FOREIGN MINISTER ON HAND FOR NATO EXPANSION
Igor Ivanov was in Prague on 21 November when NATO formally invited seven former Soviet-bloc countries -- including the three Baltic states -- to join the trans-Atlantic alliance, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said that Ivanov will participate in a session of the Russia-NATO Council on the sidelines of the NATO summit. He added that Russia recognizes NATO's contribution to the processes currently taking place in the Euro-Atlantic region. However, he said, Western leaders also recognize that the alliance cannot meet the challenges of the new century without Russia. In Prague, Czech President Vaclav Havel said he will meet with Ivanov to discuss the new configuration of the world and the new challenges facing the international community. Havel, however, said he believes Russia will never join NATO. "Russia obviously represents a Euro-Asian power of such singular character that its membership in NATO would make no sense," Havel said on 19 November, according to UPI. VY/RC
DEFENSE MINISTRY SEEKS SOURCE OF CHECHEN ANTIAIRCRAFT MISSILES...
Addressing a meeting of CIS defense ministers in Moscow on 20 November, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russia will audit all producers of shoulder-launched antiaircraft missiles and all stockpiles of these weapons in an effort to find out how Chechen fighters acquired them, "Izvestiya" and RTR reported. In recent months, several Russian military helicopters have been shot down in Chechnya by fighters using Strela shoulder-launched missiles; the worst incident came on 19 August when more than 100 soldiers were killed in a single downing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 2002). Russia is asking the former Soviet republics also to inventory stocks of the weapon left on their territories by Soviet forces. "Through the Foreign Ministry, Russia has asked the former Soviet republics -- beginning with the Baltic states -- to submit an account of these weapons," Ivanov said. Russia intends to check the serial numbers of the weapons used in Chechnya against the lists submitted, "Izvestiya" added. Military attaches from all three Baltic countries in Moscow have said their countries possess no Strela missiles, "Izvestiya" reported. VY
...AND PROPOSES THREE-STAGE MILITARY REFORM
Ivanov on 20 November presented to the cabinet a Defense Ministry plan for a three-stage military reform to be carried out over the next 15 years, Prime-TASS and other Russian news agencies reported. The first stage will be completed by the end of the year and will result in the Pskov Airborne Division being entirely converted to a contract basis and a report on that experiment. At the same time, the ministry will develop a national concept for its force structure following the complete transition to contract service. The reform's second stage, from 2003-11, will see the percentage of contract soldiers rise to 60 and the duration of the term of service reduced to 18 months. During the final stage, from 2011-17, the military will complete the transition to contract service, and the term of service will be reduced to six months. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said he is not satisfied with the pace of the reform and urged the ministry to complete it by 2007. VY
MEDIA EXECUTIVES APPEAL TO PUTIN...
The heads of all of Russia's major state-controlled and private media outlets as well as representatives of leading journalists' organizations on 20 November signed an appeal urging President Vladimir Putin not to sign into law amendments to the law on the mass media and the law on terrorism that would strictly regulate the coverage of antiterrorism operations, Russian news agencies reported. The amendments were passed by the Duma on 1 November and by the Federation Council on 13 November in the wake of the 23-26 October hostage drama in Moscow. In the appeal, which was signed by 23 individuals, the authors argue the amendments could seriously hinder the professional activity of journalists, hamper their ability to cover emergency situations, distort the objectivity of information, and become an obstacle to the country's democratic development. They admit that there were some problems with the coverage of the October hostage crisis but wrote that they were caused by "mistakes, rather than by ignorance of the threat." They noted as well that the journalistic community is in the process of creating its own professional code for such situations and ended by asking Putin to veto the proposed amendments. The appeal was signed by, among others, ORT General Director Konstantin Ernst, VGTRK General Director Oleg Dobrodeev, NTV Deputy General Manager Raf Akopov, Interfax Director Mikhail Komissar, and Ekho Moskvy Editor in Chief Aleksei Venediktov. "This is the first time in my memory that all media got together and developed a common platform," Venediktov said on ORT. The head of Putin's human rights commission, Ella Pamfilova, appealed separately to Putin not to sign the amendments, ITAR-TASS reported. VY/RC
...AS STATE INVOLVEMENT RAISES EYEBROWS
The Moscow meeting at which media executives adopted their appeal to Putin was attended by Media Minister Mikhail Lesin and Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii, gazeta.ru reported on 21 November. Lesin told the executives that he "understands the desire of legislators to fill a legal vacuum," but supported the appeal, which he said "demonstrates the consolidated position of the mass media and clearly shows that the media sector is ready [to engage in] dialogue with representatives of the government and law enforcement." It was unclear exactly who authored the appeal to Putin. However, according to gazeta.ru, at one point during the meeting, REN-TV head Irena Lesnevskaya asked Seslavinskii who wrote it, and he replied, "I'm ashamed to admit it, but only five people [worked on it]." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 21 November noted the support of Lesin and the state-controlled media and speculated that the appeal might be a "state public-relations stunt." "Most likely, this all means that a decision has already been made -- the president will not sign the amendments citing 'the will of the public.' And, naturally, journalists will take upon themselves responsibility 'to restrain themselves,'" the daily commented. RC
GOVERNMENT TO USE MEDIA TO PROMOTE MILITARY, ECONOMY
The Defense Ministry has developed a plan to create its own military media outlets to promote "the military-patriotic education and preparation of the citizens of the Russian Federation," strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 20 November. According to strana.ru, the Defense Ministry has asked the Media Ministry to "consider the possibility of allowing the use of the 57th television-radio channel for the interests of all the security agencies." Meanwhile, the government on 21 November ordered the Media Ministry and the Federal Securities Commission (FKTsB) to "find ways to attract the mass media to covering the country's fund markets," strana.ru reported, citing FKTsB Chairman Igor Kostikov. The purpose of the initiative is "to attract private savings into the Russian economy," Kostikov said. RC
KRASNOYARSK NEWSPAPER ALLEGES HARASSMENT
Police in Krasnoyarsk on 21 November searched the offices of the independent newspaper "Segodnyashnyaya gazeta" and confiscated the computers of the paper's general director and deputy editor, regnum.ru reported. Deputy Editor Maksim Glazunov told the agency the search was carried out in connection with a libel case filed by former acting krai Governor Nikolai Ashlapov. Ashlapov alleged that a series of articles published in the paper this spring damaged his business reputation. Glazunov charged that the computer seizures were an attempt to pressure the paper. "I think this is political pressure on the newspaper on the part of Nikolai Ashlapov and people who are helping him," Glazunov was quoted as saying. A local court heard Ashlapov's case on 30 May and found the newspaper guilty on 14 June. Glazunov said the court refused to allow any defense witnesses and did not consider any of the materials that the newspaper presented to substantiate the information in the articles. Glazunov said Ashlapov did not contest the facts in the articles, but only objected to the way the newspaper "evaluated" those facts. The paper is currently appealing the local court's ruling. RC
EIGHT YEARS ON, DUMA PASSES ANTICORRUPTION BILL...
The State Duma on 20 November passed in its first reading a draft law on combating corruption, Russian news agencies reported. The legislation was submitted by members of the Duma Security Committee, including former security-service director Nikolai Kovalev (Fatherland-All Russia), former Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov (Fatherland-All Russia), and Interior Ministry Colonel General Arkadii Baskaev (People's Deputy). For the first time in post-Soviet Russia, the new law provides definitions of terms such as "corrupt act," "corrupt relations," and "bribery" and extends criminal liability beyond civil servants to leaders of political parties and public organizations, financial executives, and candidates for executive-branch and legislative offices. Baskaev told journalists that versions of the bill have been stuck in the Duma since 1994 because of the strong resistance of corrupt bureaucrats. He said one of the bill's merits is that it imposes strict constraints on candidates for public office, particularly on those coming from the business sector. Baskaev said the bill includes the creation of a national anticorruption council under the president that will comprise representatives of all branches of government and law enforcement agencies. VY
...AS DEPUTY CHARGES COUNTRY 'IS RULED BY THE MAFIA'...
Duma Deputy Sergei Shashurin (People's Deputy), a member of the Duma's Commission on Corruption, gave a long interview to gazeta.ru on 21 November in which he leveled serious corruption charges against almost every prominent Russian politician of the post-Soviet period, including against some of those who sponsored the anticorruption bill. "We are ruled by the mafia," Shashurin said. He described a machination in which then-Duma deputies Grigorii Yavlinskii, Galina Starovoitova, and Sergei Shakhrai allegedly received "several tens of thousands of tons of oil" from Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev in 1992 during the negotiation of the power-sharing treaty between Tatarstan and Russia. He said that he has presented to the Prosecutor-General's Office incriminating evidence against Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, and former Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko, but no action has been taken. Shashurin alleged that he met earlier this year with Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov to discuss corruption involving $14 billion and that Ustinov asked Shashurin to pay him "his share" for keeping the affair quiet. He said the Prosecutor-General's Office and the Interior Ministry are "infected" with corruption. Finally, Shashurin noted that none of the people about whom he has made such claims has sued him for defamation. "They prefer to wait and be silent," Shashurin said. During the Soviet period, Shashurin served three prison terms on convictions for economic crimes. RC
...AND NEWSPAPER DETAILS HOW DUMA CORRUPTION WORKS
A deputy's salary makes up less than 10 percent of his or her likely income, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 21 November. The newspaper claims deputies can be paid, for instance, from $1,000-$1,500 to write an official inquiry to the prosecutor demanding an audit of a commercial structure. Well-timed parliamentary inquiries -- to which state officials are required to respond -- can seriously delay criminal and civil proceedings or initiate investigations. Deputies also allegedly regularly accept payments for arranging meetings between managers of state enterprises and businessmen seeking commercial contacts. They also allegedly sell appointments as "deputy's assistants" for about $2,000 each. The daily asserts there now more than 20,000 assistants "helping" the country's 450 deputies. Deputies are also able to sell automobile stickers allowing special access and parking privileges for $500-$1,000. Finally, the paper wrote, deputies are allegedly paid to vote correctly or to join certain factions. Former Deputy Vladimir Semago alleged in an interview that he was paid $5,000 in 1998 to vote for Chernomyrdin as prime minister, the paper wrote. RC
DUMA AGREES TO 'WAGE WAR WITH CORPSES'
The Duma on 21 November approved in its third and final reading a bill that would forbid the government from returning to their families the bodies of suspected terrorists killed during antiterrorism operations, Interfax and other Russian news agencies reported. The bill would also forbid the government from revealing where those bodies are interred. The bill was supported by 296 deputies, with 34 voting against and four abstaining. Opposition to the bill was led by the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS). The law "really only punishes the relatives" of those killed and "war should not be waged with corpses," said SPS deputy faction head Boris Nadezhdin. SPS Deputy Pavel Krasheninnikov, who serves on the Duma's Legislation Committee, said the bill violates the constitution by labeling people "terrorists" who have not been convicted of terrorism in a court. RC
FIVE SENTENCED FOR MOSCOW MARKET RAMPAGE
The Moscow Municipal Court on 20 November sentenced five men to from four to nine years' imprisonment in connection with a fall 2001 rampage in the Tsaritsyno market in which three people were killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2001), polit.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. Twenty-year-old Mikhail Volkov was convicted of organizing the rampage and sentenced to nine years in prison. Volkov's lawyers argued during the trial that his confession that he organized the riot was made under duress. At least 150 people took part in the rampage, but this was the only trial in connection with it to date. The victims of the riot were citizens of Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and India. RC
FEDERATION COUNCIL HEAD ARGUES AGAINST CREATING VICE PRESIDENCY
Sergei Mironov on 20 November said Russia is a country with weak democratic traditions and, therefore, it is premature to make any changes to the constitution and to reinstate the post of vice president, Russian news agencies reported. Mironov said that in Russia a vice president would inevitably seek to be a center of political attention instead of simply remaining in the shadows. Mironov, who is from St. Petersburg, was also critical of that city's Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, especially of his personnel policy and his strategy for developing the city. "Many opportunities were lost," Mironov was quoted by RosBalt as saying. VY
RUSSIAN MANAGERS LOOKING FOR U.S. TRAINING...
Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) Executive Director Igor Yugens said on 20 November that his organization wants to organize a large-scale training program for Russian management specialists in the United States, polit.ru reported. He said Russia is not yet fully exploiting the benefits of Western training for local managers. Yugens also said the RSPP has nearly finished drafting a national Charter of Business Ethics, which it considers necessary as Russia integrates into the global economy. VY
...AND EMERGENCY MINISTER URGES TRAINING TOO
Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that his ministry has prepared a draft bill that would require every candidate for leadership positions in Russia to pass a training course on civil defense and emergency situations, polit.ru reported on 20 November. VY
RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS SLAM PUTIN'S REJECTION OF CHECHEN PEACE TALKS
Members of the committee to organize an international conference on ending the war in Chechnya, including human rights activists Sergei Kovalev and Lev Ponamarev, have written to President Putin criticizing his 10 November statement that he will not hold peace talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and his proposal to hold a referendum on a new constitution in Chechnya early in 2003. The letter was posted on chechenpress.org. They point out that international law precludes holding a referendum on a territory at war, and that doing so would only exacerbate tensions. They also reason that peace talks should be held with those persons who have the authority to order a cease-fire and ensure it is observed, rather than those who are considered more pleasant negotiating partners. Putin's rejection of peace talks, they continued, risks prolonging the war in Chechnya indefinitely. They branded Putin's Chechen policy as unlawful and harmful to Russia's interests and appealed to him to agree to a televised debate on how to end the war in Chechnya. LF
CHECHEN RELIGIOUS LEADER MURDERED
Islamic preacher Said-Pasha Salikhov, a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, was gunned down together with his son in the yard of their home in the village of Starye Atagi early on 20 November, Russian agencies reported. The killers escaped. Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov expressed outrage at the killings, describing Salikhov as a good person who was widely respected. LF
CHECHEN OFFICIAL CALLS FOR VICE PREMIER'S EXTRADITION
Also on 20 November, Kadyrov told journalists in Grozny there are adequate grounds for Denmark to comply with Moscow's request to extradite Chechen President Maskhadov's envoy, Vice Premier Akhmed Zakaev, Interfax reported. Kadyrov reasoned that the very fact that Zakaev is a member of Maskhadov's team is enough to warrant his extradition. LF
FORMER ARMENIAN PREMIER SAYS HE WOULD SUPPORT TER-PETROSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY
Speaking at a press conference in Yerevan on 20 November, Hrant Bagratian, who served as prime minister from 1993-96 under then-President Levon Ter-Petrossian, said his Azatutiun party would back Ter-Petrossian's candidacy should the latter decide to contest the February 2003 presidential ballot, Noyan Tapan reported. He predicted Ter-Petrossian would take votes from incumbent President Robert Kocharian to the benefit of other opposition candidates. Bagratian said he will not contest that election, adding that it is too early to say whether he will run in the May 2003 parliamentary election. Bagratian criticized both the present government's privatization policy and the recent agreement under which Armenia ceded five enterprises to Russia in payment of its $100 million debt, saying there were alternative ways in which a country with a 12 percent growth rate could have avoided bankruptcy. He further predicted that a Karabakh peace agreement will be signed in 2003. LF
ARMENIA'S OLIGARCHS ALIGN TO SUPPORT INCUMBENT PRESIDENT
The founding congress took place in Yerevan on 20 November of Haghtanak (Victory), a public organization that pledged to support President Kocharian's bid for reelection in the 2003 presidential ballot, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The organization's members include a number of wealthy businessmen, Culture Minister Roland Sharoyan, and Vartan Ghukasian, mayor of Gyumri, which is Armenia's second largest city. It is headed by Deputy Minister of Culture, Sport, and Youth Affairs Ishkhan Zakarian. LF
AZERBAIJAN CRITICIZES FRANCE FOR OFFICIAL CONTACTS WITH KARABAKH LEADERSHIP
Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev said on 20 November that his country has requested an official explanation from France why government officials and legislators met with Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, during his recent visit to Paris, AP reported. Such meetings impact negatively on Azerbaijani-French relations, Quliev added. Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov summoned French Charge d'Affaires Thibault Faurie to inform him of Baku's "protest and serious concern" over those meetings, Turan reported on 21 November. Faurie replied that Ghukasian's visit was a private one and that Paris continues to support Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. LF
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT CONFIRMS HE WILL FORMALLY REQUEST NATO MEMBERSHIP
Speaking on 21 November at RFE/RL's Prague headquarters, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze again said that he will make a formal request on 22 November at the current NATO summit that Georgia be accepted as a member of NATO. But he avoided giving any indication of when Georgia might joint the alliance, saying only that it will take "not one year and not two." Shevardnadze listed as the two greatest obstacles to joining NATO Georgia's economic weakness and the unresolved conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Asked whether the presence on Georgian territory of two Russian military bases also constitutes an obstacle, Shevardnadze noted that Moscow has pledged to close those bases. But he added the Georgian leadership acknowledges that doing so will involve considerable expense for Russia, and that "we have to be realists." He nonetheless concluded that the Russians must leave. "There is no other alternative," he said. LF
FORMER GEORGIAN SOCCER STAR GUNNED DOWN IN TBILISI
Former Dynamo Tbilisi and Soviet soccer player Kakha Asatiani was killed in Tbilisi late on 20 November in a drive-by shooting, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili said the following day he believes it was a contract killing, according to Caucasus Press, which further quoted unidentified commentators as suggesting that Asatiani's murder was connected with his business activities. LF
KAZAKHSTAN'S DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS OPPOSITION FIGURES INVITED TO NEW DEMOCRATIZATION BODY
Speaking at a press conference on 20 November, Baurzhan Mukhammedjanov dodged the question whether opposition parties will be invited to send representatives to the new permanent consultative body on questions of democratization, Interfax reported. President Nursultan Nazarbaev announced the creation of that forum on 15 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2002). Mukhammedjanov added, however, that he personally has invited opposition politician Petr Svojk, who is a member of the political council of Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan, and Amirzhan Qosanov of the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan to participate, along with politicians from the pro-presidential party Otan and the Agrarian, Communist, Civic, and Aq Zhol parties. "We call upon all political forces of Kazakhstan to promote strengthening stability and accord in our country," ITAR-TASS quoted him as saying. LF
KAZAKH COMMUNIST LEADER CLAIMS ATTEMPT MADE TO POISON HIM
Serikbolsyn Abdildin, who heads the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, told journalists on 20 November that an unidentified substance was added to mineral water in his parliament office on 15 November, which caused a headache and a rise in blood pressure, Interfax reported. Abdildin said he asked police to analyze the remaining water but has not yet been informed of their findings. LF
KAZAKH MINISTER DENIES TIGHTENING SCREWS ON FOREIGN INVESTORS
It would be wrong to attribute the decision by the oil consortium Tengizchevroil to suspend the launch of the second phase of development of the giant Tengiz oilfield to changes in Kazakhstan's policy toward foreign investors, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Viktor Shkolnik told journalists in Astana on 20 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2002). He claimed that the investment climate in Kazakhstan is being "constantly improved." He also warned against public speculation over the most appropriate way of funding projects. Disagreement between Tengizchevroil and the Kazakh government over funding is believed to be the reason for the indefinite delay in launching the second phase of development. LF
KAZAKH DEFENSE MINISTER'S PLANE INTERCEPTED EN ROUTE TO PRAGUE NATO SUMMIT
U.S. fighter jets forced the plane transporting Colonel General Mukhtar Altynbaev to land at an airport east of Prague late on 20 November after it failed to identify itself to air traffic control, AP reported. Altynbaev commanded Kazakhstan's Air Force from 1999 to December 2001. LF
KYRGYZ PRESIDENT ACCUSES OPPOSITION OF DESTABILIZATION...
In a 20 November address to the Assembly of Peoples of Kyrgyzstan, a semi-official body that represents all the country's ethnic groups, President Askar Akaev criticized the opposition for its imputed readiness to destabilize the political situation and even shed the blood of innocent people in order to achieve its objectives, akipress.org and Reuters reported. He warned the authorities will take all measures necessary to prevent such destabilization, according to Interfax. Akaev also signaled that he will not comply with opposition demands for his resignation. LF
...WHO DEMAND RELEASE OF DETAINED ACTIVISTS
Also on 20 November, 10 opposition representatives from the southern district of Aksy met in Bishkek with State Secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov to demand the release of fellow protesters jailed for several days following an abortive attempt to hold an unsanctioned rally in Bishkek, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2002). Some of those jailed have embarked on hunger strikes. LF
MASS JAIL BREAK REPORTED IN TURKMENISTAN
Some 700 prisoners managed to escape from a prison near the town of Tedjen on 8 November after crashing a truck through the main gate, according to RFE/RL's Turkmen Service and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 November. Most of them have not yet been recaptured. LF
U.S. URGES UZBEKISTAN TO SPEED UP ECONOMIC REFORM
A U.S. delegation headed by Assistant Commerce Secretary William Lash has held talks in Tashkent with senior Uzbek government officials including Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov, Interfax and uza.uz reported on 20 November. Lash told journalists on 21 November that the U.S. delegation proposed various measures to make Uzbekistan's economy more transparent and efficient, including cutting import duties and taxes, reducing government interference in the private sector, and finally making the Uzbek currency convertible, which President Islam Karimov has promised repeatedly to do. LF
BELARUS LASHES EU OVER TRAVEL BAN ON ITS PRESIDENT
Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Pavel Latushka said on 20 November that the decision of 14 EU states to impose a travel ban on President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and seven other Belarusian officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2002) is "an act of undisguised pressure on a sovereign state aimed at resurrecting the dangerous practice of solving political problems with force," Belarusian Television reported. According to Minsk, the travel ban contradicts a recommendation by a group of OSCE observers of the 2001 presidential elections in Belarus asserting that isolating Belarus in the international arena is counterproductive. Meanwhile, the opposition United Civic Party said in a statement the same day that the EU travel ban and the Czech visa denial to Lukashenka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November 2002) were "well-grounded and justified" decisions, Belapan reported. The party added that the travel ban applies "to [a] few people who have de facto usurped the right to represent Belarus and its citizens." JM
BELARUSIAN LOWER HOUSE APPROVES PRIVATIZATION OF GAS PIPELINES
The Chamber of Representatives on 20 November voted 66 to 14 to lift the legal ban on the privatization of Beltranshaz, the operator of Belarus's gas-transport pipelines, Belapan reported. The new legislation is seen as the government's move to fulfill its earlier promise to remove obstacles to the planned sale of a stake in Beltranshaz to Russia's Gazprom. Gazprom reportedly expects to get a 25-30 percent stake in Beltranshaz as compensation for Belarus's gas debts. Deputy Energy Minister Eduard Taupyanets told legislators that Beltranshaz currently operates a 6,642-kilometer network of pipelines, eight compressor stations, 250 gas-distribution stations, and two gas-storage reservoirs. JM
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEW PREMIER...
The Verkhovna Rada on 21 November approved Donetsk Governor Viktor Yanukovych as new prime minister with 234 votes, eight more than were required, Reuters and AP reported. The parliamentary opposition that controls 210 votes -- Our Ukraine, the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc -- did not take part in the voting. UNIAN reported that one lawmaker each from Our Ukraine and from the Socialist Party voted for Yanukovych despite their caucuses' decision to boycott the vote. "The most important task is to strengthen the positive dynamic and the tempo of economic growth. This progress must give the signal to the world that Ukraine is a country which is developing quickly and transforming into a democratic country," Yanukovych told deputies prior to the vote. JM
...WHO CONFESSES TO IMPRISONMENT IN YOUTH
Yanukovych on 20 November disseminated a short autobiography among Ukrainian media in which he confesses that in 1968 he was convicted and sent to a penal colony for juveniles. Yanukovych specified neither the nature of his conviction nor how long he was incarcerated. He also said that in 1970 he was convicted for "causing bodily injuries of a medium level [of harmfulness]" but did not say whether he was imprisoned for the deed. Yanukovych made public his income declaration, saying he earned some 17,500 hryvnyas ($3,300) in 2001 in his post as Donetsk Oblast governor. JM
BALTIC LEADERS REJOICE AT NATO INVITATIONS
Leaders of all three Baltic states expressed satisfaction at moving closer to their major foreign-policy goal of NATO membership when an official invitation was extended at the alliance's Prague summit on 21 November, BNS reported. Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said in a Latvian television interview from Prague that she had tears of joy in her eyes when Latvia was named among the seven candidates invited to join. "This is a great day for Latvia," Vike-Freiberga was quoted by AP as saying. "For us, it means the righting of the injustices of history...[and] rejoining the family of free, democratic, and independent nations." Estonian Ambassador to NATO Sulev Kannike declared: "Estonia's security has never been more protected than after receiving the invitation," ETA reported. Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus said he is happy his campaign pledge to gain NATO membership is already partially fulfilled before the end of his current term. U.S. President Bush will fly to Vilnius on 22 November and meet with the Baltic presidents the next day. SG
LEADING ESTONIAN PARTIES SPENT MUCH MORE THAN PLANNED ON LOCAL CAMPAIGNS
Reports on spending for the October local elections submitted by political parties confirm they were the most expensive in Estonia's history, ETA reported on 20 November. Party spending was two to three times higher than in the previous local elections in 1999. The clear winners, the Center Party and the right-wing Res Publica, conducted the most expensive campaigns, spending 12.3 million kroons ($790,000) and 11.8 million kroons, respectively, although each had planned to spend 7 million kroons. The third-place center-right Reform Party had planned expenditures of 5.2 million kroons but spent 8.75 million kroons. The Pro Patria Union and Moderates, both of whose chairmen resigned over disappointing election results, spent 5.7 and 6 million kroons, respectively. The Moderates did not exceed their planned spending, while the right-of-center Pro Patria overspent by just 400,000 kroons. The resulting debts of the Center Party, Res Publica, and the Reform Party are 2-3 million kroons, 5.6 million kroons, and 150,000 kroons, respectively. SG
LATVIA'S COALITION PARTIES EXPAND LIST OF CABINET NOMINEES
The center-right Latvia's First Party (LPP) on 20 November nominated Nils Muiznieks, director of the Latvian Center for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies, as state minister for social integration, a position included in the new center-right government's program, LETA reported. The LPP also suggested that the office be called the Ministry of Nationalities and Integration. The 37-year-old Muiznieks, who was born in Los Angeles and moved to Latvia in 1993, has headed the human rights center since 1996. The centrist Union of Greens and Farmers (ZZS) officially nominated Dagnija Stake for the post of welfare minister on 19 November, LETA reported. Stake, 51, has headed the Tume County Council in the Tukums District since 1997. SG
LITHUANIA OPTS FOR IMMEDIATE DISMANTLING FOLLOWING CLOSURE OF NUCLEAR REACTORS
Lithuania's cabinet on 20 November opted for an immediate-dismantling strategy for the planned decommissioning of nuclear reactors from the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, ELTA reported. According to experts from the Economy Ministry, the approach should help avoid lingering social, economic, environmental, and financial aftereffects. The strategy calls for an uninterrupted process starting with the dismantling of the facility immediately after its shutdown, and ends with the removal of all radioactive waste from the site. The need for funds will be greatest in the period 2004-12, peaking in 2008 with expenses of some 90 million euros, and will start diminishing around 2030. The alternative, a so-called postponed-dismantling process, would provide for razing only some of the buildings and sealing the reactors, allowing them to cool for 35-100 years before the remaining work is done. SG
POLISH PRESIDENT URGES NATO TO CONTINUE 'OPEN-DOOR POLICY'
President Aleksander Kwasniewski called on NATO leaders at the session of the North Atlantic Council in Prague on 21 November to continue their "open-door policy" with regard to all countries wanting to join the alliance. "I repeat the proposal I presented in Riga to cooperate with all the countries that wish to join NATO in the future, including the countries that defined clearly their intentions a long time ago," Kwasniewski said minutes after the alliance approved a motion to invite seven new postcommunist members into NATO (see Czech item below). JM
POLAND'S TAX-AMNESTY LAW RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL
The country's Constitutional Tribunal unanimously ruled on 20 November that a controversial law on tax amnesty adopted in September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2002) is unconstitutional, Polish media reported. The law was proposed by Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko, and backers said it would bring in some 600 million zlotys ($150 million) by allowing tax dodgers to come clean after paying a 12 percent tax on any hidden personal income they report to tax authorities before 2003. The law also included a controversial provision obliging some 3.5 million taxpayers to declare their assets by the end of April 2003. JM
POLISH GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION SIGN PRO-INTEGRATION ACCORD
Prime Minister Leszek Miller on 20 November signed a Pact in Support of European Integration with representatives of most major and a number of minor political parties, including the opposition Civic Platform, Freedom Union, the Conservative Peasant Party-New Poland Movement, and the Social Movement, PAP reported. However, the Peasant Party, the ruling coalition partner of the Democratic Left Alliance-Labor Union bloc, and the opposition Law and Justice refused to sign the document. "I have the strong hope that the meeting today, an incomplete one, as you will have noticed, is the last at which it will be possible to pretend that it is not necessary to say 'yes' or 'no' [to integration]," PAP quoted Civic Platform leader Donald Tusk as saying. "Being an EU member, we will become a part of a zone of peace, stability, and security in Europe.... Remaining outside the union would mean a significant weakening of the role of Poland on the international arena," the document reads. JM
NEW POLISH-UKRAINIAN BORDER CROSSING OPENED
Poland and Ukraine on 20 November opened a new border crossing in Kroscienko-Smolnica in the Bieszczady Mountains, PAP reported, quoting Podkarpacie Province governor spokesman Jan Koryl. "The crossing is international in character and is intended for cars and freight vehicles up to 3.5 tons in weight," Koryl said. JM
POLAND WANTS DIALOGUE WITH BELARUS
President Aleksander Kwasniewski believes Poland should have a chance to discuss such issues as borders, transport, transit, and customs with the Belarusian authorities, PAP reported on 20 November. "I am glad that no decision hampering contacts with the Belarusian authorities has been made, as these contacts are necessary for solving everyday problems," Kwasniewski said, referring to the previous day's decision by 14 EU states to impose a travel ban on Belarusian President Lukashenka and seven other Belarusian officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2002). Kwasniewski added that Poland must be entitled to cooperate with the neighboring country -- but that does not mean Poland's opinion of the Belarusian president differs from the one expressed by the EU. JM
NATO ANNOUNCES BIGGEST EXPANSION IN ITS HISTORY AT PRAGUE SUMMIT...
NATO's 19 member states agreed to a historic eastward expansion on 21 November, extending official invitations to seven postcommunist states as the first order of business at a two-day Prague summit, local and international news agencies reported. "It is a truly defining moment for the Atlantic alliance," NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said, according to AP. The trans-Atlantic alliance's first summit to take place behind the former Iron Curtain opened amid heavy security in the Czech capital and expectations that thousands of anti-NATO protesters would turn up later in the day. The 53-year-old military alliance "invited to accession talks" Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia to set up NATO's second expansion into postcommunist Europe. They are expected to join in May 2004, following ratification by member states' and candidate countries' legislatures. "Anyone who would choose you for an enemy also chooses us for an enemy," U.S. President Bush said of new members on the eve of the conference. "Never again in the face of aggression will you stand alone." Hopefuls Macedonia, Albania, and Croatia were left to wait, though the summit's participants have stressed an "open-door policy" on future expansion. AH
...AND APPROVES RESPONSE TO CONFRONT NEW THREATS, WHEREVER THEY ARISE
NATO members on 21 November agreed to create a 20,000-strong rapid-reaction force and streamline the alliance's command structures to oppose the threats of a post-11 September world, AP reported from the Prague summit. A U.S. general will be named strategic commander for worldwide operations, the news agency added. In a statement issued the same day, NATO heads of state said the alliance "must be able to field forces that can move quickly to wherever they are needed...[and] to sustain operations over distance and time," AP reported. "Terrorism...poses a grave and growing threat to alliance populations, forces and territory," the leaders said. "We are determined to combat this scourge for as long as necessary." Other moves included commitments to narrow the gap between U.S. military capabilities and those of other alliance members, and to launch a missile-defense study on how NATO might join up with U.S. efforts to develop an international defense shield. AH
AHEAD OF NATO'S PRAGUE SUMMIT, BUSH SPEAKS OF 'NEW CAPABILITIES'
U.S. President Bush said that just as NATO countered the threats of communism during the Cold War period, it must now face the new challenges posed by international terrorism and international terrorists. "For terrorists and terrorist states, every free nation...is a potential target, including the free nations of Europe," he commented. To face the new challenges, "NATO must develop new military capabilities," and its forces must be "better able to fight side-by-side" and "more mobile and more swiftly deployed," Bush said. He added that "few NATO members will have state-of-the art capabilities in all these areas," but every NATO member "should develop some" of the needed capabilities to "make a military contribution to the alliance." Bush reiterated a U.S. proposal for the creation of a 20,000-strong rapid-reaction force within NATO, capable of being deployed to any point on the globe within seven days. "When forces were needed in Afghanistan, NATO's options were limited. We must build new capabilities, and we must strengthen our will to use those capabilities," Bush said. MS
NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL PREDICTS UNITY ON IRAQ...
Speaking in Prague on 20 November, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson told journalists he is confident "there will be unity [among NATO members] around the Security Council resolution [1441 on Iraq]," RFE/RL reported. NATO members were to discuss the Iraqi issue at a lunch on 21 November. Robertson added that if Iraq chooses to disarm, "there will be no need for military action." Robertson also said the summit in Prague "will be a transformation summit for NATO and a celebration of what NATO has done and achieved in the past," but at the same time and more importantly the occasion to "look forward and ensure that our role in ensuring safety is as important and as vital to people as it has been for the last five decades." He said the heads of state of the 19-member alliance will endorse "fundamental changes" to the organization that will ensure the Prague summit is remembered for decades to come. MS
...WHILE CZECH PREMIER PLEDGES SUPPORT IN CASE OF INTERVENTION IN IRAQ
Czech Premier Vladimir Spidla told journalists after talks with Bush on 20 November that if Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein fails to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 1441, the Czech Republic will support a NATO attack on Iraq, CTK reported. Spidla also said Bush listened with interest to a Czech proposal to have the NATO command for antichemical and antibacteriological warfare placed in the Czech Republic and said Bush "clearly praised" the Czech concept of NATO's future evolution. Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik met with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, informing the latter that Prague backs the creation of a NATO rapid-reaction force. MS
NATO LEADERS HONOR CZECH PRESIDENT
The leaders of the other 18 NATO countries on 20 November praised Czech President Vaclav Havel's exceptional contribution, both as a dissident then as a politician, to the struggle for freedom, CTK reported. French President Jacques Chirac, who spoke on behalf of those gathered at a Prague Castle dinner, said Havel became a personal symbol of the struggle against totalitarian regimes. The NATO leaders gave Havel leather-bound copies of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty and the Czech Republic's 1999 accession treaty with NATO. MS
COMMUNISTS, ANARCHISTS, PROTEST NATO SUMMIT IN CZECH CAPITAL
Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia Chairman Miroslav Grebenicek told a protest gathering against the NATO summit on Prague's central Wenceslas Square that the organization is a Cold War relic that has caused damage in Yugoslavia similar to a huge natural disaster, CTK reported. The rally was attended by several hundred demonstrators. Another protest against the summit was held in downtown Prague by some 25 anarchists, the news agency reported. The biggest protesters were expected to occur on 21 November. MS
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES RESOLUTION ON EU EXPANSION, BENES DECREES
The European Parliament on 20 November approved by an overwhelming majority a resolution on the enlargement of the EU as of 1 May 2004, CTK and TASR reported. In the resolution's section on the Czech Republic, it is stipulates that the postwar Benes Decrees cannot be regarded as infringing on current EU legislation and thus present no obstacle to the country's accession. But the resolution said "a political gesture" on the part of the Czech Republic deploring the suffering caused by the decrees would be "desirable." The resolution also said the "amnesty law" in the Benes Decrees that granted immunity from prosecution for crimes against the expellees, is incompatible with contemporary perceptions of law and justice. The resolution also stipulates that, once the Czech Republic becomes a member of the EU, all EU citizens will enjoy the same rights in the Czech Republic and all verdicts passed on the basis of the Benes Decrees in the absence of expelled former Czech citizens will become invalid. The resolution also calls on Prague to continue the struggle against corruption, improve public administration, and protect the environment. MS
FOURTH CANDIDATE TO SEEK CZECH OPPOSITION-PARTY CHAIRMANSHIP
Petr Necas, deputy chairman of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and the party's foremost expert in military affairs, on 20 November became the fourth candidate to announce he will run for the party's chairmanship at its national conference in December, CTK reported. ODS Deputy Chairman Jan Zahradil, Chamber of Deputies' Deputy Chairwoman Miroslava Nemcova, and the leader of the ODS parliamentary group in the Senate Mirek Topolanek, preceded Necas in announcing their candidacy for the post, which will be vacated by presidential hopeful and current ODS Chairman Vaclav Klaus. Klaus in June praised Necas and said he is one of three people he considers suitable for the post. The other two --ODS Chamber of Deputies parliamentary group leader Vlastimil Tlusty and former Transportation Minister Martin Riman, have said they will not run. MS
CZECH, SLOVAK SIDES EXPLORE JOINT AIR DEFENSE
A meeting between Czech Premier Spidla and his Slovak counterpart Mikulas Dzurinda took place on 20 November, ahead of the summit in Prague, CTK reported. Spidla said they "only touched" on a recent Czech proposal for joint defense of the countries' airspace, but that it does not involve "a joint air force" but rather "opportunities for cooperation" and a search for "common solutions" that can be "financially attractive" for both countries. Slovak Defense Minister Ivan Simko the same day told CTK that negotiations on the proposal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 November 2002) will begin during the NATO summit, adding, "In recent years, cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries has been excellent." MS
PREMIER SAYS NATO INVITE SHOWS SLOVAKS 'ON THE RIGHT PATH'
Prime Minister Dzurinda on 21 November welcomed the invitation issued by NATO the same day for membership in the military alliance, RFE/RL's Slovak Service reported. "This day will definitely strengthen the Slovak republic significantly. At home, in Slovakia, it will strengthen us in our belief that we are walking on the right path toward a meaningful goal," he said, adding that the invitation "brings satisfaction for all citizens of the Slovak Republic." AH
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION PRAISES SLOVAKIA, URGES FURTHER REFORMS
The resolution on the EU enlargement approved on 20 November by the European Parliament (see Czech item above), praised Slovakia for having caught up with other EU candidates since the country's 1998 general elections, TASR reported. The resolution also called on Bratislava to step up the struggle against corruption, pass anti-discrimination laws aimed at improving the situation of the Romany minority, and boost the capability of local administration to cope with environmental and problems and the regional development of agriculture. No mention of the Benes Decrees was made in the section of the resolution that deals with Slovakia's case. MS
SLOVAK ROMANY ASYLUM SEEKERS RETURN FROM FINLAND
Thirty-seven Romany asylum seekers returned to Kosice in eastern Slovakia from Finland on 20 November after having unsuccessfully applied for asylum in that country, TASR reported. The news agency commented that after Finland drastically reduced the support to which asylum seekers are entitled while their requests are being processed last year, "asylum tourism" is no longer profitable. In related news, the agency said a British law that came into effect on 7 November stipulates that all applications for asylum from EU candidate countries, Slovakia included, will be automatically rejected as groundless. Citizens of those countries applying for asylum are to be kept in detention and expelled within a few days, a British Embassy spokesman in Bratislava told TASR. MS
HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS OPPOSE REGISTRATION OF PRIVATE, RIGHT-WING TV CHANNEL
Gyorgy Ladvanszky, the Socialist trustee of the National Radio and Television Board (ORTT), on 20 November recommended that the board of trustees decline to register the pro-right-wing Hir TV (News TV), arguing the company behind it has only 20 million forints ($85,000) in registered capital, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Ladvanszky suggested that the ORTT prevent the launch of media enterprises with a questionable financial backgrounds, arguing that private satellite-television stations similar to Hir TV already owe tens of millions of forints to the ORTT. If Ladvanszky's proposal is accepted, it will mark the first time the ORTT has foiled the operations of a private satellite-television station. MSZ
EU PARLIAMENT APPROVES REPORT, SEES HUNGARY AS FRONT-RUNNING CANDIDATE
The European Parliament on 20 November approved a clutch of reports on the 12 EU candidate countries, including a report on Hungary that says it is in the forefront among candidates, Hungarian media reported. The report praises the integration policies pursued by successive Hungarian governments and the main macroeconomic indexes. Hungary's current public-finance deficit of 8.7 percent of gross domestic product, however, is considered too high. The report urges greater efforts in policies regarding the Romany minority and in bringing laws on the media and tax incentives into line with EU legislation as well as more work to create an infrastructure capable of receiving EU subsidies and providing state support to small and medium-sized enterprises in underdeveloped regions. MSZ
HUNGARIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC CARDINAL TO RETIRE
Pope John Paul II has accepted the retirement of Cardinal Laszlo Paskai, archbishop of Esztergom and Budapest, "Magyar Nemzet" reported on 21 November. Paskai on 7 May marked his 75th birthday, the mandatory retirement age for all Catholic priests under canonical law with the exception of the pope. The name of his successor will probably not be made public this year. The newspaper writes, however, that it is most likely to be Istvan Seregely, archbishop of Eger and head of the Conference of Hungarian Catholic Bishops. MSZ
INTERNATIONAL REPRESENTATIVES SUGGEST BOSNIA COULD PROSECUTE MINOR WAR CRIMES
Paddy Ashdown, the international community's high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Hague war crimes tribunal chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte met in Sarajevo on 19 November, "The Balkan Times" reported. They called on the international community to provide resources and assist local authorities in establishing a new court to prosecute minor war crimes cases. Ashdown and Del Ponte also urged authorities in the Republika Srpska to arrest suspected war criminals, including former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. UB
HAGUE PROSECUTOR CRITICIZES LACK OF POLITICAL WILL TO ARREST WARTIME COMMANDER IN YUGOSLAVIA
Speaking in Belgrade on 20 November, Del Ponte harshly criticized Yugoslav authorities for not arresting former Bosnian Serb wartime military commander Ratko Mladic, AP reported. After meeting with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the Belgrade offices of the tribunal, Del Ponte said: "There is no political will to arrest [Mladic]. [He] is still protected -- for sure from part of the army. He is moving freely in Belgrade and Serbia, [and] neither the army nor the police are doing anything to arrest [him]." In a statement, the Yugoslav military claimed it lacks authority to arrest people who are no longer in the army. Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandra Joksimovic denied that authorities are protecting Mladic. She told Belgrade's B-92, "Yugoslav officials have no knowledge of Mladic's whereabouts." UB
UN SECRETARY-GENERAL WRAPS UP BALKAN TOUR
Annan arrived in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, on 20 November to wrap up his four-day Balkan tour, AP reported. In Zagreb, Annan unveiled a monument dedicated to the 288 UN officials who have died in the Balkans since 1991. Annan said after a meeting with Croatian President Stipe Mesic that Balkan countries must do more to promote justice and resolve the fate of those who have been missing since the fighting ended. He added that countries must accelerate the return of refugees to their prewar homes, effectively criticizing Croatian authorities that have blocked Serbs from returning to their homes in Croatia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2002). UB
BOSNIAN SERB COURT STARTS HEARING ORAO ARMS-EXPORT CASE
A court in Bijeljina on 20 November began hearing testimony in the case against three managers of the Orao aircraft manufacturer charged with illegal arms exports to Iraq, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Republika Srpska Interior Minister Dragomir Jovicic said his ministry has asked Interpol to probe Orao's bank accounts outside Bosnia. UB
SERBIAN CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS CALL FOR BOYCOTT OF NEW PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Justice Minister Vladan Batic's Christian Democrats (DHSS) called on sympathizers to boycott the Serbian presidential elections slated for 8 December, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina (LSV) and the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) led by Vuk Draskovic have also called for an election boycott. Under Serbian law, the balloting is nullified if turnout is less than 50 percent. The presidential elections of 29 September and 13 October were ruled invalid after less than half of voters turned out to cast ballots in the runoff, prompting the new voting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2002). UB
MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT RUMORED TO BE RESIGNING AS PART OF BID TO BECOME PRIME MINISTER
Parliamentary speaker Filip Vujanovic told Podgorica-based Radio-M on 20 November that President Milo Djukanovic will resign soon, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Djukanovic will then officially announce his candidacy for prime minister. UB
NATO DOWNSIZING MILITARY PRESENCE IN MACEDONIA
NATO will reduce its military presence in Macedonia, dpa reported from Brussels on 20 November. Currently about 700 soldiers of NATO's Task Force Fox are stationed in Macedonia, where they have provided stability since last year's conflict. Task Force Fox spokesman Craig Ratcliff said in Skopje that it is now up to the Macedonian government to decide on the future strength and responsibilities of the NATO contingent, "Dnevnik" reported on 21 November. Diplomatic sources in Brussels say the new mission will be reduced to about 100 specialists, according to "Utrinski vesnik." UB
SLOVENIA HAILS NATO INVITE
Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel on 21 November called the invitation to his country to join NATO " a final acknowledgement of the maturity of Slovenia's statehood," dpa reported (see Czech story above). "It is also proof that the international community has recognized Slovenia's legitimate belonging to the West," dpa reported him saying, citing STA news agency. AH
PREMIER SAYS ROMANIA RETURNING TO EUROPEAN FAMILY...
In an interview with the German daily "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" of 20 November, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said the extensive support for NATO membership reflected in domestic public-opinion polls shows that Romanians believe they have always belonged to Europe and to Western civilization, Romanian Radio reported. Nastase said these sentiments were disregarded when Romania was torn from the West by the Yalta agreements. Now, Romanians believe that NATO membership will put things back in their rightful place, he said. MS
...AND REJECTS RUMORS OF HIS LIKELY DISMISSAL BY PRESIDENT
Speaking on Romanian Television on 19 November, Nastase said he shares President Ion Iliescu's opinion that the Romanian government must become more efficient following the current NATO Prague summit and the EU summit in Copenhagen in December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2002). The premier added that he does not believe the president is considering changing the head of government. "Those who insinuated this intention probably had in mind [Ukrainian] President [Leonid] Kuchma, but are somehow mistaken as to the country where this could be relevant," Mediafax quoted Nastase as saying on 20 November. MS
ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT SUSPENDS FAST-TRACK RESTORATION OF CITIZENSHIP
The government issued an emergency ordinance on 20 November under which the fast-track, cost-free procedure for regaining Romanian citizenship was suspended for six months. The legislation applied to those whose citizenship was revoked by the communist authorities or were forced to renounce it due to "circumstances beyond their volition," such as immigration or living in territories lost by Romania after World War II. It also applied to those persons' descendants. The government justified the suspension by citing the "explosive" increase in the number of people reapplying for citizenship -- more than 13,000 since August. Mediafax cited the daily "Kyiv Post" as reporting that the increase in requests was due to the fact that many Ukrainians and Moldovans who were former Romanian citizens, or descendants of former Romanian citizens, recently applied because they expect Romania to become a member of the European Union and Romanian citizenship would thus facilitate work and travel in Western Europe. MS
AMENDMENT TO ROMANIAN CONSTITUTION WOULD ALLOW NO-CONFIDENCE VOTES IN INDIVIDUAL MINISTERS
The ad hoc parliamentary commission examining proposals for amendments to the Romanian Constitution on 20 November approved introducing in the basic document the possibility of initiating votes of no confidence in individual cabinet members, Romanian Radio reported. Parliament can initiate votes of no confidence only in the cabinet as a whole under the current constitution. MS
ROMANIAN MINERS END LABOR PROTEST
The miners who barricaded themselves in a coal mine in Horasti ended their protest on 20 November after the government pledged to transfer them to other mines when the Horasti mine is shut down in 2003, AP reported. Approximately 600 people are employed at the state-owned mine. Romanian Television said that trade-union leaders and the company that operates the mine reached an agreement under which the mine will continue operating until the end of 2003, after which the miners will be transferred elsewhere. MS
MOLDOVA 'UNCONCERNED' ABOUT NATO'S EXPANSION TO ITS BORDERS
Foreign Minster Nicolae Dudau said in an interview with RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service on 20 November that Moldova has no reason to be concerned about NATO's likely expansion to Moldova's border. Neighboring Romania received an invitation to join NATO at the alliance's Prague summit on 21 November and NATO member states must now approve the country's membership. Dudau said relations with Romania will not undergo any change as a result of NATO's expansion and expressed hope that the two countries will soon sign a basic treaty. Dudau also said Moldova is interested in continuing cooperation with NATO within the Partnership for Peace program but intends to retain its neutrality and will not apply for membership of NATO. Prime Minster Vasile Tarlev said after a cabinet meeting on 20 November that Moldova wants to mend its relations with Romania regardless of whether Romania joins the alliance, Mediafax reported. Tarlev said Chisinau seeks "honest and pragmatic" relations with Romania, adding that "every state may join those international structures it desires to become a member of." MS
MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SAYS SMIRNOV WILL FACE PROSECUTION SOONER OR LATER
President Vladimir Voronin said in an interview on 20 November with the Russian-language Moldovan-government daily "Nezavisimaya Moldova" that Russia is no longer supporting the separatists in Tiraspol, which causes great concern among them, an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported. Voronin said recent criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin by the separatists reflects this change. Voronin reiterated claims that the authorities in Tiraspol are involved in the smuggling of fuel, cigarettes, and weapons that eventually reach conflict zones such as Chechnya. He said he is confident that sooner or later separatist leader Igor Smirnov "will be summoned for questioning" by a prosecutor. MS
MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT WANTS TO DO AWAY WITH AUTOMATIC CABINET POST FOR CHISINAU MAYOR
The government on 20 November approved a draft amendment to a law stipulating that the mayor of Chisinau automatically receives a cabinet post, Infotag reported. Chisinau Mayor Serafim Urechean left the cabinet meeting in protest and told journalists that "the ruling party is preparing for local elections and has started exerting pressure on its rivals." However, Urechean said the decision has a positive aspect, as he was often blamed by supporters for cabinet decisions he had actually disagreed with. "I am sick and tired of this boundless unanimity of views," he said. Premier Tarlev told journalists that the decision should not be considered a political move. "Mayors in [other] localities consistently tell me that elected [local-government] representatives should concentrate their efforts exclusively on the problems of their constituencies," he said. MS
BULGARIAN OFFICIALS WELCOME NATO INVITE...
After Bulgaria on 21 November received an invitation to join NATO, the press office of Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski issued a statement congratulating "all Bulgarians for the recognition we receive by today's invitation, and [I] express gratitude to all politicians who worked without sparing themselves in the past years to achieve the result." "Let me emphasize the great contribution of the Bulgarian people..., for despite the difficulties of the transition you support the country's movement forward to the democratic values of the Euro-Atlantic nations," Saxecoburggotski added. "NATO membership offers great opportunities and it is up to us to use them to good advantage. It gives our country security, economic prospects, and prestige with world investors, which is a factor conducive to a higher standard of living," the statement said. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Soloman Pasi told Bulgarian National Television on 21 November that "we succeeded with joint efforts" and the invitation means "there is no way back." "Bulgaria enters a new stage of its history -- much more joyful and with many more perspectives," he said. UB
...AFTER BULGARIAN PRESIDENT SAYS NATO INVITE IS JUST FIRST STEP
Before learning of Bulgaria's invitation to join NATO on 21 November, President Georgi Parvanov noted that receiving an invitation is just the first step toward accession, BTA reported. "We should not assume that Bulgaria's accession to NATO ends in Prague. On the contrary, too much work remains to be done at the ratification stage," he said before flying to Prague to join the summit. "The invitation is a good cause for celebration that Bulgaria's enhanced international prestige has been acknowledged, but it need not lead to excess fanfare and euphoria because, as we join the rich nations' club, we must realize that we have a lot more work to do to achieve their living standard," Parvanov said. UB
IMF CRITICIZES BULGARIAN DRAFT BUDGET...
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission that was to assess Bulgaria's 2003 draft budget left the country on 20 November without reaching a decision on releasing the next tranche of a $300 million loan under a previous standby agreement, bnn reported. Jerald Schiff, a division chief who represents the Bulgarian team at IMF headquarters, criticized Finance Minister Milen Velchev's projections for the country's 2003 revenues as too optimistic, warning that the government could face higher expenditures for health care and less revenue from taxes and social contributions. Schiff said such a situation could lead to a higher budget deficit. He recommended that the government cut subsidies for state-owned companies in the transport and energy sectors and to strengthen the tax administration. Velchev said the IMF mission is useful and expressed his optimism that Bulgaria will soon resolve its differences with the fund, according to BTA. UB
...AS PARLIAMENT FAILS TO APPROVE IT
Due to the lack of the necessary quorum of lawmakers, parliament failed to approve the 2003 draft budget on first reading on 20 November, mediapool.bg reported. The conservative opposition United Democratic Forces (ODS) boycotted the session, demanding that Prime Minister Saxecoburggotski be present during the budget debate. However, Saxecoburggotski was on a private visit to Vienna prior to attending the 21-22 November NATO Prague summit. Former Finance Minister Muravey Radev of the ODS called Saxecoburggotski's absence a "farce" and the "most serious offense" against the parliament in the past 13 years. In related news, the Supreme Judicial Council urged the parliament not to approve the draft budget, saying the budget does not abide by the constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2002). UB
CAN AN EXPANDED NATO DEFEAT TERRORISM?
The terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001 augured a new era in international warfare. Since then, the United States has played a prominent role in taking aim at international terrorism, as opposed to concentrating simply on protecting itself and its allies from conventional and nuclear attacks. As NATO has just invited seven new states to join the alliance, this is an apposite moment to look back on the past year to see what role, if any, NATO has played so far in the war on terrorism and how that role could develop in the future.
NATO's response to the 11 September attacks was swift, as the heads of member states vowed support for U.S. President George W. Bush. The day after the attacks, NATO invoked for the first time in its history Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which says that an attack against any member will be considered an attack on the entire alliance. This landmark decision was soon followed by a number of practical steps to help the United States in its counterattack against terrorism.
First, in response to a request from the United States, NATO agreed on 4 October to take certain measures to expand the alliance's ability to combat terrorism, including enhanced intelligence sharing. Second, by 26 October, sections of NATO's Standing Naval Forces had begun patrolling the eastern Mediterranean to monitor shipping there. Third, from mid-October 2001 through mid-May 2002, NATO aircraft flew more than 350 sorties protecting the United States. Finally, a new, closer relationship with Russia developed to bolster the effectiveness of the long-term struggle against terrorism. These new relations resulted in the formation of the NATO-Russia Council in May.
These were important measures, but the alliance has not really played a major role in the ensuing U.S.-led fight against terrorism. While 14 NATO allies participated in Operation Enduring Freedom, this was nonetheless a U.S. operation in which NATO did not have an official role. After all, Washington, aiming to strike quickly, did not care to deal with political interference from its 18 allies. By bypassing NATO, the United States turned the invocation of Article 5 into little more than a symbolic gesture. Those allies that did send troops to Afghanistan surely did so with confidence in ultimate U.S. victory and few casualties.
The U.S.-led coalition drove the Taliban out of Afghanistan and, according to "Jane's Intelligence Report" of 14 October, up to one-third of Al-Qaeda operatives in that country might have been killed. Nonetheless, subsequent events have shown that the war against terrorism is far from over. The recent attack on an oil tanker off the coast of Yemen and the bombing of a nightclub in Bali have shown that terrorist organizations -- Al-Qaeda or others -- still have the ability to take the offensive and strike blows against their enemies.
In a similar vein, CIA Director George Tenant told a congressional committee on 17 October that, "When you see the multiple attacks that you've seen occur around the world, from Bali to Kuwait; the number of failed attacks that have been attempted; [and] the various messages that have been issued by senior Al-Qaeda leaders, you must make the assumption that Al-Qaeda is in an execution phase and intends to strike us both here and overseas. That's unambiguous as far as I am concerned."
Since the war against terrorism is clearly not over, the question becomes: Is a new, improved, and expanded NATO prepared for this type of warfare?
Traditionally, European NATO members have been reluctant to give the alliance a "global" conflict-resolution role . It was and should remain, in the eyes of many members, a purely North Atlantic alliance. Even given this perception, NATO can still play a role in the changing world of international security. There is no evidence to suggest that terrorists have abandoned European targets. Targeting will shift according to the political goals of the Al-Qaeda affiliate cells around the world. One week it could be a French oil tanker off the coast of Yemen, the next a nightclub in Bali, while the third could be anywhere, for example, the metro in Paris or London or a theater in Moscow.
In such instances, NATO could complement law enforcement and intelligence agencies, whose missions are more geared to fighting this type of war. By implementing greater intelligence sharing with law enforcement agencies such as Interpol, Europol, the FBI, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police -- provided these agencies are ready to use this information wisely and not engage in "turf" fights -- NATO could play a key role meeting new security challenges.
By being flexible in their approach to counterterrorism and by avoiding the mistakes made by the United States that created "walls" between police and intelligence services, U.S. NATO allies can develop a program for counterterrorism warfare. Writing in the Summer 2002 "Washington Quarterly," U.S. Senator Richard Lugar proposed that the Prague summit "ought to focus on developing a comprehensive plan for restructuring European military capabilities, a task which could extend to rethinking completely the current Defense Capabilities Initiative (DCI).... More important now is the redirection of the capabilities initiative so as to create and harmonize counterterrorism and counterproliferation to serve both U.S. and European interests."
Following up on Lugar's views, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson told a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels on 7 June that the Prague meeting "will see the emergence of a modernized, updated North Atlantic Treaty Organization equipped to face new and daunting challenges."
His words were put in perspective by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who declared the same day that: "[Terrorism] is not theoretical. It's real. It's dangerous. If we do not prepare completely to counter it, we could well experience attacks in our countries that could make the events of 11 September seem modest by comparison."
As a military alliance, NATO should first and foremost remain such in order to fight local conflicts. As Philip Gordon, a former director for European affairs at the National Security Council, writes in the Summer 2002 "Brookings Review": "Even with all the right reforms, NATO will not again become the central defensive organization it was during the Cold War or even during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.... It remains an essential tool with which the United States and its key allies can coordinate their militaries...and quite possibly fight major military operations anywhere in the world."
An expanded version of NATO can, however, only be as good as its component parts. This has been one of the major problems facing NATO prior to the Prague summit, where alliance leaders on 21 November formally invited Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria to join. The armed forces of these countries are not up to par with NATO standards. At best, many of the new members are seen as allies only in the political sphere with little if anything to offer in military or intelligence-gathering terms. Yet, they too might be needed as NATO's mission undergoes changes commensurate with the demands of regional security.
One factor often mentioned in the development of NATO's antiterrorism mission will be Russia's role. Writing in the "International Herald Tribune" on 21 November 2001, a group of respected foreign policy analysts from Russia, Britain, and Germany concluded that: "For these 21st-century challenges, NATO is inadequate, since it is by definition European-centered. A further enlargement of NATO to include Russia represents a serious option to enhance stability and would be far superior to an alliance of Russia with NATO, building on the present NATO-Russia Council. Such an arrangement leaves Russia in a no-man's-land as a semi-partner and semi-adversary."
Russia did contribute intelligence to the United States and provided other real assistance during the campaign in Afghanistan. Yet, many foreign policy watchers fear the price for this help -- a free hand to pacify Chechnya -- might be too high for the United States to pay. In any case, neither the operation in Afghanistan nor U.S. silence about Russia's behavior in Chechnya solved the problems they were intended to solve: namely the elimination of Al-Qaeda or the end of the Chechen separatist movement.
The experience gained by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies in combating such terrorist groups as Al-Qaeda indicates that massive military retaliation is not enough to destroy these groups. Some terrorists might be killed, but enough will survive to fight another day. So it remains to be seen how NATO will "update" itself to counter the possible threat of terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction, but most analysts agree this will not be a simple task. It is also difficult to predict if the North Atlantic alliance, even in its expanded and reformed version, will be capable of conducting the ruthless warfare many believe is the only way to root out terrorism.
AFGHAN FOREIGN MINISTER EXPRESSES 'DISPLEASURE' OVER AUSTRALIA'S DECISION TO WITHDRAW FORCES...
Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said on November 20 that he was "taken by surprise," and expressed his "displeasure over the [announced] withdrawal of the Australian forces from Afghanistan," the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported on 21 November. According to the report, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said on 20 November that he will recall the 150 Australian troops taking part in U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom by Christmas. Abdullah called for "further international support" for Afghanistan's efforts to reconstruct and establish security, the report added. AT
...AS NEW ZEALAND SAYS IT PLANS TO REMAIN IN AFGHANISTAN
New Zealand announced on 21 November that it has no plans to recall its SAS special-forces troops from Afghanistan, New Zealand National Radio reported. "Few details have been released about the SAS operations, although it is believed about 40 troops are deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom," the radio station reported. New Zealand's government announced last week that it will expand its contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom by "242 members of conventional forces [and] with the deployment of a frigate and an Orion aircraft to the Arabian Sea," according to the radio station. In addition to the SAS unit, New Zealand provides a Hercules transport aircraft to the operation. AT
IRANIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS DEMAND THAT INTELLIGENCE MINISTER EXPLAIN BEATINGS...
Twelve Iranian parliamentarians from the southern Khuzestan Province submitted a letter to parliament on 20 November demanding an explanation from Intelligence Minister Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi over the recent beating of parliamentarian Mohammad Kianoosh-Rad and two of his staffers near Ahvaz airport on 17 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2002), IRNA reported. Kianoosh-Rad had returned to Ahvaz to deliver speeches on university Professor Hashem Aghajari's death sentence, according to the agency. The attack lasted 10 minutes and the assailants drove away "while police and security officials stood by," IRNA reported. AT
...AS IRANIAN GOVERNMENT CONDEMNS ATTACKS, REJECTS AGHAJARI'S DEATH SENTENCE
Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh on 20 November condemned the incident, adding that in "in due time the government will deal with those wayward individuals or groups who disturb peaceful and legal gatherings," IRNA reported on 20 November. Ramezanzadeh also said that President Mohammad Khatami and "the government reject the judicial ruling on Aghajari, which has led to objections among the faculty and students of various universities." In response to suggestions that the recent student demonstrations might have been fueled by antireligious sentiment, Ramezanzadeh said that "if people have the necessary permits then they can act within legal limits," IRNA reported. AT
IRANIAN AND GERMAN OFFICIALS DISCUSS IRAQ
German parliament speaker Wolfgang Thierse said after a meeting with visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi on 20 November that Germany and Iran's cooperation in opposing military action in Iraq is "effective and beneficial," IRNA reported. Thierse said he believes that Iran's opposition to war in Iraq is particularly important considering that Iran was "victimized by Baghdad's chemical weapons" during the country's eight-year war with Iraq, IRNA added. AT
U.S. PRESIDENT SAYS IRAQI LEADER MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO 'BLACKMAIL OR TERRORIZE'
U.S. President George W. Bush said on the eve of the 21-22 November NATO Prague summit that the alliance must face the new challenges posed by international terrorism. "For terrorists and terrorist states, every free nation...is a potential target, including the free nations of Europe," he said. He charged that no one is safe in the face of this threat and the danger posed by weapons of mass destruction in the hands of leaders like Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "We will not permit Saddam Hussein to blackmail or terrorize nations that love freedom," Bush said. "NATO must develop new military capabilities" and its forces must be better coordinated and more mobile, Bush said. He reiterated a U.S. proposal for the creation of a 20,000-strong rapid-reaction force within NATO, capable of being deployed to any point on the globe within seven days. He said many threats come from outside Europe and NATO must be capable of countering them. "When forces were needed in Afghanistan, NATO's options were limited. We must build new capabilities, and we must strengthen our will to use those capabilities," Bush said. MS
NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL PREDICTS UNITY ON IRAQ
Speaking in Prague on 20 November, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson told journalists he is confident "there will be unity [among NATO members] around the Security Council resolution ," RFE/RL reported. NATO members were to discuss the Iraqi issue at a lunch on 21 November. Robertson added that if Iraq chooses to disarm, "there will be no need for military action." Robertson also said the summit in Prague "will be a transformation summit for NATO and a celebration of what NATO has done and achieved in the past," but at the same time and more importantly the occasion to "look forward and ensure that our role in ensuring safety is as important and as vital to people as it has been for the last five decades." He said the heads of state of the 19-member alliance will endorse "fundamental changes" to the organization that will ensure the Prague summit is remembered for decades to come." MS
CHIEF UN WEAPONS INSPECTOR, IAEA DIRECTOR MEET WITH ARAB OFFICIALS TO DISCUSS IRAQ
UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) Executive Chairman Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Muhammad El-Baradei met on 19 November with Arab and foreign ambassadors in Baghdad to discuss the upcoming UN inspections in Iraq, Al-Jazeera television reported. Quoting "reliable sources" who attended the meeting, Al-Jazeera reported that 300 inspectors are waiting to enter Iraq. The sources also said that opening offices for the inspection teams in the Mosul and al-Basra governorates is first on Blix and El-Baradei's agenda. Meanwhile, the Egyptian news agency MENA reported on 20 November that three Jordanians will join the UN inspection team in Iraq. According to a 20 November "Al-Dustur" report, the Jordanians are members of Jordan's armed forces and the "scientific and academic body" in the Jordanian university system. KR
IRAQI OPPOSITION MIGHT MEET IN EARLY DECEMBER
"The Guardian" speculated on 20 November that the next meeting of Iraqi opposition groups (originally scheduled for 22-23 November) will take place in London on 10-12 December. The report said U.S. officials "demanded" that the opposition meet by 10 December, which is two days after the expiration of Iraq's deadline to declare its weapons of mass destruction to the UN. The participating groups have reportedly been asked to adopt a document of U.S. prepared "principles," which were outlined in London's "Al-Hayat" on 19 November. According to the Arabic-language daily, the principles note that a report on the democratic future of Iraq by the Democratic Principles Working Group, which was formed by the U.S. State Department and opposition groups in April 2002, will be the basis for discussion at the meeting. In addition, an "advisory" group reflecting the diversity of the opposition will be formed to liaise between the United States and the opposition. The principles note that the United States will not support the establishment of an interim government by the opposition groups and stipulate that the opposition will support an Iraq that "lives in peace with its neighbors," renounces weapons of mass destruction, and "accepts unconditionally" UN Security Council resolution 687 (1991). KR
IRAQI DAILY BANNED FROM PUBLISHING
The Iraqi Information Ministry has banned the Iraqi daily "Babil" from publishing for one month, Al-Jazeera television reported on 20 November. The newspaper, which is run by Iraqi President Hussein's son Uday, published reports that contradicted Iraq's media policy, according to Al-Jazeera. Meanwhile, the news website "Ilaf" reported on 21 November that "the decision was made in implementation of strict instructions the Iraqi authorities issued to the country's newspapers banning the publication of any criticisms of the Arab countries -- including Kuwait and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia -- following the Arab summit that was held in Beirut in March." KR
IRAQI-JORDANIAN OIL TALKS BEGIN
Jordanian officials met with Iraqi officials in Baghdad on 20-21 November to discuss a new oil protocol, international media reported. Jordanian Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Muhammad Batayneh told reporters during a meeting with Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Muhammad Rashid that Iraq will increase its export of oil to the Hashemite Kingdom, Petra news agency reported on 20 November. "The Jordan Times" reported on 20 November that Iraq will increase oil prices under the deal to $18 per barrel, a $2 increase from 2001. Iraq's and Jordan's trade ministers were also to meet to discuss increasing bilateral trade and sign a $260 million trade protocol, a $10 million dollar increase over last year, according to "The Jordan Times." KR