|Sunday, 8 December 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 215, 01-11-13
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 215, 13 November 2001Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Valentin Simuchenkov told Interfax on 10 November that his office has asked its Georgian counterpart to hand over Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev, widely identified as having played a key role in the October infiltration of Chechen fighters and Georgian guerrillas into Abkhazia (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 34, 12 October 2001). The following day, Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, commander of the North Caucasus Military District, told journalists that Gelaev is "definitely" in Georgia. President Putin and Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Vasilev both affirmed on 10 and 12 November respectively that Georgia constitutes a "weak link" in the struggle against international terrorism given that Chechen fighters can retreat unimpeded to Georgian territory whence, Putin claimed, they travel to Turkey and then Afghanistan. But Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze commented the same day that Putin's statement is implausible and reflects badly on Russia, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, for his part, said on 12 November during his traditional Monday radio interview that Chechen fighters are unable to enter Georgia. He added that those Chechens currently staying in the Pankisi gorge in northeastern Georgia are refugees, not fighters. LF
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN PRESIDENT INSPECTS MILITARY POSTS CLOSE TO BORDER WITH AZERBAIJANPresident Robert Kocharian has completed a three-day inspection visit of Armenian military posts located close to Armenia's border with Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 12 November. The presidential press office reported that Kocharian discussed with senior officers existing shortcomings and problems and their causes and said he is "overall satisfied" with the situation. At the same time, Kocharian warned officers "not to content themselves" with their present level of professionalism but to seek to improve their skills. LF
 ARMENIAN ENERGY SECTOR WORKERS DEMAND WAGE ARREARSEnergy sector employees have appealed to Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian to ensure that enterprises in that sector comply with an earlier agreement to pay wage arrears dating back between four and 10 months, Noyan Tapan reported on 12 November. LF
 MAYORS CONSIDER PROSPECTS FOR ARMENIAN-TURKISH COOPERATIONThe mayors of Yerevan and Istanbul, Robert Nazarian and Ali Mufit Gurtuna, met in Paris on 8 November under the aegis of French Senate President Christian Poncelet to discuss the prospects for direct cooperation between their respective cities, Caspian News Agency reported on 12 November quoting the Armenian Foreign Ministry. LF
 ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER COMMENTS ON MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRS' VISITVartan Oskanian told RFE/RL's Armenian Service in Strasbourg on 9 November that on their recent visit to Baku and Yerevan, the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group did not unveil their own amended peace proposal, but sought Armenia's reaction to amendments suggested by Azerbaijan to a broad agreement reached during talks in Paris and Florida this spring between President Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev. Oskanian did not explain the nature of those proposed amendments or say whether Yerevan accepted or rejected them. He said that Armenia is prepared to continue negotiations as long as the "Paris principles" remain intact and serve as the basis for discussion. LF
 AZERBAIJAN TERMS NEW KARABAKH PROPOSALS 'UNACCEPTABLE'The amended Karabakh peace proposal presented on 4 November to President Aliev by the visiting co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group is "unacceptable to Azerbaijan," AP on 9 November quoted presidential administration official Novruz Mamedov as saying. Mamedov reportedly said that proposal does not differ greatly from earlier versions, and that President Aliev continues to insist that any peace plan must take Azerbaijan's national interests into consideration. Mamedov accused Armenia of "adopting an unconstructive position" and refusing to face up to political reality, according to Turan. On 10 November, the Baku daily "Ekho" as cited by Groong criticized the statement released by the co-chairmen in Yerevan two days earlier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 2001). They questioned the co-chairs' assertion that the majority of Azerbaijanis favor a peaceful solution to the conflict and condemned the fact that they referred to the capital of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic by its Armenian name (Stepanakert) rather than its Azerbaijani name (Khankendi). LF
 AZERBAIJAN EXTRADITES ANOTHER EGYPTIAN TERRORIST SUSPECTAn Egyptian citizen apprehended in Azerbaijan on suspicion of involvement in international terrorism was handed over to Egyptian officials at Baku airport on 8 November, Turan and Interfax reported the following day. He is the third suspected terrorist to be extradited to Egypt in recent weeks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 25 October 2001). LF
 AZERBAIJANI DIASPORA GATHERING TAKES PLACE IN BAKUSome 1,150 delegates from 36 countries attended the first World Congress of Azerbaijanis in Baku on 9-10 November, Turan reported. There were no representatives from Iran, which has the largest emigre Azerbaijani community, nor were members of Azerbaijani opposition parties invited to attend the congress. In an address to participants, Azerbaijan's President Aliev appealed to Azerbaijanis world-wide to close ranks, and reaffirmed his commitment to a peaceful solution to the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported. Delegates adopted an appeal to the international community to intensify efforts to reach a solution to that conflict, and condemned what they termed Armenia's "groundless territorial claims" against Azerbaijan and the killing by Armenian troops in Khodjali in February 1992 of "thousands" of Azerbaijani civilians. LF
 AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION AGAIN CALLS ON PRESIDENT TO RESIGNSome 1,500-2,000 people attended a rally in Baku on 10 November convened by the opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, Turan reported. Participants at the rally, which was sanctioned by the municipal authorities, again demanded the resignation of President Aliev and condemned the authorities for their corruption and indifference to human rights, and their "defeatist" Karabakh policy. Police observed the rally but did not intervene. LF
 GEORGIAN, TURKISH PRESIDENTS REAFFIRM STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPVisiting Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and his Georgian counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze expressed satisfaction on 9 November that bilateral relations between their two countries can be characterized as a "strategic partnership," and that their positions on numerous international issues, including fighting international terrorism, coincide. The two presidents reviewed strategic joint projects, including the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum gas pipeline, the Tbilisi-Kars railway, and the Poti-Rize undersea fiber-optic cable. Sezer affirmed his support for Georgia's territorial integrity and called on Russia to comply with its commitment made at the 1999 OSCE Istanbul summit to close its military bases in Georgia, Interfax reported. Shevardnadze proposed that Turkey, which has a sizeable Abkhaz minority, should supply peacekeepers to serve in Abkhazia should the UN agree to provide a peacekeeping force to replace the CIS contingent currently deployed in the Abkhaz conflict zone, ITAR- TASS reported. LF
 GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS NEW SPEAKER AT SECOND ATTEMPT...During a marathon session that ended in the early morning of 10 November, deputies finally elected Nino Burdjanadze, a 37-year-old lawyer and chair of the parliamentary Commission on International Relations, to succeed Zurab Zhvania as parliament speaker. In a first round of voting, none of the three candidates received the required two-thirds majority: Burdjanadze polled 104 votes of a possible 235, former Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze 71, and opposition Revival Union faction leader Djemal Gogitidze 52. In the second, subsequent round, which was decided by a simple majority, Burdjanadze received 129 votes and Lortkipanidze 98. Burdjanadze pledged on 10 November to do all in her power to defuse tensions and create a "non-confrontational atmosphere" within the legislature, Caucasus Press reported. ITAR-TASS quoted her as saying that she will not represent the interests of any single parliament faction. She also said that as a member of Zhvania's "team" she is aware of mistakes committed by that team in recent years, and that her "respect and loyalty" for President Shevardnadze will not lead her to agree to "compromises that are not acceptable to the country." LF
 ...AMID CHARGES OF FOUL PLAYThe Georgian Prosecutor-General's Office has opened a criminal case in connection with the discovery on 9 November that the voting papers distributed to parliament deputies for the secret ballot for a new speaker were marked in invisible ink with the numbers 1-235, Caucasus Press reported. The vote took place only after new ballot papers were printed. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SUBMITS NEW GOVERNMENT LINEUP, PROPOSES PARLIAMENTARY REFORMPresident Shevardnadze submitted to parliament on 12 November a proposal to reduce the number of ministries from 19 to 15, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. At the same time, he rejected calls by some opposition politicians for the abolition of the presidency and the institution of a parliamentary republic. Two days earlier, Shevardnadze said he plans to renominate several members of the outgoing government, including Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili, to their old posts. He said that the minister of state will be a young man who is well-acquainted with the present situation, but did not name him. On 12 November, parliament speaker Burdjanadze said she will discuss Shevardnadze's proposed ministerial candidates with the heads of parliament factions on 13 November. The former majority Union of Citizens of Georgia faction expressed reservations on 12 November over some of Shevardnadze's nominees, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze has also proposed the introduction of a bicameral parliament with a total of no more than 80-90 deputies instead of the present 235, "Akhali taoba" reported. LF
 GEORGIAN FINANCE OFFICIAL RULES OUT SECOND BUDGET SEQUESTERSpeaking at a press conference in Tbilisi on 12 November, the head of the Georgian Finance Ministry's Treasury Service, Levan Kistauri, rejected as unlikely presidential advisor Giorgi Isakadze's prediction that a second budget sequester may become necessary, Caucasus Press reported. Kistauri said further cuts will not be needed provided that revenue targets are met in November and December. Parliament voted last month to cut spending by 164.6 million laris ($79.1 million), or 15 percent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 24 October 2001). LF
 KAZAKHSTAN WILL NOT REDUCE OIL PRODUCTIONKazakhstan does not plan to cut oil production despite OPEC's appeal to independent producers to do so, Deputy Prime Minister Uraz Djandosov told journalists in Astana on 12 November, Interfax reported. Djandosov pointed out that the Kazakh government's ability to cut production is minimal as it fully controls only KazakhOil, which produces only 6.5 million tons of the estimated 40 million tons to be extracted in Kazakhstan this year. The balance is produced by independent, mostly foreign-owned consortia. LF
 FIRST AID CONVOY LEAVES KYRGYZSTAN FOR AFGHANISTANA convoy of 30 trucks carrying 150 metric tons of flour and vegetable oil left the town of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan for Faizabad in Afghanistan on 10 November, AP reported. LF
 TAJIK, RUSSIAN, UZBEK PRESIDENTS CONSULT BY TELEPHONEIn separate telephone conversations on 12 November, Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmonov discussed with his Russian and Uzbek counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Islam Karimov, coordinating activities connected with the ongoing international antiterrorism strikes against Afghanistan and the dispatch of humanitarian aid to that country, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin also discussed the antiterrorism campaign and post-crisis settlement in Afghanistan with Karimov. LF
 FRANCE TO OPEN DIPLOMATIC REPRESENTATION IN TAJIKISTANFrance will open a diplomatic mission in Tajikistan this week in order "to reinforce our dialogue with Tajikistan on the management and settlement of the Afghan crisis," Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told journalists on 9 November, AP reported. Pascal Maubert has been named to head that mission. LF
 U.S., TURKMEN DIPLOMATS DISCUSS AID FOR AFGHANISTANVisiting U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Lynn Pascoe met with Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov in Ashgabat on 9 November to discuss the fight against terrorism and the shipment of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, Interfax reported. A planned meeting between Pascoe and Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov was cancelled for reasons unknown. On 12 November, Reuters quoted USAID official Andrew Natsios as saying that until Uzbekistan opens the border bridge across the Amu-Darya at Termez, Turkmenistan will remain the single most important transit country for aid shipments to Afghanistan. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 ETHNIC ALBANIANS FREE MACEDONIAN HOSTAGES...Guerrillas belonging to the extremist Albanian National Army (AKSH) freed 39 Macedonian civilians in the Tetovo area on 12 November, Reuters reported. The Albanians took the hostages the previous day after hard-line Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski sent members of a paramilitary police unit into the Trebos area, which was formerly held by the National Liberation Army (UCK), and arrested seven Albanians (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 30 October 2001). Well-armed Albanians thereupon killed three of the policemen in an ambush in the single most violent incident since the signing of the peace accord on 13 August. The paramilitary police ostensibly entered the area to protect a mass grave of a dozen Macedonian civilians, the existence of which many international and Albanian observers doubt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 2001). Boskovski sent the paramilitary police into the tense area without coordinating the action with international monitors, as previously agreed. He also did so in the absence of a parliamentary amnesty for former UCK fighters. Many ex- guerrillas fear mass arrests without a formal amnesty. PM
 ...AFTER MACEDONIAN HARD-LINERS STAGE PROVOCATIONAn unnamed Western diplomat told the "Financial Times" of 13 November regarding the developments in Trebos: "This is a very deliberate provocation. Boskovski is trying to escalate the situation to score political points and delay the vote" scheduled for January, because his party is doing very poorly in the polls (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 November 2001). Boskovski belongs to Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski's nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE). Some reports say the paramilitary police unit sent into Trebos is part of the so-called Lions, a contingent which is close to the VMRO-DPMNE. Following the incident, President Boris Trajkovski received telephone calls from U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and other members of the international community, Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service reported on 13 November. PM
 MACEDONIAN MINISTER DEFIANT AGAINST WEST, ALBANIANSBoskovski said in the Tetovo area on 12 November that "we are in the second half of the war now" against "terrorists and bandits" of the Albanian community, Reuters reported. He stressed that "Macedonia is a sovereign state, and we cannot have the attitude of a protectorate" toward the international community. He referred to the previous achievements in the peace process as "a farce," RFE/RL reported. Meanwhile, "hundreds of Macedonian special forces were deployed to surround the Tetovo villages of Neprosteno and Trebos" on 12 November, dpa reported. But an unnamed senior police official told Reuters, "We are reducing the number of police [in the flashpoint area] at the request of Amber Fox," which is NATO's current mission in Macedonia. For his part, AKSH spokesman Alban Berisha called the 13 August peace agreement a "waste of time," dpa reported. He stressed that there will be war until the Albanians are granted full equality within Macedonia. If that fails to materialize, he said, "There will be only one topic of discussion: borders." PM
 MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT AGAIN DELAYS DEBATE ON REFORMSPresident Trajkovski's office said in a statement that, "The most important thing is to adopt the constitutional changes as soon as possible and not allow the further spread of the armed conflict and violation of the cease- fire," AP reported from Skopje on 13 November. Parliament speaker Stojan Andov called a session of the legislature for noon that day after the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD) ended its opposition to the proposed preamble to the constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 2001). A PPD spokesman told dpa that his party decided to change its position after talks with EU envoy Alain Le Roy and in view of the latest violence. But on the morning of 13 November, Andov announced a postponement of the legislative session until after the funeral of deputy Gjorgji Kotevski, who died in a traffic accident near Prilep that morning, AP reported. PM
 SOCIAL DEMOCRATS SET TO LEAVE MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT...The leader of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), Branko Crvenkovski, confirmed that his party will leave the broad-based coalition government as soon as the parliament has implemented the 13 August Ohrid peace agreement, the Skopje daily "Dnevnik" reported on 10 November. "It is true that we plan to leave the government, but we do not know whether this will happen next week. We do not want to jeopardize the implementation of the peace agreement," the party's deputy leader and Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski is quoted as saying. Buckovski added that his party is unhappy with the work of the current government (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 November 2001). According to the newspaper, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Socialist Party (SPM) will withdraw their ministers once the SDSM does the same. UB
 ...WHILE PRIME MINISTER LOOKS FOR NEW COALITION PARTNERSGeorgievski told journalists on a visit to the Makstil steel plant that his party is in contact with potential new coalition partners, the daily "Nova Makedonija" reported on 10 November (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 November 2001). According to "Dnevnik," it is likely that Georgievski will try to form a new government together with his conservative former coalition partners from the Democratic Alternative (DA), Andov's Liberal Party (LP), and the defectors from his own party now known as the "real" VMRO (VMRO-VMRO). There are also rumors that New Democracy (ND) and Arben Xhaferi's Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH) will be invited to join the new cabinet. UB
 YUGOSLAV ADMIRAL SURRENDERS TO HAGUE TRIBUNALFormer Yugoslav Admiral Miodrag Jokic arrived in The Hague on 13 November accompanied by Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2001). Jokic decided to surrender to face charges stemming from the 1991 shelling of Dubrovnik lest he be arrested "on the street or in a market," Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service reported. Before leaving Belgrade for the Netherlands, Jokic stressed: "There is nothing I should be ashamed of. I made this decision myself. As a soldier and as an admiral I carried out my duties professionally and conscientiously according to the rules of international law," RFE/RL reported. Mihajlovic said, "Jokic took the decision to cooperate with The Hague himself voluntarily. I am going with him to show respect for his courageous decisions and to show that the Serbian government stands behind him." The minister added that the government is prepared to provide the same guarantees for his pre-trial release as it did for former Bosnian Serb leader Biljana Plavsic, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 SERBIAN ELITE POLICE 'MUTINY' OVER COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE...More than 100 members of the Red Berets paramilitary police blocked a main road into Belgrade with armored vehicles on 12 November until late afternoon, Reuters reported. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" called the action "a mutiny." The men say they are angry that some of them were recently "tricked" by the Interior Ministry into arresting two Bosnian Serb brothers who were then extradited to The Hague (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 2001). Red Berets say that those carrying out the arrests had been told that that the brothers were common criminals. The protesters want Serbian Interior Minister Mihajlovic to resign. They also demand passage of a law to clarify relations with The Hague. "Vesti" noted that the Red Berets appeared in public without their usual ski masks. Many citizens cheered the men, who attended a Serbian Orthodox service in uniform. PM
 ...AS LARGER ISSUES LOOMSerbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said on 11 November in Belgrade that the police should keep out of politics and stressed that his government will continue its cooperation with The Hague, Reuters reported. He then went to the Red Beret base at Kula but failed to dissuade paramilitary police there from going ahead with their plans to block traffic. Many in the government fear that the protest could become a rallying point for Serbs who agree with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, who has said that the tribunal is an anti-Serbian instrument of U.S. foreign policy. Critics note that the government has repeatedly delayed enacting legislation on cooperation with The Hague. Mihajlovic said that the real reason for many of the Red Berets' anger is that they have heard rumors that some of them have been indicted by the tribunal for war crimes in Croatia, Bosnia, or Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 12 November. PM
 HAGUE STUDIES THIRD INDICTMENT AGAINST SERBIAN EX-LEADERExperts at The Hague-based war crimes tribunal have given prosecutors a proposed third indictment against former President Slobodan Milosevic, this time for crimes committed in Bosnia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 12 November. He has previously been indicted for atrocities in Kosova and Croatia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 October 2001). PM
 ROBERTSON TELLS SLOVENES: YOU'RE NOT READY FOR NATOIn Brdo Pri Kranju, Slovenia, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson told his hosts on 12 November that they should concentrate on "producing armed forces which are usable and deployable," AP reported. Repeating a theme he has stated before, Robertson said Slovenia has "a good record, but the work still has to be done." Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek argued that his country is doing its best. He added that Slovenia's best contribution to NATO could be its geographic location. PM
 ALBANIAN GOVERNING PARTY SET TO SPLIT?Socialist Party Chairman Fatos Nano has criticized the government headed by his own party as being linked to smugglers and drug traffickers, dpa reported from Tirana on 12 November. Nano accused Prime Minister Ilir Meta of "ruling Albania with fascist methods. He has used dirty money to maintain power." Meta denied the charges, saying that they are the remarks of "an irresponsible politician." The daily "Koha Jone" wrote that a split in the party seems inevitable. Recently, Nano failed to stop Meta's bid for a new term in office and to secure party backing to succeed President Rexhep Meidani (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 7 and 18 September 2001). PM
 ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT STARTS DEBATING 2002 BUDGET...The parliament on 12 November began debating the 2002 budget after hearing Premier Adrian Nastase's presentation of its main elements, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. It is the first time since 1989 that an incumbent government has presented a draft bill on the budget within the time frame stipulated by law. The budget foresees a 3 percent deficit, a 5 percent increase in GDP, and an inflation rate of 22 percent. The opposition National Liberal Party (PNL) and Democratic Party said they will vote against the budget. The Greater Romania Party also criticized the budget parameters but did not say whether its deputies will vote for or against it. The Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania announced that it will support the bill, as did the parliamentary group representing other national minorities. MS
 ...AMID PROTESTS FROM TEACHERSSome 1,000 teachers, researchers, and civil servants protested outside the Senate building in Bucharest on 12 November against the austerity budget and demanded a wage increase, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The protesters said the budget for education should be increased to at least 6 percent of GDP. Premier Nastase said demands for better wages are justified but that it is necessary to search for "concrete solutions" within the current restrictions on the deficit agreed upon with the International Monetary Fund. MS
 ROMANIAN PARTIES SIGN MERGER AGREEMENTThe PNL and the extraparliamentary Alliance for Romania (APR) signed a merger agreement on 9 November, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The agreement stipulates that the merger take effect on 19 January 2002, after approval by extraordinary congresses of the two parties. The merged group will be called PNL. The APR will be represented in the merged formation's leadership by a PNL first deputy chairman's seat (most probably former Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu) and will have three representatives in the PNL Standing Central Bureau. MS
 ROMANIAN CABINET EXTENDS TERM FOR PROPERTY RESTITUTION CLAIMSThe cabinet on 9 November extended by three months the term for submitting property-restitution requests, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. This is the second time the term has been extended, and the move follows demands voiced by representatives of U.S. Jewish communities during Premier Nastase's recent visit to that country. The deadline for submitting claims is now 15 February 2002. The government also decided that refugees in Romania will be granted the right to free education and to work. MS
 ROMANIA CONSIDERS REDUCING COMPULSORY MILITARY SERVICEChief of Staff General Mircea Popescu said on 10 November that the current compulsory military service of between six and 18 months may be reduced to between four and 12 months by 2003, Mediafax reported. The parliament must approve that decision. Popescu said women could serve as volunteers if they wished. He added that if the Senate approves a bill on alternative military service, the length of that service will be double the normal length. Popescu also announced that 15 officers will be promoted from the rank of colonel to that of general on Romania's national day on 1 December. MS
 RUSSIANS WITHDRAW ARSENAL FROM TRANSDNIESTERTwo freight trains carrying mainly Russian artillery equipment left the separatist region on 9 and 12 November, Moldovan and Russian media reported. The commander of the Russian contingent, General Valerii Yevnevich, told ITAR-TASS on 9 November that a total of four such freight trains evacuating "armored personnel carriers, artillery guns, and other materiel" are to leave before the end of this week. The evacuation is in line with the agreements reached at the OSCE's November 1999 Istanbul summit. In 1999 and early 2000, Moscow withdrew several trainloads of engineering and non-combat equipment from Transdniester. MS
 MOLDOVAN EXTRAPARLIAMENTARY PARTIES AGREE ON MERGERFive extraparliamentary parties agreed on 10 November to merge and to hold their unification congress on 8 December, Infotag reported on 12 November. The five formations are former President Mircea Snegur's Party of Revival and Reconciliation, the Party of Democratic Forces led by Valeriu Matei, the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic headed by Valeriu Muravschi, the New National Party of Moldova, and the Party of Civic Dignity. MS
 LOW PARTICIPATION MARS BULGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL POLLAn apathetic Bulgarian electorate stayed away from the presidential poll on 11 November, and a computer failure made it impossible for official preliminary results to be announced the next day as expected, BTA reported. Voter turnout was 39.2 percent, making the contest the first presidential election that failed to meet the constitutional requirement of at least 50 percent voter participation. Unofficial exit polls put Georgi Parvanov, the Coalition for Bulgaria candidate, slightly ahead of incumbent President Petar Stoyanov with about 35 to 36 percent to Stoyanov's 34 to 35 percent. Both the low turnout and the failure of any candidate to garner 50 percent or more of the vote means that a runoff will be held on 18 November between Stoyanov and Parvanov. Due to the computer failure, the Central Electoral Commission postponed the announcement of preliminary results to 14 November. Before the elections, Stoyanov was tipped by some pollsters to win by a considerable margin in the first round, while others put him far ahead in a runoff (see also "End Note" below). MS
 BULGARIAN PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS REACT TO OUTCOMEPresident Stoyanov, who was backed by both the ruling National Movement Simeon II and the opposition United Democratic Forces though running as an independent, said he expects to win the runoff and hopes to rally more voters to cast their ballots. He also said he will challenge Parvanov to a televised debate. Parvanov said the electoral outcome shows the Bulgarian people "want a new president who is not linked to the failures of the previous government and has proven his moral and political integrity." Former Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev, who garnered around 20 percent and finished third, said Bulgarians had cast a "negative vote" by staying away from the polls and added that the low turnout shows the presidential institution "has lost its prestige." Bonev said he will not make any recommendation to his supporters on how to vote on 18 November. All other presidential candidates scored far less than Stoyanov, Parvanov, or Bonev. MS
[C] END NOTE
 BULGARIA'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION GOES INTO RUNOFFBy Julia Guechakov
Bulgarian voters will go to the polls for a second time on 18 November to elect a president after the 11 November ballot failed to draw the minimum 50 percent of registered voters. Georgi Parvanov, the leader of the once- communist Socialist Party, who ran as the candidate for the Coalition for Bulgaria alliance, fared better than expected and will face incumbent Petar Stoyanov in a runoff that is likely to be close.
The 11 November vote pitted Stoyanov, the favored candidate, who ran as an independent, against Parvanov, Bogomil Bonev of the small center-right Civic Party, and three other candidates. Preliminary results released late on 12 November show Stoyanov and Parvanov neck and neck with 35.5 and 36.5 percent of the vote respectively. Bonev placed third at about 19 percent, while the three remaining candidates each polled less than 10 percent. Final results are due on 14 November.
But nearly two-thirds of Bulgaria's 6.8 million voters, angry at unfulfilled promises of higher living standards and allegations of corruption, stayed away from the polls: the Central Electoral Commission said just 39 percent of the electorate cast ballots. The Bulgarian Constitution stipulates that for a first-round election to be valid, turnout must exceed 50 percent of registered voters and one candidate must obtain at least 50 percent of the vote. In a runoff, there is no requirement for voter participation. Whoever wins more than half the votes is president.
The presidency is largely a figurehead position and a low turnout had been expected. But the participation rate, the lowest since the fall of communism more than a decade ago, went beyond the worst projections.
Stoyanov had been widely expected to win by a comfortable margin -- and possibly even an outright victory -- in the first round. At press conferences late on 11 November, candidates sought to assign blame for the low turnout, which Parvanov said marked a "collapse of public trust" in the political establishment. "People no longer want the status quo. People want change and we are gratified that a considerable number of voters see us as [the force to carry out] that change," Parvanov said.
Until the parliamentary elections in June, Bulgaria had been ruled by a succession of governments from the Socialist Party and the center-right Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) since the fall of communism. However, both major parties performed poorly in that vote, which brought to power a right- leaning coalition led by the former king and now prime minister, Simeon Saxegoburggotski.
Parvanov said the outcome on 11 November marked a "necessary, albeit small rehabilitation" of the political left.
Stoyanov for his part said voters stayed away from the polls because their real concerns were not addressed in the pre-election debate. "Before the first round, a relevant political debate about the concerns of Bulgarian citizens and the future of Bulgaria did not take place," he claimed.
Stoyanov, running for a second five-year term as an independent, had the backing both of the opposition SDS and the former king's ruling coalition. Paradoxically, the support of those two major parties may have undermined his chances of winning.
Stoyanov, once an SDS member, won his first term in 1996 on the SDS ticket. Hard-line SDS supporters now blame him for distancing himself from the party while other voters linked him to the shortcomings of the previous SDS government. There was also widespread speculation -- denied by the ruling coalition -- that the support expressed for Stoyanov by the former monarch was not wholehearted. Stoyanov acknowledged that support may have been wavering, but he said he is confident all that will change now that he faces the Socialist leader.
"I do believe that I can mobilize a significant number of supporters of the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV). As to the SDS, I am almost convinced that if until now some of the SDS hard-line supporters have been wavering, in the runoff they will no longer waver because now the [political] picture is absolutely clear," Stoyanov affirmed.
Analysts say the low turnout may have played in Parvanov's favor, as Socialist supporters are more united. By contrast, the SDS is still in disarray following its defeat in the June general election, while the former king's NDSV still has no party structures.
Mud-slinging accusations of corruption on the eve of the election may have further alienated voters.
Bonev, a former interior minister, accused Stoyanov of accepting donations from a shadowy business company. The incumbent president, in turn, revealed a secret intelligence report alleging that Bonev had maintained corrupt business links while in office in 1997-1999. Parvanov stayed out of the fray.
Bonev on 11 November blamed Stoyanov for having devalued the institution of the presidency over the past five years to the point that people "decided it simply carries no weight," and consequently did not bother to turn out to vote. Bonev's Civic Party is not represented in parliament. But his relatively strong showing on 11 November indicates he may become a figure to be reckoned with in the future.
The powers of the presidency are limited under Bulgaria's Constitution as a parliamentary republic. But the office does carry moral authority and influences the country's image abroad. During his five years in office, Stoyanov worked hard toward achieving Bulgaria's goals of membership in NATO and the European Union. Parvanov says he shares those priorities.
Julia Guechakov is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty