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Newsline - October 21, 2003


PUTIN SAYS TERRORISM A SOURCE OF GLOBAL ECONOMIC WOES...
President Vladimir Putin said in a commentary published simultaneously in several newspapers worldwide on 17 October that global gross national product fell 1 percent as a result of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States, kremlin.ru reported. In the commentary published in media outlets of the leading countries of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), including "The Wall Street Journal," Xinhua news agency, and the "Hindustan Times," Putin said terrorist acts in Indonesia and other countries in Southeast Asia have seriously harmed tourism and stymied the development of other sectors. According to Putin, terrorist threats and political instability in key energy-producing regions have placed in doubt the uninterrupted supply of energy to the Asian-Pacific region and in the global market as a whole. Russia supports joint measures to confront terrorism, he said, including eliminating terrorists' financial sources and strengthening the security of trade and transport communications. Russia is also offering military and intelligence cooperation, and has proposed through the United Nations to improve insurance and stabilization mechanisms used to pay compensation for material damage resulting from terrorist acts, Putin said. Following his appearance the APEC summit, which wrapped up on 21 October, Putin remained in Thailand for an official 21-22 October state visit as part of his tour of Asia. VY

...AND CALLS ON IRAN, NORTH KOREA TO REMAIN NUCLEAR FREE
President Putin said during a 19 October interview broadcast in multiple languages by StarTV that Russia wants the Korean Peninsula to remain nuclear free and will urge Pyongyang to adhere to this policy. The proliferation of weapons, Putin said, "does not solve problems between countries but makes them more dangerous." He noted, however, that aside from North Korea, Israel is also not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Speaking about the transfer of Russian nuclear technology to Iran, he said Russia is ready implement stricter control in this area, but wants "to act very correctly and avoid pushing Iran's leadership into extreme decisions." Putin also complained that there are [Western] sanctions against Russian companies involved in nuclear cooperation with Iran, but there are no sanctions against West European and U.S. companies he claims cooperate with Iran in this field. According to the Russian presidential press service on 20 October, Putin has expressed satisfaction with his tour of Asia, and has reached an audience of 1.5 billion people through the media. VY

PUTIN CALLS FOR MORE ASIAN INVESTMENT IN RUSSIA
In his 19 October address to APEC business leaders, President Putin called on APEC members to increase investment in Siberia and the Russian Far East, RTR and ORT reported. Putin said that Asian Russia, which constitutes two-thirds of the country's territory and has a population of 30 million people, has enormous reserves of mineral resources that are in need in the Asia-Pacific region. Putin called for the creation of a new Asian energy infrastructure based on Russian hydrocarbon resources. He said a new energy configuration would allow countries in the Asia-Pacific region to protect their economic growth and ensure secure energy supplies. Putin mentioned that, bearing this vision in mind, Russia intends to construct one of the world's largest gas-liquefaction plants on Sakhalin by 2007 and is developing other major energy projects in Siberia. Putin also called on Asian businessmen to invest in Russian transport projects and especially the Trans-Siberian Railroad. VY

UNIFIED RUSSIA'S LIST OF CANDIDATES REGISTERED...
The Central Election Commission (TsIK) on 20 October registered Unified Russia's federal list of candidates for the State Duma election, Russian news agencies reported on 20 October. The list consists of 266 candidates and is topped by Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, and Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev. Unified Russia presented signatures collected from 249,707 supporters, and only 802 of the 80,000 checked turned out to have been falsified, Interfax reported. TsIK head Aleksandr Veshnyakov said this was "the best result thus far." Yurii Volkov, the head of Unified Russia's central campaign headquarters, said the party collected a total of more than 2 million signatures from all of Russia's 89 regions. Luzhkov -- who, like Shoigu, was at the TsIK headquarters to pick up his candidate-registration card -- announced that he and some 60 other Unified Russia candidates are taking leave from their jobs, gazeta.ru reported on 20 October. Election law requires "Category A" state officials to take leave while campaigning for political office. JB

...AS DO THOSE OF OTHER PARTIES AND BLOCS...
The TsIK registered the federal lists of several other parties on 20 October. One of them was Rus, whose list of 39 candidates includes Lyubov Yegorova, a six-time Olympic cross-country skiing champion, and former soccer star Vagiz Khidiyatullin, newsru.com reported on 20 October. The signature lists presented by Rus were found to have a comparatively large number of fake signatures -- 11,057 out of 80,000 checked, or 13.82 percent. Still, this is well below the permissible limit of 25 percent, "Kommersant-Daily" noted on 21 October. The TsIK also registered the candidate list presented by the Great Russia-Eurasian Union bloc, topped by Russia-Belarus Union Secretary Pavel Borodin, former Ingush President Ruslan Aushev, and retired General Leonid Ivashov, and consisting of 159 candidates in all. "We believe that our bloc, the Great Russia-Eurasian Union, has the national idea," Borodin said following the registration, RTR reported on 20 October. "This is what Putin has said recently, about the so-called bridge between Europe and Asia. And we will do a good job on this bridge." JB

...WHILE FIVE OTHER GROUPS HOPE THEY'LL GET THE GREEN LIGHT
TsIK head Aleksandr Veshnyakov said on 20 October that the commission will soon consider the registration of candidate lists from five other election groupings -- the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), the Agrarian Party, the Development of Entrepreneurship Party, the Motherland bloc, and the Party of Russia's Rebirth-Party of Life bloc, RIA Novosti reported. Veshnyakov noted that candidates put forward by parties and blocs for races in State Duma single-mandate districts who register with the TsIK no later than 22 October will be able to register with district election commissions without having to present signature lists or pay an election deposit. Thus far, the TsIK has registered a total of six political parties and two election blocs. JB

SCIENTIST ACCUSED OF ESPIONAGE REGISTERS AS CANDIDATE
Valentin Danilov, a physicist who is currently on trial on charges he spied for China, turned in signature lists supporting his candidacy for the 7 December State Duma election to the election commission in the Krasnoyarsk Krai city of Yeniseisk, newsru.com reported on 20 October. Danilov will run for a seat from a single-mandate district in Yeniseisk. Danilov was arrested in February 2001 on suspicion of transferring classified information about a Russian satellite to Chinese intelligence agents. In September 2002, a Krasnoyarsk court found the Federal Security Service's case against Danilov inadequate and sent it back for revision while releasing him from pretrial custody (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September and 27 November 2002). The following month, the FSB's Krasnoyarsk branch announced it would reindict Valentinov. This year, the case bounced between Russia's Supreme Court, the Krasnoyarsk Krai prosecutor's office, and the Krasnoyarsk Krai court, which in September satisfied a motion by Valentinov's lawyers that he be tried before a jury. That trial began on 3 October, newsru.com reported. JB

FEDERATION COUNCIL ADVISES AGAINST USING FOREIGN POLICY AS A CAMPAIGN ISSUE
Federation Council International Relations Committee Chairman Mikhail Margelov told Ekho Moskvy on 20 October that the upper chamber has appealed to Duma candidates not to address foreign-policy issues during their election campaigns. Noting that foreign states make decisions concerning Russia based on the positions of the executive and legislature, he said that in Russia there is no sustained tradition of cooperation between branches of government and various political forces. This, he said, could lead foreigners to believe that hasty statements made by politicians represent Russia's official position. Therefore, the Federation Council has asked Duma candidates to refrain from discussing foreign-policy issues, as "foreign policy does not tolerate thoughtless statements," according to Margelov. VY

DOZENS OF KAMCHATKA APARTMENT BUILDINGS REMAIN WITHOUT HEAT...
More than 70 apartment buildings and two kindergartens remained without heat and hot water in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii on 20 October, Interfax reported. Kamchatka Governor Mikhail Mashkovtsev promised on 20 October that heat and hot water will be totally restored in the city by 23 October. He also claimed the situation in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii is not critical. "The situation on Kamchatka is far from the critical one that some people would like see," Interfax quoted Mashkovtsev as saying. "The situation in other oblasts is more critical, but the media are silent about it." Mashkovtsev, a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), said Unified Russia is continuing to wage the "war" against "red" governors that it declared six months ago, regions.ru reported. JB

...AS PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKII MAYOR FACES NEW CRIMINAL CHARGES
Kamchatka's regional prosecutor, Aleksandr Voitovich, has said that preparations for winter in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii's housing and communal sector have been unsatisfactory and that residents' constitutional rights to life, health, and other social guarantees have been seriously abused, Interfax reported on 20 October. On 22 October, the Kamchatka Oblast Court will consider charges of criminal negligence filed by local prosecutors against Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii Mayor Yurii Golenishchev in connection with the heating crisis, Interfax reported. Golenishchev is already being investigated for abuse of power on suspicion that his administration misused 30 million rubles ($1 million) sent by the oblast government to pay energy suppliers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2003). Meanwhile, a commission sent by Konstantin Chaika, deputy prosecutor-general for the Far East Federal District, to investigate the situation in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii has begun working, Radio Mayak reported on 20 October. The commission will report its findings to the federal Prosecutor-General's Office. The oblast administration, for its part, will decide on 22 October whether to introduce direct gubernatorial rule in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii, regnum.ru reported on 20 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2003). JB

ARMENIAN OPPOSITIONIST LAUNCHES NEW CRITICISM OF PRESIDENT
National Accord Party Chairman Artashes Geghamian, who ranked third in the presidential election held in February-March, criticized President Robert Kocharian's policies on 18 October as posing a threat to Armenia's future, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 20 October. But at the same time Geghamian ruled out an alignment with the opposition Artarutiun bloc headed by Stepan Demichian, explaining that "we support slightly different approaches that would take into account possible geo-political developments" in the South Caucasus. Geghamian declined to endorse unequivocally Artarutiun's call for a referendum of public confidence in Kocharian. He implied that it would be inadvisable to risk destabilizing the political situation in Armenia in the run-up to a new effort by international mediators to broker a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. LF

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT QUERIES PRIVATIZATION STRATEGY
In a report circulated to legislators and made available to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau, the parliament Audit Chamber highlighted "significant shortcomings" in the government's three-year program to privatize remaining state-owned enterprises, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 20 October. The government program, which should be completed by the end of this year, envisaged the sale of almost 1,000 enterprises, but in 2000-2001 only 350 were sold. Moreover, in many cases the sales were not transparent, and according to Audit Chamber deputy head Gegham Gasparian, many entities were sold for less than one fifth of their face value as estimated by the State Property Committee. LF

FINAL AZERBAIJANI ELECTION RESULTS ANNOUNCED...
The Central Election Commission (CEC) announced on 20 October the final results of the 15 October presidential election, Turan and Interfax reported. According to the final figures, Prime Minister Ilham Aliyev polled 76.84 percent of the vote, Musavat Party Chairman Isa Qambar 13.97 percent, independent candidate Lala Shovket Gadjieva 3.62 percent, Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP) Chairman Etibar Mammedov 2.92 percent, Adalet Party Chairman Ilyas Ismailov 1 percent, Civic Solidarity Party Chairman Sabir Rustamkhanli 0.82 percent, Hudrat Hasanquliyev, who is head of the eponymous "Three G's Party" (Hudrat Hasanquliyev Group) 0.5 percent, and pro-government Modern Musavat Party Chairman Hafiz Hadjiev 0.34 percent. Voter turnout was 71.23 percent. Also on 20 October, the CEC invalidated returns from 694 polling stations in 115 constituencies due to inaccuracies in voter protocols, Turan reported. Two of the five opposition representatives on the 15-person CEC appended their signatures to the protocol listing the final returns, while the other three refused to do so, Turan reported on 21 October. LF

...BUT AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION BLOC AGAIN REJECTS THEM
The Our Azerbaijan election bloc comprising more than 30 political parties and organizations that supported Qambar's candidacy addressed a statement on 20 October to the UN, the European Parliament, the OSCE, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the presidents of the United States, Russia, and Turkey, calling on them "to condemn the dictatorship that violated the rights of the Azerbaijani people and usurped power by means of repression," Turan reported. The statement again affirmed that despite the irregularities, Qambar received the most votes. LF

U.S. EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER ARRESTS OF ELECTION OFFICIALS
Ambassador Peter Eicher, who headed the team of international observers who monitored the 15 October presidential ballot, told Turan on 20 October that he is concerned by the reported mass arrests in the wake of the ballot. He condemned as "inadmissible" the arrest of members of local election commissions who reportedly refused to endorse fraud. Eicher also condemned the police violence he witnessed. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli likewise said on 20 October that Washington is concerned "at what appears to be a wave of politically motivated arrests," and by postelection violence, Reuters reported. Ereli said the Azerbaijani government should "follow through on its OSCE commitments to safeguard its citizens and respect their rights," and that opposition parties "should act peacefully and within the law." In related news, the Baku City Council on 20 October rejected a request by the opposition Democratic Stability Union -- comprising Musavat, AMIP, the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, and the progressive wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party -- to hold a rally in the city on 22 October, Turan reported. LF

PRESSURE ON AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION JOURNALISTS INCREASES
Modern Musavat Party leader Hadjiev has demanded that the Norwegian embassy hand over to the Azerbaijani authorities "Yeni Musavat" Editor in Chief Rauf Arifoglu who, according to Hadjiev, helped organize the postelection clashes in Baku on 16 October, Interfax reported on 20 October. Opposition journalist Einulla Fatullaev did not dare to spend the night of 19-20 October at his home after police came searching for him, Turan reported on 20 October. Azer Garachenli, deputy editor of the newspaper "Avropa," has not been seen or heard from since being detained by police late on 15 October outside Musavat party headquarters in Baku, Turan reported on 20 October. Local authorities in the town of Gyanja have warned local journalists not to report the arrests of opposition representatives on local election commissions, Turan reported on 17 October, quoting Arif Aliyev, who is chairman of the journalists union Yeni Nesil. And on 18 October, representatives of the Azer-Press, Trend, Sharq, and MPA news agencies denied that they signed a statement published that day in pro-government media in which some 63 print and electronic media outlets endorsed the government's condemnation of the postelection violence, Turan reported. LF

PRESIDENT-ELECT DISMISSES 'RUMORS' THAT AZERBAIJAN WILL HOST NATO BASE
In a 19 October interview with the Russian RTR television channel, Prime Minister and President-elect Aliyev said it is "too early" to talk of the possibility that Azerbaijan might host a NATO military base, Interfax reported. He said that possibility is not being discussed at present. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT PLEDGES ELECTIONS WILL BE FREE AND FAIR...
Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 20 October that he sees no need to postpone the parliamentary election scheduled for 2 November to allow more time to check the accuracy of voter lists, Caucasus Press and the webpage of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. The previous day, the Central Election Commission had agreed to a request by parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze to extend the deadline for finalizing voter lists in the light of numerous inaccuracies that had come to light (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2003). Shevardnadze called on voters to check the lists before polling day to make certain their names are included. On 20 October, Burdjanadze called for criminal charges to be brought against those who falsified the voter lists, Caucasus Press reported. LF

...DENIES CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDER HAS SETTLED IN GEORGIA
Shevardnadze also denied on 20 October a statement by Russian military spokesman Colonel Ilya Shabalkin that Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev has changed his name and bought a house in Rustavi, Caucasus Press reported. Shabalkin said Gelaev is currently in the Pankisi Gorge, but Shevardnadze denied that there are at present any Chechen fighters in Pankisi. Also on 20 October, Georgia's Ministry of State Security issued a similar denial that Gelaev is in Georgia, saying that he returned to Russia in November 2002, Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION ACCUSES GOVERNMENT OF MISUSING FUNDS
David Gamkrelidze, who heads the opposition New Rightists, accused the Georgian government on 20 October of trying to bribe voters and of diverting funds from the poverty-reduction program to finance the parliamentary election campaign of the pro-presidential For a New Georgia bloc, Caucasus Press and Rustavi2.com reported. Gamkrelidze also condemned the government's decision to appoint Georgian diplomats to preside over the voting at 63 polling stations abroad. LF

HOMEMADE BOMB FOUND IN KAZAKH CITY OF ALMATY
A primitive explosive device was found and defused in Almaty on 21 October, ITAR-TASS reported. The package containing the homemade bomb was noticed at a transformer substation by neighborhood residents, who reported it to the police. The authorities hope that the materials used in the bomb will lead them to its maker. Such crimes are a rarity in Kazakhstan. BB

KAZAKH JOURNALISTS AND GOVERNMENT DISAGREE ON DRAFT MEDIA LAW...
Kazakh journalists and authorities are still far apart in their assessment of a draft law on the media, khabar.kz reported on 20 October after a public hearing at the Almaty Press Club. Despite more than a year of government revisions to the draft, representatives of the Congress of Journalists, the Adil Soz (Free Word) International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech, and other journalists and lawyers expressed their dissatisfaction with the draft. The lawyers complained that the text is full of inexact formulations that could be used against the media. There are also fundamental disagreements over the meaning of the phrase "misuse of freedom of speech" and the circumstances under which sources must be revealed. Lawyer Tamara Simakhina of the journalists' congress said journalists' suggestions for improving the draft have been accepted only if they did not alter the basic content. BB

...AND INFORMATION MINISTRY ATTACKS FREEDOM-OF-SPEECH GROUP
Tamara Kaleeva, head of the Kazakh journalists' NGO Adil Soz, told Interfax-Kazakhstan on 20 October that the Information Ministry is trying to discredit the NGO's work on the draft media law, the news agency reported the same day. Kaleeva referred to a statement distributed by the ministry's press service in which Adil Soz was accused of being unconstructive in its criticism of the ministry, and noted that no one from the ministry attended the public hearing at the Almaty Press Club. Khabar.kz reported having been told by ministry sources that ministry representatives were not invited, which Kaleeva denied. She asserted that the ministry has been unwilling to participate in open debate. BB

COMPETITION PUSHES UP COTTON PRICES IN KAZAKHSTAN
Prices being paid to farmers for cotton in southern Kazakhstan have risen drastically as large cotton-processing concerns compete for the raw material, KyrgyzInfo reported on 20 October. While growers are rejoicing over the highest prices they have ever received for cotton -- 80,000 tenges ($544) per ton -- owners of small processing plants are complaining that they are having to operate at a loss. The report noted that in Maktaaral Raion alone the number of cotton-processing plants has risen in the last 10 years from four to 14, which has pushed up demand; but now the price is so high that processors say they will be unable to sell the cotton, and they are beginning to complain about unhealthy competition. BB

KYRGYZ LOWER HOUSE WANTS TO KNOW MORE ABOUT COALITION AIR BASE
The lower house of Kyrgyzstan's parliament ratified 10 international agreements on 20 October but not an agreement on the status of New Zealand personnel at the international antiterrorism coalition air base at Bishkek's Manas airport, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and KyrgyzInfo reported the same day. The parliamentarians said they want more information on the makeup and financial expenditures at the base, which supports coalition missions in Afghanistan. They also want more information from Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov, who was not present at the session, on the expected length of the coalition's presence in Kyrgyzstan. BB

KYRGYZ JOURNALISTS WANT LIBEL DECRIMINALIZED
More than 95 percent of Kyrgyz journalists want libel decriminalized, Aktan Abdykalykov, head of the government-sponsored Media Council, told a news conference in Bishkek on 20 October, kabar.kg reported the same day. He was reporting the results of a poll of journalists in which respondents also said fees should be levied against those who file lawsuits against the media and offered suggestions for improving existing media laws, including the adoption of laws defining the status of journalists in media outlets and protecting the dignity and honor of journalists. Government officials frequently bring criminal libel suits against independent media outlets, demanding huge reparations for articles allegedly damaging their dignity and honor. Such suits are generally seen as a means of stifling the independent media. BB

ISLAMIC CONFERENCE ORGANIZATION ADOPTS RESOLUTION ON TAJIKISTAN
The 10th session of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) adopted a special resolution on Tajikistan on 17 October, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 20 October. The resolution, which appealed to OIC member states and financial institutions to help Tajikistan's government overcome the country's economic problems and promote economic reform, was requested by Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, who attended the OIC session in Kuala Lumpur. The resolution also contained an appeal to the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to increase its financial assistance to Tajikistan. According to a presidential press secretary, Zafar Saidov, Rakhmonov took advantage of the presence at the session of a number of Muslim heads of state to press for expanded ties with Malaysia, Syria, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, and the Tajik president spoke with IDB President Ahmad Muhammad Ali about attracting investment to Tajikistan. BB

BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION URGED TO FORM PRO-EUROPEAN ALLIANCE
Representatives of 10 democratic organizations in Barysau in Minsk Oblast have appealed to Belarusian opposition parties to form a pro-European alliance, Belapan reported on 20 October, quoting Ihar Lednik, a local activist of the United Civic Party. Lednik suggested that local authorities should set up an association of Belarusian cities that should in turn seek membership of the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe. Lednik said Belarus's legislature should also seek a greater role in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe after next year's parliamentary election. Last November, Belarusian opposition politicians as well as cultural and public figures formed the European Movement in order to promote European values and integration with the European Union. The movement, established on the initiative of Belarusian Social Democratic Party (National Assembly) leader Mikalay Statkevich, is headed by Mikhail Marynich. JM

UKRAINE WARNS RUSSIA ABOUT RESPONSIBILITY FOR POSSIBLE BORDER CONFLICT...
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has warned Moscow in a diplomatic note that the Russian side will be held fully accountable for any potential border conflict connected with the construction of a Russian dam in the Kerch Strait (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2003), Interfax reported, quoting ministry spokesman Markiyan Lubkivskyy. Lubkivskyy said Kyiv is concerned about a request by the Russian side to provide "the copies of documents, including cartographic ones, on which the Ukrainian side is basing its suppositions regarding its ownership of the island of Tuzla," which the dam project is gradually approaching. The dam is now reportedly some 400 meters from the Ukrainian frontier. "It is unacceptable for Ukraine to confirm the indisputable fact that the Tuzla island is an inalienable part of the Ukrainian territory," Lubkivskyy said. JM

...AS NATO HEAD PLEDGES TO RAISE ISSUE OF DAM WITH MOSCOW
NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said in Kyiv on 20 October that he will speak about the Tuzla situation during his upcoming visit to Moscow, Interfax reported. Robertson said Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, with whom he met earlier the same day, did not ask for NATO's assistance in resolving the looming dispute. According to Robertson, the Ukrainian-Russian border problem in the Kerch Strait should be settled by both concerned sides with the participation of such organizations as the United Nations. Meanwhile, lawmaker Ihor Ostash from the Our Ukraine bloc, who visited Tuzla last week, told journalists on 20 October that the dam construction is very likely to trigger a "provocation" that could even lead to a Ukrainian-Russian military clash. JM

UKRAINIAN COMMUNIST LEADER SAYS POLITICAL REFORM IS OVER
Communist Party head Petro Symonenko told journalists in Kyiv on 20 October that the political reform proposed by the presidential administration and the pro-presidential majority (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 26 August and 2 September 2003) has failed, Interfax reported. "The constitutional reform...has been concocted as a distracting political maneuver," Symonenko said. He was commenting on a meeting of the leaders of parliamentary groups earlier the same day. The Verkhovna Rada's activities appear to be suspended by a bitter row over the adoption of a fully proportional election law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2003). Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said on 20 October that as long as opposition and pro-presidential parliamentary leaders fail to find a compromise regarding the election law, he does not see much sense in holding plenary sessions of the Verkhovna Rada. JM

U.S. HOUSE CONDEMNS 1932-33 FAMINE IN UKRAINE AS 'MASS MURDER'
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution on 20 October honoring victims of the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine and branding the tragedy as a "deliberate act of terror and mass murder against the Ukrainian people" perpetrated by the Soviet regime of Josef Stalin (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 21 October 2003), RFE/RL reported. "The official recognition of the famine by the Government of Ukraine and the Verkhovna Rada represents a significant step in the reestablishment of Ukraine's national identity, the elimination of the legacy of the Soviet dictatorship, and the advancement of efforts to establish a democratic and free Ukraine that is fully integrated into the Western community of nations," the resolution reads. JM

ESTONIAN NATIONAL SOCIAL ACCORD SIGNED
President Arnold Ruutel thanked the 38 national organizations which came together on 20 October in Tallinn to sign the National Societal Accord Ruutel has advocated since early 2003, LETA reported. The agreement establishes a goal of doubling the living standard in Estonia by 2015, and calls for an increase in spending on education and support to young families with children. Speaking before the signing ceremony, Ruutel cited the study by sociologists that was the catalyst for today's accord. The study warned of the growing social divide in Estonia -- two Estonias, one wealthy, the other poor. "Now...a document has been completed that lays the basis for Estonia's social sustainability," Ruutel said. Ten organizations that had signed an earlier memorandum were not among the signatories of the national accord. They include senior parties of the ruling coalition Res Publica and the Reform Party; the Estonian United People's Party; as well as the largest opposition party, the Center Party. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry also declined to sign the accord, saying that the parliamentary parties first have to develop a "common, long-term vision," and only then can the aims be achieved. AB

LATVIAN PREMIER ENDORSES PLAN TO INCREASE POPULATION GROWTH
Prime Minister Einars Repse, who heads the New Era party, endorsed a proposal by Latvia's First Party to encourage births by introducing a new monthly subsidy equal to the newborn baby's mother's or father's salary, LETA and BNS reported 20 October. Repse told reporters on 20 October after a meeting of New Era's parliamentary faction that he was "shocked" by the statistical data showing 33,000 persons die annually in Latvia while only 20,000 babies are born. The new child-care benefit would cost the government approximately 30 million lats annually ($54.1 million) according to Repse. Acknowledging that the government does not have the funds at the present, Repse said the goal could be reached by 2005. "The Latvian nation is dying out, there will be no one to work soon," Repse said explaining that the additional financial benefit has to be introduced to prevent this demographic crisis. AB

LITHUANIAN MILLIONAIRE DEPUTY FOUNDS LABOR PARTY
Member of Parliament Viktoras Uspaskikh, a Russian-born, self-made millionaire with agricultural and energy interests in Lithuania, founded a new national party over the weekend in Vilnius, naming it the Labor Party, ELTA reported on 20 October. The program, adopted by the 812 delegates who attended the founding congress, calls for replacing the current mixed parliamentary election system with single-mandate election districts based on a majority vote. The party also seeks to abolish counties and introduce the direct election of mayors. The party platform excludes any mention of NATO membership, but Uspaskikh told reporters that the Labor Party would support Lithuania's NATO membership. The party aims to participate in the fall 2004 parliamentary elections and estimates that its membership will reach 8,000 in the near future. Uspaskikh, who recently resigned as chairman of the parliament's economy committee, has in the past funded the New Union/Social Liberals led by current parliamentary speaker Arturas Paulauskas. AB

MATERNAL MORTALITY RATES IN BALTIC REGION
According to LETA, which published the statistics on 20 October, World Health Organization data shows that maternal death rates in 2000 were four per 100,000 births in Lithuania, 42 per 100,000 in Latvia, and 63 deaths per 100,000 newborns in Estonia. AB

POLISH PROSECUTORS CHARGE FORMER DEPUTY MINISTER IN LEAK CASE
The District Prosecutor's Office in Kielce on 20 October charged former Deputy Interior Minister Zbigniew Sobotka with divulging state secrets, obstructing penal proceedings, and endangering the lives and health of police officers, PAP reported. Sobotka is suspected of leaking information about a police raid on a local organized-crime structures in Starachowice (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2003). Sobotka denies the charges. JM

CZECHS LIKELY TO SKIRT TENDER IN JETS PURCHASE
The dailies "Pravo" and "Hospodarske noviny" reported on 21 October that government ministers the previous day agreed to fast-track the purchase of supersonic fighter jets and thus avoid a tender for what is potentially the country's largest-ever defense purchase. The "Pravo" report was unclear as to whether the decision requires further approval, while "Hospodarske noviny" reported that the government "approved the Defense Ministry's intention" to secure the fighters. A Defense Ministry spokesman said a classic tender would take too long, adding that the government may select a supplier itself under a "strategic procurement" clause. "Pravo" also suggested a government-appointed commission will be involved in the decision. The much-awaited fighter-jet purchase has proven problematic for several governments, with an initial tender abandoned by the Milos Zeman cabinet and the current government suggesting it might be open to a long-term leasing agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2003). AH

CZECH BUSINESSMAN SENTENCED TO 22 YEARS IN ROMANIAN PRISON
A court in the Romanian city of Oradea has handed down a 22-year sentence to Moravian entrepreneur Frantisek Priplata for inciting the September 2000 murder of a union leader at the Tepro steelworks and deceiving the Romanian state, the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported. Priplata's attorney immediately appealed the decision, which itself came on an appeal against a six-year sentence handed down 2 1/2 years ago. The Oradea court added the conviction for misleading the Romanian state. Priplata controlled a furniture factory in Romania at the time of the slaying, but represented a Z-Group subsidiary in its privatization of Tepro, the daily reported. Union leader Virgil Sahleanu, who was stabbed to death on the steps of his home in the city of Jasi, had urged the Romanian government to reverse Tepro's privatization. AH

CZECH-BASED ROMANY MUSEUM THREATENED WITH CLOSURE
The Czech Republic's only museum dedicated to Romany culture will have to close its doors and put staff members on unpaid leave by the end of the year if it does not raise an additional 1 million crowns ($36,588), a spokeswoman said on 21 October, CTK reported. The Brno-based Museum of Romany Culture is a nonprofit group that operates largely on grants, but spokeswoman Lenka Matejkova said its management is seeking a transfer to state ownership to resolve its problems. A Culture Ministry spokeswoman noted that "a change in the law is necessary to enable the transition of a nonprofit organization into a subsidized one," adding that the ministry is "working on the problem," CTK reported. AH

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT, UNIONS AGREE 7 PERCENT WAGE GROWTH IN PUBLIC SECTOR
Government and union representatives agreed on 20 October on a 7 percent rise in public-sector wages for next year, as proposed in a collective wage agreement, TASR reported the same day. Labor Minister Ludovit Kanik, Finance Minister Ivan Mikos, and Economy Minister Pavol Rusko attended on behalf of the government. The decision could complicate passage of the 2004 budget bill, since the government based its assumptions on 5 percent public-sector-wage growth shortly after Kanik signed on to the 7 percent figure in late September. AH

SLOVAK COALITION PARTY REJECTS SECURITY NOMINEE
The Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO) on 20 October signaled another snag in relations among the four ruling parties when a spokesman said the party's leadership rejected the Hungarian Coalition Party's (SMK) candidate to head the National Security Office (NBU), "Narodna obroda" reported the next day. ANO has promoted National Antidrug Unit head Peter Kozik for the post, rather than the SMK choice, Jan Simulcik. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) has said his party will back a candidate based on its coalition partners' consensus. Dzurinda's ouster of former NBU head Jan Mojzis has prompted deep divisions among the coalition partners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2003). AH

SLOVAK COURT TOSSES OUT CASE AGAINST COUNTERINTELLIGENCE-SERVICE HEAD
A Bratislava district court on 20 October ordered an end to the criminal prosecution of counterintelligence chief Peter Toth for allegedly filing an anonymous criminal complaint against Interior Minister Vladimir Palko, TASR reported. The paragraph under which Toth was being prosecuted was repealed on 1 September, the court reasoned. A former journalist, Toth was named to head the Slovak Information Service (SIS) in February. The complaint, filed in January, accused Minister Palko of covering up seemingly illegal wiretapping of ANO Chairman and Economy Minister Rusko. Toth has denied his involvement, and military prosecutors recently dropped their own investigation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5, 6, and 12 March, 30 April, and 4 September 2003). AH

SLOVAK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH COUNTERPART IN BUDAPEST
Visiting Slovak President Rudolf Schuster told reporters after meeting with his Hungarian counterpart Ferenc Madl in Budapest on 20 October that problems related to the implementation of Hungary's Status Law in Slovakia can be satisfactorily solved within the framework of bilateral relations, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Schuster said the time has come for the two countries to develop a relationship similar to that of Slovakia and the Czech Republic. He also proposed opening the border between Hungary and Slovakia before the two countries join the EU next May. In another matter, Schuster noted that while a legal structure regarding the parliamentary representation of minorities exists in Hungary, the law has not yet been put into practice. For his part, Madl said it is in the interest of both countries to see the draft EU constitution reformulated in such way that it protects ethnic minorities and Europe's common heritage. MSZ

HUNGARIAN NATIONAL BANK, FINANCE MINISTRY ANNOUNCE JOINT INFLATION TARGET
Hungarian National Bank Governor Zsigmond Jarai and Finance Minister Csaba Laszlo announced on 20 October that the bank and the ministry have set the inflation target for 2005 at less than 4 percent, Hungarian media reported. Jarai and Laszlo also announced that by December 2006 they expect the inflation rate to fall below 3 percent, noting that these figures can only be reached if the government follows its strict budgetary strategy and tight wage policies. The two expressed their hopes that the joint announcement will strengthen the credibility of Hungary's economic targets, and will help the country introduce the Euro on 1 January 2008. MSZ

CROATIAN PRESIDENT SCHEDULES PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
President Stipe Mesic announced on 20 October that Croatia will hold parliamentary elections on 23 November, Hina reported. One hundred and forty lawmakers will be elected from candidate lists in 10 electoral districts. The country's national minorities have the right to elect up to eight lawmakers from candidate lists in a special, nationwide electoral district (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2003). The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) announced that it will monitor the Croatian vote with fewer observers than in previous elections. UB

WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL WARNS CROATIA OVER PARLIAMENTARY DECISION...
Florence Hartmann, a spokeswoman for the Hague-based international war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, has cautioned the Croatian government not to implement a parliamentary decision extending state legal assistance to indicted army members, the "Southeast European Times" reported on 20 October. Hartmann said the Croatian government has good legal advisers and knows the 17 October parliamentary decision is illegal. Under tribunal procedure, documentation may only be given to those defendants and their lawyers who have appeared before the court. In one of its last acts before dissolving itself (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2003), parliament obliged the government to grant such access also to indictees and suspects who refuse to turn themselves in, such as retired General Ante Gotovina. "The government will implement the parliament's decision, but what it will mean for Croatia's relations with the...tribunal is another matter," Prime Minister Ivica Racan said. UB

...AND ISSUES NEW INDICTMENTS...
The Hague-based war crimes tribunal issued indictments for four former army and police generals from Serbia and Montenegro on 20 October in connection with war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 1999 Kosova conflict, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Those indicted are former Yugoslav Army Chief of Staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic; the former commander of the Prishtina-based army corps, General Vladimir Lazarevic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 26 August 2003); Serbian Deputy Interior Minister General Sreten Lukic, a former commander of the Serbian police in Kosova who today heads the Interior Ministry's department for public security (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November and 12 December 2001); and Lukic's predecessor in that position, General Vlastimir Djordjevic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2002). Pavkovic also faces criminal charges in Serbia in connection with the attempted assassination of opposition Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) Chairman Vuk Draskovic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 30 April and 24 September 2003). UB

...THAT MIGHT BE LEFT TO SERBIA
U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crime Issues Pierre-Richard Prosper said in Belgrade on 20 October that the four generals named in those indictments may be put on trial in Serbia if Serbian authorities hand over former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic to the tribunal in The Hague, Tanjug reported. (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6, 8, and 10 October 2003). UB

MACEDONIA TO APPLY FOR EU MEMBERSHIP?
The government in Skopje is planning to apply for EU membership as soon as the mandate of the EU military mission to Macedonia ends on 15 December, RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters reported on 20 October. Deputy Prime Minister Radmila Sekerinska noted candidates' opportunities to benefit from EU structural funds. Sekerinska said the application might be filed as soon as parliament has passed planned administrative reforms. Former Foreign Minister Slobodan Casule of the opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) said his party supports the application in general but doubts the time is right for such a move. Casule said no substantial political or economic progress has been made, making the application a mere political gesture. UB

ALBANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER SACKED
Prime Minister Fatos Nano dismissed Interior Minister Luan Rama on 17 October in the wake of an alleged physical assault on an editor, the "Southeast European Times" reported. Rama reportedly physically attacked the editor of a local television station over critical reports, sparking protests by other journalists. Nano announced that Construction Minister Fatmir Xhafa will be nominated to replace Rama. The governing Socialist Party has meanwhile nominated parliamentary speaker Namik Dokle to be the country's new foreign minister. That position has been vacant since Foreign Minister Ilir Meta resigned in July. The nominations must still be approved by parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21, 25, 29, and 31 July and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 July 2003). UB

ROMANIANS APPROVE NEW CONSTITUTION
Preliminary results of the 18-19 October constitutional referendum released by the Central Electoral Bureau on 20 October show that 55.7 percent of eligible voters participated in the referendum and some 90 percent of them voted in favor of the new constitution, Romanian Radio reported. Only 8.8 percent of the votes were cast against, and 1.5 percent were not valid. All votes have been counted, but the bureau still has to validate the ballot. Commenting on the low turnout at the referendum, President Ion Iliescu said the authorities should ignore the views of those who do not want to cast their votes. He added that new regulations should be adopted so that referendums and elections would be valid regardless of the participation rate. Currently, Romanian laws require a majority turnout at referendums and in the first round of elections. ZsM

THREE ROMANIAN MINISTERS RESIGN...
Premier Adrian Nastase on 20 October announced that European Integration Minister Hildegard Puwak, Health Minister Mircea Beuran, and Serban Mihailescu, the minister in charge of coordinating the cabinet's secretariat, resigned earlier that day, Romanian media reported. Puwak announced she has personal problems to be solved and does not want these problems to endanger Romania's negotiations with the EU. She has been accused of mishandling EU funds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 5 September 2003). Nastase said that Beuran, who has been accused of plagiarism (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2, 6 and 14 October 2003), wanted to clear the cabinet from explaining "collateral problems." Lastly, Mihailescu, who has been accused of corruption several times, has been involved in the so-called "Busteni case," with one of his advisors accused of receiving bribes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 17 October 2003). Nastase said Mihailescu didn't want charges against subordinates to affect the cabinet's credibility. ZsM

...OR ARE THEY BEING REPLACED?
On 20 October, Nastase said his Social Democratic Party (PSD) decided to accept the resignation of the three ministers as this was a good "opportunity" to improve the cabinet's image, re-launch its activities, and successfully close negotiations with the EU, Mediafax reported. The same day Nastase presented to President Ion Iliescu his proposals for replacing the three. Iliescu accepted those proposals. EU chief negotiator Vasile Puscas is to temporarily take over the EU integration ministry, Minister of Control Ionel Blanculescu is to temporarily take over the health ministry. Former State Protocol Authority Director Eugen Bejenariu was named minister tasked with coordinating the cabinet's secretariat. Blanculescu said he has declared war on the mafia and corruption in the health system. Opposition parties called for the resignation of Nastase's entire cabinet, arguing it is incapable of combating corruption and that the resignation of the three ministers came too late. ZsM

ROMANIAN SENATE CHAIRMAN REJECTS DISCUSSING PRM MOTION ON CORRUPTION
Senate Chairman Nicolae Vacaroiu on 20 October rejected a motion submitted the same day by the opposition Greater Romania Party (PRM), Mediafax reported. The motion, entitled "The mishandling of EU funds by the PSD government must be stopped," called on authorities to immediately investigate all recent mishandling and corruption charges. Vacaroiu argued the requests formulated in the motion couldn't be put in practice, as the Court of Accounts cannot start an investigation on its own, and asked PRM senators to reformulate their motion. ZsM

MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS CELEBRATE A DECADE OF ACTIVITY
The Ruling Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) on 18 October held a congress celebrating 10 years since the re-establishment of the party, Flux reported on 20 October. Moldovan President and PCM leader Vladimir Voronin said his party is the only one that defends Moldova's statehood. He added the PCM proves to Moldovan citizens that the country's capital "is not Bucharest, Moscow, Lisbon or Brussels, but only Chisinau." Opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic Chairman Iurie Rosca said Voronin's statements reflect "a radical intolerance" towards other political parties that are seen as "internal enemies." ZsM

BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER CRITICIZES HIS PARTY...
Simeon Saxecoburggotski in his 20 October address to the National Council of the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) criticized some party members' lack of discipline, vsekiden.com reported. The NDSV chairman, in an apparent allusion to various criticisms regarding his style of leadership, said the NDSV's decision-making hierarchy was clearly established when it was registered as a political party in April 2002. He said he has had enough of "policy lessons" from uninformed persons who believe that his political career started only in 2001 (when he first announced that he would run for prime minister) or in 1996 (when he returned to Bulgaria for the first time after 50 years in exile). He also rebuffed claims from the opposition that former monarch Saxecoburggotski returned to Bulgaria to regain property that was taken away from the royal family by the communist regime in the 1940s. UB

...AND DEMANDS PERSPECTIVE
Prime Minister Saxecoburggotski in his speech 20 October speech called on the NDSV to draft a party program to follow until 2009, by which time Bulgaria will be an EU member if it accedes, as expected, in 2007, vsekiden.com reported. "The upcoming local elections [on 26 October] are a good occasion for every one of us to show his capabilities and energy," Saxecoburggotski said. He added that now is the best time to strengthen the party's local organizations, which he said will be the base for the next parliamentary elections in 2005. "The precondition for this is that we forget about demagogy, dabbling in politics, enrichment through abuse of power," Saxecoburggotski warned (see End Note, "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July and 9 October 2003). UB

NEGATIVE SLOVENIAN REACTION TO NEW CROATIAN ZONE


Croatia's declaration of a "fishing and ecological" zone in the Adriatic Sea on 3 October came as little surprise, although it remains unclear what such a zone will entail. The Croatian government's original plan to declare an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Adriatic had met with condemnation from Slovenia and reserved disapproval from Italy and the European Union.

Although the fishing and ecological zone is broadly viewed as an EEZ in disguise, the move appears to be an attempt by the Croatian government to please its own public in advance of 23 November elections while avoiding censure from abroad. A further sop was offered to Slovenia and the EU with the decision not to enforce the zone for a year following its declaration.

Despite worries that offending Brussels could hamper Croatia's efforts to join the EU, Zlatko Tomcic, speaker of the Croatian parliament and head of the Croatian Peasants' Party (HSS), admitted in "Jutarnji list" on 28 September that it would be "political suicide" for the government not to carry its plans through. Anto Djapic of the hard-line opposition Croatian Party of [Historical] Rights (HSP) also warned that failure to declare an EEZ would represent a victory for Slovenia at Croatia's expense, "Delo" reported on 26 September.

Slovenian reaction to the Croatian move was uniformly negative. Within the governing coalition, the leader of the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) parliamentary group, Tone Anderlic, characterized the decision as undesirable. The moderate leader of the left-wing United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD), Borut Pahor, condemned the move as rash unilateralism, while Janez Podobnik of the Slovenian People's Party (SLS) labeled it a "mistake." Anton Rous, head of the Democratic Party of Retired Persons of Slovenia (DeSUS), charged that the Croatian parliament had acted "in the spirit of the [World War II fascist] Independent State of Croatia," "Delo" reported on 6 October.

The opposition leveled charges not only at Croatia, but also at the Slovenian government. Andrej Bajuk, president of the New Slovenia party (NSi), said that it was high time for the government to defend Slovenia's national interests. In comments on the Internet news site 24ur.com on 10 October, the leader of the newly renamed Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), Janez Jansa, stressed Slovenia's historical contact with the open sea. Jansa characterized Croatia's decision as a withdrawal from the (unratified) 1991 Drnovsek-Racan border agreement and a unilateral move that could prejudice the final demarcation of the maritime border.

The Croatian government also came under domestic criticism for its action, both for being too reserved and too assertive, "Delo" reported on 5 October. Tonci Tadic of the HSP, which originally submitted the bill for the EEZ, said that a "fishing and ecological" zone is meaningless within international law. The leader of the main opposition Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), Ivo Sanader, likewise criticized the government for shying away from the outright declaration of an EEZ.

However, as early as 26 September the Split daily "Slobodna Dalmacija" warned that such a move would demonstrate to the EU that Croatia is "undisciplined, impulsive, and unready for membership." Similarly, former Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic said that it will now be difficult to explain the zone to Brussels.

Slovenia had pushed for a joint zone in the Adriatic, to be shared by all countries bordering the sea, but this proposal was rebuffed by Zagreb. Croatian Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Simonovic laid out his view of the situation in a report to his government on 25 September after meeting with officials in Brussels: a joint zone would disadvantage Croatia because Slovenia has no right to the Adriatic in any case, and Italy has a fishing fleet 10 times larger than Croatia's. (Italy also has a population 13 times greater than Croatia's.)

The Slovenian media have questioned whether Croatia has bitten off more than it can chew. The zone over which Croatia has extended its sovereignty -- some 20,000 square kilometers -- is equal in size to Slovenia and may be beyond Croatia's technological capacity to supervise. Croatia's Ministry of Agriculture has stated that the purchase of 12 additional patrol boats and the employment of 15 inspectors will be necessary to enforce Croatia's sovereignty.

Despite Slovenia's focus on Croatia's new jurisdiction in the Adriatic, from the EU's perspective the debate is overshadowed by Croatia's reluctance to cooperate with The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, most notably the failure to arrest General Ante Gotovina. Together, however, both issues could harm Croatia's chances to join the EU with Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 -- a decision due to be made by Brussels in early 2004. The Racan government has all but staked its political future on meeting its self-declared 2007 deadline.

Slovenia has been pondering how deeply to entrench its 670-kilometer Schengen border with its southern neighbor, only to see it quickly dismantled after Croatia's EU accession. In the current political climate, the answer is anyone's guess.

The author is an RFE/RL freelancer who writes on events and affairs in Slovenia and other former Yugoslav republics.

AFGHANISTAN CONFIRMS THE RELEASE OF FORMER TALIBAN FOREIGN MINISTER...
The head of Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai's office, Omar Daudzay, on 20 October confirmed reports that the former Taliban Foreign Minister has been released from U.S. custody, Radio Afghanistan reported. According to Daudzay, Mawlawi Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil has been in the center of talks between the Afghan Transitional Administration and those members of the Taliban who have not committed crimes. Karzai's spokesman, Jawed Ludin, told Radio Free Afghanistan on 20 October that some leaders of the Taliban who "do not have people's blood on their hands and are not known as criminals... had just made contact with the government, saying that they are ready to cooperate, with all they have in their power, to help the government. Up until now, the government has not made any attempt to contact them, and if it does, you will be informed." AT

...REVERSING PREVIOUS DENIALS
Afghan Chief Justice Mawlawi Fazl Hadi Shinwari said on 6 October that talks are under way between the Afghan Transitional Administration and "some Taliban groups," adding that it is Chairman Karzai's policy "to hold talks with those Taliban whose hands are not covered with the blood of the nation," (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 9 October 2003). Other unnamed Afghan officials also made the same claims, but Karzai and the Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad denied such reports (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 9 and 16 October 2003). The confusion surrounding Muttawakil's release from custody is indicative of the sensitive nature of Karzai's reported attempts to negotiate with some members of the former Taliban regime. AT

NEO-TALIBAN COMMANDER REPORTEDLY CAPTURED
According to the coalition forces in Afghanistan, Mullah Janan, a neo-Taliban commander, was captured on 19 October, Reuters reported on 20 October. Janan is thought to be responsible for recent rocket attacks on a coalition base in southern Afghanistan. Janan was captured in Oruzgan Province with the assistance of Afghan Militia Forces. AT

AFGHAN FOREIGN MINISTRY DENIES PAKISTANI CHARGES OF EXISTENCE OF 'TERRORIST CAMPS' IN AFGHANISTAN
A statement released on 18 October by the Foreign Ministry of the Afghan Transitional Administration rejected charges that India's intelligence service has established "terrorist camps" inside Afghanistan to destabilize Pakistan. Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat last week repeated his charges that India's intelligence agency has established six terrorist camps inside Afghanistan to train "Pakistani dissidents and like-minded Afghans to stir [up] ethnic and sectarian unrest and carry out attacks in Pakistan" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April, 4 August, 29 September, and 17 October 2003). The Afghan Foreign Ministry statement "categorically" denied Hayat's "allegations," adding "such subversive activities do not occur on Afghan soil." The statement said Afghanistan "reiterates once more that it follows a policy of good neighborliness and non-interference toward all countries in the region, including Pakistan and India, regardless of disputes that may exist among them, and to which Afghanistan is not a party." AT

NEW AFGHAN POLITICAL PARTY FORMED
The newly formed Renaissance Party of the People of Afghanistan officially launched its activities on 19 October, Radio Afghanistan reported. The new party, led by Sayyed Zaher Qaid Omulbeladi, discussed its platform, no details of which were divulged. AT

TEHRAN AGREES TO SIGN NPT ADDITIONAL PROTOCOL
Iran on 21 October agreed to suspend its uranium-enrichment program and sign the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which allows tougher UN inspections of its nuclear sites, RFE/RL reported. Foreign ministers from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom -- Dominique de Villepin, Joschka Fischer, and Jack Straw, respectively -- met with Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hassan Rohani on 21 October in an effort to encourage Iran to address the international community's concerns about its nuclear activities. Their offer to Tehran is similar to one made in August -- Iran cooperates with the International Atomic Energy Agency, signs the Additional Protocol, and ceases uranium enrichment. In exchange, the Europeans recognize Iran's right to a civilian nuclear program, provide it with technical assistance, and guarantee Iranian access to nuclear fuel imports, Reuters reported on 21 October. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told reporters after meeting the visitors, "We are ready for total transparency because we are not pursuing an illegal program," according to Reuters. According to a report in the "Financial Times," Straw discussed the trip with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell "hours before his departure for Tehran." BS

TEHRAN SEES ALGERIAN PRESIDENT OFF
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika left Tehran on 20 October, IRNA reported, having arrived on 18 October. This is the first time an Algerian president has visited the Islamic republic in at least two decades. During the trip he met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, Speaker of Parliament Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi, Foreign Minister Kharrazi, and Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani. Bouteflika visited the tomb of the father of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The visitors signed memoranda of understanding relating to cooperation in industry, legal issues, and transportation. Khatami said on 19 October that Iran and Algeria hold similar views on Iraq and on the Palestinian issue. Khatami added that both countries are "fighting against terrorism." Tehran and Algiers severed relations in the early 1990s over allegations of Iranian support for Islamist terrorists. BS

PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER HEADS FOR IRAN
Pakistani Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali left for Tehran on 21 October, PTV World, the government-run television station, reported from Islamabad. Jamali is to spend three days in Iran, and before leaving, he hinted that petroleum and commerce would be the main topics of discussion by pointing out that he would be accompanied by Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar Khan and Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister Chaudhry Norez Shakoor Khan. The previous day, Chaudhry Norez Shakoor Khan had expressed hope that this trip would lead to greater Iran-Pakistan cooperation in the oil and gas arena, IRNA reported. He mentioned onshore and offshore exploration, pipeline projects, and the modernization of refineries, and added that Iranian businessmen would be invited to "take advantage of investment opportunities and potentials in oil and gas sectors particularly in exploration and production." The two sides will address the cross-border smuggling of petroleum products, too. Referring to a proposed natural gas pipeline from Iran to India, Chaudhry Norez Shakoor Khan said this would benefit the region in social and economic terms and it would contribute to peace in the region. BS

IRAN SCRAPES BOTTOM OF PRESS FREEDOM RANKING
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on 20 October produced its second world press freedom ranking (http://www.rsf.fr/article.php3?id_article=8247), and Iran finished in the bottom 10, 160th out of 166 countries. RSF compiled data provided by journalists, researchers, jurists, and human rights activists. BS

IRANIAN PETROLEUM MINISTER TO FACE PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONING OVER NORWEGIAN DEAL
Ardabil parliamentary representative Nureddin Pirmoazen said the legislature would like to question Petroleum Minister Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh about allegations that a Norwegian oil company paid bribes to an Iranian firm, "Mardom Salari" reported on 20 October. Statoil allegedly paid some $15 million to Horton Investments, an Iranian-owned consulting company that is associated with National Iranian Oil Company official Mehdi Hashemi, who is the son of Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 22 and 29 September and 6 October 2003). The Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime is investigating the allegations. Several Statoil officials have resigned over the case. Pirmoazen said the bribery case was "so disturbing that it could not remain hidden from the sharp eyes of the nation's representatives," and if the allegations are proven, then the petroleum minister would face a no-confidence motion. Iranian investigators were to meet with Statoil officials on 14 October, "Dagens Naeringsliv" reported on that day. BS

IRAQI POLICE ARREST 21 IN KARBALA RAIDS
Members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, operating with support from U.S. and Polish troops, arrested 21 individuals in overnight raids in Karbala, international media reported on 21 October. Some of the individuals arrested are believed to have participated in a 12-hour firefight with coalition forces at a Karbala mosque last week that left three U.S. soldiers dead. The pre-dawn raids were carried out against "criminal elements," and not "targeting one specific individual," a coalition military official told CNN. The individuals under arrest reportedly are associates of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who recently announced his intention to establish an Islamic state in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 16 October 2003). KR

IRAQI TRIBAL LEADERS VOICE OPPOSITION TO TURKISH TROOPS
Hundreds of Iraqi tribal leaders meeting in Mosul on 20 October announced their opposition to a possible Turkish troop deployment to Iraq, AP reported on the same day. "We totally reject having Turkish forces. We'll be forced to confront them...if they come to Iraq, we'll have a Muslim-Muslim war," Thamir al-Dulaymi, the secretary general of the Iraqi National League of Tribal Chiefs told reporters. The tribal shaykhs and leaders at the meeting representing Sunnis, Shi'a, Kurds, and Arabs, said they will oppose all troops from neighboring countries on Iraqi soil. "The successful solution is to let Iraqis protect Iraq's security instead of using or inviting armies from here and there," al-Dulaymi said. He also called on coalition forces to grant tribal leaders a wider role in Iraq through participation in the Iraqi Governing Council. KR

BAHRAINI COMMERCE MINISTER SAYS IRAQ MAY BE ABLE TO JOIN GCC
Bahraini Commerce Minister Ali Salah al-Salah told reporters at the Seventh Arab Federation of Businessmen Conference in Bahrain on 19 October that Iraq has the potential to become a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Manama's "Bahrain Tribune" reported on 20 October. "I believe Iraq is in a position to join the GCC, either partially or as a full-fledged member," al-Salah said. "There is no technical hindrance for Iraq to join the six-member council but the final decision is with the leadership of the member states," he added. The GCC is a regional grouping that aims at greater regional economic and security cooperation. Its current members are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. KR

IRAQI CONVICTED IN BAHRAIN FOR BOMB ATTACK NEAR U.S. BASE
A former Iraqi intelligence officer was convicted on 20 October on charges relating to a bombing outside a U.S. military base on 24 March and sentenced to three years in prison, Reuters reported on the same day. According to the "Gulf Daily News," Uday Abd al-Amir Hassun detonated explosives that he planted in a refuse container near the entrance to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. The general prosecutor in the case had alleged that Hassun was ordered by former Iraqi Brigadier Muhammad Khudayr al-Daylami to establish contact with the first secretary at the Iraqi Embassy in Bahrain to pick up the explosives for the bombing. Hassun was also charged with spying and carrying out subversive acts in Bahrain. He reportedly left the Iraqi intelligence service in 1999, and has denied any involvement in the bombing. It is unclear whether he will appeal the conviction. KR

MALAYSIA REFUSES TO ATTEND IRAQI DONORS CONFERENCE
Malaysia has rejected a U.S. request that it participate in the 23-24 October donors conference on Iraq in Madrid, Kuala Lumpur's Bernama news agency reported on 20 October. Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar reportedly informed U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell of his country's decision not to contribute financially to Iraqi reconstruction during a brief meeting on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) annual meeting in Bangkok. Syed Hamid told Powell, however, that Malaysia will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to Iraq, and fund nongovernmental organizations operating there, Bernama reported. KR

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