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Newsline - May 3, 2002


RUSSIA WELCOMES ARAFAT'S RELEASE
Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said that Russia is satisfied with the Israeli government's decision to lift its siege of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 2 May. Yakovenko said that Moscow will continue its efforts to defuse the Middle East crisis, acting jointly with the United States, the European Union, and the UN. Meanwhile, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Aleksii II, sent a letter to Patriarch Eireneos, head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem and Palestine, a letter in which he expressed his concern about the armed confrontation around the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 2002) and called for the withdrawal of Israeli troops. VY

YUSUFOV CALLS FOR CONTINUED COORDINATION OF ENERGY POLICIES...
Russian Energy Minister Igor Yusufov said after a meeting with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney in Washington on 1 May that the energy dialogue between Russia and the Unites States should be of a strategic, long-term character, Russian news agencies reported the next day. According to Interfax, Yusufov praised Cheney's role in developing a U.S. national energy policy, and Cheney applauded Russia's willingness to help stabilize global energy supplies in order to restrict price fluctuations. Yusufov also praised the work done by a bilateral energy commission that was set up last November and is headed by Cheney and Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. Yusufov attached importance to the fact that the two countries' energy policies continue to be coordinated at this high level. He then traveled on to Detroit for a meeting of G-8 energy ministers. VY

...AND ADVOCATES RUSSIAN OIL SUPPLIES TO THE U.S.
Speaking to reporters in Detroit on 2 May, Yusufov called Russia "a stable supplier of energy to the American market on a permanent basis," gazeta.ru reported. Yusufov said that the export of Russian oil to the United States, which previously had been economically unfeasible because of high transport costs, may become realistic if supertankers with capacities from 350,000 to 400,000 tons are used to convey supplies across the Atlantic Ocean. Yusufov met with U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham on 3 May and will meet with him again on 4 May, but Abraham said that he would not ask Russia to abandon its oil-production cuts, Reuters reported. "We've never, as a matter of policy in the Bush administration, deplored, begged, or cajoled anybody to produce more oil. Those decisions people make based on the market," Reuters quoted Abraham as saying before his talks with Yusufov. VY

PUTIN PREDICTED TO FACE LITTLE COMPETITION IN 2004
"Novye izvestiya" reported on 30 April that in 2004 President Vladimir Putin will likely compete with a group of "political outsiders," such as State Duma Deputies Viktor Cherepkov (independent) and Vasilii Shandybin (Communist), Conservative Party leader Lev Ubozhko, and National Bolshevik party leader Eduard Limonov. Cherepkov, the former mayor of Vladivostok, has already declared that he intends to run and has already visited a number of regions. The paper commented that none of them have a realistic chance of winning, although people such as Ubozhko -- who ran for president in 2000 -- will not pass up the opportunity to promote themselves. The paper also suggested that former Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov and nationalist General Albert Makashov might seek Russia's highest office. The daily concluded that the participation of "ambitious cranks" is not likely to affect the election's results, but will merely form the background of the larger political processes. JAC

FORMER KGB GENERAL KALUGIN'S CASE SENT TO COURT
Chief Military Prosecutor Mikhail Kislitsyn announced on 30 April that he has sent to the courts a criminal case against former KGB General Oleg Kalugin, who presently lives in the United States, Russian news agencies reported. Kislitsyn told journalists that he signed an indictment against Kalugin charging him with "high treason in the form of divulging a state secret." He added that, "because Kalugin has repeatedly ignored our calls to appear for interrogation and has stated that he will not appear in a Russian court, his case may be heard by the court in abstentia." However, Kalugin said that the real reason for the prosecutor-general's action against him may be Kalugin's recent interview on Russian television in which he suggested that the apartment-building bombings in Moscow, Volgodonsk, and Buinaksk in the fall of 1999 may have been carried out by the Federal Security Service (FSB). VY

GOVERNOR THREATENS MAYOR WITH DISMISSAL
Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel on 30 April officially warned Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii that he may be removed from office for violating a federal law, strana.ru reported. Last October, a federal court in Yekaterinburg ruled that one of Chernetskii's decrees from the previous year was illegal. The decree established leasing rates for land in the city. Chernetskii was ordered to cancel the decree, which he has not yet done, according to the website. In a letter to Chernetskii, Rossel reminded his long-time rival that federal law gives him the power to dismiss mayors who violate federal law. However, in a case involving the president's right to remove mayors, the Constitutional Court recently ruled that three different courts must confirm that such a violation took place (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 April 2002). JAC

SUPREME COURT TO HEAR CASE OF DISQUALIFIED JUDGE
A spokesman for the Supreme Court announced that the court will review the case of Svetlana Tusikova, a judge who was suspended from her office by the Velikii Novgorod City's Judges Collegium, RosBalt reported on 2 May. According to the collegium, Tusikova released on bail an inveterate criminal last March, who then fled and is now wanted by federal law enforcement authorities. The collegium determined that Tusikova had violated the law and undermined the authority of the judicial organs. Tusikova appealed the verdict, saying that she acted according to the law. The Supreme Court is expected to hear the case this month. VY

MINATOM SPECIALIST IS MURDERED
Vladimir Malikov, a leading specialist of the Atomic Energy Ministry, was killed near his home in Moscow on 30 April, Russian news agencies on 2 May. Malikov was stabbed several times by unknown criminals who left the scene without taking anything from Malikov. Investigators have not yet ruled out the possibility that it may have been a contract killing. VY

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL DOES NOT RULE OUT NEW CHALLENGE FOR TATARSTAN CONSTITUTION
Tatarstan's recently revised constitution will come into force 10 days after its publication on 30 April, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 2 May, citing Tatar-inform. Also on 30 April, Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov told "Rossiiskaya gazeta" that Tatarstan's new constitution will be -- if necessary -- challenged in court as the previous constitution was. Ustinov added that he has discussed the issue with Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev and said that the document is currently being analyzed. JAC

TRANS-KOREAN RAILWAY SEEN ONLY AS LONG-TERM PROSPECT
Presidential Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Konstantin Pulikovskii told reporters in Khabarovsk on 29 April that the question of the construction of a railway route connecting North and South Korea with the Trans-Siberian Railroad can be resolved no earlier than next February, strana.ru reported the same day. Pulikovskii recently returned from a trip to North Korea, where he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2002). According to Pulikovskii, there has not yet been a joint meeting of transportation officials from the three countries on this question. In addition, presidential elections in South Korea this December complicate matters, and a new president will not assume office until February 2003. JAC

ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN IN OIL REGION?
"Novaya gazeta," No. 31, reported that a continuing legal battle over the gas-production company Rospan International could have a devastating effect on the environment of Yamalo Nenets Autonomous Okrug, because the lack of a defined owner for the company could mean that proper maintenance of the company's pipeline infrastructure is not being performed. According to the weekly, the okrug is one of the worst places to live in Russia and occupies ninth place nationally in terms of the number of "technical accidents." The majority of these accidents occur during the transportation of oil and gas through pipelines. According to the weekly, "all activities of Rospan are focused on its court battles." Meanwhile, weather conditions in the region are ideal for promoting the corrosion of pipes, and corrosion causes "95 percent" of pipeline accidents, according to the newspaper. JAC

SMOKING BECOMING MORE POPULAR AMONG REGIONAL YOUTH
Voronezh and 22 other regions in Russia are hosting an international action to give up cigarettes, RIA-Novosti reported on 2 May. In Voronezh, some 2,000 people are participating by pledging to quit smoking for at least one month. This is third year for the action, and according to organizers, 20 to 25 percent of those who participate end up quitting for good. The organizers include the World Health Organization, the National Institute of Public Health of Finland, and the Voronezh Center for Preventive Medicine. According to the Voronezh center, smoking is becoming increasingly popular among young people. Among upperclassmen of village schools, 47 percent of boys and 21 percent of girls smoke, and in city schools the numbers are even higher, the center reported, according to the news agency. JAC

CHECHEN RESISTANCE DENIES THREE MORE FIELD COMMANDERS KILLED
A senior Chechen military commander has denied Russian media reports that Chechen National Security Minister Aydamir Abalaev, who is commander for the Nozhai-Yurt sector, and several other field commanders have been killed, chechenpress.com reported on 3 May. The Chechen commander also denied that President Aslan Maskhadov convened a meeting on 30 April to discuss the creation of a new military council. Interfax on 2 May claimed that Maskhadov established such a council at a meeting of field commanders in southern Chechnya on 30 April, and that Abalaev and two other field commanders, Zelimkhan Vashaev and Zavibek Uvaisov, were killed while returning from that session. RFE/RL's Russian Service quoted Russian military officials as saying earlier on 3 May that Abalaev, together with the two other field commanders, was killed on 1 May in a special operation by Russian special service troops. Russian media also reported that field commanders Khalid Dukuzov and Khaled abu-Khaled, identified as one of Khattab's subordinates, have been killed in circumstances that remain unclear. LF

U.S. AMBASSADOR AGAIN CRITICIZES CLOSURE OF ARMENIAN TV STATION
In a 2 May interview with RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau, John Ordway again characterized the closure of the independent TV station A1+ as a setback for democracy in Armenia. On 3 April, the U.S. Embassy had issued a statement saying that the decision by a presidential commission to award the frequency on which the station broadcast to a rival station "raises serious questions about the future of free and independent media in Armenia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 April 2002). LF

ARMENIA FAILS TO MEET PRIVATIZATION TARGET FOR 2001
Buyers were found for only 75 percent of the 300 large and medium state-owned enterprises slated for privatization in 2001, State Property Minister David Vartanian told journalists in Yerevan on 2 May, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. As a result, Vartanian continued, revenues from privatization fell to 2.5 billion drams ($4.5 million), which is just over half what was expected. The government failed last year to sell off the country's power-distribution system and its largest cement factory. LF

ARMENIAN COMMUNISTS TO FIELD OWN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
The Communist Party of Armenia (HHK) will field its own candidate in the presidential election due in March 2003, but will back the opposition candidate if a runoff is required between incumbent President Robert Kocharian and his closest challenger, Noyan Tapan quoted Frunze Kharatian, who heads the HHK parliament faction, as saying on 2 May. He did not say who the HHK candidate will be. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION LEADER INTERCEDES FOR JAILED KARABAKH GENERAL
National Unity Party Chairman Artashes Geghamian appealed on 2 May to President Kocharian to take urgent measures to arrange for the transfer of former Karabakh army commander Samvel Babayan from prison in Stepanakert to the Yerevan military hospital, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Geghamian said that Babayan is suffering from a serious lung ailment and the transfer is imperative in order to save his life. Babayan, who was also the defense minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, was jailed in February 2001 on charges, which he denied, of masterminding an unsuccessful attempt in March 2000 to assassinate Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasian (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February 2001). LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT THANKS U.S. COUNTERPART FOR SUPPORT...
During a telephone conversation on 2 May, Eduard Shevardnadze thanked U.S. President George W. Bush for the military assistance that Washington has provided to Georgia, and also for Bush's offer of help in coping with the damage caused by the 25 April earthquake, Caucasus Press reported. Bush for his part expressed appreciation of Georgia's role within the international antiterrorism coalition. LF

...AS U.S. OFFICER DEFINES ROLE IN GEORGIA
U.S. Army Colonel Scott Thein, one of the first group of U.S. military personnel to arrive in Tbilisi earlier this week within the parameters of the "Train and Equip" program, told journalists in Tbilisi on 2 May that he and his fellow instructors will conduct four stages of antiterrorist training for Georgian forces, after which they will return to the U.S., rather than establish a permanent military presence in Georgia, Caucasus Press and dpa reported. Thein also stressed that, "It is not the intention of my government, nor do I know of any plans for U.S. forces to be involved at all in the internal security issues of Georgia." But the "Georgian Times," some of whose reporting gives the impression of having been written with the express intention of causing embarrassment to the Georgian government, reported the same day quoting an unidentified "reliable source" that 20 U.S. military personnel landed in the Pankisi Gorge hours before the newspaper went to press, Caucasus Press reported. "They will comb the mountains and find and destroy Chechen fighters if any are present in the region," the "Georgian Times" quoted its source as saying. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SACKS FINANCE, TAX MINISTERS
Shevardnadze dismissed Tax Minister Levan Dzneladze and Finance Minister Zurab Nogaideli on 2 May after Georgia failed to meet its budget targets either for the first quarter of 2002 or in April, Caucasus Press reported, quoting Deputy Minister of State Giorgi Isakadze. The Georgian parliament will now propose amalgamating the two ministries, to be headed by Anti-Corruption Council Chairman Mirian Gogiashvili. However, parliament Budget Committee head Roman Gotsiridze said on 2 May that the April budget shortfall was not the result of a shortfall in tax revenues, but of the Customs Department's failure to crack down on the smuggling of cigarettes and gasoline. LF

ABKHAZ PRESIDENT BACK IN SUKHUM
Vladislav Ardzinba returned to Sukhum on 2 May following a three-month spell of medical treatment in Moscow and will resume his duties "within a few days," Apsnipress reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 5, 31 January 2002). His press secretary, Ruslan Khashig, said his condition is "satisfactory." Vice President Valerii Arshba had announced on 15 April that Ardzinba had completed his course of medical treatment and would return to Abkhazia on 25 April. But on 24 April, Ardzinba's adviser Astamur Tania said his arrival had been postponed. The nature of Ardzinba's illness is not known. LF

INDEPENDENT KYRGYZ WEEKLY TO RESUME PUBLICATION
Zamira Sydykova, who is editor in chief of the weekly "Res Publica," told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 2 May that the paper would resume publication the following day after a three-month hiatus. Responding to a ruling by a Bishkek district court, the state-run Uchkun publishing house refused in late January to print further issues of "Res Publica" until the paper paid a 121,000 som ($2,500) fine it incurred in a libel case it lost in December 2001, according to AP. LF

IMF DELEGATION ENDS VISIT TO KYRGYZSTAN
IMF delegation head Tapio Saavolainen told journalists in Bishkek on 2 May after two weeks of discussions with Kyrgyz government officials that he will recommend that the fund release the second part tranche of a $93 million poverty-reduction loan approved last year, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Meeting on 24 April with President Askar Akaev and Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev, Saavolainen expressed concern at the "alarming" 11.9 percent fall in industrial output during the first quarter of 2002. LF

KYRGYZSTAN, TAJIKISTAN HIT BY MUDSLIDES
Mudslides in southern oblasts of Kyrgyzstan have destroyed over 300 homes in Osh Oblast in recent days, AP and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Prime Minister Bakiev traveled to Osh on 30 April to inspect the damage, which is estimated at $1.5 million. In Tajikistan, heavy rain has triggered mudslides in Khatlon Oblast, where more than 180 homes have been destroyed, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 3 May. LF

ADB APPROVES NEW LOAN FOR UZBEKISTAN
The Asian Development Bank announced on 3 May that it has approved a $38 million loan to Uzbekistan to help finance improvements to drinking-water supplies and sanitation in Khorezm Oblast and Karakalpakistan, dpa reported. Both regions were badly affected by drought in 2000 and 2001 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 14 September 2000, and 29 August 2001). LF

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT WANTS GOVERNMENT TO LOWER GAS, ELECTRICITY RATES...
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 2 May pledged to workers of a cement factory in Kastsyukovichy, Mahilyou Oblast, that he will order the government to bring gas and electricity rates into line with recent Belarusian-Russian agreements, Belapan and Belarusian Television reported. Last month, Russia agreed to sell gas and electricity at domestic prices to Belarus (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 16 April 2002). Lukashenka added that the new gas and electricity rates will make the factory's cement competitive abroad. JM

...PONDERS BUILDING UNIT AT RUSSIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT
President Lukashenka also said he will soon discuss with Russian officials whether it is possible to construct a Belarusian unit at Russia's Smolensk nuclear power plant. "In the near future we won't be able to build our own nuclear power plant owing to many reasons. But we should consider building our own unit at the Smolensk nuclear power plant," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying. Last week, Lukashenka hinted that Minsk is considering buying the Ignalina nuclear power plant from Lithuania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 2002). JM

FORMER UKRAINIAN SPEAKERS PESSIMISTIC ABOUT PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY
Oleksandr Moroz and Oleksandr Tkachenko told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on 1 May that they do not foresee the creation of a stable, permanent majority in the newly elected Verkhovna Rada. "I think there will be a situational majority with the participation of communists during the election of the Verkhovna Rada leadership and the heads of parliamentary committees," Tkachenko said. According to Tkachenko, the Communist Party is likely to find common language in the parliament with For a United Ukraine rather than Our Ukraine. Moroz did not rule out that the current Verkhovna Rada may be led by a lawmaker who has previously been its speaker. Aside from Tkachenko and Moroz, there are two other former speakers in the current legislature: Ivan Plyushch and Leonid Kravchuk. JM

OECD REPORTS ON ESTONIA'S ECONOMIC PROGRESS
Martin Frost, the head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) program for investments and financial and business development, has presented a report on Estonia that concluded that increasing foreign investments and exports are due to the country's improved business climate, ETA reported on 2 May. The report lauded Estonian companies' willingness to react quickly to new developments; however, it noted that many Estonian companies' products do not meet EU standards, thus making their export more difficult. Frost also called for greater support for regional development, saying that while business in Tallinn has developed well, the business climate becomes more unfavorable the farther one travels from the capital. SG

LATVIA'S WELFARE MINISTER DISMISSED
Prime Minister Andris Berzins officially dismissed Andrejs Pozarnovs of the For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (TB/LNNK) on 2 May, LETA reported. In a radio interview that day, Berzins said he formulated his arguments for dismissing Pozarnovs on eight points, including lack of discipline, inability to work and guarantee order, and problems in relations with nonprofit organizations. Both officials have turned to the Prosecutor-General's Office with a request that it investigate dealings with a Welfare Ministry-owned property in Jurmala and its compliance with the law. TB/LNNK Chairman Maris Grinblats stressed that his party will keep the post of welfare minister, but expressed doubt that the new minister will be able to do much in the ministry because a new government will be formed after the parliamentary elections in five months. SG

COUNCIL OF EUROPE'S COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS SESSION OPENS IN LITHUANIA
Delegations of all 44 Council of Europe (CE) member states arrived in Vilnius on 2 May for the two-day 110th session of the CE's Committee of Ministers, ELTA reported. This is only the second session held outside France since 1990. Only 16 foreign ministers are attending the session, but other high-ranking officials who traveled to Vilnius include European Parliament Chairman Patrick Cox; CE Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer and his deputy Hans Kruger; CE Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles; Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa; UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson; and OSCE Secretary-General Jan Kubis. The session will close Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis's six-month term as chairman of the committee, which will be taken over by Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Lydie Polfer. The same day Polfer told Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas and parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas that a small country does not lose its national identity in the EU, but gains economic progress and increases the well-being of its population through membership. SG

ETHNIC HUNGARIANS IN SLOVAKIA PROTEST AGAINST DURAY STATEMENT
Ethnic Hungarian intellectuals in Slovakia warned on 2 May against arousing Slovak nationalism ahead of the September elections as a result of the "irresponsible and ever more provocative behavior" of Slovak Hungarian Coalition (SMK) Deputy Chairman Miklos Duray, CTK reported, citing the daily "Sme." The letter signed by some 90 ethnic Hungarian intellectuals rejected the use of the term "Upper Hungary" by Duray at a rally in Budapest last month in support of the Hungarian FIDESZ party. The intellectuals wrote that former Premier Meciar "came to power in the past because he found partners among Slovak National Party politicians," and that the "stubborn nationalism" of some Hungarian politicians in Slovakia also contributed to Meciar's success because they "expediently provoked Slovak national awareness." The signatories called on the SMK to distance itself from Duray. MS

FORMER SIS MEMBERS, POLICEMAN, CHARGED WITH ATTEMPT TO DISCREDIT SLOVAK OPPOSITION
The former police director of the Nitra region and two former Slovak Intelligence Service members were charged on 2 May with having attempted to discredit former Democratic Party Chairman Frantisek Sebej and comedian Stanislav Radic in 1998, CTK reported, citing Slovak television. The two former SIS members were said to have placed drugs and explosives in a room where a meeting between Sebej and Radic took place, and to have subsequently alerted the director of the regional police, who then ordered 50 men to raid the building. All those present had to put their hands on the table and police pointed guns at them. The police then "found" drugs and explosives. At that time, the Democratic Party was in opposition to the government headed by Meciar. MS

POLAND LAYS CORNERSTONE FOR CHURCH CONCEIVED IN 1791
On 2 May in Warsaw, Cardinal Jozef Glemp and President Aleksander Kwasniewski laid the cornerstone for Holy God's Providence Roman Catholic church, Polish media reported. The inauguration is the fulfillment of a vow made by members of the Polish Sejm in 1791, after the promulgation of the constitution of 3 May. The construction plans in the 18th century were abandoned following the partitions of Poland by Russia, Prussia, and Austro-Hungary. A second attempt to erect the temple after Poland regained independence in 1918 fell victim to economic woes and World War II. After the toppling of communism in 1989, the Sejm revived the plans to build the church. An earlier design that would have cost 220 million zlotys ($55 million) was deemed too expensive. The new version, to be financed through private donations, is expected to cost about half as much. JM

POLLS SHOW GROWING SUPPORT FOR EU MEMBERSHIP IN POLAND
According to a poll conducted by Demoskop in April, 67 percent of Poles favor joining the EU, while 22 percent oppose such a move, PAP reported on 2 May. The number of those in favor of joining the EU rose from March to April by five percentage points, according to Demoskop. The same day, "Rzeczpospolita" reported that a poll conducted by the PBS polling center in April found that support for Poland's EU membership rose to 60 percent from 50 percent at the end of 2001. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT REITERATES SUPPORT FOR BALTIC COUNTRIES' NATO MEMBERSHIP
Vaclav Havel said on 2 May that Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania should be invited to join NATO at the organization's Prague summit in November, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. At a ceremony at Prague Castle for the presidents of the three Baltic countries, Havel said, "It does not take a great historian or a great geographer to understand which cultural region these three countries belong to... There will be peace in the world when every one's right to a place in the region that one feels part of and to which one historically belongs is recognized." He also said, "It would not be good to postpone admission [to NATO] of the countries that meet the necessary criteria [for membership] only because somebody [i.e., Russia] does not like it." MS

CZECH PREMIER, LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT DISCUSS NATO, EU MEMBERSHIP
Milos Zeman met on 2 May with visiting Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus to discuss Lithuania's bid to join NATO -- for which Zeman expressed full support -- and the countries' respective quests to join the EU. Zeman told CTK after the meeting that he also discussed with Adamkus the possibility of finding "friendly harbors" for the Czech fleet in Lithuania (during his recent visit to Russia, Zeman signed an agreement for Russian delivery of 20 vessels in partial payment of the Russian debt to the Czech Republic). MS

RFE/RL PRESIDENT AWARDED LATVIAN MEDAL
Also on 2 May, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga awarded RFE/RL President Tom Dine the Latvian Three-Star order for RFE/RL's role in promoting social integration in her country. The ceremony took place at RFE/RL's Prague headquarters. MS

U.S. HAS NO EVIDENCE ON PRAGUE ENCOUNTER BETWEEN AL-QAEDA TERRORIST, IRAQI DIPLOMAT
U.S. authorities told Reuters on 1 May that they have no evidence that Al-Qaeda terrorist Mohammad Atta, suspected to have been one of the 11 September 2001 hijackers who attacked New York's World Trade Center, met in Prague with Iraqi diplomat Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir Ani. Speaking on conditions of anonymity, a U.S. official told the agency, "We have no evidence of him having met al-Ani in April 2001, as had been previously speculated by the Czechs." The official said the U.S. authorities have determined that Atta passed through Prague in June 2000, but "there was no evidence of whom he might have met with." They also said Atta might have passed through Prague in 1999 and may have met Iraqis that year, "but even so that did not suggest anything tying Iraq to the 11 September attack." MS

CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS TO UNILATERALLY END 'OPPOSITION AGREEMENT'
Social Democratic Party (CSSD) Chairman Vladimir Spidla has officially notified Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Vacalv Klaus that the CSSD will unilaterally terminate the "opposition agreement" between the two formations if the ODS persists in refusing to jointly discuss the agreement's termination, CTK reported on 3 May, citing the daily "Pravo." The daily reported that Spidla sent a letter to Klaus announcing this intention in the last week of April, and ODS spokeswoman Michaela Malacova confirmed receipt of the letter. Klaus has said several times in the past that the termination of the agreement is a CSSD electoral gimmick, as the pact will end with the June elections regardless. MS

CZECH PREMIER TO RECEIVE COMMUNIST SUPPORT FOR GRIPEN PURCHASE?
Premier Zeman on 2 May discussed with Miroslav Grebenicek, chairman of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM), and with Grebenicek's deputy Miroslav Ransdorf the possibility of enlisting KSCM support in the parliament for the purchase of British/Swedish-made Gripen fighter aircraft, CTK reported. The KSCM along with other opposition parties has thus far opposed the purchase. Ransdorf said after the meeting that "in light of new facts" -- apparently presented by Zeman -- the KSCM could "renegotiate" its position. He said that for his party "the most important thing is that the solution to be adopted does not burden the state budget and brings benefits to Czech industry." Zeman said that "opinions and arguments" were exchanged and that the KSCM has made "no commitment to support the purchase." MS

POLL SHOWS ODS AHEAD IN CZECH PARTY POPULARITY
A public opinion poll conducted by TNS Factum shows that the ODS is the most-popular political formation running in the June parliamentary elections, with 31 percent backing, CTK reported. The CSSD is placed second with 26 percent, and the Coalition is backed by 19.6 percent. The KSCM is supported by 14 percent of those polled. These results would give the ODS 69 seats in the 200-member Chamber of Deputies, followed by 57 seats for the CSSD, 43 for the Coalition, and 31 for the KSCM. A possible ODS-CSSD "grand coalition" -- often speculated on by the media -- would command a three-fifths majority, making it possible to amend the current constitution. MS

EU COMMISSIONER TELLS SLOVAKS THAT ACCESSION 'REQUIRES POLITICAL STABILITY'...
Guenter Verheugen, the EU's commissioner in charge of enlargement, said in Bratislava on 2 May that Slovakia is likely to complete accession negotiations by the end of 2002 "if it maintains political stability," CTK reported. Avoiding a direct reply to a question on the possible return to power of former Premier Vladimir Meciar, Verheugen warned that Slovakia's chances "could be jeopardized" if the country were to be led by a government "incapable of competing preparations" for accession by 2004. He recalled that under Meciar's rule Slovakia did not even fulfill the criteria for starting negotiations. "The progress made by Slovakia would not have been possible without a strong international trust in President [Rudolf] Schuster, Premier [Mikulas] Dzurinda, and Foreign Minister [Eduard] Kukan," Verheugen said. MS

...PRAISES ATTEMPTS TO SOLVE ROMANY PROBLEMS
Verheugen also said that Slovakia is a "good example" of a candidate country making genuine efforts to find solutions to the problems of the Romany community, CTK reported. He said that there is no anti-Roma discrimination ensuing from the Slovak Constitution or laws, but that the Roma's conditions are discriminatory. He said the EU "needs to see and can see that countries such as Slovakia have a strategy and implement it," adding, "this is also a condition for membership." The main problems faced by Roma, Verheugen said, are "insufficient education, unemployment, poor living conditions, skinhead attacks, and discrimination by some police." MS

CORRECTION:
The 23 April "RFE/RL Newsline" item titled "U.S. Helsinki Commission Concerned Over Slovak Romany Journalist" incorrectly quoted U.S. Helsinki Commission co-Chairman Christopher Smith as expressing his "concern" over the fact that Slovak Romany journalist Denisa Havrlova could be charged by the authorities with "abuse of a public official." Those statements should have been attributed to CTK's summary of Representative Smith's press release (for full text see: http://www.csce.gov "Criminal Defamation and 'Insult' Laws: A Summary of Free Speech Developments in Slovakia") regarding Havrlova being charged with insulting, not attacking, a public official.

NEW HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT TO MEET ON 15 MAY
After consulting with the leaders of the four parliamentary parties on 2 May, President Ferenc Madl set the inaugural session of the new parliament for 15 May, Hungarian media reported. Madl is expected to make a recommendation to the parliament on the next prime minister at the inaugural session. Before nominating the premier, next week Madl will hold separate talks with party leaders. He will first meet with Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs. In other news, leaders of the Socialist Party and the Free Democrats agreed in coalition talks on 2 May that a new cabinet could be formed by late May. They also affirmed that they will carry out the measures pledged by the Socialists for the first 100 days of the new government. Prime-ministerial candidate Peter Medgyessy said no governmental structure was discussed, as the two parties' programs will first have to be coordinated. MSZ

HUNGARIAN ELECTION COMMISSION FINALIZES NATIONAL LISTS RESULTS
The National Election Commission (OVB) decided unanimously on 2 May that the Socialist Party obtained 31 parliamentary seats from the national list in the April elections, the FIDESZ-Forum alliance 26, and the Free Democrats 13, Hungarian dailies reported. The law allows one day for appeals against the decision to be made to the Supreme Court. Following OVB President Lajos Ficzere's proposal, the commission decided to announce the nationally summarized final results of the elections on 4 May. Those results will not be open to appeal. MSZ

POKORNI TO HEAD FIDESZ PARLIAMENTARY GROUP
Prime Minister Viktor Orban is recommending party Chairman Zoltan Pokorni to succeed Jozsef Szajer as FIDESZ parliamentary group leader, FIDESZ Deputy Chairman Tamas Deutsch announced on 2 May. All members of the party leadership concurred and supported Pokorni's nomination, Deutsch said. He added that Pokorni will assess FIDESZ's performance in the elections at the 11 May meeting of the National Council. In a separate announcement, Szajer said FIDESZ parliamentary members are founding a working group to monitor and safeguard the achievements of the Orban government. Such a group is needed, he said, because the Free Democrats want to review the Status Law. In other news, the parliamentary group of the Democratic Forum on 2 May decided to propose party Chairwoman Ibolya David for one of the deputy speaker positions. The group also re-elected Istvan Balsai as its leader and Sandor Font as his deputy. MSZ

RUGOVA SAYS MILOSEVIC WANTED TO DESTROY KOSOVA
Testifying against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic before the war crimes tribunal in The Hague on 3 May, Kosova President Ibrahim Rugova said, "Belgrade wanted to use force and wage war to destroy Kosova" in 1998-1999, dpa reported. He stressed that Milosevic's overriding desire to destroy Kosova and "pursue terrorists" led him to reject Albanian offers of compromises that would have kept Kosova within Yugoslavia voluntarily (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2002). PM

SERBIAN LEADER WANTS KOSOVA SETTLEMENT PROGRAM
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic told Belgrade radio B-92 on 30 April that he wants to expand existing enclaves of Serbs and other non-Albanians with new settlements, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. The result will be 24 regions that he feels will be more secure than the present enclaves. Covic added that some 300,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians fled Kosova after the end of the 1999 conflict. Observers note, however, that it is not clear how many of these people would return if they had the chance, given the long history of Serbian economically motivated migration out of Kosova. Nor is it clear how many would be willing to return to new settlements or who would pay for the new communities. PM

NATO SEARCHES SERBIAN APARTMENTS FOR ARMS
Members of KFOR and the international police searched an unspecified number of Serbian apartments in northern Mitrovica, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 2 May. They confiscated an unspecified quantity of guns, hand grenades, ammunition, and other military equipment but did not detain anyone. PM

CROATIAN JOURNALISTS PROTEST 'BLACKMAIL'
An unspecified number of journalists marked World Press Freedom Day by staging a warning strike in Zagreb on 3 May, charging that employers often force them to work long hours, without pay, or without social benefits, dpa reported. The journalists added that the employers -- often big publishing houses -- in effect blackmail them with the threat of being fired if they complain. PM

BULGARIA, TURKEY CONTINUE COOPERATION IN ENERGY SECTOR
During his official visit to Turkey, Energy Minister Milko Kovachev held talks on 29 April with his Turkish counterpart Zeki Cakan and Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, news.bg reported. The talks focused on the plans to cooperate in the construction of the hydroelectric complex Gorna Arda in southeast Bulgaria. The two sides agreed to look for a strategic investor for the Gorna Arda project. The Turkish government wants Turkish construction companies to participate in the project. Cakan expressed satisfaction that the construction of a 400-kilowatt electricity grid between the two countries will be completed in May. UB

HAGUE TRIBUNAL SEEKS SERIOUS COOPERATION FROM YUGOSLAVIA
Jean-Jacques Joris, who is legal adviser to the tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service by telephone on 2 May that Belgrade must cooperate in a serious fashion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April and 2 May 2002). "The real test is the implementation, the positive response that will be given to our requests. Our request concerns targeted access to documents, to specific documents -- not sweeping access to archives, indiscriminate access to archives, but very targeted and specific access to some files and some documents which are relevant to our investigation... When we receive access to those documents, when we see that the authorities become proactive in arresting our indictees as they have indicated they would, then we will be very glad to say that cooperation has begun with Yugoslavia," he said. PM

ASHDOWN CALLS FOR CONTINUING U.S. ROLE IN BOSNIA...
Paddy Ashdown, who will become the international community's high representative in Bosnia on 27 May, wrote in the "Financial Times" of 3 May that it is in the interest of the U.S. to maintain a presence in Bosnia (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 26 April and 3 May 2002). Ashdown argued that Washington "cannot afford to let today's weak states become tomorrow's havens for organized crime and terrorism, to let today's Bosnias become tomorrow's Afghanistans." He added that the U.S. now makes up less than 15 percent of the military force in Bosnia. By staying until the job is finished, the U.S. will ensure that the EU will then be able to manage things in the Balkans effectively and also be able to help in Afghanistan and elsewhere further afield. Ashdown argued that, "September 11 strengthens the case for U.S. involvement in the Balkans." PM

...AS DOES BOSNIA'S MOST-RESPECTED DAILY
In Sarajevo, "Oslobodjenje" wrote on 3 May that it is confident that the U.S. will remain true to its global responsibilities, including those in Bosnia. The U.S. is the one true economic and military power in the world and the only one that can make a real difference, the paper affirmed. PM

BOSNIAN SERB DAILY DRAWS BLEAK BALANCE FOR WORLD PRESS
In an editorial marking World Press Freedom Day, the Banja Luka daily "Nezavisne novine" wrote on 3 May that politics continues to dominate the media more often than not in today's world. In Bosnia, everyone knows that leading politicians and their parties have their mouthpieces in the press, according to the daily. PM

BOSNIAN SERB PARTY DEFIES INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
The Serbian Radical Party (SRS) re-elected Nikola Poplasen as its leader in Bijeljina on 2 May despite an order from the Bosnian Election Commission to depose him by 19 May, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The commission has threatened to ban the SRS from the 5 October elections if Poplasen remains its leader. PM

OSCE MOLDOVAN MISSION HEAD SAYS RUSSIA CAN STILL FULFILL OBLIGATIONS
OSCE mission to Moldova head David Schwartz told journalists on 2 May that Russia can still abide by its pledge to decommission ammunition and small weapons by the end of the year, Flux reported. Schwartz said he believes Moscow "sincerely intends to do so," but is prevented from pursuing its intent by the Transdniester authorities. He said Russia could still meet the obligations assumed at the November 1999 Istanbul OSCE summit if it would decommission less ammunition than originally intended and withdraw more instead. Schwartz said the OSCE has done its utmost to help Russia meet its pledge by bringing equipment for the destruction of ammunition to the Transdniester, but that the local authorities do not allow the equipment to be transported to the Kolbasna military depot. MS

LIBERALS READY TO ENTER NEW MONTENEGRIN GOVERNMENT?
Miodrag Zivkovic said in Podgorica on 2 May that his Liberal Alliance (LSCG) is willing to enter a new government if it receives what he called an appropriate offer from President Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He did not elaborate. Filip Vujanovic, who is vice president of the DPS and prime minister, said in Danilovgrad that his party will invite the Liberal Alliance to join a new government after the 15 May local elections. PM

SERBIAN PATRIARCH CALLS FOR STRONGER FAMILIES
Patriarch Pavle of the Serbian Orthodox Church said in his Easter message on 2 May that Serbian society needs stronger families, dpa reported from Belgrade. Pavle argued that, "As the pace of life constantly increases, people have less and less time for each other, spouses drift apart, and children are left to themselves. The resurrection of Christ teaches us that...every moment spent with our loved ones is infinitely precious and has its echo in eternity." He added, "At a time when nearly every second marriage ends in divorce and the young are misled from the path of righteousness, we desperately need the kind of family union that Christianity teaches." The Orthodox Christians who follow the Julian calendar mark Easter Sunday on 5 May this year. PM

CROATIAN SOUP KITCHENS ATTRACT NEWLY JOBLESS
Some 80 percent of the people who regularly visit soup kitchens in Croatia were once regularly employed, in many cases until very recently, "Jutarnji list" reported on 3 May. Some 70 percent of those interviewed said that they go to a soup kitchen daily, and half of them added that this is their only square meal. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS PREDECESSOR'S COMPLAINT IS BEING EXAMINED
Ion Iliescu said on 2 May that a complaint by his predecessor in office, former President Emil Constantinescu, is under examination by the Supreme Council of National Defense, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In January, Constantinescu asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to confirm whether or not his own telephone conversations and those of members of his family and former members of his staff are being eavesdropped on. He received an evasive reply. Iliescu said he personally believes the affair "has been made up" and that he cannot conceive of anyone wanting to listen into Constantinescu's private conversations. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR REFORMING HIS OWN PARTY
Vladimir Voronin, who is also the leader of the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM), on 2 May called for reforming the party and modernizing its ideological principles, Infotag reported. In an article published in the daily "Kommunist," Voronin said, "We need... to get rid of inertia, conservatism, ignorance, and arrogance." Voronin said the PCM was poorly prepared for the recent "collision with the irreconcilable opposition" and should begin a "wise dialogue with society" ahead of important decisions. As an example he mentioned the "insufficiently prepared" decisions on introducing compulsory Russian-language classes in schools and changing the teaching of history. As a result, he said, the PMC "was forced to retreat under pressure from the opposition." He said he is opposed to changing the party's name. MS

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT TO IMPROVE DISTRIBUTION OF DONATIONS
Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Nikolay Vasilev announced on 30 April that the government will set up four working groups to facilitate the distribution of donations received from international financial institutions, news.bg reported. The announcement came after a meeting with representatives of the financial institutions and ambassadors of donor countries. The groups will work in the fields of business climate and investment, living standards and social policy, public administration and good governance, as well as infrastructure and administration of natural resources. According to Vasilev, the government will also set up an institution with the Council of Ministers that is to control the flow of donations. Vasilev is to leave for an official visit to the United States on 5 May, where he will meet with representatives of the U.S. government and major U.S. business enterprises. UB

MAKE IT OR BREAK IT IN THE BALKANS


The EU is effectively in charge of the international community's efforts in the former Yugoslavia. It now has to show whether it is up to the task.

The signs are unmistakable. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell recently told visiting Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic that the U.S. supports the EU-sponsored agreement to keep Serbia and Montenegro together and expects Podgorica to comply. This policy is firmly in place despite widespread sympathy within the U.S. policy community for Montenegrin independence.

The U.S. has been paying many of Montenegro's bills in recent years, so Djukanovic is likely to take Powell's message to heart, even if part of that message is that the U.S. does not challenge the lead of the EU in former Yugoslavia.

For months, Brussels had been pressuring Podgorica to maintain a joint state lest Montenegrin independence somehow lead to the emergence of an independent Kosova and perhaps other political changes in the region. As Powell and Djukanovic talked, the EU's Javier Solana was cajoling pro-Belgrade Montenegrin politicians by telephone to make sure that they do nothing to jeopardize support for the agreement in Montenegro.

In London on 25 April, Paddy Ashdown said that he will officially take office as the international community's high representative in Bosnia on 27 May. Ashdown added that he will have two deputies, one German and the other French. This will be the first time since the Dayton peace agreement was signed at the end of 1995 that there has not been a U.S. deputy. (Nor will any of the EU's smaller members hold any of the top three offices.)

At some recent international conferences, representatives of the EU or its member states have proudly claimed that Brussels deserves the credit for the Macedonian political settlement reached in 2001. American participants smiled to themselves and did not challenge the speakers or mention the name of U.S. envoy James Pardew. When Macedonian parliament speaker Stojan Andov announced the date of the fall elections on 30 April, he did so after meeting with EU envoy Alain Le Roy.

These are but a few examples to illustrate the point that in the post-11 September world, the U.S. has yielded leadership in the Balkans to the EU. Nor is Washington the only one leaving the field to Brussels. Just as the Pentagon has made it clear that the U.S. will be reducing its presence in both Bosnia and Kosova, similar messages have been coming from the Kremlin. Russian officials still issue periodic statements in support of the Serbian position in Kosova, but they are fewer and less strident than was the case just one year ago.

Indeed, even though Moscow maintained its role as a great power in the Balkans in the early 1990s -- when its power and prestige were collapsing elsewhere else -- it has now come to view Southeastern Europe as an international political backwater. Its attention is now turned to its immediate south and to its central relationship with Washington and other major players. It has little time for what it sees as more marginal areas like the Balkans and has also closed once-strategic bases in Cuba and Vietnam.

The EU will thus have the field pretty much to itself, and its clients will no longer be able to play it off against Washington or Moscow. For the EU, this new responsibility could be a mixed blessing. On the one hand, Brussels has long sought to show that it can formulate a unified policy for its own backyard and execute that policy quickly and successfully. This is both a first step in an effort to become a major player on the international diplomatic scene and a final move to show that the bumbling that characterized the EC's policy during the 1991-1995 Yugoslav conflict is now history.

But the unified EU foreign and security policy faces a formidable challenge. In addition to keeping the Belgrade-Podgorica deal and internal Macedonian agreement on track, Brussels is effectively in charge of running the international protectorates in Bosnia and Kosova. A breakdown in the political order in any one of the four areas could lead to a major crisis, perhaps one requiring armed intervention.

Matters could become particularly tricky in Bosnia, where no major decision has been implemented since the end of the war except by the order of the high representative.

Kosova -- under the leadership of Germany's Michael Steiner -- also faces a host of well-known problems. In Mitrovica, an organized group of Serbian toughs called the Bridge Watchers poses an immediate and serious armed challenge to the international community's authority. It is not clear what the relationship is between the Bridge Watchers and a Belgrade leadership that otherwise insists on the enforcement of law and order in Kosova. Most of the troops in Mitrovica are French, who are not particularly trusted by the Albanians.

To be sure, Washington is not abandoning the Balkans or any of its allies. The policy of "in together, out together" remains in place. The U.S. has shown that it is serious about making Yugoslavia respect its international obligations to cooperate with The Hague by using aid as leverage. America has special interests and skills regarding the fight against terrorism and organized crime in the Balkans.

And a continuing American presence will be necessary in the long run to reassure the Bosnian Muslims and the entire region's Albanians. Without that American presence, the Albanians in particular could become restive and the ultimate result could be destabilization.

But the EU has now taken the lead in the Balkans, with Washington's blessing. It is up to that body and its member states to show what they will do with the opportunity they have sought for so long.

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