INTELLIGENCE SERVICE SAYS 'NO COMMENT' ON REPORTS OF COOPERATION WITH BAGHDAD...
The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) declined to comment on a report in the London-based "The Sunday Telegraph" on 13 April alleging that documents have been found in Baghdad proving the existence of close ties between the intelligence service of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Russian intelligence, newsru.com reported on 13 and 14 April. One document was allegedly dated 12 March 2002 and indicates that the SVR knew about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and urged Baghdad to destroy them in order not to give the United States a pretext to attack. Other documents reportedly included SVR reports of conversations about Iraq between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. "We do not comment on unsubstantiated and unfounded statements of the tabloid press," SVR spokesman Boris Labusov said, according to Interfax on 13 April. VY
...AS EXPERT NOTES SUCH CONTACTS NOT UNIMAGINABLE
An unidentified "expert who is close to the SVR" told Interfax on 13 April that the SVR had contacts with virtually every intelligence service in the world throughout the 1990s as part of its efforts to combat terrorism and organized crime. These contacts were not directed against third countries, the source said. Commenting on the reports concerning the Blair-Berlusconi talks, the source noted that such talks are always held under secure conditions. "So that means that one of the prime ministers is a [Russian] agent," the source quipped. VY
PUTIN CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL ADMINISTRATION OF IRAQ...
President Vladimir Putin met on 11-12 April with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in St. Petersburg to discuss Iraq and the impact of the conflict there on other global hotspots, including the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the Korean Peninsula, Russian and Western media reported. During a joint press conference on 11 April, Putin said the fastest way to return Iraq to normalcy would be to administer the country under the aegis of the United Nations. He said that the forces of the U.S.-led coalition have not yet achieved the main goal of the military operation: locating and securing any weapons of mass destruction that the regime of deposed Iraqi President Hussein might have amassed. "Nobody liked the regime of Saddam Hussein, except Hussein himself...but we cannot export a capitalist, democratic revolution," Putin said. He argued that the best model for stabilizing Iraq is Afghanistan. "There should be an international conference under the aegis of the UN and a temporary national administration should prepare and hold democratic elections designed to return control of the country to the Iraqi people," Putin said. VY
...AND FOR MORE ATTENTION TO HUMANITARIAN CRISIS THERE
Asked whether the tripartite summit could split the international community, President Putin said that the goal of the talks was exactly the opposite, Russian and Western media reported on 11 April. He said the leaders were searching for ways of rebuilding a working international security system for the new century. He said that the United Nations must be preserved as the main mechanism for resolving international disputes, but said that "this cannot be done without reaching positive cooperation throughout the Euro-Atlantic space." Putin also urged coalition forces to take responsibility for the humanitarian situation in Iraq. "We did not meet here to critique the activities of the occupation forces. And I do not think the members of the coalition have forgotten about their responsibilities," Putin said. He said he believes coalition forces are doing everything they can to maintain order and security, but added that the scope of the problem is so big that they cannot cope with it effectively. VY
RUSSIA READY TO DISCUSS IRAQI DEBTS...
Responding to a U.S. proposal that Russia, France, and Germany open a new chapter in their relations with Iraq by writing off debts accumulated by the regime of deposed President Hussein, President Putin answered sarcastically, "Somebody came to shoot and loot, and that somebody should pay for the fun," president.kremlin.ru reported. Nonetheless, Putin said that Russia has agreed to discuss the matter within the framework of the Paris Club. He also hinted that Russia might consider writing off Hussein's debts in exchange for a write-off of its own "according to procedures elaborated by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund [IMF]." In Washington, however, Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin was participating in an IMF session on 13 April and said that there is no direct connection between Iraqi debt issues and the Paris Club, NTV reported. VY
...AS OFFICIAL SAYS NOT TO WORRY ABOUT INCREASE IN GLOBAL OIL SUPPLIES
Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi, who is presidential envoy for Caspian Sea issues, sad that Russia might accept proposals to write off the debts accumulated by deposed Iraqi President Hussein if it is give compensation for its financial loses in Iraq, TV-Tsentr reported on 11 April. Kalyuzhnyi, a former energy minister, said that Russia does not need to be concerned that the presence of Iraqi oil on world markets will reduce global energy prices and, therefore, Russia's oil revenues. Unlike other commodities, the price of oil is not always determined solely by supply and demand, Kalyuzhnyi said. It often happens that prices increase even as the amount of oil on the market grows or that prices decline as oil production falls, Kalyuzhnyi said. VY
ANALYST CALLS FOR BOOSTING CONTACTS BETWEEN EUROPE AND U.S. ELITE
Speaking at a conference in St. Petersburg on 12 April. Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) professor Boris Kuvaldin said that "Europeans should begin actively seeking out allies within the U.S. [ruling] elite," RosBalt reported. "If we have no influential allies within the United States, we can only divide the world," Kuvaldin said. It is necessary to strengthen the dialogue with those people in the United States "who share European outlooks on the world order and who understand the dangers of unilateral leadership by Washington," Kuvaldin concluded. VY
PUTIN LENDS HIS SUPPORT TO LOCAL-GOVERNMENT REFORMS...
Addressing assembled governors from the Northwest Federal District in St. Petersburg on 11 April, President Putin reaffirmed the need to finalize the division of power among the federal, regional, and local levels, Russian media reported. "First of all, we need to determine what should be done to make people's lives easier and to make government organs work more effectively," Putin said, according to RosBalt. Then, he continued, "[we must] determine how to finance these responsibilities." According to Putin, the government will prepare a three-year plan on financing the various levels of government by 29 April, Interfax reported. Putin noted the Duma will likely consider the bill on local-government reform before the end of the spring session (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2003). According to Komiinform, Putin linked reform of the communal-housing and public-utilities sectors with the bill demarcating responsibilities of the various levels of government, since that bill will address the problem of lack of financing that has long plagued municipal governments. JAC
...AS DUMA PUTS OFF CONSIDERATION OF THE BILLS
The State Duma has postponed consideration of the bills reforming local government from April to June, "Vremya novostei" reported on 12 April. According to the daily, the official reason is that the Finance Ministry has not yet prepared its amendments to the Tax and Budget codes that would redirect financial flows and responsibilities. The daily also reported that the postponement represents a victory for Finance Minister Kudrin over deputy presidential administration head Dmitrii Kozak. The commission that Kozak heads drafted the original legislation. State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov (independent) told the daily that Putin in decided not undertake the "big political risks" associated with the local-government reforms. According to the daily, Kudrin and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov convinced Putin in a conversation on 10 April that a postponement was necessary. JAC
TV STATION LINKS CHUBAIS'S NEW PROJECT WITH ELECTIONS...
Unified Energy Systems (EES) head Anatolii Chubais visited Krasnoyarsk on 11 April, and protestors gathered outside the opera house where a meeting of energy-sector officials was being held, TVS reported. According the station, Chubais's visits to the regions always prompt pickets and protest actions. The station commented that Chubais recently announced that EES is getting involved in reform of the communal-housing and public-utilities sector not because he wants to help the sector to pay its debts to the energy sector, but because "the elections are coming." JAC
...AS CHUBAIS NOTES THAT STATE DUMA CAMPAIGN WILL COINCIDE WITH HEATING SEASON
TVS then showed Chubais joking: "The next [general] election is in December, by the way. And December is winter, in case someone has forgotten. Do you need someone to vote for you? We will support you...I promise that every transformer will vote for Unified Russia." Chubais announced on 27 March that EES, Gazprom, and other major companies have raised $500 million for a new company, Russian Communal Systems (RKS), that will take over housing-service functions such as ensuring water, power, heating, gas supplies, television and radio access, garbage collection, and general maintenance, "The Moscow Times" reported the next day (see also "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2003). The first stage of the project will focus on several cities and regions, including Nizhnii Novgorod and Perm. According to the daily, Chubais said that in order for the project to work, all housing assets in a given area must be managed by a single company. JAC
DEPUTIES WANT TO KEEP MOBILE PHONES AND RESERVE SPECIAL CAR NUMBERS FOR SELECT FEW
Duma deputies voted on 11 April to approve amendments to the law on highway safety in their first reading, polit.ru reported. The vote was 298 in favor with one against. The bill -- which was introduced by the chairman of the Movement of Car Drivers of Russia, Deputy Viktor Ilyukhin (Communist) -- limits the use of registered state license plates and special sound and light signals on automobiles, newsru.com reported. According to Ilyukhin, the use of special license plates and signals has been proliferating. In the Soviet Union, there were only 104 cars with special license plates and now almost 4,000 cars have special license plates, including the cars of the chairmen of EES and Gazprom. Government envoy to the Duma Andrei Loginov reported that the government considers the bill "nonsensical" and noted that of the 1,640 cars in Russia with special signals, 530 belong to the State Duma and 259 to the Federation Council. Another suggestion by Ilyukhin was rejected. He proposed a bill that would have redirected the money be spent on providing deputies with free mobile phones to Kamchatka Oblast to help restore essential services on the peninsula before the next winter. The measure got only 144 of the 226 votes needed, polit.ru reported. JAC
COUNTRY BRACES FOR NEW WAVE OF FLOODS
First Deputy Natural Resources Minister Nikolai Tarasov told reporters in Moscow on 11 April that the flooding situation in Russia remains dangerous and ministry experts expect this year's flooding to be even heavier than last year's, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The northern regions are particularly at risk because the volume of snow currently exceeds the seasonal norm by 50 percent. Regions already affected by flooding are Volgograd, Rostov, and Voronezh oblasts. According to TV-Tsentr, the number of people in those areas affected by flooding is already more than 30,000. According to Tarasov, flood-prevention commissions have been formed in practically all regions, and officials are hoping that this will result less loss of life and fewer material damages than the floods last year. JAC
TATAR NATIONALIST LOSES APPEAL, CLAIMS POLITICAL PERSECUTION
Tatarstan's Supreme Court rejected the appeal of Rafis Kashapov, leader of the Tatar Public Center branch in Chally, who was arrested on 25 March, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 11 April. The Supreme Court left the ruling of the lower Chally City Court unchanged; that court ruled that leaflets found in Kashapov's apartment incited interethnic and interconfessional discord by featuring negative assessments of the Russian people and Russian Orthodoxy. Police searched Kashapov's residence during the investigation of an act of vandalism at the construction site of St. Tatyana's church in Chally last October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2002). Kashapov told "Vremya novostei" last month that there were political motives behind his arrest. The deputy head of the Chally center, Geptrakhman Jeleletdinov, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 25 March that the action against the Kashapov and his brother, who was also arrested, must have been ordered "from above" and is a result of the "political persecution" by prosecutors for several years with the support by the Chally administration. Last May, members of the Chally branch of Tatar Public Center were beaten up, and Kashapov refused to attend the trial this year of those charged in the attack, because he said that "the organizers [of the attack] are still at large, and the authorities remain silent concerning them." JAC
RYBKIN LOSES ANOTHER POST
The Socialist Party of Russia has removed former State Duma speaker and former Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin from his post as leader of the party and withdrawn his party membership, NTV reported on 12 April. According to the station, this step was taken because of Rybkin's alleged cooperation with exiled business tycoon Boris Berezovskii. Rybkin founded the party in April 1996 (see "OMRI Daily Digest," 3 May 1996). JAC
ARMENIAN OPPOSITION BLOC ANNOUNCES NEW ELECTORAL STRATEGY...
The opposition Artarutiun bloc announced on 12 April that it will pursue a new electoral strategy to galvanize support for defeated opposition presidential candidate Stepan Demirchian in order to win seats in the coming parliamentary elections and increase pressure on President Robert Kocharian to resign, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. Although the opposition continues to protest last month's election results, the announcement reflects a deeper strategy to leverage the momentum of the opposition's court challenges and public protests as a means to garner a greater number of seats in the Armenian parliament. Artarutiun bloc figure Albert Bazeyan explained that efforts to challenge the re-election of the Armenian president will continue because "the citizens of Armenia have the right to determine other ways of forming a legitimate government." RG
...WHICH PROGOVERNMENT FIGURES DISMISS AS POLITICAL PLOY
Reacting to the opposition's strategy, Gagik Minasian, a senior member of the progovernment Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), dismissed the plan as a political ploy, contending that the opposition would to enter into a "dialogue" with the authorities immediately after the elections, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 12 April. Minasian further dismissed recent reports of a mounting divide between the HHK, led by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, and other propresidential parties that are contesting the 25 May parliamentary elections. The HHK is widely viewed as the most influential progovernment party, with significantly elevated electoral appeal stemming from the recent addition of Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian to the party's list of candidates contesting the election within the system of proportional representation. RG
ARMENIA SET TO LOSE NATIONAL AIR CARRIER
Officials of the Armenian Airlines on 12 April confirmed reports that the national carrier will be forced to suspend all flights as it faces bankruptcy, according to Armen Press. Armenian Airline, the country's largest air carrier, is more than $20 million debt and has a long record of inefficiency. The Russian Armavia company is now set to emerge as the country's largest airline, with preparations in place for flights to 17 foreign cities and plans to increase the its passenger volume and to modernize its fleet. The Russian airline is also considering purchasing the remaining domestic routes for an estimated $15 million. RG
ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL AIRPORT-DEVELOPMENT PLAN
The Armenian government approved on 11 April a controversial $59 million plan to modernize Zvartnots International Airport, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. The eight-year modernization and expansion project is to be carried out by Argentina's Corporacion America group, which is controlled by Eduardo Eurnekian, an Argentine billionaire of Armenian descent. The project includes plans for the construction of two new terminals and the modernization of several other airport facilities at the airport in Yerevan. There has been considerable controversy over the project, mainly stemming from the closed negotiations that forged a 30-year management contract in late 2001 that granted the company the right to create a small tax-free economic zone within the airport despite heated criticism from the opposition. The Armenian parliament adopted legislation in May 2002 that granted the company preferential treatment and stipulated that a 1 square kilometer zone within the airport could house businesses fully exempt from profit taxes and other duties. The parliament also amended legislation to allow foreign investors to operate casinos inside the airport. RG
ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT HOBBLED BY OPPOSITION BOYCOTT
The Armenian parliament's consideration of several pending bills was halted on 11 April after the failure to secure a quorum of deputies because of an organized boycott of parliamentary sessions by the opposition, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The lack of a quorum is preventing any official debate or voting on several priority legislative issues, including the draft Criminal Code and a new law on the media. The delay essentially ends all legislative work for this parliament and puts off any votes on these key bills until after the 25 May election of a new legislature. The failure to pass the draft Criminal Code, which would have replaced capital punishment with life sentences, places the Armenian government in violation of a fundamental obligation arising from its membership in the Council of Europe. The draft law on the media, presented by the government after several revisions, was widely criticized as a threat to press freedom and led to a series of demonstrations in recent weeks. Although this draft media law would end the requirement that media outlets register with the Justice Ministry, critics stress that the bill still contains several dangerous provisions, including measures requiring media to fully disclose all sources of funding and allowing courts to demand the complete disclosure of journalists' sources of information for the "protection of public interests." RG
AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION STAGES DEMONSTRATION IN BAKU
Members and supporters of several major opposition parties staged a demonstration in Baku on 13 April, according to ANS. Demonstrators demanded the resignation of President Heidar Aliev's government and called for free and fair elections. The action was the latest in a series of coordinated activities by the unified opposition, mainly comprising the Azerbaijan Democratic Party, the Civic Unity Party, the National Independence Party, the Musavat Party, and the reform wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party. RG
AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT MEETS WITH REGIONAL U.S. AMBASSADORS
President Aliev met in Baku on 11 April with the U.S. ambassadors to Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, ANS reported. President Aliev reminded the ambassadors of Azerbaijan's support for the U.S. campaign in Iraq and stated, "Azerbaijan was right to join the coalition." According to U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ross Wilson, the meeting focused on the issues of postwar Iraq, the global war on terrorism, and the overall state of aid and regional development in the South Caucasus states. RG
RAILWAY ACCIDENT REVEALS DETERIORATING STATE OF AZERBAIJANI RAILROADS
A passenger train collided with a freight train near Govlar Station in Azerbaijan's Tovuz region late on 11April, ANS reported. The accident resulted in the overturning of the main locomotive and the derailment of five empty tanker cars. Two train operators were killed, and a dozen passengers were injured. Initial findings of an investigative commission revealed that the accident was caused by poor safety conditions and the serious deterioration of the railway line. With little or no investment over the past decade, the country's rail network has reached a state of dangerous disrepair. RG
AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PROTESTS TRIAL OF NARDARAN VILLAGERS
More than 50 Azerbaijani opposition activists united in the Azerbaijani Forces' Union (AQB) held an officially sanctioned demonstration in front of the Supreme and Appeals courts on 10 April calling for the release of four Nardaran residents who were convicted for their involvement in a June 2002 clash between police and villagers, according to RFE/RL's Baku bureau. Addressing the demonstration, leaders of the opposition Islamic Party and the Social Democrat Party (ASDP) accused the government of "provoking" the June 2002 clash. RG
AZERBAIJAN ENDORSES PAYMENTS TO LANDOWNERS FOR BAKU-CEYHAN OIL PIPELINE
The Azerbaijani government issued a directive on 10 April to provide financial compensation to individuals living on the route of the proposed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, Turan reported. The compensation is to be issued through local branches of the International Bank of Azerbaijan and will affect more than 4,300 landowners in 13 districts of Azerbaijan and 131 villages. Roughly 150 of the landowners are legal entities, including municipalities, state farms, and the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources. All of these entities have already received compensation. RG
GEORGIAN OFFICIAL RESPONDS TO RUSSIA'S CRITICISM OF GEORGIAN-U.S. AGREEMENT
Deputy Georgian Foreign Minister Kakha Sikharulidze defended on 11 April the bilateral agreement on defense and military cooperation between Georgia and the United States as "timely and logical," according to Interfax. The statement came in response to criticism by the Russian Foreign Ministry of the Georgian parliament's 21 March ratification of an agreement on military cooperation with the United States. Sikharulidze called the Russian Duma's initiative to adopt a statement concerning Georgia's military cooperation with the United States "an attempt to interfere in Georgia's internal affairs" and added that "if this statement is issued, Tbilisi will consider it interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state." The U.S.-Georgian agreement envisions visa-free entry for U.S. military personnel and unimpeded deployment of U.S. military hardware on its territory, with U.S. servicemen being allowed to carry weapons and subject only to criminal prosecution in the United States. RG
GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS UKRAINE
Georgian Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze held a series of meetings during an official visit to Ukraine on 11 April, according to the Georgian Times. Tevzadze met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Shkidchenko, and with Ukrainian National Security Council Secretary Yevhen Marchuk to review plans to expand bilateral military cooperation. RG
DISAGREEMENT OVER KAZAKH DELEGATION'S RECEPTION IN STRASBOURG
Deputy Foreign Minister Kairat Abuseitov and a group of parliamentary deputies who had just returned from a visit to the European Parliament gave contradictory accounts of what they heard at a news conference on 11 April, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The group was invited to Strasbourg in connection with the 13 February resolution in which the European Parliament castigated Kazakhstan for its worsening media and human rights records. Parliamentarian Zhazbek Abdiev told the news conference that European Parliament members had said the resolution was adopted too quickly, without taking account of differing viewpoints and using only information from the Kazakh opposition. According to Abdiev, the European Parliament intends to revise the resolution to correct its one-sidedness. Republican People's Party official Amirzhan Qosanov, also a member of the delegation, disagreed, saying that EP members had said the resolution was adopted properly and it accurately reflected the situation in Kazakhstan. BB
KYRGYZSTAN RECEIVES LAND BACK FROM TAJIKISTAN
Kyrgyzstan has reclaimed 57,800 hectares of land that was handed to Tajikistan in the 1930s for livestock raising, khabar.kz reported on 11 April. Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Bazarbai Mambetov announced the handover after a 10 April meeting with a Tajik delegation headed by his counterpart Hojiakbar Turadzhonzoda. The 3,500 ethnic Kyrgyz who live in the village of Sary-Mogol and who have been using the parcel that has now become part of Kyrgyzstan's Osh Oblast are citizens of Tajikistan, which, according to Mambetov, raises questions about the legal basis of land ownership. The Kyrgyz government adopted a resolution on the return of the parcel in October 2002. Mambetov quoted Turadzhonzoda as saying he hopes the ethnic Kyrgyz living there will adapt to being part of their historic homeland, and he asked the Kyrgyz government not to pressure them to quickly take Kyrgyz citizenship. BB
KYRGYZSTAN STILL HAS NO MAPS OF UZBEK LAND MINES
Uzbekistan has still not provided Kyrgyzstan with maps of the minefields laid by the Uzbek military along the common border, khabar.kz reported on 12 April. During border delimitation talks between the two countries in March, the Uzbek side promised that maps showing the location of the land mines would be handed over. According to Uzbekistan, the land mines were laid in order to prevent surreptitious border crossings by alleged Islamic militants. A number of Kyrgyz citizens and their livestock have been killed by the mines in areas where the location of the border is still uncertain. BB
UKRAINIAN, TURKMEN PRESIDENTS DISCUSS GAS
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in the Turkmen port city of Turkmenbashi on 11 April to discuss the future of Turkmen gas sales to Ukraine, Interfax and turkmenistan.ru reported on 12 and 13 April, respectively. Kuchma was concluding a tour of the Central Asian countries, while Niyazov was returning from a visit to Moscow during which he signed a 25-year contract with Russia on the delivery of Turkmen gas (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2003). The terms of the Russian contract appeared to indicate that when the current gas-sales contract between Turkmenistan and Ukraine expires in 2006, it might be impossible to renew it unless pipeline capacity can be greatly increased. Ukraine is one of Turkmenistan's major gas customers and depends heavily on Turkmen supplies. According to an unnamed Turkmen government official quoted by Interfax, the talks between Kuchma and Niyazov were "fruitful, but difficult." One topic discussed was the construction of a new pipeline on the basis of the existing line, as envisaged in the present Ukraine-Turkmenistan gas contract. According to turkmenistan.ru, Russia is also supposed to take part in the construction project. BB
INTERNET EXPANDING IN UZBEKISTAN, MAYBE
The number of registered Internet domains in Uzbekistan has risen to 650 from 570 at the beginning of 2003, uzreport.com reported on 11 April, citing uza.uz. The figures were obtained from a government agency dealing with information and communications technology. The independent Internet site fergana.ru, also quoted by uzreport.com, cautioned that these figures are deceptive because many of the sites registered are not actually in use but are a sort of "reserved," possibly for eventual resale. Fergana.ru quoted an estimate that there are only about 200 active Internet sites in Uzbekistan and that Internet use is developing very slowly. BB
MORE UZBEKS SEEK WORK ABROAD
The independent Uzbek newspaper "Hurriyat" has reported that some 500,000 to 700,000 Uzbeks have gone abroad in search of work, uzreport.com reported on 14 April. The report does not indicate the time period covered by the data, but quotes "Hurriyat" as asserting that the number of people leaving the country to find jobs is increasing. Although joint ventures in Uzbekistan have created thousands of new jobs, the problem of unemployment remains serious, "Hurriyat" stated. The actual number of unemployed and underemployed in Uzbekistan remains uncertain because of government reluctance to admit to the scope of the problem. BB
U.S. PRESIDENT SENDS NATO PROTOCOLS TO SENATE...
George W. Bush on 11 April sent the NATO Protocols of Accession concerning seven postcommunist invitees to the U.S. Senate for approval, RFE/RL reported. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush "is very pleased that NATO has reached an agreement" on expansion and the president hopes the protocols "will be ratified by the Senate to enable Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia to become full-fledged members of NATO." Fleischer said the administration "takes it for granted somewhat" that the Senate will vote in favor of the expansion." The Protocols of Accession are amendments to the North Atlantic Treaty required to permit new members to join the Atlantic alliance. MS
...WHILE NORWEGIAN PARLIAMENT RATIFIES NATO EXPANSION
The Norwegian Sorting on 11 April unanimously ratified the Protocols of Accession on the same seven Central and Eastern European candidate countries, Romanian Radio, BNS, and ELTA reported. Norway is thus the second country to ratify the protocols, after Canada. MS
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT WANTS PRIVATE, STATE HEALTH CARE FOR SAME PRICE...
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 11 April told government officials that health-care services should be available at the same price at both state-run and private establishments in Belarus, Belarusian Television reported. "Regarding paid and free-of-charge services in private and state-run [health-care] establishments, all should work under equal conditions," Lukashenka said. The Belarusian president was holding a conference on social protections in the country. He declared that the creation of an efficient system for protecting the social interests of every citizen is "his goal" for the remainder of his presidency, Belapan reported. JM
...AND IS OFFERED CONDOLENCES ON SADDAM HUSSEIN'S DISAPPEARANCE
Regional opposition leaders from Hrodna, northwestern Belarus, sent an open letter to Lukashenka expressing condolences "on the disappearance of [deposed Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein," whom they call "one of the best political friends" of the Belarusian president, Belapan reported on 12 April. The letter urges Lukashenka to halt integration with Russia, noting that Belarus could face a threat of war if it finds itself in "imperial bondage" and ceases to remain an independent European state. Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Savinykh told journalists on 11 April that Iraq has no debts to Belarus "at the state level." Savinykh also said Belarus maintains diplomatic relations with Iraq, adding, "It is the Iraqi government that should decide on recalling the ambassador or appointing a new one." JM
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION MULLS RESOLUTION ON BELARUS
A U.S.-sponsored resolution on the human rights situation in Belarus has been entered on the agenda of the UN Commission on Human Rights, which began its latest session in Geneva last month, Belapan reported on 11 April. The resolution was co-authored by Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, and Slovakia. The authors express concern at "reports from credible sources, including statements of former investigators and senior law-enforcement officials of the government of Belarus, implicating senior government officials of Belarus in the disappearance and deaths of three political opponents of the incumbent authorities, and of a journalist." The authors also voice concern about arbitrary arrests and detentions; harassment of nongovernmental organizations, opposition political parties and their members, and increased restrictions on the activities of religious organizations. JM
UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PREMIER SAYS U.S. BACKS KYIV'S WTO EFFORT
Ukrainian First Deputy Premier Mykola Azarov said in Washington on 13 April that "almost all" of the issues outstanding with the United States concerning Ukrainian accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) have been settled, Interfax reported on 14 April, quoting Azarov's press secretary, Vitaliy Lukyanenko. "No obstacles are left to grant[ing] Ukraine market-economy status. According to U.S. government figures, the way to the WTO is open for Ukraine," Azarov said after his meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Azarov added, however, that some U.S.-Ukrainian "issues" remain regarding Ukraine's WTO membership; their number "can be counted on the fingers of one hand," he said, but he failed to name them. Azarov also announced that Washington last week abolished its "financial countermeasures" in connection with a 2002 recommendation by the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 11 February 2003). JM
ESTONIA DECORATES NATO MILITARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN
President Arnold Ruutel awarded visiting General Harald Kujat, the chairman of NATO's Military Committee, the First Class Order of the Eagle Cross on 12 April, BNS reported. The German general was awarded the order for supporting Estonia's NATO-accession efforts and for promoting cooperation between the Estonian and German defense forces. Ruutel noted that many Estonian officers have attended military educational institutions in Germany and that the country has sent military advisers and large amounts of material aid to Estonia. Kujat became chairman of the NATO Military Committee, the alliance's highest military body, in July 2002. Estonia is the first of the seven countries recently invited to join the alliance to be visited by Kujat. Prime Minister Juhan Parts assured Kujat that NATO membership is a firm priority of the new government and that the country's pledge to devote 2 percent of its GDP to defense will be maintained. Parts also said it has become more and more important to inform the public both about NATO and the role of the defense forces in the society as a whole. SG
LEFTIST LATVIAN PARTY REVISES ATTITUDE TOWARD EU
A conference of the Equal Rights party in Riga on 12 April approved a new platform that supports Latvia's membership of the EU, LETA and BNS reported. It calls on the EU to change from a union of countries into a union of peoples in which every ethnic group, including minorities, will have equal rights. The conference adopted the resolution "No to Deadly Reforms in 2004!" which urges mass protest actions against the proposal to make Latvian the primary language of instruction in all schools beginning in September 2004 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2003). One of the first actions will be the holding of a protest march in Riga at the end of May together with the Latvian Socialist Party, the National Harmony Party, the Latvian Association for Support to Russian Schools, and the Latvian Russian Community. The conference also re-elected Tatjana Zdanoka, Vladimirs Buzajevs, and Ilga Ozisa as the party's leaders. SG
THOUSANDS PROTEST IN VILNIUS AGAINST LITHUANIAN AUTHORITIES
Thousands of people participated in two protests in Vilnius on 12 April against the failure to elect Arturas Zuokas as the city's mayor and the firing of Police Commissioner-General Vytautas Grigaravicius (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 April 2003), "Kauno diena" reported on 14 April. More than 2,000 participants, most of them youths, attended the first protest, "Light a Candle in Front of the President's Office...," which had not obtained the necessary permission from the city and was advertised primarily through the Internet. Participants carried wreaths with inscriptions such as "End to Civil Rights" and "End to Electorate's Will," and listened to various opposition politicians. Most of the speeches were directed against President Rolandas Paksas and Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas. Up to 5,000 people subsequently gathered in front of Vilnius City Hall for the "Against the Plot -- For Lithuania" concert, in which Zuokas urged the participants to "defend freedom, your rights, and democracy." SG
POLISH PREMIER DENIES RUMORS OF FINANCE MINISTER'S RESIGNATION
"Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko has not resigned from his post. One can only ask where such statements come from and whether someone is interested in stirring up such hysteria," Prime Minister Leszek Miller told Polish Radio on 14 April. Some Polish media reported last week that Kolodko is set to resign over a lack of support for his proposed reform of public finances (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 March 2003). Meanwhile, Economy and Labor Minister Jerzy Hausner has offered a competing plan to repair public finances that reportedly runs counter to Kolodko's proposals on many important points. Miller said the government discussed Kolodko's plan and approved its "directions." "[Minister Hausner presented] an interesting plan of the work of his ministry," Miller said. "This is a document that was not discussed by the cabinet. It includes significant elements, and some of these proposals surely would be incorporated into the public-finance-reform program." JM
POLISH PARLIAMENT PASSES LAW ON AGRICULTURAL SYSTEM
The 460-seat Sejm on 11 April passed on the strength of 359 votes a law on the country's agricultural system, PAP reported. The law is reportedly aimed at improving the structure of farmland, preventing excessive concentration of land, and ensuring that farms are run by people with adequate qualifications. The law regulates land sales and sets a 300-hectare size limit on so-called family farms. JM
CZECH MINISTER NIXES IRAQ-DEBT FORGIVENESS
Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka told CTK on 13 April that the Czech government cannot "simply forgive" the debt owed by Iraq. He said the cabinet will consider alternative financial arrangements for recouping the debt, estimated at $60 million-$100 million. Sobotka was speaking after a meeting in Washington of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in the wake of a U.S. appeal to the two institutions to aid Iraq's reconstruction. MS
FORMER CZECH PREMIER'S CONTROVERSIAL AIDE LEAVES RULING PARTY
Miroslav Slouf, the leading adviser to former Premier Milos Zeman, resigned from all his positions in the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD) on 12 April, CTK reported, citing the daily "Pravo." During his tenure as Zeman's chief adviser, Slouf was frequently accused of having ties to organized crime and the former KGB. He also came under fire after a smear campaign targeted a prominent CSSD lawmaker and Zeman rival Petra Buzkova, apparently from among Zeman's staff of advisers. Slouf said he is resigning as head of a CSSD Prague-district branch and from the party's Central Executive Committee, adding that Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla is pursuing a "strange policy" and lacks skills "as a politician and an organizer." Spidla, who dismissed Slouf when he took office in mid-2002 and has fought a pitched battled against the Zeman wing within the party, said he is "glad" to hear of Slouf's departure. A Prague court in early April threw out a suit in which Slouf claimed damages from a union leader who, prior to Slouf's unsuccessful Senate bid in 2000, described him as a former senior Communist Party member and a leader of the Socialist Youth Organization and labeled Slouf a collaborator and a traitor. MS/AH
CZECH HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER SAYS IMPROVEMENTS STILL NEEDED
The government's human rights commissioner, Jan Jarab, said in a report to the cabinet that respect for human rights in the Czech Republic still needs improvement, CTK reported on 11 April. Jarab said more needs to be done to prevent domestic violence against women, improve the rights of mental patients, radically change authorities' attitudes toward granting citizenship to refugees, and integrate the Romany minority, which continues to remain at society's periphery. MS
ACTIVISTS CLAIM FORCED STERILIZATIONS NOT LIMITED TO SLOVAKIA
A report presented by the European Romany Rights Center (ERRC), the International Helsinki Committee, and the Slovak Helsinki Committee at an OSCE meeting in Vienna on 11 April claims the forced sterilization of Romany women is more widespread in the region than just Slovakia, CTK reported. The conclusion comes as Slovak authorities probe allegations that women were forced or duped into undergoing sterilization there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January and 24 March 2003). The ERRC's Clause Cahn said similar cases have been registered in the Czech Republic and Hungary, according to CTK. Cahn said that in March alone, nine such cases have been registered in Hungary. Czech Commissioner for Human Rights Jarab responded that he knows nothing about such cases in his country. Cahn said the problem of forced sterilization involves "a wide range of cases, ranging from legally obtained [permission from the patients] to criminal cases." He said some doctors view Romany women as inferior patients and thus insufficiently explain the consequences. As a result, he said, in most of the cases women agreed to sterilization without being sufficiently informed. MS
SLOVAK OFFICIAL SAYS OUTCOME IN HUNGARY WILL ENCOURAGE 'YES' VOTE ON EU AT HOME
Slovakia's chief negotiator with the EU, Jan Figel, told CTK on 13 April that the results of the Hungarian EU referendum (see item below) will encourage Slovaks to vote likewise in his country's 16-17 May plebiscite. Figel said "yes" votes in Malta, Slovenia, and Hungary have a local and an "international dimension." Nonetheless, he said, "each [candidate] country has its own specific problems," and he called for intensifying the current pro-accession campaign. MS
HUNGARIANS APPROVE EU MEMBERSHIP IN REFERENDUM...
Nearly 84 percent (83.7) of those who cast ballots on 12 April supported Hungary's membership of the EU, Hungarian and international news agencies reported. Sixteen percent voted against accession. Turnout was just 45.6 percent, but the results are valid under the constitution. According to dpa, the low turnout translates into the support of 38 percent of eligible voters. Participation was 5 percentage points lower than in the 1997 referendum on joining NATO and far below the 66 percent that voted in the 2002 parliamentary elections. Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy welcomed the results, saying he expects Hungary to become both wealthier and more peaceful. Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs, cited by dpa, said voters have "written history," paving their way into the EU. But Kovacs warned that the road "will not be easy." MS
...AS FINGER-POINTING FOLLOWS LOW TURNOUT
Kovacs, who is also chairman of the senior ruling Socialist Party, blamed the right-wing opposition FIDESZ party for the low turnout in the referendum, saying its half-hearted support for accession can be described as a "yes, but" campaign, AP reported. "There were many opposition politicians, including the former prime minister [Viktor Orban], who whined about accession and emphasized its negative sides," Kovacs said. In turn, Orban argued that the government's pro-EU campaign had a whiff of communist-style propaganda and focused on trivial issues instead of essentials, such as how farmers and small businesses will be affected. This campaign failed to quell Hungarians' fears that they will face great difficulties under stiffer competition in the EU, he said. "Those living in the countryside and the housing projects, who already lost out in the change from communism to democracy, are again in danger of being the designated losers of EU membership," Orban told his supporters on 12 April. MS
HUNGARIAN MINISTER INITIATES DISMISSAL OF AIDE
Information Technology Minister Kalman Kovacs on 11 April told RTL Klub television channel that he has initiated the dismissal of Antal Racz as administrative state secretary in his ministry, Hungarian media reported. The move comes after FIDESZ parliamentary deputy Antal Rogan produced documents suggesting that the Sarkadi & Tarsai law firm, where Racz was a partner before his appointment to his ministerial post, is involved in drafting bills for the ministry. Kovacs said his decision was not prompted by any conflict-of-interest issue but by the fact that Racz failed to adequately inform him on the matter. Premier Medgyessy said he agrees with Kovacs and will consequently dismiss Racz. MS
SERBIAN GOVERNMENT BLAMES POLITICAL RIVALS FOR ASSASSINATION...
A government spokesman told a Belgrade press conference on 11 April that "the ongoing investigation into [Prime Minister Zoran] Djindjic's [12 March] assassination has led to a bloc of self-styled patriotic forces, with the DSS [Democratic Party of Serbia of former Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica] at its head," dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8, 9, and 10 April 2003). The spokesman added that two of Kostunica's aides who were recently arrested "confirmed that they held numerous meetings" with criminals from the so-called "Zemun clan," which the government has accused of carrying out Djindjic's assassination. PM
...WHICH BRINGS DENIALS
The DSS said in a statement on 11 April that any links between the assassination and the DSS have been "made up" for political purposes, Serbian media reported. Kostunica told a meeting of the DSS on 13 April that "our hands and consciences are clean." He accused the government of conducting a political witch-hunt and called for new elections so that the voters can say whom they believe. Goran Svilanovic, who is foreign minister of Serbia and Montenegro, said he will be "very, very surprised" if any investigation turns up a link between Kostunica and the assassination. On 12 April, Vojislav Seselj's Radical Party (SRS) denied any link between Seselj and the killing, Hina reported. PM
MACEDONIAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF SUGGESTS CRIMINAL LINKS TO SERBIA...
Dosta Dimovska, who heads the Macedonian Intelligence Agency, said in Skopje on 11 April that unspecified "certain structures" recently reactivated a two-year-old wiretapping scandal involving her in order to deflect attention from their own connections with organized crime structures in Serbia, dpa reported. Dimovska had to resign over the scandal in 2001 but has since been named director of the Intelligence Agency by President Boris Trajkovski, who also pardoned her recently in conjunction with the scandal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 10 April 2003). In response to the pardon, Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski repeated his accusations that Dimovska and one of her aides were responsible for tapping the telephones of some 190 politicians and journalists in 2001. But Dimovska countered, "Certain structures in Macedonia are obviously frightened about the possible outcome of investigations of the [Serbian] 'Zemun clan' and of ties between some Macedonians, [former Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic, and [SRS leader] Vojislav Seselj." She warned that information about these links has already been forwarded to unnamed foreign intelligence services. UB
...WHICH SERBIAN LEADER APPEARS TO CONFIRM
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said in Skopje on 13 April that there are extensive criminal connections between Serbia and Macedonia, dpa reported. He did not address Dimovska's specific charges, however, and called for an investigation of the former elite police unit known as the Lions, which was close to Dimovska's Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE). "It is clear that Macedonia was a [criminal] transfer point, mainly because of the sanctions [against Serbia in the 1990s] and everything else that happened in the region in the past," Covic stressed. "The whole region was infected with crime and the mafia." PM
SERBIAN CITIZENS HAND IN WEAPONS
Police officials said in Belgrade on 12 April that citizens have turned in over 42,000 weapons and tens of thousands of pieces of ammunition since the government called on citizens to turn in illegal arms in the wake of Djindjic's assassination, dpa reported. "There will be no illegal weapons in Serbia soon," Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic said. He blamed the conflicts of the 1990s for the proliferation of unlawful arms. PM
KOSOVAR PRIME MINISTER CALLS FOR 'GOOD NEIGHBORLY RELATIONS' WITH SERBIA
Bajram Rexhepi said in Prishtina on 11 April that Serbia should accept that Kosova's independence is a "reality" and that the two states should live as good neighbors, Hina reported. He stressed that the question of Kosova's future political status is the only serious one separating Belgrade and Prishtina. "It is only natural for Kosova to have the closest economic cooperation with Serbia," Rexhepi added. PM
KOSOVAR POLITICAL LEADER RENEWS CALL FOR MORATORIUM ON STATUS TALKS
Former guerrilla leader Hashim Thaci, who heads Kosova's second-largest political party, the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), said in Prishtina on 11 April that there should be a temporary moratorium on talks about the future status of the province, Hina reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2003). Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), hailed Thaci's suggestion. The two men also agreed that the transfer of powers from UNMIK to Kosovar institutions should be carried out gradually. On 12 April, Kosova's largest party, the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), rejected Thaci's call for a moratorium on status talks, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Some other, smaller parties also disagreed with Thaci. PM
CROATIAN POLICE ARREST 31 AFTER SOCCER MATCH
Police in Zagreb arrested 31 people on 13 April after clashes following a match between archrivals Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split, dpa reported. Hajduk won the contest 1-0. Some of the rowdy fans threw stones at police or attacked trams. PM
POPE TO VISIT REPUBLIKA SRPSKA
Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka said on 12 April that Pope John Paul II will visit that city on 22 June, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The pope will visit Croatia earlier in June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2003). PM
ROMANIAN PREMIER ANNOUNCES HUMANITARIAN AID FOR IRAQ
Adrian Nastase on 11 April said Romania will send three planes carrying humanitarian aid to Iraq, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase also said special envoys will be dispatched to Washington and London to examine ways to recoup Iraq's $1.7 billion debt to Romania. He said the Iraqi debt could be recuperated by setting up a creditor's club in which Romania would also participate. The premier said Iraq could repay its debt to Romania through barter deals or through concessions offered to Romanian petroleum companies. MS
ROMANIAN NBC UNIT IN PERSIAN GULF STRENGTHENED
Fifty-five members of a Romanian anti-nuclear, -biological, and -chemical (NBC) unit left on 11 April for the Persian Gulf, where they joined 15 of their colleagues who have been stationed in the region for a month, Mediafax reported. On 13 April, U.S. Senator Larry Craig (Republican, Idaho), who was visiting the Mihail Kogalniceanu military airport in Constanta used by U.S. troops, said that before his departure he was asked by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to convey to Romania his personal thanks for supporting the coalition in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Craig and Senator Mary Landrieu (Democrat, Louisiana) also visited in Constanta an orphanage with children suffering from AIDS. They were both received on 13 April by President Ion Iliescu, with whom they discussed the Iraq crisis and Romania's accession to NATO, Romanian Radio reported. MS
LUXEMBOURG PREMIER IN ROMANIA
Jean-Claude Juncker was received on 13 April in Bucharest by President Iliescu, who bestowed upon him Romania's highest state order. Juncker, who is visiting Romania at Nastase's invitation, was expected to discuss with him on 14 April bilateral relations, Romania's joining of NATO, and its quest to join the EU in 2007. The guest is also to be received by Chamber of Deputies speaker Valer Dorneanu, according to an official government communique. MS
ROMANIAN OFFICIALS REACT TO NORWAY'S RATIFICATION OF NATO PROTOCOLS
Foreign Ministry State Secretary Mihnea Motoc on 11 April said Romania has "noted with great satisfaction" the he Norwegian parliament's unanimous ratification earlier that day of Romania's NATO Protocols of Accession, Romanian Radio reported (see above). Gheorghi Prisacaru, chairman of the lower house's Foreign Affairs Committee, said Norway has abided by its promise to be the first European NATO member to ratify the documents. MS
NASTASE, PSD LEADING IN ROMANIAN POLLS
Premier Nastase is the most popular potential presidential candidate and his Social Democratic Party (PSD) would garner the most votes if parliamentary elections were held today, according to a public-opinion poll carried out by the Center for Urban and Rural Sociology, Mediafax reported. Nastase was backed by 45 percent of poll respondents. He is followed by National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman Theodor Stolojan (21 percent), Greater Romania Party (PRM) Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor (19), and Democratic Party Chairman Traian Basescu (12 percent). In parliamentary elections, the PSD would garner 40 percent of the vote, followed by the PNL and the PRM (16 percent each), the Democratic Party (10) and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), which would be backed by 5 percent of the electorate, according to the poll. MS
PSD POLITICIANS REJECT DEMAND FOR ETHNIC HUNGARIAN ECONOMIC ZONE IN ROMANIA
The PSD branch in Harghita County on 13 March rejected a proposal from ethnic Hungarian mayors in Romania to set up an economic zone made up of the "Szekler lands," Romanian Radio reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2003). Addressing the gathering, parliamentary speaker Dorneanu said setting up economic or administrative structures based on ethnic criteria is inadmissible in any democratic state, and contradicts "European spirit" and the EU's "Euroregion" concept. Public Administration Minister Octav Cozmanca said in Bistrita on 13 April that it is "out of question" to set up any structures based on ethnic criteria, and that the UDMR's demands to do so contradict the law and will not be discussed by the PSD. MS
MOLDOVAN OFFICIALS CRITICIZE TIRASPOL'S POSITION ON JOINT CONSTITUTION
Victor Stepaniuc, head of the ruling Party of Moldovan Communist's (PCM) parliamentary group, said in an interview with RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service on 11 April that the conditions Tiraspol's Supreme Soviet set last week for its approval of the formation of a joint commission for the elaboration of the future federal constitution would make the process "cumbersome." The separatist parliament conditioned its approval on the mentioning in the basic document of "two equal subjects" in the envisaged federation. Stepaniuc called the conditions "unacceptable," but added, "We have no other way than to pursue the road of negotiations." Reintegration Minister Vasilii Sova said on 12 April that by attaching such conditions, Tiraspol is reiterating its old positions, which will negatively influence the negotiation process, Flux reported. "If no compromise solutions are found, this will only demonstrate that some people in Tiraspol seek to merely create the illusion of negotiations," but such parleys are doomed to failure, Sova said. On the other hand, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko on 12 April welcomed the approval by Chisinau's and Tiraspol's parliaments for setting up the joint commission, and he added that Russia is ready to render its assistance to the elaboration of the constitution. MS
MOLDOVAN HISTORIANS CRITICIZE CABINET OVER HISTORY COURSES
Some 250 delegates at the Second Moldovan Conference of Historians on 12 April approved a resolution opposing the authorities' intention to replace the teaching of the "History of Romanians" with the "History of Moldovans" or with "General History," Romanian Radio and Flux reported. Anatol Petrenco, president of the Association of Moldovan Historians, said the intended change is void of any scientific justification. His deputy, Gheorghe Paladi, was cited by Romanian Radio as saying that the ruling PCM's motivation is determined by its drive to reorient Moldova toward the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Russia-Belarus Union and to isolate the country spiritually and economically from Romania. Paladi also said President Vladimir Voronin has no justification in backing the setting up of a Russian-language university in Moldova and that Voronin is seeking to establish a "Russian monopoly" over the "information space" in Moldova. The conference approved a resolution accusing the communist authorities of attempting to liquidate the "sovereign Moldovan unitary state" and replacing it with a "Russian protectorate," Romanian Radio reported. MS
BULGARIAN JUSTICE MINISTER SAYS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT DECISION WILL DELAY REFORM OF JUDICIARY...
Justice Minister Anton Stankov said on 11 April that a recent ruling by the Constitutional Court will delay the reform of the judiciary, mediapool.bg reported. Stankov underscored, however, that the governing National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) is set to carry out the necessary reforms. The court ruled that only a constituent Grand National Assembly can make changes to the structure of state institutions. Thus, the court impeded government plans to separate the prosecutors' offices and the investigation services from the courts. In a first reaction, Prime Minister and NDSV Chairman Simeon Saxecoburggotski declined to comment on the court ruling, saying that court rulings must be abided by. Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria James Pardew told Bulgarian National Television on 13 April that Bulgaria will hardly have a perfect judicial system before the United States ratifies the country's NATO Protocols of Accession. He said it is important for reforms to be aimed in the right direction and carried out consistently (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2003). UB
...AS DOES PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER...
Parliamentary speaker Ognyan Gerdzhikov (NDSV) said on 11 April that he could understand the court ruling from a political, but not legal, point of view, mediapool.bg reported. Gerdzhikov, who is a law professor at Sofia University, said the government will respect the decision, but added that the court ruling could be lifted at a later stage, if necessary. He alluded to the fact that the mandates of four constitutional judges expire in October, two of which will be elected by the governing majority. According to Gerdzhikov, the court has not interpreted the constitution correctly and he noted that Judge Rumen Yankov, who heads the Constitutional Court, has not supported the majority ruling. Yankov argued that the court must not influence future decisions of parliament by setting limitations. UB
...WHILE OPPOSITION REMAINS DIVIDED
Lawmaker Mihail Mikov of the opposition Socialist Party (BSP) also criticized the court ruling, saying on 11 April that it limits the parliament's possibilities, mediapool.bg reported. Mikov said he was not surprised by the decision because the Constitutional Court is dominated by people who have contributed to the current situation in the judiciary and who are now defending the status quo. Opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) Deputy Chairwoman Ekaterina Mihailova said the same day that as a result of the court ruling, one should think about writing a brand new constitution rather than repairing the old one, which she said is not effective. "Sooner or later, we will go for a [constituent] Grand National Assembly," she said. UB
WHITHER RUSSIA'S ANTI-AMERICANISM?
If the Russian media are to be believed, rampant anti-U.S. sentiment is alive and well in President Vladimir Putin's Russia. But how much is genuine? How much is outrage against the Iraq war rather than hostility to the United States per se, and how much is simply the product of the manipulation of public opinion?
The Kremlin-sponsored media campaign protesting the war to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was both for international and domestic consumption. At its center were two separate issues: opposition to America and opposition to the war. An image of being anti-war was the face Russia wanted to turn to the world, while anti-Americanism was the primary message fed to the Russian public. In addition, the anti-Americanism that has dominated Russian media coverage of the war has exposed a number of complex issues concerning Russian identity and the heritage of the Soviet past. In part, rallying Russians behind their state against a perceived enemy was, in fact, the goal.
Russia presented itself to the outside world as part of the "coalition of the unwilling." Indeed, Russia was probably the most "unwilling" of all the major antiwar players, surpassing French and Germany in anti-invasion and anti-U.S. rhetoric. Even before Operation Iraq Freedom began, Putin and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov repeatedly reproached the United States for pursuing action against Iraq outside the framework of international law. While vigorously asserting the war's illegality was not well received by the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, it was a high-profile international stratagem that will not have a serious negative long-term impact on Russian-U.S. relations.
That policy approach appears to have paid dividends. Given last week's low-key Moscow visit by U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice -- who spent most of her time with presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin -- it would appear the Iraq war has not seriously damaged bilateral relations. At the same time, Russia's image on the international stage has considerably increased. Most of the world, after all, is against the war.
The Kremlin's domestic media campaign was very different, however, with possible far-reaching implications. Prior to the war, Russia's intelligentsia was generally considered to be anti-U.S. On the other hand, since 11 September 2001, the Russian government -- for obvious reasons -- has largely refrained from statements that could be interpreted as hostile to the United States. The war brought about a reversal of roles. Backed by a quiescent media, the state unleashed a torrent of anti-U.S. rhetoric designed for popular consumption, while the intelligentsia expressed strong reservations concerning the future of Russian-U.S. relations.
Whether by design or because of events outpacing policy, the Kremlin's anti-U.S. campaign essentially became a ploy to form solid public opinion that would back the current regime, while at the same time attempting to address the question of Russians' still poorly defined sense of who they are -- something oppositionist politics helps to increase. The Kremlin's rhetorical gambit made little differentiation between being anti-war and anti-U.S. This might have been a miscalculation, as the war is unpopular among Russians whatever the Kremlin's position is.
What is called "Russian anti-Americanism" -- as opposed to disapproval about a particular point of U.S. policy -- has a lot to do with what it means to be Russian and little to do with what the United States is concretely doing. To be "anti-American" means, implicitly, to be "pro-Russian" and to identify with the country and/or ethnic group, depending on one's degree of political sophistication and the vulgarity or refinement of one's nationalistic sentiments.
There might be reasons for Russians not to like the United States, but what is called "anti-Americanism" in Russia is really often an umbrella phenomenon encompassing dislike for many other nationalities that are also regarded as a threat to Russian national identity in a rapidly changing world. The Kremlin has not completely understood this, and it may not know how to deal with the consequences that unbridled nationalism might bring.
With the advent of the Putin presidency, the Kremlin's interest in developing a stronger national identity has become a major strategic goal. A strong sense of Russian self-identity has yet to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the concept of Soviet identity, and strong identification with one's vaguely qualified "Russianness" in the face of adversity has the character of a defensive psychological reaction. Protesting the U.S.-led war in Iraq presented the Kremlin with an opportunity to engineer a strong national identity with the hope public opinion would rally behind the country's leadership.
Public opinion in Russia remains something of an unknown quantity, however, especially when it comes to politics. Beyond some hardcore members of the Communist Party and an occasional member of Russia's two liberal-conservative Duma factions, Yabloko and the Union of Rightist Forces, Russians are, for the most part, politically homeless. United Russia claims to represent the majority of the people, although most Russians who think about politics find it difficult to define just what it stands for. With elections on the horizon, playing the anti-U.S. card was most likely a strategy to invigorate a sense of Russian pride as well as kick-start the campaign season.
Recent calls from some Russian Muslim leaders for a jihad against the United States demonstrate just how easily the Kremlin's "political technology" ploy to consolidate national identity and manipulate public opinion can yield a contrary result. One of the outcomes of the anti-U.S. campaign has been a heightened sense of ethnic awareness, not identification with the state.
Whether by design or otherwise, the anti-U.S. media campaign also tangentially thematized the superpower legacy of the Soviet Union. On the one hand, current U.S. foreign policy was likened to the bullying character of much Soviet foreign policy. This was clearly alluded to by Putin and Ivanov when they called into doubt the legality of striking Iraq. On the other hand, the Soviet past was also rehabilitated to a degree. A United States that is going on its own in the world relying only on its strength is not perceived as being much different from the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. Over the past few weeks, there have been numerous comments that the United States would never have attacked Iraq if the Soviet Union still existed. For some Russians -- most likely Putin included -- this is yet another confirmation that the Soviet Union had its merits and that its collapse was a gain only in a qualified sense.
On the whole, the Kremlin's anti-U.S. media campaign can claim only limited results. Though it might bring results at the ballot box, anti-U.S. rhetoric is too blunt an instrument to create a sense of Russianness that would buttress the state. In fact, the harder the Kremlin tries, the greater the likelihood that "being Russian" will be equated with having Russian ethnicity. This is an untenable strategy in present-day Russia, with its vast mosaic of different nationalities and cultures. Neither does anti-Americanism perform a useful service when it comes to the need to come to terms with the Soviet past. Likening the United States to the Soviet Union does not address any of Russia's present concerns about defining national identity and its relations to the past; this requires careful introspection, not crude rhetoric focused on a foreign country.
Last, it is too early to tell, but the Kremlin's appeal to populist nationalism at the expense of the United States might have helped stir up forms of nationalism and ethnocentricity that could return to haunt it. The Kremlin appears to have gotten the international respect and domestic support it demanded -- but at what potential cost? The Kremlin will be lucky if it is able to return to the pre-war status quo without being forced to deal with the dark side of what "Russianness" might mean.
Peter Lavelle is a Moscow-based analyst and author of the weekly e-newsletter "Untimely Thoughts."
COALITION TROOPS ARREST HALF-BROTHER OF DEPOSED IRAQI PRESIDENT
U.S. troops reportedly arrested the half-brother of Saddam Hussein as he attempted to flee Iraq, Al-Jazeera television reported on 13 April. Watban Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, who is also a former Iraqi interior minister, was arrested northwest of Mosul while trying to cross into Syria, Al-Jazeera quoted a Kurdish television report as stating. Al-Tikriti was 51st on a list of 55 Iraqis sought by coalition forces. The report of his arrest has not been confirmed. KR
FORMER IRAQI SCIENTIFIC ADVISER SURRENDERS
Lieutenant General Amr al-Sa'di, a former scientific adviser to the Hussein regime, has surrendered to coalition forces in Baghdad, Al-Jazeera reported on 12 April. Al-Sa'di reportedly requested that a German ZDF television crew film his surrender to U.S. forces for "security reasons." He also granted ZDF an interview, in which he maintained that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. Al-Sa'di told ZDF that he does not feel guilty and that he committed no crime on behalf of the Hussein regime. Al-Sa'di said he does not know the whereabouts of deposed President Hussein. He also told ZDF that he is a member of neither the Ba'ath Party nor the Iraqi intelligence service, adding that he was promoted by Hussein to the rank of general. Al-Sa'di was last on a list of 55 Iraqis wanted by coalition forces. KR
U.S. POWS FOUND IN IRAQ
Seven U.S. prisoners of war (POWs) were found by coalition forces on 13 April "in the vicinity of Samarra" in northern Iraq, according to a U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) press release dated the same day. CENTCOM chief and U.S. Army General Tommy Franks told U.S. media that the seven were found walking on a road, American Forces Press Service reported the same day. Franks said an Iraqi informed U.S. Marines of the POWs' whereabouts. The seven were identified as five members of the 507th Maintenance Company and two Apache helicopter pilots. Two of the soldiers had sustained gunshot wounds, the American Forces Press Service noted. KR
U.K. TO ENFORCE 'ZERO TOLERANCE' AGAINST LOOTERS IN AL-BASRAH
A senior British military spokesman said on 14 April that British forces are pursuing a policy of "zero tolerance" against looters in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah, Reuters reported. Group Captain Al Lockwood told Reuters at CENTCOM that British forces have begun joint patrols with local police in order to maintain security, adding: "The general looting that followed in subsequent days [after the fall of Al-Basrah] will now no longer be tolerated. Law and order will be maintained." Lockwood said that the priority of the British is to attain a level of security that will facilitate the restoration of municipal services to the city, which should in turn allow for humanitarian aid to begin flowing into Al-Basrah. KR
U.S. FORCES REPORTEDLY CONTROL CENTRAL TIKRIT
U.S. Marines reportedly entered central Tikrit, the birthplace and a stronghold of deposed President Saddam Hussein, on 14 April, Reuters reported. Fighting is continuing, according to international press reports. Al-Jazeera reported that northern Tikrit has not been secured but aired footage of U.S. troops and tanks in the city's central square, according to Reuters. There are Arab and Iraqi fighters reportedly dressed in civilian clothes and shooting at U.S. troops from civilian neighborhoods, Reuters quoted an Al-Jazeera correspondent as saying. KR
KUWAIT OFFERS REWARDS FOR MISSING POWS
Kuwaiti Information Minister Shaykh Ahmad al-Fahd al-Sabah told KUNA on 12 April that Kuwait will offer a financial reward to anyone coming forward with information on the fate of Kuwaiti POWs held by the Iraqi regime since the 1991 Gulf War. Al-Sabah said the fate of the POWs is a top priority for the Kuwaiti government. Some 600 Kuwaitis were taken prisoner when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and remain unaccounted for, KUNA reported. KR
'DEMOCRATIC GROUPING' CALLS FOR COALITION GOVERNMENT
An Iraqi opposition group has called for the establishment of a coalition government in Iraq, Al-Jazeera television reported on 12 April. Sultan Mulla Ali, spokesman for the Iraqi Democratic Grouping, told Al-Jazeera that his group supports a free and democratic Iraq, adding, "This would be achieved through forming a broad national coalition government for a limited period of time to run the affairs of the country, provide the conditions to draw up a permanent constitution, and create a suitable democratic environment." Ali said his group has had no contacts with the U.S. State Department regarding an upcoming conference between U.S. officials and opposition leaders in Al-Nasiriyah, adding that members of his group have been unable to reach the southern Iraqi town. He also said his group "represents a broad popular base and has a deep-rooted history of playing an important role in struggles," and then said the Iraqi Democratic Grouping was not asked by those running the newly established council of the Al-Basrah Governorate to join the council. The Iraqi Democratic Grouping includes leftists and communists, according to Al-Jazeera. KR
U.K. DEFENSE SECRETARY SAYS BA'ATH OFFICIALS WILL RESTORE ORDER IN IRAQ
British Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon told London's "The Observer" on 13 April that Ba'ath Party officials will assist coalition forces in restoring order in Iraqi cities. "The administration, although Ba'athist in that anyone who worked for the [former Iraqi] government had to be a member of the party, [contained] many perfectly decent people who are party members but have not participated in any atrocities and will want to go back to their teaching, medicine, or administrative work," Hoon told "The Observer." Hoon added: "Once the Iraqis themselves have identified who those people are, I don't think there will be any difficulties. They had a system of administration that will deliver." The move is risky, however, as many Iraqis are leery of giving power to individuals who -- directly or not -- contributed to repression under the former Iraqi regime. British forces had to disperse an angry mob outside the home of Shaykh Muzahim Mustafa Kanan al-Tamimi on 12 April, after it was learned that the U.K. placed al-Tamimi in a position of authority in Al-Basrah. He is a former Iraqi general and Ba'ath Party member, "The Observer" reported. KR
RETIRED IRAQI POLICE OFFICERS VOLUNTEER TO HELP RESTORE ORDER
Seven former Iraqi police officers have reportedly come forward and volunteered to help coalition forces restore order in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, Al-Jazeera reported on 12 April. The officers reportedly asked coalition forces for cars and light weapons, and called on Iraqi police personnel to rejoin their units. They also enlisted the help of Iraqi tribal chiefs in restoring order. One of the men told Al-Jazeera, "Let the coalition forces give us cars and a loudspeaker to tell the citizens to keep calm.... Let them give us badges so that the coalition troops who are riding in tanks and [armored personnel carriers] do not shoot at us. We will be responsible for security.... Calm will be restored in Baghdad within 72 hours." The unidentified man also said the entire police apparatus was opposed to the Hussein regime, and said he was imprisoned by the regime in 1985. In related news, the international press has reported the formation of popular committees in several Iraqi towns in recent days. The committees reportedly act as town councils and work to restore order. KR
IRAQI OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS FOR 'DE-BA'ATHIFICATION'...
Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi told BBC News on 13 April that coalition forces should move to bring an end to the looting of Iraqi cities and begin a process of "de-Ba'athification" "right away." Speaking from Al-Nasiriyah, Chalabi said that "free Iraqi forces" in the town of Shadra have begun breaking down the Ba'ath Party system in that town and the forces intend to do the same in other areas. "We must uproot the Ba'ath Party from the fabric of Iraqi society. This does not mean killing or humiliating or torturing or in any way demeaning individual Ba'athists, but they must come forward, say what they have, deliver what they have of government property; but it means also the [complete] destruction of the Ba'ath Party organization," Chalabi said. KR
...AND SAYS OPPOSITION REPRESENTS 'FORCES ON THE GROUND'
Chalabi also told BBC News on 13 April that coalition forces must give the Iraqi opposition a strong role "immediately." "The leadership of the opposition that was elected must now be brought into the picture completely, consulted, and play an important role in the choice of the Iraqi interim authority because they represent political forces on the ground which are very important and which can make an important contribution to peace and security in Iraq," Chalabi insisted. Asked about resentment expressed by the Iraqi public toward returning exiles, Chalabi denied there is a problem, saying, "I have felt no resentment at all." He also denied that he might seek a leading role in a future Iraqi government, telling BBC News: "I am not a candidate for any political position in Iraq. My main focus is to go home and work on the restoration of civil society in Iraq." Chalabi's family fled Iraq in 1958. KR
SHI'A CLERICS ASSERT CONTROL IN BAGHDAD NEIGHBORHOOD
Al-Thawrah, a mainly Shi'a neighborhood of Baghdad that until very recently was known as Saddam City, has been renamed. Now it is known as Sadr City in honor of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, a leading Shi'a cleric who, along with his sister Bint al-Huda, was executed in 1980. This development, according to "The Washington Post" on 14 April, is a sign of the Shi'a clergy's ascendancy in running affairs. Not only are local clerics providing security, enforcing curfews, and ensuring that essential services are available, but a delegate of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani from Najaf has claimed authority over dozens of neighborhood mosques. Several clerics told the newspaper that they refuse to cooperate with the United States and want U.S. forces to leave, but one of them said that meeting with the Americans would undermine his popularity. "We wish from God for an Islamic government," Imams Mosque leader Abdel-Nabi Badeiri said. "We want a clergyman to be president of the state." BS
IRAQI TRIBAL LEADER CALLS ON OTHER LEADERS TO INTERVENE
Shaykh Humaydi Dahham al-Jarba, chief of the Iraqi Shammar tribe, issued an urgent appeal through Al-Jazeera television on 12 April, calling on other tribal chiefs to intervene and restore order in Iraq. "I am issuing an appeal to my brothers, the sons of the tribes who are the nation's asset," al-Jarba said. "I ask the tribesmen to intervene and restore order. There is no rule in Iraq, so they are responsible because they are the nation's noblemen.... We must do the right thing." The leader added that the United States was not responsible for the looting of Iraqi towns and cities, and criticized the looters for their behavior. KR
IRAQI UN AMBASSADOR LEAVES POST
Iraqi Ambassador to the UN Muhammad al-Duri has left his post following the downfall of the Hussein regime. The former ambassador flew to Damascus on 13 April. "Hence, pending the liberation of my country [from U.S.-led forces] and until matters [stabilize], I will go to any place in the Arab world, while promising myself to return to my country," al-Duri told Al-Arabiyah television. He told Radio France International in an interview broadcast on 12 April that he is anxious to "get news" of his family in Baghdad. He said he does not anticipate any problems with U.S. officials, should he return to Baghdad, adding, "They have done nothing; they have always treated me with dignity, and that's how it will continue." Al-Duri said he planned one day to return to his previous career, as a professor of international law at Baghdad University. KR
GRAND AYATOLLAH GIVEN 48 HOURS TO LEAVE IRAQ
The people of Najaf have "spontaneously" ended their siege of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's house, Iranian state radio reported on 13 April. Sheikh Kazem Javaheri, the deputy head of Sistani's office in Qom, said in a 13 April interview with ISNA that the siege started the previous day and Sistani was given 48 hours to leave the country. Javaheri said the Sadriyun -- followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, the son of Ayatollah Mohammad al-Sadr who was killed in early 1999 by the Ba'athist regime -- were behind the siege. Kuwait-based Ayatollah Abolqasem Dibaji referred to them as the Jimaat-i-Sadr-Thani in a 13 April interview with Reuters and said that this group wants to control the holy sites of Najaf. Al-Khoi Foundation associate Abed al-Budairi told Reuters that Muqtada is immature, opposes Iranian ayatollahs, and wants the Marja-yi Taqlid (top Shi'a source of emulation) to be Iraqi. The Sadriyun also threatened two other Shi'a leaders, Sheikh Ishaq al-Fayyadi and Sheikh Hussein Bashir al-Najafi, and urged cleric Said al-Hakim to declare his loyalty to Muqtada al-Sadr, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 13 April. BS
SLAIN IRAQI CLERIC HAD 'EXTENSIVE CONTACTS' WITH UNITED STATES
Al-Khoi Foundation Secretary-General Abd al-Majid al-Khoi and the United States had "extensive contacts" prior to his killing in Najaf on 10 April, according to the 11 April official answer to a question posed at the 10 April State Department press briefing (http://usinfo.state.gov). Al-Khoi played a key role in encouraging Iraqi unity, reconciliation, and tolerance at the December 2002 Iraqi opposition conference in London, the State Department said. As the struggle mounts for leadership of Iraq's Shia community, rumors about al-Khoi's killing thrive. "When they stabbed him, thousands of dollars were found on his body hidden under his robe," a Najaf resident told "The New York Times" of 13 April. The killing has been blamed on remnants of the Ba'athist regime (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 14 April 2003) and on the Sadriyun (see above). Regardless of the circumstances, members of al-Khoi's family have vowed to return to Iraq to continue his work, "The Observer" reported on 13 April. BS
SCIRI UNDECIDED ON PARTICIPATION IN AL-NASIRIYAH TALKS
U.S. officials have invited about 100 Iraqis -- including those who lived under the Ba'athist regime and those who were in exile -- to participate in a gathering in Al-Nasiriyah to discuss the country's new government, "The New York Times" reported on 13 April. Australia, Poland, and the United Kingdom will be represented at the talks because their troops fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Spain will send an observer because it provided a field hospital, according to "The New York Times." An anonymous official said that likely topics of discussion are the rule of law and legal institutions, civil liberties, economic institutions, and constitution building. Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) official Abu Islam al-Faqir said the SCIRI has not been invited yet, "Iran News" reported on 13 April, and SCIRI associate Muhsin al-Hakim said that SCIRI's participation would be in line with the Iraqi people's interests, although he did not have specific information on the gathering. SCIRI's London representative, Hamid al-Bayati, said on 9 April that the SCIRI would not participate in the Al-Nasiriyah meeting because it represents the plan for retired U.S. Major General Jay Garner's "rule of Iraq." BS
IRAN'S SUPREME LEADER ACCUSES COALITION OF COLONIALISM...
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in the first sermon of the 11 April Friday prayers in Tehran that the coalition has colonial plans for Iraq and that statements about wanting to liberate the Iraqi people are a lie, according to a live broadcast by state radio. "Basra is for the British" in the U.S.-U.K. division of the country, because "the British like the scent of oil," Khamenei said. "Baghdad is the center for the Americans' power," because the United States likes a show of power, according to the supreme leader. "They seem to have agreed on this kind of arrangement," he said. "This is a return to the very first era of colonialism." Khamenei concluded by saying that "the Zionists had the biggest role" in encouraging Washington to go to war. Khamenei's comments so inspired the congregation that a "spontaneous demonstration" took place immediately after the Friday prayers. The small group of demonstrators condemned what state television termed "the military aggression of America and Britain against Iraq and the occupation of that country." Demonstrators also gathered in front of the British Embassy to declare their "contempt." BS
...AND ENCOURAGES IRAQI RESISTANCE
Ayatollah Khamenei gave the second sermon in Arabic, presumably so Iraqis would understand it when it was rebroadcast by Iranian state radio's Arabic-language service. He said that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime should be joyful, but Washington and London's schemes leave a bitter taste and sadden the world's Muslims. Khamenei accused coalition forces of committing war crimes and atrocities, as well as humiliating men by showing disrespect toward their women. "The claim made by America and England that they are offering freedom to the Iraqi people is one of the biggest farces." According to Khamenei, the United States and Britain just want to control Iraq, oil, and the Middle East, suppress the Palestinian uprising, and bury the Islamic revival. Khamenei said the appointment of a foreign ruler humiliates Iraqi national sovereignty and is part of a scheme to obliterate Iraqi nationalism. From the British and American perspective, the best Iraqis are those who help them. Anybody who helps the United States is committing treason, Khamenei said. He promised Iran's help against the occupiers. BS
IRAN'S EXPEDIENCY COUNCIL CHAIRMAN CONSIDERS RELATIONS WITH UNITED STATES
Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said the resumption of U.S.-Iran relations could be put to a referendum pending the approval of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and parliament, IRNA reported on 12 April, citing the most recent issue of the "Rahbord" quarterly journal. The subject also could be referred to the Expediency Council, the decision of which must be approved by the supreme leader, Rafsanjani said. He also said Iran-Egypt relations, which have been strained since the early 1980s, could be studied by the Expediency Council. Rafsanjani indicated that the foreign-policy apparatus has made costly mistakes. "We should not be biased. We have lost many opportunities in the past, we have made inappropriate measures or never made any measure, and we have also delayed in making decisions," he said. Rafsanjani added in his remarks that the Foreign Ministry and other state institutions do not need to refer to the supreme leader regarding important issues because he will step in whenever he deems it necessary. BS
EXPLOSION ROCKS EASTERN KABUL
A large explosion occurred late in the evening of 13 April approximately 1 kilometer from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul's eastern Yakatut district, Radio Free Afghanistan reported the next day. The explosion, which left a 2-meter crater, was thought to be caused by a land mine, AFP reported. Local police launched an investigation to determine the exact cause, and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) dispatched explosives experts to assist. The local police chief, General Abdul Rauf, reported that there were no casualties and very limited damage, according to AFP. However, Radio Free Afghanistan reported that three people were injured. KM
ALLEGED WOULD-BE TERRORISTS KILLED IN CAR EXPLOSION IN KHOST
An automobile loaded with explosives killed four individuals on the night of 12 April when it blew up in Karwan Sarui, 6 kilometers east of Khost and reportedly near a U.S. airfield, "The Washington Post" and AP reported on 14 April. The four men were allegedly testing equipment for a planned terrorist attack when their bomb accidentally exploded, according to the regional military commander, General Khail Baz Sherzai, cited by "The Washington Post." One Yemeni, two Pakistanis, and one Afghan were among the dead. The identities of the foreigners have not been identified, and there were conflicting reports of the identity of the Afghan, although both "The Washington Post" and AP reported that he was a former intelligence officer for the Taliban regime who had links to Al-Qaeda. U.S. military spokesman Colonel Roger King told "The Washington Post" that the fact that foreigners were involved increases "the possibility of involvement by Al-Qaeda." KM
COALITION FORCES UNCOVER ARMS CACHE IN KHOST
Italian ISAF forces on 11 April discovered a cache of weapons approximately 40 kilometers from Khost, near the Afghan-Pakistani border in southeastern Afghanistan, Iranian state radio reported the next day. Among the weapons there were 13 antiaircraft rocket launchers, an antiaircraft gun, barrels for automatic rifles, artillery, and a large amount of ammunition. KM
SOME 200 HOMES DESTROYED IN EARTHQUAKE IN NORTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN
An earthquake with a magnitude of 4.6 on the Richter scale shook the Namakab District of Takhar Province in the Hindukosh Mountains of northeastern Afghanistan on 10 April, Reuters reported the next day. The earthquake caused an unknown number of casualties and flattened approximately 200 homes in the village of Yakabagh and its surroundings, Kabul State Television reported on 11 April. A landslide unleashed by the tremor might have contributed to some casualties as well as the destruction of the homes, Reuters reported. Afghan authorities and humanitarian organizations launched an emergency relief effort on 11 April to assist the families affected, AFP reported on 13 April. KM