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Newsline - July 12, 2002


PUTIN OUTLINES HIS FOREIGN-POLICY PRIORITIES...
Speaking at a Moscow gathering of Russia's ambassadors on 12 July, President Vladimir Putin said the country's foreign policy must be subordinated to domestic economic interests, strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. Putin said that economic ties with the European Union -- especially in energy sphere -- are the top priority, as well as accession to the World Trade Organization, without which Russia cannot realize its economic potential. "This fact must be imprinted both in people's minds and in practical deeds," Putin said. The Moscow ambassadors' conference is the largest foreign-policy event since then CPSU Central Committee General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev convened a similar meeting to unveil his "new political thinking" in 1986. VY

...STRESSES GOOD RELATIONS WITH CHINA...
Responding to the oft-repeated charge that his 2002 State of the Nation address gave preference to Russia's ties with the West over relations in the East (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April 2002), Putin said he believes economic ties with China must be upgraded to the same level as bilateral political and military cooperation. He added, though, that Sino-Russian relations are now better than at any time in the past and that Russian and Chinese diplomats work in close cooperation at all international forums. VY

...AND COMMENTS ON RELATIONS WITH CLOSEST NEIGHBORS
Speaking to journalists after his meeting with the ambassadors, Putin said that his goal is to extend the foreign-policy objectives outlined in his April State of the Nation address. In particular, Putin said Russia will respect the territorial integrity of Georgia, but will continue to insist on joint operations against "terrorists" in the Pankisi Gorge. He also praised cooperation with Ukraine in the energy sphere and especially the trilateral energy accord he signed with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 10 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2002). That agreement gives Russia practical control over Ukrainian pipelines, strana.ru commented. Putin also had positive words for Lithuania, saying that country's government understands Russia's concerns about Kaliningrad. However, he repeated Russia's position that Russians should have visa-free transit rights through Lithuania after that country joins the European Union. VY

CULTURE MINISTRY SPEAKS OUT AGAINST SOROKIN INVESTIGATION...
The criminal case against avant-garde writer Vladimir Sorokin launched by Moscow prosecutors on 11 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2002) received a great deal of public criticism that day. Prosecutors allege that Sorokin's novel "Goluboye Salo" ("Blue Lard") is pornographic. According to an official statement by the Culture Ministry's press office, that ministry considers the decision to open the case "erroneous, ungrounded, and a violation of a citizen's constitutional rights," RIA-Novosti reported. "Russian history shows that criminal cases against writers Andrei Sinyavskii, Yulii Daniel, and Aleksandr Ginzburg have only discredited the ideas of personal freedom and freedom of speech," the statement went on to say, according to ITAR-TASS. MD

...AS WALKING TOGETHER LEADER JUSTIFIES THE ACCUSATIONS...
Aleksei Volin, deputy chief of the government staff, also criticized the action, saying that it "elicits a mixed feeling of despondency and amazement," according to Interfax. Sorokin himself denied the allegations and said that his novel "contained only two sexual scenes and was written about the death of Russian literature." "Goluboye Salo" was published over three years ago, but the investigation began only now at the initiative of the pro-Putin youth movement Walking Together. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau broadcast on 10 July, the leader of movement, Vasilii Yakimenko, said the group is trying to "transfer Sorokin into the marginal [category]" and prove that "Sorokin's publications are not books in the classical meaning of the word." MD

...AND PROSECUTOR FILES CHARGES
Meanwhile, prosecutors completed their evaluation of the novel on 11 July and determined that it is indeed pornographic, Reuters and Western news agencies reported. Formal charges against Sorokin were filed the same day. Moscow prosecutor Mikhail Avdyukov rejected criticism of the investigation. "In deciding whether or not to initiate a criminal case, law enforcement agencies cannot be guided by any one person's aesthetic tastes. We act strictly within the framework of the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code," he said in an interview with Interfax on 11 July. "Let me assure you that this assessment will not depend on the personal aesthetic preferences of officials," he said before the assessment was completed. MD/RC

SLAVNEFT CASE CLOSED
Police have closed an investigation into two senior executives at oil giant Slavneft, Russian media reported on 11 July. The Interior Ministry had been looking into abuse-of-authority allegations against Slavneft President Yurii Sukhanov and Vice President Dmitrii Perevalov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 May 2002), following findings by a Duma Audit Chamber probe of the company of massive financial violations. Interfax reported on 11 July, however, that the case has been dropped because prosecutors found no evidence of a crime, the same reason prosecutors have given for closing a large number of high-profile political cases over the last 10 years. RC

LIBERAL TAKES OVER HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
Respected activist and former Duma Deputy Ella Pamfilova has been appointed chairwoman of the Presidential Human Rights Commission, Interfax and other Russian news agencies reported on 12 July. Pamfilova, who is well known for her outspoken criticism of the 1994-96 campaign in Chechnya, replaces Vladimir Kartashkin. After meeting with President Putin in the Kremlin, Pamfilova told reporters that her main task is to help people "defend their rights in a civilized manner and to protect them from the caprices of bureaucrats and other people," ntvru.com reported. She added that she will invite nongovernmental, human rights organizations, "including regional ones," to assist in her work. Human Rights Ombudsman Oleg Mironov told Ekho Moskvy that he endorses Pamfilova's appointment and that he "is confident we will establish normal working relations." RC

FEDERATION COUNCIL HEAD TRIES TO INTERVENE IN ANOTHER HUMAN RIGHTS CASE
Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov expressed his concern on 11 July about the fate of 20 young men who had been participating in an experimental program in Nizhnii Novgorod that provided them with alternative civilian service instead of military service, Interfax reported. Mironov said that he "will take under his personal control the fate of these young people," who were only trying to "realize their constitutional rights." Last January, Mironov expressed his willingness to step in personally as environmental activist/journalist Grigorii Pasko's "guarantor" if Pasko were released from custody (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January 2002). Also on 11 July, Deputy Duma Speaker Irina Khakamada (Union of Rightist Forces) said that her faction will propose new legislation amending the law on alternative civil service so that young men performing alternative service can do so in their home regions. Khakamada said that the new law, which is awaiting President Putin's signature, is "one of the least successful in the area of civil rights." JAC

REREGISTRATION OF FIRMS UNDER WAY
Tax authorities have begun reregistering Russia's firms under a new law intended to simplify the registration process and reduce opportunities for corruption (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June 2002), ORT reported on 12 July. According to Deputy Tax Minister Mikhail Mishustin, more than 1 million currently registered but nonfunctioning firms might be liquidated over the next year as a result of the new procedures. RC

RIGHTISTS SEEK TO LEGALIZE PROSTITUTION
Members of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) faction in the State Duma intend to present a bill on legalizing prostitution during the Duma's fall session. According to nns.ru, deputies will work out the document in detail over the summer, holding roundtables with representatives of law enforcement agencies and physicians. "This business needs to be put into a reasonable, legal framework, because toughening criminal prosecution, as several politicians propose, will not eliminate the problem," SPS deputy faction leader Aleksandr Barannikov was quoted by Interfax as saying on 11 July. Barannikov anticipates vehement criticism of the proposed bill from the "so-called moral defenders, who are representing the interests of criminal dealers, because it is their huge profits that are under threat." MD

KREMLIN HINTS AT REDRAWING CITY AND VILLAGE BOUNDARIES
Dmitrii Kozak, deputy head of the presidential administration and head of the presidential commission on demarcating responsibilities between various levels of government, said on 11 July that he does not exclude the possibility of changes in the administrative-territorial division of several regions in the federation within the framework of local self-government reforms, Interfax-Northwest reported. According to Kozak, such changes would be connected with the commission's desire to "enlarge several rural and urban populations." In his opinion, rural villages and other formations with fewer than 1,000 people could be merged. He added that such changes could start in 2003 after the introduction of the law on the organization of local self-rule in Russia. JAC

MUSLIM GRAVES DEFILED IN VOLGOGRAD...
Unidentified "hooligans" smashed monuments on Muslim graves in a cemetery in the southern city of Volgograd and defaced them with red swastikas, polit.ru reported on 10 July. They also signed their efforts with the word "skinheads." According to ITAR-TASS on 11 July, this is the third case of graves being desecrated in Volgograd in the past two months. JAC

...AS FEDERAL INTERIOR MINISTRY OFFICIAL WARNS HIS COLLEAGUES TO TAKE SUCH INCIDENTS MORE SERIOUSLY
Meanwhile, Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Vasiliev told Ren-TV after an 11 July meeting with members of Russia's religious denominations that some regional officials are taking incidents such as the desecration of graves "too lightly and are tending to describe them as mere childish naughtiness or hooliganism." Vasiliev declared, "These crimes must receive adequate treatment from the very beginning so that they do not grow into more serious ones." Also on 11 June, an unknown gunman fired into a mosque in the Siberian city of Irkutsk during a service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2002). Oleg Knaus, deputy head of the oblast's department for criminal investigations, said that there is still no information connecting what happened with extremists or nationalists, so the basic theory remains that it was hooliganism, according to Interfax-Eurasia. JAC

TATAR PRESIDENT DEFENDS INTERESTS OF LOCAL OIL PRODUCERS
Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said on 10 July that the several oil companies working in Siberia who suggested that oil production in the Volga region be stopped were lobbying their own interests, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported, citing Interfax. Shaimiev was commenting on the results of his visit to the Mordovian capital of Saransk, where he took part in an 8 July meeting on the socioeconomic development of the Volga Federal District that was chaired by President Putin (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 10 July 2002). Shaimiev said the companies suggesting that oil extraction in the district be stopped "are not thinking about the millions of people employed in the oil industry in the Volga [Federal] District." Shaimiev said that such companies do not care about the future of Siberian deposits, which are old and exhausted. Some Siberian deposits, such as Surgutskoe, have been shut down or have become unprofitable. In contrast, Shaimiev pointed out, Tatarstan's Romashkinskoe deposit continues to produce 14.5 million tons annually. JAC

CHINA REINTRODUCES BAN ON UNPROCESSED WOOD FROM SIBERIA
The Chinese government has renewed a ban as of 1 July on the import of unprocessed wood from Krasnoyarsk Krai, Interfax reported on 11 July. The krai's Center for the Defense of Timber said the regions' timber producers stand to lose several million dollars because of the ban. According to the agency, China first introduced the moratorium last July because of the great number of insect infections, which, in the opinion of Chinese offic0ials, threaten Chinese forests. JAC

CAR THEFT THROUGH THE AGES
A Museum of Car Theft has opened in Moscow, offering visitors "compelling examples of how a car thief can overcome almost any barrier," "The Moscow Times" reported on 11 July. According to its founders, the museum is the first of its kind in the world. On display are various antitheft devices, including some that are homemade. A World War II veteran placed fishing hooks on the driver's seat of his car every night, but stopped when he kept forgetting they were there. Meanwhile, on 12 July, the Moscow City Council adopted a law that will ban the use of car alarms, strana.ru reported. "People cannot protect their property at the cost of sacrificing the peace and health of others," council deputy speaker Oleg Bocharov was quoted as saying. JAC/RC

COUNCIL OF EUROPE OFFICIAL, PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SPAR OVER HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN CHECHNYA
At a meeting on 11 July in Moscow with Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, Lord Frank Judd, who is co-chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe-Russian State Duma Joint Working group on Chechnya, complained that Russian authorities have failed to complete their investigations of mass graves in Novye Aldy, Chernoreche, Khankala, and Alkhan-Yurt that are believed to contain the bodies of civilians killed by Russian troops during "sweep" operations, Interfax reported. Ustinov said that investigations are continuing and that it has not yet been established for certain the Russian troops were responsible for the killings, rather than Chechen fighters dressed in Russian army uniforms. Judd accepted an invitation from Ustinov to accompany him to Chechnya to see for himself the conditions under which such investigations are being conducted. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT COMMENTS ON FORMER DEFENSE MINISTER...
During a visit to Kotayk on 10 July, President Robert Kocharian explained that he dismissed Vagharshak Harutiunian as defense minister in May 2000 because of the latter's incompetence, rather than because of his stated opposition to resolving the Karabakh conflict by means of a territorial exchange, Noyan Tapan reported. Kocharian said the armed forces accumulated huge debts during Harutiunian's tenure as minister and their efficiency decreased to the point that "the army would have found itself on the verge of collapse if he had remained in office a further six months." Kocharian, who fought in the Karabakh war in the early 1990s, added that Harutiunian is the only general in the Armenian Army who has never spent a day at the front. LF

...AND HIS SUCCESSOR
Commenting on persistent rumors of tensions between himself and Harutiunian's successor as defense minister, Serzh Sarkisian (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 5 No. 20, 7 June 2002), Kocharian said he has known Sarkisian for 22 years "and we remain friends," according to Arminfo on 10 July, as cited by Groong. He added that they frequently jokingly ask each other whether the other is aware of the grounds for the alleged estrangement. On 11 July, Sarkisian held lengthy talks in Yerevan with Colonel General Valentin Korabelnikov, who heads the Intelligence Department within the Russian Army's General Staff, ITAR-TASS and Arminfo reported. The talks focused on unspecified aspects of bilateral military cooperation. LF

POLICE ACCUSED OF MISTREATING ARRESTED ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY
Fellow parliament deputies said on 11 July that Gevorg Hakobian, who is affiliated with the pro-government Miasnutiun faction, was beaten up in police custody during the night of 9-10 July after been stopped for suspected drunken driving, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 11 July. Hakobian has complained to Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, naming Yerevan police chief Ashot Gizirian as one of the officers who he says assaulted him. Viktor Dallakian, who chairs the parliament's Commission on State and Legal Affairs, said Markarian has undertaken to conduct an investigation and ensure that those responsible for the incident are punished. LF

CANDIDATES WITHDRAW FROM REPEAT ARMENIAN BY-ELECTION
Three of the four candidates who contested the 19 May by-election in Shirak, the outcome of which was annulled following allegations of serious fraud, have pulled out of the repeat election scheduled for 14 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May and 2 July 2002). Vartan Makeyan of the opposition Democratic Fatherland party told journalists in Yerevan on 9 July that numerous government officials had traveled to Shirak in order to pressure voters to cast their ballots in favor of Hakob Matilian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun, who was initially declared the victor in the 19 May ballot. Independent TV station executive Artur Kirakossian earlier withdrew his candidacy to support Makeyan, saying he feared the repeat ballot too would be marred by fraud. Democratic Fatherland Chairman Petros Makeyan told journalists in Yerevan on 11 July that his namesake's decision to withdraw his candidacy was intended to highlight what he termed the imminent threat of a totalitarian regime. LF

ARMENIA, IRAN REVIEW IMPLEMENTATION OF ENERGY PROJECTS
During a three-day visit to Yerevan on 9-11 July, Iranian Energy Minister Habibolla Bitaraf discussed with his Armenian counterpart Armen Movsisian and with Armenian President Kocharian the implementation of energy sector agreements signed during Kocharian's visit to Iran in December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 December 2001). Speaking at a joint press conference in Yerevan on 11 July, the two ministers said they signed an agreement on expanding the exchange of energy whereby Iran provides Armenia with electricity in winter and supplies Iran with energy during the summer months. That agreement also reaffirmed the two governments' shared commitment to build a major hydroelectric plant on the Arax River, which forms the border between the two countries, but set no date for embarking on that $35 million project. Nor has any date been set for the beginning of construction of a long-delayed pipeline to export Iranian and Turkmen natural gas to Armenia. LF

AZERBAIJAN WITHDRAWS OBJECTIONS TO PACE RAPPORTEUR
Bruno Haller, secretary-general of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, telephoned Azerbaijan's parliament speaker Murtuz Alesqerov and the head of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE, Ilham Aliev, late on 11 July to inform them he was "shocked" by the tone of a letter he received from Alesqerov demanding that PACE Rapporteur Andreas Gross be excluded from the PACE delegation scheduled to visit Azerbaijan later this month, Turan reported on 12 June. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev has similarly stated that Gross, whom many Azerbaijanis consider biased against their country, may be declared person non grata in Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2002). Haller reportedly warned that a refusal to allow Gross to enter Azerbaijan would have "serious political consequences," whereupon Aliev issued a written invitation to him. LF

ANOTHER SENIOR TURKISH GENERAL VISITS AZERBAIJAN
Visiting Baku on 11-12 July, General Hilmi Ozkok, who is commander of the Turkish Land Forces, discussed with his Azerbaijani counterpart Colonel General Safar Abiev, parliament speaker Alesqerov, and President Heidar Aliev various aspects of Azerbaijani-Turkish relations and the prospects for expanding bilateral military cooperation, Turan reported. Ozkok also presented Abiev with an award in acknowledgment of his contribution toward strengthening bilateral military ties. LF

NEW UN ENVOY FOR ABKHAZIA MEETS WITH GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ LEADERS
Heidi Tagliavini, who is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, traveled to Sukhum on 11 July for talks with First Deputy President Valerii Arshba, Caucasus Press reported. Tagliavini urged the Abkhaz leadership to accept the proposed document "Basic Principles on the Division of Competencies between Tbilisi and Sukhumi" drafted by her predecessor Dieter Boden, stressing that the UN is interested in "a peaceful and just settlement" of the conflict. But Arshba refused to accept the document, reiterating that the Abkhaz population voted in an October 1999 referendum to endorse the constitution adopted in November 1994 that defines Abkhazia as an independent sovereign state. On 10 July, Tagliavini met in Tbilisi with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, who called for more intensive efforts to resolve the Abkhaz conflict by the states that belong to the so-called "Friends of the UN Secretary-General" group (Britain, France, Germany, the United States, and Russia), Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze said he would welcome Ukraine's accession to that group. Abkhazia, however, opposes it. LF

THREE NORWEGIANS DEPORTED FROM SOUTH OSSETIA
Three Norwegians have been deported from the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia after being apprehended illegally filming strategic facilities and Russian peacekeeping posts in Tskhinvali, the region's capital, Interfax reported on 11 July, quoting South Ossetian parliament Chairman Stanislav Kochiev. LF

KAZAKHSTAN'S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ENDORSES LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES
Kazakhstan's Constitutional Court ruled on 11 July that the new law on political parties does not contravene the constitution, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. President Nursultan Nazarbaev submitted the law to the court after opposition parties and international organizations protested that it is undemocratic and could result in the closure of most of the currently registered 19 parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24, 26, 27, and 28 June 2002). The court's ruling may not be appealed, but President Nazarbaev still has the right to object to specific clauses and return the law to the Constitutional Court, court Chairman Yurii Khitrin told journalists on 11 July. LF

TWO MEN CHARGED WITH FIREBOMBING OPPOSITION KAZAKH NEWSPAPER
Two unemployed men have been arrested and charged with the arson attack in May that destroyed the editorial offices of the opposition weekly "Respublika-Delovoe obozrenie," Interfax reported on 11 July, quoting senior Almaty Interior Ministry official Nauryzbai Kyrgodjaev (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2002). Kyrgodjaev said the two suspects say that Muratbek Ketebaev, one of the cofounders of the paper, promised them $500 each to commit the attack. Ketebaev has rejected those allegations as absurd. LF

PAKISTANI ISLAMISTS ACTIVE IN KAZAKHSTAN?
Members of the clandestine Islamic party Hizb ut-Tahrir and of Pakistan's Tabligi Jamiat have recently increased their activities in Almaty, Berik Oshambaev, who is deputy head of the Almaty Department of the National Security Committee, told a press conference on 11 July, Interfax reported. He added that Tabligi Jamiat recruits young men and sends them for four-months of training in Pakistan under the pretext of teaching "pure Islam." Such activities pose a threat to Kazakhstan's national security, Oshambaev said. LF

KAZAKH SECURITY OFFICIALS JOIN INVESTIGATION OF MURDERS IN KYRGYZSTAN
Officials from the Almaty Department of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee are assisting their Kyrgyz colleagues in investigating the murders on 29 June and 8 July of a Chinese and a South Korean businessman in Bishkek, Oshambaev told journalists on 11 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 and 9 July 2002). He explained that immediately after the murders Kyrgyz police warned that the perpetrators may be hiding in Kazakhstan. Four persons have been apprehended in Bishkek in connection with the first killing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2002). LF

KYRGYZ PRESIDENT ADDRESSES FIRST SESSION OF NEW GOVERNMENT
Askar Akaev addressed the first session, held on 10 July, of the government formed last month following the appointment of Nikolai Tanaev as prime minister to succeed Kurmanbek Bakiev, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported on 11 July. Akaev described the economic situation as "difficult," laying the blame on the outgoing government. He instructed the new cabinet to increase exports, seek to attract more foreign investment, speed up reforms, and prepare legislation within two months on liberalizing the labor market and reforming the health care, pension, and education systems. Akaev accused nongovernmental media, journalists from which were not permitted to attend the session, of biased coverage of political developments. LF

ADB TO SUPPORT CREDIT UNIONS IN UZBEKISTAN
The Asian Development Bank has signed a memorandum with the government and Central Bank of Uzbekistan under which it will make available $20 million to credit unions for micro-loans for agriculture, uzreport.com reported on 11 July. The project envisages the creation of 20 credit unions that will lend sums of $50-$500 to farmers for a period of six months. LF

OSCE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT COMMENTS ON BELARUS...
Britain's Bruce George, the newly elected president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, told RFE/RL on 10 July that it is not the assembly's job to deal with issues regarding the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Belarus. He added that a number of institutions and bilateral negotiating mechanisms are in a position to encourage the Belarusian government to make decisions that better meet OSCE principles. With regard to the Belarusian National Assembly's bid to join the Parliamentary Assembly, George said it would help if Belarusian authorities had a better relationship with the OSCE group in Minsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 5 June, and 8 July 2002). CB

...AS BELARUSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY OFFICIAL CONDEMNS OSCE DECISION...
Pavel Latushka, press secretary of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, said at a press conference on 10 July that the decision to delay discussion of the bid by Belarus's National Assembly to join the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly until February 2003 shows the OSCE's inability to defend its own principles, Belapan and ITAR-TASS reported the next day. Latushka said the Parliamentary Assembly "crudely violated its own principles of procedure." The press secretary also reiterated that Belarus remains firm in its belief that the National Assembly should be given a place in the Parliamentary Assembly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2002). CB

...AND OPPOSITION LEADER FEARS DECISION WILL HAVE CONSEQUENCES FOR HIS PARTY
Anatol Lyabedzka, leader of the opposition United Civic Party, said on 11 July that, "[The United Civic Party] has information that the [Belarusian authorities] are considering closing down the United Civic Party in connection with the resolution on Belarus adopted by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly," Belapan reported the same day. In its resolution to delay discussion of Belarus's bid for acceptance, the Parliamentary Assembly expressed concern about reports, which included a newspaper article written by Lyabedzka, that Belarus sells weapons to so-called "rogue states," as well as reports about the disappearance of prominent opposition members (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2002). The Parliamentary Assembly also criticized violations of the freedom of religion and freedom of speech (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25, 26, and 28 June 2002). CB

BELARUS, LITHUANIA SIGN COOPERATION PROTOCOL
The Belarusian Interior Ministry's Investigation Committee and the Lithuanian Interior Ministry signed a protocol on cooperation on 11 July during an official visit to Minsk by Lithuanian Deputy Interior Minister Jonas Liaudanskas, Belapan reported the same day. In addition, the Belarusian State Border Troops Committee signed a cooperation agreement with the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service. The purpose of the accords is to facilitate cooperation in the field of cross-border law enforcement. The head of the Belarusian Investigation Committee, Leonid Glukhovski, said after the signing ceremony that, "Those who combat crime both in Belarus and Lithuania know very well that criminals recognize no borders, so it is absolutely necessary that the two countries' law enforcement agencies unite their efforts." CB

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FORMS ARMS-SALES COMMISSION
The Ukrainian parliament formed an ad hoc commission on 11 July to investigate charges that Ukraine sold arms to countries that were subject to United Nations arms embargoes, the RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported on 11 July. The ad hoc commission will be headed by Serhiy Sinchenko, a member of parliament from the Communist Party of Ukraine. In an interview with RFE/RL, Sinchenko said a similar commission existed in the previous parliament, but its jurisdiction was limited to 1991-98. Over that period, parliament recommended that the Prosecutor-General's Office initiate 10 criminal prosecutions for illegal arms sales, but the work of the commission was abruptly terminated and the cases were never brought to trial. Ukrainian officials, in response to an 8 July article in the "Financial Times" that dealt with Ukrainian-Iraqi relations, have claimed that Ukraine has never sold arms illegally. RK

ESTONIAN PEOPLE'S UNION CHAIRMAN CALLS FOR RESTRICTING LAND SALES TO FOREIGNERS
In an interview in "Eesti Paevaleht" of 11 July, Villu Reiljan spoke about the People Union's plans to collect signatures in support of prohibiting the sale of agricultural and forested land to foreigners until 2012, ETA reported. He said Estonian land is undervalued in comparison to that of European Union countries, and that Estonia should follow Poland's and Hungary's example in EU accession negotiations and seek a transition period in the free movement of capital chapter. Reiljan's proposal was severely criticized by other political parties, which called it a pre-election campaign maneuver. "Eesti Paevaleht" pointed out that the parliament passed the law allowing the sale of land to nonresident physical and legal persons in 1996, when Andres Varik, one of the leaders of the People's Union, was agriculture minister. European Integration Bureau head Henrik Hololei noted that Estonia closed the free movement of capital chapter in May 2000, and said reopening the chapter now would be extremely harmful to Estonia. SG

LATVIAN PARLIAMENT OPENS OFFICE AT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
Latvia on 11 July became the first EU candidate country to open a permanent office at the European Parliament in Brussels, LETA reported. The office was formally opened by European Affairs Commission Chairman Edvins Inkens, who was attending a regular meeting of the European Convention. He said the key task of the office is "to prepare Latvia for the moment when eight deputies from Latvia will begin working in the European Parliament, first as monitors and then as full-fledged members from the summer of 2004." The European Parliament offers offices and equipment to all EU member countries' parliaments, but currently only the parliaments of Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, France, and Italy are using them. SG

VILNIUS MAYOR SUGGESTS REBURYING NAPOLEONIC ARMY REMAINS IN PRESTIGIOUS CEMETERY
Vilnius City Mayor Arturas Zuokas and French Ambassador to Lithuania Jean-Bernard Harth discussed the possibility on 11 July of reburying at the prestigious Antakalnis Cemetery the remains of soldiers from Napoleon's army, "Lietuvos rytas" reported the next day. The remains of nearly 2,000 soldiers have been discovered in a mass grave at a former military base in Vilnius (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March 2002) and experts estimate that their number could rise to 5,000 if archeological excavations continue. Zuokas suggested that a suitable place in the cemetery would be between the monuments to the victims of the 13 January 1991 clashes between Soviet troops and Lithuanian citizens around the Vilnius television tower and to World War II soldiers. The French government has pledged to cover most of the costs for reburial and the construction of a memorial. He also mentioned that BBC Television and the Discovery Channel have asked for permission to participate in the archeological work and to film footage for their "Meet the Ancestors" and "Moments in Time" serials, respectively. SG

VERHEUGEN TELLS POLES TO FACE UP TO EUROSKEPTICS
Speaking to Polish leaders on 11 July, EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said Poland needs to confront opponents to its bid to join the European Union, such as Self -Defense leader Andrzej Lepper, Reuters reported. "Poland must confront the Lepper phenomenon and other populist and nationalist voices," Verheugen said in a speech to a foreign-policy think tank. "We have to confront the antidemocrats and the anti-Europeans. Their arguments are weak." Lepper has seized on Polish farmers' fears that entry to the EU will cost them their livelihoods. Over 20 percent of Poland's workforce is tied to the land, but generates less than 4 percent of Poland's GDP. "I understand only too well the fears of Polish farmers, but I do not understand why they are not told the truth," Verheugen said. "The truth is this: In only one sector of the economy, agriculture, will incomes rise significantly as a consequence of Poland's accession to the EU." DW

CZECH PRESIDENT APPOINTS SPIDLA AS PRIME MINISTER...
President Vaclav Havel accepted Milos Zeman's resignation and appointed Social Democratic Party (CSSD) leader Vladimir Spidla as the Czech Republic's new prime minister on 12 July, CTK reported the same day. "I'd be very glad if the [new] government won the confidence of the Chamber of Deputies, and I'd be mainly glad if the government gradually won the people's respect through its trustworthiness, professional competence, and work results," Havel said. The president asked other members of Zeman's outgoing cabinet to continue performing their duties until 15 July, when the remainder of the new government is expected to be appointed. Prime Minister-designate Spidla thanked the outgoing government, in which he was deputy prime minister and minister of labor and social affairs. "I'm very glad that I can continue the efforts of the cabinet...as this government was successful," Spidla said. BW

...PRAISES SPIDLA, NEW CABINET
President Havel said on 10 July that he thinks Spidla's new government will probably be less technocratic and more pluralistic than previous cabinets led by Klaus and Zeman, respectively, CTK reported the same day. Havel said he appreciates the "sober and open approach" Spidla took in forming the government. The president said he believes the new cabinet will possess "a kind of inner plurality of thinking and forces" that will enable it to "register various matters in their broader context" and "seek consensus." Havel's positive comments are in stark contrast to the stormy relations he had with previous governments led by Klaus and Zeman. Meanwhile, "Mlada fronta Dnes" of 10 July predicted that Spidla's government would resemble a modern European-style Social Democratic government. The newspaper also predicted that Spidla will be less authoritarian toward his ministers, giving them more independence and responsibility than previous prime ministers gave their subordinates. BW

CZECH CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES ELECTS CSSD CANDIDATE ZAORALEK CHAIRMAN...
CSSD candidate Lubomir Zaoralek on 11 July was elected chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Czech parliament, Czech media reported the same day. It took Zaoralek two ballots to win the post, in what was the first test of solidarity for the new coalition government. The newly formed cabinet of the CSSD, the Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU), and the Christian Democratic Party-Peoples' Party (KDU-CSL) controls 101 seats in the 200-member Chamber of Deputies. However, on the first ballot Zaoralek won only 99 votes, two votes shy of a majority, and Civic Democratic Party (ODS) candidate Vaclav Klaus received 76 votes. Zaoralek picked up two votes on the second ballot and was elected speaker. BW

...AS JUST TWO OF SIX DEPUTY-SPEAKER SEATS FILLED
Meanwhile, the new chamber elected only two of six deputy speakers on 11 July, CTK reported. KDU-CSL candidate Jan Kasal and CSSD nominee Jitka Kupcova won deputy-speaker posts with 115 votes and 142 votes, respectively. US-DEU candidate Hana Marvanova received only 95 votes, six shy of the 101 necessary for election, and Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) candidate Vojtech Filip got just 48 votes. The lower house has scheduled its next session for 16 July, with the election of the four remaining deputy speakers as the first item on the agenda. BW

SLOVAK AGRICULTURE DEEMED READY FOR EU ACCESSION
Slovak Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration Maria Kadlecikova said on 11 July that the country's agriculture industry has reached EU standards, SITA reported. However, she noted that declining crop yields, insufficient focus on distressed agricultural area, and the failure to create appropriate legislation that would allow farmland to be leased are issues that remain to be solved. She also expressed her appreciation for the fact that the current parliament has approved 21 laws and 96 regulations regarding agriculture. AS

SLOVAK PREMIER IN BRUSSELS FOR EU TALKS
Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Miklos said in Brussels on 11 July expects Slovakia's EU accession negotiations on the agricultural and budget chapters to be complicated, TASR reported. He said it might be late 2002 before the chapters can be closed. In talks with Eneko Landaburu, the European Commission's director-general for EU expansion, Miklos said he is confident that pro-integration and pro-reform parties will dominate in the parliamentary elections in September and will be prepared to cooperate afterward with each other and with the EU. AS

SLOVAKIA INKS AGREEMENT ON VOLKSWAGEN BRATISLAVA
On 11 July, Slovakia and the European Commission reached agreement on the reclassification of tax breaks provided to Volkswagen Slovakia to state assistance, in accordance with EU rules on economic competition, Slovak media reported. A similar agreement must be made regarding U.S. Steel Kosice. AS

HUNGARIAN REFERENDUM ON EU LIKELY NEXT SUMMER
Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy announced on 11 July that a referendum on Hungary's accession to the European Union will be staged early next summer, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Passage of the referendum could open the way for Hungary to join the union as early as 1 January 2004, he said. In other news, the daily quoted Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs as saying that it is not realistic to believe that 10 countries will be simultaneously admitted to the EU, and that he agrees with the Danish position that countries vying for accession must wrap up negotiations by the end of this year. Kovacs told reporters that he acknowledges that Hungary's Status Law is a cause of concern for some neighboring countries, but does not believe that the situation is unsolvable. He claimed that it is the designation "status" in the law's name that irks Hungary's neighbors, as the law in fact does not provide any special status for Hungarian nationals in other countries; for example, dual citizenship. MSZ

PROTESTS FAIL TO ATTRACT BIG CROWDS IN BUDAPEST
Demonstrations demanding a recount of votes cast at the April parliamentary elections and the resignation of Prime Minister Medgyessy attracted only 600-700 protestors to the parliament building on 11 July, far fewer than the 10,000-12,000 protestors that organizers had hoped for, Hungarian media reported. Meanwhile, "Magyar Hirlap" reported that vote-tallying commissioners across the country have indicated to local officials that they will not take part in organizing local elections in the fall. Istvan Forgacs, the chairman of the National Federation of Notaries, warned that communities will be unable to recruit a sufficient number of such commissioners if the "political hysteria around alleged election fraud continues." MSZ

HUNGARY'S PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY COMMITTEE ASKS FORMER PREMIER TO EXPLAIN ASSETS
Socialist deputy Alajos Jozsef Geczi, chairman of parliament's Immunity Committee, has written to former Prime Minister Viktor Orban asking him to "clear up inconsistencies in his statement of assets," Hungarian dailies reported on 12 July. Geczi said he expects an answer to the question of whether Orban's increase in assets between February-June 2002 is proportionate to his income over that period. If Orban does not clarify his statement within five days, proceedings will be launched against him, Geczi warned. Orban and his wife's joint savings reportedly went up by 9 million forints ($36,000) in that period. Meanwhile, FIDESZ deputy Robert Repassy launched a procedure to investigate the veracity of Prime Minister Medgyessy's statement of assets, claiming that Medgyessy failed to mention the sale of companies he owned, as well as his usufruct on two valuable properties in Buda. MSZ

HUNGARY'S INFLATION RATE HITS 16-YEAR LOW
According to data released by the Central Statistics Office, Hungary's year-on-year inflation rate fell to 4.8 percent in June, the lowest rate in 16 years, "Napi Gazdasag" reported on 12 July. Analysts expected the figure to be around 5.5 percent. Observers now predict that inflation will stabilize over the next few months, with a rate of 4.5-4.8 percent expected for December. MSZ

END TO INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT IMBROGLIO IN SIGHT?
"The New York Times" reported on 12 July that the United States has dropped its demand for a blanket immunity for U.S. peacekeepers in its dispute with NATO allies at the United Nations over the new International Criminal Court (ICC) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2002). The daily added that Washington's "new proposal calls on the Security Council to request the court not to investigate or prosecute peacekeepers for a year, with the intention of renewing the request annually. Some [council] members, however, argued that the demand was still flawed because the mandate of the court allows only for case-by-case delays and because it was not the Security Council's job to rewrite international treaties." France has put forward a proposal under which the ICC "would have to notify the Security Council before taking action against any peacekeeping personnel, thus allowing the council to seek a delay." British Ambassador to the UN Jeremy Greenstock noted that a solution appears contingent on Washington and Paris working out mutually acceptable language. In a generally optimistic report, dpa quoted Greenstock as saying that he hopes an agreement can be reached on 12 July. PM

SOLANA SAYS EU IS READY TO TAKE OVER BOSNIAN POLICE MISSION
Javier Solana, who is the EU's foreign and security policy chief, said in a German television interview on 12 July that he hopes that a compromise can be reached regarding the ICC and U.S. participation in UN peacekeeping missions, dpa reported from Berlin. Solana noted that "many countries have already signed and ratified the treaty [setting up the ICC].... [Our] American friends will certainly understand that there are other mechanisms for protecting their citizens" than blocking the renewal of peacekeeping missions. Should no compromise be reached, however, the EU is prepared to take over the UN-led international police mission in Bosnia now instead of on 1 January 2003 as scheduled, Solana added. "We are ready for this and have already prepared ourselves. There will be no vacuum in Bosnia." PM

RUSSIA TO PAY BOSNIAN PEACEKEEPING DEBT
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said in Moscow on 11 July that Russia will pay its debt of about $1,000,000 that it still owes from the 2001 budget of the international Peace Implementation Council, which oversees the implementation of the 1995 Dayton peace agreements in Bosnia, Interfax reported. The council is the body to which the high representative reports. PM

SREBRENICA SURVIVORS DEDICATE MEMORIAL...
Several thousand people gathered in Potocari near Srebrenica on 11 July to mark the seventh anniversary of the massacre of up to 8,000 Muslim males by Serbian forces commanded by General Ratko Mladic, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2002). Many of the women were in tears at the moving ceremony for the dedication of a simple monument resembling a Muslim tombstone with an inscription reading: "Srebrenica. July 1995." The monument stands in the field where many of the women saw their male relatives for the last time. The women want to identify the men's individual remains that have been found in mass graves or in isolated locations and give them a proper burial. Bosnia's highest Islamic cleric, Mustafa Ceric told those assembled: "We pray for sorrow to become hope, for revenge to become justice, and for mothers' tears to become a reminder so that Srebrenica and New York will never happen again to anyone, anywhere." PM

...WITHOUT SERBIAN PARTICIPATION
Leading representatives of the international community joined the Muslims on 11 July but none of the invited leaders of the Republika Srpska attended, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Some local Serbs jeered the arriving mourners, gave the Serbian nationalist three-finger salute, and held up pictures of Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, Reuters reported. Bosnian Serb police prevented women peace activists from Serbia from attending the meeting in Potocari and sent them back to Serbia. The OSCE in Sarajevo called on the Republika Srpska authorities to launch an investigation into an incident in which Bosnian Serb police on the border with the Croat-Muslim federation prevented a camera team from Federation Television from traveling to Potocari, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. Elsewhere, Bosnian Serb leaders plan to hold a ceremony on 12 July to honor Serbian war victims in the Drina valley and Brcko area. PM

INDICTED BOSNIAN SERB REFUSES TO ENTER A PLEA
Radovan Stankovic, whom SFOR peacekeepers recently arrested and sent to The Hague, refused to enter a plea on 12 July to charges that he ran a brothel in the Foca area in 1992 in which Serbian soldiers raped Muslim women and girls as young as 12 years of age, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July 2002). Stankovic told the tribunal: "I do not wish to plead to any of these charges and counts. I am guilty because I am a Serb and because I defended my people." PM

BOSNIAN SERB DEFENSE MINISTER RESIGNS
Slobodan Bilic resigned his post on 11 July, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Banja Luka. The Socialist Party demanded he give up the post because he has left that party. The demand was supported by Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party, to which Bilic once also belonged. The Socialists said they will soon name a replacement for Bilic. PM

YUGOSLAV CONSTITUTIONAL COURT UPHOLDS SACKING OF GENERAL PAVKOVIC
Yugoslavia's top court ruled against a complaint by General Nebojsa Pavkovic that President Vojislav Kostunica violated the general's constitutional rights by sacking him recently, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25, 26, 27, and 28 June, and 1 and 10 July 2002). The court refused to rule on Pavkovic's charge that the president acted illegally in firing him, saying that it has no competence to rule in such matters. Observers in Belgrade suggested that Pavkovic could still try to use other legal arguments against his sacking and that the case could continue in the courts for some time. PM

MILOSEVIC'S EX-AIDE TAKEN TO THE HAGUE
Zoran Lilic, who served as figurehead president of Yugoslavia while Slobodan Milosevic was Serbian president from 1993-97, was taken from his office in Belgrade on 11 July by officials of The Hague-based war crimes tribunal, "The Wall Street Journal Europe" reported. He was then flown to The Hague to testify against his former boss regarding the command and control structure during Milosevic's years in power. Officials of the Serbian and Yugoslav governments declined to comment on the matter. Lilic's lawyer said the Yugoslav government obtained a Belgrade court order to detain Lilic at the request of the tribunal. Lilic told Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic on 9 July that he would not go to The Hague voluntarily but only under a summons from the Yugoslav government. In related news, a Belgrade court has called on police to arrest former Bosnian Serb General Dragomir Milosevic, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 11 July. The tribunal has indicted the Yugoslav citizen for war crimes stemming from the 1992-95 siege of Sarajevo. PM

HAGUE TRIBUNAL UNCOVERS SCAM BY WAR CRIMINALS
The war crimes tribunal is looking into the possible ways that indicted war criminals in The Hague are using their detention to make money, "The Independent" reported from Belgrade on 12 July. The move came after it was discovered that Zoran Zigic, who is a convicted Bosnian Serb war criminal, made about $200,000 in a program in which the court splits legal fees with defendants who say they cannot meet the costs themselves. The Zigic family bought two apartments, an unspecified commercial business, and three transport vehicles with the tidy sum, which is tax-free. Court officials stressed that abuse of the system will no longer be tolerated. PM

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH WARNS ABOUT RIGHTS ABUSE IN YUGOSLAVIA
In a report released in New York on 11 July, Human Rights Watch said that Belgrade's further integration into European institutions should be made contingent on improvements in its observance of human rights (see http://www.hrw.org/press/2002/07/yugo0711.htm). The report notes that there have been obvious improvements since the fall of Milosevic at the end of 2000, but also that the current authorities have yet to display a "true commitment" to human rights. Problem areas include war crimes impunity, illegal behavior by the police, and discrimination against Roma. PM

LAST CURFEW ENDS IN MACEDONIA
Police lifted the curfew in Aracinovo, near Skopje, on 11 July, dpa reported. It was the last community in Macedonia still under a nighttime curfew stemming from the 2001 conflict. PM

U.S. TO CUT 1,000 TROOPS IN DOWNSIZING OF KFOR
U.S. KFOR spokesman Major Mark Ballesteros said in Donja Slatina on 11 July that Washington will cut its contribution to KFOR by 1,000 troops by the end of 2002 as part of an overall NATO effort to reduce the size of the force by 4,800 to a total of 33,200, AP reported. The 38-country peacekeeping force stood at 50,000 when it was set up in 1999 and is expected to be cut to 30,000 by the end of 2003. The U.S. has the largest contingent, which is 5,000-strong, but its major European allies have had the largest number of casualties. The focus of security work in Kosova has increasingly shifted from armed peacekeeping to the control and prevention of smuggling and organized crime. But the "Financial Times" reported from Brussels on 12 July that British plans to pull out most of the United Kingdom's 2,400 troops from Kosova have fueled speculation that London plans to use the soldiers to support a U.S.-led military intervention in Iraq. PM

NANO SEEKING THE ALBANIAN PREMIERSHIP?
Speaking in Tirana on 10 July, Socialist Party (PS) Chairman Fatos Nano said that the PS statutes should be changed to enable the party chairman to serve as prime minister, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. The PS is split into one faction consisting largely of party functionaries loyal to Nano and a second group of persons in the government. Any move by Nano to oust Prime Minister Pandeli Majko would certainly bring the tensions within the PS out into the open again. Nano was recently frustrated in his hopes of winning the presidency because of an all-party consensus agreement that settled on Alfred Moisiu as the successor to outgoing President Rexhep Meidani (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 25 June 2002). The consensus came about largely because of foreign pressure to put an end to the political culture of polarization personified by Nano and Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha. PM

ROMANIAN RULING PARTY STILL PREFERRED BY VOTERS
Two opinion polls released on 11 July showed that support for the Social Democratic Party (PSD) is far above that for other parties, Romanian media reported. According to the polls conducted by Metro Media Transylvania and the Curs polling agency, the PSD is backed by 46-50 percent of voters, the Greater Romania Party by 19-21 percent, the Democratic Party by 10-11 percent, the National Liberal Party by 8-9 percent, and the Democratic Federation of Hungarians in Romania by 7 percent. Other parties received less than 5 percent support. According to the poll conducted by Metro Media Transylvania, despite the PSD's strong backing, only 29 percent of respondents said they believe the country is headed in the right direction, while 58 percent believed otherwise. ZsM

ROMANIA'S NATIONAL LIBERAL PARTY CHAIRMAN WILL NOT SEEK NEW MANDATE
Recent turmoil in the National Liberal Party (PNL) has apparently tapered off as party Chairman Valeriu Stoica announced that he will not run for a new mandate at the party's extraordinary congress next month, Mediafax reported. Stoica's preference to succeed him, PNL National Council Chairman Teodor Stolojan, has agreed to run for the post. Stoica has said he sees Stolojan's chairmanship as the only solution to the ongoing rivalry between the party's internal factions. Meeting with PNL branch leaders the same day, Stolojan confirmed his wish to run for the chairman's post, on the condition that his proposals for modifying the party's charter are supported. Stolojan said 38 out of the 47 branch leaders support his proposals. ZsM

ROMANIAN CIVIL SOCIETY PRESENTS PROPOSALS TO AMEND CONSTITUTION
At the Constitutional Forum session that opened on 10 July in Bucharest, representatives of nongovernmental organizations presented their proposals for amending the constitution, Mediafax reported. Chamber of Deputies Deputy Chairman Bogdan Niculescu-Duvaz, who is coordinating the forum, said the event marks the first time that NGOs have been directly involved in drafting the new constitution. The forum's session was to end on 12 July. Individual citizens can also present proposals by letter or via the Internet. The forum is will accept proposals until September and present its conclusions by mid-October to a special parliamentary commission tasked with drafting the new basic law. Parliamentary parties on 10 July also discussed the main areas to be amended in the constitution. Although NGO representatives are proposing a reduction in the number of parliamentarians and the introduction of uninominal vote system, all sides have agreed to discuss such matters during the modification of the election law. ZsM

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT TAKES FIRST STEP TO REGISTER BESSARABIAN CHURCH
The Moldovan government on 11 July adopted a draft law that modifies the current procedures for registering religious organizations, Flux reported. The draft law provides for churches to be registered through a simple request submitted to a government agency. It also contains a special clause according to which all churches that have already submitted registration requests will automatically be registered. The government thus showed its willingness to respect a 24 April resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that called for the church to be registered by 31 July. ZsM

IMF GRANTS $12 MILLION TO MOLDOVA
The IMF Governing Board decided to disburse a $12 million tranche as part of a $147 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) arrangement, Flux reported on 11 July, citing an IMF press release. IMF Deputy Managing Director and acting Chairman Shigemitsu Sugisaki said the Moldovan authorities have pursued "prudent fiscal and monetary policies during the past 18 months," and that most of the country's 2001 financial targets "were met or missed only narrowly.' However, he warned that "the budgetary position remains vulnerable," and recommended "continued tight monetary policy." Sugisaki also said that the government should "persevere with structural reforms" and "improve the business environment" for investors. ZsM

BULGARIAN CUSTOMS ANNOUNCES RECORD HEROIN SEIZURE
The National Customs Agency said agents of the Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint on the Turkish border confiscated a record haul of 230 kilograms late on 10 July, BTA reported the following day. It was the largest single narcotics seizure in Bulgarian customs history, authorities said. Agents detained the Turkish driver, whose Turkish-registered vehicle contained the heroin in a hidden compartment under the trailer's roof. The truck was bound for Germany, the agency reported. Officials in Bulgaria, which lies along the so-called "Balkan route," are keen to demonstrate to Brussels that they can effectively monitor the country's borders, Reuters noted on 11 July. AH

There is no End Note today.


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