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Newsline - May 10, 2002


CHECHEN PRESIDENTIAL REPRESENTATIVE CONDEMNS KASPIISK BOMBING...
In a 10 May statement posted on chechenpress.com, Akhmed Zakaev, who is Chechen deputy prime minister and President Aslan Maskhadov's personal representative, condemned the organizers and perpetrators of the explosion that ripped through a Victory Day parade in Kaspiisk the previous day. Zakaev expressed condolences in the name of the Chechen government. Referring to media speculation that Chechens were responsible for the blast, Zakaev stressed that Maskhadov has issued instructions to his men not to engage in military operations in neighboring North Caucasus republics. He added that the Chechen side condemns any military action directed against the civilian population. The death toll from the explosion has risen to 41, including 17 children and 19 service personnel, and Daghestan's State Council has declared 10 May a day of mourning. LF

...AS RUSSIAN ENVOY SAYS IT IS TOO EARLY TO LAY BLAME ON CHECHENS...
Russian presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Viktor Kazantsev traveled to Kaspiisk on 9 May in the wake of the bomb explosion, as did Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev and Daghestan State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov, Russian agencies reported. Kazantsev said on his arrival in Makhachkala that those who planned and carried out the bombing "are not humans. They are beasts," ITAR-TASS reported. But Kazantsev added that it is premature to assume that the perpetrators were Chechens. Magomedov discussed the disaster in a telephone conversation with President Vladimir Putin on 9 May. On 10 May, ITAR-TASS quoted an unnamed Daghestan security service official as saying that the detachment of field commander Rapani Khalilov may be responsible for the bombing. Khalilov, who was born in Daghestan, reportedly participated in the incursion into Daghestan in August-September 1999 masterminded in defiance of Maskhadov by Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev. The news agency also quoted Patrushev as saying that several people were detained in connection with the explosion, although he declined to provide any information about them. LF

...AS FORMER KGB COUNTERINTELLIGENCE CHIEF CALLS FOR SEALING OFF CAUCASUS
A former chief of the KGB Third Main Directorate for Military Counterintelligence, Aleksandr Zhardetskii, said that the explosion in Kaspiisk is a demonstration of the "strength and range of Chechen fighters...despite the death of [notorious field commander] Khattab" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 and 29 April 2002), pravda.ru reported on 9 May. Admiral Zhardetskii added that in his opinion "everything that is happening in all the North Caucasus originates from Moscow," and he would advise President Putin to "carefully purge his apparatus." Furthermore, he also would advise Putin to "to seal off the Caucasus from bordering foreign territories, especially Georgia and Azerbaijan." VY

RUSSIA AND U.S. CREATE JOINT GROUP TO FIGHT NUCLEAR TERRORISM
U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Russian Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev announced at a joint press conference in Washington on 9 May that they have agreed to tighten the security of radioactive material and to create a joint group to combat nuclear terrorism, Russian and Western news agencies reported. According to Abraham and Rumyantsev, the group will create a registry of potential sources of fissile materials that might enable terrorists to make so-called "dirty" nuclear weapons. Such weapons do not have the explosive yield of other nuclear weapons, but are designed to maximize the spread of dangerous radiation and can be made from more easily obtainable materials. The potential sources of material for such weapons could include medical equipment using radioactive isotopes and compact nuclear electrical-power generators, Reuters reported. VY

ANALYST EXPLAINS PUTIN'S POPULARITY...
In an article in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 8 May, Boris Makarenko of the Moscow-based Center for Political Technologies argues that one explanation for President Putin's high public-opinion rating is that "he is unchallenged." "People do not see any other figures in whom they can place their hopes for a better life," Makarenko wrote. In addition, Putin is favored because people believe that in 1999, Putin "saved [Russia] from the threat of terrorism and restored the nation's self-esteem at least to some extent." JAC

...AND PREDICTS MORE SMOOTH SAILING
In contrast to some other analysts, Makarenko does not believe that Putin faces any serious threats or challenges anytime soon. The most serious danger that Putin faces, according to Makarenko, over the next two years is a "slowing down of the positive trends of economic development" (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 28 January 2002). At the same time, Makarenko suggests that "at some stage there will be the problem of properly establishing the reforms [that] Putin has been conducting for two years now," since Russia "always finds it harder to establish reforms and implement laws than to adopt them." But he concludes, "I am sure that Putin has enough in reserve for the first term." JAC

INTERIOR MINISTRY INVESTIGATES CORRUPTION AMONG SLAVNEFT LEADERSHIP
The Moscow Territorial Main Directorate of the Interior Ministry (GUVD) has opened criminal investigations against two vice presidents of the Russian-Belarusian oil producer Slavneft, Russian news agencies reported on 8 May. Yurii Sukhanov and Dmitrii Perevalov are being investigated on allegations of abuse of office, fraud, and embezzlement in a probe that was initiated following the discovery of serious financial violations during an audit by the State Duma's Audit Chamber. "Kommersant-Daily," however, noted on 8 May that the opening of the investigation coincided with an extraordinary general shareholders meeting that is expected on 13 May to elect a new company president. Sukhanov had been considered a leading candidate for the post. The State Property Committee owns a controlling share of the company, and the Belarusian Economy Ministry controls nearly 11 percent. VY

LEGISLATOR CLAIMS ARREST WAS POLITICAL
In an interview with RFE/RL's St. Petersburg correspondent on 8 May, St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly Deputy Aleksei Kovalev described the circumstances surrounding his 23 April arrest. Kovalev was arrested on suspicion of accepting kickbacks with regard to a case launched by prosecutors in 1998. According to Kovalev, however, the case was manufactured in order to show deputies from the opposition what could happen to them. Kovalev, who is a member of the Union of Rightist Forces, said that he was singled out because he has no money or protectors, and that he was grateful to the public, which objected to his incarceration. An unnamed representative of the Northwest Regional Prosecutor's Office, which oversees the work of the municipal prosecutor's office that arrested Kovalev, was quoted by Interfax as saying, "[We are] going to look into the question of whether taking such a serious measure against the lawmaker was reasonable." JAC/RC

ENVOY SPEAKS IN FAVOR OF FEWER REGIONS
After conducting a series of meetings with officials in Krasnoyarsk, presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District Leonid Drachevskii told reporters on 9 May that he does not believe that the process of joining Krasnoyarsk Krai with Taimyr and Evenk Autonomous Okrugs should be stopped, despite the recent death of krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed, strana.ru reported. "There should be fewer than 89 [federation subjects]. It is simply inexpedient from the point of view of administration," he said. Drachevskii also welcomed the decision of acting Krasnoyarsk Governor Nikolai Ashlapov not to participate in upcoming gubernatorial elections. "I believe that elections in the krai will be carried out appropriately [with such] a guarantee of the independence of the krai executive authorities." JAC

MOSCOW LAUNCHES BOEING-MADE COMMUNICATIONS SATELLITE...
The press office of the Russian Space Defense Forces announced that it successfully launched on 8 May the U.S. telecommunications satellite "Direc-TV," which is designed to render digital-television signals for North America, RIA-Novosti reported on 8 May. The satellite, which was made by Boeing, has 48 transponders and should serve at least 15 years. VY

...RESUMES SUPPLIES OF URANIUM TO U.S.
Russia resumed supplies of low-grade uranium recovered from decommissioned nuclear warheads to the United States, according to Atomic Energy Minister Rumyantsev, the Agency of Military News and Finmarket reported on 8 May. The uranium, which will be reprocessed for use as fuel in nuclear-power plants, is part of a 20-year contract under which Russia will supply the United States with 500 tons of processed, weapons-grade uranium in exchange for $500 million. At the end of January 2001, Moscow suspended supplies in a dispute over U.S. efforts to reduce the price of the overvalued uranium. However, Russia has since reached agreement with Washington and the deliveries have been resumed. VY

DEFENSE MINISTRY ON THE HUNT FOR YOUNG OFFICERS
The Defense Ministry is preparing a raft of new measures directed at bolstering the armed forces, lenta.ru reported on 9 May. According to the website, military officials are planning to increase the term of service for graduates of military academies from five to 10 years. In addition, the ministry is considering the possibility of concluding five-year contracts with students of the civilian higher education institutions that have military departments. Military officials believe that these measures would help resolve the problem of providing the armed forces with enough younger officers. JAC

ARMENIAN EMBASSY IN LONDON DAMAGED BY BOMB
A bomb exploded at the Armenian Embassy in London early on 9 May, causing damage to the building but no casualties, according to the Armenian News Network, as cited by Groong. No group or person has claimed responsibility for the blast. LF

U.S. TO IMPOSE SANCTIONS ON ARMENIAN, MOLDOVAN FIRMS OVER TIES WITH IRAN
The U.S. will impose sanctions in accordance with the 2000 Iran Nonproliferation Act on unnamed companies in Armenia, China, and Moldova that have supplied weapons technology to Iran, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told journalists in Washington on 9 May, dpa reported. But Boucher stressed that the sanctions do not extend to the Armenian and Moldovan governments, which he praised for their efforts in the field of nonproliferation. On 8 May, Reuters quoted an unnamed senior U.S. official as saying that the Armenian and Moldovan companies involved may be a "front" for Russian entities. LF

OIL EXPORT RESUMES VIA AZERBAIJAN-GEORGIA PIPELINE
Shipments of Azerbaijani Caspian oil via the Baku-Supsa export pipeline resumed on 9 May, Caucasus Press reported on 10 May. The shipment of oil was suspended on 6 May after thieves damaged the pipeline in western Georgia, causing the leakage of some two tons of crude (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 2002). Police have arrested two local residents in connection with the incident, Caucasus Press reported on 10 May. LF

AZERBAIJANI COURT SENTENCES CHECHEN
A Baku district court sentenced Chechen Isa Vakhaev to four years' imprisonment on 8 May for falsely informing Azerbaijani intelligence agencies in October 2001 that Chechen fighters were planning a terrorist attack against the U.S. Embassy in Baku, Turan reported. Vakhaev reportedly hoped to obtain a visa for the United States. LF

GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER DOUBTS AL-QAEDA IN PANKISI
Following a meeting in Washington on 7 May with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Georgian Defense Minister Lieutenant General David Tevzadze told journalists that he considers it most unlikely that any members of Al-Qaeda have taken refuge in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, Caucasus Press reported on 10 May. He pointed out that in order to reach Georgia, Al-Qaeda members fleeing Afghanistan would have to cross at least six countries and the Caspian Sea, but added that "you cannot rule anything out." U.S. charge d'affaires in Tbilisi Philip Remler had suggested three months ago that the Chechen contingent in Pankisi could include individuals with ties to Al-Qaeda (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2002). That hypothesis prompted the United States to launch a new antiterrorism training program for the Georgian military. But the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 19 April that Western intelligence agencies consider the claims of an Al-Qaeda presence in Pankisi "absolute rubbish." LF

KAZAKH JOURNALIST ARRESTED
Bakhytkul Makimbai, who is a correspondent for the independent newspaper "Sol-Dat," was arrested on 8 May outside the Uzbek Embassy in Almaty, where several dozen Kazakh students had congregated to stage an unsanctioned protest against the unresolved border dispute between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan over the villages of Baghys and Turkestanets, Deutsche Welle's Russian Service and the press service of the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan reported. Police pressured the protesters to disperse after less than half an hour and detained several of them. LF

HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS SLAM SENTENCING OF FORMER KYRGYZ OFFICIAL
The New York-based International League for Human Rights has written to Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev condemning as "yet another unlawful step taken by your government" the new 10-year sentence handed down on 8 May to former Vice President Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2002). "There is reason to believe that Feliks Kulov has been targeted for political reasons, ever since he founded the Ar-Namys Party and decided to run in the presidential elections of 2000," the letter continued. In Bishkek, Topchubek Turgunaliev, who is president of the Institute for Human Rights, and Kyrgyz Human Rights Committee Chairman Ramazan Dyryldaev likewise both condemned the new sentence as politically motivated. On 9 May, some 100 supporters of Kulov blocked the main highway through the village of Baitik on the outskirts of the capital to protest the sentence on Kulov, rising unemployment, and delays in paying wages and pensions, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. They called for Kulov's acquittal and for Akaev to resign. LF

KYRGYZ REGIONAL GOVERNOR ARGUES CASE FOR CEDING TERRITORY TO CHINA...
Askar Salymbekov, who is the governor of Naryn Oblast on the Kyrgyz-Chinese border, told RFE/RL on 9 May that the Kyrgyz parliament ought to ratify the 1999 border agreement under which Kyrgyzstan cedes some 95,000 hectares to China in order to preserve good relations with that country, which will become "a world power" in the 21st century. He also pointed out that the Kyrgyz people do not use the mountainous area in question, and that failure to ratify the agreement could create problems for the estimated 150,000-strong Kyrgyz minority in China. LF

...AS OPPONENTS OF BORDER CONCESSIONS PLAN PROTESTS
Totu Sydykova, a member of the public committee on state borders, said in Bishkek on 9 May that her committee will organize hunger strikes and protest demonstrations if the parliament complies with President Akaev's request and ratifies the border agreement with China by the end of this month, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz bureau reported. Sydykova said the committee has proof that the territory in question has always belonged to Kyrgyzstan. She added that any parliament deputies who vote in favor of ratifying the agreement are "traitors." LF

UZBEKISTAN MOVES TOWARD ABOLISHING PRESS CENSORSHIP
Erkin Komilov, who headed Uzbekistan's agency for protecting state secrets, was compulsorily retired on 7 May in a move that local journalists believe heralds the liberalization of the press, Deutsche Welle's Russian Service reported. At the same time, the State Committee for the Press redefined the functions of the agency for protecting state secrets, which will no longer be empowered to cut or demand changes in press articles. Deutsche Welle's Tashkent correspondent noted that since the beginning of this year, Komilov and his colleagues cut 15 articles from the government newspaper "Pravda Vostoka" alone. LF

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT LEADS VETERANS ON V-DAY ANNIVERSARY
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 9 May led a traditional march of World War II veterans in downtown Minsk to commemorate the 57th anniversary of Victory Day, Belarusian media reported. Addressing the veterans, Lukashenka said Belarus is now "a truly sovereign and independent state, with its own policy, economy, culture, and traditions." He added, "We will not let anybody talk to us from a position of strength." JM

VETERANS IN KYIV MARCH TO COMMEMORATE V-DAY...
Some 3,000 veterans, led by Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko and Verkhovna Rada speaker Ivan Plyushch, marched in downtown Kyiv on 9 May to celebrate Victory Day, Interfax reported. According to official data, Ukraine has 4.57 million World War II veterans. President Leonid Kuchma, who laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the morning, subsequently visited the grave of his father in Novgorod Oblast, Russia, where he died as a Soviet soldier in 1944. JM

...WHILE IN KHARKIV THEY TUSSLE WITH POLICE
Dozens of veterans scuffled with police in Kharkiv during the solemn wreath-laying ceremony at a local war memorial on 9 May, 1+1 Television reported. Veterans and local officials showed up near the memorial at approximately the same time but the officials, cordoned off by police, were the first to lay wreaths. The irked veterans, according to the report, "at first were only chanting protest slogans, but soon decided to apply their old combat skills and attempted to take the memorial by storm." JM

KYIV, WASHINGTON REPORTEDLY INVESTIGATING SALE OF UKRAINIAN RADARS TO ETHIOPIA
Yevhen Marchuk, the secretary of Ukraine's Council of National Security and Defense, told UNIAN on 9 May that the Ukrainian and U.S. sides have begun independent checks of the contract whereby Kyiv sold three Kolchuga air-defense radar systems to Ethiopia. Last month, media reports alleged that in 2000 President Kuchma approved a sale of $100 million worth of air-defense radar systems to Iraq in contravention of UN sanctions. Kyiv officially dismissed these allegations, asserting that the only country Ukraine has ever sold Kolchugas was Ethiopia (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 23 April 2002). Last month, the Israeli newspaper "Ha'aretz" suggested that Ethiopia could have been only an intermediary link in the delivery of the Ukrainian radars to Iraq. JM

RUSSIAN BUDGET CUTS TO FORCE ESTONIA TO REINFORCE BORDER
Estonian Border Guard Chief of Staff Colonel Aare Evisalu said that Russian border officials have informed Estonia that financial reductions will force Russia to give up its maintenance of the wire fence built in 1994-96 and of the cleared stretch of land along the border, and to cut personnel, "Postimees" reported on 10 May. He said that this will require Estonia to deploy 200 more Border Guards along its border with Russia, acquire additional sensors and infrared cameras, and improve the mobility of its guards. Evisalu noted that according to Finnish standards, equipping one kilometer of border with modern equipment would cost 3.1 million kroons ($180,000) and the Estonian-Russian border is 130 kilometers long. He also mentioned that some of the border stations have clearly inadequate living facilities. SG

LATVIA ABOLISHES LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS FOR CANDIDATES
The parliament approved on 9 May by a vote of 67 to 13, with four abstentions, amendments to the parliamentary election law abolishing the requirement that candidates must have the highest level of Latvian-language proficiency, BNS reported. Similar amendments to the local council election law were passed by a vote of 71 to 13, with three abstentions. The negative votes were cast by deputies of the right-wing For the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK and the left-wing Union of Social Democrats. The amendments were proposed by President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and had been mentioned at times as a condition for Latvia's membership of NATO. OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Rolf Ekeus and the U.S. government immediately welcomed the passage of the amendments. SG

LITHUANIAN CARGO HAULERS REQUEST INTERNATIONAL HELP AGAINST RUSSIAN SANCTIONS
Algimantas Kondrusevicius, the president of the Lithuanian National Motor Carriers Association (LINAVA), appealed on 9 May to the Secretary-General of the International Road Union (IRU) Martin Marmy for help in resolving a dispute with Russian customs authorities, ELTA reported. Noting that Russia is planning to renew on 15 May the requirement that all Lithuanian cargo-hauling trucks traveling through Russia have a police escort, he asked Marmy to be a mediator by convening a meeting of Russian and Lithuanian customs officials with representatives of LINAVA, IRU, and the Russian trucking association ASMAP. Kondrusevicius wrote that his organization has done everything in its power to ensure that compensations for violations of international transit-system regulations be paid as quickly as possible when such claims were backed by documentation. He also mentioned that the promises given to Russia by a group of Lithuanian truckers that all Russian claims will be paid were not discussed with LINAVA and have no legal basis. SG

POLISH HEALTH MINISTER SURVIVES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE
The Sejm voted 235 to 125, with 50 abstentions, to reject a motion of no confidence in Health Minister Mariusz Lapinski on 9 May, PAP reported. The motion was initiated by the opposition Civic Platform, Law and Justice, and the League of Polish Families. The voting followed a heated debate in which opposition deputies accused Lapinski of incompetence, being responsible for the drive toward centralizing control over the health care sector, and disregarding the opinions of medical experts. "The minister will share and distribute money [for health care] in his office all by himself. To whom? It's easy to guess since the minister at all times emphasizes his allegiance to the [ruling] Democratic Left Alliance," deputy Elzbieta Radziszewska from the Civic Platform argued. The Sejm needs at least 231 votes to dismiss a cabinet member. JM

FORMER POLISH MINISTER INDICTED OVER ACCUSATION OF FORMER PREMIER
Prosecutors in Warsaw have indicted former Interior Minister Andrzej Milczanowski for revealing state secrets in the parliament in December 1995 when he accused then-Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy of being a source of information for Soviet and Russian intelligence services, PAP reported on 9 May. If convicted, Milczanowski could face up to five years in prison. No details of the indictment have been released. In early 1996, Oleksy resigned the post of prime minister after the Military Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation into the spying allegations against him, and found that he had not committed any crimes. Milczanowski also found himself under investigation as to whether he exceeded his official duties by publicly accusing Oleksy of espionage and revealing state secrets, but that probe was discontinued in 1998. Following Oleksy's court appeal, the investigation of Milczanowski was resumed in March 2000. JM

CZECH LOWER HOUSE APPROVES GRIPEN FIGHTERS PURCHASE...
The Chamber of Deputies on 9 May approved the government-proposed bill for financing the purchase of 24 Jas-39 supersonic fighter jets, CTK reported. The deal is to cost more than 60 billion crowns ($1.8 billion), and is to be financed by revenues from privatizing state enterprises and a 33 billion crown loan from a state bank. Of the deputies in attendance, 98 supported the bill and 89 voted against it. Along with deputies from the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD), the bill was supported by the Christian Democratic Party (except former Defense Minister Vilem Holan), six deputies from the Freedom Union-Democratic Union, and two lawmakers representing the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia. Observers say the bill is likely to encounter strong opposition in the Senate. MS

...OVERRIDES PRESIDENTIAL VETO ON CZECH RADIO COUNCIL...
The Chamber of Deputies on 9 May overrode the veto cast by President Vaclav Havel on the law on the Czech Radio Council, CTK reported. Out of 185 deputies in attendance, 135 voted for the government-sponsored bill, most of them from the CSSD and the Civic Democratic Party. MS

...AND EXTENDS DEADLINE FOR JEWISH CLAIMS FOR 'ARIANIZED' ARTWORK
The Chamber of Deputies on 9 May also voted to extend to 2006 the deadline for claims for the return of works of art that were confiscated by the Nazis from Czech Jews during the country's 1938-1945 occupation, CTK reported. The previous deadline was 2002. The amendment was passed at the initiative of the Czech Jewish Communities' Federation, whose secretary, Tomas Kraus, said many of those entitled to its provisions were not aware of their right to file claims. MS

CZECH 'MEIN KAMPF' PUBLISHER HONORED FOR CIVIC COURAGE
Michal Zitko, the Czech publisher of a translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," was awarded a prize on 9 May for civic courage in defending the rights and freedom of citizens, CTK reported. The prize was awarded to Zitko by the Prague-based Karel Havlicek Borovsky Institute, which has close ties to the Young Conservatives civic association. The institute's chairman, Milan Hamersky, told CTK that by publishing Hitler's book Zitko was protecting freedom of expression in the country. Hamersky also said that the institute he heads has asked President Havel to pardon Zitko, who was fined and given a three-year suspended sentence for his deed. The institute also awarded Premier Milos Zeman a so-called "anti-prize" for "contempt of other people [and] their opinions, for not respecting court rulings, and for permanently harming Czech political culture." MS

LE PEN TELLS CZECHS TO BEWARE OF EU
French far-right National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, in an interview with the daily "Lidove noviny" on 9 May, advised the Czechs to delay joining the EU, CTK reported. "If you enter the European house now, you will be exposed to a pernicious influence and will lose your souls. Your wallets as well," Le Pen said. He said the Czechs should wait "until we manage to transform the European institutions and establish a Europe of the nations. Such a Europe will allow all of its members to safeguard their independence, their specific character, [as well as their different] human and cultural wealth." He also said that he had hoped to receive 30 percent in the French presidential runoff, but that he had underestimated "the strength of the attacks [on me] by a Soviet-style campaign...based on defamation of myself and my party." MS

SLOVAK PREMIER REVIEWS COALITION'S ACHIEVEMENTS AND FAILURES
Mikulas Dzurinda, addressing an intellectual forum in Bratislava on 9 May, admitted that most of the promises made to the electorate before the 1998 elections have not been fulfilled, but said his cabinet has taken the country to the doorstep of NATO and the European Union, CTK reported. Dzurinda said that breaking the international isolation Slovakia was pushed into by the previous Vladimir Meciar government "is proof that we were successful at home, that we have results." Dzurinda admitted that, although wages have not doubled as was promised four years ago, they did rise by 40 percent. He said four-fifths of the promised 14,000 new flats will be built by the end of the cabinet's term. The premier admitted that unemployment is now 5 percent higher than in 1998, although the coalition he heads promised a drop of 10 percent when it took over. MS

HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS, FREE DEMOCRATS APPROVE LINE-UP OF NEW GOVERNMENT
Socialist prime-ministerial candidate Peter Medgyessy and Free Democrat Chairman Gabor Kuncze on 9 May announced that their parties have agreed on all the fundamental details of a future coalition government, Hungarian media reported. According to the agreement, the Free Democrats would head four ministries in the new government, including education, information technology and communications, environmental protection, and a newly merged Economy and Transport Ministry. The number of ministries would be cut from the current 17 to 15. The posts of PHARE funds and secret services minister will be abolished, while the activities of the Transport Ministry and the Social and Family Affairs Ministry will be transferred to other ministries. Two new ministries would be established, namely information technology and communications, and labor and employment. Regional development, religious affairs, the Office for Ethnic Hungarians Abroad, and tourism will be placed under the supervision of the Prime Minister's Office, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. MSZ

KUNCZE TO HEAD HUNGARIAN FREE DEMOCRAT'S PARLIAMENTARY GROUP
Free Democrat Chairman Kuncze was unanimously elected on 9 May as his party's parliamentary group leader, Hungarian media reported. The parliamentary group will elect its deputy leaders and decide on committee seats after the Free Democrats conclude the current coalition talks with the Socialists. MSZ

MEDGYESSY SPEAKS ON THE BENES DECREES
"The Benes Decrees that resulted in the deportation of Germans and Hungarians from postwar Czechoslovakia were unjust," CTK on 9 May quoted Peter Medgyessy as saying in an interview with the German magazine "Focus." However, the debate on the decrees should be led by historians, not politicians, Medgyessy said, adding that he prefers to deal with the future rather than with the past. Medgyessy also criticized outgoing Premier Viktor Orban for having brought up the subject of the decrees in the recent election campaign in Hungary. "The Benes Decrees are too serious an issue to be discussed in the election battle," Medgyessy concluded. MSZ

SEVEN KILLED IN HUNGARIAN BANK ROBBERY
Seven people were killed and one person was critically injured when two men with automatic pistols robbed a branch of Erste Bank on 9 May in the small town of Mor, some 60 kilometers west of Budapest. The two men indiscriminately opened fire on bank clerks and waiting customers alike, resulting in the bloodiest bank robbery in Hungarian history. Within an hour of the incident, police set up roadblocks and sealed the county's main roads and highways, while thousands of uniformed police and plainclothes detectives were mobilized nationwide to catch the two men. With the help of the bank's security cameras, police identified the two robbers, both of whom are wanted for past crimes. National Police commander Peter Orban offered a 10 million forint ($37,000) award to anyone providing important information on the two men. MSZ

ANTITERRORISM CONFERENCE OPENS IN ZAGREB...
More than 60 parliamentary speakers and deputies from across Europe gathered in the Croatian capital on 10 May for a two-day conference on combating terrorism, dpa reported. The sponsor is the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which holds a large meeting on a timely theme every two years. Croatian parliamentary speaker Zlatko Tomcic said the conference will make "an important contribution to the international fight against terrorism, which in today's highly globalized world poses a direct threat to basic democratic values." Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan stressed Croatia's determination in the fight against terrorism, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

...AND A BALKAN CONFERENCE BEGINS IN LJUBLJANA
An international journalists' gathering opened in the Slovenian capital on 10 May, the BBC reported. The meeting will focus on the role of media and the free market in postcommunist countries. The British broadcaster said in a commentary that it is testimony to how far the Balkans have come in recent years that a conference devoted to "normal and every-day" topics like the media is taking place, without any discussion of possible future hostilities in the region. Among those in attendance are several presidents: Croatia's Stipe Mesic, Milo Djukanovic of Montenegro, Macedonia's Boris Trajkovski, and Zivko Radisic, who heads the Bosnian joint presidency, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

SLOVENIA SELLS PART INTEREST IN LEADING BANK
The government agreed on 8 May to sell Belgium's KBC Bank 34 percent stake in Nova Ljubljanska Banka, the country's largest, AP reported from Ljubljana on 8 May. KBC will have the right to expand its share to 50 percent, but not before 2005. The proceeds will go toward servicing the public debt. Slovenia has been highly reluctant to give up controlling interest in its major banks. By contrast, Western European capital is dominant in Croatian banking, while Greek capital plays a similar role in Macedonia. PM

STABILITY PACT COORDINATOR SEEKS DECISION IN MACEDONIAN NAME DISPUTE
Speaking in Ljubljana on 9 May, the EU-led Balkan Stability Pact Coordinator Erhard Busek demanded a quick resolution of the dispute over the name of Macedonia, Makfax reported. "When I sometimes talk about this problem with my friends, I tell them that as long as this country is called Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, one could also call [my native] Austria the Former Province of the Third Reich of Ostmark. A friend replied that, according to the same logic, one could also call Greece the Former [Ottoman] Vilayet of Salonika," Busek said. Since Macedonia became independent from Yugoslavia in 1991, Greece has blocked the international recognition of Macedonia under its constitutional name Republic of Macedonia, because there is a northern Greek province called Macedonia. Many Greeks argue that the name Macedonia is part of the Greek cultural patrimony and for others to use it implies territorial and other claims. The dispute has become less acrimonious in recent years, and Greek business has invested heavily in its northern neighbor. UB

STEINER CLASHES WITH KOSOVA PARLIAMENT OVER POWERS...
Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), warned the legislature on 9 May not to challenge his powers, Reuters reported. He stressed that the parliamentarians should tend to "the urgent issues that are already within your competence" and not try to deal with security issues, which he maintains are not their prerogative. "I understand and respect your desire to discuss the issues of utmost importance, but you have your job to do...and I have mine," Steiner said. His remarks came in response to a parliamentary debate on the security situation in Mitrovica and on a border agreement between Belgrade and Skopje, which Kosova Albanians do not recognize (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2002). The legislators said that they had to discuss such issues to retain their credibility. But Steiner, who acquired a reputation for arrogance in some of his previous postings, argued that "if any doubt arises in this regard, the matter is to be referred to me, and my decision shall be final." PM

...AS POLICE DISPERSE DEMONSTRATORS
Outside the parliament building in Prishtina on 9 May, 100-200 students staged a demonstration in support of the legislators' debate, carrying Albanian flags and caricatures of Steiner, Reuters reported. Police dispersed the protestors on the grounds that they did not have a permit. After scuffles broke out, police arrested one student whom they said was a protest leader. PM

GREEK-YUGOSLAV RELATIONS ON THE AGENDA
Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis discussed the Belgrade-Skopje-Thessaloniki highway project with Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in Belgrade on 9 May, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The goal is to complete the project in time for the 2004 Athens Olympics. Simitis told federal Prime Minister Dragisa Pesic that Greece will support Yugoslavia in its bid for integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures. The Greek leader also met with Djukanovic. On 10 May, Simitis is slated to meet with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and federal Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus. PM

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER: COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE IS AT ITS LIMITS
Djindjic told reporters in Belgrade on 9 May that the authorities have done "all that they could" to cooperate with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague in recent months, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added that Serbian President Milan Milutinovic will not be extradited (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2002). Djindjic said that there are "differing opinions" as to whether U.S. aid to Serbia will be resumed unless Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic go to The Hague (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25, 26, and 29 April 2002). Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic said he does not believe that Mladic is in Serbia. PM

BERLUSCONI HAILS BELGRADE'S PROGRESS
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said in a letter to Yugoslav President Kostunica that existing Yugoslav legislation on cooperation with The Hague and progress in Serbian-Montenegrin relations have created an opportunity to bring Yugoslavia closer to the EU, Deutsche Welle's Serbian Service reported on 10 May. PM

KIDNAPPINGS ARE NOW BIG WITH CRIMINALS IN SERBIA
Reuters reported from Belgrade on 10 May that criminals who grew rich on smuggling cigarettes and other goods during the reign of Slobodan Milosevic have now turned to kidnapping rich people for easy money. The criminals demand ransoms ranging from about $23,000 to over $13 million. Sasa Barjaktarovic, who is a police official dealing with organized crime, told the news agency: "Kidnapping has became the shortest and simplest way to make money. Up until two years ago, you could count the kidnappings in all of Yugoslavia on your fingers. In the past year and a half, there were more than 70." He added that kidnapping is far less risky and complicated than smuggling, which the post-Milosevic authorities have targeted for a crackdown. Police have solved about 80 percent of the cases, but sometimes only after a ransom was paid. Victims have included children of wealthy or well-known people. PM

NATO TO CUT REGIONAL FORCES
The Atlantic alliance will reduce its forces in Bosnia by the end of 2002 from 19,000 troops to 12,000, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Brussels on 10 May. NATO will cut its forces in Kosova from 38,000 to 33,200 during the same period. The alliance has concluded that the political situation in the region has improved sufficiently to permit the cuts. PM

WORLD BANK SUSPENDS LOAN NEGOTIATIONS WITH ROMANIA
Romanian Finance Minister Mihai Tanasescu said on 9 May that "a misunderstanding" is behind the World Bank's decision to suspend negotiations with Romania on a $300 million loan aimed at restructuring loss-making state companies, AFP reported. Tanasescu said the bank based its decision on figures supplied by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that show that only some 1,100 people have been laid off in the last months. Bucharest has pledged to eliminate some 25,000 jobs from public enterprises this year. Tanasescu said the actual number of people made redundant is about 4,200. Romanian radio the same day quoted Prime Minister Adrian Nastase as saying that Romania is "a relatively poor country," and cannot "continue implementing the exaggerated steps that are being suggested to us." MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS ADOPTION BAN TO LAST UNTIL END OF 2002
President Ion Iliescu, in an interview with RFE/RL in New York, said the ban instituted by his country on international adoptions of children will last until the end of this year. Iliescu said that in Europe and in the United States there is interest in adopting children from Romania, but that Bucharest needs more time to work out legislation ensuring that abuses in adoptions are curbed. He said that a number of Romanian children were taken abroad illegally before the moratorium on adoptions went into effect in June 2001. Iliescu, who has attended events linked to the UN General Assembly's special session on children, met on 9 May with Council of Foreign Affairs member Richard Holbrooke and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Romanian radio reported on 10 May. MS

MONUMENT HONORING U.S. SOLDIERS UNVEILED IN BUCHAREST
A monument honoring the 378 U.S. soldiers who fell in the line of duty in Romania during the World War II was unveiled in the central park of Cismigiu in Bucharest on 9 May, RFE/RL's bureau in the Romanian capital reported. Prime Minister Nastase, Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu, and U.S. Ambassador to Romania Michael Guest were in attendance and spoke at the ceremony. Romania on 9 May marked 125 years of independence and Victory Day by the Allied forces in the war against Nazi Germany. MS

BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS GREECE
Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski left for a three-day working visit to Greece on 9 May, BTA reported. Saxecoburggotski met in the Aegean port of Thessaloniki with Georgios Paschalidis, the Greek minister for (the Greek provinces) Macedonia and Thrace. After the meeting, Paschalidis underscored the necessity of building new border crossings between the two countries. "We want those roads to link us through friendship and cooperation, to lead to mutual understanding between the two countries," Paschalidis said. On 10 May, the Bulgarian delegation was scheduled to visit the Bulgarian monastery St. George Zographou on the Holy Mountain of Athos, a Greek peninsula inhabited only by Eastern Orthodox monks from various countries. Meanwhile, Justice Minister Anton Stankov and two of his deputies, Mario Dimitrov and Sevdalin Bozhikov, left on 8 May for an official visit to the United States, where they will discuss questions of legal cooperation between the United States and Bulgaria. UB

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT LIMITS WATER CONSUMPTION
In order to avoid the water shortages that regularly occur during the summer months in Bulgaria, the government on 9 May decided to limit water consumption, mediapool.bg reported. Citizens will be allowed to use between 90 and 120 liters per capita per day. The cabinet plans to charge consumers a double fee if they exceed the limit. Inhabitants of Sofia currently consume about 600 liters per day. In some provincial towns such as Pernik, the amount of water consumed is 800-900 liters per day. UB

There is no End Note today.


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