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Newsline - October 17, 2003


PUTIN REJECTS ATTEMPTS TO EQUATE ISLAM WITH TERRORISM...
President Vladimir Putin on 16 October addressed a summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Malaysia, saying that the millions of Muslims in Russia are "a full-fledged, full-blooded, integral part of the Russian people," ORT and RTR reported. He called Muslims "an asset" and a part of Russia's "wealth." Putin said that interconfessional and interethnic conflicts are among the main threats in the modern world. He said that some forces use religious slogans to wage an aggressive campaign against legitimate authorities and to incite separatism and terrorism. Other forces, Putin added, are manipulating this situation for their own ends, which have nothing to do with Islam or human rights. He added that Russia condemns efforts to identify Islam with extremism or terrorism. "Attempts to provoke 'Islamophobia' in Russia have failed utterly," Putin said. He said that during Russia's religious revival of the last decade, the number of mosques in the country has grown from 870 to more than 7,000. Putin urged that the financial, scientific, and human resources of Russia and OIC member countries be combined in order "to make [the organization] a factor in world politics." VY

...WHILE AT OIC SUMMIT WITH LARGE MUSLIM DELEGATION...
President Putin traveled to the OIC summit with an impressive delegation that included Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and many Muslim officials in the federal government, as well as representatives of Russia's predominantly Muslim regions. Among those traveling with Putin were Chechnya's President-elect Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, Bashkortostan's President Murtaza Rakhimov, Kabardino-Balkaria's President Valerii Kokov, Tatarstan's State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin, presidential administration deputy head Jaikhan Pollyeva, and Property Relations Minister Farit Gazizullin. Although Russia has expressed a desire to join the OIC, it can only lay claim to observer status because OIC rules restrict full membership to countries with populations that are at least 50 percent Muslim, or that have a Muslim head of state, or that are governed by sharia law, NTV reported. VY

...AND DOWNPLAYS ANTI-SEMITIC TONE OF HOST'S SPEECH
While at the OIC summit on 16 October, President Putin ignored anti-Semitic remarks made by Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, who focused his speech on the perceived conflict between Muslims and Jews, international media reported. Mahathir alleged that "Jews rule the world by proxy, and get others to fight and die for them," according to a text of the speech in the "Malaysian Star" on 17 October. His speech included many other overtly anti-Semitic comments. Asked about Mahathir's speech, Putin told NTV on 16 October that "there were some extreme, controversial opinions and it is worthwhile to know what they are." "We will take them into account when our diplomats determine our political course," Putin said. "There is no need for Putin to travel half way around the world to hear that 'Jews are to be blamed for everything,'" smi.ru commented on 16 October. "He can hear the same nonsense right here at home." VY

RUSSIA TO BEGIN PRODUCTION OF NEW-GENERATION ANTIMISSILE SYSTEM
Igor Ashurbeili, the chief designer of Almaz, Russia's largest air-defense contractor, said on 16 October that a state commission has authorized the serial production of the state-of-the-art S-400 antimissile system, RIA-Novosti reported. The S-400, which is know as the Triumph, is considered the most advanced surface-to-air antimissile system in the world, and will replace the S-300, the analog of the U.S. Patriot tactical antimissile system. The S-400 is able to track and destroy targets at a range of 400 kilometers and to strike both aircraft and missiles flying at speeds of up to 4,800 kilometers per hour, RBK reported on 16 October. VY

PROSECUTORS QUERY LAWYER IN YUKOS CASE
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 17 October summoned for questioning Anton Drel, the lawyer of indicted Yukos shareholder Platon Lebedev, newsru.com reported on 16 October. Drel's office was searched on 9 October by investigators in the latest wave of Yukos-related searches (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2003). Newsru.com noted that the questioning of a lawyer is an extraordinary development and means that by law Drel will no longer be able to participate in the case. Moscow Lawyers Chamber President Genri Reznik told a Moscow press conference on 17 October that the prosecutors' action is a violation of attorney-client privilege, which could undermine the legal profession in Russia and entail severe violations of the constitutional right of Russian citizens to a legal defense. He said that the incident should be reported to European and other international organizations. VY

THE ELITES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN'?
Writing in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 16 October, former "Nezavisimaya gazeta" Editor in Chief Vitalii Tretyakov wrote that the current State Duma election campaign can be characterized as a sad expression of the "politically impotent." Nevertheless, he wrote that he expects a "big surprise" from the elections, and argued that "pro-Kremlin parties have lost twice before when they relied solely on their proximity to the halls of power." "This is based on the fundamental physical and political law of the opposition, which might fail to reveal itself in 2003 but which will [therefore] take on even more strength in the spring of 2007." He concludes that the campaign now under way shows that the years between 2003 and 2007 will be characterized by the dramatic replacement of current elites in Russia, whose "last chance to extend their political life span" is the State Duma race and the many regional elections. JAC

TELEVISION STATIONS BACK AWAY FROM ANNOUNCED PLANS TO TAPE DEBATES
Spokesmen for state-owned RTR and of state-controlled ORT television said on 16 October that the channels might change their position regarding a decision announced the previous day that they would tape debates between candidates for the State Duma rather than broadcast them live, RBK reported. Igor Burenkov, director for public relations at ORT, said a final decision has not been made. All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK) Deputy Chairman Andrei Bystritskii said his company has also not yet made a final decision about the debates. According to Andrei Przhedomskii, co-chairman of a nongovernmental, nonpartisan supervisory council for monitoring the elections, 18 proposals from political parties and election blocs have been submitted. According to Przhedomskii, many of those who have submitted "applications" to take part in the debates have asked for Unified Russia, the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), and/or Yabloko to be their opponents. According to ITAR-TASS, the debates are tentatively scheduled to start on 10 November. JAC

ANOTHER BUSINESSMAN JOINS RANKS OF UPPER CHAMBER
The Federation Council confirmed on 16 October Aleksandr Sabadash as the representative for the administration of Nenets Autonomous Okrug, RosBalt reported. Vodka magnate Sabadash oversees several businesses in Leningrad Oblast and is reportedly close to aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska. Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Vladimir Butov recalled Sabadash's predecessor, Yurii Volkov, after less than eight months in the post for "being insufficiently active in defending the region's interests" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2002). Volkov is a former KGB administrator and a former deputy presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District. JAC

PRESSURE ON MAYOR IN FAR EAST SLIDES UP A NOTCH
The Kamchatka Oblast prosecutor's office has appealed to oblast Governor Mikhail Maskhovtsev to introduce direct gubernatorial rule in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii, RIA-Novosti reported on 16 October. According to the agency, half of the city's homes and hospitals do not have heat. The official heating season began on 10 October, according to gazeta.ru. Earlier in the month, a criminal investigation into suspicions of abuse of power was opened against Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii Mayor Yurii Golenishchev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2003), who has been involved in a long-running confrontation with the oblast administration. JAC

MORE MUSICAL CHAIRS AT PRINT MEDIA OUTLETS...
"Gazeta" Editor in Chief and former "Kommersant-Daily" Editor Raf Shakirov has been named editor of "Izvestiya," replacing Mikhail Kozhokin, Russian media reported on 16 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2003). "Gazeta" First Deputy Editor Mikhail Mikhailin has been named to replace Shakirov, grani.ru reported. Both Shakirov and Mikhailin said they do not plan to change the basic conceptions of their respective publications. Earlier, television personality Yevgenii Kiselev replaced Viktor Loshak as editor-in-chief of "Moskovskie novosti" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2003), and Loshak was later named editor in chief of "Ogonek" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2003) JAC

...AS RESHUFFLING ATTRIBUTED TO NEW EFFORT TO DEPOLITICIZE PRINT MEDIA
According to "Vremya novostei" on 16 October, the recent staff changes at Russian publications have two things in common. One, the changes are restricted to an extremely small circle of professionals. And, two, "Everyone is saying that the publications in question are supposed to be become more lively and accessible, and considerably less political," the newspaper commented. In 2001, when a new weekly produced by former employees of Media-MOST's "Itogi" appeared, Editor Sergei Parkhomenko said the new publication would have "plenty" of political coverage, but the amount would vary from issue to issue. "Modern politics embrace something much greater and much more varied than mere political or cadre intrigues," Parkhomenko continued. "It is this kind of politics, politics understood broadly, that we shall mostly be writing about" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March 2002). JAC

ACCUSED WIDOW OF SLAIN DUMA DEPUTY ATTEMPTS SUICIDE
Tamara Rokhlina, the widow of slain Duma Deputy and General Lev Rokhlin who is currently on trial for his 1998 murder, tried to commit suicide on 16 October, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 17 October. She is recuperating at a Moscow clinic. According to the daily, Rokhlina's second trial in the case started in December 2001, but has been repeatedly interrupted because Rokhlina developed heart problems (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2003). In her original confession, which she later recanted, Rokhlina said she tried to kill herself after killing Rokhlin, but changed her mind and fired the pistol into a wall. JAC

CRIMINAL CASES OPENED INTO FRAUDULENT CHECHEN COMPENSATION CLAIMS
Seventeen criminal cases have been opened against officials in several districts of Chechnya who allegedly submitted fraudulent claims for compensation for housing and property destroyed during the fighting of recent years, the website of "Nezavisimaya gazeta" (http://www.ng.ru) reported on 17 October. Chechen President-elect Akhmed Kadyrov said on 7 October that in five districts where applications for compensation have been checked, between 45-50 percent of claims were found to be unsubstantiated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2003). Moscow has earmarked some 14 billion rubles ($465.7 million) to meet such claims this year. LF

ARMENIAN COALITION PARTY MEETS WITH OPPOSITION ALLIANCE
Leading members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) met on 15 October with People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) Chairman Stepan Demirchian to solicit the support of the Artarutiun bloc that Demirchian heads for the HHD's anticorruption initiatives and its efforts to amend the election law, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 16 October. A HZhK spokeswoman said Artarutiun will support any initiative in parliament that will further its stated aim of promoting democracy and the rule of law, in particular the HHD demand that the number of parliamentary mandates distributed under the proportional system be increased from the present 75 of a total of 131. LF

CONFUSION OVER PLANNED ARMENIAN ANTICORRUPTION BODY
Speaking at a 16 October press conference, presidential aide for anticorruption issues Bagrat Yesayan (HHD) denied that the governing-coalition coordinating council reached a decision on 13 October not to proceed with the creation of a new anticorruption body, for which the HHD has been lobbying, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian, chairman of Orinats Yerkir, which with the HHD is the second junior coalition partner, told journalists while traveling in Tavush Raion on 14 October that the coalition coordinating council had reached consensus on not establishing a new anticorruption body, Noyan Tapan reported. Baghdasarian said that, instead, the parliament oversight chamber and other anticorruption bodies would have their powers augmented. LF

TWO KILLED AS POLICE, OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATORS CLASH IN AZERBAIJAN
Several thousand supporters of defeated presidential candidate and opposition Musavat Party Chairman Isa Gambar fought a pitched battle with police and Interior Ministry troops in central Baku on 16 October, Azerbaijani and Western media reported. In the early afternoon, some 3,000 Gambar supporters began an unsanctioned meeting in central Baku. When police tried to disperse them, they made their way toward Freedom Square, sparring en route with police and Interior Ministry forces; the number of demonstrators "snowballed," according to zerkalo.az on 17 October, and reached some 8,000. Some 3,000 police and Interior Ministry troops armed with tear gas and smoke bombs and backed by police dogs and water cannons again tried to disperse the demonstrators, firing into the air. The demonstrators responded by hurling stones and attacking police vehicles. Fighting continued for some three hours, first on the square and then on side streets, as police hunted down demonstrators. At least two persons are believed to have died in the melee, a man in his early 50s and a 5-year-old boy who was trampled to death. Dozens of police, demonstrators, and journalists were injured. Prime Minister and President-elect Ilham Aliev ordered police to restore order in the capital, Interfax reported on 16 October. Interior Minister Ramil Usubov told journalists on 17 October that 174 participants in the clashes have been arrested, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

AZERBAIJANI RULING PARTY ACCUSES OPPOSITION OF PLANNING COUP
Ali Akhmedov, who is executive secretary of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, told a press conference on the evening of 16 October that Musavat Party activists had tried to storm the Central Election Commission building in order to alter the results of the previous day's presidential ballot, an action which, he claimed, was tantamount to seizing power by force, zerkalo.az reported on 17 October. Akhmedov claimed that Musavat Party Chairman Gambar urged his supporters to resort to violence. Akhmedov said the leaders not only of Musavat, but also of the other parties belonging to the Our Azerbaijan bloc that backed Gambar acted as "stooges of extremist forces" and thereby placed themselves outside the law, adding that Gambar and the leaders of the other parties should be brought to trial. Akhmedov also said the parliament should strip Umid Party Chairman Igbal Agazade, who Akhmedov said led one of the groups of young protesters, of his deputy's mandate. LF

AZERBAIJANI ELECTION OBSERVERS HIGHLIGHT SHORTCOMINGS...
In a preliminary assessment released on 16 October, the International Election Observation Mission comprising experts from the OSCE and the Council of Europe criticized the previous day's presidential ballot in terms that echoed almost verbatim its assessment of the first round of the Armenian presidential election in February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February 2003), according OSCE website (http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections). The statement characterized the poll as falling short of international standards in several respects. It cited the use of violence and excessive force by police; intimidation of opposition supporters and journalists; and the failure to create equal conditions, including equal access to the media, for all eight presidential candidates. IEOM leader Peter Eicher told journalists on 16 October that the ballot was "a missed opportunity for Azerbaijan to hold democratic elections." He pointed to OSCE observer reports of ballot-box stuffing, falsified vote counts, and interference by unauthorized persons in the voting and the vote count. LF

...AS U.S. CALLS ON OPPOSITION TO ACT PEACEFULLY
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said on 16 October that the United States "concurs" with the preliminary OSCE assessment that the 15 October vote was generally orderly, but nonetheless fell short of international standards, RFE/RL reported. Ereli said that U.S. observers had witnessed problems with voter lists, instances of coercion, and "other irregularities." He said Washington calls on the Azerbaijani government to follow through on its OSCE commitments and to safeguard the rights of the country's citizens. At the same time, Ereli called on the opposition "to act peacefully and within the law." "We urge all parties to take all steps to restore public order and avoid further violence," he said. LF

GEORGIAN-RUSSIAN ECONOMIC FORUM OPENS
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze opened a Georgian-Russian Economic Forum in Tbilisi on 16 October, Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. The forum, Shevardnadze said, is intended to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation, which Georgia's geopolitical orientation toward the United States should not be seen as precluding. Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Russia President Arkadii Volskii, who headed the Russian delegation to the forum, said a number of Russian companies are interested in creating a consortium with their Georgian counterparts to finance and build a major highway in Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported. Both Russian and Georgian participants agreed that the mutual visa requirement introduced in early 2000 is a deterrent to expanding trade and economic cooperation, and should be rescinded. LF

EGYPT WANTS TO BUY KAZAKH GRAIN
Egyptian Supply Minister Hasan Ali Khidr told Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Akhmetzhan Yesimov in Astana on 16 October that Egypt wants to import Kazakh grain this year and is interested purchasing other agricultural products over the long term, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported, quoting a Kazakh government press release. Khidir said Egypt would like to obtain the bulk of its annual 6-7 million tons of grain imports from Kazakhstan. Kazakh durum wheat is particularly valued. Yesimov reported that in addition to grain, Kazakhstan could supply Egypt with vegetable oil, beans, wool, and meat. The Egyptian delegation will meet with Kazakh Agriculture Ministry and Food Contract Corporation officials to begin drafting the necessary agreements. In 2003, Kazakhstan produced a record grain harvest of 17.1 million tons. However, as gazeta.kz noted on 17 October, this fact has not generated the excitement that characterized the response to similar harvests in the Soviet era. About half the harvest is being sold abroad, much of it to CIS states. BB

RIOT IN KYRGYZ PRISON REPORTEDLY PUT DOWN BY FORCE
An inmate riot in a prison in southern Kyrgyzstan's Djalal-Abad Oblast on 15 October was put down by force, Interfax, RIA-Novosti, and Kyrgyz media reported on 16 October. According to the reports, one inmate was killed and at least one was wounded when Interior Ministry troops guarding the facility opened fire on rioters who had begun throwing stones at them after guards refused to give the inmates a bag or bags that had been thrown into the prison yard. Several dozen inmates reportedly attempted to disarm the guards. The head of the Interior Ministry's Corrections Department, Vladimir Nosov, and ministry investigators are attempting to establish the reasons for the riot, according to akipress.org. BB

KYRGYZ FOREIGN MINISTRY REJECTS UZBEK REPORT ON BORDER INCIDENT
The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry has issued a statement rejecting the results of an Uzbek investigation into an incident on 16 July in which a Kyrgyz citizen was killed by Uzbek border guards (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 2003), akipress.org and other Kyrgyz media reported on 16 October. The ministry statement said the Kyrgyz side is continuing to work with the Uzbek Foreign Ministry on the issue, but is "deeply concerned" that charges against the Uzbek border guards involved in the shooting were dropped and the Uzbek prosecutor-general has filed criminal cases against some Kyrgyz citizens who were allegedly involved the incident. The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry also said it found the Uzbek attitude counterproductive. The Kyrgyz insist blame for the incident lies entirely with the Uzbek guards, while the Uzbek side blames the Kyrgyz. The Kyrgyz side also argues that the use of firearms by border guards in peacetime cannot be justified. The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry is calling for an impartial probe into the incident. BB

EURASIAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY TO FINANCE KYRGYZ, TAJIK POWER PLANTS
The Integration Committee of the Eurasian Economic Community (EEC) -- which includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan -- has approved the financing of Kyrgyzstan's Kambar-Ata 2 and Tajikistan's Sangtuda-1 power stations, "Obshchestvennyi reiting" reported on 15 October. An agreement confirming the commitment is expected to be signed at an EEC summit at the end of October. The EEC explained the decision by saying that Central Asia should export more electricity to Russia. The EEC has already drawn up a plan for a unified energy grid embracing all five member states. In August, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) questioned the need for the Kambar-Ata plant (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 2003). BB

EU COMMITS 12 MILLION EUROS TO TAJIK LAND-MINE REMOVAL
European Union Director for Central Asia and the Caucasus Per Brix Knudsen told journalists in Dushanbe on 16 October that the EU will commit 12 million euros ($13.9 million) over the next three years for Tajik land-mine removal along the Uzbek border, ITAR-TASS reported. Two-thirds of that amount has already been promised by individual EU states, he added, and the union is looking for ways to secure the rest. Tajikistan has already begun clearing land mines left over from the 1992-97 civil war, but has not started removing mines planted along the Uzbek-Tajik border by the Uzbek military in 2000 and 2001 to prevent incursions by Muslim militants. Tajik officials have said that more than 50 Tajik citizens have been killed and hundreds have been injured by land mines in recent years. BB

UZBEK GOVERNMENT SEEKS TO PROTECT COTTON
The Uzbek government has issued a decree criminalizing attempts to smuggle cotton to neighboring countries, Deutsche Welle reported on 16 October. The Interior Ministry has been ordered to take harsh measures against cotton smugglers. In Uzbekistan pickers are paid 30 soms (about $0.03) per kilogram, while pickers on the Kazakh side of the border get the equivalent of 600 soms. Reportedly, Uzbek law enforcement agencies have registered 140 cases of cotton smuggling. A recent shooting incident on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border reportedly involved a case of attempted cotton smuggling (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 October 2003). The report notes that Uzbek officials justify the low wages for Uzbek pickers by pointing to low world prices for cotton. But the collective farms for which the pickers work are getting six to seven times as much for the cotton sold to state-procurement agencies. A government decree also sets a fine for failing to deliver cotton promptly to procurement points. Reportedly, some pickers hide cotton in their homes, hoping for better prices later. BB

ERK PARTY SUPPORTERS PICKET UZBEK PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE
About 15 members and supporters of the unregistered Erk Democratic Party picketed the Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office in Tashkent on 15 October, Deutsche Welle reported on 16 October. This was reportedly the first time Erk members have undertaken such an action. The picketers demanded that party property they say was illegally confiscated be returned, that police harassment of party members be ended, and that the party be allowed to hold a congress it has scheduled for 22 October. Two party members -- Aigul Mamatova and Abduhashim Gafurov -- were stopped by police in Tashkent on 13 October, and party literature and other documents intended for the congress were confiscated from their car. The two were held at a police station for 15 hours. BB

BELARUS EXPELS JORDANIAN FOR SUSPECTED TERRORIST ACTIVITIES
Belarusian authorities on 16 October decided to deport Jordanian national Walid Husayn al-Muhammad Muzay'in because of his suspected involvement with a terrorist organization, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Belarusian Television reported. According to the Belarusian KGB, Muzay'in, who has been working toward a postgraduate degree at the Belarusian Medical Academy for two years, was said to have been preaching radical Islam among students of Arabic origin and recruiting supporters. He was ordered to leave Belarus by 18 October. The network said Muzay'in was expelled two years ago for "similar activities" from Ukraine, where he had lived for 10 years. JM

BELARUSIAN COURT CLOSES ANOTHER NGO
The Supreme Court on 16 October liquidated the Lutskevich Brothers Foundation, a nongovernmental organization focused on historical research and cultural and social projects, Belapan reported. The court found the foundation guilty of infractions during the 1999 re-registration campaign, using an incorrect seal, having an office in a private apartment in violation of the civil and housing legislation, and failing to register regional branches. The same day, Justice Minister Viktar Halavanau told journalists that the ongoing campaign of closures of NGOs in Belarus is part of his ministry's "purposeful work" enforcing the law on the third sector. He denied that the campaign is a deliberate purge launched after an order from the country's senior leadership in the run-up to next year's parliamentary election and a possible referendum on extending President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's term in office. JM

HAS UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT GROUND TO A HALT?
Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn told journalists on 16 October that until the Verkhovna Rada passes a law stipulating parliamentary elections under a proportional system, its work "will not be efficient and will not be continued," Interfax reported. Lytvyn was commenting on his consultations with the leaders of parliamentary caucuses and groups following a tumultuous session earlier the same day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2003). Lawmakers voted on 16 October on three different bills proposing parliamentary elections under proportional systems, but none received the 226 votes required for passage. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz proposed working out a draft election bill that might "suit everybody," adding that unless such a bill is passed, the legislature has no right to consider other issues. JM

UKRAINIANS REPORTEDLY BRING HEAVY MACHINERY TO STOP RUSSIAN DAM PROJECT
The row between Kyiv and Moscow over a Russian dam project in the Kerch Strait (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2003) flared up on 16 October after Ukrainian authorities dispatched several dozen border guards, bulldozers, and excavators to the islet of Tuzla to halt the Russian project's advance on Ukrainian territory, ITAR-TASS reported. "You are close to the borders of sovereign Ukraine. Halt!" reads a sign on the Tuzla coast facing the builders of the dam, who are reportedly less than 1 kilometer from the island. Aleksander Tkachev, governor of Russia's Krasnodar Krai, said construction will be stopped at a distance of 600 meters from the island. Despite that assurance, Ukraine sent a dredger and a seaborne crane to the area and marked a division line in the Kerch Strait with buoys. According to Krasnodar Krai authorities, the dike is essential to protect the Russian coast in the area from being washed away by the sea. JM

ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES VISA-FREE TRAVEL AGREEMENT WITH ROMANIA
The government on 16 October gave its approval to an agreement with Romania to mutually abolish visa requirements for each other's citizens, BNS reported. State Secretary Heiki Loot has been authorized to sign the agreement on Estonia's behalf. It will be signed later this month during President Arnold Ruutel's state visit to Romania. According to the agreement, Estonian citizens will be able to stay in Romania without a visa for up to 90 days in a six-month period and vice versa, but it does not allow citizens of one country to work in the other. The agreement was necessary to fulfill the EU membership requirement to abolish visa requirements with all EU member and candidate countries. Romania is the only such country with which Estonia does not have a visa-free travel agreement. Estonia now has visa-free agreements with 35 countries, and talks are being held with another 30 countries. The cabinet also authorized Loot to sign a treaty with Romania on eliminating double taxation. SG

EU COMMISSIONER REJECTS RUSSIA'S ACCUSATIONS AGAINST LATVIA
EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen told Latvian Foreign Minister Sandra Kalniete in Brussels on 16 October that the recent statement by the Russian Duma condemning Latvia's human rights record (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 October 2003) was unjustified, BNS reported. He reiterated the EU position that Latvia has complied with all international requirements concerning human rights and the rights of ethnic minorities. Regarding calls in the Russian Duma to impose economic sanctions on Latvia to enforce its statement, Verheugen said that as soon as Latvia becomes a member of the EU in May 2004, it will automatically become a member of the common EU market and any economic sanctions against Latvia would be against the EU as a whole. SG

LITHUANIA RATIFIES PROTOCOL ON ABOLITION OF DEATH PENALTY
Parliament on 16 October ratified Protocol 13 to the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by a vote of 60 to three, with four abstentions, BNS reported. It calls for the prohibition of capital punishment, even in times of war. Lithuania signed the protocol in May 2002 during a session of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers. In December 1998, parliament eliminated the death penalty as a form of punishment from the national Criminal Code after the Lithuanian Constitutional Court ruled that the punishment violated the constitution. In January 1999, Lithuania signed Protocol 6 of the convention, which canceled the death penalty except in times or threat of war. SG

POLISH PRIME MINISTER DENIES RESIGNATION RUMORS
Prime Minister Leszek Miller on 16 October denied reported rumors in the Polish parliament that his party, the Democratic Left Alliance, is plotting to oust him, PAP reported. Miller, who is in Brussels for a two-day EU summit, called such speculation "utter irresponsibility" and added that it could undermine Poland's negotiating position on the draft European Constitution. Regarding this position, Miller said it is "tough and unchanged." Warsaw favors the system of voting in the EU Council of Ministers stipulated by the Nice Treaty of 2000, according to which Poland has 27 votes. Warsaw also supports the principle "one country, one commissioner" on the European Commission. Meanwhile, a survey conducted by the CBOS polling agency on 3-6 October found that 72 percent of respondents assessed the performance of Miller's cabinet negatively, while 14 percent voiced a positive opinion. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT ASSAILS GOVERNMENT'S PERFORMANCE...
Vaclav Klaus addressed the parliament on 16 October with a speech that ruffled government feathers and elicited loud applause from his former party colleagues in the opposition, Czech media reported. In his first address to lawmakers since his inaugural address on 28 February, Klaus criticized the coalition's proposed budget deficit for 2004, warned against increasing state power at the expense of citizens, and noted changes that mark a "new quality" European Union, "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 17 October. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla countered from Brussels, where he is part of the Czech delegation to the EU conference on the European Constitution, that Klaus's criticisms were "unjustified" and "wrong," according to CTK. "President Klaus presented a speech here that was rather a speech by the leader of the opposition than a nonpartisan president," Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Stanislav Gross (see "End Note" below) said. Deputies from the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which Klaus founded and of which he remains honorary chairman, enthusiastically applauded the speech. AH

...AND URGES REFERENDUM ON EUROPEAN CONSTITUTION
Klaus told parliamentarians on 16 October that "today's version" of the draft European constitution "signals a turning point from a primarily intergovernmental character of an individual essence of European integration toward a model of a united European state," "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported. "I believe that it is absolutely essential that citizens [be allowed to] speak out in the form of a referendum on this issue -- after it is debated in parliament," Klaus added. Prime Minister Spidla and other leading politicians have recently urged lawmakers to call a referendum on the eventual European Constitution. AH

CZECH COURT ISSUES INTERNATIONAL ARREST WARRANT FOR 'PIRATE OF PRAGUE'
A Prague district court issued an international arrest warrant for Harvard Investment Funds founder and exiled businessman Viktor Kozeny and a former aide on 14 October, the daily "Pravo" reported on 16 October. Kozeny lives in the Bahamas while the aide, Boris Vostry, lives in Belize, neither of which has an extradition treaty with the Czech Republic. They face between five and 12 years in prison in connection with charges of billions of crowns in fraud. Unrelated charges for financial wrongdoing were recently filed in the United States, which has an extradition treaty with the Bahamas. AH

ANNUAL DISCUSSION FORUM KICKS OFF IN CZECH REPUBLIC
Ex-President Vaclav Havel launched the Forum 2000 conference in the Czech capital on 16 October to address the theme of "bridging global gaps," Czech media reported. Havel joined former South African President F.W. de Klerk to open the conference, an annual event bringing together leading intellectuals, former politicians, representatives of multinational institutions, and religious leaders. AH

SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER SAYS 'ONE COUNTRY, ONE COMMISSIONER' OF KEY IMPORTANCE IN EU CONSTITUTION
Mikulas Dzurinda said in his speech to the EU summit in Brussels on 16 October that it is of key importance that Slovakia have its own representative in the European Council that emerges from the European constitution, CTK reported. But he signaled at a follow-up press conference that Slovakia, which is expected to join the EU along with nine other invitees in mid-2004, would be willing to consider a system under which voting rights are rotated among commissioners after 2009, as the current draft constitution prescribes. "One country, one commissioner, and if possible a commissioner who would have the same rights so that the position of commissioners would reflect the equality of individual EU member states," Dzurinda said. AH

SWISS AUTHORITIES FREEZE BANK ACCOUNTS LINKED TO HUNGARIAN BROKERAGE SCANDAL
Swiss prosecutor Cornelia Cove told Hungarian commercial RTL Klub TV channel on 16 October that Switzerland recently froze the bank account of an offshore company owned by former K&H Bank President Tibor Rejto. The account contained roughly $2 million, Cove said. A total of 10 bank accounts in Switzerland with apparent links to the K&H Equities embezzlement scandal have been frozen, and Swiss authorities have launched an investigation into money-laundering allegations, "Nepszabadsag" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June and 22, 24, and 30 September 2003). MSZ

SERBIAN PARLIAMENT HEADS FOR DECISIVE VOTE
The governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition reluctantly agreed on 16 October to a parliamentary debate the following week on several no-confidence motions put forward by the opposition, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2003). It is unclear whether the opposition can collect the 126 votes in the 250-seat legislature needed to bring down the government. The outcome of the imbroglio is likely to remain uncertain until the vote is actually taken. The opposition has long sought early general elections, which the DOS rejects. But Deputy Prime Minister Cedomir Jovanovic said on 16 October that the "government's policies lack a majority" in the parliament and that elections would provide a "clear" way out of the impasse. The Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) of former Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica has topped recent polls by a narrow margin. Serbian elections are difficult to predict because of the large percentage of respondents who tell pollsters they are undecided or who refuse to answer questions. PM

U.S. EMBASSY IN CROATIA SETS UP WAR CRIMES HOTLINE
On 16 October, the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb announced that persons having information about the whereabouts of indicted war criminal former General Ante Gotovina may call (+385) 1-661-2150 and leave a message, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 October 2003). Washington has already offered $5 million for information leading to the arrest of Gotovina, who is charged with war crimes against Serbian civilians in 1995. PM

FORMER BOSNIAN SERB LEADER SAYS SHE IS 'MALTREATED' IN SWEDISH PRISON
Former Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic told the Belgrade daily "Politika" that she is being "maltreated" in Sweden's Hinseberg women's prison, where she is serving an 11-year sentence for war crimes, dpa reported on 17 October. "For more than two months I have been denied the right to breathe normally," she said. Plavsic added that "between 8:15 p.m. and 7:15 a.m. air is pumped...with such force that is difficult to bear. Not even stuffing my ears with cotton helps." The former president alluded to "numerous examples in which Hinseberg practices violate laws," but did not elaborate except to say that her request for a copy of prison rules has been ignored. In former Yugoslavia there was once a genre of jokes that equated Swedish prisons with the lap of luxury by Balkan standards. There was speculation in the regional press in early 2003 that Plavsic's living conditions would be comfortable indeed and that she might be released before completing her sentence because she is currently 72 years old (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June 2003). PM

TROUBLED TIMES IN BOSNIAN STATE-RUN MEDIA
The Bosnian Serb parliament voted on 16 October to demand the resignation of the top management of news and political programming of the state-run radio and television broadcaster (RTRS), RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The legislature's declaration charged that RTRS management regularly violates legislation governing the work of the media and allows some of its editors to pursue their own political agendas. In Sarajevo, Jasmin Durakovic resigned his post as head of state-run television of the Croat-Muslim federation (FTV) following a decision by the upper house of the federal parliament requiring FTV to broadcast all sessions of both houses of the legislature. PM

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES EXTRADITION-IMMUNITY AGREEMENT
On 16 October, the Macedonian parliament ratified a bilateral agreement with the United States prohibiting the handover of each other's citizens to the International Criminal Court (ICC), "Utrinski vesnik" reported. The document uses only the name Macedonia and not the country's official name, the Republic of Macedonia. This is nevertheless seen in Skopje as a victory because the text does not contain the term Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, by which the country is recognized by the UN and other international institutions as a result of Greek pressure. The ratification was supported by all parties except for the small opposition Liberal Party. The parliament's legal-affairs committee approved the pact in September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 8 July and 17 September 2003). UB

ROMANIAN MINISTER DISMISSES ADVISER IMPLICATED IN CORRUPTION SCANDAL
Minister Serban Mihailescu, who is tasked with coordinating the government's general secretariat, on 16 October announced the dismissal of his adviser Virgil Teodorescu as of 17 October, the daily "Adevarul" reported. Teodorescu has been accused of receiving bribes from businessman Octavian Ionescu in exchange for government guarantees enabling Ionescu's participation in a resort project (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2003). Teodorescu, who disappeared for several days after the corruption scandal erupted, was questioned on 15 October by National Control Authority head Ionel Blanculescu. Meanwhile, the National Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office on 16 October questioned Ionescu for more than 11 hours, Mediafax reported. Ionescu refused to tell reporters after the hearing whether he faces legal action. MSZ

IMF APPROVES FINAL TRANCHE OF STANDBY LOAN TO ROMANIA
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on 15 October decided to release the last $158 million tranche of its standby loan to Romania, local media reported the next day. The $431 million loan agreement was signed in October 2001. Romanian National Bank Governor Mugur Isarescu said "the success proves that state institutions work together better than [they did] in the 1990s, when they repeatedly accused each other of failing to meet requirements set by the IMF," "Adevarul" reported. MSZ

DIRECTORS OF BULGARIAN ORDNANCE COMPANY DETAINED
The National Investigation Service (NSIS) has detained the incumbent director of the Cherven Bryag-based ordnance company Beta and his predecessor in connection with the illegal export of howitzer parts to Sudan, mediapool.bg reported. Beta legally exported 122-milimeter howitzers to Sudan before the UN imposed an embargo on the African country in early 2001. In November 2001, Beta shipped parts for these howitzers declared as spare parts for construction machines, according to the NSIS. A third person from the central Bulgarian town of Kazanlak was detained because his alleged role as the middleman in the deal. In November 2002, managers of the Terem ordnance company were dismissed after it was revealed that the company had illegally exported dual-use goods to Syria. The Terem scandal cost then-Deputy Defense Ministers Georgi Paskov and Mehmed Cafer their positions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12, 13, and 18 November, 5, 6, and 12 December 2002, and 28 January 2003; and End Note, "RFE/RL Crime and Corruption Watch," 9 January 2003). UB

PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE TO INVESTIGATE CORRUPTION CHARGES AGAINST FORMER BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER
In connection with corruption charges against former Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, the Prosecutor's Office at the Supreme Court of Appeals has ordered the Sofia City prosecutors to investigate the finances of the Demokratsiya foundation headed by Kostov, mediapool.bg reported. The investigation follows accusations leveled by Russian businessman Mikhail Chernyi, who claims that Kostov blackmailed him in 2001. According to Chernyi, he paid the foundation $200,000 to prevent the government from carrying out threats to revoke the GSM license of MobilTel, in which Chernyi held a majority share at the time (see http://www.cherfund.org/english/home/home01.htm). Kostov's government expelled Chernyi from Bulgaria in August 2000 under suspicion of money-laundering (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2000 and 15 October 2003). UB

CZECH INTERIOR MINISTER HOPES TO CAPITALIZE ON 'HERO' STATUS
Interior Minister Stanislav Gross hastily convened a press conference late in the evening of 10 October to announce that police were conducting an unprecedented series of overnight raids on erotic clubs in the Czech Republic, which has become a haven for sex tourism from the West.

Within 48 hours, the 33-year-old Gross had confidently declared that "the most brutal sexual serfdom does not occur and children do not offer sexual services" in the country, according to "Mlada fronta Dnes" of 13 October. The minister also affirmed that Operation Fantine, as it was dubbed, "broke the anonymity of the environment of nightclubs, which should also reduce demand for these services."

But a more immediate result was the widespread perception that Operation Fantine was simply Gross's latest attempt to counter an erosion of his popular support and mounting criticism of Czech law enforcement under his leadership. Given the interior minister's gravitas as a power broker and a political force in his own right, the fate of the current prime minister and his ardently pro-EU coalition could hinge on Gross's ability to weather the storm.

The Czech police force has been dogged by embarrassing revelations in recent months: the apprehension of a suspected serial killer whose victims include cases that investigators had dubbed suicides; a hit-and-run accident allegedly involving a drunken police officer; signs that an inspector used information from a police database to blackmail citizens; and the prosecution of a senior police aide on charges that she manipulated a major tender for new firearms and holsters. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a survey released last month concluded that Czechs believe the police force is the most corrupt institution in the country. The authoritative weekly "Respekt" concluded on 22 September that "corruption and incompetence are hanging over the police force, and Gross is the reason," adding that "only his departure from the post of interior minister can change the police force and deliver it from its current slide down a slippery slope."

It was against this backdrop that Gross pledged in late September that "within six weeks people will see visible changes in the activities of the police." Right on cue, some 3,400 additional traffic cops hit the streets on 30 September with the start of Operation Krystof. It lasted only days and arguably left the streets and highways as dangerous as it found them, but the heightened police presence and random stops were as ubiquitous as any billboard campaign. The country's largest daily, "Mlada fronta Dnes," responded on 2 October by comparing the interior minister to the immensely popular former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, lauding Gross's "praiseworthy populism." The paper led its front page with an article titled "Gross Wants To Watch Over All Public Officials" in which the minister pledged to present a blueprint for combating corruption by the end of October. Slightly more than a week later, Gross was summoning reporters in the middle of a Friday night to announce Operation Fantine.

Even journalists have their limits, however, and the latest bit of Interior Ministry theater has so far backfired. Gross has conceded that "maybe we could have proceeded more cautiously in the presentation of the operation." Most domestic media outlets have since highlighted the conspicuousness of the recent police actions while questioning their effectiveness. Many commentators have accused Gross of misusing his Interior Ministry post for his own political gain. Even the "Mlada fronta Dnes" editorial page was by 13 October calling "the excessively dramatic announcement of Fantine...a covering maneuver" and suggesting that Gross is "becoming the government's weak link."

The fate of this embattled interior minister is of vital importance to the country's government for two main reasons. First, some of the recent pressure on Gross is likely to have been applied with Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla's blessing in an effort to take his 33-year-old deputy prime minister down a peg; if so, the prime minister is playing a dangerous game that could backfire and reverse considerable gains at a critical juncture. Gross remains the most legitimate rival for power within Spidla's cabinet and the Social Democratic Party (CSSD). Consistently one of the country's most popular politicians, Gross has a potent combination of leadership experience in the legislature and in government. As recently as 29 September, "Respekt" suggested he is "untouchable" since "the prime minister cannot push many things through his party without the help of people like CSSD gray eminence and Interior Minister Stanislav Gross."

The other reason that Gross's fate is so inextricably entwined with that of the government is that he maintains effective relations with powerful elements that have little patience for the current prime minister: the Zeman wing of the CSSD party; the potential "heirs" to the so-called opposition agreement of 1998-2002; and, increasingly, the economic interests that might contribute to the party's war chest. A longtime CSSD parliamentary leader and interior minister under former Prime Minister Milos Zeman, Gross has worked closely with the Zeman wing of CSSD, which has hamstrung Spidla since he came to power in mid-2002. Gross has successfully avoided alienating those party colleagues, who have proven unpredictable and thus dangerous for Spidla, whose coalition operates with just a one-seat majority in the lower house.

Gross is also regarded as being among the potential "heirs" to the opposition agreement between the CSSD and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) ("Respekt," 23 September 2002). That label spans would-be advocates of a thinly veiled "coalition" between the CSSD and ODS parties, which hold a combined 127 seats in the 200-member lower house and 35 of 81 seats in the upper house. ODS seems to have hinted recently that it is unprepared to challenge the government until at least after EU accession, expected in May (it ousted a lower-house deputy from its caucus this week after his own party colleagues accused him of missing a crucial vote due to drunkenness, granting the government some breathing room in the legislature). But any serious misstep by the government could trigger calls for a "grand coalition" of sorts between the CSSD and the ODS.

Meanwhile, Gross's gradual accrual of economic might appears to be an attempt to cement relations with the final element that distrusts Spidla: the business and industrial lobby. Each of the two strongest parties in the parliament -- CSSD and ODS -- lost valuable contacts with those potential donors with the departures of their respective chairmen, Zeman and (now President) Vaclav Klaus. But Gross has made inroads in recent months -- so much so that "Respekt" of 8 September called him "the most powerful man" in the state-owned economic sector. That weekly reported that Gross wielded considerable influence in the selection of a chairman at Czech Telecom, he is seeking greater say in the expected privatization of Czech coal-mining companies, and he recently saw a political ally take the reins at state-controlled Czech Airlines in a government-orchestrated management shakeup.

Gross this week told the BBC that he is disinclined to take on the prime minister's job for the moment. But his recent show of force signaled that he is also unwilling to be sidelined as Spidla consolidates his own political gains.

AFGHANS FACE COMMUNIST-ERA ATROCITIES
The Afghan Commission for Human Rights (ACHR) recently obtained a photocopy of the list of 4,782 people allegedly murdered by the Afghan communist regime, Reuters reported on 16 October. The document, bearing the stamp of the "Democratic Revolutionary Court of Afghanistan," contains names, professions, and dates of execution. "A large number of people were killed during the Communist regime [1978-92], and their relatives still think they might be alive or have been transferred to jails in the [former] Soviet Union," Lal Gul, head of ACHR, said. However, the list obtained by ACHR "unfortunately...shows [that] most of them were killed," Lal Gul added. The total number of individuals killed by Afghan communist governments or their Soviet allies is a mystery. According to Lal Gul, "thousands of innocent people" were killed because "they were against the policies of that regime." Unlike the cases of the former Yugoslavia or Rwanda, there has been no formal attempt so far to bring Afghans accused of mass murder to justice. The discoveries by ACHR and other human rights groups could pave the way for some sort of tribunal for crimes committed by successive regimes in Afghanistan. AT

PAKISTAN AGAIN ACCUSES INDIA OF OPERATING 'TERRORIST CAMPS' INSIDE AFGHANISTAN
Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat reiterated his government's accusation that India has set up terrorist camps in Afghanistan to destabilize Pakistan, Karachi daily "Dawn," reported on 17 October. "There are six terrorist camps where the Indian intelligence agency that is called the Research and Analysis Wing trains Pakistani dissidents and like-minded Afghans to stir [up] ethnic and sectarian unrest and carry out attacks in Pakistan," Hayat said. Pakistan has accused Indian consulates in Afghanistan of setting up such camps (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April, 4 August, and 29 September 2003). Hayat added that Islamabad has told the Afghan Transitional Administration "that activities of Indian consulates are [also not] in the interest of Afghanistan.... We expect reciprocity from the Afghan government in cracking down on these camps." One of Pakistan's strategic objectives in supporting the Taliban was widely believed to have been fomenting disagreement between Afghanistan and Islamabad's archenemy, India. At the time, New Delhi accused Pakistan of training Kashmiri terrorists inside Afghanistan. AT

SEMINAR IN PESHAWAR DENOUNCES 'DURAND LINE'
Participants in a seminar that began on 15 October in the Pakistani city of Peshawar have reportedly questioned the legality of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported on 16 October. The seminar, titled "The Pakhtun People Under the Negative Influence of the Durand Line," was organized by the Pakhtun Quami Party and attended by ethnic Pashtun political figures from Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to the report, most speakers at the conference "expressed [their] strong opposition to the Durand Line, describing it as a plot designed to tear apart an ethnic group [i.e., Pashtuns]." The current border between Afghanistan and Pakistan -- known as the "Durand Line" after Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, the British signatory of the 1893 agreement that demarcated the border between Afghanistan and British India -- has never been officially recognized by Afghanistan. It has been at the core of disagreements between Afghanistan and Pakistan since the creation of Pakistan in 1947 (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 2 January, 11, 17, 24 July and 7 August 2003). AT

KIDNAPPED AFGHAN CHILDREN TO RETURN HOME FROM SAUDI ARABIA
Forty Afghan children allegedly abducted by traffickers are to return home from Saudi Arabia, Hindukosh news agency reported on 16 October. According to the report, the children were kidnapped by smugglers and taken to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states. The children's return, originally scheduled for 14 October, has been delayed because of documentation problems. In September, Afghan authorities in Takhar Province rescued more than 50 boys who were abducted with the possible intention of trafficking them to Iran and Pakistan for induction into religious schools or for sale as sex slaves (see "REF/RL Newsline," 26 September 2003). AT

IRANIAN REFORMISTS BEGIN ANNUAL CONGRESS
The Islamic Iran Participation Party's fifth annual congress began on 16 October and items on the agenda include domestic and foreign affairs, the February 2004 parliamentary election, the economy, the performance of the party, and its activities in the coming year, ISNA reported. One hundred forty-seven provincial representatives, 113 central party officials, and 100 nonvoting observers are at the congress. Among those in attendance are a vice president, cabinet ministers, and national-religious activists, as well as officials from the Islamic Iran Solidarity Party and the Executives of Construction Party. IIPP Secretary-General Mohammad Reza Khatami said on 16 October that Iran's constitution is adequate and does not need to be changed, IRNA reported. The problem is not the absence of laws but the absence of the rule of law, he said. Khatami added that the constitution is implemented in an ambiguous manner, and the connection between responsibilities and accountability is missing. He also said, according to dpa, that fundamentalist interpretations of Islam by some of those in government are driving people away from religion and the Islamic system. "This will not only increase the trend toward secularism, especially among the youth, but also lead to more influence from abroad for overthrowing the system." BS

SOURCES DENY DELAYS IN IRAN'S NUCLEAR-POWER-PLANT PROJECT
An anonymous "informed source" and an anonymous "nuclear-power expert" said in 14 October interviews with Mehr News Agency that the reported delays in completion of Bushehr nuclear-power plant have been misrepresented (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 October 2003). The source rejected a Russian Atomic Energy Ministry official's claim that Iran has not purchased the necessary equipment from a third country, adding, "According to the contract signed by Iran and Russia, Iran is not responsible for purchasing any equipment needed for the project." The source also said it is normal to alter the work schedule of long-term projects on the basis of technical problems. The "nuclear-power expert" reportedly said that there are no political or management problems, and that Moscow and Tehran see eye to eye on Bushehr. The "informed source" said propaganda about "a nonexistent dispute between Iran and Russia is in line with U.S. policy to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear technology and expertise." BS

IRANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS U.S. SEEKING POST-COLD WAR ENEMY
President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami gave a speech on 16 October at the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit, according to the Malaysian national news agency's special conference site (http://www.oicsummit2003.com). The Iranian president said the United States needs a new enemy with the end of the Cold War and that the disappearance of its traditional rival put in doubt the need for its "gigantic military machinery." At the same time, Islamic obscurantists began their rise, leading to the irony of the United States finding its "natural allies in religious obscurantism, superficial nominalism, and praise for violence...whose swords are whetted for carnage and destruction." Khatami called for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. Khatami criticized terrorism, especially the "state terrorism of Israel." He said Iran wants a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and added that Iran considers access to advanced technology, including nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, to be the legitimate right of the Iranian people. Khatami said Iran will continue its good faith cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). BS

IRANIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH IRAQI LEADERS
Khatami met on 17 October with Iraqi Governing Council head Iyad Allawi and several other council members during the OIC summit in Malaysia, IRNA reported. Khatami described the council as a step toward a democratic government and added, "The [council] can provide the blueprint for drawing up an independent and progressive constitution for Iraq compatible with the religious and cultural identity of the Iraqi people and put it to public voting." Khatami said the continuation of the occupation is detrimental to Iraqi sovereignty. Allawi expressed his interest in the restoration of Tehran-Baghdad relations. BS

IRAQI COUNCIL MOVES AGAINST IRANIAN OPPOSITION
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader and Iraqi Governing Council member Jalal Talabani met in Tehran with Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hassan Rohani on the evening of 15 October, ISNA reported the next day, and remarked on Iran's assistance to the PUK and Iraqi people during Saddam Hussein's reign. Talabani reiterated his previously expressed opposition to the presence of Turkish troops in Iraq and said that security there should be provided by Iraqis. Talabani said the IGC has passed a bill against the Mujahedin Khalq Organization, an Iranian opposition group used by former President Hussein against the Kurdish and Shia opposition in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Rohani said Iran opposes terrorism and the activities of Al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam. Turning to Iraqi affairs, Rohani said, "The future of Iraq, its national unity, and its territorial integrity would depend on the nature of its constitution; and the constitution should therefore be compiled by the experts who are elected and trusted by the Iraqi people." BS

COALITION FORCES ATTACKED IN IRAQI HOLY CITY
Three U.S. military policemen and two Iraqi policemen were killed in Karbala overnight when militants attacked their patrol with AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades fired from rooftops in the city, international media reported on 17 October. A U.S. military spokesman said that four U.S. military police and five Iraqi police were wounded in the attack, Reuters reported. CNN reported that the fighting broke out when coalition troops tried to disarm an unknown, armed faction that had established itself near a mosque in the holy city south of Baghdad. Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr declared his establishment of a shadow government during his Friday prayer sermon in Karbala on 10 October (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 16 October 2003), and inter-Shi'a fighting reportedly broke out in Karbala earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2003). It is unclear whether al-Sadr's Imam al-Mahdi forces were involved in the overnight incident. KR

UN SECURITY COUNCIL UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES IRAQ RESOLUTION
The UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 1511 on 16 October providing for international participation in the political and economic reconstruction of Iraq, according to the UN website (http://www.un.org). It sets a 15 December deadline for the Iraqi Governing Council to fix a timetable for the drafting of a constitution and national elections. The resolution also provides for the creation of a UN-authorized multinational force in Iraq under U.S. control, UN humanitarian assistance, and a role in "advancing efforts to restore and establish national and local institutions for representative government." France, Russia, and Germany approved the U.S.-sponsored resolution at the last moment, but said in a joint statement that they did so only for the sake of unity, Reuters reported on 16 October. The three countries had lobbied for weeks for a greater UN role and quick transfer of power to the Iraqi people. The text of the resolution can be viewed on the UN website. KR

SYRIA SUPPORTS RESOLUTION IN SURPRISE MOVE
Syria voted in favor of Resolution 1511 in a surprise move on 16 October. Syria has regularly abstained from votes regarding Iraq during its yearlong rotating seat on the Security Council. "We agreed that it would be better to have a unified position, because there are many positive elements in the resolution.... The resolution, in one way or another, leads to the introduction of specific timetables to extricate the Iraqi people from their ordeal," Faysal Miqdad, Syria's permanent representative to the UN, told Al-Jazeera on 16 October. KR

GOVERNING COUNCIL MEMBER THREATENS RESIGNATION OVER TURKISH TROOPS
Iraqi Governing Council member and head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party Mas'ud Barzani told London's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" in an interview published on 16 October that he will resign from his seat on the council should Turkish troops be deployed to Iraq. He said, "The deployment of the Turkish forces will have an extremely negative impact on the overall situation in Iraq." Barzani has long contended that Iraq's neighbors should not deploy troops to the country. He told the paper that such a deployment will have "grave consequences," adding, "The Iraqi people have fears about [the intentions of its] neighboring states." Turkish Ambassador to Iraq Osman Paksut responded to Barzani's comments by telling reporters in Ankara on 16 October that Barzani should not be traveling around the region but rather "he should be in Baghdad in a period when Iraq has many problems," Anatolia news agency reported. Paksut said that Barzani's recent trips outside Iraq have prevented the two men from meeting to discuss the possible Turkish deployment. KR

U.S. SUBCONTRACTORS RELYING ON MIGRANT WORKERS DESPITE HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT
U.S. subcontractors working in Iraq are using South Asian migrant workers despite extreme unemployment in the country, FT.com reported on 14 October. U.S. officials told FT.com that security concerns are behind the decision to use migrant workers. "We don't want to overlook Iraqis, but we want to protect ourselves," CPA Head of Procurement Colonel Damon Walsh said. "From a force protection standpoint, Iraqis are more vulnerable to a bad guy influence." But Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who heads the Iraqi prison system, said that she has had "no single security incident" involving Iraqis, who make up the bulk of the prison reconstruction staff. "You find other [non-Iraqi] nationalities in out-of-the-way corners taking 15 minute naps," she said. "Iraqis see work as a way of getting the country on its feet." Iraqi unemployment is estimated to be around 50 percent (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 3 October 2003). KR

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