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Newsline - June 7, 2002


U.S. GRANTS RUSSIA MARKET-ECONOMY STATUS...
The U.S. government recognized Russia as a full-fledged market economy on 6 June, Western and Russian news agencies reported. U.S. President George W. Bush informed President Vladimir Putin of the decision by telephone. According to AP, the Russian government estimates that the U.S. decision will increase Russian exports to the United States by about $1.5 billion annually. Speaking on RTR television, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref expressed hope that the decision will lead the United States "to reconsider all the previously introduced antidumping procedures" that have been initiated, ITAR-TASS reported. "The step also opens new opportunities for investments in Russia, making them more predictable as products produced in our country can be supplied on major world markets on a competitive, nondiscriminatory basis," Gref said. The European Union announced a similar decision on 29 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2002). RC

...AND WESTERN MARKETS RESPOND
The U.S. decision to grant Russia market-economy status is producing a sharp increase in demand for shares in Russian companies, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 June. An unnamed source in a Western bank told the news agency that many Western investment funds are buying up Russian blue-chip stocks in order to increase the share of Russian securities in their portfolios. RC

RUSSIA, CHINA SUMMIT SEEKS TO ACCELERATE ECONOMIC COOPERATION...
President Putin held private talks in St. Petersburg with his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin on 6 June prior to a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Western and Russian news agencies reported. Presidential spokesman Sergei Prikhodko told reporters that Putin briefed Jiang about the results of his recent summit with U.S. President Bush, the Russia-NATO summit in Rome, and the Russia-EU summit in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. Both leaders noted the increasing trade and economic cooperation between the two countries and said that even more dynamic expansion is possible. Putin and Jiang also reviewed the recent military discussions held by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in Beijing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 June 2002). RC

...AS SHANGHAI GROUP IS FORMALIZED
The SCO became a full-fledged international organization on 7 June, as the leaders of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan signed the group's legal charter, Russian and Western news agencies reported. The group also created a joint regional antiterrorism structure that will be based in Kyrgyzstan. "We bear a special responsibility for security and stability in Central Asia," President Putin said, according to AP. Although analysts have speculated in recent months that Uzbekistan has been moving increasingly toward the United States since it agreed to host U.S. troops on its territory last fall, Uzbek President Islam Karimov praised the new charter and spoke of the group as an important element in the global struggle against terrorism. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 June that Indian Ambassador to Russia Krishnan Raghunath said his country fully sympathizes with the SCO and "can make a considerable contribution to its activity." He added that a number of member countries favor India's accession to the organization. RC

RUSSIA CONTINUES PUSH FOR EUROPEAN MISSILE DEFENSE...
Defense Minister Ivanov, attending the first meeting of the new Russia-NATO Council in Brussels at which the two sides adopted a brief cooperation document, emphasized the need to develop a non-strategic antiballistic missile system for Europe, ITAR-TASS reported. He urged Russian and alliance experts to prepare a study and evaluate potential missile threats. Ivanov said that he believes specific proposals can be worked out by the end of 2003. Ivanov also reaffirmed that Russia has no intention of applying for full NATO membership. RC

...AND MISSILE CACHE DISCOVERED NEAR MOSCOW AIRPORT
A cache of five surface-to-air missiles was discovered on 6 June buried in a cemetery near Moscow's Vnukovo airport, Russian and Western news agencies reported. No launching device was found with the missiles, according to police, who said the missiles could not be used without one, NTV reported. Police spokesman Kirill Mazurin told NTV that this is "the first such case in our experience when such an amount of explosives -- and not just ordinary explosives, but contemporary combat missiles used by the military -- was discovered so close to a strategic object." According to RTR television, police found the missiles while responding to an anonymous tip concerning "explosives" and were surprised to discover the sophisticated weaponry. RC

CENTRAL BANK TO SHUT DOWN ONE-THIRD OF RUSSIA'S BANKS?
The Central Bank is preparing to revoke the licenses of more than 400 of the country's 1,270 banks, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 7 June, citing anonymous sources. According to the newspaper, an order to this effect will be published on 13 June. The report said the Central Bank has tightened up its own rules, significantly increasing the number of circumstances under which it is obligated to revoke a bank's license. Under the newly tightened rules, the paper reports, the Central Bank will have to revoke the licenses of any banks whose capital reserves are less than 1 million euros. "Kommersant-Daily" referred to the coming move as "a purge of the banking system." RC

DUMA PUTS OFF DISCUSSION OF KALININGRAD...
The Duma on 6 June declined to debate the problem of the Kaliningrad exclave's status after the impending EU membership of Poland and Lithuania, RIA-Novosti and polit.ru reported. The initiative, which was put forward by Deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia), received just 132 of the required 226 votes. Mitrofanov told deputies that the Kaliningrad issue is "a genuine threat to Russia's territorial integrity." Deputy Dmitrii Rogozin (People's Deputy), who chairs the International Relations Committee, told the Duma that his committee intends to introduce its own resolution on the matter on 11 June and that it will hold hearings about Kaliningrad as well. RC

...BUT MOVING FORWARD ON ARMS-REDUCTION TREATY
Rogozin also said on 6 June that the "political procedure" for ratifying the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, which was signed by Presidents Bush and Putin on 27 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 2002), will begin next week, Interfax reported. "We are speaking only about a political, not a legal procedure," Rogozin said. He added that his committee will put forward a draft resolution on 14 June that will outline the Duma's "general attitude toward the treaty." RC

CANDIDATES LINE UP FOR LEBED'S POST
Deputy Chairman of the State Duma and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) Vladimir Zhirinovskii intends to run for governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai, strana.ru reported. The party's Moscow press spokeswoman, Nina Ryabova, told journalists that Zhirinovskii will travel to Krasnoyarsk soon to form an official campaign group and begin the formalities. Krasnoyarsk Mayor Petr Pimashkov formally announced on 6 June his intention to participate in the ballot, strana.ru reported. It is expected that he will be supported by the Unified Russia faction. Finally, the website also reported that Duma Deputy Sergei Glaziev (Communist) has informed his party that he is prepared to be its candidate in the election. He is expected to make a formal announcement next week at a joint press conference with Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov. The Krasnoyarsk gubernatorial election will be held on 8 September to replace former Governor Aleksandr Lebed, who died in a helicopter accident on 28 April. RC

PRESIDENT APPEALS TO CHECHENS TO 'BE PATIENT'
In an appeal to the Chechen people dated 5 June and posted two days later on chechenpress.com, President Aslan Maskhadov expressed his profound concern and outrage at the sufferings inflicted by Russian troops on the civilian population since the current war began almost three years ago. Maskhadov appealed to his people to "be patient," and assured them that "we have the strength and means to punish the Russian military criminals." LF

RUSSIAN TROOPS ADMIT TO SHELLING MOSQUE IN MESKER-YURT
Citing the website utro.ru, chechenpress.com on 6 June reported that Russian troops have admitted to shelling the central mosque in the village of Mesker-Yurt, which has been the object of a search operation for over two weeks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May and 4 and 5 June 2002). According to utro.ru, the troops claimed that two Chechen fighters were targeting Russian servicemen from the mosque; but chechenpress.com reported on 30 May that the entire male population of the village was being held captive in the building. Interfax on 6 June reported that Mesker-Yurt is still cordoned off from the outside world. Meanwhile, on 7 June, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer described the treatment of Chechen civilians by Russian forces as "unacceptable," dpa reported. Fischer said that Chechnya raises "great concerns" and Russia cannot be given a post-11 September "antiterrorism rebate" for its actions there. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION WARNS AGAINST ATTEMPT TO THWART PRESIDENTIAL IMPEACHMENT BID
Representatives of the 13 opposition parties intent on forcing a parliamentary debate on impeaching President Robert Kocharian said at a press conference in Yerevan on 6 June that they will disrupt next week's parliament session if the pro-presidential majority refuses to discuss the issue, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. On 29 May, six opposition deputies adduced a recently adopted parliament statute that allows any deputy to demand a debate on the issue under discussion; they argued that the report submitted by the committee monitoring the investigation of the October 1999 parliament shootings warranted raising the impeachment issue (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 and 31 May, and 3 June 2002). Some opposition parties believe Kocharian was behind the parliament killings. Deputy parliament speaker Tigran Torosian, however, said on 6 June that the parliament leadership will not include the impeachment issue on the agenda, a refusal that the six would then have to raise with the country's Constitutional Court. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S LEADING MUSLIM CLERIC CONDEMNS VIOLENCE IN NARDARAN...
Sheikh ul-Islam Allakhshukur Pashazade, who is currently in Moscow to meet with Patriarch Aleksii II, has expressed his "profound regret" over the clashes late on 3 June in the village of Nardaran between police and angry villagers, Turan reported on 7 June. Pashazade said those responsible for resorting to force should be punished. ITAR-TASS on 6 June quoted village elders as saying they want to meet with President Heidar Aliev (who has not yet publicly commented on the violence) to discuss ways of defusing tensions. Also on 6 June, presidential administration official Ali Hasanov told Turan that he has no knowledge of any meeting between Nardaran residents and a member of the presidential administration. A senior member of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan claimed earlier on 6 June that such a meeting had taken place (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June 2002). LF

...WHICH BAKU POLICE CHIEF BLAMES ON AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION
In an interview with the official daily "Azerbaijan" that was summarized by Turan on 7 June, Magerram Aliev, who heads the Baku city police force, said he believes that the Musavat, Azerbaijan Popular Front, Democratic, Islamic, Vahdat, Social Democratic, and other opposition parties played a "special role" in the disturbances. He claimed leaders of those parties visited Nardaran over the past week to incite residents to "anticonstitutional actions." On 5 June, the official newspaper "Yeni Azerbaycan" similarly accused the opposition of being behind the standoff in Nardaran, noting that Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar visited the village on 29 May, Turan reported. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE DENIES ACCUSING ARMENIA OF TERRORISM
In a statement released on 6 June, the Georgian presidential press service rejected the allegations contained in an article published on 27 May in "The Georgian Times" that the paper claimed were based on a Georgian intelligence document detailing Armenian involvement in terrorism directed against Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. The Georgian intelligence service has already denied that such a report exists (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 5 June 2002). The press statement affirmed that materials published in the independent press do not reflect the policies of the country's leadership, and asked foreign governments not to construe them as such. It noted that "The Georgian Times" "provides negative information about the Georgian authorities and the stable situation in the country." Meanwhile, in its 6 June issue "The Georgian Times" reported the reactions its earlier article had triggered and reaffirmed that its claims are based on authentic documents. It further claimed that Armenian guerrilla organizations operating in the South Georgian region of Djavakheti under the sponsorship of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation -- Dashnaktsutiun use the infrastructure of the Russian military base in Akhalkalaki. LF

GEORGIA CANCELS VOTE RECOUNT
Georgia's Central Election Commission on 6 June reversed its decision of two days earlier to recount votes cast in Tbilisi during the 2 June local elections, Caucasus Press reported. The National Movement-Democratic Forum headed by former Justice Minister Mikhal Saakashvili, which polled second with some 23.7 percent of the vote, had spearheaded opposition demands for a recount, arguing that in a fair ballot it would have won significantly more votes. But Shalva Natelashvili, whose Labor Party won in Tbilisi, protested that decision (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 June 2002). Saakashvili announced on 6 June that he will appeal the cancellation of the recount with the Georgian Supreme Court. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION PARTY, 'UNITY' DUMA FACTION SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT
The pro-Putin "Unity" faction in the Russian State Duma and Georgia's opposition "Ertoba" (Unity) party signed a cooperation agreement in Moscow on 5 June, Caucasus Press reported. Ertoba is co-chaired by Djumber Patiashvili, who succeeded Eduard Shevardnadze as first secretary of the Georgian Communist Party in 1985 and polled second to him in the presidential elections of 1995 and 2000, and Aleksandre Chachia, who in 1999 founded a public organization named the Union for the Revival of Mingrelia (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 13, 30 March 1999). LF

JOINT PATROL OF KODORI FAILS TO LOCATE EITHER GEORGIAN OR CHECHEN FORCES
Five members each of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone and the UN Observer Mission in Georgia conducted a further patrol of the Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia on 3-5 June, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. They found no sign of the presence there either of Georgian Army troops or Chechen militants. On 30 May, Interfax quoted unidentified sources in Sukhum as claiming that a band of 40 Chechens had entered the gorge (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2002). LF

KAZAKH SECURITY OFFICIAL WARNS OF GROWING ISLAMIST THREAT
Activists from the banned Islamic party Hizb-ut-Tahrir are expanding their activities in Kazakhstan, especially in the south of the country, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 7 June quoted National Security Committee Deputy Chairman Major General Bauyrzhan Elubaev as saying. He added that late last year and again in April 2002 police in Kazakhstan's southern oblasts registered attempts to distribute anti-U.S. and anti-Semitic leaflets. At least seven persons suspected of belonging to Hizb-ut-Tahrir were detained in Kazakhstan last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2001). LF

UZBEK SECURITY OFFICERS SENTENCED FOR DEATH OF SUSPECT
A court in Margilan, 400 kilometers east of Tashkent, handed down sentences on 6 June of between five and 15 years' imprisonment to three security officers who inflicted fatal injuries on a suspect last year, Interfax reported. Alimukhammad Mamadaliev, 24, was one of five men detained on 4 November on suspicion of belonging to the banned Islamic organization Hizb-ut-Tahrir. All five were released the same day, but Mamadaliev was later found dead of head injuries. In a similar trial earlier this year, four Uzbek police officers were sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment for beating to death a man suspected of belonging to Hizb-ut-Tahrir (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 2002). LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT, WORLD BANK HEAD DISCUSS REFORMS
In a telephone conversation on 5 June, Islam Karimov discussed with James Wolfensohn Uzbekistan's ongoing economic reforms and implementation of the agreements reached during Wolfensohn's visit to Tashkent in April, Interfax and uza.uz reported on 6 and 7 June, respectively (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 2002). LF

OSCE MISSION IN BELARUS TO REMAIN OPEN...
Despite an ongoing conflict with the authorities in Belarus and the expulsion or withdrawal of all its senior mission staff, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe announced on 6 June that it will not close its mission in Minsk, Western and Belarusian news agencies reported the same day. "We have not closed the mission yet because we think there are still possibilities to try [to] see if we can get something agreed.... For the time being, the mission will continue to exist, frozen in its work," said Joao de Lima Pimentel, chairman of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna. The dispute between the OSCE and Belarus has escalated since September when the OSCE denounced the re-election of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka as fraudulent. Since then, Belarus has refused to renew the visas of two acting heads of the mission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April, and 3, 4, and 5 June 2002). CB

...AS BELARUS INSISTS ON REVISION OF OSCE MANDATE
Pavel Latushka, spokesman for the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, said at a news briefing in Minsk on 6 June that the mandate of the OSCE mission in Belarus should be changed, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported the same day. Commenting on statements by the OSCE and the European Union criticizing Belarus's treatment of the Minsk mission, Latushka said, "We are upholding our national interests in cooperation with the OSCE and we continue to insist that the OSCE Permanent Council summarize the results of the [Minsk mission's] activities from the time it was formed in 1998 to determine its tasks and revise its mandate." He added that the individual heads of missions have too much power, which is not in keeping with the spirit of coordination and cooperation. CB

WORLD CUP COVERAGE SET TO BEGIN IN BELARUS
Belarusian television will begin broadcasting World Cup soccer matches on 8 June, Belteleradiokompaniya head Yegor Rybakov told reporters in Minsk on 6 June, Belapan reported the same day. Rybakov said that Belarus's only national television channel signed a deal for the rights to show the games with the German company Kirch Media, which owns the worldwide broadcast rights for the World Cup, earlier that day. Under the deal, the games will have to be broadcast in Belarusian only (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 6 June 2002). CB

BELARUSIAN JOURNALISTS PLEAD NOT GUILTY TO DEFAMATION CHARGES
The trial of former Editor in Chief Mikola Markevich and journalist Pavel Mazheyka of the newspaper "Pahonya" continued in the western Belarusian city of Hrodna on 6 June, Belapan reported the same day. The two pleaded not guilty to charges of defaming President Lukashenka stemming from an article published in "Pahonya" five days before the presidential election last September. Prosecutors have claimed that the article accuses Lukashenka of murder and genocide. Mazheyka defended the article, saying that he was writing about an abstract character, not an actual person. The trial has generated great interest among Belarus's diplomatic community; representatives of the French, German, Polish, and U.S. embassies were all in attendance. CB

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT ARRIVES IN BELARUS
Robert Kocharian began a two-day visit to Minsk on 6 June, meeting with his Belarusian counterpart Lukashenka to discuss strengthening bilateral cooperation especially in the economic sphere, RFE/RL's Armenian Service and ITAR-TASS reported. The two pledged to build on the treaty of friendship and cooperation signed during Lukashenka's visit to Yerevan a year ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2001). Kocharian told journalists in Minsk that Armenian public opinion is divided over the possibility of Armenia acceding to the Russia-Belarus Union, with only the Communist Party supporting that option. LF

PARTIES REACH POWER-SHARING AGREEMENT IN UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT
The leader of the Our Ukraine parliamentary faction, Viktor Yushchenko, said on 7 June that an agreement was reached earlier that day in the Verkhovna Rada on the distribution of posts of parliamentary committee heads, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Yushchenko said that opposition factions will head up 20 committees and pro-presidential factions five. According to the deal, Our Ukraine will head 10 committees, the Communist Party six, and the Socialist Party and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc two each. Of the pro-presidential factions in parliament, United Ukraine will head four committees and the Social Democratic Party one (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May and 3 June 2002). CB

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS APPEAL TO PROSECUTE TYMOSHENKO
The Verkhovna Rada has rejected an appeal from the Prosecutor-General's Office to pursue criminal proceedings against former Deputy Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, leader of the eponymous opposition faction of parliament, AP reported on 6 June, citing the parliamentary press service. Deputy Prosecutor-General Mykola Obikhod appealed to the Ukrainian parliament on 3 June, asking for permission to continue a criminal investigation into charges of corruption against Tymoshenko. Parliament Chairman Volodymyr Lytvyn rejected the prosecutor's appeal on 5 June, citing legal imperfections. Prosecutors accused Tymoshenko last year of hiding hard-currency profits, large-scale theft of state assets, and paying bribes to former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko while she was head of Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine. A Kyiv court dismissed the charges against Tymoshenko on 30 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 May 2002). CB

UKRAINE TO OUTLINE NATO BID IN JULY
Ukrainian officials plan to come up with an outline for their country's bid to join NATO that can be presented at the military alliance's summit in Prague in November, AP reported on 6 June. Ihor Kharchenko, deputy state secretary of the Foreign Ministry, said that Ukrainian authorities plan to discuss how to "qualitatively deepen relations with NATO" at a meeting with ambassadors of NATO member states and NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson on 9 July in Kyiv. He added, however, that many problems persist that would have to be resolved before gaining entry to the alliance, such as the need to carry out further economic reforms and to gain domestic parliamentary support for the former Soviet republic's accession to the Western alliance. Ukraine formally announced its bid to join NATO on 23 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2002). CB

ESTONIA EXTENDS VALIDITY OF LANGUAGE CERTIFICATES
By a vote of 35 to 23, the parliament extended the validity of existing language-proficiency certificates issued to noncitizens until 1 January 2004, BNS reported on 6 June. Their validity was to have ended on 1 July of this year. The mostly Russian-speaking Estonian United People's Party submitted alternative bills that would have made the certificates permanent or automatically replaced them with certificates of a new type. Arguing that many certificates had been forged or issued unlawfully, the Pro Patria Union actively opposed these bills. The union pointed out that the certificates can easily be falsified and that it is not possible to identify the holder by the certificate, as there is no register of the certificates issued. Noting that the National Examination Center would be unable to test by 1 July all the people who needed to renew their certificates, the ruling coalition of the Center and Reform Parties suggested the 18-month extension. SG

LATVIAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS ICELAND
Andris Berzins began a four-day official visit to Iceland on 6 June with a meeting with his Icelandic counterpart David Oddsson, LETA reported the next day. The premiers discussed Latvia's efforts to join NATO and the European Union. Oddsson spoke about Iceland's relations with the EU, of which it is not a member, and noted that if he were a Latvian citizen he would support Latvia's inclusion in EU because it would provide greater opportunities for development. Berzins also held talks with Reykjavik Mayor Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir, Iceland's President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, and parliament Vice President Arni Stefansson. He is scheduled to meet with Icelandic businessmen and investors in Latvia, and visit the Arnamagnean Institute and Iceland's National Park on 7-8 June before flying to St. Petersburg for a meeting of the Council of the Baltic Sea States. SG

DATE OF NEXT LITHUANIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS SET
The parliament decided on 6 June that the next presidential elections will be held on Sunday, 22 December, ELTA reported. The constitution stipulates that candidates be Lithuanian citizens who have resided in Lithuania for the past three years and are at least 40 years old. Nomination of candidates will officially start in October, when the Central Election Commission will distribute signature forms. Candidates have to gather the signatures of at least 20,000 citizens supporting their candidacy to be placed on the ballot. A number of parties have already decided that their chairmen will be their presidential candidates: the Liberal Union, Eugenijus Gentvilas; Lithuanian Christian Democrats, Kazys Bobelis; Liberal Democratic Party, Rolandas Paksas; and the Union of the Peasants and New Democracy Parties, Kazimiera Prunskiene; while the Homeland Union (Conservatives of Lithuania) will nominate its Deputy Chairman Andrius Kubilius. The top officials of the country -- President Valdas Adamkus, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, and parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas -- have been mentioned as possible candidates but have not announced their candidacies. SG

RADICAL AGRARIANS DUMP RAILCARS OF GERMAN GRAIN IN PROTEST
The radical Self-Defense party of Andrzej Lepper dumped grain imported from Germany on 6 June to protest policies they say are ruining Polish farmers, AP reported. Lepper and several fellow parliamentarians helped open four railcars and let grain spill out at a junction outside Warsaw. Police stopped the protest after about 30 minutes. There were no reports of arrests or injuries. Deputy Interior Minister Zbigniew Sobotka said charges will be filed against all protesters who took part in the grain spilling, PAP reported on 7 June. Lepper claims that farmers are being undercut by cheap imported grain while domestic warehouses remain full. DW

CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS LEAD IN POLLS...
One week before the Czech Republic's general elections, polls show the governing Social Democratic Party (CSSD) edging slightly ahead of the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), Czech media reported on 6 June. A poll conducted by the Factum agency and released on 5 June placed CSSD first with nearly 30 percent support and ODS in second place with just under 28 percent. The poll showed the Communist Party making strong gains, moving into third place with more than 18 percent. The Coalition electoral bloc, which led most polls six months ago, was in fourth place with 13 percent. Another poll, conducted by the CVVM agency, has the CSSD leading with 21.5 percent support and the ODS in second place with 19.5 percent. The Coalition came in third in the CVVM poll with 11.5 percent, and the Communist Party had 10 percent. The Czech Republic will hold general elections on 14-15 June. BW

...AS MAJORITY OF CZECHS EXPECT NOTHING TO CHANGE...
Regardless of the election's outcome, a majority of Czechs do not expect the situation in the country to change dramatically after the 14-15 June general elections, CTK reported on 6 June, citing a poll by the CVVM agency. According to the poll, just 18 percent of Czechs believe that the situation will improve, while 17 percent expect it to deteriorate. The most optimistic voters are supporters of the center-right ODS. Among ODS followers, 36 percent expect a change for the better. Among supporters of the center-left CSSD about 25 percent expect the situation to improve. BW

...AND COALITION DECRIES EXCLUSION FROM DEBATES
The Coalition electoral bloc, meanwhile, has complained about its exclusion from some televised debates, CTK reported on 6 June. The Coalition is an electoral alliance between the Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union. KDU-CSL leader Cyril Svoboda and Freedom Union Chairwoman Hana Marvanova said their bloc has been continuously excluded from debates on TV Nova's weekly debate program "The Seven," TV Prima's "Nedelni partie" (Sunday Match), and Czech Television's "Naostro" (Live Ammunition). BW

CZECHS BAN ISRAELI BEEF IMPORTS
The Czech Republic imposed a ban on imports of beef and cattle imports from Israel on 6 June, Czech and international media reported the same day. The ban came after the first case of BSE, or "mad cow disease," was discovered in Israel on 4 June. The ban was imposed even though Israeli cattle and beef are not currently imported into the Czech Republic. "It's a precautionary measure," said Josef Duben, a spokesman for the State Veterinary Authority. Duben added that the Czech government automatically imposes a ban on beef imports from any country where the disease is discovered. BW

DATE FOR SLOVAK PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS SET
Slovak Parliament Chairman Jozef Migas announced the official date of parliamentary elections; they will take place on 20 and 21 September, the SITA news agency reported on 6 June. In the third parliamentary elections since the creation of the Slovak Republic, more then four million voters will elect 150 parliamentarians to a four-year term. The last elections took place in September 1998, when the largest portion of voters (27 percent) supported the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). The unified opposition bloc the Slovak Democratic coalition (SDK) came in second with 26.33 percent of votes. A poll conducted in May by the MVK agency found that HZDS was supported by slightly more than 25 percent of the electorate. Robert Fico's Smer (Direction) ranked second with 17.6 percent. AS

U.S. SEEKS ASSURANCES ON SLOVAK DEMOCRACY
U.S. President George W. Bush was to meet his Slovak counterpart Rudolf Schuster in Washington on 7 June, the SITA news agency reported the same day. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Bush's national security adviser Condoleezza Rice were expected to participate in the talks at which the U.S. administration would press Schuster to say that democratic principles would be observed during the upcoming parliamentary elections. Some experts have expressed concern over Slovakia's ability to form a democratic government. Recently, Bruce Jackson, president of the nongovernmental United States Committee on NATO, stated that he does not trust HZDS ChairmanVladimir Meciar and does not wish to have him as an ally. AS

SLOVAK HZDS CHAIRMAN RECEIVES POLICE SUMMONS AND IGNORES IT
HZDS Chairman Meciar received a summons from the financial police to testify concerning the sources of financing for his villa in Trencianske Teplice in western Slovakia, the SITA news agency reported on 6 June. The reconstruction of the villa has been reported to have cost as much as 41 million Slovak crowns. According to police sources cited by SITA, this was the 10th attempt to serve summons on Meciar, but the first that actually reached him. Meciar said that he borrowed the money from a "normal" foreign lender and that the accusations against him are politically motivated. SITA reported that he did not appear as summoned on 7 June. AS

SLOVAK CROWN FALLS SHARPLY
The Slovak crown opened the 6 June session at 44.30 crowns to the euro. At the beginning of the day, crown sales prevailed, squeezing the local currency to the day's low at 44.53 crowns to the euro, the SITA news agency reported on 6 June. After the National Bank of Slovakia (NBS) stated that the crown's current exchange rate corresponds with economic fundamentals, the crown firmed somewhat to 44.45 crowns to the euro. The NBS said that if the crown's downward continues, it is ready to intervene. However, NBS Governor Marian Jusko said he does not expect an intervention will be necessary. AS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER REMOVES SECRET SERVICE HEADS...
Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy on 6 June dismissed Intelligence Office head Tibor Peto, National Security Office chief Gabor Dobokay, and National Security Professional Service General Director Istvan Chladek, effective immediately, Hungarian media reported. All three were appointed by the previous government in November 1998. Political State Secretary Andras Toth said it is a common procedure in international practice that the new government replace the leaders of the secret services, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. The daily added that there are no plans to sack the heads of the Military Intelligence and Security offices, who are answerable to the Defense Minister. MSZ

...AND MEETS WITH MINORITY LEADERS
On 6 June, Medgyessy told leaders of the 13 ethnic minority groups in Hungary that they will be involved in drafting any legislation that affects them in the future, Hungarian media reported. He said a national council could be set up instead of creating a second chamber in parliament, and that minorities would receive some role in that council. Medgyessy also announced that a Roma Affairs Council will be formed later. Janos Bathory, who has headed the Office for National and Ethnic Minorities, will be replaced by Antal Heizer. Medgyessy will meet with the leaders of ethnic minorities once a year, while Elemer Kiss, the head of the prime minister's office, will meet with them every six months. MSZ

FIDESZ BACKS SCHMITT FOR BUDAPEST MAYOR
FIDESZ is supporting the candidacy of Pal Schmitt for the post of mayor of Budapest, party Chairman Zoltan Pokorni told reporters on 6 June. Pokorni said FIDESZ will extend political and financial support for Schmitt's campaign, but that it will be managed by an independent center. Schmitt said he still considers himself an independent, but is aware that he will need party support (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2002). Budapest's Third District Mayor Istvan Tarlos, a former candidate of the Democratic Forum, said he is prepared to step aside for Schmitt's benefit, Hungarian dailies reported the same day. MSZ

HUNGARIAN MINISTER PROMISES NEW DEFENSE POLICY
Hungary's new Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz told reporters on 6 June after a meeting of his NATO counterparts in Brussels that Hungarian military spending will reach the NATO average of 2 percent of GDP in two years, Hungarian media reported. In addition, he said the country's new security policy and military strategy will be finalized by the end of the year, with an emphasis on increasing the country's capacity to combat biological and chemical warfare. He added that the Hungarian contingent in the Balkans will be expanded. Hungarian Radio quoted Juhasz as saying that obligatory military service will be abolished by 2006. MSZ

GERMANY WANTS KOSOVAR REFUGEES TO GO HOME
Interior Minister Otto Schily said on 6 June in Bremerhaven that Serbs and other minorities who fled Kosova should return to the province or possibly face deportation, AP reported. Schily, speaking at a meeting of interior ministers from Germany's states, said a German delegation was in Kosova recently and that preparations for the refugees return could begin. He promised, however, that the cases of Serbs will be examined individually to establish if they would be at risk by returning to Kosova. Supporters of Roma and Sinti refugees demonstrated outside of the meeting. PB

U.S. TO REDUCE FUNDING FOR SOME KOSOVAR PROGRAMS
Elizabeth Jones, U.S. assistant secretary of state, said in Prishtina on 6 June that Washington will gradually cut funding for some programs in Kosova, AP reported. Jones said after meeting with Kosovar Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi and international officials that the United States will reduce "some of the economic assistance that has been in place for the last couple of years." She added, "You won't see a reduction in political support, or a...cut in support that we still think is important, but you will see a change in the kinds of assistance programs that we are engaged in." Jones is on an eight-day tour of the Balkans. PB

ETHNIC ALBANIAN REBELS IN PRESEVO VALLEY FOUND NEW POLITICAL PARTY
A new political party has been founded in Bujanovac, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 6 June. The Movement for Democratic Progress (LDK) aims at uniting the political forces of the area. Jonuz Musliu, the former chairman of the Political Council of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac, told journalists of Kosova Live on 4 June the party's membership mainly consists of former ethnic Albanian rebels, but added that it is also open to citizens who supported the road to freedom in the Presevo Valley, as well as to those who feel ignored by the political parties in the region. The Yugoslav parliament on 4 June passed an amnesty for the ethnic Albanian rebels who fought against Serbian forces in the Presevo Valley (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June 2002). UB

BOSNIAN STATE COURT LAUNCHED AS FIRST JUDGES SWORN IN...
The first seven justices took an oath of office on 6 June at a ceremony marking the launch of what is expected to become Bosnia-Herzegovina's highest state court, dpa and Onasa reported. The new State Court marks the first state-level judiciary since administrative division emerged after the 1995 Dayton accords. The seven men will form the nucleus of a division in the new State Court aimed at protecting voters' rights, Onasa reported. They will hear appeals against decisions of the country's Election Commission and the Election Complaints and Appeals Council, dpa added. The appellate judges were appointed by former international community representative to Bosnia Wolfgang Petritsch, who first proposed the State Court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November 2000 and 9 May 2002). They were nominated from among each of Bosnia's three main ethnic groups: Croats, Muslims, and Serbs. AH

...AS INTERNATIONAL REPRESENTATIVE HIGHLIGHTS COURT'S IMPORTANCE
International community High Representative Paddy Ashdown called the State Court "central to the overall strategy of peace implementation and which enshrines a simple truth -- that everyone is equal before the law," according to Onasa. He said it is "a priority that the Criminal Division and the Administrative Division of the court are established by the end of this year." Ashdown added: "The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a cornerstone in the effort to eradicate corruption. It is in this court that those who abuse their public positions and political connections will be prosecuted." AH

KARADZIC'S WIFE MAKES APPEAL TO NATO OFFICIALS
The wife of fugitive war crimes suspect and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on 7 June delivered a written response to a letter from NATO officials, briefly wreaking havoc as initial news reports attributed the message to Karadzic himself. NATO's original letter was delivered via Ljiljana Zelen-Karadzic in May. Alliance officials later confirmed the response was written by Zelen-Karadzic, who invited a NATO delegation to her house in Pale, near Sarajevo, to pick it up during a half-hour visit. "Contents of both the letter and the discussions are confidential," Stabilization Force (SFOR) spokesman Scott Lundy told Reuters. SFOR last year began contacting fugitive suspects through their families, and its letter reportedly urged Karadzic to surrender to face trial at The Hague. Officials did not disclose details of Zelen-Karadzic's letter, but British Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon said in Brussels that "she's expressed her view that he's a kind, gentle, sympathetic, and understanding man," Reuters reported. Zelen-Karadzic was asked to step down as head of the Bosnian Serb Red Cross in May because her presence as the wife of a war crimes fugitive was discouraging donors, Reuters also reported on 6 June. AH

REPUBLIKA SRPSKA FILES NEW CHARGES AGAINST FORMER PRIME MINISTER
Authorities in Republika Srpska have filed new criminal charges of abuse of power against former Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, AFP reported on 6 June. The charges stem from alleged misuse of public funds and were filed in the republican capital, Banja Luka, against Dodik and his former finance minister, Novak Kondic, according to a Republika Srpska Interior Ministry spokesman quoted by the agency. Charges were filed in April against Dodik, Kondic, and a former chief aide for allegedly misappropriating $768,000 between 1998 and January 2001, when Dodik headed the Bosnian Serb government. AH

BOSNIAN SERB OFFICIALS TRY TO REIN IN SECURITY AGENCIES
Republika Srpska's Interior Ministry on 6 June unveiled a draft law defining the work of agencies that would impose license requirements on security agencies and private detectives, Bosnian television reported. Interior Ministry sources suggest some such agencies wield equal or greater powers than police, including patrolling streets and wiretapping citizens, BHTV1 reported. The bill would impose a mandatory licensing process through the Interior Ministry and prohibit such agencies from performing tasks that fall under police authority and from applying "police methods," the broadcaster reported. Many former police employees are among the ranks of such agencies, authorities noted. AH

CROATIAN LEADER MEETS U.S. PRESIDENT, WHO PRAISES ANTITERROR EFFORT
Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan met President George W. Bush in Washington on 6 June as part of his nine-day official visit to the United States, Reuters reported. Bush expressed "the United States' appreciation for Croatia's support for the war on terrorism," White House National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack said afterward, according to Reuters. Bush also praised Zagreb's efforts to join the European Union and NATO, and for showing leadership in Southeastern Europe, the agency cited McCormack as saying. "Croatia is in [a] region that is still burdened by dangers of international terrorism, but also dangers of international crime -- be it weapons smuggling, drug smuggling, illegal immigration, or prostitution," Racan said after expressing his country's desire to contribute to the war on terrorism, according to AP. Racan spent about 30 minutes with the U.S. president after a visit with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. AH

CORRUPTION PROBE TARGETS FORMER TUDJMAN ADVISER, WHO DISMISSES CHARGES AS DIRTY POLITICS...
Ivic Pasalic, who served as domestic policy adviser to the late Croatian President Franjo Tudjman in the 1990s, is under investigation for corruption, dpa reported, citing local media on 6 June. The suspicions stem from the apparently illegal transfer of funds in an account of the president's former party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), according to the agency. Local media have reported that an estimated $1.5 million collected from Croatian emigres in the United States and Canada during Zagreb's bid for independence in 1991. Instead of being returned to the state budget after the war, the funds were allegedly sent to a Pasalic-run foundation on the orders of Tudjman. "This is a political showdown with me, and is a part of pre-election campaigning," Pasalic was quoted as saying on 6 June. AH

CROATIAN RAILWAY UNIONS PLAN STRIKE
Three unions inside Croatian Railways announced on 6 June that they will organize a four-hour, warning strike on 12 June following a breakdown in talks with management, HINA reported. The threat could paralyze passenger and freight transport in the country from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Those unions account for 3,850 of Croatian Railways' 16,000 employees, the agency added. Four other unions that on 5 June initialed a draft collective agreement said they will not participate in the stoppage. AH

ALBANIAN REFORM DEMOCRATS TO PRESENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
The head of the center-right New Democratic Party (PD e Re) said on 6 June that his party will formally declare Albanian emigre Eduard Selami its candidate for president on 8 June, Albanian radio reported. Chairman Dashamir Shehi said the announcement will come at a meeting of opposition parties. While Selami has Albanian citizenship, Shehi said that if there are legal obstacles to his running for office, the party will "propose another candidate," the broadcaster quoted him as saying. AH

MONTENEGRO AIMS TO STEM STOLEN AUTO TRADE
The Montenegrin government is tightening up registration rules in an effort to reduce the number of stolen automobiles that are brought to the republic, dpa reported on 7 June. Because of the ease with which one can register a car in Montenegro, the republic became a major destination for stolen vehicles from Western Europe, as thousands of cars are thought to be brought to Montenegro and then resold and sent to other locations each year, the daily "Vijesti" reported. Stricter requirements for documentation showing a car's country of origin and transit license plates are among the changes. Montenegrin and Serbian officials had complained that Yugoslavia's expulsion from Interpol had made it difficult to track car ownership. But Yugoslavia was readmitted to Interpol in September. PB

HOLY SYNOD OF MACEDONIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AGAINST AGREEMENT WITH SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
The Holy Synod of the Macedonian Orthodox Church on 6 June decided not to accept the draft agreement between the Macedonian and the Serbian Orthodox Church, Macedonian media reported. The draft agreement reached in the southern Serbian town of Nis envisaged the Macedonian Orthodox Church giving up its autocephaly, and being renamed as the Autonomous Archbishopric of Ohrid. Believers and politicians had protested against the Nis agreement. The Macedonian Orthodox Church split from the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1967 and is not recognized as an independent church by the other Orthodox churches. UB

ROMANIAN SENATE APPROVES LAW ON RIGHT TO RESPOND TO PRESS CRITICISM
The Senate approved on 6 June with 85 votes in favor to 25 against, with one abstention, a law on the right to reply to charges published in print publications, Romanian media reported. A person offended by an article can request that his or her response be published in the same publication. If the publication refuses to publish the response, it can be fined up to 100 million lei (some $3,000). In addition, the offended can seek compensation in court even if their reply is published. The law does not pertain to the electronic media. Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu, who sponsored the law, argued that "Romania will be more democratic with this law than without it." However, journalists consider the law an attack on free speech and announced that they will appeal the decision in the Constitutional Court. ZsM

ROMANIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR A TIGHTER SCHEDULE FOR EU ACCESSION
In Brussels on 6 June, Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase asked the incoming Danish presidency of the European Union to establish a clearer schedule for Romania's admission to the union, Mediafax reported. He added that he does not believe a country's preparedness for accession should be determined by the number of negotiation chapters they have opened or closed. Nastase said Romania is determined to join the EU as soon as possible, and that the government intends to open all negotiation chapters by the end of this year and to close them by early next year. He admitted that EU expansion costs will be high, but said financial concerns should not be a reason "to postpone indefinitely the admission of countries that wish to be part of European structures." Nastase was in Brussels to participate in a European Commission conference on EU expansion. ZsM

ROMANIANS UPBEAT ON CHANCES FOR NATO ACCESSION
An opinion poll aired by Romanian television on 6 June showed that 80 percent of Romanians support NATO accession, while 14 percent are opposed. Two-thirds of respondents are in favor of the Romanian military's participation in peace operations in the Balkans. While only one-third approve of foreign troops' stationing in the country, half of respondents support the establishment of NATO military bases there. The report noted that the poll results mark the first time that the percentage of optimists exceeds the number of skeptics pertaining to the country's chances to be admitted into NATO: 48 percent to 41 percent. ZsM

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT REPORT PRAISES ROMANIAN EFFORTS TO COMBAT HUMAN TRAFFICKING
A 6 June press release from the U.S. Embassy in Romania said the State Department's report published a day earlier praises Romanian efforts to reduce human trafficking. The report said Romanian authorities have adopted laws to increase punishments for human trafficking, provided police with greater resources for questioning suspected traffickers and bringing them to court, and opened a shelter for victims of human trafficking. The release congratulated the Romanian government for being one of three countries mentioned in the report for their significant progress in combating human trafficking. ZsM

PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE ACCUSATIONS AGAINST ROMANIAN INFORMATION SERVICE
The parliamentary commission overseeing the activity of the Romanian Information Service (SRI) announced on 6 June that it will investigate accusations in the media that the SRI acted as political police in September 1991, Romanian media reported. In an editorial published in "Evenimentul zilei" the same day, political analyst Stelian Tanase said the newspaper has received documents proving that the SRI tapped phone conversations of opposition members, trade union leaders, and journalists. In September 1991, miners stormed Bucharest and forced Prime Minister Petre Roman to resign. ZsM

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT NEWSPAPER EDITOR NAMED STATE RADIO AND TELEVISION DIRECTOR
The parliament on 6 June named Ion Gonta, editor in chief of the government newspaper "Moldova Suverana," as director of the state-owned Teleradio Moldova company, Flux reported. Gonta replaced Iulian Magaleas, who resigned. Only deputies of the Party of Moldovan Communists voted, as opposition parties did not participate in the vote. Popular Party Christian Democratic Chairman Iurie Rosca said the Communists should have begun the process of transforming the state television into a public one, in accordance with an April resolution by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe calling for such a transformation by the end of July. In a press release published the same day, the strike committee at Teleradio Moldova said that by naming Gonta, the Communist authorities are attempting to increase censorship and make the station fully subordinate to them. ZsM

BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER TAKES MEASURES AGAINST SMUGGLING
The director of the National Service for Combating Organized Crime (NSBOP), Rumen Milanov, on 5 June presented a report to the Interior Ministry leadership on the state and the problems of combating organized smuggling, BTA reported. The report outlined the main smuggling schemes and the consequences to the state. According to the report, the state lost more than $762,000 in potential taxes on goods smuggled into the country through the little-used Ruse border checkpoint over the last two months alone. Based on the findings of this report, the Interior Ministry proposed that urgent measures be taken to coordinate anti-smuggling efforts, which will involve all departments of the government. Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov said the NSBOP will set up a coordination center for combating smuggling, to be headed by Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Boyko Borisov. UB

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES BUDGET FRAMEWORK
The Bulgarian government on 6 June adopted the budget framework for the period 2003-05, BTA reported. As basic parameters of the budget, it is projected that the gross domestic product will grow by 4.5 percent annually, reaching $17.1 million in 2003, and by 5 percent in subsequent years, reaching $20 million in 2005. The planners made the budget calculations on the basis of an exchange rate of 2.2 leva to $1. The account deficit is planned to drop from 6 percent in 2003 to 4.7 percent in 2005. The government also plans to reduce the tax burden. In 2003, the profit tax will be 23.5 percent. It will then drop to 20 percent in 2004 and 15 percent in 2005. To reduce spending in the public sector, the state will withdraw from a number of spheres and give way to the private sector, a measure intended to strengthen the market economy. UB

TRIAL BALLOONS FLOATED IN BULGARIAN POLITICS
Rumen Ovcharov, the deputy chairman of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), on 6 June said he will propose that the BSP join the government at the upcoming party congress, BTA reported. He also said he has developed a strategy for how to put pressure on Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski's cabinet to accept the BSP as a coalition partner, stressing that the strategy reflects his personal opinion. "With this position, I want to provoke a discussion at the congress," Ovcharov said. In other news, a prominent parliamentarian of the conservative opposition coalition United Democratic Forces (ODS), Svetoslav Luchnikov, proposed that the ODS join a coalition with the ruling National Movement Simeon II (NDSV), under the precondition that the NDSV end its coalition with the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms as well as its cooperation with the Socialists. UB

There is no End Note today.


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