DEFENSE MINISTER: RUSSIA VIEWS UNILATERAL MILITARY ACTION AGAINST IRAQ AS ILLEGITIMATE
Speaking to journalists in Chita on 5 January, Sergei Ivanov said Moscow considers any military action by the United States and its allies against the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein without UN approval illegitimate and unjustified, newsru.com reported. He added that the deployment of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf could be either real preparations for military action or just a show of force. "I believe, however, that before making a final decision, the United States will take into account the results of the work of international weapons inspectors in Iraq and UN decisions based on those results." Ivanov said he is skeptical that Baghdad possesses nuclear weapons and that he prefers to wait for inspectors' reports before drawing conclusions about possible chemical and biological weapons. VY
KREMLIN OPPOSES UN INTERVENTION IN NORTH KOREA...
Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov has said that Russia opposes a UN Security Council discussion of North Korea's nuclear-weapons program, strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 4 January. "We think such a step would be premature. Now is not the time for tough statements and decisions on the North Korea problem. We should give quiet diplomacy a chance to work," Losyukov said. He added that the Foreign Ministry believes the economic situation in North Korea continues to deteriorate, although catastrophe does not appear imminent. VY
...AS SOUTH KOREAN DIPLOMAT HOLDS KREMLIN TALKS
South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Hang-kyung arrived in Moscow on 5 January for talks with Deputy Foreign Ministers Losyukov and Georgii Mamedov on rising tensions following North Korea's decision to end international control over its nuclear program, strana.ru and ITAR-TASS reported. Both Russia and South Korea have stated that any violation of international nonproliferation agreements is unacceptable. VT
MINISTER NIXES IDEA OF CHECHNYA WITHDRAWAL...
Defense Minister Ivanov has said that "there will be no massive withdrawal of federal forces from Chechnya in 2003," newsru.com reported on 5 January. He added that possible withdrawals will depend on the situation in the republic. He noted that the Defense Ministry already maintains fewer troops in Chechnya than the Interior Ministry does. He also claimed that casualties among federal troops are much lower now than during the 1994-96 war in Chechnya. On average, Ivanov said, two Russian soldiers are killed in Chechnya each week and two are wounded. This is comparable to the losses suffered in other military districts where there is no combat activity, Ivanov said. VY
...AND SAYS IDENTITY OF GROZNY BOMBING ORGANIZERS KNOWN
Defense Minister Ivanov told journalists in Chita on 5 January that investigators have established who masterminded the 27 December car-bomb assault on the Chechen administration headquarters in Grozny that left 80 people dead, Interfax reported. But Ivanov said their identities will not be made public until they are brought to justice. LF
NAVY FACING 20 PERCENT CUT
Fleet Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov, commander of the Russian Navy, has stated that the navy will be slashed by one-fifth over the next few years, "Krasnaya zvezda" reported on 6 January. Kuroedov said that since 1995 the navy has received about 12 percent of the funding it needs, and the underfunding has forced the navy to decommission ships it cannot afford to maintain. He also revealed that from 1992 to 1997, the navy received 10 new nuclear submarines and that one additional nuclear submarine was commissioned in 2002. He said the navy will be reviewing its maintenance and modernization priorities with an eye toward refurbishing and upgrading existing ships and weapons systems. VY
PUTIN SUBMITS LEGISLATION ON LOCAL-GOVERNMENT REFORM...
President Vladimir Putin on 4 January introduced to the State Duma a draft bill amending the law on general principles for organizing legislatures and executive organs in the regions and the law on general principles for local self-government, RosBalt reported, citing the government press service. The bills define the role of the so-called power-sharing agreements between the federal center and the regions and stipulate that such agreements be confirmed by federal law, according to newsru.com. The bill also establishes the basic principles for administering and distributing state property in the regions, and it contains a section regulating the powers of state organs within federation subjects and the cooperation of these organs with their federal counterparts, according to RosBalt. The draft bill is a product of the presidential commission headed by deputy presidential administration head Dmitrii Kozak. JAC
...AND SIGNS SERIES OF NEW LAWS
On 3 January, President Putin signed a series of new federal laws, including one that eliminates the tax on foreign-currency purchases and another that extends a discounted VAT rate on printed material, Russian news agencies reported. Putin also signed bills that form part of the government's effort to overhaul the pension system, including the law on compulsory pension programs. JAC
NUMBER OF MOBILE PHONES CONTINUES TO CLIMB...
The number of mobile-phone users in Russia more than doubled in 2002, jumping by 117 percent to 17.48 million phones, Interfax reported on 4 January, citing ACM-Consulting. The city of Moscow and its suburbs account for about 40 percent of the total. In 2001, Communications Minister Leonid Reiman reported that there were 30 cellular phones for every 100 residents of Moscow but only two for every 100 residents of the rest of the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2001). JAC
...AS TELEPHONE CHANGES IN STORE FOR MOSCOW
ITAR-TASS reported on 5 January that 11-digit phone numbers will soon be introduced in Moscow. Residents in new housing projects in the Mitino, Butovo, Kurkino, and Solntsevo raions will be given the new numbers. In addition, in 2015 Moscow will be divided for dialing purposes into north and south, with the northern area retaining the 095 city code and the southern areas getting the new code 499. JAC
DUMA CHAIRMAN CALLS ON ST. PETERSBURG GOVERNOR TO GIVE UP HOPES FOR THIRD TERM
Gennadii Seleznev told reporters on 3 January he believes it would be useful if the issue of a possible third term for St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev were "closed," Interfax-Northwest reported. According to Seleznev, amendments to the St. Petersburg City Charter that would enable Yakovlev to seek a third term will not be forthcoming despite last month's elections to the city's Legislative Assembly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 December 2002). Seleznev argued that the rumors about a third term undermine Yakovlev's effectiveness and detract from what should be the city's main task: preparations for its 300th-anniversary celebration this summer. JAC
MORATORIUM ANNOUNCED ON STRIKE IN FAR EASTERN CITY...
Municipal workers in the Kamchatka Oblast capital of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii have announced a moratorium on their strike, which began in November, until the end of the holiday season, Radio Mayak reported on 4 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December 2002). The workers are seeking the payment of back wages and the postponement of the mayor's planned reforms of the housing and communal-services sector. JAC
...BUT PRESSURE ON MAYOR CONTINUES
According to RIA-Novosti on 4 January, the strikers are also demanding the removal of Viktoria Yekimova, who heads the city's legal department. Instead, however, Mayor Yurii Golenishchev has appointed her first deputy mayor. Earlier, he dismissed five deputy mayors. Meanwhile, the local prosecutor's office has conducted a search at the city administration in connection with a criminal investigation of possible misappropriation of city-administration funds. Earlier, oblast-level audit officials discovered that 18 million rubles ($565,000) was missing from the city's treasury. JAC
BUSINESSMEN VIE TO HEAD MORDOVIA
Five candidates have registered for the 16 February 2003 presidential election in Mordovia, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 January. In addition to incumbent President Nikolai Merkushkin, four businessmen will seek the republic's highest office. They are Sergei Guryanov of Kontakt-TV, Anatolii Chubukov of the Saransk Instrument-Making Factory, Aleksandr Sharin of Medobrudovanie, and Yurii Bormusov of Zhelezobeton. Chubokov was nominated by the Communist Party. JAC
FATHER FROST LOSES HIS HEAD
An unidentified "hooligan" in Vladivostok beheaded a statue of Ded Moroz, or Father Frost, that was located in the city's central square, lenta.ru reported. The assailant was immediately apprehended by a member of the city's police department who witnessed the attack, and the man now faces criminal charges. JAC
NETHERLANDS CALLS FOR OSCE CHECHEN MISSION TO CONTINUE FUNCTIONING...
The Netherlands, which on 1 January assumed the OSCE chairmanship, appealed to Russia on 3 January to allow the continued functioning of the OSCE mission in Chechnya "with a broad mandate," Reuters reported. The mission was forced to suspend its activities after its mandate expired on 31 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2003). Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the mission's work in recent years has been "useful" and that it could still contribute to "reducing instability, insecurity, and lawlessness." Russian presidential human rights commission head Ella Pamfilova similarly told Interfax on 3 January that she thinks it would be "a serious mistake" to close the OSCE mission, Interfax reported. U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Alexander Vershbow told Interfax that Washington wants the mission to continue its work and hopes that agreement will be reached on a new mandate. LF
...AS ITS HEAD SAYS CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM 'PREMATURE'
In a 5 January telephone interview with Interfax, Finnish diplomat Jorma Inki, who heads the OSCE mission in Znamenskoe, said that while he approves of plans to put the new draft Chechen constitution to a republicwide referendum, he thinks it is too early to do so under present conditions, given the continued presence in Chechnya of 80,000 Russian troops. The plebiscite is tentatively scheduled for March 2003. Chechen officials announced on 5 January that almost 13,500 signatures have been collected in support of the initiative, more than the 12,000 required. Also on 5 January, Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Chizhov told journalists in Moscow that the Russian leadership would not object to foreign observers, including from the OSCE, monitoring the referendum, Interfax reported. U.S. Ambassador Vershbow said in his 4 January interview that the United States believes the presence of OSCE monitors would be "useful." LF
WOUNDED CHECHEN FIGHTER INCRIMINATES ZAKAEV
Arsen Khidirov, a member of the illegal armed formation led by Rappani Khalilov, was hospitalized in Makhachkala on 3 January with a bullet wound, Interfax reported. Khidirov told investigators that he previously fought under the command of Akhmed Zakaev, who is now Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's personal envoy. In May 2002, Zakaev issued an official statement condemning the bombing of a Victory Day parade in Kaspiisk that Russian investigators subsequently blamed on Khalilov's men (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 23 May 2002). LF
INVESTIGATION OF ARMENIAN TV CHIEF'S MURDER STALLED?
Armenian investigators have not yet identified any suspects in the 28 December shooting in Yerevan of State Television and Radio head Tigran Naghdalian, officials told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 4 January. Police declined either to confirm or deny reports that more than a dozen people were taken into custody for questioning immediately after the shooting, including eight members of the Tigran Mets paramilitary group and three members of the nationalist opposition Committee to Support the Occupied Lands (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2003). Grisha Sargsian and Azat Arshakian of the Socialist Armenia bloc, who were among those taken into custody, were sentenced on 31 December to 10 days' administrative arrest for allegedly calling for the violent overthrow of the government. LF
U.S. PROVIDES FUNDS FOR AZERBAIJANI POLICE
Under an agreement signed in Baku on 3 January, the United States will provide $500,000 to enhance the potential for cooperation between the two countries' police forces, Turan reported. The funds are to be spent on developing a criminal-records system, improving forensic capacities, providing training for police and prosecutors, and counternarcotics training and equipment. LF
NEW ABDUCTIONS, SHOOTINGS IN ABKHAZIA
Former Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Roza Otunbaeva, who is currently deputy head of the UN Mission in Georgia, traveled to Sukhum on 6 January to try to negotiate the release of four Georgians being held by the Abkhaz for allegedly violating passport regulations, Caucasus Press reported. The four were among 36 residents of the villages of Otobaya, Gagida, and Nabakevi detained for passport violations on 25 December. Thirty-two of them were subsequently released after the UN mission intervened. On 2 January, members of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed under CIS auspices in the Abkhaz conflict zone shot dead two drunken Abkhaz who assaulted a Russian officer in Gudauta, Russian agencies reported. LF
OFFICIAL APPEALS FOR COOPERATION BETWEEN GEORGIAN POLICE, GUERRILLAS
Tamaz Nadareishvili, who is chairman of the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz parliament-in-exile comprising the Georgian deputies to the Abkhaz parliament elected in late 1991, was quoted by Caucasus Press on 6 January as arguing that the Georgian police should provide financial support to the Georgian guerrilla organizations active in the Abkhaz conflict zone. He reasoned that the primary objective of Georgia's law enforcement agencies is to restore the country's territorial integrity, and therefore they should cooperate with the guerrilla formations who "are fighting for the right" to return to the homes in Abkhazia they fled during the 1992-93 war. Nadareishvili implied that Georgian police and guerrillas cooperated until May 1998, when the former failed to support an abortive new offensive by the latter (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21, 22, and 25 May 1998). Senior Georgian officials have consistently claimed they have no connection with or authority over the guerrilla formations. LF
GEORGIAN OPPOSITION PARTY CAMPAIGNS TO APPOINT ADJAR LEADER VICE PRESIDENT
The United Georgia Party headed by former Georgian Communist Party First Secretary Avtandil Margiani has collected 400,000 signatures on a petition demanding the creation of the post of vice president and proposing that Aslan Abashidze, chairman of the Supreme Council of the Adjar Autonomous Republic, be appointed to that post, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 January. Margiani reasoned that Abashidze enjoys great authority both within Georgia and abroad and that his appointment could expedite the solution of Georgia's domestic conflicts. In November 2001 President Eduard Shevardnadze named Abashidze his personal envoy for resolving the Abkhaz conflict but recently hinted his disapproval of Abashidze's plan to promote a rapprochement between the central government and the Abkhaz leadership by restoring rail communications and economic cooperation (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 34, 11 October 2002). LF
KAZAKHSTAN EXTRADITES SUSPECTED CHECHEN FIGHTER TO RUSSIA
Zeinalabid Gasanov, a Chechen who allegedly participated in the August 1999 Chechen incursion into Daghestan, has been extradited from Kazakhstan to Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 January quoting the Russian Foreign Ministry. Gasanov was apprehended in Kazakhstan in October 2002. LF
KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PROTESTS MECHANISMS FOR REVIEWING PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Kyrgyz opposition parties are concerned that neither parliament nor the Constitutional Council created last September to propose amendments to the Kyrgyz Constitution will have the opportunity to review the final draft of those amendments, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 3 January (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," Vol. 2, No. 34, 5 September 2002, and "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 2002). Public discussion of the proposed draft amendments ended on 3 January. They will now be reviewed by a group of 17 legal experts selected by President Askar Akaev. None of those experts is a member of the Constitutional Council, according to Interfax on 4 January. First Deputy Prime Minister Kurmanbek Osmonov told journalists on 3 January that the amendments will be put to a national referendum in late January or early February 2003. LF
INVESTIGATION OF KYRGYZ MARKET BLAST CONTINUES
First Deputy Prime Minister Osmonov also told journalists in Bishkek on 3 January that investigators have established the composition of the explosive that caused the 27 December blast at Bishkek's Dordoy market in which seven people were killed, akipress.org reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2003). Osmonov said the explosive was a compound of several elements used in mining metals. He warned that it is not certain that the blast was a terrorist act, noting that Kyrgyzstan's Criminal Code does not include a precise definition of what constitutes an act of terrorism. LF
KYRGYZ, TAJIKS DESTROY BORDER POSTS
A group of some 300 Tajiks from the Vorukh exclave in southern Kyrgyzstan on 3 January destroyed a border post set up on 27 December in the Kyrgyz village of Koek-Terek, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. In retaliation, some 100 residents of that village crossed the border into Tajikistan and destroyed a border post and overturned several vehicles. Police intervened in both incidents to restore order, and no injuries were reported. In October, the Kyrgyz authorities in Batken Oblast established several new border posts around the Vorukh exclave in apparent retaliation because the Tajik authorities were reportedly systematically harassing Kyrgyz travelers transiting that stretch of Tajik territory. On 5 January, both Kyrgyz and Tajik officials said the border posts in Vorukh are being dismantled, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. In an earlier incident reported in November 2001, Tajiks from Vorukh built homes, felled juniper trees, and pastured cattle on what the Kyrgyz authorities claim is Kyrgyz territory. Talks on the delimitation of the 940-kilometer border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan began in 1997 but were suspended the following year. They resumed in Bishkek last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 2002). LF
RUSSIA OFFERS TO HELP INVESTIGATE TURKMEN ASSASSINATION BID
Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo met in Ashgabat on 2 January with Turkmen Defense Minister Redjepbai Arazov, National Security Minister Batyr Busakov, and Interior Minister Annaberdy Kakabaev to discuss regional and bilateral security and cooperation issues, ITAR-TASS reported. The following day, Rushailo met for five hours with President Saparmurat Niyazov and expressed the willingness to assist in the investigation of the alleged 25 November attempt to assassinate Niyazov, which former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov confessed several days earlier to organizing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 2002). AP on 3 January quoted Niyazov as having asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for help in locating two suspects in the assassination attempt, former Central Bank head Khudaiberdy Orazov and former Turkmen Ambassador to Turkey Nurmukhammed Khanamov. Rushailo and Arazov signed a protocol on 2 January on cooperation between their respective agencies, including in the search for and extradition of suspected criminals, ITAR-TASS reported. A further agreement on bilateral security cooperation is to be drafted and signed within the next six months, ITAR-TASS quoted Rushailo as saying on 3 January. LF
UZBEKISTAN THWARTS SMUGGLING OF RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS FROM TURKMENISTAN
In 2002 Uzbek customs officials at several points on that country's border with Turkmenistan seized radioactive materials that could have been used to manufacture a "dirty" nuclear bomb, uzreport.com reported on 6 January, quoting U.S. State Department official Harlan Strauss. LF
U.S. TO CONSIDER LIFTING VISA BAN ON BELARUSIAN OFFICIALS
Washington will consult its European partners as it considers rescinding restrictions on visas to senior Belarusian officials if the new OSCE office in Minsk "is in place and functioning smoothly, including performing its normal human-rights activities," Belapan reported on 4 January, quoting a U.S. State Department spokesman. The spokesman called last week's agreement on the resumption of the OSCE presence in Belarus "an important first step towards reestablishing a constructive relationship between Belarus and OSCE" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2003). "We hope that this restored presence in Minsk is a sign of Belarus's willingness to respect its international commitments as well the government's desire to preserve and respect human rights within the country," he said. "However, real progress depends on cooperation on the ground that respects the role and mandate of the organization's mission. That includes practical steps clearing the way for international staff to begin work in Minsk in the very near future." AM
BELARUSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VOWS MORE CONSTRUCTIVE RELATIONS WITH NATO
Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastou on 31 December predicted that Minsk's relations with NATO will be more constructive in 2003, Belapan reported on 3 January. "We are going to take into consideration the changing situation both in Europe and the whole world, and the need for firm and clear relations," Khvastou said. "We can see how the alliance's expansion affects the interests of neighboring states, and we can see the expanding presence of this military and political organization, so we would like [to] -- and we will -- ensure our country's safe existence." AM
BELARUS STOPS RETRANSMITTING RUSSIAN UHF RADIO STATIONS
Belarus on 1 January stopped retransmitting programming from Russia's Mayak, Golos Rossii, and Yunost radio stations in its UHF band, Belapan reported on 4 January, quoting a statement from Belarusian State Television and Radio. The company said its decision was prompted by shortages of funds for retransmission. "As economic entities, the Russian radio stations...can take measures of their own to ensure the broadcasting of their programs on the territory of the Republic of Belarus by entering into contractual relations with the Ministry of Communications of the Republic of Belarus," the statement said. AM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ENACTS 2003 BUDGET, MINIMUM-WAGE BILL
President Leonid Kuchma signed into law the 2003 deficit budget adopted on 26 December by the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 December 2002), UNIAN reported on 5 January. In a letter published on his official website (http://www.president.gov.ua), however, Kuchma appealed to lawmakers to amend the 2003 budget in order to increase the level of social-security protection for poorly provided-for Ukrainians. Kuchma also signed a minimum-wage bill to increase the minimum monthly wage by 28 percent -- from 185 hryvnyas ($34) to 237 hryvnyas -- on 1 January 2003. AM
WINDOWS TO RUN IN UKRAINIAN
Microsoft has released a free computer application allowing conversion of the Russian-language version of the Windows XP operating system into a full-fledged Ukrainian-language version, UNIAN reported on 4 January, quoting the BBC Ukrainian Service. AM
ESTONIAN FINANCE MINISTRY RECOMMENDS SALE OF STATE HOLDINGS
The Finance Ministry has urged the state to sell significant stakes in dozens of businesses, including the partial privatization of the Eesti Energia (Estonian Energy) power utility and Tallinna Sadam (Port of Tallinn), ETA reported on 3 January. The ministry recommends that the state maintain majority stakes in those two companies but float 49 percent on the stock exchange. The ministry also suggests that the state sell minority stakes in the national airline Estonian Air, the Saku Arena, the Sakala Keskus conference center, and Okosil, a company managing the hazardous-substances reserve in Sillamae. Economy and Communications Minister Liina Tonisson countered that she sees no reason to sell utility stakes until the opening of the energy market in 2008. Tonisson also opposed the port sale, arguing, "The failed privatization of rail firm Eesti Raudtee proved that the privatization of infrastructure companies does not have [a future]." SG
LATVIA'S PRESIDENT ACCUSES RUSSIA OF ENTRENCHED ATTITUDES
In an interview in the daily "Biznes & Baltiya" on 3 January, Vaira Vike-Freiberga claimed that Russian-Latvian relations have not improved due to the conservative attitude toward Latvia held by the Russian Foreign Ministry, BNS reported. She said she has the impression the ministry is inadequately informed on the situation in Latvia. "The whole planet, all other countries, are our friends," she said. "If 199 countries are on a positive note and one is not, I think the problem is in this single country." Vike-Freiberga noted that while OSCE missions ended their activities in Latvia and Estonia more than a year ago, declaring that there is no reason to continue closely monitoring human rights there, the Russian Foreign Ministry continues to accuse those countries of ignoring the rights of the Russian-speaking minorities. SG
RIGHT-WING CHALLENGER WINS LITHUANIAN PRESIDENTIAL VOTE...
Provisional results indicate that former Prime Minister and Liberal Democratic leader Rolandas Paksas soundly defeated incumbent Valdas Adamkus in the presidential elections on 5 January, ELTA reported the next day. Paksas received 54.9 percent of votes and Adamkus 45.1 percent. Paksas won all areas except the cities of Vilnius, Kaunas, Palanga, and Birstonas, along with the Kaunas Raion. He is expected to be sworn in as president on 26 February. Voter turnout of 52.56 percent was slightly lower than in the first round two weeks ago, when Adamkus polled support of 35.1 percent and Paksas 19.4 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 December 2002). Many expected Adamkus to win handily, particularly since he received the backing of all major political parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2003). The 46-year-old right-winger's surprise victory over Adamkus, 76, appears to signal widespread dissatisfaction with political parties and a desire for change. SG
...AND SEEKS TO HEAD OFF FOREIGN CRITICS...
Paksas immediately sought to disarm critics who view him as a potential obstacle to a May referendum on EU membership and early accession, stressing on 5 January that he wants to "send off a signal to the world that foreign policy will not change," Reuters reported. But the former mayor of Vilnius and avid stunt flier added, "My first visit [will] be to Brussels to meet EU leaders and clarify the situation on certain points that do not satisfy me." Rejecting frequent comparisons to the French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, Paksas noted that "some people call me Le Pen -- others call me a populist, demagogue, fascist, or radical." He said he fully supports Lithuania's entry to the EU next year, the news agency added. Paksas ran with the slogan "Vote for Change," while incumbent Adamkus built his re-election bid around recent invitations to the country for EU and NATO membership as soon as 2004, along with largely rebuilt relations with Moscow. In conceding defeat early on 6 January, Adamkus said he expects Paksas to lead the country "on the same track," according to AFP. AH
...BUT CARPS AT CENTER-LEFT GOVERNMENT
Paksas also "set himself on a collision course with center-left Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas's coalition" on 5 January, according to Reuters, which quoted him as saying, "I see that several of the current [government] ministers are not suitable." Much of his support seems to have come from voters weary of economic and social hardships in the country, the news agency added. A domestic rift could upset plans for a May plebiscite on EU membership, Reuters quoted analysts as saying, particularly since Paksas accused the government of selling out to Brussels in membership negotiations concluded in mid-December in Copenhagen. "Most interesting is how his relations with the ruling coalition will develop, and if he wants a conflict to what degree will he take it," one capital-markets analyst said. AH
POLAND OPENS NATIONAL CRIMINAL DATA CENTER
Interior Minister Krzysztof Janik and police chief Antoni Kowalczyk on 4 January opened the National Criminal Data Center (KCIK), PAP reported. The center, located at police headquarters in Warsaw, will store records for 15 years of any crimes committed in the country. "This is a historic day for the Polish police -- it's a new, important instrument in the struggle against crime -- [an] instrument for the 21 century," Janik said. The center currently holds 6 million crime reports; some 4 million more reports will be added to the database in the next few days. Officers from 600 police stations will have access to the KCIK. "We realize it's not very many, but the database and the number of terminals will be increased all the time," Slawomir Wiklo of the KCIK said. AM
RADICAL FARMERS DEMAND TWO-DAY REFERENDUM ON POLAND'S EU ACCESSION
Poland's EU referendum should last two days to allow Poles time to decide how to vote, PAP quoted Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper as saying on 3 January. "The choices we make now will be for years to come, and not months or days, so everyone will need time to think things over in peace," Lepper said. "We certainly won't campaign outright against the EU. In fact, we see some good aspects of Polish accession: For one, the EU will be a new labor market for educated and open-minded Poles; second, it will be a good sales market for our food, which is Europe's purest." Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski commented the same day that he is in favor of the "well-tested tradition" of holding one-day referendums on a Sunday. "It seems that 8 June is such a good date," he added. AM
LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT VISITS WARSAW
Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus met with his Polish counterpart Kwasniewski in Warsaw on 3 January during a half-day working visit, PAP reported. The presidents said at a news conference after the meeting that their countries will cooperate in implementing joint infrastructure projects, including fast Vilnius-Warsaw rail and road connections. They also pledged that Poland and Lithuania will coordinate activities on the path to the European Union, particularly regarding referendums on EU membership. Adamkus lost the weekend presidential vote and will be replaced by right-winger Rolandas Paksas in late February (see items above). AM/AH
NORTHERN CZECH TOWN AGAIN HIT BY FLOODING
The Labe (Elbe) River on 5 January burst its banks, closing roads around Usti nad Labem, some 60 kilometers north of Prague, CTK and dpa reported. The town was among the hardest hit during the August flooding in the Czech Republic. Heavy rains and melting snow combined to inundate cellars on 3 January. Then on 4 January, more than 200 people were evacuated from the village of Mrlina, and high waters forced the closure of roads in the Plzen and Prague areas in the western part of the country. Production was also suspended at the Spolana chemical plant north of the capital, where toxic chemicals spilled into the Labe in August. The Vltava River in Prague peaked on 4 January but caused no serious damage. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla on 3 January said authorities do not expect catastrophic floods and that "the situation is under control." MS
CZECHS SAY 'NO GESTURE UNDER EXTERNAL PRESSURE' OVER BENES DECREES
In an interview with the Austrian magazine "Profil" of 3 January, Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said the Czech Republic is prepared to make a politically symbolic gesture over the postwar Benes Decrees but added that a gesture under foreign pressure would be "meaningless," CTK reported. Svoboda said it took Germany and Austria a long time to come to terms with their pasts and a solution to the ongoing dispute over the controversial decrees, under which ethnic Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia, also requires time. Svoboda added that he does not believe it will be necessary to appeal to the European Court of Justice to ensure the enforcement of the so-called Melk agreement between the two countries on the Temelin nuclear-power plant. MS
CZECH BUDGET DEFICIT COMES IN LOWER THAN EXPECTED
Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on 3 January that the discovery of extra revenues and lower costs at the end of the year substantially cut the 2002 budget deficit from a forecast 62 billion crowns ($2.07 billion) to 45.7 billion crowns, dpa reported. Sobotka credited higher tax and customs receipts for an additional 14 billion crowns in revenues and spending that was 4 billion crowns less than expected. An International Monetary Fund report in November criticized the Czech government over the expected deficit, which was equal to 5.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Sobotka said on 3 January that the final figures signal a deficit of 3 percent of GDP. In December, legislators approved a 2003 budget with a record-high deficit of 111 billion crowns. MS
FORMER SLOVAK PREMIER HAILS HAVEL'S EXIT FROM POLITICS
Former Slovak Premier Vladimir Meciar on 5 January said on TV Joj that he is glad Czech President Vaclav Havel's political career is ending, CTK reported. Havel's second and final mandate ends in early February. Meciar said Havel's departure will be "good for Czech-Slovak relations," adding that Havel has caused "complications [and] misunderstandings" and has indulged in "provocations" against Slovakia during his tenure as president. "His vision of Slovak politics has always been distorted, " Meciar said. Havel opposed the 1993 split of Czechoslovakia, in which Meciar and his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia played a key role. MS
SLOVAK PRESIDENT STARTS VISIT TO CHINA
President Rudolf Schuster on 4 January started a 10-day official visit to China, meeting in Shansisi with the province's governor, CTK and TASR reported. Schuster is to meet with top Chinese officials, including President Jiang Zemin, with whom he will sign a bilateral-cooperation treaty. The visit marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. MS
FORMER SLOVAK JUSTICE MINISTER BUCKS PARTY, BACKS NATO REFERENDUM
Jan Carnogursky, a former justice minister and onetime leader of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), is backing a Communist-proposed referendum on NATO membership, TASR reported on 3 January, citing the daily "Sme." The KDH is against the proposal. Carnogursky said Slovakia's membership of NATO might drag the country into international conflicts. MS
U.S. MILITARY TRAINERS BEGIN ARRIVING AT HUNGARIAN AIR BASE
Members of a U.S. team of logistics experts arrived on 5 January at the Taszar military air base in southern Hungary, where some 3,000 Iraqi opposition members will be trained to serve as interpreters for U.S. forces in a possible war against Iraq, Defense Ministry spokesman Istvan Bocskai told the MTI news agency. The troops are part of a logistics unit that came to prepare the infrastructure and installations at the military air base at which the training will take place from late January or early February. Bocskai said more U.S. military personnel will arrive at Taszar in the coming days. He also said the ministry this week will begin establishing an information center in Kaposvar, housing a Hungarian and a U.S. information officer. MSZ
HUNGARIAN PREMIER 'DRAWS LESSON' FROM CUBAN VACATION
Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy told reporters at Budapest airport upon his 5 January return from Havana that he drew a lesson from the political stir the opposition made of his holiday in Cuba (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2003). Medgyessy said that, from now on, his office will announce in advance any absence of longer than two days. He said he does not select holiday destinations on ideological grounds and added that he chose Cuba because "it was warm, the sun was shining, and good cocktails could be drunk there." Medgyessy also said government spokesman Zoltan Gal proceeded correctly when he did not initially say where the prime minister went on holiday. He said Gal only made public his travel destination after consulting with the prime minister by telephone. MSZ
PLANNED NEO-NAZI DEMONSTRATION DRAWS SCRUTINY OF HUNGARIAN PROSECUTORS
Officials from the Prosecutor-General's Office in Budapest on 3 January received complete documentation on the Blood and Honor Cultural Society from the Metropolitan Court after the National Security Office reported last week that the group intends to organize an international, neo-Nazi youth demonstration in the capital in early February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2003), "Nepszabadsag" reported. Prosecutors are primarily interested in how Blood and Honor -- which operates in a number of countries but is banned in Germany -- was granted nonprofit status with the stated aim of "espousing ignored young musicians," "Nepszabadsag" reported. Meanwhile, the Federation of Jewish Religious Communities in Hungary (Mazsihisz) released a statement saying Hungarian Jewry received news of a planned neo-Nazi demonstration "with deep shock and outrage," the MTI news agency reported on 3 January. Mazsihisz called on the government and the interior minister to take all possible measures to ensure that Budapest does not become a new haven for neo-Nazis. MSZ
KOSOVARS MARCH AGAINST VIOLENCE
More than 1,000 people demonstrated in Prishtina on 5 January under the motto "Stop murders and political violence in Kosova," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The protest came in response to the killing by unknown gunmen in Peja the previous day of Tahir Zemaj, who was a commander in the former Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), and two of his relatives. Zemaj was politically close to the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) of President Ibrahim Rugova. Zemaj testified for the prosecution at the recent landmark trial of five former UCK guerrillas who are linked to a wing of the UCK at odds with that of Zemaj (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 2002). Rugova condemned the killing, calling for the "isolation of these criminals working against the freedom and independence of Kosova," Hina reported. UN police are investigating the killings. The daily "Koha Ditore" referred to "these puzzling murders," and the daily "Bota Sot" noted that the motives for the killings remain unknown. PM
KOSOVAR SERBS CONTINUE PARLIAMENTARY BOYCOTT
The presidency of the Kosovar parliament met in Brezovica in the Sar Planina region on 4 January to draft a set of rules for the parliament's work, but its two Serbian members -- Oliver Ivanovic and Gojko Savic -- did not attend. Ethnic Serbian deputies have been boycotting the legislature since early November to protest what they say is their marginalization in Kosova's institutions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 13 November 2002). Representatives of the international community have frequently called on politicians in Kosova and elsewhere in the region to stop using legislative boycotts as a political tactic and instead to work out their differences in normal parliamentary give-and-take. Hina wrote on 4 January that the question of ending the boycott in Kosova might be linked to rivalries among Serbian politicians themselves. PM
FORMER SERBIAN PRESIDENT SAYS HE HAS 'NO RESPONSIBILITY' FOR WAR CRIMES
Milan Milutinovic, who has been indicted by the war crimes tribunal for atrocities stemming from the 1999 conflict in Kosova, told state-run television on 4 January that he was outside the chain of command for military and police matters and bears "no responsibility" for war crimes, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2003). He added that his greatest regret in 40 years of political life is having run for the Serbian presidency in the first place. Milutinovic said that he will not turn himself in to the tribunal voluntarily but will not jeopardize the safety of his bodyguards by resisting arrest. He described his health as "not brilliant." PM
SPOKESWOMAN SAYS WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL WILL CONTINUE WORK
Florence Hartmann, spokeswoman for Carla Del Ponte, the tribunal's chief prosecutor, said the tribunal expects to complete its investigations and indictments by the end of 2004, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from The Hague on 5 January. She added that the tribunal will continue to function until Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic have been brought to justice. She warned indicted war criminals against thinking they can get off scot-free by hiding until the tribunal is shut down. PM
ADVISER TO YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT CALLS U.S. WARNING SERIOUS
Predrag Simic, who is foreign policy adviser to Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, told "Glas javnosti" of 4 January that Washington's recent warning to Belgrade about cooperating with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague is serious (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2003). Simic added that unspecified decisions made in Belgrade in the coming 10-15 days could prove decisive for its future relations with Washington. He noted, however, that it is not clear with whom the United States intends to deal, because the current Yugoslav government will cease to exist within six weeks and it is unclear whether the Serbian and Montenegrin republican governments will want to take responsibility for issues related to war crimes. Simic also argued that it remains to be seen whether the United States will be able to devote much time to Balkan issues if it finds itself in a war with Iraq. PM
YUGOSLAV CUSTOMS OFFICIALS SEIZE HEROIN
Customs agents on the Yugoslav-Bulgarian border near Pirot confiscated 44 kilograms of heroin with a street value of $2.3 million from two unnamed Bulgarian citizens driving a passenger car, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 6 January (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 28 November 2002). PM
BOSNIAN SERB AUTHORITIES BLAME MILITARY FOR ARMS-SALE VIOLATIONS
Republika Srpska President Dragan Cavic said in Banja Luka on 4 January that his government's preliminary report shows that the Orao aircraft-equipment factory sold MiG-21 spare parts to Iraq in breach of UN sanctions, but that civilian authorities did not know about it, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. Cavic said the Bosnian Serb military was in control of Orao's affairs and bear the responsibility for its activities. Copies of the 1,614-page preliminary study have been delivered to representatives of the international community in Bosnia, but an SFOR spokesman said NATO will not comment on it before it has received and studied the final version, dpa reported. PM
CANADA TO HELP FINANCE SECOND ROMANIAN NUCLEAR REACTOR
The Canadian government announced on 4 January it will help finance the construction of the Canadian-designed second nuclear reactor at Cernavoda, an RFE/RL correspondent in Ottawa and Romanian Radio reported. Canada is to guarantee loans to Romania worth $210 million extended by France's Societe Generale bank. The costs of the construction are estimated at $750 million and similar guarantees for loans could be offered by Italy, France, and the United States, according to the Romanian report. The first reactor at Cernavoda was commissioned in 1996. Work on the second reactor was halted about that time because of poor construction work and lack of funds. The construction of the second reactor is to be completed by 2006. MS
MOLDOVAN PREMIER EXPECTS IMPROVEMENT IN RELATIONS WITH ROMANIA...
Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev told journalists on 4 January that a meeting between presidential counselors from his country and from Romania will take place this month and that he expects an improvement in bilateral relations after the encounter, Romanian Radio reported. Tarlev said his cabinet strives for "pragmatic relations with Romania, primarily in the economic realm." He also said that among his government's priorities for 2003 is the signing of the basic treaty with Romania, which was initialed in 2000 by the two countries' foreign ministers. Tarlev said that last year relations with Romania suffered from "over-politicization" as a result of actions undertaken by "some Moldovan political forces." MS
...VIEWS COPING WITH SOCIAL PROBLEMS AS GOVERNMENT'S MOST IMPORTANT TASK
Tarlev also told journalists on 4 January that coping with the country's social problems will be the cabinet's most important task in 2003, ITAR-TASS reported. "Social problems have been piling up over many years, as previous Moldovan governments sacrificed the interests of citizens in favor of dealing with macroeconomic problems. As a result, [many] people now live below the poverty line," he said. MS
VORONIN DECORATES FORMER SOVIET MOLDOVAN PARTY BOSS
President Vladimir Voronin on 3 January decorated former Moldovan Communist Party First Secretary Ivan Bodiul with the Order of the Republic, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The decoration was bestowed upon Bodiul on his 85th birthday in recognition of his "long and prodigious activity in leading state positions and substantial contribution to the development of the Republic of Moldova." Bodiul was Moldovan Communist Party chief from 1961-80 and a deputy chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers from 1980-85. He acquired a reputation as a fierce opponent of Romanian nationalism and a promoter of the republic's Russification. MS
GERMANY SUSPENDS MOLDOVAN FLIGHTS
Germany "indefinitely" suspended Moldovan passenger flights to Frankfurt am Main as of 2003, Flux reported on 3 January. The measure was taken in retaliation to Moldova's decision to refuse landing rights to the German company Cirrus Airlines. According to Moldovan media reports, the Moldovan decision came after Cirrus Airlines took over the private Air Moldova International's flights on the lucrative Frankfurt am Main-Chisinau route. The daily Flux alleged that several Moldovan officials, among them former Privatization Agency Director Vladimir Filat and Moldova's Ambassador to Germany Nicolae Tabacaru, are involved in promoting Cirrus Airlines' interests. As a result of the German decision, the official state-owned Moldova Airlines can no longer fly to that country. MS
BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER WARNS MEDIA...
Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov told the private television bTV on 4 January that those accusing Prosecutor-General Nikola Filchev of involvement in the killing of Supreme Administrative Court Prosecutor Nikolay Kolev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 2002) should face defamation charges, BTA reported. Asked whether Filchev should resign, Petkanov answered that slander and libel "are being committed against Filchev. In a democratic and civilized country [those who make such accusations] should be held legally liable -- this is the way and not the handing in of resignations." Kolev was shot dead near his home in downtown Sofia on 28 December. Immediately after the killing, family members and opposition politician Edvin Sugarev of the conservative Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) alleged that Filchev was involved. UB
...AND DISMISSES HEAD OF ANTITERRORISM UNIT
On 3 January, Petkanov officially dismissed Filko Slavov, the head of the Interior Ministry's Special Unit for Combating Terrorism (SOBT), mediapool.bg reported. Slavov reportedly offered his resignation because of controversies within the unit. According to other versions, Slavov's dismissal is linked to plans by Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Boyko Borisov to restrict the unit's influence and to introduce Special Intervention Units at the ministry's district directorates. The ministry might have intended to remove Slavov from the line of fire after his name was mentioned in connection with the killing of Prosecutor Kolev (see End Note). UB
BULGARIA'S SUPREME JUDICIAL COUNCIL SAYS INTERIOR MINISTRY VIOLATED PRIVACY LAWS
The Supreme Judicial Council claimed on January that the Interior Ministry violated laws when its services wiretapped telephones in connection with the so-called Gnom case, mediapool.bg reported. During the eavesdropping action, the ministry bugged the telephones of former National Security Service head General Atanas Atanasov, who is charged with espionage on behalf of the United States and Great Britain. Sofia district military prosecutors, however, said the wiretapping was legal. In late December, opposition politician Yordan Bakalov of the conservative SDS accused the Interior Ministry of wiretapping the telephones of former President Petar Stoyanov, judges, and journalists in connection with the Gnom case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 December 2002). UB
U.S. DAILY LINKS BULGARIAN COMPANY TO ILLICIT ARMS TRADING
The state-owned Bulgarian trading company Kintex was named in an illegal arms-import case in the United States, stltoday.com reported on 4 January. The Internet edition of the St. Louis "Post-Dispatch" reported that Ohio-based arms trader Keith Baranski was convicted in a U.S. District Court trial in St. Louis of using fraudulent documents in collusion with felon James Carmi to illegally import AK-47 assault rifles from Bulgaria in 2000. Baranski had obtained U.S. government approval to import 16,000 automatic weapons from Kintex and testified that he traveled to Bulgaria and signed contracts with Kintex officials, according to the daily. However, he was only able to acquire 46 weapons before the scheme was foiled. The report made clear that Kintex, which has a longstanding record of illegally exporting arms to embargoed countries like Iraq, was not aware that the deal was illegal. The Bulgarian Economy Ministry, which oversees the country's arms exports, is investigating the case. Deputy Foreign Minister Lyubomir Ivanov dismissed the article as a mixture of old facts, hints, and implications that contains no serious grounds to claim that Bulgarian companies have committed any violations or that Bulgaria has broken arms-control regulations, according to BTA. UB
BULGARIA'S JUDICIARY UNDER FIRE
The murder over the Christmas holidays of a prosecutor at the Supreme Administrative Court and former military prosecutor shocked the Bulgarian public. Nikolay Kolev was shot dead in downtown Sofia on the evening of 28 December as he left his house for a nearby store to buy batteries. Kolev's death highlights long-standing problems within Bulgaria's judiciary -- some of which are connected with Kolev's person, while others are of a more general nature.
Kolev, who was 53, started his career as a military prosecutor in his hometown of Sliven in eastern Bulgaria. In 1991, he was appointed to the Armed Forces Prosecutor's Office in Sofia, and between 1994 and 1996 he worked as acting armed forces prosecutor under Prosecutor-General Ivan Tatarchev. In 1996, however, Tatarchev asked the Supreme Judicial Council effectively to demote Kolev to civil prosecutor in the Prosecutor-General's Office.
The next phase in Kolev's professional career was closely related to current Prosecutor-General Nikola Filchev, who made Kolev his deputy in 1999. For a short period, Kolev acted as Filchev's right hand. In late 2000, however, relations deteriorated between Filchev and Kolev. In December of that year, Kolev was transferred to a new position in the prosecutor's office of the Supreme Administrative Court. In January 2001, he was compelled to take early retirement. Two months later, in March, Kolev levelled serious accusations against his former superior. In an interview with the mediapool.bg news agency, Kolev openly accused Filchev of having exerted pressure on some newspapers to stop reporting on the misdeeds of Filchev's brother, whose involvement in a smuggling scandal had been alleged. Kolev also said he noticed that Filchev showed increasing symptoms of paranoia and that he feared that Kolev was planning to kill him.
In June 2001, special police arrested Kolev in a high-profile operation on charges of illegal possession of arms and narcotics. During the investigations, state media reported that Kolev had connections with organized crime structures in the Black Sea port of Varna. Kolev was released from custody after a hunger strike. In November 2001, a court refused to proceed with the case, citing Kolev's immunity as a prosecutor and errors in the investigation. As it turned out, Filchev had not asked the Supreme Judicial Council to lift Kolev's immunity after he was sent into retirement. A separate court subsequently reinstated Kolev as a prosecutor with the Supreme Administrative Court.
Immediately after Kolev's late-December murder, Kolev's son Georgi told BTA that he believes Filchev was responsible for his father's death. "He has been followed for three months now," Georgi Kolev said. "All Bulgaria knows who my father's enemy was." Anna Bankova, a prosecutor and former colleague of Kolev's at the Supreme Administrative Court, opined that the murder was connected with problems within the Prosecutor-General's Office. She said Kolev had feared for his life ever since he challenged Filchev's election as prosecutor-general before the Supreme Judicial Council in January 2002.
Filchev's spokesman, Nikolay Markov, immediately dismissed those allegations as "nonsense." And in an apparent allusion to speculation that Filchev might be involved in Kolev's murder, government spokesman Dimitar Tsonev said on 29 December, "We are deeply concerned [by the published] versions prompted by reasoning and conjectures of people who are not directly engaged in the establishment of the objective truth about last night's murder of Nikolay Kolev." He added, "Such insinuations create prerequisites for the spread of pernicious rumors in the media and among the public."
Kolev's death and the subsequent speculation about the prosecutor-general's involvement in the case highlights the fundamental problem of the Bulgarian judiciary -- a lack of public confidence in a legal system that is widely perceived as inefficient, politically biased, and concerned above all in preserving the status quo. Politicians have contributed to this situation in that the Judiciary Reform Act drafted by the Justice Ministry explicitly aimed at restricting the powers and the immunity of prosecutors (and especially of the prosecutor-general). The draft triggered a confrontation between the legislature and the executive on the one hand, and the judiciary on the other. The judiciary, for its part, reacted to such attempts to reduce its powers either by ruling key provisions of the Judicial Reform Act unconstitutional or by halting important privatization procedures. Some media have even gone so far as to maintain that recent wiretapping scandals -- in which not only the justice minister but also journalists and judges have been the victims of eavesdropping -- are a product of revenge.
Some analysts, including political scientist Ognyan Minchev, note that the only way to resolve a situation that has the potential to destroy the country's system of government is sweeping constitutional reform to introduce effective checks and balances among state institutions. It is doubtful, however, that the country's political elite can unite and form the necessary parliamentary majority to amend the constitution. After all, the problems have been recognized (and exploited) for years by politicians of all stripes. The question remains whether the national consensus regarding the country's NATO and EU accession can be parlayed into a consensus that membership in these organizations is only possible with properly functioning state institutions that ensure the rule of law.
SECURITY IN EASTERN AFGHANISTAN IMPROVING...
Paktiya Province Governor Raz Mohammad Dalili has said the province's security situation has improved over the last five months, Peshawar's "Sahaar" reported on 4 January. Dalili added that coalition military personnel are no longer attacked there. He said locals are cooperating with the government's disarmament campaign. BS
...AS ISAF DISCOVERS WEAPONS CACHE IN KABUL...
An International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) spokesman said on 4 January that Afghan police seized about 100 107-millimeter rockets from a house in Kabul, dpa reported. A police official said the rockets were placed in the residence during the Taliban era and that the police turned the rockets over to ISAF. BS
...AND AFGHAN SECURITY FORCES FOIL TERRORISTS IN KABUL
Afghan national-security personnel on 5 January seized an automobile that was carrying a 72-millimeter artillery shell and arrested an individual in connection with this incident, Radio Afghanistan reported. The security personnel also seized 1 kilogram of explosives that was planted in another automobile and made another arrest. BS
ISLAMABAD LIMITS U.S. ABILITY TO PURSUE TERRORISTS
Pakistani Interior Minister Makhdoom Seyyed Faisal Saleh Hayat said on 5 January that U.S. military personnel will not be allowed to approach individuals on Pakistani territory without Pakistani permission, and he added that Pakistani personnel will conduct all antiterrorism operations in Pakistan, Islamabad's "The News" reported on 6 January. Referring specifically to the late December incident in which a supposed Pakistani border guard shot an American soldier and a U.S. aircraft bombed a religious school inside Pakistan in retaliation -- incidents that may be linked to disputed border demarcation -- Faisal said an inquiry is under way. BS
UN WANTS TO REPATRIATE AFGHAN REFUGEES...
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced in Geneva on 3 January that it wants to repatriate 1.5 million Afghan refugees, dpa reported. About 4 million Afghans currently live outside their country, and most of them are in Pakistan and Iran. Mohammad Nuri, the UNHCR spokesman in Iran, said on 5 January that more than 377,759 Afghans have returned home from Iran since April, IRNA reported. He said 117,923 returned home voluntarily, which presumably means the rest were forcibly repatriated. BS
...AS AFGHANISTAN CONTENDS WITH DISEASE OUTBREAK
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 60 children have died as the result of an outbreak of whooping cough (pertussis) in seven villages of northeastern Badakhshan Province, Reuters reported on 5 January. The UN announced on 5 January that it is transporting medical supplies to the area to contend with the epidemic that threatens some 40,000 children. Some 80,000 locals will be treated with antibiotics to protect them against whooping cough. "At the moment the outbreak is relatively isolated and the hope is that we can contain it and it won't spread any further...if we can get antibiotics to people who are already infected," Edward Carwardine of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) explained. BS
AFGHANISTAN GETS SAUDI HELP IN REVIVING BROADCASTING
Afghanistan radio and television head Mohammad Ishaq on 4 January met with the Saudi Arabian charge d'affaires in Kabul, Abdallah Fahd al-Qahtani, and was told that Riyadh is ready to cooperate with and provide assistance to Afghan broadcast media, Radio Afghanistan reported on 4 January. Al-Qahtani asked Ishaq to submit any specific proposals for cooperation or assistance to the Saudi government. BS
DISABLED AFGHANS GET IRANIAN HELP
Afghan Minister of Martyrs and the Disabled Abdullah Khan Wardak told the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Dari-language service in Mashhad on 5 January that Iran will provide assistance for the construction of medical-treatment centers in six Afghan provinces. Wardak added that Iran's Red Crescent Society has promised to build an orthopedic center for disabled Afghans. Radio Free Afghanistan reported in early December that more than 1 million Afghans were disabled during the war against Soviet occupiers and the subsequent civil war. On 9 December, disabled demonstrators in Kabul called for Wardak's resignation and complained about insufficient benefits (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 December 2002). BS
KABUL DETERMINED TO FIGHT NARCOTICS
Afghan Antidrug Commission head Abdul Hai Elahi said in a 4 January interview with the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Mashhad-based Dari-language service that the Afghan government is determined to eliminate opium-poppy cultivation and it has promised farmers they will be compensated with alternative crops. Elahi vowed on 3 January that the necessary resources to fight narcotics production and trafficking will be mobilized, and he called on the international community for help, IRNA reported. President Hamid Karzai's national security adviser Zalmay Rasul discussed joint counternarcotics activities during a December visit to Tehran, but Afghan farmers are reluctant to give up opium cultivation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 2002). The UN Office for Drugs and Crime (ODC) has reported that the crop in Afghanistan will yield 3,400 tons of opium this year. BS
IRANIAN DRUG-CONTROL CHIEF VISITS KABUL
An Iranian delegation head by Drug Control Headquarters (DCHQ) chief Ali Hashemi arrived in Kabul on 5 January to hold discussions with Afghan, British, German, and UN officials about the campaign against narcotics, IRNA reported. The Iranian delegation will spend a week in Kabul, according to IRNA, and it will meet with representatives from other countries that would like to cooperate in the counternarcotics campaign. Hashemi said on 1 January that the ease with which Afghan narcotics enter Iran is contributing to drug abuse, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported. Hashemi said Iran will increase its interdiction efforts with the addition of X-ray equipment and radar systems. He added that Iran will train Afghan policemen, strengthen guard posts on both sides of the border, and increase intelligence exchanges. BS
IRANIAN STONING MORATORIUM IS TEMPORARY
Hojatoleslam Mohsen Qaravian, a conservative cleric based in Qom, said on 4 January that the ban on executing adulterers by stoning them is only temporary, IRNA reported. "Stonings have been provisionally suspended due to their negative effects, but this suspension is provisional," he said. Qaravian said it is up to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to make the final decision on stopping stonings. "The punishment of stoning, if they are not in the interests of Muslims and Islam, can be suspended for a determined period by the Supreme Leader," he said. Female Iranian parliamentarians are promoting legislation to stop stonings, and at the end of December a member of the judiciary announced that stonings have been stopped for an undisclosed period (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 2002). BS
CRASHED UKRAINIAN PLANE WAS OPERATING NORMALLY
An unnamed spokesman for the Ukrainian government commission that is investigating the 23 December crash of an Antonov An-140 passenger aircraft in Iran announced on 4 January that the flight-data recorder shows that everything was operating normally, ITAR-TASS reported. An alarm signaled that the plane was too close to the ground but poor visibility and mountainous terrain hampered the crew's ability to react, he said. The Ukrainian official said the possibility of a problem with Isfahan's radar is being investigated. The inquiry's completion is scheduled for 8 January. BS
BOMBS GO OFF IN ZAHEDAN
Percussion bombs damaged buildings and shops in the eastern Iranian city of Zahedan on 5 January, the official Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported. Four children were injured in the blasts. Similar incidents in the past were linked to disputes between local Sunni and Shia Muslims. Although some 90 percent of the Iranian population practices Shia Islam, the majority of Sistan Va Baluchistan Province practices Sunni Islam. BS
ARTHUR ANDERSEN NEEDED IN IRAN
Petroleum Minister Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh said on 5 January at the Second Seminar of Management Accounting that Iran needs to use modern accounting methods to facilitate commercial exchanges and economic activities, IRNA reported. He added that poor accounting practices are harmful to the industrial sector. Zanganeh suggested employing foreign experts to handle accounting in the legal, financial, and business fields. BS
IRANIAN GOVERNMENT TO MONITOR WEBSITES
The Ministry of Intelligence and Security has been placed in charge of a special committee tasked with identifying "illicit" websites, the official Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported on 4 January. The Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution created the special committee, which also includes representatives of the Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry and the state broadcasting organization. Once the committee identifies the problematic websites it will inform the Ministry of Post, Telegraph, and Telephone, and it will, in turn, take action -- presumably blocking access to the website. BS
IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS TURKMENISTAN
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi visited Ashgabat on 4 January at the head of a delegation that included government ministers and parliamentary deputies, turkmenistan.ru reported the following day. Kharrazi met with Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov to discuss various aspects of bilateral and regional cooperation, including energy supplies, banking, road and rail transit, and the export of Turkmen natural gas to Iran via the Korpedje-Kurt-Kui pipeline. They also focused on preparations for, and the optimum timing of, the planned summit of Caspian littoral states to take place in Tehran. The two reaffirmed their shared position that any agreement on the legal status of the Caspian Sea must preserve the interests of all five littoral states. LF
IRANIANS OPPOSE VISIT BY IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER
The press and parliament have reacted badly to the possibility of Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri visiting Iran. The "Aftab-i Yazd" daily on 6 January claimed that Iranian officials are trying to ward him off by demanding compensation for the two countries' 1980-88 war. "Is the Iranian side unable to use diplomatic language to convey the answer 'no' to the Iraqi foreign minister?" it asked. The daily warned that Sabri's visit could be viewed as an act of solidarity in opposition to the United States. Meanwhile, Ardabil parliamentary representative Nureddin Pirmoazen said in the same issue of "Aftab-i Yazd" that he has prepared a motion for a vote of no confidence in Iranian Foreign Minister Kharrazi as soon as Sabri sets foot in Iran. "Far from seeing any reason why Naji Sabri should visit Iran, the Iranian nation is counting the minutes so they can see the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime at the earliest opportunity," Pirmoazen added. Thirteen other parliamentarians have signed the no-confidence motion. BS
IRAQI PRESIDENT DELIVERS ARMY DAY SPEECH...
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein commemorated Army Day on 6 January, Iraq News Agency reported. In a prerecorded speech to the Iraqi people, Hussein said the Iraqi nation is one that is conscious of its great mission of faith, and called Army Day a source of pride for Iraqi mujahedin and freedom fighters. "When you, the valiant people of Iraq, renew your pledge to Allah, to yourselves, to the nation, and to humanity at large, that you will continue the march of jihad, you not only strengthen your adherence to your belief and your sacrifices for the faith...but you also ensure final victory over the enemies of Allah -- your enemies," he said. "We will fear no one in defending our right," he added. "Our right is a clear right, as clear as [the U.S.] falsehood.... Allah shall drown [the U.S.] in shame." KR
...AND SPECULATES ON U.S. 'GOALS' IN THE REGION
President Hussein went on to say that the United States is coordinating with Israel to "subject the region to a full, complete, and physical occupation...with a view of securing complete control over [the Gulf region's] resources," Iraq News Agency reported. "But the enemy will pay dearly later, on top of what it is paying at present for its reckless policies of greed and expansionism," he added. Hussein also said the United States is now "providing cover" for crimes perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people. He said U.S. "aggression" against Iraq also provides cover for a weak economy and failed policies; namely, resolving the Palestine question, quelling resistance in Afghanistan, and global policies in general. Hussein said the United States is trying to make UN inspectors "go beyond the declared objectives of the Security Council" and cited the collection of names of scientists and "addressing employees with questions that carry hidden agendas, giving special attention to military camps, to non-proscribed military production, and to other matters, all or most of which constitute purely intelligence work." He concluded by saying Iraq is "fully prepared...for any eventuality." "It is the enemy that is confused," he added. "The enemy ought to remember the terrible end of all empires that committed aggression against our people and nation in the past." KR
ISRAEL SAYS ARROW MISSILE CAN INTERCEPT SCUDS
Israel conducted a test launch of four Arrow interceptor missiles on 5 January from the Palmachim base south of Tel Aviv, the Israeli daily "Ha'aretz" reported on 6 January. The test launch simulated four missiles heading toward Israel, including Scuds and its derivatives, according to "Ha'aretz." According to the report, the Arrow, which travels at an average speed of 1,700 meters per second, is capable of intercepting enemy missiles as close as 50 kilometers from their intended targets. The test launch was the first time Israel has fired multiple Arrow missiles at the same time. KR
INSPECTORS FOCUS ON IRAQI HOSPITALS, FACTORIES...
98 UN inspectors visited 16 sites on 5 January. A team of seven IAEA inspectors returned to the Saddam State Company in Amiriyah Al-Fallujah to survey a factory that produces graphite rods. Inspectors sampled coal rods used to make the graphite rods and conducted radiological testing, according to a Foreign Ministry statement on 5 January. A team of 18 missile inspectors returned to the Sabea Nisan (7 April) State Company, which specializes in manufacturing artillery tubes, while four missile inspectors returned to the Al-Mamoun Factory at the Al-Rashid State Company to inspect and tag fuel tanks. A joint UNMOVIC team of eight inspectors visited the Al-Aziziyah shooting range in the Wasit Governate, where they took samples of bomb fragments, while a joint group of 13 inspectors visited the Ibn Sina Hospital in Mosul to inspect laboratories, the services building, and cafeteria, and to question doctors there. KR
...AS WELL AS MILITARY COMPLEX
A group of 13 biological inspectors on 5 January visited the Al-Rashid Military Hospital, where they inquired as to the hospital's activities and departments, as well as changes made since 1998, the Foreign Ministry announced. Inspectors also checked declarations before proceeding to the Central Military Medical Laboratory, where they asked similar questions. Another group of 13 inspectors visited the School of Sciences in Basra University, including the School of Medicine and the Maritime Sciences Center. Inspectors questioned "specialists" and checked equipment, the ministry stated. A group of 20 chemical inspectors returned to the Al-Basil State Company, at the Al-Jadiriyah complex, which specializes in "oils, adhesives, anticorrosion materials, and pharmaceutical raw materials," the ministry stated. Inspectors checked buildings and labs and questioned scientists there. Also inspected at Al-Jadiriyah were the Al-Khawarizmi State Company, the Al-Tabani State Company, the Al-Majd State Company, a food-inspection laboratory belonging to the Trade Ministry, and a construction- and glass-research center. KR
NORWEGIANS RAID HOME OF ANSAR AL-ISLAM LEADER
Norwegian authorities have raided the home of Ansar al-Islam leader Mullah Krekar on the eve of his trial in Norway for drug trafficking in Jordan, the London-based "Al-Hayat" reported on 4 January. Krekar lives in Oslo with his brother, Khalid Faraj Ahmad. "Al-Hayat" reported that Norwegian authorities attempted to detain Krekar (who has a Norwegian permanent-resident visa) prior to his September arrest on a Jordanian warrant for drug trafficking by linking him to both Al-Qaeda and the Iraqi regime. Authorities then obtained a videotape that shows Krekar in a northern Iraq terrorist camp. Krekar's brother Khalid Faraj Ahmad has said the tape came from a library of a mosque in Oslo, and pictures events dating back to 1994. Ahmad insists that Krekar is the victim of internal Kurdish conflicts and was imprisoned for refusing to spy on the Islamic community for Norwegian authorities. KR
RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS KREMLIN CONSIDERS UNILATERAL MILITARY ACTION AGAINST IRAQ ILLEGITIMATE
Speaking to journalists in Chita on 5 January, Sergei Ivanov said Moscow considers any military action by the United States and its allies against President Hussein without UN approval illegitimate and unjustified, newsru.com reported. He added that the deployment of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf could be either real preparations for military action or just a show of force. "I believe, however, that before making a final decision, the United States will take into account the results of the work of international weapons inspectors in Iraq and UN decisions based on those results." Ivanov said that he is skeptical that Baghdad possesses nuclear weapons and that he prefers to wait for inspectors' reports before drawing conclusions about possible chemical and biological weapons. VY