BUSH TO PRESS PUTIN ON IRAN...
U.S. President George W. Bush will discuss with President Vladimir Putin Russian contributions to Iran's nuclear-power program during this week's summit in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Reuters reported on 20 May. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told journalists that Bush "intends to talk a lot about the Russian-Iranian relationship." "It has been a problem for several years," Rice said. "We've made a lot of progress with the Russians on the counterterrorism front. We're going to try and make progress on the nonproliferation front." RC
...WHILE RUSSIA TO DEMAND ROLE IN CENTRAL ASIAN SECURITY
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov warned on 21 May that Russia "will demand from the United States transparency in the transportation and presence of a foreign military contingent in Central Asia," ITAR-TASS reported. Ivanov applauded U.S.-Russian cooperation in the fight against international terrorism and said that "we have almost done away with the threat to Russia and other CIS member countries through the defeat of terrorists on the territory of Afghanistan." However, he called for multilateral mechanisms for ensuring security in Central Asia, citing recent efforts to beef up the Collective Security Treaty (DKB) (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 15 May 2002). "We intend to use at maximum the promising mechanism of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization," Ivanov said, according to the news agency. RC
ANALYST URGES BUSH AND PUTIN TO SEIZE POLITICAL INITIATIVE...
Sergei Markov, the director of the Institute of Political Research who is reputed to have close ties with the Kremlin, told strana.ru on 21 May that the political stance of Presidents Bush and Putin corresponds more closely to global reality after 11 September 2001 than do the positions of the leaders of other countries and international organizations. By focusing on the challenges stemming from international terrorism, Bush and Putin have moved far ahead of their respective national political bureaucracies. He said that the majority of the Russian and American political elites believes that the closer relations between the two countries will not last and that the willingness of Bush and Putin to move beyond the Cold War is premature. If Bush and Putin are not able to bridge the gap between their understanding and those of the U.S. and Russian political elites, Markov warned, then the initiative in world affairs may swing toward forces represented by people like Osama bin Laden. VY
...AS U.S. FEARS 'RUSSIAN-STYLE' TERRORIST ATTACKS
U.S. officials fear occurrences of "Russian-style" terrorist acts in the United States, ITAR-TASS reported, citing ABC television. According to the U.S. broadcaster, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials fear that the pattern of apartment-building explosions that rocked Russia in the fall of 1999 might "be copied" in the United States. Citing unnamed U.S. officials, ABC reported that leaders of various organizations with "links to the Al-Qaeda network" met in Lebanon at the end of March to plot tactics for a new wave of attacks against U.S. and British targets. The officials noted that Russian authorities link the 1999 bombings to the Chechen field commander Khattab, who allegedly maintained links with Al-Qaeda. RC
U.S. EXPERTS CALL FOR TIGHTER NUCLEAR SECURITY...
A group of experts at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and the Nuclear Threat Initiative are calling on Presidents Bush and Putin to devote attention during this week's summit to the threat of nuclear terrorism, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 May. In a statement published that day, the experts appealed to the presidents to supplement the strategic-arms reduction treaty with provisions ensuring the reliable storage of weapons components. The document outlines seven steps intended to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons. RC
...WHILE PUTIN URGES LIQUIDATION OF UNNEEDED CHEMICAL WEAPONS
President Putin pushed his government to do more to finance the liquidation of Cold War-era weapons, Interfax reported on 20 May. Speaking to a cabinet session, Putin said that the weapons are "a dead weight and sometimes pose an ecological threat," the news agency reported. Putin referred specifically to chemical weapons and told the government to find ways to finance the liquidation of the stockpiles. RC
PUTIN EASES TAX BURDEN FOR SMALL BUSINESS
During a meeting with the cabinet members and representatives of centrist factions in the State Duma on 20 May, President Putin said that he wants to optimize the tax burden on small and medium-sized businesses and to find a "golden mean" that would satisfy both the needs of the budget and the interests of entrepreneurs, RTR Television and RIA-Novosti reported. According to Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, Putin and the participants of the meeting agreed to reduce the turnover tax for small businesses from 8 percent to 6 percent and the profit tax from 20 percent to 15 percent retroactively to 1 January 2002. In addition, the definition of qualifying businesses will be liberalized. Instead of being limited to companies with an annual turnover of less than 10 million rubles ($322,000), the new tax regime will apply to businesses with turnovers of up to 15 million rubles ($484,000). VY
DUMA WANTS TO RESTRICT NUMBER OF FOREIGN FILMS
State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev announced that parliament is concerned by the excessive number of the foreign films being screened for national audiences and, in the near future, the body will consider a bill on limiting the number of foreign films on television and in cinemas, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 21 May. Seleznev said that the measure will be aimed to protect national film producers from foreign -- predominantly American -- competition. However, prominent film director Viktor Merezhko told the newspaper that such a bill could be harmful. "It would be better to promote domestic production," Merezhko said. VY
INTERIOR MINISTRY TO INTRODUCE RUSSIAN 'GREEN CARDS'
After the new law on citizenship comes into effect at the end of this year, the Interior Ministry (MVD) will introduce a new immigration card that will be obligatory for all foreigners permanently residing in Russia, Deputy Interior Minister and Chief of the Federal Migration Service Andrei Chernenko told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 21 May. The new document will be used to track all movements of foreigners around the country. According to official statistics, about 340,000 legal immigrants currently live in Russia, while there are from 3.5 million to 5 million illegal foreign immigrants in the country, according to the newspaper. In Primorskii Krai alone, there are about 150,000 Chinese citizens and that figure is constantly increasing. VY
'ANTI-SEMITIC' MONEY CIRCULATING IN MOSCOW
The website utro.ru published on 18 May a photograph of a 10-ruble banknote with an anti-Semitic slogan printed on it, which the website reports is being circulated in Moscow (http://www.utro.ru/articles/2002051814350878706.shtml). The words "Russia without yids" was carefully typewritten on both sides of a genuine banknote. When a correspondent of the website brought the bill to the attention of law enforcement and federal financial authorities, she was told that the bills are still legal tender and there is no way to stop their circulation or even find out who is spreading them. Officials have not met with any other cases of this type, according to the website. VY
HEAD OF FAR EAST BORDER GUARD SERVICE SEVERELY INJURED IN ATTACK
Unknown assailants on 21 May attacked and set ablaze the apartment of Major General Vitalii Gamov, chief of the regional directorate of the Federal Border Guard Service in the Far Eastern city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, seriously injuring Gamov and his wife, Russian news agencies reported. According to an eyewitness, the attackers climbed onto the balcony of Gamov's third-floor apartment and threw several Molotov cocktails inside during the night. As a result, Gamov suffered burns over 80 percent of his body and his wife was also hospitalized in critical condition. Sakhalin Oblast Prosecutor Yurii Denisov told reporters that Gamov had been threatened by local poachers and smugglers and that a criminal investigation into the incident has been launched. VY
DEPUTIES ATTEMPT TO STEM OFFICIAL CORRUPTION
State Duma deputies adopted in its first reading on 17 May a Code for the Conduct of the Civil Service. The vote was 269 in favor with one against and one abstention, according to Interfax. According to Russian news agencies, both the government and the presidential administration opposed the measure, while the pro-Kremlin Unity faction did not express a position during the discussion of the measure. Aleksandr Kotenkov, President Putin's representative to the Duma, recommended that deputies wait for the introduction of a presidential package of legislation on organizing the civil service. The Duma's code prohibits state officials from having private interests that conflict with their official work. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 18 May, one of the authors of the bill, Vladimir Yuzhakov (Union of Rightist Forces, or SPS), said that the most serious sanction the bill imposes in cases of such conflict is dismissal. SPS leader Boris Nemtsov said that if the bill were already law, at least 10 current cabinet ministers would have to be dismissed, according to polit.ru. JAC
MORE DEFECTIONS AMONG COMMUNIST PARTY RANKS?
Communist State Duma Deputy Svetlana Goryacheva will keep her position as head of the Committee for the Affairs of Women, Families, and Youth, Interfax reported on 17 May. Earlier, all Communist heads of Duma committees resigned their positions to protest against a redistribution of leadership posts, and it was recommended that State Duma Speaker Seleznev also resign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 24 April 2002). However, Seleznev has so far resisted such calls, and Goryacheva may leave the Communist faction -- and ultimately the party -- if its leadership insists that she give up her post, Interfax reported, citing several unidentified legislators. A Unified Russia representative told the agency that any conflict between the Communists and Goryacheva should be resolved by Goryacheva herself. JAC
FORCE USED IN FAR EAST AGAINST WORKERS PROTESTING WAGE ARREARS
About 200 employees of the Dalmoreprodukt seafood company on 17 May blocked a central street in Vladivostok for more than three hours, demanding payment of several months of back wages, Interfax-Eurasia reported. A local police officer who hit a female protester who was carrying a child in her arms has been suspended, and a criminal case has been launched against Dalmoreprodukt, RFE/RL's Vladivostok correspondent reported. As of 1 April, the wage arrears had reached 148 million rubles ($4.6 million). However, legal experts told RFE/RL that the case doesn't have much chance of success since the Criminal Code makes nonpayment of wages a punishable matter only if a company's management has a mercenary or personal interest in depriving workers of their wages. Presidential Ombudsman for Human Rights Oleg Mironov told Interfax on 18 May that he considered the use of police force against the demonstrators "very irresponsible," concluding "even if the rally had not been sanctioned, the authorities should not have used force." JAC
ANOTHER POWER-SHARING TREATY ANNULLED
President Putin and Krasnodar Krai Governor Aleksandr Tkachev signed an agreement on 17 May canceling an earlier power-sharing treaty signed by krai and federal officials in 1996, ITAR-TASS reported, citing the government's press service. According to the service, 24 of 42 such treaties have already been canceled. The process of annulling the agreements began in February and is supposed to be completed by 1 July. However, according to the news agency, the Kremlin believes that deadline might not be met. At a press conference in Kazan on 18 May, State Duma Speaker Seleznev said that he believes the power-sharing treaties are obsolete and that it is time to amend the constitution to provide more detail regarding relations between regions and the federal center, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. JAC
UNIFIED RUSSIA LOSES ANOTHER LOCAL ELECTION
In a 19 May by-election for a State Duma seat from a single-mandate district in the Altai Republic, the republic's Deputy Minister for Economics and Trade Sergei Pekpeev prevailed, according to preliminary results on 20 May, ITAR-TASS reported. Pekpeev won with 48.21 percent of the vote compared to 19.31 percent for his closest competitor, Sergei Ognev, a local representative of the Agrarian Party. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 20 May, Altai Republic President Mikhail Lapshin supported Ognev in the race for the seat, which came open when Lapshin was elected president. Unified Russia also backed a losing candidate: Leonid Shchuchinov, a deputy in the republic's legislature. JAC
NEWSPAPER FOUNDER MURDERED
Entrepreneur Aleksandr Plotnikov was found murdered in his dacha in Tyumen Oblast on 19 May, RFE/RL's Tyumen correspondent reported. Police currently believe that the murder was a contract hit. Plotnikov recently lost a legal bid to restore his control over the local newspaper "Gostinyi dvor," of which he was one of the founders. Meanwhile, Aleksei Simonov, chairman of the Glasnost Defense Foundation, told reporters in Moscow on 17 May that he believes that criminal investigations into the deaths of journalists should not be conducted by the local law enforcement or investigative organs, but by the office of the Prosecutor-General, Interfax reported. JAC
CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD SAYS RUSSIAN TROOPS VIOLATE NEW SEARCH REGULATIONS
Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov told journalists in Grozny on 20 May that Russian troops are ignoring the instructions issued in March by Lieutenant General Vladimir Moltenskoi, the commander of the joint federal forces in Chechnya, to avoid excessive force and violations of the law during search operations to identify and apprehend Chechen fighters, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 March 2002). Kadyrov also criticized the conclusion of a team of psychiatrists that Russian Army Colonel Yurii Budanov was "temporarily insane" when he raped and then murdered an 18-year-old Chechen girl (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June and 2 October 2001). Kadyrov said he cannot confirm recent Russian media claims that field commander Shamil Basaev has been killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2002). And he denied rumors of an imminent purge of Chechen government officials, according to ITAR-TASS. President Putin last week formally empowered Kadyrov to hire and fire ministers without first consulting with presidential envoy to the South Russia Federal District Viktor Kazantsev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May 2002). LF
CHECHEN PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN DENIES GELAEV NAMED COMMANDER IN CHIEF
In a statement summarized by chechenpress.com on 20 May, Chechen Vice Premier Akhmed Zakaev denied that at a recent council of field commanders President Aslan Maskhadov named field commander Ruslan Gelaev commander in chief of the Chechen resistance forces. Zakaev said that, according to Chechnya's law on a state of war, that office is held by the president. LF
RUSSIA MAY RATIFY LITHUANIAN BORDER TREATY THIS YEAR
Dmitrii Rogozin, the head of the State Duma's International Relations Committee, told a delegation from the Lithuanian parliament in Moscow on 20 May that the Duma might ratify the Lithuanian-Russian border treaty signed in 1997 by the end of the year, BNS reported. The Lithuanian parliament ratified the treaty in 1999, while the State Duma has provided various reasons for not doing so. Last year, some Duma members expressed their dissatisfaction with the Lithuanian law requesting that Russia pay compensation to Lithuania for damages incurred during the Soviet era. Duma members are now objecting to the requirement that is to take effect on July 2003 that Kaliningrad Oblast residents obtain visas to enter Lithuania. The Lithuanian delegation, headed by Social Democrat Gediminas Kirkilas, is composed of four parliament deputies from various political parties who are members of the Foreign Affairs Committee. SG
ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SAYS CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM UNLIKELY THIS YEAR
Speaking on 20 May on a live television bridge with Moscow and Los Angeles, Robert Kocharian said that as a result of opposition protests over the constitutional amendments proposed by a commission he appointed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March and 4 April 2002), the proposed referendum on them cannot take place in June 2002 and is unlikely to be held in the fall, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian said it is more likely that the referendum will be held simultaneously with the parliamentary elections due in May 2003. LF
DEFEATED OPPOSITION CANDIDATE APPEALS OUTCOME OF ARMENIAN BY-ELECTION
Vartan Makeyan of the opposition Democratic Fatherland party protested on 20 May the results of the previous day's by-election in Shirak, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. According to preliminary figures, Hovannes Matilian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation--Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) was the winner with 38 percent of the vote while Makeyan polled 28 percent. Makeyan claimed that police and local officials threatened and pressured voters to cast their ballots in favor of Matilian. But district election commission Chairman Murad Grigorian said the vote was free and fair. Matilian's victory raises to nine the number of HHD parliamentary deputies. Also on 19 May, a local customs official and independent candidate Hovik Abovian defeated two other independent candidates in the by-election for the mandate formerly held by fugitive former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian, who was barred from contesting the ballot, Noyan Tapan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 2002). LF
ARMENIA TO BE ADMITTED TO WTO 'SOON'
Visiting World Trade Organization Director-General Mike Moore said in Yerevan on 20 May after talks with President Kocharian and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian that he is confident Armenia will be admitted to the WTO by the end of this year, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He said some issues, primarily related to agriculture, still need to be solved. Yerevan has already amended its legislation to bring it into line with WTO regulations. But some local manufacturers argue that opening the market to cheap foreign imports will negatively affect the country's economy. LF
AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENT ENDS OFFICIAL VISIT TO IRAN
On 19 May, the second day of his official visit to Tehran, Heidar Aliev met with Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who paid tribute to the historic ties between the two countries but warned against interference in the Caspian by unnamed "big powers" which, he claimed, do not want to see conflicts in the region solved, according to Iran Television Channel 1, as cited by Groong. Aliev for his part said that Iran should participate in talks on resolving the Karabakh conflict, Caspian News Agency reported. On 20 May, Aliev and Khatami signed an accord on the principles and framework of bilateral cooperation; 10 further agreements on cooperation in various spheres were also signed. Aliev said at a joint press conference that the two countries have succeeded in narrowing the differences between their countries' views on the legal status of the Caspian Sea. Upon his return to Baku later on 20 May, Aliev characterized his visit as a "success," and as the start of a new phase in bilateral relations. He denied that Azerbaijan had agreed to suspend exploitation of the Alov and Sharq Caspian oil fields of which Iran claims ownership, according to Azerbaijan State Television Channel 1, as cited by Groong. Aliev also said that he turned down a proposal by his Iranian hosts to visit Tabriz, which has a large Azerbaijani population, and that the opening of an Azerbaijani consulate in that city, which Iran has for years postponed, was not discussed. LF
GEORGIAN COURT RULES ON FORMER RULING PARTY...
A Tbilisi district court ruled on 20 May that the faction of the former ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) that remains loyal to President Eduard Shevardnadze is the rightful successor to the divided SMK, Caucasus Press reported. That decision means that the rival faction headed by former parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania must formally leave the SMK and found a new political party. Zhvania's faction has already been deprived of the right to contest the 2 June local elections under the SMK name, and its candidates will run on the lists of the Christian Conservative Party (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 17, 17 May 2002, and "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 May 2002). On 21 May, "Alia" quoted former parliament Defense and Security Committee Chairman Giorgi Baramidze, a close associate of Zhvania, as alleging that unnamed oligarchs out to seize power in Georgia are planning to assassinate Zhvania and other Georgian political figures. Baramidze made similar allegations 18 months ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2000). LF
...AS OPPOSITION LEADER, GEORGIAN PRESIDENT TRADE CHARGES
In his traditional Monday radio broadcast, President Shevardnadze said on 20 May that he considers the local election slogan of the opposition National Movement-Democratic Front (EMDP) headed by Mikhail Saakashvili, which advocates "Georgia Without Shevardnadze" as anticonstitutional, illegal, and intended to destabilize the domestic political situation, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze stressed that he was popularly elected, and expressed doubt that the population at large would support the EMDP slogan. Saakashvili for his part responded the same day that in a democratic society everyone has the right to criticize the president if such criticism is merited. He added that his movement will continue to campaign for Shevardnadze's removal, but will not resort to violence to that end. LF
GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ GOVERNMENT DELEGATIONS MEET
During talks in Gali on 20 May, Georgian and Abkhaz government delegations failed to reach agreement on measures to clarify the situation in the Kodori Gorge, Caucasus Press reported. The Abkhaz side continues to insist on the creation of a stationary post manned by CIS peacekeepers and UN observers in the village of Azhara in the upper, Georgian-controlled reaches of the gorge; the Georgians oppose this. The two sides did agree, however, to cooperate on the restoration of the Inguri hydroelectric power station, which is to be financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank at a cost of some $38 million. Meanwhile, a joint patrol of Kodori by Russian peacekeepers and members of the UN Observer Mission on 16-18 May failed to locate any Georgian Army troops in the upper reaches of the gorge, Caucasus Press reported. LF
HOSPITALIZED KAZAKH OPPOSITIONIST'S CONDITION REMAINS SERIOUS
The condition of former Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, one of the cofounders of the opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan (DVK), remains "serious but stable," Interfax reported on 20 May. Zhaqiyanov was hospitalized two days earlier after his health deteriorated during a 12-hour interrogation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 2002). His wife Karlyghash has written to Kazakhstan's Prosecutor-General Rashid Tusupbekov demanding an investigation into the circumstances that culminated in Zhaqiyanov's hospitalization, Interfax reported. LF
TYUMEN, NORTH KAZAKHSTAN AGREE ON MUTUAL TRADE CONCESSIONS
The governors of Russia's Tyumen Oblast and Kazakhstan's North Kazakhstan Oblast, Sergei Sobyanin and Anatolii Smirnov, signed a cooperation agreement in Petropavlovsk on 20 May under which businessmen will be granted favorable conditions for cross-border trade, ITAR-TASS reported. At present, Tyumen supplies North Kazakhstan with oil, timber, cement, and food worth some $180 million, while North Kazakhstan sells to Tyumen lead, grain, fruit, and vegetables worth only $17 million. The two governors are hoping for a bilateral government agreement that would demolish the barriers to expanding bilateral trade, primarily high Russian railway freight tariffs and Russian delays in refunding VAT on Russian exports. LF
KYRGYZ PROTESTS AGAINST BORDER AGREEMENT CONTINUE...
Thousands of people continued on 20 May to block the main Bishkek-Osh highway near Tash-Komur in Djalalabad Oblast for the seventh consecutive day to protest the ratification by parliament of the 1999 border agreement under which Kyrgyzstan ceded some 95,000 hectares of territory to China, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. They are also demanding that the criminal case against parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov be dropped and that those responsible for the 17-18 March clashes in Aksy between police and demonstrators be punished. Protest meetings also took place in two villages in Aksy Raion, two in other raions of Djalalabad Oblast, and one village in neighboring Osh Oblast. Some 30 people also resumed a protest picket in Bishkek, but police prevented them from approaching either the government or the parliament building. LF
...AS PARLIAMENT, GOVERNMENT REJECT USE OF FORCE BY POLICE...
State Secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov and Security Council Secretary Misir Ashyrkulov formally asked the Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of the Kyrgyz parliament) on 20 May to empower the police to use force against the protesters blocking the Bishkek-Osh highway, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. But only eight of the 60 legislators voted in favor of doing so. The government has similarly twice turned down temporary restrictions on public order drafted by the Interior Ministry that would empower the police to use firearms against demonstrators. Also on 20 May, Deputy Interior Minister Keneshbek Duishebaev warned that police will not permit any further unsanctioned demonstrations in Bishkek, Interfax reported. LF
...AND ANOTHER SENIOR OFFICIAL WARNS OF CIVIL UNREST
Addressing a government meeting on 20 May, First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev echoed warnings issued by Interior Minister Temirbek Akmataliev and former Defense Minister Myrzakan Subanov that the demonstrators' ultimate objective is to destabilize the internal political situation, Russian news agencies reported. Tanaev also told the meeting that the state commission to determine responsibility for the Aksy bloodshed, of which he is chairman, has identified a number of officials, including former Djalalabad Oblast Prosecutor Zootbek Kudaibergenov, who will face trial for sanctioning inappropriate administrative measures and the use of force against demonstrators, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. The commission submitted its final report to President Askar Akaev on 18 May. LF
TAJIK PRESIDENT CONCLUDES VISIT TO CHINA...
On a four-day visit to China, President Imomali Rakhmonov held talks in Beijing on 17 May with President Jiang Zemin that focused on the potential for expanding bilateral relations, the situation in Afghanistan, and the role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in promoting stability in Central Asia, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Rakhmonov met the same day with Prime Minister Zhu Rongji to discuss economic cooperation and the success of Sino-Tajik joint ventures. He also visited Hong Kong and the eastern coastal city of Xiamen. LF
...AFTER SIGNING BORDER AGREEMENT
While in Beijing, Rakhmonov signed with Jiang an agreement whereby Tajikistan cedes to China some 1,000 square kilometers of mountainous terrain, Reuters reported on 20 May. According to presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov, the area is unpopulated and "of no great value to Tajikistan." He added that it represents only a fraction of the territory to which China laid claim. LF
CRIMINAL CASES FOLLOW INSPECTION OF BELARUSIAN OIL CONCERN
State Control Committee head Anatol Tozik said on 20 May that prosecutors have launched 64 criminal cases resulting from the committee's recent inspection of the state-run Belnaftakhim oil concern, Belarusian Television reported. Belnaftakhim deals with the supply, transit, and export of oil and oil products. Tozik accused Belnaftakhim's leadership of imposing a loss of some $27 million on the state over the past two years. He pointed that some Belnaftakhim leaders earn five or six times as much as cabinet members. "Why can we not say today with absolute certainty how much oil and oil products are pumped through our pipelines? This is a question not only to [Belnaftakhim] but also to the State Customs Committee," Belarusian Television quoted Tozik as saying. Inspections carried out by Tozik's committee have traditionally resulted in arrests and heavy jail sentences for managers of state-run enterprises. JM
BELARUS'S HARD-CURRENCY RESERVES ON THE RISE
The National Bank of Belarus has announced that its net foreign exchange reserves increased by $35 million last month and stood at $235 million as of 1 May, Belapan reported on 20 May. JM
UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION LEADER ACCUSES AUTHORITIES OF PRESSURING LAWMAKERS
Speaking in parliament on 21 May, Socialist Party head Oleksandr Moroz accused government authorities of pressuring Verkhovna Rada deputies into joining the pro-government United Ukraine bloc, UNIAN reported. Moroz said cabinet members offer "some enterprises" or help in resolving "debt problems" to some lawmakers in exchange for affiliating themselves with United Ukraine. Moroz also said some lawmakers are invited to the Prosecutor-General's Office where they are "discreetly warned that [prosecutors] have dossiers on all deputies." Earlier the same day, lawmaker Leonid Hadyatskyy announced his decision to leave the Socialist Party caucus and join United Ukraine. According to Moroz, Hadyatskyy divulged the previous day that he would be joining United Ukraine in order "to save himself and his family." United Ukraine has 178 deputies following Hadyatskyy's transfer. JM
UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS CONTINUE TO ARGUE OVER LEADERSHIP ELECTION
The Verkhovna Rada has so far failed to agree on the election of a speaker and two deputy speakers, UNIAN reported on 21 May. Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko told the agency the same day that United Ukraine has rejected Our Ukraine's proposal to agree on a common "package" of parliamentary leaders. Our Ukraine is reportedly ready to support the candidacy of United Ukraine leader Volodymyr Lytvyn for speaker if United Ukraine backs the creation of a coalition government led by Yushchenko. Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko told journalists that Yushchenko, who is purportedly seeking an alliance with United Ukraine, is responsible for the failure of the Communist Party, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, the Socialist Party, and Our Ukraine to agree on candidates for parliamentary leaders. JM
KYRGYZSTAN REFUSES TO LET ESTONIAN PEACEKEEPERS JOIN ANTITERRORISM FORCES
A spokesman from the Estonian Foreign Ministry told BNS on 20 May that Kyrgyz authorities have informed the ministry that it will not allow Estonian peacekeepers to serve on its territory as part of the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism. The official reason for the refusal is the delayed submission of necessary applications. In January, Denmark invited the three Baltic states to send 10-12 soldiers each to take part in the "Enduring Freedom" operation as part of NATO contingent stationed at Manas airport (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2002). Eleven Estonian peacekeepers traveled to Denmark earlier this month to receive pre-mission training. The ministry said Estonia maintains its readiness to send a unit to Kyrgyzstan, but it is not clear whether it will receive Kyrgyzstan's permission to participate in the mission. SG
LATVIAN, HUNGARIAN BORDER GUARDS TO DISCUSS FORMING EU BORDER-GUARD CORPS
A Hungarian border-guard delegation, headed by its commander in chief, Jozsef Bendek, arrived in Riga on 20 May, BNS reported. Bendek told a press conference that although this is the first visit by Hungarian border-guard officials to Latvia, cooperation between the two countries began earlier as Latvian delegations have participated in the annual international border-guard conferences held in Hungary for the past three years. Latvian Border Guard Chief Gunars Dabolins noted that once they join the European Union, both states will have borders with non-EU states, and said that the structure and objectives of the planned EU border-guard corps would be a topic of discussion. The delegation is expected to sign a protocol of cooperation with the Latvian border service during the visit, and the Hungarians will also visit posts on the Latvian-Russian and Latvian-Estonian borders. SG
POLAND LAUNCHES FIRST POSTCOMMUNIST CENSUS
Some 180,000 census-takers began Poland's first national census in the postcommunist era on 21 May, Polish media reported. The census will last until 8 June. Poland's last census took place in 1988 -- a year before the demise of communism -- and pegged the country's population at slightly over 39 million. This year's census-takers, in particular, will ask questions about living standards, education, employment, ethnic origin, and the language that respondents use at home. They are barred from inquiring about religion, health, and income. Preliminary results of the census are expected to be made public in October or November. On the eve of the census, President Aleksander Kwasniewski appealed to his fellow citizens to provide truthful information to pollsters as the government works toward joining the European Union in 2004. JM
POLISH RIGHT-WING SYMPATHIZERS STAGE ANTI-EU RALLY
On 20 May in Warsaw, some 500 sympathizers of the right-wing League of Polish Families (LPR) and listeners of the Catholic radio station Radio Maryja staged a demonstration against poverty, unemployment, and the EU, Polish Radio reported. LPR leaders Antoni Macierewicz and Maciej Giertych spoke out at the rally against European integration and against "giving away Polish soil." Other speakers demanded the founding of a museum in Warsaw to commemorate murdered Poles and the implementation of a family oriented policy by the government. Declarations of "love thy neighbor" intertwined with hostile chants directed against journalists, the president, the prime minister "and, traditionally, the Jews," Polish Radio reported. JM
SUSPECTED KILLERS OF TWO POLICEMEN ARRESTED IN POLAND
Police have arrested four men suspected of killing two policemen in a shootout in Czechowice-Dziedzice, southern Poland, PAP reported on 20 May. A group of masked men barged into a cafe earlier the same day, beat up the owner, and began ransacking the place when police officers who were inside the cafe returned fire, injuring two of the attackers. Two policemen died in the shooting. Poland's chief of police Antoni Kowalczyk said later the same day that 84 policemen in Poland have been killed in the line of duty since 1990. JM
U.S. FIRST LADY VISITS RFE/RL HEADQUARTERS IN PRAGUE
First lady Laura Bush, who visited RFE/RL headquarters in Prague on 21 May, told Afghan listeners in a message broadcast on Radio Free Afghanistan: "America ma ba shooma ahstem [America is with you]." She said the United States cares about the Afghan people and will be their "partner in the reconstruction of your country." Despite the long years of suffering and the devastation of the country, Laura Bush said, "these are times of hope and even times of joy in Afghanistan -- of boys and girls going back to school, of women moving freely outside their homes, or farmers beginning to replant fields with food crops." The United States is also helping Afghanistan overcome its urgent health care problem, she said, adding that "the children of my country are especially concerned for the children of yours" and President George W. Bush has asked each American boy and girl to send a dollar for food and medicine for Afghan children. Laura Bush said RFE/RL "is dedicated to providing information you need to make informed decisions for your family and country." MS
LAURA BUSH, CZECH PRESIDENT AGREE ON NATO RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA
Laura Bush told President Vaclav Havel on 20 May that she agrees with his views that Russia can be an ally of NATO but not necessarily a member of the organization, CTK and Reuters reported. The first lady toured the Prague Castle accompanied by President Havel and his wife Dagmar and later dined with the presidential couple. She also delivered greetings from President George W. Bush. Earlier on 20 May, Laura Bush held a meeting with Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus in which they discussed NATO expansion and preparations for the alliance's summit in Prague in November. MS
SLOVAK PREMIER IN PRAGUE
On 20 May, visiting Slovak Premier Mikulas Dzurinda discussed separately joint strategies for joining the European Union and Slovakia's quest to join NATO with Prime Minister Milos Zeman and ODS Chairman Klaus, CTK reported. Zeman said after the meeting that he is "pleased" that the views of the two countries on EU accession "are basically the same." Zeman said the EU cannot demand that Prague and Bratislava make full contributions to the organization's budget and at the same time deny them the agricultural subsidies given to current member states. Dzurinda said Slovakia offers "all its resources" to the Czech Republic in preparation of the November NATO summit in Prague. Klaus said after meeting with Dzurinda that they have known each other for a long time and their relations are "very good." MS
CZECH PREMIER WARNS AGAINST STOIBER CHANCELLORSHIP
Premier Zeman said on 20 May that he fears relations between his country and Germany will deteriorate if opposition conservative candidate Edmund Stoiber is elected chancellor in Germany's elections this fall, CTK and Reuters reported. "I am sorry for those politicians who consistently return to the past, because this shows they have nothing to say about the future," Zeman said in reference to Stoiber's insistence that Prague abolish the Benes Decrees (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 2002). He said that outgoing Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban, who was defeated in last month's elections, also played the nationalist card heavily in his campaign, reopening old wounds over the Benes Decrees. At the same time, Zeman said he would support offering the same compensation rights to those Sudeten Germans who fought against Nazism as such Czechs receive, but added that their number would be "very small." MS
ODS 'READY TO TAKE OVER'
Addressing a meeting of his ODS election-campaign staff, party Chairman Klaus said on 20 May that after four years in opposition his party is ready to return to govern and "secure freedom, safety, and prosperity," CTK reported. Klaus said the ODS hopes to form a strong government that would respect the party's principles and implement promises, defending the interests of all Czechs. He added that the ODS will be ready after the ballot to forget the "wounds inflicted on it [by political rivals] during the election campaign and past disputes." Klaus said that the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD) failed to lead the country out of crisis and the international status of the Czech Republic has worsened under the CSSD's rule. He said the CSSD is leaving behind a legacy of mistrust, criminalization of business, and general skepticism about the future. However, Klaus said the "opposition agreement" between the ODS and the CSSD was the "lesser evil" that the ODS opted for following the 1998 elections. MS
HUNTINGTON TELLS CZECH OFFICERS ABOUT 'CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS'
U.S. political scientist Samuel Huntington said in a lecture to top Czech Army officials on 20 May that the most serious global conflict currently exists on the borders between the Western Jewish-Christian civilization and the Islamic world, CTK reported. Huntington, the author of the controversial "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order," said the Islamic world is undergoing a revival and that this process is accompanied by the belief that it has been abused by European countries for many years. Huntington said the United States is currently the only global power, but it still needs the smaller regional powers to safeguard its interests and those regional powers feel that Washington is interfering in their spheres of interests. MS
SLOVAK PREMIER STRESSES THE IMPORTANCE OF FREE MEDIA
Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda visited RFE/RL headquarters in Prague on 20 May, where he was greeted by RFE/RL President Tom Dine. The premier stressed the importance to his country of free and professional media, and said RFE/RL continues to occupy an important place in Slovakia's media landscape. In an interview with RFE/RL's Slovak Service, Dzurinda said he believes it will be possible to forge a coalition without former Premier Vladimir Meciar after the parliamentary elections scheduled for September. MS
INCOMING HUNGARIAN CABINET OUTLINES FIRST 100-DAYS PROGRAM...
On 19 May, representatives of the Socialist Party and Free Democrats finalized the program of Prime Minister-designate Peter Medgyessy's incoming government, which includes an itemized listing of the next government's pledges for its first 100 days as well as its top priorities up to 2006, "Nepszabadsag" reported. The nearly 100-page document stresses that the new government firmly intends to restore a fair, transparent, and democratic governing process. The incoming government will also strive to end unjustified state interference in the economy, and will ask state-financed institutions to issue public reports on their finances. The cabinet will provide a 50 percent salary increase for teachers and introduce a 100,000 forint ($375) minimum monthly salary for university graduates. While it will support the implementation of the "status law," the new government will consider a review of the Hungarian-Romanian memorandum of understanding on the law, according to the document. MSZ
...WILL SUBSTANTIALLY REDUCE TAXATION
Incoming Labor Minister Peter Kiss has outlined the next government's employment strategy, which he said is aimed at cutting taxes and social security contributions for both employers and employees and creating more jobs, "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 21 May. Kiss said that in contrast to Hungary, there is no European Union member state in which 80 percent of employees earn the average salary or less. He said the new government plans to change tax brackets to allow those who earn between 600,000 and 2.4 million forints ($2,250-$9,000) a year to pay only 25 percent income tax, compared to the current 30-40 percent. The government will exempt minimum-wage earners from paying personal income taxes and will reintroduce a simplified entrepreneurial tax. Romanian Radio on 20 May quoted Kiss as saying that it is impossible for Hungary to open its labor market to citizens of neighboring countries unilaterally. In this matter, the rules should be the same as those the EU applies to the Hungarian labor force, Kiss concluded. MSZ
HUNGARY'S PANNON RADIO STILL BROADCASTING IN 'OLD DRESSING'
The new studio that was legally licensed on 17 May to operate as Pannon Radio has suspended its programming in the hopes of reaching an agreement with its "breakaway" counterpart operating at the Calvinist Church headquarters in downtown Budapest, Hungarian dailies reported. However, Attila Gidofalvy, the executive manager of Gido Media, the company that operates the radio station, said that no such agreement has been reached. Bela Gyori of the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party, who is also a spokesman for the "breakaway" studio and a board member of Gido Media, reported the legally licensed station to the police for what he called "unlawful on-air broadcasting." MSZ
U.S. PRAISES YUGOSLAV COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE, BUT NO DECISION ON RELEASING AID
Referring to the surrender of Bosnian Serb Dusan Knezevic to the UN war crimes tribunal on 18 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 2002), U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said it was "a helpful step toward Yugoslavia's full cooperation with the tribunal," Reuters reported on 20 May. However, he added, "We urge the authorities in Belgrade to continue their efforts to improve cooperation with the tribunal by taking indictees into custody and transferring them to The Hague as soon as possible." According to a recently published list of 23 people wanted by the tribunal, only six have turned themselves in or indicated they will do so. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on 21 May to try to convince the United States to certify Yugoslavia as cooperating with the UN tribunal and free up $40 million in aid frozen on 31 March. DW
FRENCH DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS KOSOVA
French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie arrived in Kosova on 20 May to underscore her country's commitment to Balkan peacekeeping efforts, AP reported. "I feel that the situation has positively evolved," she said. "However, we still have a lot to do regarding security, the fight against organized crime, and economic revitalization." Alliot-Marie visited the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, where some of the 8,000 French peacekeepers in the Balkans are stationed, and where her government has contributed to a new market in an effort to bring the two communities together (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 2002). "The communities there need to win the trust,... to trust the institutions, the police," Alliot-Marie said. "The presence of the international community provides some kind of trust, but the initiative needs to be undertaken by the communities." DW
BELGRADE APPROVES KOSOVAR SERB MINISTERS
A high-level meeting in Belgrade on 20 May approved the nominees for the top three official posts reserved for the Serbian Povratak (Return) coalition in the Kosova government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2002), dpa reported on 21 May. The meeting approved Goran Bogdanovic as future minister of agriculture, Milorad Todorovic of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) as coordinator for the return of refugees, and Nenad Radosavljevic of the New Democracy party (ND) as a specially appointed adviser to the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosova (UNMIK). Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Belgrade's chief coordinator for Kosova, Serbian Deputy Interior Minister Nebojsa Covic, were present at the meeting. DW
ALBANIA'S PRESIDENT SUGGESTS HE WILL RUN AGAIN
President Rexhep Meidani told Deutsche Welle radio that he would be prepared to run for a second term, Albanian television reported on 20 May. He said his current, five-year term has brought progress in crossing constitutional and legal hurdles as well as in the areas of human rights and freedoms. Given the current situation, however, Meidani predicted it will be very difficult for any candidate to muster the required 60 percent support in the assembly. AH
BOSNIA INTRODUCES UNIFIED IDENTIFICATION CARDS
Authorities introduced the country's first common identity card on 20 May in what outgoing UN High Representative to Bosnia Wolfgang Petritsch called "the central building block for a sovereign, modern and civic-minded state of Bosnia and Herzegovina," Reuters reported the same day. The Muslim-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska previously issued their own documents, such as driving licenses and birth certificates. Printing of the new cards will start in September, and the replacement of existing identification is expected to take about two years, the agency said. A representative for Petritsch, who ends his term on 27 May, said the process can also assist in the fight against organized crime and terrorism. AH
BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY READY TO ACCEPT CREATION OF PEACEKEEPING UNIT
Members of the country's Presidency said on 20 May they are willing to back the formation of a Bosnia-Herzegovinian unit for international peacekeeping operations, Onasa reported, citing a press release by the office. The Presidency will vote on the proposal at its next regular session. The head of the UN Mission to Bosnia, Jacques Klein, told Presidency members that defense officials in both the Muslim-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska have agreed on a structure for such operations, the agency said. The commander would be a UN representative with three assistants from the respective armies, while troops would come from the Federation and Republika Srpska. AH
OFFICIALS, ADVOCACY GROUPS CALL ON REFUGEES TO PARTICIPATE IN BOSNIAN ELECTIONS
Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula joined Bosnian Minister for Refugees and Displaced Persons Kresimir Zubak, along with civic and church leaders to urge those who fled war in Bosnia to register for upcoming elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina by 20 June, Croatian television and Hina reported on 20 May. Picula stressed that Bosnian refugees in Croatia would not lose their refugee status or other rights as a result of voting in neighboring Bosnia, a fear that rights groups say could discourage participation. Zubak added: "They will not be denied any of their rights in Croatia. On the other hand, they will help the people in Bosnia-Herzegovina to use all their rights through their voting right -- the right to compete equality in all spheres of life and work." Elections are slated for 5 October. AH
CROATIAN PRIME MINISTER CALLS SCHOOLS STRIKE 'IRRESPONSIBLE'
Ivica Racan said the current labor stoppage at secondary schools around the country is irresponsible, given its timing and the fact that other avenues were still open to resolving the dispute, Hina reported after the strike began on 20 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 2002). He added that the Education Ministry was faced with unclear or unacceptable demands by employee representatives. Racan also said union claims that changes to the collective agreement for public servants would not require added spending are "ridiculous," Hina said, citing an interview on Croatian radio. He added that the strike's organizers should face consequences for their actions, "including a cut in pay," the agency reported. Racan said on 20 May that he had evidence that nearly one-third of schools are "on strike" and 40 percent of teachers are striking, Hina reported. The largest union in the sector claimed 70 percent of educators, or 14,000 of 20,000 high-school educators, are on strike. AH
RACAN SAYS CROATIA'S JUDICIAL AUTHORITIES 'ARE READY FOR REFORM'
Prime Minister Racan has asked a four-member group of senior appointees to deliver a roadmap for judicial reform within 15 days, Hina reported on 20 May. He said he is generally dissatisfied with the slow pace of reform in the sector following a meeting between government ministers and judiciary representatives on 20 May. But Racan added, "We no longer have an alibi for wasting time because the judicial authorities are ready for reforms," according to the agency, citing a Croatian radio interview. Representatives from the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government will revisit the topic once the conceptual document is delivered. The working group includes Justice Minister Ingrid Anticevic Marinovic on behalf of the executive, Supreme Court head Ivica Crnic and Chief Prosecutor Mladen Bajic from the judiciary, and parliament's deputy speaker, Mato Arlovic. AH
GENERAL STRIKE IN MACEDONIAN PUBLIC SECTOR
Public-sector workers went on a nationwide general strike on 20 May, Macedonian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 2002). State workers are demanding an increase of $20 per month to their minimum wage, which has been stuck at $70 a month for the past decade. The average salary throughout the country is $120 per month, according to AP. Vanco Muratovski, chairman of the Union of Trade Unions in Macedonia (SSM), told a press conference that, "[This] first general strike in the public sector in the history of the trade-unions movement in Macedonia [has been] extraordinarily successful." Muratovski added that the strikers will remain at their workplaces for the time being, though they will begin to stage protests on 23 May if they fail to reach an agreement with the government in the meantime. In accordance with an International Monetary Fund (IMF) economic-recovery plan, however, the government is under pressure not to exceed its budget, which is why it says it has not made a counteroffer. The SSM leadership hopes to convince IMF representatives of the necessity of raising the minimum wage at a meeting on 21 May. A new round of talks with the government is also scheduled for the same day. UB/CB
MACEDONIA, GREECE TO LAUNCH OIL PIPELINE PROJECT
Georgios Moraitis, chairman of the board of directors of Greece's Hellenic Petroleum, told reporters at the Forum for Southeastern European Countries' Political and Economic Cooperation in Thessaloniki, Greece, that Greek Prime Minister Constantinos Simitis and Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski have agreed to launch the planned Skopje-Thessaloniki oil pipeline project in June, Macedonian radio reported on 20 May. The project is expected to cost some $100 million. Moraitis said the governments of both countries have accepted plans to build two pipelines, the first linking Skopje's OKTA refinery with Kosova and the second linking OKTA with Serbia. The company is now looking for financing for the project and has not ruled out the possibility of the Greek Plan for the Reconstruction of the Balkans providing some of the funds. CB
SYNAGOGUE DESECRATED IN ROMANIA
A synagogue in Falticeni has been desecrated and anti-Semitic inscriptions were written on its walls by unidentified perpetrators, Mediafax reported on 20 May. The Suceava County police said the desecration of the synagogue, built in 1862, occurred sometime between 27 April and 18 May. The perpetrators also stole a Torah scroll. The inscriptions read "Death and Gassing for the Jews. Heil Hitler," carried swastikas, and were signed "The Front of Anti-Semitic Struggle" -- an organization hitherto unheard of. MS
NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMP GUARD EXPELLED FROM U.S. TO ROMANIA
Former Nazi concentration camp guard Nikolaus Schiffer was deported on 20 May from the U.S. to Romania, AP reported. The 83-year-old Schiffer was born in Philadelphia but raised in Romania. He joined the Romanian armed forces in 1941 and later became a member of the German Waffen SS. As part of his service in that elite unit, he served in four Nazi concentration camps. When arriving in the U.S. in 1953, he did not disclose his past activities, something that would have barred him from entering the country. U.S. immigration authorities first ordered Schiffer deported in May 1997. He appealed, claiming he had been a tower guard in the camps but did not participate in any atrocities. MS
OSCE DELEGATION IN MOLDOVA
A delegation of the ad hoc committee for Moldova of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly headed by Kimmo Kiljuen met in Chisinau on 20 May with parliamentary speaker Evgenia Ostapciuc; her deputy, Vadim Mishin; and Foreign Minister Nicolae Dudau, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The delegation is visiting Moldova in what OSCE mission spokesman Matti Sidoroff called a "documentation visit." Its members were to meet on 21 May with President Vladimir Voronin and then travel to Tiraspol to meet with the leadership of the breakaway region. MS
OFFICIALS DISCUSS DESTRUCTION OF BULGARIAN MISSILES
Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov met with U.S. Ambassador James Pardew on 20 May to discuss details of a memorandum on scrapping Bulgaria's stockpile of SS-23, Scud, and R-65 missiles, the daily "Dnevnik" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May 2002). According to the newspaper, Bulgaria will need to secure about 1.3 million leva ($612,000) for the project. In related news, Svinarov said it is not clear whether the Bulgarian parliament must ratify the memorandum, as it could be considered a military agreement. In that case, the signing procedure could be delayed. "All political forces have to be involved in this process so that [the Defense Ministry] cannot be accused of some action behind the scenes," news.bg quoted Svinarov as saying. UB
BULGARIA PRESENTS ECONOMIC PRIORITIES AT EBRD MEETING
Economy Minister Nikolay Vasilev and Finance Minister Milen Velchev presented Bulgaria's macroeconomic indicators and priorities for 2002 to investors on 20 May at the annual European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) meeting in Bucharest, BTA reported. Investors were particularly interested in the future of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant and the state sales of Bulgartabak, Biochim Commercial Bank, Bulgarian Telecommunications Company, and the State Insurance Institute. In separate meetings, Velchev discussed the EBRD's investments in various infrastructure projects in the region, including the construction of a second bridge across the Danube River between the Bulgarian town of Vidin and Calafat in Romania. UB
JOINT OPERATION BREAKS UP BULGARIAN-BASED DRUG-TRAFFICKING RING
The Bulgarian Interior Ministry announced on 20 May that in a joint operation, the Bulgarian National Service for Combating Organized Crime, the country's customs authority, the Bucharest-based Regional Center for Combating Transnational Crime, and Turkish and Swedish police have broken up an international drug-trafficking ring, BTA reported. The organization included Bulgarians and Tanzanians and was based in the central Bulgarian town of Plovdiv. The traffickers were reportedly smuggling heroin from Turkey to Western Europe and cocaine from South America into Greece. UB
There is no End Note today.