|Sunday, 17 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, 02-12-09
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
 RUSSIA, NATO LINE UP IN WAR ON TERRORISM...Russia is NATO's "first partner" in combating international terrorism, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson told a conference in Moscow on 9 December, strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. Robertson added that the war on terrorism is the top-priority task of the Russia-NATO Council, although he noted that the international community must "more actively struggle with terrorism." "It is our duty to protect civilian populations from terrorist acts," Robertson said. Speaking at the same conference, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that military action will be "an absolutely unavoidable means" of fighting terrorism, although it must be a last resort, RTR reported on 9 December. Ivanov added that terrorism is "increasingly becoming a carefully coordinated mass phenomenon uniting a broad specter of radical and extremist organizations capable of...carrying out broad-scale terrorist wars in any region of the world." RC
 ...AS PUTIN STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF PRACTICAL MEASURES...NATO Secretary-General Robertson met in Moscow on 9 December with President Vladimir Putin and informed him that NATO's recent decision to invite seven new countries to join the alliance will help the international community to cope with new threats and will enhance Russia's national security, ITAR-TASS and other news agencies reported. Both Putin and Robertson stressed the importance of "practical work" in developing Russia-NATO cooperation. "Relations within the framework of the Russia-NATO Council are developing actively, and we are satisfied that we have passed over from discussions to action," Putin said after the meeting. Putin, however, also stressed that political dialogue rather than military force "must remain the most important instrument for resolving" international conflicts, ITAR-TASS reported. RC
 ...AND DEFENSE MINISTER HOPES FOR COOPERATION ON ANTIMISSILE DEFENSEIvanov on 9 December told journalists at the Moscow conference that he believes the prospects for cooperation between NATO and Russia on the construction of a European missile-defense system are good, RIA-Novosti reported. Ivanov said that terrorists are making constant efforts to acquire "short- and medium-range missiles." "In this connection, Russia and other countries have for several years conducted consultations on the development of a European antimissile system," Ivanov said. NATO Secretary-General Robertson also commented that cooperation between NATO and Russia in this area is "serious and positive." RC
 MINISTER ADVOCATES CONTROL OVER NUCLEAR-FUEL IMPORTSSpeaking to a group of environmental activists in Moscow on 9 December, Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev said that he supports the creation of a parliamentary control commission to oversee his ministry's project to import spent nuclear fuel for reprocessing, strana.ru reported. He said that such a commission "would be presented with all documents related to the technology of handling spent nuclear fuel and all accounts and normative data, which would make these projects ecologically transparent to the public." According to ITAR-TASS, Rumyantsev said that his ministry will conduct regular meetings with representatives of all of the regions directly affected by the plans to import and reprocess spent nuclear fuel. RC
 RUSSIA ASKS U.S. TO LIST CHECHENS AS TERRORISTSForeign Minister Igor Ivanov has held telephone consultations with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and asked Powell to include a number of unspecified Chechen groups on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations, RIA-Novosti reported on 9 December, citing the Foreign Ministry's press office. The two men also discussed the fulfillment of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 against Iraq and the situation in the Middle East. RC
 LIBERAL RUSSIA DISSIDENTS REINSTATE BEREZOVSKIIMore than 200 members of Liberal Russia unanimously voted tycoon Boris Berezovskii back into the party at an extraordinary congress in St. Petersburg on 7 December, Russian media reported. They also voted to remove Sergei Yushenkov, Viktor Pokhmelkin, and Boris Zolotukhin as co-chairmen of the party. However, Yushenkov told Ekho Moskvy that the congress had no political or legal significance. In October, Liberal Russia leaders expelled Berezovskii, the party's main financial backer and a party co-chairman, to the dismay of party activists in many regions. They later dissolved the party's St. Petersburg branch when members there began planning to hold an extraordinary congress (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 October and 12 November 2002). According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" -- which is controlled by Berezovskii -- on 9 December, more than 40 regional branches of the party participated in the St. Petersburg congress. The daily also noted that Deputy Justice Minister Yevgenii Sidorenko stated on 5 December that holding the congress would be illegal, according to an Interfax report. "Never before has the government so openly interfered in an intra-party dispute," the daily commented. LB/RC
 ST. PETERSBURG ELECTIONS SEEN AS BLOW TO GOVERNOR'S HOPES...Legislative elections on 8 December in St. Petersburg were declared valid in all 50 districts, despite earlier predictions of low voter turnout, Russian news agencies reported on 9 December. Average voter turnout was over 28 percent, ITAR-TASS reported, while 20 percent is required for valid polls. According to preliminary results, incumbent deputies retained their seats in about two-thirds of the districts. Legislative Assembly Speaker Sergei Tarasov and Deputy Sergei Nikeshin -- who are considered political opponents of Governor Vladimir Yakovlev -- are among those returned for an additional term, RosBalt reported. Final results were expected by 8 p.m. Moscow time on 9 December, ITAR-TASS reported. Gazeta.ru interpreted the preliminary results as a blow to Yakovlev, who reportedly wants to amend the city charter to allow him to seek a third term. "It can be said that the legislature, which never felt much love for the Petersburg governor, will retain its previous appearance," the website commented. "And this means that it will be practically impossible for Yakovlev to get the deputies to agree to his participation in the 2004 election." RC
 ...AS NEWSPAPER CRIES FOULAccording to lenta.ru, false versions of the national newspaper "Sovershenno sekretno" and the local version of "Versiya" with articles about the elections appeared shortly before the vote. On 6 December, the company that owns the papers distributed a press release warning readers of the false newspapers and promising to investigate and report on the incident. RC
 GOVERNOR'S MAN TAKES OVER IN NOVGORODNovgorod Oblast Deputy Governor Nikolai Grazhdankin was elected mayor of Novgorod on 8 December, receiving just over 40 percent of the vote, RosBalt and other Russian news agencies reported on 9 December. Communist candidate Valerii Gaidym came in second with 26.3 percent, and acting Mayor Sergei Lobach took third with 19.49 percent. Grazhdankin's win has been seen as a significant victory for Novgorod Oblast Governor Mikhail Prusak (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 December 2002). RC
 ALTAI, NOVOSIBIRSK ELECTIONS VALIDLocal legislative elections in all 207 districts in the Altai Republic on 8 December were declared valid, RIA-Novosti reported, citing local elections commission representative Valentina Gilimshina. Average turnout was 25 percent, and results will be announced in about one week. Local legislative elections the same day in Novosibirsk Oblast were also declared valid in all 166 districts, regnum.ru reported. Final results of the poll will be announced on 11 December. RC
 FAR EAST MAYOR FINDS HIMSELF IN HOT WATERCitizens of the Far Eastern town of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii have collected 24,000 signatures on a petition calling for a referendum on removing Mayor Yurii Golenshchev, RBK reported on 9 December. According to the report, 8,000 signatures are sufficient to force the authorities to hold a referendum. On 25 November, 1,100 municipal workers began a strike over wage arrears, meaning that in many districts garbage has not been collected, snow has not been cleared, and no plumbing or heating repairs have been carried out, RIA-Novosti reported on 9 December. On 5 December, the oblast legislature held hearings about the situation that were attended by Kamchatka Oblast Governor Mikhail Mashkovtsev and State Duma Deputy Valerii Dorogin, regnum.ru reported on 6 December. Deputies passed a resolution asking for Golenshchev to resign. According to RIA-Novosti, a criminal investigation into the delayed salary payments has been launched. RC
 AIR-TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS END HUNGER STRIKEAir-traffic controllers agreed to end a nine-day hunger strike on 7 December after representatives of the Russian State Corporation on Managing Air Travel offered wage increases of 10-15 percent, RTR and other Russian news agencies reported. Air-traffic controllers in the Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous Okrug began the hunger strike on 29 November, and the protest quickly spread to other regions, including Novosibirsk, Omsk, Rostov-na-Donu, Vologda, and Tyumen. Air-traffic controllers do not have the right to strike in Russia, since they are defined as "workers of the strategic transportation infrastructure." However, according to "Vremya novostei" on 6 December, the controllers did not officially go on strike. Instead, they continued to come to work but refused to eat. When they became too weak physically to meet occupational standards, they were automatically put on leave. LB
 REPORTS OF PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S ILLNESS DENIEDThe Prosecutor-General's Office on 9 December denied widespread media reports that Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov was hospitalized over the weekend for a "serious heart ailment," lenta.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. "Gazeta" had reported that Ustinov -- who was hospitalized in August for an attack of high blood pressure (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 2002) -- was in critical condition in intensive care at Moscow's Central Clinical Hospital. RC
 ANOTHER PARLIAMENT DEPUTY MURDERED IN DAGHESTANDeputy Minister of Industry and Trade Salam Magomedov, who was a member of Daghestan's legislature, was shot dead in his car in Makhachkala on the evening of 4 December, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 6 December. He is at least the eighth parliament deputy to be murdered in Daghestan over the past 10 years. The motive for the killing is believed to be connected with Magomadov's business activities: He and his brother owned a large company supplying electrical equipment, household appliances, and automobiles. LF
 U.S. AMBASSADOR CONCERNED OVER PLIGHT OF CHECHEN DISPLACED PERSONSDuring a 6 December meeting with Minister for Chechen Affairs Stanislav Ilyasov, U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow expressed concern at media reports that camps in Ingushetia for displaced persons are being closed and the residents forcibly sent back to Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2, 5, and 6 December 2002). Vershbow also reaffirmed the United States' commitment to resolving the conflict in Chechnya. Ilyasov, for his part, affirmed that the repatriation process is strictly voluntary, according to ITAR-TASS. He said 12,000 Chechens currently in Ingushetia have expressed the wish to return home. LF
 KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA PRESIDENT BACKS PLANNED CHECHEN REFERENDUM, ELECTIONSSpeaking on Ekho Moskvy on 6 December, Vladimir Semenov expressed his approval of plans to hold a referendum in Chechnya on the republic's new constitution, Russian agencies reported. He said the referendum should take place "as early as possible" and will contribute to stabilizing the situation in Chechnya and, by extension, throughout the North Caucasus. It will also pave the way, Semenov added, for the Chechen people to elect a new leadership in whom they trust. He noted that the present Chechen leader was appointed by Moscow, which gives grounds for President Aslan Maskhadov to question his legitimacy. LF
TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 FIFTEEN CANDIDATES NOMINATED FOR ARMENIAN PRESIDENCYA total of 15 candidates were nominated to contest the February 2003 presidential ballot by the 6 December deadline, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 7 December. They must now collect and submit to the Central Election Commission by 31 December at least 35,000 signatures in their support. Contrary to some observers' expectations, former President Levon Ter-Petrossian did not register as a candidate. Petros Makeyan, chairman of the Democratic Fatherland party that is close to Ter-Petrossian's Armenian Pan-National Movement, said he decided to run after it became clear that Ter-Petrossian would not do so. LF
 ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CONDEMNS AZERBAIJAN...In his address to the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Porto, Portugal, on 6 December, Vartan Oskanian harshly criticized Azerbaijan's approach to resolving the Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Expressing appreciation of the "flexibility and wisdom" shown by the OSCE Minsk Group in its efforts to mediate a solution to the conflict, Oskanian at the same time said that Azerbaijan "scandalously and ungratefully denigrates any initiative or solution proposed by any international entity that does not correspond to its maximalist rhetoric." Oskanian again affirmed that at a time when "new borders are being drawn and redrawn in Europe," there are no grounds for Karabakh, which belonged to Azerbaijan only during the Soviet period and is not currently controlled by the Azerbaijani government, "to be part of Azerbaijan tomorrow." He further accused Baku of "aggressive and bellicose statements," of reneging on agreements reached during negotiations on Karabakh, and of continuing to subject Armenia to "economic blackmail." LF
 ...DESPITE VERBAL NON-AGGRESSION PACTArmenian Foreign Ministry officials told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 5 December that during talks in Vienna on 14 November, deputy foreign ministers from Armenia and Azerbaijan had reached agreement that the two sides would avoid trading accusations at the Oporto meeting. But Oskanian told RFE/RL in Oporto that that agreement was "not final." LF
 IRAN TO EXPORT ELECTRICITY TO AZERBAIJAN AND ARMENIAAbdulhussein Fazlollahi, deputy head for coordination and management of Iran's Power Generation and Transmission Organization (Tavanir), said on 8 December that Iran is to export 360 megawatts of power to Azerbaijan and Armenia to alleviate their winter energy shortage, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. Fazlollahi added that Iran imported the same amount of electricity from those two Caucasus republics during the summer. Fazlollahi predicted that up to 500 megawatts of electricity will be transferred to Azerbaijan once new transmission lines become available. BS
 AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATION AGAIN CALLS ON PRESIDENT TO RESIGNThe Union of Azerbaijani Forces -- which comprises the small Vahdat, Social Democratic, and Islamic parties -- staged a rally in Baku on 8 December, at which participants again called for the resignation of the present Azerbaijani leadership, a crackdown on official corruption, free and fair elections, and the release of Islamic Party leaders taken into custody following the 3 June clashes between police and local residents in the village of Nardaran, according to ANS television, as cited by Groong. ANS said the number of participants was lower than at other recent demonstrations (mostly convened by a group of more influential political parties), but attributed the lower attendance to cold weather. Meanwhile, Islamic Party leader Alikram Aliev, who was taken to a detention center hospital ward on 23 November suffering from complications due to diabetes, was sent back to his detention cell on 4 December, Turan reported on 6 December. LF
 AZERBAIJANI OFFICIAL DOWNPLAYS EDITORS' COMPLAINT OF HARASSMENTPresidential administration official Ali Hasanov told Turan on 7 December he considers the appeals addressed by the Union of Editors to the Council of Europe and the OSCE in connection with a wave of law suits against opposition media outlets "a storm in a teacup." The editors appealed on 4 December to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to intervene on their behalf with the Azerbaijani authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 December 2002). A similar appeal was addressed to OSCE representative for media freedom Freimut Duve on 6 December, Turan reported. LF
 GEORGIA CRACKS DOWN ON NORTH CAUCASUS MILITANTS, ILLEGAL ALIENSIn a special operation in the Pankisi Gorge on 6 December, Georgian special forces killed four Karachais and apprehended Yusup Krymshamkalov, whom Russian authorities claim was involved in the 1999 apartment bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk, Russian agencies reported. Two of the men killed were reportedly also suspected of involvement in those attacks. Krymshamkalov was extradited to Russia on 7 December, a move hailed as "constructive" by Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Sergei Fridinskii, Interfax reported. During the night of 6-7 December, Georgian police detained up to 80 people, mostly Chechens but including some Pakistanis and Nigerians, Interfax reported. Most of the Chechens, who included the family of a brother of Chechen presidential envoy Akhmed Zakaev, were subsequently released. Caucasus Press on 9 December quoted an unnamed Georgian security official as saying the detentions were precipitated by reports that Chechen militants planned to assassinate Prosecutor-General Nugzar Gabrichidze. On 9 December, the newspaper "Kviris palitra" quoted National Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania as saying the detentions were intended as a warning to illegal aliens, especially Pakistanis and Nigerians who, he said, are entering Georgia in increasing numbers. He added that many of the Chechen women detained did not have valid visas. LF
 GEORGIAN ECOLOGISTS HIGHLIGHT FURTHER POTENTIAL RISK FROM OIL EXPORT PIPELINEThe carcasses of large numbers of cattle slaughtered after being diagnosed as suffering from brucellosis, anthrax, and other diseases have been buried in the Gardabani, Tetri Tsqaro, and Tsalka raions of southern Georgia through which the planned Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan export pipeline for Caspian oil is to be routed, agro-ecologist Tamaz Turmanidze told journalists on 6 December. He argued that disinterring those remains during construction could spark renewed outbreaks of those diseases. Turmanidze stressed that he does not oppose construction of the pipeline but believes more careful coordination is needed between various ministries to minimize ecological damage. LF
 KAZAKH PRESIDENT SEEKS TO REASSURE FOREIGN INVESTORS...Nursultan Nazarbaev met on 6 December in Astana with representatives of the largest international companies operating in Kazakhstan in an attempt to dispel concern that the Kazakh authorities are seeking to rewrite the terms of some previous agreements, according to Interfax and a 7 December press release from the Kazakh Embassy in Washington. Nazarbaev dismissed such fears as unfounded, saying he seeks only to balance private and state interests, Reuters reported. He pointed out that almost all members of the Foreign Investors Council acknowledge Kazakhstan's normal investment image and "impressive" economic reforms. European Bank for Reconstruction and Development President Jean Lemierre, who co-chairs the Foreign Investors Council, stressed the importance to foreign investors of reform of the judicial system, according to Interfax. LF
 ...WARNS WILL NOT MAKE CONCESSIONS TO TENGIZCHEVROILSpeaking at the same forum on 6 December, Nazarbaev said he hopes for a swift resolution of the dispute between the Kazakh government and Tengizchevroil consortium participants, with whom he met the previous day, Reuters and Interfax reported. Tengizchevroil announced last month it is postponing indefinitely the second phase of development at the Tengiz oil field because of disagreements about how it should be funded (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18, 21, and 22 November 2002). Tengizchevroil wanted to reinvest some $600 million in the second phase, money that the Kazakh government had argued it should pay in taxes. The consortium insisted that no taxes are to be paid on profits until the initial investment has been recouped, according to dpa on 20 November. Nazarbaev made it clear on 6 December that the Kazakh government will not waive its demand for the $600 million tax payment. LF
 RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT DELEGATION MAKES EMERGENCY LANDING IN KAZAKHSTANTwo Russian aircraft carrying some 107 Russian government officials and journalists who had accompanied Russian President Vladimir Putin on his visits to China, India, and Kyrgyzstan were constrained to make an emergency landing on 5 December at Aqtobe in northwest Kazakhstan, reportedly after instruments registered that the aircraft had been refueled in Bishkek with low-octane aviation fuel, Russian agencies reported. The Russian and Kyrgyz governments have set up a joint commission to investigate the incident, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 8 December. Kyrgyz intelligence is analyzing sample of the aviation fuel used by the company Manas International Services to refuel the aircraft in question, according to akipress.org on 6 December. LF
 TAJIK PRESIDENT ENDS VISIT TO FRANCEImomali Rakhmonov rounded off a five-day visit to France on 6 December, meeting with his French counterpart Jacques Chirac, Asia Plus-Blitz and ITAR-TASS reported. Their talks focused on the situation in Central Asia and Afghanistan and the struggle against drug trafficking and international terrorism. Earlier, Rakhmonov met with French Foreign Minster Dominique de Villepin to discuss the French military presence in Tajikistan, and with Ministry of Trade officials and businessmen in a bid to encourage investment, especially in Tajikistan's hydroelectric sector. An agreement on mutual protection of investments and one on cultural and scientific-technical cooperation were signed on 4 December. LF
 EXILED FORMER TURKMEN OFFICIAL DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN BID TO KILL PRESIDENTFormer Turkmen First Deputy Minister of Agriculture Sapar Iklymov told Reuters on 6 December by telephone that while he seeks President Saparmurat Niyazov's ouster, he eschews violence and was not involved in the 25 November bid to assassinate Niyazov. Niyazov has identified Iklymov and three other exiled former senior officials as having organized the attempt on his life (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 6 December 2002). Iklymov said he is ready to return to Turkmenistan to face trial provided that the OSCE guarantees his safety. Also on 6 December, Interfax quoted Niyazov as saying on state-run television that the four alleged ringleaders of the plot would not have been able to implement it on their own. Niyazov refuted Western media reports that he has launched mass arrests of suspected oppositionists in the wake of the assassination attempt, adding that such reports are dictated by plans to deprive Turkmenistan of its neutral status and benefit from its strategic location and vast mineral resources. LF
 UN INVESTIGATOR CONDEMNS 'SYSTEMATIC' USE OF TORTURE IN UZBEKISTANTheo van Boven told journalists in Tashkent on 6 December at the end of a two-week fact-finding visit to Uzbekistan that he has the impression Uzbek police and secret services routinely resort to torture to extract confessions from people under arrest, Reuters reported. He said he is concerned that some people might be sentenced to death or other severe punishment on the basis of testimony extracted through torture "and other illegal means." He noted that Uzbek officials thwarted his plans to visit a secret police jail in Tashkent and curtailed his visit to the Dzhazlyk prison in western Uzbekistan. LF
 ADB APPROVES LOAN TO FUND UZBEK EDUCATION REFORMThe Asian Development Bank approved a $108.5 million loan on 6 December to finance the reform of the Uzbek education system, uzreport.com reported on 8 December. The reform program envisages modernizing the structure and content of education and improving teacher training; improving efficiency by redeploying and retraining administrative staff; reforming the management of the education sector; and providing special assistance to poor families to ensure that children are able to attend school. Up to 6 million children are expected to benefit directly or indirectly from those measures. LF
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
 BELARUS WANTS OSCE MISSION TO STAY OUT OF POLITICSBelarusian Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastou said in Porto on 7 December at a session of the OSCE's Ministerial Council that Belarus is ready to immediately start negotiations with the OSCE on the mandate of its mission in Minsk, Belarusian and international news agencies reported. Khvastou stressed that the OSCE mission should not interfere in Belarus's domestic affairs. "This mission should not be a political player in the political field in Belarus," Reuters quoted Khvastou as saying. Portuguese Foreign Minister Antonio Martins da Cruz, who holds the OSCE's rotating presidency, said Belarus and the OSCE want a mission in Belarus to reopen on 1 January. Talks on the mandate of the mission were scheduled to begin in Vienna on 9 December. JM
 BELARUS SELLS STAKE IN SLAVNEFT FOR $207 MILLIONBelarus has sold its 10.83 percent stake in Russian oil company Slavneft for the equivalent of $207 million to Russia's Sibneft, which is controlled by oligarch Roman Abramovich, the governor of Chukotka, Belapan reported on 6 December. The buyer should transfer the purchase price by 11 December. The Belarusian government reportedly wants to use part of the money earned to pay debts for supplies of Russian energy resources. JM
 BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS SECURITY MAN TO HEAD STATE NEWS AGENCYPresident Alyaksandr Lukashenka has appointed Aleh Pralaskouski as general director of the state-run news agency BELTA, Belapan reported on 6 December. Pralaskouski, a department chief within the Presidential Security Service, will replace Yakau Alyakseychyk, who has headed BELTA since 1988. BELTA was created in 1921 and worked in close cooperation with ITAR-TASS until 1991, when it became the official news agency of the Republic of Belarus. Last week, Lukashenka also appointed a number of ambassadors, including Pavel Latushka, the Foreign Ministry's spokesman, as Belarus's ambassador to Poland. JM
 UKRAINIAN CABINET, PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY SIGN POWER-SHARING DEALPremier Viktor Yanukovych and leaders of the pro-government majority in the Verkhovna Rada on 7 December signed a political accord on cooperation and shared responsibility in exercising power in Ukraine, Ukrainian media reported. "Achievements and mistakes of the new government will now find themselves under close scrutiny by society. They will be assessed as proof of the efficiency or inefficiency of the new administrative system that we are currently working out -- a parliamentary-majority-plus-coalition government," UNIAN quoted President Leonid Kuchma as saying. Kuchma added that no other Ukrainian government started its work accompanied by such political consolidation as Yanukovych's cabinet enjoyed at its inception. JM
 UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS ANTI-MONEY-LAUNDERING BILLPresident Kuchma on 7 December signed into law a bill on combating money laundering, ITAR-TASS reported. The law stipulates that all transactions over 300,000 hryvnyas ($55,600) in the case of noncash operations and 100,000 hryvnyas in the case of cash operations will be monitored by state bodies that include the National Bank and the State Commission for Securities and the Stock Market. In other news, President Kuchma appointed former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko as head of the State Tax Administration and once again requested that parliament replace National Bank Governor Volodymyr Stelmakh with Serhiy Tihipko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 December 2002), UNIAN reported. JM
 TRADE-UNION BOSS QUITS OUR UKRAINE FOR PRO-GOVERNMENT MAJORITYLawmaker Oleksandr Stoyan, head of the Trade Union Federation of Ukraine, has decided to leave the Our Ukraine parliamentary caucus and join the pro-government majority, UNIAN reported on 6 December. "Today I, as the head of the Trade Union Federation, have no reasons to be in opposition to the new coalition government from its first days. I should work with it," Stoyan told journalists of his move. Lawmaker Oleksandr Turchynov of the opposition Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc accused Stoyan of joining the parliamentary majority in order to remain in his trade-union post. "Unfortunately, betrayal in this parliament is becoming a customary phenomenon. For money or posts, some deputies are prepared to abandon their own dignity...and betray their voters," Turchynov said. JM
 ESTONIA'S PRO PATRIA UNION ELECTS NEW CHAIRMANA congress of the right-wing Pro Patria Union in Tartu on 7 December elected parliamentary Deputy Chairman Tunne Kelam as its party chairman, BNS reported. The 66-year-old Kelam, who ran unopposed, received 430 votes with none against and several dozen ballots deemed invalid. The keyword of his program is "open nationalism," which he defines as Estonia and Pro Patria Union being open to all nonethnic Estonians who respect the Estonian language and culture, are loyal to the Estonian state, and consider Estonia their home. He said an increase in civic solidarity and compassionate conservatism are matters of national interest. Immediately after the congress, the party's council elected Peeter Tulviste and Trivimi Velliste as deputy chairmen and Tarmo Loodus as secretary-general. It also approved Kelam, Tulviste, and former party Chairman Mart Laar as the three top names for the March parliamentary elections. SG
 CONFERENCE ON EUROPEAN COOPERATION HELD IN LATVIAN CAPITALThe Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the pro-NATO Latvian Trans-Atlantic Association (LATO), a nongovernmental organization, held an international conference on prospects for cooperation in Eastern and Western Europe in Riga on 6 December, LETA reported. In opening the conference, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said there is still a long way to go before the common dream of stability and security on the entire European continent is achieved. She noted that the expansion of NATO and the European Union help ensure this and extended a special welcome to representatives from Ukraine, Georgia, and other countries seeking to join these organizations. Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, U.S.-NATO Committee Chairman Bruce Jackson, former Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar, Lithuanian Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius, and officials from Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, and Poland participated in the conference. SG
 LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS WITH RUSSIAN COUNTERPARTAt the 10th meeting of the Council of Ministers of the OSCE in Porto, Portugal, on 6-7 December, Antanas Valionis discussed with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov a possible visit to Lithuania by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the second half of 2003, BNS reported. It would mark the first visit to the country by a Russian leader since the restoration of Lithuanian independence. The two foreign ministers also discussed Russian transit through Lithuania to the Kaliningrad Oblast, the signing of a readmission treaty, improving border checkpoints, and the construction of a new bridge over the Nemunas River. SG
 POLISH PREMIER HOPES FOR 'SENSIBLE COMPROMISE' AT EU SUMMITPrime Minister Leszek Miller on 8 December said he believes it will be possible to work out a "sensible compromise" regarding conditions for EU enlargement at the EU summit in Copenhagen on 12-13 December, PAP reported. Commenting on his informal meeting with the premiers of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary in Bratislava on 7 December, Miller said the Visegrad Group countries have decided to cooperate until the conclusion of EU accession talks. "We are convinced that there will be no winners or losers and that the Copenhagen summit will be a success for all of us. It will go down in the history of Europe and the entire world for overcoming the division of Europe," Miller added. On 6 December, Miller met with his Swedish counterpart Goeran Persson in Stockholm. Persson assured Miller that Sweden will support a Danish proposal regarding the financial aid to 10 EU aspirants (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 3 December 2002), according to PAP. JM
 POLISH MINERS SUPPORT GENERAL STRIKESome 95 percent of miners who took part in a referendum on 6 December voted for a general strike in the coal-mining sector, PAP reported on 7 December. The referendum was a joint initiative by 12 mining trade unions that oppose the government's plans to slash jobs and social benefits in the sector under a restructuring scheme (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November 2002). The unions, seemingly hopeful that the results of the referendum will nudge the government toward concessions in talks this week, have not set a strike date. JM
 AGRARIAN DEPUTIES FORM NEW GROUP IN POLISH PARLIAMENTFour former lawmakers of the radical agrarian union Self-Defense -- Dorota Kwasniewska, Wojciech Mojzesowicz, Lech Zielonka, and Waclaw Klukowski -- have registered in the Sejm a new group called the Polish Peasant Bloc, PAP reported on 6 December. "We are certainly antiliberal, and at the moment we will be in the opposition," Klukowski commented. "We definitely want to expand as a party on a nationwide scale." Klukowski also said the members of the new group identify themselves with the program of Self-Defense but added that they left the union in order to avoid "absolute rule" by Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper. In other news, lawmaker Bogdan Pek, who left the Polish Peasant Party and its parliamentary caucus in October 2001, joined the caucus of the League of Polish Families last week. JM
 ISRAELI SOURCES SAID TO WARN OF TERROR THREAT IN CZECH CAPITALIsraeli intelligence has information that terrorist Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network plans to attack Jewish targets in Prague, Reuters reported on 8 December, citing an unidentified Israeli security source. "A specific warning was received recently about plans to attack Jews and Israelis in Prague," Reuters quoted the security source as saying. Czech CTK news agency the same day attributed a report that terrorist attacks are being planned against Israeli tourists in Prague to the Israeli daily "Jediot Achronot." Neither the Israeli Foreign Ministry nor the Czech Interior Ministry has confirmed the existence of a threat. The reports came 10 days after a suicide bombing at a hotel near Mombasa, Kenya, killed 13 Kenyans and three Israelis. Israeli authorities suspect Al-Qaeda was responsible for that attack. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has not issued a travel advisory for Prague, which is a popular tourist destination for Israelis. BW
 CZECH RULING PARTY NOMINATES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE...The Social Democratic Party (CSSD) nominated former Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures as its first-round candidate for president on 7 December, CTK reported the same day. The party thus abandoned a strong potential compromise candidate, Ombudsman Otakar Motejl, who led recent public-opinion polls. Former Prime Minister Milos Zeman, who won a CSSD referendum to steer the party leadership as it picked a candidate, said he supports Bures but would also be willing to run as a second-round candidate. If no successor to President Vaclav Havel is elected in the first set of balloting, the CSSD leadership will convene again to choose a new candidate for the second round. The independent Bures was immediately rejected by other parties, including CSSD's coalition partners from the Christian Democratic Union-People's Party (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union-Democratic Union, CTK reported. The opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) has said it will back the presidential bid of its outgoing chairman, Vaclav Klaus, while the KDU-CSL said it will support Senate President Petr Pithart for the post, according to "Mlada fronta Dnes" of 9 December. BW/AH
 ...AND THUS COMPLICATES THE VOTEThe CSSD selection on 7 December of Bures as its candidate for president is a move some analysts believe will ensure a stalemate in first-round voting on 15 January. Under the constitution, a presidential candidate must be elected by a joint session of the legislature. But pressure for direct elections has increased as parties' willingness wanes to negotiate a compromise successor to Havel, who is scheduled to step down in early 2003. The weekly "Respekt" on 9 December said the CSSD thus "increased the chances that citizens will select a successor to [current President] Vaclav Havel in direct voting in the fall," noting that supporters of former Prime Minister and ex-CSSD Chairman Zeman are eager to see a deadlock and a second set of votes to deliver the position to Zeman. However, the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 9 December called the weekend CSSD vote a Zeman-wing defeat at the hands of current Prime Minister and party Chairman Vladimir Spidla, saying Zeman's supporters are not assured of a second round of voting. AH
 SLOVAK PREMIER CONFIDENT OF FAVORABLE EU TERMSSlovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said on 8 December that he is convinced his country will receive an invitation to join the European Union under favorable conditions at the Copenhagen summit, TASR reported the same day. The premier described his country's current negotiating position as promising but added, "We want even more, and we want to be as successful as possible." Specifically, the Visegrad Four -- whose prime ministers met informally in the Slovak capital the previous day -- want higher subsidies in direct payments for farmers. Dzurinda made his comments after meeting with Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan and Slovakia's chief negotiator with the EU, Jan Figel, to agree on a coordinated approach to their steps before the 12-13 December summit. BW
 LOW TURNOUT MARKS SLOVAK LOCAL VOTINGSlovakia's municipal elections were marked by low turnout, with just 49.51 percent of eligible voters casting ballots in the 6-7 December poll, Slovak and international news agencies reported on 8 December. Official results showed independent candidates winning mayoral posts in 951 towns and cities, about one-third of the total. Incumbents won in four of the nation's eight largest cities, including Real Slovak National Party (PSNS) Chairman Jan Slota, who was re-elected mayor of the northwestern city of Zilina. The new mayor of the Slovak capital, Bratislava, will be Andrej Durkovsky, who previously ran the city's historic Old Town district. BW
 SLOVAK COURT ORDERS PRETRIAL CUSTODY FOR EX-SECURITY CHIEFA Bratislava court on 7 December ordered that former Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) chief Ivan Lexa remain in pretrial custody, TASR reported the same day. Lexa, whose lawyers immediately filed a complaint against the court order, spent two years evading Slovak authorities before being detained by South African police and extradited several months ago on unrelated charges. On 5 December, Lexa was charged with masterminding the car-bomb murder of Robert Remias, a friend of the prosecution's key witness in the case implicating the SIS in the 1995 abduction of then-President Michal Kovac's son (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December 2002). BW
 SLOVAK SAYS HE IS FEELING PRESSURE TO EXIT SLOVAK POLITICSMiklos Duray, a leading pro-Hungarian voice in Slovakia's ruling coalition, said on 6 December that he is feeling pressure to leave politics, TASR reported the same day. Duray, an executive deputy chairman of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), has been a vocal supporter of Hungarian autonomy in Slovakia, a position not shared by his moderate center-right party. Recently, he has also stoked controversy by accusing his party of being controlled by special interest groups. During talks in Budapest on 26 November, Slovak Premier Dzurinda and his Hungarian counterpart Peter Medgyessy failed to reach agreement on a draft amendment to Hungary's Status Act, a controversial law entitling ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia and other neighboring countries to benefits in employment, education, culture, and travel. BW
 HUNGARIAN ULTRANATIONALISTS RALLY AGAINST EU, COURT DECISIONSThe far-right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) held a rally outside parliament on 8 December to protest against the EU after a week of unfavorable court decisions relating to the party, Hungarian media reported. The party launched its campaign against joining the EU under the slogan "In this way, no" because it finds the terms of EU accession unacceptable, Hungarian TV reported. The country's referendum on joining the EU is scheduled for 12 April. At the demonstration, MIEP Chairman Istvan Csurka protested the 18-month suspended sentence given to Deputy Chairman Lorant Hegedus Jr. for an article he wrote about Jews in a local party newspaper (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2002) and a court decision closing one of the party's two Pannon Radio stations, which were broadcasting on the same frequency. Csurka said political pressure was exerted on the court. "This is no longer Hungary, but Palestine," he said. DW
 HUNGARY CLOSES ACCESSION TALKS WITH EUHungary concluded its talks on EU accession in Brussels on 6 December, Hungarian media reported. According to "Nepszabadsag," the EU accepted Hungary's position on the most delicate issue, providing tax breaks to foreign companies, agreeing that benefits already provided do not need to be rescinded when Hungary joins the EU. Hungary accepted a recent Danish proposal for agricultural funding whereby it will receive 25 percent of direct subsidies if the figure is raised to 40 percent from structural funds within three years after joining. Meanwhile, former FIDESZ Prime Minister Viktor Orban told Hungarian radio on 8 December that the EU has never expanded under "such unfavorable conditions" as those under which Hungary is expected join in 2004. He nevertheless pledged to vote in favor of EU entry in the 12 April referendum. DW
 YET ANOTHER SERBIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION FAILSThe presidential vote held on 8 December appears to be invalid since fewer than the required 50 percent of registered voters turned out to cast their ballots, international and regional media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 December 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 11 and 18 October 2002). Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, who was leading with 57.5 percent of the vote in unofficial returns, said he will fight through domestic and international legal channels to have the ballot declared valid. He blamed padded voters' lists and other irregularities for the 45 percent figure, which he said is too low. It is not clear why he did not make a bigger issue of the voters' lists in the run-up to the election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5, 6,14, and 18 November 2002). Unofficial returns put far-right Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj in second place with 36.3 percent. Champion kickboxer Borislav Pelevic of the Party of Serbian Unity, which was founded by the late paramilitary leader Zeljko Raznatovic "Arkan," was in third place with 3.6 percent. Voter apathy, winter weather, and the absence of any reformist candidates are widely seen as the causes of the low turnout (see "End Note" below). PM
 YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT SAYS NO MORE EXTRADITIONS TO THE HAGUE...Kostunica told London's "The Times" of 9 December that Belgrade will not hand over any more indicted war crimes suspects to the tribunal based in The Hague because that body has "reneged on guarantees for those who surrendered voluntarily." The paper suggested that Kostunica was referring to the cases of former Yugoslav Vice President Nikola Sainovic, former General Dragoljub Ojdanic, former General Mile Mrksic, and former Croatian Serb leader Milan Martic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2002). Kostunica added that Serbia will try possible war criminals in its own courts from now on. He said that Carla Del Ponte, the tribunal's chief prosecutor, has brought "a sort of instability" to Serbia. Kostunica once again denied that General Ratko Mladic is hiding in Serbia under official protection, as Del Ponte has repeatedly charged. PM
 ...DENIES KNOWLEDGE OF IRAQI ARMS SALES...Kostunica told "The Times" of 9 December that "Belgrade's cooperation with the West in the event of an attack on Iraq would be 'less enthusiastic' than in other former communist countries and denied reports that he knew of recent illegal exports of arms and missile technology to Baghdad that may have been used to help in developing weapons of mass destruction" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 and 29 November), the paper reported. The president stressed that he "really did everything" to launch an inquiry into the affair. PM
 ...AND AGAIN CHALLENGES NGO REPORT"The Times" of 9 December added that "Kostunica said that he was pleased that the U.S. State Department had denied allegations by the International Crisis Group, a nongovernmental organization, which claimed that Yugoslavia was a hub for material enabling Baghdad to develop weapons of mass destruction. 'I consider this was one of my successes on the eve of the elections'" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2002, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 and 29 November). In related news, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting reported from Belgrade on 9 December that Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic and some others have gone to great lengths recently to make information on the arms deals available to NATO, the U.S., and the UN. PM
 SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO CONCLUDE AGREEMENT ON NEW STATEAfter nine months of negotiations, the governments of Serbia and Montenegro have accepted a proposed Constitutional Charter regulating their future relations that now must be submitted to their respective parliaments for validation, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 6 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March, 9 September, 22 October, and 22 November 2002). The country will be a single entity called Serbia and Montenegro. The preamble states that Serbia includes "the autonomous provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo and Metohija, [which is] currently under international administration in keeping with UN Security Council Resolution 1244" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2002). The new state will have a joint Defense Ministry and a single seat in the UN, but each republic may conduct its own international relations provided that this does not conflict with the new state's common foreign policy. Free movement of people, goods, capital, and services is guaranteed. Political leaders and the media widely hailed the document as a compromise. PM
 U.S. REPORT WARNS OF BALKAN INSTABILITYThe Council on Foreign Relations has released a study calling for an increased role by the United States and the EU in the Balkans lest unemployment, crime, corruption, and ethnic and religious tensions further destabilize the region, "The New York Times" reported on 8 December. The report drew particular attention to Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Kosova (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 December 2002). The study stresses that unless reconstruction of the Balkans proceeds apace, the region is likely to generate new waves of refugees and migrants; it is also likely to become a haven for drug traffickers and terrorists. The report suggests that NATO and the EU can offer the countries of the region the "carrot" of admission to those organizations in return for reforms (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 and 22 November 2002). The study adds, "The U.S. military is an essential deterrent to violence, and the United States is able to deploy additional force quickly if needed.... For the next six to eight years, an active U.S. presence in the region will remain necessary." PM
 MACEDONIA TO RECEIVE FINANCIAL SUPPORT FROM IMF AND EUEuropean Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten said in Skopje on 6 December that the EU will support Macedonia if the country reaches an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a new stand-by arrangement, dpa reported. "If Macedonia reaches the agreement with IMF, we will immediately give the country $20 million. If the country meets the obligations from that deal, we will support it with another $26 million after three months," Patten said. In related news, Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva, who is on an official visit to Washington, is expected to ask the U.S. government for support in the talks with the IMF and for a "more flexible approach" to Macedonia's economic problems, according to "Dnevnik" of 9 December. UB
 MACEDONIA AND ALBANIA TO LAUNCH JOINT BORDER PATROLSMacedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski said in Popova Sapka on 8 December that Macedonia and Albania will set up joint border patrols by June to deal with human and drug trafficking along their common frontier, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 November 2002). He called for a "cautious approach" and a "determined answer" to unnamed groups seeking to "destabilize the border." PM
 NEW PRIME MINISTER FOR THE REPUBLIKA SRPSKAOn 7 December in Banja Luka, Republika Srpska President Dragan Cavic (Serbian Democratic Party) named Dragan Mikerevic of the Party of Democratic Progress (PDP) to head the new government, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He is currently Bosnian prime minister and Bosnian minister for European integration. The composition of the cabinet has not been determined. Cavic said the new government will have a majority of Serbian deputies in the parliament and that some Muslim deputies might back it as well. In related news, Doris Pack, who is the European Parliament's chief representative for Southeastern Europe, called on the Republika Srpska to facilitate the return of 200,000 ethnic Croats who want to return to their homes in that entity. PM
 MUSLIM OFFICIAL DRAWS VETERANS' PROTEST IN THE REPUBLIKA SRPSKARepublika Srpska Vice President Adil Osmanovic, an ethnic Muslim, visited the graves of Muslim dead from the 1992-95 conflict in the Banja Luka area, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported on 7 December. This is the first time a ranking official of the Republika Srpska has honored the entity's Muslim war dead. Ethnic Serbian veterans protested Osmanovic's visit as inappropriate. PM
 FRAUD SAID TO OUTWEIGH BUDGET IN BOSNIAHigh Representative Paddy Ashdown told reporters in Sarajevo on 6 December that total annual sales-tax losses in the Croat-Muslim federation alone amount to $250 million, dpa reported. He added that related money-laundering activities push the total in lost revenues to $1.5 billion. Ashdown said weak judicial and corporate-registration institutions make it easy for criminals to cheat the state. PM
 IDENTITY OF SECRET SERBIAN WITNESS REVEALED IN THE HAGUEThe latest witness to testify against former President Slobodan Milosevic while sitting behind a screen is former Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic, London's "The Independent" reported on 7 December. Babic decided to reveal his identity after it was publicized in media reports in the Balkans and in order to promote reconciliation in the region. His lawyer said Babic also wants to openly challenge several unspecified allegations by Milosevic. PM
 ROMANIAN PEASANTISTS STRENGTHEN PARTY DISCIPLINEThe National Executive Committee of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) on 7 December decided to impose strict rules aimed at strengthening internal discipline, Romanian Television reported. PNTCD Chairman Victor Ciorbea said members who openly criticize the chairman or the party's leadership may be sanctioned or even excluded from the party. Ciorbea initiated the process of reinventing the party after it failed to clear the 5 percent hurdle in the 2000 parliamentary elections. In related news, Mediafax reported that Ciorbea and Popular Christian Party Chairman Vasile Lupu, who is a former PNTCD Deputy Chairman, on 6 December discussed the possibility of uniting forces, either through the merger of the two parties or the return of former PNTCD members to the party. Lupu stressed the need for changing the PNTCD's name, claiming it has been "compromised." The two are to continue discussions. ZsM
 INTERNAL CRISIS IN ROMANIA'S CNSAS GIVES PRIBOI BREATHING ROOMNational Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) Chairman Gheorghe Onisoru said on 6 December that the evidence National Liberal Party Senator Radu Alexandru presented at a press conference one day earlier regarding Social Democratic Party Deputy Ristea Priboi's activities in the former Securitate does not prove he was involved in political repression, Mediafax reported. Priboi has been accused of helping to monitor writer Ion Gheorghe's activities in 1969 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December 2002). Onisoru also said that internal conflicts in the CNSAS are preventing the council's chairmanship from ruling on the issue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2002). According to Alexandru, Priboi falsely declared upon entering parliament in 2000 that he was not involved in secret-police activities against Romanian citizens, a condition for entering parliament. However, a spokeswoman from the Prosecutor-General's Office said on 6 December that it cannot investigate Priboi, as the CNSAS must first ask the Prosecutor-General's Office to do so. ZsM
 EBRD CHIEF ECONOMIST PESSIMISTIC ON ROMANIA'S ECONOMIC-DEVELOPMENT PROSPECTSEuropean Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Chief Economist Willem Buiter said on 6 December that Romania needs structural reforms and foreign investment if it is to achieve sustained economic growth, Romanian media reported. He argued that the country's economic growth over the last two years should merely be attributed to a rebound following losses in previous years. Buiter said real growth is conditioned by the efficient use of production facilities and productivity growth. According to an EBRD report presented by Buiter, Romania has received $1.2 billion in direct foreign investment in 2002, and the total value of investments since 1989 is $7.9 billion. Buiter said Romania could attract twice as much foreign investment in 2003 as it did in 2002 if it successfully implements reforms. ZsM
 ROMANIAN, BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS PRESS FOR EU ACCESSIONRomanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana and his Bulgarian counterpart Solomon Pasi wrote a joint letter to their Danish counterpart Per Stig Moeller on 6 December, Mediafax reported. Denmark currently holds the rotating Presidency of the EU, whose European Council will be meeting in Copenhagen on 13-15 December. Geoana and Pasi reportedly expressed their confidence that 1 January 2007 will be slated at the meeting as the deadline for their countries' accession to the EU, on the condition that both countries keep pace with accession preparations. The letter was handed over to Danish Foreign Ministry officials by the Romanian and the Bulgarian ambassadors to Denmark. ZsM
 OSCE SUMMIT SETS NEW DEADLINE FOR RUSSIAN TROOP REMOVAL FROM TRANSDNIESTERThe 8 December OSCE summit in Porto, Portugal, set 31 December 2003 as the new deadline for removing Russian troops and armament from Transdniester, Flux reported. The declaration criticized the Transdniester authorities for constantly blocking the negotiation process. According to the OSCE's 1999 Istanbul summit decision, Russia was to remove all of its arsenal and troops by the end of this year. However, Russia has only succeed in removing a small part of its armaments. ZsM
 BUGGING SCANDAL DIVIDES BULGARIAN GOVERNMENTFollowing the publication of the transcript of a telephone call between Justice Minister Anton Stankov and a policeman, Stankov on 6 December called on parliament to reform the law on special-intelligence devices, mediapool.bg reported. "The changes have to ensure that ordinary Bulgarian citizens who are not involved in crimes cannot be eavesdropped" on, Stankov said in reaction to the publication of the transcript by the daily "Trud" on 5 December. Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov dismissed Stankov's call to amend the law, saying the system is good as is and that the only problem in Stankov's case is that the transcript was leaked to the media. "These wiretappings are always very objectionable in every civilized state," Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski said. "We have to put an end to them." The telephone call was intercepted during the investigation into accusations leveled by opposition politician Edvin Sugarev against Prosecutor-General Nikola Filchev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March, 28 June, and 2 and 11 July 2002. UB
 BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER CRITICIZES JUDICIARYPrime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski harshly criticized the Bulgarian judicial system in an interview published in Milan's "Corriere della Sera" on 3 December. "We have big difficulties with our judicial system, because it is a combination of [elements inherited from] the old system [and] new laws introduced in 1990, when nobody had the experience how make reforms," Saxecoburggotski said. "The judges cannot be sacked and they come from various periods and from differing political systems," he added. Supreme Court of Appeals President Ivan Grigorov responded that the only "non-lie" in Saxecoburggotski's statement was that there are indeed problems within the judiciary, according to "Monitor" of 9 December. Regarding Saxecoburggotski's allusion that many judges are from the communist era, Grigorov said most of the country's judges are about 30 years old, which makes it impossible for them to have been employed by the communist state. UB
 RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL MISSING IN BULGARIAThe state Nuclear Regulation Agency announced on 5 December that radioactive material has allegedly been stolen from the Kremikovtsi steelworks outside Sofia, BTA reported. The radioactive material, which contains caesium-137, was the ionizing radiation component of two measuring instruments. One day later, police reported that ionizing radiation components containing caesium-137 and americium-241 are missing from the Bobovdol thermal-power plant in western Bulgaria. Maria Nizamska, who heads the agency's emergency-planning department, said the components are unusable without the proper equipment. UB
SOUTHWESTERN ASIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST
 PAKISTAN URGES FOR THE EXPANSION OF ISAF'S ROLE IN AFGHANISTAN...Pakistan's Ambassador to the UN Munir Akram on 6 December urged the United Nations to expand the International Security Assistance Force's (ISAF) mandate beyond Kabul in order to allow Afghan President Hamid Karzai to extend his control throughout Afghanistan, the Karachi daily "Dawn" reported on 8 December. Akram told the UN General Assembly that Pakistan is "heartened by initiatives taken by the U.S. forces in Afghanistan to provide greater security and confidence through direct interaction with the Afghans in various parts of the country," and that Islamabad welcomes "the intention of the Afghan government to disarm the different armed factions and militias in various parts of the country," "Dawn" reported. Germany, which with the Netherlands will assume joint command of ISAF in mid-February 2003, has categorically rejected the expansion of the force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 2002 and "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 5 December 2002). AT
 ...AND SUPPORTS THE TRANS-AFGHAN PIPELINEPakistan's Akram also emphasized that his country encourages the integration of Afghanistan into the region's economic-cooperation structure, "Dawn" reported on 8 December. "In this regard, we are heartened by the gas-pipeline project connecting Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan," the daily quoted him as saying. Akram also indicated that his country "would be prepared to explore the conclusion of a free-trade agreement with Afghanistan." In May, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan signed a memorandum of understanding on conducting a feasibility study on the Trans-Afghan gas-pipeline project, which is to carry Turkmen gas to Pakistan via Afghanistan ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2002). The project was initially proposed in 1995 by a consortium of international energy companies, led by Unocal of the United States and Delta Oil Company of Saudi Arabia. However, the policies of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan forced the consortium to end its bid to build the pipeline. AT
 CEASE-FIRE ENDS HERAT FIGHTING...The forces of Herat Province Governor Ismail Khan and his rival commander Amanullah Khan (Amanullah Naykzad) have negotiated a cease-fire agreement that has ended the fighting that erupted on 1 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 December 2002 and "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 5 December 2002), "The New York Times" reported on 7 December. According to the daily, the international coalition informed only Ismail Khan of its intention to bomb the combat area after U.S. Special Forces came under fire there. However, Amanullah Khan said the "bombing was very good," as his forces "were very heavily engaged [in fighting with Ismail Khan's forces] and the bombing stopped the fighting between us." "The New York Times" commented in the report that the bombing demonstrated that "American forces remain the most powerful arbiter in the regional power struggles that plague Afghanistan." AT
 ...AS REPORTS REVEAL THAT U.S. BOMBING RAID HIT CIVILIAN AREAAfghan Refugees' Affairs Minister Enayatullah Nazari, a member of a delegation sent from Kabul to mediate between Ismail Khan's and Amanullah Khan's forces, told "The New York Times" of 7 December that a bomb from the 1 December U.S. B-52 air raid "fell on a civilian area, killing one person and injuring others" and also damaged 25 houses. Initial reports indicated that four soldiers loyal to Ismail Khan were killed in the air raid. Nazari did not indicate how many fighters were killed as the result of U.S. bombing, but gave the total of number of casualties in the fighting at five dead from Ismail Khan's forces and 11 dead and 19 wounded from Amanullah Khan's troops. AT
 AFGHAN PRINCE DIES IN ROMEPrince Shah Mahmud, the third son of former Afghan King Mohammad Zaher, died in Rome at the age of 56, Radio Afghanistan reported on 8 December. The prince was suffering from cancer and his remains will be transferred to Afghanistan for burial, according to the radio station. AT
 OFFICE FOR STRENGTHENING UNITY MEETS AT TEHRAN UNIVERSITY TO MARK STUDENTS DAY...The Allameh branch of the Office for Strengthening Unity, the majority wing of Iran's largest student group, held a meeting on 7 December at Tehran University's Shahid Chamran Hall to mark Students Day, RFE/RL reported. Office for Strengthening Unity spokesman Abdullah Momeni told an RFE/RL correspondent that during the 3,000-strong gathering calls were made for a referendum on the country's form of government. There also were calls for the resignation of judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi, the freedom of political activist and university Professor Hashem Aghajari, and the release of all political prisoners. BS
 ...AS TABARZADI GROUP MEETS OFF-CAMPUS...Concurrently with the Office for Strengthening Unity's meeting, there was another gathering off-campus at the burial site of murdered national-religious activists Dariush and Parvaneh Foruhar. Student activist Reza Mehregan, a member of the comparatively more radical student organization known as the (Heshmatollah) Tabarzadi Group, participated in this gathering and described it in an interview with RFE/RL. He said participants in the off-campus gathering started chanting slogans as they marched toward the Tehran University campus. Among the slogans they chanted were "Referendum, referendum," "Political prisoners must be freed," "Death to Taliban, in Kabul and Tehran," "Khatami! Resign, resign," and "One day Taliban will leave Iran," according to ISNA. BS
 ...AND THEY ALL FIGHT HARD-LINERSParticipants in the off-campus gathering clashed with individuals identified by numerous sources as being in "plain-clothes" and who presumably are members of the Basij and/or Ansar-i Hizbullah, RFE/RL reported. Security forces tried to keep the two sides apart and deployed tear gas. People on the university campus who saw what was happening tried to join the fight, but the campus gates had been locked. They therefore showed their support by throwing rocks at the hard-liners and shouting. Tehran governorate security official Ali Taala on 8 December described the arrest of some 200 people the previous day and added that the majority of them were later released, IRNA reported. Twenty of those arrested remain in custody and 40 have been released on bail, and Taala added that arrest warrants for the plain-clothes individuals have been issued. "A number of such people have been identified and will be arrested if they are seen again on the sidelines of these events," he said, adding that "all organs have come to the conclusion that the presence of such individuals causes more trouble." BS
 IRANIAN MINISTER MOIN OFF THE HOOKParliament Speaker Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi announced on 8 December that a motion to interpellate Science, Research, and Technology Minister Mustafa Moin has been withdrawn by the legislators who originally submitted it, IRNA reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December 2002). Karrubi expressed his gratitude for the decision, noting that the interpellation process could have delayed action on legislation. Some 20 conservative members of the legislature submitted the interpellation motion because they believed ministry officials provoked Iranian students to stage rallies against political activist and university Professor Hashem Aghajari's death sentence. BS
 POLLING-INSTITUTE TRIAL IN IRAN POSTPONEDThe second session of the trial of Ayandeh Research Institute directors Hussein Qazian, Abbas Abdi, and Ali Reza Alavi-Tabar was scheduled for 8 December but has been postponed until 10 December, "Iran Daily" reported on 8 December. Qazian's attorney, Ramazan Haji-Mashhadi, requested the delay because he needed more time. "Due to the long list of charges laid against my client, I am not ready to defend him against all the accusations," the daily quoted him as saying. The trial's first hearing was held on 3 December. The trial relates to a poll in which the majority of Tehran respondents favored a resumption of Iranian-U.S. relations, and the accused face espionage charges because their research institutes conducted the poll in cooperation with the Washington-based Gallup Organization (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 7 October, 2 December, and 9 December 2002). BS
 IRAN TO EXPORT ELECTRICITY TO AZERBAIJAN AND ARMENIAAbdulhussein Fazlollahi, deputy head for coordination and management of Iran's Power Generation and Transmission Organization (Tavanir), said on 8 December that Iran is to export 360 megawatts of power to Azerbaijan and Armenia to alleviate their winter energy shortage, IRNA reported. Fazlollahi added that Iran imported the same amount of electricity from those two Caucasus republics during the summer. Fazlollahi predicted that up to 500 megawatts of electricity will be transferred to Azerbaijan once new transmission lines become available. BS
 IRAQI OPPOSITION MEETS IN TEHRANKurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masud Barzani met on 8 December in Tehran with Iranian Parliament Speaker Karrubi, IRNA reported. Barzani was expected to meet with other Iranian officials and with representatives of the Shia-dominated opposition group called the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). There is speculation that Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) chief Jalal Talabani will visit Tehran soon, according to IRNA, and there is similar speculation about Iraqi National Congress (INC) leader Ahmad Chalabi. The meetings are being organized in the run-up to the 13-15 December Iraqi opposition meeting in London. SCIRI representative Hamid al-Bayati said on 7 December that the committee organizing the London conference has invited Iran to participate, IRNA reported. Al-Bayati expressed his belief that Tehran will send representatives of the legislative and executive branches. BS
 IRAQ ADMITS USING CHEMICAL WEAPONS AGAINST IRAN...Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz admitted that his country used chemical weapons against Iran during the 1980-88 war between the two states. His comments came during an interview with Swedish state-run television, IRNA reported on 7 December. Aziz reportedly told Swedish Television that Iraq was somehow "forced" to use chemical agents against Iran. KR
 ...AND IRAQI PRESIDENT APOLOGIZES FOR INVASION OF KUWAITIraqi President Saddam Hussein has offered an apology to Kuwait for his country's 1990 invasion. The apology was read by Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf on Iraqi Satellite TV on 7 December. In his letter, Hussein invoked pan-Arab ideology and Islamic rhetoric as he called on "the believers, the faithful, and the mujahedin in Kuwait" to unite with their "peers in Iraq under the umbrella of their creator instead of the umbrella of London, Washington, or their counterpart the Zionist entity." Hussein added that Kuwait has been victimized by its rulers and by Western domination through oil exploitation and military "occupation." "We [Iraq] are certain that right will guide you now," he said. "The foreigner is lying in wait for our nation and harbors evil and harm to us, to you, and to our nation. And based on this, we apologize to you," the statement said. Hussein also criticized Kuwaiti officials' plans to attend the upcoming meeting of the Iraqi opposition in London and accused the officials of "plotting against Iraq." KR
 IRAQ RELEASES WEAPONS REPORT TO UN...Iraqi Lieutenant General Amir al-Sadi announced that Iraq has provided the United Nations with a complete and accurate declaration of its weapons programs, Al-Jazeera television reported on 8 December. The declaration includes a list of "suppliers, be they countries or firms, and what was manufactured over the past years" according to Al-Jazeera, which reported that the declaration is 12,000 pages long. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohammad el-Baradei confirmed receipt of the Iraqi declaration on 8 December, AFP reported. According to AFP, the Iraqi declaration on Iraq's nuclear program is 2,100 pages long. El-Baradei said the IAEA would begin reviewing the declaration immediately, "including the painstaking and systematic cross-checking of the information provided by Iraq against information that the IAEA already has, information that it expects to receive from other [UN] member states, as contemplated in [UN] Resolution 1441, and results of past and present agency verification activities," el-Baradei said. He added that the IAEA expects to give a preliminary report on the Iraqi declaration to the UN Security Council within 10 days, and a more complete assessment by the end of January. KR
 ...AS IRAQI DIRECTOR OF MONITORING DETAILS DECLARATION...Major General Husam Mohammad Amin, director of the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate, told Baghdad's Iraq News Agency on 7 December that the Iraqi declaration covers three periods of time: from pre-1990s until 1991; from 1991-98; and from 1998 to the present. Amin noted that the nuclear declarations total some 2,400 pages, while the missile declarations total around 6,300 pages. Chemical declarations total around 1,800 pages and biological declarations amount to some 1,330 pages. "We turned over to the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission [UNMOVIC] and the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] the semiannual declarations, which are submitted every six months in accordance with the monitoring plans annexed to Security Council Resolution 715 of 1991. These declarations were made on CD-ROMs and not paper," Amin said. He added that the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate also submitted a "complete" 350-page report on the monitoring regime and the whereabouts of cameras, sensors, and tags. KR
 ...AND INSPECTIONS CONTINUEUNMOVIC and IAEA inspectors continued their work on 7 and 8 December, visiting a number of military-industrial sites in and around Baghdad. A team of 15 inspectors on 7 December visited the Al-Quds State Company, which belongs to the Iraqi Military Industrialization Organization, Iraq Television reported, citing a Foreign Ministry statement. The company was established in 2002 and conducts research on mechanical designs, according to the report. Meanwhile, a team of four inspectors visited the Al-Shaykhali warehouses in Al-Tuwaythah, which are owned by the Atomic Energy Organization. According to the statement by the Foreign Ministry, the warehouses contain equipment, machinery, and raw materials that are under permanent monitoring by the IAEA. A Foreign Ministry spokesman told Iraq Radio on 8 December that 15 inspectors the same day visited the Al-Tariq State Company, an agricultural and household pesticides factory in Al-Fallujah. In addition, a team of three inspectors visited the Baghdad-based State Establishment for Geological Survey, which is part of the Industry and Minerals Ministry. The radio report that that a team of 25 nuclear inspectors arrived in Iraq on 8 December. KR
 YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT DENIES KNOWLEDGE OF IRAQI ARMS SALES...Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica told "The Times" of 9 December that "Belgrade's cooperation with the West in the event of an attack on Iraq would be 'less enthusiastic' than in other former communist countries and denied reports that he knew of recent illegal exports of arms and missile technology to Baghdad that may have been used to help in developing weapons of mass destruction" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 and 29 November), the paper reported. The president stressed that he "really did everything" to launch an inquiry into the affair. PM
 ...AND AGAIN CHALLENGES NGO REPORT"The Times" of 9 December added that "Kostunica said that he was pleased that the U.S. State Department had denied allegations by the International Crisis Group, a nongovernmental organization, which claimed that Yugoslavia was a hub for material enabling Baghdad to develop weapons of mass destruction. 'I consider this was one of my successes on the eve of the elections'" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2002, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 and 29 November). In related news, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting reported from Belgrade on 9 December that Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic and some others have gone to great lengths recently to make information on the arms deals available to NATO, the U.S., and the UN. PM
 POLITICAL CRISIS LOOMS IN SERBIABy Patrick Moore
For the third time in as many months, Serbian voters cast their ballots for a successor to President Milan Milutinovic, whose term runs out on 5 January. For the third time, the results proved inconclusive or, in this case, invalid. Where Serbia goes from here is anybody's guess.
The presidential election held on 8 December appears to be invalid, since 45 percent of the 6.5 million registered voters cast their ballots, fewer than the required 50 percent. The contenders were moderate traditional nationalist Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, opposition far-right Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, and champion kickboxer Borislav Pelevic of the opposition Party of Serbian Unity, which was founded by the late paramilitary leader Zeljko Raznatovic "Arkan." Both Seselj and Pelevic have paramilitary backgrounds.
A fresh snowfall kept some voters at home, but most observers agree that apathy was the main reason for the poor turnout. Months of public feuding by politicians grouped in the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) -- which ousted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000 -- have served to alienate many citizens from politics.
Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) now functions independently of the DOS. Kostunica and Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic of the Democratic Party (DS) barely conceal their contempt for each other, even though they reached a surprise deal in early November that made the latest election possible.
In addition, the fact that Serbia seems to have done quite well without an active president for two years has not been lost on many voters. Milutinovic is an indicted war criminal who has stayed in the background since Milosevic's fall. Milutinovic has made himself useful to the post-Milosevic authorities, who have not sought to extradite him to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Many observers expect, however, that he will go to The Hague voluntarily once his term runs out.
Finally, another reason for the low turnout is a politically inspired boycott. It is widely believed that Djindjic and his allies wanted their supporters to stay home to ensure that Kostunica will be out of a job when the current Yugoslav state ceases to exist in the near future. For his part, Kostunica openly accused Djindjic of trying to sabotage the elections by encouraging a boycott.
Furthermore, many liberals and non-nationalists saw no reason to vote in a contest that included only three right-of-center nationalists. The ethnic Albanians in southern Serbia's Presevo valley in particular seem to have felt that they had no stake in such a race and stayed home.
Complete official returns are expected later in the week, but preliminary unofficial totals show Kostunica leading with 57.5 percent of the vote. Seselj is in second place with 36.3 percent, while Pelevic has finished a distant third with 3.6 percent.
Kostunica said on 9 December that he will fight through domestic and international legal channels to have the ballot declared valid. The president added: "We will file all kinds of complaints. We will fight, we will not give up," Reuters reported.
Kostunica blamed padded voters lists -- including ones containing "dead souls" and emigrants -- and various irregularities for the 45 percent figure, which he said is therefore based on an artificially high number of registered voters. It is not clear why he did not make a bigger issue of the voters lists in the run-up to the election.
Where matters go from here is unclear. Parliamentary speaker Natasa Micic, who is an ally of Djindjic, will most likely become acting president when Milutinovic's mandate runs out. Some politicians have begun talking about a fresh presidential election, but there does not appear to be a legal time frame for one to be called.
Other speculation centers on the more immediate future. Kostunica and the DSS recently broke with the DOS in a budget-related parliamentary vote in what was widely seen as a warning to the government. Some observers suggest that the DSS will now try to bring down the government in an upcoming vote and thereby force new parliamentary elections.
Polls have long suggested that Kostunica and the DSS can expect to do well in an early legislative ballot, which is why he has been calling for such a vote for months. The broadly based DOS, moreover, seems likely to split sooner rather than later, with some parties staying with Djindjic, others going with Kostunica, and perhaps a third group going off on its own.
Other scenarios for the immediate future center on the drafting of new electoral legislation or a new Serbian constitution. Either or both of these developments would most likely be followed by new parliamentary and/or presidential elections.
In short, Serbia's political future in the coming months appears most uncertain. What does seem clear is that yet another year of political bickering and instability will result in further voter disillusionment and frighten off many potential foreign investors.