RUSSIA MIGHT LAUNCH PREEMPTIVE STRIKE AS LONG AS OTHER COUNTRIES DO...
Speaking to reporters in Yekaterinburg on 9 October after the completion of the Russo-German summit, President Vladimir Putin stressed that Russia's newly adopted military-modernization doctrine (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2003) means that Moscow reserves the right to carry out preemptive military strikes abroad if it deems it necessary to do so, Russian media reported. "We do not like this, but we retain the right to launch a preemptive strike, if this practice continues to be used around the world [by others]," Putin said. VY
...BUT RENOUNCES FIRST USE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS
In a press conference at the U.S. city of Colorado Springs where he is attending a two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2003), Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said on 9 October that Russia's policy on preemptive military strikes does not mean that Moscow has adopted a similar policy on the first-use of nuclear weapons, Interfax and RIA-Novosti reported. "Russia's doctrine differs from the American [doctrine]," Ivanov said. "Under no circumstances would Russia be the first to strike with nuclear weapons." VY
MOSCOW STRESSES POSSIBILITY OF USING MILITARY FORCE IN THE CIS...
At the same 9 October press conference, Defense Minister Ivanov said that Russia retains the right to use military force on the territory of the former Soviet republics, lenta.ru and other Russian media reported. "The CIS is a very crucial sphere for our security," Ivanov said. "Ten million of our compatriots live there, and we are supplying energy to them at prices below international levels. We are not going to renounce the right to use military power there in situations where all other means have been exhausted." He added that Russia intends to boost its military presence in the CIS, especially in Central Asia, and will insist upon the ultimate withdrawal of military bases established there by the U.S.-led international antiterrorism coalition. He noted that Moscow only agreed to the presence of such bases for the period necessary to stabilize Afghanistan and to achieve the goals set forth by the coalition. VY
...AND SAYS IT WILL KEEP CONTROL OF CIS PIPELINES
Speaking at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Yekaterinburg on 9 October, President Putin said that Russia will not relinquish control over the pipeline infrastructure on the territory of the former Soviet republics, polit.ru and other Russian media reported. The gas-pipeline system was built by the Soviet Union, he said, and only Russia is in a position to keep it in working order, "even those parts of the system that are beyond Russia's borders." Putin said that it would only be possible to provide cheap Russian energy resources to the European Union if Moscow is able to keep the pipeline system in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan functioning with Russian technical supervision. He added that Russia will maintain state control over the pipeline network and over Gazprom. "We will not split up Gazprom, and the European Energy Commission should have no illusions about that," Putin said. "In the area of natural gas, they will deal with the state." VY
PROSECUTORS LAUNCH YET ANOTHER WAVE OF SEARCHES AT YUKOS...
Investigators from the Prosecutor-General's Office on 9 October searched several offices belonging to oil giant Yukos and affiliated companies, ORT and RTR reported. Investigators searched the office of the Yukos security service and the offices of company manager Mikhail Brudno and Vladimir Moiseev, who oversees Yukos's foreign financial operations. They also searched the office of Yukos company lawyer Anton Drel. Prosecutor-General's Office official Irina Aleshina told journalists the searches were conducted on the basis of information gathered in previous searches and were connected to the probe into suspicions that Yukos used its offshore companies to evade millions of dollars in taxes. VY
...AMID SPECULATION THAT PRESSURE IS TIED TO POSSIBLE EXXON DEAL
Many observers are connecting the renewed legal pressure against Yukos with the Kremlin's alleged irritation over reports that the company is in talks to sell a 40 percent stake to U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil, newsru.com wrote on 9 October. An unidentified German journalist covering the summit in Yekaterinburg told RFE/RL's Russian Service that journalists there believe it is pointless to ask President Putin about Yukos. "He always gives polished and correct answers, but continues pushing developments as he wants to," the journalist said. VY
YUKOS BILLIONAIRE HAS REQUESTED ISRAELI CITIZENSHIP...
Leonid Nevzlin, who until recently was deputy board chairman of embattled oil giant Yukos and who is now rector of the Russian State Humanitarian University, has asked Israeli Interior Minister Avraam Poraz to grant him Israeli citizenship, mignews.com and jnews.co.il reported on 9 October. Although Nevzlin left the Yukos board this spring, he owns 8 percent of the company, with a fortune estimated at $1.1 billion, jnews.co.il reported. Nevzlin and Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii were summoned for questioning by prosecutors investigating Yukos on 4 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2003). VY
...AS YUKOS HEAD SAYS AGAIN THAT HE WILL STAY IN RUSSIA
Speaking to reporters in Washington on 9 October, Yukos head Khodorkovskii said that he intends to stay in Russia to conduct business, support civil society, and protect himself against "illegal actions by law enforcement organs," RIA-Novosti reported. He also said that Yukos is legally lobbying its interests in the State Duma, but is not involved in politics. He said that he has no personal political ambitions, noting that "70 percent of the population actively dislikes the oligarchs and another 20 percent has a somewhat negative view of them." VY
PROPOSAL TO MOVE CAPITAL FUNCTIONS NORTH CONTINUES TO ELICIT COMMENTS
Commenting on St. Petersburg Governor-elect Valentina Matvienko's call to move some federal-government entities to St. Petersburg (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2003), Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov told reporters on 9 October that he thinks it is first necessary to determine the costs and expediency of such a move, RIA-Novosti reported. "For me, the transfer of one of these branches of power to Petersburg or this ministry or that department is not obvious," he commented. Mironov is a former speaker of St. Petersburg's Legislative Assembly. State Duma Legislation Committee Chairman Pavel Krasheninnikov (Union of Rightist Forces) commented on 9 October that moving the Supreme Court and the Higher Arbitration Court to St. Petersburg as Matvienko suggested could take years to complete but is possible and may even be desirable, because it might reduce the influence of the federal government and large economic structures on the courts, RosBalt reported. JAC
ENVOY SAYS RUSSIA NEEDS FOREIGN LABORERS
Speaking in Beijing on 9 October following talks with Chinese First Deputy Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo, presidential envoy to the Far East Federal District Konstantin Pulikovskii said that Russia needs qualified laborers -- including from China -- because of the rapid depopulation process being experienced by Russia's eastern regions, RIA-Novosti and Vostok-Media reported. Pulikovskii said the Russian Far East has lost more than 1 million people in recent years and they must be replaced by new migrants. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 10 October wrote that Chinese immigrants might not pose a threat but could provide cheap labor needed to help achieve President Putin's stated goal of doubling the country's gross domestic product in 10 years. The paper argued that this labor source is particularly important because the potential inflow of people from the former Soviet republics will soon be exhausted. VY
IS INDUSTRY AND SCIENCE MINISTRY ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK?
Deputy Prime Minister Boris Aleshin told reporters in Moscow on 9 October that the government will report to President Putin regarding its administrative-reform proposals by the middle of February, ITAR-TASS reported. By 20 November, the Economic Development and Trade Ministry is expected to have prepared the necessary draft legislation and orders for consolidating functions that more than one federal agency perform. According to ORT, the leader in redundant functions is the Industry and Science Ministry. Industry and Science Minister Ilya Klebanov is running for a seat in the State Duma (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2003). JAC
ELECTION COMMISSION RELEASES YABLOKO PROPERTY DECLARATIONS
Yabloko on 9 October became the first party to complete the process of registering its federal party list with the Central Election Commission (TsIK), Russian media reported. Yabloko submitted 250,000 signatures in support of its list, 50,000 more than is required. The TsIK on 9 October released information on the incomes and property holdings of Yabloko candidates. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii has a bank account with 3.9 million rubles ($130,000), and he earned 1.7 million rubles in 2002. He owns a 77-square-meter apartment in Moscow and an 81-square-meter apartment in Ukraine. Another candidate, Konstantin Kaganovskii of the Open Economics Institute earned 2.3 million rubles last year and has bank deposits worth more than 37 million rubles. JAC
FIRST VOTER APATHY, NOW CANDIDATE APATHY...
The chairman of Tyumen's municipal election commission told reporters on 9 October that he does not understand why so few candidates have registered for the 7 December city legislature and mayoral elections, uralpolit.ru reported. As of 9 October, 15 candidates were registered to run for the city duma, compared with the 60 who registered for the last election in 1999. For the mayoral election, only one person has declared his candidacy: Andrei Sukhanov, who is currently unemployed. JAC
...AS VILLAGE DECIDES TO OPT OUT OF THE WHOLE PROCESS
The Smolensk Oblast village of Bubnyi has sent a letter to the chairman of the oblast election commission informing him that they will not vote in the State Duma elections, regions.ru reported on 9 October, citing the Regional Journalists Club. Village residents are refusing to participate because the authorities have allegedly refused to build a road to their village despite numerous requests. JAC
POLICE SEIZE NEWSPAPER
Police in Tambov Oblast reportedly seized 100,000 copies of the newspaper "Sovetskaya Rossiya" on 8 October because it allegedly contained material directed against State Duma candidate Nina Koval, Regnum reported on 9 October. Koval, who is currently a city legislator, is running for the Duma from a single-mandate district. Moscow representatives of the publication told a local television station that the newspaper is not planning and has not planned to carry out any kind of free distribution of its publication in Tambov. The agency also asserted without reference to sourcing that Koval is supported by the Tambov mayor's office, and the scandal with the newspaper was initiated by city-administration officials. JAC
FORMER EDITOR OF LIBERAL WEEKLY LANDS AT ANOTHER LIBERAL WEEKLY
Viktor Loshak, the former editor of "Moskovskie novosti" who was recently replaced by TV personality Yevgenii Kiselev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2003), has been named editor of "Ogonek," strana.ru reported on 9 October. Loshak said he will not initiate "any revolutions" at the journal. JAC
ARMENIAN COALITION PARTIES REACH AGREEMENT ON GOVERNMENT POSTS
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian told journalists in Yerevan on 9 October that his Republican Party of Armenia has reached agreement with its junior coalition partners, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) and Orinats Yerkir (Law-Based State), on the division of deputy ministerial and other government posts, Interfax and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2003). Markarian did not divulge details, saying only that the new appointments will be made over an unspecified period of time. RFE/RL reported, however, that the HHD and Orinats Yerkir will each receive five or six deputy ministerial posts. Markarian denied that the two smaller parties feel shortchanged by that arrangement. "None of us feels upset," he said. LF
ARMENIA MOVES TO INTRODUCE ALTERNATIVE MILITARY SERVICE
The Armenian parliament has approved in its first reading by a vote of 90-2 a bill that would provide for alternative military service, Noyan Tapan reported on 9 October. Vahan Hovannisian (HHD), who is the bill's main author, said on 8 October that it differs considerably from similar legislation in other European countries, in that conscientious objectors in Armenia will be required to spend three years inside military units performing non-combat-related tasks, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 8 October. They would subsequently be barred for life from working in the police or the judiciary. LF
AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTIES AGAIN FAIL TO AGREE ON SINGLE CANDIDATE...
During talks in Baku late on 8 October, a preliminary agreement was reached that Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP) Chairman Etibar Mamedov would withdraw his candidacy in the 15 October presidential election in favor of Musavat Party Chairman Isa Gambar, zerkalo.az reported on 10 October. But the following morning, Gambar reneged on that agreement, telling Mamedov that he had earlier secured the backing of former parliament speaker Rasul Guliev's Democratic Party of Azerbaijan and signed a cooperation agreement with Guliev. Under that agreement, Guliev, who has lived in exile in the United States since 1996, would be given the post of prime minister should Gambar be elected president. Their two parties would form a coalition government, implement democratic reforms, and conduct municipal and parliamentary elections. A new presidential ballot would be scheduled in two years. According to zerkalo.az, Gambar might have been deterred by specific aspects of an anticipated agreement among Musavat, AMIP, and the progressive wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, such as a commitment to create a parliamentary republic on the Turkish model in which presidential powers would be greatly curtailed. LF
...AS EXILED AZERBAIJANI POLITICIAN APPEALS TO OPPOSITION CANDIDATES TO WITHDRAW
Following the announcement of Rasul Guliev's endorsement of Isa Gambar's candidacy, several organizations issued statements on 9 October in support of Gambar, Turan reported. They include the Union of Baku and Baku Villages and the Union of Retired and Reserve Officers. Guliev called upon opposition presidential candidates Ilyas Ismailov, Sabur Rustamkhanli, and Lala Shovket Gadjieva to pull out of the race in Gambar's favor, and upon exiled former President Ayaz Mutalibov, who was barred from registering for the ballot, to endorse Gambar's candidacy. LF
AZERBAIJANI PRIME MINISTER RULES OUT PRESIDENT'S RETURN BEFORE ELECTION
Azerbaijani Prime Minister and presidential election candidate Ilham Aliev announced at a campaign rally on 9 October that his father, incumbent President Heidar Aliev, will not return to Baku before the 15 October presidential ballot, Reuters and Interfax reported. He added that the president's treatment "is proceeding successfully [and] he will come back to Baku in the nearest future." President Aliev, who is 80, issued a statement on 2 October withdrawing from the presidential ballot and calling on the Azerbaijani people to elect his son. Presidential administration head Ramiz Mekhtiev told journalists in Baku on 7 October that President Aliev will return to Azerbaijan before the end of October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2003). LF
GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER REJECTS ACCUSATIONS OF COLLABORATION WITH RUSSIA...
Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia, who is chairwoman of the National Democratic Party of Georgia and a leading member of the pro-presidential For a New Georgia election bloc, on 8 October accused parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze and Burdjanadze's predecessor in that post, Zurab Zhvania, of having collaborated with Russian security services, Caucasus Press reported. Sarishvili-Chanturia delivered what she said was documentary proof of those allegations to the Ministry of State Security on 9 October. Burdjanadze, who has forged an election alliance with Zhvania's Democrats, denied the allegations and called for them to be investigated within three days. LF
...AS GEORGIAN SECURITY OFFICIAL WARNS AGAINST INCAUTIOUS SMEARS
National Security Council Secretary Tedo Djaparidze warned politicians of 9 October to avoid heated statements and incautious allegations that could negatively affect Georgia's relations with Russia, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. Djaparidze stressed that President Eduard Shevardnadze has spent years trying to defuse tensions between the two countries. He also said neither he nor Georgian intelligence has any evidence that Burdjanadze has done anything that would "discredit" Georgia. Burdjanadze for her part thanked Djaparidze for those comments, Caucasus Press reported. LF
ABKHAZ OPPOSITION URGES AMENDMENTS TO LAW ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
In a statement released on 9 October, the opposition party Aitaira urged the Abkhaz parliament to enact amendments to the law on the presidential elections, Caucasus Press reported. The statement charged that due to serious illness, incumbent President Vladislav Ardzinba is no longer capable of discharging his duties, and that the parliament should play the main role in electing a new president. Ardzinba returned to Sukhum late last month after three months' hospital treatment in Moscow, but failed to attend the celebrations of the10th anniversary of the end of the 1992-93 war with Georgia. Most of Aitaira's candidates were barred from contesting last year's parliamentary ballot (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 4 March 2003). LF
SHELL ASKS KAZAKHSTAN TO IMPROVE OIL LEGISLATION
Martin Ferstl, president of the Kazakhstan branch of Royal Dutch Shell, said on 9 October at the annual Kazakh International Oil and Gas Exposition (KIOGE) in Almaty that his company has asked Kazakh officials to clarify legislation regulating offshore oil operations, Interfax reported. Ferstl added that vague contracts and legislation are bad for investment, and investors need strong laws that cannot be interpreted arbitrarily by state agencies. He also expressed dissatisfaction with the requirement contained in the Kazakh government program for Caspian-shelf development through 2015 that the Kazakh state oil and gas agency KazMunaiGaz should own at least 50 percent of all Caspian hydrocarbon projects. BB
KAZAKHSTAN WANTS TO USE UKRAINIAN PIPELINE TO SHIP OIL TO EUROPE
The Kazakh state oil and gas agency KazMunaiGaz wants to use the Odessa-Brody pipeline to ship oil from its Caspian Sea fields to Europe because this line better preserves the quality of Kazakh crude oil than do Russian pipelines, the firm's transport director, Kairgeldy Kabyldin, told journalists at the KIOGE-2003 conference on 9 October, Interfax reported. But Ukraine is still undecided whether it wants to use the pipeline, the first section of which was opened in May 2002, to ship Caspian oil to Europe or Russian oil from the Urals to a Black Sea port. Kabyldin said that for Kazakhstan the Odessa line is ideal, and extending the pipeline to Plotsk, Poland, would make it even more attractive. BB
KAZAKHSTAN PROPOSES MEETING ON BORDER ISSUES WITH UZBEKISTAN
Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Nurlan Onzhanov met with Uzbek Ambassador to Kazakhstan Turdyqul Botayorov on 8 October to set up a working meeting between Kazakh and Uzbek border and customs-service officials, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 9 October, quoting a Kazakh Foreign Ministry press release. Tensions between the two countries were elevated after Uzbek border guards shot a Kazakh citizen on 4 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2003), and Botayorov publicly accused the Kazakh media and some government officials of distorting the incident (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 2003). Kazakh Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev told journalists in Astana on 9 October that it is important for the Central Asian region as a whole for Kazakhstan to maintain good relations with Uzbekistan. BB
KYRGYZ RELIGIOUS OFFICIAL SAYS HIZB UT-TAHRIR STILL A MAJOR PROBLEM
Kyrgyz State Committee on Religious Affairs Chairman Omurzak Mamayusupov told journalists in Bishkek on 9 October that the banned Muslim extremist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir remains a major problem in Kyrgyzstan, akipress.org reported. He agreed with media estimates that the movement has between 3,000 and 5,000 adherents in Kyrgyzstan. The National Security Agency earlier this month estimated the figure at 2,000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2003). Mamayusupov denied that the ban on the movement violates the Western conception of freedom of religion, saying that Hizb ut-Tahrir is not a religion, and does not belong to the Sunni or the Shia branches of Islam. BB
TAJIK OFFICIAL SAYS DRUG SEIZURES DEMONSTRATE NEED FOR INTERNATIONAL COALITION
An official of Tajikistan's presidential Drug Control Agency, Hushnur Rakhmatullaev, adduced the announcement that, in the first nine months of this year, almost 7 tons of contraband drugs have been confiscated in Tajikistan in support of the government's call for an international antidrug coalition, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 October. Rakhmatullaev noted that this is nearly double the amount of drugs confiscated in the same period last year. Russian border guards and Tajik law enforcement officers together seized 6,773 kilograms of contraband drugs between January and September 2003, of which 4,537 kilograms were heroin, according to Interfax on 9 October. In the analogous period of 2002, the figures were 4,293 kilos of drugs seized and 2,695 kilos of heroin. High-ranking Tajik officials, particularly President Imomali Rakhmonov, have been calling on the international community in the recent months to create a broad coalition to counter the threat posed by drugs illegally exported from Afghanistan, which is expected to produce up to 4,000 tons of opiates this year. BB
UZBEKISTAN SAYS CURRENCY WILL BE CONVERTIBLE AS OF 15 OCTOBER
The government and the Central Bank of Uzbekistan have formally announced in a letter to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that the country's currency, the som, will be fully convertible as of 15 October, UzA and uzreport.com reported on 9 October. The announcement follows a weeklong IMF visit to Uzbekistan. The lack of full convertibility has been a major sticking point in Uzbekistan's relations with the IMF and other international lending agencies for many years. It has also discouraged much-needed foreign investment. According to a joint press release by IMF mission chief Erik de Vrijer and Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Rustam Azimov, Uzbekistan has officially lifted all currency restrictions, including required currency purchases by firms and individuals and the use of multiple exchange rates. The Central Bank asserts that it has eliminated the difference between the official exchange rate and the black-market exchange rate. BB
BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES CLOSE TWO MORE NGOS
The Supreme Court on 9 October closed down two nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the Cassiopeia Belarusian Foundation and the Zhanochy Adkaz (Women's Response) group, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The court found the organizations guilty of registering invalid legal addresses and using incorrect stamps and letterheads. This year the Belarusian authorities has already closed nearly a dozen NGOs for mostly formal reasons in what some commentators see as a deliberate campaign to eliminate all dissent from public life and make it impossible for Western sponsors to support the nascent civic society in the country. JM
UKRAINIAN, BELARUSIAN PRESIDENTS PLEDGE MUTUAL SUPPORT
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma met on 9 October with his Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka in a presidential residence near Kyiv, Ukrainian and Belarusian media reported. The presidents reportedly discussed bilateral relations, the recent Ukraine-EU summit in Yalta, and the situation in Iraq. As has become routine during their meetings, they promised to oblige their governments to resolve all bilateral controversies, including the issue of Ukraine's outstanding debt to Belarus. This time Kuchma and Lukashenka set 1 November as the deadline for doing so. "Irrespective of any political struggles in our mutual relations, we should be together and support one another because we have a common goal -- to improve the lives of our people," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying after the meeting. "We will cooperate to this end with both the European Union and our eastern neighbor, the Russian Federation." JM
UKRAINIAN PREMIER IN HIGH SPIRITS AFTER U.S. VISIT
Wrapping up his three-day visit to Washington on 9 October, Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych told journalists that the U.S. administration has promised to help his country accede to the World Trade Organization by 2004, Reuters reported. Yanukovych also said World Bank President James Wolfensohn has told him that the bank's board of directors will approve this year a "strategic plan of assistance" that could give Kyiv access to $2.5 billion in loans. Yanukovych met in Washington with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, Treasury Secretary John Snow, and congressional leaders. "We believe that precisely now, when Ukraine is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the U.S. in the struggle against terrorism, the time has come for us to significantly revise our relations and move them to a new level," Interfax quoted Yanukovych as saying after his meeting with Powell. JM
UKRAINE, HUNGARY SIGN VISA AGREEMENT
Deputy Ukrainian Foreign Minister Oleksandr Motsyk and Hungarian Foreign Ministry deputy state secretary Krisztina Berta on 9 October signed a visa accord in Kyiv, Interfax reported. The agreement envisages visa-free entry to Ukraine for Hungarians and free Hungarian visas for Ukrainians. The agreement will come into force on 1 November 2003. Ukrainians will need no formal invitation to obtain Hungarian visas, Motsyk told journalists. They can apply for the cost-free Hungarian visas as of 15 October. JM
ESTONIA'S REFORM PARTY TO OFFER ANOTHER TEXT FOR NATIONAL ACCORD
Reform Party Chairman Siim Kallas said party leaders decided on 8 October to prepare a new version of the so-called memorandum of national accord within a week, BNS reported the next day. He said the present draft version of the accord, which 39 representatives of civic associations, organizations, and political parties agreed to prepare early in the year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February 2003), is a vague "pact of general happiness." Kallas suggested the text should be a shorter agreement where the emphasis would be placed on forming a knowledge-based economy. Leaders of Res Publica and the People's Union, the other parties in the ruling coalition, criticized the Reform Party proposal as granting too much emphasis to the business community. People's Union Chairman Villu Reiljan expressed doubt that the months of work by scientists and civic associations should be replaced with "a week's ruminations of a single societal group" which might not even refer to important demographic problems. SG
LATVIAN PRESIDENT ADDRESSES EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
Vaira Vike-Freiberga began a two-day visit to Brussels on 9 October by making a speech at the European Parliament, LETA and BNS reported. She was the first leader of an EU candidate country to address the European Parliament during the fall session. Vike-Freiberga told the parliament that membership in the EU would probably change the mentality and attitude of Latvia's residents as the daily contacts in the EU will allow them "to loosen up and become more open to other peoples, to develop a better understanding about interests of other countries." Noting that Latvia has been and will remain a European country in terms of culture, history and geography, she said it will work together with other European countries and defend the European view of life and spiritual values, to contribute its knowledge and experience. Later that day Vike-Freiberga held talks with EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen and Secretary General of the Council of the European Union Javier Solana. She is scheduled to meet with European Commission President Romano Prodi on 10 October before traveling to Germany. SG
LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER WRAPS UP NORTH AFRICA VISIT
Antanas Valionis completed a four-day trip to Morocco and Tunisia on 9 October, ELTA reported. It began on 6 October in Rabat where he discussed bilateral relations, economic cooperation opportunities, an exchange program for business delegations, and the dialogue between the EU and southern Mediterranean states with Moroccan Prime Minister Driss Jettou; the speakers of the two-chamber parliament, Mustapha Oukacha and Abdelouhad Rad; and the foreign, trade, telecommunications, and tourism ministers. Before departing to Tunisia on 7 October, Valionis signed agreements on the cancellation of visa requirements for holders of diplomatic passports and on political consultations between their countries' foreign ministries. In Tunis he met with Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, Foreign Minister Habib Ben Yahia, and other officials, and talked about bilateral and regional cooperation, prospects of the Barcelona process, the "new neighbors" initiative of the EU, as well as the situation in Iraq and the Near East. SG
POLISH ECONOMY MINISTER DETAILS AUSTERITY PLAN
Economy Minister Jerzy Hausner on 9 October revealed more details regarding the austerity plan for 2004-2007 that the government heralded the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2003), Polish media reported. Hausner said the government plans to save 20 billion zlotys ($5.2 billion) in 2004-07 through cuts in public administration, including the liquidation of "special funds" at ministries and central-government institutions as well as a 10 percent cut in the number of top-level posts and a 15 percent cut in the provincial-level administration. These moves, Hausner said, are already predetermined and will not be subject to public debate. The government also plans to save 12 billion zlotys in 2004-07 in the social sphere by cutting or streamlining spending on social benefits, pensions, and health care services. These proposals are to be consulted in a trilateral commission involving representatives of the government, employers, and trade unions. President Aleksander Kwasniewski has voiced support for Hausner's austerity plan, saying it is "the most coherent, bold, and determined plan in years." JM
AMNESTY CRITICIZES CZECH ARMS EXPORTS...
The international human rights watchdog Amnesty International has criticized the Czech Republic for unchecked arms sales, CTK reported on 9 October. Amnesty spokesman Karel Dolejsi said that the riskiest area of the arms trade in the Czech Republic is the sale of military equipment no longer needed by the country's armed forces, the report said. On 9 October, Amnesty launched its Arms Under Control campaign, which is urging governments to sign an Arms Trade Treaty by 2006. According to Amnesty, licensed arms dealers in the Czech Republic sell weapons to middlemen, who then sell them on to the world's hotspots. "The entire process of issuing licenses is under a government order as classified information and thus there is no public method of control," Dolejsi said, adding that in most democratic countries this is not standard practice. LA
...INCLUDING SOME TO WORLD HOT SPOTS
There have been several problematic cases of arms sales in recent years, Amnesty International spokesman Dolejsi said, including 25 T-55 tanks that ended up in war-torn Sri Lanka in 2001 or 12 howitzers, which were sold to Georgia the same year. Ivo Mravinac, a spokesman for the Industry and Trade Ministry, which issues arms licenses, said that "at a time when production is in decline, the sale of unused materiel can seem optically larger and therefore can be given greater weight." He also said the ministry has revoked licenses of arms traders who have not complied with regulations. According to CTK, Czech arms and military exports have fallen slightly in recent years to about $200 million per year. LA
SLOVAKIA ISSUES INTERNATIONAL ARREST WARRANT FOR BUSINESSMAN
A court in Kosice, eastern Slovakia, has issued an international arrest warrant for self-exiled businessman Patrik Pachinger, who faces fraud charges, CTK and TASR reported. On 7 October, Pachinger left his home country Slovakia to apply for political asylum in the neighboring Czech Republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2003). "The Kosice 1 District Court has issued an international arrest warrant for Patrik Pachinger on the basis of which Czech authorities can arrest him," Slovak Justice Ministry spokesman Richard Fides told CTK. Pachinger is reportedly staying in a refugee camp. 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. LA
MILITARY HELICOPTER CRASHES IN SLOVAKIA, KILLING FOUR
All four crewmembers died on 9 October when a Mi-17 helicopter crashed in bad weather near Presov, eastern Slovakia, TASR and CTK reported. The helicopter was on a training flight and it is still unclear why it went down or whether any weapons or ammunition were on board. A spokeswoman for the Defense Ministry, Katarina Heimschildova, told CTK that the accident is being investigated by a special commission appointed by Milan Cerovsky, the chief of the Slovak armed forces' General Staff. Cerovsky, along with Deputy Defense Minister Martin Fedor, called short an official trip to the United States and returned to Slovakia to oversee the investigation. The Slovak delegation was taking part in a meeting of NATO members and accession countries in the U.S. city of Colorado Springs. In the last year, there have been two major accidents involving Slovak military aircraft. In November 2002, two combat MiG-29s crashed in eastern Slovakia, with one pilot dying. In December 2002, an Mi-17 helicopter crashed in Bosnia on a peacekeeping mission. The investigations into both incidents ruled that human error, rather than mechanical failure, was most likely the cause. LA
HUNGARIAN DOCTORS PROTEST OUTSIDE HEALTH MINISTRY
Some 800 doctors and nurses on 9 October staged a demonstration in front of the Health Ministry protesting, among other things, the privatization of health care institutions, Hungarian media reported. The Hungarian Chamber of Doctors and the Union of Health Care Workers (EDDSZ) organized the demonstration to call for eight-hour workdays, a separate law on the status of health care workers, and more funds for the sector. Three other health care unions -- the Hungarian Hospitals Alliance, the Health Care Managers Association, and the Health Care Workers Co-operation Forum -- did not join the demonstration, arguing that talks within the sector should have been held before staging any demonstration. Coalition member Socialist Party deputy Zsuzsanna Karpati told the MTI news agency that some people want to use the chamber of doctors for political goals. MSZ
HUNGARY'S SLOW DECISION-MAKING SYSTEM IS A DRAG ON NATO
At a NATO simulation exercise in the U.S. city of Colorado Springs, it emerged that Hungary's cumbersome decision-making process in approving the foreign deployment of its soldiers could hamper the alliance's ability to respond quickly to a crisis, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 10 October. NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said after the exercise that Hungary's procedures hamper effective cooperation between NATO members, the daily reported. Hungarian Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz said the fact that a two-thirds majority in parliament is needed before sending Hungarian soldiers abroad or allowing the transiting of foreign troops through Hungary is not a problem in and of itself. "The trouble is that the process is slow and sluggish and could drag on for weeks and months in extreme cases," Juhasz told "Nepszabadsag." MSZ
NATO CONSIDERS EU MISSION IN BOSNIA...
In the U.S. city of Colorado Springs on 9 October, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said the Atlantic alliance's 19 defense ministers discussed "the possibility of a handover [of the Bosnian peacekeeping mission] at some stage, within the next 12-18 months, to another force run by the European Union," Reuters reported. Unnamed EU diplomats told reporters they believe the United States is now more willing to hand over responsibility to the EU in Bosnia because of Washington's commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq. But U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns argued that it is "too early to talk specifically about a transition," adding that there was "very little discussion" on the topic among the defense ministers. Several other U.S. officials previously said it is too early to discuss NATO's exit from the Balkans, where many Muslims and ethnic Albanians trust the United States but not the EU. Many in Washington also have doubts about the EU's ability to manage the security situation in Bosnia and about the EU's ultimate goal in building up a military bloc without the participation of the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 7 October 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 June and 19 September 2003). PM
...AS EU DIPLOMATS FLEX MUSCLES...
Albert Rohan, who is a former top diplomat in the Austrian Foreign Ministry, told a conference in Vienna on 9 October that the United States continues to enjoy more prestige than the EU in some Balkan countries -- such as Albania -- even though Washington wants to reduce its role in the Balkans and the EU provides more money than the United States does, the Vienna daily "Die Presse" reported. Rohan argued that such Balkan countries "will have to change their position. Whether they like it or not, the EU will be the Balkans' main point of contact" with the international community. Rohan added that Serbia and Montenegro "will not stay together" in a joint state and that the Kosova status question needs to be addressed. Stefan Lehne, a top Balkan affairs diplomat with the European Council in Brussels, described the region as "a real success story for the EU." He stressed that the Brussels-based bloc has the money and the strategy to see its Balkan plans through. He recently told a conference in Berlin that EU-U.S. cooperation remains essential in the Balkans (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 October 2003). PM
...AND TWO VETERANS SEEK TO KEEP COOPERATION
Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke, who was the architect of the 1995 Bosnian Dayton peace accords, and France's Bernard Kouchner, who was the first head of the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), wrote in "The Wall Street Journal in Europe" of 9 October that the United States and EU must continue their successful partnership in the Balkans. They stressed that the principle of "we came in together and we will leave together" remains valid. "Success in the Balkans, and even more pressing problems in Iraq and Afghanistan, requires the sort of trans-Atlantic cooperation that existed in the last five years of the last century. To be sure, there were endless arguments over every detail of Balkan policy -- the most difficult issue then facing the Atlantic partnership. But these were bureaucratic disagreements, settled through patient discussion, argument, and give-and-take at every level up to and including the very top. We know; we were there, a Frenchman and an American who believe that such cooperation is not only possible but necessary, who believe that when the Atlantic partnership works properly, nothing can stop it," the two diplomats concluded (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 September and 3 October 2003). PM
STILL NO MANDATE FOR KOSOVAR DELEGATION FOR TALKS WITH BELGRADE
On 9 October, Kosova's parliament declined to take up the subject of approving a mandate for Kosova's delegation to the 14 October Vienna talks with Belgrade because many deputies said that the negotiations are not important for Kosova, RFE/RL reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3, 8, and 9 October 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1 August and 26 September 2003). Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi repeated his position that he will attend the opening ceremony in the Austrian capital but will not negotiate without a mandate. EU foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana stressed that the talks will go ahead regardless of the stands taken by the individual participants. Harri Holkeri, who heads UNMIK, said time is running out but did not set a deadline for the parties to agree, adding that "the door is open." PM
HAGUE PROSECUTOR SCOLDS FORMER YUGOSLAV STATES
Addressing the UN Security Council on 9 October, Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, said that Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, the Republika Srpska, and the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina do not cooperate sufficiently with the tribunal, Reuters reported. She noted "our cooperation with Belgrade remains very difficult and heavily politicized, whether in regard to arrests and transfer of fugitives, or access to documents and waivers for high-level witnesses." She noted that more than half of the 17 important indicted war criminals still at large are in Serbia, including former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic. Del Ponte added that the Bosnian Serb authorities have yet to find or arrest a single war crimes suspect. Belgrade's Ambassador to the UN Dejan Sahovic called her comments "not helpful," adding that they reflect perception rather than fact. Croatia's Vladimir Drobnjak argued that his government should not be criticized for not arresting former General Ante Gotovina because he is not in Croatia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 October 2003). PM
CROATIA AWAITS EU'S DECISION
On 9 October in Brussels, Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan presented European Commission President Romano Prodi with 10,000 pages of text in answer to 4,500 questions that the EU previously submitted to Croatia regarding its suitability for membership in the Brussels-based bloc, RFE/RL reported. Croatia hopes for an answer by April 2004 as to when it can begin formal accession talks. The Racan government, which faces general elections on 23 November, has placed great hope in joining the EU in 2007, although EU officials have cautioned about setting a date for membership at this stage. Guenter Verheugen, who is EU enlargement commissioner, said recently that Croatia should not have to wait to start talks until other former Yugoslav republics are also ready, the "Financial Times" reported on 9 October. He argued that the EU can encourage the other republics to implement reforms by showing that Croatia's efforts have been rewarded. PM
ROMANIANS TO VOTE ON CONSTITUTION OVER TWO DAYS
The Romanian government on 9 October issued an urgent ordinance setting two days for the referendum on the recently adopted constitution, Romanian media reported. The vote will take place on 18 and 19 October, instead of just on 19 October. Interior Minister Ioan Rus argued the decision was needed in order to facilitate the participation at the referendum of all Romanian citizens. He added the government held talks with parliamentary party representatives on the issue. ZsM
POLISH PRESIDENT ENDS VISIT TO ROMANIA
Ending a two-day visit to Bucharest, Alexander Kwasniewski on 9 October addressed a joint session of parliament, saying his country supports Romania's reform measures needed for full NATO membership and also supports Romania's EU accession in 2007, Mediafax reported. He added that Poland could offer expertise for Romania's negotiations with the EU; he noted Poland has the same objections to the European Constitution as Romania. Kwasniewski also said Europe's relations with the United States are fundamental for European security and should be strengthened; furthermore, he pledged support for Ukraine's future accession to NATO. Kwasniewski also met with Romanian Orthodox Church Patriarch Teoctist and saluted the church's support for Romania's European accession bid. ZsM
ROMANIA TO SUPPLEMENT TROOPS IN IRAQ
The Romanian parliament's joint session on 9 October approved President Ion Iliescu's request to send additional troops to Iraq, Romanian Radio reported. Romania is to send 56 more military and civilian personnel to Iraq, of which 30 are chief of staff militaries, six civilian specialists, and 20 medical personnel. The troops are to be subordinated to the Polish command in Iraq. ZsM
MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS OPPOSITION DRAFT ON RUSSIAN TROOP REMOVAL
Parliament in Chisinau on 9 October rejected the discussion of an opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) draft statement on the failure of Russia to remove its troops from the Transdniester region, Flux reported. The Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) parliamentary majority voted against including the draft on the agenda. The PPCD argued in the draft that Russian troops stationed "illegally" on Moldova's territory hinder a solution to the Transdniester conflict, as "Tiraspol separatists" view their presence as "moral, political and military support for their actions." PPCD Deputy Stefan Secareanu said the vote shows the existence of an "alliance between the occupying Russian army and the ruling Communist party." ZsM
CHISINAU TO STAY WITHOUT HEATING SYSTEM?
Moldova's capital risks staying without centralized heating and hot water, as MoldovaGaz gas supplier suspended deliveries to the CET-2 power station, Moldovan media reported. MoldovaGaz, with majority stakeholder Gazprom, is demanding the payment of a $4 million debt accumulated this year. CET-2 leaders said that, of late, payments have improved and that all debts are to be paid by 20 October. ZsM
BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS NATIONAL BANK GOVERNOR...
Following an exchange of mutual accusations between the governing National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) and its coalition partner, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), on the one hand, and the conservative opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) on the other, parliament on 9 October elected NDSV lawmaker Ivan Iskrov as new National Bank governor, Bulgarian media reported. The SDS as well as outgoing governor Svetoslav Gavriyski criticized Iskrov's election as part of a political deal between the NDSV and DPS. In June, the election was postponed as the coalition partners could not agree on a joint candidate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6, 9, and 11 June 2003). UB
...AND CONSTITUTIONAL JUDGES
Also on 9 October, the parliament approved Professor Maria Pavlova and Professor Emilia Drumeva, nominated by Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, as new constitutional judges, "Sega" reported. Pavlova, a professor for civil and family law at the St. Kliment Ohridski University in Sofia, has to give up her position as head of the Central Election Commission for the local elections slated for 26 October. Drumeva teaches constitutional law at the same university. UB
CZECH PREMIER COMMENTS ON BULGARIAN PREMIER'S CONTROVERSIAL ADVISER
Asked to comment on the nomination of controversial former National Intelligence head Brigo Asparuhov as the prime minister's adviser on secret service issues, visiting Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said during a joint press conference with his host, Prime Minister Saxecoburggotski, in Sofia on 9 October that, "Questions of this kind should be resolved in an...open and friendly discussion among the NATO partners." He did not elaborate. The United States, Great Britain, and other NATO members have expressed their concerns over Asparuhov's nomination (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September and 6, 7, and 8 October 2003, and End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2003). UB
U.S. FACES IRAQI OPPOSITION OVER TURKISH TROOP DEPLOYMENT
The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq might have to contend with more than just the Iraqi Governing Council's opposition to the presence of Turkish troops on Iraqi soil. Kurdish leaders and citizens have vehemently opposed the presence of any foreign troops, even if those troops were stationed outside of Kurdish-dominated northern Iraq. Iraqis from across the religious and ethnic spectrum have largely opposed the presence of any foreign troops on their soil, and this particularly applies to the Turks because of Iraq's long and contentious historical and political relationship with its northern neighbor.
Although the U.S. request for Turkish troops was made in July, the Turkish cabinet only sent the necessary motion to its National Assembly on 6 October. The four-page motion called for the dispatch of 10,000 Turkish troops to contribute to stabilization efforts in Iraq. It sought parliamentary approval to send troops to Iraq at some point during the next year and stipulated that Turkish troops would operate under a Turkish national command structure. "Turkish armed forces will also perform the tasks of restoring public order and regulating and improving humanitarian aid and the economic [infra]structure," the motion stated. The parliament approved the motion a day later -- after just three hours of debate -- by a vote of 358 to 183.
Press reports indicated that the Iraqi Governing Council, upon hearing of the approval, unanimously rejected such a deployment. But Governing Council member Sungul Chabuk, a Turkoman, appeared to support the Turkish initiative. "Turkey wants to help the Iraqi people preserve security and stability and rebuild Iraq," she told Reuters on 6 October. "God willing, the Turkish troops, who are Muslim troops, will be welcomed by the Iraqi people."
However, Governing Council member Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i said the council opposes Turkish troops in Iraq because members fear the troops might undermine stability in Iraq. "The overriding opinion among the [Governing Council] members is that there are fears and apprehension with regard to bringing any [additional] foreign troops to Iraq," he told Al-Jazeera on 7 October. "This is because we...seek to end the occupation and not to increase the number of foreign troops, particularly from regional countries that will not be neutral in Iraq." Al-Rubay'i noted that the Governing Council wants the United States to guarantee that the Turkish troops would operate under coalition or UN control, and that they would depart Iraq ahead of U.S. forces.
Governing Council member Mahmud Uthman echoed al-Rubay'i. "In general, we don't want any neighboring countries to bring troops to Iraq, because, contrary to what the Americans believe, that cannot help solve security problems," he told Radio Free Iraq (RFI) on 8 October. KDP head and Governing Council member Mas'ud Barzani's representative, Rosh Noori Shawais, told RFI that the council would prefer that Iraq's neighbors contribute to reconstruction efforts in Iraq, rather than send forces. "The other point is that the duty and goal that the Iraqi [Governing] Council is trying to fulfill is the gradual establishment of control over the country. Increasing the number of troops or bringing in new troops will complicate the achievement of this goal," he said.
Meanwhile, rumors circulated on 8 October of a possible compromise between the United States and the Governing Council. CPA head L. Paul Bremer met with Governing Council members to discuss the issue, as officials in Washington downplayed the council's opposition. The Iraqi Governing Council president for October, Iyad Allawi, told Al-Jazeera ahead of the 8 October meeting that the council's opposition to the deployment should not be seen as its final decision. Sources told Al-Jazeera that a compromise would be reached and publicized through a Governing Council statement, saying that the council "does not prefer" troops from neighboring countries to participate in Iraqi stabilization efforts. Governing Council member Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i told Reuters that council members "know very well that Iraq is occupied and the [CPA] is our partner." "We do not want to enter [into] a confrontation," he said. "So we will definitely reach a compromise that will protect our interests and the interests of our partner."
Governing Council member Mahmud Uthman told RFI: "Eventually, if we don't succeed in convincing the American side and they continue to insist on bringing in these [Turkish] troops because they consider security issues [in Iraq] their responsibility, then we have to sit down with the American side and with the Turkish side, if possible, and discuss and agree on the number of troops, where they will be deployed, and for how long they will stay. All this is needed to reduce the harm that can be done as a result of the deployment of these troops."
And that is just what appears to be happening. Iyad Allawi met with Turkish Ambassador Osman Paksut on 8 October. Although much of what was said at the meeting was not disclosed to the press, Paksut acknowledged: "We are having regular contact with the Iraqi Governing Council. I don't know how many [Governing Council] members are against or how many members are for" the deployment of Turkish troops, Reuters reported.
Turkey announced that its Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ugur Ziyal would hold initial talks with U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman on 9 October to discuss the terms of the deployment. "What will be talked about, when the discussions will start, where, who will head the talks will be clear when we officially inform the American side [of parliament's decision] tomorrow," Reuters quoted a Turkish Foreign Ministry official as saying on 8 October.
In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed the notion that Iraqis would reject the Turkish deployment en masse. "You have Iraqis all across the spectrum -- some who will be very happy, some who will be worried, some who will be neutral, some won't have an opinion," Rumsfeld said.
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher also played down the Governing Council's opposition. "We believe these things can be worked out [and] should be worked out," he said. "We will be working on all the details to make sure that the Iraqis agree with us on that."
While it is expected that an agreement satisfactory to all parties will be reached, selling the deployment to the Iraqi people might meet with some difficulty. Iraqi Kurds in northern Iraq were vociferously voicing their opinions to international media on 8 October, with many citing Turkey's oppression of its own ethnic Kurdish population, its 400-year "occupation" of Iraq during the Ottoman Empire, and suspicions that Turkey would seek to benefit from Iraq's vast oil reserves once inside the country.
Such suspicions are not implausible, given statements earlier this year by then-Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis. He told "Hurriyet" on 6 January that his country was examining whether it has any legitimate historical claims to the northern Iraqi oil-rich regions around Mosul and Kirkuk.
Turkey's long insistence that it wants to enter northern Iraq to protect the Turkomans -- who are ethnically related to Turks -- and to maintain order (i.e., prevent any attempts by the Kurds to separate from the central government) have also contributed to Iraqis' suspicions of their northern neighbor. The United States tried earlier this year to smooth Turkish-Kurdish relations over when it was seeking permission to launch part Operation Iraqi Freedom from Turkish soil, but it appears it will need to restart its diplomacy campaign to prevent an escalation of tensions ahead of any Turkish deployment in Iraq.
CEASE-FIRE AGREEMENT REACHED FOR NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN
The Afghan Transitional Administration, with help from the UN and British envoys to Afghanistan, on 9 October brokered a cease-fire to fighting that broke out on 8 October near Mazar-e Sharif, capital of Balkh Province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2003), international news agencies reported. A team led by Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali and including representatives from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and British Ambassador to Afghanistan Ron Nash held talks with rival warlords General Abdul Rashid Dostum and General Ata Mohammad. "Both sides have agreed to a cease-fire," Jalali announced after the meeting, Reuters reported. Ata Mohammad, commander of the 7th Army Corps loyal to the Jamiat-e Islami party, said that "we agreed to a cease-fire with immediate effect which will apply to all of the north[ern parts of Afghanistan]," the BBC reported. Sayyed Nurullah, a deputy to Junbish-e Melli leader Dostum, said the situation is tense, but confirmed the cease-fire. Ata Mohammad's reference to all parts of northern Afghanistan apparently also pertains to fighting between the two rivals that began on 7 October in Faryab Province. AT
NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN FIGHTING DESCRIBED AS WORST IN MONTHS
Nearly 60 fighters were killed or injured in the recent fighting near Mazar-e Sharif, international news agencies reported. Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Omar Samad described the fighting as the "worst we've seen in months," the BBC reported on 9 October. UNAMA spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said the fighting was "worse than anything before," adding that "tanks have been used, which we have not seen in a long time," "The New York Times," reported on 10 October. Forces loyal to Dostum, who is also a special adviser on security and military affairs to Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, and those loyal to Ata Mohammad have clashed intermittently since the Taliban were defeated in Afghanistan in late 2001. AT
WARLORD COMBAT PUTS PRT, DISARMAMENT EFFORTS IN QUESTION
The fighting between Junbish and Jamiat forces occurred near Mazar-e Sharif, a city in which the British military established a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) to maintain peace and to assist in reconstruction efforts. The 60 British soldiers who comprise the PRT "appear to have been unable to prevent the fighting," "The New York Times" commented on 10 October. Critics of the PRT system have argued that "such teams are too small to have an impact," Reuters noted on 9 October (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 30 January and 2 October 2003). The ongoing conflict among the warlords of northern Afghanistan also illustrate the shortcomings of disarmament efforts in country. According to de Almeida e Silva, "Weapons were not always collected in great numbers, and arms collected one day seemed to find their way back on the next," "The New York Times" reported. Coalition forces in Afghanistan have referred to the fighting near Mazar-e Sharif as an internal Afghan issue. AT
KABUL PAPER REMEMBERS DESTRUCTIVE CIVIL WARS
Commenting on recent political maneuvers by former mujahedin leaders (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 9 October 2003), "The Kabul Times" commented on 8 October that former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani has the right to run against Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai. However, the Kabul daily noted that "Professor Rabbani managed to extend his [previous] tenure for four years [1992-96] through a hand-picked council" and "during his 'reign' Kabul was divided among 12 'sovereign' commanders." Rabbani was elected by a mujahedin council in Peshawar, Pakistan, in 1992 to run the country for four months, following Sebghatullah Mojaddedi's two-month presidency. The Kabul daily added that as a result of the violent power struggle among mujahedin groups, "parts of the old city [of Kabul] were razed to the ground." In the jockeying before the 2004 general elections, Afghanistan is witnessing its first relatively open political campaigning. AT
TAJIK OFFICIAL SAYS DRUG SEIZURES DEMONSTRATE NEED FOR INTERNATIONAL COALITION
An official of Tajikistan's presidential Drug Control Agency, Hushnur Rakhmatullaev, used an announcement that, in the first nine months of this year, almost 7 tons of contraband drugs have been confiscated in Tajikistan to support the government's call for an international antidrug coalition, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 October. Rakhmatullaev noted that this is nearly double the amount of drugs confiscated in the same period last year. Russian border guards and Tajik law enforcement officers together seized 6,773 kilograms of contraband drugs between January and September 2003, of which 4,537 kilograms were heroin, according to Interfax on 9 October. In the analogous period of 2002, the figures were 4,293 kilos of drugs seized and 2,695 kilos of heroin. High-ranking Tajik officials, particularly President Imomali Rakhmonov, have been calling on the international community in the recent months to create a broad coalition to counter the threat posed by drugs illegally exported from Afghanistan, which is expected to produce up to 4,000 tons of opiates this year. BB
IRANIAN WOMAN WINS NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian human rights and democracy activist, has won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, the Nobel website announced on 10 October (http://www.nobel.se). The Norwegian Nobel Committee's citation noted her focus on "the struggle for the rights of women and children." It stated: "As a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, she has spoken out clearly and strongly in her country, Iran, and far beyond its borders. She has stood up as a sound professional, a courageous person, and has never heeded the threats to her own safety." It lauded her promotion of nonviolence and the need for a community's supreme political power to be based on democratic elections. The committee noted with pleasure that Ebadi is a Muslim. The statement concluded: "We hope that the people of Iran will feel joyous that for the first time in history one of their citizens has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and we hope the Prize will be an inspiration for all those who struggle for human rights and democracy in her country, in the [Muslim] world, and in all countries where the fight for human rights needs inspiration and support." BS
IRAN'S PRESIDENT, PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER MEET WITH GUARDIANS
President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami and parliamentary speaker Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi met on 9 October with members of the Guardians Council, Fars News Agency and state television reported. The meeting was convened upon Khatami's invitation and was intended to address some of the differences between the elected executive and legislative branches of government and the unelected guardians; namely, provincial election-supervision offices, supervisory boards, and the "twin bills" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2003). When asked about the outcome of the meeting, Karrubi was noncommittal, saying that there was a lot to discuss, such as the annual budget, the fourth development plan, the February parliamentary election, and other future elections. He said that differences should be reduced and "we should all move forward within the framework of the constitution and the aspirations of the Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini]." BS
IRANIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH REFORMIST POLITICAL FACTIONS
President Khatami and leaders of the reformist 2nd of Khordad political factions met in the evening of 8 October to discuss the February parliamentary election, IRNA reported on 9 October. He told them that a suitable atmosphere would ensure a massive public turnout, and he stressed the need to act within the framework of the constitution. Speaker of parliament Karrubi reportedly echoed Khatami's comments. All the participants stressed the need for intrafactional unity. This is the second such meeting; the first took place on 2 October (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 6 October 2003). BS
IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY DISCUSSES OFFICIALS MISSING SINCE 1982
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said on 9 October that evidence shows that Israel is responsible for the capture of four Iranian officials in Lebanon in 1982, IRNA reported. Kharrazi made this statement during a meeting with the families of the officials -- Charge d'Affaires Seyyed Mohsen Musavi, diplomats Ahmad Motevaselian and Taqi Rastegar-Moghaddam, and IRNA photojournalist Kazem Akhavan. Kharrazi said the Foreign Ministry is on the case. The missing Iranians have been mentioned recently within the context of Israel-Hizballah discussions about a prisoner exchange. BS
SCIRI LEADER CRITICIZES U.S. OCCUPATION
Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) Chairman Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim said on 9 October during the Ahl al-Bayt seminar in Tehran that the Iraqi people have begun a major battle to liberate their country from the occupation and the remnants of the regime of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Tehran radio reported on 10 October. And at an 8 October memorial ceremony in Tehran for his assassinated brother, Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, al-Hakim asserted that there is international pressure on the United States to withdraw its troops and for it to specify a withdrawal date. "Of course, we support the international community in this demand and for the U.S. to limit the duration of its occupation of Iraq," he was quoted as saying. Al-Hakim is scheduled to give a presermon speech in Tehran on 10 October, and he will head home after that. BS
U.S. TROOPS ATTACKED IN BAGHDAD'S SADR CITY, TWO KILLED
Two U.S. soldiers were killed and four wounded when their patrol was ambushed in the Shi'ite-dominated Baghdad neighborhood known as Sadr City on 9 October, Reuters reported on 10 October. A car bomb targeting Iraqi police detonated in Sadr city earlier that day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2003). Local residents told the news agency that two Iraqis were killed in fighting with U.S. troops following the ambush, while Al-Jazeera reported that one Iraqi civilian was killed and two injured in the fighting. KR
TWO IRAQI POLICE OFFICERS KILLED, TWO INJURED IN IRBIL ATTACK
Two Iraqi policemen were killed and two were injured when their patrol came under attack in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil, Kurdistan Satellite TV reported on 9 October. The incident occurred when armed assailants fired on a police vehicle transporting the officers. Two civilians were also killed in the attack, the Irbil police chief told the satellite channel. KR
IRAQI JUSTICE MINISTER DISCUSSES PROGRESS
Iraqi Justice Minister Hisham Abd al-Rahman al-Shibli told London's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" in an interview published on 9 October that his ministry has made much progress in recent weeks towards rehabilitating the Iraqi judicial system. "The first thing we did was to pass decisions on the independence of the judiciary...the judiciary has become totally independent of the executive authority..." he said. The ministry will soon review all decisions and laws imposed by the deposed Iraqi regime "so as to replace them with ones that serve the Iraqi people's interest," al-Shibli added. The justice minister told "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" that the ministry will establish a "special court consisting of Iraqi judges" to try former regime members for crimes against the Iraqi people. Regarding the prosecution of Arab fighters, al-Shibli said, "We will punish anyone who commits a crime against the Iraqi people." KR
AL-BASRAH AIRPORT OPENING DELAYED AGAIN
The reopening of the Al-Basrah airport has been postponed indefinitely, Voice of the Mujahedin Radio quoted British Army spokesman Hisham Halawi as saying on 9 October. The delay is due to continued instability in the area and inadequate infrastructure at the airport. KR
IRAQI POLICE DEFUSE EXPLOSIVE DEVICE AT AL-BASRAH UNIVERSITY
Iraqi police recently defused an explosive device found in a residential area of the University of Al-Basrah, "Al-Ta'akhi" reported on 9 October. The police team received help from a coalition explosives unit in the operation. According to "Al-Ta'akhi," the device was discovered in an area where the university's teaching staff resides. Explosive devices have been discovered in recent months at other universities in Iraq, including Baghdad University. KR
TURKEY PLANS NEW BORDER GATE WITH IRAQ
Plans are reportedly underway for the construction of a new border crossing between Turkey and Iraq, Istanbul's NTV reported on 8 October. The new "Ali Riza Efendi" border gate will be in Ovakoy, which is located 12 kilometers from Silopi, where the Habur border crossing is located. The new gate will reportedly be used for the transport of military equipment across the Turkish-Iraqi border, and will be linked to Mosul highway by the construction of a new road. According to NTV, when Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ugur Ziyal informed U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman of the plans, Edelman replied, "We view this positively, but I must ask Washington." KR