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Newsline - August 12, 2002


DEFENSE MINISTER URGES PERMANENT MILITARY CONTINGENT ON CASPIAN...
Sergei Ivanov, supervising a major military exercise on the Caspian Sea (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 August 2002), said on 10 August in Kaspiisk that Moscow might create a permanent military group in the region because of "real" threats to its national security, strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 10 August. In Ivanov's opinion, units from Kazakhstan could form part of this regional military group. Admiral Muhammad Abrakhim Dakhkani, the Iranian military observer at the exercises, told RIA-Novosti on 10 August that his country will probably participate in the next such exercises. VY

...AND CONTINUES WAR OF WORDS WITH GEORGIA
Speaking in Kaspiisk on 10 August, Defense Minister Ivanov again argued that the threat posed by Chechen fighters ensconced in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge can only be dealt with by the use of military force, Caucasus Press reported. "It's useless to talk to terrorists, to try to persuade them or make them see reason," Reuters quoted him as saying. In a telephone conversation on 9 August with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov echoed Sergei Ivanov's 8 August criticism of the discrepancy between Georgian officials' promises to neutralize the Pankisi threat and their failure to take any concrete action to do so, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2002). LF

FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF JEWISH ANTI-FASCIST COMMITTEE EXECUTIONS MARKED
Moscow's Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Holocaust at Poklonnaya Gora held a memorial event devoted to the 50th anniversary of the 12 August 1952 execution by Stalin's secret police of 13 leading figures of Soviet Jewish culture who were members of the Jewish Antifascist Committee during World War II, RFE/RL Russian Service reported. Among those executed after an anti-Semitic show trial orchestrated by the Kremlin were actors Solomon Mikhoels and Venyamin Zuskin, poet Perets Markish, and diplomat Solomon Lozovskii. VY

TAX MINISTRY WANTS CITIZENS TO PROVE THEIR EXPENSES
The Tax Ministry has drafted an amendment to the Tax Code according to which citizens will have to document not only their incomes, but their expenses as well, "Vedomosti" reported on 10 August. They will then be required to prove the legitimacy of any excess assets. However, Labor Minister Aleksandr Pochinok told "Ekho Moskvy" the same day that placing the burden of proof on citizens violates the constitutional principle of presumption of innocence and contradicts the Tax Code itself. VY

RUSSIA MARKS SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF 'KURSK' DISASTER
Across Russia on 12 August, the country marked the second anniversary of the catastrophic sinking of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine on 12 August 2000, which left 118 men dead, Russian news agencies reported. At the northern port of Vidyaevo, homeport of the "Kursk," relatives and other mourners lit candles and dropped flowers into the sea, dpa reported. In Moscow, a sculpture titled "The Mourning Sailor" was unveiled near the Central Military Museum. Another monument was also unveiled in Nizhnii Novgorod, which lost five local sailors in the accident. In St. Petersburg, too, where 32 "Kursk" crewmembers are buried, a competition is being held to design a monument. RC

SEARCH ON FOR MISSING IN NOVOROSSIISK FLASH FLOODS
Fifty-eight people are confirmed dead and more than 300 are missing after flash flooding that swept along the Black Sea coast near Novorossiisk on 9 August, Russian news agencies reported on 12 August. Ntvru.com, however, reported that the death toll could end up being "in the thousands." A mass program of vaccinations began on 10 August in order to prevent outbreaks of hepatitis and cholera, Interfax reported on 12 August. The area around the town of Shirokaya Balka was quarantined on 12 August; there are an estimated 4,000 vacationers staying at 12 resorts in the region. Ntvru.com reported that the vacationers will be evacuated as soon as possible. RC

BUYING TIME TO TELL WORKERS NOT TO WORRY THAT THEY'RE NOT GETTING PAID
A tour by the leadership of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party of several Russian regions wrapped up on 9 August with a press conference outlining its results, VolgaInform reported. The leadership's trip was accompanied by a massive advertising campaign that included billboards telling state workers who haven't been receiving their salaries on time "not to lose hope." According to the agency, "Vedomosti" reported that the cost of the party's advertising campaign was 7 million rubles ($226,000) a month, which is more than the large consumer products manufacturer Proctor & Gamble typically spends on advertising in Russia. However, that estimate likely understates the party's real advertising expenditures, VolgaInform reported. According to information from the information firm "Mediaplanning" and the Russian Public Relations Group, Unified Russia has likely been spending up to 20 million rubles ($645,000) a month -- not 7 million rubles. Recently, Unified Russia overtook the Communist Party in a number of opinion polls. JAC

ANOTHER ST. PETERSBURG POLITICAL PARTY REPORTEDLY IN THE WORKS...
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 9 August that Vladimir Litvinenko, deputy chancellor of the St. Petersburg Mining Institute and a close associate of President Vladimir Putin, is planning to set up a sort of counterpart to the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RCPP), which, according to the daily, might even provide the RCPP with some competition. According to the daily, Litvinenko was initially involved with Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov's Party of Life but gradually disassociated himself from it, saying it is duplicative of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party. As regards Litvinenko's as-yet-to-be-created group, he says that it will "of course, participate in the [upcoming State Duma] elections, as economics is impossible without politics." According to the daily, the potential membership of the grouping remains secret, but it suggests that it is probable that many business leaders will join the new association while continuing as members of the RCPP, Yevgenii Primakov's Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and other elite business groups. JAC

...AS KOZAK COMMISSION PROPOSAL GETS CRITICISM FROM PUTIN LOYALIST...
Litvinenko's name has been floated in a number of stories as a likely candidate for a high-level position, such as Gazprom head or natural resources minister, but such an appointment has not yet materialized. Most recently, it was suggested that he might be tapped to lead the state diamond monopoly Alrosa (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January 2002). Meanwhile, in an interview with "Gazeta" on 9 August, Litvinenko criticized the recommendations of the commission headed by deputy presidential administration head Dmitrii Kozak to amend the law on underground resources (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July and 1 and 2 August 2002). According to Litvinenko, replacing the current system of licensing of underground mineral resources with a concession system would be a "deviation" from Russia's basic law that would create a "lack of security" and "confusion among potential investors" and would also be the "height of stupidity." He recommended instead that Russia establish an "independent state commission of natural resources" that would not work within the framework of the Natural Resources Ministry. JAC

...AND ONE-THIRD OF PUBLIC BELIEVES ST. PETERSBURGERS DISPROPORTIONATELY REPRESENTED IN POWER
Sociologists with the Monitoring.ru group conducted a recent poll of 1,350 Russian citizens that found that 32 percent of respondents agree with the statement that "persons from St. Petersburg occupy all key posts in the government," ntvru.com reported on 9 August. Forty-one percent of respondents disagreed. Older respondents were more likely to agree, while only 24 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 24 believe that St. Petersburgers dominate the federal government. JAC

URALS CITY TO SET UP SEPARATE MEDICAL CLINIC FOR ASIAN IMMIGRANTS...
Authorities in Yekaterinburg are hoping to open a Russian-Chinese medical center in the fall to cope with high demand for medical services among the city's Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants, Ren-TV reported on 9 August. According to the station, 20,000 Chinese and 5,000 Vietnamese immigrants live in the city, and on Mondays, when markets are closed, they reportedly fill the corridors of city hospitals. Nina Yegorova, head of an Outpatient Clinic No. 1, told the station that there "is not enough time for our [local] patients." Pavel Yefimov, head of City Hospital No. 23, declared "no one knows what kind of diseases they have, what epidemic threat for our residents they pose because we know that there are people among them who die of tuberculosis and other diseases." According to the station, the city will provide the premises for the Chinese clinic while the Chinese government will pay the salaries of the doctors who come from China. JAC

...AS VIETNAMESE TRADERS IN MOSCOW PROTEST TREATMENT BY POLICE
Meanwhile, an estimated 1,000-2,000 entrepreneurs identified as being from Vietnam staged a rally in Moscow on 9 August to protest what they believe was an illegal seizure by local police of goods worth more than $1 million, NTV and Interfax reported the next day. According to Interfax, the goods were mostly Adidas sports clothing, which officers from the administration for combating organized crime confiscated from a warehouse rented by the Vietnamese traders. According to NTV, the police had not carted away the clothing yet, and the traders had circled their trucks around the warehouse. An unidentified Vietnamese male told NTV in Russian: "Vietnam and the Soviet Union were like brothers in the past. This is Russia now." JAC

DEATH BY KOMPROMAT
Police investigators believe that the recent assassination of First Deputy Governor of Smolensk Oblast Vladimir Prokhorov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2002) was likely connected to alleged financial misdeeds by Prokhorov during the previous oblast administration, ntvru.com reported on 9 August, citing RIA-Novosti. First deputy head of the Criminal Police Service Mikhail Nikiforov reportedly told the agency that Prokhorov allegedly bought coal at excessively high prices and medicine without holding a tender. However, a representative of the oblast administration's press center told the agency that "Prokhorov was never occupied with any kind of business," and as first deputy governor had been in charge of a wide variety of matters connected with running the oblast. Governor Victor Maslov was elected last May in a controversial election, and Prokhorov ran his campaign (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 2002). JAC

APARTMENT DWELLERS BLOCK MOTORWAY TO DEMAND HEAT
An unspecified number of residents in the town of Kola in Murmansk Oblast on 10 August blocked a motorway in their area to protest the lack of heat and hot water for the past two months, TV-Tsentr reported. Several dozen apartment blocks housing around 3,000 residents have been without heat and hot water. According to the station, the apartment blocks are run by the Kola Raion administration, which owes the local energy company more than 27 million rubles ($871,000). However, the raion exhausted its financial resources in May and exists only on subsidies from Murmansk Oblast, deputy head of the raion administration Aleksandr Trofimov told the station. The raion administration signed an agreement with the energy provider to pay off its debt by 15 September but has no realistic expectations of doing so. At night during August, temperatures on the Kola Peninsula average from 8-12 degrees Celsius (48-54 degrees Fahrenheit). JAC

'UNIFIED RUSSIA' BACKS KADYROV FOR CHECHEN PRESIDENT...
Speaking to journalists in Moscow on 9 August at the end of a tour of Russia's regions, Aleksandr Bespalov, general secretary of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, argued that Chechnya only stands a chance of becoming a "full-fledged" republic of the Russian Federation if current administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov becomes president, Interfax reported. Bespalov also expressed support for the article of the draft Chechen constitution that stipulates that only persons who have lived for the previous 10 years in Chechnya are eligible to contest the presidency (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2002). Also on 9 August, Kadyrov said in an interview with "Gazeta" that he will run for president, Interfax reported. He further predicted that military operations in Chechnya will wind down by the end of September, at which time, he continued, Chechnya will have its own defense ministry. LF

...AS FORMER CHECHEN PREMIER RULES OUT COMEBACK ATTEMPT
Federation Council member Akhmar Zavgaev was quoted by gazeta.ru on 12 August as saying that neither he nor his brother, Doku, will participate in next year's Chechen presidential ballot. Doku Zavgaev, who headed the pro-Moscow Chechen government from October 1995 to late 1996, is currently Russian ambassador to Tanzania. Akhmar Zavgaev said that he will vote for Kadyrov and does not doubt that he will be elected, even though numerous other candidates are likely to run against him. LF

ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER DENIES JOINT MANEUVERS WITH RUSSIA ARE PREPARATION FOR PANKISI OFFENSIVE
Serzh Sarkisian said on 9 August that the joint Armenian-Russian maneuvers that took place near Yerevan from 6-9 August testify to the effectiveness of ongoing bilateral military cooperation, according to Arminfo on 9 August, as cited by Groong. But he denied that the war games were intended as preparation for a joint strike against Chechen fighters ensconced in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge. The maneuvers, which involved several dozen tanks, helicopter gunships, and warplanes, simulated a counter-offensive against an invading army, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Sarkisian rejected criticism of Armenia's plan to host NATO maneuvers in 2003, saying that "people should be aware of their country's national interest" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2002). LF

ARMENIAN POLICE OFFICIAL PROMOTED AFTER ASSAULT ON PARLIAMENT DEPUTY
Yerevan police chief Major General Ashot Gizirian was named on 9 August to head the Interior Ministry department for the struggle against organized crime, terrorism, and drug trafficking, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Gizirian was accused last month of beating up a parliament deputy detained for suspected drunken driving (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2002). An Interior Ministry spokesman rejected those allegations. Aram Zakharian, head of the police department in the Aragatsotn province, succeeds Gizirian as Yerevan police chief. LF

APPEALS COURT UPHOLDS FORMER ARMENIAN PRISON HEAD'S SENTENCE
The Armenian Appeals Court's Chamber for Criminal and Military Cases on 9 August left unchanged the Review Court's 16 July ruling upholding the guilty verdict handed down by a lower court in May to former penitentiary system head Mushegh Saghatelian, Noyan Tapan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June and 17 July 2002). Saghatelian was found guilty of abuse of power, fraud, and attempting to procure false testimony implicating President Robert Kocharian in the October 1999 parliament shootings. LF

KARABAKH PRESIDENT WINS SECOND TERM
Acording to preliminary returns, Arkadii Ghukasian was re-elected on 11 August for a second term as president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic with 89 percent of the vote, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. His closest challenger, former parliament speaker Artur Tovmasian, polled 7.7 percent, Christian-Democratic Party Chairman Albert Ghazarian 2.1 percent, and Unity movement co-Chairman Grigorii Afanasian 1.3 percent. Voter turnout was 75 percent. No violations of voting procedure or complaints by the defeated candidates have been registered. Casting his ballot in Stepanakert on 11 August, Ghukasian argued that criticism of the poll by Azerbaijan, Russia, the Council of Europe, and others was tantamount to rejecting democracy, Reuters reported. Ghukasian reaffirmed his commitment to the Karabakh peace process, but at the same time branded Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev as "a politician on his way out" and said Azerbaijan's "destructive" position hinders such a settlement. LF

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT AFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO KARABAKH PEACE
According to ITAR-TASS, President Aliev, speaking on 10 August to journalists at Baku's Bina Airport, affirmed: "I do not want war. I want to resolve the Karabakh conflict by peaceful means, so blood will not be spilled and young men killed." Aliev rejected opposition arguments that the death of an Azerbaijani officer on the front line last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2002) constituted a violation of the cease-fire agreed between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1994, according to Azerbaijan State Television, as cited by Groong. Aliev said both countries want the cease-fire to continue. LF

AZERBAIJANI VILLAGERS THREATEN TO BOYCOTT REFERENDUM, APPEAL TO COUNCIL OF EUROPE
At a demonstration on 10 August, residents of the village of Nardaran on the outskirts of Baku vowed to boycott the planned 24 August referendum on constitutional amendments unless their demand for the release of villagers detained following a 3 June clash with police is met, Interfax and Turan reported. They also plan to ask the Council of Europe to conduct an independent inquiry into that clash. Villagers expressed anger at the screening on Azerbaijani State Television on 9 August of a two-hour documentary portraying the villagers as Islamic extremists, according to the independent newspaper "Ekho" on 10 August, as cited by Groong. LF

GEORGIA HALTS NEW ABKHAZ INCURSION
Georgian officials claimed on 11 August that some 100-120 Russian and Abkhaz servicemen illegally crossed the Russian-Georgian border earlier that day via the Marukhi Pass from Karachaevo-Cherkessia into Abkhazia and are building fortifications 35-40 kilometers from the closest Georgian settlement, Caucasus Press and BS-Press reported. The Atsgara River valley runs southeast from Marukhi into the Kodori Gorge. Kodori Governor Emzar Kvitsiani said on 12 August that the intruders, who he claimed included Armenian officers, had rejected a demand to withdraw and had fired on a helicopter belonging to the Georgian border-guard service. He predicted, "We are on the verge of large-scale military operations." But after talks on 12 August with Georgian Defense Ministry representatives, the intruding force, which Georgian Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze said are all Abkhaz, agreed to withdraw, Caucasus Press reported. Djorbenadze told journalists that he has spoken by telephone with Abkhaz Premier Anri Djergenia and will meet with him tomorrow to discuss the Kodori situation. The two agreed that neither side will undertake any further action before that meeting. UN special envoy for Abkhazia Heidi Tagliavini met with Abkhaz officials in Sukhum on 12 August in a bid to defuse the situation. LF

RUSSIA, GEORGIA AGAIN DISCUSS CHECHENS' EXTRADITION
A second group of officials from the Russian Prosecutor General's office has arrived in Georgia to negotiate the extradition of 13 Chechens apprehended after illegally entering Georgia from Russia, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported on 9 and 10 August. Georgia provided the Russian officials with photographs and detailed descriptions of the 13 men to facilitate their identification. But the process of establishing who they are and whether or not they have committed any crimes is likely to be long and complicated, Georgian National Security Committee Secretary Tedo Djaparidze told journalists on 9 August. Speaking in Moscow the same day, Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev called for the imposition of economic sanctions on Georgia if it refuses to extradite the Chechens, Caucasus Press reported. LF

RUSSIA LIFTS GEORGIAN AIR-TRAFFIC RESTRICTIONS
The Russian Ministry of Transport informed its Georgian counterpart on 9 August that as of 12 August the restrictions on flights by Georgian carriers through Russian airspace will be lifted, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. The restrictions were imposed in early August in connection with military activities in the North Caucasus. It is not clear whether Tbilisi annulled the analogous restrictions it imposed on Russian aircraft overflying Georgia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2002). The Russian Civil Aviation Board on 9 August criticized Tbilisi for not informing it in advance of the imposition of those restrictions as required by international regulations. LF

GEORGIAN COURT REMANDS SUSPECTED MURDERER OF RUSSIAN OFFICER
A Tbilisi court on 11 August refused a request for bail by David Zazashvili, who was arrested three days earlier in connection with the murder of Russian Air Force Colonel Igor Zaitsev, Russian Agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2002). On 10 August, Zaitsev's widow, Natalya, denied as "nonsense" Georgian police claims that Zazashvili killed Zaitsev during a quarrel over $140 that he owed Zaitsev. LF

KAZAKHSTAN OUTLINES FUTURE COOPERATION WITH NATO
Kazakh Defense Ministry officials held talks on 7-9 August with visiting NATO experts on the possible participation of Kazakhstan's Kazbat peacekeeping battalion in NATO Balkan peacekeeping operations, Interfax reported. Also discussed were language and cartographic training for Kazakh officers who will participate in peacekeeping operations and U.S. assistance in rendering the Kazakh air navigation and communications systems compatible with their U.S. counterparts. LF

KYRGYZSTAN EXTRADITES DIPLOMAT'S PRESUMED KILLERS TO CHINA
Kyrgyzstan has handed over to China two Uighurs suspected of shooting a Chinese diplomat dead in Bishkek in late June, Interfax and akipress.org reported on 9 August. The diplomat's driver and a Uighur businessman were also killed in the assault (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 2002). Kyrgyz Interior Minister Bakirdin Subanbekov told journalists on 4 July that the killers will be tried in Kyrgyzstan, rather than extradited to China, Interfax reported. LF

KYRGYZSTAN SUPPORTS INDIA'S ACCESSION TO 'SHANGHAI FIVE'
During a visit to New Delhi on 7 August where he met with President Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev expressed his support for India's stated interest in joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Interfax and akipress.org reported. The two countries also agreed to establish a joint working group to fight international terrorism, according to ITAR-TASS. LF

FORMER TAJIK DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER SENTENCED...
The Military Board of Tajikistan's Supreme Court on 9 August sentenced former Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Kim to 13 years' imprisonment on charges of abuse of power, drug trafficking, embezzlement, and desertion, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Prosecutors claimed that Kim commandeered an air force helicopter to transport a consignment of drugs. He subsequently fled to Kazakhstan and was extradited to Dushanbe in January 2002 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2002). LF

...AS TAJIK POLICE CLAIM TO HAVE IDENTIFIED MURDERERS OF PROMINENT POLITICAL FIGURES
The Interior Ministry knows who was responsible for at least seven murders of prominent political figures in recent years, including that of Culture Minister Abdurahim Rahimov in 2001(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2001), First Deputy Interior Minister General Azizmad Imonov told Interfax on 8 August. But, except for one who has been apprehended, the killers are at large either in the CIS or other foreign countries, and international arrest warrants have been issued for them, Imonov said. LF

TAJIKISTAN, INDIA SEEK TO EXPAND ECONOMIC COOPERATION
On a working visit to Dushanbe on 8-9 August, Indian Deputy Foreign Minister Rajendra Abhayankar met with Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov and President Imomali Rakhmonov to discuss the prospects for expanding bilateral economic cooperation, particularly in the spheres of power engineering, transport and communications, and preparations for Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee's planned visit to Tajikistan, ITAR-TASS and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Abhayankar also met with Deputy Prime Minister Saidamir Zukhurov and Defense Minister Colonel General Sherali Khairulloev to discuss regional security and the fight against international terrorism. LF

TURKMEN PARLIAMENT DECREES NEW AMNESTY...
The People's Council adopted a resolution on 9 August to amnesty virtually the entire prison population with the exception of murderers and recidivists on 1 December, turkmenistan.ru reported. Over 16,000 people will benefit from the amnesty; a similar act of clemency last year extended to 9,000 prison inmates. LF

...AS PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES WAGE HIKES
Addressing the People's Council on 9 August, President Saparmurat Niyazov said that wages in both the state and private sectors will increase as of February 2003, Interfax reported. At present the average wage is 600,000 manats ($115 at the official and $30 at the black market exchange rate). LF

RUSSIA, TURKMENISTAN RESUME FERRY LINK
The ferry line between Makhachkala and Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnovodsk) that functioned during the Soviet era resumed operation on 10 August, Interfax reported. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Federal Border Guard Service Director Colonel General Konstantin Totskii attended the departure of the first ferry from the capital of Daghestan. The ferry will have both military and civil functions. In times of military need, each ferry will be capable of carrying up to 60 pieces of military hardware and 200 troops. In peacetime, the ferry will transport Turkmen oil and liquid gas directly to Russia, circumventing Georgia and Azerbaijan. Addressing the People's Council on 9 August, Niyazov said that friction in relations with Russia has been overcome, and he intends to promote "broad partnership" between the two countries, turkmenistan.ru reported. LF/VY

U.S. GENERAL VISITS UZBEKISTAN
Marines General Peter Pace met in Tashkent on 9 August with Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov, and Defense Minister Kadyr Gulyamov to discuss regional security, the fight against international terrorism, and the development of bilateral military-technical cooperation, AP and uza.uz reported. LF

RELIGIOUS, HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS CALL ON BELARUSIAN LEGISLATORS TO REJECT NEW RELIGION BILL
A coalition of Jewish, Greek Catholic (Uniate), Protestant, and human rights groups on 9 August called on Belarus's Council of the Republic to reject a new bill on religion that places constraints on small denominations and ensures the Russian Orthodox Church's dominant role in the country, AP reported. "Practical application of this law will lead to a large number of legal disputes and will create a threat to interfaith harmony, [leading] to the destabilization of civil society," the groups said in a statement. The bill, which was already passed by the lower house, the Chamber of Representatives, prohibits churches with less than 20 years' presence in Belarus from publishing literature or establishing missions and bans organized prayer by denominations with fewer than 20 Belarus citizens as members. The Russian Orthodox Church, as well as Roman Catholic and Muslim representatives in Belarus, did not sign the 9 August statement. JM

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT AMENDS CUSTOMS DUTY REGULATIONS
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has signed an edict amending regulations concerning customs-duty exemptions for goods brought into and out of Belarus by individuals for purposes other than production and trade, Belapan reported on 11 August, quoting the presidential press service. The edict exempts from customs duty goods worth up to $1,500. Simultaneously, the document reduces the maximum amount of duty-free agricultural produce that can be brought into Belarus to 10 kilograms per person. JM

UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY REPORTEDLY SUED OVER AIR-SHOW CRASH
The parents of Hryhoriy Kozak, a 23-year-old man who was killed in the disastrous air-show crash in Lviv on 27 July, have sued the Defense Ministry, demanding 350,000 hryvnas ($66,000) in compensation for the death of their son, UNIAN reported on 12 August, quoting Deutsche Welle. JM

UKRAINE'S GRAIN HARVEST EXCEEDS 35 MILLION TONS
Serhiy Melnyk, the state secretary in the Agrarian Policy Ministry, announced on 9 August that Ukrainian farmers have so far gathered more than 35 million tons of grain, UNIAN reported. This year's grain yield exceeds 2.8 tons per hectare. The government expects to harvest at least 36 million tons of grain in 2002. Last year's grain output was 39.7 million tons. JM

UKRAINE'S POPULATION SHRINKS BY 200,000 IN JANUARY-JUNE 2002
The population of Ukraine fell by nearly 200,000 people in January-June 2002, UNIAN reported on 9 August, citing the State Statistics Committee. According to last year's census, there were 48.4 million people living in Ukraine on 5 December 2001. JM

HEAD OF ESTONIAN STATE AUDIT OFFICE RESIGNS
Juhan Parts submitted his letter of resignation to President Arnold Ruutel on 8 August and announced at a press conference the next day that he plans to join the Res Publica party, ETA reported. He said he intends to run for the chairmanship of the party and also in the local council elections in October. Some politicians, mainly of the ruling coalition of the Center and Reform Parties, criticized Parts for resigning before the expiration of his five-year term next spring. He responded that he had consulted with Justice Chancellor Allar Joks, who assured him that there is nothing unconstitutional or illegal about resigning from the post early. The daily "Postimees" predicted that Security Police head Juri Pihl will probably be the new head of the State Audit Office. SG

RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY INDIGNANT OVER LATVIAN DEPUTY'S COMMENTS
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 9 August expressing its indignation at what it deemed to be Russophobic comments made by Latvian parliament deputy Aleksandrs Kirsteins in the newspaper "Lauku Avize," LETA reported on 10 August. The ministry said NATO should take a closer look at Latvia and its "political baggage" before admitting it to the alliance. The ministry also claimed that Kirsteins' remarks cannot be viewed as his personal views since he is a deputy of the ruling coalition's People's Party and the head of the Latvian delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. The ministry is particularly angered by Kirsteins' claims that Russia "occupied" Latvia as an ally of Nazi Germany, and by his calls for Russia to compensate Latvia for damages incurred during the occupation. Kirsteins responded to the ministry's attack by noting that many "USSR-type" officials still work in the Russian ministry who do not want to be reminded of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. He added that he had not told "Lauku Avize" anything that had not been discussed at international meetings. SG

GAZPROM TO GO IT ALONE IN PRIVATIZATION OF LITHUANIAN GAS
Deputy Economy Minister Nerijus Eidukevicius announced on 10 August that the Russian natural-gas giant Gazprom has submitted a revised application for the purchase of the 34 percent share in the natural-gas utility Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas) earmarked for a gas supplier, "Lietuvos zinios" reported on 12 August. The main change was the omission of its local strategic partner, Dujotekana Co., which had been mentioned in the original application (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2002) as a possible purchaser of a 9 percent share. The utility privatization commission, headed by Eidukevicius, examined the new application and accepted it as fulfilling all requirements, the most important of which was to guarantee natural-gas supplies for at least 10 years. Gazprom is expected to submit a preliminary offer by 10-11 September and a final offer by 11-12 November. SG

LAST SURVIVING STALIN-ERA POLITICAL POLICE LEADER IN POLAND DIES
Anatol Fejgin, 93, died in Warsaw in July, PAP reported on 10 August. Fejgin was the director of the 10th Department in the Ministry of Public Security (MBP) in 1950-54. After October 1956, the name Fejgin became a symbol for the terror of the Stalinist-era political police (popularly called UB) in Poland. In 1957 Fejgin was sentenced to 12 years in prison for "infringing on socialist legality" during his post in the MBP; he served 8 1/2 years in prison. "History has already judged him...Fejgin was one of the most important cogs in the [Stalinist-terror] machine," Professor Andrzej Paczkowski from the National Remembrance Institute (IPN) told PAP. Fejgin was never indicted for the period of his service in the leadership of the Main Information Board of the Polish People's Army (military counterintelligence), in which he served from 1944-50. At the time of his death, Fejgin was still the subject of several investigations by IPN prosecutors. JM

POLISH COURT CONVICTS 35 IN COCAINE SMUGGLING TRIAL
A court in Warsaw on 9 August convicted 35 people for smuggling some $700 million worth of cocaine and handed down prison terms of up to 12 years in the country's largest ever drug-trafficking trial, Polish media reported. Prosecutors said the gang smuggled some 2.5 tons of cocaine from South America to Europe from 1994-2000 by sending unemployed people or students to Peru, Chile, and Colombia as couriers. Six people, including a suspected ringleader, were acquitted in the trial that began last October under unprecedented security measures. JM

CORRECTION:
The 9 August "RFE/RL Newsline" "End Note" titled "Warsaw Obliges Itself to Build EU's 'Berlin Wall'" should have cited the Center for Eastern Studies (Warsaw) as saying that 4.4 million individual trips across the Polish-Russian border were made by Poles and Russians in 2000. JM

CORRUPTION CHARGES ADDED TO INDICTMENT OF FORMER CZECH FOREIGN MINISTRY OFFICIAL...
On 9 August, police filed additional corruption charges against former Czech Foreign Ministry Secretary Karel Srba, CTK and international news agencies reported. Srba has been already indicted for allegedly masterminding the plot to assassinate journalist Sabina Slonkova. On 9 August, CTK reported that three people who allegedly bribed Srba when he served as a ministry official have also been charged with corruption. On 10 August, CTK cited current Foreign Ministry Secretary Vladimir Zavazal as saying a contract for the reconstruction of the Czech Embassy in Zagreb signed under Srba's tenure estimated construction costs at 72 million crowns ($2.27 million at the current exchange rate), although ministry experts had previously estimated the costs at just 35 million crowns. MS

...WHILE SUCCESSOR IS ALSO CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION
The dailies "Pravo" and "Lidove noviny" wrote on 10 August that Srba's successor as Foreign Ministry secretary, Pavel Jaros, has also been charged with corruption, CTK reported. Jaros was dismissed from that position by Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda last month. In an interview with "Lidove noviny" on 12 August, Jaros denied any involvement in Srba's alleged corruption network. Jaros said in response to the accusations that he accepted a 5 million-crown bribe ($157,089) that "someone allegedly bribed me in connection with the Zagreb embassy reconstruction contract. No one offered me anything. I never asked for anything and never received anything." MS

FORMER CZECH PREMIER'S ADVISER DENIES LINK WITH SRBA
In an interview with "Pravo," Miroslav Slouf, chief adviser to former Prime Minister Milos Zeman, on 9 August denied allegations that he was involved in bribery at the Foreign Ministry, CTK reported. "I categorically reject the allegation that I controlled [Srba] or took money from him. I had no idea about the bribery. If I had any information on it, I would have immediately acted very tough both in principle and as a Social Democrat responsible for the good reputation of Milos Zeman's government," Slouf said. Slouf also denied being aware that Srba was a military intelligence officer while working for the ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August 2002). MS

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER APPOINTS NEW VZS CHIEF...
Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik on 9 August appointed Josef Proks as the new chief of the Military Intelligence Service (VZS), CTK reported. Proks had been serving as commander of the Czech military antichemical and antibacteriological unit serving in Kuwait. He replaces Andor Sandor, whose expired contract Tvrdik refused to prolong over differences on the reform of the VZS. Media reports, which Tvrdik has denied, claimed that Sandor's dismissal was linked to the Srba affair. The reports said Sandor had not obeyed orders to terminate Srba's activity in the VZS. Dusan Lupuljev was appointed as Proks' successor at the head of the unit stationed in Kuwait. MS

...AND NEW DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER
Tvrdik on 9 August appointed Pavel Severa as a deputy defense minister, CTK reported. The appointment is in line with the coalition agreement. Severa is a former parliamentary deputy for the Christian Democratic Union-People's Party. Tvrdik also appointed two additional deputy ministers -- Jan Dzvonik, who will be in charge of the ministry's financial operations, and Jaroslav Svabik, who had been serving as the ministry's director. In related news, Foreign Minister Svoboda also appointed two new deputy ministers. They are Alexandr Vondra, a former Czech ambassador to the United States and currently government commissioner in charge of preparations for the November NATO summit in Prague, and Jan Kohout, who was proposed to the post by the ruling Social Democratic Party. Under former Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, Kohout was the ministry's political director. Vondra's candidacy was proposed by the minor coalition partner Freedom Union-Democratic Union. MS

SECOND TEMELIN REACTOR TO RESUME TESTING
A spokesman for the controversial Temelin nuclear-power plant said on 11 August that the plant's management received permission to resume testing on its second unit, AP reported. The reactor was started on 31 May but a short circuit forced technicians to halt testing on 5 July. Last month the first Temelin unit entered its last stage of tests and that unit should be ready for commercial use in 18 months. MS

FAMOUS CZECH POET, ARTIST DIES
Famous Czech poet and painter Jiri Kolar has died in Prague, the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 12 August. Kolar was born in 1914 and first exhibited his works in 1937. In 1941 he made his debut as a poet, becoming one of the leading surrealists. Kolar was jailed by the communist regime in the 1950s because of his links with Czech emigre artists but was allowed to exhibit and publish again in the 1960s following his liberation from prison. He went into exile in Paris in 1980 after having signed the Charter '77 dissident document, and returned home several years ago. MS

SLOVAKIA HESITANT OVER ICC ACCORD WITH UNITED STATES...
Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan on 9 August confirmed that Slovakia has been asked by the United States to sign an agreement exempting U.S. peacekeepers from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), CTK reported. Kukan told Radio Twist that Slovakia will respond to the invitation so as not "to harm our interests." He said he does not expect the government to decide on the matter before the September general elections. Romania has been criticized by the European Union for having signed the agreement with the United States without waiting for the EU to decide on the matter in September. MS

...WHILE IT HAS 'NO OFFICIAL POSITION' ON POTENTIAL U.S. ATTACK ON IRAQ
Foreign Ministry spokesman Jaroslav Chlebo said on 9 August that Slovakia has "no official position" over a possible attack on Iraq by U.S. forces, TASR reported. Chlebo said the issue is "not pressing" for the time being. However, Diana Dubovska, spokeswoman on foreign affairs for the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), said the HZDS will support "whatever solution is agreed by the [NATO] allies." Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) Chairman Bela Bugar said that his formation supports the U.S. position. Bugar said that in the past the EU "opted for negotiations, which were not always successful" and that its members are showing "hesitation" once more. "The U.S. is a more resolute country," Bugar concluded. MS

SLOVAK FINANCE MINISTER ADMITS DIFFICULTIES WITH BUDGET
Finance Minister Frantisek Hajnovic said on Markiza TV on 11 August that the 2002 budget was not devised with all the necessary care and as a consequence estimates on both revenues and spending underwent changes several times this year, TASR reported. The budget was drafted by Hajnovic's predecessor, Brigita Schmognerova. Hajnovic said revenues this year could be between 6 billion and 8 billion crowns ($132.09 million to $176.12 million) short of target. MS

SLOVAK OPPOSITION FIGURE DENIES HZDS WEAKENED BY HZD DEFECTIONS
HZDS Chairman Vladimir Meciar on 9 August denied that his party has been weakened by the departure from its ranks of the group headed by Ivan Gasparovic, TASR reported. Meciar said the Gasparovic-headed Movement for Democracy (HZD) lacks a program and only serves "personal ambitions." One day earlier, HZDS Secretary Eva Antosova said that only 104 HZDS members have left the party following the formation of the HZD, while 147 new members have joined the HZDS since the split. A public opinion poll conducted by the National Enlightenment Center and released on 9 August has the HZDS winning a plurality of 18.2 percent in the September elections, and credits the HZD with 7.3 percent. The poll shows Smer in second place with 16.5 percent, followed by the New Citizens Alliance (11.0 percent), the SMK (10.3 percent), and the Slovak Democratic and the Christian Union with 7.6 percent each. The poll also forecasts that the Christian Democratic Movement (7.2 percent) and the Slovak National Party (5.2 percent) will be represented in the next parliament. MS

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION WITHDRAWS FROM MECS COMMISSION...
Opposition members of the commission set up to investigate links between the communist secret services and people who served in Hungary's postcommunist governments announced on 9 August that they will no longer cooperate with the commission, saying it is acting unconstitutionally and has broken several laws, Hungarian media reported. Commission Chairman Imre Mecs responded that the opposition's decision to suspend its participation in the forum is evidence of its "schizophrenic behavior" and will prevent details of former ministers' past activities and links with the communist secret services from becoming public. Mecs also said concerns regarding the protection of data analyzed by the commission can be addressed and the commission will carry on without the opposition members. According to the daily "Magyar Hirlap," between five and 10 former ministers are believed to have been linked with the former intelligence services. MS

...WHILE POLL SHOWS PUBLIC DOES NOT CARE
A public opinion poll conducted by the Median Market Research polling institute shows that only 10 percent of Hungary's population is interested in learning more about communist-era secret service agents and informers, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Some 77 percent of respondents said they do not want to know if a friend or a relative collaborated with the secret services. Nearly half (47 percent) believe that communist secret police files should not be open, while 22 percent said the names of all informers and agents should be made public. Fourteen percent believe that details relating to the communist secret service files should be made public if they involve people who were active in politics or held key positions in the media or churches after 1990. MS

HUNGARIAN PREMIER SAYS EARLY ELECTIONS 'NOT ON AGENDA'
Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy said in an interview with "Nepszabadsag" on 10 August that early elections are not on the agenda, although a cabinet with a strong majority could more effectively pursue Hungarian interests after EU accession. In response to Medgyessy's statement, FIDESZ official Attila Varhegyi said his party is ready for early elections and would be "delighted" if parliament will decide as early as this week to call for them. Democratic Forum official Andras Csaky said that current opinion polls showing the Socialists ahead of the opposition are perhaps encouraging some Socialists to risk early elections in the hope of increasing their fragile majority. MS

PROMINENT FREE DEMOCRATS QUIT PARTY IN HUNGARY
Two former prominent Free Democratic Alliance (SZDSZ) members announced on 10 August that they are leaving the party, Hungarian media reported. They are Janos Kis, who was the party's first chairman, and Peter Hack, a former member of the SZDSZ Executive Committee. Kis indicated in June that he was considering leaving the SZDSZ after details emerged regarding Prime Minister Medgyessy's past as a communist counterintelligence officer and the SZDSZ refused to withdraw its support of the prime minister. SZDSZ Chairman Gabor Kuncze called the resignations both "regrettable" and "an overreaction." Hack dismissed Kuncze's charge, saying his decision is the culmination of a number of events and factors, of which the Medgyessy affair has been a primary, but not the only cause. Hack said there is a lack of solidarity in the HZDS, as illustrated by the party leadership's criticism of Kis after he made his comments on the Medgyessy affair. MS

INTERNATIONAL FORCES ARREST FORMER KOSOVAR GUERRILLA LEADER...
UN police backed by KFOR troops arrested Rustem Mustafa, better known as Remi, in Prishtina on 11 August, Reuters reported. The former commander of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) is linked "to the torture and murder of at least five illegally detained persons," the UN civilian administration (UNMIK) said in a statement. The statement did not include any details. Several other former UCK members have been arrested in recent months, but Remi is the highest-ranking one to date. Already in 2001, his name appeared on a U.S. list of persons seeking to destabilize peace in the Balkans (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June 2001). After his arrest, Remi said in a press statement that he is innocent of any crimes and proud of what he did for his people during the 1998-99 conflict, Hina reported. PM

...AS KFOR CAPTURES 'ARMED EXTREMISTS'
In a press statement on 12 August, KFOR announced that it has arrested "three suspected members of ethnic armed extremist groups in Prishtina this morning. The operation was carried out as part of the global fight against terrorism, and it is important to underline that perpetrators of extremism and illegal activities can find no place to hide in Kosovo," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2002). PM

KOSTUNICA HAILS 'MULTIETHNIC' MITROVICA...
Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade on 9 August that UNMIK's arrest warrant against Mitrovica Serb politician and vigilante leader Milan Ivanic is politically motivated, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 August 2002). Kostunica added that the arrest of Ivanic could destroy the last hope to have at least one multiethic city in Kosova. PM

...WHILE IVANIC'S BACKERS PROTEST
Several thousand Serbs protested in Mitrovica on 9 August against attempts to arrest Ivanic, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. In a letter to UNMIK head Michael Steiner the next day, Ivanic said that he is willing to appear in court but not under arrest and only with written guarantees from Belgrade and the UN. He added that he suspects that the entire affair is an attempt by the OSCE to get his name removed from the ballot in the 26 October local elections. PM

VOTING RESULTS EXPECTED IN SOUTHERN SERBIA
RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 12 August that preliminary results are expected in the course of the day of the second round of voting in local elections in Presevo and in a repeated vote in 11 polling places in Bujanovac. The voting took place the previous day without incident (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 6 August 2002). PM

MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN LEADER REBUFFS 'LIES'
The chairman of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), Arben Xhaferi, said that comments about the existence of a new ethnic Albanian guerilla organization called Army of the Republic Ilirida (ARISH) -- as made by the Macedonian Interior Ministry and by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski -- are lies and provocations, "Dnevnik" reported on 12 August. Xhaferi's statement came after he met with Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano in the Albanian town of Pogradec on Lake Ohrid on 11 August. According to "Utrinski vesnik," Nano said that Macedonian secret services are behind the rumors, which burden an already strained bilateral relationship, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 9 August 2002). On 10 August, the Albanian Foreign Ministry protested that comments from official Skopje about alleged ethnic Albanian extremism in Macedonia harm bilateral relations. UB/PM

VUK TO RUN FOR SERBIAN PRESIDENCY
The steering committee of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) announced in Belgrade on 10 August that Vuk Draskovic will be its candidate in the 29 September elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

DISPUTE BETWEEN SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO BEYOND SOLUTION?
On 12 August, the joint Serbian-Montenegrin commission seeking to hammer out a Constitutional Charter for two republics will discuss the many remaining points of contention, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Dragor Hiber, who represents the Serbian parliament on the commission, said the differences between the two sides are so great that he does not think that even the mediation of Javier Solana, who was the force behind the March agreement between the two republics, would help (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July and 6 and 7 August 2002). The previous day, Dragan Kujovic, who heads the Montenegrin team in the talks, charged that Kostunica is trying to impose his vision of a unitary state on the talks. On 10 August, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said that a solution is possible and that both sides are best served by something between a federation and a confederation. Kostunica argued that the holding of presidential elections in Serbia on 29 September and general elections in Montenegro on 6 October constitute a "direct attempt to obstruct the work" of the commission. PM

TOP U.S. LAWYERS' AWARD FOR CROATIAN PRESIDENT
Stipe Mesic received the annual award of the American Bar Association in Washington on 10 August, Hina reported. The agency noted that he was chosen for the honor because he "has made a significant contribution to the building of Croatia on democratic principles, which has not always been an easy task." PM

SOMETHING FISHY IN THE BAY OF PIRAN?
On 9 August, Slovenian member of parliament Aurelio Juri called for international arbitration of the long-standing territorial dispute between Slovenia and Croatia in the Bay of Piran, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 May 2002, and "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2002). Juri called on Prime Ministers Janez Drnovsek and Ivica Racan to discuss the issue personally before incidents involving fishing boats get out of hand. On 10 August, the Croatian police announced in Umag that two Slovenian fishing boats had crossed into Croatian waters. Slovenia has generally favored arbitration to settle the Piran issue, whereas Croatia prefers a bilateral package deal involving a number of outstanding issues. PM

U.S. DONATES $1 MILLION FOR SREBRENICA MEMORIAL CENTER
The U.S. Embassy said in a statement in Sarajevo on 12 August that the United States will donate $1 million for a memorial park to honor the 8,000 Muslim males massacred by Serbian forces after the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995, AP reported. The statement noted that "the plan for the memorial and cemetery was developed in close cooperation with the surviving family members and will allow for a dignified final resting place for their loved ones.... Although the memorial and cemetery cannot erase the pain and suffering of the victims and their families, it is an important symbol, reminding the world of the crimes and inhumanity that took place in Srebrenica in 1995." PM

ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER WALKS TIGHTROPE BETWEEN U.S., EU...
Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana on 11 August denied that his country did not consult with the European Union over the signing of an accord with the United States by which Romania agreed not to extradite U.S. citizens to the International Criminal Court (ICC), RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Responding to EU criticism (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 August 2002), Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said Romania on more than 30 occasions had contacted and consulted with EU "bureaucrats and experts" and said that these contacts might have been "short-circuited," as he put it, due to government recess in Brussels. Geoana admitted that Romania might have made a mistake in not consulting on the matter with EU officials at the "high political level," and said that steps are under way to correct that mistake. But he added that when making its decision Romania acted "not in the U.S. interest but in its own national interest," as Romania has a "strategic partnership" with Washington and could not turn down the U.S. request. In an interview with Romanian television the same day, Geoana denied that the United States had pressured Bucharest, but added that a report published in "The New York Times" saying the United States has threatened to suspend aid to states that refuse to sign the accord shows that the problem is "extremely sensitive and important" to the United States. MS

...WHILE ALSO RESPONDING TO HOME CRITICS
Geoana also said on 11 August that Prime Minister Nastase was planning to have a telephone conversation the same day with Guenter Verheugen, the EU's commissioner in charge of enlargement, and that he himself will also contact his Danish counterpart, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Denmark currently holds the EU's rotating Presidency. Nastase said on 9 August that negotiations with the United States and the EU over the ICC are being conducted by the Foreign Ministry and that it is up to Geoana to explain the matter. Observers said the remarks can be considered an additional indication of tension between Nastase and Geoana, whom media reports have mentioned as a possible candidate to replace Nastase as prime minister. Former Foreign Ministers Petre Roman and Teodor Melescanu on 9 August also criticized the perceived failure to consult with the EU. MS

DID CEAUSESCU HAVE 'DIRTY BOMB?'
Scotland's "The Sunday Herald" on 11 August wrote that communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1985 ordered a program with no expenses spared to build an atomic weapon, and that by May 1989 Romania had obtained a sufficient amount of arms-grade plutonium to build a so-called "dirty bomb." Citing the Romanian daily "Ziua," "The Sunday Herald" reported that Ceausescu's nuclear ambitions were helped by enriched uranium supplied by the United States for research purposes. According to "The Sunday Herald," this was one of the reasons why Washington urged former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to intervene militarily in Romania after the revolt against Ceausescu began in 1989. Gorbachev turned the request down. During his visit to Georgia last month, President Ion Iliescu thanked President Eduard Shevarnadze -- who was Soviet foreign minister at the time of the revolt -- for having "rebutted his American colleague's suggestion of a Russian invasion of Romania." MS

ROMANIANS PROTEST PRESIDENTIAL AMNESTY
On 11 August, members of associations representing people who participated in the 1989 uprising against Ceausescu protested a recent decision by President Iliescu to grant amnesty to three officers involved in the attempts to quash the uprising in Timisoara, Mediafax reported. The amnesty was granted in July, but became public only after the official gazette "Monitorul oficial" published the presidential decree. The three, one of them holding the rank of general, were sentenced to between eight and 12 years in prison. MS

FINLAND SENDS ROMANIAN ROMA HOME
Eighty-eight Roma were returned to their native Romania from Finland on 10 August, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The group included 53 adults and 35 children who were sent back after the Finnish authorities rejected their asylum applications. A spokeswoman for the Romanian border police said that the passports of 84 members of the group have been canceled for three years and that four of the Roma will face charges because they presented passports different from those they used to enter Finland. In related news, nine Romanian citizens were indicted on 9 August in France on charges of human trafficking, AP reported. The suspects allegedly recruited people with physical disabilities by promising them that they would receive medical treatment or prostheses in France and they were subsequently forced into begging upon their arrival. MS

ROMANIA SENDS NEW MILITARY ATTACHE TO MOLDOVA
Colonel Gheorghe Jerloianu last week became the new Romanian military attache at his country's embassy in Chisinau and met with Moldovan Defense Minister Victor Gaiciuc, Flux reported on 10 August. Jerloianu replaced Ion Ungureanu, who was declared "persona non grata" on 13 March after being accused by the Moldovan authorities of having been involved in the street demonstrations that were taking place in Chisinau at the time. In retaliation, the Romanian authorities, who denied the accusations, expelled the Moldovan military attache in Bucharest, Iacob Popovici. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT SETS UP NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR TRANSDNIESTER NEGOTIATIONS
President Vladimir Voronin on 10 August issued a decree setting up the National Commission for the Negotiation Process for Solving the Transdniester Problem, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The commission is headed by Vasile Sturza, who is Moldova's chief negotiator in the parleys with Tiraspol mediated by the OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine. The new commission is likely to be directly involved in the actual negotiations and is different from the recently established State Commission for the Reintegration of the Republic of Moldova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 2002) headed by Deputy Prime Minister Vasile Iovv. MS

BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DENIES PROBLEMS WITH ARAB COUNTRIES
Speaking on National Radio on 11 August, Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said there are no tensions whatsoever between Bulgaria and Arab countries, focus.bg reported. In a diplomatic note handed to the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry on 9 August, the ambassadors of 12 Arab states had expressed their dissatisfaction with Bulgaria's abstention during the vote on a UN resolution demanding the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian territories. In the radio interview, Pasi defended Bulgaria's difficult position as a NATO and EU candidate, which often results in the country's abstention during votes in the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly. The ambassadors' move came following Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski's recent visit to Jordan. UB

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR DOMESTIC TOURISM INDUSTRY
At a conference on tourism held at the Black Sea resort of Slanchev Bryag on 11 August, President Georgi Parvanov said he intends to invite foreign statesmen, business delegations, and journalists to spend their holidays in Bulgaria in an effort to attract tourism, Bulgarian media reported. Participants at the conference -- mayors, district governors, as well as representatives from the tourism industry -- discussed current problems related to the booming tourism trade on the country's Black Sea coast. Deputy Economy Minister Dimitar Hadzhinikolov announced that the government plans to introduce a so-called "tourism tax" by the beginning of 2003. The tax is intended to help municipalities improve their infrastructures. Tourism accounts for 13 percent of the country's GDP. UB

BULGARIAN ARMY LEADERS BRIEF U.S. SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE ADVISER
At the Higher Naval School in Varna on 11 August, Chief of General Staff General Nikola Kolev and Deputy Defense Minister Ivo Ivanov told Michael Haltzel, senior foreign policy adviser to the U.S. Foreign Relations Committee, about Bulgaria's army reforms and the implementation of the country's NATO Membership Action Plan. The meeting was also attended by U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria James Pardew. "The meeting with Dr. Haltzel is very important because the information he has [received] can reach Washington and help along the processes, which are at the focus of the Bulgarian public's attention at the moment," Ivanov said after the meeting. UB

There is no End Note today.


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