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Newsline - August 1, 2002


WASHINGTON TRIES TO CONVINCE MOSCOW TO STOP NUCLEAR TRANSFER TO TEHRAN...
U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham on 1 August told reporters in Moscow that the United States is deeply concerned by the extension of Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran and that this cooperation is not in Russia's own self-interest, Western and Russian news agencies reported. Speaking after talks that he and U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton held with their Russian counterparts, Abraham remarked that the United States "consistently urges Russia to cease all nuclear cooperation with Iran, including its assistance to the reactor in Bushehr." Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS and AP reported on 31 July that despite Washington's pressure, Moscow is going to proceed with its 10-year program of technical cooperation with Teheran, which might include the construction of five new reactors. VY

...AS RUSSIAN ENERGY MINISTER HOPES FOR MORE U.S. OIL EXPORTS
Meanwhile, Energy Minister Igor Yusufov said after his meeting with Abraham that the beginning of Russian oil exports to the United States (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 2002) is "a good start" and that these shipments should be increased, polit.ru reported on 31 July. Yusufov added that Russian energy exports will be one of the main topics at the U.S.-Russia Energy Forum in Houston in October. VY

...AND U.S. AMBASSADOR IN MOSCOW CALLS FOR END TO CD PIRACY
Alexander Vershbow, the U.S. ambassador to Russia who also took part in political and economic negotiations held by Abraham and Bolton in Moscow, alleged that the Russian defense industry is involved in the production of pirate CDs, and that Russia must stop this practice if it wants to join the World Trade Organization, "Vedomosti" and other news agencies reported on 1 August. Vershbow also revealed that in June he sent a letter to Media Minister Mikhail Lesin in which he drew the minister's attention to the fact that Russia, where annual domestic demand for CDs does not exceed 10 million copies, currently produces 200 million discs per year and occupies second place after China in the manufacturing of illegal audio recordings. Vershbow added that he presented to Lesin a list of Russian defense enterprises producing pirate CDs, including one factory that is headed by Oleg Gordyiko, who heads a commission on intellectual property rights within the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. VY

MOSCOW ACCUSES SAUDI ARABIA OF INDULGENCE TOWARD TERRORISM
Aleksei Volin, a government deputy chief of staff, said Russia considers the decision of an Islamic court in Saudi Arabia to sentence Deni Magomersaev and Iriskhan Arsaev to six and four years in prison, respectively, for hijacking a Russian aircraft to Saudi Arabia in March 2001 to be "very mild," RIA-Novosti reported on 31 July. During the storming of the aircraft by Saudi special forces, Magomersaev and Iriskhan Arsaev, both ethnic Chechens, were captured and a third hijacker and a Russian stewardess were killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 19 March 2001). Saudi Arabia refused to extradite the men to Russia and decided to try them in an Islamic court. Volin added that the sentences for the hijacking is much milder than routine Islamic verdicts for theft and that such decisions make Saudi Arabia appear to be "a sanctuary for terrorists." VY

SPECIAL ENVOY SUPPORTS PUTIN ON KALININGRAD...
Dmitrii Rogozin, head of the State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee and President Vladimir Putin's special representative to the European Union on Kaliningrad, called on the Russian parliament, the presidential administration, and public opinion to adopt a common position on the Kaliningrad problem, "and not to look on idly as President Putin tries to solve the issue for all of us," strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 31 July. Speaking to journalists, Rogozin said he fully supports Putin's demand for visa-free transit between the exclave and the rest of Russia. Putin is acting as a president who defends the Russian Constitution and as a citizen who does not want to see his nation divided, Rogozin said. Rogozin also noted that he has carefully studied the Schengen agreement that regulates entry and immigration into the EU and other European countries and that, in his opinion, the document is flexible enough to grant some sort of special status for Kaliningrad. VY

...AS LOST POLISH PLANE SENT HOME
A LOT passenger airliner carrying 41 passengers from Warsaw to Kaliningrad that landed at the Chkalovsk Naval Base in Kaliningrad Oblast apparently by mistake on 31 July has been allowed to return to Poland, PAP reported on 1 August. According to ITAR-TASS, Polish authorities believe that the pilots landed at the base, which is about 20 kilometers away from Kaliningrad's civilian airport, accidentally because they were unfamiliar with the area. A joint team of the Federal Security Service, the Baltic Fleet, the Prosecutor-General's Office, and other agencies was summoned to investigate the incident. Air service between Warsaw and Kaliningrad was inaugurated on 26 July. RC

THE CRISIS IS OVER
The standard of living for the Russian population has finally reached the levels attained prior to the August 1998 economic crisis, RosBalt reported on 1 August, citing a briefing by Vladimir Sokolin, head of the State Statistics Committee. According to Sokolin, real incomes have increased 24 percent since September 1998 and real wages have increased by 55 percent. He added that pensions are 28 percent higher than in September 1998. RC

SOROS FOUNDATION DISPUTE CONTINUES
The Soros Foundation's Open Society Institute has again suspended its operations in Russia, claiming that a dispute over the right to use the premises where its Moscow office are located (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2002) is preventing it from functioning, polit.ru reported on 31 July. According to the institute's Moscow director Yekaterina Genieva, the company Nobel Technologies has surrounded the building with armed guards in an effort to collect the $50,000 in back rent that it claims the institute owes. Polit.ru reported that, on 30 July, a Moscow court ruled in favor of the Open Society Institute, saying the 10-year lease it signed with the building's previous owner is legally binding and gives the institute the right to remain on the premises another six years. The institute's activities in Russia will remain suspended until the dispute is resolved, Genieva said. RC

REPUTED RUSSIAN MOBSTER ARRESTED IN OLYMPIC FIGURE-SKATING SCANDAL...
U.S. federal prosecutors announced on 31 July the arrest in Italy earlier that day of reputed Moscow crime boss Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov for allegedly fixing the ice-dance and pairs figure-skating competitions at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games in February, Russian and Western news agencies reported. According to investigators, Tokhtakhunov used his influence with the French and Russian skating federations to pressure a French judge to vote for Russia's Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze in the pairs event in exchange for a Russian vote for France's Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat in the ice-dance competition. Both teams won gold medals in their respective competitions, although the scandal that erupted over the pairs decision led the International Olympic Committee to award a second gold medal in the event to Canada's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February 2002 and "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 2002). MES

...IMPLICATING RUSSIAN, FRENCH SKATING ASSOCIATIONS
U.S. Attorney James Comey described the scheme as a "classic quid pro quo: 'You'll line up support for the Russian pair; we'll line up support for the French pair and everybody will go away with the gold, and perhaps there'll be a little gold for me,''' AP reported on 31 July. Tokhtakhunov, a 49-year-old Russian citizen who was born in Uzbekistan, reportedly sought to gain a visa to return to France, where he had been living until he was forced to relocate to Italy, while the beleaguered French national ice-hockey program would get $1 million, according to AP. Evidence listed in the complaint filed in the Manhattan federal court on 31 July includes transcripts of wire-tapped conversations between Tokhtakhunov and an unidentified Russian ice-skating official; between Tokhtakhunov and a "female ice dancer," presumably Anissina; and between the ice dancer's mother and Tokhtakhunov, who is also known by the nickname "the Taiwanese." The transcripts also implicate French Ice Skating Federation President Didier Gailhaguet. "The Canadians were 10 times better and, in spite of that, the French with their vote gave us first place," the unidentified Russian official was quoted as telling Tokhtakhunov after the pairs event, AFP reported. MES

PRIVATIZATION OF OIL-MAJOR STAKE POSTPONED...
The government has decided to postpone the privatization of a 5.9 percent stake in LUKoil, the country's largest oil producer, ntvru.com and other Russian media reported on 1 August. According to a company press release, the decision was made because "the price on the markets today is not acceptable to the government." According to Bloomberg, the company's stock has fallen by 22 percent since the beginning of June, closing on 31 July at $14.22 a share. The government hopes to get from $15-16 per share for the stake, reaping approximately $800 million to $900 million. The government initially sought to privatize the stake in 2001, but was unable to get a bid more than $13 a share and the privatization was postponed. RC

...AS OIL EXPORT DUTIES ARE HIKED
Beginning 1 August, export duties on crude oil, gasoline, and diesel fuel have been increased, strana.ru reported. The duty on crude oil was raised from $20.40 per ton to $21.90, in accord with a government order issued in the beginning of June. Duties on oil products were raised from 25 euros to 35 euros per ton. According to unidentified sources in the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, the decision was made in order to ensure sufficient fuel supplies in Russia during the autumn harvest season and the upcoming winter heating season. RC

NOTHING TO BREATHE IN MOSCOW...
Continued high temperatures and numerous forest fires in Moscow Oblast have left Moscow choking in a thick cloud of smog, Russian news agencies reported on 1 August. Officials stated that the air quality does not yet present a danger to public health, strana.ru reported. In Moscow Oblast, more than 800 firefighters are fighting 120 separate fires that have blackened almost 300 hectares. Meanwhile, fires rage in other parts of the country as well. In Vladimir Oblast, 607 fires are burning, polit.ru reported, and local officials are complaining of shortages of firefighters and equipment. According to strana.ru, Yaroslavl Oblast and Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast are also particularly hard hit. As in Moscow, air quality in the city of Nizhnii Novgorod has been affected. RC

...AS OFFICIALS SPRING INTO ACTION
On 31 July, Natural Resources Minister Vitalii Artyukhov signed an order setting up a national firefighting operational center to be headed by Deputy Natural Resources Minister Valerii Roshchupkin. The center will be in charge of coordinating the response to major fires and ensuring the most effective use of available firefighting resources. The same day, the ministry's press service announced that all the deputy natural resources ministers will be dispatched across the country from 1-3 August to deal with the situation, RosBalt reported on 1 August. Aleksandr Povolotskii will travel to the Northwest Federal District; Roshchupkin will visit the Far East Federal District; and Kirill Yankov will travel to the Siberian Federal District. RC

YUKOS HEAD COMMENTS ON WORK OF KOZAK COMMISSION
Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii told Interfax on 31 July that the new concept for administering the exploitation of natural resources devised by the commission headed by deputy presidential administration head Dmitrii Kozak does not call for a revision of existing agreements on natural resources. According to Khodorkovskii, the Kozak commission does not intend to propose revising existing license agreements, although changes might be made in procedures for issuing licenses for prospecting and developing new mineral deposits. The same day, however, Ekho Moskvy reported that President Putin asked the government to draft a federal law that would overhaul the entire system of property relations in the extraction industries. According to the station, the amendments to the law on mineral resources already drafted by the Kozak commission reportedly stipulate that the state will own mineral resources in the ground as well as the extracted minerals, which would require the cancellation of licenses currently held by developers of mineral deposits, who will then have to work according to new concession agreements, according to the station. JAC

TATAR MUFTI DISCUSSES POSSIBLE U.S. INVASION OF IRAQ...
Iraqi Ambassador to Russia Abbas Khalaf was in Kazan on 30 July for a meeting with President Mintimer Shaimiev on expanding cooperation between Iraq and Tatarstan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 31 July. Shaimiev said that the ambassador's visit, which came soon after his 1 July appointment, demonstrates Iraq's interest in -- and respect for --Tatarstan. Khalaf responded by saying that his goal is to raise relations to "a new level." Khalaf also met with Tatarstan Muslim Religious Board Chairman Gusman Iskhakov in Kazan, islam.ru reported on 31 July. According to the site, various topics were discussed, but the first priority was the possible invasion of Iraq by Great Britain and the United States. The director of the presidential department for external relations, Timur Akulov, sat in on Iskhakov's meeting. JAC

...AND MULLS RELIGIOUS EDUCATIONAL EXCHANGE WITH BAGHDAD
Khalaf and Iskhakov also discussed possible cooperation in the field of religious education, islam.ru reported. Khalaf said that Iraq is ready to send two teachers to higher Islamic education institutions in Kazan and to invite Tatar students to come to Iraq for training at Saddam Hussein University. Khalaf also invited Iskhakov to visit Iraq to fully acquaint himself with the religious life of the population there. JAC

POLISH PRIEST DECIDES NOT TO FLY...
Polish Roman Catholic Reverend Krzystof Kowal arrived by bicycle in Irkutsk after leaving the Polish town of Koszalin two months ago to take up his new post as father superior of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 July. Kowal said the 7,000-kilometer trip helped him to get to know Russia and its people. JAC

...AFTER TWO COLLEAGUES FAIL TO LEAVE MOSCOW AIRPORT
In April, one of his colleagues, Bishop Jerzy Mazur, the former head of Irkutsk's Catholic diocese, who was also on his way to Irkutsk, was stopped by police at Moscow's Sheremetevo Airport, declared persona non grata, and sent back to Poland (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2002). In May, Mazur started conducting religious services at Irkutsk's Catholic cathedral by telephone from Poland (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 2002). Two years earlier, Bishop Andrzej Sliwinski from Elblag, Poland, disappeared en route to Irkutsk, where he was expected to consecrate the cathedral (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 September 2000). Sliwinski left Warsaw on an Aeroflot flight and was supposed to change planes at Moscow's Sheremetevo Airport, but failed to turn up. He was later discovered at a hotel near the airport. He said he had checked in at the hotel after he felt ill during his flight from Warsaw. JAC

UNEMPLOYMENT SOARS IN POCKETS OF SIBERIA AND FAR EAST
Unemployment in the Siberian Federal District increased by 38.2 percent in the first half of the year compared with the same period last year, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 31 July. In Chita Oblast, the number of unemployed doubled over that period, and in the Republic of Tuva it grew by more than 73 percent. In the district overall, about 2.6 percent of the economically active portion of the population is registered as unemployed, the agency reported. Registered unemployment figures are generally assumed to understate actual unemployment. Of the regions in the district, Tuva has the highest percentage of registered unemployment with 10.7 percent, and Novosibirsk Oblast has the lowest with 1.2 percent. JAC

BUSINESSMAN PROFILED IN 'THE NEW YORK TIMES' SHOT ONE DAY LATER
Andrei Chunyak, who was featured in an article about his cafe in Vladivostok in the "The New York Times" on 30 July, was killed the next day, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Chunyak was shot four times in the head and chest with a nine-millimeter "Baikal" pistol with a silencer, according to the agency. According to "The New York Times," in addition to being a co-owner of Studio Coffee, Chunyak was also a trader in scrap metal. Chunyak dismissed questions about the connection between organized crime and his sector. "What you see on TV -- it's rubbish. The main thieves are the bureaucrats. They are the mafia," the newspaper quoted him as saying. The article profiled the trend of "businessmen" turning from "thuggery to tamer, more lawful business." JAC

KIRIENKO SAYS HE RECEIVED PERMISSION TO POACH
The press secretary for Sergei Kirienko, presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District, threatened to file suit if newspapers in the Republic of Komi do not issue a retraction of reports that Kirienko and some companions engaged in illegal fishing of grayling from a protected river in a national park, presscenter.ru reported on 31 July. Kirienko's press secretary claimed that Kirienko received written permission in advance from local natural-resource officials to catch the fish. JAC

VIRTUE IS NOT ITS OWN REWARD
Tatar Interior Minister Asgat Safarov verbally ordered his ministry on 30 July to begin giving monetary rewards to police officers who refuse to accept bribes, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day, citing intertat.ru. A few days earlier, Safarov awarded a police officer working at KamAZ in Chally 10,000 rubles ($320) for reporting that a suspect had tried to bribe him after being detained while allegedly trying to steal a crane from the company, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 31 July. JAC

ARMENIAN CHURCH LEADER CALLS ON ISRAEL TO RETURN SEIZED PROPERTY IN WEST BANK
The head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Garegin II, issued a statement on 31 July calling on Israel to return Armenian Church property in the West Bank, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. The seized Armenian Church property, a 20-hectare tract on the outskirts of Bethlehem, was seized by the Israeli military for use in the construction of a 350-kilometer "security wall" separating Israel from the West Bank. The Armenian Church property is maintained by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which filed a lawsuit challenging the seizure last week. RG

ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT PROJECTS STEADY INFLUX OF TOURISTS
Industry and Economic Development Deputy Minister Ara Petrosian has announced that the level of tourism in Armenia is projected to maintain the high level reached last year, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 31 July. The projected 120,000 tourists for 2002 is a source of important revenue for the Armenian government and would match the record level of last year that was attributed to an influx of Armenians from the diaspora for the celebration of Armenia's 1,700th anniversary of the state establishment of Christianity. The Armenian tourism sector is limited, however, by an underdeveloped infrastructure. RG

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZED BY FORMER SUPPORTER
In a 31 July statement, Self-Determination Union party leader Paruyr Hairikian, a noted Soviet-era dissident and former presidential adviser, criticized Armenian President Robert Kocharian for failing to fulfill his 1998 campaign promises and announced that the incumbent president does not deserve to be re-elected in 2003, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. Although Hairikian resigned his position as an adviser to President Kocharian in May, his announced opposition is the latest loss of political support for the president's re-election bid. RG

U.S. EMBASSY IN BAKU PICKETED BY DISPLACED NEIGHBORS
A group of local residents who were forced from their homes near the U.S. Embassy in Baku staged a picket in front of the embassy on 31 July to protest the Baku municipal authorities' failure to compensate them for their forced move, the ANS news agency reported. The demonstrators demanded that they either be allowed to move back into their homes or receive adequate compensation. The Baku residents were forced form their homes as part of a new expanded security plan by the Azerbaijani government seeking to extend and secure the embassy perimeter. RG

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES GEORGIA FOR CHECHEN INCURSIONS...
In comments during a 31 July televised interview, Russian President Vladimir Putin rebuked the Georgian government for failing to prevent recent incursions by Chechen rebels into Chechnya from bases in Georgia's volatile Pankisi Gorge, AP reported. President Putin's criticism followed an announcement by the Russian Foreign Ministry earlier the same day that deplored Georgia's "reluctance to take practical steps against terrorism." Following reports that eight Russian border guards have reportedly been killed in clashes with Chechen fighters this week, Russian officials reasserted that the situation in Georgia necessitates "targeted retaliatory operations" by Russian military forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2002). RG

...AS GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER CONVINCES RUSSIAN DETACHMENT TO LEAVE UPPER KODORI GORGE
Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze met with officers of a small detachment of Russian border guards that entered the Marukhi pass in the Georgian-controlled upper Kodori Gorge on 31 July, according to the online Civil Georgia news agency (http://www.civil.ge). After the meeting, the Russian force withdrew from the upper part of the Kodori Gorge. Georgian Defense Ministry officials also condemned incursions by Russian military aircraft conducting bombing sorties on Georgian territory. RG

GEORGIAN SECURITY MEETING ACCUSES RUSSIAN FORCES OF ARMS DEALING
In a report to a Georgian cabinet meeting on 31 July, National Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania accused Russian peacekeeping troops deployed in Abkhazia of engaging in illegal arms trafficking, according to "The Georgian Times." The minister specifically charged Russian forces with selling and supplying arms and sophisticated weapons to the Abkhaz military and pointed to the recent seizure of antiaircraft weapons during the detention of Russian military officers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2002). In a discussion of the increasing violence and kidnapping of foreign citizens in Georgia, Prosecutor-General Nugzar Gabrichidze said that "too much freedom of speech caused an increase of crime" and called for a serious effort to combat such crimes, noting that such violence has led to "harsh criticism" of Georgia by the international community. RG

RUSSIAN COLONEL REPORTEDLY KIDNAPPED IN TBILISI
Russian Colonel Igor Zaitsev was kidnapped outside his home in Tbilisi on 31 July by unknown gunmen, "The Georgian Times" reported. Under pressure from a wave of similar abductions in recent months, Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili launched an immediate investigation. RG

CASE CLOSED ON DEATH OF KAZAKH OPPOSITIONIST'S DAUGHTER
Police in Almaty have closed the investigation into the death of Leyla Baysetova, daughter of opposition weekly "Respublika" Editor Lira Baysetova, concluding that she was a drug addict who hanged herself with her jeans in a moment of temporary insanity, Kazakh Commercial TV reported on 31 July. Leyla Baysetova was arrested, hospitalized, and died last month under mysterious circumstances shortly after her mother published material relating to Swiss bank accounts rumored to belong to President Nursultan Nazarbaev and members of his family (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2002). Police denied on 31 July that law enforcement officials were involved in Leyla Baysetova's death or that she had been beaten in custody, as alleged last month by the international watchdog organization Reporters Without Borders. But Kazakh television questioned the police's findings, saying no attempts had been made to analyze Leyla Baysetova's blood to determine if she had taken drugs and no jeans were presented as evidence. AA

CORRECTION:
The dollar conversion of 26 million tenges in the 31 July "RFE/RL Newsline" item titled "Prosecutor Demands Eight-Year Sentence for Kazakh Oppositionist" should have been $170,000.

KYRGYZ AMNESTY BILL RETURNED TO PARLIAMENT FOR REEXAMINATION
On 31 July, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev refused to sign a bill adopted earlier this month by both houses of parliament that would grant amnesties to all involved in the 17-18 March clashes in southern Djalalabad Oblast and in subsequent antigovernment protests along the Bishkek-Osh highway on 7-8 June, RFE/RL and Kabar news agency reported. The bill has generated controversy because it would apply equally to demonstrators and the police who fired into the crowds. After it was strongly criticized again at a recent roundtable discussion in Bishkek (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2002), Akaev sent it back to parliament for "elaboration." The deputies can approve the amnesty over the president's veto by a two-thirds vote. AA

FRENCH AIR DIVISION LEAVING KYRGYZSTAN IN AUTUMN
The 420-strong French contingent of the international antiterrorism coalition based at Bishkek's Manas airport will withdraw in October and be replaced by a roughly equivalent number of Danish, Dutch, and Norwegian troops, according to the French commander at Manas, Jean-Marc Laurent, ITAR-TASS and AFP reported on 31 July. French pilots and technicians were stationed in Kyrgyzstan in December, followed by two French C-135 refueling aircraft and six Mirage 2000-D fighter jets that arrived in February. The Mirage jets are due to be replaced by F-16 fighters belonging to the Norwegian Air Force. AA

TAJIK SECURITY CHIEF SAYS ALL ILLEGAL GROUPS ERADICATED...
In an interview on 31 July, Security Council Secretary Amirqul Azimov claimed total success in clearing Tajikistan of illegal militant formations and narcotics rings, saying government forces have eliminated all of them, Interfax reported. However, Azimov pointed out that drug cultivation and smuggling continue unabated in Afghanistan and warned that Afghan traffickers could still cross into Tajikistan during August and September while the mountain passes remain open. Meanwhile, Interfax-AVN reported on 29 July that in June and July Russian border guards seized more than 1,100 kilograms of narcotics along the Afghan-Tajik border. AA

...AND MOST BORDER PROBLEMS WITH UZBEKISTAN SOLVED
Also on 31 July, Azimov said that about 70 percent of the Tajik-Uzbek border had been delineated, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The 30 percent still under dispute is the section running along Tajikistan's northern Sughd Raion. Azimov added that, since there are currently no members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) on Tajik territory, there is no reason for Uzbekistan to unilaterally mine its borders with Tajikistan, and expressed confidence that the issue of removing the landmines "will be solved positively." In recent years some 100 Tajik and Uzbek citizens have been killed or wounded after venturing into unmarked mine fields near border zones. AA

UZBEKISTAN'S KHANABAD AIR BASE TO BE RECONSTRUCTED
The U.S. Army has issued a tender to refurbish the runway and build other facilities at Khanabad air base, uzreport.com reported on 31 July. Both American and Uzbek construction companies are invited to bid for the project, which is estimated to cost between $1 million and $5 million, according to the news agency, citing an army press release. About 1,000 U.S. troops are currently based at Khanabad. Iranian radio commented on 31 July that the tender shows that the Pentagon intends to establish a long-term presence in Uzbekistan. AA

NEW UNDP GRANTS FOR UZBEKISTAN
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) will finance projects in Uzbekistan from 2002-04 worth over $68 million, Interfax reported on 31 July. The projects will include micro-credit initiatives for small businesses, developing more wide-scale access to modern telecommunications technologies, environmental protection, and the prevention of HIV and AIDS. AA

BELARUSIAN VENDORS HOLD ONE-DAY STRIKE
More than 150,000 outdoor-market vendors went on strike on 31 July in all major Belarusian cities, protesting what they claim is too large a tax burden, Belapan reported, quoting a source on the strike committee. In particular, the protesters demanded talks with the government over a new regulation requiring outdoor-market vendors to use cash registers. They claim that this effectively doubles their tax burden. Leanid Kalitsenya, the leader of the protest action in Minsk, told Belapan that if the authorities want to introduce cash registers, they must also reform the tax system. Vendors declared to continue their protests if the authorities prove to be uncooperative. JM

BELARUSIAN OFFICIAL BRINGS LIBEL SUIT AGAINST OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER
Anatol Tozik, the chairman of the powerful and fearsome State Monitoring Committee, has filed a libel suit with a district court in Minsk against the Minsk-based private newspaper "Nasha svaboda" and its staff writer Mikhail Padalyak, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 31 July. Tozik is demanding some $110,000 in damages from "Nasha svaboda" for running an article earlier this month that he claims injured his "honor, dignity, and business reputation." The text of the article in question states: "Anatol Tozik, who is holding a monopoly for supplying the current president with analytical information on economic, business, and financial matters, has repeatedly approached [President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka with personal complaints about current Prosecutor-General [Viktar] Sheyman's unsuitability for the position." Padalyak claims that the article was based on analytical memos of Russian special services. "This is nothing more than an order from the top-level authorities to stifle the independent press," "Nasha svaboda" Editor in Chief Pavel Zhuk commented on the lawsuit. Zhuk previously ran two newspapers -- "Svaboda" and "Naviny" -- that were shut down by authorities. JM

LUKASHENKA PLEDGES TO MAKE STATE-MEDIA JOURNALISM PRESTIGIOUS
President Lukashenka said on 31 July that the government will do everything in its power to make working as a journalist for state media a prestigious position, Belapan and Belarusian television reported. Lukashenka made the comments while visiting the editorial office of Belarus' largest government-controlled newspaper, "Sovetskaya Belorussiya," which he ordered earlier this year to become a "European-type publication." Lukashenka suggested that the media should be a mirror of society and tell the truth. "So far it has not been the case and the authorities are to blame for this in many respects," he noted. According to the president, state-media journalists should be given more freedom provided they are committed to accuracy, honesty, and responsibility. Journalists should openly criticize negative occurrences and, if necessary, the authorities, he said. Lukashenka admitted that he has reacted "morbidly" to criticism by the independent press. JM

BLAST KILLS 20 UKRAINIAN MINERS
A blast in the Zasyadko coal mine in Donetsk Oblast late on 31 July killed 20 miners, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. This latest disaster in Ukraine came four days after the tragic air-show in Lviv and three weeks after 35 miners died in a fire in another mine near Donetsk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 29 July 2002). The Zasyadko mine suffered two additional tragic blasts recently -- 50 miners died in May 1999 and 55 in August 2001. Donetsk prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into the latest blast. Ukraine's Independent Trade Union of Coal Miners has demanded that the manager of the Zasyadko mine, former Prime Minister Yukhym Zvyahilskyy, be punished. Trade unionists claim that disasters at the Zasyadko mine occur because Zvyahilskyy sends miners to work even if the concentration of methane gas in mine shafts exceeds safety limits. JM

UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER APOLOGIZES FOR TRAGIC AIR SHOW
Defense Minister Volodymyr Shkidchenko told journalists in Sevastopol on 1 August that "the armed forces realize their responsibility [for the air-show catastrophe in Lviv] and apologize to all of the Ukrainian people," UNIAN reported. President Leonid Kuchma said the same day that he has rejected Shkidchenko's resignation. In an apparent reference to a recent statement by four opposition leaders blaming the top political leadership for the air-show disaster (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2002), Kuchma said some politicians have taken advantage of the air-show tragedy to gain "political dividends." JM

ESTONIA CONSIDERS JOINING CFE TREATY
Foreign Ministry Deputy Chancellor Harri Tiido asserted on 31 July that Estonia is seriously considering joining the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE), BNS reported. Tiido noted that the original CFE treaty, which was signed in November 1990 by NATO and Warsaw Pact countries, was not open to new members, and the updated version signed in 1999 has not yet been ratified and is thus not in force. His comments were prompted by recent statements by Russian officials, including Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, that the Baltic states should sign the CFE treaty before joining NATO, as otherwise the potentially destabilizing possibility that NATO could place large amounts of weaponry there would remain open. Tiido called Russian concerns about this "groundless" and added, "The accession of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to NATO would increase the number of Russia's partners in NATO by its three neighbors, and that is a positive, rather than negative, outlook." SG

HEADS OF BALTIC AGRICULTURE MINISTRIES MEET IN LATVIA
The state secretaries of the three Baltic agriculture ministries held talks in Sigulda on 29-30 July to form a common position for their membership negotiations with the EU, BNS reported on 31 July. Alfonsas Tamosiunas (Lithuania), Laimdota Straujuma (Latvia), and Tarmo Noot (Estonia) decided they should point out that, as former Soviet republics, they were in a different situation than other EU candidates and had to switch from state to private ownership of farming lands between 1991-95. They declared that the agricultural quotas suggested by the European Commission were too low and proposed that the size of the quotas should be based on the average production from 1995-99 and not be lower than current production. The secretaries agreed that they should hold meetings on a regular basis, and the next one will be in Estonia in October. SG

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT NAMES REPRESENTATIVE FOR KALININGRAD
Valdas Adamkus on 31 July appointed parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gediminas Kirkilas as his representative for resolving transportation issues concerning Kaliningrad Oblast, ELTA reported. It seems likely that the selection of Kirkilas, who is a deputy chairman of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party, was probably prompted by the decision of Russian President Putin to appoint State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin as his special envoy for Kaliningrad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 2002). As part of its negotiations to join the EU, Lithuania agreed to introduce Schengen agreement visa requirements for Kaliningrad residents next year, thus ending their previous visa-free travel to Lithuania. Russia fears that the introduction of visas will result in the isolation of Kaliningrad. Adamkus made the appointment on the eve of his scheduled meeting with Kaliningrad Oblast Governor Vladimir Yegorov on 1 August in Palanga. SG

POLAND OPPOSES BEING NET CONTRIBUTOR TO EU BUDGET
Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz told PAP on 1 August that Poland may decide not to join the European Union if its financial contribution to the EU budget exceeds profits. Cimoszewicz noted that EU declarations thus far indicate that Poland will receive more funds than it will have to pay. "I am deeply convinced that final settlements will confirm the declarations," the minister added. In Cimoszewicz's opinion, the EU delay in presenting a common stand as regards financial affairs is the only threat to EU expansion according to the previously agreed schedule. JM

POLISH GOVERNMENT SENDS 'EUROBUS' TO BOOST SUPPORT FOR EU MEMBERSHIP
The government on 31 July sent a "Eurobus" across the country to promote the idea of European integration and Poland's membership in the EU, Polish radio reported. The Eurobus -- which is equipped with six Internet terminals, a database, and promotional materials -- was presented to Poland by the British Embassy in Warsaw. "Such an instrument as the Internet bus improves, promotes, [and] encourages society. And such a journey around Poland may widen such information and such knowledge," British Ambassador Michael Pakenham commented. "It is no event for Warsaw, Krakow, or Poznan when our Eurobus appears in the main square. We have chosen towns for which we have the certainty that this will be an event," said Slawomir Wiatr, the government official responsible for the EU promotion campaign. JM

CZECH ENVIRONMENT MINISTER WANTS TO PHASE OUT NUCLEAR POWER
Environment Minister Libor Ambrozek said in an interview with the daily "Pravo" of 31 July that he wants the controversial Temelin plant to be the country's last nuclear-power station, dpa reported. Ambrozek said he will soon ask the government to adopt an energy policy that includes a phase-out of nuclear power. He said he wants to focus on renewable energy sources, such as hydroelectric and wind power, in the future. But Ambrozek said Temelin will remain operational. Austrian Freedom Party parliamentary group leader Hans Achatz was quoted by CTK the same day as saying in response that this is "a big step in the right direction." MS

CZECH FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS PREDECESSOR LIKELY TO RESIGN AS EU CONVENTION DELEGATE...
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said on Frekvence 1 radio on 31 July that UN General Assembly Chairman Jan Kavan will probably resign as one of the three Czech representatives to the EU Convention, CTK reported. Kavan is also a parliamentary deputy representing the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD). Svoboda said that "it would be good" if an agreement is reached with Kavan to withdraw as delegate to the EU Convention because coordination of the three posts will be difficult. He said it is also unclear who should cover the costs of shuttling Kavan between New York and Prague, where his party's coalition enjoys a one-seat majority in the lower house, or flights to Brussels. MS

...BUT HINTS SRBA AFFAIR DOES NOT THREATEN UN DUTIES
Svoboda ruled out preventing Kavan from joining the Foreign Ministry staff, a precondition for chairing the UN's upcoming General Assembly, if ex-aide Karel Srba is found guilty on charges of conspiracy to murder journalist Sabina Slonkova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 July 2002). Kavan in the 1 August "Mlada fronta Dnes" sought to distance himself from Srba, saying he was recommended by Miroslav Slouf, an adviser to CSSD's previous prime minister, Milos Zeman. MS

LEXA LAWYER COMPLAINS TO ECHR
Juraj Torkan, a lawyer representing former Slovak Intelligence Service chief Ivan Lexa, on 31 July told CTK he has launched a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg over what he claims are violations of Lexa's rights. Torkan said the offenses with which Lexa is being charged were amnestied by former Premier Vladimir Meciar in late 1998, when he was temporarily wielding some presidential prerogatives after the end of former President Michal Kovac's mandate. Torkan also claimed the prosecution is "gagging my client and his counsel" because the defense is being denied access to the charges, which are classified as "top secret." At the same time, he claimed, the charges had been made public on an Internet website, and this is "a typical example of the inequality of weapons," since he cannot respond to them. It is unclear whether the charges made public on the site http://www.geocities.com/ivanlexa2002 are really those with which Lexa is in fact charged. The daily "Sme," cited by CTK, wrote on 31 July that the website on which they appear is one offering general access and allowing users to create any document they wish. MS

SLOVAK CHIEF NEGOTIATOR WITH EU SAYS AGREEMENT 'NOT AT ANY COST'
Jan Figel, chief Slovak negotiator with the EU, on 31 July said Bratislava should not be ready to pay "any price" for the successful conclusion of accession negotiations with the EU. Like his Czech counterpart, Pavel Telicka (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 July 2002), Figel said he will not hesitate to recommend that the government refrain from completing the accession negotiations by yearend if the EU shows no readiness to compromise. MS

EXTREMIST SLOVAK LEADER INDULGES IN CLICHE DISCOURSE
Real Slovak National Party Chairman Jan Slota on 31 July reiterated his well-known views on the Roma and on ethnic Hungarians but denied he has any personal aversion toward members of those national minorities, CTK reported. Slota said that in his youth he had some Romany and ethnic Hungarian friends. In a debate with readers published in the daily "Narodna obroda," Slota said that Slovakia is "spoiling the Roma" by granting them social benefits while "their only concern is reproduction, theft, and robbery." Slota denied his anti-Hungarianism stems from the fact that his first wife was a Magyar, saying "we are good friends." He also said he has good relations with Hungarian Coalition Party Chairman Bela Bugar, but added, "However, I must admit that when they [meaning ethnic Hungarians] meet, they all pull together, and the end of the rope is Budapest." MS

HUNGARY'S FIDESZ-ERA MINISTERS DENY LINKS WITH COMMUNIST-ERA SECRET SERVICES...
According to information from the National Security Office, five members of the FIDESZ-led government had links to communist-era secret service agencies, the weekly "Heti Vilaggazdasag" reported on 1 August. The weekly said that two members of Viktor Orban's cabinet had ties to the domestic security (III-III) department, and three were linked with the counterintelligence (III-II) agency. Although the names of those involved were not made public, former PHARE Funds Minister Imre Boros, Orban's former office chief, Istvan Stumpf, former Finance Minister Mihaly Varga, and former Sports Minister Tamas Deutsch denied any connection with communist-era secret services. Imre Mecs, chairman of the parliamentary commission investigating ties to those agencies by cabinet members since the change of regime, said a second list from the Historical Office registry shows that a previous cabinet member signed a cooperation pact with the country's security agency and that three members filed reports. MSZ

...AS MEDGYESSY COMMISSION MEMBERS LEAK INTENDED QUESTIONS TO MEDIA...
The chairman of the parliamentary commission investigating Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy's counterintelligence past, Laszlo Balogh (Hungarian Democratic Forum), on 31 July said he wants to learn from Medgyessy how the latter was recruited, what his job duties were, and what the criteria for his selection were. Medgyessy is slated to appear in an open hearing on 1 August. Balogh said he also wants to know if Medgyessy wrote reports himself or if they were written by a contact in the secret services. Free Democrat committee member Andras Bohm said he wants to find out who approached Medgyessy, under what conditions, and with whom he was in contact. FIDESZ deputy Istvan Simicsko said he will attempt to ascertain whether Medgyessy cooperated with state security for personal gain or for career purposes, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. MSZ

...AND JOURNALISTS' PASTS ARE SLATED FOR SCRUTINY
Some 1,500 print journalists will be screened beginning in September for involvement with the communist-era domestic security services, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 1 August. A list identifying those to be screened is currently being drafted, said Judit Leb Feher, chairwoman of the panel of judges screening public figures. The law allowing background checks on journalists covers national, regional, and local newspapers and magazines that help shape economic, social, political, and cultural life. The law prescribes that editors in chief and their deputies, editors, copy editors, columnists, and senior staff be vetted. MSZ

HUNGARIAN LABOR MINISTRY TO SET UP EQUAL-OPPORTUNITY DIRECTORATE
The Labor Ministry plans to launch an equal-opportunity directorate to help integrate disadvantaged segments of the population into the work force, Labor Minister Peter Kiss told "Magyar Hirlap" on 31 July. Katalin Levai, head of the new directorate, said the office will be split into three units focusing on women, the handicapped, and Roma. One initiative to be launched this fall will use EU PHARE subsidies to help draw 1,000 women into the labor market. A budget of 830 million forints ($3.3 million) has been allocated to help women over 40 and new mothers. A joint Hungarian-British program will also be piloted in Zala County to help the handicapped find employment. Levai also outlined details of a 2.5 billion forint initiative aimed at reducing the ranks of the long-term unemployed, particularly within the Romany population. MSZ

HUNGARY'S MINORITIES INCREASINGLY WILLING TO IDENTIFY THEMSELVES
More than 300,000 Hungarian citizens identified themselves as members of one of the country's 13 officially recognized ethnic minorities, Hungarian dailies reported on 1 August, citing data from the February 2001 census. The figure is a considerable increase since 1990, according to Tamas Mellar, president of the Central Statistics Office. During the census, nearly 95 percent of Hungary's 10 million people volunteered to declare its ethnic affiliation. The number of Roma rose from 142,000 to 190,000, while that of ethnic Germans doubled to 62,000. The number of ethnic Romanians declined. Meanwhile, 90 percent of people said they are a member of one of nearly 260 faiths. More than 5.5 million people said they are Catholics, while 1.6 million are Calvinists, 300,000 are Lutherans, and nearly 13,000 are Jewish. MSZ

MONTENEGRIN POLITICIANS MEET UNDER EU PRESSURE
The pro-Belgrade and pro-independence parties that dominate the Montenegrin parliament agreed under pressure from a delegation of European Union ambassadors in Podgorica on 31 July to launch talks with other political parties on revising controversial media and electoral legislation, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2002). Talks began late in the morning the next day. Elsewhere, almost all radio and television broadcasters belonging to the Association of Independent Electronic Media of Montenegro (UNEM) said they will interrupt their broadcasts for half an hour on 1 August to protest the media legislation recently passed by the new majority coalition in the legislature and reluctantly signed into law by President Milo Djukanovic. On 1 August, the Council of Europe criticized the new legislation as being politically motivated and contrary to European norms. PM

CONSTITUTIONAL CHARTER COMMISSION DEADLOCKED
The commission tasked with drafting the Constitutional Charter for the new loose union of Serbia and Montenegro ended its work on 31 July without agreeing on a final text in several key areas, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2002). Miodrag Vukovic, who is a member of the commission from the Montenegrin parliament, told RFE/RL that the points of agreement did not touch on substantial issues and could have been concluded by any two "independent states that are not in any sort of relationship." Elsewhere, Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic, who has led the fight in Serbia against the joint state, called for the new entity to be simply an alliance of two independent countries. The alliance would be valid for eight years and be renewable. The two states would share common foreign, defense, and internal economic polices, he added. PM

KOSTUNICA SAYS TIES TO DOS BROKEN 'IRREVOCABLY'
In the latest of a series of interviews with domestic and foreign media, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica told Beta news agency on 31 July that he no longer communicates with his principal rival, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2002, and "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 25 July and 1 August 2002). Kostunica added that his ties to the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) are now broken permanently, and that many of the DOS leaders are more interested in their own power than in the good of the state. In related news, Velimir Ilic of the small New Serbia (NS) movement announced that his party is leaving DOS to protest the coalition's recent treatment of Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS). Ilic added that there are other reasons for his party's decision but did not elaborate. PM

EUROPEAN BANK MONEY FOR SERBIAN INFRASTRUCTURE
Representatives of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) signed an agreement in Belgrade on 31 July with Serbian and Yugoslav officials regarding a loan of nearly $74,000,000, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroslav Labus said the money will go for several projects including the Ibar Valley road, a road from Nis to the Bulgarian border, and part of the main Belgrade-Nis highway. PM

SERBIAN NGO PROTESTS MEDIA MANIPULATION
The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia (HOPS) said in a statement in Belgrade on 31 July that ethical principles have recently been widely violated in the Serbian media. The statement referred specifically to the publication in mass-circulation newspapers of transcripts of, or excerpts from, private telephone conversations involving prominent officials in the run-up to the 29 September Serbian presidential election. HOPS argued that the "publishing of such contents and the ensuing scandal-mongering...diverts attention from serious topics and is reminiscent of manipulation methods [employed by] the previous regime" of President Slobodan Milosevic. The statement added that such practices help create a "mood of paranoia typical of markedly undemocratic countries." PM

FORMER MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN GUERRILLA LEADER SHOT DEAD
Assassins killed Jusuf Ilazi, who is a former leader of the National Liberation Army (UCK), in a drive-by slaying in Tetovo on 31 July, AP reported. Police arrested an ethnic Albanian from a nearby village in connection with the murder. It is not clear what the killers' motive was. PM

ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES NANO CABINET
Following a 10-hour debate on 31 July, the legislature voted 81-48 to approve the government of Prime Minister Fatos Nano, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 July 2002). Nano repeated his pledges to integrate his country into Euro-Atlantic institutions by fighting crime and corruption. He also pledged to tackle the endemic electric power shortage. PM

CROATIAN COURT ORDER REARREST OF WAR CRIMES SUSPECTS
On 31 July, the Supreme Court ordered the rearrest and return to prison of seven former policemen formerly held in detention in conjunction with the torture of hundreds of Serbs and Yugoslav Army men at Split's Lora military prison during the 1991-95 war, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. A lower court recently released the men for lack of evidence pending the resumption of their trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July 2002). The Supreme Court agreed with the prosecutor that it is too early in the trial to consider releasing the men. Critics charged that the release was evidence of the political bias of much of the Croatian judiciary in favor of suspects who allegedly committed crimes against Serbs. PM

BEDTIME FOR BABO
On 31 July, the Croatian district court in Karlovac sentenced Fikret Abdic -- also known as "Babo" (Daddy) -- to 20 years in prison for war crimes committed while he ruled the Bihac pocket in northwest Bosnia between 1993 and 1995, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Now a Croatian citizen, he was tried in Croatia on the basis of evidence from Bosnia. He may still appeal to the Supreme Court. Abdic was a powerful kingpin in the Bihac area for many years and served time in prison under communist rule for a variety of economic crimes associated with his Agrokomerc conglomerate. He was widely regarded locally as a folk hero and planned to run for the presidency in the 5 October Bosnian general elections. Hilmo Pasic of the Bosnian election commission said in Sarajevo that Abdic will remain on the ballot until he is actually sentenced, presumably after his appeal is processed, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported on 1 August. Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija said he wants Abdic off the ballot as soon as possible. PM

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT TO DENY ENTRY TO WAR CRIMINALS
The Romanian government on 31 July adopted a draft modifying the law on foreign citizens that would deny entry to war criminals, Mediafax reported. The law provides that war criminals and persons deemed guilty of committing criminal acts against peace and humanity who try to enter Romania will be returned to their country of origin. The draft follows the expulsion from the United States to Romania of former Nazis Nikolaus Schiffer and Michael Negele (see RFE/RL "Newsline," 25 July 2002). ZsM

ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER DENIES RIFT WITHIN RULING PARTY
Romanian Prime Minister and Social Democratic Party (PSD) Chairman Adrian Nastase on 31 July denied once again that internal rifts are splitting his party, Romanian media reported. Speaking after a meeting of the PSD's Permanent Delegation, Nastase said media reports on the alleged rifts are mere "holiday scenarios," as all PSD branches work together closely. The Bucharest-based "National" daily the same day claimed that the prime minister fears a split within the party similar to the split of the former National Salvation Front in 1992, which resulted in the forming of the current PSD and the Democratic Party. The paper alleged that Nastase's main opponent is President Ion Iliescu, whose supporters intend to form a new party with the Democratic Party. In an interview with "Adevarul" on 1 August, former Democratic Party Chairman and former Prime Minister Petre Roman, hinted that he would be interested in reconciling with Iliescu. ZsM

ROMANIAN POLICE INVESTIGATE XENOPHOBIC MAYOR
Gheorghe Funar, the xenophobic mayor of Cluj, is being investigated by the police regarding the public display of a statue honoring wartime leader and Hitler ally Marshal Ion Antonescu, Romanian media reported. Government Ordinance 31 adopted earlier this year forbids the public display of statues and the promotion of persons sentenced for "crimes against humanity and peace." Funar, the secretary-general of the extremist Greater Romania Party, has previously said that Antonescu is "a martyr" and a hero. He risks a jail sentence of six months to five years. In related news, on the night of 30 July several road signs with the name of the city were painted with the Hungarian name of Cluj, Kolozsvar. The mayor's office has ordered police to find the felons and also fined the Cluj branch of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) 14.8 million leis (some $500) for illegally painting the signs. UDMR leaders asked the police to investigate Funar for abuse of office. ZsM

ROMANIA TO RECEIVE EU FUNDS THROUGH SAPARD FARM-AID PROGRAM
The European Commission on 31 July authorized Romania to begin the implementation of the SAPARD farm-aid program, Mediafax reported. The EC is to begin releasing funds earmarked for Romania for 2000 worth 153.2 million euros ($150 million). Romania will be eligible for additional funds worth 156.3 million euros for 2001 and some 158 million euros for 2002-06. In the first phase, the funds are intended to improve the marketing and processing of agricultural products and for the development of rural infrastructure. All EU candidate countries except Hungary have launched their own SAPARD programs, with only Poland receiving more SAPARD funds than Romania. ZsM

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT SAYS MISSILES MUST BE DESTROYED 'QUICKLY AND SAFELY'...
President Georgi Parvanov said on 31 July after a meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security that there is "a common political will" on the council to destroy the country's Soviet-made SS-23, Scud, and Frog missile systems "in line with the schedule [and] by ensuring maximum safety for the people and the environment," BTA reported. Parvanov said that the SS-23 components considered the safest to destroy will be scrapped immediately after signing an agreement with subcontractors for the project "in the next few days." With respect to the destruction of the SS-23 engines, he said that "consideration will be given to as many [alternative] methods as necessary to ensure the safety of the process." Parvanov also said that "certain circles and individuals [in Bulgaria] have an interest in creating tension" linked with the missile-destruction project but these tensions "cannot be attributed to external influences." MS

...AS PROTESTING FARMERS OCCUPY MILITARY COMPOUND IN ZMEJOVO
Parvanov also said that the "dialogue" with the residents of the Stara Zagora region, who oppose the missile destruction because they fear ecological damage, "must be more active and open," BTA reported. The same day, more than 200 farmers occupied a bunker in the Zmejovo military compound to protest the planned destruction of the missiles, dpa reported. Some 11,000 residents of Zmejovo have signed a petition against the missile destruction. MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT SAYS IMPLEMENTATION OF NATO MEMBERSHIP ACTION PLAN ON COURSE
President Parvanov said on 31 July after a meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security that the council has positively assessed all pertinent state institutions' implementation of NATO's Membership Action Plan (MAP), BTA reported. The president said the interoperability of Bulgarian with NATO forces is improving and that positive results have been achieved in the armed forces' structural reforms. MS

BULGARIAN AGRICULTURE MINISTER PLEDGES 'NO LOBBYING' FOR ANY BULGARTABAC BIDDER
Agriculture and Forestry Minister Mehmed Dikme pledged on 31 July that his ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms will not lobby for any of the bidders in Bulgartabac and will support the bidder whose offer best protects Bulgaria's growing tobacco industry and national interests, BTA reported. Also on 31 July, Dikme said that protests by agricultural workers against low prices for agricultural products can be viewed as justified, but not so the actions of "certain political forces" that seek to exploit the situation to their advantage and instigate protests. MS

There is no End Note today.


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