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FURTHER CONVICTION IN PROMINENT AZERBAIJANI HISTORIAN'S MURDER. Azerbaijan's Court for Serious Crimes sentenced Mais Abdullaev to 10 years' imprisonment on 26 January after convicting him of involvement in the 1997 murder of prominent historian Zia Buniatov, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. Seven men were sentenced three years ago for their roles in the killing. The prosecution claimed that they had connections with the Vilayati Hezbollah-al-Fagikh terrorist organization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February 2001). Abdullaev, who was detained last summer by Ukrainian intelligence and extradited to Baku, was accused of arranging for the seven to cross the border into Azerbaijan illegally from Iran, according to on 27 January. He was found guilty of involvement with a criminal group, bribing a state official, and instigation to violate border regulations. LF

IS UKRAINIAN ELECTION BILL BEING USED TO ATTRACT SUPPORT FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM? Our Ukraine lawmaker Volodymyr Filenko said on 26 January that a new draft law prescribing a fully proportional, party-list system for the national parliament that was prepared by four legislators from the pro-presidential majority is primarily intended to muster the 300 Verkhovna Rada deputies needed to adopt the constitutional-reform bill that was preliminarily approved in December (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 20 January 2004), UNIAN reported. The draft bill reportedly sets the voting threshold for parliamentary representation at just 1 percent. "The pro-presidential majority wants to introduce a 1 percent voting threshold in order to make the Communist Party vote for the constitutional amendments and to fool 174 majority deputies [elected in single-mandate constituencies] who also do not support the constitutional reform out of fear that they will not be re-elected to parliament under a fully proportional election law," Filenko said. The Communist Party has made its support for the constitutional reform conditional on adopting a fully proportional system of parliamentary elections. The current election law reserves 225 seats for deputies elected under a proportional system and the other 225 seats for single-mandate constituencies; it also sets the parliamentary threshold at 4 percent. JM

MEDIATORS DISCUSS RESUMPTION OF NEGOTIATIONS IN TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICT. Meeting in Sofia on 26 January at the initiative of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Chairman in Office and Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi, representatives of the three mediators of the Transdniester conflict -- the OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine -- discussed ways to bring about the resumption of negotiations between Chisinau and Tiraspol, Infotag reported. The parleys were stalled in December last year, when Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin refused at the last minute to sign the Russian-proposed plan for Moldova's federalization. OSCE mission chief to Moldova William Hill said before departing for Sofia that the talks would focus on whether a new federalization plan should replace the versions separately proposed by the OSCE and Russia, or if the two proposals should be combined into one. MS