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Newsline - November 5, 2004

President Vladimir Putin on 4 November telephoned U.S. President George W. Bush to congratulate him on his 2 November reelection, ITAR-TASS reported, citing the Kremlin press service. The presidents discussed future bilateral contacts, including possible summits. Russian pundits continued to comment on Bush's victory. Ekspertiza foundation head Mark Urnov told "Gazeta" on 4 November that "practice shows that U.S. presidents treat our country far more benevolently during their second terms." Politika foundation President Vyacheslav Nikonov told "Kommersant-Daily" on 4 November: "During his second term as president, Bush will not interfere in our affairs, especially as Russia is becoming increasingly important for the United States. I think that Bush will have put a 'plus' mark next to Putin's name for his support." "Stability is very important for us and in this respect Bush suits us," Russian Union of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists President Arkadii Volskii told the daily. "We have been conducting a business dialogue pretty successfully for four years." RC

Most Russian experts argued that a victory for U.S. Senator John Kerry in the 2 November election would have meant increased U.S. scrutiny of Russia's domestic policies. Expertiza head Urnov told "Gazeta" that Kerry "would have certainly displayed the Democrats' characteristic concern about human rights and democracy. His administration would have harshly criticized Russia over Chechnya, over the Yukos affair, for curtailing federalism and drifting back into authoritarianism. Bush, the Republican, is fairly indifferent to this." Former Russian Ambassador to the United States Yulii Vorontsev told "Kommersant-Daily" on 4 November that "the Republicans will continue to exert an influence on Russia but will not be interested in human rights in Chechnya or the absence of democratic reforms. The Democrats would have leaned harder on Russia." "The Republicans' anti-liberal fever has already drastically changed the political atmosphere in America," political scientist Aleksei Bogaturov wrote in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 4 November. "Now it will increasingly spill beyond its borders and stimulate similar trends everywhere, including Russia. Figuratively speaking, Russian liberals suffered just as heavy a defeat as American liberals did on 2 November and there is no particular reason to rejoice in this." RC

Sergei Rogov, head of the Institute of the U.S.A. and Canada, said on 4 November that he does not believe the United States will ask Russia to send troops to Iraq now that U.S. President Bush has won a second term, Interfax reported. "It doesn't appear likely to me that the Americans would wish to see a Russian division somewhere in Tikrit or Mosul," Rogov said. He added that Iraq is "central to the policy of the Bush administration" and that "it is in the interests of Washington that Russia should not raise any obstacle to U.S. political actions in Iraq." Ekspertiza head Urnov told "Gazeta" on 4 November that "the United States will be seeking new allies for finding a way out of the Iraq crisis." "A sobering-up period is starting for that section of the American elite who used to get carried away at the thought that the United States was all-powerful," Urnov said. RC

Russian election observers who were part of an OSCE team monitoring the 2 November presidential election in the United States reported on 4 November that they observed "numerous shortcomings" in the poll, including violations of the United States' "already imperfect legislation," ITAR-TASS reported. "There were instances of voters who cast their votes electronically for one candidate finding, during spot checks mandated by law, that their votes had been awarded to another candidate," the observers reported. They also noted voter-registration problems in Oregon, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. They also complained that observers from the Russian Embassy "were not allowed to act as observers in Connecticut, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania." They concluded that the flaws in the U.S. electoral process "could result in violations of voters' rights and a distortion of the results of voting." RC

President Putin on 4 November met in the Kremlin with Orenburg Oblast Governor Aleksei Chernyshev to discuss Putin's proposed political reforms and the process of merging some federation subjects, ORT reported. "All this should be examined in an integrated way so that all our actions conform entirely with the country's constitution and the law and do not impede the development of democratic processes in our country while making the country a single, integrated, manageable, and effective entity," Putin told Chernyshev. "Power must be balanced and in keeping with the interests of the people first and foremost." RC

Presidential aide Sergei Samoilov told "Kommersant-Daily" on 5 November that the administration intends to review several aspects of the political reforms that President Putin proposed in the wake of the Beslan school hostage taking. Samoilov said that Putin's proposals do not contradict the constitution and noted that they have been endorsed by most regional leaders and the public. He said that the administration does not intend to introduce the appointment of municipal or local-government leaders. "We guarantee the direct election of the heads of municipal formations," he said. Samoilov said that the administration is prepared to compromise on the provision in the bill that allows the president to disband any regional legislature that twice rejects his candidate for governor, describing that part of the bill as "an inadequate scheme." RC

In the same interview on 5 November, presidential aide Samoilov said that the Kremlin intends to present a bill on the direct election of members of the Federation Council by 2007. He said that this measure is important in order to defuse criticism that after the abolition of the direct election of regional governors, the president will practically appoint half of the Federation Council. At present, one-half of the upper chamber is appointed by regional governors and one-half by regional legislatures. RC

President Putin on 5 November signed Russia's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, RIA-Novosti and other Russian media reported. Russia's accession to the accord will take effect 90 days after the ratification documents are presented to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. RC

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said on 4 November that Russian forces in the North Caucasus have killed "terrorists from 52 countries of the world." "When we destroy such a terrorist, we do not accuse the state whose passport he carries of aggression against Russia," Ivanov said. "It is a question of how the state tries to help us in the investigation, whether it gives us information about how this man infiltrated Russia's territory." "Depending on how each country reacts to our requests, we determine whether it is sincere in the struggle against terrorism and build relations with that state accordingly," Ivanov said. He said that terrorism is a multifaceted phenomenon and that antiterrorism efforts must target "those who give [terrorists] material, financial, informational, or other help." RC

State Duma Deputy Anatolii Yermolin (Unified Russia) has appealed to Constitutional Court Chairman Valerii Zorkin for a legal assessment of the allegedly inappropriate and intimidating behavior of some Kremlin officials, including deputy presidential administration head Vladislav Surkov, reported on 4 November. Yermolin alleged that the officials "berate" deputies and shout and swear at them in order to intimidate them. Yermolin said he was told that he was not elected by the people but was chosen by the presidential staff and is therefore "tied" to the Kremlin. The website commented that "there is nothing sensational in this." "All more or less informed people in Russia know that the Unified Russia faction is seen in the Kremlin as a voting machine, as a mob of extras designed to impart legitimacy to the initiatives of the president and his staff," the website editorialized. RC

A Krasnoyarsk Krai jury on 5 November convicted researcher Valentin Danilov of espionage, Interfax and other Russian media reported. Danilov was originally acquitted of the same charges by a jury in December, but the acquittal was overturned by the Supreme Court in June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 2003 and 9 June 2004). The latest jury also found Danilov guilty of extortion. Sentencing is expected on 10 November. Danilov's lawyers said that they will appeal the conviction and will, if necessary, appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. RC

Presidential aide Viktor Ivanov was elected chairman of the board of Aeroflot on 5 November. Ivanov was elected to the board on 23 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October 2004), ITAR-TASS reported. Several high-ranking Kremlin insiders have taken over the boards of state companies in recent months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2004).

An Ust-Ordinskii Autonomous Okrug court on 4 November ordered the local election commission to strike incumbent Governor Valerii Maleev from the ballot in the region's 14 November gubernatorial election, ITAR-TASS reported. The court ruled that Maleev is not eligible to run for a third term. Maleev said that he will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, arguing that all issues connected to the registration of candidates should be considered either during the registration period or after the election is held. RC

The Foreign Ministry has addressed an official protest to the Moscow bureau of Canada's "Globe and Mail" following the publication by that paper on 3 November of an extensive interview with radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November 2004 and "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 5 November 2004). The protest warned the head of the paper's Moscow bureau, who commissioned the interview, that it is unacceptable to grant publicity to "murderers and terrorists whose hands are stained with the blood of the Russian people, including the children of Beslan." The full text of the Russian statement can be found at LF

Pro-Moscow Chechen leader Alu Alkhanov told journalists in Grozny on 4 November that the draft treaty outlining the division of responsibilities between Chechnya and the federal center is almost ready and he anticipates that it will be submitted to Moscow for signing next week, Interfax reported. He explained that the main body of the text is ready, but he has submitted the draft to unnamed prominent representatives of the Chechen community to solicit their suggested additions and changes. Alkhanov said he is opposed to the creation of an offshore zone for Chechnya, as such zones traditionally serve only to enrich a small number of individuals. His election program included the creation of a free economic zone in Chechnya. Alkhanov added that he does, however, favor tax breaks to encourage investment in Chechnya, and that he has proposed to Moscow that Chechnya keep all taxes collected on its territory, together with the profit from the sale abroad of Chechen oil. LF

Alkhanov also told journalists in Grozny on 4 November that he has discussed with senior Russian officials, including Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov, the optimum date for holding elections to a new Chechen parliament, Interfax reported. Alkhanov said those officials gave him carte blanche to decide on the timing of that ballot, and he considers October 2005 a suitable date, given that "we shall have to prepare thoroughly" for those elections. LF

Musavat party Chairman Isa Qambar and Ali Kerimli, head of the progressive wing of the divided Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, both questioned on 4 November the truth of President Ilham Aliyev's statement at a press conference the previous day that "national consensus was reached in Azerbaijan long ago" and there is no confrontation between the authorities and the opposition, Turan reported. Qambar accused Aliyev of insincerity, while Kerimli said his claim was simply "unfounded" and "wrong." LF

On the first leg of a tour of the three South Caucasus states, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer met in Tbilisi on 4 November with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania, parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze, Defense Minister Giorgi Baramidze, and Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili, Georgian media reported. De Hoop Scheffer told journalists after his talks with Saakashvili that NATO supports Georgia's territorial integrity but will not assume any role in seeking to resolve its disputes with the unrecognized republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He also said NATO expects Russia to comply with the commitment it made at the 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul to negotiate the closure of its military bases in Georgia. Zhvania told journalists in Tbilisi prior to de Hoop Scheffer's arrival that he believes Georgia will join NATO "very soon," Caucasus Press reported. Saakashvili for his part predicted that Georgia would do so "while I am president." His first presidential term expires in January 2009, and under the Georgian Constitution he may run for a second term. De Hoop Scheffer said Georgia "has a long way to go" before it qualifies for NATO membership, but that as "a realist and an optimist" he believes Georgia will eventually meet the required standards. The communique released following the NATO summit in Istanbul earlier this year named only Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia as prospective future NATO members. At the same time, it stressed the importance NATO attaches to closer cooperation with the states of the South Caucasus and Central Asia (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 2 July 2004). LF

Georgian National Security Council Secretary Gela Bezhuashvili and Deputy Minister of State Security Batu Kutelia both said on 4 November that Tbilisi is competent to establish law and order in the Pankisi Gorge without any outside help, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. On 3 November, Reuters quoted Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov as saying Chechen officials are "fed up" with Georgia's tolerance of Chechen militants in Pankisi and are ready to "establish order" there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 2004). Bezhuashvili proposed that Kadyrov focus his energy on establishing order in Chechnya. Kadyrov, undaunted, reiterated on 4 November that "we are ready to carry out a special operation in Pankisi" if orders to do so are issued, but this does not mean that "we are going to rush into Georgia at breakneck speed," Russian media reported. LF

Sergei Shamba, who resigned in March as foreign minister of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, expressed his support on 4 November for outgoing President Vladislav Ardzinba's decree calling for a repeat presidential ballot, Interfax reported on 4 November. On 29 October, the Abkhaz Supreme Court annulled its ruling of the previous day upholding a Central Election Commission ruling that Chernomorenergo head Sergei Bagapsh won the 3 October presidential election with 50.08 percent of the vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October and 1 November 2004). Shamba, who according to preliminary returns placed third in the 3 October vote after Bagapsh and then Prime Minister Raul Khadjimba, has since founded a social-democratic party, which he hopes will serve as a vehicle to bring to power forces which enjoy popular support, Caucasus Press reported on 15 and 16 October. Shamba said his party has some 6,000 members. LF

U.S. President George Bush received official messages from across Central Asia on 4 November congratulating him on his reelection, agencies reported. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev wished Bush a successful second term, adding, "We have a high regard for the cooperation and strategic partnership between our countries," Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Nazarbaev listed counterproliferation, the rebuilding of Iraq, and the fight against international terrorism as specific areas of cooperation. Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov said that Bush's reelection will boost Kyrgyz-U.S. cooperation, especially in the fight against global terrorism, Kabar news agency reported. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov said in a congratulatory message: "The people of the United States have demonstrated to the entire world their trust in your administration's policy of counteracting dangerous threats...and establishing a new, safe, democratic, and humane world order," Tajik TV reported. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov saluted Bush's "convincing victory," Turkmen TV reported. And Uzbek President Islam Karimov told President Bush, "The great trust the American people have placed in you is proof of their support for your administration's policy," reported. DK

Addressing a conference on perspectives for Kyrgyz economic development, President Askar Akaev said on 4 November that foreign organizations need to be more objective in their assessments of the Kyrgyz economy, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. He singled out for criticism Freedom House and Transparency International, which recently ranked Kyrgyzstan as one of the 25 most corrupt countries in the world. Noting that the World Bank has put Kyrgyzstan on the same level as Russia, Kazakhstan, and the Baltic countries in terms of its business climate, Akaev said that this "casts further doubt on the objectivity of Transparency International's information," reported. Akaev also said that Transparency International is a "nontransparent organization." But Pradeep Mitra, the World Bank's chief economist for Europe and Central Asia, told the conference that the heavy burden of Kyrgyzstan's external debt suggests comparisons with countries such as Nepal and Uganda, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. DK

Former Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev announced the creation of an opposition political movement called New Direction at a press conference in Bishkek on 4 November, Kyrgyzinfo reported. Imanaliev is one of 15 people who started the organization; others include former Finance Minister Sultan Mederov and the commentator Kuban Mambetaliev, reported. New Direction's stated priorities are the fight against corruption, the revamping of government, and the formation of a national idea. Mederov told journalists that New Direction does not want to turn away from reforms in Kyrgyzstan. "We feel that these reforms are necessary, but we would like to distance ourselves from the way they are being carried out," he said. The group, which plans to field a candidate in the October 2005 presidential election, considers the People's Movement of Kyrgyzstan its political ally, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. DK

Richard Hoagland, U.S. ambassador to Tajikistan, laid flowers on 4 November at a memorial to Russian soldiers who have lost their lives in Tajikistan, Avesta reported. Hoagland recalled how soldiers from Russia's 201st Motor Rifle Division helped evacuate U.S. Embassy personnel from Tajikistan in 1992 as the country plunged into civil war. Commenting on the recent opening of a Russian military base in Tajikistan, Hoagland said, "The establishment of a Russian military base in Tajikistan is an important measure to strengthen regional stability and fight international terrorism and drug trafficking," RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. On the latter count, Peshkov noted that Russia and the United States "are closely cooperating in the fight against drug trafficking, and such contacts are producing tangible results," ITAR-TASS reported. DK

A Tajik court sentenced 34-year-old Jahon Hilolova to 14 years' imprisonment on 4 November for the sexual exploitation of her underage adopted daughter, Avesta reported. Hilolova brought her daughter to Dubai, Iran, and Turkey, where she forced her to engage in prostitution, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Judge Muhabbat Shamsiddinov noted that the sentence marks the first time a Tajik court has applied a new law against human trafficking. DK

The Uzbek State Property Committee has sold its 57 percent stake in Coca-Cola Bottlers Uzbekistan Ltd. for $14.7 million to Muzimpex, a U.S.-Uzbek joint venture, Prime-TASS reported on 4 November. The 57 percent stake once belonged to Mansur Maqsudi, the ex-husband of Gulnara Karimova, daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov. The couple divorced in 2001 and Maqsudi lost his stake in the company, which is currently idle. U.S.-based Coca-Cola Export Corporation owns 42 percent of the Tashkent bottling facility. Muzimpex has agreed to present a five-year development plan for the enterprise, an official at the Uzbek State Property Committee told Prime-TASS. DK

Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 4 November that this week's presidential election in the United States was held under standards that are unacceptable for Belarus, Belarusian media reported. "The presidential elections, according to their [U.S.] standards, are inadmissible for us," Belapan quoted Lukashenka as saying. "If we had staged an election like they did in the United States, we would have been crushed a long time ago." The same day the Belarusian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the United States did not meet many international commitments regarding elections. "Therefore we are not surprised by many reports on the disappearance of a large number of ballots sent by mail, the malfunctions of the electronic voting system, intimidation of voters, the absence of voters on voter registers, the impossibility to freely obtain information from precinct and district commissions about the procedure and places of voting," the statement says. Minsk also charges that the U.S. authorities failed to ensure unhindered work by international election observers. "[These facts] cast doubt on the transparency and democracy of the U.S. elections," the statement concludes. JM

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said on 4 November that he will not have television debates with his rival, Viktor Yushchenko, before the 21 November presidential runoff, Interfax reported. Yanukovych accused Yushchenko's campaign team of offending him and added that he will respond only with his "deeds" as prime minister. "If my opponents, who call themselves democrats, defamed me personally from the first day, and even before the election campaign began, and now they are offering to sit with me at the same table with them -- what for?" Yanukovych told journalists, employing his characteristically idiosyncratic grammar. "For me to answer them in the same language? I can do that, but tete-a-tete. I will never say that before the whole nation, as they do." Yushchenko spokeswoman Iryna Herashchenko said that Yanukovych's refusal is a sign of disrespect for both voters and the presidential election law, which envisions television debates ahead of a runoff. Herashchenko added that Yanukovych's position on the debates indicates that he is unsure of his capabilities as not only an orator but also a politician. JM

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) on 4 November called on KPU adherents to vote against both Viktor Yanukovych and Viktor Yushchenko in the 21 November presidential runoff, Interfax reported. "Support in the runoff for the candidates who represent the continuation of the current antipopular course and regime is inadmissible," KPU leader Petro Symonenko told journalists. Symonenko added, however, that the KPU "reserves the right to conduct further work regarding political consultations with those political forces that are ready to hold such consultations on issues that are important for the working people." He did not elaborate. JM

Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz said on 4 November that he hopes to sign an accord with Our Ukraine leader Yushchenko on concerted voting by the Socialist Party and Our Ukraine parliamentary caucuses on a constitutional reform bill in the Verkhovna Rada before the presidential runoff on 21 November, Interfax reported. The Socialist Party earlier announced that it may support Yushchenko in the runoff if he accepts key provisions of Moroz's presidential election manifesto as his own, including the immediate introduction of political reform that would redefine the balance of power in the country. JM

Opposition candidate Yushchenko said on 4 November that after he is elected president he will issue a decree to purge the Interior Ministry, the Security Service, and the Prosecutor-General's Office of corrupt officials, Interfax reported. Yushchenko also pledged to increase the number of policemen safeguarding public order, raise their wages, and provide more social, legal, and material guarantees to them. JM

Central Election Commission (TsVK) chief Serhiy Kivalov told journalists on 4 November that the TsVK will announce the official results of the 31 October presidential ballot within the next two or three days, Interfax reported. So far, the TsVK made public only preliminary results, after having calculated some 98 percent of the vote (see "RFE/RL's Newsline," 3 November 2004). JM

The United States on 4 November officially announced that it will recognize Macedonia under its constitutional name, the Republic of Macedonia, thus giving up the practice of using the term Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), under which that country is recognized by the UN and the EU under Greek pressure, Macedonian and international media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July and 1 and 3 November 2004 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 June 2003). "By recognizing Macedonia's chosen constitutional name, we wish to underscore the U.S. commitment to a permanent, multiethnic, democratic Macedonian state within its existing borders," U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on 4 November, reported. "The United States, the European Union and NATO have been working for years to bring lasting stability to the Balkans. The key to Macedonia's future remains the Ohrid Framework Agreement signed by Macedonia's major political party leaders in 2001." UB

Macedonian politicians and citizens unanimously welcomed the U.S. move, Macedonian media reported. President Branko Crvenkovski on 4 November called it "a great day for Macedonia," thanking both the Macedonian people for their steadfastness on the issue and the United States for its decision, MIA news agency reported. Meanwhile, the recognition was celebrated by people dancing in the streets of Skopje. In response to the U.S. decision, Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis canceled a planned trip to Brussels and summoned U.S. Ambassador to Greece Thomas Miller instead to present him a demarche protesting the decision, "The New York Times" reported. U.S. State Department spokesman Boucher said the United States understands Greek feelings, but the decision is not a turn against Greece. When Macedonia became independent in 1991, Greece blocked Macedonia's international recognition as the Republic of Macedonia, arguing that the name implies territorial claims to the northern Greek province of Macedonia. UB

Serbian President Boris Tadic met with Soren Jessen-Petersen, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), in Belgrade on 4 November to discuss the situation in Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. After the meeting, Tadic said that "those politicians who claim that Kosovo will retain the same status it had before the NATO intervention in 1999 are betraying the public in Serbia, but this does not mean that Kosovo will become independent." Jessen-Petersen also met with the foreign and defense ministers of Serbia and Montenegro, Vuk Draskovic and Prvoslav Davinic, respectively (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2004). UB

Javier Solana, who is the EU's special representative for common foreign and security policies, told visiting Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica in Brussels on 4 November that Serbia must cooperate with the Hague-based international war crimes tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Kostunica said the best way to cooperate with the tribunal is the voluntary surrender of war crimes indictees, as was shown by indicted Colonel Ljubisa Beara, Tanjug reported. After his surrender in mid-October, Beara had called upon other indictees to do the same in order to ease the pressure on Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 October 2004). UB

Republika Srpska Prime Minister Dragan Mikerevic said in Banja Luka on 4 November that his government is set to fully cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. "We do not have the right to make mistakes, and that is why all available capacities...are necessary to show that we not only have the political will, but also the determination to fully cooperate with the Hague tribunal," Mikerevic said. Interior Minister Darko Matijasevic reportedly said on 3 November that the police will be able to arrest alleged war criminals Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic by the end of this year. Also on 3 November, the Republika Srpska parliament approved a report on the implementation of the government's action plan for the cooperation with The Hague. UB

Four civil society organizations on 4 November demanded that President Ion Iliescu take a nonequivocal position on the proposal to grant a presidential pardon to miners' leader Miron Cozma, Mediafax reported. The Group for Social Dialogue, the Civic Alliance, the Association of Victims of Miners' Rampages, and the Pro Democracy Association called the proposal "highly dangerous and inopportune." President Iliescu told journalists the same day that he is "thinking the matter over." Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said the debate on Cozma's possible pardon is "inopportune" and that other matters should be considered a priority at this particular moment. Nastase's main rival in the 28 November presidential elections, National Liberal Party (PNL)-Democratic Party alliance candidate Traian Basescu, said the decision of the courts should be respected by politicians, who should not question a verdict of the High Court of Justice. National Peasant Party Christian Democratic presidential candidate Gheorghe Ciuhandu said he "categorically" opposes Cozma's pardoning. Finally, Democratic Force candidate Petre Roman, whose government was overthrown in 1991 by rampaging miners led by Cozma, said that if he were president he would not grant him a pardon. Cozma is serving an 18-year prison term. MS

Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) Chairman Bela Marko on 4 November called on voters in Hungary to back the granting of dual citizenship to members of Hungarian minorities abroad, Mediafax reported. A referendum on this proposal will take place in Hungary on 5 December. Marko spoke after talks in Cluj with Peter Kiss, head of Premier Ferenc Gyurcsany's chancellery. Kiss said the same day that after Romania joins the EU, Hungary intends to launch a program for supporting Hungarian minorities living in the Carpathian geographic area. He said that when the EU expands to include Romania, borders dividing Hungarians among different countries will disappear and the unity of the Hungarian nation will be restored. Kiss attended a conference in Cluj on local public administration. MS

Vladimir Voronin on 4 November sent a congratulation message to his U.S. counterpart George W. Bush on his reelection as president, Flux reported, citing a presidential office press release. Voronin wrote that he is firmly persuaded that under Bush's leadership "the United States would continue to head international efforts for forging a more equitable, more prosperous, and a more stable world based on the values of democracy and the equality of all countries." He said this would "require the coordination of efforts by large as well as small states to be able to cope with the threat posed to the free world by international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, xenophobia, separatism, underdevelopment, poverty, and other dangerous aspects." Voronin pledged that Moldova will "continue being a trustworthy ally" in this struggle, proof being "the participation of Moldovan soldiers in the reconstruction process in Iraq." He expressed the hope that Moldova will be admitted in 2005 into the Millennium Challenge Account initiative. MS

William Hill, head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission to Moldova, told journalists on 4 November in Chisinau that he cannot agree with the Russian position on the need to "synchronize" the Russian withdrawal of troops and ammunition from Transdniester with finding a solution to the conflict in that region, Flux and Infotag reported. Hill also said the OSCE follows developments around President Voronin's Stability and Security Pact for Moldova (SSPM) initiative, knows about the intention of the U.S. and the EU to sign the proposed document and "might follow their example," provided that all OSCE members consent. Observers say OSCE decisions must be unanimous, which grants Russia de facto veto powers. Hill confirmed that an OSCE ministerial meeting is to be held in Varna, Bulgaria on 8 November, and said Moldovan Integration Minister Vasilii Sova and Transdniester "Foreign Minister" Valerii Litskay would attend. MS

The Transdniester Supreme Soviet on 4 November approved in first reading a plan to set up an "interstate association" between the separatist region and Moldova, Infotag and Flux reported. Transdniester "Foreign Minister" Litskay told lawmakers that the concept is new in international relations and he does not yet know what it entails. That part, he said, is to be decided by the time the second reading is approved. Litskay said the meaning might range from "federation" to "joint state, confederation, union, commonwealth" and other possibilities, but the main purpose is to promote Transdniester's recognition as an independent state entity by the international community. MS

Ukraine's Central Election Commission (TsVK) is still counting ballots from the 31 October presidential vote and stopped publicizing preliminary election results on 2 November. But with 97.67 percent of the ballots counted, the commission said Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych had won 39.88 percent of the vote against his main opposition rival Viktor Yushchenko's 39.22 percent. This statement suggests that, irrespective of what the commission finds on the remaining 2.33 percent of ballots, there will be a runoff between Yanukovych and Yushchenko on 21 November.

On the other hand, an election victory in the first round, even if by a small margin, is an important psychological factor that might boost (or undermine) the morale of runoff contenders. Besides, as long as the TsVK remains silent on the final results, neither Yanukovych nor Yushchenko can officially launch a runoff campaign -- such a situation benefits exclusively Yanukovych, who is incessantly campaigning in his capacity as prime minister. The opposition has also charged that the TsVK is procrastinating with the final results because it is afraid to declare Yanukovych among the losers of the 31 October ballot. Oleksandr Zinchenko, Yushchenko's campaign manager, told a rally of 5,000 pro-Yushchenko students in Kyiv on 2 November that the TsVK has stopped announcing elections returns "since it has realized that no report will be in favor of the authorities."

The TsVK is legally obliged to announce the final results of the first round within 10 days of polling day. TsVK Chairman Serhiy Kivalov blamed the delay in counting the votes on problems within some territorial commissions, including No. 100 in Kirovohrad and No. 200 in Zolotonosha (Cherkasy Oblast), where lawsuits alleging electoral irregularities have been filed. He also suggested that the 31 October voting might be declared invalid in some constituencies. "About 50 [of 225] electoral constituencies did not submit their protocols or the protocols they submitted were not properly executed," ITAR-TASS quoted Kivalov as saying. "Courts are now considering violations in some of the constituencies."

There were also more disturbing reports hinting that the TsVK is planning to verify 30 percent of protocols from 132 of a total of 225 constituencies. Yushchenko's campaigners have charged that the verification is intended to "adjust" the election results and steal what they believe to have been a Yushchenko victory. Yushchenko himself wrote in the "Financial Times" of 3 November that his staff will "challenge" the 31 October poll results. His campaigners pledged to complete a parallel vote count by 7 November.

A parallel vote count is possible if all election protocols -- that is, from some 33,000 polling stations and 225 territorial commissions -- are made public. This is not a realistic option in Belarus, for example, which under President Alyaksandr Lukashenka seems to have creatively developed Josef Stalin's election precept that what really matters is not how people vote but who counts the votes. In Lukashenka's Belarus, what actually matters is neither how people vote nor who counts the votes but who writes the final protocols. One hopes that Ukraine has not reached the Belarusian stage of electoral ingenuity, and there is a chance that Yushchenko might succeed in checking whom his compatriots backed on 31 October.

The International Election Observation Mission, which numbered some 600 observers from the OSCE, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, said in a statement on 1 November that the 31 October presidential ballot did not meet a "considerable number" of OSCE, Council of Europe, and other European standards for democratic elections. According to the mission, the presidential election was tainted by bias in the state media, interference by the state administration in favor of Prime Minister Yanukovych, the disruption or obstruction of opposition campaign events by state authorities, and inadequacies in the Central Election Commission's handling of complaints. "This election process constitutes a step backward from the 2002 [parliamentary] elections," said Bruce George, president emeritus of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and special coordinator for the short-term observers.

There reportedly were numerous dirty election tricks during polling on 31 October, although their scale is unclear. According to the Committee of Voters of Ukraine (KVU), a nongovernmental electoral watchdog, up to 10 percent of voters who came to the polls -- or nearly 3 million people -- could not exercise their right to vote due to various complications, primarily because of misspelled names or incorrect personal information on voter lists. Moreover, many voter lists included "dead souls" -- people who are either deceased or relocated long ago -- or omitted entire buildings' and streets' worth of living voters. Yushchenko estimated that "millions of opposition supporters" were denied the opportunity to vote on 31 October because of such irregularities on voter registers.

Other dirty tactics on 31 October were as frequent as the appearance of erroneous voter lists, although their scale was admittedly somewhat smaller. Some Ukrainian media reported that bands of unidentified thugs were seen in Kyiv and in other Ukrainian cities, intimidating voters and commission members with verbal abuse and telephone calls; organized groups engaged in repeated voting through voter-absentee cards provided by local authorities; opposition representatives were fired from election commissions on the eve of polling day; and blatant ballot stuffing was observed at some polling stations on 31 October.

There is little reason to expect that voting on 21 November will take place under friendlier circumstances for Yushchenko. On the contrary, some predict that the ruling regime will intensify its "administrative resources" further to ensure Yanukovych's victory in the runoff. There is also no realistic possibility of pro-Yushchenko campaigners counteracting intimidation by organized groups of hooligans or preventing improper absentee voting on a major scale. One practical thing that Yushchenko can do is ask his supporters to check their names on voter registers before 21 November and come to the polls on that day en masse.

As expected, Yanukovych was overwhelmingly supported in eastern Ukrainian regions, while Yushchenko received the most support in western Ukraine. Yushchenko actually defeated Yanukovych in Kyiv and in 16 Ukrainian oblasts, including several in central Ukraine, while Yanukovych received more votes than Yushchenko in eight eastern and southern oblasts and Crimea. Since Ukraine's eastern and southern regions are more populous than the rest of the country, Yanukovych retains a small edge over his rival, according to preliminary and incomplete election results. It is anybody's guess how the leftist electorates of Oleksandr Moroz and Petro Symonenko, two candidates who appear to have placed third and fourth on 31 October and earned a combined 10 percent of the vote, will vote on 21 November, if at all.

The line on the map that usually divides the "pro-Eurasian" and "pro-European" electorates in Ukraine during presidential campaigns appeared further to the east this time, but it is still a line of bitter political and civilizational division. While many Ukrainian voters were attracted by pension hikes or forced by "administrative resource" to vote for Yanukovych, there is also a large segment of voters in eastern Ukraine that would vote for Yanukovych (or against Yushchenko) without such incentives. They would not be pleased in the event of a Yushchenko victory. And given the fact that the central and local administration apparatus supports Yanukovych, a Yushchenko win might trigger political turmoil.

On the other hand, a Yanukovych victory would signal the preservation of the status quo -- that is, a pervasively corrupt and highly repressive political regime which, however, is able to ensure political stability and economic growth. In this sense, Ukraine under Yanukovych could be very much like Belarus under Lukashenka: a state with stability but without freedom. As for Yushchenko, his main election message is that of change, however vague and ambiguous it sounds. The essential choice for Ukraine on 21 November seems to be not so much between East and West as between permanence and transformation. And, one hopes, between oppression and freedom.

Mohammad Yunos Qanuni, who finished second in the 9 October presidential election, once again conceded the election and congratulated his rival, President-elect Hamid Karzai, international news agencies reported. "I'm sure that if we don't recognize the results of the election and we question the legitimacy of this vote after the [official] declaration of the results, the country will go through a crisis," Qanuni said on 4 November, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reported. Qanuni, who received 16 percent of the vote to Karzai's 55 percent, charged that the election was marred by "well-organized" fraud, AP reported on 4 November. Along with Qanuni, Mohammad Mohaqeq and General Abdul Rashid Dostum, standing third and fourth, respectively, in the vote count, also accepted the results of the election. While Karzai has said that he will not form a coalition government, in reference to Qanuni he said on 4 November that "those who have the same ideas as me can join me in the government," AFP reported (for more on the Afghan presidential election, see RFE/RL's special website on the elections at AT

In his first speech after his official victory, President-elect Karzai said on 4 November that his administration will eliminate private militias and will fight the country's growing opium production, international news agencies reported. Karzai promised a "government that will work for the strengthening of the Afghan National Army, the police, and other institutions of the state," RFE/RL reported on 4 November. "There will not [be] any private militia forces in Afghanistan...[and] there will definitely, definitely not be any drug thing in Afghanistan," Karzai vowed. It is estimated that there are around 60,000 armed militiamen in Afghanistan, while the nascent National Army has around 15,000 members. The UN-sponsored Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration program launched in October 2003 has faced many obstacles and is behind schedule (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 29 October 2004). Afghanistan's opium production, which has alarmingly increased since 2002, is expected to rise once again in 2004 (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 February, 29 May, and 5 June 2003; and 12 February, 2 and 10 June, and 1 September 2004). AT

Karzai on 4 November congratulated U.S. President George W. Bush on his reelection, AP reported. "Afghanistan and the United States have been successful partners in defeating terrorism," Karzai said, while thanking Bush for his "personal commitment and dedication" to the cause of Afghanistan. AT

Jaysh al-Muslimin (Army of the Muslims) has indicated that the deadline for their final decision on the fate of their three hostages has been extended to 4 November, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 4 November. The purported leader of the splinter neo-Taliban group, Mohammad Akbar Agha, told AIP, "The Afghan government contacted us many times tonight to hold negotiations, and they asked us to extend the latest deadline." Saber Mo'min, purporting to be the spokesman for the group, told the Islamabad daily "The News" on 4 November that there "has been no extension in the deadline," which he claimed was 5 November. "There was some confusion about that," Mo'min added. Earlier in the hostage crisis, Mo'min had given 5 November as the group's deadline to execute the three UN workers held hostage since 28 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 2004). AT

Khaled Agha, also purporting to speak on behalf of the Jaysh al-Muslimin, told AIP on 4 November that the Afghan government "is not sincere and sensible in freeing" the three hostages. Akbar Agha, also speaking to AIP on 4 November, complained that Kabul was "just wasting time" and threatened that if positive talks do not begin, the group would take its final decision regarding the hostages. "I want to tell UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the [Afghan] government has wasted time in the past few days," Akbar Agha added. He also claimed that the health of the hostages "is deteriorating day by day," specifically mentioning one of the women hostages from Northern Ireland as being "very ill" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October and 1, 2, 3, 4 November 2004). AT

Presidential adviser and former vice president for legal and parliamentary affairs Hojatoleslam Mohammad Ali Abtahi said on 3 November that the U.S. elections will have a profound impact on the Middle East, Fars News Agency reported. "If you want my true opinion, Bush is better for the Middle East," Abtahi said. He explained that the U.S. is unaware of public sentiments in the region and has therefore always made mistakes there. U.S. understanding is improving with experience, but "if Kerry had won instead of Bush, everything would have to start all over again." BS

Comments in Tehran dailies on 4 November about the U.S. presidential election ranged from the insulting to the subdued. The reformist "Etemad" said that President George W. Bush's victory proves that the American people are "interested in unilateralism, aggression, and violation," and it added that "the effigy of bin Laden is made by the U.S. itself." Rather than regretting Bush's victory, "Siyasat-i Ruz" advised, the Islamic community should solve its own problems and not depend on the West. The conservative English-language "Kayhan International" said the world must learn to live with President Bush having another term in the White House. It advised the U.S. to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and to stop leading "reckless military adventures in the Arab and Islamic world." A commentary in the 3 November "Jomhuri-yi Islami" said the point of the election is to deceive the American people into thinking that there is a difference between candidates' impact on humanitarianism and democracy. The only difference between the Republicans the Democrats, the daily added, is in their tactics. Their overall strategy is the same. BS

A "political expert" identified as Sheikh Attar said on state television on 3 November that by reelecting President Bush, the American people have given him a mandate to finish what he started. "This puts Bush in a more difficult situation, and for us, as an enemy to the American government, this is better," Attar said. The Republican victory offers threats and opportunities, he said. On the one hand, he said, Republicans' aggression "allows the Iranian people to see the enemy clearly and openly." On the other hand, the Republicans' ideological drive makes them unpredictable. BS

Librarian of Congress James Billington is visiting Iran, Radio Farda reported on 4 November. According to the Library of Congress, this is a cultural trip and Billington is in Iran at the invitation of the director of Iran's National Library, Mohammad Kazem Bojnurdi. The U.S. State Department and the National Security Council have approved the trip, "The New York Times" reported on 4 November, and an anonymous administration official described Billington's visit as an example of "people-to-people outreach." The two sides are expected to conclude an agreement on library exchange. The hard-line "Kayhan" newspaper suggested in its 4 November edition that there is something suspicious about Billington's visit. Billington served as director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars from 1973 to 1987, and "Kayhan" claimed that the Wilson Center is close the Republican Party (President Wilson was a Democrat). Moreover, "Kayhan" claimed, the Wilson Center has hosted a number of anti-Iran events lately. BS

Hamid Shokri, governor of the West Azerbaijan Province town of Miyandoab, said on 3 November that all the people involved in late September unrest in Miyandoab have been arrested, ISNA reported. A police chief and several other officers were killed at that time (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 4 October 2004), and Shokri said the main culprits will be found after the detainees are interrogated. Due to recent security measures, he said that there will not be a recurrence of the unrest. West Azerbaijan Province's director-general for political and security affairs, Nader Sadeqi, said on 3 November that Sahand Ali Mohammadi, Bakhsh Ali Mohammadi, and Abdullah Qasemzadeh surrendered to the authorities, ISNA reported. Sadeqi did not explain if this development is related to the late September violence in Miyandoab. BS

Militants attacked British soldiers at a checkpoint in central Iraq on 4 November, killing three soldiers and their Iraqi translator, international media reported. Eight soldiers were wounded in the attack. British Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram told reporters in London that the attack was waged by a suicide car bomber, AP reported. Al-Sharqiyah television reported that the car bombing was followed by a mortar attack on the checkpoint. There were no details available on where the attack took place, except that it took place in the British area of operations near Camp Dogwood in central Iraq. According to, British forces have come under attack several times since their 29 October deployment to the base, located about 40 kilometers south of Baghdad and 32 kilometers from Al-Fallujah. KR

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi will meet with European Union leaders at the EU summit in Brussels on 5 November, international media reported. The summit will address the details of a 31.5 million euro ($41.8 million) package to support elections in Iraq, the EU website reported on 4 November ( The European Commission has also pledged to fund a number of additional programs to support the election process in Iraq, including a collaborative program with the United Nations and the Iraqi Electoral Commission to train Iraqi election observers. The website noted that the new pledges bring the commission's total 2003-2004 contribution to Iraq to nearly 320 million euros. Proposals for a 2005 aid package to Iraq currently sets the aid figure at about 200 million euros. KR

Allawi drew sharp criticism from EU leaders on 4 November after labeling some of them "spectators" for not taking a more active role in the U.S.-led coalition supporting Iraq, international media reported on the same day. Allawi told reporters during a 4 November press conference in Rome: "From this podium, I call on the countries which took a spectator role with regard to the Iraqi issue to cooperate with us to build a better Iraq and a better future. Iraq is determined to return to the international community, and it is also determined to make the international community return to it." The EU's Dutch presidency commented on Allawi's remarks before the opening session of the summit in Brussels. "That has angered some in Paris, and I think that the language used was not the most felicitous one, and we will certainly say something about it tonight," Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot told reporters, AFP reported on 4 November. "But what matters is that we strike a positive note and that we discuss with Mr. Allawi the future and not look back too much," he added. KR

The Iraqi Electoral Commission has announced that Iraqi expatriates will be allowed to vote in January elections, the reported on 5 November. "We've decided to allow Iraqis abroad to vote, and the mechanism will be worked out in the coming days," Adil al-Lami, a supervisor for the Electoral Commission told the website. "The voting will take place in those countries with a large number of Iraqis," he added. The United Nations has said that allowing expat voting is not feasible in such a short period of time. "We've told them from point one that it's a very risky business," said Carlos Valenzuela, who heads the UN elections advisory team in Baghdad. "People don't realize the potential implications of this. They're huge -- practical, logistical, political. And all this has to be done in the time frame allotted." Commission spokesman Farid Ayyar told AFP that the commission will work to determine in which countries expatriate voting will take place. Iraqis will vote abroad using their passports or identity documents, he said. Some two to four million Iraqis are living abroad, particularly in the United States, United Kingdom, Jordan, and Iran. KR

Two Lebanese nationals kidnapped in Iraq in late September have been released by their captors, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 5 November. The Lebanese Foreign Ministry reported that the men, Muhammad Jawdat Husayn and Muhammad Qassar, were released earlier this week and have been repatriated to Lebanon. Qassar told AP that he and Husayn were released after their company paid the kidnappers a ransom. The men are employed by the Jubayli Brothers Company for Electrical Appliances. They were reportedly held by the Islamic Army in Iraq. KR

Sergei Rogov, head of the Institute of the U.S.A. and Canada, said on 4 November that he does not believe the United States will ask Russia to send troops to Iraq now that U.S. President Bush has won a second term, Interfax reported. "It doesn't appear likely to me that the Americans would wish to see a Russian division somewhere in Tikrit or Mosul," Rogov said. He added that Iraq is "central to the policy of the Bush administration" and that "it is in the interests of Washington that Russia should not raise any obstacle to U.S. political actions in Iraq." Ekspertiza head Mark Urnov told "Gazeta" on 4 November that "the United States will be seeking new allies for finding a way out of the Iraq crisis." "A sobering-up period is starting for that section of the American elite who used to get carried away at the thought that the United States was all-powerful," Urnov said. RC