successfully," Veshnyakov said. He said he hopes the Constitutional Court, which will consider the four complaints as a single matter on 13 October, will do so "objectively and fairly." He also expressed surprise that the court agreed to take up the case so quickly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 29 September 2003). JB
CONTROVERSIAL JOURNALIST SAYS HE'S GONE RED...
Television journalist Sergei Dorenko announced on 30 September that he has joined the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), Interfax reported. "I am an ordinary communist of party cell No. 2 of the city of Novopavlovsk in Stavropol Krai, where I received my party card yesterday," Dorenko said. He added that he has no plans either to make a party career or to run for the State Duma. Dorenko hosted a weekly show on ORT when it was controlled by former oligarch Boris Berezovskii and is perhaps best remembered for his attacks on Fatherland-All Russia's leaders, former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, prior to the December 1999 Duma elections. He also campaigned for Berezovskii in Karachaevo-Cherkessia, where the tycoon was running for a Duma seat. JB
...WHILE COMMUNISTS BEG TO DIFFER
KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov said he knows nothing about Sergei Dorenko joining the party, Interfax reported on 30 September. Zyuganov expressed doubt that the journalist joined in Novopavlovsk, since he neither lives there nor is actively involved in a city party cell there. Sergei Potapov, the KPRF Central Committee's secretary for organizational issues, said that Stavropol Krai KPRF Committee's First Secretary Viktor Pisarenko had told him no one there had either accepted Dorenko into the KPRF or heard anything about him applying to join. Potapov added that joining the KPRF is a complex procedure, requiring recommendations from two party members and approval by a party meeting. The KPRF Duma faction's press service said that if a local party organization had granted Dorenko a party card, then it violated party rules and the decision would be overturned, lenta.ru reported on 30 September. Dorenko, told by gazeta.ru that KPRF officials doubt he is really a member, responded by reading off information he said was printed on his party card, including its number -- 0032519. JB
'NOVOE VREMYA' SUES PUTATIVE NEW OWNER OF ITS OFFICE SPACE...
The news weekly "Novoe vremya" has filed a lawsuit against Primeks, the firm now claiming ownership of the central Moscow building in which the liberal magazine's editorial offices are located, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 September. Primeks reportedly sent security guards to take over the building on 24 September. According to "Kommersant-Daily," Primeks General Director Yurii Reinike said last week that "Novoe vremya" could remain in the building but must conclude a new lease with Primeks that would "deal with," among other things, office space which "Novoe vremya" has been renting for around $500,000 a year. As "Kommersant-Daily" notes, office space in the area around Pushkin Square, where the "Novoe vremya" offices are located, rents for $400-$500 per square meter per year, meaning that all the office space in the building housing the weekly could yield as much as $1.5 million per year. JB
...WHILE GETTING VERBAL SUPPORT FROM MEDIA MINISTER
The latest issue of "Novoe vremya," No. 40, includes an account of the building's takeover by Deputy Editor Vadim Dubnov. "Years of painstaking research on the theory of bandit capitalism could not grant us discoveries like those we had occasion to make in one week of unanticipated practical work," Dubnov wrote. Meanwhile, RIA-Novosti on 30 September quoted Media Minister Mikhail Lesin as expressing "serious concern" about the situation at "Novoe vremya." "The Media Ministry is delving into the details of the conflict and, undoubtedly, will make every effort to support the journalistic team," Lesin said. Such conflicts over property must be adjudicated, he said, adding that he hopes the conflict will be resolved quickly. JB
MOSCOW THEATER REFUSES TO SHOW CHECHNYA DOCUMENTARIES
Yurii Samodurov, director of the Andrei Sakharov Museum, told Ekho Moskvy on 30 September that the Chechnya Documentary Film Festival planned for 2-4 October in Moscow is under threat because one of the movie theaters involved has changed its mind about showing three of the scheduled documentaries. According to Samodurov, the Kinotsentr theater has decided not to show "Terror in Moscow," about the October 2002 hostage seizure and siege at a Moscow theater; "Babitskii's War," about RFE/RL correspondent Andrei Babitskii, who was kidnapped in Chechnya in early 2000; and "The Assassination of Russia," which alleges that Russia's special services staged the 1999 apartment-building bombings in Moscow and other cities. Samodurov claimed that Kinotsentr changed its mind under pressure from the FSB, whose work is touched upon in all three films. "It is hardly possible to interpret this decision any other way," Samodurov said. JB
CHECHEN PARLIAMENT APPEALS TO INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
In a statement posted on 30 September by chechenpress.com, 25 deputies to the Chechen parliament elected in July 1997 appealed to the international community not to recognize the legitimacy of the 5 October Chechen presidential election. They argued that free elections are not possible as long as Chechnya is occupied by Russian troops. The deputies denied that they participated in the reported Chechen parliament session that allegedly voted in favor of the impeachment of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 23 September 2003). LF
CHECHEN PRIME MINISTER RETURNS TO GROZNY
Anatolii Popov flew back to Grozny early on 1 October from Moscow, where he was hospitalized several days earlier with acute poisoning, ITAR-TASS reported. It remains unclear whether he succumbed to food poisoning, or whether an attempt was made to kill him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 September 2003). LF
COUNCIL OF EUROPE REPRIEVE DISAPPOINTS ARMENIAN OPPOSITION
Armenian opposition leaders criticized on 30 September the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's (PACE) failure to follow through on its threats to sanction the Armenian government for serious irregularities during the presidential and parliamentary elections earlier this year, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2003). Opposition Artarutiun bloc leader and defeated presidential candidate Stepan Demirchian told RFE/RL the Council of Europe "should be consistent in the pursuit of its own values." Other opposition politicians suggested the council might have reached a secret agreement with the Armenian leadership to acknowledge the legitimacy of the new Armenian PACE delegation in return for Armenia's full abolition of capital punishment. LF
ARMENIA REAFFIRMS DESIRE FOR EU MEMBERSHIP
Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told RFE/RL in Brussels on 30 September that "our goal is not just to become a part of the EU, but also to achieve EU standards." Oskanian was speaking after a session of the Armenia-EU Cooperation Council that focused on bringing Armenian legislation into line with EU standards, Armenian trade with the EU, and transport and energy issues, including the EU demand -- which Armenia rejects -- for the swift closure of the Medzamor nuclear-power station. LF
An "RFE/RL Newsline" item on 30 September should have specified that Hadrut is the southernmost raion of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and borders on Azerbaijan's Kubatly, Jebrail, and Fizuli raions.
BODYGUARD SAYS AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT IS WELL
Vagif Akhundov told journalists in Baku on 30 September that Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, whose personal security service he heads, "feels okay" and is undergoing rehabilitation in preparation for his return to Baku "within the next few days," Interfax and zerkalo.az reported on 30 September and 1 October, respectively. The 80-year-old Aliev has been undergoing medical treatment in the United States for kidney and cardiac problems for the past two months. Akhundov also said that his deputy, Beylar Eyyubov, is currently in charge of the president's security in the United States. That statement, if true, indirectly refutes Azerbaijani opposition media reports that Eyyubov has been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of links with the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2003). Speaking in Brussels on 30 September, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev said the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party (YAP) will decide within the next few days whether Aliev or his son, Prime Minister Ilham Aliev, should be the YAP candidate in the 15 October presidential election, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
U.S. AMBASSADOR TO AZERBAIJAN CONDEMNS ATTACK ON HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS
During a 30 September meeting with human rights activists in Baku, Reno Harnish condemned a 27 September attack on the Nakhichevan Human Rights Center and the neighboring office of the independent newspaper "Our Nakhichevan," and a similar attack on three human rights activists the following day at Nakhichevan airport, Turan reported on 30 September. LF
AZERBAIJAN-EU COOPERATION COUNCIL MEETS
The fifth session of the Azerbaijan-EU Cooperation Council took place in Brussels on 30 September under the joint chairmanship of Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Guliev and Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Roberto Antonione, Turan reported. Guliev briefed participants on the preparations for the 15 October Azerbaijani presidential election and measures Baku has taken to fulfill its obligations to the EU. Also discussed were the transport and energy sectors and Azerbaijan's cooperation with international economic structures. Guliev also met in Brussels with Ambassador Heikki Talvitie, who is the EU's envoy for the South Caucasus (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 26 September 2003). LF
JAPAN TO UPGRADE AZERBAIJAN'S PETROCHEMICAL INDUSTRY
Under an intergovernmental agreement signed in Baku on 26 September, Japan's External Trade Organization will provide 1.4 billion yen ($13 million) toward the cost of retooling Azerbaijan's petrochemical plants, Turan reported on 27 September. LF
RUSSIAN MINISTER FAILS TO PERSUADE CHECHEN REFUGEES IN GEORGIA TO RETURN
Stanislav Ilyasov, who is Russia's Minister for Chechen Affairs, traveled on 30 September from Tbilisi to Georgia's Pankisi Gorge but failed to persuade any of the estimated 4,000 Chechen refugees currently living there to return to Chechnya, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. According to the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2, the refugees reacted "aggressively" to Ilyasov's proposal and to assurances by Chechen district officials who accompanied him that they would be in no danger if they return to Chechnya and that they would be provided with accommodations there. The refugees also declined to accept some 20 tons of humanitarian aid that Ilyasov brought with him. LF
ABDUCTED RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPER RELEASED
Grigorii Derevyannikh, the Russian peacekeeper abducted in western Georgia on 27 September, was released late on 30 September in a joint operation by Georgian police and other members of the CIS peacekeeping force, ITAR-TASS reported. It is not clear whether Georgian politician Roland Changelia, whose family were suspected of involvement in Derevyannikh's abduction, has also been released (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2003). Meanwhile, the Georgian Foreign Ministry sent a protest note to the CIS Executive Committee on 30 September complaining that the Russian peacekeeping force deployed since 1994 under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone violated the terms of its mandate by venturing outside the 24-kilometer conflict zone, Caucasus Press reported on 30 September. Russian peacekeepers searched homes in two villages outside the security zone on 29 September in the effort to locate Derevyannikh. LF
ABKHAZIA CELEBRATES 10 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE
The unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia celebrated on 30 September the 10th anniversary of its de facto independence following the withdrawal of Georgian forces from Sukhum at the end of the 1992-93 war, Caucasus Press reported. The celebrations, which included a military parade, were attended by a delegation from the similarly unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and unnamed senior Russian officials and Russian State Duma deputies, according to rustavi-2.com. Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, who returned last week from an extended period of medical treatment in Moscow, did not attend the celebrations. LF
FOREIGN INVESTORS NOT HAPPY WITH CONDITIONS IN KAZAKHSTAN...
A World Bank poll of foreign investors in Kazakhstan found that not one is completely satisfied with the investment climate in that country, centran.ru reported on 30 September. Two-thirds said they are partly satisfied, while the remainder said they are prepared to pull out of Kazakhstan at the first opportunity. The survey did not pinpoint the reasons behind such dissatisfaction. Such findings could adversely affect Kazakhstan's attractiveness for foreign investment and, ultimately, the country's still-impressive growth rate. BB
...BUT KAZAKH GROWTH RATE REMAINS HIGH DUE TO OIL EXPORTS
The Belgian Finance Ministry, Kazakhstan's guarantor in the International Monetary Fund (IMF), reported that Kazakh economic growth did not slow in 2002, but added that this was largely the result of high world prices for oil, the country's main export, centran.ru reported on 30 September. The Belgian report also credited the Kazakh government's reform of its macroeconomic policy with maintaining the growth rate that has made Kazakhstan's economy one of the four strongest in the CIS. BB
TURKMEN OPPOSITIONIST REPORTEDLY TURNED AWAY FROM CZECH REPUBLIC
Turkmen opposition member Khudaiberdy Orazov, a former head of Turkmenistan's National Bank, was refused entry by Czech authorities when he tried to attend a meeting of the Turkmen opposition-in-exile that was held in Prague on 27-28 September, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported in its 1 October issue. He was sent to Germany, the report added. Orazov, whom Turkmen authorities allege was involved in an attempt on 25 November 2002 to depose or assassinate President Saparmurat Niyazov, heads the Turkmen opposition-movement-in-exile Watan. Czech authorities reportedly said Orazov did not have the required visa. BB
UZBEK JOURNALIST LOSES APPEAL AGAINST HOMOSEXUALITY CONVICTION
A Tashkent city court upheld the conviction on homosexuality charges of journalist and human rights activist Ruslan Sharipov at a closed appeal hearing on 25 September, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported the following day. The court reduced Sharipov's sentence from 5 1/2 years to four years in prison, dropping a conviction for involving minors in antisocial behavior. According to HRW, Sharipov arrived for the hearing with injuries to his face that officials said were the result of a minor traffic accident on the way to the court, but which could be signs of physical abuse. Sharipov has recounted in letters smuggled from prison various types of abuse and threats to which he says he has been subjected. BB
UZBEK GOVERNMENT PREVENTS OPPOSITION PARTY CONGRESS
The Uzbek government recently prevented the unregistered Erk Democratic Party from holding a congress in Tashkent, HRW reported on 30 September. The government had permitted an Erk gathering in Tashkent in June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2003), soon after the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development held its annual meeting in Tashkent and called on the Uzbek government to register opposition political parties. At that time, some party officials hoped Erk could soon regain the registration it lost in 1993. But since the June gathering, harassment and physical intimidation of party members by the authorities has increased, according to HRW, and there was no official response to the party's 4 September request to hold a congress on 27 September. Atanazar Arifov, the party's secretary-general, told HRW that he was warned not to attend regional party conferences that were scheduled as preliminaries to the September congress. BB
UZBEK NGO LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN AGAINST CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
An Uzbek nongovernmental organization called Mothers Against the Death Penalty and Torture has launched a campaign against the death penalty with an open letter to President Islam Karimov requesting a moratorium on executions, centrasia.ru reported on 30 September, quoting Deutsche Welle. The group's director, Tamara Chikunova, told a press conference on 29 September that most of those sentenced to death in Uzbekistan are between the ages of 18 and 30, and that the country's Criminal Code violates human rights because parents of individuals sentenced to death are not allowed to know the execution date, are not allowed a last meeting, and cannot learn where their son is buried, much less claim the body for burial. Women are exempted from the death penalty in Uzbekistan. The letter also criticizes the lack of independence of the Uzbek court system and alleges widespread corruption in the judicial and prison systems. The NGO reported having obtained the information that 22 people were executed in Uzbekistan in 2002; the group persuaded the authorities to commute eight death sentences. BB
BELARUS AGAIN POSTPONES INTRODUCTION OF NONCASH RUSSIAN RUBLE
Minsk has once again postponed the announced introduction of the Russian ruble for noncash transactions in Belarus, Belapan reported on 30 September, quoting Belarusian National Bank spokesman Mikhail Zhuravovich. A relevant draft decree on the move, which was approved by the cabinet, has reportedly stuck in the presidential administration. The introduction of the noncash Russian ruble in parallel circulation with the Belarusian ruble was initially scheduled for 1 July as a potentially major step toward a Russian-Belarusian currency union. It was subsequently rescheduled for 1 October against a backdrop of deepening controversy between Minsk and Moscow regarding integration and the possible privatization of gas-pipeline operator Beltranshaz to Gazprom (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2003). JM
BELARUSIAN LEGISLATURE RELUCTANT TO DEMOCRATIZE ELECTORAL CODE
The leadership of the Chamber of Representatives has failed to include a bill of amendments to the Electoral Code in the agenda of the chamber's forthcoming session, Belapan reported on 30 September. The draft bill, proposed by lawmaker Valery Fralou, meets some requirements of the Organizaton for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe regarding the democratization of the electoral process in Belarus. In particular, the document envisages abolishing early voting and changing the procedure for forming election commissions so that representatives of political parties and nongovernmental organizations would account for one-third of their members. It also grants more rights to observers and makes it possible to challenge all decisions by election commissions in court. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAYS COUNTRY IS 'TIRED OF WAITING' FOR EU MEMBERSHIP...
President Leonid Kuchma suggested in Kyiv on 30 September that Ukraine should not aspire to EU membership, saying Brussels has kept his country waiting too long, Ukrainian and international news agency reported. "How long can we be kept waiting on the threshold [to the EU]?" Interfax quoted him as saying. "Ukraine is tired of waiting.... None of the [EU] bureaucrats has declared that they want to see Ukraine in the EU." Kuchma also expressed his bitterness over the fact that Ukraine has been neither granted associate EU member status nor recognized as a country with a functioning "market economy." "If I were today invited to join the EU, I would refuse," Kuchma stated. "Who in Europe needs Ukrainian planes, the Ukrainian machine building, or the Ukrainian coal industry? We would not withstand [economic] competition even for a month." JM
...SUGGESTS HE IS TIRED OF POLITICS...
President Kuchma also said on 30 September that he is in favor of electing a new president by direct ballot, Interfax reported. He was apparently referring to a recent proposal by a group of pro-presidential lawmakers that a new president be elected in 2004 by the current Verkhovna Rada (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2003). "I am for a nationwide vote in the presidential election. And I am for holding the election in 2004," Kuchma told journalists. "I am not going anywhere -- either to run for president [for a third term] or to play other games," he added. JM
...AND SHRUGS OFF IMPEACHMENT MOVE OVER CIS SINGLE ECONOMIC SPACE
President Kuchma reiterated his opinion that an accord on the creation of the CIS Single Economic Space he signed recently along with the presidents of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 23 September 2003) does not contradict the Ukrainian Constitution, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. He said the opposition effort to impeach him for signing this agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 September 2003) is pointless. "The opposition has been calling for the president's impeachment for the past several years when it had no other ideas," Kuchma said. "It is more political speculation and provocation by forces that have nothing else to say. I pity them." JM
ESTONIA LOOSENS RESTRICTIONS ON CITIZENSHIP
The Supreme Court has ruled that Soviet and Russian veterans living in Estonia may receive permanent residency permits, despite opposition based on security concerns, BNS reported on 30 September. Those veterans, half of whom are more than 70 years old, were previously eligible only for five-year permits. A total of 7,000 such veterans and their family members currently hold valid residency permits in Estonia. Interior Minister Margus Leivo last week proposed that the Constitutional Committee draft amendments to the law on foreign nationals stipulating when a Russian or Soviet military pensioner is eligible for a permanent residence permit. But committee member Evelyn Sepp said "only about 200 [of the veterans] might constitute a certain security risk" and recommended against amending the law. However, Sepp said administrative practices should be brought in line with the Supreme Court's decision. SG
UN COMMITTEE ADVISES LATVIA TO ALLOW RESIDENT NON-CITIZENS TO PARTICIPATE IN LOCAL ELECTIONS
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recommended that Latvia should allow legal residents who are not citizens to participate in local-government elections and extend the period for bilingual education, LETA reported on 30 September. The recommendations were included in the committee's evaluation of a report Latvia made to it in August regarding its implementation in 1998-2002 of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The committee lauded Latvia's creation of a ministerial office to oversee societal integration, its adoption of a Society Integration Program, a Constitutional Court ruling that abolished restrictions on foreign-language broadcasts contained in the radio and television law, and noted the lack of opposition to educational reforms. The government asked Societal Integration Minister Nils Muiznieks to establish a working group to evaluate the committee's recommendations. SG
LITHUANIA, U.S. JOIN FORCES TO COMBAT COUNTERFEITING
Interior Minister Virgilijus Bulovas and U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania Stephen Mull signed a bilateral agreement in Vilnius on 30 September aimed at uncovering and preventing the counterfeiting of U.S. currency, ELTA reported. Under the agreement, Lithuanian police will receive equipment and training from U.S. special services for the one-year project. SG
POLAND INTRODUCES VISA REGIME FOR EASTERN NEIGHBORS
In compliance with its EU accession obligations, Poland introduced new visa requirements on 1 October for citizens of three neighboring countries -- Belarus, Ukraine, Russia -- and Moldova, Polish media reported. Ukrainians and residents of Russia's Kaliningrad exclave are not charged for their visas, while Poles may visit Ukraine and Kaliningrad Oblast without visas. Belarusians, Moldovans, and Russians living in the Russian Federation (apart from Kaliningrad Oblast) are charged 10 euros ($11.60) for a single-entry Polish visa and 50 euros for a multiple-entry one. JM
CZECH PRESIDENT CONTINUES TO CRITICIZE EUROPEAN CONSTITUTION...
President Vaclav Klaus said on 30 September that the reason for his recent criticism of the draft European constitution stems from the Czech government's failure to explain to the public the consequences of the document, CTK reported. On 29 September, Klaus wrote an article for the "Mlada fronta Dnes" daily warning that the proposed constitution will turn the EU into a "super-state" and will affect the national sovereignty of its members (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2003). "It is not enough to publish the text of the [proposed] constitution. It is necessary to [also] interpret it and I think that [the government's] interpretation is superficial," the president said. Klaus spoke after a meeting with Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller. On 1 October, Klaus announced that he will not join the Czech delegation at the Intergovernmental Conference, which begins in Rome on 4 October, CTK reported. Klaus said he does not believe there will be sufficient time at the conference for a proper and detailed discussion of the proposed constitution. MS
...WHILE PARLIAMENT TO DEBATE GOVERNMENT'S POSITION ON DOCUMENT
President Klaus and Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla agreed at a 30 September meeting that the lower house should debate the proposed European constitution, CTK reported. The debate is to be held on 7 October, after the start of the Intergovernmental Conference in Rome. Earlier, the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), whose honorary chairman is Klaus, called for an extraordinary session of the legislature to be briefed on the cabinet's position on the document. "We do not consider it possible for the government to take part in the [Intergovernmental] Conference unless parliament knows its position," said deputy speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Ivan Langer (ODS), as cited by Reuters. MS
CZECH, POLISH PREMIERS SEE EYE TO EYE ON WAR EXPELLEE CENTER
Visiting Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller told the "Mlada fronta Dnes" daily on 30 September that he backs the position of his Czech counterpart Spidla, who has opposed the plan to build a memorial center in Berlin for ethnic Germans expelled from Eastern Europe after World War II, dpa reported. Miller said that the memorial must not be one honoring "the suffering of only one nation." He added, "It was not the Poles or the Czechs who started World War II" and that Geneva, Strasbourg, or Sarajevo would be a more appropriate location for a center for European expellees. Miller also met with President Klaus and said after the meeting that he shares many of the Czech president's concerns about the proposed European constitution. But he added that he hopes the Intergovernmental Conference in Rome will be a forum for a real exchange of opinions and not just a make-believe debate, CTK reported. MS
CZECH DEFENSE MINISTRY SAYS IRAQI SHI'ITE LEADER HAS PROVOKED PERSONNEL
Defense Ministry spokesman Ladislav Sticha said on 30 September that an Iraqi Shi'ite religious leader has "staged a provocation" against staff of a Czech military field hospital in Al-Basrah, dpa reported. Sticha did not name the Iraqi religious leader but Czech Ambassador to Kuwait Jana Hybaskova told CTK that he was Shaykh Sabah Saidi, a member of a radical Shi'ite movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr. Sticha said that Saidi has told followers in Al-Basrah that members of the field hospital have circulated texts from the Koran, which contain English-language insults, and that he has demanded an apology from the Czechs (see Newsline III). CTK reported that Saidi has threatened to act against the field hospital unless an apology is made. The agency also said al-Sadr has demanded an apology from all members of the coalition operating in Iraq for the alleged defamation. Sticha said that the Czech Army "is ready to act at once" in case of "any new developments." MS
CZECH-SLOVAK COMMISSION TO DISCUSS ROMA MIGRATION
Petr Mares and Pal Csaky, the Czech and Slovak deputy prime ministers, respectively, agreed on 30 September in Prague to set up a joint commission to discuss the growing number of Slovak Roma migrating to the Czech Republic, CTK reported. According to the report, the commission will be established within one month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2003). MS
WILL SLOVAKIA'S COALITION SURVIVE UNTIL 2004?
Coalition leaders on 30 September expressed contradictory views on the chances of Slovakia's conflict-ridden four-party coalition surviving the next few months, TASR, CTK, and Reuters reported. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said after a meeting of President Rudolf Schuster with the Coalition Council that he is optimistic about the chances of the 2004 budget being approved by parliament. Other members of the council, however, struck a more pessimist note. Reuters cited Hungarian Coalition Party Chairman Bela Bugar as saying the situation is "serious" and that the failure to pass one important law would be "proof that the coalition is supported by only a minority" of deputies. Three recent defections by members of the Alliance for a New Citizen have meant the coalition can now only count on 75 votes in the 150-seat legislature. The recent dismissal of former Defense Minister Ivan Simko also casts doubt on his future support for the coalition, according to Reuters. MS
SLOVAKIA ELECTS NEW SUPREME COURT PRESIDENT
Judge Milan Karabin was elected on 30 September as the new president of Slovakia's Supreme Court, TASR and CTK reported. Karabin defeated his main opponent, former Supreme Court President Stefan Harabin, receiving 10 out of the 17 ballots cast in the Judicial Council. A third candidate, Supreme Court Deputy Chairman Jozef Majchrak, withdrew from the race in Karabin's favor. This is the fourth attempt to elect a new president of the Supreme Court. The result of the first attempt was invalidated by the Constitutional Court because Harabin, who won that ballot, had cast a vote for himself. In two other attempts, no candidate secured the minimum 10 votes required for election. The position has been vacant since early 2003. This will be Karabin's second mandate as Supreme Court president. He headed the court from 1996 to 1997, but resigned on health grounds. MS
HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT SUBMITS 2004 DRAFT BUDGET
Finance Minister Csaba Laszlo submitted his government's 2004 budget bill on 30 September, the same day it was approved by cabinet ministers, Hungarian media reported. The bill proposes a state budget deficit of 609 billion forints ($2.7 billion) and a public deficit, including local government shortfalls, of 3.8 percent of forecast GDP, or 783 billion forints. The bill assumes 3.5 percent economic growth and 5.5-6 percent inflation in 2004, "Nepszabadsag" reported. The government anticipates a 12.9 percent rise in state revenues and an 11.4 percent increase in expenditures. The Prime Minister's Office would receive the largest increase in funding -- 83 percent -- while the Environment Ministry would see the largest cutback, of 15 percent. Opposition FIDESZ deputy Laszlo Madi reportedly criticized the government for not discussing the budget with representatives of various interest groups. He claimed that the proposed 2004 budget would take 1 trillion forints ($4.5 billion) away from individuals and companies. Opposition Democratic Forum deputy Gyorgy Gemesi, who is also chairman of the Local Governments Association, charged that local governments will need an additional 200 billion forints to cover their expenses due to higher value-added taxes (VAT) but the bill earmarks just 100 billion for that purpose, "Magyar Nemzet" reported. MSZ
HUNGARY SEES 'MORE IMPORTANT ISSUES' THAN RELIGION IN EU CONSTITUTIONAL DEBATE
The Hungarian parliament's Integration Committee on 30 September rejected an opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) proposal to instruct the Hungarian delegation to insist that a reference to Christian values be included in the European Union's proposed constitution, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. Hungary's EU mission leader, Peter Balazs, told the daily that the government does not oppose the MDF proposal but wants to focus on "more important issues," such as the rights of national and ethnic minorities. Italy's ambassador to Hungary, Giovan Battista Verderame, said the topics of minorities, equal rights for all member states, and the EU's rotating presidency are on the agenda of an Intergovernmental Conference due to start in Rome on 4 October. The Italian EU Presidency supports a reference to Christianity in the European constitution, Verderame said, but not all member states think along those lines. MS
DIFFERING EXPECTATIONS OVERSHADOW KOSOVA TALKS
Harri Holkeri, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), said in Vienna on 30 September that Belgrade-Prishtina talks on "practical issues on a technical level" will take place in the Austrian capital on 14 October, dpa reported. He added, however, that "the launching [of the talks] will be a relatively short event, with some high-profile representatives...and delegations from Prishtina and Belgrade." In the Serbian capital, Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said the discussions must be "between a state and its province, not between two states," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Meanwhile, Serbia and Montenegro's parliamentary speaker, Dragoljub Micunovic, told reporters that he learned during his recent meetings at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg that "all of democratic Europe" supports his country's efforts to improve the human rights situation in Kosova. But in Prishtina, Kosova's President Ibrahim Rugova and several other leading elected officials made it clear that they are less than enthusiastic about the talks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 29 September 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 and 20 June, 1 August, and 26 September 2003). PM
COALITION TALKS IN MACEDONIA?
Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski of the Social Democratic Union (SDSM) and Abdulmenaf Bexheti, who heads the ethnic Albanian opposition Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD), met on 26 September to discuss closer cooperation, A 1 TV and "Utrinski vesnik" reported. After the meeting, Bexheti said he does not rule out the PPD's joining the governing coalition of the SDSM, the ethnic Albanian Union for Democratic Integration (BDI), and the Liberal Democrats (LDP). "If [Bexheti is interested in] a new coalition, the PPD will have to wait for new parliamentary elections," Ermira Mehmeti of the BDI said on 29 September. The SDSM and the PPD once formed a coalition government that was ousted in the 1998 parliamentary elections. In recent opinion polls, the BDI has lost most of its voter support (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 and 26 September 2003). UB
BOSNIA AND THE EU: HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL
Osman Topcagic, who is a top Bosnian official dealing with relations with the EU, told Reuters on 30 September that his government recently answered 346 questions from Brussels and hopes to know by December if talks on a Stabilization and Association Agreement can begin in 2004. He argued that the European Commission recognizes that the answers were carefully and accurately prepared. But Bosnia still has much homework to do if it is to catch up with Croatia and Macedonia, which already have similar agreements with the EU. "At the end of July, the [Bosnian] cabinet drafted an action plan of urgent reforms that need to be undertaken in the next six months," Topcagic noted. Albanian and Serbia and Montenegro also hope to sign a Stabilization and Association Agreement but must first convince Brussels that they are serious about reforms. PM
BOSNIA STARTS ITS FIRST CASE AGAINST ORGANIZED CRIME
The Bosnian state prosecutor's office filed charges on 1 October against six members of an alleged organized criminal gang for counterfeiting euro banknotes, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. This is Bosnia's first case against members of an organized criminal group, the broadcast added. In Banja Luka, the authorities are expected to announce shortly the results of a crackdown by Republika Srpska police against organized crime. In Vienna, Erhard Busek, who heads the EU-led Southeast European Stability Pact, said that it is wrong to regard the Balkans as the main source of organized criminal activity. A large quantity of smuggled illegal drugs comes from Afghanistan, while those who benefit from human trafficking live primarily in Western Europe. PM
BOSNIAN SERB PLEADS GUILTY TO WAR CRIMES CHARGES
Miroslav Deronjic, who is a former leading politician of Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) in the Bratunac region, pleaded guilty before the Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 30 September to a charge of persecution, which is a crime against humanity, Reuters reported. His plea is the result of bargaining with the prosecutors, who scaled down their original charges against him. Deronjic admitted ordering an attack by Yugoslav Army and Bosnian Serb forces on the Muslim village of Glogova on 9 May 1992, leaving the village razed and 60 people dead. PM
'ROYAL WEDDING' IN ROMANIA MAKES WORLD HEADLINES
Florin Cioaba, the self-appointed "Romany King" in Romania, was questioned by police on 30 September after the marriage the previous day of his 12-year-old daughter Ana Maria, Mediafax and Reuters reported. Ana Maria tried to escape the enforced marriage to a 15-year-old groom by fleeing to a church but was brought back by her father despite her protests and tears. Baroness Emma Nicholson, the European Parliament's rapporteur on Romania and an advocate of children's rights, wrote a letter to the government denouncing the "rape" and urged the Romanian authorities to "take both the boy and the girl into protection, subject to the decision by professionals." Cioaba denies he has forced his daughter to marry and insists that marriage at a young age is a Romany tradition. MS
ROMANIAN PREMIER REJECTS AUTONOMY BASED ON ETHNICITY...
Addressing a session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 30 September, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said that he cannot accept any local government autonomy based on ethnic criteria, Mediafax reported. Nastase was answering a question by a Hungarian member of PACE. He said that a "local community" in Romania always includes several ethnic groups and it would not be right to place management of local affairs in the hands of a single ethnic group. Responding to another Hungarian PACE member's question, Nastase said that his government and the Hungarian government will attempt to bridge differences and reach a compromise over the Liberty Monument in the Romanian city of Arad by December this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15, 16, 17, and 24 September 2003). Nastase said that the "sensibility of Romanians" over the significance of the controversial monument must be taken into consideration "no less than the sensibility of others." He added, "We must not return to the past." MS
...AND SAYS MOLDOVANS MIGHT SOON NEED VISAS TO ENTER ROMANIA
Addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 30 September, Prime Minister Nastase said Romania will fully respect the Schengen treaty regulations after the country completes accession negotiations with the EU, Mediafax reported. Bucharest hopes to do so by July 2004. Nastase said the visa requirement would then have to be introduced for all citizens of non-EU member states, including Moldova. The Romanian prime minister also said that his country is ready to participate in the mediation of the Transdniester conflict if asked to do so by international organizations such as the OSCE or the EU, but would not do so on its own because of the issue's "sensitivity." Nastase also reiterated that he does not see any need for a basic treaty between Moldova and Romania to be concluded. "When such a need existed in 1991-1992, we proposed such a treaty. Now our relations are built on the general principles of international law. We may want to sign an agreement with Moldova on a European partnership, because both our countries are part of the framework of European institutions," he said. MS
MOLDOVAN COMMUNIST OFFICIAL SAYS RUSSIAN WITHDRAWAL DEADLINE MUST BE EXTENDED
Andrei Neguta, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Moldovan parliament, said on 29 September on the private Pro TV Chisinau channel that the deadline for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Transdniester must be prolonged once again, Flux reported the next day. The deadline expires on 31 December. Neguta, who is in Strasbourg attending a PACE session, said that "regardless of the reasons" for the delay, there will be no choice but to "establish a third deadline, though a shorter one. Nothing else will be realistic." The 1999 Istanbul OSCE summit established a deadline of December 2002; at a later summit in Porto the deadline was extended to 31 December 2003. MS
PPCD DEPUTY CHAIRMAN ACCUSES AUTHORITIES OF TAPPING HIS PHONES
Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) Deputy Chairman Vlad Cubreacov said on 30 September that he has "irrefutable proof" that his phones are being tapped by the Moldovan authorities, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Cubreacov said that both his regular and mobile phones are under surveillance and that those who are doing the job are "not simple amateurs." He added that the "threats come from the prosecutor-general and the Security and Information Service." Cubreacov said that current legislation prohibits telephone surveillance except for reasons of security and under no circumstances does the legislation allow phone tapping for political purposes. He said that if there was a security concern -- for example the ongoing investigation into Cubreacov's 2001 kidnapping -- the authorities should have notified him. Cubreacov said that the illegal surveillance infringes on his human rights and on his immunity as a member of PACE. MS
CHISINAU COMMUNIST OFFICIAL WARNS DEMONSTRATORS AT RUSSIAN EMBASSY
Chisinau Deputy Mayor Ala Mironic, a member of the Party of Moldovan Communists, told PPCD leaders on 30 September that their picketing of the Russian Embassy must end within 15 days, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2003). Mironic said the law stipulates that demonstrations lasting longer than 15 days need to be approved by the local authorities. PPCD Deputy Chairman Stefan Secareanu countered that this stipulation contradicts the European Convention on Human Rights and said that, according to the Moldovan Constitution, international law prevails over Moldovan law. Some 20 demonstrators continue to picket the Russian Embassy in protest against Russia's failure to respect its obligation to withdraw its troops from Transdniester by the end of the year. MS
BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT SET TO BUILD NEW NUCLEAR-POWER PLANT
Energy Minister Milko Kovachev said on 30 September that Bulgaria will build a new nuclear-power plant near Belene, independent of any decision regarding the existing nuclear-power plant in Kozloduy, mediapool.bg reported. The plan to build the Belene plant was first announced by Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski in April 2002. The government later argued that a new plant is necessary because the EU insists that the older blocks of the Kozloduy plant be shut down. Kovachev said he expects an international tender for the construction of the new plant to be announced in early 2004 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2002 and 16 July 2003). UB
BULGARIAN UNIVERSITIES TO TRAIN TEACHERS FOR ROMANY CHILDREN
St. Cyril and Methodius University in Veliko Tarnovo and Thracian University in Stara Zagora have started special training courses for teachers who will teach Romany children, "Standart" reported on 1 October. According to docent Hristo Kyuchukov of St. Cyril and Methodius, 30 prospective teachers will learn the Romany language, culture, and history as well as special techniques to teach the Bulgarian language to children whose first language is Romany. UB
WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL PRESIDENT ANSWERS QUESTIONS IN BELGRADE
Judge Theodor Meron, current president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), became the first president of the tribunal to visit Belgrade officially. In an interview with Radio B92 on 18 September (see http://b92.net), Meron explained that for the first time, the government has extended an invitation, a gesture he believes "reflects a changing mood of cooperation" and "improvement, progress" in relations with the tribunal in The Hague.
Discussing the possibility of transferring some cases back to local courts, Meron said, "War crimes trials in the area where crimes have been committed have a greater resonance because they would then take place close to the victims, close to the people, and not thousands of miles away."
Such ceding of cases back to local courts is part of an overall "completion strategy" to eventually wind up prosecutions of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. He cautioned that such transfers would only be made if the courts could be determined by the UN Security Council to be up to international standards.
Tactfully, he noted that Serbia and Montenegro could be "extremely helpful to the international community in making the completion strategy realistic and speedier" by arresting fugitives still not in custody -- specifically Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic. "The completion strategy -- it is not a strategy for obtaining impunity from prosecution," he added.
The ICTY will attempt to meet a targeted completion date of 2008 for trials and appeals by 2010 but factors such as the speed of arrests, whether some defendants can be tried jointly or separately, could slow down the schedule. While in Belgrade, Meron gave a lecture the Center for Human Rights about the challenges of the ICTY.
Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic told the BBC he welcomed the opportunity to talk to a top tribunal official other than Carla Del Ponte, who is chief prosecutor. Svilanovic stressed that Karadzic and Mladic are not the only indicted war criminals, and that Belgrade has already sent two former presidents -- Slobodan Milosevic and Milan Milutinovic -- to The Hague.
Asked if the ICTY had spent too long with prosecutions and gone after "small fry," Meron recalled: "We had so little support from the governments in the area that we just couldn't get custody for people of any rank. It is a sign of our success that during the last few years we have been getting very senior, very prominent people."
B92 pressed Meron about continued U.S. reservations against the International Criminal Court, but he refrained from comment, saying it was not appropriate in his capacity as president of the ICTY, and in any event, the issues are more complex than have been portrayed. Asked about possible pressure from the United States to "wrap up your mission more quickly," Meron explained that he is an international judge elected by the UN General Assembly and "to say that I would be more subject to pressure applied by the United States government because I am an American is...completely unacceptable."
Meron believes the ICTY can go a long way toward ending "the culture of impunity" and promoting reconciliation in the region. Whatever its problems, the ICTY is a "marvelous model of international justice" which over the years has built up "an extremely developed, sophisticated body of procedure" that would benefit the ICC and other tribunals, he said.
Catherine Fitzpatrick is the editor of "RFE/RL (Un)Civil Societies."
U.S. SOLDIER KILLED IN SOUTHEASTERN AFGHAN PROVINCE...
One U.S. solider was killed and two were wounded during combat against "anticoalition soldiers" in the Shkin District of the southeastern Paktika Province on 29 September, Radio Afghanistan reported the next day. U.S. military spokesman Colonel Rodney Davis said "the deceased soldier was engaged in combat maneuvers against anticoalition soldiers, or I shouldn't say soldiers -- anticoalition personnel -- when he was wounded," RFE/RL reported. Shkin has been the scene of violence -- blamed by numerous Afghan officials on neo-Taliban or remnants of the former Taliban regime -- that has resulted in dozens of U.S.- and Afghan-troop and civilian deaths since December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 December 2002 and 22 January, 11, 25, and 28 April, and 15 May 2003). AT
...AS AFGHANISTAN DELAYS TROOP DEPLOYMENT IN THE REGION
Paktika Province Governor Mohammad Ali Jalali said on 30 September that the planned deployment of 500 troops loyal to the Afghan Transitional Administration in the Barmal and Shkin districts has been delayed, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported on 1 October. On 29 September, Jalali had elaborated on plans to deploy additional troops in the region to respond to increased attacks on Afghan and coalition forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2003). Jalali cited financial and security obstacles to the troop deployment. He added that the security situation in Paktika is unsatisfactory and people in the province expect the central authorities in Kabul to ensure peace and security there. AT
KABUL APPOINTS CEASE-FIRE COMMISSION FOR CONFLICT IN AFGHAN NORTH
The Afghan Transitional Administration appointed a commission on 29 September to bring an end to an ongoing armed conflict in three northern Afghan provinces, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported on 30 September. The fighting, which began in the Sar-e Pol, Balkh, and Faryab provinces on 27-28 September, pits forces loyal to Junbish-e Melli party head General Abdul Rashid Dostum -- who is special adviser on security and military affairs to Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai -- against troops loyal to the Jamiat-e Islami party, led in northern Afghanistan by 7th Army Corps commander General Ata Mohammad. General Abdul Sabur, a spokesman for Ata Mohammad, said fighting is continuing in Sar-e Pol Province, where he claimed seven fighters have been killed. AT
NEW ICG REPORT FOCUSES ON DISARMAMENT AND REINTEGRATION IN AFGHANISTAN
In a 23-page report titled "Disarmament and Reintegration in Afghanistan" that was released on 30 September (http://www.crisisweb.org), the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) writes that the domination of Afghanistan's political landscape by armed parties and individual commanders is still the principal obstacle to implementation of the political process that was agreed at the Bonn conference in late 2001. The report adds that without a credible process of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former commanders and fighters into society, it is inconceivable that any of the key elements of that political process -- including the adoption of a new constitution, judicial reform, and elections -- can be meaningfully implemented. AT
NEW PAPER LAUNCHED IN AFGHANISTAN'S KAPISA PROVINCE
A new independent publication titled "Eqbal" appeared for the first time on 29 September, Radio Afghanistan reported. "Eqbal" editors vowed that their paper will maintain its editorial independence from foreign and domestic influences, and will seek to reflect the realities and issues important to residents of the Kapisa and Parwan provinces. It is unknown in what language or how frequently the four-page newspaper will be published. AT
IAEA CALLS FOR IRANIAN COOPERATION
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohammad el-Baradei said on 30 September that he will not be able to describe the Iranian nuclear program as purely peaceful if Tehran does not cooperate fully with the agency, Reuters reported. "If we cannot have full cooperation, full disclosure, unfortunately I'll have to say that I am not able to verify the Iranian statements," he said. He said that Iran has not answered any of the questions raised in the 12 September IAEA board of governors resolution on Iran (http://www.iaea.org/worldatom/Press/Focus/IaeaIran/gov2003-69.pdf). Understanding the uranium-enrichment program is the "number-one priority," he said. BS
TEHRAN REJECTS EUROPEAN NUCLEAR DEMANDS
Tehran has reacted aggressively to EU demands that it halt its enrichment activities and sign the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2003). Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi on 30 September denounced the EU statement as "inappropriate" and "political," IRNA reported. "The EU's behavior is contrary to the Islamic Republic of Iran's constructive and transparent cooperation with IAEA and the principles of bilateral cooperation. The EU was expected to act independently regardless of the current atmosphere," IRNA quoted Assefi as saying. "Iran expects the EU to recognize Iran's legitimate right for acquiring nuclear technology for peaceful use and to try to eliminate the barriers on the way of expansion of bilateral cooperation within the frameworks of NPT." Deputy speaker of parliament Mohammad Reza Khatami said on 30 September that the Europeans have gone too far, IRNA reported, and added that Tehran has the right to use nuclear energy for its economic development. "Iran has not obtained nuclear technology from European countries, so European refusal to support [the] Iranian nuclear program will not cause any difficulty," he added. BS
TEHRAN SAYS ENRICHED URANIUM CAME FROM ABROAD
Iran's representative to the IAEA, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the highly enriched uranium discovered recently must have come from abroad, ISNA reported. International media reported the previous week that traces of HEU were discovered at the Kalaye Electric Company (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 29 September 2003). BS
IRANIAN IMMIGRANTS ARRESTED AT U.S. NUCLEAR PLANT
Three Iranian men equipped with digital cameras were arrested on the grounds of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Massachusetts, on 27 September, "The Enterprise" reported three days later (http://enterprise.southofboston.com). The middle-aged men -- Fariborz Motamedi, Amir M. Lashgari, and Hamid H. Ahmadi -- told the federal and local authorities who arrested them that they were hiking. After what the Boston-area publication referred to as "extensive questioning," the authorities released the three men. These were not the first arrests in the area -- others have included a kayaker and fishermen. BS
IRANIAN PRESIDENT VOWS 'TWIN BILLS' WILL PASS
President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami in a 30 September speech to provincial governors vowed that the two pieces of legislation introduced by the executive branch more than a year ago will get passed "one way or another," AP reported. Intended to increase the authority of the executive branch vis-a-vis unelected branches of government and to end the Guardians Council's role in vetting candidates for elected office, the two bills have been rejected several times by the Guardians Council, which must approve all legislation on religious and constitutional grounds. Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Hojatoleslam Mohammad Abtahi had said during the previous week, "With regard to the [twin bills], on several occasions I have said that there is no hope for their ratification," "Iran Daily" reported on 28 September. "I believe the trend is not positive." BS
JOBLESS IRAQIS TURN VIOLENT IN BAGHDAD, MOSUL
Protests by jobless Iraqis in Baghdad and Mosul turned violent on 1 October, international media reported. In Baghdad, protestors seeking jobs in the U.S.-supported security services threw rocks at a security building and reportedly set fire to a police car and civilian vehicle, Reuters reported. Iraqi police reportedly fired shots from automatic rifles and pistols at the crowd, wounding several people before U.S. troops secured the area. Many of the protesters said they were former members of the Iraqi Army. Protesters told AP that they had repeatedly come to the office of the Facilities Protection Force looking for jobs. Both AP and CNN reported that protestors complained that Iraqi police were asking for $100 bribes just to fill out a job application, while others said they were turned away and told by police that no jobs were available, despite earlier promises that they would be hired by July. In Mosul, a large crowd of protesters hurled rocks at an unemployment office before taking their protest to a local government building, Reuters reported. The crowd dispersed after security forces fired shots into the air. International officials, including U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer, have estimated the unemployment rate in Iraq at approximately 50 percent. KR
WMD INSPECTOR SPECULATES THAT HUSSEIN WAS BLUFFING
"The Washington Post" reported on 1 October that U.S. weapons inspector David Kay is "pursuing the possibility" that in an effort to stave off a U.S. invasion of Iraq this year, deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein bluffed about distributing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to his forces. "The idea of [WMD] deployment and the authority to launch was very solid [before the war]," former UN weapons inspector David Albright told the daily. "But it's now being looked at as possibly misinformation or that [Hussein's regime was] playing with us." Kay is expected to report to Congress this week that Hussein retained the country's ability to develop chemical and biological weapons and planned to reconstitute Iraq's nuclear program once UN sanctions on Iraq were lifted. KR
ACCUSATIONS FLY BETWEEN CZECH TROOPS AND SHI'ITE CLERIC IN IRAQ
Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has reportedly accused Czech doctors working in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah of distributing a passage of the Koran on which derogatory comments were written, Czech radio reported on 30 September. Czech Defense Ministry spokesman Ladislav Sticha responded by calling al-Sadr's allegations "an act of provocation that is clearly aimed at destabilizing the situation in Al-Basrah." He added that the defamatory comments were written "in very poor English and contain a number of grammatical errors frequently made by local people." Meanwhile, Czech Ambassador to Kuwait Jana Hybaskova told CTK on 20 September that Shaykh Sabah Saidi, an associate of al-Sadr, has made threats against the Czech field hospital. Hybaskova traveled to Al-Basrah to meet with local authorities and said she and the authorities believe the text is a forgery and a provocation, and that the Czech field hospital will continue to operate. She added that the hospital's relations with the local population remain good. KR
TURKOMAN LEADER SURVIVES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT IN IRAQ
A Turkoman Islamic leader reportedly escaped an assassination attempt in northern Iraq on 29 September, KUNA reported on 30 September. Sami Dunmer was attacked after leaving a meeting in Tikrit where Arabs and Kurds had gathered to form a municipal council. He called at the meeting for Turkoman representation in the council. An unidentified source told KUNA that Dunmer was attacked on a road between Salah Al-Din and Tikrit, and was rushed to a hospital in Turkey for treatment for a head wound. The source claimed that Kurds were behind the attack. KR
U.S. SAYS IT WILL BE FLEXIBLE ON CONSTITUTION DEADLINE
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters during a 30 September press briefing (http://www.state.gov) that the United States will be flexible with the six-month deadline announced by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell for the drafting of an Iraqi constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2003). Boucher said Powell "said this could be done in six months, maybe. We'd like to see it done in six months, but it's a matter for the Iraqis to decide, ...to determine how they want to handle this process, and what kind of time frame they can do it in." Regarding the expected presentation to the UN Security Council of a U.S. draft resolution on Iraq, Boucher said: "Secretary [Powell] said we should be able to come up with a second version of the resolution within the next few days, so I'd say we're on track for coming up with a version of the resolution sometime this week and having consultations with other governments sometime later this week." KR