OFFICIALS EXPRESS CONDITIONAL SUPPORT FOR U.S. DRAFT RESOLUTION ON IRAQ...
Speaking to journalists on 5 September, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Russia supports the U.S.-sponsored draft UN Security Council resolution on Iraq, Russian and Western media reported. The draft envisages an expanded role for the United Nations in postwar Iraq. According to the BBC on 5 September, Ivanov said the draft reflects the principles that Russia has long held, although the document still needs some serious revisions. Ivanov added that Russia will make a final decision on the issue after the Security Council sets the conditions for the international stabilization force. On 4 September, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said it is possible that Russia could send peacekeeping forces to Iraq under a UN mandate, RIA-Novosti reported. During a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Sardinia on 30 August, President Vladimir Putin said he "sees nothing wrong if [a peacekeeping contingent] is under U.S. command. VY
...AS LIBERAL ANALYSTS SAY IRAQ SITUATION IS NOT 'RUSSIA'S MISTAKE'
Liberal military journalist Aleksandr Golts told polit.ru on 4 September that Defense Minister Ivanov's statement seems "irrational and bizarre." He said that it would be illogical for Russia to send peacekeepers to support the coalition operation in Iraq after being so critical of that operation for so long. He added that it would be a mistake to get involved in an operation with unclear prospects, especially now that some of the bad predictions about the situation in Iraq now seem to be being realized. Another liberal expert, retire Major General Aleksandr Vladimirov, told the BBC on 5 September that Russia should not send troops to Iraq. Even many thousand additional troops cannot resolve the country's domestic political problems, no matter what countries they come from. Iraq is not Russia's war and it is not Russia's mistake, Vladimirov said. VY
IS RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION DEAD?
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov announced on 6 September that no agreement to introduce the Russian ruble as the single currency of Russia and Belarus will be signed in the near future, newsru.com reported. He said no agreement can be reached because of Minsk's insistence that Russia adopt a constitutional act on the formation of a union state before a common currency can be introduced. Strana.ru commented on 6 September that Kasyanov's statement means that the idea of the Russia-Belarus Union is dead. After eight years of discussions, the two countries have failed to form a functioning joint parliament or a unified customs space. They have even failed to agree on jointly protecting their interests in foreign markets. No signed and ratified bilateral agreement has been produced, indicating the presence of irresolvable differences, the website concluded. VY
RUSSIA EXPANDS RELATIONS WITH BULGARIA...
Speaking to journalists in Sochi following talks with Bulgarian President Georgii Parvanov, President Putin said that, after a decade of cool relations, the two countries have agreed to expand trade relations and economic cooperation, strana.ru reported 7 September. Russia has agreed to help Bulgaria modernize a nuclear-power station and to upgrade its Soviet-produced MiG fighter jets. Bilateral trade is expected to reach $1.4 billion this year, while direct Russian investments in Bulgaria will reach $500 million, including investment in the Western Siberia-Southern Europe strategic oil pipeline. LUKoil head Vagit Alekperov, who participated in the talks and whose company will be the operator of the projected pipeline, told strana.ru that the pipeline will run from Western Siberian to Novorossiisk, then across the Black Sea to the Bulgarian and Greek terminals of Burgas and Alexandroupoli. From these ports, tankers will ship the oil to the east coast of the United States. VY
...AND NORTH KOREA
Presidential envoy to the Far East Federal District Konstantin Pulikovskii told journalists on 7 September that his region plans to expand economic relations with North Korea, including expanding electricity exports to the Korean Peninsula as part of an integrated Far Eastern energy system, Interfax reported. Pulikovskii was speaking on the eve of a visit to Pyongyang to participate in celebrations of the anniversary of the founding of North Korea. He is expected to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, to whom he will convey a message from President Putin and with whom he is expected to discuss the international conflict over North Korea's nuclear program. VY
INCUMBENTS WIN RE-ELECTION IN REGIONAL GUBERNATORIAL RACES...
Sverdlovsk, Omsk, and Novgorod oblasts held gubernatorial elections on 7 September, and two of the three incumbents won, according to preliminary results, while a third will have to compete in a second round, Russian media reported on 8 September. According to gazeta.ru, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel got 42.85 percent of the vote, compared with 14.43 percent for his next closest competitor, oblast legislator Anton Bakov. Federation Council representative (Kurgan Oblast) Andrei Vikharev came in third with 13.69 percent. A second round is expected to be held on 21 September. In Omsk Oblast, Governor Leonid Pozhelaev got 56 percent of the vote, according to RBK, compared with 28 percent for State Duma Deputy Leonid Maevskii (Communist). In Novgorod, with more than 95 percent of the votes counted, Governor Mikhail Prusak had 78.66 percent of the vote, according to RIA-Novosti. His next closest competitors -- Vladimir Dugentsev, chairman of Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneur's St. Petersburg branch, and Aleksandr Sevastyanov, co-chairman of the National Power Party -- each had less than 4 percent of the vote. Both Prusak and Pozhelaev will be serving their third terms. JAC
...AS DAILY LAMENTS LACK OF CADRE RENEWAL IN THE REGIONS
In an article previewing the three elections, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" commented on 5 September that there were "no doubts" that the incumbents would win. According to the daily, the only uncertain factor was whether voters would turn out in sufficient numbers. The newspaper also noted that in the case of Novgorod Governor Prusak, his region's economy has been performing particularly poorly lately. However, he faced little danger of being unseated because he has never permitted any rivals in his domain since he became governor in 1991. At the same time, by ensuring he has no rivals, Prusak has no potential trained successor, and neither do Polezhaev or Rossel. This creates a potential hazard because "unless the gubernatorial corps is considerably renovated in the next three years, the central and regional authorities will exhaust their resources -- simultaneously -- by the end of Putin's second term in office, forcing Putin's successor to replace virtually everyone at once within the Kremlin and in the regions." JAC
PARTY OF RUSSIA'S RENEWAL GETS NEW LEASE OF LIFE?
The Party of Life, which is headed by Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov, has agreed to form an electoral bloc with the Party of Russia's Rebirth, which is led by State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev, Seleznev announced on 6 September at his party's congress, Russian media reported. According to NTV that day, a formal announcement about the formation of the bloc will be made on 14 September. Seleznev added that it is too early to say who will be the top three candidates on the bloc's party list. According to RTR, congress delegates approved the move without debate and easily adopted an emblem for the party: a white, blue, and red dove. JAC
YABLOKO STICKS WITH THE OLD...
At its 9th party congress on 6 September, Yabloko approved its party list for the 7 December State Duma elections, Interfax reported. Party leader Grigorii Yavlinskii and State Duma deputies Vladimir Lukin and Igor Artemiev will occupy the top three spots, in that order. Delegates also confirmed a list of 216 candidates running in single-mandate districts with a vote of 266 in favor and 16 against. Human rights activist and State Duma Deputy Sergei Kovalev will also run on the Yabloko party list, as well as investigative journalist Aleksandr Minkin, "Izvestiya" reported on 7 September. Earlier, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that Lukin, 66, would not be offered his traditional spot on Yabloko's list because the party is trying to appeal to younger voters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2003). JAC
...AS YUKOS WINS SPOTS ON COMMUNIST PARTY LIST
At the Communist Party of the Russia Federation's (KPRF) 9th party congress on 6 September, delegates also approved the make-up of its party list as well as a list of candidates for single-mandate districts, ITAR-TASS reported. The top three names on the KPRF's party list will be party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Federation Council representative (Krasnodar Krai) Nikolai Kondratenko, and Agro-Industrial group head Nikolai Kharitonov. Kondratenko, a former governor of Krasnodar Krai, has achieved international notoriety for his anti-Semitic comments. Other names on the list are cosmonaut Svetlana Savistkaya, Nobel Prize-winning physicist and State Duma Deputy Zhores Alferov, Communist Deputies Valentin Kuptsov and Ivan Melnikov, and Russian Communist Worker's Party leader Viktor Tyulkin. In what the agency described as a surprise development, Gennadii Semigin, chairman of the People's Patriotic Union of Russia's Executive Council, was included in the main section of the party list. According to "Izvestiya," the 13th and 15th spots on the list went to two Yukos managers: Aleksei Kondaurov and Sergei Muravlenko. Two other Yukos representatives, which the daily did not name, reportedly appear on the regional party lists. JAC
DUMA GROUPS CHANGE LABELS...
The Unity faction in the State Duma decided on 5 September to change its name to Unity-Unified Russia, Russian media reported. Unity faction leader Vladimir Pekhtin told the station that the name change is important because of the upcoming elections and the necessity of clarifying for some voters that the two rivals from the 1999 State Duma elections -- Unity and Fatherland-All Russia -- have now joined forces. The Fatherland-All Russia faction recently changed its name to Fatherland-Unified Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 2003). The station also reported that Unity-Unified Russia is going to try to cut in half the number of committees in the Duma to 14-15 during the upcoming fall session. "Novye izvestiya" also reported the same day that an effort is in the works to cut the number of committees. According to the daily, Regulations Committee Chairman Oleg Kovalev (Unity-Unified Russia) said on 4 September that the ideal number of committees should be more no more than 17-18. JAC
...AS NEW DEPUTIES GROUP MAY APPEAR IN LOWER HOUSE
At the same time, a new deputies group could appear led by Sergei Glaziev, the head of a new left patriotic bloc, according to "Novye izvestiya" on 5 September. It would comprised members of the Russian Regions group, the Agro-Industrial group, and the Communist Party faction. In order for a new deputies group to be registered, it has to have at least 35 members. ITAR-TASS reported on 7 September that Glazev's bloc continues to attract new members, including the Orthodox Women's Union and the Russian Labor Party. Sergei Baburin's People's Will Party is also expected to join. JAC
PRESIDENTIAL RACE IN BASHKORTOSTAN TURNING INTO FREE-FOR-ALL?
Federation Council representative (Altai Republic) Ralif Safin told TatarInform on 5 September that he intends to run in the 7 December presidential election in Bashkortostan. Safin is a former vice president of LUKoil and his daughter, Alsou, is a well-known pop singer. Safin is scheduled to appear at a celebration of oil-industry worker's day in the city of Oktyabrskii in Bashkortostan on 7 September, RosBalt reported on 3 September. Meanwhile, two other candidates, State Duma Deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) and Sergei Vereemenko, a former Mezhprombank executive, have not yet decided whether they are going to run. Vereemenko told RosBalt on 4 September that "the situation is changing" and he might run for the State Duma on the Unified Russia party list. He added that incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov will face many competitors, and the technology that will be used to keep track of the voting will not allow the results to be falsified. JAC
ARMENIAN PRESIDENT BEGINS STATE VISIT TO BULGARIA
A government delegation led by President Robert Kocharian arrived in Bulgaria on 7 September for a three-day official visit, ITAR-TASS and Armenpress reported. Kocharian met on 8 September with Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov and discussed plans to expand bilateral economic and trade cooperation. The Armenian delegation includes the foreign, transport and communications, health, and culture ministers. Kocharian will also chair a Bulgarian-Armenian business conference and plans to meet with members of the approximately 25,000-strong local Armenian community. RG
ARMENIAN OFFICIAL WELCOMES A STABLE AZERBAIJAN
Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Ruben Shugarian affirmed on 5 September that the Armenian government seeks stability in Azerbaijan as "an obligatory condition for preserving stability in the region and ensuring a normal process of talks over Karabakh-conflict regulation," Armenpress reported. Shugarian added that mounting internal tension in the face of the approaching presidential election in Azerbaijan must not be allowed to lead to "turmoil," and that the preservation of the "current status quo" is in the interests of all states in the region. He also said that Armenia and Azerbaijan could establish "mutually beneficial cooperation" in efforts to combat terrorism, organized crime, and the trafficking of arms and narcotics. RG
ARMENIAN CENTRAL BANK CHAIRMAN REPORTS ON CAPITAL FLIGHT BY COMMERCIAL BANKS
Central Bank of Armenia Chairman Tigran Sarkisian revealed on 4 September that most of the country's commercial banks are investing money abroad in an effort to counter the risk of investing in Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Sarkisian added that lending is "still risky" in Armenia and that because "this is a serious problem...commercial banks prefer to use part of their resources in other countries, considering that less risky." He also said that banking in Armenia still faces challenges, as banks are criticized for routinely requiring collateral for virtually every loan and for setting disproportionately high interest rates. Sarkisian said that 16 of the country's 27 commercial banks ended last year with profits, with only four incurring serious losses and the remaining seven banks coming under temporary Central Bank management. The Central Bank is set to implement a new mandatory deposit-insurance system in January 2005, backed by a special state fund designed to cushion the effects of possible bank closures and covering deposits of up to 2 million drams ($3,500). RG
FORMER FIRST DEPUTY BAKU MAYOR CONVICTED OF EMBEZZLEMENT
Former First Deputy Mayor Eldaniz Lahijev and four other municipal officials were found guilty by a Baku court on 5 September of embezzling some $510,000 in funds from the U.S. Embassy in Baku, AP reported. The funds were to be used to expand the embassy compound and improve security. In 1999, the embassy transferred $4.68 million to the Baku mayor's office for a 99-year lease on property adjoining the embassy, allocating $2.6 million of that amount for compensation for residents of apartment buildings on the adjoining land. Lahijev was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment, and the four others received prison sentences ranging from four to eight years. RG
RUSSIAN ENERGY EXECUTIVE PROPOSES NEW U.S.-RUSSIAN PIPELINE-SECURITY PACT
In comments made on 5 September during a visit to Baku, Russian LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov called for a new bilateral Russian-U.S. agreement on pipeline security, ANS and ITAR-TASS reported. Alekperov said such a joint effort is necessary to ensure the safety and security of the global energy infrastructure. Azerbaijani officials welcomed the proposal and cited the need to protect the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which is currently under construction and envisioned as the primary route for Azerbaijan's energy exports to global markets. Alekperov added that the proposal would "definitely" be discussed at the upcoming summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush this month. Alekperov is in Baku for talks with officials to resolve the Azerbaijani Tax Ministry demand for $250 million in payments from LUKoil, an amount disputed by the company. Alekperov, an ethnic Azerbaijani, has long been seen as a possible presidential candidate in Azerbaijan, but he dispelled all speculation by publicly endorsing Prime Minister Ilham Aliev in the approaching election. RG
GEORGIAN OFFICIAL SURVIVES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT
Georgia's presidentially appointed governor of the Armenian-populated southern Samtskhe-Djavakheti region, Gela Kvartskheliani, survived an assassination attempt on 5 September, Civil Georgia and Rustavi-2 reported. A bomb was detonated at the regional-administration building just minutes after Kvartskheliani left the building. A security guard and two of the governor's personal bodyguards were seriously injured in the blast. Kvartskheliani issued a televised statement an hour after the incident, in which he accused "local clans and government officials who had problems" with him of carrying out the bombing. In a later statement, he added that "certain political forces are behind this explosion." Deputy Interior Minister Ruben Asanidze met with local law enforcement officials later that day and will supervise the investigation into the bombing. Kvartskheliani was appointed to his post by President Eduard Shevardnadze on 23 August, replacing Teimuraz Mosiashvili. Some observers have speculated that the attack stems from the governor's attempts to combat corruption in the region. RG
LEADING GEORGIAN FACTORY DAMAGED BY SABOTEURS
A leading factory in the western Georgian town of Borzhomi that produces the popular Borzhomi brand of popular mineral water was damaged as a result of sabotage on 5 September, according to Civil Georgia. The damage to the Georgian Glass and Mineral Waters Company involved one water-intake system and, reportedly, the poisoning of the factory's water reservoir. The sabotage temporarily halted production, although the factory has an alternative water source. The Borzhomi mineral springs are widely regarded as one of the country's most important natural resources, and several large companies are engaged in bottling and selling the spring waters, with exports being sold to more than 25 countries. RG
PHONE SERVICE TO GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT CUT OVER UNPAID BILLS
The state-owned Electrokavshiri telecommunications company disconnected telephone service to the Georgian parliament on 5 September for the third time this year because of unpaid bills, Civil Georgia reported. According to Electrokavshiri officials, the total debt for the parliament's phone service has reached 214,000 laris ($101,000), forcing the company to disconnect all 435 phone lines in the parliament building. RG
IMF SUSPENDS GEORGIAN OPERATIONS
The head of the International Monetary Fund's Georgian Mission, Jonathan Dunn, announced on 5 September that the IMF is temporarily suspending its programs in Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported. Dunn said that although a resumption of programs might be considered, it is unlikely to happen before the end of the year. The decision to suspend programs follows the failure of Georgian authorities to fulfill a key IMF demand for a sizable reduction in state spending. The IMF decision will most likely induce the Paris Club of creditors to delay consideration of a moratorium on Georgian sovereign-debt payments for 2003, forcing Tbilisi to abide by its debt-repayment schedule this year. RG
SCO FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET IN TASHKENT...
The Foreign Ministers' Council of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) -- comprising Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Russia and China -- met in a special session on 5 September in Tashkent, Interfax and other Russian and Central Asian media reported. Uzbek Foreign Minister Sodyq Sofaev opened the session with an announcement that two SCO permanent bodies -- the secretariat in Beijing and the executive committee of the regional antiterrorism center in Tashkent -- will begin functioning in November. A communique issued at the end of the session called for the UN to take on a larger role in Iraq, supported efforts toward the peaceful resolution of the dispute over North Korea's nuclear program and the conflict in the Middle East, and called for the adoption of a convention against international terrorism and the elaboration of an international strategy under UN auspices to combat drug trafficking from Afghanistan. BB
...BUT KAZAKHSTAN REJECTS SCO ANTITERRORISM EXERCISES
Kazakh Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev told the special session of SCO foreign ministers on 5 September that his country opposes any large-scale antiterrorism military exercises by the SCO on the grounds that the fight against terrorism is the responsibility of law enforcement agencies, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. The SCO recently held antiterrorism exercises in Kazakhstan and China (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 11 August 2003). Toqaev argued that such activities create a mistaken impression of SCO goals in the world community. He asserted that the struggle against international terrorism, drug trafficking, and other threats to security and stability should be a top priority for the Shanghai group, but efforts should be coordinated through the regional antiterrorism center that is being set up in Tashkent. BB
KYRGYZ COMMUNISTS FAIL TO FORCE PRIME MINISTER TO RESIGN
The Communist faction in the lower house of the Kyrgyz parliament failed persuade fellow parliamentarians on 5 September to support a motion that would have forced Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev to resign, akipress.org and Interfax reported. The Communists also submitted a proposal urging that the statue of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin be restored to its previous location on Bishkek's main square. The removal of the statue sparked a debate that occupied the lower house for much of the last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2003). Tanaev has been the particular target of the wrath of Kyrgyzstan's two Communist parties because he ordered the statue's removal to make way for a statue symbolizing Kyrgyzstan's independence. State Secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov told parliamentarians that a special fund has been set up for the construction of a monument of which the Lenin statue will be a part, and that a number of Turkish firms operating in Kyrgyzstan have contributed to it. BB
KYRGYZ HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS DEFEND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE
Leaders of three Kyrgyz human rights organizations held a press conference on 5 September to announce the findings of an independent inquiry into charges that the chairman of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights (KCHR), Ramazan Dyryldaev, misused foreign grant funds, "Obshchestvennyi reiting" reported the following day. Dyryldaev was voted out of office during a special meeting of persons who, according to the KCHR board, had no right to do so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 28 August 2003). He was replaced by Bolot Tynaliev, who had resigned his membership in the KCHR. Tolekan Ismailova of the group Civil Society Against Corruption; Asya Sasykbaeva of the NGO Center Interbilim; and Aleksandr Fomenko, a member of the KCHR board, that the independent inquiry had concluded that the illegal removal of Dyryldaev was part of a growing government tendency to try to blacken the reputations of critics and undermine the activities of nongovernmental organizations that the country's leadership dislikes. BB
TWO MORE TAJIKS KILLED BY LAND MINES ON UZBEK BORDER
Two Tajik citizens were killed on 2 September by Uzbek land mines on the common border of the two countries, RIA-Novosti reported two days later, citing Tajikistan's Border Protection Committee. According to the committee, the two fatalities brought to 45 the number of Tajik citizens killed since August 2002 by land mines laid by the Uzbek military as part of Uzbekistan's efforts to stop penetration of Uzbek territory by militants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IDU). A total of more than 60 Tajik citizens are reported to have been killed by the Uzbek land mines. Tajikistan is in the process of removing landmines left from the Tajik civil war of 1992-97. BB
FORMER UZBEK ISLAMIC MILITANT BEING INTERVIEWED BY MEDIA
A former IDU militant is being allowed by the Uzbek National Security Service to give interviews to the foreign media, Interfax, other Russian media, and Deutsche Welle reported on 4 and 5 September. Azizbek Karimov, who was arrested in May 2003, has told foreign journalists that Tohir Yuldashev, one of the most important IDU leaders, is in hiding in Pakistan and planning new attacks. Karimov has claimed that he was trained in a Chechen guerrilla camp and also had contact with an Al-Qaeda member, who paid him to attack the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek, but he and a group of Uighur separatists bombed a Bishkek market in December 2002 instead, considering it an easier target. Later, the IDU demanded he return the money he had received. He said he hopes for a milder sentence because of his admissions. BB
CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTER SIGNS ANTITERRORISM AGREEMENTS WITH UZBEKISTAN, TURKMENISTAN
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation between China and Uzbekistan in the fight against international terrorism, separatism, and extremism on 4 September during a two-day visit to Tashkent, uzreport.com reported on 5 September. The signing followed a meeting with Uzbek Foreign Minister Sofaev, during which the sides said they hold identical views on terrorism. The officials also discussed intensifying bilateral economic contacts. Li has been touring the Central Asian states and signing similar antiterrorism agreements (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 September 2003). A similar agreement was signed with Turkmenistan, centran.ru reported on 5 September. KazInform noted on 6 September that China is particularly interested in the fight against terrorism, religious extremism, and separatism in the Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region. BB
WILL BELARUSIAN LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY SPLIT?
A congress of the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus (LDPB) on 6 September revealed internal animosity as the party leader, Syarhey Haydukevich, left the gathering with a number of the delegates amid criticism for his allegedly authoritarian practices and for the party's poor performances during elections the past three years, Belapan reported. Specifically, Haydukevich was criticized for the party's poor showings in the parliamentary election of 2000, the presidential election of 2001, and in this year's local elections. "The LDPB has turned into a unitary enterprise servicing Haydukevich and his family," LDPB Deputy Chairman Aleh Markevich charged at the congress. The remaining delegates amended the LDPB statute by eliminating the chairmanship and transferring its functions to the Supreme Council. Haydukevich told journalists that he regards the congress as illegitimate and promised to hold another one in three weeks. Haydukevich ran in the 2001 presidential election, garnering just 2.5 percent of the vote. JM
UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS SUBMIT NEW CONSTITUTIONAL-REFORM DRAFT...
The Verkhovna Rada has registered a political-reform draft stipulating that the president who is elected by direct ballot in 2004 will be replaced by another one elected for a five-year term by a two-thirds vote in parliament in 2006, Interfax reported on 5 September. Under the draft, the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada is to be elected for five years under a fully proportional party-list system. The draft also includes other proposals to revamp Ukraine's political system in accordance with a recent compromise between the presidential administration, the Communist Party, and the Socialist Party (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 26 August and 2 September 2003). According to lawmaker Raisa Bohatyryova from the pro-presidential Ukraine's Regions caucus, the signatures of 254 lawmakers currently support the constitutional-reform draft. Three hundred votes are necessary to amend the Ukrainian Constitution. JM
...BUT SOCIALISTS APPEAR TO HAVE SOMEWHAT DIFFERENT IDEAS
The Socialist Party press service has publicized the party's view of key proposals for the upcoming constitutional reform in the country, Interfax reported on 6 September. Contrary to the draft bill submitted to the Verkhovna Rada last week (see above), the Socialist Party wants to preserve the election of the president by direct ballot. The Socialist Party also proposes that local elections, like parliamentary ones, be held under a fully proportional party-list system. According to the Socialists, all constitutional changes should take effect in 2006, after a new legislature and local councils are elected on a proportional basis. The Socialist Party caucus in the Verkhovna Rada includes 21 deputies. Its support may be crucial for making the political-system reform happen in Ukraine. JM
BALTIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERS CALLS FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS
At the Baltic Council of Ministers session in Vilnius on 5 September, the Prime Ministers of the Baltic states joined by their Polish and Finnish counterparts, Leszek Miller and Matti Vanhanen, signed a joint statement calling for "resolute measures" to implement infrastructure projects in the Baltic Sea region, BNS reported. It specifically mentioned the Rail Baltica railroad project and the linking of the Polish-Lithuanian and Estonian-Finnish electricity systems. European Commission Vice President Loyola de Palacio told the meeting that the projects could be included on the EU list of priority projects only if all involved countries adopted a deal on implementing them. She noted that the EU normally co-funds only 10 percent of power network connection projects, but this might be increased to 20 percent. SG
ESTONIA'S RES PUBLICA HOLDS CONGRESS IN TARTU
Almost a thousand delegates participated in the third Congress of Res Publica in Tartu on 6 September, BNS reported. By a vote of 899 to 57, it re-elected Juhan Parts as the party's chairman, elected Toivo Maimets as Education and Science Minister, elected Taavi Veskimagi as the party's parliament faction chairman, and Jaanus Rahumagi as parliamentary deputy. The congress adopted a statement in favor of Estonia joining the EU, but mentioned that each country in the EU should still be entitled to have one commissioner and matters of taxation should be left in the jurisdiction of individual EU members. It also approved with only one abstention the party's joining the center-right European People's Party of which it is now an associate member. The congress did not use the opportunity to dismiss any current party ministers with no-confidence votes. Justice Minister Ken-Marti Vaher and Finance Minister Toni Palts received the greatest numbers of no-confidence votes, 160 and 105, respectively. SG
EU NOT TO SET ANY NEW MINORITY RIGHTS REQUIREMENTS FOR LATVIA
EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen confirmed in an interview in the daily "Diena" on 6 September that the EU will not set any new requirements on language and citizenship matters for Latvia after it becomes a member of the organization, LETA reported. He said that such issues are outside the area of EU authority as they are part of the so-called political criteria to which standards of the Council of Europe are applied. Verheugen also dismissed claims that Russia might become a member of the EU in the near future, mentioning that it had not applied for EU membership. He also said Latvia is already competitive on the European market and would not need 20 years to reach the average development level of EU countries. SG
POLISH OPPOSITION PARTY WANTS CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES
The liberal Civic Platform on 6 September adopted a resolution calling for deep changes in the Polish Constitution, PAP reported. In particular, the party proposes lifting parliamentary immunity; cutting the number of Sejm deputies and senators from 460 to 230 and from 100 to 33, respectively; and electing the entire Sejm under a first-past-the-post system in one-mandate constituencies. The Civic Platform with 56 lawmakers is the second-largest force in the Sejm, Poland's lower house. JM
POLISH SEJM SPEAKER RULES OUT RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT
Sejm speaker Marek Borowski said on 5 September that he is not a candidate of the ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) in the 2005 presidential election and that he is not considering running for the post, PAP reported. "As far as the SLD is concerned, I think that for today it would be decisively too early for a discussion about candidacies, despite the fact that some encourage such debate," Borowski said. JM
POLAND BEGINS ISSUING VISAS FOR BELARUSIANS, UKRAINIANS
Last week Polish consulates in the Belarusian cities of Minsk, Brest, and Hrodna; and the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv, Lutsk, and Odesa, began issuing visas for Belarusians and Ukrainians with validity as of 1 October, PAP reported on 5 September, quoting the Polish Foreign Ministry. To comply with the EU visa policy, Warsaw introduced visas for Belarusians and Ukrainians as of 1 October, signing relevant intergovernmental accords with Minsk and Kyiv earlier this year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July and 27 August 2003). JM
CZECH PREMIER, GERMAN CHANCELLOR PUT PAST BEHIND THEM...
Visiting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Czech Premier Vladimir Svoboda agreed on 5 September that disputes of the past should be left in the past, and the two countries should concentrate on their joint future in the EU, CTK and international media reported. Schroeder "postponed" a planned visit to Prague in March 2002, after former Premier Milos Zeman likened the expelled Sudeten Germans to "Hitler's fifth column." "I am simply here in order to make it clear that the Czech Republic and Germany have every reason to look forward. And that the issues that occasionally led to misunderstandings or differences of opinion belong to the past," Schroeder said, RFE/RL reported. He later joined Czech leaders for the dedication of a memorial plaque honoring victims of Nazism. Schroeder also held talks with President Vaclav Klaus and with the speakers of the two houses of parliament, Lubomir Zaoralek and Petr Pithart. According to Pithart, Schroeder promised to re-examine whether the agreed-upon two-year transition period for the free movement of labor after Prague joins the EU should be extended, as Germany and Austria announced they would do. MS
...BUT PRESENT IS MORE PROBLEMATIC
Spidla and Schroeder could apparently not agree during their 5 September talks on the issue of the European Constitution to be discussed at the Intergovernmental Conference in Rome next month, CTK and international media reported. Schroeder warned against reopening further debates on the document. "If we open the package, we won't be able to put it back together," he said. Spidla responded that his country believes "there are questions we could consider again," according to dpa. Regarding the U.S.-sponsored draft UN Security Council resolution on Iraq, Schroeder said that "there's been some movement there," but added: "What the resolution will mean in practice, that's up to the UN Security Council to decide," RFE/RL reported (see following item). MS
CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS UN SHOULD NOT CHANGE U.S. ROLE IN IRAQ
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda on 6 September told an informal meeting of current EU foreign ministers and candidate countries' chief diplomats in Riva del Garda, Italy, that he agrees with the British view that the envisaged UN Security Council resolution on Iraq should not change the leading role played by the United States in that country, CTK reported. Earlier, Svoboda said he is very happy with the outcome of Chancellor Schroeder's visit to Prague the previous day. On the Iraq resolution, however, Czech opinions are obviously different from those of Germany and those of France and Italy. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini spoke of the need to set up a multilateral force in Iraq under U.S. command and operating under a UN mandate, while French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said the UN must take the leading role in Iraq and organize elections there. "It would be good if the resolution recognized the role of the [United States] as the country that determines and controls the stabilization forces in Iraq," Svoboda told CTK. "And I would prefer this resolution be supported by France and Germany as well. It is impossible to [have such a resolution approved] at the cost of weakening the position of the U.S. and Great Britain." MS
DAILY SAYS SLOVAK PREMIER SET TO DISMISS NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICE HEAD...
The daily "Pravda" wrote on 6 September that Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda is intensifying efforts to secure the dismissal of Jan Mojzis as director of the National Security Office (NBU), TASR reported. Citing governmental sources, "Pravda" said that Dzurinda has asked coalition partners to consent to the dismissal, and Slovak Hungarian Coalition (SMK) Chairman Bela Bugar indirectly confirmed the report, saying that consultations on the issue are ongoing between Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) and the SMK, the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), and the Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO). "Pravda" said the SMK and KDH are for now opposed to Dzurinda's request and have asked the premier to present more evidence in support of his claim that Mojzis is a member of a "group" plotting to discredit the SDKU, Dzurinda himself, and the Slovak Information Service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 2003). MS
...AS DZURINDA, MILLER OPEN 'VISEGRAD' BORDER BRIDGE
Premier Dzurinda and his Polish counterpart Leszek Miller inaugurated on 6 September a new bridge on the border between their countries in Circ, eastern Slovakia, TASR and CTK reported. Named the Visegrad Bridge -- after the four countries that are members of that group: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia -- the bridge was built by Poland and cofinanced by the EU. Miller said at the opening ceremony that, in the Visegrad group, "bridges have become a symbol of cooperation on the path to the EU," recalling the opening of another bridge on the Hungarian-Slovak border a few years earlier. MS
FORMER MECIAR ALLY TO SEEK SLOVAK PRESIDENCY
Ivan Gasparovic, a former close aide to three-time Premier Vladimir Meciar, announced on 6 September that he will run for president in the election slated for mid-2004, CTK reported. Gasparovic split from Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia before the 2002 elections, but failed to gain parliamentary representation as head of the Movement for Democracy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 July 2002). In related news, Smer (Direction) Chairman Robert Fico said on 6 September that his party will field its own candidate in the forthcoming presidential contest, TASR reported. Fico said Smer will nominate its candidate by 22 September. Fico also said Smer will offer to the extraparliamentary Party of the Democratic Left, the Social Democratic Alternative, and the Social Democrats to run on Smer's lists in the 2004 elections for the European Parliament. MS
POPE TO BEATIFY TWO SLOVAKS DURING VISIT
When he visits Slovakia later this week, Pope John Paul II will beatify Bishop Vasil Hopko and Sister Cecilia Schelingova, two Roman-Catholic victims of religious persecution under communism, AFP reported. Hopko, who died in 1976, was placed in solitary confinement at home before being arrested and incarcerated for 15 years. A biography recently published by the Vatican claims that Hopko was gradually poisoned over many years, as proved by traces of arsenic found in his bones. Schelingova was sentenced to 12 years in prison for high treason after helping a priest escape from jail. She had to endure "terrifying torture," according to the Vatican, and died in 1955, just weeks after having been amnestied and released from prison. MS
HUNGARIAN COALITION PARTIES END TAX RIFT
The Socialist Party (MSZP) and the Free Democrats (SZDSZ) on 5 September ended their rift on 2004 taxes and concluded an agreement ensuring that earlier planned tax reductions will remain in place, Hungarian media reported. Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy told journalists the two parties will not amend the legislation on tax cuts that was approved by parliament last year, and insisted that the budget deficit will not be allowed to grow. Medgyessy said the government intends to finance the planned personal-income-tax reductions by leaving unchanged the 25-percent value-added tax and by increasing excise and gambling taxes. He also said eligibility for entrepreneurial tax cuts will be expanded and that he expects 40 billion forints ($173.6 million) to be shaved from the budgets of state-financed institutions. MS
FORMER HUNGARIAN PREMIER KICKS UP STORM AT OWN PARTY FORUM
Former Prime Minister Gyula Horn told a two-day meeting of the MSZP parliamentary group over the weekend that new party officials should be elected to replace incumbents, in order to lift the burden of party functions from cabinet members, Hungarian media reported on 6 September. Horn called for separating state and party functions and said that MSZP Chairman Laszlo Kovacs ought to offer his resignation. Horn is also foreign minister. Parliamentary speaker and MSZP Deputy Chairwoman Katalin Szili responded by saying she is capable of carrying out both tasks and does not intend to resign from either of them. Premier Medgyessy called the proposal unreasonable. MS
HUNGARIAN BORDER GUARDS DETAIN FORMER HEAD OF K&H BANK
Hungarian border guards on 6 September detained Tibor Rejto, the former head of Hungary's second-largest bank, the Kereskedelmi es Hitel Bank Rt. (K&H Bank), AP and AFP reported. Rejto was attempting to cross the border into Austria accompanied by his wife. He was due to appear on 5 September at a Budapest police station for questioning as a suspect in the embezzlement scandal involving the bank's brokerage arm, K&H Equities. Rejto resigned as the bank's chief executive officer when the scandal became public in July, but claimed he was doing so "on ethical grounds" and denied any involvement in the embezzlement. The main suspect, broker Attila Kulcsar, is awaiting extradition in Vienna. He has reportedly admitted to defrauding investors of some 38.6 million euro ($42.8 million) and has implicated Rejto in the scheme. Police took former Betonut Rt. Deputy Chief Executive Officer Gabor Garamszegi and Miklos Bitvai, the former chief executive officer of the national motorways management company AAK, into custody on 7 September in connection with the same K&H embezzlement scandal. MS
MACEDONIAN POLICE VOW TO 'NEUTRALIZE' ALL MILITANTS...
Security forces clashed with unidentified armed groups in northern Macedonia on 7 September, Reuters and dpa reported, quoting an Interior Ministry spokeswoman. The fighting broke out during a police operation to "neutralize" what she called criminal and militant groups in the village of Brest on the border with Kosova. A brief police statement added that "the armed groups have been dispersed and neutralized in that region. Several members of the armed group have lost their lives because they used weapons while resisting arrest." The operation was part of a massive manhunt for Avdil Jakupi, a local rebel leader, who was reportedly behind the kidnapping of two persons on 27 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 29 August, and 2 and 3 September 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 September 2003). On 8 September, the Interior Ministry said in a statement that its forces will continue to "clean up the area" in the Kumanovo-Lipkovo region. An unnamed police official told Reuters "this will not end until all militant groups are neutralized." UB/PM
...LEAVING LOCAL LEADERS NERVOUS
Lipkovo's Mayor Husamedin Halili said on 7 September that he objects to the Interior Ministry's raids in the region because the noise from the fighting frightens innocent civilians, Reuters reported. He stressed that a "government should not solve its problems" by forcing women and children to leave their homes. Civilians have also left Gosinci, Lukare, and Malina, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Kosova's Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi told reporters in Prishtina that "the Kosova government is worried about the civilian population in Macedonia." Unnamed diplomats in Skopje told Reuters that they still do not believe that the current violence can be compared to that of the 2001 uprising (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 29 August, and 2 and 3 September 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 September 2003). PM
MONTENEGRIN LEADER WON'T TESTIFY IN THE HAGUE
Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 6 September that he will not agree to a request by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal to testify at the trial of former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, regional and international media reported. Djukanovic stressed that he has "finished [his] battle" with Milosevic. But Florence Hartmann, who is spokeswoman for Carla Del Ponte, the tribunal's chief prosecutor, warned that Djukanovic faces unspecified "consequences" if he does not testify. And Blagota Mitric, who is a former president of the Montenegrin Constitutional Court, said in Podgorica on 7 September that Djukanovic is legally bound to testify if the tribunal asks him to do so. Once a protege of Milosevic and his Montenegrin lieutenants, Djukanovic went his own way by 1997 and openly opposed the Belgrade leadership. PM
HAS THE OSCE CALLED THE MONTENEGRIN OPPOSITION'S BLUFF?
On 6 September, two of the three smaller Montenegrin opposition parties rejected an offer by the OSCE to pay for live television broadcasts of debates in the Montenegrin parliament, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Podgorica. Officials of the Liberal Alliance (LS) and the People's Party (NS) said they were "astonished" by the offer. Bozidar Bojovic, who heads the Serbian People's Party (SNS), called the offer "interesting," adding, however, that resolving the question of the broadcasts is not enough to prompt his party to end its boycott of the legislature. The largest opposition party, the Socialist People's Party (SNP), did not immediately comment on the proposal. In May, state-run television announced a decision to end the live broadcasts, which prompted the opposition to launch a boycott of the parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May and 25 June 2003). PM
KOSOVA'S PRESIDENT SAYS TIME HAS COME FOR INDEPENDENCE...
President Ibrahim Rugova said in Kacanik on 7 September that he hopes that independence will soon become a reality for Kosova, Reuters reported. He spoke on the 13th anniversary of the Kosovar provincial parliament's declaration of independence in defiance of moves by President Milosevic to strip Kosova of its autonomy. PM
...AS SERBIA'S PRIME MINISTER MAKES A BOLD STATEMENT...
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic told "Glas javnosti" of 5 September that he is prepared to "get down on his knees" in the manner of former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt if it serves Serbian national interests, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. Zivkovic slammed his hard-line opposition critics of recent declarations on Kosova by the government and legislature, saying that when his critics were in power, Serbs were forced to flee Croatia and Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1, 15, and 22 August and 5 September 2003). PM
...AND OTHER SERBIAN POLITICIANS SEND OUT MIXED SIGNALS ON BILATERAL RELATIONS
In Belgrade on 6 September, Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said he expects Belgrade-Prishtina talks on practical issues to start in the fall in Brussels, regional and international media reported. He said the Serbian side is particularly interested in the right of displaced people to return, the right of all people in Kosova to freedom of movement, resolving the question of missing persons, and various "everyday issues" such as documents, license plates, and power supplies. But Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic "reminded" ethnic Albanian leaders that UN Security Council Resolution 1244 specifies that Kosova is "part of Serbia and Montenegro," Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. He added that "only in the fantasies of Albanian separatists" is a reunion of Kosova with Serbia impossible (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 1, 15, and 22 August and 5 September 2003). PM
FIVE DEAD IN KOSOVA PRISON RIOT
Riots on 4-5 September by about 175 inmates at the Dubrava prison, which is Kosova's largest, left five dead and 16 injured in a fire that broke out under unclear circumstances, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The prisoners demanded better conditions. An unspecified number of inmates launched a hunger strike following the riots to call attention to what they say is the indifference to their plight by the Kosovar and international authorities. PM
ELECTION FEVER IN SERBIA...
Speaker of the Serbian parliament and Acting President Natasa Micic is expected to announce the date of the long-expected general elections by 1 October, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 5 September. On 7 September, Prime Minister Zivkovic presented a 10-point reform program to representatives of Serbian political parties, NGOs, and labor unions. Zivkovic added that he wants the passage of new anti-corruption laws and a review of the work of all ministries and state services to be completed by the end of October (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 May, 25 July, and 8 August 2003). Elsewhere, Predrag Markovic, who is vice president of the G-17 Plus political party, said several unnamed parties of the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition have agreed to discuss the possible date for elections with his party, which competes with the DOS for the pro-reform vote. PM
...AND IN CROATIA
Near Vinkovci on 6 September, Zlatko Tomcic, who is speaker of the Croatian parliament, said he hopes general elections will take place on 23 November, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Tomcic added that his Croatian Peasants' Party (HSS) will not begin coalition talks with any other party until the election is over and the results have been announced. In Zagreb, Prime Minister Ivica Racan, launched his Social Democratic Party's (SDP) campaign. He did not mention when the vote will be held, but the SDP has generally favored a later date than the HSS. Elections are due by the spring of 2004. Jozo Rados, who heads the small liberal Libra party, said that Libra will take part in the elections by itself and not on any joint lists. Former Foreign Minister Mate Granic, who heads the small conservative Democratic Center (DC), told RFE/RL that the Croatian authorities have dragged their heels on promoting better relations with the post-Milosevic Serbian authorities. PM
ROMANIA ANNOUNCES DETENTION OF ISLAMIC JIHAD SUSPECT
Acting on information received from the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), border police detained on 5 September an Egyptian citizen who allegedly is a member of Islamic Jihad, Romanian Radio, Mediafax, and Reuters reported. The SRI said Rezk Karim Zekri Saad was attempting illegally to cross the border into Hungary. On 7 September, Mediafax carried a SRI press release saying that together with Saad, they also have detained an Egyptian national resident of Romania, as well as a Romanian man and woman suspected of serving as guides in the border-crossing attempt. The SRI said that after entering Romanian territory legally on 13 August, Saad was placed under surveillance and his telephone calls were tapped. It also said it has received no response from the Egyptian intelligence service to its inquiry concerning the alleged existence of Islamic terrorist bases on Romanian territory, and denied that such bases exist. The SRI said it was cooperating with other foreign-intelligence services in its attempts to elucidate Saad's case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2003). MS
U.S. AMBASSADOR CHIDES ROMANIAN PREMIER
U.S. Ambassador to Romania Michael Guest said on 6 September that he regrets that Premier Adrian Nastase "does not share" Guest's concern about the way public funds are being spent in Romania, Mediafax reported, citing an official embassy press release. Guest added that he knows many Romanians do share that concern and that the concern is also shared by EU and World Bank officials, as well as by governments other than the U.S. administration. Guest was responding to a statement made in Piatra-Neamt by Nastase on 3 September. The premier said that he "cannot remember" many corruption scandals in Romania and that Romanians have a propensity to an unwarranted "self-stigmatization and self-victimization." Nastase said that corruption is a phenomenon specific of all transition countries and other countries have scandals much bigger than Romania ever did. He added that "some people from abroad" exaggerate the magnitude of Romanian corruption, and hinted that this was in preparation for attempts to engineer a change of government in Romania. MS
ROMANIA WALKS TIGHTROPE ON EUROPEAN-CONSTITUTION PROJECT
Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana told the informal gathering of current and candidate EU foreign ministers in Riva del Garda, Italy, on 6 September, that Bucharest does not want the Intergovernmental Conference on the European Constitution project to "reopen the document for debate," but wants some points in it "clarified," Mediafax reported. While the large current members want the document approved at the October conference in Rome, smaller states want some of its stipulations reopened for debate. Romania and Bulgaria have "observer status" at the planned conference. MS
ROMANIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADER EMULATES LIBERAL PEER
Democratic Party Chairman Train Basescu said on 5 September that if his party rejects the proposal for an alliance with the National Liberal Party (PNL), he will resign as party chairman, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. PNL Chairman Theodor Stolojan made a similar declaration last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2003). MS
ROMANIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE REJECTS MINERS' LEADER'S REQUEST FOR RETRIAL
The Prosecutor-General's Office has rejected the request by miners' leader Miron Cozma for a retrial, the private Antena 1 television channel reported on 5 September. Cozma, serving an 18-year prison sentence, has asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to initiate the "extraordinary appeal" procedure that makes possible retrials in sentences that are final. On 7 September, Romanian Radio reported that former Prosecutor-General Tanase Joita decided on 20 August to reject the request. Cozma can still hope for a presidential pardon (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 and 23 July 2003). MS
OSCE CHAIRMAN IN OFFICE MAKES PROPOSAL FOR EU PEACEKEEPERS IN TRANSDNIESTER OFFICIAL...
In a message to the U.S. Congress, OSCE Chairman in Office Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that "EU participation in an international peacekeeping operation in Transdniester would be of major importance taking into consideration that the Moldovan Republic will become the immediate neighbor of an enlarged EU," Flux reported on 5 September. He stressed that the main aim of the OSCE is "reaching a political solution of the Transdniester problem" and added that the OSCE "is ready to double its efforts...in the next few months" to achieve this purpose. Scheffer, who is the Dutch foreign minister, emphasized that the continuation of U.S. assistance in the negotiation process is very important, as is the Russian Federation's abiding by its pledge to withdraw its military forces and equipment from the region by end 2003. This is the first time that Scheffer has officially mentioned the possibility of having EU forces participate in peacekeeping operations in Transdniester after an agreement is reached there by the two conflicting sides. MS
...AS OSCE MISSION CHIEF SAYS 'ISSUE STILL UNDER EXAMINATION...'
William Hill, the OSCE mission chief in Moldova, said on 5 September that the participation of EU troops in peacekeeping in Transdniester would be welcome, provided it takes place under the auspices of the OSCE, Flux reported. Hill said the participants in the current negotiations have already examined several possibilities of including EU troops in those forces, but added "the issue is still under examination." Hill also said the peacekeeping mission should be limited in time and "involve a small contingent of multinational forces," according to Infotag. MS
... WHILE ROMANIA 'SALUTES' POSSIBLE EU PARTICIPATION IN PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS
Addressing the gathering of current and candidate EU foreign ministers in Riva del Garda, Italy, Romanian Foreign Minister Geoana said his country "salutes" and has "encouraged" greater focusing by the EU on the Transdniester conflict, Mediafax reported. Geoana said Bucharest would welcome EU involvement in peacekeeping operations in the region, as proposed by Scheffer, the Dutch OSCE chairman in office. MS
RUSSIAN COMPANIES SET TO INVEST IN BULGARIAN ENERGY SECTOR
During a two-day informal visit to Russia, President Georgi Parvanov on 5 and 6 September met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, mediapool.bg reported. The talks focused on Russian plans to invest in the Bulgarian energy sector by carrying out repair works on the controversial No. 3 and No. 4 blocks of the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant, and by helping to build additional nuclear-power facilities. The presidents also discussed plans by Gazprom and LUKoil to step up their investments in Bulgaria. UB
PARTY LEADER DETAINED IN BULGARIA
Police on 6 September detained Yane Yanev, who chairs the small National Association BZNS, after he took responsibility for disturbing a meeting of the conservative opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) in Plovdiv, mediapool.bg reported. A meeting of the SDS's National Council had to be delayed after smoke bombs were set off in the room where the meeting was being held. Yanev is notorious for his spectacular actions and controversial statements. UB
BULGARIAN MINISTER TO RUN FOR SOFIA MAYOR
Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski announced on 8 September that Youth and Sports Minister Vasil Ivanov will run for mayor of the capital city of Sofia in the 26 October elections, mediapool.bg reported. Ivanov is best known as owner of the chain of the "Luchano" coffee shops and fast-food restaurants. UB
WHAT TO DO ABOUT BOSNIA?
The Dayton peace agreements that ended the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict remain in force, and few observers doubt that much progress has been made since they came into effect. The prospect of a new armed conflict seems remote, at least as long as international peacekeepers remain. The question is: where does Bosnia-Herzegovina go from here?
At least four models have been put forward in recent months to offer Bosnia a way forward. None of the models is really new, and each of them has had a variety of supporters and promoters over the years.
What the models have in common is the assumption that Dayton has turned into a straightjacket. At least three of the models focus attention on the nature of power within Bosnia-Herzegovina, particularly in the relationship between the Office of the High Representative (OHR) -- who is appointed by the international community and now has a staff of about 200 foreigners and 580 local people -- on the one hand, and the elected officials at all levels in the cantons, the two entities, and at the Bosnian state level on the other.
The high representative has virtually absolute powers to change Bosnian laws and sack officials, as the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" demonstrated at length in its 30 August issue.
The elected officials, at least since the 2002 general elections, come primarily from the three nationalist parties. They are the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA), which was long linked to the name of Alija Izetbegovic; the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), which was formerly headed by Radovan Karadzic; and the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), which was an offshoot of the Croatian party of the same name, particularly until the death of President Franjo Tudjman in late 1999. The HDZ is generally linked to the interests of the nationalist Croats living in relatively compact communities in Herzegovina contiguous to Croatia rather than to the concerns of the more moderate Croats of central Bosnia and Sarajevo, who tend to live more integrated with other ethnic groups.
The first model is based on the assumption that the OHR needs to take an even more active role in pushing an agenda based on establishing a single, multiethnic state. Advocates of this approach tend to be among those forces inside and outside Bosnia strongly opposed to the nationalists.
Supporters of the this model argue that the OHR and NATO have brought about most of the progress made since 1995, and that Bosnian political gridlock has resulted in the OHR having had to take all the key decisions, right down to national symbols and license plates.
Those in favor of the first model feel that the voters are still in the grip of the nationalists, who are often rooted in interlocking political, business, security, and criminal structures. Proponents of the first model argue that only a tough and robust OHR can break this stranglehold and create the basis for making Bosnia-Herzegovina a truly modern, European state -- instead of a potential threat to European security that provides a haven to criminal networks.
The weakness of the first model is that it is based on the paradox of imposing democracy and the rule of law by fiat, without transparency, and often in violation of existing Bosnian legislation -- and by an all-powerful foreigner at that. By so doing, the strong OHR approach reinforces a tradition in Bosnian culture of using foreigners for one's own ends, letting them do the work and pay the bills while the local people derive the benefits, without necessarily having to exert themselves too much.
The second model seeks to remedy these problems by first reducing and then eliminating the role of the OHR. Its proponents can be found primarily among the established politicians in Bosnia. This model received much attention there and abroad in early 2003 thanks to an actively promoted NGO report that called the OHR a colonial institution.
The problem with this approach is that it effectively acknowledges that power will rest with the elected nationalists, who will then be left to police themselves and clean up the crime and corruption in their own midst. It is true that precommunist Bosnian political parties tended to be ethnically based and that voters even then cast their ballots along ethnic lines. But the problem now is that many of the people entrenched in the nationalist power structures are responsible for ethnic cleansing, theft, and worse during the 1992-95 war.
The third model proposes replacing the Dayton agreements altogether. Its assumption is that neither an international protectorate nor a weird system of ethnically based fiefdoms can serve as a basis for a modern state that will bring the prosperity and European integration that most everyone in Bosnia seems to want.
An article in "The Wall Street Journal Europe" on 29 August argued that the ballast of Dayton could be set aside by setting up a single state-structure through a constitutional convention.
The problem with the third model is very similar to the problem with the second, namely that elections in Bosnia mean giving power to the nationalists. What might a constitutional convention achieve if dominated by the SDA, SDS, and HDZ? What could they agree on? What kind of state would they set up?
Some observers have suggested that the SDS and HDZ, if left to themselves, would probably agree to partition Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Republika Srpska would then join Serbia and Montenegro, the mainly Croat areas would become part of Croatia, and the rump Muslim state remaining would be left to fend for itself.
This is the essence of the fourth model, which calls for partition. British diplomat Lord David Owen, in particular, has long argued that sooner or later the boundaries in much of the Balkans will have to be redrawn on more or less ethnic lines, and that it is best to get the matter over with early. Nationalists in the region tend to like this approach, which Karadzic once called "tidying up the map."
The problem -- or virtue -- of partition is that it would most likely involve not just Bosnia-Herzegovina but every state in the region. If carried to its logical conclusion, it would set up a greater Croatia, greater Serbia, greater Albania, and smaller Muslim and perhaps Macedonian states. Montenegro would go it alone, as may happen in any event. This would be a brave new world, despite any assurances by proponents of partition that the new states will find a happy future together through Euro-Atlantic integration.
Critics charge that the fourth model would vindicate the results of previous ethnic cleansing campaigns, set off new ones, and preclude any attempt at multiethnic statehood -- which is the basis of the 2001 Ohrid peace agreement in Macedonia as well as of Dayton. The fourth model would thus force a small Slavic Macedonia into choosing between a difficult existence as a rump state, joining Bulgaria, or linking itself with Serbia and Montenegro.
The Kosovar, Macedonian, and Albanian Albanians would find themselves in a single state, despite great differences between their respective societies, outlooks, and political cultures. It is worth noting that few, if any, serious ethnic Albanian politicians anywhere in the Balkans include setting up a greater Albania as a realistic goal in their party platforms.
Under the fourth model, the center-left Croatian authorities would acquire the unwanted present of tens of thousands of HDZ voters. The Herzegovinians, for their part, would find themselves largely unwelcome newcomers in a state where many people regard them as bumpkins with criminal tendencies.
And, while many Bosnian Serbs would be happy to join Serbia and Montenegro, others will remember the issue that former Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic raised in 1995 to convince Serbs to accept Dayton: namely that only Dayton guarantees the existence of a secure Bosnian Serb state.
The Muslims, as so often before, would find themselves the odd ones out, with some favoring gravitating toward Belgrade, others toward Zagreb. There would be concerns in Washington and elsewhere that unsavory Middle Eastern elements might turn a rump Muslim state into their beachhead in Europe.
It thus seems that there are at least a few flaws in each of the models posed as an alternative to Dayton. This has prompted some observers to suggest that it is perhaps best to stick to Dayton, warts and all, until a better system can be devised.
U.S. DEFENSE CHIEF CALLS ISAF EXPANSION A 'POSSIBILITY'
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters at a joint news conference in Kabul with Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai on 7 September that although other countries have not been "lining up" to fortify the ranks of the International Security Assistance Force, "there is at least the possibility of somewhat of an expansion" of the force, Reuters reported. Rumsfeld added, however, that ultimate responsibility for the country's security rests with the Afghan people. He also said security has improved since his last visit to Afghanistan in May, when he declared the end of major combat operations and the transition to the reconstruction phase of the campaign in Afghanistan. Rumsfeld's comments came after two weeks of heavy fighting between coalition troops and neo-Taliban forces in Zabul Province in which at least 85 rebels were killed, according to a U.S. military report cited by AP. IL
CONTINUED FIGHTING IN ZABUL PROVINCE AS TRADITIONAL COUNCIL CONVENES TO DISCUSS SECURITY
Ten to 26 rebel fighters were killed on the night of 6 September during clashes between coalition forces and insurgents in the Dai Chopan district of Zabul Province, scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the last two weeks, Reuters reported. On 7 September, more than 300 tribal leaders and Afghan government officials gathered for a shura, or council, in Zabul's capital Qalat in an attempt to improve relations between the government and locals viewed as sympathetic to neo-Taliban insurgents, according to AP. Participants included Zabul's Governor Hafizullah Hashami and the governor of neighboring Ghazni Province, Haji Assadullah. The same day, hundreds of Afghan troops and dozens of U.S. soldiers headed to the town of Naubaghar some 70 kilometers east of Qalat in preparation for a fresh strike against neo-Taliban fighters rumored to be in the area. IL
AFGHANISTAN OPERATIONS EXPECTED TO RECEIVE BOOST FROM UNITED STATES
U.S. President George W. Bush said in a televised address on 7 September that he will ask Congress for $87 billion to fund military and reconstruction operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere (see Iraq item below). "Now and in the future, we will support our troops and we will keep our word to the more than 50 million people of Afghanistan and Iraq," Bush said, VOA reported. Iraq is expected to be the prime beneficiary of the package, according to international news agencies. However, Bush added that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will meet this month with representatives of other countries to secure contributions to the rebuilding of Afghanistan, AFP reported. The president's announcement followed Powell's pledge on 5 September to speed aid to Afghanistan "in the next several weeks," an apparent reference to a $1 billion reconstruction assistance package from Washington that is expected to be unveiled with the approaching anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, according to AFP. Meanwhile, Reuters on 7 September quoted an unidentified U.S. official as saying that the United States is planning to install four new Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Bagram, Jalalabad, Herat, and Kandahar provinces. IL
TEHRAN DENIES TERRORISTS ENTERING IRAQ FROM IRAN
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi on 6 September denied that terrorists have entered Iraq by crossing the Iranian border, Iranian state television reported. "American statesmen are always looking for pretexts and excuses to blame others," Assefi added. He was presumably responding to a statement by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who was cited in "The New York Times" of 5 September as saying that neither Iran nor Syria have done enough to stop foreign fighters from entering Iraq. "We are unhappy about the fact that people come across the Syrian and Iranian border," Rumsfeld told reporters. "They know we are unhappy about it." Rumsfeld described Iranian and Syrian efforts to stop cross-border infiltrators as "intermittent, uneven." Moreover, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told Al-Jazeera satellite television on 22 August that captured foreign fighters had entered Iraq from Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, "The Washington Post" reported on 24 August. "I'm not in any position to state that the governments of Iran or Syria or Saudi Arabia are in any way responsible," Armitage said. "But at a minimum I can state that these fighters are not being stopped at the borders, and this is something that causes us a great deal of concern." BS
TEHRAN-MOSCOW AGREEMENT ON SPENT FUEL RETURN NOT SIGNED YET
An anonymous Russian Atomic Energy Ministry representative told ITAR-TASS on 6 September that Russia and Iran have not agreed on where or when they would sign an agreement for the return of nuclear fuel used at the nuclear-power plant in Bushehr. During meetings in Moscow that began on 5 September, the two sides addressed the return of spent fuel for storage and reprocessing as well as the provision of fresh fuel, but according to the ITAR-TASS source, the Russian side insists that the provision of fresh fuel is conditional on the signing of the protocol on the return of spent fuel. Interfax on 5 September cited an anonymous Atomic Energy Ministry source as saying that the protocol will not be signed "in the near future" because the required documents are not ready yet. Atomic Energy Ministry official Aleksandr Agapov said on 29 August that the problem is an absence of detailed documents on handling emergencies during the transportation phase, Interfax reported. "The delivery of fuel is constantly being delayed because Iran has no final document on a reaction to possible emergencies," he said. BS
IAEA BOARD OF GOVERNORS TO DISCUSS IRAN
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohammad ElBaradei was to report on 8 September to the agency's Board of Governors on Iran's nuclear activities, international news agencies reported. According to his report, Iran has been working on a clandestine nuclear-weapons program for almost 20 years, it has lied about the extent of its nuclear activities, and it has yet to reveal the source of the gas centrifuges it has used for enriching uranium, "The Sunday Times" reported on 7 September. "IAEA diplomatic sources" were cited by ITAR-TASS as saying that a draft resolution urging greater Iranian transparency might be submitted to the board, which includes representatives from 35 countries, for its consideration and approval. However, Reuters reported on 7 September that there is little support on the board for a U.S.-backed resolution that could have led to possible United Nations sanctions. Saber Zaimian, a spokesman for the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, said on 7 September that two Iranian officials were traveling from Moscow to Vienna to attend the Board of Governors meeting, Mehr News Agency reported. BS
TEHRAN PRESSURES IAEA DIRECTOR-GENERAL
Anonymous "Western intelligence sources" are quoted in the 8 September issue of Germany's "Die Welt" newspaper as saying that Tehran has pressured IAEA Director-General ElBaradei to play down the significance of Iran's nuclear activities, AFP reported on 7 September. Iranian representative to the IAEA Ali Salehi reportedly met with ElBaradei for two hours at the home of an Egyptian businessman, but ElBaradei reportedly said the IAEA could not ignore the evidence on Iranian nuclear activities. BS
IRANIAN SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT MEETS HOSPITALIZED PALESTINIANS
Speaker of Parliament Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi on 7 September visited Tehran's Milad Hospital to see some 17 Palestinians who are undergoing treatment there, IRNA reported. Physicians briefed him on the patients' health, and Karrubi "made recommendations on their medical treatment." Karrubi said the Palestinian uprising will continue as long as there is an Israeli occupation, an absence of an independent Palestinian government, and Palestinian refugees have not returned. He also said the assassination of Palestinian leaders only reinvigorates the Palestinian resistance. About 400 Palestinians have been treated at Iranian hospitals in the last three years, according to IRNA. BS
U.S. PRESIDENT ASKS CONGRESS FOR $87 BILLION FOR IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN
U.S. President Bush asked Congress on 7 September for $87 billion for the U.S. military and reconstruction efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere and urged the United Nations to set aside past differences and help out in Iraq, Reuters reported on 7 September. "This undertaking is difficult and costly, yet worthy of our country, and critical to our security," Bush said in an 18-minute prime-time address aimed at reassuring Americans of the administration's resolve to oversee the reconstruction of Iraq. The $87 billion includes $66 billion for U.S. military deployment and intelligence operations in Iraq, Bush said. Referring to increasing attacks on U.S. forces by Iraqi guerillas, Bush said: "Enemies of freedom are making a desperate stand there -- and there they must be defeated. This will take time, and require sacrifice. Yet we will do what is necessary, we will spend what is necessary, to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror." He said the current deployment of 130,000 U.S. troops should be sufficient. MA
IRAQI OFFICIALS WILL BE TRIED FOR KUWAIT WAR CRIMES
A U.S. State Department official confirmed on 6 September that a judicial mechanism will be put in place to pursue former Iraqi officials who have inflicted damage on Kuwait, the "Arab Times" reported on 8 September. Pierre-Richard Prosper, U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes issues, told journalists in Kuwait after a meeting with a number of Kuwaiti officials from the National Committee for Missing and POWs Affairs (NCMPA) that his visit to Kuwait was aimed at discussing the issue of Kuwaiti POWs and missing and to obtain sufficient information on this issue. Prosper also gave strong indications that such former Iraqi officials will be tried as war criminals. Answering a question from Kuwait's Kuna news agency on the action Kuwait should take against former Iraqi regime officials and the means to try them as war criminals, Ambassador Prosper said, "I will head to Iraq to set up a judicial mechanism to try the former Iraqi officials as war criminals in the future." MA
ZEBARI WILL PARTICIPATE IN ARAB LEAGUE'S FOREIGN MINISTERS' MEETING
Newly appointed Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari affirmed on 7 September that he will head his country's delegation to the Arab League Foreign Ministers' meeting in Cairo on 9 September, Kuna reported. In his first press conference since taking office, Zebari said the transitional Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) asked him to represent Iraq at the ministerial meeting even though the Arab League has not recognized the council and did not extend an official invitation. Zebari said the delegation, composed of diplomats and experts, will inform the participants of the situation in Iraq and optimum ways of supporting the reconstruction there. Zebari added that the new Iraqi government has good relations with some of the states attending the Cairo summit and that these relations "would be utilized to support the Iraqi position at the meetings." As regards diplomatic commissions abroad, Zebari maintained that "there is a program to open diplomatic commissions in Arab and other states to boost ties with these countries and facilitate and oversee the affairs and interests of Iraqis abroad." MA
BAGHDAD COUNCIL CALLS FOR THE EXPULSION OF AL-JAZEERA AND AL-ARABIYAH CORRESPONDENTS
The Baghdad Consultative Council has called for the expulsion of the correspondents of Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiyah news networks, Kuna reported on 8 September. The move is most likely in response to the alleged sympathetic stance these news organizations adopted toward the former Iraqi regime and their continuing links with loyalists to deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. These networks' airing of propaganda statements by individuals purporting to represent Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network in Iraq is also likely to have been a factor in the decision. The council also recommended the exile of all Arab citizens who cooperated with the former Iraqi regime and called for the deportation of members of Islamic humanitarian organizations. In addition, the council recommended the declaration of martial law in the country for two months and the formation of an antiterrorism organization. The council called on the IGC to put these recommendations into effect as a "successful solution" for the "security gaps" in the country. MA
U.S. FORCES FIND WEAPONS CACHE IN TIKRIT
U.S. forces near Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit on 6 September discovered a cache of weapons and ammunition hidden in a row of bunkers residents dubbed an "RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] shopping center," AP reported on 7 September, citing the U.S. military. Spokeswoman Major Josslyn Aberle said the cache included wire-guided surface-to-surface Sagger missiles, 315 RPGs, and 62 mortar shells. Also on 6 September, two surface-to-air missiles were fired at a coalition aircraft leaving Baghdad International Airport, according to the U.S. military. Coalition forces are increasingly being attacked from a distance by mortars and remote-controlled homemade bombs, a possible change in strategy by anti-American insurgents, according to a U.S. military spokesman. "It's certainly seemed to us from just looking at the evidence that there is a change in tactics on the ground," the spokesman added. The U.S. military announced on 7 September that its troops captured a suspected Hussein loyalist alleged to have carried out a grenade attack on a children's hospital in Ba'qubah, 72 kilometers northeast of Baghdad. Three U.S. soldiers were killed in the 11 August attack. The suspect, who was captured on 6 September, was not identified by U.S. Central Command. MA
AL-QAEDA AGAIN DENIES ROLE IN AL-NAJAF BOMBING
A purported audiotape by bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network broadcast by the Arabic television network Al-Arabiyah denies the terror organization had any role in the 29 August bombing in Al-Najaf that claimed the life of Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) leader Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, Reuters reported on 7 September. The tape, dated 3 September, is the second denial the terrorism network has issued in response to allegations it masterminded the bombing. The Al-Qaeda spokesman on the tape identified himself as Abu Abdel-Rahman al-Najdi. Al-Arabiyah broadcast the audiotape accompanied by a still photo of a bearded militant wearing a headdress. There was no immediate independent verification of the speaker's identity. "We strongly deny that Al-Qaeda had any hand in this bombing that killed Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, violated the sanctity of one of God's houses, and killed innocent people," al-Najdi said. The Al-Qaeda spokesman accused Washington and Israel of orchestrating the killing because, he said, they feared the cleric's links to Iran would boost the Islamic Republic's influence in the area. MA