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Newsline - July 9, 2002


RUSSIA MIGHT NOT RATIFY CONVENTIONAL-ARMS TREATY
The Russian delegation to the Joint Consultative Group of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, headed by Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin and Defense Committee Chairman Andrei Nikolaev, announced that Russia will not ratify the treaty unless the Baltic states do so as well, gzt.ru reported on 5 July. Nikolaev said that the treaty was signed between NATO and the Soviet Union 12 years ago and that the Russian obligation not to deploy large forces in Kaliningrad and Pskov oblasts was based "on a concrete military-political situation." Rogozin said that Russia will demand changes to the treaty if "even one Baltic state joins NATO." VY

RUSSIA AND FRANCE CREATE JOINT SECURITY COUNCIL...
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov announced on 8 July after talks in Moscow with his French counterpart Dominique de Villepin the creation of a joint security council that will deal with issues of strategic stability, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Appearing at a joint press conference with Villepin, Ivanov said that the initiative envisages regular meetings between the defense and foreign ministers of the two countries, the first of which is scheduled to take place in Paris this fall. Both ministers also stressed their common positions on the Middle East and on the need for a "political solution" regarding Iraq. Villepin also met the same day with President Vladimir Putin to discuss the upcoming Franco-Russian summit to be held on 19-20 July in Sochi. VY

...BUT FAILED TO MAKE PROGRESS ON KALININGRAD
De Villepin and Ivanov also discussed the problems surrounding Kaliningrad but failed to reach any breakthrough, the BBC and other news agencies reported on 8 July. Ivanov continued to stress Russia's demand for visa-free access to Kaliningrad and to complain that the European Union has rejected all of Moscow's proposals. De Villepin gave no indication that the EU is prepared to make any concessions. However, he said that "little time remains to resolve the problem and France will do its best to find a practical solution." VY

PUTIN CALLS FOR NEW ECONOMIC-SECURITY POLICY...
Speaking at a Security Council meeting on 8 July, President Putin called on the government to develop a new economic-security policy, RIA-Novosti and RTR reported the same day. Putin noted that the national and international situations have changed considerably since the current policy was adopted in 1996. He said that current threats to the country's economic security include the demographic situation, illegal immigration, and border and customs issues. Putin noted that there are also important issues in the energy and transportation sectors and that the government must consider the impact of exposure to global markets that will come with Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization. He concluded that the Security Council must therefore establish new economic-security priorities. Speaking after Putin, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref told the council that in order to provide a minimal level of national economic security, the country's gross domestic product must be at least 40 to 50 percent higher than at present, "Vedomosti" reported on 8 July. Therefore, Gref said, Russia needs annual economic growth of 4-5 percent for the next eight years. VY

...AS EXPERT CONSIDERS POVERTY THE MAIN SECURITY THREAT...
Economist and Academician Viktor Ivanter, who is also a member of a governmental committee on economic security, said that the main threat to Russia's economic security is poverty and the inherent threat of social conflict, strana.ru reported on 8 July. The country is also threatened by its dependence on food imports and the increasing obsolescence of the technological base, which might eventually lead to the loss of the country's political independence. VY

...AND EU SEEKS CLOSER ECONOMIC TIES WITH RUSSIA
European Union Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, speaking after a 9 July meeting in Tokyo with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, said that the EU envisions the creation of a "common economic space" with Russia and seeks cooperation beyond the framework of the World Trade Organization, ITAR-TASS reported. RC

MOSCOW COURT HEARS INDICTMENT IN AEROFLOT CASE
The Savelovskii Municipal Court in Moscow on 8 July began hearing the prosecution's indictment against former top managers of the national air carrier Aeroflot, former Deputy General Director Nikolai Glushkov and former Deputy General Director Aleksandr Krasnenker, Russian news agencies reported the same day. The pair are charged with laundering more than $250 million of company funds through the Switzerland-based front companies Andava and Forus, which are reportedly controlled by magnate Boris Berezovskii. The indictment alleges that the accused laundered over 80 percent of Aeroflot's annual hard-currency revenues and that they deceived the company's former general director, Marshal Yevgenii Shaposhnikov. Meanwhile, "Le Monde" on 8 July published an investigative report about the involvement of Forus in the dubious acquisition of luxury properties on the French Riviera. According to "Le Monde," French law enforcement agencies detected suspicious transactions from Forus to middleman companies involving the property deals, and the prosecutor of Marseilles has opened a criminal investigation into possible money laundering. VY

GAZPROM BUYS OUT GUSINSKII
Natural gas giant Gazprom announced on 9 July that it has acquired all the shares in its media holdings that formerly belonged to magnate Vladimir Gusinskii, Russian and Western news agencies reported. The company, which is 38 percent state-owned, refused to release details of the purchase, but said that the deal was intended to make the properties more attractive to outside investors. Gazprom maintains that will divest itself of its media holdings by the end of the year. RC

KOLA CLEANUP TO PROCEED
International donors pledged $1.78 billion on 9 July to help clean up nuclear waste and other environmental hazards in and around northern Russia, Reuters reported the same day. At a joint Russia-EU conference in Brussels, the European Commission pledged $50 million, while Russia, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden pledged $10 million each to provide initial funding for the most urgent projects in the Baltic and Barents sea regions. In addition, more than a dozen other clean-up projects have been developed, which will be funded by loans from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and other institutions. About $500 million will be dedicated to cleaning up nuclear waste on the Kola Peninsula. "We must make sure that what is a hazard today does not become a disaster tomorrow," said EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten. RC

PUTIN LOOKS FOR ANOTHER WAY TO DISMISS REGIONAL LEADERS...
During a visit to Saransk to attend a meeting of governors and officials from the Volga Federal District on regional social and economic development on 8 July, President Putin called for drawing up a legal mechanism under which federal authorities could dismiss local officials who have failed to prevent crises, Russian news agencies reported. Justifying such a law, Putin cited the continuing energy crisis in Ulyanovsk. However, he noted that the people who are responsible for the current crisis there are no longer around (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2002). He insisted that there should be a scheme for federal control of emergency or force majeure situations, ITAR-TASS reported. The federal center already has two grounds for dismissing regional leaders: if they commit a serious crime or if they fail to enforce a federal law, "Kommersant-Daily" commented on 9 July. JAC

...CALLS FOR 'EXPLOITING' TENSIONS BETWEEN MAYORS, GOVERNORS...
Putin also commented on the relationship between his presidential envoys to the seven federal districts and local leaders, saying, "I know we have quite a few problems here." He also acknowledged that the problem of demarcating the responsibilities of various levels of government has not yet been solved, including issues related to budgetary policy. However, Putin also called for "cleverly exploiting" the differences between regional and municipal officials. JAC

...AND FLIES TO UFA TO MOURN PLANE CRASH VICTIMS
President Putin flew to the Bashkir city of Ufa on 8 July to pay tribute to victims of last week's collision of a Russian passenger jet and a DHL cargo plane over Germany that killed 71 people, 69 of them Russian citizens (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2002). The remains of 32 victims -- 11 crewmembers and 21 passengers -- were buried in Ufa's Southern Cemetery, Russian news agencies reported. According to RosBalt, Putin laid flowers on each grave and expressed his condolences to each of the victims' relatives. Commenting on the results of the investigation, Putin stressed that final conclusions have not yet been made, but according to the information that he possessed, "Russian pilots are not to blame for this tragedy," ntvru.com quoted him as saying. MD

ANOTHER ANTI-ARMENIAN ACTION TAKEN...
Twelve ethnic Armenians were beaten in the city of Krasnoarmeisk in Moscow Oblast on 7 July, Ekho Moskvy reported the next day. Seven of the victims were hospitalized. According to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, ethnic Armenian residents of Ivanovo Oblast had earlier knifed a local resident, whose friends decided to retaliate by starting a fight with representatives of the Armenian diaspora in Krasnoarmeisk. A group of men burst into the apartment of Arket Mardzhanyan around midnight. According to a local police official, the fight at its peak involved some 30 people. Albina Sakiasyan, a representative of the Ararat cultural-educational society, said it was the first such incident in which people had been dragged out of their apartments and beaten on the street, according to the bureau. Local Armenians told Ekho Moskvy that the doors of the apartments where Armenians lived, who were later beaten, had been marked with crosses. JAC

...AS JEWISH GRAVES DESTROYED IN ST. PETERSBURG
Meanwhile, at least 10 Jewish graves were destroyed at the Preobrazhenskii Cemetery in St. Petersburg during construction of a railway line between the Sortirobochnaya Station and the Oktyabrskaya Railroad (OZhD), cemetery Director Valentina Sidorova told Interfax on 8 July, according to ntvru.com. According to the site, a similar incident took place in January 2001, when 12 graves at the cemetery were destroyed. The press service of OZhD said that the work was performed by a contractor. JAC

RUSSIA THWARTS DISCUSSION OF GEORGIAN ISSUES AT OSCE
On the third day of the 11th annual session of the OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly in Berlin, the head of the Russian delegation, State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev, managed to cut short discussion of the distribution of Russian passports to citizens of the unrecognized breakaway Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, gazeta.ru reported on July 8. The electronic publication claims that the distribution of passports through unofficial channels has been taking place with Moscow's tacit consent, and the protests of the Georgian government have been ignored. After arriving at the OSCE session, the Georgian delegation demanded that this issue be raised. According to gazeta.ru, Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze called such actions by Russia an attempt to annex part of its territory under the guise of protecting Russian citizens (see also "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5, No. 22, 20 June 2002). However, Seleznev called Burdjanadze's words "a severe insult to Russia" and used Russia's right of veto to end the discussion, gazeta.ru reported. MD

CORRECTION
An "RFE/RL Newsline" item on 3 July 2002 entitled "Journalist Fired For Asking Putin Question About Local Politician" incorrectly identified the person who asked President Putin about Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Vladimir Butov during a 24 June Kremlin press conference. He was Aleksei Vasilevetskii.

MORE FALLOUT FROM PUTIN PRESS CONFERENCE...
Another regional journalist is under pressure following a Kremlin press conference with President Putin on 24 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2002). Dina Oyun from the website Tuva Online asked Putin about electoral fraud and mentioned the "unprecedented number of violations of election law" during balloting held in her republic. Oyun subsequently has been accused by "Tuvinskaya pravda," a local state-controlled newspaper, of "inflicting colossal damage on the republic." The chairman of the republic's election commission, Sholban Mongush, has asked the prosecutor's office to investigate Oyun, gazeta.ru reported on 8 July. However, Mongush told "The Moscow Times" that he only wants the prosecutor to locate Oyun so he can ask her questions about her allegations. However, he added that if she cannot prove her allegations, she will be punished for spreading damaging information. JAC

...AS NENETS 'JOURNALIST' UNMASKED AS PR SPECIALIST...
Earlier, another journalist, Olga Cheburina, the editor of "Krasnyi tundrovik" in Naryan-Mar was fired because of a question asked by one of the newspaper's correspondents, Aleksei Vasilevetskii, about Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Vladimir Butov's tussles with local prosecutors. Later it was reported that Vasilevetskii is a public-relations specialist based in Moscow who is allegedly on the payroll of a large Russian oil company and not that of "Krasnyi tundrovik," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 6 July. JAC

...AND PUTIN CAFE RENAMED
Meanwhile, the owners of the Putin Cafe in Chelyabinsk have been forced by local officials to change the name of their establishment, ntvru.com reported on 8 July. According to the website, the Putin bar is now called the Pepsi Bar. The owners said that when Putin was asked about the bar at the 24 June press conference, local officials interpreted his comments as a signal that the cafe should be shut down. Interfax reported that the owners intend to ask Putin for permission to return the cafe's name. JAC

ORTHODOX BELIEVERS PROTEST SCIENTOLOGISTS IN URALS CITY
Russian Orthodox believers are expected to hold a rally in Yekaterinburg on 13 July to protest the activities of nontraditional religious organizations, such as the Church of Scientology, Interfax reported on 8 July. Father Vladimir Zaitsev told the agency that the rally will be held outside of the local Kosmos movie theater where Scientologists will celebrate the birthday of the organization's founder, Ron Hubbard. Zaitsev, who called Hubbard a "Satanist, paranoiac, and drug abuser," said that there are several thousand Scientologists in the city. JAC

DOES MILITANT ISLAM THREATEN KAZAN?
Meanwhile, two officials with religious organizations based in Kazan believe that Moscow is using Islamic extremism in Tatarstan as a "phantom," the U.K.-based Keston News Service reported on 8 July. Ildus Faizov of the Spiritual Directorate of the Muslims of Tatarstan told the agency that "local authorities are not scared, as there is no extremism here and Tatarstan is stable." However, Faizov suggested that federal authorities are adducing the alleged threat of Islamic extremism in Tatarstan in order to put pressure on one of Russia's most nationalistic republics. And Anatolii Pagasi of Kazan's Christian Legal Center, told the agency that "there is no threat whatsoever from our Islam." JAC

BRIDE-NAPPING ON THE RISE IN MORDOVIAN VILLAGE...
Stealing and raping young girls for the purpose of forcing them into marriage has become a common practice in the Tatar village of Belozere, located near the Mordovian capital of Saransk, RFE/RL's Saransk correspondent reported on 29 June. The report cited Marat Salimov, a journalist who has been investigating the problem, as saying that bride theft has been practiced in Belozere for the past 30 to 40 years. Such cases were never properly dealt with by official law enforcement bodies, and the incidents were usually hushed up by both sides. However, the problem finally received broader public attention when a 13-year-old girl was stolen directly from her school desk, raped, and then returned to her parents a few days later. Salimov alleges that stealing young girls has become more than a desperate way of marrying, but also a means of laying hands on assets belonging to the girl's family. MD

...AS PARENTS KEEP DAUGHTERS HOME FROM SCHOOL
To prevent such incidents, the Mordovian mufti sent letters in June to all the republic's mosques and imams forbidding marriages without the bride's agreement. Meanwhile, Belozerye parents are trying to protect their daughters by keeping them at home, which is why the local high school doesn't have a single female student after the eighth grade. Meanwhile, local media are openly linking bride-napping with the villagers' alleged Muslim religious extremist views, RFE/RL reported on 29 June. MD

SECURITY PRECAUTIONS INCREASED AT CHECHEN GOVERNMENT HQ
Security surrounding the compound in Grozny that houses the pro-Moscow Chechen government has been tightened in anticipation of a large-scale attack by fighters loyal to President Aslan Maskhadov, Interfax reported on 8 July, quoting Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudaev. Also on 8 July, a Russian military spokesman told ITAR-TASS that a large-scale Chechen attack is expected on the town of Urus-Martan before 15 July. A chechenpress.com commentator noted that such predictions are at odds with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov's repeated claims that the Chechen forces are depleted to the point that they are no longer capable of amounting a major operation. LF

CORRECTION:
An item in "RFE/RL Newsline" on 8 July 2002 entitled "...As Intelligence Expert Claims Record Number of Russian Spies Defected to U.S." incorrectly identified the date on which Aleksandr Khinshtein's article appeared in "Moskovskii komsomolets." It was published on 4 June.

FOREIGN MINISTER CRITICIZES ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT OVER DEATH PENALTY
"Certain differences" exist between the Armenian government and parliament over the new Criminal Code adopted last month that retains the death penalty in exceptional circumstances, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 8 July. The new code provides for handing down the death penalty for crimes that were committed before it comes into force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June 2002). That clause is intended primarily to provide legal grounds for the execution of the five gunmen who murdered eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament in October 1999. Oskanian said that by retaining the death penalty the political parties represented in parliament violated their collective pledge made in January 2001 to abolish capital punishment. Two separate Council of Europe officials have warned that Armenia will face unspecified "serious consequences" if it fails to abolish the death penalty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June and 8 July 2002). LF

SHADOW ECONOMY ACCOUNTS FOR UP TO 40 PERCENT OF ARMENIAN GDP
Despite repeated efforts to crack down on tax evasion and a marked rise in tax revenues during the first six months of 2002, the shadow economy in Armenia still accounts for up to 40 percent of the country's GDP, State Revenues Minister Yervand Zakharian told a press conference in Yerevan on 8 July, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Zakharian said that the 23.4 percent increase in the amount of taxes collected during the first half of the year is the result of greater efficiency on the part of the tax authorities and increased "discipline" among corporate taxpayers. But at the same time he admitted that budget revenues would have been 40 percent higher than the 89.1 billion drams (about $155 million) collected if the shadow economy did not exist. LF

DASHNAKTSUTIUN TO BACK KARABAKH PRESIDENT'S BID FOR RE-ELECTION...
As widely anticipated, the Artsakh chapter of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD) will back incumbent Arkadii Ghukasian in the 11 August presidential elections in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Noyan Tapan reported on 8 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June 2002). Alyosha Gabrielian, who is a member of the HHD Artsakh chapter's Central Committee, explained that previous elections have demonstrated that the party has no more than 30 percent support in the enclave, which is insufficient to guarantee an election victory should it field its own candidate. Gabrielian added that Ghukasian is strong enough to push through reform programs, and that if re-elected, Ghukasian will give the HHD the chance to increase its participation in resolving economic problems, by which he presumably meant one or more government portfolios. LF

...AS ONE MORE CANDIDATE NOMINATED
Also on 8 July, Noyan Tapan reported that at its founding congress the political organization Unity nominated its chairman, Grigor Afanasian, as its presidential candidate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2002). That nomination raises the number of candidates to four. LF

AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION WANTS REFERENDUM POSTPONED
The nine opposition parties that make up the "classic" wing of the divided Democratic Congress, including the Musavat Party and the conservative wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, agreed on 8 July that they will boycott the 24 August referendum on constitutional amendments proposed by President Heidar Aliev unless the Azerbaijani leadership agrees to specific demands, Turan reported. Those demands are that the referendum be postponed until 22 September, and that international and domestic observers be authorized to monitor the vote; that the current composition of the Central Election Commission and its local equivalents be changed; and that political parties be allocated airtime on state-run media. Also on 8 July, the Central Election Commission ruled that all media outlets wishing to cover the referendum must submit within five days a list of the journalists who plan to do so, Turan reported. LF

SIX FEARED DEAD IN AZERBAIJANI OIL-TANKER BLAZE
Six Azerbaijani seamen are feared dead in a fire aboard a tanker belonging to the state oil company SOCAR docked at the Turkmen port of Turkmenbashi (former Krasnovodsk). The fire was started by an explosion in the engine room, and took firefighters, including a team flown in from Baku, hours to extinguish. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SEEKS TO CLARIFY RUSSIAN ARMS CLAIMS...
At his traditional Monday press briefing, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said on 8 July that he does not believe Russian Defense Ministry claims that Russia presented Georgia with large quantities of weaponry between 1992-95, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2002). Shevardnadze said a precise inventory must be drawn up of the Soviet armaments deployed in Georgia prior to the collapse of the USSR and the proportion that was subsequently withdrawn to Russia. LF

...RULES OUT JOINT OPERATION IN PANKISI
Shevardnadze also repeated during his 8 July briefing that Georgia's armed forces are capable of establishing "order" in the Pankisi Gorge without any help from Russia, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month that "no one -- neither 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" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 June 2002). On 3 July, Caucasus Press quoted a Georgian political commentator as saying that the Georgian leadership is considering a joint Georgian-Russian-U.S. military operation to round up suspected Chechen fighters ensconced in the Pankisi Gorge. But arriving in Tbilisi on 9 July, Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo said Russia has no intention of interfering in Georgia's internal affairs or of participating in an antiterrorism operation in Pankisi, Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITIONIST ACCUSES PARDONED MILITANTS OF HER HUSBAND'S MURDER
National Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia has announced that she will bring legal action against three men whom President Shevardnadze pardoned last week, according to "Rezonansi" on 8 July, as cited by Caucasus Press. The three were jailed in 1998 on charges of involvement in the failed car-bomb attack on Shevardnadze in August 1995 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2002). Sarishvili-Chanturia claims they were behind the December 1994 murder of her husband Giorgi Chanturia. She has doubled her personal bodyguard since their release. LF

ABKHAZ PRESIDENT APPEALS TO INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
Vladislav Ardzinba has appealed to the international community to provide guarantees that his unrecognized republic will not be attacked by Georgia, Caucasus Press reported on 9 July. Ardzinba said he does not doubt that Georgia is planning a new offensive against Abkhazia, and called on the international community to impose sanctions on whichever conflict party hinders a peaceful solution to the conflict. LF

PLAGUE REPORTEDLY DIAGNOSED IN GEORGIA, KAZAKHSTAN
A man has recently died of plague in the Chkhorotsku Raion of western Georgia, Caucasus Press reported on 8 July, citing the daily "Akhali taoba." But "Rezonansi" reported the same day that the Georgian Ministry of Labor, Health Care, and Social Warfare issued an official statement saying the man died of typhoid. In the Qyzyl-Orda Oblast of southwestern Kazakhstan a nine-year-old boy has been hospitalized with bubonic plague, Reuters reported on 8 July. Several cases of bubonic plague were reported in Kazakhstan last year, and one man in Qyzyl-Orda died of the disease (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2001). LF

EBRD PRESIDENT URGES GREATER TRANSPARENCY IN KAZAKHSTAN
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) President Jean Lemierre told journalists in Astana on 4 July following talks with Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev that Kazakhstan must make democratic and economic processes more transparent, Interfax reported. He added that the press must play a stronger role in the battle against corruption. After a meeting on 5 July of the Foreign Investors' Council affiliated to the presidential apparatus, Lemierre commented that Kazakhstan has succeeded in stabilizing its economy and creating more favorable conditions for investors than other CIS states. According to an EBRD press release dated 3 July, the bank will loan $100 million to two Kazakh banks to enable them to on-lend to agricultural businesses. LF

KAZAKHSTAN AIMS TO EXPAND RELATIONS WITH NATO
In a telephone conversation on 8 July, President Nazarbaev and NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson discussed enhancing Kazakhstan's participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program, Russian agencies reported. They also focused on the political situation in Afghanistan, and the ongoing exchange of information between Kazakhstan and NATO on combating terrorism, organized crime, and drug trafficking. LF

SOUTH KOREAN BUSINESSMAN MURDERED IN KYRGYZSTAN
A South Korean businessman was found shot dead in his apartment in Bishkek on 7 July, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and Western news agencies reported. An Interior Ministry spokesman said that there was no evidence of a struggle, and nothing had been stolen, suggesting that the murder was connected with the man's business activities. Park Yong-bok, who was 46, had lived in Bishkek for eight years and was the co-owner of a restaurant in the city. LF

MORE TURKMEN SECURITY OFFICIALS FIRED
Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov has dismissed four more National Security Committee officers, raising the total number of such sackings over the past four months to over 60, Interfax reported on 6 July. Several senior officers have been sentenced to lengthy jail terms on charges of murder, torture, illegal arrest, and drug trafficking (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June 2002). LF

CHINA TO HELP TRAIN, EQUIP TURKMEN ARMED FORCES
A Turkmen military delegation headed by Chief of General Staff Serdar Chariyarov is currently in China discussing the possibility of Chinese assistance in training Turkmen officers and in providing uniforms and unspecified hardware for the Turkmen armed forces, Interfax and Turan reported on 8 July. The single most serious threat to Turkmenistan's security is Uzbekistan. LF

TURKMENISTAN, GERMANY DISCUSS COOPERATION IN OIL, GAS EXPORT
Turkmenistan's President Niyazov met in Ashgabat on 8 July with Dr. Axel Gerlach, Administrative State Secretary at the German Ministry of Economics and Technology, who is visiting Turkmenistan at the head of a large delegation of German businessmen, Interfax and turkmenistan.ru reported. Niyazov suggested that German companies could profitably participate in developing Turkmenistan's hydrocarbon resources and in export projects, including the planned Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan gas-export pipeline. LF

POLICE ARREST DEMONSTRATORS IN WESTERN BELARUS
Police arrested eight demonstrators at a small rally in the western city of Hrodna on 8 July who had gathered to mark the second anniversary of the disappearance of television cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski, Belapan reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2002). The demonstrators, who included members of the opposition United Civic Party and the youth organization Maladaya Hramada, stood silently, holding photographs of Zavadski. Police arrested eight of the 15 demonstrators after a Polish television crew left the scene. They are reportedly still in custody. CB

BELARUS, POLAND HOLD JOINT SECURITY TALKS
Belarusian and Polish security officials met in Brest on 8 July to discuss the situation concerning their border in light of Poland's expected accession to the European Union in 2004, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 July. The talks also focused on interstate and regional security, as well as countering the spread of international terrorism, organized crime, and illegal migration. With respect to the introduction of a visa requirement for Belarusian citizens entering Poland, which will become necessary upon Poland's entry to the EU, Polish National Security Bureau chief Marek Siwiec said, "The Polish side is undertaking efforts to make the introduction of visa controls as painless as possible." CB

NORTH ATLANTIC COUNCIL ARRIVES IN UKRAINE
The North Atlantic Council, which is NATO's governing body, met with Ukrainian leaders on 9 July to discuss expanding Ukraine's partnership with the alliance, AP reported. NATO and Ukraine are to hold a summit in Prague on the sidelines of the NATO summit in November. The delegation led by NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko, and leaders of parliament. In a written statement to the NATO-Ukraine Commission, President Kuchma said, "We understand that the way to NATO involves a long and gradual process and we are doing everything to make the interests of Ukraine and NATO closer step by step," AP reported. Ukraine in May announced its intention to seek NATO membership, and has been a member of the Partnership for Peace program since 1994. NATO officials have reacted cautiously to Ukraine's initiative, while Western and Ukrainian experts have urged Ukraine to speed up economic and military reforms to make its bid for membership more realistic. A recent public opinion poll conducted by Socis-Gallup Ukraine indicates that some 40 percent of those polled agree with Ukrainian membership in NATO, the "Ukrayinska Pravda" website reported. RK

IRAQ REPORTEDLY SOUGHT UKRAINIAN ARMS IN JUNE...
The "Financial Times" reported on 9 July that a high-level delegation of Iraqi officials that visited Ukraine in June was openly shopping for weapons. The daily cited local media reports that quoted Ukrainian government sources as saying the Iraqi delegation offered to buy ships and aircraft. "For some years there was an intensive defense-technology relationship between Ukraine and Iraq. This appears to be reemerging and we don't want to repeat the mistakes of the past," ft.com quoted former United Nations weapons inspector Timothy McCarthy as saying. Ukraine recently opened an embassy in Baghdad and in September 2001 signed a treaty with Iraq on trade and cooperation. During the 1990s a Ukrainian citizen, Yuriy Orshansky, was the "honorary council" of Iraq in Kharkiv. He lobbied for technical aid to Iraq and even prepared a number of contracts for selling to Iraq components that could be used in the construction of nuclear reactors. These contracts were discovered by UN inspectors and Ukraine was forced to cancel them. RK

...AND IRAN, IRAQ MENTIONED IN SECRET RECORDINGS
The "Financial Times" also reported on 9 July that after listening to recordings of what appears to be a conversation in 2000 between President Kuchma and Yuriy Alekseyev, the director of the Yuzhmash rocket-building plant in Dnipropetrovsk, the men mention Iraq, Iran, and rockets (Kuchma was director of Yuzhmash prior to Ukrainian independence). The recordings were made in Kuchma's office by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko. Kuchma and Alekseyev have denied that they supplied missile technology to Iraq. Earlier this year, in recordings made by Melnychenko of conversations between Kuchma and the head of the Ukrainian arms-sales company Ukrspetseksport, Valeriy Malev, Kuchma was heard giving the go-ahead to covertly sell Iraq three units of the Kolchuga radar system developed by the Ukrainian company Topaz that can detect stealth aircraft. The Ukrainian side has vehemently denied these accusations. RK

ESTONIA'S PEOPLE'S UNION AND CHRISTIAN PEOPLE'S PARTY SIGN AGREEMENT FOR LOCAL ELECTIONS
Representatives of the People's Union, the largest political party in Estonia with over 7,000 members, and the small Christian People's Party signed a cooperation agreement on 9 July for the local-council elections on 20 October, ETA reported. The parties noted that they had found many common points in the goals of their programs. According to the agreement, the parties will open their lists to members of the partner party. Earlier this month the council of the People's Union decided to present a list of its candidates in more than 200 local governments while the Christian People's Party has not yet announced where it will offer candidates. The People's Union has been among the most successful parties in gathering campaign donations, receiving 1.7 million kroons ($100,000) from sponsors in the second quarter of this year. SG

$10,000 REWARD OFFERED FOR INFORMATION ON LITHUANIAN WAR CRIMINALS
Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Jerusalem Office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Aryeh Rubin, the head of the Miami-based Targum Shlishi charity foundation, told a news conference in Vilnius on 8 July that they are offering a $10,000 reward for reliable information that would lead to the trial and conviction of a Nazi war criminal in Lithuania, "Kauno diena" reported the next day. Zuroff expressed his hope that the initiative, called "Operation Last Chance," would change the situation in Lithuania dramatically and that similar rewards will soon be offered in Latvia and Estonia. The parliament's Legal and Law Enforcement Committee Chairman Aloyzas Sakalas called the offer immoral and not likely to be productive, noting that while there might be people willing to testify about anything to get a reward, such testimony may not be sufficient to obtain a conviction. SG

BALTIC STATES' CONSUMER PRICE INDEXES FELL IN JUNE
The consumer price index (CPI) in each of the Baltic states decreased in June, BNS reported on 8 July. The greatest fall was in Latvia, where the CPI was 0.6 percent lower than in May but 0.9 percent higher than in June 2001. The price of goods declined by 0.5 percent and of services by 0.8 percent, primarily caused by a decline in mobile-telephone charges. The CPI in Lithuania fell by 0.3 percent compared to May, and by 0.5 percent compared to June 2001. Gitanas Nausedas, an adviser to the president of Vilnius Bank, noted that the fall in prices was partly caused by the higher value of the litas versus the U.S. dollar and greater competition among retail chains. The seasonal decline in vegetable, fruit, and dairy-product prices in Estonia led to a fall of 0.5 percent in food prices and a reduction of the CPI by 0.1 percent compared to May, but it remained 3.8 percent greater than in June 2001. SG

MANAGEMENT OF BANKRUPT POLISH SHIPPING YARD ARRESTED ON EMBEZZLEMENT CHARGES
The former president and four board members of the Stocznia Szczecinska shipyard were arrested on embezzlement charges, prosecutors announced on 8 July, AP reported. Prosecutors charge that former President Krzysztof Piotrowski and four board members contributed to the Szczecin shipyard's bankruptcy in June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2002) by siphoning off at least 24.5 million zlotys ($5.9 million) for another firm. The five are alleged to have transferred shares between the shipyard and Grupa Przemyslowa, a company they created that owns some 50 percent of Porta Holding, which owns and runs the shipyard and some 30 other smaller companies. The suspects could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. DW

CZECH PARTIES AGREE TO SPIDLA-LED GOVERNMENT...
The leftist Social Democratic Party (CSSD) late on 8 July reached final agreement with its would-be partners in government from the two-party Coalition, the Christian Democratic Union-People's Party (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU), CTK and Reuters reported. The parties' leaderships followed up the next day by signing a coalition agreement that should pave the way to a new majority government pending its submission to the president and parliamentary approval. President Vaclav Havel is widely expected to appoint CSSD's 51-year-old chairman, Vladimir Spidla, as prime minister on 12 July and the rest of the government on 15 July, Reuters reported. The grouping represents a tenuous 101-seat majority in the 200-seat lower house, or Chamber of Deputies. Deputies from the US-DEU and the CSSD unanimously approved motions within their respective party clubs to form the tripartite government hours before the new parliament opened its first session on 9 July, CTK reported, while KDU-CSL lawmakers also approved the deal. AH

...AMID PLEDGE TO 'TACKLE' EU ENTRY DESPITE COMPETING APPROACHES
"I am convinced that this [agreement] lays the foundation for a government that will be solid enough to tackle the most important tasks that lie ahead,... the most important of which is EU entry," Reuters quoted Prime Minister-designate and CSSD party leader Vladimir Spidla as saying after the deal was signed on 9 July. All three of the potential coalition parties have pinned their political fortunes on EU entry, though barely half of the Czech population supported it in the most recent poll. Spidla has consistently advocated the creation of a ministry for European affairs, and signaled the issue was not dead with the signing of the coalition agreement. "I am familiar with the French system, and there a European Affairs Ministry exists and it appears to have greatly proven itself," Spidla said on 9 July, according to CTK. CSSD's counterparts in the Coalition have rejected such a move, saying it would dilute the credibility of the Foreign Ministry, which KDU-CSL Chairman Cyril Svoboda is expected to head. AH

SOCIAL DEMOCRATS WOULD OCCUPY MAJORITY OF CABINET SEATS
The CSSD secured 11 of a proposed 17 cabinet seats in the coalition agreement but retained just six cabinet members from the 1998-2002 government of Milos Zeman. Those returning include: Vladimir Spidla (prime minister, CSSD); Stanislav Gross (deputy prime minister and interior minister, CSSD); Pavel Rychetsky (deputy prime minister and justice minister, CSSD); Jaroslav Tvrdik (defense minister, CSSD); Jiri Rusnok (industry minister, CSSD); and Pavel Dostal (culture minister, CSSD). Other cabinet appointees would include: Cyril Svoboda (deputy prime minister and foreign minister, KDU-CSL); Petr Mares (deputy prime minister for science and research, US-DEU); Bohuslav Sobotka (finance minister, CSSD); Petra Buzkova (education minister, CSSD); Marie Souckova (health minister, CSSD); Jaroslav Palas (agriculture minister, CSSD); Zdenek Skromach (labor and social affairs minister, CSSD); Libor Ambrozek (environment minister, KDU-CSL); Milan Simonovsky (transportation minister, KDU-CSL); Pavel Nemec (regional development minister, US-DEU); Vladimir Mlynar (information minister). AH

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER NAMED TO HIGH UN POST...
Outgoing Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan on 8 July was elected president of the 57th United Nations General Assembly, Czech and international media reported the same day. His election was rendered a formality after the only other country seeking the function, Belarus, withdrew its candidate. Kavan, the first Czech to hold the post, will replace Han Seung Soo of South Korea in the post on 10 September when the 57th General Assembly session opens. The former dissident and exile's first major job will be to preside over the assembly's ministerial meeting, which begins on 12 September, a day after the commemoration of the first anniversary of last year's terrorist attacks on the United States. BW/AH

...CREATING IMMEDIATE OBSTACLE FOR RULING COALITION
Kavan's duties at the UN's 57th General Assembly could complicate the Czech political scene, since his CSSD party hopes to rule in coalition with a razor-thin, one-seat majority in the lower house. Presiding over the assembly will translate into frequent absences for Kavan, who is also a parliamentarian. The Civic Democratic Party (ODS) indicated in the daily "Hospodarske noviny" on 2 July that it will not honor the practice of having a corresponding number of opposition legislators refrain from votes when ministers are not present in the case of Kavan. The same daily said the opposition Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) might be willing to cooperate in such cases, though that could prove unacceptable for the junior coalition parties of the Coalition. AH

COMMUNIST ELECTED TO HEAD CZECH LOWER HOUSE'S ELECTION COMMISSION
The first visible result of the would-be government agreement appears be the election of Pavel Hojda into the most senior parliamentary position his unreformed Communist Party has held since the Czech Republic's creation in 1993. Hojda will head the Chamber of Deputies' Election Commission following a commission vote on 9 July, outgoing commission Chairman Jan Vidim (ODS) was cited as saying by CTK. The only commission members who opposed Hojda's nomination were three members from the ODS, Vidim added. Both of the Coalition parties, the US-DEU and the KDU-CSL, have publicly objected to allowing Communists into senior parliamentary posts. AH

PRAGUE EX-MAYOR COLLECTING SIGNATURES TO LAUNCH NEW PARTY
Jan Kasl, whose resignation dealt a heavy blow to his erstwhile party, ODS, just weeks before the mid-June elections, has launched a petition drive aimed at founding a new political party called the European Democrats, CTK reported on 8 July. Kasl needs 1,000 signatures to register the party, which he says he hopes will be able to compete in Prague's municipal elections in November. Other reported organizers include a host of defectors from right-of-center political parties such as US-DEU and the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA). Once a potential rival for leadership of the ODS in the eyes of many observers, Kasl resigned as mayor and from the party on 28 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 31 May 2002). He accused ODS City Council members of not doing enough to fight corruption, and has since tipped off the public to several dubious schemes involving his former party colleagues. ODS leaders countered that his move was intended to harm the party's chances in the elections. BW/AH

GROUP SEEKS TO IMPROVE CZECH-AUSTRIAN RELATIONS
Over 100 Czech and Austrian luminaries called for improved relations between their two countries, Czech media reported on 8 July. Relations between the two neighbors have been strained over the Temelin nuclear power plant on the Czech-Austrian border and the controversy over postwar Benes Decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion of ethnic Germans and Hungarians suspected of supporting the Third Reich. At simultaneous press conferences in Vienna and Prague, the group announced that they are founding the Forum for Czech-Austrian dialogue. Among the Czech signatories are Ombudsman Otakar Motejl, head of the State Agency for Nuclear Safety Dana Drabova, Senator and former Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec, and the former Prague Mayor Kasl. BW

DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS SLOVAKIA WILL FULFILL MAASTRICHT CRITERIA BY 2006
Ivan Miklos, the deputy prime minister for the economy, said on 8 July that according to outlines of the 2003 budget, inflation should reach 6.4 percent, GDP should increase by 4.1 percent, and the unemployment rate should be about 17.6 percent, SITA reported. At a meeting of three economic ministers the country's pre-entry economic program was passed. The program is based on an anticipated rise of GDP by 5 percent and an average inflation rate of 4.5 percent in 2005. Miklos stressed that this program is based on the assumption that the Maastricht criteria for monetary union with the EU will be fulfilled by 2006. AS

FORMER SLOVAK PREMIER VISITS FINANCIAL POLICE
Movement for a Democratic Slovakia leader Vladimir Meciar showed up on 8 July at the Trnava financial-police station, where he was met by a group of reporters, SITA reported. The police had summoned Meciar to discuss the source of the 41 million Slovak crowns ($914,974) he invested into his villa in Trencianske Teplice. Meciar told the journalists that he has no idea what the police want from him, and his spokeswoman handed them a statement from Meciar saying he was invoking his right not to testify to the police. The statement said Meciar's decision is based on a 2001 verdict by the European Court for Human Rights that confirmed the right of a citizen not to provide information to law enforcement bodies and tax offices in the event that the person does not know how the information will be handled. AS

CHATAM SOFER MEMORIAL REOPENED IN BRATISLAVA
The underground mausoleum of the esteemed 19th-century scholar Rabbi Chatam Sofer at the Old Jewish Cemetery in Bratislava was reopened on 8 July, SITA reported the same day. "The cemetery is mainly connected with the memory of Rabbi Sofer, the most famous rabbi of Bratislava and Central Europe. With the reconstruction of the destroyed place...tolerance and [a] multicultural atmosphere are returning to the city," said Bratislava Jewish Religious Community Chairman Peter Salner, CTK reported. The 17th-century catacomb that housed the mausoleum was nearly completely destroyed during World War II, and a tram line was later constructed over Sofer's tomb. The catacomb is considered to be unique in the world, and President Rudolf Schuster said at the ceremony that Sofer's tomb is a rare cultural and historic memorial of global importance. Members of the Slovak government, the U.S. Jewish community, and others also took part in the ceremony. The mausoleum was reconstructed through the cooperation of the Bratislava City Council and the Bratislava Jewish Religious Community, and Slovakia, Israel, and the United States provided assistance, according to CTK. AS

HUNGARIAN DEMANDS FOR RECOUNT CONTINUE
Some 1,000 people demonstrated on 8 July in the city of Pecs with demands for a recount of April's election results, dpa reported, citing local agency MTI. The group, led by supporters of the FIDESZ party that was ousted in that voting, also said Socialist Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy should step down, dpa said. Minor demonstrations were expected to continue this week, and police stepped up security around the parliament building in Budapest, where legislators were scheduled to open a new session on 9 July. AH

FORMER HUNGARIAN LEADER BECOMES EMISSARY TO EU
Former Prime Minister Gyula Horn (1994-98) was named on 8 July to be Prime Minister Medgyessy's personal emissary to the European Union in the crucial run-up to expected entry, dpa reported. Horn, who turned 70 on 5 July, brings " diplomatic experience, his high profile, his personal prestige and extensive international contacts" to the position, a Medgyessy spokesman is quoted as saying. Conservative critics said Horn's former membership in the workers' militia that abetted the Soviet occupation of Hungary in 1956 makes him unfit for such a position. AH

DJUKANOVIC WARNS AGAINST MOVING THE GOALPOSTS
President Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 8 July that there have been unspecified "attempts" to modify the 14 March agreement that the European Union hammered out between Serbia and Montenegro, AP reported. Djukanovic stressed that the terms of the agreement are final, and that "nobody has the right to demand new concessions from Montenegro" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March, and 9, 10, and 15 April 2002). He told a visiting UN development official that any attempt to set up a "unitary" state through the upcoming constitutional talks or the EU's stabilization and association negotiations will be a violation of the March agreement, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

WHO IS BULLYING MONTENEGRO?
In recent weeks, there have been occasional charges by various leading politicians in Podgorica and Belgrade that their political rivals are trying to modify the agreement in one way or another (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2002). But AP reported from Podgorica on 8 July that what prompted Djukanovic's statement might have been pressure from the EU during a recent visit to Belgrade by Chris Patten, who is the bloc's foreign affairs commissioner. At that time, he urged Montenegro to set up a joint economy with Serbia -- which is not what the March agreement calls for -- on the grounds that "an investor will be less enthusiastic in putting his money into a small economy." The EU has repeatedly said that it does not want to interfere in the internal affairs of Serbia or Montenegro (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 May 2002). But some members of the Montenegrin parliament have told "RFE/RL Newsline" that Brussels' behavior is "arrogant." PM

DJINDJIC SAYS SERBIAN GOVERNMENT NEVER SNOOPED ON KOSTUNICA
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 8 July that his government's communications department never acted as an intelligence agency or bugged Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, as Kostunica has charged, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25, 26, 27, and 28 June, and 1 July 2002). In an open letter to the Otpor (Resistance) student movement, Djindjic said that all intelligence work conducted by his government has been carried out by the Interior Ministry and according to the letter of the law. PM

PARTIAL RAIL STRIKE CONTINUES IN SERBIA
Railway workers continued on 8 July a strike they began the previous week, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The workers stop their activities each day between noon and 1:00 p.m., bringing 70 trains across Serbia to a halt. PM

COLD SHOWER FOR EAST-WEST HIGHWAY
Serbian Transportation and Telecommunications Minister Marija Raseta-Vukosavljevic said in Pirot on 8 July that the government's priority must be to finish the north-south highway to Greece by 2004 rather than construct a highway from Nis to the Bulgarian border via Pirot, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. She added that the government hoped to receive $500 million for the east-west link from the EU-led Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, but that Belgrade is currently unable to provide the necessary guarantees for such a credit. PM

KOSOVARS QUESTION CONSTITUTIONALITY OF STEINER-COVIC PACT
Arsim Bajrami, the spokesman of the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) on legal affairs, told Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service on 7 July that he doubts the constitutionality of a recent agreement between Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian authority in the province (UNMIK), and Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic, who is Belgrade's point man for southern Serbia and Kosova. The pact sets the terms for Belgrade to send an initial group of 40 judges and lawyers to Kosova by mid-September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2002). Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic called the agreement "a step forward." But Bajrami charged that the pact enables Serbia and its legal personnel to interfere in Kosova's internal affairs, which are the prerogative of UNMIK and the elected Kosovar authorities. By extending the Serbian legal system into Kosova, the agreement violates the constitutional order of the province, Bajrami added. Observers note that Kosova's 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority wants nothing more to do with Serbia and that signing an agreement with Belgrade cost Steiner's predecessor, Hans Haekkerup, much of his standing with the Albanians. PM

IS THE REPUBLIKA SRPSKA THE MODEL FOR KOSOVA'S SERBIAN MINORITY?
A delegation from the Povratak (Return) coalition of Kosova's Serbian minority received a promise from Republika Srpska Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic in Banja Luka on 5 July for funding to repave the road from Zubin Potok to Zvecan, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 8 July. The Povratak group -- Oliver Ivanovic, Rada Trajkovic, Gojko Savic, and Sokol Djordjevic -- agreed that the gift by the Bosnian Serb authorities shows that "the problems of the Serbs [of Kosova] have not gone unnoticed." Ivanovic added that "the experiences of the Republika Srpska and the various stages that it has gone through are very useful for us. The possible establishment of links between regions where Serbs live -- in [Bosnia's] entities and cantons -- might be the ultimate solution for our problems." PM

BOSNIAN BANK GOVERNOR: GERMANY'S SWITCH TO EURO HELPS BOSNIAN CURRENCY
Ljubisa Vladusic, who is deputy governor of Bosnia's Central Bank, told Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service in Sarajevo that Bosnians have generally preferred to change their German marks into the Bosnian currency -- the convertible mark -- rather than into euros, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 8 July. Vladusic added that this shows that Bosnians have a growing confidence in their own currency. He also noted that the foreign-currency reserves of the Central Bank have increased by 48 percent over the past 12 months to a total of just over $1.2 billion. For decades, the German mark was the unofficial second currency throughout the former Yugoslavia. PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT CONTINUES TALKS ON NEW GOVERNMENT
President Stipe Mesic is holding a second day of talks with political leaders in Zagreb aimed at forming a new government, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 9 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2002). Observers note that outgoing Prime Minister Ivica Racan already has enough support in the parliament to form a new government. The main question is rather what will happen to his main coalition partners -- the Social Liberals (HSLS) -- and their combative leader Drazen Budisa. Some observers have suggested that Racan deliberately triggered the crisis in order to force a split in the HSLS and leave Budisa in the minority in his own party. RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Zagreb on 8 July that six legislators from the HSLS have already set up their own parliamentary club in favor of a new Racan government. They said they will seek Budisa's resignation as party leader, noting that he wants to exclude them from the HSLS. PM

RELATIVES OF MISSING MACEDONIANS BLOCK HIGHWAY
Several hundred relatives of 12 Macedonians who disappeared during the 2001 insurgency blocked the Skopje-Tetovo highway for several hours on 8 July, dpa reported. They demanded information about the fate of the 12, who are presumed to have been kidnapped in the northwest of the country and killed by ethnic Albanian guerrillas. Three ethnic Albanians and one Bulgarian national are also officially listed as missing as a result of the conflict. PM

ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER UPBEAT ON ACCORD WITH IMF
Romanian Finance Minister Mihai Tanasescu said on 8 July that he is confident an agreement on releasing blocked International Monetary (IMF) Fund tranches will be reached with the IMF delegation that began a visit to Bucharest the day before, Mediafax reported. Tanasescu said Romania has fulfilled all obligations stipulated in the financing agreement it signed with the fund last October. IMF Chief Negotiator for Romania Neven Mates is to analyze the opportunity of releasing two tranches worth $100 million from the standby financing agreement worth $383 million. The release of the tranches was blocked after the IMF decided that the Romanian government had not fulfilled all of the obligations it had agreed to. The most important topics to be analyzed are budget rectification for this year, the 2003 draft budget, and wage policies for state employees. ZsM

ROMANIA, CHINA BOOST RELATIONS
Meeting in Bucharest on 8 July, Romanian Foreign Affairs Minister Mircea Geoana and his visiting Chinese counterpart Tang Jiaxuan discussed boosting bilateral economic cooperation, Romanian media reported. The two signed an agreement on cooperation between the two ministries and pledged to support each other's candidacies in international organizations. The same day, Tang also discussed bilateral relations with President Ion Iliescu and Premier Adrian Nastase. Tang was to wrap up his five-day visit to Romania on 9 July. ZsM

BELGIAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER CONFIRMS SUPPORT FOR ROMANIA'S EU BID
In Bucharest on 8 July, visiting Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Louis Michel reconfirmed his country's support for Romania's bid to join the European Union, Romanian Television reported. Michel said that, at the Copenhagen EU summit that will take place in December, Romania should receive "an extremely clear" accession schedule and a list of obligations to be fulfilled. After his meeting with Michel, Geoana said Belgium "remains an [excellent] ally and friend." Also meeting with Michel, President Ion Iliescu decorated him with Romania's Star national order for his support during Belgium's EU presidency for Romania's efforts to join the EU and NATO. ZsM

TURKISH DEFENSE MINISTER PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR BULGARIA'S NATO BID
Visiting Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu said after a meeting with his Bulgarian counterpart on 8 July that Ankara will unequivocally support Bulgaria's and Romania's bids to join NATO, BTA and Western news agencies reported. "Bulgaria and Romania are two friendly countries and their...membership in NATO will contribute to the balance in Europe," AP quoted him as saying. He discussed the 2+2 format, under which Greece and Turkey support the Bulgarian and Romanian bids, with Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov, BTA reported. "We are optimistic about the [NATO] Prague summit in November," Cakmakoglu added, according to BTA. Reuters reported that the Turkish defense minister said he expects NATO to invite Bulgaria into the alliance this year. AH

ANTHRAX CASES PUT BULGARIAN HEALTH OFFICIALS ON ALERT
Veterinary authorities in the northeastern Shoumen region worked to prevent the spread of anthrax after the disease was detected in two calves and one sheep, BTA reported on 8 July. The daily "Sega" meanwhile asserted on 9 July that two people were hospitalized in Shoumen with cutaneous anthrax and another with similar symptoms in Varna under the headline "Anthrax Epidemic Threatens Northeast," although that report has not been corroborated by other media. Officials closed a sausage-making facility in Varna and a leather workshop in the village of Yassenovets that purchased the infected animals, and disinfected a farm and vaccinated animals in the area. The samples came from animals slaughtered on 3 and 5 July, according to the State Veterinary Service. AH

There is no End Note today.


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