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Newsline - October 9, 2003


RUSSO-GERMAN SUMMIT CONTINUES IN YEKATERINBURG...
President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder continued their summit in Yekaterinburg on 9 October, Russian and international media reported. The two men are expected to sign several economic and trade agreements, including one on the construction of the North Baltic natural-gas pipeline, which will cross the Baltic seabed from Western Siberia to Germany. The project would allow Russia to ship gas to Europe without crossing Belarus and Ukraine. Speaking to journalists on 8 October, Schroeder said there are no political differences between Russia and Germany and so both sides are focused on economic and trade relations, RIA-Novosti reported. Putin commented that Schroeder's words do not mean that there are no problems between the countries, but emphasized that good personal relations enable the leaders to resolve them effectively. Putin added that Germany is Russia's main trading partner and that annual trade volume between the two countries is worth 24 billion euros ($28.4 billion). VY

...IN ATMOSPHERE OF COMPLETE SECRECY
The Russo-German summit in Yekaterinburg is being held under almost complete secrecy, with minimal information being released to the media, uralpolit.ru and other Russian media reported on 9 October. After the final round of talks began at the residence of Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel, the presidential security service ended television broadcasts and ordered journalists to leave the hall. This order was a surprise to the presidential press service, which tried to allow the resumption of coverage but was told not to interfere with a decision that had been made by the presidential administration. Earlier, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry had complained that "preliminary leaks" forced the government to change the venues of the talks. VY

PUTIN SAYS NO ONE CAN TWIST RUSSIA'S ARM...
Speaking to a gathering of Russian and German businesspeople in Yekaterinburg, President Putin called on Germany to help Russia to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), polit.ru reported on 9 October. He noted that Russia's accession is complicated by WTO demands that Moscow boost domestic energy prices to international levels. The European Union has also called upon Russia to do this, Putin said. However, this measure would destabilize the Russian economy, he argued. "They tried to twist Russia's arm, but nothing came of this," Putin said, according to RosBalt on 9 October. "Russia has strong arms now." VY

...AS MOSCOW COULD SHIFT FROM DOLLAR TO EURO
Russia is considering quoting its oil prices in euros instead of U.S. dollars, "The Moscow Times" and Reuters reported on 9 October, citing unidentified German business sources at the Yekaterinburg summit. President Putin first suggested this measure in 1999, and European Union leaders recently said that Russia's doing so could boost the euro and establish an equilibrium between the two currencies, "The Moscow Times" reported. The Energy Ministry declined to comment on the reports, but said that talks with the EU on this matter are continuing. Putin noted with satisfaction on 8 October that the Moody's international ratings agency had boosted Russia's rating to "investment grade" for the first time ever. The ratings hike caused Russia's stock market to hit an historic high that day, "The Moscow Times" reported on 9 October. VY

DEFENSE MINISTER TO MEET WITH NATO COUNTERPARTS
Sergei Ivanov arrived in the United States on 8 October to participate in the annual informal meeting of NATO defense ministers to be held on 9-10 October in Colorado Springs, RIA-Novosti and other Russian media reported. Speaking to journalists, Ivanov said he will discuss Russian-NATO relations "in the context of [NATO] expansion," as well as joint efforts in developing non-strategic antimissile defenses. "Naturally, we will also discuss problems of international security, combating terrorism, and the situations in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea and the Middle East," Ivanov said. VY

MOSCOW ANGERED AS BRITAIN GRANTS ASYLUM TO FORMER OLIGARCH'S ASSOCIATE
The Foreign Ministry reacted bitterly to a 7 October decision by the London Magistrates Court to grant political asylum to Yurii Dubov, a business associate of former oligarch Boris Berezovskii, RTR and Ekho Moskvy reported on 8 October. Both Dubov and Berezovskii, who was granted political asylum in Great Britain on 10 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2003), are wanted in Russia on charges of fraud and money laundering. Moscow continues to call for their extradition. The Foreign Ministry on 7 October issued a statement saying that "the purposeful harboring of Boris Berezovskii and Yurii Dubov on British territory" could damage the Russian-British partnership. Russian Ambassador to Great Britain Yurii Karasin told journalists in London on 7 October that "it would be naive to interpret the verdict in Dubov's case as only a legal or technical decision," the BBC reported. Dubov's attorney, Andrew Stevenson, welcomed the court's ruling, saying that the Russian government is persecuting his client for his criticisms of Moscow's policies in Chechnya and its suppression of the independent mass media. VY

DEPUTIES TINKER WITH ALTERNATIVE SERVICE
State Duma deputies on 8 October adopted in its first reading a bill that would amend the law on alternative civilian service, Russian media reported. Just 10 more deputies than the required 226 voted in favor of the bill, Interfax reported. If adopted, the bill would enable young men to perform their alternative military service near their homes. The amendments were prepared by the Duma's Defense Committee, which is chaired by Andrei Nikolaev (People's Deputy). The government and presidential administration oppose the bill. Presidential envoy to the State Duma Aleksandr Kotenkov suggested the law only be amended after it has been in effect for a time. The law comes into effect on 1 January 2004. He also noted that the army is suffering from a sharp decline in personnel, saying it's impermissible to create conditions that encourage people to avoid military service. JAC

MOSCOW MAYOR COOL ABOUT PLANS TO TRANSFER CAPITAL FUNCTIONS TO ST. PETERSBURG...
Commenting on news reports that St. Petersburg Governor-elect Valentina Matvienko's plans to seek the transfer of some federal capital functions to her city, Yurii Luzhkov argued on 8 October that such a transfer would require enormous sums of money and constitutional amendments, RIA-Novosti reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2003). He said that under the Russian Constitution, Moscow is the sole capital of the Russian Federation, which gives the city the right to host all state bodies. "The first thing would be to ask Moscow's permission for this," Luzhkov said. "It is possible that we might agree to anything." JAC

...AS JUDGES WOULD RATHER QUIT THAN MOVE
Supreme Court Deputy Chairman Viktor Zhukov on 8 October described proposals to move the Supreme Court and Higher Arbitration Court to St. Petersburg as "either idiocy or sabotage," Ekho Moskvy reported. He explained that such a transfer would destroy the judiciary, as many Supreme Court judges would rather resign than go to St. Petersburg. JAC

GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS QUEUE UP TO MOVE TO LEGISLATIVE BRANCH...
Many government ministers and officials are vying for seats in the State Duma for diverse reasons, "Vedomosti" and "Vremya novostei" reported on 8 October. On the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party list are Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov; Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu; Industry and Science Minister Ilya Klebanov; Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Vasilev; and Nadezhda Maksimova, an adviser to Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin. Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Motorin is on Yabloko's party list, while State Fisheries Committee Deputy Chairman Leonid Kholod is on the list of the obscure Constitutional-Democratic Party. JAC

...AS ANALYSTS SPECULATE WHY
Sergei Kolmakov, vice president of the Foundation for the Development of Parliamentarism, told "Vedomosti" he thinks some officials are afraid that when the government is restructured, they will lose jobs and are seeking to reserve a position for themselves. An unnamed expert told "Vremya novostei" that there are two possible explanations for Industry and Science Minister Klebanov's candidacy. One is that he could more effectively lobby the government's interests from within the Duma, and the other is that the presidential administration wants to strengthen its influence over the Duma. JAC

NEW ENTRANTS JOIN MOSCOW CITY AND OBLAST RACES
State Duma Deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov (Liberal Democratic Party) announced on 8 October that he will run for governor of Moscow Oblast in the 7 December election, RIA-Novosti reported. Mitrofanov, who is No. 9 on the LDPR party list for the 7 December Duma elections, already declared his intention to run for mayor of Moscow and, possibly, for president of Bashkortostan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2003). Both those elections will also be held on 7 December. Also on 8 October, incumbent Moscow Oblast Governor Boris Gromov announced that he will seek a second term. So far, he will compete not only against Mitrofanov, but also Arkadii Shvartser, a member of the International Federation of Artists. On 8 October, National Reserve Bank (NRB) head Aleksandr Lebedev informed the Moscow city election commission that he will run for Moscow mayor, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. Moscow businessman German Sterligov is also running in that race. JAC

COMMUNISTS FEAR PARLIAMENTARY NEWSPAPER TO BECOME MOUTHPIECE FOR UNIFIED RUSSIA
The State Duma's confirmation the previous day of the resignation of "Parlamentskaya gazeta" Editor in Chief Leonid Kravchenko is part of a broader effort by Unified Russia to remove pro-Communist personnel from the Duma's apparatus, "Gazeta" wrote on 8 October. "This is the last blow against the left," a member of the Communist faction told the daily. "Now they will write only about [Unified Russia]." According to "Kommersant-Daily," State Duma Regulations Committee Chairman Oleg Kovalev (Unity-Unified Russia) declared last month that Kravchenko should be removed from his post because of alleged unauthorized spending revealed by an audit that was undertaken in March and April. JAC

NEWS FLASH: INTERIOR MINISTER PLAYS THE GUITAR
Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told reporters on 8 October that a purported news item aired on 7 October by state-owned RTR's "Vesti" evening news program the previous night would be interpreted as campaign propaganda if it is determined that there was no actual news reported in it, RosBalt reported. In the segment, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov accompanied singer Oleg Gazmanov on the guitar. Veshnyakov said that he did not see the "Vesti" piece himself, but he is sure his commission will look into the matter. JAC

CHECHEN PRIME MINISTER AGREES TO HEAD NEW CABINET...
Anatolii Popov told a press conference in Grozny on 8 October that he has accepted a proposal from Chechen President-elect Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov to head the new Chechen government, Russian media reported. Echoing Kadyrov, Popov predicted that there will be no sweeping changes in the composition of the present cabinet, which he described as a good and efficient team. While Popov said that new ministers will be selected on the basis of their professional expertise, Kadyrov made clear on 7 October that his primary criterion in appointing officials will be their unquestioning loyalty to him personally (see forthcoming "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 10 October 2003). LF

...DENIES COMPENSATION PAYMENTS SUSPENDED
Prime Minister Popov also told the 8 October press conference that the payment of compensation to Chechens whose homes were destroyed during hostilities over the past few years has not been and will not be suspended, Russian media reported. But he added that mechanisms are being worked out to preclude fraud and to expedite payments to those who qualify for them. President-elect Kadyrov said on 7 October that payment of compensation will be suspended for one week so that the lists of those whose applications for compensation have been approved can be verified, according to Interfax. Kadyrov claimed that in five districts where lists have been checked, 45-50 percent of prospective recipients have been found not to qualify for such compensation payments. LF

NEW ARMENIAN WORLD ORGANIZATION HEAD ADMITS TO DIFFERENCES WITH ARMENIAN PRESIDENT
Arriving in Yerevan on 8 October at the head of a delegation of some 350 Russian businesspeople and academics, Moscow-based tycoon Ara Abrahamian implicitly conceded that he and Armenian President Robert Kocharian disagree over the intended role of Abrahamian's World Armenian Organization, the founding congress of which took place in Moscow on 6 October, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2003). Abrahamian wants the new body to serve as a rallying point for Armenians worldwide, while Kocharian believes only the Republic of Armenia can and should play that role. "Iravunk" noted on 7 October that two prominent Armenian opposition leaders, Stepan Demirchian (Ardarutiun) and Artashes Geghamian (National Accord Party), were invited to the founding congress. Abrahamian expressed regret on 8 October that the Armenian Assembly of America, one of the main organizations representing the Armenian diaspora in the United States, failed to send representatives to the Moscow congress. LF

RUSSIAN SECURITY COUNCIL SECRETARY HOPES FOR 'CONTINUITY' IN AZERBAIJAN
Vladimir Rushailo, who arrived in Baku on 7 October for a three-day visit, told journalists the following day that Moscow positively assesses the current improved state of bilateral relations and hopes that Azerbaijan's current policies vis-a-vis Russia will continue, Interfax reported. Prime Minister Ilham Aliev, for his part, assured Rushailo on 8 October that "Azerbaijan's foreign-policy course remains unchanged. Relations with Russia remain our top priority," Turan reported. Rushailo also said he considers Aliev a worthy candidate to succeed his father, Heidar Aliev, as president. Rushailo met on 8 October with Prime Minister Aliev, presidential administration head Ramiz Mekhtiev, and also with Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev to discuss military cooperation, the arms trade, and cooperation in the fight against international terrorism. Rushailo told journalists on 8 October that while Moscow hopes the Karabakh conflict will soon be solved, "the parties must find independently a mutually acceptable solution," according to ITAR-TASS. LF

AZERBAIJAN REJECTS OSCE ELECTION CRITICISM
Presidential administration head Mekhtiev met in Baku on 8 October with Ambassador Peter Eicher, head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Election Observation Mission for the 15 October presidential election, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 4 October 2003). Mekhtiev rejected as lacking in objectivity the OSCE's concern over reports of widespread violations of the election law and harassment of opposition candidates and their supporters. He affirmed that "no one is being persecuted," and recommended that Eicher base his future assessments on public opinion in general, rather than on complaints by the opposition. LF

AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA SIGN DEBT RESCHEDULING AGREEMENT
Georgian Finance Minister Mirian Gogiashvili signed an intergovernmental agreement in Baku on 8 October, under which Georgia's $16.1 million debt to Azerbaijan will be repaid over 20 years, Caucasus Press reported. Georgia's total foreign debt amounts to $2 billion, and its ability to meet interest payments has been undercut by the suspension of further International Monetary Fund loans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2003). LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER OMITTED FROM VOTER LISTS
The opposition election alliance Burdjanadze-Democrats launched an initiative called Protect Your Right To Vote on 9 October, after parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze discovered that her name and those of her family members have not been included in the list of people entitled to vote in the 2 November parliamentary elections, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. That discovery prompted the Central Election Commission to demand that the Interior and Justice ministries check the accuracy of lists they were asked to prepare this spring, Interfax reported. The finished lists contain 2.9 million names, compared with 2.1 million at the time of the 1999 parliamentary elections. Opposition politicians have claimed that the names of 600,000 people who are deceased remain on the lists, while 30 percent of eligible voters have been excluded. Also on 8 October, the NGO Fair Elections listed errors it had discovered in the lists, including one voter whose date of birth was given as 1800, Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ DELEGATIONS SIGN SECURITY PROTOCOL...
Georgian and Abkhaz government delegations headed by Georgian Minister for Special Assignments Malkhaz Kakabadze (Tbilisi's point man for Abkhazia) and Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba, respectively, met in Gali on 8 October with UN Special Envoy for the Abkhaz conflict Heidi Tagliavini to discuss the recent deterioration of the situation in the Abkhaz conflict zone, including the 5 October murders of three Abkhaz, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 October 2003). The two ministers signed a protocol in which they undertake "to cooperate and take immediate measures to stop criminal activities...that have a serious impact on security" in the conflict zone. They also agreed to cooperate fully with the UN police force that is to be deployed in the conflict zone to prepare for the repatriation of Georgian displaced persons forced to flee Abkhazia during the 1992-93 war. Shamba told Interfax on 8 October that delegations from both Tbilisi and Sukhum will visit Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosova later this month to familiarize themselves with UN police operations there. LF

...AGREE ON RETURN OF DEAD GUNMEN
A separate agreement was reached during the 8 October Gali meeting that the Abkhaz will hand over to the Georgian side the bodies of two men killed in the 5 October incident -- although Georgian officials insist the two men were not Georgian citizens -- in exchange for the release of an Abkhaz man seized by Georgian guerrillas on 5 October. LF

SOUTH OSSETIA DENIES HARBORING FORMER GEORGIAN SECURITY CHIEF
The Foreign Ministry of the unrecognized republic of South Ossetia has issued a statement denying that former Georgian State Security Minister Igor Giorgadze is currently living on the territory of South Ossetia, Caucasus Press reported on 8 October. Giorgadze fled Georgia in the fall of 1995 after being accused of masterminding the August 1995 car-bomb attack on then-Georgian parliament Chairman Eduard Shevardnadze, Giorgadze's application to register as a candidate in the 2 November Georgian parliamentary election was rejected. His wife on 7 October pleaded in Tbilisi with visiting U.S. General (Retired) John Shalikashvili for help in obtaining political asylum in the United States, Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIA, GERMANY DISCUSS MILITARY COOPERATION
A German Bundeswehr delegation headed by Defense Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Walter Kolbo met in Tbilisi on 8 October with President Shevardnadze and Defense Minister Lieutenant General David Tevzadze to assess the progress made in bilateral military cooperation, Caucasus Press reported. Particular attention was focused on the training in Germany of Georgian military personnel, the participation of Georgian service personnel in the German peacekeeping force currently serving in Kosova, and German aid to the Georgian Defense Ministry. Kolbo assured Shevardnadze of Berlin's support for Georgia's desire to join NATO. LF

KAZAKHSTAN STARTS BURYING RADIOACTIVE WASTE
Kazakhstan has begun burying radioactive waste from a uranium mine in Akmola Oblast that was shut down in 1995, KazInform reported on 8 October. According to the news agency, this is the first time burial has been used in the CIS as a method of disposing of radioactive waste. The Kazakh government in 2001 ordered the cleanup of the mine near the village of Krasnogorsk because of high radiation levels. Three more abandoned uranium mines in the same area are awaiting similar treatment, which is expected to last at least seven years. BB

KAZAKH GOVERNMENT ASKS PARLIAMENT TO APPROVE REVOCATION OF TRANSIT AGREEMENT WITH UZBEKISTAN
The Kazakh government on 8 October submitted to parliament a draft law that would annul a 1998 transit treaty with Uzbekistan, the daily "Ekspress-K" reported the next day. The agreement concerned a rail line that crossed the Kazakh-Uzbek border at two points to connect the Maktaaral Raion of South Kazakhstan Oblast with Shymkent, the oblast center, and the rest of Kazakhstan. Uzbekistan subsequently prohibited use of the line by passenger trains. Because the line is now of use only to Uzbekistan since Kazakhstan built a rail line that avoids the border, the Kazakh government sees no point in retaining the transit treaty. BB

LEADERSHIP DISPUTE CONTINUES IN KYRGYZ HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE
Bolot Tynaliev and his associates who consider themselves the leaders of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights (KCHR) have threatened to sue committee Chairman Ramazan Dyryldaev, whom Tynaliev believes he replaced in an election in August that the KCHR's board says was illegal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2003), RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 8 October. The Justice Ministry has ignored the board and the international human rights community and reregistered the KCHR with Tynaliev as chairman. Now Tynaliev and his associates are appealing to Kyrgyzstan's Prosecutor-General's Office, National Security Service, Justice Ministry, and ombudsman to force Dyryldaev to hand the KCHR's property over to them, and threatening to take him to court if he fails to do so. The Kyrgyz and international human rights communities say that by encouraging Tynaliev and his friends, the government is seeking to destroy one of Kyrgyzstan's most prominent human rights groups. BB

KYRGYZ ELECTRICITY FIRM STARTS TURNING OUT THE LIGHTS
After warning for several weeks that government agencies' and individual consumers' enormous unpaid electricity bills would force drastic measures, the firm Severelektro, which serves northern Kyrgyzstan, has started turning out the lights, akipress.org reported on 8 October. In six villages of the Chui Valley, electricity has been shut off at homes with unpaid electric bills. Severelektro said inhabitants of Chui Oblast, the region around Bishkek, owe 539 million soms (about $12.5 million) in unpaid bills. Some government-owned factories were reportedly disconnected earlier. In order to prevent consumers whose electricity has been shut off from illegally reconnecting to electricity lines, the firm says it is also removing equipment from transformer stations and high-voltage lines. BB

KYRGYZ UIGHURS PROTEST JUSTICE MINISTER'S REMARKS ON SEPARATISM THREAT
Representatives of the Uighur diaspora in Kyrgyzstan have issued an appeal criticizing First Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Kurmanbek Osmonov for publicly stating that Uighur separatism represents a threat to the country, Deutsche Welle reported on 7 October. Uighur concerns regarding Osmonov's and other law enforcement officials' statements were also expressed at a congress of the Uighurs of Kyrgyzstan in July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2003). The Kyrgyz authorities have subsequently linked Uighur separatists to the bombing of a currency-exchange office in Osh in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 2003). In their appeal, the Uighur leaders ask for proof of Osmonov's assertions and state that unemployment, poverty, crime, and corruption and bribery of government officials are the real threats to Kyrgyzstan. BB

UZBEK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH MEMBERS OF NEW PARTY
Uzbek President Islam Karimov met with members of the new Liberal Democratic Party on 7 October as a gesture of encouragement, uzreport.com reported the next day. The party, which is in the process of formation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2003), seeks to attract entrepreneurs and small-business owners, on whom Karimov is relying to push forward Uzbekistan's lagging economic development. The president reportedly encouraged the party to put forward its own ideas in order to attract a following, and to speak to the government as an equal. According to RIA-Novosti on 8 October, Karimov himself suggested the party's name. BB

UNREGISTERED HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP HOLDS CONGRESS IN TASHKENT
The unregistered Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU) on 2 October held its fourth kurultai (congress) in the Freedom House office in Tashkent, centrasia.ru reported on 9 October. Forty-eight delegates from all parts of Uzbekistan except Khorezm and Navoi oblasts attended the event, which was also supported by the British Embassy and the OSCE Center in Tashkent and attended by representatives of foreign human rights groups and journalists. According to a brief report on the congress, members of the security services kept an eye on the proceedings from the street, but did not interfere. Talib Yakubov was re-elected chairman of the society, a post he has held since the HRSU was split into three antagonistic groups in the mid-1990s, and the leadership was given two months to prepare documents to attempt again to register with the Justice Ministry. The government has consistently refused to register the HRSU under Yakubov's leadership on the grounds that it is political (it has been closely associated with the Birlik movement), and thus cannot qualify as a nongovernmental organization under Uzbek law. BB

GAZPROM REPORTEDLY EXPECTS 'MEANINGFUL PROPOSALS' FROM MINSK
Russia's Gazprom will send a delegation to Minsk for the second round of talks on next year's gas price for Belarus only after the Belarusian government comes out with "meaningful proposals," Belapan reported on 8 October, quoting an unidentified source with the Russian company. "We have set the price for Belarusian consumers at $80 for 1,000 cubic meters [of gas], the base rate for the former USSR countries," the Gazprom source said, adding that in such a situation Gazprom expects Belarus to charge $1.75 for the transit of 1,000 cubic meters of Russian gas across 100 kilometers of Belarusian territory. "If the Belarusian side agrees to lower this rate, we, for our part, will be able to consider reducing the gas price," the source noted. The previous day, Belarusian Deputy Energy Minister Alyaksandr Sivak said the Belarusian government has proposed resuming talks next week with Gazprom on the creation of a joint-stock company based on Beltranshaz, the operator of Belarusian oil pipelines (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2003). JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS NO REFERENDUM THIS YEAR
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 8 October that he is not planning any referendums this year, Belarusian Television and Belapan reported. "It is necessary to keep on working steadily, do business, raise children, and cultivate crops so that our children can live normally," he added. Lukashenka, whose second term runs out in 2006, said last year that he would consider a third term if the Belarusians backed him in a referendum, despite a constitutional limit of two terms for presidents. JM

TNK-BP URGES UKRTRANSNAFTA TO START FILLING ODESA-BRODY OIL PIPELINE
The Russian oil company TNK-BP, formed by the Tyumen Oil Company (TNK) and British Petroleum (BP), is still waiting for Ukrtransnafta, Ukraine's oil pipeline operator, to decide to sign an accord on filling the Odesa-Brody pipeline with Russian crude, Interfax reported on 8 October, quoting a TNK trade representative in Ukraine. Previously the TNK-BP said it will abandon its plans to ship 9 million tons of Russian oil annually through the pipeline to Odesa if Ukrtransnafta makes no decision on the issue by 8 October. The Ukrtransnafta supervisory board reportedly voted 4-3, with one abstention, last week to allow TNK-BP to fill the Odesa-Brody pipeline with 380,000-420,000 tons of Russian crude to be shipped to Odesa. Fuel and Energy Minister Serhiy Yermilov and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych subsequently denied such a decision has been made (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 October 2003). Odesa-Brody was originally built to ship Caspian oil to Europe. JM

FINNISH PARLIAMENT SPEAKER VISITS ESTONIA
Paavo Lipponen began a two-day visit to Estonia on 7 October by meeting with his Estonian counterpart, Ene Ergma, BNS reported the next day. Lipponen noted that the business of national parliaments and the European Parliament should be kept separate from each other. The next day Lipponen told Prime Minister Juhan Parts about Finland's goals at the Intergovernmental Conference on the European Constitution in Rome, including the goals that each EU member state have at least one commissioner on the European Commission and further negotiations on security and defense policy. Talks with President Arnold Ruutel focused on joint activities in further developing environmental protection, infrastructure, and energy spheres in the Baltic Sea region. Lipponen also met with parliament European Affairs and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairmen Rein Lang and Marko Mihkelson. SG

LATVIAN PRESIDENT, PREMIER DISCUSS FUTURE OF GOVERNMENT COALITION
President Vaira Vike-Freiberga told Prime Minister Einars Repse on 8 October that she hopes the parties in the ruling coalition will realize that the government has to tackle a number of important issues such as accession to the EU and NATO, administration of EU funds, and preparing Latvia's development strategy now, LETA and BNS reported. Repse said he is ready to do everything to improve communications between the government and parliament. He also said he regrets that the statements of coalition representatives in the parliament that they back the government are not always fulfilled when there is a vote. Repse said he considered calling for a vote of confidence in his government, but decided against the idea since, he feels, the upcoming vote on the 2004 budget will show the extent to which parliament trusts the government. SG

CONSUMER PRICES DECLINE IN LITHUANIA
The Statistics Department announced on 8 October that the consumer price index (CPI) in Lithuania in September was 0.4 percent lower than in August and 0.8 percent lower than in September 2002, BNS and ELTA reported. During September, prices for food and nonalcoholic beverages declined by 0.3 percent. An increase of 3.4 percent in the price of clothing and footwear pushed the costs of all goods up by 0.1 percent, but prices of services decreased by 2.3 percent, including a 6.7 percent decline in communications services. SG

POLISH TROOPS IN IRAQ TO COOPERATE WITH U.S. WEAPONS EXPERTS
Polish troops in Iraq will cooperate with U.S. experts in identifying arms found in Iraq in order to avoid blunders such as the recent Roland missiles controversy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2003), Polish Radio reported on 8 October. An agreement to this effect was reached during a meeting the same day between Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the U.S. city of Colorado Springs. Szmajdzinski reportedly said a "lack of professionalism" caused the erroneous identification of the production date of four Roland-type missiles that Polish soldiers found in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 7 October 203). JM

POLISH GOVERNMENT DECIDES ON AUSTERITY PLAN
Prime Minister Leszek Miller's cabinet on 8 October adopted a plan for streamlining and cutting public spending, Polish media reported. "It's now or never," Miller told journalists. "Now, that we are enjoying economic growth, when we can see the beginnings of this growth, when this growth can be strengthened...is the time to rationalize public spending." The plan, prepared by Economy Minister Jerzy Hausner, could save up to 32 billion zlotys ($8.4 billion) by the end of 2007, and some 2 billion zlotys next year, Polish Radio reported on 9 October. The plan foresees cutting costs in administration and the army, reforming health spending, restructuring the state-owned railways and the coal-mining industry, as well as changes in the pension system and farmers' social insurance. JM

CZECH OPPOSITION PUSHES GOVERNMENT ON EURO CONSTITUTION...
The Czech opposition continues to badger the government about altering its position on the proposed European constitution, CTK reported on 8 October. The right-of-center Civic Democratic Party (ODS) is likely to propose a constitutional law that would require a referendum to be held on the proposed constitution, the report said. Vlastimil Tlusty, head of the ODS parliamentary group, on 8 October accused the government of withholding information about the negotiations. "It is clear that we cannot let this go unmentioned," he told CTK. The government has not yet ruled out a referendum. On 1 October, before the intergovernmental conference currently being held in Rome, the opposition tried to change the government's position, but the ruling coalition gained enough votes to weather the storm. The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) has also criticized the government's plans. The opposition has argued that the government is only making minimum demands and is not prepared to defend Czech national interests at the conference in Rome, which is slated to end in December. Opposition parties have also expressed concerns that a European constitution will lead to greater federalization, and Prague ceding power to Brussels. LA

...WHILE CZECHS REMAIN UNCERTAIN ABOUT WHAT IT WILL MEAN
According to a recent survey conducted by the Prague-based STEM polling agency, only 33 percent of respondents trust the negotiators who will represent the Czech Republic at the intergovernmental conference on the proposed European constitution, CTK reported. Sixty-seven percent of those polled said that they do not think small countries would be able to impose their will during the negotiations. The respondents were also divided on the issue of holding a referendum on the constitution: 53 percent support a referendum, while 47 percent are against. LA

SLOVAK BUSINESSMAN SEEKS POLITICAL ASYLUM IN CZECH REPUBLIC
Investigators in Slovakia are likely to seek an international arrest warrant for businessman Patrik Pachinger, who on 7 October left the country to apply for political asylum in the neighboring Czech Republic, TASR reported on 8 October. Pachinger and Slovak business tycoon Jozef Majsky are being prosecuted in connection with last year's collapse of the Horizont Slovakia and BMG Invest investment funds. Pachinger was released in June, after spending nine months in custody. The Supreme Court ruled on 29 July, however, that the law was breached by his release. Pachinger has said he believes this ruling was made under political pressure. On 9 October, he told the daily "Narodna obroda," as cited by TASR, that he is not trying to escape prosecution and that he is able to defend himself. Pachinger said he expects Slovak courts to prepare an international arrest warrant and does not trust the Slovak judicial system, TASR reported. In July, he appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for 36 billion crowns ($974 million) indemnification from the Slovak state (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 2003). LA

HUNGARIAN CABINET DECIDES TO LAY OFF 8,000 GOVERNMENT WORKERS
The Hungarian government on 8 October decided to lay off an average of 10 percent of staff working at ministries and related administrative bodies and 6 percent of those working in regional and local state-financed bodies, Hungarian radio reported. Government spokesman Zoltan Gal said the move will result in some 8,000 people losing their jobs before the end of the year. Meanwhile, the government will launch a program to help those laid off find jobs in civic and nonprofit organizations, Gal explained. MSZ

HUNGARIAN PARTIES REACH CONSENSUS ON MINORITY RIGHTS, BUT NOT ON CHRISTIAN VALUES IN EU PROPOSAL
Representatives of the governing and opposition parties on 8 October reached a consensus in the parliament's EU integration committee on a proposal to incorporate a reference to ethnic minority rights in the new constitution of the European Union, Hungarian media reported. Members of the committee could not agree, however, on Hungary also proposing a reference to Christian values, as advocated by the opposition FIDESZ and Hungarian Democratic Forum. Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs told "Nepszabadsag" after the meeting that the governing coalition member Free Democrats oppose any reference to Christian values in the constitution. Nevertheless, if other EU member states call for a reference to Christian traditions, Hungary would not oppose it, Kovacs added. MSZ

HUNGARIAN RADIO CHAIRWOMAN WAS 'SECRET' AGENT, NOT 'SOCIAL'
Hungarian Radio Chairwoman Katalin Kondor was a "secret agent," not a "social agent" as misinterpreted in the Hungarian media (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2003), Levente Sipos, chairman of the panel overseeing the transfer to the Historical Archives of secret service documents, told "Nepszabadsag" on 8 October. An expert speaking on condition of anonymity explained to the MTI news agency that the abbreviation TMB on Kondor's files means "titkos megbizott" (secret agent), not "tarsadalmi megbizott" (social agent). He said secret agents were not paid for their services, but in some cases their expenses were covered. Sipos told "Magyar Nemzet" that the transferred documents prove that Kondor was an agent. He added, however, that the file on recruiting her has not been found. MSZ

SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO TO SEND TROOPS TO AFGHANISTAN?
The Supreme Defense Council agreed in Belgrade on 8 October to send a 1,000-strong force to Afghanistan to support international peacekeeping efforts, apparently in the Kandahar area under U.S. command, RFE/RL reported. Several Western media have reported that unnamed U.S. officials accepted the offer during a recent visit by a delegation from Serbia and Montenegro to Washington and Central Command headquarters in Florida. Serbia and Montenegro's government and parliament must approve the Supreme Defense Council's decision before it can take effect. It is not clear whether the troops will come entirely from the Army or also from the police, who have a strained relationship with the military. Nor is it clear who will vet the force's officers for the possible presence of war crimes suspects. Belgrade is anxious to improve its standing in Washington's eyes, even if, as Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic recently said in the U.S. capital, "there are three things Serbs cannot stand: an independent Kosovo, NATO, and the United States" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August and 6 October 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 and 15 August 2003). PM

SERBIA TO EXPAND ITS DELEGATION TO KOSOVA TALKS...
One day after Harri Holkeri, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), issued formal invitations to the 14 October Vienna talks between Prishtina and Belgrade, Serbian Prime Minister Zivkovic and Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic agreed with former Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica on 8 October that Belgrade's delegation should include representatives of all political parties that helped draw up the parliament's recent declaration on Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 October 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 August and 26 September 2003). The three men also agreed that the declaration should serve as Belgrade's "platform" for the talks. PM

...WHILE KOSOVARS REMAIN UNSURE
Kole Berisha, who is vice president of the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) led by Kosova's President Ibrahim Rugova, told RFE/RL's Albanian-language broadcasters on 8 October in Prishtina that Kosovar officials will indeed take part in the Vienna talks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 8 October 2003). Elsewhere, Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi said he will take part in the opening ceremony in Vienna but will not actively participate in the negotiations without a clear mandate from Kosova's parliament, which has yet to decide on the matter. Holkeri has said that the talks will go ahead with or without the parliament's approval. PM

MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT BLAMES JUDICIARY FOR BAD CORRUPTION RATING
According to the Macedonian chapter of the anticorruption watchdog Transparency International -- which presented its "Corruption Perceptions Index [CPI] 2003" on 7 October -- the country now ranks 106th among the 133 countries surveyed, RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters reported. Macedonia's CPI was 2.3 on a 10-point scale, thus placing the country in a group along with Serbia and Montenegro, Ukraine, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Bolivia, and Honduras. A Macedonian government spokesman said the government does everything in its power to fight corruption, "Dnevnik" reported. He added that the biggest problem is that the courts are dragging their heels in following up on the criminal charges filed by the government. Immediately after it took power in the fall of 2002, the government formed an Anti-Corruption Commission including lawyers, economists, and members of Transparency International's Macedonian branch (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2002). UB

HIGH REPRESENTATIVE HAILS PROGRESS IN BOSNIA...
Addressing the UN Security Council in New York on 8 October, High Representative Paddy Ashdown said that there are signs that Bosnia is moving from a period of what he called "lawless rule" to a society based on the rule of law, RFE/RL reported. He added that Bosnians from all major ethnic groups have begun to cooperate on key issues. These include setting up a state-level tax administration, promoting unified control of armed forces, and bringing together the divided city of Mostar. Ashdown noted "the Bosnian authorities are beginning to move beyond the old sterile confrontational politics of the immediate post-conflict period and towards more rational, more pragmatic politics focused on the bread-and-butter issues of everyday concern to their constituents and citizens." He defended the 1995 Dayton peace agreement, saying that it "is being used not as in the past to block reform but to [promote] it.... The constitution of the country has now become the property of its people, not of the international community" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 September 2003). PM

...CALLS FOR HELP IN COMBATING WAR CRIMINALS
High Representative Ashdown also told the UN Security Council in New York on 8 October that the international community must help fund a new war crimes tribunal for Bosnia, which will enable that country to pursue war criminals long after the current Hague-based body has concluded its work, RFE/RL reported. He stressed that "peace cannot be described as fully entrenched until the perpetrators of these unspeakable crimes are finally brought to justice." James Cunningham, who is deputy U.S. ambassador to the UN, noted that the Republika Srpska has failed to introduce economic reforms and arrest war criminals. He warned "investors won't do business where the law is not upheld and because [indicted war criminal Radovan] Karadzic's vast criminal support network continues to steal resources that local governments need to pay for pensions, health care and education." PM

NATO SAYS BOSNIAN SERBS HELD WEAPONS CACHES
SFOR officials said in Banja Luka on 8 October that former Yugoslav Army and Army of the Republika Srpska personnel were involved in the hiding of 120 tons of arms and ammunition in 36 locations in northwest Bosnia, which have been seized by peacekeepers since early September, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 2003). One commander noted that the arms and ammunition would have enabled the owner to fight a war "for several months." PM

BOSNIAN MINERS STRIKE
Miners throughout the Zenica coal-producing area downed tools on 9 October to demand back pay, better safety conditions, hot meals, and a transportation allowance, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

U.S. OFFERS $5 MILLION FOR CROATIAN INDICTED WAR CRIMINAL
U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crime Issues Pierre-Richard Prosper told the Zagreb daily "Jutarnji list" of 9 October that Washington has offered $5 million for information leading to the arrest of former Croatian General Ante Gotovina, who is one of the top indicted war criminals sought by the Hague-based tribunal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2003). PM

BRITAIN'S EUROPE MINISTER ON ROMANIA'S PROSPECTS
Denis MacShane, Britain's Europe minister, said in Bucharest on 8 October that Britain will propose at the European Council's upcoming Rome meeting a clear calendar for Romania's negotiations for joining the EU in order to close negotiations during the current European Commission's mandate, Romanian media reported. Speaking at a seminar, MacShane said widespread corruption in Romania still hinders the country's development and an improvement in living conditions. He added Romania has many things to offer to foreign investors: a qualified workforce, an important market, and a strategic position. Many, however, stay away due to their fear that their businesses could suffer from the corruption. During his two-day visit, MacShane met with President Ion Iliescu, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, and European Integration Minister Hildegard Puwak. ZsM

ROMANIAN TRADE UNIONS STAGE WARNING PROTEST
Members of three trade-union confederations on 8 October staged a five-minute warning strike in several cities across the country, Romanian Radio reported. Leaders of the BNS, CSDR, and ALFA trade confederations are in negotiations with Marian Sarbu, a minister charged with overseeing social relations including, among other issues, negotiating the minimal monthly salary for next year. Although they previously suspended a large-scale protest planned for 15 October, union leaders said they are planning a protest meeting and march through downtown Bucharest that day to protest rising utility prices. ZsM

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT VISITS TURKEY
President Georgi Parvanov left on 7 October for a three-day official visit to Turkey, where he was scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Ahmed Necdet Sezer, and others, the president's official website (http://www.president.bg) reported. The bilateral talks were expected to focus on economic and military cooperation, and Parvanov was to inform the Turkish leadership about Bulgaria's experience in negotiations for EU membership. During a Bulgarian-Turkish business forum held in Istanbul on 8 October, Parvanov encouraged Turkish companies to invest in Bulgaria, BTA reported. UB

ALL THE (FORMER) KING'S MEN
Bulgaria's Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, who is the only former European monarch to have achieved such a position, is having a hard time. Often misunderstood by the media, he faces regular opposition demands to return to exile in Spain. On the international level, his government was initially well received. He seemed to have a flair for picking young experts, especially for the important economic sector. His finance minister, Milen Velchev, was even named "Finance Minister of the Year" by the journal "Euromoney" in September 2002. Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi also contributed to the country's good international reputation.

But recently, Saxecoburggotski seems to have lost his magic touch in personnel decisions. When Interior Ministry Chief Secretary General Boyko Borisov resigned in April, Saxecoburggotski first hesitated and then refused to accept the resignation, knowing very well that in losing Borisov he would be without his most popular official. The next prominent government minister to attempt to step down was Velchev. This time, the prime minister waffled for two weeks before Velchev eventually withdrew his resignation. But in combination, the two cases revealed Saxecoburggotski's difficulties in making swift and binding decisions.

Now, another personnel question is causing problems for Saxecoburggotski's government. But while the cases of Velchev and Borisov were mainly of domestic interest, this time the former king has made a choice that might jeopardize not only the country's reputation, but also its future role within NATO. When a government spokesman announced on 15 September that Saxecoburrgotski had nominated retired General Brigo Asparuhov as special coordinator for the country's secret and police services, an uproar ensued.

The opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) was angry over Asparuhov's nomination because of his involvement with the communist-era secret services. For the SDS, Asparuhov was also a target of spite because of his role in the fall of the country's first noncommunist government in 1992. Back then, Asparuhov had made public a secret report about suspected corruption cases in the SDS-government of Filip Dimitrov. As a result, Dimitrov moved a confidence vote, which he lost, because the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) withdrew its support for the government. When Asparuhov was sacked from his position as head of the National Intelligence Service in 1997 by an SDS-dominated caretaker government, it was because of the role he had played five years earlier. In an interview with the private bTV on 3 October, former Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, who headed an SDS-dominated government from 1997-2001, called Asparuhov a "war machine" whose specialty was to "oust democratic governments."

After his dismissal as head of the National Intelligence Service in 1997, Asparuhov became a lawmaker for the postcommunist Socialist Party (BSP) and duly managed to generate controversies within that party. As a member of the so-called Generals' Group, Asparuhov stood in opposition to former party leader Georgi Parvanov, who is now the country's president. Despite strong reservations within his party, Parvanov managed to convince the BSP to adopt a pro-Western and pro-NATO course. When Saxecoburggotski nominated Asparuhov as a coordinator for the secret and police services, the BSP leadership remained relatively silent -- not least because Asparuhov is not the first party member to be offered a government post.

After the initial protests from within Bulgaria, Saxecoburggotski backpedaled on Asparuhov's nomination. Days after the initial announcement, he had his spokesman redefine Asparuhov's future position within the government. According to that statement, Asparuhov is to become not a coordinator for the special service, but a "special adviser on secret service issues" within the prime minister's cabinet. But this is the only concession Saxecoburggotski has made so far.

The first international reactions to Asparuhov's appointment came from the United States. U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria James Pardew said in late September that the government should carefully reconsider Asparuhov's nomination, as the appointment of Asparuhov would be a "significant decision" that would "diminish the credibility of the country among the members of the [NATO] alliance." Great Britain followed with a demarche, which was reportedly also supported by Italy and the Netherlands. A NATO spokesman has said in Brussels that Asparuhov's possible appointment is "a matter of great interest to all the countries in the alliance."

Meanwhile, both Saxecoburggotski and Asparuhov remained defiant in the face of the protests and allegations. A government spokesman announced that the prime minister has no intention of withdrawing his nomination. Asparuhov said if he was to decide on his case, he would not consult the NATO partners at all, as the decision to nominate him was made by a sovereign state. "If I am named, it will be an act of self-respect on the part of all those who nominated me," Asparuhov said. In this, he was also supported by his party's junior coalition partner, the ethnic Turkish DPS. Its chairman, Ahmed Dogan, dismissed the demand to drop Asparuhov as meddling in Bulgaria's internal affairs, charging that the NATO position in this case is "problematic." For Dogan, the choice of Asparuhov, whom he regards as a professional and a patriot, was a good one.

It remains to be seen whether all the warnings -- from the international community, from domestic critics, and by government members such as Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi -- will yield the hoped-for result. While Saxecoburggotski in general seems to be open to foreign advice, in this particular case he is likely to stick to his controversial decision.

SCORES KILLED IN FIGHTING IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN
Dozens of people were killed in fighting on 8 October between rival warlords in Faizabad District near Mazar-e Sharif, capital of Balkh Province, international news agencies reported. The fighting pitted forces loyal to Junbish-e Melli party head General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who is also nominally Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai's special adviser on security and military affairs, against Jamiat-e Islami forces under the command of 7th Army Corps commander General Ata Mohammad. Ata Mohammad has indicated that 50 of his fighters were killed, AFP reported on 9 October. A spokesman for Dostum said Junbish commander Mohammad Andkhoei and three of his bodyguards were killed, the BBC reported on 8 October. U.S. military spokesman Colonel Rodney Davis said the fighting was an internal Afghan issue, Hindukosh news agency reported on 8 October. 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 he be based in Kabul. Karzai has threatened to resign if he is unable to impose government control on the country's regional warlords (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 May 2003). AT

AFGHAN LEADER DENIES THAT FORMER TALIBAN FOREIGN MINISTER HAS BEEN RELEASED...
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai on 8 October rejected reports that Mullah Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, former foreign minister of the ousted Taliban regime, has been released from the U.S. detention center at Bagram Air Base, Reuters reported. Karzai said the story, which was reported by several news agencies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2003), "is not true, this is absolutely not true, he has not been released." U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, when asked by Karzai in front of reporters about the validity of the reports, said: "No, we [the United States] have not released him yet." Meanwhile, U.S. military spokesman Colonel Rodney Davis said that Muttawakil's case falls within the Afghan authorities' jurisdiction. Reuters commented that Davis was perhaps indicating that Muttawakil is no longer in U.S. custody. AT

...WHILE OTHER AFGHAN OFFICIALS INSIST HE IS FREE
Mohammad Yaqub, the military commander in Kandahar [province?], on 8 October said Muttawakil was freed on 6 October, RFE/RL reported. He added that Muttawakil is currently staying with relatives in Kandahar city. Unidentified sources in Kandahar have indicated that Muttawakil is no longer in U.S. custody, but have contradicted Yaqub's claim that he is in Kandahar, Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported on 8 October. These sources said more information about Muttawakil's status will be available within a week. Meanwhile, an unidentified Foreign Ministry official has said that "time will prove that he has been released," Reuters reported on 8 October. The mystery surrounding Muttawakil is indicative of the sensitive nature of Karzai's reported attempts to negotiate with some members of the former Taliban regime (see below). AT

U.S. MILITARY SPOKESMAN GIVES TALIBAN THREE OPTIONS
Colonel Rodney Davis said at an 8 October news conference that former Taliban members face three choices: "be killed, change direction and participate in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, or leave Afghanistan," Hindukosh news agency reported. When asked whether the United States will pardon former Taliban members if they "change direction," Davis said that issue is for the Afghan government to decide. Karzai has said he is open to allowing former Taliban members who have not committed grave crimes to reenter Afghan society, which is seen as an effort to limit the destructive activities of the neo-Taliban and to bolster his own political standing among Pashtuns (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 3 July and 18 September 2003 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 2, 3, and 15 September and 2 and 8 October 2003). AT

IRAN-RUSSIA AGREEMENT ON SPENT-FUEL RETURN FORTHCOMING
Gholamreza Shafei, the Iranian ambassador to Russia, said on 8 October that Tehran will soon sign the protocol on the return of spent nuclear fuel to Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. "Negotiations to agree on technical issues are now under way," Shafei said. "We hope that the protocol will be signed soon, in Tehran or in Moscow." He also expressed hope that cooperation on the Bushehr nuclear-power plant will continue. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said earlier this week that Moscow will not supply fresh fuel for Bushehr until Tehran signs an agreement on returning the spent fuel (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2003). BS

IRAN GETS NEW SCIENCE, RESEARCH, AND TECHNOLOGY MINISTER
The Iranian legislature on 8 October gave a vote of confidence for Jafar Tofiqi-Darian as the new minister of science, research, and technology, ISNA reported. Two hundred three out of 290 parliamentarians were present at the time of voting and 198 cast votes -- 163 in favor, 27 against, and eight undecided. President Mohammad Khatami spoke in favor of his nominee, IRNA reported. Khatami proposed Tofiqi-Darian on 1 October following Science, Research, and Technology Minister Mustafa Moin's resignation in late July. The legislature did not confirm the first nominee for Moin's job, Reza Faraji-Dana (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 4 August, 8 September, and 6 October 2003). BS

SURVEY FINDS HIGH RATE OF CORRUPTION IN IRAN
Iran placed poorly in Transparency International's "Corruption Perceptions Index 2003," which was released on 7 October (http://www.transparency.org/pressreleases_archive/2003/2003.10.07.cpi.en.html). In its debut in the annual corruption ranking, Iran was listed in 78th place, along with Armenia, Lebanon, Mali, and Palestine, out of 133 countries and administrative territories rated. Iran had a score of 3.0 on a scale of 10 (highly clean) to 0 (highly corrupt), which, according to Transparency International, "relates to perceptions of the degree of corruption as seen by business people, academics, and risk analysts" in and out of the country. Iran's score was based on four other surveys, and its scores in those surveys ranged from 1.5-3.6. BS

ANOTHER NORWAY-IRAN CORRUPTION CASE?
The Umoe Schat-Harding company sent approximately $172,000 to Iran as a "return commission" in order to resolve a dispute about the sale of nine lifeboats to the Iranian Offshore Engineering and Construction Company (IOEC), Norway's TV2 reported on 8 October (http://pub.tv2.no/nettavisen/english/article143808.ece), citing Norway's "VG" newspaper. The lifeboats were damaged during transport, so the Iranian company refused to pay the remaining costs of approximately $1 million. Umoe Schat-Harding in 1997 paid an Iranian-owned consulting company and subsequently received about $718,504 from IOEC. A document signed by Jarle Roth, who was the Norwegian firm's top manager at the time, said the money "took care of people who needed special attention in this case." The National Iranian Oil Company and the Industrial Development and Renovation Organization are the shareholders of the IOEC. BS

TEHRAN BROADCASTING ACTIVE IN BAGHDAD
Out of the 59 AM radio broadcasts audible in Baghdad on 7 October, broadcasts originating in Iran could be heard on 33 AM frequencies. Four of the frequencies were in Arabic and one was in Kurdish. Twenty-eight were in the Persian language and reception varied from poor to good. Four FM broadcasts originated in Iran, including Tehran radio's Arabic service, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq's Voice of the Mujahedin, and Tehran's youth-oriented Javan radio. The newest entry is Tehran's Voice of the Palestinian Islamic Revolution. Voice of Rebellious Iraq apparently transmits from Ahvaz on AM for seven hours a day. The audio from four Iranian television channels can be heard in Baghdad. The Arabic-language Al-Alam news channel and the Sahar news channel are audible and offer good quality, and Sahar's English broadcasts can be heard, too. Iran's Al-Thiqalayn television transmits religious programming to Iraqi viewers. The SCIRI's Resistance Channel television is based in Tehran and broadcasts for six hours a day and can be received via satellite. BS

SPANISH DIPLOMAT GUNNED DOWN IN BAGHDAD
A Spanish diplomat was reportedly gunned down outside his home in Baghdad on 9 October, international media reported. A Spanish Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters that Jose Antonio Bernal Gomez was shot dead as he left his home, but there are conflicting reports as to the nature of the incident. An Iraqi police officer guarding a nearby school told Radio Free Iraq in Baghdad that he witnessed a car carrying an unknown number of assailants approach Bernal's house. The officer said: "A man dressed as a shaykh emerged from the car. He said to the policemen, 'Salaam alekum.' He knocked on the door and at that time [Bernal] came to door. After several minutes [Bernal] ran from the house to the street shouting for help and pushing the shaykh." The gunmen in the automobile "started shooting at him. They shot several times at him and missed. In the end they shot him dead. [The bullet] hit him in the head and he fell. And they came to us and threatened us. They said, 'Whoever moves, we'll kill him.' They got into their car and they went away," the police officer added. Bernal reportedly worked as a military attache for the Spanish government. KR

CAR BOMB EXPLODES OUTSIDE BAGHDAD POLICE STATION
A suicide bomber crashed the gates of a Baghdad police station on 9 October and was fired on by police officers before he detonated his vehicle, AP quoted Iraqi police major Majid Abd al-Hamid as saying. U.S. Captain Sean Kirley said three policemen and five civilians were killed in addition to the bomber. The police station is located in a Shi'ite neighborhood known as Sadr City. Police Captain Basim Mahmud told Reuters that at the time of the bombing hundreds of people were in the building waiting to collect their salaries. He said three to five Iraqi police officers were killed in the incident and 10 to 15 were wounded. The car exploded approximately 25 meters from the building, Mahmud added. KR

U.S. INITIATES BUSINESS-LOAN PROGRAM FOR MIDDLE EAST
The U.S. administration has established the Middle East Finance Corporation, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Elizabeth Cheney announced at the U.S.-Arab Economic Forum in Detroit on 30 September, the State Department reported on 8 October (http://usinfo.state.gov). The finance corporation is part of the U.S. Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) announced by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in December that is intended to "expand economic, political, and educational opportunities in the Arab world." Cheney told the forum that the finance corporation will support micro-entrepreneurs -- small and medium-sized businesses -- in the region. It was launched with $20 million in funding for the current fiscal year, with a planned increase to $30 million in 2004. Cheney said economic and political issues are central to the U.S. administration's national-security strategy in the Middle East. KR

TURKEY TO PROVIDE HUMANITARIAN AID IN ADDITION TO TROOPS
Turkish Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Gul told Al-Jazeera television in an 8 October interview that his country will seek to provide Iraq with humanitarian aid in addition to up to 10,000 military personnel approved for peacekeeping support (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2003). "Four months ago, we offered to supply Iraq with water, electricity, and health services," Gul said. "However, our offer was not accepted at that time. A week ago, we started to supply Iraq with electricity and water." Gul added that Turkey will also send engineers to Iraq to complete construction initiated by the former regime on water-treatment plants. Turkey also plans to build hospitals in Kirkuk and Baghdad. Gul said his country has a duty to assist Iraq as a neighboring Muslim state, and to help alleviate Iraq's suffering under the American-British occupiers, whom he characterized as "strangers to [Iraq's] culture and religion." "What we should do is to go there to prevent the United States from making more mistakes [in Iraq]," he said. "In fact, without our presence on the ground, it would be difficult for us to influence the U.S. decisions and practices in Iraq." KR

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