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Newsline - April 15, 2003


RUSSIA REFUSES TO SHUT DOWN IRAQI EMBASSY
Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko announced on 13 April that Russia will not comply with U.S. requests to close down the Iraqi Embassy in Moscow and to expel Iraqi Ambassador to Russia Abbas Khalaf, RTR and other Russian media reported. Russia has had diplomatic relations with Iraq since the 1940s despite a number of regime changes there. Yakovenko said the Iraqi people themselves will decide on the composition of the country's diplomatic representation in Moscow. He added that Moscow does not consider the 6 April incident in which the motorcade of the Russian ambassador to Iraq was caught in crossfire outside Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7, 8, and 9 April 2003) fully resolved yet. Moscow will seek compensation for material losses and damages in accordance with international law, Yakovenko said. VY

OFFICIALS URGE GOVERNMENT TO REDUCE SPENDING IN 2004
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin and presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov both returned to Moscow on 14 April after attending a session of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, REN-TV and other Russian media reported. The two men stated that they do not believe Russia will suffer significant short-term economic consequences of the U.S.-led military operation in Iraq. Illarionov predicted that world oil prices will not fall below $23-25 per barrel before the end of the year. However, the draft federal budget for 2004 is based on an average oil price of $18 a barrel, and it is the first of three years of projected surplus budgets. Therefore, Kudrin said, the government should reduce expenditures and not implement a proposed 33 percent salary hike for civil servants. He said local administrations should find the resources to raise bureaucrats' salaries, but it should not be done at the federal level. He noted that excess hard-currency reserves and anticipated additional oil-export-tax revenues will be directed to a special stabilization fund under an IMF-proposed plan, REN-TV added. VY

DEFENSE MINISTRY TO CREATE 'PATRIOTIC' TELEVISION
Vladimir Kozhemyakin, deputy head of the Defense Ministry's education department, has announced that the ministry will create a national television channel "for the education of patriotic citizens," gzt.ru reported on 9 April. The project is expected to cost about $140 million, including $40 million for a pilot project covering Moskovskaya Oblast. Kozhemyakin said the funds will not come from the ministry's budget, but "from other state structures," and that the project will be completed within one year. VY

FORMER PRIME MINISTER URGED HUSSEIN TO ACCEPT EXILE
Yevgenii Primakov, former prime minister and former chief of Russian Foreign Intelligence (SVR), told RTR on 11 April that during his mysterious mission to Baghdad on 22 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 February 2003) he urged Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq "if he loves his country and wants to avoid unnecessary bloodshed." Primakov said that just before his trip he was summoned to the Kremlin, where President Vladimir Putin asked him to fly to Iraq immediately to speak to Hussein. Primakov made the suggestion during a one-on-one meeting with Hussein, who then summoned two close associates and asked Primakov to repeat the message. Hussein then reminded Primakov that he had made promises in 1991 that never materialized, and then he slapped Primakov on the back and walked out of the meeting, Primakov said. VY

PUTIN CHASTISES MILITARY FOR POOR INTELLIGENCE ON IRAQ CAMPAIGN
President Putin has expressed his displeasure over Russian defense officials' faulty forecasting regarding the U.S.-led military operation in Iraq, "Argumenty i fakty," No. 15, reported. Putin reportedly was dismayed that military officials predicted the campaign would take three to six months and that the Iraqi military would resist vigorously. The weekly published a prognosis issued by an unidentified military intelligence officer before coalition forces captured Baghdad in which he wrote that coalition losses in taking the city would amount to about 5,000 killed, while as many as half a million Iraqis could lose their lives in the operation. VY

COMMUNIST DEPUTY URGES TYCOON TO REPENT
Addressing the 2-4 April Russian Economic Forum in London, Communist Duma Deputy Vasilii Shandybin appealed to self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii, who was present in the audience, "to give back his money to the people," "Argumenty i fakty," No. 15, reported. "Give back the money to the people whom you robbed, and you will be pardoned," Shandybin said. "I will personally speak to Prosecutor-General [Vladimir] Ustinov and [Interior Minister] Boris Gryzlov," Shandybin said. Berezovskii only laughed in response. Later, however, both attended a gala forum reception at which 500 liters of champagne and 100 liters of cognac were reportedly consumed. VY

ANTI-U.S. DECLARATION REIGNITES RIVALRY AMONG RUSSIAN MUSLIM LEADERS...
The Council of Muftis on 14 April condemned Telget Tajetdin, the supreme mufti of Russia and the European countries of the CIS, for his 3 April declaration of a jihad against the United States, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 April 2003). The council decided that Tajetdin's "emotional declaration in the name of all Muslims in Russia...cannot be considered a private mistake," according to Interfax. The council also stated that Tajetdin's declaration caused great damage to the authority of Russian Muslims and that he has no right to lead an Islamic organization. Ravil Gainutdin, who heads the Council of Muftis, is a long-time rival of Tajetdin's. Commenting on the council's declaration, Muhammad Gali Khuzin, mufti for Perm Oblast, said, "According to our charter, only a congress of Muslims of the Central Spiritual Directorate of Russia can make a decision about stopping the activities of Telget Tajetdin," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 April. According to the daily, Tajetdin's organization is the largest and most influential Islamic organization in Russia, with 49 regional spiritual administrations compared to only 15 belonging to Gainutdin's group. JAC

...AS MORE ANTI-OCCUPATION, ANTIWAR DEMONSTRATIONS HELD
Meanwhile, a Muslim charitable organization called Ikhlas in Udmurtia organized a demonstration on 12 April against the "occupation" of Iraq by the United States and its coalition partners, islam.ru reported on 14 April. The report did not specify how many people participated in the action. Another demonstration of an unspecified size against the war in Iraq was held on 10 April in downtown Astrakhan, islam.ru reported. According to the imam of a local mosque, many young people attended the meeting. Officials from the Iranian consulate in the city were also invited. JAC

LOCAL-GOVERNMENT REFORMER PROMISES NO BIG INCREASES IN BUREAUCRACY
Deputy head of the presidential administration Dmtrii Kozak told reporters in Moscow on 14 April that the number of local legislatures in the federation will increase by a factor of 2.5 if draft legislation reforming local government is adopted, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2003). However, Kozak said that neither the total number of state officials nor the burden on taxpayers would increase. Speaking at the same press conference, Aleksandr Shirokov, director of the municipal economics department at the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, explained that with the adoption of the legislation, which the State Duma is currently considering, 20,000 new village and municipal entities would be created, and each of these would need its own budget, RIA-Novosti reported. According to Shirokov, the legislation stipulates that there would be three types of municipal formations -- city and rural settlements, municipal districts, and city areas. JAC

UNITY GETS A NEW LEGISLATOR...
The Central Election Commission on 14 April confirmed Aleksandr Tkachev from Kursk Oblast as a new State Duma deputy in the Unity faction, "Vremya-MN" reported the next day. Tkachev is taking the place of Elvira Yermakova, who left the Duma to become a member of the election commission. Under election law, when a deputy who is elected under a party list gives up his or her seat before his term expires, then the next person on the party list is tapped for the seat. Tkachev is the former chairman of the Kursk Oblast committee for International Economic Activities and Information under former Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi, according to "Kommersant-Daily." JAC

...AND RUSHAILO GETS A NEW DEPUTY
Valentin Stepankov, formerly deputy presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District, has been named deputy secretary of the Security Council, "Izvestiya" and "Zavtra" reported on 14 April. Stepankov told "Izvestiya" that his new responsibilities will include working with the staffs of the presidential envoys. JAC

YABLOKO LEADERSHIP MAKES ROOM FOR NEW GENERATION
A new leader for Yabloko's St. Petersburg branch was elected on 12 April at the branch's annual congress, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 14 April. According to the daily, Maksim Reznik is under 30 years of age and was elected deputy chairman of the St. Petersburg branch in 2000. According to the daily, one of the main reasons for replacing the 44-year-old Mikhail Amosov was an effort to increase the representation in the party of the next generation. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported last week that party founder and State Duma Deputy Vladimir Lukin, 65, will not be included in the top three spots on the party list in the December State Duma elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2003). JAC

MORE AREAS AFFECTED BY FLOODING
Saratov, Kursk, and Orenburg oblasts have joined the list of regions affected by flooding, "Vremya-MN" reported on 15 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2003). So far, the situation is worst in Volgograd Oblast, where almost 3,000 homes have been evacuated and some 90,000 hectares of land is under water. According to an RFE/RL correspondent in Rostov Oblast, the quality of drinking water has been affected by the flooding, and the population has been warned to boil water before drinking it. JAC

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: NO COURT RULING WILL MAKE PRESIDENT 'LEGITIMATE'
Opposition leader Stepan Demirchian, who was defeated in the 5 March presidential election, vowed on 14 April to withhold any recognition of the election results, contending that the re-election of President Robert Kocharian was illegitimate, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The statement came the day before an expected ruling by the Armenian Constitutional Court on Demirchian's suit challenging the election. He added that "even assuming that my lawsuit is turned down, the current president will not become legitimate in the eyes of the people." Commenting on the 25 May parliamentary elections, Demirchian predicted that the recently formed opposition Artarutiun alliance will win a substantial number of seats. RG

ARMENIAN BUS DRIVERS PROTEST INCREASED FUEL PRICES
A number of drivers of minibuses, which have become well-established as convenient transportation in Yerevan and other cities, have protested a recent increase in gasoline prices, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 14 April. The more than 30 percent price rise was introduced by the government last week and stems from a decision to double the sales tax in order to raise $600,000 in revenue for the tight state budget. The more than 3,000 minibus drivers are particularly vulnerable to the price rise, as more than half of them pay monthly rental payments to state officials whose agencies control their routes and own their vehicles. Many drivers have also accused the government of waiting until after the president's re-election before implementing the increase, which was adopted last year. RG

ARMENIAN LAW ENFORCEMENT WELCOMES NEW U.S. ASSISTANCE
Armenian Prosecutor-General Aram Tamazian and acting U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Vivian Walker formally signed an agreement in Yerevan on 15 April under which the United States will provide about $730,000 in technical assistance and training for Armenian law-enforcement personnel, according to Azg and Armenpress, as cited by Groong. The assistance will include computer training and classroom projects, domestic-violence seminars, and firearms-safety training. A special project will also focus on new measures to combat trafficking in women and children. RG

ARMENIAN ECONOMY CONTINUES TO EXPAND, ALTHOUGH TRADE GAP WIDENS
According to figures released on 14 April by the National Statistics Agency, Armenia's gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 7.5 percent in the first two months of the year, Interfax reported. Over the same period last year, Armenian industrial production also rose by nearly 8 percent, although the country's $83 million foreign-trade deficit expanded by more than 49 percent. RG

COUNCIL OF EUROPE OFFICIAL MEETS WITH AZERBAIJANI LEADERS
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) official Terry Davis arrived in Baku on 14 April for meetings with a delegation of Azerbaijani parliamentarians and other senior leaders, ANS reported. Davis also met with Azerbaijani State Oil Company (SOCAR) head Ilham Aliev to discuss the status of international mediation efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijan has been at odds with the Council of Europe in recent months over that body's criticism of the Azerbaijani government's draft election law and over what Baku alleges is a pro-Armenian bias in the council's approach to the conflict. RG

AZERBAIJAN SEEKS IMPROVED RELATIONS WITH IRAN...
Meeting in Tehran with senior Iranian officials on 13 April, Azerbaijani Interior Minister Ramil Usubov negotiated a new bilateral agreement to combat drug smuggling, improve border security, and coordinate control over arms proliferation, according to "The Tehran Times" and IRNA. Despite a heated dispute over the division of the Caspian Sea, Iran and Azerbaijan have improved relations in recent months, with new agreements for Iranian financing of several transportation projects and a $40 million Iranian credit package for a natural-gas project in Azerbaijan. RG

...WHILE ALSO FORGING TIES WITH GREECE
In Baku, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos met with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev on 14 April in the latest attempt to further the international development of Azerbaijan's oil and natural-gas reserves in the Caspian Sea, AFP reported. The meeting comes as Greece holds the rotating EU Presidency and included a review of ongoing and planned EU aid packages for Azerbaijan. The state-owned Greek DEPA energy firm is also actively negotiating for a share in planned gas exports from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz offshore reserve. RG

NEW GEORGIAN STATE COMMISSION TO STUDY POSSIBLE FEDERAL REFORMS
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze is to head a new state commission empowered to examine several options for altering the country's territorial administration, "The Georgian Times" reported on 14 April. The move is related to the president's suggestion that the introduction of federal reforms might be the best avenue toward securing stability and conflict resolution in Georgia. RG

GEORGIAN TROOPS EXPAND SECURITY ALONG BORDERS WITH INGUSHETIA, CHECHNYA
In a joint operation launched by Georgian border guards and the Defense Ministry, troops expanded security checkpoints along the northern border with Ingushetia and Chechnya on 14 April, "The Georgian Times" reported. The expanded security operation seeks to prepare for the threat of a possible influx of gunmen and Chechen rebel units into the area once snow melts in the mountain passes. RG

TAJIK ILLEGAL MIGRANTS DETAINED IN KAZAKHSTAN
Another group of Tajik migrants without identification documents has been detained in South Kazakhstan Oblast, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 14 April, quoting a press release from the Kazakh Border Service. The press release stated that the group of 67 people was found in the village of Unibay-Ata. The detainees were quoted as saying they had handed over their passports to elder members of the group, who then disappeared. This is not the first such case of groups of undocumented migrants from Tajikistan to have come to light in South Kazakhstan Oblast this year. Spring is the season when Tajik labor migrants set out for Russia in search of work. It remains unclear whether the groups of Tajiks who turn up in southern Kazakhstan have been abandoned there by unscrupulous smugglers or whether they hope to find agricultural work in Kazakhstan. BB

KAZAKHSTAN, RUSSIA WANT KYRGYZ WATER IN RETURN FOR INVESTMENT
The governments of Russia and Kazakhstan have offered to guarantee private investments in the construction of two hydroelectric plants in Kyrgyzstan if they receive in return control over part of the water collected by the associated dams. But an akipress.org report published by centrasia.ru on 15 April quotes the chairman of a Kyrgyz state committee on the fuel and energy complex, Tairbek Sarpashev, as saying this proposal runs counter to Kyrgyzstan's national interests. Sarpashev speculated that the Russian and Kazakh proposals might be politically motivated, adding that Kyrgyzstan will finance the construction of one of the plants, Kambar-Ata-1, itself. The project is to launched by President Askar Akaev on 16 April. Another akipress.org item on the same day reported that Kazakh Agriculture Ministry Water Resources Committee Chairman Anatolii Ryabtsev announced in Almaty on 11 April that in return for its participation in the construction of the two Kyrgyz power stations -- Kambar-Ata-1 and Kambar-Ata-2 -- Kazakhstan wanted shares in the existing Toktogul plant and the right to sit on its board of governors. According to Ryabtsev, this would give Kazakhstan a voice in the distribution of water from the Toktogul Reservoir and ensure a stable supply of Syr-Darya water for the southern part of the country. BB

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PARTY OFFICIAL QUESTIONS RUSSIAN BASE
Emil Aliev, a leader of the opposition Ar-Namys Party, stated on 15 April that the creation of a Russian air base in Kyrgyzstan is motivated by political rather than military considerations, akipress.org reported. Russian military officials involved in the establishment of the air base near the town of Kant have asserted that the base will help maintain stability in Central Asia. Aliev pointed out that the older types of aircraft the Russian military proposes to station at Kant have just proven in Iraq that they cannot compete with U.S. weaponry. He also noted that the U.S. commanders at the Kyrgyz air base being used by the international antiterrorism coalition to support its activities in Afghanistan have stated that it is U.S. policy to counter any manifestation of international terrorism wherever it occurs. If there is a concrete threat that would affect Kyrgyzstan, they would consult with the Kyrgyz government about dealing with it. Asked about Ar-Namys support for U.S. actions in Iraq, Aliev denied that it was motivated by a desire to gain support for the party abroad. BB

RESULTS OF INVESTIGATION INTO KYRGYZ BUS SLAYINGS ANNOUNCED
The Kyrgyz government commission created to investigate the deaths of 21 bus passengers on the highway to China in late March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March 2003) announced its findings on 14 April, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Deputy Prime Minister Kubanychbek Jumaliev told journalists that 18 of the victims were determined to be Chinese citizens, mostly ethnic Uighurs, traveling to Kashgar on business. Their identities were established with the assistance of Chinese DNA experts, a police official told Interfax the same day. Three were citizens of Kyrgyzstan from Djalalabad Oblast. The investigators have determined that the victims had all been shot with a single Kalashnikov rifle and were dead before the bus was set on fire, according to the police official. The official conclusion is that the attack was a case of robbery and had no political motivation. BB

HIZB UT-TAHRIR PRINTING HOUSE FOUND IN TAJIKISTAN
A clandestine print shop set up by the Muslim extremist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir has been discovered by the authorities in Tajikistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 April. Citing an unidentified government source, ITAR-TASS reported that the print shop was turning out leaflets and other materials for the movement, which is banned in Tajikistan. During the raid, the authorities reportedly seized some 500 copies of Hizb ut-Tahrir literature, as well as copying and printing equipment. Two alleged members of the movement were arrested. According to the report, this is the third Hizb ut-Tahrir printing shop to be discovered and closed down in Tajikistan this year. BB

UZBEK AUTO PRICES REDUCED
Prices of the highly popular UzDaewoo cars produced in Andijan are being reduced by 10 percent for the domestic market, uzreport.com reported on 14 April, quoting the automaker. Prices of cars for export were reduced by the same amount in February. The firm explained the reductions by saying that the cost of parts imported from South Korea had declined. UzDaewoo has signed a three-year contract with General Motors Daewoo Auto and Technology, which has taken over the failed South Korean automaker. Despite the problems of its parent firm, Uzbekistan continues to produce and export cars under the Daewoo trademark. The report noted that this is the first significant price reduction for UzDaewoo cars since 1998. Last year, sales declined to 20,000 cars from the 23,000 sold in 2001. The factory produced 34,700 cars in 2002, down 15.3 percent from its 2001 output. Its capacity is 200,000 cars per year. Reportedly the Uzbek-made cars are popular in Russia. BB

EU FOREIGN MINISTERS FORMALLY APPROVE EASTWARD EXPANSION
EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on 14 April formally approved the Treaty of Accession that is to be signed by acceding countries on 16 April in Athens, AFP reported. Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia are expected to become full-fledged members of the EU in May 2004. MS

U.S., EU LIFT TRAVEL BANS ON BELARUSIAN OFFICIALS
The United States and 14 EU member states decided on 14 April to lift the visa bans on Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and seven other senior officials that were imposed in November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 27 November 2002), international news agencies reported. "The United States has taken this step in response to Belarus's cooperation in establishing the OSCE Office in Minsk and allowing this office to carry out its mandate," U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said in a statement. The decision to lift the EU travel ban on Belarusian officials was announced at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg. Emma Edwin, spokeswoman for the EU foreign-affairs commissioner, told Belapan that the decision was prompted by "a positive assessment by the head of the OSCE Office in Minsk [Eberhard Heyken] that the office is now functioning effectively." JM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION ABANDONS CAMPAIGN TO OUST PRESIDENT
The leaders of Our Ukraine, the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc signed a joint memorandum on 14 April presenting their vision for political reform in the country, the "Ukrayinska pravda" website reported. The memorandum proposes that the president, the Verkhovna Rada, and local-government bodies work until the end of their current terms. The document also advocates preserving the country's unicameral parliamentary system, giving parliament the authority to approve prime ministers (nominated by the president) and all cabinet ministers (nominated by the premier), and giving the president the power to dissolve parliament if lawmakers fail to gather for a session within 30 days after elections or if they cannot form a cabinet within 60 days after the inaugural session. The memorandum -- signed by party leaders Viktor Yushchenko, Petro Symonenko. Oleksandr Moroz, and Yuliya Tymoshenko -- appears to be an opposition reaction to a purported attempt to extend President Leonid Kuchma's term via a bill on political reform submitted to the Verkhovna Rada last month (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 15 April 2003). JM

UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS MAY BE TAKEN TO COURT WITHOUT PARLIAMENTARY APPROVAL
The Ukrainian Constitutional Court ruled on 14 April that Verkhovna Rada deputies may be held accountable for administrative offenses without prior approval from parliament if the related pretrial or post-trial processes do not involve detention or arrest, Interfax reported. The decision effectively allows authorities to skirt guarantees of parliamentary immunity in such cases. Rulings by the Constitutional Court are binding on the entire territory of Ukraine and are not subject to appeal. JM

TWO ESTONIAN PARTIES ELECT PARLIAMENTARY FACTION LEADERS
The parliamentary factions of the Reform Party and Center Party elected new leaders on 14 April, BNS reported. This was necessary following the swearing in of the new government on 10 April. The former head of the Reform Party faction, Urmas Paet, who gave up his parliament seat to accept the post of culture minister, was replaced by former Prime Minister Siim Kallas. Rein Aidma and Peep Aru remain the faction's deputy chairmen. Former Interior Minister Toomas Varek, who has returned to parliament, was elected chairman of the Center Party faction. Arnold Kimber and Ain Seppik were elected as his deputies. Kallas, Varek, and seven other former ministers from the Center Party also took their oaths of office on 14 April. SG

LATVIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES EU ACCESSION TREATY
Latvia's cabinet on 14 April approved the wording of the EU Treaty of Accession, LETA and BNS reported. After the current EU members sign the treaty on 16 April at the EU summit in Athens, the Latvian parliament must approve it. President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Prime Minister Einars Repse, Foreign Minister Sandra Kalniete, and Latvia's chief negotiator for the European Union membership talks Andris Kesteris are expected to attend the summit to sign the treaty. The treaty is drawn up in the English and Latvian languages and will also be signed by two representatives from each EU member country. The document of some 5,800 pages includes the basic text of the Treaty of Accession along with 18 addendums, 10 protocols, and a number of declarations. The first addendum deals with Latvia's accession to the Schengen area; the second with technical matters regarding EU regulations; and the third outlines with the results of the accession negotiations and includes amendments to the EU legislation required by the EU enlargement. The other addendums concern the transition periods of candidate countries. The 10 protocols include matters that are not directly linked with EU regulations; for instance, a protocol on assistance to Lithuania for closing the Ignalina nuclear-power plant. SG

NATO GENERAL VISITS LITHUANIA
General Sir Jack Deverell, commander in chief of Allied Forces North Europe, began his visit to Vilnius on 14 April, BNS reported. The region currently includes 10 NATO countries -- Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Poland -- and Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia are scheduled to join. At a press conference after meetings with Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius and armed forces commander Major General Jonas Kronkaitis, Deverell said there are no plans to deploy any NATO units to Lithuania. He expressed satisfaction with Lithuania's decision to focus on training servicemen rather than purchasing military equipment. Deverell then visited the Gelezinis Vilkas (Iron Wolf) Motorized Infantry Brigade and met at the French Embassy with NATO countries' ambassadors to Lithuania. He then departed for Latvia and will also visit Estonia and Slovakia before returning home. SG

POLAND SEEKING ECONOMIC, POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT IN IRAQ
Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz told journalists on 14 April that Poland wants to be involved in the reconstruction of Iraq in a sociopolitical sense, not simply in an economic one, PAP reported. He said Poland's involvement will mean the participation of Polish firms in the reconstruction of the country and any eventual agreement on Iraqi debt. The following day, Cimoszewicz elaborated on Polish Radio that Poland would like to recover its credits in Iraq "not necessarily in cash but, if possible, by more permanent participation in the Iraqi economy, to the benefit of both countries." He also said Poland could organize university courses for several hundred Iraqis. Polish Radio reported on 14 April that the Polish Defense Ministry is consulting with Washington on the possible deployment of more Polish troops to the Persian Gulf to reinforce a stabilization force in Iraq. JM

CZECHS TO REDUCE SIZE OF NBC UNIT IN PERSIAN GULF
Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik told CTK on 14 April that the situation in the Persian Gulf has stabilized enough to allow Prague to withdraw some 250 soldiers from the joint Czech-Slovak anti-nuclear, -biological, and -chemical (NBC) unit deployed in Kuwait. After 25 May, only 150 Czech soldiers with their equipment will remain in Kuwait. According to dpa, the plan is aimed at securing the support of deputies from the senior ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD) who are opposed to the government's plan to deploy a field hospital in Iraq. The withdrawal of most of the NBC unit's members is being perceived as a quid pro quo in securing those members' support, dpa said. The vote on the field hospital's deployment is expected on 17 April. In related news, Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said on 14 April that the Czech Embassy in Baghdad might soon be reopened, adding that Prague plans to raise the level of its chief representative from charge d'affaires to ambassador after a new regime emerges in Iraq. MS

CZECH PRESIDENT INSISTS ON SIGNING EU ACCESSION TREATY
Avowed "Euro-realist" and Czech President Vaclav Klaus intervened unexpectedly on 13 April to request that he be among Czech signatories to the Treaty of Accession on 16 April, CTK reported. Premier Vladimir Spidla and Foreign Minister Svoboda had been expected to sign along with the country's chief EU negotiator and ambassador to Brussels, Pavel Telicka, who will instead defer to Klaus's wish. Telicka expressed disappointment but welcomed the signatures of the Czech Republic's most senior politicians on the document. A presidential spokesman said the power to sign international agreements belongs to the president under the constitution, adding that Klaus considers the EU Treaty of Accession an important document that he should sign personally. MS

CZECH PREMIER VOWS TO PROBE ALLEGED PARTY-FINANCE SCANDAL
Prime Minister Spidla on 14 April told journalists he intends to look into reports that the list of last year's donors to his CSSD party includes a number of fictitious donations, CTK reported. The daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported the same day that donors appearing on the list denied having contributed to the party and said they are not in a position to donate 50,000 crowns ($1,705), as the party appears to have reported. A "fictitious donors" scandal within Civic Democratic Party (ODS) led to senior defections in the ODS and eventually to the break-up of Vaclav Klaus's government in late 1997. MS

CZECH NUCLEAR PLANT'S SECOND REACTOR PERMITTED TO RUN AT FULL CAPACITY
The beleaguered Temelin nuclear-power plant on 14 April received approval to run its second reactor at its full, 1,000-megawatt capacity from the Czech state Office for Nuclear Safety, AP and dpa reported. The plant's first reactor has been running at full capacity since June, although it is currently undergoing maintenance. Plant spokesman Milan Nebesar said the 18-month test phase at the second unit -- required before the unit may come online commercially -- is to start on 19 April. The first unit should come online commercially at the end of 2003. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER IN LONDON
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said after talks in London with his Slovak counterpart Mikulas Dzurinda that he appreciates Dzurinda's courage and determination in supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, CTK and TASR reported. Blair also called on Slovaks to vote in favor of EU accession in their 16-17 May referendum and hinted that Britain might soon lift visa requirements for Slovaks. Dzurinda said Slovak and British views on the future of the EU are largely similar, with both countries agreeing that a balance should exist between the union's main institutions -- the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament, and the European Commission. Dzurinda said neither Britain nor Slovakia is in favor of setting up "a sort of European superstate," but that Slovakia is of the opinion that EU members must reach agreement on a joint foreign policy. Dzurinda also said he and Blair share the view that "Europe and America have to stay together," according to TASR. MS

SLOVAK PETITION DRIVE ON NATO REFERENDUM TO CONTINUE
Former Justice Minister Jan Carnogursky told journalists on 14 April that the drive to force a referendum on Slovak membership of NATO will continue even after President Rudolf Schuster signs the parliamentary ratification of membership into law on 15 April, TASR reported. Carnogursky, one of the chief organizers of the drive, said the effort will continue up to the ratification of the Protocols of Accession by all 19 current NATO members. He said some 190,000 signatures in favor of the referendum have been so far gathered, while 350,000 are needed to force a binding referendum. MS

SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER IN ISRAEL
Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan, on a two-day visit to Israel, met on 14 April with his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom to discuss bilateral relations, the situation in the Middle East, and Israeli-Palestinian relations, CTK and TASR reported. Kukan offered to host a meeting in Bratislava of Israeli and Palestinian nongovernmental organizations and academics to discuss new paths to mutual understanding and tolerance. He said Slovakia can share experience gained during its own transition to democracy. Kukan also met with opposition Labor Party leader Amram Mitzna and with other officials. MS

SLOVAK ROMANY FAMILY GRANTED ASYLUM IN BELGIUM
A Slovak Romany family that was brutally assaulted by skinheads in 2000 has been given asylum in Belgium, CTK reported on 14 April, citing the Budapest-based European Center for Romany Rights. Frantisek Balaz and his children requested asylum last year with the help of the Belgian League for Human Rights. The family was attacked by skinheads several times and, in the last attack in 2000, Balaz's wife suffered serious injuries while trying to protect her children from the assailants, who were armed with baseball bats. She died from cerebral hemorrhaging three days later. The assailants received sentences of between three and seven years in jail, after which the Balaz family continued to receive death threats before fleeing to Belgium. MS

SLOVAKIA REGISTERS NEW CASE OF MAD-COW DISEASE
The second case in Slovakia this year of BSE (mad-cow disease) was confirmed on 14 April in an animal from a farm near Ziar nad Hronom in central Slovakia, TASR reported. The total number of BSE cases detected in Slovakia since the disease began spreading in 2001 thus reached 13, more than in the Czech Republic (four) and Poland (five), but far below the number of cases registered in the United Kingdom (182,000) or other EU countries (3,900). MS

HUNGARY READY TO SEND EXPERTS TO IRAQ
Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said on Hungarian Television on 14 April that his country is prepared to dispatch experts in public administration to Iraq or train Iraqis in Hungary, the daily "Nepszava" reported. Kovacs also said a list of Hungarian companies that could take part in Iraqi reconstruction has been sent to U.S. officials. He added that all the companies on the list have previously worked in Iraq. "Nepszava" also reported that the last group of U.S. citizens in charge of training Iraqi volunteers has left the Taszar air base. MS

POLLSTERS IDENTIFY NON-VOTERS IN HUNGARIAN EU REFERENDUM
A survey carried out by pollster Sonda-Ipsos suggests that 40 percent of opposition FIDESZ supporters and 20 percent of the ruling Socialist Party's backers did not vote in the Hungarian referendum on EU membership on 12 April, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Turnout in the plebiscite was just 45.6 percent, and the survey concludes that voting was lowest among rural residents, young people, and those in the lowest income brackets. Eighty-four percent of those who voted backed membership (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2003). Also, Hungary will have the largest delegation at the EU Treaty of Accession signing ceremony in Athens on 16 April. The delegation is to include three former premiers (Peter Boross, Gyula Horn, and Viktor Orban) and a former president (Arpad Goncz), in addition to incumbent President Ferenc Madl and Premier Peter Medgyessy, along with Foreign Minister Kovacs. Medgyessy said the delegation was originally limited to five, but Luxembourg and Greece agreed to renounce one seat each in Hungary's favor, Hungarian media reported. MS

ORBAN OPENS FIDESZ TO HUNGARIAN SMALLHOLDERS
Former Premier Orban said on 14 April after a meeting with representatives of the Smallholders Civic Society that the door to his FIDESZ party has been opened to the Hungarian Smallholders Party, Hungarian media reported. Orban said that when and how the Smallholders join FIDESZ is a mere technicality, as FIDESZ is willing to accept the Smallholders individually or as a group. The daily "Magyar Hirlap" says FIDESZ, which is seeking to present itself as a broad-based "popular party," is prepared to allow dual-party membership, but that the statutes of neither the Smallholders, the parliamentary opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum, nor the Christian Democratic Party allow for dual membership. MS

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER SAYS OPPOSITION IS NOT A TARGET
Zoran Zivkovic told Bulgarian news agency BTA in Belgrade on 14 April that the government is not using the current state of emergency following the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic to settle scores with its political enemies, as some rivals have charged (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2003). Zivkovic added that no governing party is so foolish as to try to "destroy the opposition," since such a move could never succeed. He said the government hopes to build a highway connecting Nis with Sofia "in the near future" but added that the project "is not a priority" at present. PM

SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO CONCLUDES AGREEMENT WITH INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS
Serbia and Montenegro will use the Serbian dinar in calculating its transactions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Washington on 14 April. Agreements between the new state and the IMF will also note that the euro is Montenegro's official currency. The IMF is expected to open a $136 million line of credit to Serbia and Montenegro shortly. The World Bank plans to hold a donors' conference in September. PM

SERBIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES ANTICRIME PACKAGE
The Serbian parliament on 11 April approved six measures aimed at combating organized crime, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 2003). PM

REPUTED AIDE TO LEADING BOSNIAN WAR CRIMES SUSPECT ARRESTED IN SERBIA
The Serbian Interior Ministry said in a statement in Belgrade on 14 April that police arrested Momcilo Mandic the previous day as part of the ongoing crackdown on organized crime, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Mandic is reportedly a suspect in several unnamed criminal cases. A Bosnian citizen, he was a police official during the 1992-95 war and has served as the Republika Srpska's justice minister. He has since moved to Serbia, where he owns hotels and gas stations. The United States and Sarajevo's Office of the High Representative consider him one of the main figures involved in the financial operations of former Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. PM

BOSNIAN SERBS ANNOUNCE INTELLIGENCE-SERVICE REFORMS
Republika Srpska President Dragan Cavic announced in Banja Luka on 14 April what he described as a "thorough reform" of the Bosnian Serb intelligence service in response to a recent spying scandal, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 10 April 2003). PM

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT ASKS PRESIDENT TO EXPLAIN CONTROVERSIAL PARDON
A large majority of lawmakers of the Social Democratic-led (SDSM) governing coalition and two opposition parties on 14 April formally asked President Boris Trajkovski to explain his motives for and the circumstances behind the pardoning of former Interior Minister Dosta Dimovska in connection with a wiretapping scandal, "Dnevnik" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9, 10, and 14 April 2003). In their resolution, the legislators said the president's office has issued contradictory statements regarding the reasons for the pardon. The lawmakers claim the pardon was politically motivated and legally untenable. The resolution was not supported by the opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), to which Trajkovski and Dimovska belong, and the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH). Parliamentary speaker Nikola Popovski noted that Trajkovski is not obliged to act on the resolution. UB

ALBANIAN TROOPS HEAD FOR IRAQ...
At a ceremony in Tirana on 14 April, President Alfred Moisiu told a contingent of 70 Albanian troops departing for Iraq that they are "ambassadors of peace," Reuters reported. Albania is a staunch supporter of U.S. foreign policy and is one of the so-called Vilnius 10 signatories of a document supporting U.S. policy on Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 2003). Tirana freely acknowledges its gratitude to Washington for the U.S. role in the 1999 Kosova conflict. A contingent of Albanian commandos is serving in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 16 August and 22 November 2002). PM

...AS IRAQI AMBASSADOR IN BELGRADE REMAINS DEFIANT
Iraqi Ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro Sami Sadoun said in a statement from Belgrade on 15 April that his countrymen will "never accept occupation," dpa reported. "No form of occupation or cooperation with quasi governments is acceptable to the Iraqi people," he added. Sadoun appealed to the UN and other unnamed states and organizations to help end what he called the "military aggression" against Iraq. He also urged U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to "keep their promise" and allow the Iraqis to run their own country. Belgrade has a long history of close relations with Baghdad, including military links (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 29 November 2002). PM

CORRUPTION TRIAL OF FORMER CROATIAN PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER ADJOURNED
The Zagreb trial of Nevenka Tudjman, daughter of the late President Franjo Tudjman, adjourned soon after it opened on 15 April, dpa reported. Tudjman's lawyers objected to Judge Vladimir Pavlekovic hearing the case, and their objections must now be heard by the Supreme Court before the trial may continue. She is charged with "abusing her position in society" to land a contract for an associate to supply Alcatel switchboards to the Science Ministry in a deal that reportedly netted Tudjman and her associate about $250,000. Rumors have long abounded in Croatia that several members of the Tudjman family have been involved in corrupt practices, something the family has always denied. PM

U.S. TO HELP ROMANIA RECOUP IRAQI DEBT
Finance Minister Mihai Tanasescu told Romanian Radio after talks at the U.S. Treasury Department and the State Department on 14 April that the United States is prepared to help Romania recoup the $1.7 billion it is owed by Iraq. Tanasescu also said the United States will back Romanian companies' participation in the reconstruction of Iraq. MS

LUXEMBOURG PREMIER ADDRESSES ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT
Visiting Luxembourg Premier Jan-Claude Juncker addressed the Romanian parliament on 15 April in a speech broadcast on Romanian Radio in which he expressed his positive outlook for Romania's EU-accession chances. He said he hopes the negotiations on Romania joining the EU will be closed by the end of 2004 and that the treaty on Romania's accession to the organization will be signed in the first half of 2005, under the Luxembourg EU Presidency, to pave the way for full-fledged Romanian membership in January 2007. Juncker said that without Romania, European unity cannot be considered complete. He expressed his gratitude to and admiration for the many Romanians who are ready to put up with the current economic and social difficulties in order to see their aspiration of joining the EU fulfilled. Juncker also rejected any division into "old" and "new" Europeans, adding that the debate in Europe is between those who wish to see the continent peacefully unified and those who fear Europeans will repeat the mistakes of the past. He also said the search for a joint European identity must not lead to trans-Atlantic tension and a rupture in European-U.S. solidarity. MS

CLUJ MAYOR FINED FOR REFUSING TO REMOVE ANTONESCU-STATUE BLUEPRINTS
A Cluj tribunal on 14 April fined Cluj Mayor and Greater Romania Party Secretary-General Gheorghe Funar 1 million lei ($30.18) for refusing to remove from the City Hall several blueprints of statues intended to be erected in Cluj in memory of wartime leader and Hitler ally Marshal Ion Antonescu, Mediafax reported. The court ruled that in so doing, the mayor violated the provisions of last year's emergency governmental ordinance No. 31 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March 2002). Funar said he will not appeal the sentence and that he is "honored" to receive a fine because of Antonescu. MS

MOLDOVA GETS 'FRIENDLY SIGNAL' FROM EU
EU foreign ministers, meeting in Luxembourg on 14 April to discuss the organization's relations with its future neighbors after enlargement, agreed there is a need to cast the EU's "area of peace, prosperity, and security" as far beyond its borders as possible, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Although no general agreement was reached on what might be offered to the EU's new neighbors, EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said, "It is natural that the question of EU membership is always a topic whenever our ties with Moldova and Ukraine are discussed, and it is true that the door cannot remain closed in the long term." This seems to be a reversal of the position expressed by European Commission President Romano Prodi, who has repeatedly ruled out membership of those countries in the foreseeable future. Verheugen cautioned both Moldova and Ukraine, however, that "greater clarity" needs to be achieved in the short term on how the EU can "credibly and consistently" improve its relations with those countries. EU Foreign Policy Coordinator Javier Solana said the EU should involve itself more in attempts to solve the Transdniester crisis. MS

FORMER MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTY DETAINED AS SUSPECT IN KIDNAPPING CASE
Former Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) parliamentary deputy Petr Sosev was detained on 11 April under suspicion of involvement in the 2 August kidnapping of Piotr Dimitrov, deputy director of the government's Information and Technologies Department, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2002). Sosev, who has survived several attempts on his own life, has been charged with murder, according to Infotag. He is being investigated together with two alleged accomplices. Sosev is a former police officer and, according to Flux, has close ties to PCM deputy parliamentary speaker Vadim Mishin as well as to controversial Canada-based Moldovan businessman Boris Birstein and organized-crime groups. Flux cited PCM sources requesting anonymity as saying Sosev's detention might be connected with the rivalry in the PCM between President Vladimir Voronin and Mishin. Voronin opposed Sosev's inclusion on the PCM lists. MS

RUSSIA CONTINUES TO EVACUATE ARSENAL IN TRANSDNIESTER
A spokesman for the Operative Group of Russian Troops in Transdniester on 14 April told Infotag that the evacuation of the Russian arsenal and ammunition from the separatist region is proceeding on schedule. On 12 April, a 32-car trainload carrying military equipment left the region and preparations are under way for the departure of a train transporting ammunition from the Kolbasna arms depots that would be the third trainload of ammunition departing from the region. The spokesman said the group has evacuated more than 10 trains carrying military equipment and ammunition this year. MS

CHISINAU MUNICIPAL RADIO DIRECTOR QUESTIONED BY POLICE
Ion Bunduchi, director of the Chisinau municipal Antena C radio, was questioned by police on 14 April, RFE/RL's bureau in the Moldovan capital reported. Bunduchi was summoned to the municipal police in connection with broadcasts of the station's "Hyde Park" program, in which listeners phone in and often criticize the authorities. Authorities reportedly are considering charging Bunduchi with disseminating slanderous information. MS

BULGARIAN TOP BRASS SAYS NBC UNIT COULD BE DEPLOYED TO IRAQ
Chief of General Staff General Nikola Kolev said on 14 April that due to the changed situation in Iraq, the original plans to deploy an anti-nuclear, -biological, and -chemical (NBC) unit to the Persian Gulf region have become obsolete, BTA reported. Kolev said he expects parliament to decide on the deployment of NBC units directly to Iraq to participate in "rescue and humanitarian activities in the event of use or reasonable suspicion of use of weapons of mass destruction against the civilian population or the coalition units, as well as for rendering safe of any such weapons or for elimination of accidental contamination." Government spokesman Dimitar Tsonev said on 14 April that the cabinet is preparing a draft revision of the deployment plans that would be submitted for parliamentary approval by the beginning of next week. UB

BULGARIAN, ROMANIAN PRESIDENTS ASSESS ECONOMIC ISSUES...
At a joint press conference with his visiting Romanian counterpart Ion Iliescu, President Georgi Parvanov said on 14 April that their talks focused on infrastructure projects and economic problems, BTA reported. In order to boost the economy, according to Parvanov, it is necessary to improve the infrastructure connecting the two countries by replacing the congested Danube River Vidin-Calafat ferry connection with a bridge, and by introducing additional ferry services traversing the Danube. At present, road traffic from East-Central Europe via Romania and Bulgaria to Greece and Turkey is impeded by bottlenecks at Vidin-Calafat and because there is currently only one bridge connecting Romania and Bulgaria across the Danube River, between Giurgiu and Ruse. UB

...AND NATO AND EU ACCESSION
Iliescu and Parvanov also discussed their countries' progress on the path to NATO and EU accession, BTA reported on 14 April. Alluding to earlier proposals that Bulgaria and Romania should seek EU membership as a "package" and to recent criticism by French President Jacques Chirac regarding the two countries' support for the U.S.-led coalition against the Iraqi regime, Parvanov said each country seeking EU membership should be judged by its own achievements, regardless of its position on any global issue. Iliescu replied, "We are not on a race course along our road to the EU and NATO. We must work together, side by side." UB

HOW WILL IRAQI ATROCITIES BE PROSECUTED?
The U.S. has made it clear it does not intend to turn over to an international tribunal those Iraqis -- including deposed President Saddam Hussein -- suspected of committing atrocities. Pierre-Richard Prosper, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for war-crimes issues, said last week that an "Iraqi-led process," not a UN-led tribunal, would prosecute war crimes. He said Washington would help with "technical, logistical, human, and financial assistance."

The United States offers two arguments in favor of such Iraqi-led trials: Iraqis, who have endured Saddam's worst crimes, would get their own chance to the hold the regime to account, and such trials would also help to establish a functioning legal system in Iraq.

Moreover, significant UN involvement would probably be unacceptable to the United States and to Iraqi opposition leaders, who accuse the international community of having neglected their cause. But the decision to favor a local process has generated controversy.

Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said his organization does not favor turning the judicial process over to an Iraqi government that is handpicked by the United States. He points to several potential problems and says he favors a UN-led tribunal like the one set up in The Hague to prosecute Yugoslav war crimes or a mixed court featuring local and international elements.

"[The tribunal] could look like the tribunal for Yugoslavia, in other words a stand-alone international tribunal set-up by the United Nations. Or it could be a so-called 'mixed' tribunal like the court that is trying war crimes now in the African country of Sierra Leone, in other words a tribunal that has some international judges and some Iraqi judges. That would be a way of getting the Iraqi people some ownership of the process, while maintaining the international character of the court," Malinowski said.

Among the difficulties, Malinowski said he believes it would be difficult for a new Iraqi government to find enough qualified jurists and prosecutors. He said the Iraqi judiciary system has been "compromised" by years of totalitarian rule.

Moreover, he said Iraq's ethnic and religious composition would complicate the work of local tribunals. Human Rights Watch says a judicial panel composed of victims of the Ba'ath regime, such as Kurds or Shi'ites for example, could not be considered impartial.

Malinowski also said the Iraqi exile community should not be expected to shoulder the burden of handling a high volume of politically charged prosecutions. Nor would it be seen necessarily as legitimate by the people of Iraq. "The Iraqi exile community, while it contains many, many good and decent people, has not yet established any kind of democratic legitimacy inside of Iraqi," he said. "It's very important that whatever court tries Saddam Hussein and his government be fully legitimate and credible."

These arguments are refuted by Charles Forest, the head of Indict, a London-based organization working to collect evidence to help Iraqi prosecutors. The campaign received a financial grant through the Iraq Liberation Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1998.

Forest said he believes Human Rights Watch is being "unrealistic" in pushing for an international tribunal. He said such tribunals traditionally are expensive and slow, and take time to get organized. "I think that it's very important that this be done relatively quickly and that it focuses on providing the Iraqi people with justice but also providing them with a basis for the development of the rule of law in Iraq. And if we have a tribunal set up in some other country, with foreign judges, it's really not going to address these needs of Iraq and the Iraqi people," Forest said.

Forest said he disagrees with Malinowski that there are not enough impartial judges and prosecutors in Iraq. He said he believes there are many possible choices for judges to serve on these courts. "But there are judges and lawyers inside Iraq who are out of the system. They have been barred [from] holding office because they don't support the regime. There are also judges and lawyers in the Kurdish region in the north, which have been relatively independent for the past 12 years. And then we may look for people who aren't necessarily judges and lawyers, you know, lay judges, distinguish people who can sit on these courts," he said.

Forest said foreign assistance and monitoring could help ensure that the trials are fair and impartial. "These tribunals will be watched very closely by experts and others from outside," he said. "I think it'll be very important that the United States and the international community provide the court with technical assistance and ensure that defense and prosecution council are up to international standards. It's not going to be easy but I think it ultimately will be much more effective than setting up another international court."

The list of crimes that such courts, whether they are local or international, is long, and include war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

Bakhtiar Amin is an Iraqi exile leader and the executive director of the International Alliance for Justice. His group has been trying for years without success to convince the international community to establish an ad hoc tribunal Iraq. He said ultimately it's not important whether the tribunal is led locally or internationally, saying that any type of justice is good to have.

"Whether it would be an ad hoc-based tribunal for these people, or a purely Iraqi, or a mixture, I don't know. We have worked for an ad hoc tribunal since the [19]80s up to now. The international community didn't support us. The [UN] Security Council was very divided on Iraq," Amin said.

Antoine Blua is a Prague-based RFE/RL correspondent.

PENTAGON REPORTS MILITARY OPERATIONS IN IRAQ WINDING DOWN
Major General Stanley McChrystal, vice director for operations on the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, indicated to reporters at a 14 April Pentagon briefing that military operations in Iraq are winding down. "Our air sorties have decreased over the last few days to about 700-800 sorties over Iraq per day," McChrystal said. "In fact, [14 April] was the last day that aircraft from all five carrier battle groups will fly missions into Iraq." He indicated that some carrier groups will begin withdrawing from the region in the coming days. McChrystal cautioned, however, that military operations are far from over. "I think that as major combat operations wind down, we'll still conduct minor combat operations, to include some sharp fights in areas, and then adjust our operations in each area. I'm not sure it will be so close that all of a sudden we proclaim we are moving from one kind of operation to the next," he said. KR

IRAQI OPPOSITION MEETING IN IRAQ...
The first U.S.-sponsored meeting of Iraqi opposition leaders since the U.S.-led coalition deposed Saddam Hussein's regime got under way on 15 April in the southern Iraqi town of Al-Nasiriyah, international media reported. Jim Wilkinson, a spokesman at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), described the meeting as a first step in facilitating a new Iraqi government. "It's critical that the world understand that this is only the fledgling first meeting of what will hopefully be a much larger series of meetings across Iraq," Wilkinson said, according to AP. Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) reportedly will not attend, but will send a representative in his place. Approximately 60 Iraqis were expected to attend the meeting, which will be led by retired U.S. General Jay Garner, who has been selected to head an Iraqi interim administration. Some opposition groups have already refused to participate in the meeting (see next item) and instead have called for the establishment of an interim government to be decided and formed by Iraqis -- outside the "influence" of the U.S. government. KR/BS

...DESPITE INFLUENTIAL SHI'A GROUP'S BOYCOTT
The influential Shi'a Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq's (SCIRI) jihad bureau chief, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, said on 14 April that SCIRI will boycott the meeting in Al-Nasiriyah, Reuters reported. "We are not going to attend the Al-Nasiriyah meeting because it is not to the benefit of the Iraqi nation," he told a news conference. "We don't accept a U.S. umbrella or anybody else's." SCIRI spokesman Muhsin al-Hakim told Reuters that SCIRI believes the framework decided on at a December opposition meeting in London should remain in place, rather than starting anew. Under that December arrangement, a council of 65 members was chosen to coordinate future Iraqi opposition activities, and SCIRI named appointees to the 33 percent of the council seats that were reserved for Shi'a Islamists. BS

IRAQI POLICE WORKING TO RESTORE ORDER
Brigadier General Ghazi Khadir Diyab, deputy director of the Baghdad police force, told Al-Jazeera on 14 April that his forces have begun joint patrols with U.S. Marines in the Iraqi capital. Diyab said citizens have welcomed the patrols, and he said checkpoints have been established near some hospitals and banks to prevent looting. Diyab added that, in an apparent effort to distance himself from the former Iraqi regime, he submitted his resignation from the military on 14 April. U.S. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks told reporters at a 14 April CENTCOM briefing that around 200 police volunteers are conducting joint patrols with coalition forces in Al-Basrah. Brooks added that tribal leaders are establishing "coalitions of multiple tribes" that serve as the "foundation for local governance in cities in the north and west," citing Karbala as an example. "Town leaders have established a local police force with, again, over 200 volunteers [and] provided them with uniforms," Brooks said. KR

TURKEY CLOSES KIRKUK-YUMURTALIK PIPELINE
Turkey has reportedly closed the pipeline that connects Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, to the Turkish port city of Yumurtalik, Istanbul's NTV reported on 14 April. Tankers have been unable to approach the Ceyhan port to load oil due to the presence of U.S. warships in the area, leaving Turkey with nearly 2 million tons of unsold oil, NTV reported. Ankara has reportedly requested U.S. and UN assistance in resolving the matter. KR

KURDISH GROUP CALLS FOR PROSECUTION OF WAR CRIMES IN IRAQ
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has called for the prosecution as war criminals of former leaders of the deposed Hussein regime, IRNA reported on 14 April. In a statement issued on the 15th anniversary of the Anfal campaign by Ba'ath Party forces, which led to the "disappearance" of over 182,000 Kurds between February and September of 1988, the PUK called on the next Iraqi government to investigate and prosecute those responsible. KR

KURDS AND TURKOMANS CLASH IN KIRKUK
The Istanbul-based daily "Milliyet" reported on 14 April that several clashes have erupted between Turkomans and Kurdish forces in the northern Iraqi town of Kirkuk. "Milliyet" reported that the clashes erupted when a street demonstration turned violent, leading to an unidentified "armed group" firing on members of the Iraqi Turkoman Front. A 13-year-old Turkoman child was killed. In what appeared to be a reprisal attack, four PUK troops were attacked and sustained injuries. Meanwhile, MENA news agency reported on 14 April that Kurdish forces have begun withdrawing from Kirkuk following the appointment of a municipal governor, Rashid Ali, who was reportedly appointed by PUK head Jalal Talabani. KR

IRAQI INTELLECTUALS ISSUE 'NATIONAL CHARTER DRAFT' IN JORDAN
A group of Iraqi intellectuals have met and issued a "national charter draft" in Amman, London's "Al-Zaman" reported on 14 April. The draft called for the adoption of a national reconciliation plan that supports "the spirit of tolerance and civil peace" in Iraq and stresses that the future Iraqi state should be based on democracy and "unrestricted participation by individuals and groups...without monopolization and exclusion." The draft calls for the launch of a national dialogue and rejects "any attempt by a group or party to monopolize the drawing up of the draft constitution." In addition, it calls for the establishment of a free press in Iraq and the freedom to assemble and demonstrate. KR

RUSSIA REFUSES TO SHUT DOWN IRAQ EMBASSY
Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko announced on 13 April that Russia will not comply with U.S. requests to close down the Iraqi Embassy in Moscow and to expel Iraqi Ambassador to Russia Abbas Khalaf, RTR and other Russian media reported. Russia has had diplomatic relations with Iraq since the 1940s despite a number of regime changes there. Yakovenko said the Iraqi people themselves will decide on the composition of the country's diplomatic representation in Moscow. He added that Moscow does not consider the 6 April incident in which the motorcade of the Russian ambassador to Iraq was caught in crossfire outside Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7, 8, and 9 April 2003) fully resolved yet. Moscow will seek compensation for material losses and damages in accordance with international law, Yakovenko said. VY

FORMER RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER URGED HUSSEIN TO ACCEPT EXILE
Yevgenii Primakov, former prime minister and former chief of Russian Foreign Intelligence (SVR), told RTR on 11 April that during his mysterious mission to Baghdad on 22 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 February 2003) he urged Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq "if he loves his country and wants to avoid unnecessary bloodshed." Primakov said that just before his trip he was summoned to the Kremlin, where President Vladimir Putin asked him to fly to Iraq immediately to speak to Hussein. Primakov made the suggestion during a one-on-one meeting with Hussein, who then summoned two close associates and asked Primakov to repeat the message. Hussein then reminded Primakov that he had made promises in 1991 that never materialized, and then he slapped Primakov on the back and walked out of the meeting, Primakov said. VY

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT CHASTISES MILITARY FOR POOR INTELLIGENCE ON IRAQ CAMPAIGN
Putin has expressed his displeasure over Russian defense officials' faulty forecasting regarding the U.S.-led military operation in Iraq, "Argumenty i fakty," No. 15, reported. Putin reportedly was dismayed that military officials predicted the campaign would take three to six months and that the Iraqi military would resist vigorously. The weekly published a prognosis issued by an unidentified military intelligence officer before coalition forces captured Baghdad in which he wrote that coalition losses in taking the city would amount to about 5,000 killed, while as many as half a million Iraqis could lose their lives in the operation. VY

ROME WANTS TO SEND TROOPS TO IRAQ
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told the Italian Senate on 15 April that Rome is ready to send between 2,500 and 3,000 troops to Iraq, the Internet version of Rome's "La Repubblica" daily reported. Frattini said this delegation would include "military rail engineers, units specialized in chemical and bacteriological decontamination and in clearing explosive devices, as well as units from the navy and Carabinieri police." Frattini said the Italian action is intended to provide short-term medical assistance and also to prevent epidemics and malnutrition in postwar Iraq. BS

SCIRI CALLS FOR COMMITMENT TO IRANIAN GUIDELINES
SCIRI leader Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim on 14 April condemned the violence and unrest in the holy city of Najaf and said, "We believe the responsibility for these incidents lies with the forces that have invaded Iraq," ISNA reported. He therefore urged people to stay committed to the decrees and demands of the clergy and the Shi'a sources of emulation, "such as the important statements made by Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei," an apparent reference to the supreme leader's 13 April message to the Iraqi people in which he called on them to "maintain law and order" and said they "should bring an end to disorder, aggression, acts of murder and the plundering of public and private properties." This also could be a reference to Khamenei's 11 April sermon in which he accused the United States and the United Kingdom of having colonial ambitions for Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2003). Al-Hakim also urged people to resist threats against the prominent clerics in Najaf. BS

ANOTHER DEMONSTRATION AT BRITISH EMBASSY IN TEHRAN
An unspecified number of Iranian laborers gathered in front of the British Embassy in Tehran to protest what the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) referred to as "the continued occupation of Iraq." The workers, according to ILNA, "defended the innocent Iraqi nation by chanting 'Death to America' and 'Death to Israel.'" The rally ended after the reading of a resolution condemning British and U.S. aggression. BS

IRAN HELPS IRAQI DISPLACED PERSONS
Some 17 trucks carrying 5,500 cans of fresh water -- 120,000 liters -- were expected to leave Ahvaz for southern Iraq on 15 April, IRNA reported. UNICEF official Kari Egge said the water is to be distributed in the Faw Peninsula because no UN relief has reached that area, and she added that, as security conditions improve, medicine, high-protein biscuits, and more water will be sent to Iraq. Sadeq Lotfi, the governor-general of Mehran in Iran's western Ilam Province, said on 14 April that some 12 tanks of drinking water and three tanks of ice are being sent to residents of the Iraqi city of Al-Basrah every day, IRNA reported. Lotfi added that many Al-Basrah residents have taken shelter in camps in Iraqi territory that were built by Iran before Operation Iraqi Freedom began. Lotfi added that extension of assistance to the internally displaced persons reflects Iranian policy of preventing them from entering Iranian territory. Iranian Interior Ministry official Farhad Barikani said on 11 April that about 100,000 Iraqis have gathered near the Mehran area, ITAR-TASS reported. BS

SURVEY: MOST TEHRAN RESIDENTS DISTRUST U.S. GOVERNMENT
According to a poll conducted by the Iranian Students Opinion Polls Center, 83 percent of Tehran citizens distrust the U.S. government, IRNA reported on 14 April. Eighty-five percent of those polled think of the United States as an "invading and colonial country." If the poll results are credible, the survey contradicts the results of surveys done last year that found that two-thirds of citizens in Tehran favored talks with the United States. Those who conducted last year's poll were sentenced to several years in prison for "spying" (see below). The latest poll would appear related to recent suggestions by former President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani that the issue of ties with the United States be reviewed and that perhaps a referendum should be held on this issue. SF

APPEALS COURT REDUCES POLLSTERS' SENTENCES
The Tehran Appeals Court on 13 April reduced the jail sentence of Ayandeh Research Institute board of directors member Abbas Abdi from eight years to 4 1/2 and that of Ayandeh Managing Director Hussein Qazian from nine years to 4 1/2 years, IRNA reported. The two were sentenced in February for cooperating with foreign intelligence organizations and propagating against the Islamic Republic, and two days later the court added another year to their sentences. Ayandeh and the National Institute for Research and Opinion Polls had conducted a survey in which the majority of respondents said they favored the resumption of relations with the United States. BS

AGHAJARI GETS LEAVE EXTENSION
Saleh Nikbakht, the attorney of political activist and university professor Hashem Aghajari, said on 13 April that the court agreed to extend his client's home leave for another week, IRNA reported. Aghajari had to post bail of 1.2 billion rials ($150,000) in order to get the home leave. He was sentenced last August to death, an eight-year banishment, a flogging, and a teaching ban, but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei subsequently ordered the court to review the case. Aghajari had given a speech in Hamedan in June that questioned the clerical hierarchy and other matters of orthodoxy. BS

IRAN DOES NOT WANT U.S. TO CONSIDER IT AN ENEMY
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh said during a 14 April meeting in Tokyo with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi that Iran does not want the United States to regard it as an enemy, Jiji Press reported. Aminzadeh also said Iran does not intend to develop weapons of mass destruction and it welcomes the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. Kawaguchi said she will relay Tehran's concerns to Washington. BS

HIGH-RANKING IRANIAN OFFICIAL CRITICIZES COALITION
Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani told a 14 April seminar on the role of soldiers that the United States and the United Kingdom seek anarchy and intend to destroy the Iraqi nation, Iranian state television reported. Statements touting the defense of the Iraqi people and establishment of democracy are just ploys, he said, and he blamed looting and anarchy in Iraq on the presence of coalition forces. As Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei did in his 11 April sermon (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2003), Rafsanjani expressed skepticism about the weak resistance coalition forces encountered during the war. There have been hints in regional media that the coalition made a deal with Iraqi commanders. BS

ANALYST SAYS LEBANESE SHIA WILL FOLLOW IRANIAN LEAD ON REGIONAL DEVELOPMENTS
American University of Beirut Professor Nizar Hamzeh was quoted in the 15 April "The Daily Star" as saying that Lebanese Hizballah will follow the example of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei if the United States attacks Syria. Hamzeh explained that Iran and Hizballah are connected through their adherence to the concept of Vilayat-i Faqih (Guardianship of the Supreme Jurisconsult) and the belief that Khamenei is the Vali-yi Faqih (the supreme jurisconsult). "Khamenei is the one who decided on general issues, while the details are left to the party," Hamzeh said. Speaking in Sidon, meanwhile, Shaykh Afif Nabulsi, "who is close to both Hizballah and Iran" according to another article in "The Daily Star" on 15 April, referred several times to "the U.S. enemy." Nabulsi added that he already has "called on the Iraqi people and those Iraqis who are living abroad to be the opponents of the Americans." BS

AFGHAN, U.S. OFFICIALS DISCUSS NEW NATIONAL ARMY...
Defense Minister Marshall Mohammad Qasim Fahim met with a representative of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General Karl Eikenberry, on 13 April to discuss political and military issues in the country, Afghanistan Television reported the same day. Among the issues covered included the role of U.S. forces in providing security in the country, the formation of the Afghan national army, and both successes and challenges in these areas. Eikenberry reportedly underscored the importance of a national army, saying that it will ultimately guarantee freedom and sovereignty for Afghanistan and that it is necessary to prevent terrorism. KM

...AND AFGHAN PAPER SAYS INCREASED VIOLENCE ILLUSTRATES NEED FOR DISARMAMENT
"Once there was an urgent need to possess weapons," according to a commentary in the daily Kabul Pashto newspaper "Hewad" on 14 April. The Soviet invasion and then civil war, which continued through the Taliban era, it said, gave rise to rapid and widespread armament in the country. Now, however, "This has deteriorated security and discipline and has become a major problem for the central government in many regions of Afghanistan." The paper called for the formation of an army that can "implement security and peace...and also disarm such irresponsible armed people." Reconstruction in Afghanistan is being hampered by the prevalent possession of guns, according to the paper, and the increase in violent incidents all over the country is proof "that the absence of [a] national army and police and the continuation of the gun culture pose a threat to public security, peace, and stability." KM

CLASHING AFGHAN FORCES PULL OUT OF MAYMANA
UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said on 13 April that approximately 50 percent of the fighters engaged in last week's fighting in Faryab Province have withdrawn from provincial capital Maymana, UNAMA announced (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 April 2003). An official cease-fire between Junbish-e Islami forces of Deputy Defense Minister Abdul Rashid Dostum and those loyal to Jamiyat-e Islami under the command of General Ata Mohammad was signed on 11 April. The UN-brokered agreement mandates that no unauthorized armed men be allowed in Maymana, and UNAMA remains in the area to monitor the withdrawal of troops and to register collected weapons. Meanwhile, the UN Mine Action Centre was dispatched to Maymana on 13 April to assist in bringing about security. The fighting between the two factions erupted on 8 April. KM

ENDEMIC ANTHRAX DISEASE THREATENS LIVESTOCK IN BAGHLAN
Up to 85 percent of the livestock in Afghanistan's northeastern Baghlan Province have contracted anthrax, and many cattle in Baghlan have died as a result, Iranian state radio reported on 13 April, citing the head of the province's Agriculture and Husbandry Department. Exact figures are not available. The official expressed concern that the lack of medicine to treat the often-fatal disease could result in its spreading to other locations. KM

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