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Newsline - October 1, 2004

Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov announced on 29 September at a press conference in Moscow that Russia will review its national security concept in the light of the war against international terrorism, Russian media reported. Ivanov noted that the present concept was adopted in 2000, before the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, and therefore it doesn't reflect the new reality. "In the 21st century, Russia will confront new threats that require detailed analysis and reaction," he said. Ivanov added that the revised concept may introduce a system of several stages of national-security-threat alert, similar to that in the United States. VY

The government on 30 September endorsed the Kyoto Protocol, which seeks to limit the emission of the gases widely believed to cause global warming, and sent it to the Duma for ratification, Russian and international media reported. Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Fedotov, noting that the United States has refused to join the accord, told the cabinet: "The fate of the Kyoto Protocol depends on Russia. If we rejected ratification, we would be the ones to blame." Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref rejected claims by presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov that the accord will harm the Russian economy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 2004), ITAR-TASS reported. "I am for joining the protocol," Gref said. "I disagree with the point of view that ratification will somehow affect economic growth rates. Most probably it will have no effects at all, but will encourage energy-saving technologies." World Bank President James Wolfensohn told Prime-TASS on 30 September that he considers the cabinet's decision "a step forward in the right direction." Illarionov told ITAR-TASS that the country must take measures now to prevent ratification from having a serious impact on the economy in five or six years' time. RC

The Duma will not consider ratification of the Kyoto Protocol until the end of the year at the earliest, Duma Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev (Unified Russia) told Interfax on 30 September. He noted that the document's economic, environmental, and political aspects must be studied by Duma committees before the accord can be put to a vote. "I think the Kyoto Protocol should be ratified," Kosachev said. "It corresponds to Russia's interests and improves relations with the European Union, which energetically lobbied for ratification. It does not damage our relations with third countries, including with those that have not yet agreed to ratify it, such as the United States." RC

President Vladimir Putin on 30 September hosted a session of the State Council in Saratov that was devoted to problems of agriculture, RTR and other Russian media reported. The session was attended by the governors of Novosibirsk, Chelyabinsk, Volgograd, and Kurgan oblasts, reported. Putin told the session that agricultural production has risen in Russia for the last five years. He added that Russia must not close its markets to agricultural imports, saying that doing so "would place large industrial centers where the bulk of the Russian population lives, in a difficult predicament." Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev told the meeting that Russian producers can compete with imports. Gordeev said that government funding for the sector will be boosted by 8 billion rubles ($267 million) next year, adding, "I am sure our agriculture is now capable of developing at a much faster pace," ITAR-TASS reported. RC

Sergei Lavrov, while visiting Cuba on 29 September, had an unscheduled meeting with Cuban President Fidel Castro during which they discussed "a wide spectrum of international problems," "Vremya novostei" reported on 30 September. The details of their talks were not reported, but it is the first time in five years that Castro has received Russia's foreign minister. Lavrov told journalists the principal aim of his visit to Cuba was enhancing trade and economic links. "We think there are good opportunities here for private Russian companies," he said. VY

The Audit Chamber announced on 30 September that according to a probe it has made, the Baltic states owe the Russian Federation about $3 billion, mainly in compensation for the property and assets left by the Soviet Union on their territories, and the other Russian media reported on 30 September. The issue of compensation remained unsettled in the treaties signed by both sides since Russia's withdrawal from the Baltic states, the Audit Chamber statement said. Another part of the Russian financial claims is the Baltic states' share of the Soviet Union's foreign and domestic debt, including social-security and pension payments to former Soviet citizens living in the Baltics. Some commentators noted that the Audit Chamber's claim might be Moscow's response of the Baltic states' demand for compensation for the victims of repression and deportation during the Soviet occupation, as well as for material and ecological damage caused by the stationing of Soviet troops there. VY

Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Khloponin, Taimyr Autonomous Okrug Governor Oleg Budarin, and Evenk Autonomous Okrug Governor Boris Zolotarev signed on 29 September in Krasnoyarsk documents on merging their provinces into one region, NTV and RTR reported the same day. The governors agreed to hold referendums on the merger in the regions on 17 April 2005, and if the merger is approved, the new Russian Federation constituent will come into being on 1 January 2007 with a new governor and legislature. Speaking at the ceremony, presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District Anatolii Kvashnin said that "integration is not somebody's whim, but an imperative of the time. These territories must have a single infrastructure that is important in epoch of globalization." Budarin admitted that 70 percent of Taimyr residents oppose the merger, but he promised to convince them of its merits before the referendum. Meanwhile, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 30 September that there are rumors that the republics of Khakasia and Tyva may also merge with Krasnoyarsk Krai, which is already one of the largest subjects of the federation. VY

Colonel General Vasilii Smirnov, the head of the main logistics and mobilization department of the Armed Forces General Staff, said that this year's fall draft will provide a record-low number of conscripts, and other Russian media reported on 30 September. "We are going to draft 176,000 conscripts, which constitutes only 9.5 percent of the draft contingent," Smirnov said. Over 50 percent of draftees have health problems and 20 percent have not even finished secondary school, Smirnov said, and "because of these restrictions, we are drafting not the best and not even those we need to, but anybody we can," he said. VY

A group of human rights activists issued a statement on 30 September in which they condemned the television documentary "Contract Killing" broadcast by NTV on 26 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September 2004) and compared it with the Soviet-era propaganda campaigns against political dissidents, and other Russian media reported. The film implies links between former Chechen field commander Khozh-Akhmed Nukhaev, oil giant Yukos, a suspected killer for hire, self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii, and the killing in June of Russian "Forbes" Editor in Chief Paul Klebnikov. The statement stresses that in Soviet times campaigns were staged by the special services and noted that Nukhaev, who is supposedly wanted by federal authorities, quite recently played highly publicized roles in several anti-Western and antiglobalization projects (such as the creation of the Eurasia party), which were widely believed to be orchestrated by the special services. The statement was signed by Andrei Sakharov Fund Director Yelena Bonner, For Human Rights group head Lev Ponomarev, Russian PEN Club Director Aleksandr Tkachenko, among others. VY

The Constitutional Court will not respond to a 29 September appeal by several Duma deputies and other public figures asking it to comment on the constitutionality of President Putin's proposal to replace the direct election of governors with a system under which local legislatures would approve a candidate nominated by the president, Ekho Moskvy reported on 30 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2004). The court's press service told the radio station that the court can only respond to official cases filed with it. Free Russia leader Irina Khakamada, who was a signatory of the appeal, expressed the hope that Constitutional Court Chairman Valerii Zorkin will respond to the letter, even if only unofficially. RC

The Novgorod Oblast legislature on 30 September adopted a resolution passed earlier by the Bryansk Oblast legislature urging the federal government to end Russia's moratorium on the death penalty, RIA-Novosti reported. Both resolutions will be sent to the State Duma. Human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin told ITAR-TASS on 30 September that he continues to oppose the death penalty, saying that ending the moratorium "would put us on the same level as those who have no respect for human life." He said the death penalty is no deterrent to terrorism. "Israel's experience, where those who carry out and organize terrorist attacks are killed in retaliation, does not show that this reduces terrorism. I cannot see how lifting the moratorium makes any philosophical or practical sense," Lukin said. RC

As of 1 October it is illegal for individuals to sell goods on the territory of the Moscow subway system,, Interfax, and other Russian media reported. As a result of the new regulation, about 2,000 trading areas have been liquidated, the Moscow administration reported. In addition, police have proposed that all kiosks, cafes, and gambling facilities except for kiosks selling printed media and theater or transportation tickets be removed from a 25-meter zone around the entrances to all subway stations. Interfax reported that the city will install transportation-ticket vending machines within subway stations to compensate for the removal of ticket sellers inside the subway. The measures are part of the city's program for enhancing security in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2004). RC

The Moscow city administration has decided to introduce restrictions on the kinds of printed media that can be sold on the territory of the subway system, "Vremya novostei" and other Russian media reported on 1 October, citing city Telecommunications and Mass Media Committee Chairman Mikhail Shcherbachenko. Shcherbachenko said a special commission including representatives of public organizations will be created to review publications and decide which ones can be sold, "taking into account their circulation and subject matter." The city also plans to announce a tender in the near future for the right to open a chain of print-media sales outlets within the subway, as well as to introduce newspaper vending machines. The daily reported that a group of major publishers, including Kommersant, ProfMedia, and Independent Media, has formed a noncommercial organization called Izdatelskaya initsiativa that intends to propose an investment program into print-media distribution in the subway system. RC

Three men in Voronezh were convicted on 30 September of the racially motivated murder of a 24-year-old African student on 21 February, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February, 7 April, and 12 August 2004). Yevgenii Shishlov, 22, was sentenced to 17 years' imprisonment and was ordered to pay a 100,000-ruble ($3,330) fine. Roman Ledenev, 20, was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment and a 40,000-ruble fine. An unidentified 16-year-old was sentenced to 9 years' incarceration and a 30,000-ruble fine. The case marks only the second time that anyone has been convicted under Russia's law against racially motivated crime. In November 2003, the Moscow Municipal Court convicted five young men aged between 12 and 17 for the 28 March 2002 murder of an ethnic Armenian Russian citizen named Karen Yakhshibekov, reported on 18 November 2003. RC

In comments during an interview with Armenian Public Television on 30 September, Serzh Sarkisian admitted that he shared public concern over the deployment of an Armenian contingent to Iraq, Arminfo reported. Sarkisian added that although the small Armenian community in Iraq may become a target for terrorist attack, no country is immune from such danger and cited the move as Armenia's contribution to stability. The Armenian deployment to Iraq, consisting of 31 military drivers, six engineers, 10 sappers, and three doctors, is now awaiting parliamentary approval. RG

Defense Minister Sarkisian defended Armenian cooperation with both Russia and the NATO alliance during his televised 30 September interview, Arminfo reported. Sarkisian said that although Armenia is committed to "expanding cooperation with NATO and the United States," Russia remains Armenia's main "military partner" and denied any suggestion that Armenia has "abandoned" Russia to seek NATO membership. He further added that Armenia's future depends on "stability and the development of cooperation in the South Caucasus," and that the settlement of regional conflicts can only be achieved through "cooperation without preconditions" with Turkey, Iran, and Azerbaijan, Arminfo reported. RG

Armenian opposition leaders criticized on 30 September the parliamentary debate on amendments to the country's Electoral Code and vowed to continue their boycott of parliament, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Noyan Tapan reported. Opposition Artarutiun (Justice) alliance deputy Grigor Harutiunian dismissed the parliamentary debate as insincere and added that "the obedient majority would block any real change." The debate centers on amendments to election laws drafted by the pro-government majority seeking to modify the composition of state-appointed election commissions. The amendments are tied to the findings of a February report by the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that concluded that the formation of the election commissions represents a "serious obstacle to the impartiality of the electoral administration" and recommended that "in order to reduce the president's influence on the commissions' work, the [presidential] administration should not have more than one representative in each election commission." The Armenian president has the power to appoint three of the nine-member Central Election Commission and its territorial divisions, with four other commission seats controlled by pro-presidential parties. RG

The Armenian government approved a plan on 30 September to privatize the country's largest hospital, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The plan calls for the privatization of the Armenia Republican Medical Center in a 135 million-dram ($267,000) sale without a competitive tender. The move is fairly controversial, as the privatization of Armenia's health-care facilities were suspended in August 2003 following the objections of parliamentary speaker Artur Baghdasarian. In a statement defending the plan, the government revealed that the new, as yet unnamed, owners have pledged to invest 100 million drams in the Yerevan-based complex. Health Ministry officials told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau that their ministry was not involved in the privatization plan and admitted that they were unaware of the decision. Another ministry source said that the facility will most likely conform to the previous privatization of 37 other health institutions that transferred ownership to the personal control of the previous state-appointed administrator. The deal will leave only one remaining state-run health-care facility in the country. Armenia also lacks a mandatory national system of medical insurance. RG

A joint statement released on 30 September by the Azerbaijani opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, Musavat Party, and the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan criticized a decision by the Baku mayor's office rejecting a request to hold an opposition demonstration on 2 October, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2004). The authorities claimed that the rejection stemmed from the proximity of densely populated areas of the capital, although the opposition dismissed the decision as a case of "unlawful action and arbitrariness." RG

The deputy chairwoman of the Georgian parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee, Salome Samadashvili, said on 30 September that the Russian closure of the Lars checkpoint on the Russian-Georgian border has inflicted serious damage on the Georgian economy, Prime News reported. The economic losses from the closure are estimated at roughly 4 million laris ($2.2 million) and have led to a widening disruption in regional trade as the border crossing post is an important transshipment point facilitating trade and cargo shipments between Russia and Armenia. Georgian First Deputy Foreign Minister Nika Tabatadze told the parliament that the Foreign Ministry and State Border Guard Department, in coordination with the National Security Council, were working with Russian officials to resolve the issue. Freight traffic has been forced to use a longer alternative route through the Roki Tunnel in South Ossetia, a detour that effectively bypasses Georgian customs and security checkpoints. The border-closure issue was also raised during the opening meeting of the Georgian-Armenian business association in Tbilisi on 30 September, Rustavi-2 television reported. The meeting was attended by Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and included a number of Armenian businessmen and parliamentarians. RG

The former general director of the Black Sea port of Poti, Djemal Inaishvili, was elected on 30 September as the new chairman of the Commercial and Industrial Chamber of Georgia, according to Caucasus Press. Inaishvili pledged to utilize the chamber as a bridge linking business and the state, and promised to promote development of small and medium-size business and seek greater levels of foreign investment in Georgia. RG

Mukhambet Kopeev has been picked to head Kazakhstan's newly formed Ministry of Emergency Situations, Kazinform reported on 30 September. Kopeev has been the deputy chairman of the Mazhilis since 1999. A presidential decree removed Dyusen Kaseinov from the post of culture minister and Altynbek Sarsenbaev from the post of information minister, "Kazakhstanskaya pravda" reported. A 29 September decree merged the Culture and Information ministries to create a Ministry of Culture, Information, and Sports with Esetzhan Kosubaev as minister, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Also eliminated were the agencies of state material reserves, emergency situations, migration and demography, tourism and sports, state procuring, the regulation of state monopolies and protection of competition, and customs control. Their functions have been assigned to other government bodies. The cabinet has been charged with completing the restructuring by 1 December. DK

Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service (SNB) has determined that 60 lead containers confiscated on 21 September contained plutonium-239, Kyrgyzinfo reported on 30 September. The news agency cited copies of documents with the results of SNB tests confirming that the substance was plutonium-239, which is used in weapons manufacturing. Undercover SNB agents seized the plutonium from an unidentified seller in a sting operation, "Vremya novostei" reported on 29 September. Also on 30 September, representatives of Kazakhstan's National Security Service (SNB) told ITAR-TASS that the plutonium-239 did not come from Kazakhstan. Responding to earlier statements by the Kyrgyz SNB, the press service of the Kazakh SNB told the news agency, "This plutonium cannot be of Kazakh origin." The Kazakh SNB representatives added that they have not received any request to conduct a joint investigation from their Kyrgyz colleagues. DK

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev told a 30 September news conference in Bishkek that Iran will give Tajikistan a $50 million loan on preferential terms for regional infrastructure development, Kabar news agency reported. The remarks came after Tanaev met with Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Aref-Yazdi. The two signed memoranda on cooperation in trade, health care, energy, tourism, and culture, reported. Aref-Yazdi will meet with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev on 1 October. DK

A court case pitting a Dushanbe judge against the newspaper "Vechernii Dushanbe" began in Tajikistan on 30 September, Avesta reported. Namoz Amirov, deputy chairman of the Dushanbe court, is asking for 300,000 somonis ($108,000) in damages after an article by lawyer Solijon Juraev allegedly defamed him. Juraev told the news agency, "Amirov filed the suit against the newspaper and the author of the article asking for 300,000 somonis in damages with the aim of avoiding responsibility and enrichment." Saydali Siddiqov, the newspaper's editor in chief, told Avesta that he has asked the court to take into account a finding by the Prosecutor-General's Office that Juraev's article was not libelous. DK

Information Minister Uladzimir Rusakevich last week suspended the newspaper "Rehiyanalnaya hazeta" for three months, Belapan reported on 30 September. "Rehiyanalnaya hazeta" appears in Maladzechna, Minsk Oblast, and is distributed in seven districts of northwestern Belarus. Simultaneously, the Information Ministry issued two warnings to the newspaper for alleged violations of the media law. In particular, the ministry accused the paper of publishing an unregistered television guide supplement and switching to a weekly publication schedule without prior notification. Editor in chief Alyaksandr Mantsevich described the ban as "politically-motivated," saying the true reason behind the suspension was the paper's coverage of a dispute between parliamentary candidate Uladzislau Skvernik and the Maladzechna district authorities. JM

Our Ukraine leader and presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko, who went on 30 September to the Rudolfinerhaus hospital in Vienna for medical tests, has called on the Ukrainian press to stop speculating about his health and "manipulation with diagnoses," Interfax reported on 30 September. Yushchenko instructed his associates to pass all official records of his illness to the ad hoc parliamentary commission, which was set up on 21 September, the day he accused the authorities of trying to poison him. Yushchenko's official website ( published an official medical report provided to him by Rudolfinerhaus on 16 September, when he left the hospital after a weeklong treatment. The report says Yushchenko's condition may have been caused by "a viral infection or, possibly, chemical substances that usually are not contained in food products." Rudolfinerhaus subsequently stated that its doctors have not confirmed Yushchenko's poisoning, while Yushchenko's presidential rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, demanded a public apology from Yushchenko for his allegations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2004). JM

Yushchenko has filed a lawsuit with a district court in Kyiv, accusing Prime Minister Yanukovych's spokeswoman, Hanna Herman, of libeling him and his bloc, Our Ukraine, Ukrainian news agencies reported on 1 October. Following an egg attack on Yanukovych in Ivano-Frankivsk on 24 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September 2004), Herman issued a statement accusing Our Ukraine adherents of being behind the incident. Moreover, Yushchenko sued lawmaker Oleksandr Koloniari from the pro-government Regions of Ukraine caucus, for slander. Commenting on the attack on Yanukovych, Koloniari reportedly said in the Verkhovna Rada on 24 September: "Mr. Yushchenko and Our Ukrainians! You have brought up a band of nationalist jerks." JM

A county court in the Croatian town of Pula decided on 30 September to extend the pretrial detention of former Macedonian Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski for another two months, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. Boskovski was detained on 31 August in connection with the killing of six Pakistanis and one Indian in Macedonia in March 2002. The migrants were killed by members of a special police unit known as the Lions allegedly with the knowledge of Boskovski (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 3 September 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 May 2004). Boskovski's Croatian defense lawyer, Rajko Brankovic, explained that the extension was due to administrative and formal problems in the judicial cooperation between Macedonia and Croatia, "Dnevnik" reported. Boskovski -- who also holds a Croatian passport and runs a restaurant in the Croatian town of Bale -- fled to Croatia after the Macedonian parliament lifted his immunity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4, 5, 6, 10, and 11 May 2004). UB

Former Bosnian Defense Minister Miroslav Prce was sentenced to five years in prison on 30 September after he pleaded guilty on counts of abuse of office and embezzlement, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Prce and two other indictees -- Bosnian Croat leader Ante Jelavic and businessman Miroslav Rupcic -- were charged with embezzling funds from the Hercegovacka Banka, which was once closely linked to hard-line Croatian nationalists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 2001, and 23 January and 26 April 2004). UB

In an article published on his office's website on 30 September (, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Paddy Ashdown called on voters to cast their ballots in the 2 October local elections. Ashdown wrote that it is understandable that the turnout is likely to be very low since voters "are absolutely fed up with politics and politicians," but also added that this does not make it right. With a clear allusion to the election campaign that focused on national issues rather than local problems, Ashdown argued that local elections "focus heavily on bread-and-butter issues," and are "the weapons citizens have to get rid of poor performers and replace them with people they believe can get the job done." "Local elections are about extending roads, improving rubbish collection, putting new roofs on school buildings, and so on," Ashdown wrote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 24 September 2004). UB

Speaking in Prishtina on 30 September, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman called on the Serbian minority in Kosova to participate in the 23 October elections for Kosova's parliament, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Grossman said he hopes that the political leaders in Belgrade will issue a similar recommendation in time before the elections. UB

Following talks with Foreign Minister of Serbia and Montenegro Vuk Draskovic in Belgrade on 30 September, Grossman welcomed the arrest warrant for four former Serbian police and army generals as a positive development in that country's cooperation with the Hague-based international war crimes tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Grossman also said, however, that the deadline for handing over former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic and the four generals to the tribunal has already passed. Grossman said full cooperation with The Hague is a precondition for U.S. aid for Belgrade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 September 2004). In related news, one of the four generals indicted for war crimes in Kosova in 1999, Sreten Lukic, appeared before a district court in Belgrade on 30 September. The court announced that an investigative judge must now decide whether all conditions have been met to extradite Lukic to The Hague. UB

Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic said on 30 September that he hopes that during the upcoming talks on the relations between Serbia and Montenegro the Serbian officials will understand Montenegro's idea of transforming the state union into a union of two independent states, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. In related news, Vujanovic said he will try to convince EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten and the EU's High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana that the current state union is dysfunctional and the future of Serbia and Montenegro must be reassessed, Tanjug reported. The joint state was formed under EU pressure in 2002-03 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May, 2 August, and 7 September 2004). UB

Traian Basescu on 30 September accused the Defense Ministry of attempting to manipulate the forthcoming November parliamentary elections, Mediafax reported. Basescu, who is also co-chairman of the opposition National Liberal Party-Democratic Party alliance, spoke after Defense Ministry spokesman Gelaledin Nezir acknowledged that the ministry has sent to a Bucharest court a classified document alleging that Basescu was an informer for military counterintelligence as a student at the Institute of Military Marine in the 1970s. The document was requested by the judge presiding over a libel suit brought by Basescu against Popular Alliance party officials Mugur Ciuvica and Max Badin, who alleged Basescu served as a communist secret police agent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February and 27 May 2004). Nezir admitted that the ministry had in informed the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) that there is no record of Basescu being an informer but claimed that this was due to "the question being formulated differently." MS

Mircea Dinescu, Horia-Roman Patapievici, and Andrei Plesu criticized the ministry for earlier misinforming the CNSAS and said the document does not reflect the allegations it claims to prove, Romanian dailies reported on 1 October. They also said the Defense Ministry has sent the new document by courier but it reached the CNSAS only two days later. On his part, Basescu claimed on 29 September that the same document was reproduced in the daily "Libertatea" after he refused to give in to blackmail by a "politically involved" person whose identity he refused to disclose. That person threatened him to send the document to the court unless he was willing to "reach an agreement." Basescu continues to deny any links to the Securitate or to military intelligence. MS

President Vladimir Voronin said on 30 September that "I confess I have become considerably cooler toward the federalization idea," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Voronin said Moldova no longer feels federalization could lead to a settlement of the conflict because Transdniester does not respect agreements and is unlikely to stop bringing up new demands after federalization. "There are other ways [to settle the conflict]," Voronin said, without elaborating further. Voronin reiterated the need to alter the current five-sided negotiations format, according to Infotag. He said the five-sided format (which includes Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE alongside Moldova and Transdniester) has been in existence for 12 years but produced nothing. "This means we must look for the reasons of the deadlock and revise the format," he said. According to Voronin, the EU and the United States should become more involved in the negotiations. MS

According to Infotag, Voronin told the same press conference that "it should be clear to the Ukrainian leadership that we watch how relations between Ukraine and Transdniester develop, and we shall be speaking out on that issue. We shall not keep silent only because someone in the Ukrainian leadership has interests in Transdniester," he said in an apparent reference to President Leonid Kuchma's criticism of Moldova at the 16 September Astana summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States. He said he hopes the situation in Ukraine will change after the 31 October presidential elections. Voronin called for the international monitoring of Moldova's border with Ukraine to prevent smuggling by Transdniester. "We have signed 18 border regulation documents with Ukraine, but Kyiv somehow manages to always find a reason to ignore them," he said. MS

President Voronin also told journalists on 30 September that Moldova does not intend to change its neutrality status embedded in the constitution, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He said Chisinau has no intention to sign an individual "action plan" with NATO and that the opportunities offered by Moldova's participation in the Partnership for Peace program are enough to develop cooperation. Voronin said Russia remains Moldova's "strategic partner" as stipulated in the 2002 basic treaty signed by the two countries, but Moscow must abide by the stipulation in the treaty providing for the "restoration of our territorial integrity," according to Infotag. Voronin said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Moldova in October to discuss bilateral relations "including the Transdniester conflict settlement." In a reference to Russian peacekeepers in Transdniester, he said that "currently, they are not neutral" and contributed to "the aggravation of the situation." He added that a "multinational stabilizing force" should replace the peacekeepers in the security zone dividing the belligerent sides and that "we are working to get them there." MS

Speaking in parliament on 30 September, opposition Our Moldova alliance co-chairman and former Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis accused the government of "arbitrary measures" aimed at discrediting the opposition and engineering the dismissal of opposition mayors, Infotag reported. Braghis referred to the detention on 24 September of three Chisinau mayor's office employees on suspicion of illegal real estate dealings and abuse of office. He said the detention was politically motivated and aimed at discrediting Chisinau Mayor and Our Moldova alliance co-chairman Serafim Urechean. In related news, the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) said on 30 September that it has expelled Deputy Alexandru Ciugureanu for "behavior incompatible with the status of a parliamentarian." Ciugureanu, who is suspected of having illegally acquired a plot of land from the Chisinau mayoralty, said he has resigned from the PCM, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS

On 3 October voters in the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia go to the polls to elect a successor to President Vladislav Ardzinba. The Abkhaz Constitution bars Ardzinba, the republic's wartime leader, from serving a third five-year presidential term.

A total of six candidates registered for the ballot, of whom one, Vice President Valerii Arshba, subsequently withdrew. Popular former Interior Minister Aleksandr Ankvab was denied registration on the grounds that he had not lived in Abkhazia for most of the previous five years, and that he refused to sit an Abkhaz-language test (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August and 2 September 2004). Ankvab left Abkhazia in 1993 for Moscow, where he went into business; he reportedly has close connections with Turkey's Abkhaz community, according to "Moskovskaya pravda" on 24 September. The Abkhaz Supreme Court upheld the Central Election Commission's refusal to register Ankvab, Caucasus Press reported on 11 September, whereupon Ankvab threw his support behind Chernomorenergo head Sergei Bagapsh. According to "Moskovskaya pravda," Bagapsh has offered Ankvab the post of prime minister in the event he is elected.

Initially, most observers anticipated an easy victory for Prime Minister Raul Khadjimba, whom Ardzinba endorsed as his preferred successor in August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 2004). Russian President Vladimir Putin has likewise signaled his approval of Khadjimba (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 2004), as has Khazrat Sovmen, president of the neighboring Republic of Adygeya, Caucasus Press reported on 18 September. Sovmen praised Khadjimba's professionalism and described him as a decent human being capable of resolving Abkhazia's economic problems.

Russian journalists, too, describe the 46-year-old Khadjimba -- who began his career in the KGB, fought in the 1992-93 war, and then served as Abkhazia's security chief, first deputy prime minister, and defense minister -- as honest and capable. Since being named prime minister in April 2003, Khadjimba, dubbed "the Abkhaz Putin," has functioned as de facto leader in place of Ardzinba, who for the past few years has been incapacitated by an unidentified illness. Khadjimba presided over a modest economic upswing, cemented economic ties with various Russian regions, and engineered the granting of Russian citizenship to those Abkhaz who applied for it -- a privilege that entitles the holder to the minimum Russian pension.

Khadjimba is nonetheless at a disadvantage in that he reportedly does not enjoy the support either of the Abkhaz parliament or of any major political party. By contrast, Bagapsh, perceived as his sole serious rival, has the support of a bloc comprising the Amtsakhara union of veterans of the 1992-93 war and United Abkhazia (the two bodies merged earlier this summer), the Federation of Independent Trade Unions, and the opposition movement Aitaira, which initially backed Ankvab. Bagapsh, who is 55 and a former first secretary of the Abkhaz Obkom of the Georgian Kosmomol is, like Khadjimba, regarded as pragmatic and a competent economist. He too served for several years as prime minister, from 1997 to October 1999.

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" observed on 27 September that the programs of all candidates are very similar: all rule out any compromise settlement with Georgia that would undercut the republic's proclaimed independence, and all advocate close cooperation with Russia, especially in the economic field. There are, however, a few key differences: Khadjimba advocates constitutional reforms that would reduce the powers of the president and enhance those of the parliament, according to Caucasus Press on 4 September. Bagapsh for his part was quoted by on 2 September as saying he is ready to form a coalition government in which all political parties and movements would be represented. Bagapsh also stressed the need to win the trust and support of the largely Georgian population of Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion. The Gali Georgians fled at the end of the 1992-93 war, and not all have returned. While the Abkhaz authorities have not deliberately placed obstacles in the path of those wishing to return, those Georgians who risk doing so are frequently targeted by Abkhaz criminal bands, and most schools in Gali have Abkhaz as the language of instruction; two do not teach Georgian at all, according to Caucasus Press on 29 September. The need for measures to facilitate repatriation of displaced Georgians to Gali is routinely stressed in the UN Secretary Council's six-monthly resolutions on Abkhazia.

According to a poll of 830 students at Abkhaz State University summarized by Apsnipress, 47.2 percent said they will vote for Bagapsh, 39.6 percent for Khadjimba, 9.1 percent for former Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba, 3.4 percent for former presidential adviser and Prime Minister Anri Djergenia, and 0.7 percent for People's Party leader Yakub Lakoba, Caucasus Press reported on 17 September. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 27 September similarly predicted that Shamba will receive between 10-15 percent of the vote, enough to deprive either Khadjimba or Bagapsh of the 50 percent plus one vote required for a clear first-round victory. Whether or not on Khadjimba's orders, leaflets began circulating warning the electorate not to vote for Bagapsh and alleging that he has already allocated cabinet positions. Some Abkhaz have publicly argued that Bagapsh should not become president as his wife is Georgian. One argued in print that a Georgian "first lady" would be not only inappropriate but a threat to national security, according to "Russkii kurer" on 18 August. The political parties supporting Bagapsh have condemned the use of such "dirty election technology."

If the current Abkhaz leadership is indeed intent on rigging the outcome of the ballot to ensure a victory for Khadjimba, they should not find it difficult to do so given the chaotic conditions created by the election law. The Abkhaz Central Election Commission gives the total number of voters as 165,248, but the number of registered voters in Gali (where Bagapsh hopes to win the support of the predominantly Georgian electorate) is not known with any certainty: it has been variously estimated at 9,000 and 15,000. Moreover, all voters are required to cast their ballots at the location where they are officially registered as resident, which in many cases is not the location where they actually live.

Zabul Province Governor Khial Mohammad Hosayni said in Qalat that seven pro-government Afghan militiamen were killed in attacks on military posts in the Sur Ghar and Shenkay districts of the province on 29 September, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported the next day. According to Hosayni, the seven were executed after they surrendered to the neo-Taliban, AFP reported on 30 September. Hosayni added that on 28 September the neo-Taliban also attacked the district headquarters in the Khak-e Afghan area. Eight neo-Taliban fighters were killed in the attack and 14 others, including their deputy regional commander for Zabul, identified as Lal Mohammad, were injured. There has been no reaction on these reports from the neo-Taliban. AT

Hamed Agha, purporting to speak on behalf of the neo-Taliban, told AIP on 30 September that the militia does not intend, nor does it have the ability, to attack Afghan voters in Pakistan. "Pakistan is an independent country. The Taliban have no intention of disrupting the Afghan electoral process there," Hamed Agha said. However he said that the neo-Taliban "are requesting the [Afghan] refugees [living in Pakistan] not to participate in the electoral process.... [which] are only for the sole benefit of the Americans and [the] British." Since the communist putsch and the subsequent Soviet invasion in the late 1970s, millions of Afghans settled in Pakistan. Since the demise of the Taliban regime in late 2001, many refugees have returned to Afghanistan, though there are still many Afghans living in Pakistan who are eligible to vote in the 9 October presidential elections. Registration of Afghan refugees in Pakistan begins on 1 October and will last for three days. AT

Hamed Agha said that if the neo-Taliban were able to, they would kill Afghan presidential candidates, AIP reported on 30 September. Contradicting most of the recent reports that the neo-Taliban are focused on disrupting the elections, Hamed Agha said that in their attacks the neo-Taliban "do not care about the elections." "We are particularly focused on daily escalation of the mujahedin's operations because the people are supporting us," he added. Hamed Agha warned that the intensity of neo-Taliban "operations will continue vigorously even after the end of the elections." AT

A Dutch court overturned a decision by the government to reject an asylum request from former Afghan communist Vice President Abdul Rahim Hatef, AFP reported, quoting ANP news agency. The ruling by the Hague-based court obliges Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk to reconsider Hatef's request for asylum. The Dutch government had refused asylum to Hatef, who served as a deputy to former president Najibullah from 1988 to 1992, on charges of carrying out political assassinations and torture. In November 2002, when Afghanistan officially joined Interpol, the then Afghan chief of security, Basir Salangi, hoped that Afghanistan can pursue "thousands" of criminals who are among the Afghan diaspora, saying, "People who have committed crimes in Afghanistan and gone to countries such as Britain, France, and the Netherlands will no longer be safe" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November 2002). The Netherlands is a favorite destination for former high-ranking Afghan communists who ruled the country from 1978-92 and under whose rule more than one million Afghans perished. AT

The Afghan Justice Ministry has allowed four new political parties to begin operating on 29 September, the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported. The parties are: Azadikhwahan-e Mardum-e Afghanistan (Freedom-seekers of the Afghan People); Tahrik-e Wahdat al-Muslimin-e Afghanistan (Muslims' Unity Movement of Afghanistan); Hambastagi-ye Melli-ye Aqwam-e Afghanistan (National Solidarity of Afghan Tribes); and Hizb-e Etedial-e Melli-ye Islami-ye Afghanistan (National Islamic Accord of Afghanistan). AT

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned on 29 September as "a violation of Iranian and international law" the 28 September arrest by security agents of Ruzbeh Mir-Ebrahimi, a Tehran-based journalist. Separately, it reported that the editors of two monthlies, Keyvan Samimi-Bihbahani and Lutfullah Meysami, have been summoned to appear before a Tehran court on 25 September, in what called a move "designed to intimidate not just them but the entire reformist press." It further noted the continued detention of two of three Iranian journalists arrested earlier in September. Hanif Mazrui, Shahram Rafihzadeh, and Babak Ghafuri-Azar were arrested for ties to reformist Internet sites the Tehran public prosecutor has ordered blocked (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 20 September 2004). Ghafuri-Azar was freed on 21 September, reported. Separately, Iran's Writers Association has urged authorities to free Rafihzadeh, but also Nusrat Mehregan, a translator from Karaj, near Tehran, now "detained for more than three months in unknown conditions," Radio Farda reported on 30 September. It also deplored the prosecution of Muhsin Hakimi, a writer currently awaiting trial for unspecified charges, Radio Farda reported. VS

Deputy Information Minister Mohammad Shafi'i said in Kerman, southeastern Iran, on 30 September that Iranian security forces have "curbed all organized counterrevolutionary groups" in the past 20 years and turned "their efforts into despair," IRNA reported the same day. He said there is no longer "a counterrevolutionary current" the Information Ministry does not know about "from inside," and which it "does not dominate." The United States has spent "an enormous sum" on media hostile to the Tehran government, but to no "key effect" because Iranians know about "these media, their hostilities, and intrigues," IRNA quoted him as saying. Shafi'i said that Ahura Piruz Khaleghi Yazdi, an exile who announced in Washington on 27 September that he would return to Iran on 1 October to topple the Islamic Republic, "has delusions" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 2004). He said "limited gatherings in this regard" held in four localities in Iran have been "dispersed with the necessary measures" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2004). Yazdi told Radio Farda on 30 September that he has postponed his return because "that was the people's wish" and because he wants to avoid bloodshed. VS

Yahya Rahim Safavi, the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, denounced in Tehran on 30 September the presence of U.S. forces in the Middle East as "tension-provoking, crisis-provoking, and illegal," and warned that any U.S. action against Iran will lead to unspecified "threats" to "their military centers in Afghanistan, the Oman Sea, Persian Gulf, and Iraq," reported the same day, citing an interview with Al-Alam, Iran's Arabic-language television channel. The United States may threaten Iran, he said, but "Iran can also be a them." He also rejected Israeli threats as "psychological and publicity operations." The Israelis cannot assure security at home, he added, and "lack the ability to begin a war...with Iran," reported. "We are observing [Israeli] military movements against Iran, and consider them idiotic movements," he said. Israel has vowed to stop hostile Iran accessing nuclear weapons. Safavi said Iran is ready to defend itself, and has reached "total self-sufficiency" in making weaponry, including surface-to-surface and ground-to-air missiles, and tank and plane technology. VS

Safavi rejected past charges by U.S. and Iraqi officials that Iran lets terrorists enter Iraq through its border, adding that the United States is reacting to its own failures in Iraq, reported. "America has failed both militarily and politically in Iraq in the past 18 months," he said. U.S. officials, he added, are thus "blaming others and accusing...Syria, Iran or certain Arab countries of leaving their frontiers open for terrorists." He added: "I completely deny any form of...military or political interference by Iran in Iraq's internal affairs." It "may be impossible" to monitor all of Iran's borders with Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, but "we shall fully control our borders" if there is a "strong government" in Afghanistan and an "elected, popular government" in Iraq. Separately, Iraqi Defense Minister Hazim Sha'lan al-Khuza'i said on 30 September that Iraq hopes to fully control its border with Iran with the formation of five new army regiments, Radio Farda reported the same day. VS

More than 40 people were reported dead and over 100 were wounded after a series of car bombs exploded in Baghdad on 30 September, international media reported the same day. Children accounted for more than 30 of the fatalities in the largest number of children killed in any day since the conflict began. Two of the bombs were detonated near festivities celebrating the opening of a sewage plant, although it was unclear whether the gathering or a passing U.S. convoy was the target. The U.S. Army's 1st Calvary Division oversaw construction of the plant, which is intended to serve the 20,000 residents of Baghdad's Al-Amil District, "The New York Times" reported. Witnesses said many children attending the event were being given candy by U.S. soldiers when the bombs exploded, CNN reported. Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's group Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad took responsibility for the bombings, according to a statement on an Islamist website, Arab News reported. The bombings, which wounded 10 U.S. soldiers, occurred following a day of clashes between U.S.-led forces and Iraqi insurgents near the center of Baghdad and at the end of one of the bloodiest months in the country. EA

U.S.-led forces launched a major assault on the Sunni stronghold of Samarra, Reuters reported on 30 September. A CNN reporter who was accompanying U.S. forces said that a "brigade-size" regimen had entered the city and was traveling "sector by sector through the city to secure it." Iraqi police and hospital officials said four people were wounded in the incursion, including a child and one woman, Al-Jazeera reported. Sunni dominated Samarra, located 100 kilometers north of Baghdad, has been under insurgent control following an uneasy truce between the U.S. Army and the resistance. In nearby Al-Fallujah, a U.S. air strike killed four civilians, AP reported, citing hospital sources. The attack follows several days of fighting and was aimed at a "safe house" of followers of Jordanian terrorist al-Zarqawi. EA

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said on 30 September that his government will assert control over insurgent-held areas before the scheduled January elections, AP reported. "We are going to address the situation, we are going to build our security capability around Al-Fallujah and at the same time to use dialogue with them.'' Allawi's comments parallel statements by other government officials suggesting a tougher strategy. The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Meyers, said that the status quo in insurgent-controlled cities such as Al-Fallujah was "unacceptable" and said measures would be taken, NPR reported on 29 September. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for National Security Barham Ahmad Salih echoed Meyer's comments. He said, "We aim to regain control of these areas before the month of November," AFP reported. Although no official policy has been announced, Iraqi Defense Minister Hazim Sha'lan al-Khuza'i said: "You wait and see what we are going to do. We are going to take all these cities in October," Reuters reported. EA

The UN World Food Program announced on 28 September that 6.5 million Iraqis are dependent on food aid, international media reported. That is roughly 25 percent of the population -- down from the 65 percent that needed food aid for survival in the final days of the reign of Saddam Hussein. The results of a comprehensive survey conducted by the UN agency concluded that the economic condition of 2.6 million Iraqis require that they sell part of their rations to buy basic necessities. Should food aid be discontinued, 3.6 million Iraqis will be "food insecure." The survey also revealed that almost one-third of Iraqi children under the age of five are "chronically malnourished." The study was unprecedented in its scope. "For the first time, we are getting an accurate picture of people's access to food. As a result, we are much better able to plan assistance," explained Torben Due, the World Food Program's Iraq director. The World Food Program launched a one-year $60 million emergency operation targeting the most vulnerable groups in Iraq. EA

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that future studies of the insurgency in Iraq will not be publicly available, "The Washington Post" reported on 30 September. "The Washington Post" on 26 September covered a report by contractor Kroll Security International which examined the increasing attacks in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2004). USAID spokesman Jeffrey Grieco announced that future reports will be restricted for circulation to those contractors and grantees who continue to work in Iraq and congressional officials who seek them. An agency official said the decision was unrelated to the 26 September article and was based on concerns that reports "would fall into insurgents' hands." USAID also reduced the number of Iraqis working on its projects by 30,000, Reuters reported on 30 September. Using 15 September data, USAID's "Iraq Weekly Status" report said 45,844 Iraqis were employed in its projects compared with 88,436 recorded in the previous week's report. The 88,436 figure was later adjusted to 55,463 jobs with a footnote attributing the change to an "accounting error." EA