COMMUNISTS HOLD WHAT COULD BE LAST PUBLIC CELEBRATIONS OF OCTOBER REVOLUTION...
Communist Party organizers said 50,000 people gathered in Moscow on 7 November to celebrate the holiday now officially known as the Day of Reconciliation and Accord but is also the 87th anniversary of the October Revolution, Russian news agencies reported. According to Ekho Moskvy, the largest single gathering in the city numbered about 9,000 at Teatralnaya Square. According to the federal Interior Ministry, more than 370,000 people took part in mass celebrations across Russia, RIA-Novosti reported. Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told Ekho Moskvy that the holiday will continue to be celebrated in the future despite current efforts by the authorities to abolish it. The Duma will consider on 10 November a draft law that would abolish a number of holidays including 7 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September 2004). Under the bill, a new holiday would be created on 4 November to celebrate the end of the Time of Troubles. JAC
...AS ZYUGANOV JOINS PUTIN IN STUMPING FOR UKRAINIAN PREMIER
Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Zyuganov has called on the Ukrainian Communist Party to hold consultations with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych about ways to support him in the 21 November second round of the presidential election in Ukraine, Interfax and ORT reported on 5 November. The Ukrainian Communist Party (KPU) leader Petro Symonenko finished fourth in the race's first round held on 31 October. He subsequently called on his supporters to vote against all candidates. However, on 5 November, he declared that "support in the runoff for the candidates who represent the continuation of the current antipopular course and regime is inadmissible," but, 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." President Vladimir Putin has also expressed his support for Yanukovych on any number of occasions, most recently visiting him in Kyiv on 28 October days before the first round (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2004). Zyuganov was also in Kyiv during the week leading up to the first round. JAC
SOLDIERS' MOTHERS NGO BECOMES A PARTY
The United People's Party of Soldiers' Mothers held its founding congress on 7 November at which Valentina Melnikova was elected as leader, RIA-Novosti and NTV reported. The new party is based on the nongovernmental Soldiers' Mothers Committee, which has existed for 15 years. One member of the group told NTV that "All the politicians whom we've backed during elections -- once our good name has helped them into office -- have turned their backs on us." In an interview with "Russkii kurer" on 5 November, Melnikova said that the party is "not satisfied with what is happening in Russia in the sector of human rights and socioeconomic rights." "The health sector is collapsing, and war is another problem," she declared. But the group's main goal, according to Melnikova, is to reform the armed forces and end conscription. According to RIA-Novosti, congress delegates unanimously condemned the proposal by Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov to seize the families of terrorists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October and 1 and 2 November 2004). Melnikova explained to reporters that "Restricting the freedom of innocent people and holding them to blame for their relatives' actions is an attempt to turn modern politics into Stalinism." JAC
YABLOKO MULLS ALLIANCE WITH GLAZEV
Yabloko deputy leader Sergei Mitrokhin told "Vremya novostei" on 5 November that Yabloko is to "hold broad-based talks with various groups, including Sergei Glazev's For a Decent Life" and "one of the future coalition's goals will be to participate in elections." According to the daily, Yabloko party leader Grigorii Yavlinskii and Glazev have already composed a joint statement about the need to form a coalition of opposition forces "based on upholding the constitution, the law, and the truth." According to Yavlinskii, such a coalition of varied political forces could win not just 7 percent of the total vote in a State Duma election but 35 percent, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. On 12 December, right-wing and left-wing opposition groups plan to hold a civic congress in Moscow, according to "Vremya novostei" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October 2004). Communist Party First Deputy Chairman Ivan Melnikov noted that none of the parties "agree with the political course our country is taking, with all the power concentrated in one person's hands." JAC
POPULAR DAILY CONSIDERS CANDIDATES TO SUCCEED PUTIN
"Komsomolskaya pravda" ran a long article on 5 November speculating about President Putin's successor. As possible contenders, it mentioned Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitrii Kozak, State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, and Natural Resources Minister Yurii Trutnev. The article noted that Zhukov is the first person to report to Putin at cabinet meetings each Monday. In addition, it noted that Putin has been taking Zhukov on foreign trips, including his recent trip to China. The daily didn't endorse any of the candidates and concluded by saying that Putin may not leave the "political Olympus" when his term expires. The publication suggested that Putin may become prime minister, while the new president will occupy only a "decorative" role. In a March article, "Moskovskie novosti," No. 9, suggested that Ivanov is the successor of choice for the liberal Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin as well as that of Federal Antinarcotics Service head Viktor Cherkesov. According to the article, Kozak does not have political ambitions of his own. JAC
RUMORS SPARK PANIC NEAR VOLGA REGION NUCLEAR PLANT...
A disruption at the Balakovskaya Nuclear Power Plant in Saratov Oblast on 5 November set off a mild wave of panic throughout the region, Russian media reported. Novyi region reported on 5 November that the second bloc of the station was shut down on the morning of 4 November after three circulating pumps failed. A station spokesman reported that there was no danger and no radiation was released. However, the next day, rumors began to circulate throughout the surrounding region and panicked local residents lined up in drugstores trying to purchase iodine. The local Emergency Situations Ministry branch in Saratov identified two cases of iodine poisoning, Ekho Moskvy reported. Residents attributed the panic to local authorities, who they said failed to issue any public statements concerning the situation. RIA-Novosti reported on 6 November that local officials are looking for those responsible for spreading the rumors. One official told the news agency that "someone posing as a member of the civil defense and emergency situations staff telephoned local enterprises and higher educational establishments advising people to wear masks and take iodine." RC
...AS PETERSBURG REACTOR COMES BACK INTO SERVICE FOLLOWING LIFE EXTENSION
Interfax reported on 7 November that more than 90 million Russians live in danger zones surrounding the country's nuclear-power plants, chemical factories, and other such establishments. Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Mikhail Faleev told the news agency that Russia has about 2,500 chemical plants, 1,500 plants working with radioactive materials, 30,000 hydroelectric facilities, and about 8,000 plants that present a danger of fire or explosion. REN-TV reported on 6 November that a planned refurbishment of the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant near St. Petersburg is nearing completion and that its first bloc has begun working. The refurbishment is part of a project to extend the life of the plant, which is Russia's oldest Chernobyl-type reactor, by another 15 years. Local activist and physicist Olg Bodrov, head of the Green World NGO, told the channel that information relating to accidents at the plant is classified. RC
GROUND FORCES GET NEW COMMANDER
President Putin on 5 November appointed Colonel General Aleksei Maslov as commander of the country's ground forces, Russian media reported. Maslov replaces Army General Nikolai Kormiltsev. Putin told Maslov that "one of your main tasks will be to complete work on developing the contract system in the force, primarily in the North Caucasus Military District," the Military News Agency reported. Kormiltsev was close to former Chief of the General Staff Army General Anatolii Kvashnin, who stepped down from that post in July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 July 2004), globalrus.ru reported on 8 November, and his replacement was expected. TV-Tsentr reported on 5 November that Maslov, 51, is the youngest ground-forces commander in modern times. RC
INGUSHETIA'S MUSLIM CLERICS APPEAL TO PUTIN
The Spiritual Board of Muslims of Ingushetia has addressed an appeal to President Putin in connection with the wave of abductions of residents of the republic, ingushetiya.ru reported on 5 November (the full text of the appeal and a photocopy of the original document are available at http://www.ingushetiya.ru/news/print.html?id=4381). The appeal notes that at least 40 people are still missing after having been abducted by armed men in camouflage uniforms since the beginning of this year. Those still missing include Rashid Ozdoev, a member of the staff of the local prosecutor's office, who was snatched in March and who is believed to have been murdered to prevent him from investigating earlier such abductions (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 28 May 2004). The clergymen express gratitude to Putin for having visited Ingushetia in the wake of the 21-22 June raids on Interior Ministry facilities. They then beg him to send to Ingushetia a commission to investigate the kidnappings, noting that the release of Ozdoev would help to defuse social tensions. LF
ARMENIAN SECURITY CHIEF RESIGNS
Armenian President Robert Kocharian released Major General Karlos Petrosian on 5 November from the post of chairman of the National Security Service (the successor organization to the Soviet-era KGB), RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Petrosian was appointed to that post five years ago in the wake of the October 1999 Armenian parliament shootings. No explanation has been offered for his dismissal, nor has a successor been named. On 6 November, New Times party Chairman Aram Karapetian told journalists that Petrosian submitted his resignation after his efforts to crack down on economic corruption proved fruitless, Noyan Tapan reported. LF
ARMENIA SELECTS SECOND MOBILE-PHONE OPERATOR
The Armenian cabinet named the Lebanese-owned company K-Telecom on 4 November as the winner of a tender announced only earlier that day to select a second mobile-telephone operator, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. K-Telecom, which for the past three years has run the mobile phone network of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, was the only bidder in the tender, Armenian Communications Ministry spokeswoman Tamar Ghalechian told RFE/RL's Armenian Service on 5 November. On 3 November, the Armenian government announced a compromise agreement with Armentel, depriving it of its monopoly on mobile telephony (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 2004). LF
NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL VISITS ARMENIA...
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer met in Yerevan on 5 November with President Kocharian, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. De Hoop Scheffer described Yerevan's relations with NATO as "developing very well indeed," and termed as "important" its decision to draft an Individual Partnership Action Plan. Armenian leaders have repeatedly stressed that they are not seeking membership of the alliance. De Hoop Scheffer stressed that NATO will not become involved in the search for a solution to the Karabakh conflict, nor, he said, does it plan to open a military base in any of the three South Caucasus states. LF
Prior to his talks in Yerevan, de Hoop Scheffer met in Baku with President Ilham Aliyev, who expressed "satisfaction" with the level of Azerbaijan-NATO cooperation, and with personnel from the Foreign and Defense ministries, Interfax and Turan reported. Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov said the talks focused on Azerbaijan's Individual Partnership Action Plan, which is still at the drafting stage, the situation in the South Caucasus, and the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported. Azimov also said that Azerbaijan may participate in the new NATO Response Force. LF
AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT MEETS WITH U.S. DIPLOMAT
President Aliyev met in Baku on 5 November with Ambassador Steven Mann, the U.S. co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, to discuss regional issues, the Karabakh conflict, and the implementation of energy projects, Turan reported. Mann was in Azerbaijan three weeks ago to attend the ceremony at which the Azerbaijani and Georgian sections of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil export pipeline were welded together (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 October 2004). LF
MINISTER SAYS AZERBAIJAN 'DOES NOT NEED IMF CREDITS'
During the ongoing parliament debate on the draft budget for 2005, Finance Minister Avaz Alekperov said on 5 November that Azerbaijan values advice from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but does not need credits from that organization, Turan reported. Following the visit of an IMF delegation to Azerbaijan last month, it was announced that Baku will not receive the seventh tranche, worth approximately $19 million, of a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility loan program that is due to expire in March 2005, zerkalo.az reported on 28 October. Due to protracted disagreements with the fund over economic liberalization, Azerbaijan has to date received only some $60 million of the total $120 million available under that program. LF
GEORGIA PLEDGES AGAIN TO WITHDRAW EXCESS TROOPS FROM SOUTH OSSETIA...
The long-awaited meeting between Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and Eduard Kokoity, president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, took place in Sochi on 5 November, Caucasus Press and Russian agencies reported. Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin and a representative of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania were also present. Zhvania and Kokoity signed a new agreement on demilitarization under which Georgia will withdraw from the conflict zone by 20 November the 2,000 men it has deployed there in violation of an agreement signed in 1992. Tbilisi had pledged three months ago to withdraw those forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 23 August 2004). Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Giogii Khaindrava said that Zhvania and Kokoity discussed implementation of unnamed economic projects in the conflict zone, Interfax reported. LF
...BUT FAILS TO RESOLVE STATUS ISSUE
Although Zhvania had repeatedly said prior to his meeting with Kokoity that such talks were pointless unless they focused on the political status of the unrecognized republic vis-a-vis the central Georgian government, published accounts of the meeting suggest that the issue was not addressed in Sochi. ITAR-TASS on 5 November quoted Kokoity as saying "we agreed to refrain from making demands on issues the other side considers unacceptable." Zhvania told the independent Georgian television station Rustavi-2 on 7 November that while he and Kokoity agreed that the conflict should be resolved peacefully, Tbilisi cannot postpone a decision on South Ossetia's status for 10-14 years, and wants to do so within the next few months. Zhvania also denied the existence of policy disagreements within the Georgian leadership over South Ossetia, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
SOME HOSTAGES RELEASED IN SOUTH OSSETIA
Following talks between Georgian and South Ossetian representatives, some, but apparently not all the several dozen hostages taken over the previous few days in the conflict zone were released, Caucasus Press reported on 7 November. The Ossetian side released "several dozen" Georgian women, while the Georgians freed either nine or 10 Ossetians, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. But according to South Ossetian government spokeswoman Irina Gagloeva, several Ossetians remain in captivity. The hostages were snatched in retaliation after the abduction in the conflict zone on 3 November of Georgian Eldar Kakhniashvili. Georgian and South Ossetian police will conduct a joint search for him, Caucasus Press reported on 8 November. They will be accompanied by field engineers after two Georgian television journalists covering the ongoing search for Kakhniashvili were seriously injured when they stepped on a land mine in the conflict zone on 6 November. LF
RIVAL ABKHAZ PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES FAIL TO REACH COMPROMISE
Supporters of Chernomorenergo head Sergei Bagapsh and former Prime Minister Raul Khadjimba failed during talks on 6 and 7 November in several regions of Abkhazia to resolve the deadlock resulting from the disputed 3 October presidential election, Caucasus Press reported on 8 November. On 11 October, the Abkhaz Central Election Commission (CEC) proclaimed Bagapsh the winner of the poll, a ruling that the Supreme Court first endorsed, then annulled, and then endorsed on 5 November for a second time. Khadjimba insists on implementation of outgoing President Vladislav Ardzinba's decree calling for a repeat ballot. On 6 November, some 250 Interior Ministry personnel, not including Interior Minister Abesalom Beya, expressed support for the CEC ruling proclaiming Bagapsh president, Caucasus Press reported. Also on 6 November, Interfax quoted a Russian Security Council press release denying that the senior officials who met last week with Bagapsh and Khadjimba in Moscow threatened to impose a blockade on Abkhazia. Bagapsh told journalists in Sukhum on 3 November that such a threat was made, but did not say by whom (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 2004). LF
KYRGYZ-KAZAKH JOINT VENTURE TO TAKE OVER PIPELINE
Representatives of KyrKazGaz, a Kyrgyz-Kazakh joint venture, and Kyrgyz gas company Kyrgyzgaz signed an agreement on 5 November in Bishkek for KyrKazGaz to manage the Kyrgyz section of the Tashkent-Bishkek-Almaty gas pipeline, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 5 November. Kyrgyz Television reported that experts believe the joint venture will serve to ensure regular natural gas shipments to Kyrgyzstan and southern Kazakhstan. The agreement also provides for Kazakhstan to invest $17 million into Kyrgyzstan's gas transport system up through 2008. KyrKazGas was created in March on the basis of a 2003 agreement between Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev. DK
TAJIK PRESIDENT ADDRESSES NATION ON CONSTITUTION DAY
Imomali Rakhmonov gave an address in Dushanbe on 6 November, his country's Constitution Day, in which he discussed upcoming elections, Islam and politics, and a recent ban on women attending mosque, agencies reported. On elections, the president said that "Upcoming [February 2005] parliamentary elections should be democratic and transparent, thus affirming the changes we have achieved in society and the constitution," RIA-Novosti reported. On Islam and politics, Rakhmonov noted that "Islam should not be used for the mercenary and extremist goals of certain groups." "The state has the right to create legal obstacles to the misuse of religion by any extremist movements and groups, both internal and international," he added. He suggested the creation of an international center to fight transnational crime and terrorism. The president also voiced his support for a controversial 17 August ruling by Tajik religious leaders banning women from attending religious services, the BBC's Persian Service reported. DK
DECREE RAISES MINIMUM WAGE IN TAJIKISTAN
President Rakhmonov signed a decree on 4 November raising the minimum wage and salaries of government employees as of 1 January 2005, Asia Plus-Blitz reported the next day. Spokesman Abdufattoh Sharipov told the news agency that workers in science, health care, and social services will get a 100 percent raise, preschool and elementary school teachers a 70 percent raise, other teachers a 60 percent raise, and other state employees in the educational and cultural spheres a 50 percent raise. The minimum-wage unit, which is also used to calculate pensions, will increase from 7 somonis ($2.50) to 12 somonis ($4.30) in 2005. DK
PRESSURE ON TAJIK NEWSPAPER CONTINUES
Tajik tax authorities impounded the print run of independent newspaper "Ruzi Nav" in the Dushanbe airport on 4 November, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. The newspapers had been delivered from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where they were printed. "Ruzi Nav" lost access to printing facilities in Tajikistan when tax police closed down the Jiyonkhon printing house in August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 2004). Tax official Karim Changiev said that the problem is not particular to "Ruzi Nav," but the newspaper's owners must present certain documents before the print run can be distributed. But Editor in Chief Rajab Mirzo said that he has submitted all relevant documentation and the tax authorities are simply refusing to return the print run. DK
TAJIK PRESIDENT ADDRESSES INTERNATIONAL DONORS
Rakhmonov addressed a gathering of international donors in Dushanbe on 5 November, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Calling the donors' presence evidence of "growing confidence in Tajikistan's economic policy," the president noted that GDP has risen 50 percent over the last five years and nine months and that poverty has been reduced from 83 percent in 1999 to 64 percent in 2003. Rakhmonov also said that Tajikistan has reduced its foreign debt by over $300 million, from $980 million in January 2003 to $650 million in October 2004, Avesta reported. Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov told a new conference after the meeting that in May 2003 donors pledged $900 million in poverty-reduction funds over a three-year period. He said that $480 million have been received, with $90 million coming in loans and the rest in grants. For his part, Denis de Tray, regional World Bank director for Central Asia, said that investment projects should be the top priority at present. Representatives from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank, and other financial institutions attended the meeting. DK
AMBASSADOR SAYS U.S. WANTS TO BRING BELARUS TO EUROPE
U.S. Ambassador to Belarus George Krol said in Warsaw on 6 November that his country's "long-term goal" is to bring Belarus to "the mainstream of the European history," Belapan reported. Krol was speaking at an international conference organized by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation that focused on the West's policies toward Belarus and Ukraine. Krol said the United States is determined to continue supporting Belarus's civil society, noting that Washington's cooperation with the Belarusian government will be conditional on the latter's respect for freedom and democracy. Krol said Russia has been reluctant to confer with the United States and the European Union on cooperation with Belarus, adding that the Kremlin treats relations with Belarus "as a family question" and pays little attention to the opinion of other countries. JM
WILL EUROPE BROADCAST TO BELARUS?
RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported on 6 Novembers that participants in an international conference organized by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Warsaw the same day mentioned the establishment of a European radio station that could broadcast to Belarus as one of the EU's possible measures to influence the situation in that country. "The chance that such a radio station will be created is very great," European Parliament Deputy Chairman Janusz Onyszkiewicz said. Onyszkiewicz noted that the European Parliament is not going to cooperate with the Chamber of Representatives elected last month in what it considers to be democratically defective elections. "We will be looking for ways to cooperate directly with Belarusian society and support the formation of a civic society," Onyszkiewicz said. "For example, we can do that by setting up a new Belarusian-language European radio station -- this idea enjoys a lot of support in the European Parliament." Hans-Georg Wieck, former head of the OSCE Office in Minsk, also backed the idea of European radio for Belarus. In addition, Wieck suggested that Europe should consider launching a new television channel that would reach viewers throughout Belarus or paying Russian television stations to air "regular opposition programs," Belapan reported. JM
BELARUSIAN EDITOR CONTINUES HUNGER STRIKE OVER SUSPENSION
Andrey Shantarovich, chief editor and founder of the private newspaper "Mestnaya gazeta" in Vaukavysk, Hrodna Oblast, on 5 November entered the 18th consecutive day of his hunger strike in protest against the Information Ministry's one-month suspension of his newspaper (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2004), RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported. "We have one state-owned newspaper [in Vaukavysk] and we don't need any others," the Polish-daily "Rzeczpospolita" on 8 November quoted a deputy administration chief for propaganda in Vaukavysk as saying about Shantarovich's protest. JM
UKRAINIANS RALLY TO BACK YUSHCHENKO'S PRESIDENTIAL BID
An estimated 50,000 people gathered for a rally dubbed "People Won't Be Overpowered" on Independence Square in Kyiv on 6 November to express support for opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko's presidential bid prior to his runoff with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych on 21 November, Ukrainian news agencies reported. Addressing the crowd, Yushchenko criticized the Central Election Commission (TsVK) for being too slow in counting the 31 October voting results and charged that the presidential administration has adjusted the election returns. According to a parallel vote count by Yushchenko's campaign staff on the basis of data from 98.8 percent of polling stations, Yushchenko won 40.46 percent of the vote, while Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych was backed by 38.51 percent of voters. The TsVK reported on 2 November that, with 97.67 percent of the ballots counted, Prime Minister Yanukovych won 39.88 percent of the vote, while opposition candidate Yushchenko obtained 39.22 percent. JM
UKRAINIAN SOCIALISTS THROW THEIR SUPPORT BEHIND YUSHCHENKO
The Socialist Party of Ukraine led by Oleksandr Moroz has decided to support Yushchenko in the presidential runoff on 21 November, Ukrainian news agencies reported on 6 November. Earlier the same day Yushchenko and Moroz signed a political accord envisioning joint steps by both sides in the event of a Yushchenko victory. In particular, Yushchenko's Our Ukraine and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc agreed to work with the Socialist Party toward passing a constitutional-reform bill (registered in parliament under No. 4180) by 1 January 2005 and put it in effect no later than 1 January 2006. Yushchenko also pledged to introduce upon taking office a ban on the sale of agricultural land, cancel "the acts of privatization of properties of strategic importance," and move for an immediate pullout of the Ukrainian military contingent from Iraq, Interfax reported. JM
YUSHCHENKO TO TAKE PART IN RUNOFF TELEVISION DEBATES WITHOUT RIVAL
Presidential candidate Yushchenko told journalists in Kyiv on 6 November that he will take advantage of the presidential election law's provision calling for television debates of the two main presidential contenders before a runoff despite the fact that his rival, Prime Minister Yanukovych, refused to do so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2004), Interfax reported. Under the law, if one of the runoff participants does not take part in the debates, the full airtime envisioned for them is awarded to the other candidate. JM
MACEDONIAN REFERENDUM ON GOVERNMENT'S REDISTRICTING PLAN FALLS SHORT...
Macedonia's State Election Commission (DIK) announced on 7 November that voter turnout for that day's referendum on the government's plan to cut the number of administrative districts was too low for the referendum to succeed, MIA news agency reported. A DIK spokesman said that, based on 95 percent of the results, voter turnout was just over 26 percent, thus failing to meet the requirement that more than 50 percent of registered voters participate. The referendum was initiated by the nationalist lobby organization World Macedonian Congress and supported by conservative opposition parties. The opponents of the proposed law on territorial organization claimed that it was tantamount to partitioning the country along ethnic lines (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 4, 8, and 22 October 2004). Both the government and ethnic Albanian parties opposed the referendum. The international community repeatedly warned that the legislation would hinder Macedonia's efforts to join NATO and the EU. UB
...AND RECEIVES MIXED REACTIONS
Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski of the Social Democratic Union (SDSM) said on 7 November that there are no winners and losers of the referendum, adding that Macedonia is more united than ever, the private A1 TV reported. Opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) Chairman Nikola Gruevski, who supported the referendum, accused the government of detracting from the credibility the vote by calling for a boycott of the referendum, because "it was clear that everyone who turned out to vote was to vote against the government." Gruevski added that one of the achievements of the referendum drive was that it speeded up the U.S. recognition of Macedonia under its constitutional name, the Republic of Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2004). World Macedonian Congress Chairman Todor Petrov said his organization will challenge the election results, because polling stations in about 20 percent of the country's territory were closed or were closed too early on the day of the referendum. UB
SERBIAN GOVERNMENT CRITICIZED FOR NONCOOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE...
Serbia and Montenegro Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic on 7 November harshly criticized Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's cabinet for not doing enough to cooperate with the Hague-based international war crimes tribunal, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Draskovic also said Kostunica's government is hiding the truth about the death of two soldiers in Belgrade's Topcider barracks on 5 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2004). Meanwhile, former Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, who heads the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), reportedly said in an interview with "Nezavisne novine" that Kostunica currently represents the biggest obstacle to the Republika Srpska, because he is not interested in cooperating with The Hague, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 6 November. Dodik also said it is very likely that indicted war criminals are hiding in Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 November 2004). UB
...WHICH SERBIAN PRESIDENT SAYS IS HAMPERING COUNTRY'S DEVELOPMENT
Serbian President Boris Tadic told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service on 5 November that the main disagreement he has with Kostunica's government regarding Serbia's cooperation with The Hague stems from the government's failure to respect Serbian law, which "stipulates that everyone who is indicted by the tribunal in The Hague must be arrested and handed over to the...tribunal." Tadic added that the government poses problems for Serbia, as it hinders the country's political integration and economic development. "Noncooperation with the Hague-based tribunal is a stumbling block for the development of this society," Tadic said. UB
SERBIAN PRESIDENT REITERATES STANCE ON KOSOVA...
Serbian President Tadic said in a 5 November interview with RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service that Serbian politicians who lead the public to believe that Kosova's status will remain as it was in the former Yugoslavia or during the Milosevic regime are betraying their constituents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2004). At the same time, Tadic said his position on the future of Kosova is crystal clear: "Kosova cannot be independent." UB
...AS UNMIK REJECTS SERBIAN CONDITIONS FOR STATUS TALKS
The UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) rejected demands by the Serbian authorities that upcoming talks on the final status of Kosova include representatives of Kosovar Serbs and representatives of Serbia, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 6 November. Both UNMIK and the Kosovar government said official representatives of the Serbian state may participate in the status talks as consultants for the Kosovar Serbs only. UNMIK also rejected a Serbian plan to form Serbian police units and judicial institutions, which Kosovar Serb representatives say is requisite for their participation in Kosovar institutions. UB
BOSNIAN PREMIER HANDS IN RESIGNATION
Bosnian Prime Minister Adnan Terzic asked the Bosnian Presidency on 5 November to relieve him of his duties, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Terzic's decision came only hours after a majority in the Bosnian parliament -- including Terzic's Party of Democratic Action (SDA) -- rejected a government proposal to introduce a state-wide unified value-added tax (VAT) of 17 percent. A spokesman for the office of Paddy Ashdown, the international community's high representative in Bosnia, said the office shares Terzic's frustration with the parliament's decision to block important reforms (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10, 13, and 18 February 2003). UB
EU SAYS ROMANIA MIGHT CONCLUDE ACCESSION TALKS IN NOVEMBER
Speaking in Brussels after talks with visiting Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen on 5 November said that the EU might wrap up accession negotiations with Romania by the end of November, Reuters and Romanian media reported. Verheugen said it is his "very strong belief that it is not only possible, but necessary, to conclude negotiations" with Romania as soon as possible. The target date for concluding the negotiations was by the end of this year. Verheugen's statement could boost Nastase's and his Social Democratic Party's chances ahead of the 28 November presidential and parliamentary elections. Verheugen said "Romania has made some good progress over the last several weeks," adding he is "optimistic that we will be able to resolve outstanding technical issues soon." ZsM
SOCIALIST INTERNATIONAL BACKS ROMANIAN RULING PARTY OVER OPPOSITION PARTY
Socialist International Chairman Antonio Guterres hinted during a 7 November press conference in Bucharest that the organization will support the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) over the opposition Democratic Party in the upcoming Romanian elections due to the latter's alliance with a liberal party, Mediafax reported. Both the PSD and the Democratic Party are full members of the Socialist International. Guterres said the Socialist International has decided to back the party presenting a social-democratic program, and mentioned several times his support for PSD Chairman and presidential candidate Nastase. The leaders of 10 European social-democratic and socialist parties met in Bucharest on 6 November for the Socialist International's regional summit, which Nastase and former Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou co-chaired. Speaking at the summit opening, Papandreou said the EU must admit Romania and Bulgaria as full members to improve stability and security in the region. ZsM
MOLDOVAN FOREIGN MINISTRY WELCOMES COUNCIL OF EUROPE'S POSITION ON SCHOOL ISSUE
The Moldovan Foreign Ministry welcomed in a 5 November press release a recent declaration by the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers regarding Moldovan schools in Transdniester, Infotag reported. The declaration, adopted on 3 November in Strasbourg, condemned Transdniestrian attempts to block the operations of schools that teach curriculums based on the Latin alphabet, and called on Tiraspol to take urgent measures to resolve the issue and to guarantee children's right to study in their native language. The press release deemed inadmissible the Transdniestrian authorities' use of children in "political games," and called on "the entire international community" to help "in achieving a lasting settlement of the current crisis regarding the Moldovan schools in Transdniester." ZsM
RUSSIA TRADES HOT AIR FOR WTO SUPPORT
Five and 1/2 years after Russia signed the Kyoto Protocol in March 1999 -- and after two years of fairly intense discussion and, most notably, silence on the part of President Vladimir Putin -- the controversial agreement suddenly sailed through the government and the legislature last month in the space of just a few weeks. The easy passage of the accord demonstrates how effectively the Putin-based political machine can function.
The government somewhat unexpectedly decided on 30 September to submit the agreement to the Duma. When it did so on 7 October, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov told RBK that he hoped for ratification before the end of the year.
At that point, the political machine -- including the parties, the state-controlled media, and state officials -- seemed to begin a contested discussion of the matter. Presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov, a long-time opponent of the accord, issued several sharply worded statements against ratification, saying that adhering to the agreement would make it impossible for Russia to achieve its goal of doubling gross domestic product by 2010.
"Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 1 October emphasized the "stormy discussion" within the government over the matter, while RTR on 30 September reported that there are "many supporters and many opponents" of the treaty within the government. Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov told ITAR-TASS on 30 September that "the debate on this is open" and "likely to be tough" in the Duma.
Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev (Unified Russia) initially provided the most detail about this arduous process. He told "Vedomosti" and other media on 1 October that the agreement would have to be reported on by three Duma committees, including his own, and that the process could not be completed before the end of the year. Duma Economic Policy Committee Chairman Valerii Draganov (Unified Russia) told the daily that the process would probably not be completed earlier than spring 2005.
This schedule clearly did not suit Putin. After receiving on 12 October congratulations from Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin on the government's decision, Putin said, "I hope that Canada's position and the support of the prime minister regarding Russia's decision to approve the protocol will be positively reflected in the upcoming discussion in the Russian parliament," according to ITAR-TASS.
After Putin's announcement, the ratification process kicked into gear. One by one, the main Duma committees held perfunctory hearings and endorsed the treaty. On 14 October, the Ecology Committee approved it and the accord was placed on the Duma's agenda for 22 October. That day, after a two-hour discussion, the lower house voted 334-73 with two abstentions to approve the agreement. Five days later, by a vote of 139-1 with one abstention, the Federation Council signed off on the Kyoto Protocol, following a discussion that was not "as loud or contentious as the one in the State Duma," according to Radio Mayak on 27 October.
But why the haste? Most analysts agree that the Kremlin's sudden aggressiveness regarding Kyoto is linked to its desire to secure membership of the World Trade Organization as quickly as possible. The administration has been working actively in many directions in recent months to accelerate the accession process. On 2 November, Maksim Medvedkov, who heads Russia's World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiating team, told journalists Russia will sign accession protocols with five to seven Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) organization countries during the APEC summit on 18-21 November, ITAR-TASS reported. The countries expected to sign include Thailand, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore. Putin secured China's endorsement of Russia's WTO membership during his trip there last month, during which he signed a controversial border agreement that ceded to Beijing several islands that the two countries had been disputing for decades.
Medvedkov also noted on 2 November that WTO talks with Brazil have been difficult, but said that progress should be expected when Putin travels there later this month. Analysts speculated that Putin's surprising expressions of support for U.S. President George W. Bush in the U.S. presidential election were motivated in part by his desire to secure U.S. support for accelerating Russia's WTO bid.
In Europe, the main obstacle to gaining EU support for Russian WTO membership has been the EU's insistence that Russia increase its domestic energy tariffs to match global levels, a move that Putin has categorically ruled out. At the same time, the EU has been urging Moscow to join Kyoto, because without Russia's participation, the treaty could never come into force, since the United States has rejected it.
Sergei Karaganov, chairman of the influential Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, wrote in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 20 October that the 11 November Russia-EU summit in The Hague could "signal the beginning of a new stage in the development of relations between the two sides." Writing in "Politicheskii zhurnal," No. 40, Center for Political Technologies Deputy General Director Boris Makarenko claimed that Russia and the EU agreed in advance that the EU would drop its complaints about Russian energy tariffs in exchange for ratification of Kyoto. Now Russia enters the 11 November summit with the ratified protocol in hand and some high expectations.
AFGHAN OFFICIALS REPORTEDLY MEET WITH HOSTAGE TAKERS...
According to sources within Jaysh al-Muslimin (Army of the Muslims), Afghan government officials have met with representatives of the group in an effort to secure the release of three UN employees who have been held by the group since 28 October, Islamabad-based PTV reported on 7 November. However, an unidentified Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman declined to confirm or deny the meeting. The neo-Taliban splinter group abducted the three UN workers from Kabul (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October and 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 November 2004). AT
...AS JAYSH AL-MUSLIMIN CHANGES ITS DEMANDS
Saber Mo'min, identified as a military commander of Jaysh al-Musliminm, said on 7 November that the group has altered its demands for the UN hostages' release, the Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. Mo'min said the group has withdrawn its demands that all Afghan prisoners be released from U.S. custody in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and that foreign forces be withdrawn from Afghanistan. According to Mo'min, the group is now requiring in exchange for the hostages the release of 25 individuals and "three other demands that will be announced by [the government in] Kabul." Mo'min did not identify the 25 individuals and refused to elaborate on the three other demands, AIP reported. Sayyed Khaled Agha, purporting to speak for Jaysh al-Muslimin, told Reuters on 7 November that the group has given the Afghan government "a list of 26 people" it wants released. The second round of negotiations between the group and the Afghan government, according to Khaled Agha, will begin on 10 November. AT
PAKISTANI PRESIDENT VISITS AFGHANISTAN
President Pervez Musharraf traveled to Kabul on 6 November for a one-day visit to congratulate Afghan President-elect Hamid Karzai on his victory in the 9 October presidential election, international news agencies reported. Musharraf said that Pakistan provided security for the elections by preventing possible incursions by of Pakistan-based militants into Afghanistan. "We blocked the routes. We used the army, we used the frontier corps to establish special blockades so that there was no interference by the terrorists," Reuters quoted Musharraf as saying. Musharraf said during a joint news conference with Karzai that Pakistan and Afghanistan are joined in the fight against terrorism, PTV reported on 7 November. Musharraf was the first foreign leader to visit Kabul following Karzai's victory. AT
KARZAI DELIVERS FIRST POST-VICTORY SPEECH
Hamid Karzai on 6 November delivered his first nationwide speech after having been formally proclaimed president-elect on 3 November, Radio Afghanistan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 2004). Karzai congratulated the Afghan people for their participation in the country's first popularly contested presidential election. Karzai prayed to God to help him achieve his policies and promises. He said that he will work for "the establishment of peace, stability and security, public welfare and comfort, social justice, civil and human rights, the consolidation of national unity, and bilateral international cooperation." The Afghan president-elect promised "a sense of responsibility and transparency" in carrying out his duties. AT
IS NORTH KOREA ABETTING IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM?
An anonymous military source said that Iran imported fluorine gas from North Korea in May, "Sankei Shimbun" reported on 7 November. Uranium hexafluoride, which is used in uranium enrichment, can be generated by compounding uranium tetrafluoride with fluorine gas, according to the Japanese newspaper. BS
TEHRAN AND EU NEAR NUCLEAR AGREEMENT
Iranian and European officials said on 7 November that two days of talks in Paris have resulted in a tentative agreement that is dependent on the approval of the Iranian leadership, Reuters reported. Under the agreement, Iran would suspend nuclear-fuel enrichment and reprocessing until it has finalized an agreement with the Europeans that includes economic and technological incentives. Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hassan Rohani said on 6 November that the negotiations are complex, state television reported. He added that the suspension of uranium enrichment is just a confidence-building measure. "We have not enunciated a particular timetable," Rohani said. "Basically, we are not prepared to provide any kind of timetable regarding the issue of suspension." BS
TEHRAN SETS DATE FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Interior Minister Hojatoleslam Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari has announced in a letter to the Guardians Council that Iran's ninth presidential election will take place on 13 May 2005, ISNA reported on 7 November, citing Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani. An anonymous "informed source" said in mid-October that the Guardians Council is likely to approve a proposal that the election take place on 9 June (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 25 October 2004). BS
IRANIAN EXECUTIVE BRANCH OPTIMISTIC ABOUT SECOND BUSH TERM...
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said at a 6 November news conference that he is optimistic about President George W. Bush's second term in office, state television reported. "I hope in the second round of the Bush administration there will be some positive changes in this area," he said, adding that "America cannot ignore Iran's role in maintaining stability and security in the Middle East." BS
...BUT LEGISLATORS ARE DEFIANT...
Tehran parliamentary representative Gholam Reza Mesbahi-Moqaddam said on 6 November that Iran's "Down with the U.S.A." slogan will continue as long as hostile U.S. policies toward Iran persist, Mehr News Agency reported. He added that the outcome of the U.S. presidential election is irrelevant because it is unlikely that U.S. policies will change. He explained that a "Zionist lobby" determines U.S. policy, and that this Zionist lobby vetted and approved the presidential candidates. Mesbahi-Moqaddam said Iran will not alter its position on the nuclear issue because of the U.S. election. BS
...AND SEE A ZIONIST CONSPIRACY
Deputy parliament speaker Mohammad Hassan Abutorabi said the U.S. election will not affect Iran's stance towards the United States, "Mardom Salari" reported on 6 November. "The position of the regime of the Islamic Republic and its leadership toward the United States has been one single policy during the last quarter of a century," he said. "A victory for either the Republicans or the Democrats will not make a difference to Iran's singular policy." His stance on who pulls the strings in American politics echoed his colleague's. "The experience of America's political life proves the reality that with changes in the U.S. presidency we do not see a change in American policies, especially on the international scene," Abutorabi said. "The reason for this is that the American system is based on capitalism, most of it controlled by Zionists, who run and manage the United States." BS
JOB CREATION FALLS SHORT OF TARGET...
Management and Planning Organization official Mahmud Ketabchi said on 6 November that job creation fell short of its target in the first four years of the Third Five-Year Development Plan, IRNA reported on 7 November. He explained that 2.28 million jobs were created in 2000-04, and the target was 2.57 million jobs. Over the next 17 years, he added, the country will need 32 million jobs. BS
...AS CURRENCY RESERVES RISE
An anonymous official from the Currency Reserve Fund announced on 6 November that the fund will receive an additional $10 billion this year due to recent rise in global oil prices, state television reported. Oil and oil products account for 90 percent of Iran's exports and export revenues, according to the Energy Information Administration (http://www.eia.doe.gov), and for every $1 increase in the price of a barrel of oil, Iran's revenues reportedly increase around $900 million annually. BS
IRAQ DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY...
The Interim Iraqi government declared a state of emergency on 7 November, international media reported. Tha'ir al-Naqib, a spokesman for Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, announced the decision, effective immediately, during an internationally broadcast 7 November news conference. The state of emergency will be in place for 60 days and applies to the whole of Iraq except the northern region of Kurdistan. The interim government reserved the right to declare a state of emergency when it introduced the National Safety Law on 7 July. Under the National Safety Law, a state of emergency can only be declared for a period of 60 days, but may be renewed with the approval of the interim cabinet and presidential council. The declaration of a state of emergency was expected as the interim government takes steps to establish security ahead of the January elections. Iraqi media reported in recent days that the elections have been scheduled for the last week in January. Prime Minister Allawi gave details on the state of emergency during an 8 November press briefing. KR
...AS MILITANTS WAGE ATTACKS IN AND AROUND CAPITAL
Militants attacked three police stations in the Al-Anbar governorate towns of Hadithah, Al-Haqlaniyah, and Al-Barwanah, Al-Jazeera reported on 7 November. The attacks left 23 policemen dead, Reuters reported. Twenty-one policemen were captured in the Hadithah fighting, and taken to the nearby K-3 oil-pumping station, shot, and killed execution-style. A policeman in Hadithah told AFP that the militants also confiscated weapons and 15 police vehicles. Twelve National Guardsmen were executed on a riverbank in Al-Latifiyah after militants disguised as policemen stopped their vehicle on 6 November, Voice of the Mujahedin Radio reported. The guardsmen were on their way home to Al-Najaf after attending a training program in Baghdad. The militants reportedly spared the life of the guardsmen's driver, and sent him to get ransom money in exchange for their handing over the bodies for burial. Curfew was imposed in Samarra on 7 November after four car bombs targeted police stations in the city a day earlier, killing 34 and wounding 49 people, mostly policemen. Two car bombs detonated in Baghdad on 6 November, one on the Baghdad Airport road and the other near the home of Finance Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi. KR
INTERIM GOVERNMENT SAYS AL-FALLUJAH TALKS HAVE FAILED
Allawi spokesman Tha'ir al-Naqib announced that the interim government's negotiations with Al-Fallujah representatives has failed to reach a peaceful solution, Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 7 November. Al-Naqib said that negotiators from the National Assembly informed the Allawi administration that talks had failed. He added that the door will remain open for talks, even if a major incursion is launched into the volatile city. Meanwhile, London's Sky News reported on 7 November that British "Black Watch" soldiers have moved to secure the east bank of the Euphrates River in an effort to block militants from moving north from Baghdad. Some 350 men from three Black Watch companies are involved in the operation, which likely also intends to block insurgents from fleeing Al-Fallujah across the Euphrates once major fighting gets under way. British forces have also taken up positions in the desert west of Baghdad, Sky News reported. U.S. forces stormed the western outskirts of Al-Fallujah on 8 November, securing a city hospital and two key bridges over the Euphrates River, AP reported. KR
AL-ZARQAWI'S GROUP CALLS FOR RELEASE OF MARGARET HASSAN
A number of jihadist websites on 5 November carried a statement attributed to Tanzim Al-Qa'idat fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn, who is affiliated with fugitive Jordanian militant Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, calling for the release of Care International country director Margaret Hassan, who was kidnapped in Baghdad on 19 October. Her captors threatened in a videotaped message sent to Al-Jazeera on 2 November that they would hand her over to al-Zarqawi if British troops fail to withdraw from Iraq within 48 hours. Al-Zarqawi's group said in the 5 November statement that it will release Hassan if she is handed over, because the Prophet Muhammad banned the killing of women and children. "We do not target women unless they fight or fall under the category of people whom the Shari'a (Islamic law) permits us to target including those who take part in plotting" against Muslims. The statement said that Hassan's captors should either prove that she has acted as an agent for the enemy or release her. A prominent member of the Al-Dulaymi tribe has established contact and initiated a dialogue with the kidnappers in an effort to secure Hassan's release, London's "Sunday Telegraph" reported on 7 November. KR
VIDEOTAPE OF ARRESTED MILITANTS AIRED
The interim government released a videotape of 19 detainees it claims are foreign fighters, Al-Arabiyah reported on 8 November. Five of the detainees are Syrian, five Saudi, four Jordanian, two Egyptian, two Iranian, and one is Palestinian. The government said that the men were among 167 people arrested in recent operations, adding that the detainees intended to bomb Iraqi cities. Meanwhile, police launched a bold attack on militants in Al-Latifiyah on 7 November, AP reported on 8 November. An unidentified policeman with the Babil governorate's police force said that some 60 police officers dressed in civilian clothing ambushed the militants in Al-Latifiyah, killing 25 militants during several hours of fighting. KR