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Newsline - March 6, 2003


RUSSIA, FRANCE, GERMANY VOW TO BLOCK 'MILITARY' RESOLUTION ON IRAQ
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 5 March met in Paris with his French and German counterparts, Dominique de Villepin and Joschka Fischer, and the three men issued a joint statement pledging to block the adoption of a "military" UN Security Council resolution on Iraq, Western and Russian news agencies reported. The statement further asserts that, if necessary, France and Russia -- which are permanent Security Council members with veto power -- will take "upon themselves all responsibility for preventing the approval of a resolution that will lead to war with Iraq." Asked whether this means using a veto if the United States, Great Britain, and Spain insist on a vote on the draft resolution that they have submitted, Ivanov said, "Yes," and added that this pledge has now been committed to paper. He added that during his recent trip to Beijing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February 2003), he reached a "partner agreement" with China under which that country will join France and Russia in vetoing the proposed resolution. De Villepin, however, expressed the hope that the countries will not have to veto the proposal because it will not be supported by a majority of the council. In Moscow, French nationalist politician Jean-Marie Le Pen told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 4 March that he is pleased with the emerging "Paris-Berlin-Moscow-Beijing" political axis. VY

ATOMIC ENERGY MINISTER COMPLAINS OF LACK OF FUNDING...
Speaking at a 5 March Duma hearing devoted to security at Russian nuclear installations, Aleksandr Rumyantsev said that his ministry's most urgent task is coping with the nuclear waste that accumulated during the massive production of nuclear weapons during the Cold War years, Russian news agencies reported. The country has millions of tons of low- and high-level radioactive waste that cannot be reprocessed because of funding shortages, Rumyantsev said. He also told deputies that the government will spend 6 billion rubles ($450 million) over the next six years to bolster security at nuclear facilities as part of its counterterrorism program. Rumyantsev said there are special Interior Ministry units guarding the country's nuclear facilities, although their numbers have been reduced because of funding shortages. He added that more funding is also needed for a program to use nuclear reactors from decommissioned submarines for civilian purposes. VY

...AND ANNOUNCES SHUTDOWN OF THREE REACTORS...
Atomic Energy Minister Rumyantsev also told deputies that he will sign an agreement with U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham later this month on the shutdown of three Russian nuclear reactors that produce weapons-grade plutonium, RIA-Novosti reported on 5 March. Under the agreement, the United States will finance the construction of civilian nuclear-power plants to compensate for the supplies of electricity lost at the closed cities of Krasnoyarsk-26 and Omsk-7, where the plutonium reactors are located. Rumyantsev did not disclose the details of the agreement, but added that the move will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. VY

...AS NUCLEAR INSPECTOR SAYS BABUSHKAS ARE GUARDING RUSSIA'S NUCLEAR MATERIALS
Speaking at the same 5 March Duma hearing, State Nuclear Inspectorate Chairman Yurii Vishnevskii said he is not satisfied that citizens living near Russian nuclear installations are safe, strana.ru reported on 5 March. He said that while the government focuses on the security of nuclear-power plants and the safety of personnel working at them, too little attention is paid to the populations of the areas surrounding them. He noted that in addition to the facilities under the purview of the Atomic Energy Ministry, his agency also monitors 7,000 enterprises under the purview of other agencies that handle nuclear and radioactive materials. Many of these enterprises are guarded only by unarmed, elderly women, Vishnevskii said. For security reasons, he declined to name any such facilities, but urged that more be done to boost their security, in line with measures already taken at Atomic Energy Ministry facilities. He said that funding for security at non-ministry facilities is currently only 10 percent of what is needed. He noted that the government has a six-year plan to improve the situation, but asked rhetorically whether the country really has six years to do this. VY

BILL TO RAISE PAY FOR SOME EDUCATORS PASSES KEY HURDLE
State Duma deputies on 5 March voted to approve in its first reading a bill on the financing of educational institutions, RosBalt reported. Some 406 deputies voted in favor of the bill, and only four deputies voted against it. A bill that would raise the pay of educational workers in institutions of higher education was also approved in its second reading with 355 votes in favor. According to ITAR-TASS, the bill would triple the level of supplements paid to those holding the degrees of candidate of science and doctor of science. Candidates would get 900 rubles ($28) on top of their base monthly salaries and doctors, 1,500 rubles. Deputies on 5 March also rejected a proposal to consider a draft law that would restore Volgograd's historical name, Stalingrad, Russian news agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January 2003). According to lenta.ru, the proposal garnered only 126 of the necessary 226 votes. JAC

LEGISLATORS GIVE A BOOST TO MINORITY-SHAREHOLDERS' RIGHTS
Also on 5 March, deputies approved in its second reading a bill amending the law on joint-stock companies, RosBalt reported. The vote was 328 in favor. The bill sets out a new procedure for electing of boards of directors in such companies. Minority shareholders with 20 percent or more of a company's voting shares could select at least one representative to its board. JAC

COUNTRY CONTINUES TO MULL STALIN'S POPULARITY...
Duma Deputy Sergei Kovalev (Union of Rightist Forces), a former Soviet-era political prisoner and long-time human rights activist, told TV-Tsentr on 5 March that the popularity of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin is on the rise because the current Kremlin leadership continues to propagate the idea that the country needs to be ruled by a strong hand. President Vladimir Putin himself advocates this idea, Kovalev said. As recently as 1999, Kovalev said, Putin celebrated Stalin's 21 December birthday in a small circle of colleagues. Putin has shown himself to be devoted to the Soviet heritage and proud of his service in the KGB, Kovalev said. ORT political commentator Maksim Sokolov said on 5 March that the increasing support for Stalin is a "protest phenomenon" against those who some Russians believe are responsible for the hardships they face. The population continues to believe that Russian liberals, who occasionally speak out against Stalin, are responsible for their deteriorating living standards, Sokolov said. VY

...AS CENTRIST DUMA LEADER PRAISES STALIN...
"Tribuna" on 5 March published a series of quotations from leading political figures explaining their attitudes toward Stalin. "I relate normally to Stalin. Despite all his defects, he made Russia great," said Gennadii Raikov, head of the pro-Kremlin People's Deputy faction in the State Duma. "He died in his boots and overcoat, never having stolen and having worked for his country. Under his leadership, the country overcame the collapse following the Civil War and was victorious in [World War II].... The country became respected around the world. And after his death, [Soviet leader Nikita] Khrushchev and others like him brought the country down." Nikolai Kharitonov, head of the Duma's Agro-Industrial Group, said: "In my eyes, Stalin was first of all a statesman who thought first about the motherland and then about himself. I would also especially note that Stalin understood the significance to the Russian people of the creation of a great state and highly valued the role of the Russians." JAC

...RIGHTIST LEADER SAYS HE'S TOO YOUNG TO HAVE AN OPINION...
"When Stalin died, I still hadn't been born," Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov said in "Tribuna" of 5 March. "I didn't know Lenin or Stalin, and during the time of Khrushchev, I was a child. During the time [of Soviet leader Leonid] Brezhnev, I was young and was not personally acquainted with him. Therefore, I can say nothing either good or bad about these people. Let their activities be evaluated by the old Communists." JAC

...AND NATIONALIST CONDEMNS THE DICTATOR
"Tribuna" on 5 March also quoted Deputy State Duma Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovskii, head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), as saying that Stalin "should never, under any circumstances, have become the head of the government." "The undereducated son of a cobbler became the overseer of a huge country and killed millions of people," Zhirinovskii continued. "Therefore, my attitude toward Stalin and his circle is most negative." Oleg Morozov, head of the Russian Regions group in the Duma, said: "In my view, the main thing is that he was a great dictator. And each great dictator is first of all a villain, even when he does great things in the interests of the country. Stalin occupies such a place. His villainous acts outweigh his good deeds." JAC

MEMORIAL ACTIVIST SAYS PEOPLE WANT TO FORGET THE TERROR
Commenting on recent public-opinion polls showing that almost one-third of Russians would welcome the return of a leader like Stalin, Aleksandr Kalikh, chairman of the Perm branch of the human rights group Memorial, said that contemporary society "does not want to know what happened then" and refuses to remember all of the horror of the Terror, regions.ru reported on 5 March, citing Novyi Region news agency (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 5 March 2003). According Kalikh, more residents of Perm died in the camps and during the Terror than during World War II. JAC

SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS BAN ON HEADSCARVES IN DOCUMENT PHOTOS
The Supreme Court on 4 March rejected an appeal by 10 Muslim women from Tatarstan who asked the court to overturn a Tatarstan Interior Ministry ban on wearing headscarves in photographs for their domestic passports and other official documents, newsru.com and other Russian news agencies reported. The women argued that the ban on headscarves violates their constitutional right to freedom of conscience, and they asked the Supreme Court to overturn rulings by a municipal court in Kazan and the Supreme Court of Tatarstan that upheld the Interior Ministry's ban (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 2002). Union of Tatarstan Muslim Women Chairwoman Almira Adiatulina said the Koran forbids Muslim women from appearing in front of strange men with their heads bared. In its ruling, the Supreme Court said that the Russian Federation "is a secular state that cannot give preference to any religious norm over other confessions." "The Koran is not a source of law" in Russia, said a Justice Ministry spokeswoman. Adiatulina said her organization will take its appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. VY

BASHKIR LEADER WINS EXTENSION
Members of Bashkortostan's legislature voted unanimously on 5 March to extend President Murtaza Rakhimov's term as president, regions.ru reported, citing UralPressInform. Rakhimov's current term was originally scheduled to end in June, but now the election for republican president will be held at the same time as Duma elections in December. According to the agency, legislators said that combining the elections will save money. JAC

PRO-KREMLIN PARTY TAKES PAGE FROM LEFTIST PARTIES' PLAYBOOK
Members of the Unified Russia party staged a rally against electricity-rate hikes across the river from Mosenergo's headquarters in Moscow on 4 March, REN-TV reported. According to the station, almost none of the protestors were aware that Mosenergo had nothing to do with the rate hike, which was determined by the Federal Energy Commission. When activists from Yabloko tried to explain this to them, one Unified Russia activist reacted angrily and tore up a Yabloko placard that showed the party breakdown of the vote in the Duma on electricity-sector reform. All of the pro-presidential factions in the Duma -- including Unity and Fatherland-All Russia -- voted overwhelmingly, but not unanimously, in support of the bills. According to "Gazeta" on 5 March, it was originally planned to hold the protest in front of the White House, but Unified Russia Moscow branch official Yevgenii Trofimov explained that the party was given permission to hold it across from Mosenergo, and therefore that was where it was held. JAC

THE TIME FOR WOMEN POLITICIANS IN RUSSIA IS NOW?
In an interview with Novyi Region on 5 March in anticipation of International Women's Day on 8 March, Igor Bunin, director of the Moscow-based Center for Political Technologies, declared that equality for women in Russian politics is not likely to be achieved soon. Today there are, at most, 50 women who are well-known in Russian politics. In the government, there is Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko, and in the Federation Council there are only seven women among the 178 senators. In the State Duma, there are only 34 women among the 450 deputies. There are no female oligarchs, and Bunin said that no women are leaders of political parties, according to the agency. "A signal for change in the situation could be the appearance of a female governor in Russia," Bunin said, "but this will happen only in 10 or 20 years." In 1996, Valentina Bronevich became the first female governor in the Russian Federation when she was elected head of the Koryak Autonomous Okrug. She was defeated in 2000 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December 2000). JAC

MORE OFFICIALS CRITICIZE PROPOSED CHECHEN WAR-CRIMES TRIBUNAL
A proposal by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee to set up an international tribunal to investigate alleged war crimes in Chechnya is "absurd," Foreign Ministry official Yevgenii Voronin told journalists in Moscow on 5 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 2003). Acknowledging that the proposal is still at the draft stage, Voronin nonetheless condemned its "spirit and tone," saying it is "openly anti-Russian," according to ITAR-TASS. Also on 5 March, State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev rejected the proposal as superfluous, Interfax reported. Seleznev suggested that its author, German Bundestag deputy Rudolf Bindig, is unaware of the number of criminal cases brought against both Chechen fighters and Russian military personnel suspected of committing war crimes. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT RE-ELECTED...
Incumbent Robert Kocharian was re-elected president of Armenia on 5 March, defeating People's Party of Armenia Chairman Stepan Demirchian in a runoff, international news agencies reported. With 99 percent of all polling stations reporting, Kocharian received 67.5 percent of the vote, compared with 32.5 percent for Demirchian, Reuters quoted Central Election Commission (CEC) Deputy Chairman Hamlet Abrahamian as saying on Armenian National Television. Voter turnout was 65.73 percent, according to the CEC's website (http://www.elections.am). This figure is slightly higher than during the first round of voting on 19 February, in which Kocharian narrowly failed to poll the 50 percent plus one of all votes cast required for a first-round victory (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 February 2003). Demirchian's campaign staff, however, rejected the official turnout figures as inflated, saying that according to their estimates only 1.1 million of Armenia's 2.3 million registered voters cast their ballots, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF

...AS OPPOSITION AGAIN ALLEGES MASSIVE FRAUD...
"We have registered unprecedented falsifications today. The elections are proceeding with numerous violations of the law," Demirchian's campaign manager Grigor Harutiunian told an emergency news conference in Yerevan one hour before polling stations closed at 8 p.m. local time on 5 March, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. To substantiate that statement, Harutiunian showed journalists hundreds of ballot papers marked in Kocharian's favor that, he said, had been either intercepted by opposition activists or surrendered by Kocharian's campaign staff. Ashot Sargsian, a lawyer for Demirchian, said those pre-marked ballot papers "prove that the fraud was planned in advance" by the CEC. Demirchian campaign staff later complained that his proxies were forcibly evicted from polling stations after voting ended and were therefore unable to observe the vote count, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The "Los Angeles Times" on 6 March quoted unnamed members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) election-observation mission as saying that they observed irregularities at almost every polling station they visited, and that "it's clear the election has been stolen." LF

...AND OSCE 'DISAPPOINTED' BY 'SERIOUS IRREGULARITIES'
In a 6 March statement posted on the OSCE website (http://www.osce.org), the OSCE Election Observation Mission in Armenia said the 5 March presidential runoff was marked by "serious irregularities" and that "the election process overall fell short of international standards." "We are disappointed: we had hoped for better," Mission chief Peter Eicher said, adding that the two-week period between the first and second rounds "did not meet international standards for an open and fair political campaign." Asked whether the irregularities were on a scale that would invalidate the vote, Eicher declined to reply, saying that is for the Armenian people to decide, Reuters reported. Reuters also quoted Lord Russell-Johnston, who headed a group of observers from the Council of Europe, as saying that he personally witnessed an attempt at ballot-box stuffing. LF

AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT COMMITTEES APPROVE DRAFT ELECTION LAW
At two joint meetings on 5 March, Azerbaijan's permanent parliamentary committees approved the controversial draft law on presidential, parliamentary, and local elections, zerkalo.az reported on 6 March. The opposition has listed more than 136 objections to that draft and has submitted an alternative draft bill (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 9 January and 3 March 2003). The parliamentary committees proposed only one change to the draft: raising the minimum participation required to validate elections from 25 to 50 percent. The Council of Europe's Venice Commission has advised that the bill be passed by 17 April, six months before the presidential election due this fall. LF

BY-ELECTIONS HELD IN AZERBAIJAN
By-elections were held on 5 March for three seats left vacant after parliament deputies were appointed to positions in the government or the diplomatic service, Turan reported. In Garadag, Algysh Musaev -- the editor of "Yeni Azerbaycan," the newspaper of the eponymous ruling party -- defeated four rival candidates, one of them from the opposition Yeni Musavat Party. In Ismailly, Gudrat Gasankuliev, who was expelled in April 2002 from the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party and has since established his own splinter party under the same name (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 26 August 2002 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 14, 16, and 23 January 2003), defeated two rival candidates, one of them from the Yeni Azerbaycan Party (YAP). In Khanlar-Dashkesan, Shadman Huseyn, who quit the Azerbaijan National Independence Party following disagreements with its leadership, similarly defeated two opponents, one of them from YAP. LF

TWO NEW ABKHAZ INITIATIVES IN THE WORKS
The State Chancellery has drafted a new plan for resolving the Abkhaz conflict that will be presented to parliament in the near future, Caucasus Press quoted National Security Council department head David Bakradze as saying on 5 March. The newspaper "Tribuna" on 28 February had quoted parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze as criticizing the government for having exceeded the deadline set for producing such a plan. Also on 5 March, Koba Chopliani, who is head of the European-Caucasian Institute of Civil and Political Rights, told a news conference in Tbilisi that he believes a new Abkhaz parliament-in-exile should be elected. The current parliament-in-exile comprises Georgian deputies elected to the Abkhaz parliament in 1991. Chopliani's institute also proposed that the new parliament comprise 39 deputies instead of the present 26 and that parties must poll a minimum of 4 percent of the vote to qualify for parliamentary representation. LF

GEORGIAN COMMUNISTS HONOR STALIN
Several hundred Georgian Communists congregated on 5 March at the Stalin Embankment in Tbilisi and in the town of Gori -- Stalin's birthplace -- to mark the 50th anniversary of the Soviet dictator's death, Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. Communist Party of Georgia leader and retired General Panteleimon Giorgadze accused former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze of betraying Stalin. Giorgadze predicted that "Stalin's cause will be revived, and the Communists will inevitably come to power in Georgia." LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION POLITICIAN SEEKS SUPPORT FOR DEMAND TO RAISE MINIMUM WAGE
United Democrats head Zurab Zhvania held meetings in Tbilisi on 5 March with workers in the education and health sectors whose support he solicited for the recently passed law raising the minimum wage from 20 laris ($9.20) to 115 laris ($52.90), Caucasus Press reported. President Shevardnadze and government officials have condemned the law, explaining that wage increases of that magnitude would result in an "economic catastrophe." Zhvania argued that the total cost of doing so this year would be 87 million laris. LF

KAZAKH PRESIDENT SAYS LAND TO BE SOLD AT MARKET PRICES
Nursultan Nazarbaev said on 5 March that when land is privatized in Kazakhstan, it must be sold at market prices, the official Kazakh news agency khabar.kz and Interfax reported, quoting the presidential press service. The issue of a market in land arose during a discussion between Nazarbaev and Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Ahmetjan Yesimov. A draft Land Code is currently under discussion in parliament. There is still strong opposition to land privatization and to the idea of buying and selling land. During his discussion with Yesimov, Nazarbaev also raised the issue of his three-year rural-modernization program, which is supposed to improve rural living conditions, and advocated conducting a study on which of the country's 7,744 villages have the best development prospects. BB

KAZAKHSTAN'S HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION PRESENTS REPORT
The chairman of Kazakhstan's Presidential Human Rights Commission, Senator Jabayhan Abdildin, presented the commission's annual report on 5 March, the official news agency khabar.kz reported on 6 March. One of the commission's primary functions is to inform the president about the protection of human rights in the country. According to Habar, the report asserted that last year the commission focused on human rights protection and reform of the Criminal Code. Abdildin asserted that there were no complaints about violations of political rights or freedom of speech and access to information. Six hundred people did appeal to the commission, however, with most of them complaining of illegal dismissal from their jobs. There were also many complaints about government administrators and state agencies. Human rights activists in Kazakhstan criticize the commission because it is a presidential agency rather than being independent. BB

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADERS REFUSE TO TAKE PART IN PEOPLE'S CONGRESS
A People's Kurultai (Congress) sponsored by the Assembly of the Peoples of Kyrgyzstan opened on 6 March, Deutsche Welle reported. Three prominent opposition activists -- Tursunbek Akunov; Nurlan Motuev; and Zamira Sydykova, editor in chief of the independent newspaper "Res Publica" -- gave a news conference to explain why they are boycotting the event, according to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service. Akunov was quoted as saying that not enough time had been allowed to prepare the event and the rights of the delegates had not been properly defined. He compared the two weeks allowed for preparation of the Kurultai to the similar period allotted for preparation of the 2 February referendum on the new constitution, a period that was criticized as inadequate by international analysts. Members of the opposition group seeking President Askar Akaev's resignation have also refused to attend. The organizers of the Kurultai -- in which 640 delegates representing political parties, nongovernmental organizations, civic associations, the government, religious communities, and the political opposition were expected to take part -- see it as a means of overcoming social divisions in Kyrgyzstan. BB

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER WARNS OF RESTRICTION ON RIGHTS
Kyrgyz opposition leader Edil Baysalov, head of the NGO coalition For Democratization and Civil Society, told a news conference on 5 March that he fears democratic rights and freedoms in Kyrgyzstan are under threat from the authorities, Interfax reported. Baysalov was recently released from detention in a military hospital (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 2003). He pointed to the recent adoption of a law on national security and a draft law on political extremism that is under consideration in parliament as illustrations of his concern that, under the guise of fighting international terrorism, Kyrgyzstan is regressing in its process of democratization. Baysalov argued there is nothing illegal in the ideas of the Hizb ut-Tahrir, and human rights advocates and journalists should be cautious about accepting information about the group that originates with law enforcement and security agencies. The movement has been banned in Kyrgyzstan as extremist. Baysalov questioned whether all its followers are committed to violence in pursuit of its goals. BB

TAJIK PRESIDENT MEETS IRANIAN PARLIAMENTARY LEADER
Imomali Rakhmonov met with Iranian parliament speaker Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi on 5 March, the second day of Karrubi's three-day visit to Dushanbe, Asia Plus-Blitz reported, quoting presidential press spokesman Zafar Saidov. Rakhmonov called for the expansion of trade not only through private entrepreneurs, but also at the government level. Rakhmonov particularly focused on the launching of new joint ventures and Iranian participation in construction of hydroelectric plants and regional transportation networks. Karrubi met the same day with Tajik parliamentary leaders to discuss expanding cooperation between the two national legislatures. BB

TURKMEN ECOLOGIST SENTENCED
A court in Ashgabat sentenced ecologist Farid Tukhbatullin to three years' imprisonment late on 4 March on charges of failing to warn the Turkmen authorities of the planned 25 November attack on President Saparmurat Niyazov's motorcade, Reuters reported on 5 March (see "RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 5 December 2002). Tukhbatullin was also found guilty of illegally crossing the border between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. According to the Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation, no witnesses were questioned during the four-hour hearing. The U.S. State Department issued a statement on 5 March suggesting that the sentence was politically motivated and calling for Tukhbatullin's immediate release. President Niyazov assured visiting OSCE Chairman-in-Office and Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer during talks in Ashgabat on 3 March that Tukhbatullin would be freed, Reuters noted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 March 2003). LF

SWEDISH LAWMAKER MARVELS AT BELARUSIAN ELECTION'S 'PECULIARITIES'
Lawmaker Cecilia Wigstrom of the Swedish Liberal Party noted a number of irregularities during last week's local elections in Belarus, Belapan reported on 5 March, quoting a press release the same day from the nongovernmental Swedish International Liberal Center. Wigstrom, a Swedish delegate to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, visited Belarus from 27 February to 3 March and followed the elections closely in two constituencies in Minsk. "In one of [the constituencies], the real number of early voters seems to have been multiplied by several times.... Election-day votes showed a large majority for the opposition candidate [Syarhey Kazlouski], while early votes gave about 90 percent to his opponent, an officer of the Interior Ministry [special] forces," the press release said. "Other peculiarities reported from the two [constituencies] include ballot boxes opened during the night, as well as a commission member putting piles of [ballots] in the box despite the presence of observers," Wigstrom added. JM

SECURITY OFFICIALS FROM BELARUS, POLAND, RUSSIA, AND UKRAINE MULL TERRORISM, IRAQ
The chiefs of the national-security agencies of Belarus, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine -- Henadz Nyavyhlas, Marek Siwiec, Vladimir Rushailo, and Yevhen Marchuk, respectively -- met in Polatsk, northern Belarus, on 5 March, where they discussed security threats, including terrorism and illegal migration, Russian and Belarusian media reported. Rushailo told journalists after the meeting that the four countries need to unify legislation to counteract international terrorism. He said he passed his counterparts a list of 15 groups that were declared terrorist organizations by Russia's Supreme Court. The sides reportedly disagreed in their assessment of the Iraq situation. Russia and Belarus reportedly believe it is possible to resolve the situation by diplomatic and political methods alone. Marchuk said Ukraine is for a peaceful solution, too, but added that Kyiv does not rule out a military scenario in resolving the crisis. Siwiec said Poland fully agrees with the United States that Baghdad has not complied with any UN resolutions on Iraq during the past eight years. "Military action in Iraq may be a unique possible variant in the settlement of the [Iraq situation]," ITAR-TASS quoted Siwiec as saying. JM

BAGHDAD MAYOR VISITS MINSK
A delegation led by Baghdad Mayor Adnan Abed Hamed arrived in the Belarusian capital on 4 March at the invitation of Minsk city officials, Belapan reported the next day. Hamed reportedly told a meeting with representatives of the Minsk City Executive Council on 5 March that the development of relations with Belarus is a cardinal trend in Iraqi foreign policy that is supported by President Saddam Hussein. Hamed said Baghdad's water supply and sewage system are outdated and pose serious problems. Minsk Mayor Mikhail Paulau reportedly assured his Iraqi guests that the Belarusian capital can dispatch specialists to assist the introduction of new technologies for Iraq's urban infrastructure. JM

UNEMPLOYMENT RISES TO 3.1 PERCENT IN BELARUS
The Ministry of Statistics and Analysis said on 5 March that Belarus's jobless rate stood at 3.1 percent at the end of January, translating into 137,400 unemployed, Belapan reported. The ministry said the number of unemployed thus rose by 25.8 percent from January 2002. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT MAPS OUT POLITICAL REFORM
President Leonid Kuchma pledged in a televised address to the nation on 5 March that the following day he would submit to the Verkhovna Rada constitutional amendments to introduce a "parliamentary-presidential model" of government in Ukraine. Kuchma slammed the opposition for stalling the reform and called for a popular debate on his proposals. Kuchma recommended that parliament appoint the prime minister and most ministers, except for those heading the ministries of Defense, Internal Affairs, Foreign Affairs, and Emergency Situations, who, he said, should be nominated by the president. According to Kuchma, the president should have the right to dissolve the parliament if it fails to form a working majority, appoint a government, or pass a budget. Furthermore, parliamentarians should be elected exclusively under a party-list system for five-year terms, he said, and a second chamber should be introduced to improve representation of the country's regions. Kuchma said the number of lawmakers should be reduced from the current figure of 450, but he did not elaborate. He also proposed that the results of national referendums be applied directly, without seeking approval for them from any branch of power. JM

OUR UKRAINE LEADER PROTESTS BAN ON MAILING FLYERS
Our Ukraine head Viktor Yushchenko said on 5 March that the recent ban on the dissemination of political leaflets through the state postal service, Ukrposhta, deprives the opposition of a crucial means of communication with the electorate, UNIAN reported. Yushchenko was commenting on a statement by Mykola Hanchar, head of the State Committee for Communications and Computerization, who told parliament the previous day that he ordered such a step in the wake of the dissemination by Ukrposhta of a bogus letter that was crafted to look as though it was authored by the Our Ukraine leader (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 2003). Hanchar specifically said he forbade Ukrposhta to spread any "production with political traits." Yushchenko noted that the ban is another encroachment on freedom of expression and communication in Ukraine. Yabluko Party leader Mykhaylo Brodskyy suggested the "Yushchenko" flyer scandal was concocted for the purpose of eventually blocking the distribution of opposition materials by post. JM

COALITION TALKS BEGIN IN ESTONIA
The Reform Party's and the People's Union's decisions on 5 March to begin coalition talks with the Res Publica party suggest that the left-of-center Center Party, which won the most votes in the 2 March parliamentary elections, might be left out of the new government, according to BNS. Negotiations were expected to start on 6 March. The Center Party responded by saying that forming a government without it would be a repetition of the mistake made after the 1999 elections. The Center Party and the Res Publica party both won 28 seats in the 101-member parliament, but Res Publica Chairman Juhan Parts has ruled out forming a coalition with the Center Party, meaning that at least three parties are needed to obtain a parliamentary majority. Reform Party and People's Union Chairmen Siim Kallas and Villu Reiljan both said on 5 March that a tripartite coalition composed of 60 deputies would be a desirable choice. Kallas said his party would prefer that Toomas Savi remain parliament chairman and would accept Parts as the new prime minister. The People's Union is seeking four ministries -- Agriculture, Environment, Finance, and Regional Affairs. SG

LATVIA RETAINS PLANS TO IMPOSE ANTIDUMPING DUTIES ON LITHUANIAN MILK
At a meeting of Baltic agriculture ministers in Parnu, Estonia, on 5 March, Latvia's Martins Roze rejected his Lithuanian counterpart Jeronimas Kraujelis's suggestion that Latvia drop its plans to impose additional duties on imported Lithuanian milk, BNS reported. Alleging that some Lithuanian dairies had sold milk at dumping prices, Latvia's domestic market-protection bureau recommended that antidumping duties be imposed. The ministers agreed on all other issues discussed, such as signing a joint request to Poland not to apply export subsidies to pork being exported to the Baltic states. The Baltic ministers also expressed regret that EU candidate countries were not invited to take part in EU debates on changing the EU's Common Agriculture Policy. SG

LITHUANIAN PRIME MINISTER NOMINATES NEW HEALTH MINISTER
Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas signed a decree on 5 March nominating Social Democrat Juozas Olekas as his choice for health minister, ELTA reported. If approved, Olekas would replace Social Liberal Konstantinas Dobrovolskis, whose removal President Rolandas Paksas has demanded. Olekas, who served as health minister in 1990-92, currently leads the Social Democratic faction in parliament. Parliament Chairman and Social Liberal Chairman Arturas Paulauskas said the decision to replace Dobrovolskis was made without his consent and could create discord in the ruling coalition as it would lower the number of ministers chosen by the Social Liberals. SG

NEW MERGED FACTION ESTABLISHED IN LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT
The center-right Liberal Union, the Center Union, and the Modern Christian Democratic Union (MKDS) on 5 March formed the temporarily named Joint and Liberal faction in parliament, thus fulfilling the merger agreement they signed in January, BNS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January 2003). The group, which will be headed by Liberal Eligijus Masiulis, has 25 members: 20 Liberals, three Centrists, and two Modern Christian Democrats. Center Union Chairman Kestutis Glaveckas and Liberals Klemensas Rimselis, Raimundas Palaitis, and Raimundas Sukys were appointed as his deputies. The two deputies from the Polish Election Action who belonged to the previous faction with the Center Union and the MKDS have been invited to join the group. SG

POLISH PREMIER DETERMINED TO GOVERN WITH SEJM MINORITY
Premier Leszek Miller assured journalists on 5 March that his minority government will be able to rule the country following the recent coalition split between the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Peasant Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 4 March 2003 and "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report, 4 March 2003), PAP reported. Miller said the example of the former Solidarity-led cabinet of Jerzy Buzek proves that a minority government can last. Buzek's cabinet became a minority government in May 2000 after the Freedom Union withdrew from a coalition with the Solidarity Electoral Action, and ruled until the end of its term in late 2001. Later the same day, Miller said the shortening of the parliament's tenure, now being discussed by some opposition groups, could be achieved by holding an election in the spring rather than the fall of 2005, as the law currently prescribes. Miller said some politicians' appeals for elections this fall are "theatrical gestures without any meaning." The SLD and its remaining partner, the Labor Union, control 212 seats in the 460-member Sejm, leaving them 19 votes short of a majority. JM

RUSSIA TO INTRODUCE VISAS FOR POLES IN JULY
Russia will introduce visas for Poles on 1 July, PAP reported on 5 March, quoting the Polish Foreign Ministry's Janusz Skolimowski. Skolimowski said Russia has not agreed to a Polish proposal that there be no visa requirement for Poles going to Russia if, in exchange, visas are free of charge for Russian citizens visiting Poland. Warsaw made such a deal with Kyiv (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February 2003) and is currently negotiating for a similar solution with Belarus. Skolimowski said Polish consulates in the Russian Federation will be able to issue up to 350,000 visas for Russian citizens annually. He added that the two sides left unsolved the question of visa fees. Poland is tightening its non-EU borders as it prepares for membership, expected in 2004. JM

POLISH POLICEMAN KILLED, 14 INJURED IN SHOOTOUT NEAR WARSAW
One police officer was killed and 14 others injured in a shootout with two suspected gangsters in Magdalenka near Warsaw in the early hours of 6 March, PAP reported. The suspects fired automatic guns and launched grenades at an antiterrorism squad attempting to storm the building where they were holed up. The suspects are believed to have died after the building caught fire, reportedly after an explosion. JM

CZECH OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS FOR POSTPONEMENT OF CONFIDENCE VOTE
Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman and Senator Miroslav Topolanek on 5 March said the vote of confidence called by Premier Vladimir Spidla and scheduled for 11 March should be postponed until after the 28-30 March national conference of Spidla's Social Democratic Party (CSSD), CTK reported. Topolanek said the CSSD leadership might change hands or the composition of the government might be altered as a result of the debate at that forum. The CSSD governs in coalition with the Christian Democratic Union-People's Party and the Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU). "We are faced with the danger that the CSSD will reshuffle the cabinet twice -- once before, and once after the conference," he said. Analysts generally regard Spidla's request for a confidence vote, along with the announced resignation of the CSSD parliamentary group's leadership on 4 March, as an attempt to shore up support within the fractured party ahead of the party conference. MS

CZECH LOWER HOUSE SETS UP COMMISSION TO EXAMINE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS...
The Chamber of Deputies on 5 March decided to establish an 11-member commission to examine possible amendments to the country's constitution, CTK reported. The commission's members are to be elected at the next session of the lower house. Among other possible amendments, the commission will examine the possibility of direct presidential elections, the news agency said. Also on the list of proposed amendments is a restriction on the presidential power to grant amnesty. MS

...AND APPROVES BILL TO PREVENT ABUSE OF SOCIAL BENEFITS
Also on 5 March, the lower house approved a government-sponsored bill aimed at preventing the abuse of social benefits and allowing for a one-year suspension of such benefits for those abusing the system, CTK reported. Under the bill's provisions, allowances cannot be paid retroactively for longer than three months. Labor and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skromach said the bill is not targeting any particular group of people, but political observers argue it is aimed at preventing Czech Roma who seek and are denied asylum in other countries from collecting benefits upon their return. Current legislation enables the retroactive collection of benefits for 12 months. The Senate must still debate the bill. MS

5,000 CZECHS SIGN PETITION AGAINST NBC UNIT IN KUWAIT
More than 5,000 Czechs have signed a petition against the presence of an anti-nuclear, -biological, and -chemical (NBC) unit in Kuwait (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 February 2003), CTK reported on 5 March, citing sociologist Jan Keller, who is one of the petition's promoters. The petition was launched five weeks ago and is called "Not In Our Name." Its signatories say the Czech Republic should have no part whatsoever in any military action against Iraq. Organizers also sent a letter to French President Jacques Chirac, praising the French position on the Iraq situation and stating that Czech politicians "have no mandate from the voters [to do] what they are doing." MS

CZECH TELEVISION COUNCIL HAS NEW COMMUNIST MEMBER
Alena Svobodova, a former parliamentarian for the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM), was elected by the lower house on 5 March as a new member of the Czech Television Council, which manages the state-run station. In a second round of the secret voting, Svobodova received 104 votes, while her rival, ethnographer Jana Horvathova, received 29 votes. Svobodova was a KSCM deputy in 1998-2002. She replaces Protestant pastor and former dissident Svatopluk Karasek, who resigned from the council after former Czech Television Director Jan Balvin was selected for that post in 2001. Karasek is now a parliamentary deputy representing the rightist US-DEU. Two vacancies remain on the 15-member board following the recent resignations from that body of Lucie Weissova and Milan Knizak over the council's failure to elect a successor to Balvin, who was dismissed in autumn 2002 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February 2002). MS

CZECH YOUTH IMMOLATES SELF IN APPARENT POLITICAL PROTEST
A 19-year-old Czech set himself on fire on 6 March on Prague's historic Wenceslas Square in an apparent political protest, CTK and Reuters reported. Prague fire officials said the young man doused himself with gasoline and then set himself alight in front of the National Museum, which lies at the top of the famous square. Rescue workers fought to keep the young man alive, but he died within 40 minutes, CTK reported. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross told state radio that a note was found in which the young man expressed "his disappointment and dissatisfaction with the political situation in the Czech Republic." According to CTK, however, the young man protested the global political situation in the note. The agency cited him as writing: "I am another victim of the so-called democratic system, where not the people decide, but money and power. All my life I encountered problems I was unable to cope with.... I cannot go on. Other people do not do anything, they are not interested, and this is terrible." The act is reminiscent of the self-immolation of Jan Palach -- whom the letter reportedly mentions -- in January 1969 and of Jan Zajic a month later; those two young men set themselves alight on Wenceslas Square to protest the August 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. MS

SMER LEADER SAYS CORRUPTION IN SLOVAKIA WIDESPREAD, AFFECTS GOVERNMENT
Speaking in parliament on 5 March in an extraordinary debate on corruption, Smer (Direction) Chairman Robert Fico said corruption has reached a "catastrophic and critical state," CTK and TASR reported. He said privatization has been seriously affected, with money channeled to political parties and leaders motivated by greed. None of those suspected of taking bribes have been punished and, at worst, politicians suspected of doing so were either transferred to other positions or had to leave politics. Fico also said many government-backed privatization attempts failed because they were linked to corruption, citing steelmaker VSZ, gas utility SPP, and Nafta Gbely. He also accused Mikulas Dzurinda's cabinet of not doing enough to fight corruption. Premier Dzurinda countered that Fico's allegations are politically motivated and aimed at compensating for his defeat in the September parliamentary elections. MS

SLOVAK PROSECUTOR CONFIRMS CHARGES AGAINST SENIOR INTELLIGENCE OFFICER
Prosecutor-General Milan Hanzel on 5 March confirmed that charges have been filed against the new chief of the Slovak Intelligence Service's (SIS) counterespionage department, Peter Toth, TASR reported. Toth is suspected of having authored an anonymous complaint lodged with the Prosecutor-General's Office against Interior Minister Vladimir Palko in connection with allegations that someone was eavesdropping on Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO) Chairman Pavol Rusko. Toth is charged with libeling Palko but denies he is the author of the complaint. The Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), a junior member of the four-party, center-right coalition, has demanded that Prime Minister Dzurinda dismiss SIS Director Vladimir Mitro for having appointed Toth to the post. Dzurinda has refused, saying he is "on the side of the law" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 2003). MS

SLOVAK, ROMANIAN PREMIERS ACCUSE BUDAPEST OF FOOT-DRAGGING OVER STATUS LAW...
Visiting Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase and his Slovak counterpart Dzurinda on 5 March in Bratislava criticized Hungary for delaying the passage of amendments to its controversial Status Law, TASR and international news agencies reported. According to a CTK report, Nastase said the Hungarian law was fit for the 19th rather than the 21st century while Reuters cited him as saying: "We do not understand why there is a slowdown in [Budapest's] amending of this law" or why the law remains in force "despite the promise of change." Dzurinda was cited by CTK as saying the Slovak position is "identical to the Romanian stance." "We are expecting a change in the law, and we are naturally expecting it to correspond to international norms and be implemented on the basis of agreements with our countries," he said, adding that Slovakia would never accept cross-border effects enshrined in the law. Nastase said his country is interested in learning from the Slovak experience in negotiations with the EU. The two countries' transportation ministers signed an agreement on inland navigation that stipulates that conditions on the transport market for Slovak and Romanian companies will be equal. MS

...AND HUNGARIAN PREMIER SAYS AMENDMENTS DUE IN APRIL
Hungarian Premier Peter Medgyessy said on 5 March that the proposed amendments to the Status Law will not be submitted to parliament before that country's 12 April referendum on EU accession, local media reported. Observers note that the law will not apply to Slovakia if both countries join the EU by May 2004 as expected. Medgyessy was speaking at a meeting with members of the European Parliament's Liberal grouping, who are campaigning in Hungary for the country's EU accession. MS

POLISH PRESIDENT MEETS HUNGARIAN PREMIER IN BUDAPEST
Visiting Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski met on 5 March with several leading Hungarian politicians, including Premier Medgyessy and Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs, Hungarian media reported. The discussions focused on the Iraq situation, EU accession, relations within the Visegrad Four group -- which includes also the Czech Republic and Slovakia -- and bilateral relations. Kwasniewski and Medgyessy told journalists after their talks that it is a promising sign in Hungarian-Polish relations that all former barriers to agricultural trade were dismantled in early 2003. MS

ADVISER HINTS SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO WILL BLOCK HAGUE ACCESS TO ARCHIVES...
Vladimir Djeric, an adviser to the joint Foreign Ministry of Serbia and Montenegro, said in Belgrade on 5 March that prosecutors from The Hague-based international war crimes tribunal have no right to access the state's archives, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Djeric added that the issue will be on the agenda of a meeting between the prosecutor's office and a delegation from Serbia and Montenegro that is scheduled to take place in The Hague on 10 March. UB

...AS TRIBUNAL'S CHIEF PROSECUTOR, EU REPRESENTATIVES ASSESS SITUATION
Carla Del Ponte, the war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, met on 5 March with EU foreign- and security-policy chief Javier Solana and EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten to assess obstacles to cooperation between the tribunal and Serbia and Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Solana also met with Serbia and Montenegro acting Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic the same day. While stressing the shared goal of reintegrating Serbia and Montenegro into European institutions, Solana said the union state must build common institutions, unify internal markets, and cooperate with the war crimes tribunal, according to Tanjug. Solana reportedly also encouraged Belgrade to join talks with the Kosovar leadership and the UN civilian administration in the province (UNMIK) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 March 2003). UB

MONTENEGRIN MINISTER OPPOSES JOINT INTELLIGENCE SERVICES FOR SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO
Montenegrin Interior Minister Milan Filipovic on 5 March dismissed a proposal to establish joint intelligence services for the new state union of Serbia and Montenegro, Tanjug reported. According to Filipovic, its Constitutional Charter does not support the introduction of joint security and intelligence services, as was recently proposed by Boris Tadic, who heads the parliamentary commission that exerts civilian control over the security forces (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January 2003). UB

SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO PARLIAMENT SPEAKER PUSHES FOR COALITION AGREEMENT
Newly elected joint-parliament speaker Dragoljub Micunovic said on 5 March that the respective coalition parties from Serbia and Montenegro that are to form a joint government should sign a coalition treaty, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Micunovic was reacting to questions concerning parliamentary cooperation between the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), on the one hand, and the Montenegrin Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) on the other. In related news, representatives of all three coalition formations held talks on 5 March to discuss the distribution of portfolios in a joint government to be headed by Svetozar Marovic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February and 4 March 2003), Tanjug reported. UB

CROATIA, BOSNIA SIGN AGREEMENT ON BORDER TRAFFIC, VOW TO TACKLE PORT DISPUTE
Croatian Foreign Minister Tonino Picula wrapped up his two-day official visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina on 5 March with talks with the joint Bosnian Presidency and Prime Minister Adnan Terzic on improving bilateral relations and the regional impact of Croatia's application for EU membership, Hina reported. Picula and his Bosnian counterpart Mladen Ivanic signed a border-traffic agreement and a document on sites for the construction of three new border checkpoints between the two countries. Picula and Ivanic also agreed that bilateral relations have improved to such an extent that foreign arbitration in the joint administration of the Croatian port of Ploce has been rendered unnecessary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2001 and 21 June 2002). UB

MACEDONIAN JEWS DEMAND APOLOGY, COMPENSATION FROM BULGARIA
The Jewish Community in Macedonia on 5 March demanded an apology from the Bulgarian government for the 1943 deportation of 7,200 Macedonian Jews to the German death camp at Treblinka, "Dnevnik" reported. Jewish Community Chairman Viktor Mizrahi voiced the demand at a news conference on the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the deportation on 11 March. He asked whether the Jewish community will be granted the moral satisfaction of seeing those who participated in the deportation pay their respects to the Jews who were sent to Treblinka. He added that the Jewish community would invest any compensation received for the deportation, adding that restituted property would be invested in education or health projects in Macedonia. Authorities in Yugoslav Macedonia and Greek Thrace, which were under Bulgarian occupation during World War II, did little to prevent the deportation of local Jews by the Germans. Some 50,000 Jews living within the prewar borders of Bulgaria, however, escaped such a fate. UB

MACEDONIA SAYS EU AND NATO TO SIGN HANDOFF AGREEMENT SOON
Macedonian Ambassador to NATO Nano Ruzhin told RFE/RL's Macedonian broadcasters on 5 March that NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson and Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou will sign an agreement on the takeover of NATO's Allied Harmony peacekeeping mission by the EU on 14 March. Ruzhin expects EU forces to replace those NATO troops in Macedonia in April. UB

ROMANIAN PREMIER DOES NOT WANT TO 'CHOOSE BETWEEN EU AND U.S.
' Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said on 5 March in Bratislava (see Slovak item above) that he "fails to comprehend" the reasons for what he perceives as attempts to force Romania to choose between being pro-United States or pro-European Union, Mediafax reported. "We are against dictatorships and wish the Euro-Atlantic family would unite against the Iraqi dictatorship," Nastase said. He added that Romania would like to be consulted "not only because of its geostrategic position" but also because for the value of its opinions. "As partners in a united Europe, we want to be free to express our views and do not believe we must act as automatic pilots [supporting others' objectives]," Nastase said. MS

ROMANIAN PROPOSAL TO REVOKE CNSAS COLLEGE CRITICIZED
Representatives of the opposition National Liberal Party and Democratic Party and some members of the College of the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives (CNSAS) on 5 March harshly criticized a proposal to revoke the college, Romanian Radio and Mediafax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 2003). Democratic Party parliamentary deputy Emil Boc said the recent proposal by a parliamentary ad hoc commission amounts to a "masked attempt" to vindicate the college's current Coordination Bureau headed by historian Gheorghe Onisoru, when, in fact, it was the bureau that blocked the CNSAS's activity because it was in a minority within the 11-member college. CNSAS college member Horia Roman Patapievici called the proposal "an incredible display of ill will" whose purpose is to ensure that the college will be manned by "obedient people." Patapievici said the Romanian Intelligence Service, which he said does not want its members who served the communist secret police to be exposed, is behind the measure. Under the commission's proposal, the current Coordination Bureau would serve as a transitional body until a new CNSAS college is elected by parliament. The proposal is to be first debated by the judicial commissions of the bicameral parliament and then submitted to parliament for a vote. MS

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT PARTIALLY SUCCESSFUL IN MEDIATING BUCHAREST CONFLICT
President Ion Iliescu, Bucharest Mayor and Democratic Party Chairman Traian Basescu, and the city's district mayors reached a compromise on 5 March in the conflict over the frozen loans granted by international lending institutions for Bucharest projects, Mediafax reported. The district mayors are all members of the ruling Social Democratic Party. Under the agreement, the funds for two out of five projects financed by the European Investment Bank are to be unfrozen and the other projects will be reexamined (see RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 16 January 2003). MS

COUNCIL OF EUROPE REPRESENTATIVE IN MOLDOVA CRITICIZES TELERADIO MOLDOVA 'SOLUTION'
Jorgen Grunnet, Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer's permanent representative in Chisinau, on 5 March said he believes the bill approved by parliament earlier this month on Teleradio Moldova is not an appropriate response to criticism formulated by the council, Flux reported. He said the stipulation in the bill under which directors of Teleradio Moldova chosen by the company's board would have to be approved by parliament is not much different from the previous system under which Teleradio Moldova's director was appointed by the legislature (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 March 2003). MS

EU DELEGATION LISTS TRANSDNIESTER OFFICIALS SUBJECT TO TRAVEL BAN...
In Tiraspol on 5 March, a delegation of the European Union handed separatist leader Igor Smirnov a list of 17 people -- including Smirnov and his sons -- who are banned from traveling to EU countries, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February 2203). The ban was agreed in a joint EU-U.S. measure. Transdniester Foreign Minister Valerii Litskay told local journalists after the meeting that the ban reflects an "obsolete situation" that ceased to exist six months ago, when parleys for resolving the Transdniester conflict were renewed. He expressed his hope that "the misunderstanding" will soon be clarified, Infotag reported. MS

...AS BAN SHOWS FIRST INDICATIONS OF GETTING THE MESSAGE ACROSS
The Transdniester Supreme Soviet, meeting on 5 March in extraordinary session, empowered separatist leader Smirnov to oversee and "ensure that the process of evacuation or the destruction of the armaments and ammunition of the former Russian 14th Army is properly carried out," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The Supreme Soviet cited as the reason for its decision the 31 December 2003 deadline for the withdrawal of the Russian armaments and troops set at the OSCE summit in Porto, Portugal, after Moscow failed to observe the December 2002 deadline established at the November 1999 Istanbul summit. In their joint declaration banning the travel of Transdniester leaders, the United States and the European Union mentioned as one of the reasons for the decision the continued obstruction of the withdrawal by Smirnov and his subordinates. MS

MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES RATIFICATION OF AGREEMENT ON TRANSITING NUCLEAR FUEL
The cabinet on 5 March recommended that parliament ratify an agreement for the transit of nuclear fuel via Moldova from Bulgaria's Kozloduy nuclear-power plant to Russia, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The agreement was concluded in Sofia in 1997 between Bulgaria, Russia, Moldova, and Ukraine, but the Moldovan parliament later refused to ratify it. Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev said the agreement will bring at least $5,000 for every trainload with nuclear fuel transiting Moldova and that all safety measures will be respected in accordance with international norms. He also said Bulgaria has promised to support Moldova's participation in the Balkan Stability Pact and to reduce consular fees for Moldovan tourists in exchange for the agreement's ratification. MS

IRAQI DIPLOMAT WARNS BULGARIA OF POSSIBLE RETALIATION
Iraqi Charge d'Affairs Yahia Mahdi told journalists on 5 March that Iraq regards Bulgaria as a friendly country, but that any U.S. military base from which attacks on his country are carried out could become a target for retaliation, mediapool.bg reported. Mahdi made his statement during a visit to the Black Sea port of Burgas, near the Sarafovo air base where U.S. refueling aircraft are currently being stationed. Asked by the news agency whether Mahdi's statement was a reason to expel him, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lyubomir Todorov said he could not say whether diplomatic measures will be taken. Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi on 6 March said in response to Mahdi's statement that "I think that all ambassadors accredited to Bulgaria should make carefully worded messages within the diplomatic bon ton," BTA reported. Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov described Ambassador Mahdi's statement as a "normal position of an ambassador of a government [that is] recognized as terrorist." UB

BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT UNDECIDED ON UN SECURITY COUNCIL DRAFT RESOLUTION
Government spokesman Dimitar Tsonev told a press conference on 5 March that the government has not yet decided whether it will support the draft UN Security Council resolution backed by the United States, Britain, and Spain, or whether it will vote in favor of the memorandum submitted by France, Germany, and Russia, BTA reported. "At present we lack a foundation on which our position could rest, as we do not have the final versions of the memorandum and the draft resolution. We have a version that is being debated. I think we should also wait for a report by the arms inspectors," Tsonev said. UB

COMING TO GRIPS WITH STALIN'S LEGACY
The 50th anniversary of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's death on 5 March was an occasion for an old Russian woman to remember going to a transit camp in Arkhangelsk in 1937 at the age of 12 to peer through a knothole in a wooden fence to catch a glimpse of her father, arrested after a police search of his home turned up a small icon. Catching sight of the girl, the prisoner tried to throw a matchbox weighted with a rock containing a note over the wall. He missed, and his ardent appeal to Comrade Stalin, whom he was sure would deliver justice if only Stalin could learn about such abuses, fell into the space between the fence and the barbed wire, dangerously visible to the guards. The girl ran home to get a poker from the stove to try to skewer the note, but failed. Then rain washed mud over the letter, and her father was hauled away, never to be seen or heard from again.

The girl and her mother laboriously copied out appeal after appeal to Stalin and his ministers, never losing hope. Her 14-year-old sister was forcibly taken to a factory. Later, she married a man who was small in stature, his growth stunted during the Ukrainian famine. His family had been "dekulakified" when the Soviets picked out their humble home from dozens of others with tin roofs, because his father had painted it red against the rust. Eventually, he volunteered to serve at the front during World War II.

The couple served the state faithfully for many years, for a time losing two rebellious sons to the gulag and appealing to Stalin's successors. Through the years, the man proudly preserved his wartime medals and marched in veterans' parades. When he died, his widow lovingly mounted his medals with a portrait of Stalin on a pillow by his coffin. To this day, she only rarely recalls the terrible years when most of the able-bodied men in her town were arrested under a quota defined by Stalin and embellished by local commissars. If she does speak of it, it is to recall an era when at least there was work, cheap food and rent, and far less crime -- a time when people looked out for each other.

To understand the grip that Stalin and the totalitarian system founded by Vladimir Lenin still has over Russia and the other former Soviet states is to recognize the complex emotions of this woman and countless others who yearned to be a part of the great project of communism, who believed fervently in social justice and repelled fascism, and yet became victims of the Stalinist system and, in some cases, even went on to victimize others.

"There has been no de-Bolshevization comparable with the de-Nazification in Germany. The issues aren't even being talked about," former Soviet Politburo member Aleksandr Yakovlev, now a historian of totalitarianism, told "The News International" of Pakistan in an interview published on 28 February. The Russian public "appears unable to absorb this knowledge. It's as if they don't want to know."

The lingering aftereffects of Stalinism are most evident in the very lack of a name for this phenomenon of mass murder and abuse on an unprecedented scale. Historian Robert Conquest called it the "Great Terror" in his book of the same title, although people who lived through it do not use the term. Most of them speak evasively about "the repressions" -- a bland word that in fact aptly captures the twofold act of eliminating or marginalizing people, and then also compelling them and others to repress their own experiences and the collective memory.

While anti-Stalinist expression surged in the late 1980s with the publication of many hitherto undisclosed files and memoirs, many now prefer to keep the subject buried. Also missing from the national and international understanding of Stalinism and the entire project of Soviet totalitarianism is a readily accepted number of victims. They range from 10 million to 20 million to 60 million, depending on the political affiliations and research capabilities of the scholars or public figures making the claims. The Russian human rights organization Memorial and its affiliates in the former Soviet states shy away from giving numbers of victims for the whole era, citing incomplete records, the continued lack of access to archives, and the dying out of the generations of victims. They prefer to make concrete reports of specific mass graves and camps and to publish eyewitness testimonies.

No other world-class criminal guilty of killing his own people seems to have an affectionate nickname like "Uncle Joe." Nor are his lapel buttons sold as a form of kitsch memorabilia on the streets of Eastern and Western capitals. In his 2002 book "Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million," Martin Amis strives to fill the public's knowledge gap about the appalling dimensions of Stalin's crimes. His uneven effort was slammed by critics who singled out gaffes like his inept comparison of his colicky infant's screams to those of the inmates of Butyrka. Christopher Hitchens, attacked by Amis in the book as soft on Stalinism, objected in a "Harper's" review that "everybody already knew" about the horrors of Stalinism and Amis himself was coming late to the discovery. Anne Applebaum, reviewing the book for slate.msn.com on 13 August, wonders: "Why did so many Western liberals fail to absorb the full horror of Stalinism while it was happening? Arguments among the comrades on the far left notwithstanding, why does Stalinism still not inspire anywhere near the same kind of horror as Nazism today? Hitchens writes that Amis occasionally makes us wince at things we 'already know' -- but who really does already know them? And who really cares? Certainly they aren't part of what one would call popular knowledge, or popular culture, or public debate."

A crude but popular assessment of the recognition factor for Stalin on the 50th anniversary of his death turns up 628,000 references at google.com, contrasted with 1,700,000 for Hitler.

Today, Stalin is remembered less for his own awful deeds than as a yardstick for other modern tyrants. Stalin's famous comment summing up the machinery of repression -- "there is a person, there is a problem -- no person, no problem" -- is noted in descriptions of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, a reputed admirer of Stalin, responsible for an estimated 1 million deaths in wars and terror against his own people.

Stalin's sayings are even compared to the speeches of leaders of democracies. In a 10 February comment in "The New Yorker," Hendrik Hertzberg associated what he described as Hussein's favorite maxim -- "no person, no problem" -- with a passage in U.S. President George W. Bush's State of the Union that he characterized as "tasteless." "We've arrested or otherwise dealt with many key commanders of Al-Qaeda," Bush said. "Let's put it this way -- they are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies." The millions of unrecognized victims of Stalin would know the difference.

Catherine Fitzpatrick is the editor of "RFE/RL (Un)Civil Societies."

IRANIAN STATE RADIO BROADCASTS HEKMATYAR STATEMENT
Hizb-e Islami leader Gulbudin Hekmatyar said in a recent statement that "people who support the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan are enemies of the people of Afghanistan," Iranian state radio's Pashtu-language service reported on 5 March. Hekmatyar's went on to say that Afghanistan would be free of unrest once all foreign forces are expelled. The United States on 19 February announced that it considers Hekmatyar a "specially designated global terrorist" because of his cooperation with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda against the Afghan central government (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 3 March 2003). Broadcasting Hekmatyar's statements in the Pashtu language is part of Iranian efforts to use the ethnic factor to turn Pashtuns against the central government. BS

INTERNATIONAL PARTNERSHIP TO HELP EDUCATE AFGHAN WOMEN
The Education Ministry, the Women's Affairs Ministry, and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) are to launch a new partnership on 8 March -- International Women's Day -- that is to release in May a textbook geared toward women. The illiteracy rate among women in Afghanistan is estimated at 79 percent. The textbook, designed by teams of women supported by the Education Ministry's Literacy Department, UNICEF, UNESCO's Institute of Adult Education, and the nongovernmental agency Save the Children, focuses on teaching life skills within an Islamic context and was designed to help build status and self-esteem among female students. The main funding for the project to date has come from the Australian government. TG

CORRECTION:
The 4 March "RFE/RL Newsline" item entitled "India Rolls Out Red Carpet for Afghan President" should have said that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was to arrive in New Delhi on 5 March for a four-day visit.

IRANIAN AIRPLANE-CRASH MYSTERY CONTINUES
Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Ali Shamkhani said on 5 March that the possibility of a conspiracy in the mid-February crash of an Ilyushin-76 aircraft carrying approximately 300 members of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps "is not ruled out," IRNA reported. He said the contents of the flight-data recorder (black box) have not yet been examined. Government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said during his weekly news conference on 5 March that information from the black box has not been given to the government committee probing the crash, IRNA reported. The committee has met twice, Ramezanzadeh said, but it has not reached a conclusion because the necessary information has not been made available. Meanwhile, a 5 March report from ITAR-TASS cites Shamkhani as saying that Russian experts will participate in the investigation. BS

IRANIAN PRESIDENT EXPRESSES READINESS FOR IRAQI REFUGEES
President Mohammad Khatami said during a 5 March meeting with visiting UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers that Iran is ready to cooperate with international organizations in assisting Iraqis who might be displaced by a possible war in their country, IRNA reported. Khatami said U.S. military intervention in Iraq would create more problems than it would solve and would result in long-term instability. Lubbers also is scheduled to visit the city of Ahvaz in southwestern Iran, where the refugee influx is expected, dpa reported, citing the UNHCR's media-relations office. The Iranian government has set up camps no more than 10 kilometers inside the country in order to help refugees while preventing their getting too far inside Iran. Iran claims to host some 2.55 million refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries. BS

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER KEEN ON IRAQ REFERENDUM
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi on 5 March told reporters in Tehran that "we want a referendum to be held in Iraq and the Iraqi opposition [to] reconcile with the current regime in that country under the supervision of the United Nations," IRNA reported. Kharrazi floated the idea of holding a referendum on 4 March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 March 2003). Kharrazi also said that U.S. plans to have a "military governor" in Iraq are provocative, adding, "Such methods can lead to the expansion of terrorism and extremism and we are worried about this." Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said after a 5 March cabinet meeting that the referendum is Kharrazi's personal idea and is not an official proposal, AFP reported. BS

SHIA OPPOSITION OPPOSES IRANIAN REFERENDUM PLAN
Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, the London-based spokesman for the predominantly Shia Al-Da'wah al-Islamiyah (Islamic Call) party, rejected the possibility of reconciliation with the Baghdad regime as suggested by the Iranian plan for an Iraqi referendum, ISNA reported on 5 March, citing London's "Al-Zaman" daily. So did Shia opposition figure Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, according to "Al-Zaman." The referendum could top the agenda at a Shia opposition meeting organized by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) that is scheduled for 6 March in Tehran, according to ISNA. BS

SHIA MEETING IN TEHRAN LIKELY TO FAIL
Al-Da'wah al-Islamiyah political-bureau member Jawad al-Malki predicted in a 5 March press statement that the Iraqi Shia opposition conference in Tehran will be unsuccessful, arabicnews.com reported. He ascribed the likely failure to the difficulty of maintaining links between U.S.-backed groups on one side and Iran-backed groups on the other side, as well as concerns of Shia-Sunni sectarian conflict. One of the objectives of the conference in Tehran is assuring the Sunnis that there will be no sectarian conflict in Iraq, al-Malki said, and the Shia also want to assure the Sunnis that they do not hold them responsible for the regime's actions. The Ba'athist regime in Baghdad has for many years oppressed the country's Shia majority (see, for example, the 1993 Human Rights Watch report on Iraq or the January 2003 HRW briefing paper entitled "The Iraqi Government Assault on the Marsh Arabs"). BS

IRANIAN PROXIES IN PLACE IN NORTHERN IRAQ
The armed wing of the SCIRI, known as the Badr Brigade, is in northern Iraq allegedly to help the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), but the Iraqis speak Persian and drive vehicles identical to those of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, AP reported on 5 March. PUK leadership-council member Molla Bakhtiar told AP that more of these troops are on the way. The Badr Brigade is essentially an extension of the IRGC, and SCIRI leader Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim is close to the Iranian leadership. BS

U.S. EXPELS TWO IRAQIS
The United States gave two Iraqis employed by Iraq's UN mission in New York 72 hours to leave the country under expulsion orders issued on 4 March, AP reported the next day. Iraqi Ambassador to the UN Muhammad al-Duri confirmed the order, saying the men held the rank of attache but are on the list of personnel accredited to the UN, according to AP. "They are security personnel of the mission, the guards.... They are living in the basement of the [Iraqi] mission," al-Duri said. "They have nothing to do with the United Nations." He added, "They are there for security reasons, to guard the mission." The U.S. State Department has identified the men as Nazih Abdul Latif Rahman and Yehia Naeem Suaoud. "The two attaches were engaged in activities outside the scope of their official function. Federal law enforcement authorities deemed the activities to be harmful to our national security," the State Department announced. The men have until midnight on 7 March to leave the United States. The State Department has also requested the expulsion of 300 Iraqis working in 60 countries on the grounds that they are agents. Some of the Iraqis hold diplomatic positions, AP reported on 5 March. The incident marks the third U.S. expulsion of an Iraqi connected with that country's UN mission in the past 10 months, according to BBC reports. KR

TURKISH OFFICIAL SAYS IF RESUBMITTED, VOTE ON U.S. TROOPS WILL PASS
Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Chairman Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat said on 5 March that if a motion to authorize U.S. troops to be based in Turkey will pass if it is resubmitted to the Turkish National Assembly, CNN reported the same day. Turkish legislators on 1 March rejected such a measure. Firat said the ruling AKP is in agreement with the government's view and the view expressed by Turkish Chief of General Staff Hilmi Ozkok regarding the need for Turkey to play an active role in any U.S.-led strike on Iraq. "This is a process, and in view of the developments in this process, the government will submit a second motion to the National Assembly if necessary. I do not believe that this motion will be rejected if it is resubmitted to a vote," Firat said. He said several colleagues have indicated to him that they would support a new motion due to "interim" events. "We see that a war is rapidly approaching, and we observe that Turkey's remaining passive in this war [would] cause irreparable damages to Turkey in the future." The quick, apparent Turkish turnaround might be attributed to two factors: First, the Turks now realize that in the absence of participation, they would stand no chance of playing a role in any post-Hussein Iraq; second, the generous U.S. aid package offered to Turkey will, according to recent statements by U.S. officials, be renegotiated if Turkey decides not to assist the U.S. effort ("RFE/RL Iraq Report," 20 February 2003). KR

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER SAYS IRAQ RESOLUTION WILL PASS...
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on 5 March he is confident that a new resolution on Iraq will pass if put to a vote in the UN Security Council, Reuters reported the same day. "If [Hussein] is not complying, there will undoubtedly be a resolution put to a vote," Blair told the British House of Commons during a weekly question-and-answer session. "We are confident of securing the votes for that resolution," he added. KR

...BUT IS MEANWHILE PROPOSING COMPROMISE AT THE UN
Britain, however, is floating a compromise at the UN that would amend the current draft resolution proposed by the United States, United Kingdom, and Spain to allow Iraq additional time to comply with UN resolutions, Reuters reported on 6 March. The proposal calls for members to vote on a new resolution authorizing war against Iraq if that country fails to disarm within a specific time frame -- days, not weeks -- Reuters reported. KR

RUSSIA, FRANCE, AND GERMANY ISSUE JOINT STATEMENT ON IRAQ...
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin read a joint declaration on Iraq by Russia, France, and Germany to reporters in Paris on 5 March that rejects the U.S., U.K., and Spanish draft resolution, LCI Television reported. The move came after meetings between de Villepin, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. The statement calls for a continuation of inspections and demanded greater cooperation on the part of Iraq, but adds that inspections "cannot go on indefinitely." "We would therefore like these inspections to be speeded up from now, in line with the proposals made in the memorandum [submitted by the three states] at the Security Council," the statement reads. "In this context, we will not allow a draft resolution...which would authorize the use of force [in Iraq]. Russia and France, as permanent members of the Security Council, will shoulder all their responsibilities on this point." KR

...AND CHINA VOICES SUPPORT
China announced its support for the 5 March statement issued by Russia, France, and Germany, Reuters reported on 6 March. "China's position on Iraq is consistent with their joint statement," Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan told a news conference. He did not, however, state whether China would veto a U.S.-proposed draft authorizing military force in Iraq. KR

U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE SAYS IRAQ NOT DISARMING...
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said in a 5 March speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington that Iraq is still failing to disarm, according to the State Department's website (http://www.state.gov), which reprinted his remarks in their entirety. "Destroying a handful of missiles here under duress...[is] not the kind of compliance that was intended by UN [Security Council] Resolution 1441," Powell said, adding, "Iraq's too little, too late gestures are meant not just to deceive and delay action by the international community, he has as one of his major goals to divide the international community, to split us into arguing factions." Powell cited Iraq's past denials -- and subsequent admissions -- to UN inspectors regarding its possession of weapons of mass destruction as evidence that the regime should not be trusted. He said of Iraq's recent commitment to providing inspectors with information on the nerve gas VX "in a week": "I'm not going to hold my breath. We've been waiting for these reports to come for years, and they have not come." KR

...AND CLAIMS EVIDENCE IRAQ WILL NOT DESTROY ENTIRE MISSILE STOCKPILE
Powell in his 5 March address also claimed to have "recent intelligence" indicating that Iraq has declared and will destroy "only a portion" of its Al-Sumud 2 missile stockpile, adding that Iraq "has, in fact, ordered the continued production of the missiles that you see being destroyed. We have evidence...that [Iraq] has also begun to hide machinery it can use to convert other kinds of engines to power Al-Sumud 2 [missiles]," Powell added. The secretary of state also claimed to have intelligence "from multiple sources" indicating that Iraq is moving weapons of mass destruction (WMD) around Iraq in an effort to avoid detection by UN weapons inspectors. He said intelligence suggests that the Iraqi regime has placed banned materials in poor, working-class neighborhoods outside Baghdad. Powell said senior Iraqi officials have confirmed that Iraq possesses WMD, and that officials, as recently as February, have threatened Iraqi scientists if they cooperate with UN inspectors and even asked scientists to wear concealed recording devices during such interviews. Powell also alleged that the hotels in which scientists are being interviewed are bugged. KR

BAGHDAD MAYOR VISITS MINSK
A delegation led by Baghdad Mayor Adnan Abed Hamed arrived in the Belarusian capital on 4 March at the invitation of Minsk city officials, Belapan reported the next day. Hamed reportedly told a meeting with representatives of the Minsk City Executive Council on 5 March that the development of relations with Belarus is a cardinal trend in Iraqi foreign policy that is supported by President Saddam Hussein. Hamed said Baghdad's water supply and sewage system are outdated and pose serious problems. Minsk Mayor Mikhail Paulau reportedly assured his Iraqi guests that the Belarusian capital can dispatch specialists to assist the introduction of new technologies for Iraq's urban infrastructure. JM

SECURITY OFFICIALS FROM BELARUS, POLAND, RUSSIA, AND UKRAINE MULL TERRORISM, IRAQ
The chiefs of the national-security agencies of Belarus, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine -- Henadz Nyavyhlas, Marek Siwiec, Vladimir Rushailo, and Yevhen Marchuk, respectively -- met in Polatsk, northern Belarus, on 5 March, where they discussed security threats, including terrorism and illegal migration, Russian and Belarusian media reported. Rushailo told journalists after the meeting that the four countries need to unify legislation to counteract international terrorism. He said he passed his counterparts a list of 15 groups that were declared terrorist organizations by Russia's Supreme Court. The sides reportedly disagreed in their assessment of the Iraq situation. Russia and Belarus reportedly believe it is possible to resolve the situation by diplomatic and political methods alone. Marchuk said Ukraine is for a peaceful solution, too, but added that Kyiv does not rule out a military scenario in resolving the crisis. Siwiec said Poland fully agrees with the United States that Baghdad has not complied with any UN resolutions on Iraq during the past eight years. "Military action in Iraq may be a unique possible variant in the settlement of the [Iraq situation]," ITAR-TASS quoted Siwiec as saying. JM

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