Treat your friends as you do your pictures, and place them in their best light. - Jennie Jerome Churchill
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 208, Part I, 25 October 1999


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 208, Part I, 25 October 1999

A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern
Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the
staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

This is Part I, a compilation of news concerning Russia,
Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II covers Central,
Eastern, and Southeastern Europe and is distributed
simultaneously as a second document.  Back issues of
RFE/RL NewsLine and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at
RFE/RL's Web site: http://www.rferl.org/newsline

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Headlines, Part I

* RUSSIAN OFFICIALS OFFER DIVERGING EXPLANATIONS FOR GROZNY
BLAST

* COMMUNISTS ATTEMPT BRINKSMANSHIP WITH BUDGET VOTE

* JAPANESE HOSTAGES RELEASED
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

RUSSIA

RUSSIAN OFFICIALS OFFER DIVERGING EXPLANATIONS FOR GROZNY
BLAST. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and Federal
Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev both denied on 22
October any involvement by their respective agencies in the
blast at Grozny's central market the previous day. But the
head of the joint press center of the federal forces in the
North Caucasus, Aleksandr Vekrich, told Interfax on 23
October that a special operation was conducted to destroy the
market, where he claimed arms and ammunition were traded.
Vekrich denied, however, that regular army troops or
artillery or aviation were involved. Speaking in Moscow on 23
October, Russian deputy chief of staff Colonel General
Valerii Manilov said the explosion was the result of a
Russian security force operation that had succeeded in
provoking a clash between two rival groups of Chechens. LF

BOMBARDMENT OF CHECHEN VILLAGES CONTINUES. Russian forces on
23-24 October continued intensive artillery bombardment of
towns and villages, including Achkhoi-Martan, Bamut,
Sernovodsk, Gorgagorsk, and Vedeno. Twenty-seven civilians
were killed by shelling in Serzhen-Yurt alone, according to
Reuters. Sixteen died in Samashki and 23 in Vedeno. Grozny
was not subject to artillery attack on 24 October. Russian
airforce spokesmen rejected Chechen claims to have shot down
two warplanes on 23 October and to have used a Stinger
missile to bring down a reconnaissance plane during the night
of 23-24 October, AP reported. LF

RUSSIAN TROOPS PREVENT FUGITIVES LEAVING CHECHNYA. Federal
forces on 23 October blocked the main highway from Chechnya
west to Ingushetia, thus cutting off the last remaining route
by which displaced persons could flee Russian air and
artillery strikes. A Federal Security Service spokesman
explained to Interfax on 24 October that the measure was
intended to prevent Chechen terrorists from infiltrating
Ingushetia under the guise of fugitives. In Magas,
Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev on 24 October expressed
outrage and said he will appeal to Russian Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin to repeal the move. Two days earlier, Aushev
had appealed to Moscow not to "politicize" the issue of
displaced persons. He complained that unnamed Russian
politicians have accused the presidents of North Caucasus
republics to which Chechens have fled of exaggerating the
number of fugitives. LF

NORTH CAUCASUS LEADERS CALL FOR TALKS BETWEEN GROZNY,
MOSCOW... Meeting in Essentuki on 23 October, North Caucasus
leaders discussed Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's
proposals for combating banditry and terrorism and resolving
conflicts in the North Caucasus, Interfax reported the
following day. Ingushetian President Aushev said that they
agreed that some of those proposals merit a discussion
between Maskhadov and either Russian President Boris Yeltsin
or Prime Minister Putin. LF

...BUT CHECHEN WARLORDS SET CONDITIONS. The Chechen
Republic's State Defense Committee has forbidden the
republic's leaders to engage in negotiations with any Russian
representative who bears any degree of responsibility for the
decision to launch the war against Chechnya, former Chechen
Vice President Vakha Arsanov told Interfax on 24 October.
Arsanov said that formulation excludes Prime Minister Putin,
whom he termed the main initiator of hostilities in Chechnya.
Arsanov added that Chechnya will agree to talks only on
neutral ground and with the mediation of either the UN or any
other international organization capable of ensuring that
Russia complies with any agreement it signs. He said that for
such a dialogue to begin, Russia must first halt military
activities and withdraw its troops from Chechen territory. LF

RUSSIA MAY EXCHANGE DETAINED CHECHEN FOR ABDUCTED GENERAL.
Russian Interior Ministry official Vladimir Kozlov told ITAR-
TASS on 23 October that if such an exchange is proposed,
Moscow would be willing to release Mairbek Vachagaev, the
official Chechen representative in Moscow, in exchange for
the freeing of Interior Minister General Gennadii Shpigun,
who was abducted from a plane at Grozny airport earlier this
year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 1999). Vachagaev was
detained in Moscow on 21 October and has been charged with
illegal possession of a firearm (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22
October 1999). LF

U.S. URGES RUSSIA TO SEEK DIALOGUE WITH CHECHNYA... U.S.
Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott on 22 October called
on Russia to urgently begin a political dialogue to end the
violence in Chechnya. He noted that "the increasing loss of
civilian life jeopardizes the security and stability in the
region." State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev responded on
23 October that the U.S. "did not sit down to a political
settlement of the Yugoslav situation this spring." Duma
Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Vladimir Lukin sounded a
similar note, asking "Why did the Americans resort to the use
of force in resolving the acute conflict in [Kosova], despite
Russia's insistence on a political solution?" The Fatherland-
All Russian alliance, a key bloc in the upcoming State Duma
elections, issued a statement on 24 October saying that the
West's insistence that the "counter-terrorist operation" stop
and that political negotiations begin with a partner that
does not exist" is "strange." JAC

...AS DOES EU. The conflict in Chechnya dominated a top-level
meeting between EU leaders and Russian Prime Minister Putin
in Helsinki on 22 October. Finnish Prime Minister Paavo
Lipponen, whose country hold the rotating EU Presidency, told
a news conference after the meeting that the union had called
on Russia "to immediately enter negotiations to reach a
political settlement of the conflict." Putin told the same
news conference that Moscow will "continue to combat
terrorism and bands of armed gangs," saying that "we have no
other choice but to destroy their bases," according to AP.
Interfax quoted Putin as also saying that "we absolutely
agree with our European partners' opinion that political
issues can be resolved by political means only. Chechnya's
status will be determined by political means." JC

RUSSIA WANTS END OF U.S., NATO 'MONOPOLY' IN EUROPE. The 22
October meeting in Helsinki had been called to discuss future
relations between Russia and the EU. In response to the EU's
strategy vis-a-vis Russia, endorsed in June, Russian Prime
Minister Putin presented Moscow's blueprint for relations
with the union over the next decade. Reuters quoted the
document as proposing that the "partnership of the Russian
Federation and the European Union could include organization
of a pan-European security system based on European forces,
without isolating the USA and NATO, but without the monopoly
of these on the continent." Moscow also stressed that it
wants a bigger role in European affairs and better relations
with the EU but will seek neither membership nor association
with the union. Finnish Premier welcomed the Russian
blueprint, saying the EU considers it "a singularly important
outcome in our evolving partnership with Russia." JC

YELTSIN'S FOES SEIZE ON GORE'S COMMENTS. U.S. Vice President
Al Gore's remark to AP on 22 October that Russian President
Boris "Yeltsin's episodic approach to the presidency has not
helped [Russia's] ability to get on top of all of [its]
problems" was characterized by Ekho Moskvy as a "small
political sensation" since "for the first time...Washington
authorities critically assessed the Russian president's state
of health and his ability to run the country." Ekho Moskvy is
owned by the Media-Most group, whose head Vladimir Gusinskii
is currently at odds with the Kremlin. Duma Foreign Affairs
Committee head Vladimir Lukin of Yabloko told the radio
station that if the U.S. vice president "has only now
established that our president's state of health leaves
something to be desired, then I do not congratulate him or
the agencies reporting to him." Presidential spokesman
Dmitrii Yakushkin said on 24 October that Yeltsin "feels well
and most important, controls the most crucial political
decisions being made today." JAC

U.S. RESTRICTING VISAS FOR RUSSIAN CITIZENS. "The New York
Times" reported on 24 October that the U.S. Embassy in Moscow
has sharply reduced the number of visas issued to Russians,
including many students and scholars wanting to travel and
study in the U.S. According to the newspaper, after the 1998
economic collapse embassy officials, fearing that students
from impoverished Russia would try to settle permanently in
the U.S., increased scrutiny of visa applications. As a
result, about 40 percent of Russian students hoping to study
in the U.S. have been refused visas, which is about double
the rejection rate of previous years. In the summer of 1998,
83 percent of all "F" type visa applications were granted,
compared with an acceptance rate of 62 percent during the
same period this year, the daily reported. JAC

RUSSIA-U.S. DISARMAMENT TALKS STILL YIELDING NO RESULTS.
Following two days of talks in Moscow between Russian Deputy
Foreign Minister Grigorii Berdennikov and U.S. Undersecretary
of State for arms control and international security affairs
John Holum, the Russian Foreign Ministry on 22 October issued
a statement saying that if the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile
Treaty is violated, all negotiations on strategic nuclear
weapons will become "pointless." Any further reduction of
such weapons, the statement noted, will be possible only if
the ABM treaty remains intact. Interfax cited "informed
Moscow sources" as saying "no headway" is being made by
Russia and U.S. on the issue of the "so-called adaptation" of
the ABM Treaty. At the same time, those sources confirmed
that Russia does not intend to "slam the door" on the talks.
AP quoted an unnamed senior U.S. official as commenting that
the talks are still at an early stage and that the two sides
are considering a "wide range of options." JC

IVANOV COMPLAINS TO ALBRIGHT OVER 'BLOCKING' OF OIL CONTRACTS
WITH IRAQ. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has sent a
letter to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arguing
that it is "unacceptable" that the U.S. is blocking Russian
oil contracts under the UN's Iraqi oil-for-food program, RIA-
Novosti reported on 23 October. Russian Deputy Foreign
Minister Sergei Ordzhonikidze, who handed the letter to U.S.
permanent representative to the UN Richard Holbrooke, told
journalists that Ivanov described the U.S. practice as
clearly "selective," particularly with regard to the state
company Zarubezhneft. Similar contracts concluded by other
states pass the UN sanctions committee "unimpeded," the
letter maintained. Zarubezhneft and other Russian companies
fully comply with the Security Council norms, Ordzhonikidze
said, adding that Moscow believes the U.S. is seeking to
prevent Russia companies from consolidating their position on
the Iraqi oil market in order to "reserve this chance" for
U.S. companies in the future. JC

COMMUNISTS ATTEMPT BRINKSMANSHIP WITH BUDGET VOTE... Duma
deputies voted on 22 October by 239 to 21 in favor of
postponing until 26 October a vote on next year's budget. The
decision followed a declaration by the leadership of the
Duma's largest faction, the Communists, that they would
reject the draft budget unless additional funds were found
for science, agriculture, and investment in industry, ITAR-
TASS reported. The government has already reallocated 7.5
billion ($290 million) rubles for these areas (4 billion
rubles for agriculture, 2 billion rubles for investment, and
1.5 billion rubles for science) by redistributing
expenditures in the draft of the budget approved by the
conciliation commission, according to First Deputy Prime
Minister Viktor Khristenko. JAC

...AS AGARIANS DEMAND STILL MORE FOR AGRICULTURE. Agrarian
faction leader Nikolai Kharitonov said that the additional 4
million rubles allocated for agriculture was still
insufficient and that the sector required a further 3 billion
rubles. Duma Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov told
NTV that if the Duma rejects the budget on 26 October then it
cannot be passed any sooner than the spring of next year.
Such a delay would prompt the IMF and World Bank to further
delay extending funds to Russia, according to Zhukov. JAC

MORE THAN 30 BLOCS HOPE TO RUN IN DUMA ELECTIONS... Central
Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told
reporters on 24 October that 31 organizations submitted
applications materials before the 6:00 p.m. deadline that day
to participate in the upcoming Duma elections. The previous
day, the commission registered the party list of the Union of
Rightist Forces: after the names of 12 candidates were
removed for filing inaccurate information about their income
and property, 155 names remained. Topping the list are former
Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, former Deputy Prime Minister
Boris Nemtsov, and State Duma deputy Irina Khakamada. Also
registered the previous day was Our Home Is Russia (NDR) with
216 candidates, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 October.
Twenty names were struck off their list. The top three
candidates are former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, NDR
Duma faction leader Vladimir Ryzhkov, and Saratov Governor
Dmitrii Ayatskov. JAC

...AS JUSTICE MINISTRY PLEDGES EXTRA SCRUTINY FOR NATIONALIST
GROUP. The Justice Ministry has launched a review of the Spas
(Savior) political movement to ensure that its activities
correspond with its charter, ITAR-TASS reported on 22
October. Spas is headed by chief of the extreme nationalist
Russian National Unity leader Aleksandr Barkashov. Spas's
party list was registered on 18 October (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 19 October 1999). JAC

YELTSIN RESPONDS SHARPLY TO PRIMAKOV SNUB. Presidential
spokesman Yakushkin told reporters on 22 October that
President Yeltsin responded "sharply" to news that
Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) alliance leader Yevgenii Primakov
declined to meet with him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October
1999). Deputy head of the OVR headquarters Sergei
Yastrzhembskii said the same day that Primakov will agree to
meet with Yeltsin only if the president telephones or writes
him. Heritage Foundation's Yevgenii Volk told "The Moscow
Times" on 23 October that Primakov's move was partly
electoral strategy and partly pay-back for humiliations that
he suffered at Yeltsin's hand while prime minister. JAC

RUSSIA'S SHARE IN WORLD TRADE DECLINING. During the first
nine months of 1999, Russia slipped from 18th to 20th place
in a ranking of world exporters and from 19th to 27th place
in a ranking of importers, Valerii Orlov, head of the State
Customs Committee's statistics and analysis department, told
ITAR-TASS on 22 October. According to Orlov, Russia's share
of world exports is 1.3 percent and its portion of imports
0.8 percent. By the end of this year, Russia's positive trade
balance is expected to total $29.6 billion--almost a doubling
of the 1998 level of $15.1 billion, according to the
Economics Ministry's forecast, Interfax reported on 24
October. JAC

PROBE LAUNCHED AGAINST FORMER WORLD BANK OFFICIAL. First
Deputy Prime Minister Khristenko announced on 22 October that
the Russian government will be cooperating with the World
Bank in checking the accuracy of a report that appeared in
"The Wall Street Journal" alleging that Leonid Grigoriev, in
his former capacity as Russia's alternate executive director
to the World Bank, had passed classified bank information to
the Russian commercial bank, Inkombank. Grigoriev has been
suspended from his current post as head of the Moscow-based
Economic Analysis Bureau, which is funded by the World Bank,
until the investigation has been concluded. JAC

RUSSIA STANDS TO LOSE $800 MILLION FROM CIS FREE TRADE ZONE.
Russian State Customs Committee First Deputy Chairman
Vladimir Meshcheryakov told a conference in Moscow on 22
October that Russia will incur annual losses of $800 million
if it ratifies the agreement on creating a CIS free trade
zone, Interfax reported. Under a protocol to that agreement,
which was initialed at the April CIS summit, signatories
switch to indirect taxation of exports at the country of
destination. This means Russia would lose both value-added
tax and excise duties. Noyan Tapan reported on 12 October
that most participants in the CIS Prime Ministers' meeting in
Yalta the previous week supported the creation of a free
trade zone, for which business magnate Boris Berezovskii
lobbied energetically during his tenure as CIS executive
secretary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1998). LF

COURT POSTPONES DECISION ON EARLY ELECTIONS IN ST. PETE.
Following a three-hour session on 22 October, the St.
Petersburg city court announced it will continue reviewing on
2 November a suit filed by opposition local deputies,
"Kommersant-Daily" reported. Those deputies are challenging
the Legislative Assembly's controversial vote to bring
forward gubernatorial elections to 19 December, which
observers believe will benefit incumbent Governor Vladimir
Yakovlev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 1999). The court
based its decision on the need to examine various "procedural
niceties" and whether it should even deal with the assembly's
"internal problems," particularly without an official
representative of that body present. "Kommersant-Daily,"
which is controlled by business magnate Berezovskii, noted
that this delay may well prove advantageous for Yakovlev: the
election campaign is already under way, and if the ballot
were canceled, the many politicians who have said they will
run might file suit over the violation of their rights,
turning the campaign into "a never-ending legal process." JC

KARACHAEVO-CHERKESS PRESIDENTIAL RIVALS REACH COMPROMISE.
Meeting with Russian Prime Minister Putin on 23 October,
Karachaevo-Cherkessia's President Vladimir Semenov and his
defeated rival, Cherkessk Mayor Stanislav Derev, agreed that
a referendum will be held on 22 October 2000 to determine
whether the republic's population trusts Semenov, Interfax
reported. The previous day, the Russian Supreme Court
endorsed a ruling by the Karachaevo-Cherkess Supreme Court
upholding the validity of the 16 May runoff poll, in which
Semenov defeated Derev. Semenov told a press conference on 24
October that Berezovskii, who will contend a Duma seat from
Karachaevo-Cherkessia, was also present at his meeting with
Putin and Derev and helped bring about the compromise
agreement. In early August, both Semenov and Derev had
proposed to President Yeltsin that Berezovskii be temporarily
appointed presidential envoy to the republic (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 31 August 1999). LF

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN PREMIER VOWS TO TARGET CORRUPTION. In a television
address on 21 October, Vazgen Sargsian pledged to reduce the
"political problem" of corruption to dimensions that no
longer threaten the country's economic development, Noyan
Tapan reported. He called for a crackdown on bribery, which
he termed "widespread," and protectionism, which he said
deters foreign investment. Sargsian also called for the
maximum effort to ensure that the 24 October local elections
are perceived as free and fair, adding that no matter how
good government programs may be, they are doomed to failure
without competent local administrators to implement them. He
pledged that the 2000 draft budget, which is to be submitted
to the parliament on 1 November, will be "tough" but
"realistic and purposeful." LF

ARMENIAN INTELLIGENTSIA WANTS ELECTION OF NEW CATHOLICOS
POSTPONED. Meeting on 21 October in Yerevan, members of the
Armenian intelligentsia addressed an appeal to the Supreme
Ecclesiastical Council to delay the election later this week
of a successor to Catholicos Karekin I, who died in July,
Noyan Tapan reported. Representatives of several Armenian
opposition parties had made a similar appeal last week (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 1999). Also on 21 October,
Archbishop Grigoris Bournoutian announced that 35 bishops
have agreed to support a specific candidate for Catholicos,
but he declined to name that candidate. On 22 October, Gegham
Manoukian, who is a member of the Executive Council of the
opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun,
told Noyan Tapan that his party considers Aram I, catholicos
of the Great House of Cilicia, the best qualified candidate.
Aram has denied that he is seeking the post of catholicos. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRO-GOVERNMENT BLOC CALLS FOR REFERENDUM ON
KARABAKH SETTLEMENT. Fatherland Party leader Fazil Agamaly
told Turan on 23 October that choice of the unrecognized
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic's political status within
Azerbaijan should be reflected in Azerbaijan's Constitution
and determined by a nationwide referendum. At present, the
country's constitution describes Azerbaijan as a unitary
state but gives the exclave of Nakhichevan the status of an
autonomous republic. Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov on 29
September denied any knowledge of plans to hold such a
referendum at the same time as the 12 December municipal
elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 September 1999).
Agamaly also complained that the Democratic Alliance, which
unites Fatherland and several other pro-government parties,
has virtually no political influence on developments in
Azerbaijan. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR CONTINUES WORKING. President
Heidar Aliev has not yet accepted the resignation as foreign
policy adviser Vafa Guluzade, Turan reported on 22 October.
Guluzade was reported to have submitted his resignation
earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1999).
LF

GEORGIAN POLITICIANS REACT TO ASSASSINATION CLAIMS. Two
senior Georgian politicians have declined to confirm the
claims by former National Security Agency (NSA) Director
Lieutenant-General William Odom that during his tenure as
Russian prime minister, Yevgenii Primakov was aware of two
attempts by Russian government agencies to assassinate
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Interfax reported.
Odom had told RFE/RL last week that the Georgian government
had provided unnamed countries with that information and
corroborating evidence. Union of Citizens of Georgia
parliamentary faction leader Mikhail Saakashvili said the
Georgian government has no evidence to support those claims.
Intelligence Department chairman Avtandil Ioseliani denied
that his service passed any such information to the NSA.
Ioseliani added that former Georgian Intelligence chief Igor
Giorgadze, whom the Georgian authorities have accused of a
botched attempt to kill Shevardnadze in August 1995, is on
good terms with Primakov. But "Vremya-MN" quoted an
unidentified Georgian security official as confirming that
Georgia provided the U.S. with information incriminating
Primakov. LF

KAZAKHSTAN HOLDS RUNOFF ELECTIONS. A second round of voting
in elections to the lower house of the parliament have taken
place in 47 districts where no candidate garnered the
required 50 percent of the vote during the first round two
weeks ago. A total of 94 candidates contested those seats,
and irregularities were reported at some polling stations,
RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 24 October. Voter turnout
was estimated at 49 percent, down 10 percent on the first
round. On 21 October, police broke up a rally in the town of
Talghar staged by supporters of Bigeldy Gabdullin, who is
"DAT" newspaper editor and a member of former Premier Akezhan
Kazhegeldin's Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan. The
following day, an Almaty district court rejected a suit by
Orleu Party leader Seydakhmet Quttyqadam, who had demanded
that the Central Electoral Commission refund his candidate's
fee. Quttyqadam accused the commission of unspecified
violations during the first round of voting. LF

KAZAKH PREMIER ENDORSES MULTIPLE PIPELINES. Following talks
in Astana on 22 October with his visiting Azerbaijani
counterpart, Artur Rasizade, Qasymzhomart Toqaev told
journalists that Kazakhstan supports the planned Baku-Ceyhan
pipeline as one of several to export Kazakhstan's oil,
Interfax reported. Rasizade said Azerbaijan does not rule out
the possibility of routing oil export pipelines via Iran and
Armenia if a peace treaty is signed with the latter. Rasizade
added that the two countries have only unspecified "minor
differences" over the status of the Caspian Sea. The previous
day, Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi
expressed doubts that the financial obstacles to the Baku-
Ceyhan project will ever be surmounted, according to
Interfax. He added that the assembly of pipe for an
alternative stretch of the existing Baku-Novorossiisk
pipeline bypassing Chechnya will begin this week. LF

JAPANESE HOSTAGES RELEASED. The four Japanese geologists and
their interpreter who were taken hostage by Uzbek guerrillas
in southern Kyrgyzstan nine weeks ago were released in
Tajikistan on 24 October and are on their way to Bishkek,
RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported the following
day. The release followed talks between Kyrgyz and Tajik
security officials and the guerrillas' leader, Djuma
Namangani. Reuters quoted a Japanese official as denying that
any ransom was paid to secure the hostages' release. LF

OPPOSITION TAJIK PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE WANTS REGISTRATION
ANNULLED. Following a 21 October ruling by Tajikistan's
Supreme Court, the Central Electoral Commission has
registered Economics and Foreign Trade Minister Davlat Usmon
as a candidate for the 6 November presidential poll. The
commission had refused to do so earlier this month on the
grounds that Usmon did not submit the required minimum of
145,000 signatures in support of his candidacy. However,
Usmon asked the commission on 22 October to cancel his
registration, saying that it is illegal as he has submitted
only 82,690 signatures in his support, Reuters reported. LF

TAJIK OPPOSITION PARTY HEADED FOR SPLIT? Several regional
branches of the Islamic Rebirth Party (IRP), the senior
partner within the United Tajik Opposition, have called for
convening an emergency party congress to discuss the UTO's 18
October statement calling for the expulsion of First Deputy
Prime Minister Khodji Akbar Turadjonzoda from its ranks,
Asia-Plus Blitz reported on 21 October, citing Turadjonzoda's
press office. Turadjonzoda had condemned the UTO's demand for
an emergency parliamentary session to debate the Central
Electoral Commission's refusal to register three opposition
presidential candidates (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 19
October 1999). He had also argued that incumbent President
Imomali Rakhmonov is the most qualified presidential
candidate. The regional IRP branches affirmed their support
for Turadjonzoda's position. LF

CORRECTION: "RFE/RL Newsline" on 22 October reported
incorrectly on the transfer of Mig-29s to Armenia. The jet
fighters in question, like earlier Russian transfers of such
aircraft, will go to Russia's military base in that country
and thus will not be under the control of the Armenian
government.

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