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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 53, 00-03-15

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

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

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 4, No. 53, 15 March 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT PROMOTES SENIOR WAR VETERANS
  • [02] ARMENIAN NATIONAL TV DIRECTOR RESIGNS
  • [03] DOZENS OF CONSCRIPTS DESERT FROM GEORGIAN ARMY
  • [04] KAZAKH PRESIDENT, OSCE SECRETARY-GENERAL DISCUSS SECURITY
  • [05] LEADING KAZAKH INTELLECTUAL CALLS FOR PRIVATIZATION OF LAND
  • [06] DEFEATED KYRGYZ PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE ALLEGES FRAUD...
  • [07] ...WHILE PROTESTS AGAINST POLL OUTCOME CONTINUE
  • [08] TURKMEN PRESIDENT PROPOSES CASPIAN SUMMIT
  • [09] RUSSIA FAILS TO HELP BAPTISTS DEPORTED FROM TURKMENISTAN

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [10] FRENCH PEACEKEEPERS SECURE MITROVICA BRIDGE
  • [11] RUBIN WARNS ALBANIANS OVER PRESEVO
  • [12] CONFRONTATION BETWEEN ALBANIANS, NATO IN OFFING?
  • [13] SERBIAN LEGISLATOR CRITICIZES RUSSIAN POLICY
  • [14] BELGRADE CITY HALL PAYS STUDIO B'S BILL
  • [15] SERBIAN CITIZENS BACK RESERVISTS
  • [16] DJUKANOVIC TELLS ARMY TO LEAVE POLITICS
  • [17] MESIC TO AIR TUDJMAN'S SECRETS
  • [18] NEW DIRECTOR FOR CROATIAN RADIO-TELEVISION
  • [19] SLOVENIA SEEKS TO CLEAR UP 'CERTAIN DIFFICULTIES' IN VIENNA
  • [20] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT MEMBERS DECLARE END TO 'CRISIS'
  • [21] ROMANIA, BULGARIA SIGN DANUBE BRIDGE AGREEMENT
  • [22] MOLDOVA HAVING TROUBLE PAYING GAS DEBT TO RUSSIA
  • [23] BULGARIAN PRESIDENT SAYS UN REPORT SERIOUS
  • [24] BULGARIA READY FOR EIGHT CHAPTERS

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [25] DOES PUTIN HAVE PLANS FOR PETERSBURG?

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] ARMENIAN PRESIDENT PROMOTES SENIOR WAR VETERANS

    Robert

    Kocharian issued a decree on 14 March promoting two leading

    members of the Yerkrapah Union of veterans of the Karabakh

    war, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That organization's

    chairman, Major General Manvel Grigorian, and a second

    leader, Colonel Seyran Saroyan, were appointed deputy defense

    minister and commander of the Second Army Corps respectively.

    Major General Yurii Khachatrian, commander of the Fourth Army

    Corps, Colonel General Artur Aghabekian and Colonel General

    Gurgen Melkonian were also named deputy defense ministers.

    Grigorian's promotion was unexpected insofar as Yerkrapah is

    the military wing of the Republican Party of Armenia, one of

    the two components of the Miasnutiun parliamentary faction

    that is engaged in an apparent struggle for power with the

    president. Grigorian is also a close associate of Prime

    Minister Aram Sargsian. LF

    [02] ARMENIAN NATIONAL TV DIRECTOR RESIGNS

    Tigran Naghdalian, the

    director of Armenian National Television, submitted his

    resignation on 13 March, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported the

    following day. On 4 March, Naghdalian had rejected a demand

    by the Miasnutiun parliamentary majority faction that

    President Kocharian dismiss him for Armenian National

    Television's allegedly biased coverage of the investigations

    into the 27 October parliament shootings. Naghdalian said

    that demand constituted an attempt to limit media freedom in

    Armenia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March 2000). In his 13

    March statement, Naghdalian again denied the accusations

    against him. He explained his resignation in terms of the

    need to maintain political stability in Armenia and the

    impossibility of continuing to work under "constant political

    pressure," according to Snark. Naghdalian denied that he had

    been pressured by Kocharian to resign. LF

    [03] DOZENS OF CONSCRIPTS DESERT FROM GEORGIAN ARMY

    During the

    night of 12-13 March, 65 Georgian conscripts went absent

    without leave from the Kodjori training center to protest

    living conditions there, including inadequate food supplies,

    Caucasus Press and AP reported. Some of the conscripts have

    since returned to their unit, while the remaining 30 have

    been formally declared deserters. Defense Minister Davit

    Tevzadze has called for an investigation into conditions at

    the camp, where the Georgian peacekeeping contingent serving

    with KFOR in Kosova undergoes training. Defense Ministry

    spokesman Koba Liklikadze said in late January that some

    3,000 soldiers had deserted from the Georgian armed forces

    over the previous four years. LF

    [04] KAZAKH PRESIDENT, OSCE SECRETARY-GENERAL DISCUSS SECURITY

    THREATS

    Jan Kubis told journalists in Astana on 14 March

    after talks with Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev

    that he has information that militant Islamic groups based in

    Afghanistan may launch incursions into the territory of the

    Central Asian states this year. Reuters and Interfax

    reported. Nazarbaev had issued a similar warning in his

    address to the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna last month

    and appealed for OSCE help to deal with that threat (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 2000). LF

    [05] LEADING KAZAKH INTELLECTUAL CALLS FOR PRIVATIZATION OF LAND

    Speaking at a meeting of his National Congress Party in

    Almaty on 14 March, writer Olzhas Sulaimanov, who is also

    Kazakhstan's ambassador to Italy, appealed to NGOs in

    Kazakhstan to lobby the parliament to enact a law on the

    distribution of land among the country's citizens, RFE/RL's

    correspondent in the former capital reported. But fellow

    writer Sapabek Asip rejected that proposal, pointing out that

    much of Kazakhstan's territory is desert and that disputes

    would invariably arise over the limited amount of arable land

    available. Draft legislation on sales of farm land was

    withdrawn from the parliament last year after a series of

    popular protests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July and 2 August

    1999). LF

    [06] DEFEATED KYRGYZ PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE ALLEGES FRAUD...

    Opposition Ar-Namys Party Chairman Feliks Kulov told

    journalists in Bishkek on 14 March that he has appealed to

    the local court in the Talas Oblast constituency of Kara-

    Buura to annul the results of the 12 March runoff election,

    RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kulov said that his

    supporters had registered more than 350 violations of voting

    procedure, many of which were recorded on video. The official

    results gave Kulov 40 percent of the vote and his rival

    Alymbai Sultanov 56 percent. Kulov claimed that local

    officials pressured the population to vote for Sultanov. He

    said the parliamentary elections testify to the Kygyz

    leadership's rejection of the principles of freedom and

    democracy and will compound tensions between the leadership

    and the population at large, according to Interfax. LF

    [07] ...WHILE PROTESTS AGAINST POLL OUTCOME CONTINUE

    Meanwhile,

    between 700 and 1,000 Kulov supporters continued on 14 March

    to picket the local administration building in Kara-Buura to

    protest the poll outcome, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported.

    In the southern town of Djalalabad, some 1,000 people

    gathered outside the local administration building to protest

    the election defeat of candidate Kamchybek Tashiev, while in

    the town of Balykchy 200 people gathered to protest the local

    court's decision to annul the results of the 20 February vote

    in one Issyk-Kul constituency where opposition candidate

    Omurbek Subanaliev polled the largest number of votes.

    According to the Central Electoral Commission, 99 of the

    total 105 seats in both chambers of the new parliament have

    been filled. LF

    [08] TURKMEN PRESIDENT PROPOSES CASPIAN SUMMIT

    Meeting on 14

    March with Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh,

    Saparmurat Niyazov proposed convening a meeting of the

    presidents of the five Caspian littoral states (Azerbaijan,

    Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan) to try to resolve

    disagreements over the status of the Caspian Sea under

    international law. Interfax reported. Niyazov added that he

    discussed that proposal with acting Russian President

    Vladimir Putin, who expressed his support for it. LF

    [09] RUSSIA FAILS TO HELP BAPTISTS DEPORTED FROM TURKMENISTAN

    Russian Foreign Ministry officials in Moscow and Russian

    Embassy staff in Ashgabat said on 14 March that they have

    made no effort to defend the interests of ethnic Russian

    Baptists deported from Turkmenistan over the past few days,

    nor have they been asked to do so, Keston News Service

    reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March 2000). One embassy

    official in Ashgabat queried whether the deportees are in

    fact Russian citizens. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [10] FRENCH PEACEKEEPERS SECURE MITROVICA BRIDGE

    Some 250 French

    peacekeepers in full riot gear, backed by an unspecified

    number of armored personnel carriers and Italian military

    police, took control of the small bridge linking ethnic

    Albanian southern Mitrovica with the ethnically mixed Little

    Bosnia settlement on the northern side of the river. Four

    Serbian guards on the bridge left quietly after the French

    told them to go. The action began peacefully at dawn on 14

    March, but a scuffle began several hours later, leaving at

    least nine Serbs and an unspecified number of peacekeepers

    and journalists injured. Several local Serbs told AP that

    KFOR prevented them from returning to their homes in Little

    Bosnia and accused the French of "trying to expel the Serbs"

    from Kosova. Local Serbian leader Oliver Ivanovic added that

    "this measure will create greater tension and...lead to a

    certain amount of conflict" between the Serbs and NATO.

    Peacekeepers have begun creating a "security zone" around

    Little Bosnia with barbed wire. Only local residents may

    enter the zone. KFOR plans to take control of the main bridge

    across the River Ibar soon. PM

    [11] RUBIN WARNS ALBANIANS OVER PRESEVO

    State Department

    spokesman James Rubin warned Kosovar Albanian militants on 14

    March not to spread violence into neighboring southwest

    Serbia's Presevo Valley (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March

    2000). Speaking at the U.S. Camp Monteith base just 20

    kilometers from the Serbian border, Rubin said: "We recognize

    that the treatment of Albanians in the Presevo Valley is a

    major problem, that Serb authorities need to do more to

    enable them to live their lives free of intimidation. But at

    the same time, Albanians need to not operate under any

    miscalculations about how the United States views the

    situation. Kosovo is one thing and Presevo is a different

    thing.... People shouldn't miscalculate that we will support

    those who provoke the Serbs by killing Serb policemen and

    causing a reaction." PM

    [12] CONFRONTATION BETWEEN ALBANIANS, NATO IN OFFING?

    "The

    Washington Post" on 15 March quoted an unnamed senior

    Pentagon official as saying that U.S. troops in Kosova "this

    spring may have to fight their former allies, [namely] ethnic

    Albanian guerrillas who are rearming themselves and

    threatening cross-border attacks against Serbia." The article

    added that a "well-financed recruiting campaign" is under way

    in various parts of Kosova among former guerrillas and that

    some 500 well-armed fighters are active in the Presevo area.

    The daily noted that in Kosova itself, "with increasing

    frequency in recent weeks, ethnic Albanian fighters have

    raked Serbian villages and homesteads with gunfire and have

    assaulted Serbs on the way to work or to marketplaces in an

    apparent effort to drive the remaining Serbs out" of the

    province. PM

    [13] SERBIAN LEGISLATOR CRITICIZES RUSSIAN POLICY

    Yugoslav

    parliamentary deputy Milutin Stojkovic told visiting members

    of the Russian State Duma in Belgrade on 14 March that

    Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is a "meddler" who has worked

    against Serbian interests. Referring to Ivanov's recent

    meeting with Western foreign ministers in Lisbon, Stojkovic

    said: "We have not--nor shall we in the future--authorize

    anyone to negotiate on behalf of our interests. If the

    diplomacy of Mr. Ivanov consists of fawning over the

    Americans, he may do so at the expense of Russian but not of

    Serbian national interests," AP reported. State-run

    television carried the remarks of Stojkovic, who belongs to

    Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party.

    During the same visit, State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev

    expressed satisfaction that "brotherly Slavonic [Yugoslavia]

    is moving along the path of unification with Russia and

    Belarus," ITAR-TASS reported. Seleznev added, however, that

    the process should not be hurried. PM

    [14] BELGRADE CITY HALL PAYS STUDIO B'S BILL

    The city government

    of Belgrade paid nearly $1 million to federal

    telecommunications authorities on 14 March to cover the

    private television station Studio B's outstanding debts for

    the use of frequencies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March

    2000). Both the city government and the station are

    controlled by Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement. The

    opposition has charged that the government is trying to shut

    down or bankrupt independent and private media. PM

    [15] SERBIAN CITIZENS BACK RESERVISTS

    Some 2,000 residents of

    Kraljevo in central Serbia demonstrated on 14 March on behalf

    of members of a local tank reserve unit who recently

    protested their call-up notices, "Vesti" reported (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March 2000). Protest leader Dragic

    Markovic read out a list of demands to the local military

    authorities, including an end to sending out call-up orders

    until the army officially orders a general mobilization. The

    Otpor (Resistance) student movement helped organize the

    protest. PM

    [16] DJUKANOVIC TELLS ARMY TO LEAVE POLITICS

    Montenegrin

    President Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 14 March that

    in recent years the federal army has increasingly become the

    army of Milosevic's party and its allies. Djukanovic called

    on the army to "respect the constitution" and stand above

    partisan politics, "Danas" reported. PM

    [17] MESIC TO AIR TUDJMAN'S SECRETS

    Croatian President Stipe

    Mesic said in Pula on 14 March that he will soon make public

    the content of documents that his predecessor Franjo Tudjman

    held in various safes. Mesic added that only documents

    containing military secrets will remain classified, RFE/RL's

    South Slavic Service reported. In another sign of Mesic's

    desire to break with Tudjman's autocratic style of rule, the

    new president said on Brijuni Island that he plans to open up

    much of the government's huge estate there to commercial

    tourism. He added that the government will keep only a small

    area of what was the favorite seaside retreat of both Josip

    Broz Tito and Tudjman, "Jutarnji list" reported. Mesic drank

    with local people and returned to the mainland by a regularly

    scheduled ferry, offering to pay for his own ticket. PM

    [18] NEW DIRECTOR FOR CROATIAN RADIO-TELEVISION

    Leaders of the

    six governing parties agreed in Zagreb that they will soon

    ask Mirko Galic to head Croatian Radio and Television (HRT),

    "Jutarnji list" reported on 15 March. His main task will be

    to transform the state-run media, which now serve the

    interests of those in power, into a public broadcaster on the

    model of those in Germany and most other West European

    countries. PM

    [19] SLOVENIA SEEKS TO CLEAR UP 'CERTAIN DIFFICULTIES' IN VIENNA

    Janez Potocnik, who is Slovenia's chief negotiator with the

    EU, discussed some unspecified "problematic" issues in

    Slovenian-Austrian relations with Foreign Minister Benita

    Ferrero-Waldner and other officials in Vienna, "Die Presse"

    reported on 14 March. Potocnik stressed that it is important

    "to solve bilateral problems on a bilateral basis and not

    link them to Slovenia's admission to the EU." He said that he

    did not raise the question of Slovenia's atomic power plant

    at Krsko because "that is no problem as far as Slovenia is

    concerned." Potocnik called EU membership "Slovenia's most

    important political project," adding that his country hopes

    for membership in 2002. Austria's far-right Freedom Party's

    Joerg Haider has previously called for Krsko to be closed and

    is critical of EU expansion. He is governor of Carinthia,

    which borders Slovenia and is home to most of Austria's

    ethnic Slovenian minority. PM

    [20] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT MEMBERS DECLARE END TO 'CRISIS'

    Representatives of the various parties in Romania's governing

    coalition declared an end to the recent government crisis

    after a 14 March coalition meeting, Romanian Radio reported.

    Remus Opris, the secretary-general of the National Peasants'

    Party-Christian Democratic, said the coalition parties agreed

    on certain legislative priorities and decided to set up a

    technical commission to iron out differences among the

    parties over certain bills. He said priorities include the

    state budget and a law on local elections. Democratic Party

    Vice President Alexandru Sassu said the parties agreed to

    respect the government's official program and pass all bills

    related to EU requirements. The recent crisis was sparked by

    the resignation of the Defense Minister Victor Babiuc from

    the Democratic Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March 2000).

    VG

    [21] ROMANIA, BULGARIA SIGN DANUBE BRIDGE AGREEMENT

    Officials

    from the Transport Ministries of Romania and Bulgaria have

    signed an agreement on the construction of a second bridge

    across the Danube River linking the Bulgarian city of Vidin

    with the Romanian city of Calafat, BTA reported on 14 March.

    The agreement, which was signed in the presence of European

    Commission representative Joseph Grueter, is based on an

    expert report prepared by representatives from the EU,

    Bulgaria, and Romania. The bridge and the adjoining

    infrastructure are to cost some $155 million. Construction is

    scheduled to begin in 2001. VG

    [22] MOLDOVA HAVING TROUBLE PAYING GAS DEBT TO RUSSIA

    Moldovan

    Foreign Minister Nicolae Tebekaru told ITAR-TASS on 14

    March that the problem of Moldova's gas debt to Russia is

    still unresolved. Dumitru Petrencu, the chief adviser to

    the Moldovan government, said there is a real risk that

    Moscow will cut off supplies again (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"

    2 March 2000), BASA-Press reported. Tebekaru noted that

    while Moldova no longer has outstanding debts for January

    and February, older debts remain. VG

    [23] BULGARIAN PRESIDENT SAYS UN REPORT SERIOUS

    Petar Stoyanov

    said the government should take seriously a UN report

    indicating that Bulgaria has been supplying weapons to

    Angola's UNITA rebels, BTA reported (see RFE/RL Newsline,"

    14 March 2000). He added that the government should explain

    to the public "how it happened that Bulgaria is again

    accused of sins" that it had decided to cease committing

    long ago. Stoyanov refused to comment directly on the UN

    report until he has had a chance to read it. VG

    [24] BULGARIA READY FOR EIGHT CHAPTERS

    Bulgarian Foreign

    Ministry official Biserka Benisheva on 14 March said her

    country is ready to begin membership talks with the EU on

    eight chapters, Reuters reported. Last week, the European

    Commission proposed that negotiations with Bulgaria begin

    on six chapters. VG


    [C] END NOTE

    [25] DOES PUTIN HAVE PLANS FOR PETERSBURG?

    by Jan Cleave

    Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko's recent

    announcement that acting President Vladimir Putin backs her

    bid for the St. Petersburg governership ended months-long

    speculation about whom the Kremlin favors for that post.

    Matvienko is considered to have a good chance of dethroning

    incumbent Governor Vladimir Yakovlev in the 14 May ballot.

    And it is thought that if she does win that poll, Putin may

    well have plans for his home town in whose implementation

    newly elected Governor Matvienko would play a major role.

    The Kremlin's choice of Matvienko as favored candidate

    in St. Petersburg was likely determined by at least three

    factors. First, Matvienko is one of the "Moscow St.

    Petersburgers"; as such, she not only has experience in the

    northern city but can count on the support of the powerful

    St. Petersburg group in the capital that Putin himself has

    sponsored, highlighting the continued importance of

    "zemlyachestvo" (friendly "association" of people from the

    same place) in Russian political culture. Though not a native

    of St. Petersburg, Matvienko completed her medical studies

    there in the early 1970s and held various party posts in the

    city until she was called to Moscow in 1989. Having worked in

    the capital and abroad for the past 10 years or so, she

    remained at a safe geographical distance as St. Petersburg

    became increasingly mired in scandals of the post-communist

    era.

    Second, Matvienko, who is one of only a few key figures

    to have survived the last three changes of government, is

    thought to be able to unite political forces across the

    spectrum. Both the pro-Kremlin Unity party and leaders of

    Fatherland-All Russia have announced they will support her,

    while Unity's alleged ally in the State Duma, the Communist

    Party, is likely to follow suit. The Union of Rightist Forces

    appears still to be hemming and hawing over its preference,

    while the St. Petersburg branch of Yabloko, which is strongly

    opposed to Yakovlev, will run its own candidate, but

    presumably on the understanding it would support Matvienko in

    a run-off against the incumbent.

    Third, if elected to the Federation Council, Matvienko

    would become one of only two female governors (the other

    being Valentina Bronevich of the tiny Koryak Autonomous

    Okrug). Putin has increasingly said of late that he would

    like to see more women holding top offices in both the

    executive and legislative branches. Backing Matvienko as

    governor of Russia's second city lends credence to such

    assertions, particularly in the run-up to the presidential

    election.

    But if Matvienko can be seen as indirectly serving

    Putin's purpose before the 26 March vote, observers believe

    she will be called on directly to do his bidding once, as

    seems virtually inevitable, he is elected head of state.

    Matvienko herself even hinted at this shortly after

    announcing her candidacy. During Yakovlev's four-year reign

    in St. Petersburg, the city has come to be known as the crime

    capital of the Russian Federation, and its current

    administration is largely held responsible for that dubious

    designation. Fighting crime and corruption, Matvienko noted,

    would be one of her top priorities as governor, adding that

    the plethora of problems facing the city can no longer be

    solved without the assistance of the federal authorities.

    "Carte blanche" for Putin, who made his early career in the

    KGB in St. Petersburg and entered politics as an adviser to

    late former Mayor Anatolii Sobchak, to deal with those

    problems as he sees fit? Perhaps.

    Another hint of Putin's possible plans for his native

    city came from former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, who

    was recently passed over as the Kremlin's favorite for the

    St. Petersburg governership and subsequently announced he

    would not run in the ballot. Speaking to reporters

    immediately after talks with Putin earlier this month,

    Stepashin noted that a "program" already exists for moving

    several federal structures to St. Petersburg, including the

    State Duma, the Federation Council, and several ministries,

    and that the city's "next governor" will likely present that

    program. Increased investments and improved infrastructure,

    he noted, would be just two of the benefits of such a move

    and would help make St. Petersburg the country's second

    capital city.

    According to some observers, Putin may also have plans

    to bring about the oft-debated reunification of the city of

    St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast. Arguments in favor of

    returning to the Soviet-era arrangement have become

    increasingly audible in recent years. Leningrad Oblast

    complains of the massive financial losses it has incurred,

    while St. Petersburg bemoans the fact that it is splitting at

    the seams and has no room to expand. Moreover, residents of

    the two regions are bitter that cuts are made in social

    spending while large sums continue to be spent on a double

    bureaucracy. Many politicians, including Matvienko, have

    spoken in favor of holding a referendum on the issue as the

    only fair way to decide the issue.

    But even if a majority of voters in both St. Petersburg

    and Leningrad Oblast came out in favor of reunification, a

    considerable amount of good will would be required on the

    part of the regions' administrations and legislatures to

    implement a decision resulting in the dissolution of those

    structures in their present guise and their reincarnation in

    an amalgamated and streamlined form. In the absence of that

    good will, pressure from Moscow would help ensure that the

    process of reunification is as smooth as possible. As

    "Argumenty i fakty" suggested in its 8 March issue, there may

    never be a more favorable time to achieve that goal than now,

    that is, when Putin's "Petersburg team," including Matvienko

    as possible future governor, is firmly in control.

    15-03-00


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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