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Newsline - October 20, 2004

In a border agreement signed with China on 14 October, President Vladimir Putin ceded to that country islands in the Amur River that the two countries have been arguing over for decades, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 20 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October 2004). The agreement recognizes Chinese control over Tarabarov Island and a portion of Bolshoi Ussuriiskii Island, near Khabarovsk, the daily reported. According to the report, Moscow agreed to the concession in exchange for an increase in bilateral economic cooperation. "Vremya novostei" reported on 20 October that Bolshoi Ussuriiskii Island lies in the flight path of military and civilian aircraft using airports in Khabarovsk and that Russia will now have to receive overflight permission from China. RC

In a wide-ranging interview with "USA Today" on 20 October, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell praised President Putin, saying he "restored a sense of order in the country and moved in a democratic way." He said that although the United States has some concerns about Putin's recent political-reform proposals and the state of media freedom in Russia, "I do not see Russia sliding back down into the abyss of the Soviet Union." "They may not be moving as quickly or in as steady a manner as we might like to see...but I think they are moving in the right direction," Powell said. Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on 20 October that if the Russian government sells off Yukos assets for less than market value it will negatively affect investor confidence in Russia. "If the tender is not conducted on the open market for a fair market price, then there will be suspicions of favoritism," Boucher said. "And that will affect how people assess the business climate." RC

Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller told Interfax on 19 October that his company might try to acquire state-owned Zarubezhneft as part of its planned takeover of the state oil company Rosneft. Zarubezhneft is involved in a number of oil-development projects abroad, including in Vietnam, Turkmenistan, and perhaps Iraq. Miller said that Gazprom shares have risen significantly since the government gave the go-ahead for the takeover of Rosneft in exchange for a 10.7 percent block of Gazprom shares (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2004), with the 10.7 percent stake rising in value from $5.6 billion to about $6.3 billion. Gazprom has asked Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein to assess both Rosneft and Zarubezhneft as part of the preliminary work on the takeover deal. RC

Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov told journalists in Bulgaria on 19 October that Gazprom might purchase Rosatomstroieksport, "Izvestiya" reported on 20 October. Rosatomstroieksport, a controlling stake in which was sold last year to United Heavy Machinery (OMZ), builds nuclear power plants abroad and currently has projects in Bulgaria, China, India, and Iran. Fradkov acknowledged that the possible takeover of Rosatomstroieksport has not yet been discussed at the cabinet level. An unnamed source at OMZ told the daily that a deal to sell the controlling stake in Rosatomstroieksport to Gazprombank has already been worked out. RC

The body of a man who was allegedly beaten to death by police while in custody under suspicion of being involved in a plot to plant one or more car bombs in downtown Moscow has been positively identified through DNA testing as that of St. Petersburg submariner Aleksandr Pumane, "Gazeta" reported on 20 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20, 23, and 30 September and 7 October 2004). On 18 October, NTV broadcast an amateur video that was made on the night of 18 September that showed seven men carrying Pumane on a stretcher to an ambulance. Pumane's common-law wife said that she immediately recognized Pumane on the video and expressed amazement that Pumane's first wife was unable to identify his body at the morgue. An arrest warrant has been issued for police Major Vyacheslav Dushenko, who is reported to have interrupted the questioning of Pumane and ordered him to be taken to a police-precinct basement where he was allegedly beaten to death. RC

The body of Lieutenant General Nikolai Batyushin, one of the founders of Russian military counterintelligence in 1906, was transferred to a Moscow cemetery on 20 October and given a full military burial, RIA-Novosti reported. Batyushin served in the Russo-Japanese War and World War I. He headed the military intelligence section of the Warsaw Military District. In 1918, he joined the White Guard during the civil war, after which he emigrated to Belgrade. During World War II he moved to Belgium, where he died and was buried in 1957. RC

The State Duma and Central Election Commission conducted a hearing on 19 October to discuss President Putin's 13 September proposal to cancel gubernatorial elections and reorganize State Duma elections along party lines, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 October. According to the daily, members of the Duma's smaller factions and even of parties that did not make it into the Duma were given an opportunity to comment on the prospects for developing election legislation, although "their opinions are not likely to influence the fate of the presidential initiative." Communist Party head Gennadii Zuganov suggested his own version of how to strengthen the "power vertical" by naming presidential envoys to each region who would preserve the territorial integrity of Russia, appoint local law-enforcement officials, and defend citizen's rights. JC

Also speaking at the hearing, former State Duma Deputy Viktor Sheinis (Yabloko) suggested legislation that might mitigate the "negative consequences" of the contemplated reform, such as not increasing the minimum number of members for a political party to be registered and not increasing the ceiling for entry to the State Duma or local legislatures beyond 5 percent of the total vote. Former State Duma Deputy Boris Nadezhdin (Union of Rightist Forces) called upon members of regional legislatures, some of whom were present at the hearing, to challenge the constitutionality of the proposed changes in the Constitutional Court. Independent State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov also repeated his earlier criticism of the reforms as unconstitutional. At the conclusion of the session, participants could not adopt any recommendations that would be obligatory as Duma measures. First Deputy Speaker Lyubov Sliska suggested holding an additional hearing in November JAC

Pavel Borodin, state secretary for the Union of Russia and Belarus, told Ekho Moskvy on 19 October that a referendum on the possibility of President Putin being elected for a third term is very likely. Borodin added that he supports the idea of extending the current president's term, and that there should not be just a third term but also a fourth. He explained that "unlike the West, Russia is run by tsars, not corporations. Such authority -- as Lukashenka and Putin have -- is a gift from God." Presidential press spokesman Aleksei Gromov told Interfax that Borodin was expressing his "personal opinion, which does not correspond with reality." Borodin is a former head of the Kremlin property directorate under President Boris Yeltsin. Borodin was implicated in an embezzlement and money-laundering scandal involving Kremlin reconstruction projects. He was jailed in New York in early 2001 at the request of Swiss prosecutors, who accused him of money laundering, but was released after a Swiss court dropped one charge and the Russian government posted bond (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 April, 17 May, 12 June, and 3 July 2001). JAC

"Finansovye izvestiya" reported on 19 October that the cost of international airfares to and from Russia will drop "radically" in 2005, and it could cost as little as $100 for Russians to fly to Europe roundtrip. According to the newspaper three budget airlines, the German-based Germanwings and Air Berlin and Austrian airline Niki, will start operating in Russia. Germanwings will launch flights between Moscow and Stuttgart in the summer of 2005, and Air Berlin and Niki will offer service between Vienna and Moscow. According to the daily, it's already possible to fly from Russia to Germany on Mongolian airline MIAT for 163 euros ($204); however, passengers have to change planes in Ulan Bator and the flights have not proved popular. JAC

Police officers in Irkutsk arrested three people on suspicion of involvement in the murders last month of political consultants Marina Marakhovskaya and Yan Travinskii, who were working for the Motherland party in the region, Russian news agencies reported on 19 October. Marakhovskaya, a 43-year-old Moscow resident, and Travinskii, a 30-year-old St. Petersburg resident, who also worked as a journalist, had been deployed to Irkutsk to organize Motherland's campaign for the Irkutsk Oblast legislature elections, which were held on 10 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2004). The two consultants were gunned down outside Marakhovskaya's apartment. The unknown assailants took only a notebook and a briefcase full of documents, leaving behind money, expensive watches, and mobile phones, according to JAC

Motherland leader Dmitrii Rogozin told reporters in Moscow that his party does not trust the official report about the killings and plans to conduct its own investigation, reported. Rogozin declined to comment in detail about the case but stated that Travinskii was not killed because of his political views but because he was trying to defend Marakhovskaya. According to ITAR-TASS, Marakhovskaya and Travinskii arrived in Irkutsk in June and had played a key role in the party's campaign for the legislature. In the election, Motherland received 9.1 percent of the vote, compared with 30.2 percent for Unified Russia, 13 percent for the Communist Party, and 11.3 percent for "against all." JAC

President Putin signed a decree on 19 October dismissing Petr Dolgachev as interior minister for the Republic of Mordovia, and RosBalt reported. The presidential press service did not provide an official explanation for Dolgachev's dismissal; however, reported that Dolgachev's dismissal follows a months-long check on the activities of the republican police conducted by a special commission of their federal counterparts. The head of the republic's criminal police, Vladimir Moskovkin, left his post earlier in the month. According to, the regional information agency also linked the departure of Moskovkin and Dolgachev to the work of the special commission. JAC

Dmitrii Kozak, the presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District, has appointed Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov as an adviser on security issues, Russian news agencies reported on 19 October, quoting pro-Moscow Chechen administration head Alu Alkhanov. Kadyrov coordinates the work of security bodies in Chechnya; at the same time, he heads a Chechen presidential security service that has been implicated by both Russian and foreign journalists in the abduction and killing of Chechen civilians. LF

The birthrate in Chechnya last year was the highest of any federation subject, with 25 live births per 1,000 people, Interfax reported on 19 October on the basis of data presented at a Moscow conference on demographic trends. As a result of the high birthrate and alleged low death rate (surprising in the light of widespread military actions in the republic), Chechnya had the second-highest rate of natural increase in Russia in 2003 after neighboring Daghestan. Those numbers dovetail with statistics unveiled earlier this year by the Chechen government, according to which Chechnya's birthrate during the 13 months between 1 January 2003 and February 2004 was four times higher than the mortality rate (32,355 live births compared with 7,100 deaths), ITAR-TASS reported on 12 February. LF

Moscow has urged the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to draft "politically unbiased" criteria for the monitoring of elections, Interfax reported on 19 October, citing the Russian Foreign Ministry. Over the past few months, Russia has spearheaded a campaign to pressure the OSCE to devote greater attention to security issues rather than monitoring and criticizing human rights violations and election fraud in CIS member states (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July and 16 September 2004). LF

Addressing the second session of the All-Russian Congress of Azerbaijanis, which opened in Moscow on 19 October, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stressed that thanks largely to President Putin, all political problems in relations between Russia and Azerbaijan have been solved, Russian and Azerbaijani media reported. Putin, for his part, noted that bilateral trade grew by almost 40 percent last year to $500 million. During talks in the Kremlin later on 19 October, the two presidents focused on ways to intensify bilateral ties and Russia's role in helping to mediate a solution to the Karabakh conflict. LF

Leaders of a small extra-parliamentary National Salvation Party that unites veterans of the Karabakh war, told journalists in Yerevan on 19 October that it is time the Armenian authorities took steps to alleviate widespread socio-economic hardship, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. They did not elaborate on their demands or set a deadline for government action, and stressed that they will not resort to force to achieve their objective. One of the party's leaders, Vartan Tatarian, told journalists that the party has twice requested a meeting with President Robert Kocharian, but those requests were refused. LF

Azerbaijan's Finance Minister Avaz Alekperov has told journalists in Baku that the Azerbaijani government has rejected a request by Georgia to postpone repayment of the major portion of its total $16.19 million in debts until 2007, Caucasus Press reported on 19 October. Azerbaijan has already twice rescheduled payment, most recently in 2003, when it was agreed that the consolidated debt amounting to some $3 million, would be repaid between 2005-10 and the floating debt of $13 million between 31 March 2003 and late 2006. Georgia further agreed to repay between $800,000-$900,000 quarterly, but has not done so. LF

Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and British Petroleum executive Michael Townshend signed an agreement in Tbilisi on 19 October under which British Petroleum will allocate $25 million over the next five years for additional security measures to protect the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, Caucasus Press reported. Zhvania said that the technology in question will alert the Georgian authorities instantly to any perceived threat to the pipeline, including any by terrorists. LF

Zurab Zhvania told journalists in Tbilisi on 19 October he will agree to meet with Eduard Kokoity, president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, only if the conflict zone is demilitarized and all South Ossetian irregular troops withdrawn, and provided that conditions are created for the economic development of the region, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. Zhvania also said that talks should be resumed on South Osssetia's status within Georgia. Georgia and South Ossetia agreed in principle in August on a meeting between Zhvania and Kokoity, but not on the agenda of those talks and the venue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 31 August 2004). South Ossetia proposed Moscow, Russian authorities proposed Sochi, and Georgia favors Vladikavkaz, capital of the Republic of North Ossetia. LF

After repeated postponements, the Abkhaz Supreme Court convened on 19 October to consider an appeal by former Prime Minister Raul Khadjimba against the 11 October announcement by the Central Election Commission (CEC) of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia naming Chernomorenergo head Sergei Bagapsh the winner of the 3 October presidential ballot, Georgian and Russian media reported. Khadjimba claims that ruling is based on an inaccurate tabulation of the results and that he is the rightful winner. The court rejected on 19 October a protest from Khadjimba's lawyer that judge Georgii Akaba is not objective because his sister is a member of the Aitaira party, which supports Bagapsh. Khadjimba's lawyer then left the courtroom and the proceedings were adjourned. Also on 19 October, eight of the remaining 11 CEC members informed the Supreme Court that the CEC's 11 October announcement naming Bagapsh the election winner was "political" rather than legal in nature, Caucasus Press reported. LF

Zharmakhan Tuyakbai's announcement on 18 October that violations during the 19 September parliamentary elections impelled him to give up his post as speaker of the Mazhilis (lower chamber of parliament) and leave the pro-presidential Otan party drew reactions the next day. Asylbek Kozhakhmetov, head of the opposition Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, told Russia's "Kommersant-Daily" on 19 October that Tuyakbai's statement "confirms the illegitimacy of the elections." The Kazakh opposition newspaper "Navigator" published an anonymous analysis suggesting that Tuyakbai's criticism is part of a complex plan by a powerful clan within Kazakhstan to create a new opposition force. Zamanbek Nurkadilov, who stepped down as head of the Emergency Situations Agency under similar circumstances in March, told "Navigator" that Tuyakbai's move was "logical" and a sign of a deepening political crisis. And Sergei Kiselev, a member of the pro-presidential Asar party, said, "The resignation of Mazhilis speaker Zharmakhan Tuyakbai is a result of his defeat in the behind-the-scenes battle over the power structures in the country," "Kazakhstan Today" reported. DK

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer met with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev in Almaty on 19 October, Kazinform reported. The two discussed cooperation between Kazakhstan and the alliance, and de Hoop Scheffer presented Robert Simmons, who will be NATO's permanent representative in Kazakhstan, Khabar TV reported. De Hoop Scheffer told a briefing that NATO expects to receive an Individual Partnership Program from Kazakhstan, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. Such a plan would mark the next stage in NATO's Partnership for Peace Planning and Review Process, UPI reported. De Hoop Scheffer also said that "[President] Nazarbaev is in complete agreement on the expansion of NATO's role in Afghanistan to stabilize the situation there and on assistance to Iraq." At a separate meeting with Kazakh Defense Minister Colonel General Mukhtar Altynbaev, de Hoop Scheffer praised Kazakhstan's peacekeeping operations in Iraq, although that mission is not being carried out under NATO auspices, Khabar TV reported. DK

Earlier in the day, de Hoop Scheffer met with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev in Bishkek to discuss cooperation, reported. After the meeting, Akaev said that a new two-year program will govern cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and NATO, with a focus on border security and joint counterterrorism and drug-interdiction initiatives, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Akaev said that an alpine-rescue training center will be set up in Kyrgyzstan with NATO support, ITAR-TASS reported. He added, "We have also decided that over time this base will be changed into a center for training peacekeeping forces." Akaev said that Afghan reconstruction was a central topic in talks with the NATO secretary-general. For his part, de Hoop Scheffer stressed that the problems of international terrorism and drug trafficking must be solved through cooperation, "which is why it is important for NATO to strengthen its ties with Kyrgyzstan," reported. Altai Borubaev, speaker of the upper chamber of the Kyrgyz parliament, suggested at a meeting with de Hoop Scheffer that as NATO countries refurbish their armed forces, they could pass on outmoded military hardware to the Kyrgyz army, Interfax-AVN reported. DK

Rashid Nurgaliev met with Kyrgyz President Akaev and Interior Minister Bakirdin Subanbekov in Bishkek on 19 October, ITAR-TASS reported. Law-enforcement cooperation formed the basis for talks. Nurgaliev said, "Today it is important that we move to a new and practical level of countering organized crime. For this, actions should be coordinated and efforts consolidated." The two ministers signed a cooperation protocol, reported. DK

Nurgaliev announced on 19 October in Bishkek that Kyrgyz police in August detained four individuals suspected of committing crimes in Chechnya, ITAR-TASS reported. One of the four was an officer in Chechnya's Interior Ministry until 2001, when he allegedly began aiding "rebel groups." The individual, identified by officials as A. Akhtakhanov, is wanted by Russian authorities for murder and assault, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Kyrgyz and Russian authorities are currently examining the issue of the four individuals' extradition to Russia. DK

Fifteen members of Kyrgyzstan's Legislative Assembly walked out of a 19 October session to protest plans to privatize the country's energy sector, Kyrgyz TV reported. In a subsequent open appeal to the population, the deputies explained that they are opposed to plans to vote on energy-sector privatization in October, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Deputy Azimbek Beknazarov told the session that the opposition deputies want to hear a report on the bankruptcy of energy-sector companies Severelektro and Kyrgyzgaz before voting on their privatization, Kyrgyzinfo reported. The deputies' departure forced speaker Abdygany Erkebaev to halt the session in the absence of a quorum. DK

Kyrgyz police arrested a Tajik Justice Ministry official on 18 October for attempting to sell 90 kilograms of opium, Kabar news agency reported. The bust, which took place in a village in the Batken Oblast, is the largest drug seizure in Kyrgyzstan in 2004. DK

Police arrested some 50 people on 19 October during a rally protesting the officially announced results of Belarus's parliamentary elections and referendum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 19 October 2004), Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported. Several hundred people on October Square in downtown Minsk displayed a large poster reading "Down with the Tyranny!" and shouted antipresidential slogans. Some of the arrested, who included Belarusian Social Democratic Party (National Assembly) head Mikalay Statkevich and United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka, were brutally beaten. "We were leaving when [riot-police] officers came down on us from behind and started beating us. I feel bad; they've called an ambulance for me," Lyabedzka told Belapan by mobile phone from a police station. United Civic Party deputy head Alyaksandr Dabravolski told journalists later that Lyabedzka suffered injuries to his head and kidneys as well as two broken ribs. The Belarusian authorities forbade television companies in Minsk to transmit abroad footage of the 19 October police clampdown on demonstrators, according to Belapan. JM

Jan Peterson, chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, has expressed serious concern about Belarus's failure to hold the 17 October parliamentary elections in compliance with European standards, Belapan reported on 19 October. "Another opportunity has been missed to bring Belarus closer to the European family," Peterson said. "Eight years have passed since the previous referendum and developments in Belarus have only increased the country's isolation. The Belarusian people deserve a better future." JM

Six pro-government parliamentary caucuses -- Labor Ukraine, the Social Democratic Party-united, Ukraine's Regions, Single Ukraine, Democratic Initiatives, and Soyuz -- did not register for the parliamentary session and failed to appear in the session hall on 20 October, Ukrainian news agencies reported. There are reportedly 248 deputies registered for the session, which is a sufficient majority for adopting most bills. Pro-government lawmakers tried to block the session the previous day as well (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2004). Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said in the Verkhovna Rada on 19 October that pro-government lawmakers "are implementing a scenario" for disrupting the work of the legislature and holding early parliamentary elections. "After the [presidential] elections many people will need to find [new] jobs and they are now trying to find these jobs in the Verkhovna Rada; this requires a blockade of the Verkhovna Rada in order to hold new elections," Lytvyn said. JM

Despite the absence of most pro-government lawmakers in the session hall, the Verkhovna Rada on 19 October managed to pass several bills, Ukrainian news agencies reported. One of the bills increased the average monthly subsistence minimum in Ukraine from the current 362 hryvnyas ($70) to 432 hryvnyas as of 2005. The bill was endorsed by 250 out of 257 legislators registered for the session. Lawmaker Mykola Tomenko commented that by passing the subsistence minimum bill, the legislature effectively supported opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko's draft decree in which he promised such a raise after being elected president (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 2004). JM

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on 19 October ruled that the Ukrainian authorities acted illegally by rejecting an application from Mykola Melnychenko, a former bodyguard to President Leonid Kuchma, to register as a parliamentary candidate for the 2002 parliamentary election on the Ukrainian Socialist Party ticket, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Melnychenko left Ukraine in 2000 after secretly taping hundreds of hours of conversations in Kuchma's office in 1998-2000. The court said the authorities -- in rejecting the application on the grounds that Melnychenko had submitted false information about his place of residence and that he had not been resident in Ukraine for five years -- violated the "right to free elections" stipulated in the European Convention on Human Rights. "Neither the relevant Ukrainian legislation nor practice contained a direct eligibility requirement of 'habitual' or 'continuous' residence in the territory of Ukraine for parliamentary candidates," the court said in its ruling. The court awarded Melnychenko 5,000 euros ($6,250) in damages. JM

Former Ukrainian presidential bodyguard Melnychenko revealed more of his secret recordings in Kuchma's office during a news conference in Warsaw on 19 October, Interfax reported. The disclosed recording carries an alleged conversation between Kuchma and Viktor Yanukovych, in which the latter, then the governor of Donetsk Oblast, discusses corruption in the parliament and briefs Kuchma on how he muzzles the press in his region. Melnychenko promised to pass the recording to Ukrainian lawmakers. Melnychenko also invited Ukrainian television channels for another news conference in Warsaw on 22 October, promising to disclose the nature of the contacts he maintained with current presidential administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk and oligarch and lawmaker Hryhoriy Surkis in 2001-02. JM

A four-member Macedonian delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Fuad Hasanovic left for Qatar on 19 October in an effort to clarify the fate of two Macedonian workers who were reportedly killed recently by hostage takers in Iraq, RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters reported. The delegation, which includes representatives of the Defense Ministry, the Interior Ministry, and the army, intends to check the original video footage broadcast by the Doha-based Al-Jazeera TV, allegedly showing the final moments of Dalibor Lazarevski and Zoran Naskovski (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September, and 14 and 19 October 2004). Lazarevski and Naskovski were kidnapped near Baghdad on 21 August together with a third Macedonian, whose fate remains unclear. UB

The Serbian parliament voted on 19 October to approve a minor cabinet reshuffle that was backed by deputies belonging to parties in the governing coalition and the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), which supports the minority government in the parliament, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Predrag Bubalo moves from the Foreign Economic Relations Ministry to head the Economics and Privatization Ministry. His former job goes to Milan Parivodic. Slobodan Vuksanovic is the new education and sport minister, replacing Ljiljana Colic, who resigned on 16 September after her ill-fated attempt to ban Charles Darwin's theory of evolution from Serbian classrooms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8, 10, and 16 September 2004). All three new ministers belong to Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS). The shuffle was opposed by deputies belonging to the opposition Democratic Party and Serbian Radical Party (SRS), which have emerged as the two strongest parties in the course of 2004 (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 October 2004). The Democrats voted against the changes to express their opposition to the government's policies toward Kosova and the Hague-based war crimes tribunal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8, 15, and 18 October 2004). The SRS disapproved the shuffle to show its dislike for the government's economic policies. PM

Serbian Justice Minister Zoran Stojkovic, who recently informed a Belgrade daily that the authorities will not arrest four important war crimes indictees, told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service in Belgrade on 19 October that he sees no reason for the government to arrest the men so long as they have the opportunity of voluntarily turning themselves in (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2004). PM

Soren Jessen-Petersen, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), said in Prishtina on 19 October that attempts to encourage Kosova's Serbian minority not to take part in the 23 October parliamentary elections are "unacceptable," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 August and 8 October 2004). He stressed that UNMIK and KFOR peacekeepers will provide security for all who cast their ballots. PM

Ethnic Albanian right-wing political leader Fatmir Humolli told Reuters in Prishtina on 19 October that the elections are only an attempt by the UN to buy more time and avoid discussing the province's "future status." He argued that the UN wants "four more do nothing to solve the Kosova issue, preparing [in fact] to return Kosova to Serbian sovereignty. In playing this game, the international community has declared political war on Albanians, which could turn into an armed conflict at any moment. Just a small incident is needed." He did not elaborate but called on the ethnic Albanian majority to boycott the vote. Humolli's radical National Movement for the Liberation of Kosova (LKCK) is a small party seeking to capitalize on widespread frustration regarding independence and jobs. All mainstream ethnic Albanian parties support the elections, which they see as a first stage in preparing for independence. PM

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said on 19 October that his main rival in the November presidential elections is unfit for that post, Mediafax reported. Nastase, who is the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), made the comment in response to a statement by National Liberal Party (PNL)-Democratic Party candidate Traian Basescu, who said on 18 October that French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin had "received his allowance" from the Romanian government during his visit the previous day to Romania. Basescu was referring to a contract signed during the visit for the construction of a section of the Bucharest-Brasov highway by the French company Vinci (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2004). In a letter sent to French Ambassador to Romania Philippe Etienne, Basescu said on 19 October that the contract to Vinci had been awarded without a tender. Nastase said that by running for president, Basescu is stepping into shoes that are "far too large for his size." Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, meanwhile, said Basescu had "gravely insulted" the French prime minister. MS

Addressing on 19 October a forum of faculty and students at Bucharest University's Political Science Department, U.S. Ambassador to Romania Jack Dyer Crouch said the next Romanian government needs to transform the way it works with the business community, according to a U.S. Embassy press release. Crouch said "regulation must be reduced, decision making decentralized, and procedures for the expenditures of taxpayer money standardized and made transparent." He said that government officials "need to comprehend that letting legitimate businesses operate unhindered by government central to how a free market operates." Romania, he said, "can only attract the foreign investment it needs if the business climate is inviting." Ambassador Crouch emphasized that "political life is an opportunity for public service, not a chance for personal enrichment." He said he looks forward "to the day when we see politicians leave government to make money." MS

In his 19 October speech, Ambassador Crouch also said that "recent developments in Romania have led to concern of some backsliding" in the area of press freedom, according to the U.S. Embassy press release. He said individual journalists "have faced harassment, sometimes including violence or the threat of violence." A number of media outlets, Crouch said, "have great debt, including taxes to the government, which go uncollected and thereby imply an obligation to curtail criticism of those in power." In addition, "some media may also fear that efforts to investigate mismanagement, fraud, and corruption will result in the loss of certain advertising revenue on which they rely." Crouch said that "fixing these things is essential not just for press freedom, but to sustain citizens' confidence in the integrity of democracy." MS

The Chamber of Deputies on 19 October rejected by a vote of 124 against to 84 in favor a motion submitted by the opposition PNL-Democratic Party to debate government attempts to curtail media freedom, Mediafax reported. The motion was supported by the opposition Greater Romania Party (PRM) and voted down by the majority of PSD lawmakers supported by deputies from that party's parliamentary ally, the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) .MS

The opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) on 18 October submitted to parliament a draft electoral-law amendment, Flux and Infotag reported. The PPCD proposed that all officials running for parliament and local government posts must prove their fluency in the "country's official language." It argued that people who do not have a working knowledge of the "official language" are unfit to represent others and that such legislation is found in all EU member countries. Last week, the PPCD demanded that President Vladimir Voronin dismiss two of his advisers, Mark Tkachuk and Oleg Reidman, on the grounds that they do not speak the "official language." Voronin on 19 October responded to PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca by saying that Tkachuk and Reidman "have more knowledge" of the "official language" than Rosca does. Voronin said the constitution stipulates that the official language is "Moldovan," whereas Rosca refers to the language as "Romanian." MS

Several dozen residents of the Varnita village in the vicinity of Bendery-Tighina on 19 October blocked the main road leading into the town, as well as the rail link to it, Infotag and ITAR-TASS reported. They said they are protesting against the setting up by the Tiraspol authorities of border customs checkpoints near the village, describing them as "illegal." The villagers said the 1992 cease-fire agreement prohibits the presence of any paramilitary force in the security zone in which the village lies. MS

Many people inside and outside Bosnia believe that the 1995 Dayton peace agreement has outlived its usefulness. There is, however, no consensus on what to put in its place, or on whether fundamental changes in Bosnia would have a negative impact on the rest of the Balkans.

The Dayton agreement unquestionably served its immediate purpose of ending the fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina and preventing a resumption of hostilities. In the past few years, however, a debate has ensued both in Bosnia and abroad over the allegedly dysfunctional nature of the constitutional system set down in the treaty.

It provided for a loose central authority over two separate "entities," the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Republika Srpska. The federation is further divided into 10 cantons, which are more or less ethnically based. In addition to the two entities there is the internationally run district of Brcko, which was the one part of Bosnia that proved impossible for all concerned to agree on at the Dayton conference or even later.

Throughout Bosnia, political power at most all levels is carefully divided according to ethnic criteria. This nationally oriented approach is reinforced by the fact that most elected officials, at least since the 2002 general elections, come primarily, if not exclusively, from the three main nationalist parties. They are the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA), which was long linked to the name of the late President Alija Izetbegovic; the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), which was formerly headed by wartime leader and indicted war criminal 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.

On top of this complex structure is the international community's unelected high representative, who has the right to legislate and remove elected officials at will without any right of appeal. The Office of the High Representative (OHR) has a staff of several hundred local people and foreigners.

This elaborate system was obviously the result of tough negotiations that led to the end of the war. Since the return of peace, however, many critics say that the Dayton system is not only unique and a bit weird but also counterproductive. But there the broad agreement among the critics ends.

There are four basic models under discussion to replace Dayton, the differences between them depending on what one considers to be the root of the problem. The first model calls for strengthening the OHR on the grounds that this is the only way to effect change and break the power of the nationalists. Advocates of this approach tend to be among those forces inside and outside Bosnia strongly opposed to the nationalists. Those opposed to this model argue that it is inherently contradictory, seeking to impose democratic and European values by fiat and a colonialist administration.

The second model seeks to remedy such problems by first reducing and then eliminating the role of the OHR. Its proponents can be found primarily among the established politicians in Bosnia and some foreign NGOs. 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 calls for scrapping the Dayton system and calling a new constitutional convention to map a fresh start. The difficulty here is that, like the second model, it will most likely leave power in the hands of the nationalists, assuming that they are able to agree among themselves on a new constitutional system.

But that is unlikely because their respective agendas are largely mutually exclusive. The SDA wants a strong central authority and Muslim dominance within the federation. The HDZ, for its part, would like to see the federation replaced with a Croat entity on equal footing with a Muslim entity and the Republika Srpska. The HDZ seeks to keep the central authority weak, as does the SDS. In fact, the SDS regards any attempt to limit the role of the Republika Srpska in favor of the central government as unacceptable. After all, the reason Bosnian Serb leaders accepted Dayton in the first place is that it enabled them to tell their followers that the agreement gave them a "sovereign" Republika Srpska.

All these views stand, moreover, in contrast to those of the minority nonnationalists, who tend to prefer replacing the current ethnically based system with a purely civic one.

A fourth model advocates the still more radical approach of partitioning Bosnia along ethnic lines on the grounds that Bosnia is unlikely to ever be a truly multiethnic society again in the foreseeable future. Some proponents of this model argue that there will, in fact, eventually be a partition, and that it is best for all concerned to get the matter over with sooner rather than later.

But critics say that partition would only solidify the results of ethnic cleansing and trigger a chain reaction elsewhere in the western Balkans toward ethnically based states, undermining in particular the 2001 Ohrid peace agreement in Macedonia. In Bosnia, 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. But that might be more easily said than done.

RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service recently broadcast a program in which it discussed possible revisions of Dayton and their likely impacts on the region.

The program quoted Sulejman Tihic (SDA), who is the Muslim member and chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, as saying that he hopes for serious talks about revising Dayton as soon as 2005.

But Republika Srpska President Dragan Cavic (SDS), Serbian President Boris Tadic, and Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica all stressed their support for Dayton, warning that tampering with it could undermine regional stability. Some participants from Serbia and Kosova told RFE/RL that any constitutional changes in Bosnia could lead to calls for frontier or constitutional changes in Kosova, Montenegro, or elsewhere, perhaps with unpredictable consequences, including renewed violence.

Professor Rusmir Mahmutcehajic of Sarajevo denied that reform in Bosnia would trigger any regional "domino effect." He defended the position of many Bosnian nonnationalists by saying that time has come to stop thinking in ethnic terms and start thinking about the good of Bosnia as a whole. The present political situation, Mahmutcehajic argued, is the result of the war and must be changed.

He warned, however, that both Serbia and Croatia might not want to leave Bosnians of all ethnic groups in peace to manage their own affairs by themselves. But Mahmutcehajic suggested that Serbia and Croatia would best serve the interests of their own societies and the region by helping Bosnia to rebuild and to heal, much as "Germany has an obligation to work actively on behalf of the Jews, Israel, and others" it wronged in the 20th century.

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters in Washington on 19 October that the time has come for reconciliation with lower ranking members of the ousted Taliban regime, Reuters reported. Khalilzad emphasized that while leading Taliban figures should be brought to justice and the U.S.-led coalition should "finish off" the militants who are still fighting in the name of the Taliban, Afghanistan's successful presidential election has created an opportunity to include lower-ranking members of the Taliban into Afghan society. "The Taliban have seen their worth in the eyes of the Afghan people," Khalilzad said. He added that in order to "move forward...there must be accountability, but there also must be reconciliation and I think this would be an important agenda postelection item." Reports about efforts to include some members of the Taliban in Afghanistan's future administration have circulated since October 2003, when the United States reportedly released former Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Wakil Ahmad Mutawakkil, who is currently preparing to form a political party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2004 and "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 3 July, 18 September, 9, 16, 23, and 30 October 2003; and 4 March and 10 June 2004). AT

Khalilzad said on 19 October that U.S. policy toward Afghanistan will not change even if Democratic presidential challenger Senator John Kerry wins the U.S. presidential election in November, AFP reported. "I believe that the requirements of the situation and the security interests of the American people would push any administration to essentially follow the approach that we are implementing in Afghanistan," Khalilzad told reporters in Washington. Khalilzad said he does not see any "good alternative to sustaining the course" that his country is on regarding Afghanistan. Khalilzad said Afghanistan has a "long way to go" before becoming a democratic state. "Warlordism is dying," he added. "If we can kill Talibanism and deal with the narcotics issue Afghanistan will be well on its way to being a successful country." AT

Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in Bishkek on 19 October that dealing with Afghanistan's narcotics problem is not NATO's "No. 1 responsibility," ITAR-TASS reported. Scheffer said that while NATO provides assistance to the Afghan authorities in securing the country's border to stop drug trafficking, "society in Afghanistan must become the main 'figure' in resolving the issue of drug trafficking" in their country. Since 2001, Afghanistan's production of opium has surged dramatically, but NATO has consistently maintained that dealing with the drug problem is not part of its mandate (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 12 February and 18 June 2004). AT

Mohammad Yunos Qanuni, who currently stands second to Afghan Transitional Administration Hamid Karzai in the Afghan presidential vote count, said that he will not recognize Karzai's victory until all of the votes are tallied, Kabul daily "Arman-e Melli" reported on 19 October. Qanuni, repeating his allegations of fraud in the election process, said he will also wait for the conclusions of the UN-appointed panel investigating the election process before accepting the results. According to the UN-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body, as of 19 October Karzai continued to lead with 64.4 percent of the vote while Qanuni was running second with 16.6 percent (for more on the Afghan presidential election, see RFE/RL's special website on the elections at AT

Iranian Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Minister Ali Shamkhani said at the end of the 20 October cabinet session that Iran tested the Shihab-3 missile the same day in the presence of unspecified observers, ISNA reported. The missile's range recently was increased to 2,000 kilometers, according to Iranian officials (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 11 October 2004). BS

In an apparent effort to entice Iran into foregoing the enrichment of uranium, European powers will support the construction of a light-water reactor in Iran, anonymous U.S. and European officials said on 19 October, Reuters reported. Unlike heavy-water reactors, light-water reactors are not much use for making atomic weapons. Other incentives include guarantees on the provision of nuclear fuel from Russia and the resumption of an Iran-EU trade pact. The decision on these incentives followed a G-8 meeting in Washington on 15 October (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 18 October 2004), and the proposal will reportedly be presented to the Iranian side during a meeting in Vienna on 21 October with the so-called Euro-3 (France, Britain, and Germany). British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw confirmed during a joint news conference on 19 October with his German counterpart Joschka Fischer that the meeting will take place. British International Security Minister Denis Macshane said on 19 October that Iran must halt its nuclear activities or face referral to the UN Security Council, AFP reported. Fuel-cycle activity must be suspended, Macshane said, because it is not necessary for civilian power generation. BS

Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani on 19 October dismissed requests that Iran stop its production of nuclear fuel, Iranian state television reported. However, he said Iran is willing to consider a short-term suspension of uranium enrichment. "Iran will not ignore its rights with regard to its peaceful nuclear activities," he added. "There can be no debate about that." Iranian Atomic Energy Organization chief Gholamreza Aqazadeh-Khoi said on 19 October that Iran's nuclear achievements are a matter of national pride that must be safeguarded, state television reported. "Only a small number of countries posses this capability," he said. "If we ignore this right, it will be a negative juncture in our country's history." BS

Indian National Security Adviser Jyotindra Nath Dixit concluded a three-day visit to Iran on 19 October, international news agencies reported. While in Iran Dixit met with Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, and speaker of parliament Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, according to a 20 October report from India's Doordarshan DD-1 national television and 19 October reports from Mehr News Agency and India's PTI News Agency. The two sides discussed cooperation in agriculture, energy, information technology, and trade. The planned Iran-Pakistan-India natural-gas pipeline was another topic of conversation. The two sides also discussed the nuclear issue, and Dixit told Khatami that India supports Iran's right to peacefully use nuclear technology, IRNA reported on 19 October. BS

An anonymous parliamentarian said during the 17 October legislative session that a number of his colleagues, particularly those from Isfahan, are considering draft legislation on the separation of sexes at universities, "Hambastegi" reported on 18 October. Mohammad Taqi Rahbar, a representative from Isfahan and a Friday prayer leader there, told "Hambastegi" that he is not aware of such legislation and there is no need for it. Parliamentarian Nafiseh Fayazbakhsh denied the existence of such a legislative proposal after the 18 August session, "Resalat" reported on 19 August, and attributed such accusations to factional politics. Bojnurd parliamentary representative Ismail Gerami Moghaddam, on the other hand, said that such a proposal requires extensive discussion, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 12 September. If there is going to be sex segregation, he said, it should be omnipresent, not just in universities. The bill should call for segregation in cinemas, restaurants, and government offices, he said, and soon they will have to "segregate the footpaths and streets." BS

Iraqi border police arrested 142 persons last week who illegally entered Iraq from Iran, Al-Sharqiyah television reported. Brigadier General Nazim Sharif, who commands the Diyala Governorate border force northeast of Baghdad, said that the persons arrested had been inside the country for one week when they were apprehended. The arrested included Iranian, Afghan, and Pakistani nationals. Sharif said that some of the arrested were in possession of weapons and narcotics banned in Iraq. Justice Ministry spokesman Nuri Abd al-Rahim Ibrahim said in a 19 October statement that 24 "foreign terrorists" of Arab, Iranian, Afghan, and Pakistani origins have been referred to Iraqi criminal courts for trial, KUNA reported the same day. The individuals were arrested during military operations in Samarra, he said. He added that some 1,200 detained Iraqis were released without bail since August according to a policy agreed upon by multinational and Iraqi forces that calls for the release of detainees not proven guilty of committing crimes. KR

The Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad militant group led by fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi has reportedly released a statement claiming it has officially joined the Al-Qaeda terrorist network, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 20 October. Al-Jazeera broadcast a statement by the group identifying itself as Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad in Bilad al-Rafidayn (Organization of Jihad's Base in the Country of the Two Rivers). Iraq is commonly known as the land of the two rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. The statement has not been verified. KR

The international humanitarian aid group Care International announced on 20 October that it has temporarily suspended its activities in Iraq following the previous day's kidnapping of Margaret Hassan, Care's country director in Iraq, according to a statement posted on the organization's website ( Al-Jazeera television broadcast a videotape showing Hassan sitting on a sofa, looking anxious. The video, in which no sound was audible, also showed several of Hassan's identification cards. Al-Jazeera said that the kidnappers have not identified themselves. The Irish-born Hassan, who is about 60 years old, has lived and worked in Iraq for some 30 years. She holds Iraqi citizenship and is married to an Iraqi national. Her husband Tahsin Ali Hassan told Al-Jazeera in a 19 October interview that two vehicles surrounded Hassan's car when she arrived at work and pulled her from her vehicle. He said his wife was not previously threatened by any group. KR

Analysis conducted by South Korean authorities of two threatening messages posted recently on an Islamic forum website has determined that they appear to have been written by an individual and are not the work of Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists in Iraq, Yonhap news agency reported on 20 October. The two messages warned South Korea to pull its troops from Iraq or face attacks both in Iraq and at home. The first threat, dated 10 October, gave South Korea two weeks to comply with the demands; a second threat was issued nine days later and warned that time was running out, Yonhap reported. An unidentified Foreign Ministry official said that an analysis of the writing style and spelling errors has concluded that the two messages were written by the same person, who appears to have posted 32 earlier messages to two unnamed U.S.-based Internet sites that are personal in nature. One of these messages seeks videotapes of Al-Qaeda activities and of Osama bin Laden. Some 2,800 South Korean troops are stationed in northern Iraq. KR

Former Iraqi interim National Security Adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i reportedly survived an assassination attempt on 17 October, Voice of the Mujahedin Radio reported on 19 October. Al-Rubay'i's vehicle was reportedly attacked in the upscale Mansur neighborhood of Baghdad as he traveled to his home. The radio station reported that al-Rubay'i, who has apparently been forced out of the interim administration, accused unnamed members of the government and intelligence services of attempting to kill him. The radio also reported that Ali Humud al-Musawi, head of the Maysan Governorate Council, also survived an assassination attempt when a bomb detonated outside his home. The report did not say when this attack took place. KR

The Baghdad Governorate Council has reportedly decided to set up a national elections committee for all local councils operating within the governorate to educate citizens on the January elections, "Al-Mashriq" reported on 18 October. Baghdad Governorate Council Chairman Ali Fadil said that the committee will educate citizens on the elections' mechanism, including the list system and voting procedures. Fadil reportedly said that the mechanism is still unclear to him, saying, "We still do not have any idea about the elections' operation." Nevertheless, he concluded, "This operation will serve the parties rather than the independent" candidates. KR