|Tuesday, 24 January 2017|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 199, 01-10-19
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 199, 19 October 2001
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT TO RESUME OPERATIONSFollowing the receipt of a new consignment of nuclear fuel from Russia, Armenia's Medzamor nuclear power plant, which provides over 40 percent of the country's electric power, will resume operations next month, Energy Minister Karen Galustian told journalists in Yerevan on 18 October, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The plant's only functioning reactor was stopped in July for maintenance and refueling, but its reactivation was delayed due to disputes with Russia over the schedule for payment for past and future deliveries of nuclear fuel (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2001). Galustian also downplayed threats by the Gazprom subsidiary ITERA to cut gas supplies to Armenia, saying that Yerevan's outstanding $7.2 million cash debt for previous gas deliveries will be cleared by the end of this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2001). LF
 ARMENIAN PROSECUTOR SAYS NO GROUNDS FOR CORRUPTION CHARGES AGAINST FORMER MAYORSpeaking in Giumri on 17 October, Armenian President Robert Kocharian claimed that in 2000 the Yerevan municipal authorities underreported revenues from the sale and rent of municipal land and pocketed the difference. Kocharian said revenues from such sales last year were given at 5 million drams ($9,100) compared with 800 million during the first nine months of 2001. He implicitly accused Albert Bazeyan, who resigned in January as Yerevan mayor and is currently one of the leaders of the opposition Hanrapetutiun party, of financial wrongdoing. But on 18 October, Gevorg Danielian, a senior official at the Prosecutor-General's Office, told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau that while criminal proceedings were launched last year against some municipal officials, there are "no real grounds" for accusing Bazeyan of malpractice. Bazeyan for his part convened a press conference on 18 October at which he said it is Kocharian and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian who promote the growth of corruption in Armenia, according to Arminfo, as cited by Groong. He also says the presidential administration and the government had forced him to give land to companies controlled by the powerful Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, according to the newspapers "Aravot" and "Haykakan zhamanak" on 19 October. LF
 GEORGIA REGISTERS ANOTHER VIOLATION OF ITS AIRSPACEFour Su-25 fighter aircraft entered Georgian airspace from Kabardino- Balkaria during the afternoon of 18 October, overflew the Kodori gorge, and then returned to Russia, AP and Interfax reported on 18 October, quoting a Georgian Defense Ministry spokeswoman. Six more Su-25s flew the same route shortly afterward. Russian air force press service spokesman Aleksandr Drobyshevskii denied later the same day that any Russian aircraft carried out flights either in the North Caucasus or over the Transcaucasus that day. The Georgian Foreign Ministry on 18 October summoned Russian Ambassador to Georgia Vladimir Gudev to present him with a Note protesting the ongoing violations of Georgian airspace by aircraft presumed to be Russian. The Georgian Defense Ministry also claimed on 18 October to have shot down two helicopters in recent days, one of which landed in Abkhaz- controlled and the second in Georgian-controlled territory. But Abkhaz Deputy Defense Minister Garri Kupalba denied on 18 October that Abkhazia has lost any helicopters, ITAR-TASS reported. On 19 October, the Georgian Defense Ministry said it has intercepted radio communications between Russian peacekeepers deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia that prove they have received orders to shoot down all aircraft heading toward Sukhum. It seems, however, unlikely that a CIS peacekeeping force whose mandate is protect a resumption of ground hostilities would be equipped with antiaircraft guns. LF
 UN OFFICIALS VISIT ABKHAZIAJoachim Hutter, who heads the UN department in charge of peacekeeping operations, arrived in Sukhum on 17 October and held talks with the prime minister and foreign minister of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia, Anri Djergenia and Sergei Shamba, Caucasus Press reported the following day. Djergenia assured Hutter that the Abkhaz authorities are well disposed toward the UN presence and positively assess the role of the UN Observer Force. Hutter told journalists that the ongoing fighting in the Kodori valley must be stopped, and that the UN wants to see the negotiating process between Tbilisi and Sukhum resumed. LF
 ABKHAZ FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS TROOPS MAY STRIKE AT 'TERRORISTS' ON GEORGIAN TERRITORYAbkhaz Foreign Minister Shamba said on 18 October that Abkhaz forces reserve the right to launch preemptive strikes at "terrorists" before they enter Abkhaz territory, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. At the same time, he stressed that any such attack should not be construed as "aggression against Georgia." Abkhaz Premier Djergenia likewise said Abkhazia has information that a further group of "Chechen and Arab" terrorists from Georgia's Pankisi gorge is to be infiltrated into Abkhazia, and that the Abkhaz armed forces will if necessary act to intercept them before they cross into Abkhaz territory. But the Georgian Foreign Ministry said Djergenia's statement was intended "to undermine the budding dialogue between Russia and Georgia," while President Shevardnadze said such strikes could prove "rather risky" for the Abkhaz, Caucasus Press reported. LF
 PONTIC GREEKS APPEAL TO GREEK GOVERNMENT TO CONDEMN GEORGIA'S 'COMPLICITY IN TERRORISM'An NGO representing Abkhazia's estimated 2,000 Pontic Greeks has appealed to Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis to condemn the Georgian government's "complicity with international terrorism" and to call on the Georgian government to observe the UN-mediated cease-fire agreement it has signed, Caucasus Press reported on 19 October. The appeal further expressed concern that two coast guard vessels that the Greek government recently presented to the Georgian Border Guard service may soon be used to launch an invasion of Abkhazia. LF
 GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT WANTS MINISTERS TO ANSWER FOR BUDGET SHORTFALLThe Georgian parliament met in emergency session on 17 and 18 October to discuss Finance Minister Zurab Nogaideli's proposal to slash budget revenues and spending in 2001 by 164.6 million laris ($79.1 million) in order to meet conditions for further loans from the IMF, Caucasus Press reported. Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili on 17 October disclaimed any responsibility for the budget shortfall, telling deputies it was they who approved the original revenue and spending targets. On 18 October, deputies demanded that all government ministers appear before parliament to explain the situation, thereby prompting an acrimonious exchange between Economy, Industry, and Trade Minister Vano Chkhartishvili and the chairman of the parliament Committee for Economic Policy and Reform, Vano Merabishvili, each of whom accused the other of inefficiency and incompetence. Deputies then adopted by 151 votes a resolution condemning the government's failure to implement the 2001 budget and calling on President Shevardnadze to consider firing those ministers directly responsible. On 19 October, parliament suspended further debate on the planned budget cuts until Shevardnadze responds to that demand. LF
 CANDIDATE CLAIMS PREPARATIONS IN PROGRESS TO FALSIFY GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT BY-ELECTION...National Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia accused the authorities on 18 October of preparing to falsify the outcome of the 21 October by-election in Tbilisi's Vake district, in which she is one of 15 candidates, Caucasus Press reported. She claimed that false electoral rolls are being prepared in which up to 65 people are listed as residing in the same apartment. LF
 ...AS GEORGIAN AUDIT CHAMBER CALCULATES HER MAIN RIVAL'S EXPENDITURESMeanwhile, the Georgian Control Commission has conducted a preliminary audit of the Justice Ministry, the findings of which may be used to discredit former Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili, who is widely expected to defeat Sarishvili-Chanturia and the remaining 13 candidates in the Vake by-election. The audit has registered several instances of what it termed unwarranted expenditure of budget funds, Caucasus Pres reported. For example, the ministry paid 8,000 laris to finance the expenses of journalists who accompanied Saakashvili on an official visit to Sofia. LF
 KAZAKH PREMIER WARNS ECONOMY VULNERABLE TO FALL IN RAW MATERIAL PRICES...Addressing a joint session of both chambers of parliament on 18 October, Qasymzhomart Toqaev warned that events since the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States have destabilized world markets for raw materials and may lead to a significant short-term decline in demand for Kazakhstan's main exports, Interfax reported. But he expressed confidence that GDP will grow by not less than 10 percent this year to $23 billion, and that inflation will remain under 9 percent. LF
 ...RAISES POSSIBILITY OF STORING NUCLEAR WASTE...Echoing a proposal made three months ago by Mukhtar Djakhishev, whom Toqaev dismissed as head of Kazatomprom (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July and 15 October 2001), Toqaev told parliament deputies that Kazakhstan could import and bury low- and medium-radiation nuclear waste, Interfax reported. But he added that no decision on doing so has yet been made. Toqaev also said that it is still premature to proceed with implementation of a proposal to build a nuclear power station near Balkhash in central Kazakhstan. LF
 ...SAYS KAZAKHS WILL BE REPATRIATED FROM PAKISTANToqaev also told the Mazhilis -- the lower parliament chamber -- on 18 October that the Kazakh government has made arrangements to airlift some 1, 000 Kazakhs from Pakistan to Kazakhstan, but that the operation has been delayed by the U.S.-led military strikes on Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. He also said that Kazakhstan is ready to dispatch humanitarian aid in the form of wheat and rice to Afghanistan. LF
 KAZAKH PRESIDENT'S SON-IN-LAW ACCUSES OBLAST GOVERNOR OVER MEDIA OWNERSHIP ALLEGATIONSRakhat Aliyev, the husband of President Nursultan Nazarbaev's daughter Dariga, told journalists on 17 October on his return from an official visit to the United States that he believes Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, governor of Pavlodar Oblast in northern Kazakhstan, is behind the allegations spread last week by parliament deputy Tolen Toqtasynov, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Toqtasynov addressed an open letter to Nazarbaev advising the latter to "rein in" Aliyev who, Toqtasynov claimed, abuses his official position as deputy chairman of the National Security Committee. Toqtasynov also claimed that Aliyev and his wife control most of Kazakhstan's print and electronic media outlets (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11, 12, and 15 October 2001). LF
 KYRGYZSTAN NOW WITHOUT UZBEK GASUzbekistan has already halted all deliveries of gas to Kyrgyzstan, and the country is subsisting on previously stored gas, Aleksandr Eropunov, the deputy director-general of the state-run Kyrgyzgas, told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 18 October. No public announcement of a cutoff in gas supplies has yet been made. On 17 October, a Chu Oblast administration official told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that several industrial enterprises in the oblast stopped functioning on 13 October due to the cutoff in gas supplies. LF
 KYRGYZ AUTHORITIES BLOCK ATTEMPTS BY OPPOSITION PARTIES TO UNITEThe Kyrgyz authorities are doing all in their power to prevent the founding congress of the People's Patriotic Movement, which was to have taken place on 20 October, Erkindik (Liberty) party Chairman Topchubek Turgunaliev told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 18 October. The movement is to unite the opposition Ar-Namys, Ata-Meken, Erkindik, People's, and Republican parties, but the organizers are unable to find premises to hold the congress. LF
 TOP RUSSIAN GENERAL DISCUSSES AFGHANISTAN WITH TAJIK LEADERSHIPRussian army Chief of General Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin flew to Dushanbe on 17 October and met the following day with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, Defense Minister Colonel General Sherali Khairulloev, and the commanders of the Russian 201st motorized division based in Tajikistan to discuss the military situation in Afghanistan and how to prevent fighting there from spilling over into Central Asia, Reuters and Russian agencies reported. Kvashnin also met separately with Northern Alliance military commander Muhammad Fahimkhan and Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullo to discuss Russian military aid to the Northern Alliance. LF
 U.S. REAFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR TRANS-CASPIAN PIPELINESpeaking at an international conference in Ashgabat on Caspian oil and gas, U.S. envoy for Caspian issues Steve Mann, a former ambassador to Turkmenistan, reaffirmed Washington's support for multiple pipelines to export Caspian hydrocarbons, including the proposed Trans-Caspian pipeline to export Turkmen gas to Turkey, Interfax reported. He advised the Turkmen leadership to reconsider its earlier objections to that project and seek support for it among private investors. Turkmenistan earlier rejected Azerbaijan's demand to use half the pipeline's throughput capacity to export its own gas. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MACEDONIAN LEGISLATORS REACH COMPROMISE UNDER WESTERN PRESSURE...After marathon talks with Macedonian and ethnic Albanian representatives, Western envoys received pledges from both to compromise and begin approving constitutional reforms as agreed in the Ohrid peace plan, Western news agencies reported on 18 October. Speaking to reporters, NATO Secretary- General Lord George Robertson said: "We have charted our way ahead. The clear obligation is on the government and the parliament to deliver on their side of the bargain." EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was more specific, telling a press conference, "Macedonian political leaders agreed to continue debating constitutional amendments on Monday [22 October] and to have all of the amendments submitted by Friday [26 October]." Ethnic Albanian parties had been boycotting parliamentary debates to protest Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski submitting only some of the 15 amendments already agreed in the 13 August peace agreement. DW
 ...THOUGH TO WHAT EXTENT REMAINS TO BE SEENDespite the reported compromise, it remains unclear whether both sides have retreated from demands that could still cripple any progress. Parliament speaker Stojan Andov has said he will not allow a ratification vote on the reforms until 12 Macedonians held by ethnic Albanian rebels are released, although there is no evidence they are being held, Reuters reported on 19 October. Also, pro-government Macedonian media said Trajkovski assented to presenting the 15 constitutional amendments as one bundle -- as the ethnic Albanian parties demanded -- only if Albanians accept a preamble with "the Macedonian people" mentioned ahead of other ethnic communities. Another question was whether an amnesty for rebel fighters declared by Trajkovski and supported by the government has any force until approved by the parliament, as required by law. DW
 YUGOSLAVIA TO GIVE ARMS TO MACEDONIAAt a meeting in Belgrade on 18 October, the Macedonian and Yugoslavian defense ministers, Slobodan Krapovic and Vlado Buckovski, announced that Yugoslavia's army intends to deliver to Macedonia surplus weaponry and other military hardware, AP and dpa reported. The two ministers also said their two countries will cooperate in the global and regional fight against "terrorists." Both countries have labeled ethnic Albanian separatists and rebels on their territory "terrorists" in the past. DW
 RETIRED YUGOSLAV GENERAL WILL GO TO HAGUE IF ABLEThe lawyer for retired Lieutenant General Pavle Strugar, named in an indictment by the UN war crimes tribunal for the shelling of Dubrovnik, Croatia in 1991 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 October 2001), said Strugar still intends to turn himself in, and will do so by 21 October if doctors declare him fit to travel, AP and Reuters reported. Strugar, 68, has been hospitalized for the last 20 days with kidney problems, but his lawyer said he still "insists to go" to The Hague "as soon as possible" to prove his innocence before the tribunal. DW
 EXPLOSION, FIRE IN KOSOVA PARTIES' OFFICES RULED ACCIDENTUN officials announced on 18 October that the fire and explosion that destroyed the offices of the two biggest parties in Kosova in the town of Suva Reka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2001) were the result of faulty electrical wiring and not a grenade attack, AP and Reuters reported. "The explosion was caused by the buildup of heat inside the structure, which blew out the windows," said UN police spokesman Derek Chappell. "The incident has been classified as an accident." DW
 TWO ARRESTED IN BOSNIA OVER PHONE THREATS THAT SHUT DOWN EMBASSIESBosnian police said they have arrested two people suspected of making threatening calls that prompted the closure of U.S. and British diplomatic missions there, AP reported on 19 October, citing the daily "Dnevni Avaz" newspaper. The Bosnian Interior Ministry issued a statement saying the two were not immediately charged, but had been detained on 17 October and handed over to an investigative judge with authority over terrorism cases, the report said. The daily reported that the two were Algerians, one with a Bosnian passport, AP reported. While the U.S. and British facilities remained closed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October 2001), the World Bank also shut its offices in Bosnia-Herzegovina on 18 October, citing security reasons, according to a report by Serbian news agency Beta. AH
 GERMAN CHANCELLOR OFFERS SUPPORT TO BOSNIA'S WESTERN INTEGRATIONChancellor Gerhard Schroeder said after a meeting with a senior Bosnian leader that his country wants to politically and economically support Bosnia's efforts to join the Council of Europe, ddp reported on 18 October. Schroeder said increased ties with the West will lead to "gains in prosperity" for Bosnia, and added that German investment could contribute to this. Speaking during a visit to Berlin, Bosnian Council of Ministers Chairman Zlatko Lagumdzija said Germany's support in securing peace in Bosnia and increasing German investment are a "point of orientation" on his country's path toward Europe. ddp reported. "Neither the United States nor [Germany] can forget the Balkans now," Schroeder said. AH
 BOSNIANS, CROATS TRY TO ALLEVIATE BORDER TENSIONSThe Bosnian and Croatian foreign ministers have agreed to work to prevent the politicization of tensions around the two countries' border at Bosanska Kostajnica, Onasa website reported on 18 October. Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija and his Croatian counterpart Tonino Picula spoke by telephone amid growing concerns as the Republika Srpska installed temporary police facilities at a border crossing there. The prime minister of the Republika Srpska, Mladen Ivanic, said on 17 October that he ordered the move two days earlier. Croatia's ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Josip Vrbosic, delivered a note to Bosnia's deputy minister of foreign affairs on 18 October saying that he considers the deployment unacceptable. Border authorities and representatives of the international community held an emergency meeting in Mostar to discuss the issue, Onasa reported. A separate commission will be established to embark on a fact-finding mission to Bosanska Kostajnica, but will not be granted the authority to decide on any possible adjustments to the borders, the website said. Radio reports on 18 October said the town was "peaceful, [but] with a police presence." AH
 CROATIAN GOVERNMENT AGREES TELCO SALE TO DEUTSCHE TELEKOMThe Croatian government concluded talks aimed at selling Deutsche Telekom a majority stake in the Croatian national telecom, Croatian Telecom, dpa reported on 18 October. Prime Minister Ivica Racan said a contract has been signed for 500 million euros for a 16 percent stake that will increase the Germans' share to 51 percent, the agency reported. Racan called the sell- off the biggest privatization job his government has faced since taking over 1-1/2 years ago, adding that he hopes the deal will bolster foreign investors' confidence in the Croatian economy. AH
 CROATIAN WAR VETERANS PROTEST CURBING OF THEIR RIGHTSSome 200 veterans of Croatia's 1991 war pushed back a police cordon and approached the entrance to the Croatian parliament on 18 October to protest a new bill that will curtail their rights, AP reported. Deputies inside were debating a bill aimed at further reforms to the economy that would reduce veterans' pensions and annul certain privileges. Marinko Liovic, head of the largest veterans' group HVIDRA, which organized the protest, called on parliamentarians to boycott the debate, AP said. The protest ended without violence about two hours after it began, Hina reported. An antigovernment rally is scheduled for 20 October on Zagreb's main square. The ruling five-party coalition released a statement questioning the aims of the organizers, suggesting they are "hiding behind the Croatian people" and some war veterans' associations. AH
 ALBANIAN OPPOSITION SETS DEMANDS FOR A RETURN TO PARLIAMENTThe five parties to the Our Union for Victory coalition in Albania outlined conditions for their return to parliament on 18 October, ATA reported. The opposition grouping, whose 46 deputies have refused to participate in the Albanian Assembly citing election irregularities during balloting on 24 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2001), demanded that "arrogated" mandates be surrendered and new voting be held in constituency 60, the agency said. The conditions emerged from a meeting between the leaders of the five Our Union parties. Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha said the coalition is "determined to join parliament," ATA reported. AH
 RUSSIAN POWER INDUSTRY DELEGATION HEADED FOR ALBANIARussian national utility Unified Energy Systems will send a group of delegates to Tirana on 23 October to explore issues like power supplies, upgrades at Albanian plants, future hydroelectric projects, and possible equity stakes within the industry, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 October. The agency cited Albanian Ambassador to Russia Shaqir Vukaj, who added that "Albania is waiting for Russian partners." AH
 ALBANIAN LAWMAKERS CLOSE 2000 BUDGETThe Albanian Assembly on 18 October approved the closing figures of the state's budget for 2000, confirming a 50 billion lek ($368 million) deficit on revenues of 131 billion lek and expenditures of 181 billion lek, ATA reported. Finance Minister Anastas Angjeli said the main objectives of the financial and economic program were fulfilled, consolidating some of the macroeconomic stability of the previous two years, the agency added. He said the country's economic and fiscal situation is "completely stable and in line with government projections set in accordance...with the IMF." Angjeli said the country has been experiencing "sustainable economic growth rates at the level of 7 percent to 8 percent for the past two years." AH
 ILIESCU PRESIDES OVER ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT MEETINGPresident Ion Iliescu chaired on 18 October a meeting of the Romanian cabinet that discussed the international situation in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States and ways to promote Romania's NATO candidacy, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Iliescu told the cabinet that regardless of the current international crisis, Romania's foreign policy priorities remain NATO and EU integration. He said Bucharest's foreign policy initiatives must take into account the generalized climate of insecurity produced by the recent developments in Afghanistan and the Middle East, as well as the possibility of a global economic recession. The president said that in this new situation, foreign policy strategies may have to undergo alteration, priorities other than NATO and EU membership might have to be reoriented, and Romania's economic efficiency and internal stability must be ensured. MS
 ROMANIAN POLITICIAN SAYS EU COMMISSION REPORT VINDICATES BUCHAREST ON STATUS LAWA report submitted on 18 October to the Council of Europe's Commission on Democracy and Law by and large vindicates the Bucharest position on the Hungarian Status Law, according to National Liberal Party Chairman Valeriu Stoica, who is a member of that commission, which is also known as the Venice Commission. The report was prepared by the Sub-Commission on Minority Rights, which is subordinate to the Venice Commission, and compared legislation on ties with minorities living beyond their own country's borders in Hungary, Slovakia, Italy, Austria, and Romania. Stoica said on Romanian radio that the report concluded that no legislation can be implemented beyond the borders of the state that legislated it unless it has the consent of the foreign country. He said this means that the Status Law can only be applied on Hungarian territory. A second conclusion, he said, is that rights granted to national minorities must not lead to the discrimination of ethnic majorities. The sub-commission's conclusions and recommendations are to be discussed on 19 October by the Venice Commission's plenum in the presence of the Hungarian and Romanian foreign ministers, Janos Martonyi and Mircea Geoana. MS
 ROMANIAN PREMIER ORDERS CORRUPTION INQUEST OF BUCHAREST MUNICIPAL COUNCILAdrian Nastase on 18 October ordered an investigation into allegations that members of his own Party of Social Democracy (PSD) sitting on the Bucharest Municipal Council are guilty of corruption, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu, who is also chairman of the Democratic Party, earlier on 18 October said the Bucharest Municipal Council is "the nest of powerful corruption" and "traffic of influence." He said some 80 percent of municipal public funds paid to companies working for the municipality end up in the pockets of municipal councilors who are the real bosses of those companies. Basescu threatened to make public the names of those councilors, saying they are PSD members, and called on Premier Nastase to demand that they resign their positions. MS
 ROMANIAN COLUMNIST STRIKES CHORD IN U.S.An editorial published on 24 September by Cornel Nistorescu, the managing editor of the daily "Evenimentul zilei," has turned Nistorescu into one of the most popular figures in the United States, AP reported on 18 October. The editorial has circulated in e-mails all over the U.S. and Nistorescu has since been flooded with messages of sympathy and emotional gratitude from Americans. Titled "Ode to America," the editorial pondered what could have brought together so many movie stars, popular singers, and other VIPs as those who gathered on 22 September in New York for a telethon for the victims of the 11 September attack. Nistorescu wrote: "The Americans' spirit of solidarity had transformed them into a choir. Actually, choir is not the [right] word. What you could hear was the heavy artillery of the American soul. What can unite the Americans in such a way? Their land? Their tumultuous history? Their economic power? Money? I tried for hours to find an answer...but reached only one conclusion: Only freedom can work such miracles." Romanian television on 18 October said that "The New York Times" has purchased the distribution rights in the U.S. for Nistorescu's editorial. MS
 UKRAINIAN PREMIER IN MOLDOVAVisiting Ukrainian Premier Anatoliy Kinakh said on 18 October after talks with President Vladimir Voronin that his country backs Moldovan efforts to increase border security, and eliminate illegal immigration and illicit trafficking of arms and drugs. Kinakh was evasive in answering a question on whether Ukraine will allow the setting up on its territory of joint border checks with Moldova, saying that the matter "depends on international regulations, on democratic principles and on coordination between the sides," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Voronin, speaking before Kinakh, claimed that a "full understanding" has been reached on all issues discussed and that "proceedings are now being examined to make possible joint custom checks at the border." Kinakh also met with Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev and described their discussions as "constructive and fruitful." MS
 MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT GRANTS PRESIDENT RIGHT TO REVOKE CITIZENSHIPThe parliament approved on 18 October the final reading of a law granting the country's president the right to revoke Moldovan citizenship from persons who acquired it illegally, Infotag reported. To this purpose, it amended previous legislation that allowed the head of state to do so only after a court of law's decision. Yurii Stoikov, chairman of the parliament's National Security Committee, explained that "in many cases, violation of the law was obvious and the president could not act for as long as one to two years, having to wait for a verdict of the court." He said the number of such violations has increased in the last years. The opposition Braghis Alliance and Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) voted against the law, saying it violates the presumption of innocence principle. MS
 MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION PARTIES OPPOSE GAGAUZ-YERI 'FEDERALIZATION DRIVE'Deputies representing the Braghis Alliance and the PPCD in the parliament said on 18 October that the "federalization drive" launched by the leadership of the Gagauz-Yeri Autonomous Republic is inadmissible and infringes on the Moldovan basic document, Infotag reported. Last week, the Gagauz-Yeri leadership submitted proposals for constitutional amendments providing for granting the autonomous region the status of "equal-right member" in a would-be Moldovan Federal Republic. The Gagauz authorities are also demanding that the region have its own quota of seats in the parliament in Chisinau and representatives in all central structures of the government. They also want the right to manage their own budget. Deputy Stefan Secareanu of the PPCD said the draft submitted by Gagauz-Yeri is "a provocation designed by Tiraspol with the participation of Russia." Former Premier Dumitru Braghis said any proposal must respect Moldova's constitutional framework, but added that he does not rule out that "the idea of federalization might be used some day as a basis for discussions." MS
 BULGARIA SAYS 'NO EXPLICIT REQUEST' RECEIVED FOR MACEDONIA TROOPS DEPLOYMENTForeign Minister Solomon Pasi on 18 October said Bulgaria has received "no explicit request" to deploy its troops in Macedonia, BTA reported. Pasi said that NATO troops are in that neighboring country "only because its government has requested their presence." He added that "if the international community, meaning NATO, the UN Security Council, or the government of Macedonia, makes such a request, we shall carefully consider it." MS
 BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT BILL ON PRIVATIZATION, POST- PRIVATIZATION CONTROLThe cabinet approved at its 18 October meeting a draft bill on privatization and another draft-bill on post-privatization control, BTA reported. Privatization will continue to be carried out by the Privatization Agency, but a new agency will be set up to control post- privatization processes and the way purchasers meet their commitments. Both agencies will have boards consisting of an executive director and two deputy directors, who will all be appointed by the government. In addition, the Privatization Agency will continue to have a seven-member supervisory board, which is to approve privatization contracts. MS
 DUKE OF YORK OPENS NEW BRITISH EMBASSY IN SOFIAThe Duke of York, Prince Andrew, inaugurated the new building of the United Kingdom Embassy in Sofia, BTA reported on 18 October. He later met with Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, who is a distant relative. MS
[C] END NOTE
 WESTERN SUPPORT FOR BALTIC MEMBERSHIP IN NATO INCREASESBy Taras Kuzio
Some Western commentators have expressed concern that Russia's inclusion within the international coalition against terrorism will lead to it demanding concessions from the U.S. in areas such as NATO enlargement. These fears seem to be increasingly unwarranted as the range of Western countries that have voiced their support for the inclusion of the Baltic states continues to grow. There are even indications that Russian President Vladimir Putin may be withdrawing his "red line" to the CIS, which would no longer include the Baltic states within its sphere of influence.
The Baltic states have always feared that NATO enlargement might ignore them because of Russian objections, and they therefore devised the idea of a "big bang" second round of NATO enlargement at the May 2000 meeting in Vilnius of nine aspirant members of NATO in the presence of NATO Secretary- General Lord George Robertson. At that meeting, the representatives of the three Baltic states drafted a position statement that argued that at the summit scheduled for November 2002 in Prague NATO should invite all nine aspirant states to join at the same time and not individually.
The Baltic republics initially looked to the U.S., Scandinavian countries, and Central European NATO members Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary as their main supporters in their bid for NATO membership. On recent visits to the Baltic states, Polish President Aleksandr Kwasniewski and Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski both came out strongly in favor of Baltic membership. These views were also expressed by Hungarian Defense Minister Janos Szabo to the Hungarian parliament earlier this month.
Scandinavia has been at the forefront of promoting the Baltic states within NATO. Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik said that, "For Norway, based as we are up in the high north, it is important for us that there is a northern dimension in the NATO enlargement process." He added, "We are working inside NATO in favor of Lithuania and the other Baltic states' aspirations for membership." At a Helsinki summit in August, Foreign Ministers from Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, and Finland expressed their firm support for the Balts to be included within NATO.
Support within NATO has expanded beyond the Central Europe and Scandinavia. Then-Turkish President Suleyman Demirel told his visiting Estonian counterpart as early as October 1998 that he rejected any Russian veto over NATO enlargement and therefore, "I have supported Estonia's wish to become a full member of NATO."
Germany and France initially expressed Russophile views that argued against Baltic membership. Former German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe opposed NATO enlargement into the Baltic states, while the then-Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel, backed enlargement. German officials reiterated that Russian "consent" would be required for further NATO enlargement, a statement in clear contradiction of NATO's "open door" policy. The German position has gradually evolved into cautious support, and France too now officially supports Baltic membership in NATO.
Ultimately, it will be the United States, the dominant country within NATO, that will have the decisive say in whether the Balts are asked to join next year. Writing in the fall issue of "The National Interest," James Kurth points out that President Bush's foreign policy speech in Warsaw in June had the Balts in mind when he reaffirmed NATO's open door to new members. Canadian Foreign Minister John Manley also ruled out the U.S. abandoning support for Baltic membership of NATO in exchange for Russian concessions on missile defense.
U.S. House of Representatives and Senate advisers told their Lithuanian hosts this year that there is practically no opposition in Congress to Lithuania's membership in NATO. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell advised his Baltic counterparts last month that the United States remains committed to their "full integration into the Trans-Atlantic community," and that the U.S. will continue to assist them in this endeavor through the U.S.-Baltic Charter (U.S.-B C) and the U.S.-Baltic Partnership Commission (U.S.-B PC) established in January 1998 on the basis of the August 1996 Baltic Action Plan.
The U.S.-B Charter is a political document that reaffirms U.S. support for the independence and integration of the Baltic states into the EU and NATO. One key provision envisages consultations in the event that the territorial integrity, independence, or security of one or all of the Baltic states is threatened. The U.S.-B Charter clearly entailed U.S. support for Baltic accession to NATO in any future round of enlargement and the continuation of NATO's open door policy. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton recently told the new Estonian Ambassador to the United States, Sven Jurgenson, that, "the United States welcomes and supports Estonia's aspiration to NATO membership."
The U.S.-B PC has assisted the Balts with their Membership Action Plans (MAP) in preparation for full membership. NATO Deputy Secretary-General Klaus-Peter Kleiber called Estonia's 2001 MAP for joining NATO a realistic, well considered, and constructive document. Latvia's MAP for 2001 was implemented 123 percent by August (in comparison to 88 percent in 2000). All three Baltic states have promised to increase their defense spending next year to 2 percent of GDP, the NATO average.
Multilateral and bilateral cooperation between NATO, individual NATO members and PfP (Partner) countries and the three Baltic states has been extensive in six key areas that contribute toward implementing their MAPs. These have included improving the combat efficiency of their security forces; encouraging them to raise their defense budgets to 2 percent of GDP; funding by the U.S. and Norway of a regional airspace surveillance control center (Baltnet) based at Karmelava, Lithuania; the creation of a Baltic naval squadron Baltron funded by Denmark and based in Estonia; a joint Baltic Defense College (Baltdefcol) that opened in Tartu, Estonia, in 1999 with support from Sweden; assistance in establishing a Lithuanian- Polish battalion; and the development of a joint Baltic battalion (Baltbat) with assistance from the U.K. and the supply of surplus armaments and military equipment.
Despite fears that the U.S. would make concessions to Russia in its campaign against terrorism in the area of NATO enlargement this does not seem to be occurring. Western support for Baltic membership in NATO, which was thought to be unrealistic in the 1990s, has growing support among the majority of NATO members and even among neutral countries.
Taras Kuzio is a research associate at the Centre for International and Security Studies, York University.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty