|Monday, 28 September 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 212, 01-11-07
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 212, 7 November 2001
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 RUSSIAN WEBSITE ASSESSES SOUTH CAUCASUS POLITICIANS' INFLUENCEAzerbaijani President Heidar Aliev is not only the most influential but also the most secure political figure in the South Caucasus, according to the most recent survey conducted by the NNG Consulting Foundation and gazeta.sng.ru and summarized on 6 November by Caspian News Agency. Aliev is followed by Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze; Armenian President Robert Kocharian (up from fifth place in the preceding survey); the head of the Azerbaijani presidential staff, Ramiz Mekhtiev; and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian ranks sixth, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba seventh, and former Georgian parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania eighth. In ninth place is fugitive Russian oligarch Badri Patarkatsishvili, who since settling in Georgia several months ago has purchased the Tbilisi Dynamo soccer club and several electronic media outlets. LF
 MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRS HOLD TALKS IN STEPANAKERT, YEREVANThe French, Russian, and U.S. co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group held talks in Stepanakert on 5 November with the president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Arkadii Ghukasian, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Noyan Tapan quoted Ghukasian as affirming his support for a peaceful solution to the conflict and regret that recent bellicose statements by members of the Azerbaijani leadership "do not contribute" to establishing mutual trust between the parties to the conflict. On 6 November, the three co-chairs traveled to Yerevan where they discussed unspecified confidence-building measures with Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, who also argued that both Armenia and Azerbaijan should refrain from calling for a new war, according to Arminfo. Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov, who accompanied the co- chairs, said that on 7 November the co-chairs will discuss with Armenian President Kocharian an amended version of the tentative peace agreement reached during talks earlier this year in Paris and Florida between Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Aliev. LF
 U.S. EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER SENTENCE ON AZERBAIJANI NAVAL CAPTAINThe U.S. Embassy in Baku issued a statement on 6 November expressing concern over the eight-year jail sentence handed down the previous day on former naval captain Djanmirza Mirzoev, Turan reported. "His sentence and the manner in which his trial and investigation have been conducted appear to have been inconsistent with the principles of due process of the law, " the statement said. Mirzoev has been consistently harassed for his efforts to publicize corruption within the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 34, 26 August 1999). LF
 AZERBAIJANI APPEALS COURT REDUCES FINE IMPOSED ON NEWSPAPEROn 6 November Azerbaijan's Court of Appeals reduced from 80 million manats ($17,390) to 27 million manats the fine the editor and two journalists from the newspaper "Bakinskii bulvard" must pay for insulting the honor and dignity of Baku Mayor Hadjibala Abutalibov, Turan reported. But the court upheld the decision of a Baku district court to close down the newspaper permanently (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2001). Also on 6 November, the Baku municipal authorities refused permission for a picket the following day to protest the closure of "Bakinskii bulvard" and the daily "Milletin sesi" on the grounds that there was "no need" to resort to such political protests, "Milletin sesi" Editor Shahbaz Hudaoglu told Turan. LF
 NATO UNIMPRESSED BY AZERBAIJAN'S CULT OF PERSONALITYNATO officers currently in Baku to conduct multilateral maneuvers under the aegis of the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program have expressed surprise and disapproval that at least 10 portraits of President Aliev adorn the command headquarters, according to the independent daily "Azadlyg" on 7 November, as cited by Turan. The officers reportedly compared Azerbaijan with Iraq and said that "worship" of the head of state is not a normal phenomenon. The military exercises involve some 600 troops from nine NATO member states and 10 members of the PfP program, and will last until 16 November. LF
 GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO ELECT NEW SPEAKERDeputies failed at an emergency session on 6 November to elect a successor to Zhvania, who resigned as parliament chairman on 1 November, Caucasus Press reported. Two candidates were formally proposed: parliament Foreign Relations Committee Chairwoman Nina Burdjanadze and former Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze, but neither received the required 118 votes (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 37, 7 November 2001). A second round of voting was scheduled for 9 November. LF
 RUSSIAN MATERIEL STOLEN, RETRIEVED IN ABKHAZIAA trainload of arms, including four batteries of "Buk" antiaircraft missiles, was hijacked on 24 October by a group of unidentified armed men while being transported from the Russian military base at Gudauta in Abkhazia to Adler in the Russian Federation, according to Interfax and the Georgian daily "Alia" on 6 November. The train and the weapons were found abandoned several days later in a tunnel near Novyi Afon and returned to Gudauta. Abkhaz officials denied any responsibility for the theft. The Abkhaz authorities finally agreed to the withdrawal of all equipment from the Gudauta base after "difficult" talks with Russian Defense Ministry representatives and the commander of the CIS peacekeeping force in the Abkhaz conflict zone, Major General Nikolai Sidorichev. Also on 6 November, Interfax quoted Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze as saying that the Georgian leadership will not consider that Moscow has met its obligation to close the Gudauta base until the 600 servicemen still guarding it are withdrawn. LF
 ABKHAZ POLITICIANS COMMENT ON ABASHIDZE APPOINTMENTWho represents Georgia in talks on a solution to the Abkhaz conflict is of marginal importance, Abkhaz Prime Minister Anri Djergenia told Russian news agencies on 6 November a propos of the announcement by President Shevardnadze the previous day that he has appointed Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Abashidze to represent the Georgian government in those talks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 2001). "The only thing that can be discussed at the negotiations is a mechanism for meeting the mutual commitments to the nonuse of force and guarantees of a nonresumption of hostilities," ITAR- TASS quoted Djergenia as saying. Interfax quoted him as saying that talks can take place only on relations between two independent states. Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba for his part said what is needed is a fundamental change in Georgia's attitude toward resolving the conflict, according to Interfax. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT MEETS WITH FORMER CP FIRST SECRETARYOn the sidelines of celebrations on 6 November to mark the 10th anniversary of the founding of Kazakhstan's Academy of Sciences, President Nursultan Nazarbaev met in Almaty with Ismail Yusupov, who served as first secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan from 1962-1964, when then-CPSU General- Secretary Leonid Brezhnev appointed Dinmukhamed Kunaev to replace him. Nazarbaev congratulated Yusupov on his 88th birthday and lauded his "significant and unforgettable" contribution to building Kazakhstan's statehood. Nazarbaev, then chairman of the Kazakh SSR Council of Ministers, supported the replacement of Kunaev in December 1986 by ethnic Russian Gennadii Kolbin, a move that led to widespread protests in the Kazakh capital. Kunaev died in 1993 after spending the last seven years of his life under virtual house arrest. LF
 WOMEN FROM SOUTHERN KAZAKHSTAN RENEW CAMPAIGN FOR BENEFITSA group of women from South Kazakhstan Oblast who have been campaigning since early this year for payment of child benefits dating back to 1997 is again in Almaty seeking a meeting with Prosecutor-General Rashid Tusupbekov, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 6 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January, 18 and 19 April, and 21 September 2001). LF
 KYRGYZSTAN SUSPECTED OF VIOLATING EMBARGO ON ARMS SALES TO LIBERIAThe UN Security Council began on 5 November debating an exports report it commissioned that chronicles illegal sales by Kyrgyzstan of helicopter spare parts to Liberia in violation of UN sanctions imposed in March, RFE/RL's UN correspondent reported. LF
 KYRGYZ HEATING ENGINEERS END STRIKEThe 100 employees of the Bishkek power and heating plant ended on 6 November the strike they began the previous day to demand payment of wage arrears after the plant's management promised to pay those arrears within the next few days, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The plant's director explained to RFE/RL that he was unable to do so because both private households and state-owned companies regularly fail to pay their heating and electricity bills. LF
 U.S. DIPLOMAT, TAJIK PRESIDENT DISCUSSES EXPANDING COOPERATIONLynn Pascoe, who is Deputy Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of State for the Caucasus and Central Asia, met in Dushanbe on 6 November with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, whom he gave a letter from U.S. President George W. Bush, Asia Plus Blitz reported, noting that Pascoe was the third ranking U.S. diplomat to meet with Rakhmonov in the past two weeks. The two men discussed the situation in Afghanistan and the prospects for expanding bilateral ties and cooperation. Presidential press secretary Zafar Saidov said Rakhmonov expressed particular interest in boosting economic ties and attracting U.S. investment. Neither Pascoe nor Saidov said whether military cooperation was discussed, according to Reuters. LF
 BRITISH TEACHER FOUND MURDERED IN TAJIK CAPITALA 48-year-old Londoner who taught English at Dushanbe's Institute of Foreign Languages was found stabbed to death in his apartment on 5 November, Reuters reported. None of his belongings were stolen. Tajik police declined to comment on the killing. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 NATO WANTS MACEDONIANS TO KEEP PROMISESNATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson was scheduled to arrive in Skopje on 7 November for his third visit in as many months aimed at persuading Macedonian politicians to keep the promises they made in the 13 August Ohrid agreement, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 2001). These include the passage of a package of constitutional reforms and an amnesty for ethnic Albanian guerrillas. Claus Vollers, NATO's ambassador to Macedonia, said: "We hope to get a breakthrough this week." He added that the absence of an amnesty has not led to any arrests of former fighters, but "nobody knows how it is going to work in the future." PM
 POWELL CALLS ON MACEDONIANS TO ENACT REFORMSU.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell wrote Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski to urge swift passage of the reform package, dpa reported from Skopje on 6 November. Powell stressed the link between the reforms and Washington's willingness to support economic aid to Macedonia and the return of Macedonian police to former guerrilla-held areas. PM
 FORMER MACEDONIAN INTERIOR MINISTERS ACCUSED OF COMPLICITY IN GLIGOROV BOMBING...At a media briefing on 5 November, the Interior Ministry announced that former Interior Ministers Ljubomir Frckovski, Tomislav Cokrevski, and Pavle Trajanov will soon be charged with complicity in the 3 October 1995 bomb attack on former President Kiro Gligorov because they did not carry out their duties properly, the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" reported on 6 November. The ministry said the former ministers failed to keep records properly, employed criminals during the investigations, and sacked high officials who worked on the case. So far, the investigations have not produced any results. Gligorov survived the bombing after extensive hospitalization and plastic surgery. UB
 ...WHILE THE ACCUSED DENY RESPONSIBILITYFormer Interior Minister Frckovski told the press in Skopje that he does not want to comment on "stupid accusations." But Trajanov maintained that he kept proper records, "Dnevnik" reported on 6 November. "During my time in office, an analysis [of the investigation] was made, and an expert team in the Interior Ministry scrutinized the investigation. The experts decided that an operational staff led by the State Security Commission (DBK) should be set up... Current Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski knows this very well, since he was deputy director of the DBK at that time." UB
 KOSOVARS ANGRY OVER BELGRADE PACTLeading ethnic Albanian politicians in Kosova said in Prishtina on 6 November that the recent agreement between the UN civilian administration (UNMIK) and the Belgrade authorities is unacceptable, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline" and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 November 2001). Albanian representatives subsequently boycotted a planned session of UNMIK's advisory council. The Albanians object to the renewed involvement of Belgrade in Kosova's affairs. They also object to anything in the pact that prohibits the parliament set to be elected on 17 November from declaring independence, which all Albanian parties want. Ramush Haradinaj, who heads the Alliance for the Future of Kosova, said he will now oppose UNMIK. Former guerrilla leader Hashim Thaci argued that his Democratic Party of Kosova is determined to press ahead for independence. Moderate leader Ibrahim Rugova said he opposes the agreement but will continue to work with UNMIK. PM
 UN ADMINISTRATOR DENIES ANY KOSOVA INDEPENDENCE BANHans Haekkerup, who heads UNMIK, said in Prishtina that independence for Kosova at some future point has not been excluded, Vienna's "Die Presse" reported from Belgrade on 7 November. He noted that UN Resolution 1244, upon which UNMIK's mandate rests, is "neutral and does not exclude any possibilities" regarding the province's future political status. Belgrade and Moscow maintain that the resolution reaffirms that Kosova is part of Yugoslavia. PM
 ALBANIA CALLS FOR 'PEACEFUL VOTE' IN KOSOVAIn Tirana on 6 November, the Albanian parliament said in a statement that it hopes the Kosovar "elections will take place in a peaceful atmosphere with the massive participation of all groups in Kosova," dpa reported. PM
 YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT TO BREAK WITH TRAJKOVIC?The federal authorities are seriously considering firing Momcilo Trajkovic, who heads the Federal Committee for Kosovo and Metohija, "Blic" reported on 7 November. Trajkovic, a prominent Kosova Serb, has angered the Belgrade leadership by rejecting their call for Serbs to take part in the elections. His role has, in any event, been largely symbolic. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic is Belgrade's main point man for Kosova as well as for Presevo. PM
 YUGOSLAV COURT THROWS OUT DECREE ON COOPERATION WITH HAGUEThe Constitutional Court ruled in Belgrade on 7 November that a controversial government decree from earlier this year permitting the extradition of Yugoslav citizens to The Hague is invalid, AP reported. The decree was opposed by backers of former President Slobodan Milosevic. Constitutional law expert Slobodan Vucetic told the news agency that "this decision does not mean that Yugoslavia cannot or will not cooperate with The Hague tribunal... [But] there is now an added urgency to pass legislation to finally regulate cooperation with The Hague." Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said the court's ruling will have no practical effect on his work. He noted that the government did not cooperate with The Hague in the past on the basis of the decree, but on the basis of The Hague tribunal's mandate from the UN. PM
 SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER SAYS 'GLAD' TO FIGHT TERRORISM...After his meetings in Washington on 6 November with U.S. President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Powell, Zoran Djindjic said: "We are happy to, for the first time in the last 50 years, to be part of the democratic world fighting against the common evil. And although we are a small part of this, we are on the right side," VOA reported. Djindjic called his talks with Powell a "meeting among friends," and said it is Belgrade's "duty" to keep the Balkans stable and not complicate the global crisis. He expressed surprise that Bush administration officials were able to discuss Balkans issues with him and his team despite their focus on Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 18 and 28 September 2001). PM
 ...BUT SERBIAN HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER NOT SO SUREA veteran Serbian human rights activist, Professor Vojin Dimitrijevic, told "Die Presse" on 7 November that "there is a danger [in Serbia] that the entire society may take the Afghan side. This is because of latent anti- Americanism and the xenophobia that dates from the Milosevic era." He also warned against Muslim "fundamentalism" in the Balkans but did not give evidence to prove that this is a serious problem (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report, " 28 September 2001 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 September 2001). Dimitrijevic argued that there has not been much terrorism in Serbian political history, but perhaps some of his Austrian readers may disagree with him. PM
 HAGUE REVEALS INDICTMENT OF BOSNIAN SERB SIEGE COMMANDERThe Hague-based war crimes tribunal has made public the "sealed" indictment of former Bosnian Serb General Dragomir Milosevic, Reuters reported from The Hague on 7 November. He was indicted for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war, together with the Bosnian Serb army's former chief of staff, General Stanislav Galic, in conjunction with the 1992-1995 siege of Sarajevo. The court noted that "because of the shelling and sniping against civilians, the life of every Sarajevo inhabitant became a daily struggle to survive." PM
 OSCE INTRODUCES NEW VOTER REGISTRATION SYSTEM FOR BOSNIAThe OSCE, which has supervised all elections in Bosnia for the past five years, has introduced a new system of voter registration aimed at transferring control over the process to local governments in Bosnia's 145 municipalities, dpa reported from Sarajevo on 6 November. PM
 REPUBLIKA SRPSKA TO CHANGE CONSTITUTIONThe government decided in Banja Luka on 6 November that the constitution will be changed to list Muslims and Croats -- as well as Serbs -- as "constituent" peoples of the Republika Srpska, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The move follows a recent ruling by the Bosnian Constitutional Court to that effect. PM
 REFUGEE RETURNS UP IN BOSNIADuring the period from 1 January to 31 September 2001, some 56,683 persons returned to their former homes in areas now held by ethnic groups other than their own, AP reported from Sarajevo on 6 November. Among them were 25, 759 Serbs, 23,862 Muslims, 6,394 Croats, and 668 others, the UNHCR said in a statement. The comparable figure for the same period in 2000 was about 37, 000 returnees. Only 18,800 Serbs went home in all of 2000. PM
 FORMER ALBANIAN GENERAL SENTENCEDA court in Tirana has sentenced former General Agim Shehu in absentia to seven years imprisonment for deserting his post during the 1997 unrest, dpa reported from Tirana on 6 November. PM
 SLOVENIA'S PRESIDENT IN AUSTRIA: PUT THE PAST BEHIND USOn the first state visit to Austria by a Slovenian president since independence in 1991, Milan Kucan said in Vienna that problems in Austro- Slovenian relations left over from the past should be left to expert commissions and historians, "Die Presse" reported on 7 November. He rejected Austrian calls for the repeal of the former Yugoslav legislation -- known as the AVNOJ Decrees, much like the Czechoslovak Benes Decrees -- that confiscated the property of Slovenia's German-speaking minority at the end of World War II. Kucan added, however, that Slovenia still wants compensation for the work done by Slovenian forced laborers in Austria during that war. Kucan's hosts included President Thomas Klestil, Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, and Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner. PM
 ROMANIAN PREMIER IN U.K.Adrian Nastase was present on 7 November at the signing ceremony in London of the privatization contract for the Galati steel-making giant SIDEX. The British-Indian consortium LNM ISPAT purchased SIDEX for over $500 million, of which over $350 million is to be invested over the next 10 years in the unprofitable company, Romanian radio reported. Nastase earlier addressed in Birmingham the national conference of the Confederation of British Industry, calling on British businessmen to invest in his country and outlining reforms undertaken by his government to encourage investment and promote economic growth. Nastase met on 6 November in London with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who told him NATO and EU enlargement is "essential for Europe's future stability and the fight against terrorism." Straw said the U.K. "fully supports Romania's and the other candidates' aspirations for membership in both organizations," and said he is "grateful for Romania's strong support for the international coalition" engaged in operations in Afghanistan. MS
 ROMANIAN, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTS TO ACCELERATE SEARCH SOLUTION TO DISPUTESMeeting at the Warsaw summit on international terrorism on 6 November, President Ion Iliescu and his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma agreed to direct experts to find "within one month" a mutually acceptable solution to the dispute involving their border on the Black Sea's continental shelf, Romanian radio reported. The solution should make it possible "to avoid appealing to international arbitration." They also agreed that their joint commission on economic relations should meet "within two months" to examine ways of improving trade. The presidents also agreed on the need to find mutually acceptable solutions to the problem of minorities living in each other's countries. MS
 ROMANIAN OSCE PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN ADMITS TO 'DISAGREEMENTS' WITH ROTATING CHAIRMANOSCE Parliamentary Chairman Adrian Severin said on 6 November that there are "points of disagreement" between himself and OSCE rotating Chairman Mircea Geoana, who is also Romania's foreign minister, Mediafax reported. Severin said such differences of opinion are "normal" between the organization's legislative and executive branches, and that they do not "attest to a personal conflict." MS
 ROMANIA, LATVIA SIGN AGREEMENT ON MILITARY COOPERATIONVisiting Latvian Defense Minister Girtis Valdis and his Romanian counterpart Ioan Mircea Pascu signed an agreement on military cooperation in Bucharest on 6 November, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. They agreed that the current international situation calls for an enlargement of NATO that would embrace all candidate countries. MS
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT DISMISSES RUMOR ON GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE...Vladimir Voronin, speaking on Moldovan television on 5 November, dismissed rumors about an imminent cabinet reshuffle, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. "We plan no changes [and] cabinet members should know they have our trust and should carry on working normally," Voronin said. However, he added, "We have strict requirements, and expect from them concrete results." Voronin said the government has all the conditions it needs to cope with the tasks ahead, as it is supported in the parliament by a solid majority. He added that "if we, who control the power...fail to obtain concrete results, it will not be only the Communist Party that will lose -- the entire country would then be the loser." Voronin also accused the authorities in Tiraspol of money laundering "considerable sums" and said the local Petrolbank was used for this purpose. He said in 2001 alone some $584 million was laundered, "including $80 million in cash." Voronin said he would like separatist leader Igor Smirnov "to tell Transdniester voters where this $584 million could have come from when the entire annual budget of the region is $85 million." MS
 ...SAYS SEPARATISM IS ALSO TERRORISM...Addressing the antiterrorist summit in Warsaw on 6 November, Voronin said not only terrorism itself, but also its sources must be curbed, and that one of those sources is separatism, according to Infotag. He said the Moldovan experience shows that regions controlled by separatist forces are a constant source of instability and strain -- "a culture medium for smuggling, illicit trading in arms and drugs, money laundering, and illegal immigration." Voronin complained that the Transdniester authorities are threatening to cut Moldovan water supplies, as well as supplies of gas and electricity as winter approaches, and said such actions "are nothing but terrorism." MS
 ...INITIATES LEGALIZATION OF DUAL CITIZENSHIPPresident Voronin submitted to the parliament on 5 November a proposal for a constitutional amendment that would make dual citizenship possible, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The move follows the recommendations of an ad hoc commission set up by the president about a month ago. Amending the basic document requires a two-thirds majority in the parliament. Some 300,000 Moldovans hold dual citizenship, primarily Romanian, Russian, and Ukrainian, in defiance of the current ban. MS
 RUSSIA TO RESUME TRANSDNIESTER ARSENAL EVACUATIONRussia will resume the pullout of armaments from Transdniester on 8 November, General Valerii Yevnevich, commander of the Russian contingent in the region, told ITAR-TASS on 6 November. Yevnevich denied reports that the four trains transporting armored personnel carriers, artillery guns, and other military equipment will be sent to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. "This materiel needs to be repaired. It is being sent to the Urals plants for restoration," he said. MS
 SOFIA MAYOR TO SET UP NEW POLITICAL PARTYPopular Sofia Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski, a member of the opposition United Democratic Forces Steering Committee, announced on 7 November in an interview with the daily "Trud" that he will leave that party and set up a new political formation, BTA reported. Sofiyanski said the new party will "have a new name, be made up by new people, and have a new program." The agency also reported that, according to a survey carried out by Alpha Research, 34 percent of Bulgarians will be influenced in their voting for the 11 November presidential elections by the debate aired by bTV on 5 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 2001), during which President Petar Stoyanov made public excerpts from a classified 1999 counterintelligence report on corruption that heavily implicated his rival, Bogomil Bonev. Thirty-nine percent approved of Stoyanov's conduct during the debate, and 24 percent said the performance of Bonev, who is running as the Civic Democratic Party's candidate, during the debate was better than that of Stoyanov. Fifty-three percent said they believe Stoyanov's accusations against Bonev. MS
 BULGARIAN WOMEN CANBulgaria ranks first in the region in the number of women who are parliamentary deputies, BTA reported on 6 November, citing Stanimira Hajidimitrova, the coordinator of Gender Task Force within the Balkan Stability Pact. Hajidimitrova said this is due to the campaign called "Women Can, Want, and Know," which was launched by the pact and whose main purpose is to train women in leadership skills. The Gender Task Force -- Bulgaria was set up in 2000 and unites 20 women's organizations. MS
 BULGARIAN, YUGOSLAV VETERANS APOLOGIZE FOR MUTUAL WARSLeaders of veterans' organizations from Bulgaria and Yugoslavia are meeting on 7 November in Sofia and are offering mutual apologies for the wars waged by the two countries against one another at the end of the 19th and in the 20th century, BTA reported. The Yugoslav delegation is led by a 106-year- old veteran. The two delegations are to sign an agreement on the maintenance of military cemeteries in their countries. MS
[C] END NOTE
 MOLDOVA AND RUSSIA INITIAL BILATERAL AGREEMENTBy Eugen Tomiuc
The foreign ministers of Russia and Moldova, Igor Ivanov and Nicolae Dudau, initialed a bilateral friendship and cooperation treaty between the two countries in Chisinau on 5 November. In the document, Russia recognizes Moldova's independence and territorial integrity and pledges to work toward a political settlement of the dispute between Moldova and its breakaway Transdniester region. Ivanov also said Russia will observe a 2002 deadline for completing the withdrawal of its troops and weapons from Transdniester, and added that the agreement will help build what he called "a strategic partnership" between the two countries and resolve the Transdniester conflict.
"This treaty opens the way for a future strengthening of cooperation between our countries in various fields -- political, economic, cultural, and foreign policy," Ivanov said. "The document reflects the objectives and the parameters of the strategic partnership we want to build between our countries, including the fact that this treaty must contribute to a settlement of the Transdniester conflict."
The Transdniester issue has been the main bone of contention between Russia and Moldova for more than a decade. The pro-Russian region broke away from Moldova in 1990 over fears that Moldovans would seek reunification with their ethnic kin in neighboring Romania.
Armed conflict followed in 1992, and several hundred people died in seven months of fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Moldovan security forces. Fighting ended in July 1992 with a Russian-mediated settlement enforced by Russian troops already stationed in the region.
A final agreement on the region's political status has yet to be adopted, despite a series of agreements under international mediation by Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Russian legislators in 1999 refused to ratify a first Russian-Moldovan treaty -- signed by the two sides back in 1990 -- because of what they called the document's failure to reflect the new situation following Transdniester's secession from Moldova. Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin withdrew the document from the State Duma and negotiations on a new bilateral treaty began soon afterward.
The treaty's completion was stepped up after pro-Russian Communists earlier this year won both parliamentary and presidential elections in Moldova. Upon his election in April, Moldova's Communist President Vladimir Voronin said establishing better ties with Russia was one of his top priorities, along with resolving the Transdniester dispute.
"Having initialed the treaty -- which as you noticed, was a very speedy procedure -- we have entered the final phase," Foreign Minister Dudau said on 5 November. "I hope [Moldovan] President Voronin's visit to Moscow will take place in a short time, where the treaty will be signed. We are also preparing for its ratification in Moldova's parliament and in Russia's State Duma."
Voronin and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to sign the treaty during the Moldovan leader's visit to Moscow scheduled for 18-20 November.
Ivanov and Dudau both said that Moldovan and Russian legislators are likely to ratify the document by an overwhelming majority -- despite a pro- Transdniester lobby in the State Duma. Analysts say the treaty is a disappointment to Transdniester's pro-Russian leaders, who had insisted on having a role in negotiations and wanted the document to mention the existence of a "common state" composed of Moldova and Transdniester as two independent entities.
They also wanted the treaty to state their right to establish separate economic, cultural, and social ties with Russia and to provide for a Russian consulate in Transdniester. But Russia refused to include any of the separatists' demands in the treaty without Moldovan consent.
Diplomat Ion Stavila, Moldova's chief negotiator, told RFE/RL that "representatives from Transdniester came up with suggestions and proposals regarding the treaty during negotiations, but I want to stress that they did not take direct part in the negotiations process."
Transdniester officials were not even invited to the initialing ceremony. A final version of the document was handed to a Transdniester representative by Russian and Moldovan officials only after the ceremony.
At the same time, however, experts say Moldova had to cave in to some demands to reach compromise on the treaty.
Transdniester leaders have always insisted they want Moldova to become a loose confederation of two independent states, despite offers of large autonomy made by Moldova's new communist leadership.
In order to gain official Russian recognition of its independence and territorial integrity, Moldova had to agree that the treaty would include direct mention of Moscow's role as main arbiter and guarantor in the Transdniester dispute. It also agreed to note the "strategic partnership" between Moldova and the Russian Federation.
Furthermore, the document gives the Russian language a more prominent status in a country where some 65 percent of the population of 4 million speaks Moldovan, which is virtually identical to Romanian. Moldova pledges in the treaty to provide "necessary conditions in accordance with Moldovan law" for those who want to study in Russian.
Russia's presence is also felt in the form of the some 2,500 troops, 50,000 weapons, and 40,000 tons of ammunition it maintains in the Transdniester region.
Under a 1999 OSCE agreement signed in Istanbul, Moscow pledged to withdraw its troops and arsenal from Transdniester by the end of next year, but the withdrawal started only in July this year under the auspices of the OSCE.
Ivanov said on 5 November that Russia will honor its commitments under the Istanbul conference and will withdraw both its troops and arms from the Transdniester by the deadline.
In turn, Dudau said Moldova is satisfied with the pace of Russian weapons withdrawal, which he said is one month ahead of schedule.
But so far, only old armaments have been destroyed or removed from the Transdniester region -- and even that has drawn repeated protests by Transdniester leaders and residents.
It is still unclear how Transdniestrians will react if and when the real test -- Russian troop withdrawal -- begins.
Eugen Tomiuc is an RFE/RL correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty