|Wednesday, 17 July 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, 03-11-06
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
 EU WARNS OF FALLOUT OF YUKOS CASE...The European Commission on 5 November, the eve of the EU-Russia summit in Rome, issued a statement saying that alleged violations of basic principles of justice in the investigations into oil giant Yukos could hamper the process of Russia's integration into the European economic space, gazeta.ru and other Russian media reported. "Although the EU considers the Yukos case an internal matter for Russia, it is concerned that the reaction it produces on international and Russian markets might jeopardize the creation of a economic zone uniting Russia and the EU," EU Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten was quoted as saying by gazeta.ru on 5 November. The Russian government must ensure that the law is not applied selectively or disproportionately, he said. VY
 ...AS DEMOCRATIC ACTIVISTS AGAIN SAY FORMER YUKOS CEO IS A POLITICAL PRISONERIn Moscow, a group of well-known human rights activists appealed to Amnesty International asking it to declare jailed former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii a political prisoner, lenta.ru reported on 5 November. The appeal was signed by former Soviet-era political prisoners Yelena Bonner, Vladimir Bukovskii, Sergei Kovalev, Nataliya Gorbanevskaya, and Eduard Kuznetsov. It argued that the criminal cases against Khodorkovskii and his colleagues clearly were politically commissioned. VY
 PUTIN AGAIN STANDS UP FOR PROSECUTORS...In response to a question about whether the actions of the law enforcement authorities against Yukos are justified, President Putin said during a 5 November press conference in Rome that "the prosecutor's office and the courts are not places where rewards, medals, premiums, or monetary prizes are granted," ITAR-TASS reported. "These are places where it is considered that you already won a prize, and now is the time to check whether you got it legitimately," Putin added. He said it is crucial that everyone live according to the law and that people who do not like particular laws seek to change them through the legislature. "It is very important not to allow out-of-court resolutions of criminal cases, as that would be a repetition of the Soviet experience," Putin said. According to sem40.ru and jewish.ru, Putin told Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Moscow on 4 November that Khodorkovskii is not only being punished for economic crimes but for violating a tacit understanding between the Kremlin and the oligarchs. VY
 ...AND SEEKS TO MAINTAIN AN IMAGE OF FAIRNESSAt the same 5 November press conference in Rome, President Putin said that he does not approve of a recent decision by the Natural Resources Ministry to revoke the license of two Yukos subsidiaries to develop oil fields in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 2003), ORT and RTR reported. This move, in conjunction with the Prosecutor-General's Office's decision to freeze a large block of Yukos shares, could create the impression that both agencies are acting in unison to stop Yukos from functioning as a company. "The state does not and cannot have such a goal," Putin said. He added that the Natural Resources Ministry should monitor the activities of license holders on a permanent basis and not time its moves in coordination with those of other agencies. As for the freezing of the Yukos shares, Putin noted that some specialists have criticized the move, but said "there is logic in what prosecutors are doing." VY
 KREMLIN INSIDER EXPLAINS VOLOSHIN'S DEPARTUREFormer Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who is president of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Ekho Moskvy on 4 November that the main function of former presidential chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin was to serve as a link between the oligarchs and the upper levels of Kremlin power. Voloshin resigned on 30 October to protest the arrest of then-Yukos CEO Khodorkovskii. He said that the Kremlin and the oligarchs have a tacit agreement under which the oligarchs agree to pay their taxes, contribute to the social safety nets of the regions where they operate, and refrain from interfering in politics or corrupting bureaucrats. In exchange, the oligarchs received room to operate from the state and the opportunity to accumulate large profits from the export of natural resources. According to Primakov, Voloshin was responsible for detecting and remedying violations of this understanding. In general, he said, Voloshin would get the oligarchs to admit that they were doing something wrong but allow them to continue doing it. For this reason, he came to be seen not as an honest broker but as a part of the oligarchs' camp, Primakov said. This is ultimately why he lost his job. VY
 PUTIN MEETS WITH POPE JOHN PAUL IIPresident Vladimir Putin on 5 November met with Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II in the Vatican, Russian and international media reported. During the meeting, Putin expressed the hope that "relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican will develop positively," RTR reported. The meeting was the second between the two men in the last three years. During their first meeting, Putin invited the pontiff to visit Russia as a head of state, but said that a full-fledged clerical visit would only be possible with the consent of the Russian Orthodox Church. To date, the Russian Patriarchate has objected to a papal visit to Russia. After the 5 November meeting, presidential press spokesman Aleksei Gromov said Putin apparently received some important information from the pope because immediately after the audience, he telephoned Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II. Putin will meet with patriarch in Moscow in the near future, Gromov said. VY
 RUSSIA, ITALY AGREE TO TALKS ON EASING TRAVEL RESTRICTIONSDuring talks in Rome on 5 November with Italian President Carlo Campi and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, President Putin signed a memorandum of understanding about beginning bilateral talks on easing travel restrictions on certain groups of citizens, including businesspeople, students, and scholars, RTR and ITAR-TASS reported. Moscow hopes that such a visa agreement with Italy would make it easier eventually to reach agreement with the European Union on visa-free travel. Putin and Berlusconi also signed several trade agreements, including one allowing Italy to re-export Russian natural gas. "Putin has befriended an oligarch [Berlusconi]," commented NTV on 5 November. VY
 PRO-KREMLIN PARTY FUND OFFICIAL DISAPPEARSAleksandr Korotkov, vice president of the Fund to Support Unified Russia, was reportedly kidnapped in central Moscow at 11:30 p.m. local time on 4 November, Ekho Moskvy reported on 5 November. According to his chauffeur, Kortokov was abducted after getting out of his car for an arranged meeting at a metro station. JAC
 SPS AGAIN PUTS ON FULL-COURT PRESS FOR MERGER WITH YABLOKO...The Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) released a letter on 5 November from its co-Chairman Anatolii Chubais to Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii calling on Yavlinskii to immediately launch a "process of convergence" that would lead to unification of the two parties, Ekho Moskvy reported. According to Chubais, recent events such as the arrest of former Yukos head Khodorkovskii suggest that a dangerous change in Russia's political course is under way, and all democratic forces must unite for joint action. According to Chubais, Yavlinskii's initial response was positive, and Yavlinskii said he agrees with Chubais's evaluation of the current situation, RBK reported. Chubais commented that he could not remember the last time Yavlinskii agreed with him about anything. JAC
 ...AS YABLOKO IS LESS ENTHUSIASTICHowever, "Vremya novostei" reported on 6 November that Yavlinskii told reporters party leaders are still thinking over Chubais's letter. Yavlinskii also revealed that funding for Yabloko from Khodorkovskii ended with the oligarch's arrest, according to strana.ru. Boris Makarenko of the Center for Political Technologies told "Vremya novostei" on 6 November that SPS's overture -- calling for unification when such a move isn't even legally possible this close to the 7 December elections -- is the latest effort by SPS to create the impression that it is a more constructive force than Yabloko. JAC
 TOP UNIFIED RUSSIA OFFICIAL SUGGESTS STRIPPING NON-VOTERS OF CITIZENSHIP...Emergency Situations Minister and Unified Russia co-Chairman Sergei Shoigu told reporters in Krasnoyarsk on 5 November that citizens who do not vote in three consecutive elections without a convincing excuse should be deprived of their citizenship, gazeta.ru reported. According to polit.ru, Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov has suggested imposing fines on non-voters in order to combat low voter turnouts. According to the website, Shoigu's suggestion is not realistic, since it would directly violate the Russian Constitution. JAC
 ...AS SPS WANTS PARTIES THAT WON'T DEBATE STRUCK OFF THE BALLOTAlso on 5 November, SPS leader Boris Nemtsov suggested that parties that refuse to take part in televised election debates should be disqualified from participating in the election, REN-TV reported. "Two days ago, as you know, the party of power [Unified Russia] refused to take part in public debates, thus demonstrating that the party of the Russian bureaucracy is both arrogant and weak," Nemtsov said. "Vedomosti" on 4 November quoted an unidentified Kremlin source as saying that party officials chose to refuse to take part in the debate, calculating that the public-relations damage from that refusal would be less than the possible damage the party might sustain if forced to explain its voting record in the Duma. JAC
 TSIK RESTORES CANDIDACY OF ANOTHER CONTROVERSIAL FIGUREThe Central Election Commission (TsIK) registered State Duma Deputy Yulii Rybakov as a candidate in the St. Petersburg single-mandate district that he has represented in the past three Dumas, ITAR-TASS reported. The St. Petersburg Election Commission had refused to register him last month because of alleged financial irregularities. According to TsIK Chairman Veshnyakov, 2,027 candidates are now registered for races in the 225 single-mandate districts. On average, nine candidates are competing for each seat. In Karachaevo-Cherkessia, a district that was once represented by self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii, 25 candidates have been registered. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 3 November, the single-mandate districts will play a decisive role in the distribution of seats in the next Duma, because polling data suggests that no party will be able to claim an absolute majority in the Duma. The battle in the districts is, therefore, expected to be fierce. The daily predicted a flow of "scandalous news about legal controversies, new instances of dirty tricks, and the exclusion of candidates from participating in elections by court decisions" in the coming weeks. JAC
 RADIO STATION FINDS BASHKORTOSTAN POLICE 'FIXING' ITS BROADCASTING EQUIPMENTUnidentified men wearing police uniforms were discovered on the roof of the building housing the Bulgar radio station in Ufa, apparently trying to disassemble the station's antenna and broadcasting equipment, utro.ru reported on 5 November. Station Deputy Director Sergei Anatskii said Bulgar received no advance notice or explanation for the police officers' actions. After journalists arrived to witness the scene, the police officers left. According to the website, the station began broadcasting several days ago with new equipment that enables the station to reach all of Ufa and neighboring districts. The site also reported that Bulgar is not dependent on republican authorities, and therefore might be under pressure during the run-up to the 7 December republican presidential election. JAC
 A WIENIE FOR YOUR VOTEA raion-level election commission chairwoman in Kurgan Oblast said on 5 November that election legislation is being routinely violated in the oblast, but local authorities are ignoring the offenses, uralpolit.ru reported. For example, campaign posters have already appeared for Pavel Fedulov, a metals oligarch from Sverdlovsk Oblast, who is running for the State Duma from a single-mandate district in Kurgan Oblast, even though 7 November is the first day that advertising for the election is permitted. In addition, the chairwoman charged that Fedulov is openly trying to buy votes by giving a new ambulance to a local hospital and distributing sausages to local teachers and school administrators. JAC
 PUTIN CRITICIZES WESTERN FAILURE TO SUPPORT RUSSIAN POLICY IN CHECHNYASpeaking on 5 November at a joint press conference in Rome with Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi, President Putin assailed the West for its imputed reluctance to help Moscow combat "terrorism" in Chechnya, Reuters reported. Putin complained that while the international community acted in unison to combat Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, "no one notices the activities of Al-Qaeda in the North Caucasus, especially in Chechnya." Aslan Maskhadov, who was elected Chechen president in 1997, has repeatedly denied any connection between Al-Qaeda and the Chechen resistance, most recently in an interview with chechenpress.com on 6 October. LF
 CHECHEN LEADER SETS DEADLINE FOR 'NEUTRALIZING' MILITANT COMMANDERSAddressing a 5 November meeting in Grozny of senior police and security officials, district administration heads, and Russian military commanders, Kremlin-recognized Chechen President Akhmad-hadji Kadyrov tasked police and security forces with wiping out the remaining Chechen resistance forces and their commanders before the end of the winter, Interfax and dpa reported. He did not mention specific field commanders by name, and it is not clear whether the order extends to Maskhadov. Kadyrov further called for "drastic changes" in the work of the Interior Ministry, of which Alu Alkhanov has been reappointed the head. Interior Ministry General Yurii Maltsev, who heads the regional antiterrorism headquarters in the North Caucasus, said that district authorities will oversee night patrols, according to Interfax. That decision effectively gives carte blanche to the security force headed by Kadyrov's son Ramzan to continue to engage with impunity in the nocturnal abduction for ransom of Chechen civilians. LF
 CHECHEN OFFICIAL DEPLORES DELAY IN RECONSTRUCTIONReconstruction in Chechnya is lagging far behind schedule, primarily because of bureaucratic foot-dragging and lack of coordination between federal and local agencies, Chechen Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudaev told Interfax on 5 November. He added that Moscow has "no clear understanding" of Chechnya's priorities. Three days earlier, Dudaev told Interfax he has issued orders to check systematically whether claims by federal agencies to have completed reconstruction work in Chechnya are true. He specifically took issue with a report by the Russian Economic Development and Trade Ministry that 454 schools in Grozny have been rebuilt, and with a claim by the Russian State Construction Committee that all newly built homes in Grozny are connected to mains heating, electricity, and water supplies. LF
TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN PROSECUTORS DEMAND 15 YEARS FOR MURDER SUSPECTProsecutors on 5 November demanded a 15 year prison sentence for businessman Armen Sargsian, brother of former prime ministers Vazgen and Aram Sargsian, who is charged with having commissioned the December 2002 murder of National Television and Radio head Tigran Naghdalian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. They also demanded a 15 year sentence for the man who has confessed to the murder, 11 years for the man who allegedly hired the killer, and seven years for Hovannes Harutiunian (a.k.a. "Aper"), whose written testimony implicates Armen Sargsian in the murder (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 26 September and 3 October 2003). Harutiunian claims Sargsian gave him $75,000 to arrange the killing. Sargsian, who says he is innocent, told the court that he paid the money because he was being blackmailed and had received death threats from Harutiunian. LF
 FORMER ARMENIAN COMMUNIST PARTY FIRST SECRETARY HONOREDFormer prominent members of the Communist Party of Armenia, including Academy of Sciences president Fadey Sarkisian (a former chairman of the Armenian SSR Supreme Soviet) and Vladimir Movsisian, who served from April - November 1990 as Armenian Communist Party first secretary and is currently an adviser to President Robert Kocharian, attended a meeting on 5 November to mark the 90th anniversary of the birth of Anton Kochinian (1913-1989), who served as Armenian Communist Party first secretary from 1966 until 1974, when he was replaced by Karen Demirchian, Noyan Tapan reported. Speakers at the gathering lauded Kochinian's contributions to Armenia's economic development, including construction of the Medzamor nuclear-power plant and the Yerevan subway. They further noted that Kochinian showed "political courage" by asking the Soviet leadership to consider transferring the then-Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast to Armenian jurisdiction. LF
 RUSSIAN SECURITY COUNCIL SECRETARY VISITS ARMENIAVladimir Rushailo held talks in Yerevan on 4 November with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian and Interior Minister Hayk Harutiunian to discuss cooperation in combating terrorism and organized crime, Noyan Tapan reported. Rushailo also met the same day with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian to review the implementation of the "assets-for-debts" agreement under which Moscow acquired three Armenian research institutes, a thermal-power plant, and the Mars electronics plant, all of which according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 4 November are still not functioning. On 5 November, Rushailo met with parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian and with President Kocharian, with both of whom he discussed regional security and the Karabakh conflict, Noyan Tapan reported. LF
 OFFICIAL DOWNPLAYS U.S. CONGRESS MOVE TO CENSURE AZERBAIJAN...Ali Akhmedov, executive secretary of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, dismissed on 5 November as not reflecting the stance of the U.S. government an amendment proposed on 4 November by U.S. Senator John McCain (Republican-Arizona) to the U.S. act on foreign financial aid for 2004, Turan reported. The amendment notes widespread falsification during the 15 October Azerbaijani presidential election, which it said "casts doubt on the credibility" of the official results, according to which then-Prime Minister Ilham Aliyev polled some 77 percent of the vote. It also noted the subsequent intimidation and arrest of more than 330 opposition activists and polling-station officials. The amendment calls on U.S. President George W. Bush to urge the Azerbaijani government to conduct an investigation, together with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe, into the fraud and if necessary to hold a new ballot. Akhmedov argued that the U.S. government is not empowered to "dictate" to the Azerbaijani government what it should do. He further cited a letter from Bush congratulating Aliyev on his election as president. LF
 ...WHILE AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION WELCOMES ITOpposition Musavat Party Chairman Isa Qambar, who insists that he rather than President Aliyev won the 15 October presidential ballot, told Turan on 5 November that Senator McCain's amendment "should be assessed as the first serious U.S. step in response to the falsification of the elections." Ali Kerimli, chairman of the progressive wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, said he considers the amendment "absolutely fair" and hopes it will be "taken into consideration," Turan reported. LF
 GEORGIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR ANNULMENT OF ELECTION RESULTS...Addressing a rally of several thousand people in central Tbilisi on the evening of 5 November, opposition National Movement (EM) Chairman Mikhail Saakashvili called for the annulment of the election returns in five regions of Georgia, including the Adjar Autonomous Republic, Russian and Georgian media reported. He warned that if the final returns promulgated by the Central Election Commission do not confirm that his bloc won the election, he will mobilize the entire population to demand the resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze. He said the opposition will convene a further demonstration on 7 November, after the final results of the ballot have been made public. Shevardnadze responded on 5 November by saying, as he did in September 1993 and November 2001, that he is prepared to step down "if that is the wish of the Georgian people." On 6 November, parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze, one of the two co-leaders of the Burdjanadze-Democrats election bloc, told journalists that "the authorities forced the opposition to take to the streets," by their failure to ensure that the voting and ballot count proceeded in "a normal atmosphere." LF
 ...AS PARLIAMENT DEPUTY SPEAKER ACCUSES OPPOSITION LEADER OF MANSLAUGHTERSocialist Party leader Vakhtang Rcheulishvili, a prominent member of AS, accused Saakashvili on 5 November of an unspecified assault against a local police official who subsequently died of heart failure, Caucasus Press reported. LF
 U.S. URGES GEORGIAN PRESIDENT TO EXPEDITE VOTE COUNTThe U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi issued a statement on 5 November expressing concern that "the mismanagement and fraud of Georgia's November 2 parliamentary election denied many Georgian citizens their constitutional right to vote," Reuters reported. U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Richard Miles met the same day with President Shevardnadze, telling reporters after their talk that "I do not understand what is making it so difficult to count the votes," according to the webpage of the independent television station Rustavi-2. As of late on 5 November, with some two-thirds of the vote counted, the pro-presidential For a Free Georgia bloc was still in the lead with 25.2 percent of the vote, followed by Saakashvili's EM with 24.4 percent. LF
 KAZAKH SUPREME COURT REJECTS IMPRISONED JOURNALIST'S APPEALThe Kazakh Supreme Court turned down an appeal by imprisoned independent journalist Sergei Duvanov for a review of his case, one of Duvanov's defense lawyers told Interfax-Kazakhstan on 5 November. Duvanov was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison in January 2003 after being convicted of raping a minor (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 2003). Duvanov's supporters say the case was fabricated by the authorities to discredit Duvanov's critical articles. When his defense lawyers filed their appeal to the Supreme Court in August, they said that if the court refused a review, they would appeal to the international community. BB
 KAZAKH SECURITY HEAD SAYS INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM THREATENS CISLieutenant General Nartai Dutbaev, chairman of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee, told a session of the CIS Council of Border Guard Commanders in Almaty on 5 November that international terrorist organizations are planning to become active in CIS countries, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. He asserted that illegal migrants are entering CIS states -- particularly the Central Asian countries -- from areas where international terrorist groups are operating, and religious extremists are expanding their influence under the pretext of engaging in charitable work. Dutbaev used these examples to support his call for the CIS states to consolidate their border-protection activities. BB
 KYRGYZ DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER'S PARTY TAKES CONTROL OF OSH CITY COUNCILMoya Strana, the political party of Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Dzhoomart Otorbaev, has taken control of the Osh City Council as a result of a 4 November local election, Kyrgyzinfo reported on 5 November. Party member Tukhtasin Latibzhanov was elected council chairman, and both deputy chairmen, Dosaaly Imanberdiev and Rabiyakhan Karimova, are also Moya Strana members, as are six other council members. Osh, officially designated as Kyrgyzstan's southern capital, is the second most important city in the country after Bishkek. The 5-year-old Moya Strana party has more than 5,000 members throughout Kyrgyzstan and five deputies in the national parliament. Political observers in Kyrgyzstan see Otorbaev as a possible successor to President Askar Akaev, who has said he will step down in 2005. BB
 INTERNATIONAL LAND-MINE CONFERENCE LOOKS AT KYRGYZSTAN'S MINE PROBLEMS...An international conference in Bishkek on 5 November examined Kyrgyzstan's problems with antipersonnel mines planted along its border by the Uzbek armed forces, Kyrgyzinfo and RIA-Novosti reported. However, a representative of the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry said Kyrgyzstan does not intend to sign the Ottawa Convention on antipersonnel land mines. Since 2000, five Kyrgyz citizens have been killed by Uzbek mines. The conference on land mines in Central Asia and the CIS was organized by the international NGO Doctors Against Nuclear War, and was attended by NGO activists from several CIS states, the United States, France, and Australia and by representatives of the UN Development Program, the OSCE, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, all of which are supporting land-mine-removal activity in Central Asia. BB
 ...AS TAJIK YOUTH, HIS FATHER ARE KILLED BY LAND MINES ON UZBEK BORDERA 15-year-old Tajik boy was killed and three others were injured when they stepped on a land mine on the Uzbek side of the Tajik-Uzbek border on 4 November, Kyrgyzinfo reported on 6 November, quoting the northern Tajik news agency Varorud. When the father of the dead youth learned what had happened, he rushed to the spot and was also killed by a land mine. A police official in the Isfara Raion of Sughd Oblast, where the tragedy occurred, said it was difficult to retrieve the bodies because of the minefield. Police officials were joined at the scene by representatives of the recently opened Tajik Center for Land Mine Problems. BB
 UKRAINE WANTS TO DEVELOP SATELLITE SYSTEM WITH TURKMENISTANUkrainian Foreign Minister Konstyantyn Hryshchenko, on an official visit to Ashgabat, told his Turkmen counterpart Rashid Meredov on 5 November that Ukraine would like to work with Turkmenistan on developing a satellite-communications and radio-broadcasting system, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Meredov replied that Ashgabat is interested in involving Ukrainian firms in large-scale projects in Turkmenistan. Ukraine is already involved in various natural-gas projects in Turkmenistan as partial payment for annual gas supplies to Turkmenistan. BB
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
 BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION SEEKS PUBLIC DEBATE WITH PRESIDENTThe leaders of five opposition parties -- the United Civic Party, the Belarusian Popular Front, the Belarusian Party of Labor, the Belarusian Social Democratic Assembly, and the Belarusian Party of Communists -- have issued a statement calling on President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to hold public debates on topical economic and political issues in the country, Belapan reported on 5 November. "Do not be afraid of alternative views and positions. Trust our citizens. Let them choose between truth and lies, between those who engage in empty talk and those who can create," the statement says. The statement follows a television program on 31 October in which Lukashenka and Russian politician Anatolii Chubais answered questions about Belarusian-Russian integration. The Belarusian president's staff altered a proposed list of participants so that just a single Belarusian opposition representative took part in the show, the opposition statement alleges. JM
 KYIV, MOSCOW HOLD TALKS ON SEA BORDERRussian Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi met with his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksandr Motsyk in Kyiv on 5 November to discuss the contentious issue of the border delimitation in the Kerch Strait and the Azov Sea, Interfax reported. They agreed that government-level talks on the issue will be held every month. Motsyk told journalists that the Ukrainian side presented the Russian one with a package of documents confirming that the Tuzla Island in the Kerch Strait belongs to Ukraine. "We have some documents saying that this [island] belonged to Russia or Krasnodar [Krai]," Kalyuzhnyi responded, promising to pass them to Kyiv so that during the next meeting, scheduled for 5 December, "both sides will have something to speak about." JM
 UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION AGAIN DISRUPTS PARLIAMENTARY SESSION OVER DONETSK EVENTSLawmakers from Our Ukraine, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, and the Socialist Party blocked the parliamentary rostrum and brought a Verkhovna Rada session to a halt for the second consecutive day on 6 November, Interfax reported. The opposition protest followed an unsuccessful attempt to support a motion to hear government officials report on the foiled Our Ukraine congress in Donetsk on 31 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November 2003). The motion was supported by 219 votes, seven short of the number required for approval. President Leonid Kuchma has reportedly ordered that Interior Minister Mykola Bilokon and Ukrainian Security Service chief Ihor Smeshko check whether law and order was observed during Our Ukraine's recent gatherings in Donetsk, Lviv, and Kherson. JM
 UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT URGES POLITICAL REFORMSpeaking at a forum of business representatives from Ukraine and Serbia and Montenegro in Kyiv on 5 November, President Kuchma warned of negative consequences for Ukraine if it fails to adopt constitutional reform, Ukrainian Television reported. "There are no checks between the executive and legislative branches of power," Kuchma said. "There is no mutual responsibility. Tell me, please -- I don't want to offend anyone among the deputies -- but isn't there anybody there whose head is hurting because parliament is not working today." Kuchma added that if political reform is not implemented now, the next president will never make it happen. JM
 ESTONIA, RUSSIA SIGN ACCORD ON COOPERATION IN FILMMAKINGCulture Minister Urmas Paet and Russian Deputy Culture Minister Aleksandr Golutva on 5 November in Tallinn signed an agreement on cooperation in the production and distribution of movies, BNS reported. Paet and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Shvidkoy discussed the need for the agreement during their discussions in St. Petersburg in May. Paet said that decisions regarding the states' possible financial support for joint projects will be made by a future commission comprising six specialists. The composition and statutes of the commission are to be determined in further negotiations over the next few months. SG
 LATVIA, LITHUANIA FAIL TO COMPROMISE ON PROTECTIONISM IN PORK SECTORDuring a meeting in Riga on 4 November, Latvian and Lithuanian agriculture officials were unable to reach an agreement on changing protectionist measures Latvia has regarding its production of pork, BNS reported the next day. In June, the Latvian parliament adopted measures establishing quotas and extra duties to protect its pork market (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2003), which resulted in shortages of pork at meat-processing plants. In October, Latvia offered to raise quotas for Estonian and Lithuanian pork by 57 percent and to reduce import duties on live pigs from 0.203 lats ($0.37) per kilogram to 0.1 lats per kilo. Estonia accepted the Latvian offer, but Lithuania is still requesting that quotas be raised even further and the duties be eliminated. Regardless, the duties are to automatically be eliminated in May 2004 when the two countries are expected to join the EU. SG
 UNESCO EXPERTS PARTICIPATE IN DISCUSSION ON CONTROVERSIAL RUSSIAN DRILLING PLATFORMUNESCO World Heritage Center experts Bernd von Droste-Hulshoff and Fumiko Ohinata participated in Kaliningrad on 5 November in a three-way discussion with Russian and Lithuanian officials on the preservation of the Curonian Spit, but were refused access to the D-6 oil drilling platform being built off its coast, "Lietuvos zinios" reported the next day. The experts had traveled to Lithuania on 2 November to learn whether the planned oil-drilling work at the D-6 site, 22 kilometers off the spit and seven kilometers from the countries' maritime border (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 July 2003), comply with the requirements of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. They held talks with Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas on 3 November and visited the Curonian Spit National Park the next day. Lithuanian Ambassador to UNESCO Ina Marciulionyte, who attended the discussion, said that she considers Russia's willingness to discuss the matter with both Lithuanian and UNESCO officials as a positive sign, as is the country's pledge not to begin drilling before a joint environment safety analysis is completed. SG
 POLISH RAILWAY WORKERS SET STRIKE DATEAn all-out strike on the railway will begin one minute after midnight on 13 November, Polish Radio reported on 5 November, quoting Stanislaw Kogut, a representative of the Railway Solidarity trade union. "This is an all-out strike, which we have not had in Poland since the war," Kogut said. "We are halting the movement of all trains, except that if a train sets off at night on 12 November, it will carry on to its destination." The workers reportedly want an 800 million-zloty ($200 million) government subsidy for regional traffic and a "sensible" restructuring program for the Polish State Railways, rather than that already proposed by the government. JM
 LIECHTENSTEIN MAKES EEA CONCESSION, BUT WILL PURSUE DISPUTE WITH CZECH REPUBLIC, SLOVAKIALiechtenstein has decided to sign the treaty on the enlargement of the European Economic Area (EEA), following the decisions by Norway and Iceland to do so, CTK reported on 5 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 November 2003). In a statement released in Vaduz and carried by the Austrian APA news agency, the principality said that its decision changes nothing regarding its outstanding issues with the two successor states of the former Czechoslovakia, which split in 1993. It continues to demand that the Czech Republic and Slovakia unconditionally recognize its state sovereignty and the neutrality of Liechtenstein during both World War I and World War II. Liechtenstein had previously refused to sign the enlargement treaty because of historical disputes with the Czech Republic and Slovakia over the expropriation of its assets and deportation of members of the principality's ruling family after World War II as a result of the Benes Decrees. MS
 SLOVAK PREMIER ENTERS FRAY OVER PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTY SPEAKERSPrime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said on 5 November that he sees no need to create a fifth deputy-speaker post in parliament, TASR reported. Dzurinda thus ruled out Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO) Chairman Pavol Rusko's proposal to end the rift that developed after he vacated one of the four deputy-speaker positions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 November 2003). MS
 SLOVAK MILITARY PROSECUTOR CHARGES SIS OFFICERS WITH ILLEGAL WIRETAPPINGChief Military Prosecutor Dobroslav Trnka on 5 November charged three former officers of the Slovak Information Service (SIS) with abuse of office for having illegally wiretapped telephone conversations of ANO Chairman Rusko and other individuals, CTK and TASR reported. The case surfaced in early 2003, when Rusko discovered that a telephone conversation he had with a reporter from the daily "Sme" had been tapped. Rusko accused Interior Minister Vladimir Palko of being behind the affair. Palko, however, denied responsibility and said the SIS was involved in the illegal act. The scandal caused serious friction within the ruling coalition, mainly between ANO and the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), and led to the resignation of former SIS Director Vladimir Mitro. The investigation revealed that the wiretapping was carried out by the SIS and its target was not Rusko, but a mobile phone used by an employee of the daily "Sme." Prime Minister Dzurinda said he is satisfied that the affair has been resolved and not "swept under the carpet." Palko said the investigation has cleared him of "unfair accusations" against him and his ministry. MS
 WITNESSES REFUSE TO SPEAK AT HUNGARIAN K&H INVESTIGATIVE COMMISSIONZoltan Bodnar, Chief Executive of the State Motorway Company, Jozsef Timar, Chief Executive of the State Motorway Management company, and Economic Ministry State Secretary Imre Rethy, on 5 November refused to testify before the parliamentary commission investigating the K&H Equities embezzlement scandal, Hungarian television reported. Commission Chairman Ervin Demeter, from the opposition FIDESZ party, put questions to the witnesses, but they remained silent, arguing that members of the commission had failed to agree on a formal agenda. MSZ
 HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT UNVEILS ROMANY HOLOCAUST MEMORIALAt the unveiling of a memorial honoring the victims of the Romany Holocaust (Porrajmos) in the western Hungarian town of Zalaegerszeg on 5 November, Hungarian President Ferenc Madl said that "the past decades have been insufficient for Hungarians to accept that their Romany and Jewish compatriots were deported to death camps." Madl said that remembering the Romany Holocaust could help Hungarians and Roma live in peace in "our common homeland," "Nepszabadsag" reported. The local Romany authority in Zalaegerszeg declared 3 November as a day of remembrance, to mark the day in 1944 when the first trains left Hungary for concentration camps. The persecution of Roma in Hungary during World War II could have affected 5,000-10,000 people, the daily quoted historian Laszlo Karsai as saying. Other historians say the figure is lower and the victims number between 5,000 and 10,000 people. MSZ
 CROATIAN PRESIDENT SAYS FORMER EU MEDIATOR 'LEANED TOWARD' MILOSEVICAsked by the BBC's Croatian service to comment on early testimony by former British Foreign Minister Lord David Owen in the war crimes and genocide trial against Slobodan Milosevic, Croatian President Stipe Mesic suggested on 6 November that Owen showed excessive understanding for Milosevic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 2003). "I have to say that [Owen] did not impress me [during the peace talks]," Mesic said. "From the first day, [Owen] clearly leaned toward Milosevic's side." UB
 BOSNIAN COURT CONVICTS WAR CRIMINALA Sarajevo court sentenced a former Bosnian Muslim soldier on 4 November to 10 years in prison for his role in a massacre of Croatian civilians during the 1992-95 conflict, the "Southeast European Times" reported. Enes Sakrak was found guilty of participating in the killing of 30 Croats in the village of Grabovica in September 1993. He was arrested in August and subsequently admitted to killing a woman and her child. Bosnian Muslim wartime General Sefer Halilovic is to be tried separately for failing to prevent the massacre. Halilovic was freed by the Hague-based international war crimes tribunal in December 2001 pending that trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December 2001 and 9 January 2002). UB
 REPUBLIKA SRPSKA TO FORM COMMISSION ON SREBRENICA MASSACRERepublika Srpska Prime Minister Dragan Mikerevic said on 3 November that his government will form a commission to investigate the 1995 Srebrenica massacre by the end of next week, "Oslobodjenje" and "Dnevni avaz" reported. Mikerevic said the selection of commission members is under way, but he admitted that some people "find it difficult to accept positions on the commission." He added that he and President Dragan Cavic are working to persuade prospective candidates to take up the challenge. High Representative Paddy Ashdown recently criticized the Republika Srpska government for not doing enough to investigate the massacre (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October and 5 November 2003). UB
 MONTENEGRIN ALBANIANS DEMAND MORE GOVERNMENT POSITIONSFerhat Dinosha, who heads a coalition of three ethnic Albanian parties, said in Podgorica on 5 November that more Albanians should be given positions in the Montenegrin government, Tanjug reported. Dinosha said Albanian parties are especially interested in senior positions in the Tourism, Foreign Affairs, Interior, Agriculture, Economy, Culture, and Education ministries. Only the Defense of Minority Rights Ministry is currently headed by an ethnic Albanian. UB
 MACEDONIAN OPPOSITION BERATES GOVERNMENTPrime Minister Branko Crvenkovski delivered a report on 5 November concerning his government's first year in office and focusing on its achievements, largely elaborating on the improved security situation in the country, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. Crvenkovski called this first part of his term a "year of stabilization." He added that the government will now focus on improving the economic situation, pledging that foreign investments will rise by some $200 million in 2004. RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters quoted Zamir Dika of the opposition Democratic Party of Albanians (PDSH) as commenting on Crvenkovski's report: "I felt as if I were in the parliament of Finland and everything is OK." In his reaction, Nikola Gruevski, the leader of the opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), suggested the country's economy is comatose, claiming that the unemployment rate reached a record high of 37 percent. "If a patient is in a coma, there are two solutions -- one is shock therapy, the other is keeping the patient alive artificially," Gruevski said, adding that the government has chosen the second option. UB
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ACCUSES ROMANIA OF MEDDLING IN ITS AFFAIRSPresident Vladimir Voronin has accused Romania of interfering in Moldova's internal affairs, Flux reported on 5 November. In a letter addressed to EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen, Voronin wrote that Romania is treating Moldova as if it were its own "satellite-state." He also said Bucharest is refusing to conclude a basic treaty with Moldova, although it has concluded such treaties with all its other neighbors. Voronin also wrote that a special fund for Moldova set up by the Romanian government has been used for the purpose of meddling in Moldovan affairs and "tens of millions of U.S. dollars" have been spent in Moldova from that fund without coordinating the financed activities with the authorities in Chisinau. "We want to integrate in Europe as a sovereign and independent state, [as] an equal member of a community [of nations] sharing the same aspirations," Voronin wrote. Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) Deputy Chairman Vlad Cubreacov said the letter was "a new move in Moscow's attempt to block Romania and Bulgaria's accession of the EU," Flux reported. MS
 RUSSIA DEMANDS THAT EMBASSY PICKET IN CHISINAU BE HALTEDThe Russian Foreign Ministry demanded on 4 November that the Moldovan authorities prevent any further picketing of its Chisinau Embassy, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau and ITAR-TASS reported. In a statement issued by the ministry, the protests against the continuation of Russia's presence in Transdniester are called a "provocation" organized by the PPCD, "whose leaders are trying to fan xenophobia and ethnic hatred in the country." The ministry demanded that an end be put to the "anti-Russian hysteria" endangering the friendly Russian-Moldovan relations. According to Flux, the Moldovan Interior Ministry has assured Russian Embassy staff that they will act to halt the protests by the end of this week, after a session of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers ends in Moldova's capital. PPCD Deputy Chairman Cubreacov called the Russian protest an exemplification of Moscow's handling of Chisinau as a "subordinate." MS.
 CONTRADICTORY REPORTS ON COUNCIL OF EUROPE SECRETARY-GENERAL'S STATEMENT IN CHISINAUCouncil of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer was reported by ITAR-TASS on 5 November as saying that he welcomes the Moldovan government's intention to introduce in the curriculum of schools a course of "integrated [Moldovan] history." Schwimmer inaugurated jointly with President Voronin a Center for Innovative Education constructed with the council's aid. Flux, on the other hand, quoted Schwimmer as saying he was "aware" of the divisions in Moldovan society over the intention to introduce the new course, which is intended to replace the teaching of the "History of Romanians," and that he believes a "balance" should be observed between "local, national, regional, and universal history" in the teaching of the discipline. Schwimmer, who is to attend the 6 November session of the council's Committee of Ministers in Chisinau, held talks on 5 November with Voronin and with Foreign Minister Nicolae Dudau , who is the committee's outgoing chairman in office. MS
 BULGARIAN TOURISM INDUSTRY CONTINUES TO GROWDeputy Economy Minister Dimitar Hadzhinikolov said on 5 November that the revenues of the tourism industry are still growing, the "Sofia Morning News" reported. During the first eight months of this year, the revenues amount to $1.8 billion, which is an increase of more than 20 percent compared to the same period in 2002. During the summer season 2003, some 17 percent more foreign tourists visited Bulgaria. Germans had the largest share (about 500,000) of the 2.3 million foreigners to visit the country, followed by tourists from Greece (about 345,000) and Macedonia (about 167,000). Large European tour operators such as TUI or Thomas Cook offer the Bulgarian Black Sea region as an inexpensive alternative to destinations in Spain or Turkey. UB
 BULGARIAN NEWSPAPER CONSORTIUM BUYS PRINTING HOUSEThe United Bulgarian Papers consortium, which includes the dailies "Monitor," "Duma," "Novinar," "Vizh," "Meridian Match," and "Banker," on 4 November signed a contract with the state Privatization Agency over the purchase of Rodina, which is one the largest printing houses in Southeastern Europe, BTA reported. The consortium will pay some $3.5 million for Rodina. UB
SOUTHWESTERN ASIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST
 UN DELEGATION MEETS WITH RIVAL NORTHERN AFGHAN WARLORDSA delegation comprising representatives of all 15 UN Security Council member states and headed by German Ambassador to the UN Guenter Pleuger met with rival Afghan commanders Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ata Mohammed on 5 November, RFE/RL reported the same day. Pleuger said the UN wants to replace their respective forces with national police officers, Afghanistan Television reported on 5 November. The German ambassador added that the "main message was that the Security Council feels that factional strife and factional fighting has to stop, that this is a matter of the past and not the future," Reuters reported on 5 November. Forces loyal to Dostum, who is a special adviser to Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai on security and military affairs, and those loyal to 7th Army Corps commander General Ata Mohammad have clashed intermittently since Taliban forces were defeated in Afghanistan in late 2001 (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 May and 16 October 2003 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2003). AT
 BATTLE CONTINUES IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTANForces loyal to General Dostum's Junbish-e Melli continued to fight against loyalists of Jamiat-e Islami under General Ata Mohammad's command in the Kohestanat District of Sar-e Pol Province, Radio Afghanistan reported on 4 November. Clashes that began on 2 November were reported to have ended a day later thanks to mediation efforts by the British Provincial Reconstruction Team based in Mazar-e Sharif in neighboring Balkh Province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2003). Aziz, the deputy commander of the 26th Division in Sar-e Pol, said Junbish forces want to drive Jamiat supporters out of the area, Radio Afghanistan reported. A Junbish official, General Abdul Majid, confirmed the clashes took place but said his party's forces were not involved. AT
 CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION'S CHAIRMAN SAYS DRAFT STILL SUBJECT TO CHANGENematullah Shahrani, the head of the Afghan Constitutional Commission that unveiled the draft constitution on 3 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 November 2003), stressed the same day that the draft constitution is not set in stone, Afghanistan Television reported. Shahrani said the draft can be changed to take into account opinions and views expressed by the Afghan people. A final draft should be presented to the Constitutional Loya Jirga that is due to begin on 10 December in Kabul. The constitution will be considered complete only after the Constitutional Loya Jirga approves the text. Commenting on the draft constitution, Herat-based "Etefaq-e Islam," wrote on 5 November that while for "illogical reasons" the Constitutional Commission delayed publishing the draft, representatives of the Loya Jirga will now "be held responsible for scrutinizing" the draft "with determination and responsibility." The draft constitution was originally due to be released by 1 September (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 18 September 2003). AT
 SPOKESMAN DENIES COALITION ROLE IN DEADLY EASTERN AFGHAN BOMBINGU.S. Colonel Rodney Davis on 5 November denied reports that coalition forces bombed a civilian target in Nuristan Province on 31 October, Hindukosh news agency reported. Early reports had indicated that coalition planes bombed a house belonging to former Konar Province Governor Gholam Rabbani in Vegal District, killing at least eight civilians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 2003). Davis said that on "that day none of the coalition forces' planes had a flight passing over" Vegal District. AT
 IRANIAN DEFECTOR TESTIFIES ON 1994 ARGENTINIAN BOMBINGAbolghasem Mesbahi, a former Iranian intelligence officer, testified from Germany via teleconference to a panel of judges in Buenos Aires that Iran is responsible for the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in the Argentinian capital, ACAN-EFE reported. "The entire AMIA operation was headed, organized, and executed by Iran," he said. Mesbahi said that Mohsen Rabbani, the Iranian Embassy's cultural attache, rented the van that carried the bomb. Rabbani is one of eight Iranian officials for whom there are outstanding international arrest warrants in connection with the bombing. Mesbahi's testimony is part of an investigation into the possible role of Argentinian officials in the bombing or a subsequent cover-up. Mesbahi said the media distorted his statement about an alleged $10 million bribe to Argentina's president at the time, Carlos Menem. An Argentine claiming to represent Menem came to Tehran and asked for the money, Mesbahi said, adding, "I never saw that person in my life, I have no evidence or confirmation that payment was ever made, and I never said that the money had been paid to Menem." BS
 TEHRAN SUBMITS INFORMATION ON NUCLEAR CENTRIFUGESIran's representative at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ali Akbar Salehi, said in a 5 November interview with Reuters that Iran has submitted drawings of the centrifuges on which inspectors found traces of highly enriched uranium (HEU). "We revealed all components to the agency, including [original] drawings,... so there is nothing which the agency has no information on," he said. An anonymous diplomat told Reuters that this is important because it could assist the IAEA investigation into the origin of the HEU. There is suspicion that Iran is enriching uranium, but Tehran claims the tainted samples found by IAEA inspectors came from secondhand equipment purchased on the black market. Salehi claimed, "Every expert knows this has come from outside." Salehi also said that Tehran will soon submit its application to be a signatory to the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. "We cannot specify exactly the date. But it's certainly going to be before the [20 November IAEA board of governors meeting] because they have to be informed before the board so they can put it on the agenda," he said. Iran can sign after the board's approval. BS
 DOUBTS RAISED ABOUT IRANIAN OIL-FIELD STUDIESIshaq Ruyvar, public-relations chief at the National Iranian South Oil Company (NISOC), said on 5 November that Iran's Oil Research Institute and Norway's Statoil are conducting research on the Bibi Hakimeh, Ahvaz Asmari, and Makhzan Marun oil fields in southwestern Iran, IRNA reported. Ruyvar said Iranian experts are supervising the Statoil research project; work on Bibi Hakimeh will be completed in three months, while the other projects will take longer. Ruyvar said the contract for these research projects is normal compared to similar projects worldwide, and he rejected reports that the Statoil research was rejected. An anonymous "oil expert" had told IRNA on 2 November that the Statoil studies on the three oil fields were found to be error-filled by NISOC officials who visited Oslo. The estimated value of the contract for the studies is $10 million, and the Petroleum Ministry awarded the work without putting out a tender. The National Iranian Oil Company directive named Statoil as the likely winner of the tender, and even if Statoil does not win the tender to develop the oil fields, the winner must cede about 10 percent of the development work to Statoil. BS
 TEHRAN SEEKS FREEDOM OF CITIZENS DETAINED IN UMM QASRAlireza Haqiqian, the Iranian consul-general in Baghdad, met with Iraqi Governing Council member Jalal Talabani on 5 November and called for the prompt release of the 56 Iranians being held by coalition forces in Umm Qasr prison, IRNA reported. Haqiqian said he has succeeded only in securing the release of two Iranian filmmakers who were being held at Umm Qasr (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 November 2003). The previous week, according to IRNA, Haqiqian met with council members Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, Ahmad Chalabi, and Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i, and asked for their help in securing the Iranians' freedom. BS
 U.S. FORCES CAPTURE TWO FORMER IRAQI GENERALSU.S. forces captured two former Iraqi generals on 5 November in an early morning raid in Al-Fallujah, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced on its website (http://www.centcom.mil). The generals are suspected of financing and organizing attacks against coalition forces in and around the city. A large weapons cache that included some 225 60-millimeter mortar rounds, 20 rocket-propelled grenades, and 100 rounds of .50 caliber machine-gun ammunition was also discovered in the raid. KR
 GOVERNING COUNCIL PRESIDENT TO VISIT TURKEY, SYRIA, AND IRANIraqi Governing Council rotating President Jalal Talabani, who holds the post for the month of November, has said he will visit Turkey, Syria, and Iran during his tenure in an effort to improve Iraq's relations with its neighbors, Reuters reported on 5 November. The Governing Council's relations with Turkey have been strained since October, when the council refused Turkey's offer to send some 10,000 troops to Iraq. "I will head to Turkey to clear the air," Talabani said. "We want excellent relations with our neighbor." Iraqi officials expressed dismay last week when Syria issued a last-minute invitation to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari to attend a meeting in Damascus of regional foreign ministers to discuss Iraq. Syrian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Bushra Kanafani admitted to London's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" in an interview published on 5 November that "Syria was not very enthusiastic about the idea of Iraq's participation" in the meeting. KR
 KURDISH MINISTER SAYS U.S. 'NOT CAPABLE' OF ESTABLISHING SECURITY IN IRAQA Kurdish minister in charge of peshmerga affairs in Mas'ud Barzani's Kurdistan local government told London's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" in an interview published on 5 November that U.S. forces have not succeeded in restoring security in Iraq because of their low morale and lack of support from the Iraqi people. "The coalition forces are not capable of restoring peace, because they lack the support of the Iraqi people," Hamid Fandi said. He claimed that the Kurdish parties have offered some 35,000 peshmerga fighters to join the New Iraqi Army for peacekeeping operations, "but the coalition forces are still reluctant to accept such an offer." Fandi called on U.S. forces to change their policy regarding the role of Iraqis in enforcing security in Iraq. KR
 RUSSIA PUSHING FOR RETURN OF IAEA INSPECTORS TO IRAQRussian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko has said that Russia supports International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohammad el-Baradei's call for the return of IAEA and UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) inspectors to Iraq, Interfax news agency reported on 5 November. "We believe that the issue of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction cannot definitively be closed until UNMOVIC and the IAEA report, as envisaged by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, that there are no weapons of mass destruction or means of their delivery on the territory of Iraq," Yakovenko said. In Washington on 5 November, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said the United States does not believe the inspectors should return because the war has made the inspectors' mission irrelevant, Reuters reported the same day. "The UN inspectors were there to inspect compliance with UN resolutions concerning Iraqi disarmament. Events have overtaken those resolutions," he said. KR
 BRITISH ENVOY TO IRAQ WARNS OF TOUGH WINTERBritish Special Representative to Iraq Jeremy Greenstock told timesonline.co.uk of 6 November that he expects a tough winter for coalition troops as they try to establish security in Iraq. He said that militants "want to try and close Baghdad down and make it look as though Iraq can't work with coalition forces." Greenstock added that British troops might remain in Iraq through 2005. KR
 EU CITES CANDIDATES' PROGRESS, SAYS 'CHALLENGES REMAIN'By RFE/RL Regional Analysis
European Commission President Romano Prodi on 5 November commended the preparedness of the 10 countries slated to join the union next year, saying that issues of serious concern listed in the European Commission's reports on those countries progress toward accession are manageable.
"I am fully confident that all these countries will overcome these last obstacles," Prodi said, adding that "the problems can be solved by 1 May 2004," when the 10 countries are expected to join the union.
Thirty-nine issues of "serious concern" were singled out in the European Commission's assessments released on 5 November, with the largest of the prospective members, Poland, being cited for nine issues of "serious concern." Slovenia was considered best prepared, with just one "serious concern" mentioned. The other future members are Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Malta, and Cyprus. Romania and Bulgaria, which are tentatively slated to join in 2007, were also evaluated for their preparedness.
The reports were the last evaluation the 10 imminent member states faced from the commission before the May expansion, and they effectively paved the way for their accession. "Without immediate and decisive action," the European Commission warned, "the countries in question will most likely not be able to fulfill their obligations of membership in those specific areas and their citizens and economic operators will not enjoy the full benefits of EU membership."
Estonia was assessed to have three areas of "serious concern" in two chapters of the acquis communautaire, which makes up the entire body of European laws. As regards the free movement of persons, the commission called for immediate action on the mutual recognition of qualifications in the healthcare sector. Concerning the field of social policy and employment it cited the need for progress in bringing labor laws into line with EU norms, and the equal treatment of women.
Estonian Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland on 5 November expressed satisfaction with the commission's evaluation. "This progress report is very important to us, because member states largely base their opinion on new members on the commission's evaluations," BNS quoted her as saying.
Among the three Baltic states, Latvia arguably received the harshest assessment, with five areas that need immediate attention, including the mutual recognition of qualifications and training for certain professions; implementing tougher measures pertaining to TSE (transmissible spongiform encephalopathies) and animal by-products; administrative cooperation and interconnectivity with the EU regarding VAT taxes, and readiness to administer the customs union.
President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Prime Minister Einars Repse responded to the commission's report by ordering officials to step up the countries' efforts to meet all accession requirements, AFP reported. Presidential spokeswoman Aiva Rozenberga quoted Vike-Freiberga as saying that Repse "has assured me that the heads of responsible ministries and departments, for example, the head of customs, will be able to finish this task by 1 May 2004."
Lithuanian officials expressed their pleasure at an evaluation that they perceived as signaling that their country is the second-best-prepared among EU aspirants. Two areas of immediate concern were mentioned in Lithuania's report: mutual recognition of professional qualification and the implementation of controls regarding the Lithuanian fishing fleet.
Petras Austrevicius, director of the Lithuanian government's European Committee, said on 5 November the overall positive evaluation is the "result of our intensive preparations for membership and efficient coordination of activities," BNS reported. However, he stressed that the five areas of concern "must be completed prior to the accession to the EU." Meanwhile, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas on 5 November expressed faith that the "quality and pace of the work started will continue once Lithuania becomes a member in the bloc," ELTA reported.
The European Commission's assessment of Poland, which is far and away the most populous candidate state with 39 million people, was harsh. "The [Polish] reform path has nearly come to a halt since last year's Report," the authors asserted, citing fiscal and public-finance challenges, a lack of progress in "restructuring heavy industries, energy distribution and agriculture," obstacles to business, and an ineffective land registry. While noting a "high level of alignment with the acquis in most policy areas," the commission urged Poland to take "immediate and decisive action" in nine areas of "serious concern" among three acquis communautaire chapters: free movement of persons, agriculture, and fisheries.
Politicians both inside and outside the governing minority scrambled to put a positive spin on the evaluation. "Please do not be concerned," Prime Minister Leszek Miller said at the Sejm on 5 November, according to PAP. "Everything can be made up." Danuta Huebner, Poland's minister for European affairs, stressed that her government was not "taken by surprise regarding the [remaining] tasks," adding that the country will complete its accession preparations out of national interest, according to PAP. Even opposition Civic Platform lawmaker and economic expert Zyta Gilowska tempered her criticism of the government's perceived "neglect" of the agriculture sector by suggesting that "the number of troubles" facing the country are proportionate to its relative size among candidate states, according to PAP. Meanwhile, opposition Law and Justice legislator Kazimierz Michal Ujazdowski hinted that the criticism stemmed from the Polish government's "firm stance" regarding the draft European constitution, but added that the shortcomings are "real and...the fault of the government."
The commission singled out three issues of concern in three accession chapters that the Czech Republic must resolve if it is to join the union in May. The country was advised to upgrade agri-food establishments to meet public-health requirements in the agricultural sphere and to ensure the implementation of social and technical requirements in the field of transport. Regarding the free movement of persons, the Czech Republic has work to do in the mutual recognition of certain professions.
Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla on 5 November described the commission's assessment as objective and said all of the issues of "serious concern" will be resolved by May. He noted that his country fared relatively well compared to the assessments of the other nine EU candidates. Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said in Berlin that he was not surprised by criticisms contained in the report, adding, "We rank among those relatively well-off."
The commission's assessment of Slovakia included considerable praise for the year-old, four-party government that took charge on a pro-EU platform in 2002. The report notes a "strong new impetus" on the reform path and in public finance and a reversal of an "expansionary fiscal policy stance" and "very strong momentum" for additional public-expenditure reforms. However, it also noted the need for "additional vigorous efforts" to "improve the legal framework for a market economy" and suggested that "strict enforcement of existing rules" regarding corruption is lacking. The European Commission noted four issues within two chapters that are of "serious concern" ahead of Slovakia's planned accession: competition policy (particularly with respect to the steel sector) and agriculture.
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said on 5 November that he is satisfied with the report. He said the report "objectively evaluated the progress that Slovakia has made in preparing for EU membership in the course of the last year." Dzurinda said he considers the report to be "encouraging" because it acknowledges progress made by the country in areas that were deemed to need improvement in the report from one year ago. Regarding the four "serious warnings" to Bratislava -- one over failing to observe quotas on production at the US Steel's Kosice plant and three over failures to implement EU policies in agricultural areas -- Dzurinda said, "We shall make an enormous effort to remove problems in these areas" and "shall be intensively communicating with the commission on the steel industry. We believe we shall find an acceptable solution." In a separate statement, the cabinet as a whole said the commission's report was "objective" and that it believes a solution acceptable to both sides can be reached on the steel dispute, TASR reported.
The European Commission doled out praise to Hungary over its "credible" efforts at economic reform and "ambitious fiscal policy stance in 2003," while it encouraged "more progress" regarding the "structure of fiscal reform," efforts to curb real wage growth, reforms at virtually all levels of public administration, and a "high priority" fight against corruption. The report noted four areas of "serious concern" in a single chapter of the acquis communautaire: agriculture.
Responding to the commission's criticism of Hungary's preparations in the farming sector, Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs on 5 November pledged on behalf of the cabinet to use all available material and human resources to progress in those areas, Hungarian media reported. "Hungary received warnings in four areas, but we have already fixed one since the report was completed on 30 September," Kovacs said, according to MTI. He said the country's regional-development program has been finalized in the meantime. In light of the commission's request that Hungary take "immediate and decisive action" regarding an agency to administer farm aid and an agricultural administration and control body, Agriculture Minister Imre Nemeth said the criticisms in the report are valid but can be corrected before the country joins the EU in May 2004, Hungarian radio reported.
Slovenia was largely considered to have received the best progress report among all candidates, as only one area of serious concern was named, that being the "mutual recognition professional qualifications in the area of free movement of persons, in particular alignment on the general system of recognition and on certain professions in the health care sector." Prime Minister Anton Rop told Ljubljana Radio Slovenia on 5 November that "as long as we go through the...key remarks of this report, then I do not see any areas that could trigger a special safeguard in the case of Slovenia."
BULGARIA AND ROMANIA
The progress of Romania and Bulgaria, each of which has received a target accession date of 2007, was also evaluated. Both countries were commended for the steady progress they have made thus far on the road to accession, which should be achieved on time if the current pace is maintained, according to the commission. The progress of the two countries are linked closely, as both are expected to complete their negotiations with the EU by the end of 2004 and join the union together in 2007. However, Bulgaria's evaluation as the better prepared of the two countries led government spokesman Dimitur Tsonev to say on 5 November that Bulgaria will call for the two countries' bids to be "decoupled" if Romania continues to lag behind in pre-accession negotiations, BTA reported. European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen addressed this topic later the same day by saying it our "our common objective to welcome Romania and Bulgaria as new members together in 2007 and therefore the commission proposed to foresee a single accession treaty for both countries." Bulgaria has closed 26 of the chapters in the acquis communautaire, while Romania has closed 20.
The biggest disappointment for Romania was its failure to achieve the status of a "functioning market economy" in its report. However, the commission used an ambiguous formulation, stating in its report that "Romania can be considered as a functioning market economy once the good progress made has continued decisively." Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase called the commission's report "objective" and said it reflects the fact that the commission "makes it clear that the objective of joining the EU in 2007 is realistic," RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service reported. Nastase also said "Romania will continue to prepare itself with the same seriousness and with the same conscientiousness as before. We intend to set up a program that will include the EU recommendations." The commission's report noted that corruption in Romania remains widespread and that its judicial system is not politically independent. Democratic Party Chairman Train Basescu said the government ought to resign in the wake of the report's findings, Mediafax reported.
Bulgaria, which was rated a "functioning market economy" for the second consecutive year, was also advised to do more to fight corruption and strengthen its judiciary in addition to accelerating privatization efforts and settling the ongoing dispute over the shutdown of its Kozloduy nuclear-power plant.
Most comments from Bulgarian authorities focused on the possibility of that country separating its accession bid from that of Romania. Finance Minister Milen Velchev noted that the Bulgaria-Romania "strategy paper" that was also released by the commission on 5 November supports the position that those countries' pre-accession efforts should be assessed individually, vsekiden.com reported.
Meanwhile, Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov said during an official visit to Greece on 5 November that Bulgaria will insist on an individual assessment, but added that Romania can gain speed in the accession negotiations and become a full EU member in 2007.