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Newsline - June 25, 2002


PUTIN SAYS ECONOMY IS FIRST PRIORITY...
Speaking at a major press conference involving 700 journalists from across the country on 24 June, President Vladimir Putin said that his administration's highest priority is the development of the economy and improving the standard of living for average Russians, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Putin also stressed the need to boost the country's national security and improve its image around the world. He added that Russia's foreign policy must reflect the possibilities of its economy. He said that in order to achieve his goals, he needs the consolidation of society and its support so that Russia can join the World Trade Organization (WTO) and fully enter into the globalized world economy. He said that he is seeking support across the political spectrum and does not intend to marginalize either the left, right, or the center. VY

...STRESSES THAT RUSSIA MUST JOIN WTO...
President Putin emphasized that Russia is now the only major country in the world that does not belong to the WTO, which comprises 95 percent of the global economy. He said that remaining outside the WTO "is both dangerous and stupid." Putin argued that in the near future, the WTO will be revising its regulations and standards. Therefore, he said, Russia must join quickly to make sure that its economic interests are considered. He also said that joining the WTO will impose global legal norms on Russia, enhancing its social, business, and political relations, as well as helping to combat organized crime. VY

...INSISTS ON ACCESS TO KALININGRAD...
Putin emphasized that his position on Kaliningrad has not changed since the European Union summit in Seville (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2002). He said that the EU's refusal to grant visa-free transit between the exclave and the rest of Russia would tear Kaliningrad away from Russia and "we will never agree to that." He reminded journalists that even during the Cold War, the Soviet Union provided unrestricted access between West Berlin and the West, and said he thinks that now an even better solution can be found to reflect the "new level of relations between Russian and the EU." VY

...ACKNOWLEDGES THAT NOT ALL CHECHENS ARE TERRORISTS...
In a clear differentiation between the Chechen field commanders still engaged in a guerrilla war against Russian forces and the civilian population, Putin remarked during his press conference: "As far as the negative image of Chechens is concerned, the Chechen people are not to blame for anything. I think this is the fault of the federal center that the Chechen people were left to the mercy of fate at some point [...] Our task is to destroy this image [of Chechens] as terrorists," RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. Putin said that the ongoing "sweep" operations in Chechnya must be ended as soon as police and legal system are strengthened, according to Interfax. Then, possibly at the end of this year, Putin continued, Chechnya could adopt a constitution. Politika Foundation President Vyacheslav Nikonov noted that Putin failed to rule out the possibility that Chechnya and Ingushetia might at some point again be merged into a single federation subject, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 14, 26 April 2002). LF

...AND REPEATS SKEPTICISM OF UNION WITH BELARUS
Putin reiterated his criticism of proposals presented by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka concerning integration of the two countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2002). He said that unification must proceed "unconditionally" on the basis of a single state with a single parliament and a single government. Lukashenka's draft of the Russia-Belarus Union Constitution preserves Belarus's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and its right of veto, all of which are unacceptable to Russia. According to Putin, Lukashenka proposed a union parliament made up of parliamentarians of two sovereign countries and, Putin argued, the decisions of such a body would not be implemented in either country. Putin stopped off in Minsk on 25 June for brief talks with Lukashenka on his way to attend a G-8 conference in Canada. VY

ANALYST CASTS LIGHT ON PUTIN'S UNION STATEMENTS
Sergei Markov, the director of the Institute of Political Research who is believed to have close ties to the Kremlin, said that Putin does not want to repeat the experience of the Soviet Union or have an autonomous entity within Russia that can threaten stability and sabotage joint decision-making, strana.ru reported on 24 June. Markov also argued that Putin's position gives support to the anti-Lukashenka opposition in Belarus. Previously, the opposition had criticized Lukashenka from an anti-Russian standpoint. Now, Markov argues, Putin's new position provides the political basis for a new kind of opposition that can criticize Lukashenka for resisting union with Russia. VY

PUTIN PUTS BLAME FOR WAGE, BENEFIT, AND PENSION ARREARS ON REGIONAL LEADERS...
In his press conference on 24 June, President Putin addressed a number of regional issues, Russian media reported. When asked about Moscow's confiscatory policies with regard to donor regions such as Yaroslavl, Putin noted that the "overwhelming majority of regions in Russia are recipients of aid and are economically insolvent." According to Putin, over the past 10 years, these regions "did not pay wages." "Pensions were not paid for months at a time," Putin continued. "Social benefit payments were not paid at all. They accumulated billions and billions in debts for child benefits and so on, which we are still trying to pay. What other operational decision can be taken now other than to redistribute these resources -- via the federal center." When asked about routine violations of election laws in the regions and the need to restore voters' faith in democratic institutions, Putin said that legislative improvements should make supervision of elections more effective and that this work on election legislation is already being done. JAC

...PROMISES TO LOOK INTO SIBERIAN GOVERNOR'S DISMISSAL OF PROSECUTORS
At the same press conference, Putin confessed that he knows nothing about a recent controversy involving Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Vladimir Butov, against whom a criminal case is pending. A journalist from that region told Putin that Butov recently fired three successive prosecutors: Each one was dismissed as soon as he began to investigate a criminal case pending against the governor and issue summonses to Butov for questioning. Putin promised to ask Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov to look into the situation. However, it was reported in April that Ustinov had already put the criminal investigation against Butov under his personal control (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 2002). JAC

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TELLS LEGISLATORS TO KEEP WORKING ON ELECTION LEGISLATION
The Constitutional Court has asked the Federal Assembly to reconsider several provisions of a new law on the basic guarantees of electoral rights that was passed by the State Duma last month, polit.ru reported on 24 June (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 30 May 2002). According to the website, the court ruled that the law should more precisely define indicators of "electoral agitation" and more fully regulate the issue of preparing national referendums. Meanwhile, for more than two months, the court has been preparing its decision on the legality of third terms for regional leaders, regions.ru reported on 24 June, citing "Novyi region." At his press conference the same day, Putin, when asked about whether governors have "a moral right" to a third term, said: "This is an age-old question about the relationship of morality and the law. If the Constitutional Court decides that governors have the right [to a third term,] then that will mean it is moral." JAC

MILITARY WILL RESPOND TO U.S. ABM WITHDRAWAL
General Nikolai Solovtsev, commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN), says his service is ready to respond to the U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, polit.ru reported on 24 June. Solovtsev said that the U.S. decision will certainly have an impact on the development of the RVSN and that a decision to prolong the service of multiple-warhead intercontinental missiles is now being finalized. He said that the RVSN hopes they can continue in service for another 10 to 15 years. Solovtsev said that among other measures under consideration is the deployment of the "Topol-M" ICBM. VY

MOSCOW POLICE GO AFTER ALLEGED RINGLEADER OF SOLNETSEVO GROUP
Officers of the Moscow Main Department for Combating Organized Crime of the Interior Ministry (MVD) searched the summer house of Sergei Mikhailov (aka "Mikhas"), who has long been believed to be the leader of the Solnetsevo organized-crime group, "Izvestiya" and other Russian media reported on 24 and 25 June. According to an MVD spokesman, the search was made in connection with an investigation into Mikhailov's possible involvement in the murders of two businessmen 10 years ago. Mikhas gained international prominence in 1996 when he was arrested in Switzerland for money laundering and running a criminal organization. However, at that time, Russian law enforcement refused to cooperate with Swiss investigators and a Swiss court eventually released him and paid him $530,000 compensation. He returned to Russia in 1998 as something of a hero in some circles. Mikhailov has stated repeatedly that he is just an ordinary businessman. VY

MESKHETIAN TURKS GO ON HUNGER STRIKE IN KUBAN...
Another 150 Meskhetian Turks have joined a hunger strike that was initiated by 26 families in Krasnodar Krai on 20 June, Interfax reported on 24 June. Yusuf Sarvarov, head of the Vatan international community of Meskhetian Turks, told the agency the Turks took this step because they have been deprived of their rights by local authorities to register at their place of residence, to register real-estate contracts, and most recently, they have been refused the right to lease farmland. According to the agency, there are about 20,000 Meskhetian Turks in the krai. Some analysts believe that pressure on the Turks has arisen in part because of the State Duma's consideration of legislation that would regulate the buying and selling of agricultural land; the Turks survive primarily by farming (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 10 June 2002). JAC

...AS ANOTHER COMMISSION ON MIGRATION POLICY FORMED
Meanwhile, one outcome of the recent emergency congress on migration policy in Russia was the announcement of the formation of a government commission on migration policy, "Vremya MN" reported on 22 June, quoting Federal Migration Service head Andrei Chernenko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2002). The commission will be composed of representatives of public organizations as well as scholars, such as Svetlana Gannushkina, head of the legal network Migration and Rights; Lidiya Grafova, chairwoman of the executive committee of the Forum for Migrant Organizations; and Valerii Tishkov, director of the Institute for Ethnology and Anthropology in Moscow. According to the daily, the commission will serve as a mechanism for providing for civilian input into the area of migration policy. However, Grafova was not optimistic about the new organization, noting that "such a commission was created three years ago" and has met only once. JAC

RUSSIA TO JOIN ANOTHER EUROPEAN ORGANIZATION?
In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 24 June, Aleksandr Nazarov, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug's representative to the Federation Council, explained why he will propose that Russia join the Northern Council -- an association of legislators from Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Finland -- at an upcoming PACE session. According to Nazarov, Russia needs to balance investment in its natural-resource sector in the Russian north from Korea, China, Japan, the United States, and Australia with investments from the European Union. In addition, according to Nazarov, Russia's dialogue with the countries of Northern Europe needs to be strengthened with relevant legislative acts. Already, some northern regions in Russia, such as Karelia, cooperate with the Northern Council. JAC

RUSSIAN COMMANDER CALLS FOR MORE BUT SELECTIVE 'SWEEPS'
Lieutenant General Vladimir Moltenskoi, who commands the combined federal forces in Chechnya, called on 24 June for continuing search operations, Interfax reported. But he added that in villages where the population has demonstrated its loyalty to the Russian-backed administration such "sweeps" will entail only passport checks, whereas in locations where Russian forces have been fired on the search will be more "rigorous." Meanwhile, Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Beslan Gantemirov was barred by Russian troops on 23 June from entering the village of Chechen-Aul where a search operation has been underway since 11 June, chechenpress.com reported on 25 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 18 June 2002). LF

CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD'S BODYGUARDS KILLED IN ASSAULT
Two members of administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov's bodyguard were killed when unknown assailants opened fire on their car in Grozny, Interfax reported on 24 June. Two other bodyguards were seriously wounded. LF

PROSECUTORS NAME KASPIISK BOMBERS
Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnikov said in Makhachkala on 24 June that police have identified 18 people responsible for the 9 May bombing in Kaspiisk that killed 45 people, and have arrested eight of them, Interfax reported. He confirmed that the attack was masterminded by Rappani Khalilov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 23 May 2002). LF

CORRECTION:
An item in the 24 June issue of "RFE/RL Newsline" entitled "Businessman's Brother Involved in Attempted Assassination of Moscow Deputy Mayor" incorrectly identified Salavat Dzhabrailov's relationship to businessman Umar Dzhabrailov. Salavat Dzhabrailov was Umar Dzhabrailov's first cousin.

CRITICISM MOUNTS OF ARMENIAN DRAFT BILL ON PARLIAMENT SANCTIONS
Viktor Dallakian, chairman of the Armenian parliament Committee on Legal Affairs, on 24 June criticized as "full of contradictions" the draft bill approved four days earlier by the Armenian government that would empower the parliament speaker to ban unruly deputies from the parliament chamber for up to 15 days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2002), RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He said that provision violates the existing parliament statutes. LF

ITALIAN ENVOY REMINDS ARMENIA OF COMMITMENTS TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE
Italian Ambassador to Armenia Paolo Andrea Trabalza reminded Prime Minister Andranik Markarian on 24 June that compliance with the commitments Armenia made when it was accepted in January 2001 into full membership of the Council of Europe is an essential precondition for Armenia's "rapid and unimpeded integration into the European family," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. It is not clear whether that admonishment was related to the approval by parliament last week of a law that would preserve the death penalty in exceptional circumstances, including for the five gunmen on trial for the October 1999 Armenian parliament shootings in which eight senior officials were killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2002). LF

ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SEES 'POSITIVE' ROLE FOR TURKEY
Vartan Oskanian told journalists on 24 June on his arrival in Istanbul that he believes Turkey can contribute to resolving conflicts in the South Caucasus, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. While ruling out Turkish mediation in the Karabakh conflict, Oskanian said that Turkey, "as an equal, responsible partner, has a role to play" in promoting regional stability. Oskanian also met in Istanbul on 24 June with the three co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group to review the Karabakh peace process, Noyan Tapan reported. He was to meet on 25 June on the sidelines of a Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) summit with his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem. LF

FORMER AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER EXPLAINS WHY HE RESIGNED
"Halq cebhesi" on 25 June quoted Tofik Zulfugarov as saying that he resigned as foreign minister in October 1999 because he could not agree to a territorial exchange in which Armenia would cede Meghri to Azerbaijan in exchange for the Lachin corridor, Turan reported. At the time, Zulfugarov said only that he disagreed with President Heidar Aliev's approach to resolving the Karabakh conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October 1999). Armenian officials have repeatedly denied that they ever discussed such a territorial exchange as part of a solution to the Karabakh conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February and 19 May 2000). LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT TERMS RUSSIAN COUNTERPART'S STATEMENT OFFENSIVE
In his comments to journalists in Moscow on 24 June (see "Russia" above), Russian President Vladimir Putin said that "no one, either the American Special Forces nor specially trained units of the Georgian military, can resolve the problem of terrorists in the Pankisi Gorge without the direct and active participation of Russian special forces," RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze commented in Tbilisi later on 24 June that while Georgia is prepared to accept Russian assistance in dealing with the presence in Pankisi of alleged terrorists, it will not agree to the deployment on its territory of Russian troops, Caucasus Press reported. Speaking on 25 June in Istanbul, where he is attending the BSEC summit, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze characterized Putin's statement that intervention in Pankisi is Russia's prerogative as offensive to the Georgian authorities, Caucasus Press reported. He repeated that Georgia rejected all earlier Russian proposals for joint action against the Chechen military presence in Pankisi because agreeing to such action would have drawn Georgia into the conflict between Russia and Chechnya. LF

BRITISH AMBASSADOR RULES OUT RANSOM FOR BUSINESSMAN KIDNAPPED IN GEORGIA
Meeting in Tbilisi on 24 June with Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze, Deborah Barnes Jones said that Britain will not pay a ransom to secure the release of businessman Peter Shaw, who was kidnapped in Tbilisi a week ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 June 2002), Caucasus Press reported. Also on 24 June, the Association of Bankers of Georgia released a statement in Tbilisi condemning the Georgian authorities' inability to protect either its citizens or persons working in the financial sector. They warned that crime and political instability in Georgia may negatively impact the investment climate. LF

PROTESTERS IN WESTERN GEORGIA DEMAND DISMISSAL OF LOCAL OFFICIALS
Residents of the Chkhorotsku and Abasha raions of western Georgia launched separate protests on 24 June to demand the resignation of local administrators, Caucasus Press reported. In Chkhorotsku some 400 people called for the dismissal of Aleko Pertaya, a member of the former ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia, whom President Shevardnadze named district administrator two years ago. Pertaya is suspected of having embezzled 300,000 laris ($135,000) intended to pay residents' pensions. In Abasha, some 300 residents set out to march to the regional center, Zugdidi, to protest the appointment as local administrator of Soso Chanturia, who was stripped of his mandate as parliament deputy for Abasha by the Georgian Constitutional Court last year. Police prevented the marchers from entering Zugdidi to picket the regional administration building, after which they blocked the main Zugdidi-Tbilisi highway, according to "Alia" on 25 June. LF

FORMER GEORGIAN MINISTER'S APARTMENT RANSACKED
Unknown perpetrators have broken into and ransacked the Tbilisi apartment of Guram Absandze, who served as finance minister under former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Caucasus Press reported on 25 June. The intruders failed to steal jewelry and a video camera. Absandze was sentenced last year on charges of embezzlement and trying in 1993 to secure Gamsakhurdia's return to power, but was pardoned in April by President Shevardnadze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2001 and 22 April 2002). He is currently in Moscow trying to find sponsors prepared to fund his new political party, the Union for National Reconciliation. LF

TRIAL OF FORMER KAZAKH MINISTER OPENS IN ASTANA
Former Energy, Industry, and Trade Minister Mukhtar Abliyazov went on trial in Astana on 24 June on charges of abuse of his official position while serving as head of the country's power grid, Russian agencies reported. Journalists were allowed to attend the trial but forbidden to film or tape-record the proceedings, according to "Vremya novostei" on 25 June. Abliyazov, who last fall cofounded the opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan, claims that the charges against him are politically motivated. His attorneys appealed to the judge to appoint new prosecutors, as those in charge of the case are "biased;" to allow new witnesses to give evidence; and to release Abliyazov on bail for the duration of the trial. At the personal initiative of its Chairman Akezhan Kazhegeldin, the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan has formed a monitoring group that will relay to the international community details of the trial proceedings, according to forumkz.org on 25 June. LF

KYRGYZ OFFICIALS CONTINUE TO ACCUSE OPPOSITION...
Addressing a government session in Bishkek on 24 June, Kyrgyzstan's Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev said the country is "on the verge of clashes between our fellow citizens," Reuters reported. He said unnamed "political forces" are seeking to provoke a confrontation between the authorities and the police on the one hand, and supporters of parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov on the other. First Deputy Prime Minister Kurmanbek Osmanov for his part characterized the situation in Osh, the country's second-largest city, as "extremely complex" and "tense." Hundreds of supporters of Beknazarov arrived at the outskirts of Osh from Djalalabad on 23 June. Osmanov warned they could "enter the city at any moment and provoke mass disturbances," ITAR-TASS reported. LF

...WHO REJECT PROPOSED AMNESTY FOR THOSE INVOLVED IN AKSY CLASHES
Also on 24 June, Tanaev said the government has drafted and will submit to parliament a draft law that would grant an amnesty to all persons who participated in the clashes between police and Beknazarov's supporters in Aksy Raion on 17-18 March, Reuters reported. That amnesty would presumably apply both to protesters charged with injuring police or damaging official property during the clashes, and district officials and police who condoned and resorted to the use of firearms against the demonstrators. Beknazarov on 24 June said he rejects the draft amnesty, as it would exonerate "those who shot at the opposition," Reuters reported. Human rights activist Tolekan Ismailova similarly said that no amnesty should be granted to those responsible for the deaths of five protesters during the Aksy clashes, Interfax reported. LF

KYRGYZ, CHINESE PRESIDENTS SIGN FRIENDSHIP TREATY
Visiting Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev and his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin signed a treaty on friendship and cooperation in Beijing on 24 June, Russian agencies reported. According to Interfax on 21 June, that treaty defines the border between the two countries as "one of eternal friendship." Beginning in June 2001, the Kyrgyz parliament repeatedly objected to amendments signed in 1999 by Jiang and Akaev to an earlier border treaty because those amendments ceded large tracts of Kyrgyz territory to China. Parliament finally ratified those amendments last month, triggering widespread public protests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 17 May 2002). Also signed in Beijing on 24 June was a package of intergovernmental agreements. LF

CHARGES AGAINST TAJIK JOURNALIST DROPPED
The Tajik Prosecutor General's Office has dropped the criminal case first opened in 1993 against Dododjon Atovulloev, editor of the opposition newspaper "Charoghi ruz," Interfax reported on 21 June. The original charges against Atovulloev were dropped after the civil war ended in 1997, but were revived last year in connection with his criticism of the country's present leadership. Atovulloev said he may soon return to Tajikistan from Germany, where he has been living for over a year. LF

POLISH DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS UZBEKISTAN
During a two-day visit to Tashkent on 22-23 June, Jerzy Szmajdzinski co-signed with his Uzbek counterpart Kadyr Gulyamov an agreement on bilateral military cooperation, Interfax and uza.uz reported. Szmajdzinski also met with Uzbekistan's Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov. LF

BELARUSIAN JOURNALISTS SENTENCED TO 'RESTRICTION OF FREEDOM' FOR LIBELING LUKASHENKA
A district court in Hrodna on 24 June sentenced Mikola Markevich to 2 1/2 years and Pavel Mazheyka to two years of "restriction of freedom," finding them guilty of slandering President Alyaksandr Lukashenka during the 2001 presidential election campaign in their weekly "Pahonya," which was closed by a court verdict in November 2001, Belarusian and international media reported. The verdict means that the journalists will not be placed in a regular prison but will have to live in guarded barracks, work at a factory or on a collective farm, and return to the barracks each day at an appointed time. Both journalists said their punishment is politically motivated and that they plan to appeal. The trial, viewed by many as another step by the Lukashenka regime to destroy the independent media and curb the freedom of expression in the country, was attended by diplomats from the U.S., British, German, French, and Polish embassies in Belarus as well as OSCE representatives. JM

BELARUSIAN POLITICIANS REACT TO RUSSIA'S 'SINGLE-COUNTRY,' 'EU' OPTIONS FOR INTEGRATION WITH BELARUS
Syarhey Kastsyan, a lawmaker of Belarus's Chamber of Representatives, said on 24 June that Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal earlier the same day that Russia and Belarus form a "single state" with one government and one parliament (see "Russia") is unacceptable, Belapan reported. Kastsyan went on to accuse Putin of acting in the interests of "the Jewish lobby" who, he argued, "get their orders from Washington." Social Democratic Party leader Mikalay Statkevich said Putin's recent pronouncements on integration with Belarus mean that the Russian leader wants "to brush off the annoying integrationist." According to Statkevich, Lukashenka will push for adopting a constitutional act of the Belarus-Russia Union as a pretext for holding a national referendum in which the president will "squeeze in a question about removing restrictions on the length of his presidency." Meanwhile, Belarus's Liberal Democratic Party leader Syarhey Haydukevich commented that by proposing either a "single-state" or "EU" model for integration with Belarus, Putin "saves Belarus's sovereignty." JM

UKRAINE EXPECTS TO JOIN PROGRAM FOR ACHIEVING NATO MEMBERSHIP...
Serhiy Pyrozhkov, the first deputy secretary of the Council of National Security and Defense, told a seminar in Kyiv on 24 June that during the NATO summit in Prague in November Ukraine expects to sign a document on joining a program that would facilitate the country's future NATO membership, UNIAN reported. According to Pyrozhkov, the alliance is proposing a document that specifies political, economic, defense, security, and legislative measures to be taken by Ukraine on its path toward NATO membership. JM

...PLANS TO REOPEN TALKS ON RUSSIA'S BLACK SEA FLEET
Pyrozhkov also noted that Ukraine's bid to join NATO may be hindered by the presence of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, AP reported. He announced that Kyiv is going to reopen talks with Moscow on a 20-year lease now in effect dividing the port at Sevastopol between the Ukrainian and Russian Black Sea Fleets. "Ukraine needs to determine the status of [Russia's] Black Sea Fleet base because NATO criteria say that countries with foreign military on their territory may not be members of the alliance," Pyrozhkov explained. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CONFIDENT ABOUT GUAM FUTURE
Following a meeting with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze in Istanbul on 25 June, Leonid Kuchma said the GUAM interstate union (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) "has prospects" for development, UNIAN reported. Earlier this month Uzbekistan announced that it was leaving GUUAM owing to lack of progress in its activities, thus reducing the union of five countries to that of four. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko said in Istanbul that a GUAM summit will take place in Yalta on 19-20 July. He noted that Uzbekistan has not abandoned GUAM altogether. "[Uzbekistan] wants to participate in certain [GUAM] measures linked to economy and combating terrorism," Zlenko said. JM

ESTONIAN PRESIDENT STRESSES NEED TO INCLUDE ALL PEOPLE IN STATE DEFENSE
In a speech at the Victory Day military parade in Polva on 23 June, Arnold Ruutel stressed the importance of Estonia gaining membership in NATO and the need to involve the entire population in building up state defense, ETA reported. He said that NATO membership is clearly the top priority of the country's security policy and is the unconditional focus of Estonia's foreign policy. Ruutel said a decisive condition for military state defense is the willingness to defend, which can be guaranteed only by the inclusion of the entire society in building up state defense. Recent public polls indicated that 80 percent of Estonian men are willing to participate in state-defense activities. SG

2006 WORLD ICE HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP IN LATVIA IN DOUBT
Latvian Ice Hockey Federation President Kirovs Lipmans told LETA on 24 June that the uncertainty over the construction of a new ice hockey arena in Riga is hampering the organization of the 2006 World Ice Hockey Championship in Latvia. He said Latvia will have to report on preparatory work for the championship to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) in September, and that if no progress is made by then it will be difficult to demonstrate Latvia's ability to organize the event. The agreement Latvia signed with the IIHF on 15 October 2001 to host the 2006 championship specifically stipulated that a new ice arena be built. The initial selection of a company to construct the arena was canceled in May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May 2002) and no new investors have come forward. Lipmans said that an essential problem was the failure of the Riga City Council to offer a site for the construction of the arena. SG

LITHUANIA, ARMENIA SIGN DEFENSE-COOPERATION AGREEMENT
Armenian President Robert Kocharian began his official two-day visit to Lithuania with a meeting with President Valdas Adamkus on 24 June, ELTA reported. The presidents discussed various topics, including cooperation in the fields of culture, education, and tourism; the need to increase bilateral trade; and Lithuania sharing with Armenia its experiences in seeking European Union and NATO membership. They participated at the signing of a defense-cooperation agreement by Lithuanian Deputy Defense Minister Povilas Malakauskas and his Armenian counterpart Michael Grigorian. Adamkus said the agreement will lay the groundwork for future cooperation, after which "the countries would seek points of convergence to benefit common work." Kocharian also held talks with Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas and toured the Old Town of Vilnius. On 25 June, Kocharian visited parliament and with its Chairman Arturas Paulauskas opened an exhibition of Armenian art and Lithuanian and Armenian literature translations. SG

POLISH PREMIER REJECTS GERMAN DEMAND ON POSTWAR EXPULSION DECREES
Premier Leszek Miller on 24 June rejected a demand for annulling all legal acts concerning the postwar expropriation and resettling of Germans, PAP reported. Such a move on the part of Poland and the Czech Republic was demanded the previous day by Edmund Stoiber, the CDU/CSU candidate for German chancellor. "We do not allow for putting an equation mark between the so-called Benes expulsion decrees and the situation that had taken place in Poland," Miller said. Miller stressed that decisions on resettling people from the territories that were incorporated into Poland after World War II were taken by the antifascist coalition. He said those decisions did not concern Polish citizens, but Germans, and added that the legal situation in Poland is completely different from that in the Czech Republic. JM

POLISH SENATE AMENDMENT TO LOCAL ELECTION LAW RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL
The Constitutional Tribunal on 24 June ruled that the introduction by the Senate of an amendment to the law on local elections under which the d'Hondt system would be used (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March 2002) was unconstitutional, PAP reported. The d'Hondt system for calculating seat allocations favors large parties. It was contested in the tribunal by three opposition parties and the Peasant Party, which is in the ruling coalition with the Social Democratic Alliance. JM

SELF-DEFENSE WANTS TO TAKE POWER IN POLAND
"It is the beginning of a wave of protests that should bring us to our goal of taking power in Poland," Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper said on 24 June, commenting on the countrywide protests that were to take place on 25 June against economic hardships and poverty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2002). According to PAP, Lepper assured journalists that Self-Defense wants to gain power by democratic means. The leftist National Trade Union Alliance was planning to hold separate protests the same day. JM

U.S. JUDGE REJECTS JEWISH PROPERTY RESTITUTION ACTION AGAINST POLAND
Federal Judge Edward Korman has thrown out a class-action lawsuit by 11 former Jewish owners of real estate in Poland and their heirs against the Polish government demanding the return of confiscated properties, AP and PAP reported on 24 June. The judge found that international law bars the plaintiffs from suing a foreign government in a U.S. court even though their claim may be valid. The lawsuit, filed in 1999, provoked harsh reactions in Poland because of its wording that accused the Polish state of appropriating "substantially all the assets" of Poland's 3 million Jews (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 10 August 1999). JM

CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER HOSPITALIZED
Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Vaclav Klaus was hospitalized on 24 June, CTK reported. Klaus was reportedly suffering from vertigo resulting from swelling of the inner ear. He is expected to be hospitalized for several days. MS

CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS, COALITION NEGOTIATORS SAY AGREEMENT IS 'POSSIBLE'
Following a four-hour meeting at which they discussed the government program drafted by the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) negotiating team, the sides said an agreement on a coalition is "possible," CTK reported. The CSSD and the representatives of the Coalition --which includes the Christian Democratic Union (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU) -- told journalists a tripartite team of experts will begin drafting the program of the envisaged coalition, including the distribution of posts in the newly elected Chamber of Deputies. The tripartite team is formed by Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD), Jan Kasal (KDU-CSL), and Karel Kuehnl (US-DEU). But KDU-CSL Chairman Cyril Svoboda and US-DEU Chairwoman Hana Marvanova said they have some objections to the CSSD-drafted document. Marvanova, Svoboda, and Prime Minister-designate Vladimir Svoboda are to resume negotiations on the final wording of the program on 29 June. MS

CZECH COALITION WANTS CSSD TO RULE OUT COOPERATION WITH COMMUNISTS
The KDU-CSL is demanding that the CSSD guarantee that it will not enlist the support of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) deputies to bypass the Coalition in contentious votes, CTK reported on 24 June, quoting KDU-CSL parliamentary deputy Robert Kolar. For its part, the CSSD has let Coalition leaders know that it would under no circumstances accept US-DEU Deputy Chairman Ivan Pilip as a member of the next government, according to CTK. Coalition representatives often mentioned Pilip as a possible candidate for finance minister, but CSSD Deputy Chairman Zdenek Skromach said on 24 June that "someone who did not win a seat in the Chamber of Deputies [as Pilip failed to do] cannot be in the government." Pilip himself said a junior coalition partner has little chance of getting the finance portfolio. MS

CZECH OPPOSITION PARTY PICKS UP PRAGUE MAYORAL CANDIDATE
The ODS Prague city councilors group on 24 June nominated Igor Nemec for the post of Prague mayor, CTK reported. A former parliamentary deputy and member of the Klaus-led cabinet (1991-1996), Nemec is to seek the office following the resignation of Jan Kasl as Prague mayor earlier this month. Nemec has been a consistent opponent of Kasl since the latter became mayor in 1998. Nemec was born in 1959 and studied mathematics at Charles University in Prague. MS

ZELEZNY TO BECOME SLOVAK SUBSIDIARY COMPANY'S DIRECTOR
Embattled Nova TV Director Vladimir Zelezny, who was recently dismissed from his post (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 June 2002), is to become director general of Nova TV's Slovak subsidiary, TV Joj, CTK reported on 24 June, citing the daily "Lidove noviny." MS

TWO-THIRDS OF CZECHS BELIEVE KSCM IS NOT DEMOCRATIC...
According to a TNS Factum poll published on 24 June in the daily "Hospodarske noviny," two-thirds of Czechs believe the KSCM is not a democratic party, CTK reported. Nonetheless, about half of the respondents said they can imagine a government with KSCM participation. Forty percent of those polled said they can envisage the KSCM being given leading positions in the Chamber of Deputies. MS

...AND OVER 70 PERCENT AGAINST ABOLITION OF BENES DECREES
Seventy-one percent of Czechs believe the Benes Decrees must not be abolished and only 4 percent would back such a step, according to a CVVM poll cited by CTK on 24 June. One in four Czechs (25 percent) cannot say whether the decrees should be abolished or not. The proportion of those opposing the abolition has risen by four percentage points since March. Nearly two in three Czechs (64 percent) are of the opinion that the deportation of the German minority under the 1945 decrees was just, while 22 percent are of the opposite view. Compared with last year, public approval for the deportation has significantly increased by 17 percentage points. MS

CZECH PRESIDENT REJECTS ALLEGATIONS ON EMPLOYING ETHNIC HUNGARIAN 'SLAVE LABORERS'...
Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek on 24 June rejected as "absolute nonsense" allegations that following World War II the family of President Vaclav Havel employed ethnic Hungarian "slave laborers" expelled from southern Slovakia under the Benes Decrees, CTK reported. The allegations were included in an open letter sent to Havel by the World Federation of Hungarians, which quoted a woman from Kamenin claiming that her family and three other people were sent to work on the Havel family's lands as "war criminals." Spacek added that it would be important to find out what purpose the open letter serves. In the open letter, World Federation of Hungarians Chairman Miklos Patrubany called on Havel to abolish the decrees and compensate victims for their suffering and loss of properties. MS

...AND EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT HOLDS HEARING ON SLOVAK CONFISCATION OF HUNGARIAN PROPERTIES
At a hearing of the European Parliament on the confiscation of Hungarian properties under the Benes Decrees and their consequences, ethnic Hungarian representatives complained about discrimination in property restitution in Slovakia, CTK reported. They complained that while restitution was implemented under a 1990 law, Hungarians who had their properties confiscated as a result of the decrees did not benefit from the right to reclaim their assets. Calvinist Church representative Geza Erdely said that while the Roman Catholic and Evangelical churches were returned properties confiscated by the communists, his church has not received any of the properties confiscated under the Benes Decrees, despite many complaints. Erdely said the only reason for this situation was that 90 percent of Slovakia's Calvinists are ethnic Hungarians. MS

SLOVAK PRESIDENT AGREES TO TRANSPORT MINISTER'S DISMISSAL
President Rudolf Schuster on 24 June accepted Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's demand that Transport Minister Jozef Macejko be fired, CTK reported. Deputy Premier Ivan Miklos will act as interim transport minister until the appointment of a successor. Schuster made his decision after meeting with Macejko, who said that he is "grateful" that the president has listened to his arguments and added that, "if I had to do it over again I would act in the same manner." Macejko's dismissal comes after he questioned a tender in which Slovak Railways purchased 35 locomotives, opting for an offer that was more expensive than that of another bidder. Dzurinda's brother, an official with Slovak Railways, was a member of the tender's commission. The same day, the Dzurinda-led Slovak Democratic and Christian Union decided to strike Macejko's name from the lists of its candidates in the September parliamentary elections, according to the prime minister. MS

HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION TABLE SECRET SERVICE BILLS
The governing Socialist-Free Democrat coalition and the opposition parties FIDESZ and the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) submitted to parliament on 24 June two competing motions to amend the act on secret services (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2002), Hungarian media reported. FIDESZ Chairman Zoltan Pokorni told journalists that the most essential element of the opposition motion is that it would establish a conflict of interest for ex-secret agents such as Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy. If the motion were passed by parliament, according to Pokorni, Medgyessy would not be eligible for the post of prime minister. Under the bill submitted by the governing coalition, a fact-finding committee set up within the prime minister's office would replace the judges now tasked with screening potential holders of public office. MSZ

HUNGARIAN PRESIDENT SIGNALS INTEREST IN MEDGYESSY AFFAIR
FIDESZ Chairman Zoltan Pokorni initiated a meeting with President Ferenc Madl on 24 June to discuss Medgyessy's past service in counterintelligence, Hungarian media reported. Pokorni told Madl that Medgyessy's past constitutes a moral burden at a time when Hungary seeks European Union accession. After the meeting, the president's office issued a terse statement saying that, "in view of the moral issues related to the case, the president finds it justifiable to personally gather information from the leaders of the parliamentary parties and the prime minister." Madl expects to consult all parliamentary party leaders this week and will receive Medgyessy on 28 June. Under the constitution, the president can only remove the prime minister by dissolving parliament. However, that step cannot be taken unless parliament withdraws its confidence from the government at least four times in one year. Government spokesman Zoltan Gal said that following an unsuccessful opposition attempt to discredit Medgyessy, FIDESZ's "desperate and bitter yearning for power" may put the nonpartisan president into a "disagreeable position." MS

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION SEEKS INQUIRY INTO MEDGYESSY'S PAST
The MDF, backed by FIDESZ, submitted a motion to parliament on 24 June to establish an investigative commission in order to clear up Medgyessy's past, "Nepszabadsag" reported. MDF parliamentary group leader Istvan Balsai and party Chairwoman Ibolya David reasoned that the commission is necessary because of the prime minister's admission last week that he worked as a counterintelligence officer from 1977-82. Under the motion, the commission would be tasked with determining if, in addition to the documents already made public, other documents exist pertaining to Medgyessy's past. The commission would also examine how the premier became a secret-service officer, the criteria used to select and employ him for the job, what his exact duties were, who received his reports, and what the reports contained. The commission would be composed of eight people, including three Socialists and three FIDESZ representatives, and one person each from the MDF and the Free Democrats. Its chairman would come from the opposition. MSZ

EU HAS NO INTENTION OF INTERVENING IN MEDGYESSY AFFAIR
Jean Christophe Filori, the European Commission's spokesman for expansion matters, said in Brussels on 24 June that Hungary's democracy is stable, and therefore it is solely a matter for Hungarians as to how they treat the issue of Prime Minister Medgyessy's past, Budapest dailies reported. The European Commission has no stance on the matter, added Filori. The spokesman also ruled out as "lacking interest" a report in the German magazine "Der Spiegel." The report quoted an EU source as saying that the Hungarian governing coalition's decision to support Medgyessy "raised a few eyebrows" at the recent EU summit in Seville. Meanwhile, "Der Spiegel" confirmed the EU's alleged apprehension concerning Medgyessy, but admitted that its report does not represent an official position. MSZ

OSCE HIGH COMMISSIONER IN BUDAPEST
Rolf Ekeus, the OSCE high commissioner on national minorities, held talks in Budapest on 24 June with Istvan Szent-Ivanyi, the Free Democrat Chairman of the parliament's Integration Commission, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. Szent-Ivanyi said that Ekeus mostly sought to understand the Hungarian position regarding minorities, and called for changes to the relevant law in order to harmonize it with European standards. Ekeus also discussed Hungary's "status law" with Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Szabo, political state secretary at the prime minister's office. The Hungarian officials said the country has a vested interest in helping ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries remain in their homeland and in meeting the expectations of the Venice Commission. Ekeus said he hopes that a solution to these issues can be found as soon as possible. MSZ

ALBANIAN EX-GENERAL BECOMES PRESIDENT...
Alfred Moisiu won 97 out of 140 potential presidential votes in the parliament on 24 June and will succeed Rexhep Meidani in the country's highest office in July, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2002). Media reports about Moisiu's biography differ as to the details, but he is a career military man who was trained in the Soviet Union and held top positions in both the communist and the postcommunist eras. Moisiu told Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service shortly before his election that he will not allow any political pressure from any source to interfere with or influence his work. He stressed that he makes a practice of not interfering in other people's work and of not tolerating any interference in his own. He said he sees his election as the beginning of a new era in Albanian politics, one in which European norms will prevail over polarization. PM

...AS DOUBTS REMAIN ABOUT HIS QUALIFICATIONS
In London on 25 June, "The Independent" wrote that some observers believe that Moisiu is not qualified for the post and will be a puppet of the political bosses. Political commentator Fatos Lubonja accused unnamed Westerners who worked behind the scenes for a consensus of being shortsighted. "A compromise candidate can make a good umbrella but a bad roof," he noted. Other observers suggest that Moisiu was elected because he is one of the few public personalities acceptable to all major political parties and because he is regarded as having the necessary contacts to facilitate Albania's admission to the European Union and NATO. Instrumental behind the negotiations leading up to Moisiu's selection were Doris Pack, who is a member of the European Parliament from Germany and long active in Albanian affairs, and OSCE Ambassador to Albania Geert-Hinrich Ahrens. PM

YUGOSLAV GENERAL BECOMES EX-CHIEF OF STAFF...
President Vojislav Kostunica issued a decree on 24 June sacking General Nebojsa Pavkovic as chief of the General Staff and replacing him with General Branko Krga, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2002). Kostunica issued the decree after the Supreme Military Council refused to sack Pavkovic, who has support among some of Kostunica's political rivals and within the military. Kostunica said that the sacking proves that civilians control the military and that no officer or the army is superior to the state. Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic hailed the move as "the beginning of changes in the Yugoslav Army," AP reported. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, however, said that Kostunica "will have to take responsibility for the consequences" of his decision. Djindjic did not elaborate. PM

...BUT HE WILL NOT GO QUIETLY...
General Pavkovic said before his firing that "some elements of the American administration" wanted him out, "Vesti" reported on 25 June. He also warned that use of "undemocratic" procedures to oust him could lead to "complete destabilization" within the country. After Kostunica issued his decree, Pavkovic said the president treated him like "the greatest scum in the state," adding that he refuses to accept the sacking and will fight it by political means, AP and Reuters reported. The general said that unnamed persons close to Kostunica had played a role in the president's decision, which Pavkovic called Kostunica's "own initiative," without any institutional backing, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. In Podgorica, "Vijesti" wrote that there is "confusion in Belgrade" and that "nobody knows who's in charge" of the army. But Reuters reported from the Serbian capital that there is "no sign of political turmoil," and that Kostunica met on 25 June with military leaders. PM

...AND THE NEW COMMANDER PROMISES TO DO HIS DUTY
Following his appointment by Kostunica on 24 June to head the General Staff, General Krga said in Belgrade: "The Yugoslav Army is a serious institution respecting the laws and the constitution. No individual, whether it's a ranking officer or a soldier, can rise against the army as an institution or the state," Reuters reported. Krga added that he believes that the army shares his opinion. In firing Pavkovic, Kostunica said, "However great Pavkovic's merits may be -- and they cannot be disputed by any means -- the army now needs skills of a different kind," "The New York Times" reported. By that Kostunica presumably meant adapting the army to NATO standards under civilian leadership, which is the main precondition Belgrade must meet if it intends to meet its goal of joining the Partnership for Peace program. That will likely be Krga's main task. PM

HAGUE UNLIKELY TO RELEASE TWO TOP SERBIAN INDICTEES
The war crimes tribunal is reluctant to honor requests by former Serbian Prime Minister and Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic and former Defense Minister General Dragoljub Ojdanic to return to Serbia until their trials begin in The Hague, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 24 June. The Belgrade authorities have given the tribunal assurances that the two will return when their respective trials begin, but Carla Del Ponte, who is the chief prosecutor, said Belgrade does not cooperate fully with the tribunal. Ojdanic made it clear when he voluntarily went to The Hague in April that a major incentive for him to do so was the prospect of being allowed to await his trial at home in Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 April 2002). PM

MONTENEGRO'S STRANGE BEDFELLOWS TO CONSUMMATE RELATIONSHIP
The pro-Belgrade Together for Yugoslavia coalition accepted an offer by the pro-independence Liberal Alliance (LSCG) to share power in five municipalities, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Podgorica on 25 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2002). The coalition also suggested that the LSCG consider cooperating with it in the capital as well. PM

LORD ROBERTSON HAS MIXED MESSAGE FOR CROATIA...
After speaking with President Stipe Mesic, NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said in Zagreb on 24 June that "Croatia has made great progress. The country is a highly responsible factor for stability and security in this part of the world," dpa reported. Robertson added, however, that Croatia should not expect an invitation to join NATO at the Atlantic alliance's summit in Prague in November. "I will be brutally open, because nobody else will: Croatia has still a lot to do to meet criteria that would qualify the country to enter NATO. With a politicized army, [Croatia] will never become a NATO member." PM

...AS NATO CHANGES PRIORITIES IN THE BALKANS
Addressing a two-day conference on regional stability in Zagreb on 24 June, Robertson said that NATO's priority in the Balkans has shifted from peacekeeping to crime control, AP reported. He noted that "slowly but surely, a region once notorious for brutal conflict is enjoying deepening stability and developing democracy." Robertson added, however, that "despite the achievements...there is still much to be done -- first and foremost by regional governments. They are primarily responsible for getting their house in order, offering their populations a better future, and anchoring their countries in the Euro-Atlantic community." Robertson added that NATO wants to stop the cross-border flow of drugs, people, and weapons. He emphasized, however, that the regional governments themselves must uproot the criminal gangs behind the illicit trade. PM

ASHDOWN SACKS MUSLIM MAYOR
Paddy Ashdown, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, fired Kemal Terzic as mayor of Donji Vakuf for obstructing the return of non-Muslim refugees and displaced persons, "Oslobodjenje" reported from Sarajevo on 25 June. Ashdown noted that Terzic felt that he was protecting Muslim interests by blocking the return of Serbs. But in reality, Terzic was hurting Muslim interests because Muslims cannot return to their homes in Srebrenica, Bratunac, and elsewhere in the Republika Srpska before the Serbs now living in those homes go back to their former dwellings in places like Donji Vakuf, Ashdown continued. He stressed that obstructionism like that displayed by Terzic cannot be tolerated. Terzic belongs to the nationalist Party of Democratic Action (SDA). PM

MACEDONIAN POLICE ARREST 30 AFTER VIOLENCE AT ANTIVIOLENCE MEETING
Police detained 30 persons after a brawl broke out in Ohrid on 23 June at the close of a three-day program aimed at stopping soccer violence, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 2002). It is not clear exactly what touched off the dining-room melee at the close of what had been a peaceful gathering. PM

ROMANIAN PREMIER STARTS CHINA VISIT...
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, at the head of a large Romanian delegation, started a six-day visit to China on 25 June, Romanian radio reported. Nastase met with Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and said he is honored to be the first Romanian premier to visit the province after its return to Chinese sovereignty, the more so as the fifth anniversary of that return is to be soon marked in Hong Kong. Nastase said he is personally a "great admirer" of Hong Kong as a powerful economic and financial center, and that Romania is following with great interest the "democratic reforms" in the province. He called on local businessmen to invest in his country. During his visit, Nastase will meet with Prime Minister Zhu Rongji and President Jiang Zemin. MS

...ISSUES STATEMENT ON 'STATUS LAW'
In an official communique issued on 24 June, Nastase said Romania has "analyzed" the implementation of the accord reached last December between himself and former Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban and, "following a process of reflection," the country has concluded that "in order to prevent a selective implementation" of the agreement, it is necessary to call a meeting of the two countries' joint Commission on National Minorities. Nastase added that the Hungarian side "fully accepts" the validity of the memorandum of understanding reached in December, as well as the "necessity to amend" the so-called "status law." He said Bucharest welcomes this attitude but considers it necessary to establish a "precise calendar." He also said the implementation of the memorandum and the amendment of the law must continue to follow the guidelines of the European Council's Venice Commission, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the European Commission, and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities. MS

FORMER ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SAYS SECURITATE AGENTS RETURNED TO GOVERNMENT
Former President Emil Constantinescu said on 24 June that the government has brought back to official structures former Securitate agents who were fired during his own 1996-2000 tenure as president, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Constantinescu said these former agents are now working for the executive or are members of the parliament. He addressed a forum of journalists who work for Romanian-language media at home or abroad. AP quoted former Constantinescu aide Marius Oprea, who recently published a book on the Securitate, as saying that some 10 high-ranking officers and "many more of lower rank" have been rehired under the Nastase cabinet's tenure and now work in the Justice and Industry ministries, the prime minister's office, or in the Romanian Intelligence Service and Foreign Intelligence Service. MS

STOLOJAN 'ABOUT TO QUIT' ROMANIAN LIBERAL PARTY
In an interview with the private Antena 1 channel on 24 June, National Liberal Party (PNL) National Council Chairman Theodor Stolojan said he is "very close to leaving the party," Mediafax reported. Stolojan said that in view of the recent rift in the PNL he has "lost confidence in the liberal project." He said he does not intend to join another political formation and intends to work as a private business consultant and teach university courses. "I need some time off from politics," he said. The former premier reiterated that he will not accept the offer of becoming PNL chairman because "the PNL is no longer ruled by personal opinions and respect, but only by interests." Stolojan repeated that he is opposed to removing PNL Chairman Valeriu Stoica from his office and cannot continue cooperation with people who "do not respect the rules of the game." On Stoica rival Dinu Patriciu, Stolojan said he does not believe one can "at one and the same time, be successful in business [as Patriciu is], and be also a political party leader." MS

MOLDOVAN PPCD DEPUTY THANKS PACE FOR SUPPORT
Addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg on 24 June, Popular Party Christian Democratic Deputy Chairman Vlad Cubreacov thanked the assembly for its support during the period of his still-unclarified kidnapping, Flux reported. Cubreacov said he will not disclose details about the affair lest he hinder the Moldovan authorities' investigation. He added that the Communist authorities in his country have prevented him from attending PACE sessions for more than one year. MS

GERMAN EQUIPMENT FOR MUNITIONS DECOMMISSIONING ARRIVES IN MOLDOVA
German-made equipment for the decommissioning of the obsolete Russian ammunition at the Kolbasna arsenal in the Transdniester has arrived in Moldova, Flux reported on 24 June, quoting OSCE spokesman Matti Sidoroff. U.S.-made equipment has already arrived, but Sidoroff said he does not know when the Transdniester authorities will allow the transportation of that equipment to Kolbasna. Russian-made equipment designed for the same purpose is still to reach the region and Sidoroff said its arrival depends on the agreement yet to be reached between Russia and the separatist authorities. In all, some 27,000 tons of ammunition stockpiled at Kolbasna are to be destroyed in line with the decisions of the 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT PROMULGATES NEW CIVIC CODE
President Vladimir Voronin on 24 June signed into law the country's new Civic Code, which replaces the 1964 Civic Code of the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic, Infotag reported. The parliament has adopted the new code in line with the leadership's commitments to international financial organizations, particularly the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The new code comes into force on 1 January 2003. The parliament has asked the government to submit by that date proposals on bringing current legislation into line with the stipulations of the new code and to nullify government ordinances contradicting its articles. MS

INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY BEGINS SAFETY REVIEW OF BULGARIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on 24 June at the request of the government began a safety-review mission for the 440-megawatt blocks No. 3 and No. 4 of the Kozloduy nuclear-power plant, BTA reported. The government seeks a positive international assessment of the safety of the units, which have been modernized in recent years. The European Commission recently urged Bulgaria to decommission the blocks in question by 2006. The Bulgarian government, however, plans to extend the lifespan of the blocks as long as possible. UB

NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN THE CASE OF BULGARIAN MEDICS IN LIBYA
In an interview with BBC's Bulgarian Service, Seif Islam, the son of the Libyan dictator Muammar Ghadaffi, said HIV infections at a Libyan hospital blamed on Bulgarian medical workers were not the result of a conspiracy, but of incompetence, Bulgarian media reported. Libyan authorities in late 1998 and early 1999 arrested a group of 23 Bulgarian medical workers on charges of intentionally infecting some 400 Libyan children with the HIV virus. Six Bulgarian nationals remain in detention in Libya awaiting trial. Islam heads the Ghadaffi Foundation, which carried out additional investigations in the case. In the BBC interview he revealed that new cases of HIV infections have been recorded at the same hospital since the arrest of the Bulgarians. UB

ITALY SEEKS TO BECOME BIGGEST FOREIGN INVESTOR IN BULGARIA
Gustavo Selva, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, told Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi on 24 June that Italy aims to become the biggest foreign investor in Bulgaria, BTA reported. Italy currently ranks third among foreign investors in the country. Selva told his host that Italian companies are interested in participating in infrastructure projects such as the Upper Arda hydroelectric-power plant, and building new highways and tourist facilities. He also said that Italy supports Bulgaria's bids to join NATO and the European Union. UB

BULGARTABAK EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR DISMISSED
Economy Minister Nikolay Vasilev on 24 June dismissed the executive director of the state-owned Bulgartabak, Georgi Popov, mediapool.bg reported. Vasilev said the move was necessitated by some of Popov's recent statements to the media. Vasilev denied that the dismissal has anything to do with corruption charges that have been leveled against Popov (see "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 2002). UB

There is no End Note today.


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