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Newsline - April 18, 2003


LIBERAL LEGISLATOR GUNNED DOWN
State Duma Deputy and co-Chairman of the Liberal Russia party Sergei Yushenkov was shot dead outside his Moscow home on 17 April in an apparent contract murder, Russian and Western media reported. A pistol with a silencer was found next to Yushenkov's body, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Moscow Prosecutor Mikhail Avdyukhov and Moscow police chief Vladimir Pronin told journalists at the scene of the killing that Yushenkov was "the victim of a professional killer" and that the slaying is "most likely linked with his activity as a [Duma] deputy," ORT and RTR reported on 17 April. Avdyukov said on 18 April on RTR that a criminal case has been opened and that he is not yet aware of any conflicts that might have led to Yushenkov's killing. He added that the possibility of an economic motive has not been eliminated. Other investigators told ORT that Yushenkov was not involved in economic legislation in the Duma and had no particular business interests. President Vladimir Putin met with Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov on 17 April and asked him to take charge of the investigation. Putin called Yushenkov "a defender of freedom." JAC/VY

DEPUTY HAD A LONG LIBERAL PEDIGREE...
Sergei Yushenkov, 52, was born to a family of collective farmers in Kaliningrad Oblast. He graduated from military academies in Novosibirsk and Moscow and was trained as a "political officer." In 1989, Yushenkov -- who held the military rank of colonel -- became an active member of a democratic group called Shield that defended the rights of service personnel. He was elected to the landmark 1989 Congress of Peoples' Deputies as a representative of Shield. He played a prominent role in the defense of the White House during the August 1991 attempted coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. He later headed a commission that abolished the political-control organs in the military. He has served in the Duma since 1993. In the first Duma, he was Defense Committee chairman. In the current Duma, he was a member of the Security Committee. Yushenkov is the ninth Duma deputy to be killed since 1994, and, with the exception of liberal lawmaker Galina Starovoitova, who was shot dead in 1998, "none of the previous victims had had such stature or weight," "Vremya novostei" noted. VY/JAC

...AS COLLEAGUES TIE KILLING TO YUSHENKOV'S INVESTIGATION OF THE FSB...
Commenting on the slaying, a number of Yushenkov's colleagues -- including Liberal Russia co-Chairman and fellow legislator Viktor Pokhmelkin, Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) Deputy Sergei Kovalev, Deputy Yulii Rybakov (independent) and Deputy Nikolai Travkin (SPS) -- all suggested the killing was politically motivated. Pokhmelkin suggested Yushenkov was killed in an attempt to bring the liberal opposition to its knees, while Rybakov emphasized Yushenkov's efforts to find evidence to support allegations that the Federal Security Service (FSB) was involved in the apartment-building bombings that killed some 300 people in 1999, according to the "The Moscow Times." According to "Izvestiya," Yushenkov frequently talked with reporters in the Duma about the bombings and would say, "It's all obvious, but no one will write about it." JAC

...AND OTHERS SEE TIE TO EARLIER SLAYING...
Former FSB Colonel Aleksandr Litvinenko, who has made many of the allegations against the FSB concerning the 1999 apartment-building bombings -- told "Vremya novostei" that he met with Yushenkov in London shortly after the death of fellow legislator and Liberal Russia co-founder Sergei Golovlev, who was shot twice in the head outside his apartment building in Moscow on 21 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 August 2002). According to Litvinenko, Yushenkov was "clearly frightened" and asked Litvinenko if he, Yushenkov, would be the next victim. According to Interfax, investigators are looking into the possibility that the murders are linked. Both "Vremya novostei" and "Izvestiya" noted that Yushenkov had a particularly close relationship with Golovlev. However, Duma Deputy Vladimir Lysenko (Russian Regions) noted on Radio Mayak that Golovlev had a number of suspicious business dealings, unlike Yushenkov. "When it comes to Yushenkov, everyone knows he was transparently honest, honorable, and fairly poor man who never had large sums of money," Lysenko said. "Vremya novostei" also reported that self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii -- a co-founder and initial financier of the party who was expelled from Liberal Russia in a move spearheaded by Yushenkov in October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2002) for his reported contacts with the Communist Party -- seemed genuinely shocked and responded to news of the murder "extremely emotionally" when contacted by the newspaper. JAC

...AND LEGISLATIVE LEADERS WORRY ABOUT IMPLICATIONS FOR COMING ELECTIONS...
Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said he has "no doubts that [Yushenkov's] killing was political" and called for a special team of investigators to look into the slaying, RTR and other Russian media reported on 18 April. Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov said he is concerned that the "new election cycle is beginning with the murder of a prominent Duma deputy." Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii said he "is absolutely certain about the political nature of the killing." Noting that the slaying came on the eve of the election campaign and of President Putin's annual address to parliament, Yavlinskii said the killing shows that criminal elements are playing a prominent role not only in the economy, but in society and politics as well. SPS leader Boris Nemtsov also expressed his certainty that the slaying was political and that Yushenkov was "a purely honest" person who had no business dealings. People's Deputy faction head Gennadii Raikov called Yushenkov a "principled man" who was killed "because he was inconvenient for somebody." Duma Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin (People's Deputy) said that although he was on the opposite side of many political issues from Yushenkov, he always respected him as "a man of principles." Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov called the killing "the revelry of banditry with a political flavor." He said that eight legislators have been murdered in the last 10 years and almost none of the perpetrators have been brought to justice. VY

...AS LIBERAL RUSSIA COMPLETES PARTY REGISTRATION JUST HOURS BEFORE MURDER
The Liberal Russia party completed its registration with the Justice Ministry on 17 April, and Yushenkov, along with party co-chairmen Boris Zolutkhin and Pokhmelkin, met with reporters in Moscow just hours before he was murdered. According to RosBalt, the party currently has branches in 53 regions and more than 13,000 members. When asked about Berezovskii, Justice Ministry official Galina Fokina told reporters that he had been officially expelled from the party, and therefore cannot legally participate in the December State Duma elections under the party's auspices, although he may run in a single-mandate district. The Justice Ministry refused to register the party in July, demanding that the group amend its charter (see "RFE/RL Political Weekly," 24 July 2002). JAC

TYCOON EXPECTS THAT HE WILL BE A SUSPECT
Speaking live from London, Berezovskii told NTV on 17 April that he expects the authorities "suspect his involvement in the killing" and that he will be a target of the investigation. Berezovskii already faces an extradition hearing on 13 May connected with allegations of large-scale fraud (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2003). He charged that the purpose of the killing is "to harass everybody and the entire society so that they will make no trouble, turn out unanimously for the election, and vote for the predetermined winners." "I also paid attention to media reports that Vladimir Putin was informed about the killing. Or was it an execution," Berezovskii said. As soon as he uttered this, the NTV moderator cut in and commented that the remark is Berezovskii's opinion and not that of NTV. Former FSB Director and Yushenkov's colleague on the Duma Security Committee Nikolai Kovalev said that investigators will inevitably have "questions for Berezovskii." Many hypothetical motives for the killing will be considered, including the possible involvement of Berezovskii and the possibility that someone would like to frame him, Kovalev said. VY

MOSCOW SAYS NOT SO FAST ON LIFTING SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAQ...
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 17 April that Russia does not support a U.S. proposal that the UN Security Council quickly lift its economic sanctions against Iraq, RTR reported. This issue cannot be solved automatically without passing through the Security Council, which still must determine whether there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or not, Ivanov said. He noted that this would likely entail the return of international weapons inspectors to that country. Duma Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Rogozin said that Moscow would probably drop its objections to the lifting of sanctions in exchange for U.S. concessions on the issue of Iraqi debts to Russia. Speaking on ORT on 17 April, Rogozin said the United States should agree to allow Russian companies to participate in the reconstruction of the postwar Iraqi economy. VY

...AS POLITICIANS CONSIDER U.S.-RUSSIAN RELATIONS AFTER THE FALL OF SADDAM HUSSEIN
During the same ORT broadcast, Rogozin said that the most important thing for Russia is not relations with Iraq but that the United States accept responsibility, including moral responsibility, for the situation there. For Russia, the most important thing is to build relations with the United States on the foundation of "Russia's own interests" and to strengthen its military and its economy, Rogozin said. "If Russia had a lot more missiles and a population of 500 million, the United States would speak to us in a different language," he said. Former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksandr Shokhin said that relations with the United States are important to Russia primarily because of the U.S. role in determining world oil prices, upon which the Russian economy is heavily dependent. In comparison with Russia's dependence on oil-export revenues, the issues of Iraqi debts or the role of Russian companies in postwar Iraqi reconstruction are insignificant, Shokhin said. Dmitrii Simes, president of the conservative, Washington-based Nixon Center, said that no U.S. politician would say publicly that Russia should be punished for its position on Iraq. VY

GOVERNMENT GIVES GO-AHEAD TO MAJOR PIPELINE PROJECTS
Addressing a 17 April cabinet meeting devoted to developing Northwest Russia's energy sector, Energy Minister Igor Yusupov said the government has decided immediately "to begin work on creating the technical and economic basis for laying a pipeline to Murmansk for exports to the United States," RTR reported. The project will be accomplished in two stages, the first of which is the construction of an oil terminal at Murmansk and the second is the construction of the pipeline from Western Siberia. At the same government session, the cabinet approved a project to build a natural-gas pipeline from Russia to Great Britain. According to the project, the pipeline will begin on the Yamal Peninsula and proceed to Vyborg in Leningrad Oblast. It will then follow a 1,200-kilometer route under the Baltic Sea to Germany and will eventually be extended to Great Britain. When completed, the pipeline will handle an annual volume of 19 billion-30 billion cubic meters. VY

SOME REGIONS MIGHT OFFER A FEW SURPRISES AFTER THE VOTES ARE COUNTED
The outcome of national elections in certain regions of Russia remains difficult to predict, "Vremya-MN" argued on 17 April. In Siberia and the Far East, there is the so-called "lost electorate," which comprises about 10-12 percent of the national total. These voters find a new leader with every presidential election: in 1993, it was Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii, and in 1996 it was Aleksandr Lebed. The Far East, in particular, will become the chief battlefield in the struggle among Unified Russia, the LDPR, and the Communist Party for these "lost" voters. The daily also cited Merkator Group leader Dmitrii Oreshkin, who said that three forces will determine the election outcome: regional leaders' administrative resources, Moscow's administrative resources, and the will of the electorate. With regard to the latter, the number of people who vote against all candidates is steadily increasing, and polling results suggest this category will reach no less than 15 percent in the December elections. JAC

SHAKE-UP ENSUES AMONG ST. PETERSBURG LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS...
Prosecutor-General Ustinov signed a decree on 17 April appointing Nikolai Vinnichenko as St. Petersburg's prosecutor-general, RosBalt reported. Vinnichenko previously served as chief federal inspector for St. Petersburg. According to ITAR-TASS, he graduated from Leningrad State University in 1987 and for 15 years worked in several departments of the St. Petersburg's Prosecutor's Office. The previous day, "Delovoi Peterburg" reported that Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov announced the resignation of head of the Interior Ministry directorate for the Northwest Federal District, Boris Uemlyanin. He also announced the departure of the heads of the Interior Minister branch in two raions in St. Petersburg and of the city of Vyborg. According to Gryzlov, Uemlyanin resigned because of the "negative evaluation" of his work, and the raion heads for their "ineffective activities." JAC

...AS INTERIOR MINISTRY WANTS SECOND CAPITAL CLEANED UP BEFORE FOREIGN VIPS ARRIVE
At the same press conference, Interior Minister Gryzlov reported that St. Petersburg police have discovered 28,000 administrative violations connected with the presence of illegal immigrants in the city and that a special plane will leave soon taking illegal immigrants out of the northern capital, "Vremya-MN" reported on 17 April. The daily commented that members of a government that strives to be considered law-based and democratic are suggesting measures similar to those used to clean up Moscow before the 1980 Summer Olympic Games. U.S. President George W. Bush and the heads of all EU member states are among those who have been invited to help celebrate the city's 300th anniversary in May. JAC

GOVERNMENT REPORTEDLY READY TO REPLACE OMBUDSMAN
The Kremlin favors replacing current human rights ombudsman Oleg Mironov with State Duma Deputy and former Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov (SPS), "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 April. According to ITAR-TASS on 15 April, Krasheninnikov already has the support of five Duma factions and groups: SPS and the propresidential coalition made up of Unity, Fatherland-All Russia, People's Deputy, and Russian Regions. However, according to the daily, Russian Regions has not yet decided, while Yabloko and the Communist Party will definitely not support Krasheninnikov. The newspaper alleged that Mironov has earned the Kremlin's ire for his "uncompromising" stance on Chechnya. Mironov told the daily that if authorities praise an ombudsman, then he is a bad human right activist. Mironov's term expires on 22 May. JAC

SHAIMIEV RIVAL THROWS HIS HAT IN THE RING EARLY
In an interview with "Moskovskii komsomolets v Tatarstane," Rafgat Altynbaev, the former Federation Council representative whom Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev recently recalled, said he plans to run in Tatarstan's 2006 presidential elections, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 17 April. Altynbaev declared "there are no forces that can stop" him and his followers from participating the race. The previous day, Duma Deputy Aleksandr Salii (Communist) told regions.ru that "Shaimiev sees in Altynbaev a competitor -- not an appointed successor, but someone who could take power away from him." According to Salii, Shaimiev has noted Altynbaev's growing influence in Tatarstan. Andrei Ryabov of the Carnegie Moscow Center told RosBalt on 14 April that the Kremlin decided to resolve "the Shaimiev problem" by promoting Altynbaev. According to Ryabov, Altynbaev was one of the main initiators of presidential legislative package to reform local self-government, which is currently being considered by the State Duma (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 17 April 2003). JAC

CHECHEN AMNESTY TO LAST FOR SIX MONTHS...
Deputy Prosecutor General Sergei Fridinskii told journalists in Stavropol Krai on 17 April that the proposed amnesty for both Chechen fighters and Russian forces who participated in hostilities in Chechnya since 1993 will be initially valid for a period of six months after its adoption by the State Duma, but could be extended, Russian media reported. Echoing earlier statements, Fridinskii said that the amnesty will extend to persons convicted or under investigation, with the exception of those accused of major crimes such as murder, terrorism, hostage taking, and kidnapping. He said the draft amnesty law has already been submitted to the Duma. LF

...AS GENERAL ARGUES IT SHOULD NOT APPLY TO MASKHADOV
Colonel General Gennadii Troshev, who is a former commander of Russian forces in Chechnya, on 17 April hailed the prospect of an amnesty for those Chechen militants "whose hands are not stained with blood," Interfax reported. Troshev added, however, that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov should not qualify for amnesty, but should be brought to trial, since he is "a criminal" who is "to blame for everything." LF

CHECHEN SECURITY OFFICIAL DENIES SAYING MASKHADOV WOUNDED
Chechen Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudaev denied on 17 April statements attributed to him by Russian media, including Interfax, that Maskhadov might have been injured in an exchange of artillery fire between his men and Russian forces, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

TURKEY PLEDGES TO BAR ENTRY TO CHECHEN MILITANT
An unnamed diplomat at the Turkish Embassy in Moscow told Interfax on 17 April that Chechen radical ideologue Movladi Udugov, whose extradition the Prosecutor-General's Office has recently demanded (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2003), will no longer be allowed to enter Turkey. The Turkish diplomat added that he does not know whether Udugov is currently in Turkey. As of January 2002, Udugov was believed to be living in Qatar. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT REJECTS CALLS FOR 'REFERENDUM OF CONFIDENCE'
The presidential press service said in a statement released on 17 April and reported by Noyan Tapan that Robert Kocharian will not comply with a Constitutional Court's proposal of 16 April to hold a "referendum of confidence" to allay widespread doubts about the validity of the February-March presidential election. That proposal was contained in the Constitutional Court's ruling rejecting an appeal by defeated presidential candidate Stepan Demirchian that the poll be annulled in the light of alleged procedural, legal, and constitutional violations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2003). Vahan Hovannisian, one of the leaders of the Yerevan Bureau of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun which backs Kocharian, argued on 17 April that the Constitutional Court's proposal to hold a "referendum of confidence" contradicts its simultaneous ruling that the presidential election outcome is legal and valid, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

ARMENIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE QUERIES CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULING
In a statement released on 17 April, the Armenian Prosecutor-General's Office said that the Constitutional Court exceeded its powers by calling on the Prosecutor-General's Office the previous day to launch an investigation into Demirchian's claims of vote rigging during the February-March presidential election, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The statement said the Prosecutor-General's Office is not obliged to comply with that demand and that it is already looking into the alleged vote rigging. The statement further branded the Constitutional Court's ruling "declarative" and "propaganda." LF

DEFEATED ARMENIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE CONTINUES TO INSIST THAT ELECTION WAS INVALID
Commenting on 17 April on the Constitutional Court's statement of the previous day rejecting his appeal that the presidential election outcome be annulled, Demirchian said he still does not regard Kocharian as Armenia's legitimate president, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Parliament deputy Grigor Harutiunian, who served as Demirchian's campaign manager, told Noyan Tapan that the Constitutional Court ruling "does not promote a reduction of tensions." Harutiunian added that he intends to ask the court to explain its rationale for proposing a "referendum of confidence." LF

AZERBAIJAN'S SENIOR MUSLIM CLERIC ACCUSES ARMENIAN CHURCH OF INSTIGATING KARABAKH CONFLICT...
During talks in Baku on 17 April with visiting Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, Sheikh-ul-Islam Allakhshukur Pashazade, who is Azerbaijan's senior Muslim cleric, stressed that Azerbaijan has always displayed tolerance toward religious and ethnic minorities, including toward the Armenian church, Turan reported. But, Pashazade continued, the Armenian church has adopted a "hostile" stance toward Azerbaijanis. He said he believes the Armenian church played a key role in instigating the Karabakh conflict. Bartholomew I also met on 17 April with Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev, who assured him that a church in Baku dedicated to St. Bartholomew and dating from the early Christian era will be rebuilt, ITAR-TASS reported. LF

...APPEALS TO U.S. TO PROTECT IRAQI SHI'A
Pashazade also met on 17 April with U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ross Wilson and requested that Washington make greater efforts to prevent interethnic and interconfessional violence in Iraq following the ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Turan reported. Pashazade noted that some 60 percent of Iraqis are Shi'a, as are most Azerbaijanis, who therefore are concerned at the fate of holy sites in Iraq. Pashazade also said that Azerbaijan's Muslim religious leadership is ready to provide unspecified assistance to Iraq. LF

U.S. ANALYST UPBEAT ON GEORGIAN NATO MEMBERSHIP
Bruce Jackson, president of the nongovernmental U.S.-NATO Committee, told journalists in Baku on 17 April that the North Atlantic alliance could decide as early as its summit next year to extend invitations to several aspiring new members, Turan and zerkalo.az reported. Those countries that receive invitations at that time could therefore enter NATO in 2006-07, he added. At the same time, Jackson pointed out that Macedonia, Croatia, and Albania are coordinating their bids for NATO membership, as are Georgia and Ukraine, thereby implying that Azerbaijan could risk losing out if it fails to make a formal request to be considered as a prospective NATO member. Meeting the previous day in Tbilisi with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Jackson positively evaluated Georgia's efforts to comply with NATO standards, Caucasus Press reported. In contrast, in Baku he stressed that Washington expects prospective NATO members to live up to their commitments in the sphere of democratization and human rights, zerkalo.az reported. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT, PARLIAMENT SPEAKER MEET
President Shevardnadze met for more than an hour on 17 April with Nino Burdjanadze, who is close to opposition United Democrats leader Zurab Zhvania, Caucasus Press reported. Topics discussed included proposed changes to the Election Code that would empower the president to appoint the majority of Central Election Commission members. Burdjanadze told reporters after the meeting that she objects to that proposal, while Shevardnadze, for his part, was cool to the opposition proposal to extend for a further two years the mandate of 82 parliament deputies elected in single-mandate constituencies. Burdjanadze also rejected as premature rumors that she intends to resign as speaker. LF

GEORGIA OFFERS TO PARTICIPATE IN RECONSTRUCTION IN IRAQ
President Shevardnadze met on 17 April behind closed doors with U.S. Ambassador Richard Miles to discuss, among other issues, the prospect of Georgian participation in postwar reconstruction in Iraq, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze earlier proposed that Georgia could supply construction materials or qualified specialists. Miles again expressed appreciation of Tbilisi's "unconditional" support for the U.S. position on Iraq. LF

BRITISH NGO PERSONNEL BEATEN, ROBBED IN ABKHAZIA
Staff of the U.K.-based HALO Trust, which is engaged in demining in Abkhazia, were assaulted and robbed of $95,000 on 16 April by four armed, masked men who intercepted their car in Abkhazia's Gulripsh Raion, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. LF

KAZAKH OPPOSITION PAPER EDITOR ASSAULTED
Maksim Erokhin, editor in chief of the independent Shymkent newspaper "Rabat," was assaulted during the night of 16-17 April by unknown assailants who left him unconscious in the street, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 17 April. The attack took place outside his apartment building in the middle of Shymkent, the administrative center of South Kazakhstan Oblast. Medical examination revealed that Erokhin had suffered a concussion. According to Interfax, since Erokhin founded "Rabat" two years ago, the publication has been critical of the city authorities. In the most recent issue, he attacked city officials for building an elite sports and health complex in the city's botanical garden. There have been similar attacks on opposition journalists in other parts of the country. Interfax noted that it has not yet been announced whether police will open a criminal investigation into the attack. BB

KAZAKH PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTIES OPPOSE LAND CODE
Deputies of the Kazakh parliament's Mazhilis (lower house) Serik Abdrakhmanov and Serikbay Alibaev told a news conference on 17 April that they and other deputies oppose adoption of a controversial draft Land Code that would permit private landownership, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. The code was approved in its first reading by the Mazhilis in March and is subject to a second reading. Abdrakhmanov said that 122 amendments to the code have been proposed by deputies, adding that in his opinion the current laws on parliamentary powers, government, and regional administration must be changed before the Land Code is adopted. Otherwise, the code will protect only the wealthy. The government proposal to introduce private landownership in Kazakhstan as a necessary step in the further development of the country's economy has sparked passionate debate in parliament and among the population. BB

POLICE SEARCH BRANCH OFFICE OF KAZAKH OPPOSITION MOVEMENT
Local police searched the Semipalatinsk office of the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement on 17 April and confiscated the opposition group's latest press release, a DVK activist told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service. The officers had no warrant or other document giving them the right to enter the premises and seize documents, the activist asserted, adding that no one was allowed to enter or leave the office for four hours. The leaders of the DVK branch in Semipalatinsk have reportedly asked the local prosecutor's office to explain the police raid and have been promised a response within five days. The press release confiscated by the police concerned the recent visit of Kazakh officials and opposition members to the European Parliament in Strasbourg to discuss the European Parliament's resolution on the human rights and media situation in Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2003). BB

KYRGYZSTAN EASES VISA REGIME FOR SOME FOREIGNERS...
The Kyrgyz government has issued a decree simplifying the procedures necessary for citizens of 28 countries to obtain Kyrgyz visas, Deputy Prime Minister Djoomart Otorbaev told a press conference in Bishkek on 17 April, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The decree, signed on 15 April and reported by khabar.kz that day, gives citizens of Western European countries, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and South Korea the right to obtain one-month Kyrgyz visas without invitations and exempts them from police registration. No CIS or other formerly communist countries are on the list. Otorbaev said the relaxed visa rules for citizens of countries with "predictable political and economic regimes" are intended to make the country "a paradise for investors," adding that the Kyrgyz government is considering the introduction of an "investment visa" that would be good for several years and would allow potential investors to enter the country freely. BB

...AS KYRGYZ TOUR OPERATORS COMPLAIN OF OFFICIAL OBSTRUCTION OF TOURISM DEVELOPMENT
Kyrgyz tour operators are complaining that their Kyrgyz clients are having difficulty obtaining from the authorities the documents they need to leave the country, centrasia.ru reported on 18 April, citing 17 April issue of "Slovo Kyrgyzstana." The tour operators also complained about the continuing application of Soviet-style rules for controlling not only the departure of Kyrgyz citizens from the country but also the arrival of foreigners, including the requirement that foreigners must register with the police. The article asserts that it has become more difficult for Kyrgyz citizens to get permission to leave, and that the relevant authorities require up to one month to decide whether to place the necessary validation in their passports. In addition, the would-be tourist must pay 600 soms (about $100) for the validation. Emil Umetaliev, president of the tour firm KyrgyzConcept and head of the Congress of Business Associations, was quoted as saying the problems the tour operators have with the authorities -- not only with entry- and exit-visa requirements, but also with the labyrinth of rules on licensing and developing the tourism infrastructure -- discourage the entrepreneurship the government says it is trying to promote. BB

KYRGYZ HOMEBUILDERS DEMAND LAND
A Kyrgyz association of people seeking to build their own homes is threatening that if the state does not provide its members with land, they will simply take it, khabar.kz reported on 17 April, quoting the head of the homebuilders' association, Roza Mambetalieva. Mambetalieva said more than 15,000 families have applied for home sites. In 1999, the association asked the government for 336 hectares, but a decision on the request has not been made yet. She charged that employees of the association are being harassed by the National Security Service and the Interior Ministry. Land seizure for building sites has a long tradition in the Bishkek area. One of the first nongovernmental groups in the country was formed by people who had seized land to build themselves homes. BB

PROTOCOL ENDING TURKMEN-RUSSIAN DUAL CITIZENSHIP PUBLISHED
The protocol on ending dual citizenship of Turkmenistan and the Russian Federation was published in the Turkmen media, turkmenistan.ru reported on 18 April. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov signed the measure on 10 April during the latter's state visit to Moscow. At the time, Putin said dual citizenship is no longer needed because those ethnic Russians who wanted to leave Turkmenistan have already done so. Since this remark is so widely at variance with the actual situation, it appears possible that Putin's agreement was demanded by Niyazov as part of the price for a long-term contract on the sale of Turkmen gas to Russia that the Russian side has been trying to obtain for several years. Niyazov presumably saw the ending of dual citizenship as a security measure. Not only have many ethnic Russians obtained Russian passports, but representatives of other nationalities -- including ethnic Turkmen -- have acquired them as insurance that they could leave the country. Officials at the Russian Embassy in Ashgabat have said it would take years to process all the outstanding applications for Russian passports. BB

EXPANDING EU PLEDGES CLOSER TIES WITH NEIGHBORS
In a joint declaration issued in Athens on 17 April after the previous day's signing of the Treaty of Accession with 10 future EU members, representatives of 41 European states, including the 15 current EU members, vow to bridge economic and political divisions, Reuters reported. The leaders agree to promote trade and investment, open up markets, fight organized crime and terrorism, build up energy and transport networks, and respect human rights and the rule of law. European Commission President Romano Prodi told journalists, "Europe has not enlarged in a spirit of egoism and exclusion," adding that the EU "is enlarging by offering its neighbors closer ties of neighborhood." Prodi said the EU wants to offer its nonmember neighbors all the benefits of membership short of voting rights and full participation in the EU's supranational institutions. "It won't be just a commercial or economic relationship; it will be close links -- including on political matters, on administrative matters, justice, internal affairs," he said. In a symbolic gesture, Russia invited the leaders of both current and future EU members to next month's celebrations of St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary. MS

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION URGES BELARUS TO PROBE DISAPPEARANCES
The UN Commission on Human Rights on 17 April voted 23-14 with 16 abstentions to approve a resolution that urges Belarusian authorities to investigate reports that senior Belarusian government officials were involved in the disappearances of three political opponents and a journalist, Belapan and Reuters reported. The resolution expresses 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." In June 2001, two Belarusian investigators who had fled to the United States charged that a secret death squad organized by authorities was responsible for the kidnapping and murder of opposition figures Yury Zakharanka, Viktar Hanchar, and Anatol Krasouski, along with journalist Dzmitry Zavadski (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 June 2001). Their charges were subsequently corroborated by the warden of Minsk's death-row prison (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 28 August 2001). JM

U.S. OFFICIAL NOTES DETERIORATING TIES WITH BELARUS
Steven Pifer, a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, said during a video news conference arranged by the U.S. Embassy in Belarus on 16 April that U.S.-Belarus relations continue to deteriorate, Belapan reported. Pifer said the United States has adopted a step-by-step approach to Belarus whereby Washington will take steps toward improved relations once the Belarusian government takes steps that show a willingness to democratize its society. "Unfortunately, however, we see no readiness thus far by the [President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka government to engage in that step-by-step approach," Pifer said, adding, "The offer is still on the table." Pifer denied media speculation that Washington has compiled a "secret list" of rogue states that might include Belarus. He said speculation over the "next" U.S. target after deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, or whether Lukashenka might fill Saddam's shoes in that regard, are pointless. JM

UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION REPORTEDLY VOWS NOT TO BLOCK PARLIAMENT
Parliamentary opposition leaders agreed on 17 April that they will not block the work of the Verkhovna Rada over the abortive votes earlier the same day on a bill providing for a fully proportional electoral system (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2003), Interfax reported, quoting Socialist Party Chairman Oleksandr Moroz. Some opposition lawmakers charged Premier Viktor Yanukovych with reneging on his promise to persuade deputies from the parliamentary majority to support that bill in exchange for support from opposition lawmakers to a government action plan that was adopted the same day. Later, some opposition deputies backed down on this charge. "We don't blame any person, let alone the premier, for the failure to adopt the election bill," Socialist Party lawmaker Yuriy Lutsenko told Interfax. JM

ESTONIAN PARLIAMENT APPOINTS DELEGATES TO EU CONVENTION
The leaders of parliament appointed Rein Lang of the ruling Reform Party and Tunne Kelam of the opposition Pro Patria Union as its representatives to the EU Convention on the Future of Europe on 17 April, BNS reported. Urmas Reinsalu of the ruling Res Publica and Liina Tonisson of the opposition Center Party were appointed alternate representatives. Kelam and Peeter Kreitzberg of the Center Party were the delegates under the previous parliament, and Ulo Tarno of the Center Party and Liia Hanni of the Moderates were alternate members. Kreitzberg did not express any desire to continue as a representative, while Tarno and Hanni were not elected to the current parliament. SG

LATVIAN PRESIDENT BACKS INTEGRATION OF NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES INTO EU
Vaira Vike-Freiberga told the European Conference in Athens on 17 April that while the planned EU enlargement will increase European security, stability, and welfare, the EU's future external borders should not "become barriers of economic development and democratization," BNS reported. She said that further EU expansion is possible both to the EU's south and east, but that the integration of individual countries depends on their ability and readiness to implement reforms. Vike-Freiberga expressed the hope that the EU's ongoing eastward expansion will help Ukraine integrate and cooperate in establishing stability and security in the region. She also noted that Belarus should not be forgotten, as it is a direct neighbor of Latvia, and that there is a need for greater dialogue between Russia and the EU. SG

LITHUANIAN, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTS CALL FOR GREATER COOPERATION
Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas and his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma discussed in Athens on 17 April the signing of the EU-accession treaties and the need to expand bilateral relations, ELTA reported. They spoke about the possibility of establishing visa-free travel for citizens of both countries, which would help increase economic and cultural cooperation. The presidents noted that the establishment of the regularly scheduled Viking freight-train route between Odesa and Klaipeda in February has boosted trade and transit. Paksas expressed satisfaction that Kuchma has accepted his invitation to visit Vilnius in early July for the ceremonies marking the 750th anniversary of the coronation of King Mindaugas. He also expressed his support for Ukraine's efforts to join the EU. SG

POLISH SEJM SETS EU REFERENDUM FOR 7-8 JUNE
The Sejm on 17 April voted 366-16 with 22 abstentions to hold the referendum on Poland's EU membership on 7 and 8 June, PAP reported. The Sejm also adopted a timetable of preparations for the referendum. Lawmakers approved the following question in the referendum: "Do you consent to the accession of the Republic of Poland to the European Union?" Surveys show that seven in 10 Polish voters back joining the EU, but there are widespread fears in Poland that voter apathy could leave turnout below the minimum 50 percent required to make the result binding. The decision to hold a two-day ballot appears to have been influenced by Hungary's EU referendum on 12 April, in which fewer than 46 percent of voters went to the polls (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2003). JM

BOARD MEMBERS RESIGN TO PROTEST POLITICIZATION AT POLISH TELEVISION
Anna Popowicz and Andrzej Liberadzki have resigned their seats on the Polish Television Supervisory Board to protest voting in which the majority has blocked changes the two believe would depoliticize public television, PAP reported on 17 April. The impetus for the resignation was the rejection on 16 April of their motion to suspend Polish Television Chairman Robert Kwiatkowski. The suspension has twice been requested by the Sejm's ad hoc commission that is currently examining the "Rywingate" media-bribery case. JM

CZECH ARMY MEDICAL TEAM DEPARTS FOR IRAQ
The first team of 40 doctors who are to serve in a Czech field hospital located in the southern Iraqi town of Al-Basrah left the Czech Republic on 17 April, CTK and dpa reported. The remaining members of the team will follow in a few days. Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said the transportation of the team and the equipment it would need, which is to be carried by Russian planes and partially financed by the United States, will take at least 11 days. In related news, a report on the activity of the Czech field hospital that was stationed in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime between May and November 2002 said 12,174 civilians and 1,440 International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) soldiers have been treated there, CTK reported. MS

CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER TO PROPOSE ABOLITION OF COMPULSORY SERVICE AS OF 2005
Defense Minister Tvrdik on 17 April told the parliament's upper house that he is submitting a proposal to the government to abolish compulsory military service as of 31 December 2004, CTK reported. Tvrdik said that if the proposal is accepted, the Czech Republic will have a professional army two years earlier than originally planned. MS

CZECH PREMIER, FOREIGN MINISTER CRITICIZE PRESIDENT OVER EU-ACCESSION STATEMENTS
Premier Vladimir Spidla and Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda told journalists on the return trip from Athens on 17 April that statements made by President Vaclav Klaus at the EU ceremony and on the sidelines of that event demonstrate that Klaus is unfamiliar with constitutional provisions on presidential prerogatives, CTK reported. "Foreign policy is formulated by the government," Spidla reiterated (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2003). Svoboda said some of Klaus's statements demonstrate that he is not sufficiently familiar with the situation. He referred to a statement in which Klaus said that, by signing the Treaty of Accession, the Czech Republic lost some of its sovereignty. "If a student of law said that, he would certainly not pass the exam," Svoboda said. "We are certainly not losing sovereignty. We have voluntarily decided to exercise our sovereignty jointly with other EU members." Svoboda also said that Klaus is doing precisely what he criticized his predecessor, Vaclav Havel, for doing; namely, trying to forge a separate foreign policy in contradiction with that of the cabinet. MS

CZECH SENATE APPROVES EU REFERENDUM BILL...
The upper chamber approved a bill on 17 April on the forthcoming EU referendum, CTK reported. The bill has already been approved by the lower house (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2003), which recommended that the plebiscite take place on 13-14 June. The final decision on the date is to be taken by President Klaus. In response to criticism over the exclusion of Czechs residing abroad from the referendum, the Senate approved a resolution calling on the government to prepare a bill enabling absentee voting. Several senators said they supported the bill in the form approved by the lower house only because a failure to do so would have endangered the plebiscite, which is obligatory under the EU Treaty of Accession. A "yes" vote requires a majority for approval, regardless of the turnout. MS

... AND SIGNALS WILL TO PRESERVE NATIONAL PREROGATIVES
In a resolution approved on 17 April, the Czech Senate demanded that the EU constitution currently under debate should guarantee the parliaments of member countries a considerable role in the adoption of European legislation, CTK reported. The upper house said national parliaments must be granted the right to block legislation that they consider a violation of the division of powers between the EU and its member states. The resolution was proposed and heavily backed by the opposition Civic Democratic Party, which enlisted the backing of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia and of about half of senators representing the junior coalition Christian Democratic Union-People's Party. Independent senators and Social Democratic Party Senator Ladislav Svoboda also voted in favor of the resolution. MS

RACIST AND PRO-GERMAN LEAFLETS DISTRIBUTED IN CZECH TOWNS
A police spokesman told CTK on 17 April that racist and pro-German pamphlets have turned up recently in the northern Moravian cities of Opava and Krnov, CTK reported. The leaflets in Opava attack the Romany minority, calling for a "White Opava" and for action against "Romany parasites," as well as for removing "Vietnamese businessmen from our country." The leaflets in Krnov read: "The Sudetenland will be German again." The Krnov text says; "You murdered 271,000 of our relatives and deported more than 3 million from their homes. You stole our property and destroyed our land. To this day, you sleep in our beds." A spokesman for the Silesian German Association said he believes the Krnov leaflets were distributed not by Sudeten Germans, but by someone "who is bothered by the good relations between locals and Germans." Police said the propagators could face six months to three years in prison for "supporting a movement aimed at suppressing the rights and freedoms of citizens." MS

CZECH JUSTICE MINISTER VISITS SLOVAKIA
Czech Justice Minister Pavel Rychetsky held talks in Bratislava on 17 April with his Slovak counterpart Daniel Lipsic and with parliamentary speaker Pavol Hrusovsky, CTK and TASR reported. The discussions focused on amendments to current legislation in both countries in view of their planned May 2004 accession to the EU. While Czech and Slovak legislation is very similar, according to participants in the meetings, consultations should continue on ways to amend it to correspond to EU norms. At a press conference after his talks with Lipsic, Rychetsky hinted that reputed Slovak crime boss Mikulas Cernak will be extradited to Slovakia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 9 April 2003). He said an extradition request made by either of the two countries has never been turned down by the other. However, he said, the process might take several months. MS

SLOVAKIA CONFIRMS LOOTING OF ITS BAGHDAD EMBASSY
Foreign Ministry spokesman Boris Gandel on 17 April confirmed media reports that the Slovak Embassy in Baghdad has been looted, CTK reported. He added that all valuables and written documents were stored in a safe place before the embassy staff left the Iraqi capital in February. What was looted, he said, were "remnants." Gandel also said contacts are under way with the United States to ensure the protection of the building by U.S. soldiers against further looting. Gandel added that Slovak diplomats will certainly return to Baghdad after a new administration is in place, but he described as "premature" a question on whether Bratislava will raise the status of its chief representative from charge d'affaires to ambassador. MS

SLOVAK PREMIER LAUDS EU PLEDGE OF CLOSER TIES WITH NEIGHBORS
Speaking in Athens on 17 April, Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said the recent EU enlargement should not be the last, and other European countries should enjoy a chance to "join the secure world," CTK reported. He praised the declaration signed the same day by European representatives to work for closer mutual ties (see item above). Dzurinda said maintaining good ties with Ukraine, its eastern neighbor, is a Slovak priority, although the visa requirement for citizens of Ukraine imposed by his country will remain in place. He described relations with Russia as "very important" and praised the Balkan countries for their efforts to achieve EU integration. Dzurinda said he believes Croatia could catch up with Romania and Bulgaria and become an EU member in 2007. MS

RACIALLY MOTIVATED CRIME ON THE RISE IN SLOVAKIA
Slovak police chief Anton Kulich told journalists on 17 April that the number of racially and ethnically motivated crimes in his country more than doubled last year, CTK reported. While 40 such crimes were recorded in 2001, authorities registered 109 such cases in 2002. Kulich said one explanation for the surge might lie in police paying more attention to crimes that used to be neglected and to the activities of extremist groups that were formerly treated with indifference. Kulich said 27 of the 109 cases involved violence, while the other were instances of "verbal, racial, intolerant discourse" and acts of support for extremist movements and groups, such as the public display of Nazi symbols and the Nazi salute. MS

DAILY CLAIMS U.S. ASKING HUNGARY TO SEND PEACEKEEPERS TO IRAQ
The United States has asked Hungary through informal channels to send peacekeeping troops to Iraq, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 18 April. The Hungarian Defense Ministry would not comment on the report, but said any official request will be announced and followed by multiparty consultations. The government allegedly envisages a larger armed Hungarian unit for Iraq, thus breaking with the recent practice of providing only the minimum possible contribution, the daily reported. Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz said last week that parliament should decide whether Hungarian soldiers are sent to Iraq after the war. The U.S. Embassy in Budapest confirmed that the Hungarian cabinet had received a U.S. request to take part in the reconstruction of Iraq, but no further details have been made available. MSZ

CONTROVERSIAL SZALASI EXHIBITION CLOSED DOWN IN HUNGARY
The controversial "Soldiers of [Miklos] Horthy -- Arrow Cross People of [Ferenc] Szalasi" exhibition at the Jurisics Chateau Museum in Koszeg, which depicts fascist wartime leader Szalasi and his followers as heroes, will be closed on 19 April after private collectors withdrew items on loan for the exhibit, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. The news was announced by Sandor Horvath, the head of the Vas county museums office. The exhibition, which opened on 19 March, has been criticized by a number of institutions and organizations, including the Culture Ministry and the Federation of Jewish Religious Communities in Hungary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10, 16, and 17 April 2003). Culture Minister Gabor Gorgey said the fact that the controversial issue was settled lawfully in the name of morality and good taste is a triumph of democracy and social solidarity, "Nepszabadsag" reported. MSZ

SERBIA PLEDGES TO GET TOUGH ON WAR CRIMINALS
Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic told a press conference in Belgrade on 16 April that Serbia will extradite to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal all indicted individuals on its territory, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. He made the statement after meeting with Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Dragan Cavic. On 17 April, Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said in Zrenjanin that proposed legislation on trying war criminals in Serbia will be sent to the parliament by the end of April, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added that groups that carried out war crimes will be treated as organized criminal groups under the proposed legislation. To deal with war crimes, there will be a special police unit, state prosecutor, branch of the Belgrade District Court, and branch of the Supreme Court. It is unclear where war criminals indicted by both the Hague-based tribunal and the Serbian state prosecutor will be tried first. PM

SERBIA ISSUES NEW ARREST WARRANT FOR WIFE OF FORMER LEADER
The Belgrade District Court issued an arrest warrant on 17 April for Mirjana Markovic, the wife of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, after she failed to respond to two summons to answer questions about corruption charges, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. A separate arrest warrant was recently issued for her in conjunction with the slaying in 2000 of former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 2003). She is believed to be living in Moscow, where her son and her husband's brother both reside. PM

SERBIAN GOVERNMENT REJECTS UN PLAN TO DEVOLVE POWERS IN KOSOVA
The Serbian government said in a statement on 17 April that the devolution plan put forward by Michael Steiner, head of the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), is "unacceptable," dpa reported. The statement was issued one day after Serbian Prime Minister Zivkovic and Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic met with Kosovar Serb leaders in Belgrade. Steiner says the UN intends to devolve many of its powers to the elected officials of Kosova, who are overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian. Security- and foreign-policy prerogatives will remain under UN control under Steiner's plan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 August 2002). PM

UN CALLS SHADOWY KOSOVAR ORGANIZATION 'TERRORIST'
Steiner said in a letter to Kosovar elected officials on 17 April that the so-called Albanian National Army (AKSH) is a terrorist organization, dpa reported. Steiner made the statement after a recent attempt by two people to blow up a railway bridge connecting Serbia and Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2003). He argued that many lives could have been lost had the two succeeded in blowing up their target. Elsewhere, Nexhat Daci, the speaker of Kosova's parliament, rejected Steiner's appeal for the parliament to condemn the incident, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Daci said the legislature has more important business to attend to (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2003). PM

MONTENEGRIN MINISTER: NO ORGANIZED CRIME HERE
Foreign Minister Dragisa Burzan told the Podgorica daily "Pobjeda" of 16 April that Montenegro has not sought international assistance in fighting organized crime because that problem does not exist in Montenegro. He added that the government will not "make up stories" about a nonexistent crime problem simply to attract funds from abroad. PM

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT TO FACE LEGISLATORS' QUESTIONS
President Boris Trajkovski will appear before the parliament on 25 April to explain why he recently issued a pardon to Dosta Dimovska, a close political ally who is involved in a bugging scandal, dpa reported from Skopje on 17 April (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 18 April 2003). PM

CROATIAN PRESIDENT CALLS ON INDICTED MAN TO SURRENDER
Stipe Mesic said in Zagreb on 17 April that indicted war criminal and former General Ante Gotovina would do a great service "to himself, the Croatian Army, and his country" if he went to The Hague voluntarily, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2003). There is little love lost between Mesic and the hard-line war veterans who support Gotovina. PM

CROATIAN GOVERNMENT DECLASSIFIES IMPORTANT WARTIME DOCUMENTS
The government agreed on 17 April to declassify papers belonging to the late Defense Minister Gojko Susak and make them available to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, which requested them, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. "Vecernji list" wrote that the papers are likely to shed light on the extent of Croatia's involvement in the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict. PM

BOSNIANS SAID TO BE PROMINENT ON EU'S LIST OF UNDESIRABLES
High Representative Paddy Ashdown said in Sarajevo on 17 April that the EU is preparing a list of approximately 100 people from the Balkans who will be denied visas to EU member states, "Dnevni avaz" reported. Ashdown added that the list has not yet been made public, but that approximately 25 of the people on it are Bosnian citizens suspected of involvement in war crimes or organized crime. PM

BOSNIAN SERB LEADER SAYS 'NO' TO JOINT ARMY
Republika Srpska President Dragan Cavic told the Belgrade daily "Vecernje novosti" of 18 April that he rejects the idea of a unified Bosnian Army consisting of Serbs, Muslims, and Croats. Cavic added that a joint command is a possibility, however. NATO has stressed that Bosnia must establish a unified military under civilian control if it wants to be admitted to the alliance's Partnership for Peace program (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 2003). PM

BOSNIA AND ALBANIA PROMOTE COOPERATION
Bosnian Foreign Minister Mladen Ivanic and his Albanian counterpart, Ilir Meta, signed an agreement in Sarajevo on 15 April to promote cooperation in education and scholarly research, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. They also signed a protocol on cooperation between the two countries' foreign ministries and a second protocol to eliminate visa requirements for their respective diplomats and other officials. Both ministers stressed that their countries aspire to join the EU. Meta called on the international community to integrate Bosnia more fully in international security arrangements. Ivanic said Bosnia is committed to implementing European standards in its treatment of national minorities, adding that only a "small problem" of money is holding up the introduction of Albanian-language education. PM

ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER REVEALS ROLE OF MILITARY BASE IN IRAQI FREEDOM OPERATION
Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu on 17 April said in an interview with AP that the United States used the Mihail Kogalniceanu air base near Constanta to deploy troops to northern Iraq after Turkey declined to allow the stationing of U.S. soldiers there as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Pascu said the Romanian airfield "was used by U.S. transport planes to carry forces and equipment directly into northern Iraq." He added that the United States will "continue to use the base at least until the end of the operations in Iraq, either military or less military." Pascu's remarks marked the first time an official has publicly provided details of U.S. operations in Romania during the war. He also said Romania would welcome the opportunity to house U.S.- planned "flexible" NATO military bases. "We believe that as we get closer to NATO membership, this is part of our obligations," he said. MS

ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT 'SALUTES' EU ENLARGEMENT
Following the declaration issued the previous day by the cabinet, a joint session of Romania's bicameral parliament on 17 April approved a resolution "saluting" the signing of the EU-accession treaties in Athens on 16 April, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Chamber of Deputies Foreign Policy Committee Chairman Gheorghi Prisacaru described the Athens ceremony as "the beginning of the process of Europe's reunification," and expressed confidence that the process will continue and include Romania and Bulgaria's accession to the EU in January 2007. Also on 17 April, the joint bicameral session approved President Ion Iliescu's request to deploy Romanian peacekeepers to Macedonia and to deploy a mostly military team of experts (possibly including civilians) to take part in Afghanistan's reconstruction. The team is to include six experts in civil-military cooperation and 10 construction experts. Greater Romania Party lawmakers voted against the deployment of the Afghanistan-bound team. MS

FOREIGN WARNINGS ON ROMANIAN CORRUPTION CONTINUE TO TRIGGER OFFICIAL REACTIONS...
President Iliescu and Premier Adrian Nastase on 17 April commented on the recent warnings that Romania must combat corruption more resolutely, Romanian Radio reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2003). Iliescu said that although some of these remarks were "shocking," it would be "wise to be receptive." "I always encouraged foreign investors to reveal to us their perceptions and very often I found their observations helpful," he said. Nastase said relations with U.S. Ambassador Michael Guest, who wrote a letter hinting at corruption in the government, are "friendly." He also said he has asked Victor Ponta, head of the government's Controllers Office, to contact Obie Moore, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Romania, to determine what concrete examples he has of the corruption allegations he made. MS

...AS EU AMBASSADOR POURS SALT ON THE WOUND
EU Ambassador to Romania Jonathan Scheele told journalists on 17 April that he is "in full agreement" with Ambassador Guest's remarks on the need to intensify the fight against corruption in Romania, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Citing the head of EU's Directorate for Expansion Eneko Landaburu, Scheele said that "a functional democracy cannot exist among thieves," and added that corruption is not limited to "one side or the other of the [Romanian] political spectrum." In reference to Moore's remarks, Scheele said there are indeed grounds "for concern" that Romania could miss its chance to join the EU if it does not step up its fight against corruption, but he emphasized that combating corruption is "a permanent action" that is not limited to EU candidate countries. It is also an ongoing process in EU member states and in the United States, he said, and Romania's chances of accession will grow according to how successfully "the struggle against corruption is waged not only by the government, but also by the population at large." The battle will be won the day Romanians no longer perceive corruption as being part of their daily life, he said. MS

EU AMBASSADOR ADVISES ROMANIA TO STAY THE COURSE ON ADOPTION BAN
Ambassador Scheele, in an apparent response to calls by two U.S. senators for Romania to shorten its ban on foreign adoptions (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 16 April 2003), said on 17 April that the ban should not be lifted until the government has set up administrative structures that can solve the problems posed by such adoptions, Mediafax reported. He said this also necessitates the approval of new legislation, which is envisaged for June or July. The EU has always been of the opinion that such legislation itself is insufficient if the administrative capability to implement it is lacking, he emphasized. Romania currently plans to end the adoption ban in June 2003. MS

ROMANIAN TYCOON INVESTIGATED OVER COLLAPSE OF INVESTMENT FUND
Prominent Romanian businessman Sorin Ovidiu Vantu said on 17 April on the Pro TV private television channel that the Prosecutor-General's Office has accused him of masterminding the collapse of the National Investment Fund (FNI) in 2000, Mediafax reported. Vantu was interrogated by prosecutors earlier that day and was told that he is suspected of "instigating" the fraud committed by FNI head Ioana Maria Vlas, who revealed Vantu's role in the collapse after her voluntary return from Israel to face charges (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 31 March and 9 April 2003). Vantu said he never invested in the fund, but that businessman Nicolae Popa -- who, he claimed, had access to Vantu's bank account -- did. Insider information led to massive withdrawals before the fund collapsed in 2000. He also claimed it was "no coincidence" that the authorities chose to move against him right after U.S. Ambassador Guest made his remarks on corruption. "They want to demonstrate that they move rapidly and for this purpose [chose] the eternal scapegoat, Sorin Ovidiu Vantu," he said. MS

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT COUNTS ON 'PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT' FROM EU
President Vladimir Voronin, who attended the EU Treaty of Accession signing ceremony in Athens as an "observer," said on 17 April Moldova is counting on receiving "preferential treatment" from the EU, Flux reported. Voronin said European integration has become a priority for his country. He emphasized that the process is viewed in Chisinau as being both one of a "return to European culture and civilization," and as one of "adopting European political and economic norms." Voronin said Moldova's integration into Europe can best be achieved via the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), and that Chisinau is asking the EU to grant it the same privileges as those extended to the other SEECP members, thus avoiding a "discriminatory policy" toward Moldova and facilitating the solution of urgent Moldovan internal economic, political, and social problems. MS

EU OFFICIAL SAYS UNION MIGHT TAKE ADDITIONAL MEASURES AGAINST TRANSDNIESTER
EU foreign policy coordinator Javier Solana, meeting with Moldovan President Voronin on the sidelines of the EU treaty-signing ceremonies in Athens on 17 April, said the union might consider taking additional measures against the Transdniester leadership in addition to the travel ban imposed on members of separatist leader Igor Smirnov's team earlier this year, Flux reported. Solana said that if the Transdniester leadership continues to apply "brakes on the process of negotiations," the EU might take economic and financial steps against the leadership in Tiraspol. He did not specify what steps he has in mind. Solana said the conflict in Transdniester has a negative impact on regional security. He also said the EU is in favor of setting up joint Moldovan-Ukrainian customs checkpoints on the border between the two countries to stop smuggling from the separatist region, and he added that European institutions could send "representatives" to man the checkpoints together with Moldovans and Ukrainians. He reiterated that the EU intends to increase its involvement in the process of resolving the Transdniester conflict, and added that an EU expert might participate alongside Venice Commission experts in the process of the elaboration of the joint Moldovan-Transdniestrian federal constitution. Voronin also met in Athens with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to discuss the Transdniester conflict, and with Romanian President Ion Iliescu for talks on bilateral economic relations. MS

U.S. AMBASSADOR TO OSCE WRAPS UP MOLDOVAN VISIT
Speaking at the end of a four-day visit to Moldova, U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE Stephen Minikes said in Chisinau on 17 April that deployment of the multinational peacekeeping force for Transdniester that he has supported recently should be of short duration, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Minikes said Russia's possible participation in this force remains to be negotiated. He expressed satisfaction with the recent pace of the withdrawal of Russian troops and ammunition from the separatist region, and said Washington wants the withdrawal process to be completed by the end of this year, according to Infotag. In response to questions from journalists, Minikes said he disagrees with those Moldovan and foreign observers who believe Russia intends to use Moldova's federalization as a means to safeguard its "protectorate" in the Transdniester, and added that he backs President Voronin's initiative for Moldova's federalization, Flux reported. MS

MOLDOVA APPOINTS REPRESENTATIVES FOR COMMISSION ON ELABORATION OF FEDERAL CONSTITUTION
Parliament on 17 April designated its three representatives on the joint commission that is to elaborate Moldova's federal constitution together with Transdniester representatives, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. They are former Constitutional Court Judge Nicolae Kiseev; university professor and constitution expert Vladimir Mocreac; and Ion Creanga, who heads the legislature's Judicial Directorate. The Tiraspol Supreme Soviet has yet to appoint its three representatives on the joint commission, which has six months to work out a new basic document that is to be submitted for referendums on both sides of Dniester River by February 2004. MS

FRENCH PRESIDENT REASSURES BULGARIA, ROMANIA OF SUPPORT
Following his harsh criticism of Bulgaria and Romania in February for supporting the U.S. stance on Iraq, French President Jacques Chirac on 17 April reassured the two countries regarding their chances to join the EU, bnn reported. Speaking on the sidelines of the European Conference in Athens, Chirac said: "To Bulgaria and Romania I have a message of solidarity and friendship, which I had the chance to express before the Romanian president and the Bulgarian prime minister.... Bulgaria and Romania already have a fixed date -- 2007 -- and I am sure it will be observed." UB

BULGARIA'S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES AGAINST PARTS OF THE PRIVATIZATION ACT...
The Constitutional Court on 17 April ruled unconstitutional key amendments to the recently revised Privatization Act, mediapool.bg reported. The court decided that the parliament unconstitutionally exempted certain privatization deals from judicial control under the pretext that these deals were of importance to national security. The court also ruled unconstitutional the provision that the parliament should have the final say on key privatization deals. The opposition has challenged the amendments before the Constitutional Court. The government claimed the amendments were necessary for the privatization of the Bulgartabac state tobacco monopoly and the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTK) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 14 March and 1 April 2003). UB

...AND OF THE STATE BUDGET
The Constitutional Court on 17 April ruled unconstitutional the part of the state budget that regulates the funding for the Supreme Court of Appeals, mediapool.bg reported. According to the Constitutional Court, the parliament must ensure the functioning of the state institutions, and this was not provided for in the case of the supreme appellate court. In spite of protests from the judiciary, parliament earlier approved the Finance Ministry's draft budget, according to which the Supreme Court of Appeal's budget would have been cut by about 50 percent. The ruling added to recent defeats suffered by the governing coalition regarding the judiciary. Last week, the Constitutional Court restricted the government plans to reform the judicial system by amending the constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 14 April 2003). UB

PREMIER SAYS TURKEY WILL CONTINUE TO BUY BULGARIAN ELECTRICITY
Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski told journalists in Athens on 17 April that Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul has reassured him that Turkey will continue to buy Bulgarian electricity, "Standard" reported. Regional Development Minister Valentin Tserovski said his ministry is working on four or five proposals that would help implement the agreement under which Turkey will help construct a hydroelectric plant in Bulgaria in exchange for electricity (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2003). UB

UKRAINE'S IMAGE AGAIN SUFFERS AS KUCHMA THREATENS AGRICULTURAL REFORM
On 24 March, Leonid Kozachenko, deputy prime minister for agriculture from June 2001-November 2002 in the Anatoliy Kinakh government, was arrested on what are widely believed to be trumped-up charges, which he denies. Kozachenko faces up to eight years in prison for "abuse of power" (Article 364 of the Criminal Code) on charges that he deliberately lowered prices for the transport, storage, and loading of grain to ensure that exported grain was cheap in price. In addition, he faces 10 years for tax evasion (Article 212) related to charges that while working as the general director of Ukragrobiznes in 2000, he failed to pay taxes on shares he was given.

Ukraine has an extensive network of anticorruption legislation and presidential and parliamentary committees, but that legislation is selectively applied for political purposes. Yevhen Zhovtiak, an Our Ukraine deputy, said the Kozachenko "case is exclusively political." Ivan Tomych, head of the parliamentary committee on Agrarian Policy and an Our Ukraine deputy, has also protested Kozachenko's arrest.

By 2002 Ukraine had become the world's sixth largest grain exporter, and the agro-industrial sector has been a driving force in Ukraine's rapid economic growth since 2000. But the shortage of grain this year, after severe frosts destroyed 60-70 percent of the winter crop, and the likelihood that bread prices will rise, has disquieted the Ukrainian leadership. A bread-price hike is the last thing President Leonid Kuchma wants on the eve of the 2004 presidential election, as it would damage the Viktor Yanukevych government's attempt to boost its popularity. Doing so is of paramount importance, especially as Yanukevych is a potential successor to Kuchma. Kuchma has personally asserted, "Our assignment is to prevent bread prices from rising." According to sources close to Kozachenko, reasserting control over the grain market is part of Kuchma's strategy to prepare a successor for next year's election.

Kozachenko's reform of agriculture, like Yuliya Tymoshenko's reforms of the energy sector in the former Viktor Yushchenko government, inflicted considerable damage on vested, corrupt interests. Kozachenko supported the liberalization of the grain market, the adoption of international quality standards, the introduction of commodity exchanges to ensure that farmers obtain a fair price, and increased market transparency and competition among buyers. For the first time, farmers and villages -- the bedrock of support for the opposition left -- obtained large financial inflows because grain traders bought directly from them, bypassing regional governors and government-owned grain elevators. Farmers finally began to obtain income based on the real market value of their products and not from government-manipulated and corrupt bodies.

Kozachenko's arrest is expected to be followed by presidential decrees reimposing Soviet-style state regulation on the grain market and the introduction of artificial price controls. As the cabinet pledges to continue agricultural reforms, Kuchma has stated his intention to revive the Soviet system of state contracts, under which farmers are paid low prices. Kozachenko, who heads the Ukrainian Agrarian Confederation, accused the authorities in a 31 March statement of "restoring a command-management system over the agro-industrial complex."

The halt of agricultural reforms and re-centralization of the grain market will ensure that Kuchma's political allies continue to earn income from corruption in the agricultural sector at the expense of farmers. In return, the oligarchs and regional governors will likely be asked to donate a proportion of this "income" to Kuchma's chosen successor's presidential campaign next year. The authorities have long subjected honest businessmen to repression in an attempt at halting their financing of pro-reform opposition groups.

Kozachenko's arrest has again brought to light a problem besetting the transition process in Ukraine and elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Independent States, where the consolidation of a pro-executive oligarch class has blocked restructuring along market economic lines. The arrest is also further confirmation that the executive and pro-presidential elites are already divided and in panic, and will become more so as the 2004 presidential elections move closer. One hundred eighty-three of parliament's 450 deputies, including 24 from pro-presidential factions, have asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to ensure an objective investigation of Kozachenko's case. Meanwhile, 247 deputies, including an even larger number from the pro-presidential camp, supported the creation of an ad hoc commission to investigate the Ukrainian grain market.

The Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, headed by former Prime Minister Kinakh and in alliance with Dnipropetrovsk's Labor Ukraine clan in parliament, have protested Kozachenko's arrest. Other protests came from the Ukrainian Grain Association, Agrarian Confederation, Corn Association, and Association of Farmers and Landowners.

The impact of Kozachenko's arrest and the reversal of reform in agriculture is likely to be three-fold.

First, Ukraine's poor international image will be further tarnished. Ukraine's commitment to uphold documents it has signed, such as the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan (which has a domestic reform component), will once again be shown to be questionable. Canada, which supports two agricultural projects worth $13 million in Ukraine, has hinted that it might suspend further assistance because of the Kozachenko's arrest, a stance that led Ukraine to accuse Canada of "interference in its domestic affairs." Kozachenko is highly regarded by the Canada Board of Trade, international financial and grain organizations, and Western governments.

Second, Ukraine's hopes of attracting foreign investment will suffer. Foreign investors who began to slowly trickle into Ukraine in the last three years will again be scared off. Kempton Jenkins, president of the Ukraine-U.S. Business Council, believes that "reintroducing centralized control of the grain market would have a severe chilling effect on all foreign investors in Ukraine." The recent attempt to drive out five international agricultural companies who competed on the Ukrainian grain market is reminiscent of 1997, when the U.S. company Motorola withdrew from Ukraine after it had invested $500 million in the cellular market. Motorola lost a tender for frequencies for the GSM-900 system to an unknown company, Kyivstar GSM. The chief executive officer of Kyivstar GSM was Yuriy Tumanov, the brother of Ukraine's first lady, Ludmilla Kuchma. Kuchma's daughter, Olena Franchuk, was also a director of the company. Ironically, on the eve of Kozachenko's arrest, Tumanov was appointed in February as Kuchma's special adviser.

Third, emerging private farmers and the agro-business sector will suffer a setback due to a shortage of funds. The agro-business sector, the engine of Ukraine's economic recovery since 2000, will be negatively affected and fewer jobs will be created in this sector. Ultimately, the first attempt since the 1933 artificial famine and collectivization to raise rural Ukraine from its depressed and serf-like status is again being threatened.

The Kozachenko arrest is a reflection of the struggle at the heart of Ukrainian politics that will dominate the 2004 elections. Two business orientations exist among the rising middle class in Ukraine. One, represented by Kozachenko, seeks to support further market economic reforms and takes the national interest into consideration. The other, which has the support of the president, sees such reforms and transparency as a threat and seeks to block Ukraine's further economic transformation unless it suits personal and clannish interests.

Dr. Taras Kuzio is a resident fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto.

BA'ATH PARTY OFFICIAL CAPTURED IN IRAQ
U.S. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks told a U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) briefing on 18 April that another senior member of the deposed regime of former President Saddam Hussein has been captured. Kurdish officials handed Samir Abd al-Aziz al-Najm over to U.S. troops outside the northern city of Mosul on 17 April, Brooks said. Al-Najm served as a Ba'ath Party chairman and commander of the Ba'ath Party Militia, Diyala Governorate. He was 24th on CENTCOM's list of the 55 most-wanted individuals from the deposed Hussein regime. KR

IRAQI UNREST BLAMED ON BA'ATHISTS
Abu Bilal al-Adib, the Tehran-based political bureau chief of the Shi'a Al-Da'wah al-Islamiyah organization, said in an interview that appeared in the 15 April "Iran" newspaper that "disappeared elements of the Ba'athist regime are involved" in the current unrest in Iraqi cities such as Baghdad, Mosul, and Al-Najaf. Regarding Al-Najaf, al-Adib said the religious elements there are being exploited. Al-Adib also said Da'wah will not participate in a government headed by retired U.S. Major General Jay Garner, but would participate in a "popular government." BS

BRITISH CRITICIZED FOR REINSTATING BA'ATHISTS...
As word leaked out that British forces are allowing some Ba'athists from the regime of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to return to positions of power in Al-Basrah, the residents of Iraq's second-largest city expressed dismay over the decision, London's "The Daily Telegraph" reported on 18 April. At least six members of the deposed regime were on display at a recent inaugural city council meeting, the daily reported, including a local businessman known as "Saddam's banker," the imam of Saddam Hussein's mosque, and a university lecturer who used to recruit students into the Ba'ath Party. The British have cited difficulty in recruiting qualified members from outside the former regime to participate in an interim authority. British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon had confirmed the decision to "The Daily Telegraph" of 13 April, saying anyone who worked in the former Iraqi government was required to hold membership in the party and adding that many are "perfectly decent people" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2003). KR

...BUT TAKING NOTE
"The Daily Telegraph" also reported on 18 April that the British have reportedly dropped a proposal slating Shaykh Muzahim Mustafa Kanan al-Tamimi to run the interim civil administration in Al-Basrah (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2003) following angry protests in the city. The revised list of members has not been released. In addition, around 500 former Iraqi policemen have reportedly signed up to return to work in Al-Basrah and, according to "The Daily Telegraph," were being vetted for possible links to abuses by the deposed regime. KR

UN SECURITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT SAYS NO PROPOSAL TO LIFT SANCTIONS
The current president of the UN Security Council, Mexican Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, told reporters on 17 April that no proposal has been put forth regarding the lifting of sanctions against Iraq, UN News Center reported the same day. He added that the UN is in "intense dialogue" over a number of issues pertaining to Iraq. The issue of sanctions might be tabled as soon as 21 April, when the council hears from chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix and Benon Sevan the executive director of the UN Office of the Iraq Program, which oversees the oil-for-food program. "We will be able to respond then," Zinser said. U.S. President George W. Bush called for a lifting of sanctions on 16 April, according to U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher in a 17 April daily briefing, "to ensure that the economic sanctions that were imposed because of the behavior of the Saddam Hussein regime are lifted so that Iraq can resume a normal trading relationship with the global economy...so that the aspirations and needs of the Iraqi people can be met." The lifting of sanctions, however, is tied to Iraqi disarmament through Security Council resolutions. KR

KDP OFFICIAL SAYS KURDS, ARABS ENJOY GOOD RELATIONS
Hoshyar Zebari, spokesman for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), told reporters at a 17 April press conference in Salah Al-Din that there is no ethnic conflict between Kurds and Arabs in northern Iraq, KurdSat reported the same day. Zebari said Kurdish "peshmerga" forces entered Mosul at the request of coalition forces and said they will withdraw soon. Zebari added that Mosul is an Arab city, not Kurdish or Turkoman. "We favor the establishment of a municipal council in Mosul that would represent the majority of Arabs, while a municipal council will be established in Kirkuk to include representatives form the Kurdish, Arab, Turkoman, and Christian communities," he said. Both the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have opened offices in Baghdad, Kirkuk, and Mosul, according to Zebari, in an effort to build relations between Kurds and Arabs in those cities. The Kurds, but particularly the PUK, have come under fire from local residents and international organizations for reportedly expelling Arabs and Turkomans from their homes in Kirkuk (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 17 April 2003). KR

INTERPOL, FBI HUNT FOR STOLEN ARTIFACTS
Interpol has announced the formation of a team of experts to track down Iraqi antiquities stolen during widespread looting across the country in recent days, Reuters reported on 18 April. The experts will travel to Iraq in the coming days. Karl-Heinz Kind, Interpol's specialist in the theft of art and antiquities, said, "Interpol is calling on organizations and institutions involved in conservation and trade of antiquities to categorically decline any offers of cultural property originating from Iraq," according to Reuters. In the United States, FBI Director Robert Mueller said his agency has sent agents to Iraq to investigate the thefts. "We are firmly committed to doing whatever we can to secure these treasures," Mueller said, according to an 18 April AP report. Meanwhile, McGuire Gibson, president of the American Association for Research in Baghdad, told AP that some thefts were part of a "very deliberate, planned action." "They were able to obtain keys from somewhere for the vaults and were able to take out the very important, the very best material," he said. "I have a suspicion it was organized outside the country. In fact, I'm pretty sure it was." KR

IRAQI OPPOSITION COALITION CALLS FOR END TO 'OCCUPATION'
The Iraqi National Forces Coalition issued a statement calling for an end to "foreign occupation and military rule" and the immediate handover of authority to "an international interim administration headed by the United Nations," London's "Al-Hayat" newspaper reported on 17 April. The Iraqi National Forces Coalition called on the UN to protect Iraqi civilians, prevent human rights violations, search for political prisoners, and discover the fate of "the missing and forgotten." The Iraqi National Forces Coalition also called for the protection of Iraq's natural resources, especially oil, and it demanded tolerance, an end to looting and theft, and an end to acts of personal revenge and retribution. The Iraqi National Forces Coalition consists of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party -- Iraq Command, Arab Socialist Movement, Assyrian Ethnic Organization, Al-Da'wah al-Islamiyah (Islamic Call), Group of Mujahedin Ulama in Iraq, Iraqi Communist Party, Iraqi Democratic Grouping, Islamic Action Party, Islamic Union for Iraq's Turkmen, Kurdistan Communist Party, Socialist Party in Iraq, and the Turkmen Democratic Party. BS

IRAN-BASED DA'WAH LINKED WITH SADRIYUN
Officials from the Iran-based wing of Al-Da'wah al-Islamiyah are back in Iraq and its 11-member council in Baghdad is selecting a leader, according to the 17 April "Financial Times." Beirut's "Al-Mustaqbal" daily reported the previous day that the supporters of Da'wah, of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and of Ayatollah Muhammad Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (killed on 19 February 1999; see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 March 1999) are participating in a campaign focused on "rejecting the American occupation and opposing any Iraqi government sponsored by the United States." "Western diplomatic sources" have noted a relationship between the followers of al-Sadr's son Muqtada, who are known as the Sadriyun, and Da'wah, according to "al-Mustaqbal." Furthermore, Jafar al-Sadr, who resides in Iran and is the son of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, has a "strong and family relationship" with Muqtada. BS

SCIRI REITERATES OPPOSITION TO FOREIGN PRESENCE
"After the fall of this [Ba'athist regime] at the hands of coalition forces, Iraq now faces a new problem, which is getting rid of [U.S.] hegemony and occupation forces in order to achieve complete independence," SCIRI spokesman Ibrahim Hamudi said in a 17 April telephone interview with Cairo's Voice of the Arabs radio. Hamudi went on to explain SCIRI's boycott of the 15 April opposition meeting in Al-Nasiriyah by saying that having foreigners organize an event on managing Iraqi affairs is insulting and, referring to an interim administration headed by a retired U.S. military officer, he said that having "military rulers" in the 21st century does not make sense. SCIRI leader Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim said in the 16 April issue of the Saudi "Al-Watan" newspaper that the opposition should have organized the Al-Nasiriyah meeting. He went on to say that coalition military forces are preventing the opposition parties from maintaining security. Al-Hakim went on to say that the SCIRI and Washington are continuing their contacts, "with the view of getting foreign forces out of Iraq." BS

ARAB AFGHANS ANNOUNCE IRAQI RESISTANCE
A group calling itself the "Mujahedin in Iraq" has issued a statement regarding the existence of a supreme command that combines Iraqi military leaders and Arab fighters coming from Afghanistan, Cairo's "Al-Sha'b" weekly reported on 18 April. Its commanders are identified as Khalid Sheikh, Abu-Iyad al-Falestini, and Nasrallah al-Afghani. The Mujahedin in Iraq states that Iraqi forces withdrew from Baghdad as a reaction to coalition air strikes and "following consultations between the military command of the mujahedin and the leadership of the ruling Ba'ath Party in Iraq." If this is untrue, the statement asks, then where are the Americans' pictures of Iraqi tanks and missiles, where are these weapons, where are the Iraqi aircraft, and where are all the Iraqi soldiers? The statement claims that "what happened in Iraq was a pure tactical retreat." "Brethren in the Arabian Peninsula" are advised to be ready for "the showdown" and "the battle of jihad." BS

FOUR AFGHAN SOLDIERS KILLED IN CLASH ALONG PAKISTAN BORDER...
Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said on 17 April that two clashes took place on 16 April between Afghan government forces and fighters who entered Afghanistan's southeastern Zabul Province from Pakistan, AFP and Reuters reported. Jalali said four Afghan soldiers and several "terrorists" were killed during the battles. Five people were also arrested before the operation ended on 16 April, according to Jalali. KM

...AND AFGHAN BORDER GUARDS CLASH WITH PAKISTANI FIGHTERS
Interior Minister Jalali also said that in a third incident, fighting broke out on 16 April between Afghan border guards and Pakistani militiamen who penetrated 5 kilometers across the border into Afghanistan's southeastern Khost Province, AFP reported the next day. No casualties were reported. The Afghanistan-Pakistan border remains a matter of dispute in many areas and is a longstanding problem in the countries' relations. Moreover, suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants are believed to be hiding in Pakistan and launching attacks from across the border into Afghanistan. During a 17 April meeting with the visiting U.S. presidential envoy to Afghanistan and Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said Pakistan will work to prevent terrorists from operating from its territory, according to AFP. Cross-border security will be on the agenda of a meeting scheduled for 22 April between Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai and Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf. KM

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