PUTIN IN ITALY FOR THREE-DAY VISIT
President Vladimir Putin arrived at an airport outside of Rome on 4 November and met there the same evening for informal talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose country currently holds the rotating EU Presidency, Russian media reported. Putin aide Sergei Prikhodko called the visit "the key event in the Russian-Italian relationship this year," according to ITAR-TASS. Prikhodko described Italy as a country that "has a firm status among Russia's main political and economic partners." Putin is in Italy for a three-day visit that includes a high-profile Russia-EU summit, but he is also expected to meet on several occasions with Berlusconi and Italian President Carlo Ciampi and will have an audience with Pope John Paul II. Putin told journalists before departing for Italy that he believes "the unification of the Christian world" should be promoted, including closer relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican, according to strana.ru. Putin said he views greater convergence of the "Christian world" as another aspect of Russia's integration into Europe and the international community. The Russian Orthodox Church has objected to Putin's support for a visit by the pontiff to Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 2003). VY
RUSSIAN WEAPONS FOR ISRAEL?
Speaking at a meeting of a military commission at the Kremlin on 4 November, Putin said Russia sold more than $3 billion in arms during the first seven months of the year, Russian media reported. Russia exports weapons to Asia, where it continues to expand military supplies to China and India, and to Europe, where it has established good military and technical cooperation with Germany and France, Putin said. He added that he and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon discussed possible Russian defense exports to Israel during talks in Moscow this week. "We reached a new level of cooperation with Israel," Putin said, according to ORT. VY
RUSSIAN POLITICIAN WANTS TO IMMORTALIZE THE BACKSIDE OF LIBERTY
Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov told journalists during a visit to the United States that the view of the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park in Manhattan prompted him to think about responsibility as the reverse side of liberty, nns.ru reported on 4 November. He said a 'Statue of Responsibility' should be erected somewhere, perhaps as part of the projected Federal Assembly complex in Moscow. Mironov said he shared the idea with Russian-born artist Ernest Neizvestnyi: "I don't know what it would look like, but I trust Neizvestnyi, whose creative imagination is well known." VY
NEW YUKOS MANAGEMENT VOWS TO MAINTAIN COURSE...
Embattled oil giant Yukos announced in Moscow on 4 November that U.S. national Simon Kukes will take over as chief executive to replace jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovskii, "Izvestiya" and other Russian media reported. The announcement came as the company raised the curtain on a new management team in an effort to distance itself from criminal investigations of shareholders, including Khodorkovskii, and related obstacles that have arisen in recent days and led to a plunge in Yukos's share price. As a Russian-raised U.S. citizen, Kukes is less vulnerable to Russian prosecutors, the "Financial Times" noted on 3 November. A trained petrochemical engineer, Kukes led the Tyumen Oil Company (TNK), through its merger with British Petroleum (BP), the paper added. Kukes is one of three Americans named to the Yukos board on 4 November. Kukes pledged to "keep everything the way it is. We will continue merging with Sibneft, and we will keep our obligations to shareholders," according to the "Financial Times." "Izvestiya" reported on 4 November that Khodorkovskii and his associates continue to control a majority stake in the company and determine its strategy. VY
...AS YUKOS SHAREHOLDER ACQUIRES ISRAELI PASSPORT
Leonid Nevzlin, until earlier this year the second person in the Yukos hierarchy and who is still a major Yukos shareholder, was granted Israeli citizenship on 3 November, according to newsru.com. He retains his Russian citizenship and is currently in Israel. VY
SCIENTIST FACES TRIAL FOR ESPIONAGE
The jury trial of a former researcher at the Academy of Science's USA and Canada Institute on espionage charges opened in a Moscow city court on 4 November, Russian media reported. Igor Sutyagin is accused by the Federal Security Service (FSB) of spying for the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2003) and specifically of handing over documents that contained state secrets. Sutyagin has maintained his innocence, saying he did not have access to classified information and that the information he used came from open sources. Human rights activists have argued that in pursuing Sutyagin, the FSB is following a Soviet-era tradition of punishing individuals for the transfer of even nonclassified information. The trial is being conducted behind closed doors. VY
OUTSPOKEN DUMA DEPUTY SLAMS PRIME MINISTER
State Duma Deputy Vladimir Yudin (Russian Regions) told reporters on 4 November that he considers Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's attitude toward business "cowardly," adding that "to bury one's head in the sand" is impermissible, strana.ru reported. Yudin predicted that the new Duma to be elected in December will pass a vote of no confidence in the government. Yudin reportedly initiated the criminal case against Menatep head Platon Lebedev by submitting an official inquiry to the Prosecutor-General's Office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2003). Last week, he sent another inquiry to prosecutors asking them to look into the legality of the sale of federal shares in oil giant Sibneft (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2003), which is controlled by Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 5 November, an unidentified government source dismissed Yudin's comments as emanating from the heat of the election season. JAC
GOVERNMENT TO TAKE ANOTHER CRACK AT MEDIA LAW...
At a meeting with Russia's top judges on 4 November, President Putin expressed his approval of the Constitutional Court's 30 October decision overturning a controversial section of the law on guaranteeing the rights of voters that severely restricted media coverage of election campaigns (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 2003), Russian media reported. Putin said the decision will enable people "to learn objective information from the media, whose activities will not be artificially restricted." A new media law could be introduced as early as next February, First Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii said on 4 November, strana.ru reported. JAC
...AS FEDERAL STATIONS BEEF UP THEIR ELECTION COVERAGE
State-controlled ORT continues to provide close coverage of Interior Minister and Unified Russia party leader Boris Gryzlov's recent trips to the regions, broadcasting reports about visits to St. Petersburg, Cherepovets, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii, Kirov, and Penza in recent days. During Gryzlov's visit to a factory in Penza on 4 November, a female employee seemingly spontaneously volunteered that the Duma deputy from her district, Communist faction member Viktor Ilyukhin, hasn't solved the factory's problems, according to ORT's report. Last month, the Perm Oblast Election Commission refused to allow regional television company T-7 -- a subsidiary of the state-owned All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK) -- to broadcast a program featuring Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, who wanted to visit that city and speak on local television (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2003). JAC
ANOTHER INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST SEVERELY BEATEN
Mikhail Komarov, deputy editor in chief of the Ryazan edition of "Novaya gazeta," was severely beaten outside his home on 3 November by two unknown assailants, regions.ru reported. Earlier that day, local businessman Sergei Kuznetsov filed a lawsuit against Komarov, accusing him of libel in a story about allegedly botched plastic-surgery operations performed at a private clinic owned by Kuznetsov. According to the website, Komarov has also published a number of articles exposing corruption in the local police and local sports organizations. Gazeta.ru reported earlier Kuznetsov has also objected Komarov's use of the word "oligarch" to describe him in his articles (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2003). JAC
VORONEZH MAYOR STEPS DOWN, FOLLOWING LONG BATTLE WITH GOVERNOR
Voronezh Mayor Aleksandr Kovalev resigned on 4 November, RTR reported. According to the report, the city legislature unanimously accepted Kovalev's resignation. In recent months, Kovalev's administration has been dogged by allegations of misusing some 1 billion rubles ($33 million) in budgetary funds. According to Regnum, Kovalev has had a stormy relationship with Voronezh Oblast Governor Vladimir Kulakov since the latter was elected in 2000. Kovalev was close to former Governor Ivan Shabanov, a Communist. In July, Kovalev announced that he will run for oblast governor in the 2004 election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2003). According to Regnum on 4 November, some local sources believe Kovalev's activities attracted the scrutiny of the oblast's prosecutor and chief federal inspector because of Kulakov's "close Moscow connections." Kulakov, a general, is the former head of the oblast Federal Security Service directorate. JAC
CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION OVERRULES MORE DECISIONS BY REGIONAL COUNTERPARTS
The Central Election Commission (TsIK) on 4 November overturned a decision by the Agin-Buryatskii Autonomous Okrug election commission revoking the registration of former Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov as a candidate in the Duma's 9th single-mandate district, RIA-Novosti reported. Skuratov is backed by the Communist Party, which has strong support in the okrug, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Ulan-Ude. However, local experts believe the federal authorities oppose Skuratov's return to "big politics." Unified Russia is supporting two candidates in the district -- Vasilii Kuznetsov, the incumbent Duma deputy from the district and another Duma deputy, Bato Semenov. Last month, the TsIK overturned a decision by the Vladivostok election commission, which annulled the candidacy of former Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov, Russian media reported on 23 October. Cherepkov currently represents a single-mandate district in the State Duma, and according to RFE/RL's Vladivostok correspondent he is a clear favorite in the race. JAC
ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT MOVES TO AMEND CRIMINAL CODE
Acceding to a demand by opposition parties, deputies voted unanimously in the first reading on 4 November to amend the Criminal Code to deny the right to parole to criminals sentenced to life imprisonment for grave crimes, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Such prisoners are currently eligible for parole after serving 20 years. The amendment is intended to ensure that the five gunmen now awaiting a verdict in their trial for the October 1999 murder of eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament are never released (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 and 29 October 2003). LF
ARMENIAN PRESIDENT DEMANDS CRIMINAL PROBE INTO DYSENTERY OUTBREAK
Robert Kocharian has ordered the prosecutor-general's office to determine the causes of the recent seepage of untreated sewage into drinking-water supplies in northern districts of Yerevan, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 4 November, quoting a presidential spokesman. A spokesman for the prosecutor-general said investigators believe violations of sanitary norms by the state-owned municipal Water Board are believed to have caused the accident. Meanwhile, the number of people hospitalized with dysentery as a result of drinking the contaminated water has risen to 187 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 2003). LF
FORMER AZERBAIJANI PREMIER NAMED TO HEAD NEW GOVERNMENT
Azerbaijan's parliament endorsed on 4 November the candidacy, proposed by President Ilham Aliyev, of Artur Rasizade as prime minister, zerkalo.az reported the following day. Rasizade, who is 68 and an oil engineer by training, served as prime minister from 1996 until August 2003, when then-President Heidar Aliyev appointed his son, Ilham Aliyev, to that position (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2003). LF
WORLD BANK PLEDGES LOAN FOR STRATEGIC AZERBAIJAN-GEORGIA-TURKEY PIPELINE
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the lending arm of the World Bank, announced on 4 November that it will provide a $125 million loan toward the cost of construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil-export pipeline, "The Washington Post" reported on 5 November. The IFC will also sponsor a second, commercially syndicated loan of $125 million. The total cost of the pipeline is estimated at $3 billion, and the EBRD is expected to announce a loan of $125 million later this month. Completion of construction, which got under way one year ago, is expected in late 2004, with the first oil reaching Ceyhan in April 2005. The pipeline will have an annual throughput capacity of 50 million tons of crude. LF
GEORGIAN OPPOSITION ISSUES ULTIMATUM...
Thousands of Georgians took to the streets of Tbilisi on 4 November to protest the alleged falsification by the authorities of the outcome of the 2 November parliamentary election, Reuters and Georgian agencies reported. Smaller-scale protests also took place in Zugdidi, Gori, Zestafoni and Samtredia, according to ITAR-TASS. Some 6,000 people attended a protest convened near the Tbilisi City Hall by opposition National Movement (EM) leader Mikhail Saakashvili, who called on President Eduard Shevardnadze to concede the defeat of his For a New Georgia (AS) bloc and resign by midday on 5 November or face "a revolution." The Labor Party, which according to official returns ranks third with some 15 percent of the ballot, declined to join the protests, as did the opposition New Rightists. Supporters of the Burdjanadze-Democrats Bloc and Ertoba head Djumber Patiashvili, who had staged a parallel protest at the Tbilisi Philharmonic, later marched to join Saakashvili's supporters. LF
...PLANS NATIONWIDE PROTESTS
Saakashvili, parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze, Patiashvili, and United Democrats leader Zurab Zhvania met again on 5 November to discuss tactics, and Saakashvili reiterated his demand for Shevardnadze to concede defeat, the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2 reported. The four then announced they will travel to different regions of the country to mobilize mass demonstrations against the alleged falsification of the ballot. With 60 percent of the party-list vote counted, AS was said to be leading with 25.2 percent of the votes followed by the EM with 24.4 percent, according to dpa on 5 November. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN ACCUSES OPPOSITION OF PLOTTING TO SEIZE POWER
Kakha Imnadze told journalists after an emergency meeting of Georgia's National Security Council on 5 November that the opposition called the previous day for seizing power, Caucasus Press reported. Imnadze said opposition figures advocated attacking the state chancellery and demanded Shevardnadze's resignation. Speaking on national television on 4 November, Shevardnadze appealed to the population to wait until the final election returns are published, and not to yield to "provocations," Rustavi2.com reported. He said that if the opposition queries the validity of the official election returns, it should appeal them in court. Also on 5 November, Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili said legal proceedings will be brought against any opposition politicians who seek to provoke unrest, Caucasus Press reported. LF
RUSSIAN MILITARY SPOKESMAN DENIES CONFISCATED ARMS STOLEN FROM GEORGIAN BASE
Colonel Aleksandr Lutskevich, who is spokesman for the Tbilisi headquarters of the group of Russian forces in the Transcaucasus, denied on 4 November that the weaponry appropriated by Georgian security officials on 1 November could have been stolen or illicitly purchased from one of the Russian military bases in Georgia, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2003). Georgian State Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania told journalists on 2 November that his men had discovered a cache of armaments that might have come from one of those bases. He said the weapons were amassed by supporters of deceased President Zviad Gamsakhurdia who were planning to destabilize the situation during the 2 November parliamentary election. LF
KAZAKH FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS PIPELINE IS A TOP PRIORITY IN RELATIONS WITH UKRAINE
Qasymzhomart Toqaev told his Ukrainian counterpart Konstyantyn Hryshchenko in Astana on 4 November that the completion of the Ukrainian Odessa-Brody oil pipeline and its extension to the Polish port of Gdansk is a top priority in Kazakh-Ukrainian relations, Kazinform and khabar.kz reported. Hryshchenko heard a similar message from Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev the same day. Both Toqaev and Nazarbaev assessed the current state of bilateral relations in the oil-and-gas sphere positively. Kazakhstan is hoping to use the Odessa-Brody pipeline to export oil to Europe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2003 and 10 October 2003). Toqaev noted that the extension of the pipeline to Poland is also in the European Union's development plans. BB
MORE THAN 100 ILLEGAL UZBEK JOB SEEKERS SAID TO BE DEPORTED FROM SOUTH KAZAKHSTAN WEEKLY
Some 20,000 illegal migrants from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan reportedly seek jobs in South Kazakhstan Oblast each autumn, and oblast authorities have been deporting more than 100 undocumented Uzbek job seekers each week this season, the Kazakh national daily "Ekspress-K" reported on 4 November. The migrants, who find their way into Kazakhstan despite closed borders, take construction and cotton-picking jobs, accepting lower pay than Kazakhs will accept. The article estimated that half the cotton produced in southern Kazakhstan is picked by migrants, who can earn enough during the season to live on for the next year. Small businesses and farms rarely bother to obtain the licenses necessary to employ foreign labor legally, and illegal migrants who are deported reportedly return promptly to Kazakhstan. BB
KAZAKH PRESIDENT SIGNS LAW ON MONITORING PROPERTY OWNERSHIP
Nursultan Nazarbaev signed a law on 4 November that provides for government monitoring of property ownership in strategic spheres of the country's economy, khabar.kz reported. The law defines as these strategic spheres the extraction and processing of coal, oil, gas, uranium, and other metal ores, as well as the machine-building, transport, telecommunications, power-engineering, chemical, and defense sectors. The objective of the law is to generate information for a database on Kazakhstan's major enterprises that will be used by state agencies to make economic forecasts. BB
BOMB ATTACK ON COALITION AIR BASE REPORTED FOILED BY KYRGYZ SECURITY
Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service (SNB) has prevented an attempted bomb attack by three members of the Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir on the air base of the U.S.-led international antiterrorism coalition at Bishkek's Manas Airport, KyrgyzInfo reported on 5 November. According to the SNB, three young men from Talas Oblast planned the attack, and they have said they underwent training in camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they were assigned to attack the coalition base in Bishkek. When the three were arrested in Bishkek, SNB officers found grenades, ammunition for a Kalashnikov rifle, and aluminum powder suitable for making an explosive device. The three have reportedly told investigators that God has ordered a war against the United States. BB
KYRGYZ BORDER POST ATTACKED FROM UZBEK SIDE
A Kyrgyz border post on the Osh Oblast frontier with Uzbekistan was assaulted on 3 November with by unidentified persons on the Uzbek side throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails, KyrgyzInfo, MSN, and RIA-Novosti reported on 4 November. Kyrgyzstan's Interior Ministry said the incident occurred late at night, adding that the Kyrgyz border guards did not attempt to fire on the attackers. There have been sharp exchanges between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek authorities over the use of firearms by border guards since an Uzbek guard shot and killed a Kyrgyz citizen in July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 21 July 2003). BB
PRIVATE VAN DRIVERS STRIKE IN TURKMENISTAN
Drivers of private vans in the northern Turkmen city of Dashoguz on 31 October began a strike against the authorities' demands that they transport city dwellers drafted to pick cotton to the cotton fields without being compensated for their fuel, Prima-News and centrasia.ru reported on 4 November, quoting information from the Moscow human rights organization Memorial. The strike began after the Dashoguz authorities asked Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov to extend the cotton-harvest season until December. According to Memorial, when the vans failed to appear to collect the urban dwellers drafted for picking, the draftees went home. Some drivers who took part in the strike reportedly feared retaliation by the authorities and hid with relatives. In 2001, the Dashoguz authorities provoked public anger when they closed the city market and tried to recruit the shoppers for cotton picking. People who were present reported that enraged citizens attacked the police officers who were trying to herd them into buses. The market was quickly reopened. BB
UZBEKISTAN TO EXPAND EDUCATION SYSTEM
The Uzbek cabinet of ministers on 29 October issued a decree ordering the expansion of the Uzbek educational system to provide opportunities for all secondary-school graduates to continue their education in specialized secondary schools or to at least complete a 10th grade in general secondary schools, uzreport.com reported on 3 November. The target date for the change is 2009. Additional specialized secondary institutions and professional schools will have to be opened to accommodate the demand. Graduates of all types of secondary schools will then have the right to apply to institutions of higher education. BB
MINSK SIGNALS INTENTION TO MEND FENCES WITH WASHINGTON
Belarus is interested in restoring full-scale cooperation with the United States, provided the U.S. leadership "recognizes Belarus's right to conduct independent domestic and foreign policies," Belapan reported on 4 November, quoting Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Alyaksandr Herasimenka. "We are ready to take steps in response," Herasimenka added. Last week, Belarusian Ambassador to the United States Mikhail Khvastou told a briefing at RFE/RL headquarters in Washington that Minsk would like to see a "normalization" of Belarusian-U.S. relations. Khvastou suggested that the present U.S. policy of "selective engagement [with Belarus] should be replaced with constructive engagement." JM
UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION ACCUSES AUTHORITIES OF THWARTING PARLIAMENT...
Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko charged on 4 November that authorities have began obstructing the work of the Verkhovna Rada in order to prompt a change in its leadership, Interfax reported. Yushchenko was commenting on the early closure of the parliamentary session the same day after the legislature failed to support an opposition motion to hear government officials report on the foiled Our Ukraine congress in Donetsk (see End Note below). After that motion was voted down (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 2003), lawmakers from Our Ukraine, the Socialist Party, and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc blocked the parliamentary rostrum. Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz backed Yushchenko's position, saying the parliamentary majority was instructed by the presidential administration to reject the motion and thus block the work of the legislature. JM
...WHILE PRO-GOVERNMENT PARTY ALLEGES THE OPPOSITE
The Political Executive Council of Premier Viktor Yanukovych's Labor Party issued a statement on 4 November saying that Our Ukraine took advantage of the "no" vote on the Our Ukraine congress to implement a "radical plan of political destabilization in Ukraine," Interfax reported. "Blocking the parliamentary work, undermining the budget process, dissolving the Verkhovna Rada, holding early parliamentary elections -- these are main stages of [Our Ukraine's] strategic plan to come to power," the statement charges. "The struggle of Viktor Yushchenko and his team for the post of president has been deliberately moved to parliament." JM
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO'S PRESIDENT IN KYIV
Serbia and Montenegro President Svetozar Marovic met with his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma in Kyiv on 4 November, Interfax and UNIAN reported. Following their talks, the sides signed accords on military cooperation and tourism. Kuchma said he favors signing an agreement with Serbia and Montenegro on a free-trade zone and simplifying the visa formalities between the two countries. "The introduction by the EU of a visa regime [with Ukraine] is one of the most negative steps taken after the Berlin Wall was brought down," Kuchma said during a news conference. JM
EU URGES ESTONIA TO PASS THREE LAWS WITH HASTE
The European Union's progress report on the candidate countries warns Estonia that it must take immediate and decisive action to pass three laws, BNS reported on 4 November citing the daily "Postimees." The report was officially released by the European Commission on 5 November. The laws in question are on employment contracts, gender equality, and setting a procedure for the recognition of the qualifications of health workers between countries. Social Affairs Minister Marko Pomerants said that the draft of the employment contract law has nearly completed the round of endorsements in various ministries and will soon reach the government, whereas the gender equality law is still being negotiated. Social Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Sigrid Tappo said that setting a procedure for recognizing the diplomas of nurses, midwives, and other health workers obtained in other EU countries is still being debated and has run aground on technicalities. SG
LATVIAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS IRAQ
Girts Valdis Kristovskis, accompanied by National Armed Forces commander Gaidis Andrejs Zeibots, the parliament's Defense and Interior Affairs Committee Chairman Arnolds Laksa, and ministry specialists began a four-day visit to Iraq on 2 November, BNS reported two days later. The delegation passed on presents from the Defense Ministry to the 142 Latvian soldiers serving in peacekeeping operations in Iraq as part of the U.S. and Polish contingents. Kristovskis met with top officials from the Iraqi interim government and offered Latvian assistance in areas where it has experience, such as overcoming the consequences of a totalitarian regime, economic development, banking-sector development, and privatization. The Latvian delegation was asked by the Iraqi authorities to share its experience in establishing national armed forces from scratch. SG
LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL
Rolandas Paksas began a four-day visit to Brussels and Germany on 4 November with a meeting with outgoing NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson, "Lietuvos rytas" and ELTA reported the next day. At the headquarters of the Lithuanian mission to NATO he presented Robertson with the Great Cross of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas for personally contributing to his country's efforts to join NATO. Their talks were dominated by a discussion on the ongoing political crisis in Lithuania, with Robertson stressing that he is pleased that the investigation is public. On 3 November, the Lithuanian Parliament formed a nine-member commission to investigate allegations that international criminal groups have attempted to influence members of the presidential office, BNS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2003). Paksas assured Robertson that Lithuania "will remain a reliable and stable partner." Lithuanian Ambassador to NATO Ginte Damusis noted that the security of classified information is one of the most important criteria for NATO membership. SG
POLISH GOVERNMENT SEEKS TO TIGHTEN LAW ON DEMONSTRATIONS
Premier Leszek Miller's cabinet on 4 November approved restrictive draft amendments to an existing law on public assemblies, PAP reported. The proposed changes stipulate that the organizers and/or leaders of a protest action are liable for damages incurred during the event and in its immediate aftermath. Individuals would also be prohibited from wearing masks, and an authorized local official could terminate a rally in progress if a protester contravened that ban. A rally could also be terminated by local authorities if traffic police decided to break up demonstrations staged on public roads. The draft bill also requires a seven-day notification period before a planned rally, instead of the current three-day period. The government vowed to tighten up legislation on public assemblies following a violent demonstration of miners in Warsaw in September, when some 7,000 protesters were reported to have caused 200,000 zlotys ($50,000) in damages to buildings and 62 policemen were injured, with several of them requiring hospitalization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 15 September 2003). JM
CZECH PRESIDENT ADDRESSES MILITARY'S ROLE
President Vaclav Klaus told members of the Armed Forces Supreme Command on 4 November that ensuring the country's long-term protection against external threats is only possible through cooperation with outside forces, CTK reported. However, he added that this does not diminish the Czech military's responsibility to maintain the capability of defending the country on its own. Klaus said in his first meeting as president with the Supreme Command that the military is undergoing a "somewhat delayed" process of reform that was "badly needed." He said full professionalization should be completed by 2005, when the Czech Army will be a smaller but more efficient fighting force. Klaus also praised the skill Czech military personnel have exhibited when participating in international missions. MS
CZECH POLICE DETERMINE NO INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBLE FOR PRAGUE SUBWAY FLOODING
Prague police on 4 November dropped a yearlong criminal investigation into the August 2002 flooding of Prague's underground metro system, dpa reported. A statement issued by police said that it is impossible to hold any individual criminally responsible for the metro's flooding. Investigators had attempted to determine who was responsible for the failure to close the system's floodgates in the onset of the flood. Sections of the Prague metro were closed for months as a result of flood damage, and repairs cost more than 6 billion crowns ($222 million). MS
SLOVAK HZDS INTENDS TO CONTINUE BOYCOTTING ELECTIONS OF DEPUTY SPEAKER
Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) Deputy Chairman Viliam Veteska said on 4 November that the HZDS will not participate in the next round of elections to select a fourth deputy chairman of the Slovak parliament, TASR reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 and 31 October 2003). The HZDS, as well as other opposition parties, did not participate in the first two rounds, in which Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO) Deputy Chairman Lubomir Lintner failed to secure enough support from coalition colleagues to be elected to the vacant deputy-speaker position. Veteska also dismissed ANO Chairman Pavol Rusko's recent proposal to have a fifth parliamentary deputy speaker elected from among opposition members as a way to overcome the crisis. Veteska said parliament could do with fewer deputy-speaker positions than the four it currently has. In addition, he confirmed that the HZDS intends to coordinate with other opposition parties to initiate a vote of no confidence in the government and coordinate its vote on the draft 2004 budget. MS
SLOVAK INTERIOR MINISTER CHARGED WITH SLANDER
The Prosecutor-General's Office has charged Interior Minister Vladimir Palko of slandering commercial TV Markiza and its employees, TASR reported. TV Markiza filed a complaint against Palko in September after the interior minister criticized the station during an appearance on one of its programs. Palko said during the program that TV Markiza is a "gangster organization" with "corrupt" journalists and is "a disgrace to the Slovak media" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 22 September 2003). MS
HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER IN INDIA
Peter Medgyessy and his Indian counterpart Atal Bihari Vajpayee met in New Delhi on 3 November and agreed to work toward increased economic relations between their countries, Hungarian newspapers reported. Medgyessy told reporters that India and Hungary are at "a new beginning" of their cooperation, and expressed hope that the two countries will not have to wait another 30 years again for a new summit meeting. The Hungarian leader predicted that his visit will help Hungarian companies diversify their trading with the fast-growing Indian market. Vajpayee said his government wants to support further investment by Indian companies in Hungary. Representatives of Hungary and India also signed bilateral agreements on avoiding double taxation, investment protection, cultural exchange, and joint high-tech projects. On the second day of his visit, Medgyessy met with Sonia Gandhi, chairwoman of the opposition Congress Party. MSZ
DEL PONTE BACKS TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSIONS FOR FORMER YUGOSLAVIA...
In an address to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Permanent Council in Vienna on 4 November, war crimes tribunal chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte urged the formation of truth and reconciliation commissions in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, the OSCE's official website (http://www.osce.org) reported. Del Ponte said efforts to set up such commissions have been unsuccessful so far, adding, "Perhaps the international community should consider getting active in this area." "Fugitives are still considered by large segments of the local population as heroes. Politicians are hesitant to alienate the nationalist portion of the electorate. And despite some highly commendable gestures by politicians, no serious truth, justice and reconciliation process has been launched in the region," Del Ponte said. UB
...ASKS OSCE TO SUPPORT JUDICIARY...
Citing UN Security Council Resolution 1503, which specifies the responsibilities of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, Del Ponte on 4 November rebuffed recent demands by the Serbian government that four indicted police and army generals be put on trial in Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 2003), according to the OSCE website. She said there are grounds for doubting "the capability and maybe willingness of the Serb authorities to carry out such a trial in the foreseeable future." According to Del Ponte, the OSCE could help prepare the courts throughout former Yugoslavia for future trials of low- and mid-level war criminals. Goran Svilanovic, the foreign minister of Serbia and Montenegro who is also in charge of the joint union's cooperation with the tribunal, said on 4 November that he will propose that the four generals be tried in Serbia, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. UB
...AND REPEATS CALL FOR ARREST OF INDICTED WAR CRIMINALS
Del Ponte also repeated her demand on 4 November that the authorities of Croatia and of Serbia and Montenegro arrest indicted war criminals Ante Gotovina, Ratko Mladic, and Radovan Karadzic, citing the tight timetable set by the UN Security Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8, 9, and 10 October 2003), according to the OSCE website. According to this timetable, Del Ponte's office must "terminate all seven investigations by the end of 2004, and all first-instance trials by the end of 2008, with two more years to deal with the appeals," Del Ponte said. UB
BOSNIAN SERB AUTHORITIES ISSUE GROUNDBREAKING REPORT ON SREBRENICA
Authorities in Banja Luka have issued a groundbreaking report on the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2003). In a historic first, the Bosnian Serb government concedes that most of the Muslim men arrested by Bosnian Serb forces after the fall of Srebrenica were later executed in the region of Zvornik. UB
UN UNDERTAKES ANTICORRUPTION EFFORTS IN KOSOVA
Harri Holkeri, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), issued a decree on 4 November on the formation of a body to investigate possible corruption within UNMIK and Kosovar institutions, as well as among state-owned enterprises of the region, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Holkeri met with the defense ministers of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden on 4 November to discuss a possible reduction of the international military presence in Kosova. UB
U.S. DIPLOMAT OFFERS TIMETABLE FOR KOSOVA
Speaking after meetings with NATO ambassadors and the NATO Council, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman said in Brussels on 4 November that talks on the future status of Kosova could begin in mid-2005 -- provided that the Kosovar institutions meet standards of democracy and human and minority rights set by the international community, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. From 4 to 7 November, Grossman will travel to Belgrade, Prishtina, Skopje, Tirana, and Sarajevo, the U.S. State Department announced. UB
HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP CRITICIZES CONVICTION OF FORMER MACEDONIAN DEFENSE MINISTER
The Helsinki Committee of Macedonia on 4 November criticized a Skopje court that convicted former Defense Minister Ljuben Paunovski to 5 1/2 years in prison for embezzlement and abuse of power, "Utrinski vesnik" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 2003). The committee claimed there was no physical evidence to support the verdict, which it said was based solely on the testimony of another defendant in the case. The Helsinki committee also claimed that the court refused to hear witnesses for the defense. UB
CNSAS TO RENEW INVESTIGATION OF ROMANIAN SENATOR'S REPUTED TIES WITH SECURITATE...
Gheorghe Onisoru, chairman of the College of the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives (CNSAS), said on 4 November that the CNSAS will renew its investigation into Greater Romania Party (PRM) Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor's possible ties with the communist-era Securitate, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The daily "Ziua" on 3 November published a document that shows that Tudor filed a complaint in 1981 to Securitate General Aron Bordea about an article published by Andrei Plesu, who went on to become culture minister and foreign affairs minister after 1989. Plesu is currently a CNSAS member. Documents purportedly linking Tudor to the former secret police have been published on repeated occasions in different Romanian dailies, but ahead of the 2000 parliamentary elections the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) said in response to a CNSAS request that Tudor is not listed as a former Securitate agent. According to Onisoru, it turns out that Tudor's name figures in 19 of the former Securitate's files. MS
...WHO DENIES ANY TIES WHATSOEVER...
Senator Tudor on 4 November said that the reopening of the investigation is part of a "plan devised by the Iliescu-Nastase regime" that aims at compromising him and preventing him from running for president in 2004 at any price, Mediafax reported. The PRM chairman said all "well-intentioned people" know that he was not a collaborator of the Securitate and was shadowed by the former secret police. Tudor also said he never signed a pledge to act as an informer and that the documents published in the media are forgeries. MS
...WHILE FORMER SECURITATE OFFICER RESIGNS AS HEAD OF INVESTIGATION SERVICE
General Marian Ureche, head of the Justice Ministry's Independent Service for Protection and Anti-Corruption (SIPA), resigned on 4 November, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Ureche said his decision was prompted by his unwillingness to see what he called "the media campaign against me" reflect negatively on the service as a whole. Ureche's past links to the Securitate were recently revealed by the daily "Evenimentul zilei," which wrote that he had been involved in one of the Securitate's harshest actions against dissidents in 1989. According to Mediafax, Ureche declined a CNSAS invitation to clarify his links with the former secret police. Ureche was appointed to head the SIPA by Justice Minister Rodica Stanoiu after she was appointed in January 2001 to head the ministry. According to Mediafax, Stanoiu's links to Ureche date back to the days when Stanoiu was employed by the Romanian Academy's Institute for Judicial Studies, which Ureche reportedly supervised as a Securitate officer. MS
ROMANIAN PREFECT ASKS COURT TO DETERMINE LEGALITY OF SZEKLER COUNCIL
Covasna County Prefect Horia Grama on 4 November asked the Brasov Appeals Court to determine the legality of the recently established Szekler National Council, Mediafax reported. Grama said the council is sowing separatism and thereby provoking disorder, and that as prefect he is in charge of ensuring order in the county. He said that in his opinion, the establishment of the Szekler National Council is in violation of the constitution and it should be outlawed. MS
WORLD BANK SAYS POVERTY RATE IN ROMANIA IS IMPROVING
A study released on 4 November by the World Bank says that although the number of Romanians living in poverty remains high, the situation has improved in recent years and will continue to if the country's economy remains strong, AFP reported. The study found that about 6.5 million Romanians, or 29 percent of the population, were living in poverty in 2002, compared with 35 percent in 2000. MS
MOLDOVAN ARTISTS UNIONS LAUNCH STRIKE
Artists unions on 4 November announced that they are striking to protest the Culture Ministry's policies, Flux reported. The agency cited Writers' Union Chairman Mihai Cimpoi as saying the ministry pursues a policy of cultural "ideologization" and subordination of personnel to the interests of the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists. Cimpoi said that "the practice of Zhdanovist-style ideological supervision" and authoritarianism has been reinstituted. (Andrei Zhdanov was the chief Soviet ideologue under the Josef Stalin's regime in the late 1940s and early 1950s). The unions' representatives demanded that Culture Minister Vyacheslav Madan resign and "totalitarian" legislation be abolished. MS
MOLDOVAN NEWS AGENCY, PPCD LEADER FINED FOR DEFAMATION
A Chisinau court on 4 November ruled that the daily "Flux" must pay Canadian-based tycoon Boris Birstein 30,000 lei ($2,228) and the daily's owner, Popular Party Christian Democratic leader Iurie Rosca, must pay him 5,000 lei in damages for damaging Birstein's reputation, Flux reported. Birstein sued the daily and Rosca in August following the publication of an article alleging he met with President Vladimir Voronin to discuss the protection of his interests in Moldova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 2003). The court also ruled that "Flux" and Rosca must publish an apology to Birstein within 15 days. Flux and Rosca's lawyer said he will appeal the sentence. MS
JUNIOR COALITION PARTNER LOOKING FOR MORE INFLUENCE IN BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT
Commenting on the results of the local and mayoral elections of 26 October and 2 November, Ahmed Dogan, the chairman of the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), told journalists on 4 November that the government needs refreshing, mediapool.bg reported. Dogan said the good results of the DPS in these elections will improve the position of the party within the ruling coalition dominated by the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV). He added that the DPS would not automatically demand more posts within the government, but stressed that for him the quality of the government is more important than how much the DPS could participate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October and 3 November 2003). UB
BULGARIAN PRESIDENT IDENTIFIES PROBLEMS OF GOVERNING PARTIES
President Georgi Parvanov told a press conference on 4 November that he is concerned about the low rating the governing coalition received in local elections, the president's official website (http://www.president.bg) reported. Without mentioning names, Parvanov clearly alluded to the governing NDSV when he said that if a party loses elections because of its weak internal structure, it is that party's problem; but if such a party is in power and cannot correct the shortcomings, it is a problem for society as a whole. He questioned whether the current government will be able to carry out the important and painful reforms needed to prepare Bulgaria for NATO and EU entry. Parvanov added that the elections showed that Bulgaria's political parties have problems with their identity, organization, and funding. Some of these shortcomings could be resolved by reforming the Law on Political Parties, Parvanov said. UB
HARD LESSONS FOR 'OUR UKRAINE' IN DONETSK
The Our Ukraine bloc led by Viktor Yushchenko failed to hold a congress of democratic forces in Donetsk as planned on 31 October. After arriving in Donetsk that day, Yushchenko and his supporters were confronted by hostile crowds at the airport and in downtown Donetsk in what looked like a highly coordinated effort to prevent the Our Ukraine gathering and to fan anti-Yushchenko sentiment in the city.
The entire city was adorned with billboards showing Yushchenko in a Nazi uniform extending his hand in a Nazi salute and calling for the "purity of the nation." Some 1,500 mainly young and drunk people filled the planned venue and effectively prevented Our Ukraine from holding the congress. Neither the police nor officers of the Security Service did anything to stop them.
Yushchenko accused the presidential administration in Kyiv of organizing this obstruction but, judging by many press reports on what happened in Donetsk on 31 October, the truth might be more complex.
Yushchenko, 49, is Ukraine's most popular politician and a sure contender in the presidential election that is expected to be held on 31 October 2004. He has very strong support in western Ukraine and quite good backing in the center of the country, but only scanty support in eastern regions such as Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, and Luhansk. These are overwhelmingly Russian-speaking regions, where people treat "Ukrainian-speaking nationalists" from western Ukraine with distrust, to say the least.
Yushchenko, though he was born in Sumy Oblast in northeastern Ukraine and avoids any radicalism on the sensitive language issue, is nevertheless perceived in the traditionally pro-Russian eastern Ukraine as a "nationalist." The congress in Donetsk was intended to change this image and allow Yushchenko to gain a foothold in the region, which is controlled both economically and politically by a group of oligarchs known as the Donetsk clan.
Neither President Leonid Kuchma nor Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych (a member of the Donetsk clan) are interested in allowing Yushchenko to become president in 2004. Kuchma, who is forbidden by the constitution from running for a third consecutive term, is now confronted with the difficult task of finding a successor that could guarantee him a quiet retirement. Obviously, Yushchenko is not his choice.
Yanukovych, according to many observers, might be harboring presidential ambitions himself. Therefore, it is no wonder that both the presidential administration headed by Social Democratic Party-united leader Viktor Medvedchuk and Yanukovych might be vitally interested in preventing Yushchenko from reaching the electorate in Ukraine. A confidential instruction by the presidential administration to the heads of oblast administrations (governors) -- which was published by some Ukrainian newspapers and presented personally by Yushchenko on RFE/RL on 31 October -- obliges governors to take countermeasures to "minimize the public and political resonance" of democratic forums organized by Our Ukraine in their regions. The events in Donetsk on 31 October, according to many observers, developed in accordance with this instruction.
According to many Ukrainian publications, including the "Ukrayinska pravda" website and the "Grani" weekly, the plan of "countermeasures" against Yushchenko in Donetsk was coordinated by Donetsk Oblast Council head Borys Kolesnykov, Donetsk Oblast Governor Anatoliy Bliznyuk, and Donetsk Oblast Deputy Governor Vasyl Dzharta. The entire "anti-Yushchenko operation" was also allegedly supported by Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's richest oligarch, whom many call the "real boss" of Donetsk and the backbone of the Donetsk clan.
The anti-Yushchenko groups in Donetsk consisted mainly of students from colleges and vocational-training schools and outdoor-market vendors. Some of the students were reportedly paid 20-40 hryvnyas ($3.75-$7.50) for participating in the anti-Yushchenko action. Most of them were treated to free beer and, to a lesser extent, free vodka. Vendors were reportedly released from paying market fees for three days. Additionally, they were threatened that they would lose their market stalls if they failed to appear at the rally.
Every group of 10-15 anti-Yushchenko demonstrators had a "leader" -- usually a young man with a shaved head -- who told them what anti-Yushchenko slogans to shout and when. The weekly "Grani" called these young men "Akhmetovjugend," but did not provide more details about their organizational affiliation.
"All who are today involved in politics and want to feel spicy sensations, while not anticipating the reaction of the Ukrainian people to this, should most likely secure themselves with pampers instead of engaging themselves in politics," Prime Minister Yanukovych commented on the Donetsk events, adding that Our Ukraine forgot to "measure the temperature" in the city before it went to hold a congress there.
Ukrainian commentators perceive this comment as Yanukovych's unambiguous approval for how the Donetsk authorities welcomed Yushchenko in the city. Moreover, according to some reports that were later corroborated by Yushchenko, the firm that placed billboards with the Our Ukraine leader in a Nazi uniform belongs to Yanukovych's son. At first glance, it might appear that Yanukovych emerged as the winner of this clash with Yushchenko in Donetsk, which has been seen by many as an unofficial inauguration of the 2004 presidential election campaign in Ukraine.
However, some aspects of the anti-Yushchenko hullabaloo in Donetsk might be extremely uncomfortable with Yanukovych as a potential rival of Yushchenko in the presidential election. For example, many anti-Yushchenko demonstrators waved Russian flags and shouted insulting remarks about the Ukrainian language. These two things alone, even apart from the heavy-handed orchestration of "popular protest" in Donetsk against Yushchenko, hardly present Yanukovych in a positive light, as a potential leader to be accepted by most Ukrainians. After all, a national leader should not be associated with any denigration of the indigenous language or culture of the country he runs or seeks to run.
Thus, it seems that someone, either in the Donetsk clan or in the presidential administration, intentionally "overstretched" the anti-Yushchenko protest in Donetsk "in the eastern direction" in order to harm Yanukovych's chances of being chosen by Kuchma as a successor.
Yushchenko's lesson from Donetsk is bitter. Some even speculated that Yushchenko might be able to strike a deal with the Donetsk oligarchs ahead of the presidential election. For example, they could support his presidential bid, while he, after being elected president, would appoint a prime minister proposed by them. Now it is clear that Yushchenko and the Donetsk oligarchs are at war, and he cannot count on tapping their financial resources or using their political clout in eastern Ukraine.
Our Ukraine's alliance with a political force that is not seen in eastern Ukraine as a "nationalist" and/or "anti-Russian" now seems to be a must if Yushchenko wants to be a serious presidential rival to the candidate fielded by the "party of power" and the oligarchs. Since Our Ukraine's election alliance with the Communist Party of Petro Symonenko seems to be one of the least-probable political developments in Ukraine, one should now expect a warming of relations between Yushchenko and Oleksandr Moroz, leader of the Socialist Party of Ukraine.
CLASHES BETWEEN AFGHAN AND PAKISTANI FORCES REPORTED...
Afghan and Pakistani forces exchanged fire along the disputed border between the two countries on 2 November, "The News International," an English-language Pakistani daily, reported on 3 November. According to the report, the military confrontation that lasted for 13 hours began when Afghan forces "targeted three check posts of the Pakistan Army" at Spina Bara, Yaqubi, and Gosari. According to the report, eight Afghans were injured. Mustafa Khan, an Afghan commander in the area, however, said that Pakistani "militias" attacked Afghan positions, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported on 3 November. Mustafa Khan said that two of his men were killed and 13 others injured in the fighting. Clashes between Afghan and Pakistani forces along the border between the two countries in July nearly led to a wider conflict (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 11 and 24 July and 7 August 2003). The Afghan-Pakistani border has never officially been recognized by Afghanistan, and has been at the core of disagreements between the two countries since Pakistan was created in 1947. AT
...AS ISLAMABAD WANTS TRIPARTITE COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE INCIDENT
Pakistan wants to bring the "violations of its western border by Afghan troops" to the attention of the Tripartite Commission, which will meet on 12 November in Kabul, the Pakistan-based "Nawa-i-Waqt" reported on 4 November. The Tripartite Commission, made up of representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States, was established after the July border clashes. According to the report, Afghan sources have indicated that they will protest the construction by Pakistan of a security fence along parts of the border (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 30 October 2003). AT
PAKISTANI FORCES KILL TWO SUSPECTED AL-QAEDA MEMBERS ALONG AFGHAN BORDER
Pakistani security forces killed two suspected members of Al-Qaeda on 4 November along the Afghan-Pakistani border, the Pakistani daily "Dawn" reported on 5 November. The men were reportedly trying to cross into Pakistan's semi-autonomous region of South Waziristan from Afghanistan's Paktiya Province. Rahmatullah Wazir, deputy administrator of the border village of Wana, said that after seeing the bodies of the men it appears that they are "neither Pakistani tribesmen nor Afghans. They looked like foreigners." He added that a third man had escaped across the border to Afghanistan. AT
AFGHANISTAN REPATRIATES THREE PAKISTANIS
Three Pakistani citizens "recently caught by Afghan security forces" were handed over to the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul on 1 November, the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. The statement added that the Pakistanis were captured in the Spin Boldak District of the Kandahar Province and their return to Pakistan was a "gesture of goodwill." According to the Afghan Foreign Ministry, "documents and other evidence captured from the three individuals are indicative of their military-related functions." AT
WOMEN'S RIGHTS GROUP DISSATISFIED WITH DRAFT CONSTITUTION
In a statement released on 4 November, the New York-based rights group Women for Afghan Women said that it is "disappointed that Afghanistan's newly released draft constitution is weak in its affirmation of women's rights." The statement said that the organization's "overriding concern is that the draft constitution, with its heavy reliance on Islam, leaves the law of the land vulnerable to extremist religious interpretations that are in opposition to women's human rights." (For an analysis of Afghanistan's new draft constitution, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 6 November 2003.) AT
FORMER AFGHAN PRESIDENT'S PARTY SAYS CONSTITUTION COULD LEAD TO DICTATORSHIP
Jamiat-e Islami, the party of the former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, said on 4 November in a statement that it believes the draft constitution gives "excessive powers to the president and that this would bring about a dictatorial system" in Afghanistan, Radio Afghanistan reported. AT
IAEA WANTS IRANIAN URANIUM ENRICHMENT TO HALT
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei said in a 3 November interview that Iran's provision of documentation on its nuclear activities and its promise to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty indicate an Iranian "change of attitude," Spain's "El Pais" daily newspaper reported on 4 November. The documentation confirms that Tehran violated some of its NPT commitments, el-Baradei said, and in order to analyze the data provided by Tehran the IAEA must reconstruct the past, establish what took place over the last 20 years, and regulate the future. Referring to environmental samples that showed traces of highly enriched uranium, which Tehran alleges came from second-hand equipment it bought on the black market, el-Baradei said that it will take some time to get to the truth. "We have to identify the country of origin of the contamination, go to that country, take samples to verify if indeed the traces of enriched uranium are from contamination and not from self-production.... At least another couple of months, until the beginning of next year." el-Baradei stressed Iran's uranium-enrichment activities must stop because this would contribute to Middle East security and would normalize Iran's relations with the West. BS
FREED IRANIAN EXHORTS COUNTRYMEN TO 'AROUSE U.S. RAGE'
At a 4 November rally commemorating the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by militants, an Iranian filmmaker who just one day earlier had been released from coalition custody in Iraq said that he is a personal witness to the White House's hatred of the slogan "Down with the U.S.A.," IRNA reported. Soheil Karimi went on to say that this slogan is, in IRNA's words, "the only thing bothering the Americans." Karimi added, in his own words, "I would recommend further shouting of the slogan more loudly throughout the country to counteract the future U.S. plots by arousing the U.S. officials' rage." Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met Karimi and Said Abu Taleb, who also had been confined in Iraq, on 4 November, state radio reported. Khamenei said in his meeting with the two employees of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting and their families that the U.S. forces are "bad and sinister," and he expressed the belief that the two are free thanks to the power of prayer. BS
IRANIAN NOBEL LAUREATE TAKES UP SLAIN CANADIAN JOURNALIST'S CASE
The trial relating to the death in Iranian custody of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was scheduled to resume on 5 November, but the court granted a delay so that Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, who has just joined the case on behalf of Kazemi's family, can familiarize herself with the case (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 3 November 2003), Reuters reported. Ahmad Batebi, an Iranian student whose picture was widely published by international media in July 1999, has meanwhile appealed to Ebadi to help secure his release from prison, "Iran News" reported on 4 November, citing the "Peykeiran" website (http://www.peykeiran.com). "I request the lady of peace and friendship in my country to use her spiritual clout and secure the release of prisoners of conscience," Batebi's letter said. BS
TEHRAN PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE LODGES COMPLAINT AGAINST PARLIAMENTARIAN, NEWSPAPER
Tehran Public Prosecutor's Office official Mohammad Shadabi has filed a complaint against parliamentarian Hussein Ansari-Rad, who chairs the Article 90 Committee that investigates complaints against the government, Fars News Agency reported on 5 November. The complaint is that the Article 90 Committee prepared an inaccurate report about Kazemi's killing that insulted, slandered, and harmed the Prosecutor's Office. A complaint also has been filed against the managing director of "Yas-e No" daily, because an article in its 3 November issue accused Shadabi of involvement in Kazemi's death, according to the same news agency. BS
INVESTIGATION INTO CANADIAN PHOTOJOURNALIST'S DEATH CONTINUES
Tehran Public Prosecutor Hojatoleslam Said Mortazavi said on 3 November in a letter to speaker of parliament Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi that the investigation into Kazemi's death is continuing and it is premature to say that his office is responsible, IRNA reported. Mortazavi said that the Article 90 Committee's inquiry is incomplete, and added that the committee's membership is pursuing political objectives. The previous day, Prosecutor's Office official Shadabi said answers to the Article 90 Committee's questions have been provided to Karrubi, IRNA reported. Article 90 Committee Chairman Ansari-Rad said on 2 November that a complaint has been filed against Mortazavi for his refusal to appear before the committee to answer questions about the Kazemi case, ISNA reported. Ansari-Rad said the legislature now views Mortazavi as a defendant and added: "Mortazavi should be interrogated and given a chance to defend himself. There is absolutely no room for debate." BS
TWO UN SECURITY OFFICIALS GO ON LEAVE AFTER REPORT
Two United Nations security officials were put on leave on 4 November after an independent panel investigating the 19 August bombing of the United Nations' Baghdad headquarters (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 31 October 2003) blamed the UN security apparatus in New York and in the field for security lapses that contributed to the attack, Reuters reported on 4 November. That blast left 23 dead, including UN Special Representative to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello. The two security officials are UN global security coordinator Tun Myat of Myanmar and Ramiro Lopes da Silva of Portugal, who was once responsible for security and personnel in Iraq. Da Silva was appointed the acting head of mission in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 5 September 2003) following the 19 August bombing. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric de la Riviere told reporters that the two men requested leave until mid-January while a UN-appointed, four-member team investigates "accountability at all managerial levels at the headquarters and in the field" for security failures, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Catherine Bertini, the UN undersecretary-general for management, has been appointed the UN's head of security. KR
U.S. ADMINISTRATOR SETS CONDITIONS FOR RETURN OF FORMER IRAQI SECURITY PERSONNEL
Coalition Provisional Authority head L. Paul Bremer has reportedly set conditions for former Iraqi security personnel and members of political party militias seeking to join an Iraqi paramilitary force that will help counter militants in Iraq, washingtonpost.com reported on 5 November. The force, supported by the Iraqi Governing Council, will include a domestic intelligence-gathering unit and will be authorized to conduct special raids and interrogations of suspects. The United States has long opposed the idea of allowing security personnel from the regime of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to return to their jobs, but has conceded in recent days that Iraqis might be better equipped than coalition forces to root out militants. Bremer's conditions relate to the vetting, training, and supervision of the personnel. The new force will reportedly be the most powerful domestic security force in Iraq. KR
TURKEY ACCUSES U.S. OF FAVORITISM
Turkish Ambassador to the United States Osman Faruk Logoglu claimed on 4 November that the United States is giving excessive favors to Kurdish groups in Iraq, a policy which he said might lead to Kurdish attempts to secede in the future, Reuters reported. "The Kurdish representation is much in excess of their real standing in the society," Logoglu contended. "We think there is too much favoritism...being given to specifically the Kurdish groups...[over] who runs [Iraq] and how the future of the country is going to be structured." Logoglu cited the composition of the Iraqi Governing Council and the interim cabinet as an example (see http://www.rferl.org/specials/iraqcrisis/bios.asp). He also criticized the United States for failing to convince the Iraqi Governing Council to accept the deployment of some 10,000 Turkish troops to Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 16 and 31 October 2003). KR
SPAIN WITHDRAWS DIPLOMATS FROM IRAQ
Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio announced on 4 November that Spain is temporarily withdrawing its diplomatic staff from Iraq, citing the "very complicated" situation in the country, AFP reported. Palacio added that the embassy in Baghdad will remain open, with only four or five of its 29 employees remaining on staff, including Charge d'Affaires Eduardo de Quesada and First Secretary Pablo Ruperez, EFE news agency reported on 4 November. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said that Spanish officials will meet with the Iraq-based staff to evaluate the situation. The Spanish Defense Ministry noted that Spaniards working for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq will remain in Baghdad, AP reported on 4 November. KR