MOSCOW OPPOSES U.S.-BRITISH RESOLUTION ON IRAQ
Russia continues to believe that the immediate resumption of UN weapons inspections in Iraq is the quickest way to determine whether Iraqi President Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 28 September following a meeting in Moscow with U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman and Political Director in the British Foreign Office Peter Ricketts, Russian news agencies reported. Ivanov said that Moscow "is disappointed" with the U.S.-British draft resolution on Iraq and views it as "unrealizable." VY
SHARON MOSCOW TALKS TO FOCUS ON ISRAELI CONCERNS ABOUT RUSSIA'S TIES TO IRAQ, SYRIA, AND IRAN
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon arrived in Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, and Foreign Minister Ivanov, Russian news agencies reported on 28 September. Sharon, who supports the hard-line position of U.S. President George W. Bush on Iraq, will explain Israeli concerns over Russia's ongoing program of nuclear cooperation with Iran. Sharon, who is being accompanied on this trip by Mossad chief Efraim Halevi, will also articulate objections to Russia's sale of antiaircraft weapons to Syria (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 2002). Sharon will also meet with leaders of the Russian Jewish community and with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksii II in an effort to bolster his support among Israel's ex-Soviet emigre community, which constitutes more than 25 percent of the country's population, ntvru.com and other Russian news agencies reported. VY
SIBERIAN OFFICIALS ANNUL RECENT ELECTION RESULT...
Krasnoyarsk Krai's election commission voted on 29 September to annul the results of the 22 September gubernatorial election of which Aleksandr Khloponin had been declared the winner (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 September 2002), Russian news agencies reported. According to the krai's commission, the cancellation was necessary because of numerous election-law violations such as the distribution of leaflets that warned krai voters to stay away from the polls because of possible terrorist acts and other incidents at polling stations, ITAR-TASS reported. Some leaflets reportedly claimed that voters would have to pay to vote. The commission set 2 March 2003 as the date for a new gubernatorial election. One member of the krai's commission, Svetlana Goryacheva, who voted against canceling the election, said that such violations take place in any election campaign. In addition, she said many of the allegations haven't been proven. The head of the krai's elections commission, Georgii Kostrykin, was reportedly hospitalized on 29 September after suffering a heart attack, AP reported. Kostrykin was scheduled to appear before the krai's legislature on 30 September to explain his commission's action. Krasnoyarsk Krai First Deputy Governor Nikolai Ashlapov will continue as acting governor until the controversy is resolved or new elections are held. JAC
...AS MOSCOW-BASED OFFICIALS CRY FOUL
Reacting to news of the cancellation, Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said the decision was "to put it mildly, dubious" and that a team of TsIK officials will be dispatched to the krai to investigate, Russian news agencies reported. Veshnyakov added, "I think the commission might have been under pressure during the ballot." He also noted that an election commission has never before annulled the results of an election: A gubernatorial election was cancelled in Amur Oblast previously, but only after an investigation and court hearings. Khloponin said he would await the results of TsIK's investigation before deciding what course of legal action to pursue. Other Moscow-based officials criticized the Krasnoyarsk commission's decision, including State Duma Deputy Speaker Lyubov Sliska (Unity), Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) head Boris Nemtsov, People's Deputy leader Gennadii Raikov, and Yabloko deputy faction leader Sergei Ivanenko. However, Communist Deputy Sergei Glaziev, who came in third during the first round of the Krasnoyarsk vote and who has since complained about irregularities during the campaign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 2002), called the commission's decision logical, noting it had "closed its eyes" to the great number of violations committed during the first round. JAC
MEDIA SPECULATE ABOUT KHLOPONIN'S BRIGHT FUTURE...
Moscow-based media have already been discussing the question of whether Khloponin would run for president in 2008, regions.ru noted on 27 September. Vyacheslav Nikonov, head of the Politika Foundation, told "Vedomosti" the previous day that he considers Khloponin "strong and dynamic," but much of his political future will depend on his performance as governor. Valerii Fedorov, director of the Center for Political Situations, suggested that 2008 is too soon, but 2012 is a realistic possibility. However, he added, it would be essential that Khloponin not become "tied up in the problems of the krai." "Moskovskie novosti" on 24 September also raised the question of whether Khloponin would make a good presidential candidate in 2008. JAC
...AS OPPONENT SAYS HE WON'T RUN AGAIN
Khloponin's second-round opponent, krai legislature Speaker Aleksandr Uss, told journalists on 30 September that he will not participate in new gubernatorial elections if they are held, NTV reported. "For me, the elections ended last Monday," Uss said. He added that he also does not intend to participate in any court cases stemming from the vote. "I have doubts that the elections were conducted honestly, but the election commission's decision was fairly unexpected for me," Uss said. He also called on the media not to over-dramatize the situation and suggested that it might be better if regional executive-branch heads were appointed rather than elected. RC
NIZHNII VOTE ALSO MIRED IN CONTROVERSY
A local court in Nizhnii Novgorod has sealed the ballots in the second round of mayoral elections there, making it impossible for election officials to complete the vote count and certify the results, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 30 September. According to RTR, officials succeeded in counting more than 97 percent of the ballots before the court ruling and State Duma Deputy Vadim Bulavinov had a razor-thin lead with 34.97 percent of the vote. Incumbent Mayor Yurii Lebedev had 34.59 percent. Twenty-nine percent of voters voted "against all." The decision to seal the ballots was the first such ruling in the history of post-Soviet Russian elections and came as a result of an appeal filed by Bulavinov that expressed doubt as to the accuracy of the count. The ballots will remain sealed until Bulavinov's case is heard. Lebedev described the ruling as "political terrorism." TsIK Chairman Veshnyakov said that the situation in Nizhnii Novgorod will be resolved in the next few days and within the framework of the law. He compared the situation to that which evolved in Florida during the 2000 U.S. presidential race. RC
FIGHTING IN GALASHKI SUBSIDES...
Following heavy fighting on 27 September, by 28 September the Chechen fighters in Galashki had split up into small groups, Russian news agencies reported. Russian military officials said on 29 September the Chechens are pinned down in wooded upland terrain and are being subjected to steady artillery bombardment. They said Russian forces completely control the Chechen-Ingush administrative border, precluding a breakthrough by the remaining Chechen fighters into Chechnya. Late on 27 September, a group of some 20 Chechen fighters attacked the local police station in the village of Meskety, near the border between Chechnya's Kurchaloi Raion and Daghestan, taking three policemen hostage, Interfax reported. LF
...AS QUESTIONS LINGER
RTR on 29 September broadcast videotape reportedly shot by British freelance television journalist Gervaise Roderick John Scott, who was killed during a clash between Russian troops and Chechen separatists near the Ingush village of Galashki (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 27 September 2002), showing how the Chechen detachment crossed the Georgian-Russian border. RTR also showed an unidentified Chechen fighter who said that Georgian authorities helped the unit cross the border and that field commander Ruslan Gelaev made the crossing with them. Meanwhile, NTV commented on 29 September that the appearance of about 100 Chechen fighters near Galashki left many questions unanswered. First, how could such a large detachment cross the border undetected? Second, if the fighters crossed the border two weeks ago as the Russian authorities allege, where have they been in the interim? Finally, NTV asked, where have the remaining fighters gone, since the Russian military has reportedly only recovered eight bodies and captured six prisoners? VY
RUSSIAN DEPUTY PROSECUTOR-GENERAL CAST DOUBT ON DEAD JOURNALISTS IDENTITY
Sergei Fridinskii told Interfax on 27 September that it is not certain whether a man killed during fighting early on 26 September in Ingushetia between Chechen fighters and Russian forces is Scott. He said the man's appearance does not correspond to the photograph in Scott's passport, which was found on the body. On 28 September, Interfax quoted Fridinskii as saying that identification is problematic because the dead man's face was too badly damaged by an explosion to compare with the passport photo. But he added that the dead man had London subway tickets in his pocket. Russian officials said the previous day that the man presumed to be Scott and the other killed Chechen fighters were wearing NATO uniforms. But no Russian official has yet explained why the man would have carefully transferred a London subway ticket from his civilian clothes to the pocket of his NATO uniform before crossing the Georgian-Russian border. LF
INGUSH PRESIDENT SAYS WAR MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO SPREAD
Speaking on 29 September in Magas, Ingushetia's president, Federal Security Service (FSB) Major General Murat Zyazikov, accused unnamed forces of seeking to extend the war in Chechnya and "unleash manslaughter" in his republic, ITAR-TASS reported. He expressed particular concern that the militants fighting in Galashki included "representatives of a foreign state." LF
RUSSIA ADDRESSES FORMAL COMPLAINT TO GEORGIAN AMBASSADOR
Zurab Abashidze was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry on 27 September and presented with a formal written protest against Georgian officials' statements that Georgia is driving illegal armed groups from its territory back into Russia, Reuters and Interfax reported. The protest note said that approach not only demonstrates Georgia's "unwillingness to cooperate with the international community's fight against terrorists," but amounts to "aiding and abetting bandits." The statement also affirmed that Chechen fighters taken prisoner after the 26 September fighting in Galashki have testified that they entered Russia from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, and that their band included Georgian nationals and foreign mercenaries. This is the first time that Moscow has formally claimed that Georgian nationals are fighting alongside the Chechens. LF
ANALYST URGES FOCUS ON ABKHAZIA, SOUTH OSSETIA
Konstantin Zatulin, director of the CIS Institute in Moscow, said on 27 September that he categorically opposes preemptive military strikes on Georgian territory because they "could consolidate in a negative way the political forces around [Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze] and would bring no benefits to anyone," strana.ru reported. Instead, Russia should continue its information campaign showing Georgian "support for terrorists." He added that the Georgian government is more concerned about the long-standing problems of the separatist movements in Abkhazia and South Ossetia than about possible Russian military action in the Pankisi Gorge. Therefore, he concluded, the Kremlin should intensify direct contacts with the leaders of the separatist administrations in those regions. VY
DUMA PASSES AMENDMENTS TO ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING LEGISLATION JUST IN TIME
The State Duma passed the law on bankruptcy in its second reading on 27 September, Russian news agencies reported. The vote was 293 in favor to 104 against, with two abstentions, according to polit.ru. The law establishes a basis for declaring a debtor bankrupt. It had originally been approved by both the Duma and the Federation Council last summer, but was vetoed by President Putin on 25 July. Deputies also approved the same day amendments to the law on money laundering in its second and third readings, according to RosBalt. Deputies also approved in its second reading amendments to the Administrative Code, which set fines for violating money-laundering regulations. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 28 September, the international Financial Action Task Force will meet in Paris from 9-11 October to consider -- among other things -- removing Russia from the list of countries that do not take sufficient legal action to prevent money laundering. JAC
RUSSIAN REGIONAL COURTS TO BE READY FOR JURY TRIALS BY NOVEMBER
Russia's Supreme Court officials believe that most oblast- and okrug-level courts will be technically ready to introduce jury trials by November, "Vremya MN" reported on 27 September. First Deputy General Director of the Judicial Department of the Supreme Court Vladimir Maksimov has reported that 55 of 102 Russian courts are already prepared and that the remaining work that needs to be done, such as remodeling the physical layout of the courtrooms, will be completed by the end of the year. According to the daily, Russian courts will be set up in the same fashion as courts in the United States and in the Canadian province of Ontario. For example, each juror has been allotted up to 1 cubic meter. JAC
ANOTHER ELECTION CANCELED DUE TO LACK OF INTEREST
State Duma by-elections in a single-mandate district in Omsk Oblast failed on 29 September because of insufficient voter turnout, Interfax reported. Only 11.51 percent of eligible voters bothered to cast their votes, rendering the ballot invalid. The election was called after the previous deputy from that district, Aleksandr Vereteno, was killed in a boating accident (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2002). Vereteno's older brother, Vladimir Vereteno, had been one of the candidates for the mandate, as was SPS local branch head Nikolai Yefimkin, an unemployed worker, and a pensioner. JAC
EDUCATION MINISTER SAYS WAGE ARREARS TO TEACHERS AT LOWEST LEVEL IN 10 YEARS
Education Minister Vladimir Filippov said on 27 September that the level of unpaid wages owed to teachers is currently about 200 million rubles ($6.5 million), which is the lowest level in the past 10 years, RosBalt reported. At the same time, he said there are several regions -- such as Koryak Autonomous Okrug and Irkutsk Oblast -- where some educational workers have not been paid for two-three months. In an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 25 September, Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin said that "a very serious situation" has developed in 10 regions where the government has taken over the collection of tobacco-excise payments. JAC
MINI EXPLOSIONS IN MOSCOW, TULA
A small homemade bomb exploded in a man's pocket in a Moscow underpass on 29 September, killing him instantly, lenta.ru reported on 30 September. No one else was injured in the incident, and police are investigating. Also on 29 September, a man was killed and his son injured in Tula when a wallet that they found on a bus exploded when they opened it, gazeta.ru reported. No one else on the bus was injured. RC
MALE TEENAGERS CLASH AGAIN WITH ETHNIC ARMENIAN YOUTHS
In Rostov Oblast, 37 male teenagers were arrested on 27 September for participating in a rumble in a local park around 10:00 p.m., Interfax-AVN reported the next day. A group of ethnic Armenians clashed with a "brigade of Russian National Unity," an ultranationalist group, and police were only able to subdue the combatants after additional police officers were called in. Meanwhile, two youths were detained on 28 September for beating up a citizen of Tajikistan on the Moscow metro, Interfax reported. JAC
WHOM DO THEY TRUST?
Russians are most likely to trust their relatives, according to a survey released on 30 September by monitoring.ru. Sixty-two percent of respondents said that they trust their relatives, and 54 percent said that they trust their friends. President Putin came in third place with the confidence of 28 percent of respondents. Only 8 percent trust the Russian Orthodox Church or other religious organizations, while 5 percent trust their bosses and 4 percent trust organized-crime bosses. RC
IRANIAN AMBASSADOR CRITICIZES ARMENIAN FOREIGN POLICY
Commenting on 28 September on an address by Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian explaining Armenia's "complementary" foreign policy, of which he was the architect, Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Farhad Koleini implied that Armenia lacks the resources and international influence to maintain good relations simultaneously with Russia, Iran, and the West, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 32, 29 September 2002). Koleini implied that instead of upgrading its security cooperation with the United States, Armenia should work more closely in that sphere with Tehran. Oskanian responded with an assurance that Yerevan will not undertake any steps that could infringe on the interests of "neighboring countries that are strategically important to us." Speaking at a conference in the United States on 19 September, Oskanian had suggested that Armenia could help facilitate a dialogue between the United States and Iran. LF
ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DOUBTS PRESENT PARLIAMENT WILL ABOLISH DEATH PENALTY
Oskanian also said in Yerevan on 28 September that he doubts the present Armenian parliament will comply with an ultimatum from the Council of Europe to abolish the existing loophole in the Criminal Code that would allow a court to hand down the death penalty on five gunmen currently on trial for shooting dead eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament in 1999, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But he added that the parliament to be elected in May 2003 will have a brief window of opportunity to do so by the 12 June deadline set by the Council of Europe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2002). LF
ARMENIA TO CEDE MORE ASSETS IN PAYMENT OF RUSSIAN DEBTS
The Armenian government has decided how to settle its debts to Russia of almost $47 million for supplies of natural gas and nuclear fuel, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 27 September. The government will hand over to the natural-gas exporter Itera Armenia's largest cement factory, the director of which is former Prime Minister and opposition Hanrapetutiun party leader Aram Sargsian. To cover the debt to Rosenergoatom for nuclear fuel, Armenia will pay half the estimated $77.4 million it expects to receive over the next few years for exports of electricity. LF
MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRS VISIT STEPANAKERT
The U.S., French, and Russian co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group together with Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov met in Stepanakert on 27 September with Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, for further talks aimed at paving the way to a settlement of the Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Ghukasian told the mediators there is little chance of reaching a permanent peace agreement as long as representatives of the enclave are excluded from bilateral talks on the issue between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Ghukasian's press office said the co-chairs congratulated him on his re-election seven weeks ago, but Turan quoted Trubnikov as saying in Baku the following day that Armenian media reports that they had done so were untrue. LF
AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT SAYS ARMENIA REJECTED HIS PROPOSAL...
From Stepanakert the co-chairs and Trubnikov traveled to Baku where they met on 28 September with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev, and Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev, Western news agencies reported. Aliev told the co-chairs that during their four-hour meeting in Sadarak on 14 August, his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian rejected Aliev's offer to open railway communication from Baku via the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan to Yerevan in exchange for the withdrawal of Armenian forces from four occupied districts contiguous to Nagorno-Karabakh, Turan and Reuters reported. Aliev quoted Kocharian as saying that if Azerbaijan wants a rail link with Nakhichevan it can build one via Georgia. LF
...WARNS POPULATION IS LOSING HOPE FOR PEACEFUL SETTLEMENT
During what Reuters termed his "ill-tempered" meeting with the Minsk Group co-chairs, President Aliev also warned that the population of Azerbaijan is fast losing hope that the Karabakh conflict can be resolved peacefully and "is coming to the view that we have to recover our land ourselves by whatever means necessary." As on several previous visits by the co-chairs, Aliev accused the OSCE of having failed to make any progress over the past decade toward resolving the conflict. He again accused Kocharian of reneging on an agreement reached in Paris in March 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2002), and criticized the international community for failing to formally condemn Armenia's occupation of Azerbaijani territory. LF
GEORGIAN OFFICIALS COMMENT ON PANKISI OPERATION
Addressing the Georgian parliament on 27 September, Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili said the ongoing anticrime and antiterrorism operation in the Pankisi Gorge is intended "to ensure that there are no threats to Russia from Georgian territory," Interfax reported. Also on 27 September, Georgian Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili said the Georgian authorities "are in full control" of the Pankisi Gorge and that the "active phase" of the operation is drawing to a close, Interfax reported. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT AFFIRMS READINESS TO MEET WITH ABKHAZ LEADERSHIP
On 27 September, the ninth anniversary of the fall of Sukhum to Abkhaz forces that marked the end of the 13-month war, Eduard Shevardnadze said he is ready to meet with the de facto government of Abkhazia to discuss a settlement of the conflict, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. He said Georgia is determined to resolve the conflict and expressed the hope that the Abkhaz will show readiness to compromise. The same day, Shevardnadze visited the grave of his erstwhile protege, former Abkhaz Council of Ministers Chairman Zhiuli Shartava, whom the Abkhaz reportedly executed shortly before the fall of Sukhum. LF
ADJAR LEADER DENIES HE IS PREPARING COUP
Speaking on Adjar State Television on 30 September, State Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze denied that he and former Georgian intelligence chief Igor Giorgadze are plotting a coup d'etat in Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. On 27 September, the first channel of Georgian state television broadcast what it said was a transcript of a telephone conversation in which Giorgadze, who fled Georgia in 1995, discussed the coup plans with an unknown person in Georgia. A photo of Abashidze was superimposed during the broadcast of that transcript. Abashidze threatened unspecified action against the Georgian leadership. LF
KAZAKHSTAN SPELLS OUT LIMITS TO MILITARY COOPERATION WITH U.S.
The Kazakh Defense Ministry press service on 27 September rejected as untrue media reports that the U.S. Air Force plans to upgrade the military airfield at Lugovoi in southern Kazakhstan's Zhambyl Oblast, Interfax reported. But the press service at the same time confirmed that the U.S. will provide Kazakhstan with an unspecified number of multipurpose helicopters and Humvees. The Almaty-based newspaper "Panorama" on 9 August quoted senior Defense Ministry official Major General Bulat Sembinov as saying that the military hardware in question is worth "several dozen million dollars," and is being donated within the parameters of the Partnership for Peace program. LF
KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT CREATES WORKING GROUP TO RESTRUCTURE FOREIGN DEBT
Kyrgyzstan's government has set up a special group comprising representatives of the Finance Ministry, the presidential and government administrations, and the National Bank to work on restructuring the country's foreign debt, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 27 September. The total debt currently amounts to $1.416 billion, down from $1.424 billion in early May. LF
TURKMENISTAN SIGNS LONG-TERM CONTRACT WITH U.S. COMPANY
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and Greg Barton, chairman of the board of Caterpillar Inc., signed an agreement in Ashgabat on 27 September under which between 2002-2010 Caterpillar will supply annually up to 200 excavators, bulldozers and other machines for highway and pipeline construction, Interfax and turkmenistan.ru reported. LF
IRAQI DELEGATION VISITS BELARUS
An Iraqi delegation headed by Deputy Premier and Minister for Military Industrialization Abd-al-Tawwab Abdallah al-Mullah Huwaysh arrived in Minsk on 29 September on a four-day official visit, Belapan reported. According to the Belarusian Foreign Ministry press service, the delegation includes representatives from Iraq's ministries of industry, health, and transport. The delegation is to hold talks with Belarusian officials within the framework of the Belarusian-Iraqi Commission for Trade and Economic Development. The delegation also will be received by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and visit several Belarusian companies. The press service noted that special emphasis during the visit will be placed on humanitarian issues. In particular, Belarus will provide Iraq with free medical equipment and medicines while Belarusian surgeons will provide their services to Iraqi patients, the press service added. JM
MINSK LASHES OUT AT PACE RESOLUTION ON BELARUS
Belarus's Foreign Ministry has reacted angrily to last week's resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) saying that "the democratization process in Belarus appears to stagnate" and that "Belarus shows severe democratic deficits and it does not yet meet the Council of Europe's relevant standards," Belapan reported on 27 September. "[PACE] has proved unable to depart from the Cold War-type line of behavior with regard to our country, which was imposed on [PACE] by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly," the ministry said in a statement. "While speaking about the deficit of democracy in the Republic of Belarus, which is not a member of he Council of Europe...PACE deliberately overlooks the situation in a number of countries [which are] members of the Council of Europe, where democratic and European standards are totally absent and which provide support for terrorism and shelter to terrorists," the ministry added. PACE suspended Belarus's special-guest status in 1997. JM
BELARUSIAN POLICE ARREST PRO-INDEPENDENCE DEMONSTRATORS
Police arrested five participants in an authorized rally in downtown Minsk on 29 September, Belapan reported. The rally was attended by some 100 activists of the Conservative Christian Party (KKhP) and the unregistered group called the Belarusian National Liberation Movement. KKhP leader Zyanon Paznyak, who is in exile in Poland, urged Belarusians in a letter read at the rally to form committees to defend Belarus from what he called Russia's aggression. Demonstrators held posters reading "No Union With Imperial Russia!" and "Russian Military Bases Out of Belarus!" JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT REFUSES TO STEP DOWN...
Leonid Kuchma addressed the nation on the ICTV television channel on 28 September and accused the opposition of resorting to violence to unseat him. "It is one thing to express one's dissatisfaction but another thing to [try to] force a violent change of the power and social system," the president said. Kuchma called for an end to opposition protests, saying that previous demonstrations have damaged Ukraine's image and stall social progress. "[Opposition leaders] must think about whether to discharge the responsibilities for which they were elected by some 50 million citizens during the elections, or to execute the demands of close to 50,000 people who participated in nationwide demonstrations," he noted, adding that "I refuse categorically to resign...because I was elected by the people as the head of state and I feel fully responsible for all that happens in the country." Kuchma did not mention the allegations that Ukraine may have illegally sold a Kolchuga radar system to Iraq. JM
...AND ACCUSES OPPOSITION OF SABOTAGING LEGISLATIVE WORK...
Kuchma also charged that opposition lawmakers are sabotaging the ongoing parliamentary session by refusing to participate in voting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 27 September 2002). He castigated them for failing last week to support a law on money laundering, and suggested that Ukraine's international image may be severely damaged and international organizations may impose sanctions against Ukraine because of this failure. He also lashed out at opposition legislators for not voting on a bill that would provide assistance to the families of handicapped persons. Kuchma praised the recent effort of nine pro-presidential groups to create a parliamentary majority numbering 226 deputies. JM
...AS WELL AS OF UNDERMINING ECONOMY
Speaking in Chernihiv on 28 September, President Kuchma said the recent opposition protests negatively affected the economy, UNIAN reported. "[Only] 15,000 people took to the streets in Kyiv and the same amount in other cities, but this has already caused enterprises to work worse. We have seen [the consequences] in tax [collection]," Kuchma noted. "Every...entrepreneur asks himself: What will happen tomorrow? It is natural that entrepreneurs are afraid that [Communist Party leader Petro] Symonenko or [Socialist Party leader Oleksandr] Moroz will come [to power] and abolish private ownership," the president added. JM
RUSSIA, NOT UKRAINE, SOLD RADARS TO IRAQ?
A Ukrainian "leading government official" has told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on condition of anonymity that it was not Ukraine but Russia that sold Kolchuga radar systems to Iraq, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported on 27 September. He confirmed that a conversation about selling Kolchugas to Iraq actually took place in President Leonid Kuchma's office (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 23 April 2002), but that later "the Russians stepped in and sold their radar systems to Baghdad." JM
ESTONIAN ENTREPRENEURS TO OPEN REPRESENTATION IN BRUSSELS
The Central Association of Estonian Employers decided on 27 September to establish a representation of Estonian entrepreneurs in Brussels, ETA reported. The association believes that it will be better able to protect the interests of Estonian employers after that country becomes a member of the European Union by becoming a more active participant in the Union of Industrial and Employer's Confederations of Europe (UNICE). The association intends to cooperate with the Estonian Enterprising Promotion Foundation (EEPF) as well as the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in creating the representation, as association head Tiit Laja believes it makes no sense for each of them to open separate offices. The representation could occupy part of the building that Estonia is buying to house its officials in Brussels. The EEPF has already opened representations in Sweden, Germany, Finland, Great Britain, and Russia (Moscow and St. Petersburg) to help Estonian businessmen find contacts. SG
CONFERENCE ON NATIONAL MINORITIES AND SECURITY HELD IN LATVIA
The World Federation of Free Latvians and the Latvian Transatlantic Organization held a conference on "Societal Integration and Latvian Security" in Riga on 27 September in order to promote a more cohesive civil society by involving representatives of ethnic minorities in discussions on Latvia's security policy, LETA reported. Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins, Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis, and U.S. NATO Committee board member Sally Painter spoke at the conference. It had four panel discussions: the Russian language media in Latvia and NATO, nongovernmental organizations of national minorities and NATO, relations between Latvia, Russia, and NATO in the context of national minorities, and society integration, NATO and Latvia's security as seen by the country's political parties. SG
RUSSIAN OIL COMPANY HOLDS BOARD MEETING IN LITHUANIA
Some 150 heads of Yukos subsidiaries and high-level managers attended an open sitting of the Yukos board in Vilnius on 28 September devoted to its international business projects, "Lietuvos rytas" reported on 30 September. President Valdas Adamkus told the meeting that Lithuania is ready to cooperate with Yukos and that he hopes the company's activities will be transparent and profitable. Yukos Chairman Mikhail Khodorkovskii flew to Lithuania two days earlier and inspected the oil terminals at Butinge and Klaipeda. On 27 September he visited the Mazeikiai oil refinery where he met with Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas. Khodorkovskii said that he expects Mazeikiai Nafta to become a profitable company which will play an important role in helping Yukos expand its operations to the West. Yukos Vice President Mikhail Brudno predicted that in the future Yukos will export about 45 million tons of oil per year to Europe and the capacities of the refinery and the oil terminals will be used to full capacity. SG
POLISH PREMIER PROPOSES 11 MAY 2003 FOR EU REFERENDUM
Prime Minister Leszek Miller said on 28 September that the referendum on Poland's entry into the European Union could take place on (Sunday)11 May 2003, Polish media reported. "In general, this is a very good term, but determining it now is rather premature, since it is first necessary to conclude EU negotiations," President Aleksander Kwasniewski commented. JM
SOLIDARITY ELECTS NEW LEADER
A congress of the Solidarity trade union in Gdansk on 27 September elected 47-year-old Janusz Sniadek as the chairman of Solidarity, Polish media reported. Sniadek was elected after the previous Solidarity leader, Marian Krzaklewski, withdrew from the ballot following four abortive election rounds. Sniadek, a Solidarity member since 1981, was Krzaklewski's deputy and the head of the Solidarity Gdansk region. "The most important thing now is to change the face of the union, to take off its political face," Sniadek told journalists after his election. JM
POLISH DEPUTY PREMIER SURVIVES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE
The Sejm on 27 September voted by 243-138 to reject a motion of no confidence in Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister Marek Pol, PAP reported. At least 231 votes were needed to oust Pol. The no-confidence motion was lodged by the opposition Law and Justice and Civic Platform. The opposition has recently criticized Pol for his proposal to introduce road-toll fees in Poland. The opposition also charged Pol with incompetence in negotiations on gas supplies with Russia and blamed him for the introduction of 22 percent value-added taxes in the construction industry, one of the highest rates in Europe. JM
WARSAW CONCERNED ABOUT SITUATION IN UKRAINE
"We've been watching what is happening in Ukraine not only with interest, but also with concern, since there is a growing risk of political instability there," Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said on Polish Radio on 27 September. Commenting on the U.S. claims that Ukraine may have sold radar systems to Iraq, Cimoszewicz said that he has advised his Ukrainian counterpart to "treat this situation with utmost seriousness." Meanwhile, President Aleksander Kwasniewski said the same day that Kyiv's decision to invite UN inspectors to clarify the allegations regarding the radar sale was appropriate. Kwasniewski also said he is in favor of dialogue between President Leonid Kuchma and the opposition in the current political crisis in Ukraine. "The worst scenario for Ukraine would be murky water and tensions that last for a long time and which in the end mean a waste of time," Kwasniewski noted. JM
RFE/RL ENDS CZECH BROADCASTS
In a statement released on 30 September, RFE/RL President Thomas Dine said that after 51 years of "devotion in promoting freedom and democracy," the end of broadcasting by the organization's Czech Service, Radio Svobodna Evropa (RSE), is a "sad event." But he added that "looking back, RFE/RL takes great pride and pleasure in the enormous effort of this service in disseminating truthful news and information to the Czech and Slovak peoples" and to the "great impact" produced by the broadcasts "over the course of half a century." Dine said that RSE provided "accurate news and information" during the dramatic days of the Cold War and the Prague Spring and provided on-the-spot reporting of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communism. He said the "eloquent pleas" of "the newly democratic nations of Central Europe" and "in particular Czech President Vaclav Havel" persuaded U.S. authorities not to end RFE/RL broadcasts, adding that Prague became "the new home" of RFE/RL in "a symbolically important situation that remains relevant today." He said the end of the Czech broadcasts came due to budgetary constraints and that while there is still a need for the broadcasts in the Czech Republic, "we are now needed more urgently elsewhere." He ended by quoting a "Mlada fronta Dnes" reader, who wrote on 27 September that "RSE has every right to [pass into history] with its head high because it fulfilled its mission flawlessly." MS
CZECH CHIEF OF STAFF VISITS MIDDLE EAST
Army Chief of Staff General Jiri Sedivy met in Riyadh on 28 September with Saudi Arabian Defense Minister Khalid bin Sultan Abd al-Aziz and with his Saudi counterpart, Saleh Benali Al Mohaya, to discuss military cooperation and the possible purchase of Czech-made radar equipment by the Saudis, CTK reported. On 27 September, Sedivy visited the Czech contingent stationed in Kuwait as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. MS
EU REPORT SAYS BENES DECREES NOT INCOMPATIBLE WITH EU LEGISLATION
A report drafted for the European Parliament by a group of lawyers led by German lawyer Jochen Frowein says the Benes Decrees are not incompatible with EU legislation, CTK reported on 28 September, citing the Austrian daily "Die Presse." According to the daily, the only problematic issue the report mentions is the 1946 amnesty granted under the decrees for crimes committed against the Sudeten German minority during its expulsion from Czechoslovakia. The report is to be discussed by the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission this week. Meanwhile, the new leadership of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party on 27 September reiterated its threat to veto the Czech Republic's EU membership unless the Benes Decrees are abolished and the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant is shut down. MS
BRITAIN DEPORTS ANOTHER GROUP OF CZECH ROMANY ASYLUM SEEKERS
Great Britain on 27 September deported another 29 Czech asylum seekers, CTK reported. It was the third such deportation this month. Most of the asylum seekers in the U.K. are members of the Romany minority. MS
CZECHS INVESTIGATE THIRD CASE OF BSE
Initial tests have detected a third case of BSE ("mad cow disease") in a bovine slaughtered at a farm from Deblin, near Brno, AP reported on 27 September, citing a spokesman for the Czech veterinary agency. The spokesman said final results are due on 30 September and added that he does not think they will be different from the initial tests. MS
SLOVAK PRIME MINISTER FORMALLY ASKED TO HEAD NEXT GOVERNMENT
President Rudolf Schuster on 27 September formally nominated Mikulas Dzurinda, leader of the Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU), to form the next Slovak cabinet, TASR and international news agencies reported. Premier Dzurinda received the mandate after Movement for a Democratic Slovakia Chairman Vladimir Meciar reported to Schuster that he has been unable to find partners for a possible coalition. Earlier, Schuster said he will appoint the next premier only after party leaders report to him whether they can form a coalition. Dzurinda said the new coalition (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 September 2002) will be narrower than the outgoing one and therefore capable of making decisions quicker and implementing them with more determination. He said it is necessary to have the coalition in place as soon as possible for the government to continue the reforms expected by NATO and the EU in order to admit Slovakia into their ranks. MS
FORMER SLOVAK LEADER MECIAR REJECTS CALLS FOR HIS PARTY POST
HZDS Chairman Meciar on 27 September said he has no intention of stepping down as leader of the party, CTK reported. Earlier, the Kosice, Presov, Bratislava, Trnava, and Banska Bystrica regional branches of HZDS called for an extraordinary congress to vote Meciar out of office, TASR reported. The agency cited Meciar as saying in reaction: "If the chairman of the winning party must resign, then what should the leaders of the other parties do?" The HZDS garnered most votes on 20-21 September but did considerably less well than four years earlier, losing some 350,000 votes. Pressure on Meciar could increase ahead of a meeting of the HZDS executive body in mid-October to discuss the election results. MS
SMER REFUSES COOPERATION WITH HZDS IN OPPOSITION
Smer (Direction) party spokesman Marek Madaric reiterated on 28 September that his formation has no intention of coming to any agreement with the HZDS on cooperation in the opposition, TASR reported. Meciar said one day earlier that "sooner or later" the two parties will be forced to work together. Madaric also said Smer will not cooperate with the Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS). On the other hand, KSS Chairman Jozef Sevc said his party rules out neither cooperation with Smer and HZDS in opposition nor cooperation with parties from the ruling coalition. MS
LEADERSHIP OF SLOVAK SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC ALTERNATIVE OFFERS RESIGNATIONS
Social Democratic Alternative (SDA) Deputy Chairman Peter Weiss, who headed the SDA electoral campaign, resigned on 28 September, accepting personal responsibility for the party's failure to gain parliamentary representation, TASR reported. SDA Chairman Milan Ftacnik and his other deputies, Zdenko Trebula and Erika Kvapilova, also offered to resign, but the SDA Central Board asked them to remain in office until spring 2003, when a party congress is scheduled. MS
HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS PLAN TO CHANGE NAME TO SOCIAL DEMOCRATS
Hungarian Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs on 28 September said that the time has come for the party to change its name to the Hungarian Social Democratic Party, because "ours is truly a social-democratic party." Kovacs told "Magyar Hirlap" that the name change could occur in 2004, halfway between parliamentary elections. He also stressed the importance of devising new party symbols and suggested that the party should move from its present headquarters, which he said evokes bitter memories. The party currently occupies the building that was the headquarters of its communist-era predecessor, the Socialist Workers Party. In response, FIDESZ Chairman Janos Ader said on 29 September that "you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." MSZ
COMMISSION HEAD SAYS FORMER MEMBER OF HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT WORKED FOR STATE SECURITY IN '90S
Free Democrat Imre Mecs, chairman of the parliamentary commission that investigated government officials' communist-era secret-service pasts, told Hungarian Radio on 27 September that a member of one of the post-1990 governments worked for the national security services formed after that date. Mecs declined to identify which government he was referring to, as such information is classified as a state secret. He stressed that his commission was authorized to examine only documents related to involvement in the secret services prior to 1990. Mecs added that the secret services unsuccessfully attempted to recruit another cabinet member. MSZ
OVER 100,000 CANDIDATES REGISTERED FOR HUNGARIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS
Approximately 105,000 people were registered as candidates for the 20 October local elections by the 27 September deadline, slightly more than in 1998, Hungarian media reported on 28 September. Emilia Rytko, who heads the National Election Office, said that approximately 8,300 people will run for 3,200 mayoral posts, another 75,000 for 27,000 local-council seats, and 15,000 for some 6,000 positions in ethnic minority organizations. More than half of the 105,000 candidates will run as independents, she said. In 17 communities no elections will be held, due to the absence of candidates. In those constituencies, by-elections will be held in six months, she explained. MSZ
FORMER HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER SAYS HE IS 'TOUGH, BUT PRO-EU'
At a meeting of Austrian entrepreneurs in Vienna on 28 September, former Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that Hungary's possible accession to the EU can be resolved "either well or badly, but staying out of the EU is not an option for the country." In an interview with "Die Presse," Orban warned that accession could be a major disappointment for Hungarians unless greater efforts are made to subsidize small and medium-sized enterprises, grant credit to farmers, and increase average incomes. Asked whether he has turned from a firm supporter of accession to an anti-EU stance, Orban said "I am tough, but pro-EU." MSZ
KOSTUNICA AND LABUS TO FACE EACH OTHER IN SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL RUNOFF...
About 55 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in a field of 11 candidates in the Serbian presidential race on 29 September, international and Serbian media reported. Many observers had feared that voter apathy and heavy rain could have led to less than 50 percent of the eligible voters going to the polls, which would have made the vote invalid. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) led with 31.3 percent, according to early projections. His main rival, Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus, received 27.7 percent and will face Kostunica in a runoff on 13 October. Labus is backed by Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and many of his allies in the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition. Vojislav Seselj of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) made a surprisingly strong showing by taking 22.6 percent of the vote to finish third. PM
...WITH KOSTUNICA THE FAVORITE
Seselj's strength in the 29 September Serbian presidential elections came from hard-line nationalists and persons opposed to market-oriented economic reforms, many international and Serbian media noted. Some commentators expressed shock that he did so well, while others stressed that he is now out of the race. He led the balloting in southern Serbia, while Kostunica polled first in the central Serbian heartland, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. Labus took pride of place in Vojvodina, which many observers consider the most European-oriented part of Serbia. Kostunica had hoped for a first-ballot victory, and many observers had expected him to have a wider lead over Labus than he did. But Kostunica seems likely to pick up most of Seselj's voters in the second round, which makes the Yugoslav president a clear favorite. For his part, Labus told AP in Belgrade: "I started from zero, and I collected 1 million votes. The game is not over. This was only the first half." PM
NEW MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT TO MEET SOON
The first session of the legislature elected on 15 September will take place on 3 October, parliamentary speaker Stojan Andov said in Skopje on 27 September, dpa reported. The Social Democratic Union (SDSM) currently has 60 out of 120 seats, but a repeat of voting in two places on 29 September could result in its winning an additional seat. Its rival, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), currently has 33 seats. The most powerful ethnic Albanian party is the Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), which is led by former guerrilla leader Ali Ahmeti and has 16 seats. PM
NATO MANDATE FOR MACEDONIA TO BE EXTENDED?
Speaking after a meeting with President Boris Trajkovski on 27 September, NATO's Crisis Management and Operations Directorate head, Robert Serry, said the two discussed the extension of the mandate for NATO Operation Amber Fox, Macedonian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2002, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 May and 9 August 2002). Serry stressed that he is upbeat about NATO's future role in Macedonia, an issue he discussed with leaders of the SDSM, which will head the next government. For his part, SDSM Deputy Chairman Vlado Buckovski said, "We will ask for an extension of the NATO mission, and we expect the mandate to be extended for three months, with the possibility of an additional three-month extension." The current mandate expires on 26 October. UB
MILOSEVIC SAYS A CONSPIRACY LED TO THE SREBRENICA KILLINGS
Former President Slobodan Milosevic said in The Hague on 27 September that the 1995 Srebrenica massacre was the result not of a campaign by Bosnian Serb forces but of a conspiracy between NATO and Muslim leaders to discredit the Serbian side, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. Milosevic argued that French intelligence agents organized the plot and that a French-controlled unit operating within Bosnian Serb forces carried out the killings. He denied that Belgrade or the Bosnian Serb civilian and military leaderships had anything to do with the murders. A recent Bosnian Serb report denied that any massacre took place, arguing that those killed died during or as a result of combat (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 September 2002). PM
CROATIA SEEKS TO CHALLENGE THE INDICTMENT OF GENERAL BOBETKO
An unnamed "government source" told Reuters in Zagreb on 27 September that the authorities want to launch a legal challenge to the recent indictment of former General Janko Bobetko by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2002). The source added that "the government has forwarded through diplomatic channels a request to file an interlocutory complaint against the arrest warrant.... In other words, we are asking the tribunal to allow us to complain against the indictment," which is very unpopular in Croatia. The United States has called on the government to extradite Bobetko, who is widely regarded as one of the architects of the 1991-95 war of independence against Belgrade. PM
CROATIAN BANKER BADLY BEATEN
Two unknown persons attacked and seriously injured Bozo Prka, who heads Privredna Banka, the second largest bank in Croatia, as he left his Zagreb home on 30 September, dpa reported. The motive for the attack is not clear. PM
BIG DOPE BUST IN KOSOVA
A spokesperson for the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) said in Prishtina on 29 September that UN police have seized 600 kilograms of marijuana with a street value of about $2 million, Reuters reported. This is the largest drug bust in Kosova since UNMIK took over in 1999. At least one ethnic Albanian man was arrested in Mitrovica in conjunction with the incident. Police said that they doubt that the marijuana was grown in Kosova and are not sure where it was heading. PM
ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER SAYS HIS COUNTRY'S ROUTE TO EUROPE GOES THROUGH SERBIA
Fatos Nano told "RFE/RL Newsline" in Tirana on 27 September that a democratic and peaceful Serbia is essential for Albania's entrance into European institutions. He added that Djindjic is a more cooperative partner for Albania than is Kostunica. Albanian businessmen have generally had good experience dealing with Serbs and use Montenegro as a route to enter the Serbian market. Nano said that unnamed members of a recent Croatian parliamentary delegation called on Albania to work with Croatia at the expense of contacts with Serbia. He stressed that those individuals spoke without any official authorization and that his government will have none of any such project. Nano called on Western countries not to forget the roles that Albania played in helping Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic defy Milosevic in the second half of the 1990s and in stabilizing the situation in Macedonia in 2001. The prime minister noted that just as Albania's main political parties are learning to "share sovereignty" with each other, his country will need to "share sovereignty" with its neighbors and European partners as it proceeds toward integration into European institutions. PM
ROMANIAN POLL SHOWS PRIME MINISTER, HIS PARTY IN THE LEAD
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase continues to be the country's most trusted politician, and his Social Democratic Party (PSD) continues to lead the field in party preferences, according to an IMAS poll widely commented on in the media on 30 September. According to the daily "Ziua," 44.4 percent of respondents to the IMAS survey said they trust the premier. He was closely followed by Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana (43.8 percent) and by Democratic Party Chairman Traian Basescu (41.3 percent). President Ion Iliescu polled 39.7 percent, National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman Theodor Stolojan 33.7 percent, and Greater Romania Party (PRM) leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor 19.7 percent. The poll shows the PRM has lost three percentage points within one month and is now backed by 16.2 percent of the electorate. It continues, however, to place a distant second to the PSD (47.4 percent) in party preference. Third is the PNL (14.6 percent), followed by the Democrats (9.7 percent) and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (6.5 percent). MS
ROMANIAN PREMIER SAYS MORATORIUM ON INTERNATIONAL ADOPTIONS WILL BE EXTENDED
Premier Nastase said in Bucharest after a meeting with the EU rapporteur on Romania, Baroness Emma Nicholson, that the moratorium imposed by his cabinet in October 2001 on international adoptions will be prolonged, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase said the ban will be lifted only after parliament passes a package of four laws aimed at protecting adopted children and added that international adoption will be allowed only as a "last resort." He said Romania does not want "to transform children into merchandise on sale on Internet." Nicholson praised the decision and said, "Romania must resist international pressure [to renew adoptions] exercised by countries outside Europe" -- an allusion to the United States. She said that after the new Romanian laws are in place, "international adoptions might become unnecessary, as [the legislation will encourage domestic adoptions and] the family remains the basic unit of society." MS
PRM SUBMITS MOLDOVA-RELATED DRAFT RESOLUTIONS TO PACE
PRM Chairman Tudor on 27 September announced that PRM representatives to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Ilie Ilascu and Daniel Ionescu have submitted two Moldova-related draft resolutions to PACE, Romanian Television reported. The first resolution condemns the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) proposals to solve the Transdniester conflict on the basis of Moldova's federalization. It also calls for the urgent convocation of an international conference on the Transdniester and for the implementation of the OSCE 1999 Istanbul summit decision on the withdrawal of Russian troops from the separatist region. The second resolution condemns the "blatant infringement on human rights" in the Transdniester and calls for the immediate liberation of the three members of the Ilascu group who are still being detained in Tiraspol. MS
RUSSIA, TRANSDNIESTER REACH AGREEMENT
Contrary to what ITAR-TASS reported on 26 September, reports from Tiraspol the next day said an agreement has been signed between the Russian delegation headed by Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Isakov and separatist leader Igor Smirnov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2002). The agreement stipulates that the withdrawal of Russian military equipment will be resumed and that Moscow will write off $100 million of the debt owed by the separatists for the delivery of Russian gas. Infotag quoted Smirnov as saying he is "satisfied" with the agreement and that, as a guarantor-country, Russia must ensure the freedom of Transdniester foreign trade "in particular in what concerns the [international] recognition of [customs] certificates of our goods." He said Transdniester has the right to count on Russia's support in lifting the "economic blockade" imposed on it after Moldova annulled Tiraspol's right to issue customs certificates. According to Smirnov, Tiraspol has conditioned the implementation of the agreement on Russia ensuring the "blockade" is lifted. MS
PACE TO CONTINUE MONITORING MOLDOVA
PACE decided on 27 September to continue monitoring Moldova with permanent representation in Chisinau, Romanian Radio reported. The same day, the joint Moldova-EU cooperation committee agreed to continue and strengthen cooperation between the two sides. It also called for establishing a "more realistic" framework for cooperation that would be implemented after the EU's eastward expansion and lead to a closer "political dialogue" and to "opening the door for Moldova's future accession to the EU." The committee said a permanent EU mission should be established in Chisinau to promote political dialogue. It also said negotiations should start for a free-trade agreement between the European Union and Moldova. The committee said Moldova should accelerate economic reforms and improve the business climate, as well as intensify budgetary controls, the struggle against corruption, regional cooperation, and participation in the Balkan Stability Pact. The committee said that finding a solution to the Transdniester conflict is a "key element" in promoting economic prosperity and political stability, and called for "rapid measures" to ensure this goal "while fully respecting Moldova's sovereignty and territorial integrity." MS
MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION PARTY CANCELS ANTIGOVERNMENT RALLY
The Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) on 28 September announced it has decided to cancel the antigovernment rally planned for 6 October, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The PPCD said it is canceling the rally to signal "satisfaction" with PACE and the joint Moldova-EU committee resolutions, in the elaboration of which its leaders had "fully contributed." But it warned that the rallies will be resumed if the PACE resolution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2002) and the committee's recommendations are not immediately implemented. MS
BULGARIA, IMF DISCUSS AMENDING AGREEMENT
Finance Minister Milen Velchev told journalists in Washington on 28 September that Bulgaria hopes to amend an existing agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), BTA reported. Velchev said that Bulgaria needs less and less financial support from the IMF. "It would be best if the country has the security of being able to use IMF funding, without having the tranches [released] on a regular basis and then having to pay interest on them," Velchev said. According to Bulgaria's proposal, the IMF would make funding available, but Bulgaria would use it only if absolutely necessary. Financial experts noted that the IMF has a similar agreement with the Czech Republic. In other news, the September issue of "Euromoney" magazine named Velchev "Finance Minister of the Year." UB
BULGARIAN SOCIALIST LEADER CALLS FOR IMPROVING RELATIONS WITH ARAB COUNTRIES
After his return from an eight-day trip to Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon, Socialist Party (BSP) Chairman Sergey Stanishev said in an interview with the private bTV that Bulgaria should not forget its old allies in the Arab world, mediapool.bg reported on 29 September. "The aim of the BSP delegation's journey was give a new impetus to the relations [with the Arab countries] and to show our partners that the BSP will play an active part in all areas of bilateral relations," Stanishev said. Stanishev met during his trip with Syrian President Bashar Assad as well as with Zakharia Ismail, the deputy secretary-general of the Arab League. UB
BULGARIAN REFUGEE AGENCY OFFICIAL CALLS FOR NEW FACILITIES
Speaking at a meeting of government and border police representatives, mass media, and the UNHCR at the Black Sea resort of Sozopol on 29 September, Daniela Veleva of the State Refugee Agency said Bulgaria needs to build two transit centers for asylum seekers, BTA reported. The refugee centers would be built at Sofia Airport and the Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint on the Turkish-Bulgarian border to supplement existing facilities. UNHCR Representative in Bulgaria Luise Druke noted that over the first seven months of 2002 more than 2,000 foreigners applied for refugee status in Bulgaria. Most refugees came from Iraq, Iran, and the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Druke added that some 1,500 Bulgarian citizens, most of them Roma, received refugee status abroad over that time -- including 418 in Sweden, 219 in Norway, 269 in Switzerland, 129 in Canada, and 29 in the United States. Druke said that something is wrong when a country that is seeking EU membership has so many of its citizens asking for refugee status. UB
UZBEKISTAN RESURRECTS RIVER-DIVERSION SCHEME: DESPERATION OR INSPIRATION?
When Josef Stalin sought to expand the Soviet Union's cotton production in the 1930s, resulting in the construction of huge canals in Central Asia to make possible the irrigation of vast new lands, it was already apparent that the total water supply of the region was finite and would at some point put a stop to the expansion of irrigated agriculture.
Soviet scientists assigned to find ways to overcome this limitation proposed taking another look at a scheme suggested several decades earlier -- to bring water from outside the region. More specifically, the idea to reverse the flow of certain Siberian rivers in order to provide irrigation to Central Asia was discussed and abandoned as being too costly as well as not immediately necessary. In the early 1980s, when Soviet water specialists put a date toward the end of the century on the exhaustion of undistributed water supplies within the Central Asian region, the river-reversal scheme was again brought out for serious consideration. Again it fell victim to the enormous costs involved -- it was quickly cancelled soon after Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in March 1985 and launched his economy drive -- as well as increasingly vocal Siberian opposition to losing that region's water to Central Asia.
The dissolution of the USSR seemed to guarantee that the scheme was finally defunct -- if the Siberians had opposed the scheme in the name of regional interests when they and the Central Asians were part of the same country, what chance was there that the Russian Federation would agree to a massive environmental disruption in order to provide water to what were now foreign countries? Especially when there was a good chance that Russia would be asked to pay at least part of the cost of implementing the scheme. The Russian textile industry would presumably benefit, but this was unlikely to justify the huge expense, even if the country had had the money to spend.
Given these considerations, it was somewhat surprising when at the beginning of the new century Uzbek President Islam Karimov resurrected the river-diversion scheme. His reasons for doing so were clear. Uzbekistan had had some modest success in obtaining funding from international donor agencies, particularly the World Bank, for projects to "save" the Aral Sea, which was dying as a result of water from its feeder rivers being diverted to existing irrigation systems. In order to provide additional agricultural land for Uzbekistan's rapidly growing population and, it was hoped, reduce the social -- and, potentially, political tensions generated by massive unemployment, more water had to be found. Some of the schemes proposed after the abandoning of the river-diversion scheme in the 1980s, including acceleration of the melt rate of Tajikistan's glaciers and reconstruction of existing irrigation systems that were highly inefficient, had proved either unworkable or unaffordable.
The situation was complicated by the fact that Uzbekistan's neighbors were now independent states. It was no longer possible for the Uzbeks, with Moscow's backing, to blow up a dam in Kyrgyzstan when Uzbekistan's need for water to grow cotton was considered to take priority over Kyrgyzstan's need for water to generate electricity. Tensions over regional water management began to develop between the "upstream" countries, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and the "downstream" ones, particularly Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Kazakhstan, although technically a downstream state, is not as dependent on water sources originating outside its boundaries as are Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Those two are completely dependent on rivers that arise in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, or Afghanistan. The recent three-year drought in the Central Asian region (that may or may not have ended with the rains of spring 2002) has underscored the need for additional water supplies.
Both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have plans to utilize more of their own water supplies for their own benefit, both in developing their hydropower industries and expanding agriculture to provide needed employment. Kyrgyzstan has proposed to Uzbekistan a scheme to exchange Kyrgyz water for Uzbek gas, since for a number of years Uzbekistan has been in the habit of shutting off the gas supply to Kyrgyzstan for nonpayment of the Kyrgyz gas bill. But the Uzbek side has consistently rejected any such exchange.
At the same time, Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov has produced an ambitious economic and social development that foresees the doubling of his country's cotton production within 10 years. It is understandable that Uzbekistan, the economy of which is still far too heavily dependent on its cotton exports, has asked where the water for Niyazov's scheme is to come from. Supposedly, a water-sharing plan has been agreed by the two countries that would allay Uzbek fears but would likely finish off the Aral Sea.
As of 2002, a new claimant to the water of Central Asia has emerged on the scene; namely, Afghanistan. In order to rebuild and further develop its agriculture, the northern part of that country will need to utilize the rivers that feed the Amu-Darya River from the Afghan side, thereby reducing the amount available to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. It was in recognition of Afghanistan's water needs that Japanese water specialists recently proposed abandoning efforts to maintain the existence of the Aral Sea and to use all the water of the Aral's feeder rivers for the benefit of the riparian states of Central Asia, including Afghanistan. That proposal set off lengthy discussions in the media, particularly in Kazakhstan, of the environmental and philosophical significance of a decision to let the Aral die.
This is the context in which Uzbekistan has again resurrected the old scheme to divert Siberian rivers to Central Asia. What remains unclear, in the discussions that have been reported so far, is how the scheme could be realistically financed and how the Russian Federation, and possibly Kazakhstan as well, could be persuaded to accept it. Certainly the costs now would be far greater than they would have been in the 1980s. Perhaps Karimov has hopes of gaining the support, financial as well as moral, of his new friends in the West by presenting the scheme as a measure against social instability. The World Bank's representative in Tashkent has, however, already given the river diversion scheme the thumbs down.
Bess A. Brown is an independent analyst specializing in political and economic developments in Central Asia.