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RFE/RL Newsline, 03-02-13

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>


CONTENTS

  • [01] PUTIN AGAIN URGES POLITICAL SOLUTION TO IRAQ CRISIS...
  • [02] ...AS FRENCH ANALYST WARNS THAT MOSCOW AND PARIS WILL SPLIT ON
  • [03] DEPUTIES TO DEBATE TOUGH AMENDMENTS TO ANTITERRORISM LAW
  • [04] RUSSIA, INDIA TEST NEW MISSILE...
  • [05] ...AS PAPER CALLS OBSOLETE MISSILES A THREAT TO NATIONAL SECURITY
  • [06] PRIME MINISTER RECYCLES OLD IDEAS FOR UTILITIES REFORM...
  • [07] ...AS LEGISLATORS TAKE NOTES
  • [08] SENATORS NIX BILL BANNING FOREIGN WORDS...
  • [09] ...AND APPROVE NEW JUDGES
  • [10] MODERATE NATIONALIST TATAR GROUP CONTEMPLATES GOING
  • [11] ...AND RAISES THE SPECTER OF CHECHNYA
  • [12] NEWSPAPER CLAIMS UNIFIED RUSSIA TO RUN FOR DUMA WITH FRESH FACES
  • [13] ADVERTISING PROVING TO BE DANGEROUS BUSINESS IN SIBERIAN CITY?
  • [14] NEW CHECHEN PREMIER INTRODUCED TO MINISTERS
  • [15] COUNCIL OF EUROPE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER VISITS CHECHNYA
  • [16] JUSTICE MINISTRY DENIES ACCUSED ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT GUNMEN'S
  • [17] THOUSANDS FLOCK TO ONE ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL CHALLENGER'S CAMPAIGN
  • [18] ...AS A SECOND SAYS SECOND ROUND INEVITABLE
  • [19] AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT PARDONS 116 PRISONERS
  • [20] AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT SPEAKER, COUNCIL OF EUROPE DISAGREE OVER
  • [21] AZERBAIJAN COMMITTEE FOR RELIGION WANTS TO REPLACE CLERGY AT
  • [22] GEORGIA SENDS ENVOYS TO MOSCOW, KYIV TO DISCUSS ABKHAZIA...
  • [23] ...AS ABKHAZ PARLIAMENT-IN-EXILE APPEALS TO UN, WAR CRIMES
  • [24] COUNCIL OF EUROPE DELEGATION SNUBBED ON ARRIVAL IN GEORGIA
  • [25] KAZAKHSTAN BANS AUM SHINRIKYO
  • [26] KYRGYZSTAN ENDORSES RUSSIAN-FRENCH-GERMAN STANCE ON IRAQ...
  • [27] ...AGAIN REJECTS INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM OF REFERENDUM
  • [28] NEW LAW ON FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMES INTO FORCE IN UZBEKISTAN
  • [29] BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION WELCOMES EUROPARLIAMENT'S ANTI-LUKASHENKA
  • [30] BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT TO PROVIDE SOCIAL SPENDING FROM HIS 'RESERVE'
  • [31] WILL BELARUSIAN TRADE UNIONS PROPOSE PLEBISCITE ON LUKASHENKA'S
  • [32] UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES 1932-33 FAMINE
  • [33] UKRAINIAN BIRTHRATE UP FOR FIRST TIME IN 15 YEARS
  • [34] ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES CRIMINAL PROCEDURE CODE
  • [35] LATVIAN-SWISS BILATERAL COOPERATION STRATEGY FOR 2003 SIGNED
  • [36] REFERENDUM ON CHANGING LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT REGISTERED
  • [37] POLAND, RUSSIA SIGN SCALED-BACK GAS-SUPPLY DEAL
  • [38] POLISH FARMERS INJURED IN SCUFFLES WITH POLICE
  • [39] POLISH UNIONS SAY SILESIA SUFFERING ECONOMIC 'CATACLYSM'
  • [40] POLAND WANTS UKRAINE TO APOLOGIZE FOR 1943 MASSACRE
  • [41] CZECHS REITERATE WILLINGNESS TO DEFEND TURKEY
  • [42] CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS 'STATE OF WAR' ALREADY EXISTS
  • [43] CZECH GOVERNMENT TAKES 'NEUTRAL STAND' ON DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL
  • [44] ...BUT APPROVES EU REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN
  • [45] CZECH CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CHAIRMAN RESIGNS
  • [46] MOST SLOVAKS SUPPORT NATO REFERENDUM, OPPOSE MEMBERSHIP
  • [47] HUNGARIAN DEMOCRATIC FORUM REJECTS SOCIALIST OVERTURES
  • [48] HUNGARIAN BISHOPS APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT IN TAX, FUNDING
  • [49] ANTIWAR DEMONSTRATORS STAGE SERVICE OUTSIDE HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT
  • [50] JEWISH GROUP TO SQUARE OFF AGAINST NEO-NAZIS
  • [51] ALBANIAN, CROATIAN, MACEDONIAN LEADERS MEET IN TIRANA
  • [52] PRIME MINISTER SAYS CROATIA SUPPORTS PEACEFUL SOLUTION TO IRAQ
  • [53] FORMER YUGOSLAV MILITARY-INTELLIGENCE CHIEF TESTIFIES IN THE HAGUE
  • [54] PRISON REVOLT IN ZENICA ENDS
  • [55] HIGH REPRESENTATIVE IN BOSNIA SEEKS TO SHUT DOWN 'FACTORIES FOR
  • [56] MONTENEGRIN OPPOSITION PROTESTS GOVERNMENT PLANS TO CHANGE
  • [57] ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES DEPLOYMENT OF NONCOMBAT TROOPS TO
  • [58] ROMANIAN PREMIER PRESENTS 2001-02 PERFORMANCE REPORT IN PARLIAMENT
  • [59] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT REVEALS DETAILS OF PROPOSED NEW
  • [60] ...WHICH INCLUDE LARGE-SCALE CONCESSIONS TO THE SEPARATISTS
  • [61] VORONIN DISMISSES JUSTICE MINISTER
  • [62] MOLDOVAN CABINET APPROVES DRAFT CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT...
  • [63] ...AS WELL AS BILL ON REINTRODUCING SOVIET-TYPE LOCAL
  • [64] ...AND BILLS ON TELERADIO MOLDOVA BOARD
  • [65] BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER WANTS PUBLIC DEBATE ON DRAFT MEDIA LAW
  • [66] STATE NEWS AGENCY DISMISSALS DRAW CRITICISM
  • [67] BULGARIA PREPARED TO OFFER MILITARY SUPPORT TO TURKEY
  • [68] FRENCH DIPLOMAT TELLS BULGARIA TO 'THINK EUROPEAN-STYLE'
  • [69] AFGHAN CIVILIANS REPORTEDLY KILLED IN COALITION BOMBING
  • [70] PAKISTANI INTELLIGENCE ACCUSED OF HELPING TALIBAN
  • [71] AFGHAN MILITARY CAPTAIN CRITICIZES FINANCE MINISTER
  • [72] FINANCE MINSTER SAYS AFGHANISTAN'S INCOME ONLY COVERS DEFENSE
  • [73] IRANIAN EXPEDIENCY COUNCIL CHAIRMAN CRITICAL OF PERCEIVED U.S.
  • [74] IRAN STAGING NAVAL MANEUVERS
  • [75] IRAN MANUFACTURES HIV-TREATMENT DRUG
  • [76] AL-DA'WAH DISCUSSES RELATIONSHIP WITH UNITED STATES...
  • [77] ...AND WITH OTHER OPPOSITION GROUPS
  • [78] RIFT WIDENS BETWEEN IRAQI OPPOSITION, U.S. GOVERNMENT OVER VISION
  • [79] IRAQI LEADER DISCUSSES U-2 CONTROVERSY
  • [80] IRAQI MISSILE IN VIOLATION
  • [81] PHILIPPINES EXPELS IRAQI DIPLOMAT WITH ALLEGED LINKS TO ABU
  • [82] ...AS IRAQ SAYS U.S. WAS BEHIND THE MOVE
  • [83] PUTIN AGAIN URGES POLITICAL SOLUTION TO IRAQ CRISIS
  • [84] KYRGYZSTAN ENDORSES RUSSIAN-FRENCH-GERMAN STANCE ON IRAQ
  • [85] There is no End Note today. 13 February 2003 RUSSIA

  • [01] PUTIN AGAIN URGES POLITICAL SOLUTION TO IRAQ CRISIS...

    Speaking to journalists in Bordeaux, France, on 12 February, President Vladimir Putin said he is not concerned by the recent audiotape purportedly made by Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2003), RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported. Putin said that the tape does not provide evidence of any links between Al-Qaeda and the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. He also iterated his statement that Russia is prepared to use its UN Security Council veto to prevent what Moscow considers an unfounded military intervention in Iraq. "We have used [the veto] many times and will use it again if necessary," Putin said. However, he stressed that he does not want to exacerbate tensions by engaging in polemics because "that would make it difficult to come to terms with other Security Council members who now disagree with Russia." Putin again stated that a U.S. military operation against Hussein would weaken the international antiterrorism coalition and split the Security Council, but pledged that Russia will, in any event, work to maintain the coalition and preserve Security Council unity on key issues. "Russia will never return to a policy of confrontation with our partners in Europe and North America," Putin said. VY

    [02] ...AS FRENCH ANALYST WARNS THAT MOSCOW AND PARIS WILL SPLIT ON IRAQ

    Isabel Facon, director of the French Strategic Research Foundation, was quoted by strana.ru on 11 February as saying that the joint position on Iraq expressed by Paris and Moscow could shatter if fighting breaks out. Facon said that the present harmony is helping cement the partnership between Russia and France and enabling both countries to demonstrate their political independence from Washington. However, if a war begins, the two countries will have substantially different reactions. Facon noted that although the French leadership saw the joint position on Iraq as a way of creating a positive background for President Putin's trip to France this week, the French public continues to view the Russian president negatively through the prism of the ongoing conflict in Chechnya. VY

    [03] DEPUTIES TO DEBATE TOUGH AMENDMENTS TO ANTITERRORISM LAW

    Leaders from all the main pro-Kremlin centrist factions in the Duma have introduced harsh draft amendments to the law on combating terrorism, "Vedomosti" reported on 12 February. The amendments were presented by deputies Vladimir Pekhtin (Unity), Vyacheslav Volodin (Fatherland-All Russia), Oleg Morozov (Russian Regions), and Vladislav Reznik (Unity). They would allow security and police agencies to make arrests without court warrants under the antiterrorism provisions of the Criminal Code. They would also allow the authorities to transfer terrorism-related trials from zones of "antiterrorism operations" to other regions of the federation. Deputy Pavel Krasheninnikov (Union of Rightist Forces), a former justice minister, also endorsed the amendments. Human rights lawyer Pavel Astakhov was quoted as saying the amendments would amount to the suspension of the constitution in zones where antiterrorism operations are being carried out. VY

    [04] RUSSIA, INDIA TEST NEW MISSILE...

    India and Russia have announced the successful test of the new Brahmos sea-launched missile in the Bay of Bengal, Russian and Western new agencies reported on 12 February. The jointly produced supersonic cruise missile is based on the Soviet-era Yakhont (Onyx) missile and has a range of about 300 kilometers, making it capable of hitting any major city in Pakistan, AP reported on 12 February. Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes said that the nuclear-capable missile will enter the two countries' arsenals in 2004 and will be sold to other countries, RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported. VY

    [05] ...AS PAPER CALLS OBSOLETE MISSILES A THREAT TO NATIONAL SECURITY

    The 1 February "Columbia" space shuttle disaster highlights the dangers posed by the growing obsolescence of Russia's nuclear and missile arsenals, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" wrote on 12 February. The newspaper argues that it is likely that whatever caused the "Columbia" explosion, which killed seven astronauts, probably stemmed from the fact that the "Columbia" was originally built in 1981. The same problems are now being faced with regard to the more than 700 combat-ready strategic ballistic missiles currently based throughout Russia. General Aleksandr Yashin, former deputy commander of the Strategic Missile Force, told the daily that the problems have been exacerbated by the fact that the service lives of many Russian missiles have been repeatedly extended by upgrades. However, such modernization does not really affect a missile's basic technical specification or the parameters of the materials of which missiles are made. The daily concludes that Russia's strategic missiles have become a threat to the country's national security and urges the government to heed the warning of the "Columbia" disaster. VY

    [06] PRIME MINISTER RECYCLES OLD IDEAS FOR UTILITIES REFORM...

    Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov addressed the State Duma on 12 February on the topics of reforming the housing and public-utilities sectors, Radio Rossii and other Russian news agencies reported. Kasyanov said the reforms have stalled in part because most regions have taken a one-sided approach to reform: They have simply raised rates. Kasyanov called for a halt to the uncontrolled rate increases and for the adoption of legislation that would create a uniform system for calculating charges through agreements between suppliers and customers. RFE/RL's Moscow bureau noted that a similar idea was proposed in 1997 under the government of then-Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and then-First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, but was forgotten. According to the bureau, Kasyanov also called for the demonopolization of the sector in order to attract private investment. JAC

    [07] ...AS LEGISLATORS TAKE NOTES

    Prime Minister Kasyanov did not face harsh criticism from legislators with the exception of Deputy Sergei Mitrokhin (Yabloko), who called on Kasyanov to take personal responsibility for this winter's heating and electricity crisis. "Kasyanov brushed this idea aside as if shooing away a fly and instead called for constructive cooperation," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Kasyanov also addressed the issue of electricity-sector reform and encouraged legislators to "learn the lesson of the housing and utilities situation" and proceed with reforms rather than delaying them. The Duma is scheduled to begin consideration of a package of bills reforming the electricity sector on 14 February. JAC

    [08] SENATORS NIX BILL BANNING FOREIGN WORDS...

    The Federation Council on 12 February rejected the law on Russian as a state language that was approved by the Duma last week, Russian news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 2003). Only seven senators supported the bill, while 126 voted against it and 10 abstained, Interfax reported. Council Chairman Sergei Mironov said the bill in its current form is unworkable and unrealistic, RTR reported. The bill bans the use of foreign words whenever there is a Russian equivalent available, and according to Mironov, the law does not sufficiently take into account the issue of the future development of the Russian language. On the same day, the upper chamber approved the final bill in a legislative package reforming the country's railway sector and a bill regulating foreign currency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 2003). JAC

    [09] ...AND APPROVE NEW JUDGES

    The upper chamber also approved two new judges for the Constitutional Court, ITAR-TASS reported. Appointed were Mikhail Kleandrov, who is a former arbitration court chairman from Tyumen Oblast, and Larisa Krasavchikova, a professor at the Urals State Law Academy. They replace Nikolai Vitruk and Oleg Tiunov, who have both reached the mandatory retirement age of 65. JAC

    [10] MODERATE NATIONALIST TATAR GROUP CONTEMPLATES GOING UNDERGROUND...

    A plenum of the Tatar Public Center discussed in Kazan on 8 February the "forcible harmonization" of the republican constitution with the federal one and preparations for national elections, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 10 February. Plenum participants sharply criticized U.S. policy toward Iraq and Russia's authorities for infringing upon the interests, languages, and cultures of non-Russian peoples and the national republics. They also lambasted Tatarstan's leadership for its failure to defend the Tatar Constitution and the interests of the Tatar people. Center Chairman Reshit Jegeferov told the forum that the deteriorating political situation in Russia is making it increasingly difficult to sustain the organization and to promote the idea of Tatar, Muslim, and Turkic unity. He said that recent legislation that prohibits regional parties might even force the center to become an underground organization. JAC

    [11] ...AND RAISES THE SPECTER OF CHECHNYA

    On the next day, Rafis Kashapov, head of the Tatar Public Center's Nabarezhnye Chelny branch, was quoted by REN-TV as saying that "if this pressure on Tatarstan and the republics of the Volga region continues, it will lead to -- I would say -- extreme measures." When asked what he meant by extreme measures, Kashapov said, "Well, look at what happened in Chechnya...." According to REN-TV, a book called "The Jihad of the Tatar People" was on sale at the plenum for 10 rubles ($0.30). The station also quoted Tatarstan legislator Marat Galeev as saying that under the Putin-era federal reforms, Tatarstan has experienced "an increase in unemployment, a reduction of its regional budget by almost half, and a decline in road construction by some 60 percent." JAC

    [12] NEWSPAPER CLAIMS UNIFIED RUSSIA TO RUN FOR DUMA WITH FRESH FACES

    "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 12 February, citing unidentified sources within the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, that the process of making a party list for the December 2003 State Duma elections has begun, and 95 percent of the members of the Unity and Fatherland-All Russia factions and the Russian Regions group in the Duma are not on it. According to the daily, many of the "most famous" members of these factions will have to run for seats in the Duma in single-mandate districts. The daily also reported that the party representatives from the regions will predominate on the list. JAC

    [13] ADVERTISING PROVING TO BE DANGEROUS BUSINESS IN SIBERIAN CITY?

    Mikhail Zinchenko, the director of Alfa, a local television company in the western Siberian city of Surgut, was shot several times in front of his home on 11 February, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. Zinchenko is currently recovering from his wounds in a local hospital. According to the agency, investigators believe the cause of the attack might be Zinchenko's professional activities. The local news agency uralpolit.ru reported that Zinchenko oversaw the placement of advertising on the local retransmission of RTR and ORT programming, according to regions.ru on 12 February. According to uralpolit.ru, the local advertising market has long been rife with conflict. In March, Surgut Deputy Mayor Sergei Ivanov was killed, and one of the theories floated in that case was that the killing was linked to his plans to reform the local advertising sector (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 2002). JAC

    [14] NEW CHECHEN PREMIER INTRODUCED TO MINISTERS

    Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov introduced newly appointed Prime Minister Anatolii Popov to his cabinet in Grozny on 12 February, Russian media reported. Kadyrov denied reports that Popov's candidacy for that post had been proposed by the Russian military, saying that Popov was "exclusively my choice," Interfax reported. Questioned by "Kommersant-Daily" about his relations to Russian "force" ministries, Popov said in an interview published on 12 February that he and those ministries share the same objective of the "normalization and stabilization" of the situation in Chechnya. He ruled out any major personnel changes in the Chechen government, saying, "I know everyone who works there and what these people are capable of doing." LF

    [15] COUNCIL OF EUROPE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER VISITS CHECHNYA

    Alvaro Gil-Robles met with Kadyrov in Grozny on 12 February to discuss preparations for the planned 23 March referendum on a new Chechen draft constitution and election laws, Russian news agencies reported. Kadyrov rejected Gil-Robles's argument that "sometimes it is necessary to extend a hand to the adversary to join forces in attempts to achieve peace and understanding," saying that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov is not an "adversary" but "an enemy...who must either surrender or be eliminated," Interfax reported. During talks the previous day in Moscow with Russian commissioner for human rights in Chechnya Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, Gil-Robles acknowledged the importance of the referendum and other political moves that, he said, would help to protect the rights of the civilian population, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 February. LF

    TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [16] JUSTICE MINISTRY DENIES ACCUSED ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT GUNMEN'S LEADER COMMITTED SUICIDE

    There is no truth to rumors circulating over the past two weeks that Nairi Hunanian, the accused leader of the gunmen who killed eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament in October 1999, has committed suicide, Arminfo on 12 February quoted a senior Justice Ministry official as saying, Groong reported. LF

    [17] THOUSANDS FLOCK TO ONE ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL CHALLENGER'S CAMPAIGN RALLY...

    More than 10,000 people on 12 February attended a presidential campaign rally on behalf of National Unity Party Chairman Artashes Geghamian in Vanadzor, Armenia's third-largest city, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. It was the largest turnout to date in support of Geghamian, whom most opinion polls place third in the ratings after incumbent President Robert Kocharian and People's Party of Armenia Chairman Stepan Demirchian. Geghamian's candidacy is backed not only by the Communist Party of Armenia but also by Soviet-era dissident Paruyr Hairikian, who campaigned on Geghamian's behalf in the mountain district of Aragatsotn on 11 February. LF

    [18] ...AS A SECOND SAYS SECOND ROUND INEVITABLE

    A second opposition candidate, former Armenian Prime Minister and National Democratic Union Chairman Vazgen Manukian, told RFE/RL on 12 February that President Kocharian stands no chance of a clear first-round win in the 19 February election. Manukian said that even before the campaign got under way, he doubted that Kocharian could poll the required 50 percent plus one vote for a first-round win, and he now considers it impossible. He said that while visiting rural areas he has realized that Kocharian has "very few" supporters there. LF

    [19] AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT PARDONS 116 PRISONERS

    Heidar Aliev signed a decree on 11 February pardoning 116 prisoners on the occasion of Kurban Bayram, Turan reported the following day. The prisoners include some sentenced for their role in the purported coup attempts in October 1994 and March 1995; some participants in mass demonstrations in Sheki in November 2000 to protest the alleged falsification of the parliamentary elections; and "dozens" more sentenced when police suppressed various demonstrations. British Ambassador Andrew Tucker welcomed Aliev's initiative, noting that the sentences handed down on the Sheki protesters "seemed disproportionate to the alleged offenses," Turan reported. LF

    [20] AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT SPEAKER, COUNCIL OF EUROPE DISAGREE OVER POLITICAL PRISONERS

    Members of a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) fact-finding mission met in Gobustan jail on 11 February with five men the PACE considers political prisoners, including former Defense Minister Rahim Gaziev and former Gyanja Police Chief Natig Efendiev, Turan reported on 12 February. The PACE mission then met on 12 February with parliament speaker Murtuz Alesqerov, whom they told that a member state of the Council of Europe should not have political prisoners, Turan reported. Alesqerov for his part accused the PACE of lacking objectivity by focusing on political prisoners while ignoring the human rights of displaced persons. He said that he rejects the PACE's criteria for determining who is a political prisoner and that "it is up to the courts to do decide who is a political prisoner and who is not." Alesqerov further rejected a PACE proposal to conduct a parliamentary debate on the issue of political prisoners. LF

    [21] AZERBAIJAN COMMITTEE FOR RELIGION WANTS TO REPLACE CLERGY AT CONTROVERSIAL MOSQUE

    Rafik Aliev, who is chairman of Azerbaijan's State Committee for Religious Affairs, has told journalists he intends to appoint Islamic clergy to serve at Baku's Abu-Bekir mosque, which is reputed to be a stronghold of Wahhabism, Turan reported on 12 February (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 16 August 2001). He said the mosque's current imam was not officially appointed by the Caucasus Religious Board. LF

    [22] GEORGIA SENDS ENVOYS TO MOSCOW, KYIV TO DISCUSS ABKHAZIA...

    Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze, who is Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's special envoy for Abkhazia, is in Moscow for talks with Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin (who performs the same function for Russian President Vladimir Putin) on how economic concessions could expedite a solution to the Abkhaz conflict, Caucasus Press reported on 12 February, quoting Abashidze's press service. Also on 12 February, Georgian National Security Council Secretary Tedo Djaparidze met in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to discuss bilateral relations and the Abkhaz question, Caucasus Press reported. Ukraine has repeatedly offered to provide peacekeepers to serve in Abkhazia as part of a UN force. Kuchma also offered during last month's informal CIS summit to try to mediate a solution of the Abkhaz conflict. LF

    [23] ...AS ABKHAZ PARLIAMENT-IN-EXILE APPEALS TO UN, WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL

    The Tbilisi-based Abkhaz parliament-in-exile, comprising the Georgian deputies elected to the Abkhaz parliament in late 1991, passed a resolution on 12 February demanding that the UN launch a peace-enforcement operation in Abkhazia to pave the way for the return to their homes of Georgian displaced persons who fled Abkhazia during the 1992-93 war, Caucasus Press reported. The parliament-in-exile also decided on 12 February to send a delegation to The Hague to present to the International War Crimes Tribunal some 30 volumes of materials on war crimes allegedly committed by the Abkhaz against the breakaway republic's Georgian population in 1992-93, Caucasus Press reported. The delegation will be headed by the exiled legislature's deputy chairman, Givi Gvazava. LF

    [24] COUNCIL OF EUROPE DELEGATION SNUBBED ON ARRIVAL IN GEORGIA

    No Georgian officials were present at Tbilisi Airport to welcome a PACE delegation that arrived late on 11 February, Caucasus Press reported. The delegation was further offended after being presented by the airport authorities with a 90 laris ($43.80) bill, which they refused to pay, for use of the VIP lounge. Journalists from the independent Rustavi-2 television station finally transported the delegation to their hotel. The PACE delegation will spend three days in Georgia assessing the country's compliance with its commitments on human rights. LF

    [25] KAZAKHSTAN BANS AUM SHINRIKYO

    Kazakhstan's National Security Committee has banned a branch of the Japanese sect Aum Shinrikyo in Qyzyl-Orda Oblast, Interfax reported on 12 February. The branch was established by an ethnically Russian Kazakh citizen, Vladimir Kamenev and functioned under the guise of a yoga class. Kamenev has been convicted of violating the law on religious freedom. LF

    [26] KYRGYZSTAN ENDORSES RUSSIAN-FRENCH-GERMAN STANCE ON IRAQ...

    Kyrgyzstan's Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov told journalists in Bishkek on 12 February that Kyrgyzstan supports the French-German-Russian proposal to expand the number of international inspectors in Iraq as a possible means of persuading Baghdad to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1441 and thereby averting a war (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2003), ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Aitmatov said Kyrgyzstan believes that military action against Iraq should be undertaken only with UN approval. He said Kyrgyzstan will not make its military facilities available to the United States for military strikes against Iraq. Aitmatov further warned that such a war would risk destabilizing Afghanistan and could result in a resurgence of the Taliban, akipress.org reported. Speaking on 8 February at the 39th International Defense and Security Conference in Munich, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov similarly warned that Afghanistan's Transitional Administration has failed to neutralize the remnants of the Taliban, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. LF

    [27] ...AGAIN REJECTS INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM OF REFERENDUM

    At the same 12 February press conference in Bishkek, Foreign Minister Aitmatov rejected as lacking objectivity criticisms by the Washington-based National Democratic Institute and by the U.S. permanent representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) of the 2 February referendum on constitutional amendments, akipress.org and RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. On 13 February, Kyrgyzstan's Ambassador to the United States Baktybek Abdrisaev published a letter in the "Financial Times" rejecting the OSCE's criticism that the short time span between the announcement of the referendum and the date it took place did not allow for a broad public discussion of the proposed amendments. LF

    [28] NEW LAW ON FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMES INTO FORCE IN UZBEKISTAN

    The law on freedom of information that was passed by parliament in its second reading in December came into effect on 7 February, uza.uz reported four days later. The law affirms the right to free access to and distribution of information and prohibits censorship. LF

    CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

    [29] BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION WELCOMES EUROPARLIAMENT'S ANTI-LUKASHENKA RESOLUTION

    Belarusian Popular Front leader Vintsuk Vyachorka told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 12 February that the European Parliament's resolution on Belarus adopted the previous day is a welcome move, since it confirms that Europe has not backed away from its refusal to recognize the authoritarian regime of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The European Parliament on 11 February expressed concern over the increasing self-isolation and economic stagnation of Belarus and condemned the regime's "indiscriminate attacks on the media, journalists, members of the opposition, human rights activists, and any person who attempts freely to voice criticism of the president." Social Democratic Party leader Mikola Statkevich praised the timing of the resolution, saying Lukashenka is eagerly seeking contacts with the West in order to counterbalance political and economic pressure from Russia. JM

    [30] BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT TO PROVIDE SOCIAL SPENDING FROM HIS 'RESERVE'

    The Belarusian cabinet on 12 February approved two draft presidential decrees concerning social assistance, Belapan reported. The first provides for allocating some 55 billion rubles ($28 million) from a presidential reserve fund to the central budget, regional budgets, and Minsk's city budget for supporting low-income groups in 2003. The second decree, if enacted, would establish new criteria for dispensing social benefits and payments. Independent Belarusian analysts call President Lukashenka's reserve fund the country's "shadow budget." Its assets and the source of those funds are kept secret not only from the public but also from the legislature and the government. According to independent media, Lukashenka's "shadow budget," aside from revenues generated by economic entities run directly by the Presidential Administrative Department, includes proceeds from Belarus's arms sales. JM

    [31] WILL BELARUSIAN TRADE UNIONS PROPOSE PLEBISCITE ON LUKASHENKA'S THIRD TERM?

    The leadership of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus (FPB) has reserved the right to initiate a constitutional referendum that would enable Lukashenka to run for a third term, Belapan reported on 12 February, quoting FPB Chairman Leanid Kozik. Kozik cited the example of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Azerbaijan, which proposed the re-election of President Heidar Aliev. "When the time comes, I will also propose our president or initiate a [referendum] on a third or even a fifth term," Kozik pledged. "We need to get rid of this limit. There should be no limits -- the people do what they want." JM

    [32] UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES 1932-33 FAMINE

    The Verkhovna Rada on 12 February held a hearing devoted to the catastrophic famine in Ukraine in 1932-33, which claimed millions of lives (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 and 25 June 2002), Ukrainian media reported. Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn called for compiling a list of all victims of the famine and erecting a monument to them in Kyiv. Parliamentary Human Rights Committee head Hennadiy Udovenko said the committee recommends that the Verkhovna Rada address the United Nations with a request to recognize the famine as a genocide perpetrated against the Ukrainian nation by the communist regime. Deputy Prime Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk concurred, saying recognition of the famine as an act of genocide will be of "principal significance for the stabilization of socioeconomic relations in Ukraine." According to the ArtUkraine.com website, Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko addressed the legislature with the most "controversial" speech, in which he denied the artificial nature of the 1932-33 famine and blamed it on disastrous weather conditions and poor harvests in the two previous years. JM

    [33] UKRAINIAN BIRTHRATE UP FOR FIRST TIME IN 15 YEARS

    The birthrate in Ukraine in 2002 grew year-on-year by 3 percent, Interfax reported on 12 February, quoting the Justice Ministry. The birthrate in Ukraine had fallen consistently since 1987. Nevertheless, there were nearly twice as many deaths as births in the country last year (754,915 versus 392,524). JM

    [34] ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES CRIMINAL PROCEDURE CODE

    Deputies on 12 February approved a new Criminal Procedure Code that includes comprehensive changes to the judicial procedure, BNS reported. The new code replaces Soviet-era legislation, adopted in 1961, that had subsequently been amended more than 30 times. Preparations for the new law began in 1994 under the Pro Patria Union-led government of Mart Laar, and his three-party government presented it to the parliament in December 2000 following his return to the prime minister's seat. Justice Minister Mart Rask said the new code greatly expands the role of the prosecutor and should speed up criminal proceedings and cut costs. The parliament on 12 February also ratified the Estonian-Russian pension-insurance agreement signed by Social Affairs Minister Siiri Oviir and Russian Social Development Minister Aleksandr Pochinok last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2002). SG

    [35] LATVIAN-SWISS BILATERAL COOPERATION STRATEGY FOR 2003 SIGNED

    Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovkis signed a Latvian-Swiss bilateral cooperation strategy for 2003 and began talks on expanding a bilateral-cooperation agreement during a visit to Switzerland, LETA reported on 12 February. He also signed an agreement with Swiss defense officials on the donation of Swiss military vehicles to the Latvian National Armed Forces and held talks with his Swiss counterpart Samuel Schmid. On 11 February, Kristovskis discussed the principles of Swiss defense policy and neutrality, international security matters, Latvia's relations with Russia, and the Iraq conflict with deputies of the Swiss Federal Assembly. He also visited several Swiss training bases, where he was acquainted with civil-defense equipment and training as well as with cooperation between state, municipal, fire service, armed forces and community in crisis management. SG

    [36] REFERENDUM ON CHANGING LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT REGISTERED

    The Central Election Commission on 12 February officially registered a group that is seeking to collect the signatures of more than 300,000 registered voters within three months to force a referendum aimed at substantially changing the parliamentary election system, BNS reported the next day. It would reduce the number of deputies in parliament from the current 141 to 131 by abolishing the election of 70 deputies via party lists and introducing the direct election of a deputy from each of the 60 raions and municipalities. The direct election of deputies in 71 single-mandate districts would remain unchanged. The 27-member initiative group -- headed by parliament's wealthiest deputy, industrialist Viktor Uspaskich -- also includes controversial parliamentary deputies Kazys Bobelis, Julius Veselka, Rolandas Pavilionis, and Ramunas Karbauskis. Leaders of the ruling coalition and the opposition have stated their opposition to the proposal, but the Lithuanian Business Employers Confederation, which Uspaskich heads, is expected to support the move. SG

    [37] POLAND, RUSSIA SIGN SCALED-BACK GAS-SUPPLY DEAL

    Poland and Russia on 12 February signed a deal whereby Russian gas supplies will be reduced by 74.6 billion cubic meters, or 34.5 percent, in 2003-20, PAP reported, quoting Infrastructure Minister Marek Pol. Poland will get 143.4 billion cubic meters of Russian gas in that period, instead of the previously planned 218.8 billion. The government-to-government deal also foresees supplies being extended by two years until 2022, indicating an effective reduction of 56.6 billion cubic meters, or 26.2 percent. Poland expects that it will spend some $5 billion less on Russian gas than planned. The supply deal was renegotiated by Pol in Moscow last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January 2003). JM

    [38] POLISH FARMERS INJURED IN SCUFFLES WITH POLICE

    One farmer lost an eye and 10 others were hospitalized as a result of scuffles between protesting farmers and police near Kalisz in western Poland on 12 February, PAP reported. The riots reportedly broke out after farmers manning roadblocks attacked police with stones and wooden planks. Police returned fire with rubber bullets, one of which hit a protester in the eye. Polish farmers have been protesting the government's agricultural policies for the past eight days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2003). The 12 February protests were organized by Andrzej Lepper's Self-Defense. The same day, Self-Defense lawmakers disrupted parliamentary debate for one hour by unfurling a banner protesting the government's farm policies and parliament's lack of response to the farmers' protests. JM

    [39] POLISH UNIONS SAY SILESIA SUFFERING ECONOMIC 'CATACLYSM'

    The left-wing National Trade Union Accord (OPZZ) has issued a statement describing the economic situation in Poland's southern industrial region Silesia as a "cataclysm," PAP reported on 12 February. The OPZZ demanded that the government introduce a program to curb the region's high unemployment and offered to help work out such a plan. "We can't bear to watch what's happening there. The economy is a catastrophe, with more and more big companies closing down," OPZZ activist Henryk Moskwa told the agency. "Silesia's unemployment has gone up to 330,000 and is expected to rise to 338,000 at the end of this year." The OPZZ said it will not join Solidarity's "regional protest day" in Silesia on 21 February but added that OPZZ members are free to do so of their own accord. JM

    [40] POLAND WANTS UKRAINE TO APOLOGIZE FOR 1943 MASSACRE

    Marek Siwiec, head of the National Security Bureau, said on 13 February that Poland expects Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to issue an official apology for crimes committed by Ukrainian nationalists against Poles in 1943 in Volhynia in northwestern Ukraine, Polish Radio reported. Siwiec added that Poland will not pressure Ukraine for such an apology. He recalled that Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski apologized to the Ukrainians for Operation Vistula, during which Ukrainians were forced by Polish communist authorities to resettle to Polish territories regained from Germany after War World II (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 23 April 2002). Siwiec noted that apologies with regard to those crimes should be treated separately. "For us an apology will be a very natural and honest thing to do. The initiative is to be taken by Ukraine, though." Siwiec said. According to Polish sources, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) brutally massacred 60,000-70,000 Polish civilians in Volhynia in 1943 (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 8 May 2001). JM

    [41] CZECHS REITERATE WILLINGNESS TO DEFEND TURKEY

    Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla told journalists after a meeting of the cabinet on 12 February that the Czech Republic is ready to help Turkey defend itself in the event of a retaliatory attack by Iraq, CTK reported. NATO is divided over the issue, with France, Germany, and Belgium opposing NATO defensive preparations before 14 February, when UN weapons inspectors in Iraq report to the UN Security Council. Spidla said Turkey "is a firm NATO ally" and that NATO solidarity demands that when one of its members requests assistance, it should receive it. He said he does not rule out that, "under certain conditions," the Czech troops now deployed in Kuwait might move to Turkey. Spidla added that the issue has already been discussed with Slovakia, whose troops are part of the chemical unit stationed in Kuwait. MS

    [42] CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS 'STATE OF WAR' ALREADY EXISTS

    Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, in an interview with the Slovak daily "Pravda" on 12 February, said that both the Czech Republic and Slovakia already find themselves in a state of war, CTK reported. "To think that [if war breaks out in Iraq] we shall close the door, pull down the blinds, and say this is none of our business would not be true," Svoboda said. "We have been in a state of war for a long time." He added: "We have a choice of being active participants or becoming victims and, in addition, losing our credibility as partners." He said the Czech Republic and Slovakia are part of the conflict "because we belong to the family representing those values, lifestyle, and politics that are unacceptable to terrorists and to states such as Iraq." However, Svoboda also added, "We are clearly saying that we are waiting for a decision by the [UN] Security Council. This does not [necessarily] mean a new resolution.... We are interested in content, not form." The presence of RFE/RL headquarters on Czech territory, he said, is also part of the Czech contribution to the struggle against international terrorism. MS

    [43] CZECH GOVERNMENT TAKES 'NEUTRAL STAND' ON DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS...

    The cabinet on 12 February assumed what government spokeswoman Anna Starkova called "a neutral stand" toward a constitutional amendment providing for direct presidential elections that was submitted by the junior coalition party Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU), CTK reported. Hana Marvanova (US-DEU), one of the authors of the bill, said the cabinet's position will not hinder her party from pushing for the constitutional change. The bill is to be discussed by the Chamber of Deputies, but it is unclear whether the lower house can introduce it to its agenda before spring, according to CTK. To do so, an extraordinary session of the chamber would have to be called, which is only possible if 40 lawmakers endorse the move. The US-DEU has only 10 deputies. Premier Spidla told journalists after a cabinet meeting the same day that, in principle, the government supports direct presidential elections, but it has some objections to several stipulations in the US-DEU bill. MS

    [44] ...BUT APPROVES EU REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN

    Premier Spidla told journalists on 12 February after a cabinet meeting that the government approved a campaign strategy for the 15-16 June referendum on EU membership, CTK reported. Spidla said citizens will be informed of both the advantages and the disadvantages of EU membership. The cabinet allocated 200 million crowns ($6.78 million) for the campaign, whose logo will be ANO ("yes" in Czech), with the EU's current 15 stars forming the letter "O." MS

    [45] CZECH CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CHAIRMAN RESIGNS

    Constitutional Court Justice Zdenek Kessler resigned on 12 February on health grounds, marking the departure of the only chairman in the institution's 11-year history, CTK reported. Kessler has been unable to perform his duties for several months due to his condition, the daily "Pravo" reported in early January. The letter of resignation was addressed to parliamentary speaker Lubomir Zaoralek, who wields some presidential powers in the absence of a head of state. Former President Vaclav Havel's mandate ended on 2 February, and parliament twice has failed to elect a successor (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 25 January 2003). Zaoralek said he will not appoint a successor to the 15-member court before 28 February, saying he believes a new president will be elected on that date. MS

    [46] MOST SLOVAKS SUPPORT NATO REFERENDUM, OPPOSE MEMBERSHIP

    More than 70 percent of Slovaks support a referendum on NATO membership, CTK reported on 12 February, citing a public-opinion poll conducted by Slovak Radio's Media Research Department. Pollsters concluded that, if a plebiscite were held, 53.6 percent of Slovaks would vote against membership. The poll indicated that only 17.5 percent want parliament to decide on whether to join the North Atlantic alliance, while 8.3 percent believe the government should make the decision. In a plebiscite, 38.7 percent would support NATO membership, indicating an 8.5 percent decline since November, when Slovakia was invited to join NATO. Opposition to membership has risen by 14.5 percent. Political scientists cited by CTK blamed waning support on the Iraqi crisis and Slovak preparations for troop participation in a possible war. Backers of a referendum launched a petition drive in mid-January aimed at collecting the 350,000 signatures necessary to force a plebiscite (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 2003). MS

    [47] HUNGARIAN DEMOCRATIC FORUM REJECTS SOCIALIST OVERTURES

    Opposition Democratic Forum parliamentary group leader Karoly Herenyi on 12 February ruled out anything but right-wing parties as possible coalition partners, the MTI news agency reported. Herenyi's statement came one day after Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs said Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy can envisage a partnership with the Democratic Forum as part of his so-called reconciliation policy. Herenyi claimed his party wants to see the tone of political life become more civilized, adding that public servants should focus on solving problems rather than on party disputes. Former Prime Minister Peter Boross flatly rejected any possibility of his Democratic Forum swinging to the left, the agency reported. He said it was ridiculous for Kovacs to assume that the party would ever help the Socialists to power, and he expressed the hope that a rightwing government will be formed after Hungary's next parliamentary elections in spring 2006. MSZ

    [48] HUNGARIAN BISHOPS APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT IN TAX, FUNDING DISPUTE

    The Bench of Catholic Bishops in Hungary is appealing to the Constitutional Court over social legislation recently passed by parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 2003), Hungarian media reported. According to the new law, churches will be paid state subsidies based on whether taxpayers offer 1 percent of their income-tax obligations rather than on census data, and churches will be required to conclude contracts with local governments in order to gain access to budgetary funds for providing social services. Bench Secretary Andras Veres told reporters that the group expects the court to rule that churches have a right to establish social-care institutions. He said the Catholic Church will soon send out letters to 3.1 million households, asking citizens to offer 1 percent of their income taxes to fund the church. MSZ

    [49] ANTIWAR DEMONSTRATORS STAGE SERVICE OUTSIDE HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT

    Peace Chain organizers staged a candlelight vigil outside parliament on 12 February to demonstrate against a potential war on Iraq, Budapest dailies reported. Organizers said the service was meant for those who envisage a future without violence and war, and for those who will not remain indifferent to human suffering. MSZ

    [50] JEWISH GROUP TO SQUARE OFF AGAINST NEO-NAZIS

    The Federation of Jewish Religious Communities in Hungary (MAZSIHISZ) will stage an antifascist demonstration outside parliament on 15 February at the same time that the far-right Blood and Honor Society in another part of the square commemorates German and Hungarian fascist troops who defended Buda Castle against Soviet forces in February 1945, local dailies reported on 13 February. MAZSIHISZ President Peter Tordai told "Nepszabadsag" on 12 February that his group's demonstration will be a silent protest against the revival of fascism and the emergence of neo-Nazi groups. MSZ

    SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [51] ALBANIAN, CROATIAN, MACEDONIAN LEADERS MEET IN TIRANA

    The presidents of Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia met in Tirana on 12 February to discuss their shared aspiration to join NATO, ATA reported. In a joint declaration, Alfred Moisiu (Albania), Stipe Mesic (Croatia), and Boris Trajkovski (Macedonia) stressed their commitment to accelerate democratic, economic, social, legal, and military reforms, as well as to the protection of human and minority rights. They underscored NATO's positive role in ensuring regional stability and modernizing their countries' armed forces. Regarding the Iraq crisis, Moisiu, Mesic, and Trajkovski said President Saddam Hussein's regime must disarm in line with resolutions by the UN Security Council or face the consequences. UB

    [52] PRIME MINISTER SAYS CROATIA SUPPORTS PEACEFUL SOLUTION TO IRAQ CRISIS

    Prime Minister Ivica Racan said on 12 February that his government supports a peaceful solution to the standoff over Iraqi disarmament, Hina reported. Racan dismissed reports that the government has decided to participate in a possible military operation against Iraq. He added, however, that if Croatia is asked to participate in an operation on the basis of UN resolutions, it will respond on the basis of the Croatian Constitution and legislation, and domestic public opinion. Racan said the so-called Vilnius 10 declaration, to which Croatia is a signatory, is imprecise and allows differing interpretations, and therefore will not be binding for the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 12 February 2003). UB

    [53] FORMER YUGOSLAV MILITARY-INTELLIGENCE CHIEF TESTIFIES IN THE HAGUE

    Aleksandar Vasiljevic, a former chief of the Yugoslav Army's counterintelligence service, appeared on 12 February as a witness for the prosecution in its case against Slobodan Milosevic at the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Vasiljevic testified that Milosevic had decisive influence over the Yugoslav Army during the Balkan wars and the conflict in Kosova. Vasiljevic also talked about purges in the army, the role of the Serbian Interior Ministry, paramilitary groups, and the siege of Vukovar. The Milosevic trial started on 12 February 2002. UB

    [54] PRISON REVOLT IN ZENICA ENDS

    A prison revolt in the central Bosnian town of Zenica ended on 12 February, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. On 10 February, some 220 prisoners occupied the roofs of two buildings and started throwing tiles. According to Justice Minister Zvonko Milan, the inmates were not demanding better conditions in the country's largest correction facility, but rather reductions in their prison terms. UB

    [55] HIGH REPRESENTATIVE IN BOSNIA SEEKS TO SHUT DOWN 'FACTORIES FOR FRAUD'

    International high representative in Bosnia Paddy Ashdown decided on 12 February to establish an Indirect Tax Policy Commission tasked with the introduction of a unified consumer-tax system and a single, statewide customs administration in Bosnia-Herzegovina, according to a press release from Ashdown's office. Ashdown described the introduction of a single customs administration and a statewide value-added tax as "the most important reforms that I have been involved in since I became high representative. The current system has turned customs and sales tax into factories for fraud. These reforms will help ensure that [more than $760 million] that is lost to fraud every year under the current system instead goes to the hospitals, schools and pensions where the money is desperately needed." UB

    [56] MONTENEGRIN OPPOSITION PROTESTS GOVERNMENT PLANS TO CHANGE ELECTION LAW

    The Socialist People's Party's (SNP) parliamentary opposition coalition on 12 February urged the governing Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to withdraw proposed changes to election legislation, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The opposition argues that the first round of the 9 February presidential elections is not yet over because voting could not take place at some 80 polling stations, partly due to bad weather. The Republican Election Commission has not yet rescheduled voting in those places. Representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on 12 February expressed support for government plans to lift the provision stipulating that a 50 percent voter turnout is necessary for the presidential elections to be valid, Tanjug reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 12 February 2003). UB

    [57] ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES DEPLOYMENT OF NONCOMBAT TROOPS TO PERSIAN GULF

    A joint session of Romania's bicameral parliament on 12 February approved the Supreme Council for National Defense's request to allow the deployment of noncombat troops to the Persian Gulf, as requested by the United States, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February 2003). The vote was 351 in favor to two against and 74 abstentions, with all no votes and abstentions coming from the Greater Romania Party. It also approved opening Romanian airspace to U.S. military flights and the use of military bases by U.S. forces. MS

    [58] ROMANIAN PREMIER PRESENTS 2001-02 PERFORMANCE REPORT IN PARLIAMENT

    Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 12 February presented in parliament a report on his cabinet's performance in 2001-02, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He listed as the cabinet's most outstanding achievements Romania's invitation to join NATO, the abolition of visa requirements for citizens traveling in the Schengen area, and the European Union setting 2007 as Romania's target date for joining the union. He also said his government has succeeded in restoring Romania's economic growth, noting that Romania's GDP rose by $4 billion in 2001-02, compared to losses of $3.5 billion registered in1997-98 under the previous cabinet. He said efforts to combat corruption and reduce bureaucracy are still encountering difficulties. Lawmakers representing the opposition National Liberal Party and Democratic Party walked out, saying the premier's presentation of a report to a joint session of the two parliamentary chambers was unconstitutional. MS

    [59] MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT REVEALS DETAILS OF PROPOSED NEW CONSTITUTION...

    President Vladimir Voronin on 12 February presented to journalists in Chisinau details of his recent proposal to draft a new Moldovan constitution together with the separatist authorities in Tiraspol, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 12 February 2003). Voronin said the Moldovan parliament and the Transdniester Supreme Soviet should each appoint groups of constitutional experts to work on the new basic document. The two groups would then elect a chairman and jointly develop a draft constitution within six months after their appointment. The document would then be sent to international experts for examination while being debated in parallel "by society." This second stage would last three months at the most, after which a referendum to approve the new constitution would be called on both sides of the Dniester River. If the new constitution is approved, early elections would be held for both the country's president and for a new joint parliament. The entire process, Voronin said, should not take longer than 12-14 months. The Moldovan president said he is prepared to resign if his plan fails to help resolve the crisis, and he claimed the proposal is endorsed by the OSCE, Russia, Ukraine, the United States, and the EU, according to Reuters. According to Flux, U.S. Ambassador to Moldova Pamela Hyde Smith called the initiative "promising" and said the United States will do its utmost to back it and thus advance the current negotiations. MS

    [60] ...WHICH INCLUDE LARGE-SCALE CONCESSIONS TO THE SEPARATISTS

    Citing "credible sources requesting anonymity," Flux on 12 February said the proposals on the "federal state" submitted by Voronin to Tiraspol stipulate that the country's official language would be Russian and that Transdniester would have its own state symbols. The federation would abandon Moldova's current neutrality, while Russia would maintain its military presence in federal Moldova. The separatist region would enjoy large-scale economic autonomy, making only symbolic contributions to the federal budget. The army and security structures would be unified, but Tiraspol would be allowed to have a separate police force, called "militia" in Transdniester, to distinguish it from "police" in federal Moldova. Legislation would be of two types -- federal and regional -- with Tiraspol enjoying the right of veto over federal legislation. The governing system would be presidential, with the head of state elected by popular vote, with a bicameral parliament. MS

    [61] VORONIN DISMISSES JUSTICE MINISTER

    President Voronin on 12 February issued a decree dismissing Justice Minister Ion Morei from his post, Flux reported. Voronin on 11 February accused Morei of "incompetence" in connection with stipulations his ministry introduced to the new law on political-party reregistration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2003). MS

    [62] MOLDOVAN CABINET APPROVES DRAFT CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT...

    The cabinet on 12 February approved the draft of a constitutional amendment that would specifically mention the special status of the Gagauz-Yeri Autonomous Republic, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The draft, which is to be debated, defines Gagauz-Yeri as having special autonomous status while at the same time being "an integral and inalienable part of the Republic of Moldova." It also stipulates that in the event that Moldova were to lose its independence, the Gagauz-Yeri population would "have the right to self-determination." MS

    [63] ...AS WELL AS BILL ON REINTRODUCING SOVIET-TYPE LOCAL ADMINISTRATION...

    The government on 12 January also approved a bill replacing the country's current local-administration structure with a Soviet-style structure, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Under the bill, Moldova would have 33 raions and one municipality -- Chisinau. Prime Minister Tarlev said that while the bill was "coordinated" with experts of the Council of Europe, the government had to take into consideration "our local specific Moldovan conditions as well." The local-administration structure is currently based on the Romanian model of division into counties. MS

    [64] ...AND BILLS ON TELERADIO MOLDOVA BOARD

    The cabinet also approved on 12 February three possible versions of a bill on the leading structures of Teleradio Moldova, all of which will be submitted to parliament for approval, RFE/RL's Chisinau Bureau reported. The cabinet said it believes the best version was that proposed by independent parliamentary deputy Mihai Camerzan, who was recently expelled from the Braghis Alliance (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February 2003). Camerzan's bill envisages a 15-member Board of Observers whose mandate would be for five years. Parliament, the cabinet, and the presidency would each appoint three members to the board, trade unions and artists unions would each be represented by two members, while youth organizations and cultural associations representing national minorities would be represented by one member each. The board would appoint Teleradio Moldova's director, whose selection would then be subject to parliamentary approval. MS

    [65] BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER WANTS PUBLIC DEBATE ON DRAFT MEDIA LAW

    Government spokesman Dimitar Tsonev announced on 12 February that Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski will initiate a broad public discussion on the controversial draft law on radio and television (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 7 February 2003), mediapool.bg reported. Tsonev's announcement came one day after a meeting between President Georgi Parvanov and media representatives, during which the draft law was harshly criticized. Tsonev stressed that the draft law will probably be changed between its first and second readings in parliament. UB

    [66] STATE NEWS AGENCY DISMISSALS DRAW CRITICISM

    Journalists as well as legislators from the ruling National Movement Simeon II and opposition parties alike on 12 February protested the recent dismissals within the state-owned BTA news agency, bnn reported. "We are seriously concerned about the attempts at a purge among BTA employees," they said in an open letter to President Parvanov and Prime Minister Saxecoburggotski. "The actions of the management suggest a desire to dominate BTA and to use it for political purposes," according to the letter. UB

    [67] BULGARIA PREPARED TO OFFER MILITARY SUPPORT TO TURKEY

    Deputy Foreign Minister Lyubomir Ivanov said on 12 February that Bulgaria is prepared to offer military support to neighboring Turkey in the event that NATO fails to reach agreement on the issue, bnn reported. Ivanov said last week's parliamentary decision to prepare a chemical unit for a possible military operation against Iraq includes the possibility of deploying the unit to Turkey. He stressed, however, that Sofia will refrain from presenting this option as long as NATO continues to discuss the controversial issue of protecting Turkey in the event of a war. UB

    [68] FRENCH DIPLOMAT TELLS BULGARIA TO 'THINK EUROPEAN-STYLE'

    French Ambassador to Bulgaria Jean Loup Kuhn-Delforge said on 12 February in Sofia that Bulgaria's position on the Iraq question could pose problems for its EU-integration effort because public opinion in Western Europe might turn against the candidates, mediapool.bg reported. Kuhn-Delforge seemed to be alluding to the Vilnius 10 group's support for the United States. Kuhn-Delforge was essentially repeating a similar warning made by a French Foreign Ministry spokesman the day before. "Bulgaria has to consider carefully where its long-term interests lie," the ambassador said. "I think that when people live in Europe they should express solidarity and think European-style." The news agency noted that the interviewer failed to ask Kuhn-Delforge what the European position on the Iraq question is, given high-profile differences between France, Germany, and Belgium on the one hand and the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, and Italy, for instance, on the other. UB

    SOUTHWESTERN ASIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST

    [69] AFGHAN CIVILIANS REPORTEDLY KILLED IN COALITION BOMBING

    Helmand Province government spokesman Haji Mohammad Wali said on 12 February that at least 17 Afghan civilians have been killed as a result of bombing conducted by coalition forces in the area of Baghran since 10 February, Reuters reported. U.S. military sources have said that as part of operation Eagle Fury, B-52 and B-1 bombers pounded a mountain ridge on 12 February after 25 armed Taliban fighters were spotted there, Reuters reported. Mohammad Wali said he has informed Kabul of the mostly female and juvenile civilian casualties. U.S. military spokesman Colonel Roger King said he is unaware of civilian causalities, according to Reuters. Tayab Jawad, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he has received no information regarding civilian causalities, but added that in "general, the government prefers they [coalition forces] shouldn't bomb," out of respect for Eid (Muslim holidays) days, "unless it is very necessary," Reuters reported. AT

    [70] PAKISTANI INTELLIGENCE ACCUSED OF HELPING TALIBAN

    Two ranking members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chairman Richard Lugar (Republican, Indiana) and top Democrat Senator Joseph Biden (Delaware), said during a 12 February hearing on the reconstruction of Afghanistan that elements within Pakistan's Interservices Intelligence (ISI) agency are helping Taliban fighters in their campaign to destabilize the government of Afghanistan, "The New York Times" reported on 13 February. During the hearing, Afghanistan's Ambassador to the United States Ishaq Shahryar said his country is in a "circle of instability" and cannot attract foreign investment until the security situation has improved. Shahryar urged the committee "to continue to support the expansion of the ISAF [International Security Assistance Force]," the New York daily reported. Islamabad has consistently denied they are sheltering or helping the Taliban, as it did when the Taliban were in power and their main backer was Pakistan. German Defense Minister Peter Struck on February 10 categorically rejected the idea of expanding the ISAF's role beyond Kabul (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"11 February 2003). AT

    [71] AFGHAN MILITARY CAPTAIN CRITICIZES FINANCE MINISTER

    Captain Wazir Ahmad, a reporter for the Defense Ministry's "Difa" magazine, recently wrote a commentary in the Kabul weekly "Panjara" criticizing the Finance Ministry and Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, in particular, for acting contrary to cabinet and presidential decisions regarding the payment of three months' back wages to military personnel, Radio Free Afghanistan reported on 10 February. Ahmad urged the Defense Ministry and President Karzai to look into the needs of Afghan military personnel, the report added. AT

    [72] FINANCE MINSTER SAYS AFGHANISTAN'S INCOME ONLY COVERS DEFENSE MINISTRY'S NEEDS

    Finance Minister Ahmadzai recently told a news conference that Afghanistan's current national income is sufficient only to pay the salaries of Defense Ministry personnel, and he urged the World Bank to speed up financial assistance to the country, "Farda" reported on 9 February. Ahmadzai added that he has to take loans from international institutions in order to pay the salaries of police and civilian employees of the government, the report added. "Farda" added that Defense Ministry personnel have received only three months' salary since January 2002 and are still waiting to be paid for 10 months' back wages. AT

    [73] IRANIAN EXPEDIENCY COUNCIL CHAIRMAN CRITICAL OF PERCEIVED U.S. INTENTIONS

    Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani led the 12 February special prayers in Tehran marking Id al-Adha, the last day of the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca and also the "Feast of the Sacrifice" that celebrates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to God, Iranian state television reported. Rafsanjani accused the United States of trying to take Iraq over with or without a war, and that afterward, "America will consider itself as the sole dominant force in the region." Iran cannot accept the United States as Saddam Hussein's replacement, "and with the mercy of God and the support of Muslims, we will not allow America to establish a base in the region," Rafsanjani said. He also criticized regional leaders who cooperate with the United States. "Some Islamic countries that should be the guardian of perimeter of Mecca allow America to use their military bases and ports and this is a great shame, and indicative of the irresponsibility of the heads of Islamic states," he said. BS

    [74] IRAN STAGING NAVAL MANEUVERS

    General Bahram Shamlu, commander of the law-enforcement forces in Iran's southern Bushehr Province, announced on 12 February that police naval elements will stage one-day maneuvers codenamed Fajr-81 on 15 February, IRNA reported. Shamlu said 130 police vessels are expected to participate and will launch from jetties in Bushehr Province, Asaluyeh Port, and Kharg Island. Among the training activities planned for the maneuvers are water skiing, scuba diving, attacking enemies, intercepting smugglers, maritime inspections, and rescue operations, Shamlu said. On 3 February, a colonel identified only as Mollashahi announced that police naval elements would begin separate three-day naval exercises, also codenamed Fajr, on 4 February, the newspaper "Kayhan" reported. Mollashahi said the units participating in the exercise would practice patrolling and ambushes, scuba and search-and-rescue operations, and capturing enemy objectives. The exercises took place in the Persian Gulf waters of the Sistan va Baluchistan, Hormozgan, Bushehr, and Khuzestan provinces. BS

    [75] IRAN MANUFACTURES HIV-TREATMENT DRUG

    Medicine Manufacturers Association Secretary Dr. Vaqefi announced on 13 February that generic drugs that hinder the feeding system of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, have been developed in Iran and will be distributed soon, Iranian state radio reported. Bahram Yeganeh, an adviser to the Health, Treatment, and Medical Education Ministry, announced on 20 December that some 4,237 Iranians have AIDS. He said 65 percent of them contracted the HIV virus through intravenous drug use, and many others were infected through sexual practices, IRNA reported. The Health Ministry on 29 December issued a directive that all public and private medical institutions must accept and provide medication to those who might have HIV, and that any refusal to do so would be punishable by law, IRNA reported. BS

    [76] AL-DA'WAH DISCUSSES RELATIONSHIP WITH UNITED STATES...

    Abu Bilal al-Adib, a member of the predominantly Shia Al-Da'wah Party, said his organization opposes a possible U.S. military strike against Iraq because it would harm the country's people, "Iran" newspaper reported on 30 January. "The strike is in line with America's macro-objectives for domination over Iraq and the region," he added. Nevertheless, al-Adib said, Al-Da'wah has not severed its relations with any country and has held talks with Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. President George W. Bush's special envoy and ambassador at large for "Free Iraqis." Al-Da'wah spokesman Ibrahim al-Ja'fari said that when Al-Da'wah officials visited the United States in early January they met with National Security Council officials twice, State Department officials once, and with the Canadian consul in Washington once, London's "Al-Hayat" newspaper reported on 15 January. Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) official Hamid al-Bayati said on 15 January that Al-Da'wah unilaterally initiated contacts with the United States during the December Iraqi opposition conference in London, Al-Jazeera television reported. BS

    [77] ...AND WITH OTHER OPPOSITION GROUPS

    Al-Da'wah member Abu Bilal al-Adib has said his organization cooperates with other Iraqi opposition groups, "Iran" reported on 30 January. "Cooperation with other groups has been our slogan," al-Adib said. Al-Da'wah did not participate in the London opposition conference because it would help replace Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's domination with that of foreigners, he said. Many observers consider the SCIRI to be the predominant Shia opposition group, but according to al-Adib, "Our party [Al-Da'wah] has given the greatest number of dead and executed members in Iraq and has been the founder of the resistance in the southern areas and among the Shia." The "SCIRI does not want to hand over its role as the representatives of the Shia to anyone else," Al-Adib added, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 23 January. Islamic Movement of Iraqi Kurdistan representative Ihsan Shaykh Abd-al-Aziz said his organization has had a relationship with Al-Da'wah since the 1980s, London's "Al-Zaman" newspaper reported on 21 January. BS

    [78] RIFT WIDENS BETWEEN IRAQI OPPOSITION, U.S. GOVERNMENT OVER VISION OF POSTWAR IRAQ

    Iraqi opposition leaders are expressing doubt and frustration over a U.S. plan to administer postwar Iraq, "The Washington Post" reported on 11 February. U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 11 February that U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilizad last week in Ankara briefed several opposition leaders on the U.S. plan, according to the U.S. State Department's website (www.state.gov). The plan calls for a civilian and military administration headed by U.S. Army General Tommy Franks, with Iraqis playing a role through a "consultative council" that would advise the United States and its allies. Iraqi opposition member Kanan Makiya told "The Washington Post" that the U.S. plan is a "bad idea," adding that it would have the reverse effect to the one intended. "Power is being handed essentially on a platter to the second echelon of the [Iraqi] Ba'ath Party and the Iraqi officer corps," he stated. KR

    [79] IRAQI LEADER DISCUSSES U-2 CONTROVERSY

    Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan told Iraq Satellite Television on 12 February that UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) Executive Chairman Hans Blix did not properly inform the UN Security Council of Iraq's concerns regarding U-2 overflights. Ramadan said Iraq had proposed that other reconnaissance aircraft be used in conjunction with the U-2 aircraft, adding that France and Russia have offered the use of their Mirage and Antonov reconnaissance planes "free of charge" to weapons inspectors. Ramadan claimed that it was agreed that all three types of aircraft would be used and that prior notification be given to the Iraqi government before the aircraft would enter Iraqi airspace. In addition, the routes and time of departure from airspace were to be predetermined, he said. "These procedures will be followed every time so that our missions and the missions of our air defenses vis-a-vis Iraqi airspace violations may not be restrained," Ramadan told Iraq Satellite Television. KR

    [80] IRAQI MISSILE IN VIOLATION

    UN weapons inspectors have reportedly determined that the Iraqi Al-Sumud 2 missile is in violation of UN resolutions, Reuters reported on 12 February. UN resolutions stipulate that Iraq cannot possess missiles with a range in excess of 150 kilometers. "The verdict on the missiles was that the Al-Sumud falls in the prohibited zone and its engines should probably be destroyed," Reuters quoted an unnamed UN Security Council diplomat as saying. UNMOVIC did not comment on the issue during its 12 February briefing, but it is expected that UNMOVIC chief Blix will address the subject in his 14 February briefing to the UN Security Council. "We are still within limits that are decided by the United Nations," Reuters quoted Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz as saying on 13 February. He hinted that any increase in the missile's range was a merely accidental. "The main problem is that Iraqi missiles which are of a very short range don't have a guidance system and when a missile doesn't have a guidance system it goes 5, 10, 15 kilometers beyond (target)," Reuters quoted Aziz as saying. The missile controversy was detailed in Blix's presentation to the UN Security Council on 27 January (see RFE/RL "Iraq Report," 2 February 2003). KR

    [81] PHILIPPINES EXPELS IRAQI DIPLOMAT WITH ALLEGED LINKS TO ABU SAYYAF...

    Philippine Foreign Secretary Blas Ople informed the Iraqi Embassy in Manila on 12 February that it is withdrawing the accreditation of Iraqi Second Secretary Husham Hussein, saying Hussein "has ceased to enjoy the rights and privileges of a diplomat of the embassy of Iraq," AFP reported. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry confirmed in a statement on 12 February (http://www.uruklink.net/mofa/) that the Filipino government has declared Hussein persona non grata and given him 48 hours to leave the country. Hussein has reportedly been identified as having contact with an alleged member of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf shortly after an October 2002 bombing in the city of Zamboanga, AFP reported. The bombing killed three civilians and a U.S. soldier. Hussein has also been identified as having met at the Iraqi Embassy with "front organizations" of the National Democratic Front (NDF). The NDF is the political wing of the Philippine Communist Party (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), according to AFP. The United States has labeled both the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations. KR

    [82] ...AS IRAQ SAYS U.S. WAS BEHIND THE MOVE

    The Foreign Ministry in its 12 February statement accused the U.S. Embassy in Manila of "fabricating" the charges against Hussein, adding that Iraq supports the view of the Philippine government with regard to Islamic groups. The statement contended that Hussein and a second Iraqi diplomat were approached by U.S. Embassy officials on separate occasions earlier this month. The U.S. officials requested that the men "betray their country," according to the Foreign Ministry. KR

    [83] PUTIN AGAIN URGES POLITICAL SOLUTION TO IRAQ CRISIS

    Speaking to journalists in Bordeaux, France, on 12 February, President Vladimir Putin said he is not concerned by the recent audiotape purportedly made by Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2003), RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported. Putin said that the tape does not provide evidence of any links between Al-Qaeda and the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. He also iterated his statement that Russia is prepared to use its UN Security Council veto to prevent what Moscow considers an unfounded military intervention in Iraq. "We have used [the veto] many times and will use it again if necessary," Putin said. However, he stressed that he does not want to exacerbate tensions by engaging in polemics because "that would make it difficult to come to terms with other Security Council members who now disagree with Russia." Putin again stated that a U.S. military operation against Hussein would weaken the international antiterrorism coalition and split the Security Council but pledged that Russia will, in any event, work to maintain the coalition and preserve Security Council unity on key issues. "Russia will never return to a policy of confrontation with our partners in Europe and North America," Putin said. VY

    [84] KYRGYZSTAN ENDORSES RUSSIAN-FRENCH-GERMAN STANCE ON IRAQ

    Kyrgyzstan's Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov told journalists in Bishkek on 12 February that Kyrgyzstan supports the French-German-Russian proposal to expand the number of international inspectors in Iraq as a possible means of persuading Baghdad to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1441 and thereby averting a war (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2003), ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Aitmatov said Kyrgyzstan believes that military action against Iraq should be undertaken only with UN approval. He said Kyrgyzstan will not make its military facilities available to the United States for military strikes against Iraq. Aitmatov further warned that such a war would risk destabilizing Afghanistan and could result in a resurgence of the Taliban, akipress.org reported. Speaking on 8 February at the 39th International Defense and Security Conference in Munich, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov similarly warned that Afghanistan's Transitional Administration has failed to neutralize the remnants of the Taliban, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. LF

    END NOTE

    [85] There is no End Note today.


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