|Monday, 19 February 2018|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 191, 01-10-09
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 191, 9 October 2001
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIA, GEORGIA, KYRGYZSTAN, TAJIKISTAN HAIL STRIKES AGAINST AFGHANISTANIn a statement released on 8 October, the Armenian Foreign Ministry expressed its support for the previous day's airstrikes against targets in Afghanistan, describing them as a necessary measure to combat the threat of international terrorism, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The statement also reaffirmed Armenia's commitment to the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition. In Georgia, President Eduard Shevardnadze expressed support for the strikes during his traditional Monday radio interview, Prime News reported. In Bishkek, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev told journalists the country's leadership backs the ongoing "large-scale international antiterrorist action," but stressed that such actions must not be regarded as a war against either Islam or the Afghan people, ITAR- TASS reported. The Tajik Foreign Ministry likewise issued a statement supporting the strikes, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, RFE/RL's bureau in Ashgabat reported on 8 October that Turkmen state media failed to broadcast any mention of the previous day's international strikes against Afghanistan. LF
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT POSTPONES PLANNED VISIT TO ARMENIAIn the wake of the first international airstrikes on targets in Afghanistan, Romanian President Ion Iliescu on 8 October postponed a planned two-day official visit to Armenia scheduled to begin that day, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Armenian presidential press service quoted President Robert Kocharian as describing Iliescu's decision as understandable." The visit will be rescheduled when the international situation permits, according to Noyan Tapan. LF
 ARMENIAN PRESIDENT 'IMMUNE' TO IMPEACHMENT THREAT...President Kocharian on 8 October shrugged off the campaign by three opposition parties to collect signatures in support of his impeachment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2001), Noyan Tapan reported. He characterized that campaign as a reflection of Armenia's present political culture, adding that such attempts to make the president a scapegoat are likely to continue until that culture develops, regardless of whether he or someone else holds that office. LF
 ...EXPRESSES REGRET FOR CAFE DEATHAlso on 8 October, President Kocharian expressed his regret over the 25 September incident in which an Armenian from Georgia was beaten to death, apparently by members of Kocharian's presidential guard, after yelling insults at Kocharian in a popular Yerevan cafe, Noyan Tapan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September and 2 October 2001). Kocharian referred to the incident as "a fight that resulted in a person's death," and vowed that if anyone is found guilty of that death, that person will be punished. He stressed that no member of the presidential guard has ever "been involved in any scandals." But at the same time he acknowledged that "I am very sorry. This should not have happened." LF
 ARMENIAN EX-DISSIDENT REMANDED FOR ARMS POSSESSIONAn Armenian court on 5 October prolonged the pretrial detention of Azat Arshakian, who was arrested on 14 September after a cache of arms was discovered in the Yerevan headquarters of an NGO he heads, even though his defense counsel argued that Arshakian's continued detention cannot be justified, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported (see RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 19 September 2001). LF
 POPE ANNOUNCES PLANS TO VISIT AZERBAIJANPope John Paul II has written to Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev to inform him of his wish to visit Baku next year, Turan reported on 5 October. LF
 NINE KILLED AS UN HELICOPTER SHOT DOWN IN GEORGIAFive UN observers, three Ukrainian crewmembers, and a local interpreter died early on 8 October when a UN helicopter was shot down while patrolling the Kodori gorge in eastern Abkhazia. A spokeswoman for the UN Observer Force confirmed initial Abkhaz reports that the helicopter was hit by a missile, "The Washington Post" reported. Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Gela Bezhaushvili said the helicopter was overflying the Georgian- controlled upper reaches of the gorge to search for armed groups, Caucasus Press reported. But the Georgian government press service said the helicopter was shot down over territory controlled by the Abkhaz. Prime News on 8 October claimed the helicopter crashed near the village of Amtkel, which is close to Giorgievskoe, the scene of last week's fighting between Abkhaz troops and a combined force of Chechens and Georgian guerrillas. The UN Security Council condemned the incident and called for those responsible to be brought to justice, AP reported. In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement blaming the incident on Georgia's policy of "appeasement and tolerance" toward Chechen fighters operating on its territory, Interfax reported. Groups of UN observers have been seized by unknown armed men and held hostage on three separate occasions in October 1999 and June and December 2000. LF
 FIGHTING RESUMES IN ABKHAZIAFighting resumed late on 7 October and is reportedly continuing in the Kodori gorge between Abkhaz forces and what Abkhaz officials say is a combined force of Georgian guerrillas and Chechens, Caucasus Press reported. No details of casualties have been divulged. Abkhazia has declared a partial mobilization. Also late on 7 October, unidentified aircraft bombarded Georgian villages in the upper reaches of the Kodori gorge, Caucasus Press reported, quoting the Georgian State Border Security Agency, whose commander departed on 9 October on a working visit to Germany. Two senior Abkhaz military officials were killed on 6 October during fighting near the village of Amtkel in the Kodori gorge, Georgian agencies reported. LF
 GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT MAJORITY COLLAPSESThe Majoritarian -- Georgia's Regions faction, which has 21 deputies, formally withdrew on 8 October from the parliament majority bloc, Caucasus Press reported. That move leaves the majority with less than the minimum 118 deputies it must legally number. Over the past two weeks, up to 50 deputies quit the Union of Citizens of Georgia faction, the second component of the majority faction, but some of those grouped into two new factions that have pledged to remain within the majority (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 33, 8 October 2001). LF
 PRESIDENT DENIES GEORGIA MAY SOON QUIT CISDuring his traditional Monday radio interview, President Eduard Shevardnadze denied on 8 October that during his lecture at Harvard University five days earlier he said that Georgia may soon quit the CIS, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2001). He said that section of his address was "misunderstood." LF
 GEORGIA EXTRADITES DETAINED MILITANTS TO RUSSIAOn 6 October Georgian officials extradited to Russia 13 militants detained in June after illegally crossing into Georgia from the North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. Georgia refused for weeks to hand over the men on the grounds that their identity had not been established (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 19 September 2001). Russian officials claimed that the detainees were responsible for bomb attacks in 1999 and 2000 on towns in southern Russia. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ENDS U.S. VISITPresident Shevardnadze returned to Georgia on 6 October after an official visit to Washington during which he met with U.S. President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and also with World Bank President James Wolfensohn (see "End Note" below). His talks with Bush focused on Chechnya and the need for a political solution to the conflict, the situation in Abkhazia, and U.S. assistance to Georgia in guarding its borders, according to U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. Shevardnadze assured Wolfowitz that he will make available all means at Georgia's disposal, including its airspace and airports, for use in an international military strike against terrorism, Reuters reported on 5 October. Georgia had initially only offered the use of its airspace (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2001). LF
 KAZAKHSTAN UPS SECURITY IN WAKE OF STRIKES ON AFGHANISTANKazakh security bodies reacted on 8 October to the U.S.-British airstrikes against targets in Afghanistan by increasing security on the country's frontiers and at foreign embassies and the Tengizchevroil-owned oilfield and refinery, Interfax reported. Security Council Secretary Altynbek Sarsenbaev traveled early on 8 October to Kazakhstan's southern border with Uzbekistan, which has been reinforced. LF
 KYRGYZ, RUSSIAN LEGISLATORS PROPOSE JOINT MILITARY BASEParticipants at a meeting of the Kyrgyz-Russian interparliamentary commission decided in Bishkek on 5 October to propose to both governments the creation within the parameters of the CIS Collective Security Treaty of a joint military base in southern Kyrgyzstan, Russian agencies reported. Russian State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev, who headed the Russian delegation, said such a base is in Kyrgyzstan's interests. LF
 KYRGYZ OFFICIAL DENIES PLANS TO SUPPLY ARMS TO NORTHERN ALLIANCEKyrgyz Defense Ministry spokesman Merbek Koilubaev told Interfax on 6 October that there is no truth to media reports that the United States has asked the Kyrgyz government to sell quantities of Soviet-made weapons to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. The previous day, Deputy Prime Minister Arzymat Sulaimankulov had similarly denied reports that the U.S. plans to purchase Kyrgyz-produced ammunition for use in military operations in Afghanistan. LF
 TAJIKISTAN OFFERS USE OF AIRSPACE, AIRPORTSEchoing a statement made to journalists in Dushanbe on 8 October by Japanese envoy Muneo Suzuki after talks with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, the Tajik government said in a statement later the same day that "the Republic of Tajikistan has declared its readiness to open its airspace to the U.S. air force and, should it prove necessary, its airports for carrying out measures against terrorism," Reuters and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. But a Tajik Defense Ministry spokesman told Reuters the same day that no Tajik troops will participate in any kind of international action in other countries. "The military is only for the country's defense," he said. Rakhmonov had placed the country's armed forces on high alert on 7 October following the U.S.-British strikes against Afghanistan. LF
 TAJIK ISLAMIC PARTY LEADER REJECTS CALL FOR JIHADIslamic Renaissance Party leader Said Abdullo Nuri told a news conference in Dushanbe on 8 October that his party will ignore calls by Saudi terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden for a jihad, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. At the same time, Nuri expressed neither approval nor condemnation of the U.S.-led antiterrorist strikes against targets in Afghanistan, but said such measures should ideally be conducted under the auspices of the United Nations. LF
 TURKMEN PRESIDENT SAYS KAZAKH INITIATIVE PREMATURETurkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov gave a lukewarm reception to the proposal by his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbaev, contained in a letter delivered on 4 October by Kazakhstan's ambassador to Ashgabat (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2001), to convene a Central Asian summit to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and Central Asia, Interfax reported on 5 October. Niyazov said the proposal deserves "serious consideration," but that summit should not be held as soon as early November, the date proposed by Nazarbaev. LF
 U.S. TO ALLOCATE $1 MILLION FOR TURKMEN POLICEThe U.S. government will provide Turkmenistan with $1 million to train police officers to combat organized crime and the illegal drug trade, Interfax reported on 8 October, quoting the U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat. LF
 UZBEKISTAN PLACES ONE AIR BASE AT U.S. DISPOSAL...Following talks in Tashkent on 5 October with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Uzbek President Islam Karimov announced that Uzbekistan will allow the United States the use of one of its military airfields from which to conduct search-and-rescue missions and air shipments of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. He said the two countries will also exchange intelligence information, but he stressed that "we are against using the territory of Uzbekistan for ground operations and we are against carrying out any bombing of Afghanistan from our territory," RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported. Nor, Karimov said, will Uzbek forces participate in any strikes against Afghanistan, Interfax reported. Karimov added that Uzbekistan does not want to be "used or manipulated," and that it needs "guarantees that tomorrow we shall not be left alone to confront these monstrous terrorist forces." LF
 ...INCREASES SECURITYUzbekistan placed its armed forces at the highest stage of alertness on 8 October following threats by the Taliban to declare a jihad on Tashkent for having made an air base available to the U.S., Interfax reported. Border guards deployed on Uzbekistan's frontier with Afghanistan were likewise placed on high alert. But National Security Council Secretary Mirakbar Rakhmankulov denied that large numbers of troops are being sent to the southern border. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MACEDONIAN PEACE PROCESS BLOCKED AS ETHNIC ALBANIANS BOYCOTT PARLIAMENTARY TALKSParliament Chairman Stojan Andov postponed the 9 October session after ethnic Albanian parties refused to debate key constitutional changes, dpa reported. The ethnic Albanian parties object to the submission to parliament by President Boris Trajkovski of just six of the 15 constitutional amendments that are to be debated. Zamir Dika, the spokesman for the Albanian Democratic Party, said, "We will not take part in the committee stage or the parliamentary session until we have all the amendments." Ethnic Albanian parties hold 25 of the parliament's 120 seats. The package of amendments was passed in a first round of voting, and will need to be approved by two-thirds of legislators in the final vote. Meanwhile, a source in Trajkovski's cabinet said on 8 October that the president has submitted an amnesty proposal to his government, dpa reported. Many Macedonians oppose the issuing of a blanket amnesty for ethnic Albanian rebels, though it is a part of the Ohrid peace agreement signed in August that ended fighting. Former rebel leader Ali Ahmeti said an amnesty is of "great importance." PB
 EU PUTS PRESSURE ON MACEDONIA TO PASS PEACE PROVISIONSThe EU urged Macedonia to quickly adopt constitutional reforms designed to give broader rights to ethnic Albanians or face worsened relations and no financial aid from the union, Reuters reported. The EU's 15 foreign ministers appealed in a statement on 8 October for the Macedonian parliament "to approve, without delay, all the constitutional and legislative measures" of the peace plan as it was signed on 13 August in Ohrid. Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, said in Luxembourg the same day that "the process is going more slowly than we would like it to go. We hope very much that...in two weeks the whole process [of ratification] will be completed." The ministers warned that failure to implement the framework agreement would "compromise" relations between Macedonia and the EU. PB
 DELAY IN POLICE DEPLOYMENT ANGERS MACEDONIAN INTERIOR MINISTERLjube Boskovski said on 6 October that the postponement of the redeployment of security forces to rebel-held areas of Macedonia was due to "crude blackmail" by the West, AFP reported. Boskovski, speaking on Macedonian radio, said President Trajkovski had called off the redeployment the previous day under pressure from U.S. envoy to Macedonia James Pardew. Boskovski said Pardew "demanded unacceptable conditions, but the head of state accepted them." The redeployment was conducted in six villages near Gostivar before being postponed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2001). Ethnic Albanian leaders and Western officials have said an amnesty must first be granted to former ethnic Albanian rebels before Macedonian police move into rebel-held areas. PB
 ALBANIANS WITH EXPLOSIVES ARRESTED IN SKOPJEMacedonian police said they arrested two Albanian nationals in possession of explosives on 6 October in Skopje, AP reported. Police spokesman Viktor Sutarov said the two were questioned during a police patrol and detained after 200 grams of TNT were found in their car. PB
 BOSNIAN CROAT PARTY RE-ELECTS LEADER...The nationalist Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), the main Bosnian Croat party, overwhelmingly re-elected leader Ante Jelavic despite international efforts to strip him of power and influence, Western news agencies reported on 6 October. The vote could signal the continuing influence of hard-liners within the HDZ. The national party congress also asked for equal status for all three main ethnic groups in Bosnia and equal weight to their entities within the state, AP reported. "The question of Croat inequality in Bosnia finally must be solved," Jelavic told delegates. Jelavic ran unopposed at the gathering, which took place in the southern Bosnian town of Mostar, and said he was ready to resume dialogue with the international community, agencies reported. AH
 ...SPARKING DISCOURAGING WORDS FROM WOULD-BE PARTNERSThe leader of the main party in the ruling moderate coalition, Zlatko Lagumdzia of the Social Democratic Party of Bosnia-Herzegovina, responded on 8 October to Jelavic's re-election by saying his party would not accept the HDZ chairman as a partner in discussions. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Wolfgang Petritsch, the international community's high representative in Bosnia, expressed disappointment with Jelavic's reappointment, saying it is "not a forward-looking exercise," according to Reuters. He added that the HDZ cannot return to dialogue with people who had been officially removed from office. Petritsch removed Jelavic from a three-member interethnic presidency in March for undermining Bosnia's constitutional order (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 6 March, and 24 April 2001). AH
 BOSNIA DETAINS MAN WHO ALLEGEDLY SPOKE WITH 'SENIOR MILITARY AIDE' TO BIN LADENAuthorities in Bosnia detained a man they say had at least one telephone conversation with a senior aide to accused terrorist Osama bin Laden, AP reported on 8 October. Interior Minister Muhamed Besic of the Muslim-Croat federation identified the man as Bensayah Belkacem, alias Mejd, and said telephone logs provided by foreign intelligence services indicate he had spoken with Abu Maid, a "senior military aide" to bin Laden, AP said. The two men discussed the procurement of foreign passports, Besic said, without elaborating on the source of the information. The minister told reporters the suspect had two sets of identification documents, identifying him either as Yemeni or Algerian. Balkacem was detained in Zenica, a former stronghold of radical Islamic fighters in the country's war of independence located 40 kilometers northwest of Sarajevo. AH
 HAGUE COURT REJECTS BOSNIAN SERB LEADER'S PROVISIONAL RELEASE REQUESTJudges at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague have denied a request for provisional release by ex-Bosnian Serb leader Momcilo Krajisnik, Reuters reported on 8 October. Krajisnik, who has been in UN detention since his arrest in April 2000, is facing charges including genocide and crimes against humanity for his role as a senior leader during the 1992-95 conflict in Bosnia. He has twice been denied temporary release. The tribunal has said it wants to begin his trial in February 2002, Reuters reported. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic, and Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle have all issued statements supporting Krajisnik's request for provisional release, the agency added. AH
 UN TRIBUNAL CONFIRMS NEW CROATIA INDICTMENT AGAINST MILOSEVICThe UN war crimes tribunal said on 9 October that it has confirmed a new indictment against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for forcibly removing non-Serb populations from Croatia in 1991-92, Reuters reported. The new indictment does not include the tribunal's gravest charge -- genocide -- but UN chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has said a forthcoming Bosnia indictment will charge the former strongman with that crime, the agency added. Prosecutors indicated in September that the Croatia indictment had been signed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October 2001), but now the agency reports that a judge has approved it and the full text has been released. AH
 HUMAN RIGHTS CONFERENCE OPENS ON CROATIAN COASTAn international conference on human rights and democratization opened on 8 October in Dubrovnik under the auspices of the Croatian government, the UN's Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the European Commission, dpa reported. The event has drawn officials from 45 European states and eight former Soviet republics in Central Asia and the Caucasus, the agency added. The conference is aimed at establishing priorities in the UN's plans for advancing human rights on national and regional levels, dpa reported. AH
 DALAI LAMA TO GO AHEAD WITH CROATIA VISITThe Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama will go ahead with a scheduled visit to Croatia on 21 October despite initial security concerns following terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September, HINA reported on 7 October. The agency was quoting a Croatian official in charge of preparing for the visit. Reports on 5 October said the Dalai Lama had canceled a European tour, but Czech President Vaclav Havel reportedly persuaded him to rethink the decision. AH
 IZETBEGOVIC VOWS TO STEP DOWN AS PARTY LEADERA Sarajevo daily reported on 9 October that Alija Izetbegovic, the chairman of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Party of Democratic Action, plans to step down as leader at an upcoming party congress, local media reported. The move could create a power vacuum, according to "Sarajevo Oslobodjenje," which added that the most serious candidates to succeed the longtime leader are SDA Deputy Chairman Sulejman Tihic, Amor Masovic, and Adnan Terzic. A source quoted by the daily said Izetbegovic made the decision to step down recently due to his age. Izetbegovic will be 81 by the time his current term expires. AH
 SERB LEADER SAYS REFUGEES' RETURN TO CROATIA HALTED BY POOR SECURITYThe chairman of the Independent Democratic Serb Party in Croatia, Vojislav Stanimirovic, warned on 9 October that the return of ethnic Serb refugees to Croatia has effectively stopped because of poor security, SRNA reported. He cited a lack of access to returnees' homes because they had been taken over by Croats and due to frequent mine explosions in certain areas that appear to be directed against the original owners. Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic, who was taking part in the same television program, said his country's leadership is doing what it can to secure the return of Serb property. However, Granic criticized representatives of the Serb community in Croatia for "asking the international community to solve their problems," SRNA reported. AH
 SERBS MARK ANNIVERSARY OF MILOSEVIC OUSTER WITH WARNINGS FOR NEW GOVERNMENTHundreds of people gathered in front of the Yugoslav parliament on 5 October, one year after protests led to the downfall of President Slobodan Milosevic, to celebrate but also warn the new government that their patience with the slow pace of reforms is wearing thin, AP and Reuters reported. A group from the town of Cacak, which played a key role in the protests by driving bulldozers and tractors in the streets, came with a truck carrying a bulldozer and a sign reading: "We've seen enough of you!" "We came to celebrate," said Cacak Mayor Velimir Ilic. "But we also came to give the new authorities a warning." DW
 AGREEMENT NEAR IN SERB MINERS' STRIKE?Negotiations were due to resume at the Kolubara mine where miners have been on strike since 3 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2001), Radio B92 reported on 9 October. Serbian Energy Minister Goran Novakovic said that the sides came "very close" to breaking the deadlock during five hours of talks the night before, and he was optimistic of reaching an agreement by midday. Trade union leader Zdravko Vucetic said that miners are demanding a 17 percent pay raise, 2 percent higher than the government's latest offer. "This is not blackmail," he said, "this a request for work to be paid for." Miners at Kostolac, who had joined the strike initiated at Kolubara, returned to work on 8 October after their demands were met. DW
 PRO-INDEPENDENCE MONTENEGRIN PARTIES UNABLE TO AGREE ON REFERENDUMPresident Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) failed at a working group session on 8 October to reach agreement with the Liberal Alliance on the question to be put forward in a referendum on independence from Yugoslavia, SRNA reported the same day. The parties also failed to agree on the majority needed for such a referendum to be valid, though they did agree on allowing only citizens of Montenegro to vote, not all nationals. Liberal Alliance leader Miodrag Zivkovic said his party will withdraw its support of the Victory for Montenegro coalition led by the DPS if the working group does not support his party's demands. DW
 ALBANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY RE-ELECTS ITS CHAIRMANThe Legality Movement Party (PLL) re-elected its chairman, Ekrem Spahia, giving him 176 of 273 votes against two opposing candidates, ATA reported on 8 October. PLL delegates left open for discussion the issue of party deputies' participation in parliament, but the party was expected to continue to support the position of its Our Union for Victory coalition partners. The Our Union for Victory coalition claims general elections have been manipulated and has called for a legislative boycott (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2001). AH
 ALBANIA PROCLAIMS SUPPORT FOR U.S.-LED STRIKES IN AFGHANISTANThe government of this predominantly Muslim country has expressed its support for the U.S.-led military action in Afghanistan, dpa reported on 8 October, following news of airstrikes the previous day. Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta called the action the best way to restore peace and justice, adding that the attacks will "soon yield results to the benefit of the whole [of] mankind and the Afghan people themselves," dpa reported. He also stressed his country's place within the "U.S.-led world coalition in the struggle against terrorism," the agency said. AH
 U.S. PLANES OVERFLY ROMANIAN AIRSPACEPresident Ion Iliescu on 8 October told journalists that U.S. transport and refueling aircraft overflew Romanian airspace on their way "to Afghanistan and other places in the Middle East," RFE/RL' s Bucharest bureau reported. Iliescu made the announcement following a meeting of the Supreme Council on National Security, which was called after the beginning of the strikes in Afghanistan. The council said Romania's decision to "act as a de facto member of NATO is firm" and that it supports "without reservations" the U.S. and NATO actions against international terrorism. Foreign Minister Mircea Genoa said the same day that the United States has yet to request Romania's direct involvement in military actions. The interministerial committee set up to coordinate activity in connection with the current situation met on 7 October and said forces have been placed on alert. Security was also enhanced around the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest. MS
 ROMANIA INVESTIGATING SUSPECTS FOR LINKS TO TERRORIST STRIKESRomanian Intelligence Service (SRI) Director Radu Timofte said on 5 October that Romania is investigating several foreigners suspected of involvement in the preparation of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Timofte said that Romania has been notified about the suspicion by foreign intelligence services and that "the investigation is continuing." He refused to give other details, but said that the SRI has recommended to the Interior Ministry the expulsion of several "persons suspected of links with terrorist organizations." MS
 ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES 2002 DRAFT BUDGETThe cabinet on 8 October approved the draft budget for 2002 and said it will submit the draft to the parliament on 10 October, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The budget projects a 5 percent growth rate, an annual inflation rate of 22 percent, a deficit of 3 percent of GDP, and an unemployment rate of 9.2 percent. MS
 CONFLICT BETWEEN BUCHAREST AND CHISINAU SHOWS NO SIGN OF LETTING OFF...Presidential adviser Victor Doras on 7 October said that President Vladimir Voronin and Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev will "offer explanations" for the speech delivered in Strasbourg by Justice Minister Ion Morei "only if and when an official request to do so arrives" from Bucharest, Mediafax reported. Voronin was apparently responding to a statement by Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase, who said on 5 October that the Moldovan Justice Minister's speech at the European Court of Human Rights was "an exemplification of duplicity" characteristic of Chisinau-government policies toward Romania. Nastase said that "as long as a clear reaction [to the speech] is not issued" by the government in Chisinau, relations will remain "at their present state of being reexamined." Nastase offered one more example of "duplicity policies": in the discussions on the pending basic treaty, he said, Moldova is demanding that the document be written in the two countries' respective languages, that is to say Romanian and "Moldovan." On 6 October, Voronin demanded that Moldovan state radio and television stop referring to the language in which they broadcast as "Romanian." MS
 ...WHILE VORONIN WRITES TO STRASBOURG COURTThe presidential office in Chisinau on 7 October released the text of a letter sent by Voronin to the court on 21 September, in which he wrote that the conflict between the Moldovan Metropolitan Church and the Bessarabian Metropolitan Church is "a political, not a religious conflict," and that "the fate of the church in Moldova has been decided in Bucharest, without any prior consultation with Moldovan officials or church leaders." MS
 MOLDOVA READY TO RENDER ASSISTANCE TO ANTITERRORIST COALITIONThe Moldovan Supreme Security Council chaired by President Voronin on 6 October issued a declaration saying it is prepared to render "whatever assistance is necessary" to the coalition of states fighting international terrorism, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The council said Moldova is willing to allow overflights of its territory and fueling at Moldovan airports. It also said Moldova will be conducting a firm, consistent policy to curb international terrorism, and will establish relations of cooperation with the coalition states. MS
 RUSSIAN PREMIER REACHES AGREEMENT IN MOLDOVA ON GAS DELIVERY PRICESVisiting Russian Premier Mikhail Kasyanov on 6 October told journalists in Chisinau that he has reached in principle an understanding with his Moldovan counterpart Tarlev on prices for Russian gas deliveries in 2002, ITAR-TASS reported. The agreement is to be officially concluded by an intergovernmental commission by 1 December. Moldova is to pay $60 up front for every 1,000 cubic meters and an additional $20 in installments to be paid over the next three years. Kasyanov said he has agreed that Moldova should liquidate its $800 million debt on gas deliveries over a period of 10 years. MS
 MAJOR RIFT IN MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION PARTYA group in the leadership of the Party of Revival and Reconciliation (PRAM) headed by former PRAM Deputy Chairman Nicolae Andronic has left the party and joined the joined the Democratic Party headed by Dumitru Diacov, Infotag reported on 8 October. Andronic accused PRAM Chairman and former President Mircea Snegur of resisting reforming the party and "seeking to remain its eternal leader." Snegur rejected the accusations. Also on 8 October, a new political party calling itself the Alliance for Independent Moldova was formed in Chisinau and elected Chisinau Mayor Serafim Urechean as its leader. The party was set up by mayors and municipal councilors and says it opposes the government's intentions to revise the current local administrative division and conduct early local elections. MS
 BULGARIA READY TO ASSIST ANTITERROR FIGHTIn a statement released on 6 October, before the U.S. air strikes against terrorists in Afghanistan were launched, the government in Sofia said it was "ready to participate in the implementation of corresponding measures included in [NATO's 4 October] decision, whenever necessary and according to national capability and current legal stipulations," Reuters reported. MS
 BULGARIA ARRESTS MAN WITH SUB-MACHINEGUN AT SUMMITBulgarian Interior Ministry sources on 6 October said a man carrying a sub- machinegun was arrested one day earlier and that he had posed a threat to the lives of some presidents attending the NATO candidate countries' summit that day, Reuters reported (see RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2001). The man put up a struggle and an Interior Ministry sergeant suffered a hand injury. No details were given, apart from the fact that the man had a Scorpion sub- machine gun, 40 bullets, and a silencer. "The lives of four presidents participating in the summit were threatened," Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Boiko Borisov said on Bulgarian radio. MS
 BULGARIA CHOSEN OVER BELARUS TO SECURITY COUNCIL SEATBulgaria has been elected to a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council, receiving almost twice as many votes as Belarus, an RFE/RL correspondent in New York reported on 8 October. Bulgaria received 120 votes in the ballot, while Belarus, which contested the same Eastern European region- representing seat, received 52 votes. Bulgaria will succeed Ukraine at the beginning of next year. MS
 BULGARIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR NATIONAL CONSENSUS AHEAD OF PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONSPrime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski on 6 October urged the country's politicians to overlook narrow party interests and focus on national interests, AP and Reuters reported. Saxecoburggotski said his National Movement Simeon II has decided to back incumbent President Petar Stoyanov in the 11 November presidential elections "for the good of the country's unity." He said the decision amounts to an appeal to the opposition United Democratic Forces and "all other democratic forces" to prove, in turn, that they are ready to sacrifice party and personal interests for the sake of promoting national interests. Speaking on Bulgarian television, Saxecoburggotski said Stoyanov is helping to unite the nation and promotes the goal of Euro-Atlantic integration, and that the president shares with the cabinet the goal of fighting corruption and poverty. MS
[C] END NOTE
 SHEVARDNADZE NAVIGATES SHIFTING SANDSBy Richard Giragosian
On 5 October, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze ended a four-day official visit to the U.S. that received little media attention amid the daily developments in the U.S. effort to forge a new international coalition to wage a multifaceted campaign against terrorism. Meeting with President George W. Bush in the White House, Shevardnadze must have sensed a profound change in Washington since his last visit there in July 1997. He was challenged to reestablish Georgia's place on Washington's foreign policy agenda, no easy task given the geopolitical shift in the aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks. These "shifting sands" of geopolitical priorities have virtually marginalized Georgia and have abruptly reduced U.S.-Georgian relations to the shadows of Washington's newly blossoming partnership with Moscow.
The Georgian president must also be aware of the ironic contrast of having visited the previous Bush White House as then-Soviet foreign minister, when he was treated with the respect due the representative of a superpower. That visit cemented a close personal relationship with then-President George Bush and former Secretary of States James Baker. The contrast with his most recent visit to Washington as the president of a troubled and struggling Georgia is only matched by the contrast of the sudden downgrading of his country's strategic place in U.S. foreign policy. But in many ways, the Shevardnadze of the Soviet period was facing the same difficulties as the Shevardnadze of today -- as a senior leader struggling to maintain control in the face of a weakening and fragmenting state.
While much of the analysis of the new Russian role in the U.S.-led war on terrorism has been focused on the situation in Chechnya, the implications for Georgia are just as pronounced. Seeing an opportunity to use the antiterrorism campaign as a convenient justification, Moscow may suspend the withdrawal of its military forces from its remaining bases in Georgia, despite the agreements concluded in November 1999. Russian frustration with Georgian reluctance or inability to take action against Chechen fighters operating from bases on Georgian territory will also most likely be overcome by an intensification of pressure on Tbilisi to accede to a greater Russian presence.
While in the United States, President Shevardnadze seemed to accept that there is little he can do to change this new reality. In a weak counter to his country's increasing geopolitical isolation, he was forced to limit his agenda to a proposal for a United Nations global summit on terrorism. The Georgian leader was able, however, to remind Washington that his country still holds some strategic assets that cannot be obscured by these shifting sands. Specifically, the strategic value of Georgia as a transit state, demonstrated by the recent agreement on natural gas transport with Azerbaijan, remains firm. The key test is whether Georgia, which is increasingly showing symptoms of regressing to the status of a "rogue state, " can nonetheless function effectively in the long term as a transit state.
An important longer-term goal for Georgia is securing U.S. support for its desire to join NATO. Full membership in NATO, in contrast to Georgia's currently limited participation in the alliance's Partnership for Peace program, offers an effective means to counter Russian pressure and strengthen its management of internal conflicts. The security of NATO membership also holds promise for reversing the decade-long deterioration in nation-building and central authority. Georgia's candidacy is enhanced by its ongoing military modernization and reform effort, aimed at meeting NATO military standards. But the most serious obstacle to NATO membership is external, as Georgia would have to overcome a Russian preference for maintaining its bases in Georgia. And this is where U.S. support would be crucial.
One major challenge now facing Shevardnadze that even Washington can do little to help is corruption. The shadow economy is officially estimated to account for 30 percent of GDP, but some observers believe the true figure is closer to 70 percent. The ramifications of Georgian corruption are more than just economic, having contributed to significant political and social tension. The resignation last month of Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili to protest the government's lack of commitment to cracking down on corruption is only the latest sign of its politically destabilizing effects. More broadly, such endemic corruption has also contributed to the weakening of state power and authority.
In addition, corruption remains the catalyst for the political changes under way in Georgia. The president's main rivals and opponents have utilized the corruption issue to subtly force Shevardnadze into political retreat. His inability, or even unwillingness, to aggressively combat corruption has led to a marked loss in support from Shevardnadze's one-time personal power base, the dominant parliamentary Union of Georgian Citizens bloc, which in turn may have been the catalyst for Shevardnadze's recent resignation as its chairman.
Unlike in neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan, Georgia will be open to a new leader in the next presidential election, as Shevardnadze has made it clear that he will not seek to amend the Georgian Constitution to enable himself to run for a third term.
Instead, he must now give serious thought to his own political legacy. But it remains to be seen what kind of Georgian state he will be able to bequeath his successor. And insofar as that question holds repercussions for all states in the region, it will once again return Georgia to the U.S. foreign policy agenda, even if too late to benefit Shevardnadze.
Richard Giragosian is a Washington-based regional analyst and publisher of the monthly newsletter "TransCaucasus: A Chronology." (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty