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Newsline - April 24, 2003


RUSSIA INSISTS UN CERTIFY IRAQ HAS NO WMD BEFORE SANCTIONS ARE LIFTED
Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Sergei Lavrov reaffirmed on 22 April Moscow's position that UN sanctions against Iraq should be lifted only after international inspectors return there and formally certify that the country has no weapons of mass destruction, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 April. "As soon as they submit this report, sanctions must be lifted," Lavrov told reporters after UN Security Council consultations. The United States has called for the immediate lifting of sanctions, but opposes the return of international inspectors to Iraq. The Russian envoy stressed that issues involving Iraq must be resolved on the basis of UN resolutions, which link sanctions to disarmament. "[UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) Executive Chairman] Hans Blix confirmed to us today that he has no information about the existence in Iraq of problems related to WMD," he said. "His people cannot confirm or disprove the existence of such weapons." Accordingly, Lavrov said, the inspectors want to return to Iraq to finish their job, and Russia regards "this position as completely legitimate." SS

FSB CHIEF LINKS THEATER HOSTAGE TAKERS TO INTERNATIONAL NETWORK
Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev said on 23 April -- exactly six months after the October hostage drama at a Moscow theater began -- that his agency's investigation of the incident has revealed a connection with foreign terrorists, RIA-Novosti reported. Patrushev was speaking in Moscow to an international conference of the heads of special services, security agencies, and law-enforcement bodies from around the world. The FSB's investigation revealed that the Chechen hostage takers were linked to a "well-coordinated international terrorism network," Patrushev said, citing "documented contacts" between the perpetrators and associates abroad. Patrushev added that the hostage takers trained at international terrorist camps, which he didn't identify. He told reporters later that information supplied by the FSB had contributed to the capture of Al-Qaeda members abroad, but he gave no details. Deputy presidential administration head Viktor Ivanov told the security chiefs' conference that President Vladimir Putin is following the gathering's work "with great interest." Citing the danger that terrorists could gain access to weapons of mass destruction, Ivanov said, "The United Nations must play the key role in coordinating antiterrorism activities." SS

KALININGRAD ACCORD ALMOST COMPLETE AFTER LITHUANIAN CONCESSIONS...
Duma Foreign Relations Committee Chairman and presidential envoy for Kaliningrad Dmitrii Rogozin told President Putin on 23 April that Moscow's negotiations with the European Union and Lithuania over access to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad following Lithuania's entry into the EU are "practically complete," RIA-Novosti reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 2002). The new rules, which will be incorporated into the Schengen agreement governing border crossings, call for a simplified transit document to be issued to Russians for a term of three years. Barring last-minute snags, the procedure, which will allow Russians a 24-hour period in which to pass through Lithuania, is expected to go into effect on 1 July. At a meeting in Moscow, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis hailed the new arrangement as a first in international practice, with Ivanov quipping that the countries should "patent" it. Valionis said his government has made several concessions, dropping its refusal to have consular workers handle transit procedures aboard trains and shortening the amount of time needed for issuing the transit document to 24 hours. SS

...AS LITHUANIA AGAIN AFFIRMS READINESS TO SIGN CFE TREATY
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Valionis also said in Moscow on 23 April that Lithuania is willing to sign the amended Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE), but only after those states that have already signed that accord ratify it, Interfax reported. Some NATO members, however, are refusing to ratify the treaty to protest Moscow's failure to comply with its commitments to close its military bases in Georgia and Moldova. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov last November expressed the hope that all three Baltic states will sign the CFE Treaty before they are formally accepted as NATO members (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2002). LF

NEW MUNITIONS CHIEF NAMED
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 23 April signed an order dismissing Zinovii Pak, 64, as general director of Rosboepripasy, the Russian Munitions Agency, Interfax reported. His successor at the agency, whose functions include the destruction of chemical weapons, will be Colonel General Viktor Kholstov, 56, who was formerly chief of Russia's anti-nuclear, -chemical, and -biological (NBC) forces. The official explanation for Pak's departure was that he had reached retirement age, but "Kommersant-Daily" cited other possible motives. Pak has been a target of criticism from the State Duma, the Federation Council, and regional chiefs for his agency's allegedly inefficient use of funds for the destruction of chemical-weapons arsenals. The paper said, however, that independent analysts believe the key reason is the expected reorganization of the government. Rosboepripasy, which was established just four years ago, will reportedly be incorporated into another executive-branch body under the streamlining plan, and Pak's dismissal could be the first step in that direction. The dismissal will take effect on 27 April, the date on which the first phase of Russia's chemical disarmament will end. The remaining phases will last until 2012. SS

MOSCOW NONCOMMITTAL ON BAKU'S INTENTION TO JOIN NATO
Russian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Nikolai Ryabov said on 23 April that his government has not yet formulated its position regarding Azerbaijan's potential entry into NATO, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2003). "A great deal depends on the terms of admission, the time frame of admission, how the process of NATO's own transformation from a military bloc into a political organization goes, and many other issues," Ryabov said. "But we don't believe this is an issue for today or tomorrow." He also cited the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Security between Russia and Azerbaijan, which requires each country to refrain from actions that would impinge on the security of the other (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1997). SS

170,000 SOLDIERS, SERGEANTS TO BE VOLUNTEERS BY 2007
The Defense Ministry plans to staff 170,000 positions for soldiers and sergeants with contract personnel during the four-year switchover to a volunteer army from 2004-07, Interfax reported on 23 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 2003). A government source told the agency that 130,000 of the positions will be in the armed forces, while the rest will be in other defense agencies. The plan, which the ministry was expected to present to the government on 24 April, calls for 27 military units to be switched to a volunteer basis next year, at a cost of 23 billion rubles ($740 million). Military officials expect the draft to continue at least until 2008, according to the source, but once the plan for maintaining volunteer units at a level of constant combat readiness is completed, the term of service for conscripts might be reduced from two years to one. SS

LEGISLATORS OK KINDER, GENTLER CRIMINAL CODE...
State Duma deputies on 23 April approved a presidential package of amendments to the Criminal Code in its first reading, Russian media reported. The vote was 281 in favor, with 77 against and two abstentions, according to ITAR-TASS. Presidential representative to the Duma Aleksandr Kotenkov said the amendment will "substantially humanize criminal law" by imposing lesser penalties for minors and drugs addicts and milder punishments for minor crimes. In addition, criminals will be fined rather than have their property confiscated, unless they are found to have obtained their property illegally. According to RosBalt, the bill contains about 100 amendments. JAC

...BUT SEND OFFICIAL-CONDUCT CODE BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
Deputies on 23 April approved in its third and final reading a bill allowing Russian citizens to mine gems and precious metals, with 280 votes in favor, RosBalt reported. But they rejected a draft code of conduct for government officials in its second reading, RosBalt reported. The latter bill -- authored by the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), Yabloko, and the Fatherland-All Russia factions -- was approved in its first reading last May, but deputies now believe it needs to be reworked, according to ITAR-TASS. The bill got only 179 votes of the 226 needed. JAC

PUTIN ASKS REGIONAL ENVOYS TO ENSURE THAT REFORMS ON THE BOOKS ARE ACTUALLY IMPLEMENTED
At a meeting with the presidential envoys to the seven federal districts in Moscow on 23 April, President Putin called on them to pay special attention to how legal reforms and the new Land Code are implemented in their jurisdictions, Russian media reported. On the subject of land legislation, analyst Boris Makarenko of the Center for Political Technologies told polit.ru that federal legislation "has fallen behind regional laws, which are now more varied and newer." In addition, Putin gave the envoys a deadline of 14 July to bring regional legislation into line with federal law. He also called on the envoys and their staffs to monitor elections to local legislative organs to ensure they are making the required transition to a system under which at least one-half of the mandates are distributed by party lists. JAC

MORE EVIDENCE FOUND OF RURAL DEPOPULATION TREND
State Statistics Committee Deputy Chairman Sergei Kolesnikov told ITAR-TASS on 23 April that preliminary census results show that nearly one-third of Russian villages have been deserted. According to Kolesnikov, 8 percent of 155,000 rural settlements are completely depopulated. He also reported that villages inhabited by no more than 10 people account for 22 percent of all rural populated areas. Regions in the Far North -- such as Chukotka Autonomous Okrug and Kamchatka and Magadan Oblasts -- have experienced some of the biggest declines in village populations. Sixty-six of the 89 federation subjects have experienced population declines since the last census, the agency reported. Last October, Irina Zbarskaya, head of the population census and demographic statistics department of the State Statistics Committee, told reporters that census takers working in the Far North and Far East had encountered several ghost towns that remain on the official register, but have in fact been deserted by their inhabitants (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2002). JAC

DUMA TRIES TO PUT MORE PRESSURE ON INTERIOR MINISTER
State Duma Deputy Viktor Ilyukhin (Communist) told reporters on 23 April that leftist deputies intend to appeal to President Putin to dismiss Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov for "too actively pursuing the issue of [political] party construction, while the criminal situation in the country remains extremely negative," RosBalt reported. Gryzlov was named to head Unified Russia's High Council last November (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 17 January 2003). Ilyukhin said the appeal has already been prepared and will be introduced for the Duma's consideration after 10 May. Earlier in the week, deputies called for top law enforcement officials to resign following the 17 April slaying of Duma Deputy Sergei Yushenkov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2003). JAC

GOVERNOR ALLEGEDLY SLUGS TRAFFIC COP...
A St. Petersburg prosecutor has opened a criminal case against Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Vladimir Butov for allegedly punching a traffic police officer in the face, NTV and RosBalt reported on 23 April. The incident allegedly took place on 11 April, when Butov was in town to attend a meeting of Northwest Federal District governors with President Putin. According to NTV, a traffic cop stopped Butov's car for trying to drive immediately behind Putin's motorcade. Commenting on the case, an unidentified representative of the okrug in St. Petersburg said that okrug officials could themselves "file a complaint about the actions of the traffic inspector, who insulted the leader of one of the federation subjects," regions.ru reported, citing Federal Post. Last year, federal authorities opened a criminal case against Butov for not fulfilling a Moscow arbitration court order to sign a license to develop a local oil field (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 18 April 2002). JAC

...AS ANOTHER IS CHALLENGED TO DUEL FOR ETHNIC SLUR
Aleksei Bobryakov, an administrator of the Association for Native Numerically Small Peoples, has challenged Kamchatka Oblast Governor Mikhail Mashkovtsev to a duel, regions.ru reported on 23 April, citing Kamchatka television station Channel 10. Bobryakov was insulted by Mashkovtsev's use of the term "asphalt Koryaks" on local television a few days prior. Bobyrakov had asked Mashkovtsev about the distribution of fishing quotas allotted to native peoples living in Kamchatskii-Petropavlovsk, when Maskovtsev responded that he does not recognize "asphalt Koryaks." Koryaks are traditionally semi-nomadic reindeer herders who live in north Siberia, and, according to the website, the term "asphalt Koryak" refers to people who are "fully assimilated into the dominant ethnic culture and no longer participate in traditional means of exploiting nature," such as fishing. JAC

CHECHEN OFFICIAL REJECTS PREMIER'S VERSION OF BUS EXPLOSION
Adlan Magomadov, who is Chechen representative to the Kremlin, said on 23 April that Prime Minister Anatolii Popov "most likely mixed things up" when he told NTV television on 21 April that 16 civilians were killed on 15 April when a bus exploded near Grozny, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 23 April 2003). Magomadov said Popov was probably thinking of the bus explosion in Grozny on 3 April that killed eight construction workers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 April 2003). Magomadov added that the video footage posted on http://www.kavkazcenter.com purporting to show the 15 April explosion was edited and at least one year old. He further stressed that Popov's statement should not be construed as evidence of tensions between the prime minister and Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov. LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH PACE DELEGATION
A delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe met in Yerevan on 23 April with Robert Kocharian and parliament speaker Armen Khachatrian to discuss preparations for the 25 May parliamentary election, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The PACE criticized ballot-box stuffing and other violations during the February-March presidential election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April 2003), and PACE Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer warned early this month that a repeat of such violations during the parliamentary ballot would signify "disaster" for Armenia. Asked on 23 April whether the Council of Europe might consider imposing sanctions on Armenia if the parliamentary elections prove flawed, delegation head Lord Russell-Johnston said he hopes that problem will not arise, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The PACE intends to send some 30 observers to Armenia to assess the parliamentary ballot. LF

COURT UPHOLDS REFUSAL TO REGISTER OPPOSITION CANDIDATE FOR ARMENIAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION
A Yerevan district court rejected on 23 April parliament Deputy Aghasi Arshakian's appeal against the refusal of a Yerevan district election commission (not the Central Election Commission as erroneously stated in "RFE/RL Newsline" on 23 April) to register him as a candidate to contest the 25 May election under the majoritarian system, Noyan Tapan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2003). The refusal was based on allegedly erroneous documents Arshakian submitted in support of his registration application. LF

LITHUANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS ARMENIA
Linas Linkevicius held talks in Yerevan on 21-23 April with President Kocharian, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, and with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian, Interfax and Noyan Tapan reported. Kocharian said the Baltic states' experience in implementing reform should serve as both an example and a source of information for Armenia, Interfax reported. Markarian advocated expanding cooperation between the two countries in the spheres of tourism, agriculture, and industry. Linkevicius told journalists on 23 April that Armenian officers will begin a course of training at the Baltic Military College in November 2003, and that 15 Lithuanian officers will participate in the NATO-sponsored maneuvers to be held in Armenia in June. LF

POLICE HUNT DOWN SIGNATORIES OF APPEAL TO AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT TO RESIGN...
Police on 23 April began rounding up the 122 members of the Azerbaijani intelligentsia who the previous day signed a six-page appeal to President Heidar Aliev to resign "while there is still time" or risk being forcibly ousted, Turan reported on 24 April. The signatories include one general, three colonels, and dozens of lawyers. Analyzing Aliev's policies since he was first elected in 1969 to head the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, the document affirms that his "dictatorial regime has brought Azerbaijan to the brink of catastrophe" and blames him for the country's economic decline and mass unemployment and out-migration. The statement was drafted by members of the Amal association representing the country's intelligentsia. Presenting the statement on 22 April, Professor Murshud Mamedli stressed that it was prepared before Aliev's televised collapse the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2003). On 23 April, Aliev did not show up for work at the presidential administration, nor did he appear on state television, Turan reported on 24 April. LF

...AS TWO AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS DETAINED, CAUTIONED
Two journalists from the independent newspaper "Milliyet" were detained on 23 April and taken to the Prosecutor-General's Office, where First Deputy Prosecutor-General Ramiz Rzaev warned them that it is "inadmissible" to print materials insulting the honor and dignity of President Aliev, Turan reported. The two were then released. The paper printed in its 19 April edition a collage of the toppled statue in Baghdad of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with Aliev's head superimposed. All copies of the paper were confiscated from newspaper kiosks the following day, "Milliyet" founder Zalimkhan Mamedli told Turan. LF

DEADLINE ELAPSES FOR PASSAGE OF AZERBAIJANI ELECTION LAW
Azerbaijan's parliament has still not passed in the final reading the disputed new election bill, even though the Council of Europe had advocated doing so six months prior to 17 October, the date the ballot is due, Turan noted on 23 April. Deputies completed an article-by-article discussion of the bill in its second reading on 9 April, but have yet to vote on individual sections. No details have been released of the discussions of the bill that took place in Strasbourg earlier this month between parliament deputies and experts from the Council of Europe and the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Presidential apparatus official Safa Mirzoev told deputies on 23 April that the bill will be adopted "soon," but did not specify a date, zerkalo.az reported on 24 April. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SEES NO DANGER OF DICTATORSHIP
Speaking in Kyiv on 23 April, Eduard Shevardnadze excluded the possibility that Georgia could revert to dictatorship, saying that democratic values have taken root in the country, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze recalled that he resigned as Soviet Foreign Minister in 1990 warning of such a danger in the USSR, but that he does not perceive any such threat in Georgia today. Parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze argued on 21 April that Shevardnadze's policies are leading Georgia back to dictatorship (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2003). LF

UN REPRESENTATIVE SAYS REPATRIATION TO ABKHAZIA CONTINGENT ON SECURITY GUARANTEES
Meeting on 23 April at Tbilisi State University with rectors of Georgian institutes of higher education, Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, who is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special representative for the Abkhaz conflict, said the repatriation to Abkhazia of Georgian displaced persons is contingent on providing guarantees of their safety, Caucasus Press reported. It is not clear whether she elaborated on that point, or whether such security guarantees were discussed in the course of the March 6-7 talks between Shevardnadze and Russian President Vladimir Putin that resulted in an agreement that the repatriation process should be expedited (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 13 March 2003). As she has done on several previous occasions, Tagliavini also ruled out the use of force to impose a solution to the conflict. On 24 April, Putin's special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loshchinin, is due to arrive in Georgia for talks with Georgian and Abkhaz leaders on implementation of the agreements reached last month by Putin and Shevardnadze. LF

KAZAKH DEFENSE MINISTER URGES COLLECTING FEES FOR USE OF MISSILE-TEST SITE
Kazakhstan's Defense Minister Colonel General Mukhtar Altynbaev was quoted in the 23 April issue of "Ekspress-K" as saying that air-defense specialists from a number of countries, including some outside the CIS, have asked to use the formerly top secret Saryshagan missile-test site. He said he believes allowing foreign specialists to use the site for a fee will bring in tidy sums. He added that the 2001 shooting down of a civilian aircraft during military exercises in Ukraine could have been avoided if the Ukrainian military had used the remote Saryshagan site. A Belarusian air-defense specialist was quoted as saying that Kazakhstan has managed to organize the training process at Saryshagan even better than was the case in Soviet times when he trained there. The head of the Kazakh air-defense forces, Major General Kopen Akhmadiev, said that so far only CIS military specialists have been trained at Saryshagan. He cited 17 Kyrgyz and seven Tajik officers who have recently completed training and practice missile launches. He noted that the CIS users of the site have not been asked to pay so far. Noting that the CIS militaries are equipped with old missiles that often have faulty guidance systems, Akhmadiev added that Saryshagan is the best place to practice. BB

KAZAKH MILITARY SAYS JOURNALIST TRYING TO AVOID NATIONAL SERVICE
Yuri Khalikov, a journalist with Kazakh Commercial Television, is trying to avoid military service, khabar.kz asserted on 23 April, quoting the Kustanai military commissariat. Khalikov is currently involved in a legal dispute with the authorities over his reports, and his case has attracted the attention of the independent media in Kazakhstan, for whom it is another example of government harassment of journalists. Khabar.kz quoted oblast military commissar Igor Losev as saying that Khalikov obtained a postponement of his military service last fall for health reasons before he became embroiled with the local authorities, but he was not exempted. Losev asserted that Khalikov was behaving like a dissident in order to evade his national service altogether. BB

KYRGYZ FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS RUSSIAN AIR BASE WILL STRENGTHEN REGIONAL SECURITY
Askar Aitmatov told Interfax on 23 April that the establishment of a Russian air base at Kant in northern Kyrgyzstan should supplement the presence of U.S. forces at an air base outside Bishkek that is being used by the antiterrorism coalition. The Russian base is being set up under the CIS Collective Security Treaty to strengthen the security of the Central Asian region, although two of the five Central Asian CIS members are not party to the treaty. The first Russian forces are scheduled to arrive late this month. Aitmatov noted that Central Asia is within the sphere of interest of both Russia and the United States, and both will be involved in neutralizing threats to the region's security. Therefore, he sees no reason to expect a rivalry between the armed forces of the two countries. A number of political commentators in Kyrgyzstan have questioned the wisdom of allowing the Russian base to be set up. Some have asked whether Kyrgyzstan might be better off as a neutral state than caught in the middle of a rivalry between the United States and Russia. BB

KYRGYZ OMBUDSMAN THINKS HIZB UT-TAHRIR DOES NOT WANT TO BE LEGALIZED
Kyrgyz Ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir-uulu believes the banned Islamic extremist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir is not interested in being legalized in Kyrgyzstan, Interfax reported on 23 April. International organizations have appealed to the Kyrgyz authorities officially to recognize the movement and stop persecuting Hizb ut-Tahrir adherents. Bakir-uulu has questioned whether the group should be banned just because it wants to change the constitutional system. He pointed out that the Communist Party, which enjoys full legality, has the same aim. Bakir-uulu noted that if Hizb ut-Tahrir were legalized in Kyrgyzstan, its funding would dry up. In order to be legalized, it would have to change its political goals and accept official registration. Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies estimate that there are more than 4,000 Hizb ut-Tahrir adherents in Kyrgyzstan. Both the government and the opposition agree that the movement's influence has been growing in the last two years. The authorities are stepping up their efforts to counter Hizb ut-Tahrir influence through both repression and "prophylactic work." BB

KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT TO REVISE LAWS IN ACCORD WITH INTERNATIONAL COMMITMENTS
Foreign Minister Aitmatov and Ombudsman Bakir-uulu held a joint press conference in Bishkek on 23 April, telling journalists that Kyrgyzstan intends to revise or amend several laws to bring its legislation into line with the new version of the constitution and the country's international commitments, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. According to Aitmatov, some 60 existing laws have been revised by a special commission, and 12 draft amendments have been prepared for submission to the parliament. One of the drafts removes the requirement that permission be obtained from the authorities for demonstrations and pickets. Another prohibits political activity by religious groups, and this is presumably aimed at Hizb ut-Tahrir. BB

INTERNATIONAL DONORS SAYS KYRGYZSTAN MOST CORRUPT OF THE POOREST CIS STATES
A report just published by the World Bank, IMF, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and Asian Development Bank (ADB) on the economic progress of the seven poorest CIS countries describes Kyrgyzstan as the most corrupt of the seven, akipress.org reported on 23 April. The so-called CIS Seven are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The report asserts that, on average, firms in Kyrgyzstan spend 3.8 percent of their income on bribes. The figure was based on data obtained during a survey of the business climate by the EBRD and World Bank. The report notes that, in general, managers in the seven poorest CIS countries said some aspects of the investment climate, including the extent of corruption, have improved since the first overview was done in 1999, with the only country registering increased corruption being Kyrgyzstan. The report states that further World Bank loans to Kyrgyzstan will depend on improvements in governance. The bank is expected to appoint permanent advisers on reform of the management of state expenditures for Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia this year. BB

UZBEK HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS AND SECURITY SERVICES PREPARING FOR EBRD MEETING
Uzbekistan's human rights activists are getting ready for the annual meeting of the EBRD, being held this year in Tashkent in early May, and the country's security services are stepping up their measures against the activists, centrasia.ru reported on 24 April. The report quotes well-known human rights activist Elena Urlaeva as saying that in the last month some 10 protest actions in defense of human rights were planned in Tashkent, but most were broken up by security forces. Another activist said that there has been an increase in the amount of picketing and protest actions throughout the country. Two months ago, Uzbek human rights activists wrote to the EBRD, accusing the Uzbek leadership of violating human rights. The bank's mandate requires that its annual meeting be held only in democratic countries with market economies, but bank officials have defended the choice of Tashkent by saying that it should provide impetus to push Uzbekistan in the right direction. More than 50 international, regional, and Russian human rights organizations have appealed to the EBRD to change its venue. Uzbek activists are asserting that their increased activities as well as the pressures of the security services against them are directly related to the bank meeting, and that the government sees the choice of Tashkent as approval of its policies. Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov has reportedly confirmed this assessment. BB

BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT LAUNCHES SOWING CAMPAIGN...
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka held a televised conference with government officials and regional executive leaders on 23 April at which he issued directives and instructions regarding this year's sowing season, Belarusian Television and Belapan reported. Lukashenka said Belarus should produce 6.5 million tons of grain, 8.5 million tons of potatoes, 3 million tons of sugar beet, some 40,000 tons of flax fiber, and no less than 3.6 tons of fodder per head of cattle in 2003. Belarusian National Bank Chairman Pyotr Prakapovich reported that Belarusian banks have already provided 53.8 billion rubles ($26.9 million) in loans to farms for the sowing campaign. Lukashenka ordered that the sowing campaign be completed by 15 May. JM

...THREATENS TO QUIT LENDING TO 'LAZYBONES' IN FARM SECTOR...
Lukashenka also told the televised conference on 23 April that, beginning this year, no farm in Belarus should expect "gratuitous support" from the state, Belarusian Television reported. According to Lukashenka, 25 percent of Belarus's 2,500 state-run collective farms "do not understand that they should provide for themselves primarily on their own and sell their products at least in such an amount so as to be able to pay wages." He threatened to cut off state credits to such loss-making farms. "I'm not going to take money from well-functioning collectives and redistribute it among lazybones any longer," the president said. JM

...AND POINTS TO GLOBAL IMPACT ON DOMESTIC ECONOMY
Lukashenka emphasized during the 23 April conference that rigorous economizing in the Belarusian economy is necessary owing to current "hard times" on the global scale, Belarusian Television reported. "The global economy is in serious trouble, Europe's economy is plunging, unemployment is rising at a catastrophically rapid pace, [and] an economic collapse in the United States resulted in the Iraq war," Lukashenka said. "The consequences of this war will affect us, as well.... This war will surely have certain consequences for our economy.... The world prices for oil, gas, and other energy resources were exorbitant, even though our economic entities have not felt this in full because we were trying to export gas at lower prices.... No other state does so much for the agricultural sector [as Belarus]." JM

UKRAINE, RUSSIA, GERMANY MULL GAS CONSORTIUM
Ukrainian and Russian government officials met with German representatives in Kyiv on 23 April to discuss the formation of an international consortium to upgrade Ukraine's natural-gas-pipeline system, Interfax reported. The consortium was registered in Kyiv in January by Ukraine's Naftohaz and Russia's Gazprom with $1 million in capital. Germany's Ruhrgas is expected to participate in the consortium. The trilateral meeting in Kyiv, which reportedly did not touch on "issues of principal importance," decided that corporate-level representatives from the three countries will gather for another round of talks in Kyiv on 7-8 May. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaliy Hayduk and his Russian counterpart Viktor Khristenko said they will begin preparing a business plan for the consortium in June. The Ukrainian gas-pipeline network, through which some 90 percent of Europe's gas imports flow, consists of 35,200 kilometers of pipelines, 122 gas compressors, and 13 underground gas-storage facilities. Russia's involvement in the Kyiv-based gas consortium is seen as a sign that Moscow has abandoned its earlier plans to build new gas pipelines to Europe that circumvent Ukraine. JM

ESTONIA'S CONCORDIA, AUDENTES UNIVERSITIES SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT
The Concordia Academic Community (CAC), an organization formed by the faculty and students of the bankrupt Concordia University, and the private Audentes University signed a cooperation agreement on 23 April, BNS reported. Its aim is to allow Concordia to continue operating. The Latvian private graduate business school Turiba's offer to invest $1 million to ensure the continued work of Concordia (see "RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 18 April 2003) was withdrawn after the CAC evaluated all cooperation offers and selected Audentes as the best cooperation partner. SG

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT VISITS ESTONIA
Rolandas Paksas began a two-day working visit to Estonia on 23 April with talks with his Estonian counterpart Arnold Ruutel, ELTA reported. He proposed that Baltic politicians, intellectuals, and experts prepare a study on the impact of the cooperation among the three Baltic states on the region's development and define strategic priorities and prospects for the coming decade. Paksas mentioned the need to further develop the Via Baltica and Rail Baltica railway projects, as well as to unite the Lithuanian and Polish electricity-transmission networks. Prime Minister Juhan Parts asked Paksas about Lithuania's preparations for its EU-membership referendum in May and discussed increasing bilateral trade. Parliament speaker Ene Ergma noted that the two countries are in a totally new situation after their signing of the EU Treaty of Accession and that it is necessary to decide how to best present their common interests. The three Baltic presidents will meet in Tartu on 24 April. SG

LATVIAN PRESIDENT VETOES BILL ON RIGA'S HISTORIC CENTER
Vaira Vike-Freiberga on 23 April sent back to parliament for revision a bill on preserving and protecting Riga's historic center, LETA and BNS reported. The aim of the bill, passed by the parliament on 16 April, was to stem excessive construction in the historic center of Riga, which is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Foreign Investors Council and the Riga City Council had asked the president not to sign the bill, arguing that the designated protected area was too large. Vike-Freiberga also noted that the bill did not offer enough information about the specific protection measures to be applied. Other critics said the bill's provision to form within three months a council with representatives of the community, government, and the Riga City Council for developing the area would create another bureaucratic obstacle to business activity. SG

POLISH PRESIDENT URGES 'YES' IN EU REFERENDUM...
President Aleksander Kwasniewski on 23 April appealed to all Poles to vote "yes" in the 7-8 June referendum on Poland's EU membership, Polish Radio reported. Kwasniewski is to begin visiting Polish regions in a pro-EU campaign under the slogan "Yes to Poland" on 25 April. "This referendum is not a referendum on this or the next government," Kwasniewski said at a seminar for local journalists that was also attended by EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenther Verheugen and European Parliament President Patrick Cox. "This referendum is also not on this or the next president. This referendum does not concern preference or lack of it toward this or other party," Kwasniewski added. "This referendum concerns Poland and our future. This referendum concerns us, our children, and our grandchildren." JM

...AS EU OFFICIAL WARNS POLES AGAINST TURNING REFERENDUM INTO CONFIDENCE VOTE
European Parliament head Cox also warned Poles on 23 April against treating the EU referendum as a vote of no confidence in the government, Polish Radio reported. Addressing the seminar for regional journalists, Cox said that is what happened in Ireland in the referendum on the Nice Treaty in 2002. "Look at the bigger picture," Cox said. "It is a question for the entire nation. So vote on the question in the referendum, rather than resolving the problems of everyday politics there." An OBOP poll on 5-7 April concluded that 71 percent of Poles who intend to take part in the EU referendum want to say "yes" to Poland's EU membership. Of those polled, 49 percent said they will "surely" take part in the plebiscite, and 29 percent said they will "likely" take part. JM

CZECH PRESIDENT SENDS MIXED SIGNALS IN VIENNA...
Visiting Czech President Vaclav Klaus and his Austrian counterpart Thomas Klestil in Vienna on 23 April discussed the issue of the German minority expelled from Czechoslovakia under the postwar Benes Decrees, CTK and dpa reported. Klaus said he was ready to discuss the issue with Klestil because "people have to speak to one another directly and not through the media." However, he added that negotiations on a possible formal "gesture" by Prague toward the Sudeten Germans are "beyond my presidential prerogatives" and must be pursued by the respective governments. Klestil said Austria believes the Sudeten German question has not yet been solved "in a satisfactory manner." A report by the Austrian news agency APA cited Klaus as saying, "We are aware of what happened then and are ready to discuss the issue." But Klaus spokesman Tomas Klvana later said the Czech president expressed his stand on the issue of the Sudeten Germans in a 15 March statement and "considers attempts to interpret this fundamental stand in any other way as unnecessary and misleading," CTK reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March 2003). MS

...THEREBY OVERSHADOWING OTHER DISCUSSIONS
Another thorny issue discussed by Klaus and Klestil on 23 April was the controversial Temelin nuclear-power plant in South Bohemia. Klestil afterwards said only that the discussions focused on the so-called Melk Agreement of December 2001, under which the Czech Republic pledged to increase safety standards at Temelin. Klestil and Klaus said their countries have much in common as the Czech Republic prepares to join the EU, but Klaus hastened to add that he opposes the creation of blocs within the EU. Klestil also said he agrees with Klaus's position that a solution to the Iraqi conflict issue must be sought within a "multipolar world order" on the basis of the UN Charter. MS

EMBATTLED CZECH DEPUTY RESIGNS FROM PARLIAMENT
Former Industry and Trade Minister Jiri Rusnok resigned his seat in the Chamber of Deputies on 23 April, CTK reported. Rusnok was dismissed from the cabinet by Premier Vladimir Spidla in March after having broken party ranks by refusing to back the Social Democratic Party's (CSSD) presidential candidate, Jan Sokol. Rusnok joined a handful of coalition deputies in backing Klaus to become the Czech Republic's second head of state in late February. Rusnok unsuccessfully challenged Spidla for the CSSD chairman's post at the party's national conference in late March. Media reports suggested the ruling coalition fears leaving its one-vote majority in the lower house in Rusnok's hands. Rusnok, who was finance minister under former Premier Milos Zeman's government, told CTK that he intends to remain a CSSD member but will return to work as an economist. Rusnok will be replaced in the lower house by Robin Boehnisch, 26. Boehnisch is a Ph.D. student at Pardubice University and teaches ecology at Hradec Kralove University. MS

CZECHS PUZZLED OVER INFLUX OF CHECHEN ASYLUM SEEKERS
The Polish Foreign Ministry's Jan Wegrzyn told CTK on 23 April that representatives from his country and the Czech Republic will use a meeting next week in Warsaw to discuss a sudden surge in requests for political asylum by Chechen refugees arriving to the Czech Republic from Poland. The Czech Interior Ministry requested the meeting. According to dpa, some 250 Chechens illegally have entered the Czech Republic from Poland in the past week, subsequently requesting political asylum and citing poor conditions in Polish refugee camps. Tomas Kocka, coordinator of the human rights group Prague Watchdog, described the situation as "unusual." Kocka said Chechens are not eligible for asylum in most European countries because those countries do not classify the conflict in Chechnya as a war. A 1999 amendment to the Czech immigration law limited Chechens' ability to be granted asylum. MS

SLOVAK NBC UNIT TO MOVE INTO IRAQ
Defense Minister Ivan Simko told journalists after a 23 April cabinet meeting that the Slovak members of the joint Czech-Slovak anti-nuclear, -biological, and -chemical (NBC) unit in Kuwait will move into Iraq together with their Czech colleagues to provide humanitarian aid, CTK and TASR reported. Simko said legal experts have concluded that there is no need for the Slovak parliament to approve the move. The soldiers of the joint unit "have nothing to do in Kuwait" in the wake of the battle "and could be of use in Iraq," he said. MS

SLOVAK GOVERNMENT APPROVES 2003 PRIORITIES FOR ROMANY INTEGRATION
The Slovak cabinet on 23 April approved priorities for 2003 aimed at improving the integration of Roma, in line with its strategy for integration through 2010, CTK reported. The document stipulates that both education and infrastructure improvement among Romany settlements are to be considered priorities this year. Deputy Premier Pal Csaky said after a cabinet session that more than 500 million crowns ($13.3 million) was allocated for this purpose in 2003, including funds from the EU. MS

SLOVAK ROMA DESIGNATE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
Five Romany parties in Slovakia on 23 April nominated Union of Romany Civic Initiatives Chairman Mikulas Horvath as their candidate in the 2004 presidential elections, CTK reported. Apart from his own party, Horvath is backed for the post by the Party of Work and Security, the Romany Congress, the Democratic Alliance of Roma, and the Hungarian Democratic Movement of [Slovak] Roma. Mikulas, 52, is a graduate of a secondary commercial school. He expressed the hope that more than just Romany voters will back him in next year's elections. MS

PARTY PARLEYS ON HUNGARIAN TROOP DEPLOYMENT TO IRAQ STALLED
Multiparty consultations over sending 300 Hungarian peacekeepers to Iraq in June broke down on 23 April, Budapest dailies reported the next day. The talks are based on a Defense Ministry proposal to send troops to postwar Iraq. The opposition FIDESZ and Democratic Forum parties made no commitments whatsoever, while the ruling Socialists and Free Democrats said they will likely vote in favor of sending the peacekeepers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2003). Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz noted that Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland have offered soldiers for a planned international force in Iraq; he also warned that Hungary cannot afford the image of a wavering country, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Parliament could vote soon on the matter if deputies fast-track the vote, as expected. The Hungarian unit could be established within 30 days of legislative approval, Juhasz said. MSZ

HUNGARY'S FIDESZ PREPARES FOR CENTRALIZATION
The opposition FIDESZ party will become an "open but centralized party" and presumed party Chairman and former Prime Minister Viktor Orban will be granted extensive powers under draft amendments to the party's statutes cited by "Nepszabadsag" on 24 April. The proposed amendments would authorize the party chairman to appoint constituent chairmen, and nominate party directors, the financial director, the national campaign chief, and the heads of companies and institutions owned by the party. Under the proposals, an election-coordination committee may be formed at the request of the chairman whose sessions would be convened and presided over by the chairman. The party hopes the amendment of party statutes will facilitate FIDESZ's transformation into a popular party at its 17 May convention. MSZ

BOSNIA PREPARES TO FIGHT EXPECTED INFLUX OF CRIMINALS FROM SERBIA
High Representative Paddy Ashdown said in Sarajevo on 23 April that he expects that many suspected criminals detained under Serbia's recent state of emergency will move their operations to Bosnia after they are freed from detention, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2003). He added that Serbian police will give the Bosnian authorities lists of those released who have family or business connections to Bosnia. Ashdown said criminals from Serbia are likely to base their activities in the Republika Srpska but will have an adverse affect on all of Bosnia unless they are stopped. Elsewhere, top police officials from both entities and representatives of the border guards agreed on measures to improve controls on the border with Serbia, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Interpol is expected to issue arrest warrants shortly for at least eight people from the Republika Srpska on criminal charges. PM

SFOR CAPTURES ILLEGAL WEAPONS NEAR BOSNIAN CAPITAL
German and Italian SFOR peacekeepers seized a cache of illegal weapons on 23 April near Sarajevo on Serb-held territory, dpa reported. The haul included two rocket launchers, 25 rifles and pistols, 15 land mines, 60 grenades, 15 rifle grenades, and 10,000 rounds of ammunition of various calibers. PM

KOSOVAR SERB LEADER INDICTED FOR ATTACK ON UN POLICE
The UN's Mitrovica District Court indicted hard-line Serbian leader Milan Ivanovic on 23 April on two counts in connection with attacks on UN police there almost one year ago, dpa reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 15 April 2002). He is charged with leading a group that injured 22 policemen and with "attacking a public official performing security duties." The court also indicted Nebojsa Jovic for attacking policemen. Both men are free on bail. PM

MONTENEGRIN OPPOSITION LEADER SEEKS TO SAVE COALITION
Predrag Bulatovic, who heads the Socialist People's Party (SNP), said in Podgorica on 23 April that the opposition Together for Change coalition should try to continue to function on the local level even if it has ceased to exist on the republican level, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2003). PM

MONTENEGRO ASKS FOR INVESTIGATION INTO PASSPORT-ISSUING PRACTICES
The Montenegrin Foreign Ministry asked Serbia and Montenegro's cabinet on 23 April to investigate the criteria whereby the recently dissolved Yugoslav state issued 930 diplomatic and approximately 2,500 official passports after 1997, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Montenegrin officials suspect that criminals and supporters of the regime of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic received passports to which they were not legally entitled. PM

GENERAL SAYS SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO READY FOR PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE
General Branko Krga, who heads Serbia and Montenegro's General Staff, said in Belgrade on 24 April that the army is ready to join NATO's Partnership for Peace program, which "is in the interest of the state and its citizens," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 18 April 2003). He added that the military is not protecting former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, as the Hague-based war crimes tribunal has frequently alleged. PM

MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES MILITARY DEPLOYMENT TO IRAQ
The Macedonian parliament on 22 April approved by a large majority the government's decision to send a military contingent to Kuwait, "Utrinski vesnik" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April 2003). Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski told the session that the Macedonian contribution to the coalition forces is symbolic if one compares the 39-strong contingent to almost 400,000 troops already in the region. The contingent will be made up of 28 members of the special forces, six medical doctors, and three medical technicians. They will be stationed in Kuwait but might eventually join coalition forces in Iraq. Two liaison officers will be stationed at the coalition forces' Central Command in Qatar. UB

FORMER CROATIAN GENERAL LEAVES HOSPITAL FOR HOME
Former General Janko Bobetko, whom the Hague-based war crimes tribunal has indicted, was released from the Dubrava medical facility in Zagreb on 24 April for "treatment at home" at his family's request, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February, 26 March, and 4 April 2003). He recently spent the Easter holiday at home but subsequently returned to the hospital. Doctors there said his medical condition has deteriorated recently and that home care might not be sufficient. PM

DATE SET FOR ROMANIAN PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO RUSSIA, SIGNING OF BASIC TREATY
The repeatedly postponed signing of the basic treaty between Romania and Russia will take place during a visit Romanian President Ion Iliescu is to pay to Moscow on 3-4 July, Romanian Radio reported on 23 April, citing a communique released by the presidential office. MS

ROMANIAN PREMIER LOSES TEMPER OVER U.S. AMBASSADOR'S WARNING ON CORRUPTION
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said during his visit to the Sicomed pharmaceutical company on 23 April that accusations of corruption are repeatedly directed at Romania, but those who make them never name names, Mediafax reported. Nastase was reacting to U.S. Ambassador to Romania Michael Guest's recent warning that Bucharest must fight the malaise lest it endanger its relations with the United States and the European Union (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2003). The premier said, "Let's have those names out, so they can be shot in stadiums!" He also said Romanian politicians suffer from the "masochistic pleasure" of repeatedly bringing up the subject, thus damaging the country's image abroad. "Maybe Sicomed can come up with a drug against that," Nastase said. President Iliescu the same day said there is "nothing new" to Guest's recent statements and added that the Romanian authorities "have spoken quite concretely" on what they intend to do to fight corruption. MS

ROMANIAN SUPREME COURT PRESIDENT ALARMED OVER POLITICAL PRESSURE ON THE JUDICIARY
Supreme Court President Paul Florea on 23 April warned that political pressure on the judiciary is growing, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Florea said the two judicial committees of the bicameral parliament recently rejected the Supreme Court's recommendations to appoint two of its judges as members of the Supreme Council of Magistracy, thus infringing on the independence of the judiciary. Florea also harshly criticized Justice Minister Rodica Stanoiu for having refused to recommend to the Supreme Council of Magistracy to reappoint five judges appointed to the Supreme Court by former President Emil Constantinescu to second six-year terms. Current legislation allows for two consecutive terms on the Supreme Court. Florea said that by failing to recommend the reappointments, Stanoiu "created [political] pressure" on the Supreme Court, where judges are now likely to "censor themselves" when ruling in cases in which the government's interests are at stake. MS

ROMANIAN NATIONAL BANK GOVERNOR WARNS AGAINST FALLING DEPOSIT RATES
National Bank Governor Mugur Isarescu on 23 April warned banks that if they continue to lower interest on private deposits, the danger will arise that accounts will be closed, as inflation would outpace deposit rates, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Isarescu produced a rather optimistic forecast of Romanian economic prospects, saying that inflation is likely to continue dropping in 2003, when the rate is expected to be 13-14 percent, as compared to 17.8 percent in 2002. In 2004-05 the rate of inflation is expected to reach single digits -- 9 and 7 percent, respectively, he said. MS

TIRASPOL DESIGNATES SEVEN REPRESENTATIVES FOR JOINT CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION...
The Transdniester Supreme Soviet on 23 April designated seven people to represent it on the joint commission with Moldova that is to elaborate the country's future federal constitution, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The commission is to be headed by Supreme Soviet Deputy Chairman Evgenii Shevchuk. The protocols on the joint commission stipulate that the sides are to have equal representation on that body, and the Moldovan legislature earlier designated only three members as its representatives, according to Flux. MS

...AS MOLDOVA STILL PLANS TO WORK WITH THREE
Moldovan Reintegration Minister Vasilii Sova said on 23 April that it had been agreed in negotiations that each side would appoint three representatives to the commission and that the number could later be increased to up to seven representatives, Flux reported. "I do not know why the Transdniestrian side has suddenly decided to appoint seven people. The commission will, however, work using the 3+3 formula. The rest [of the Transdniester representatives] can stay home or act as assistants to the others," Sova said. Matti Sidoroff, spokesman for the OSCE mission in Chisinau, refused to comment on the appointments and said only that the three mediators -- the OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine -- will meet with the two sides' representatives on the joint commission in Chisinau on 24 April. Sidoroff did not explain why the new round of negotiations that began in Tiraspol on 23 April was moved to Chisinau. MS

EU TO AID MOLDOVA IN TAKING OVER COUNCIL OF EUROPE'S COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS
The EU will grant Moldova 199,000 euros ($218.323) in funding aimed at facilitating the Moldovan Foreign Ministry's preparations for the country's chairmanship of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, which is to begin on 15 May, Flux reported. MS

NEW MOLDOVA-BACKED COMMUNIST PARTY FORMED IN TIRASPOL
The Central Committee of the Transdniester Communist Party on 23 April denounced the establishment of an unidentified rival communist formation backed by the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM), Flux reported, citing reporter.md. The newly established formation is reportedly headed by Aleksandr Radchenko, who the Tiraspol communists said had "sold out" to Chisinau. Victor Stepaniuc, head of the Moldovan PCM parliamentary group, saluted the establishment of the new party, which he described as "a modern communist party with pro-European views and which backs Moldova's reintegration." MS

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT ASSESSES REPORT ON TIES AMONG JUDICIARY, POLITICIANS, AND UNDERWORLD
President Georgi Parvanov on 23 April summoned several high-ranking officials to assess a recent Interior Ministry report that established connections among politicians, members of the judiciary, and organized-crime structures, novinite.bg reported. Parvanov held separate talks with Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, Prosecutor-General Nikola Filchev, National Service for Combating Organized Crime (NSBOP) Director Rumen Milanov, and with Colonel Kircho Kirov, who heads the National Intelligence Service (NRS). After the meeting, Filchev declined to comment on the report but announced that he will ask the Interior Ministry for more information. Meanwhile, government spokesman Dimitar Tsonev ruled out that Saxecoburggotski will sack Finance Minister Milen Velchev and Transport and Communications Minister Plamen Petrov, mediapool.bg reported. Media reports have alleged that the report contains photographs of both ministers with a businessman allegedly involved in cigarette smuggling (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2003). UB

MINISTER PROPOSES CHANGES TO BULGARIAN-TURKISH ELECTRICITY AGREEMENT
Following the Turkish decision to halt imports of Bulgarian electricity, Regional Development Minister Valentin Tserovski said on 23 April that his ministry will propose changing an intergovernmental agreement under which Bulgaria exports electricity to Turkey in exchange for Turkish cooperation on infrastructure projects, RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service reported. The Turkish electricity trader TETAS had cited the non-fulfillment of this agreement as its reason for halting electricity imports from Bulgaria (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2003). Alluding to problems with a major Turkish contractor participating in the infrastructure projects, Tserovski said he will propose that Turkish companies participate in projects that are easier to realize. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry announced that Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul will come to Sofia on 12-13 May to iron out the recent misunderstandings between the two countries, BTA reported. UB

BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT SETS UP COMMISSION TO DRAFT CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Parliament on 23 April set up a temporary ad hoc commission to draft constitutional amendments, novinite.bg reported. The commission is chaired by deputy parliamentary speaker Kameliya Kasabova. It will have three months to draft the constitutional amendments made necessary by the country's anticipated accession to NATO and the EU. It will also draft amendments in connection with the reform of the judiciary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 14 April 2003). UB

REQUIEM FOR A POLITICAL HEAVYWEIGHT: SERGEI YUSHENKOV
In a conversation with a reporter from "Vremya novostei" just hours before he was killed on 17 April, State Duma Deputy and Liberal Russia co-Chairman Sergei Yushenkov, 52, confided that he was tired of being a legislator. He reportedly said he would not seek a spot on his party's party list for the December State Duma elections and that he would not run in a single-mandate district.

It's not difficult to understand why, after serving more than 10 years in the legislature, Yushenkov would decide he needed a break. If press accounts are accurate, Yushenkov was a man who underwent a major philosophical change at the beginning of the perestroika years, but after that his political values remained stable. He did not keep changing his views to fit current political fashions, and consequently he probably became disenchanted with the Duma as it metamorphosed from a feisty collection of colorful personalities in the mid-1990s to its present incarnation -- a quiescent club for rubber-stamping government initiatives.

Yushenkov began life in a family of collective farmers in what is now Tver Oblast. He studied first at an agricultural-technical college, but then transferred to a military-political school in Novosibirsk, where he trained as a political officer. In 1980, he entered the Lenin Military-Political Academy in Moscow, where he also pursued graduate studies. From 1987-90, he taught Marxist-Leninist philosophy at the academy. He achieved the rank of colonel and earned a kandidat's degree in philosophical science, according to nns.ru.

In addition to having an agile mind capable plumbing the twists and turns of dialectical materialism, Yushenkov was also graced with an exceptional sense of humor, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 17 April. He not only wrote short pieces and feuilletons -- many of them under the pen name Yegor Shugaev -- but he also wrote parodies of legislation -- one of which, entitled "on the hereditary succession for the office of Duma deputy," several of his colleagues took seriously.

In 1990 Yushenkov made the jump to a career in legislative politics. That year, he was elected to the Russian Congress of People's Deputies from a Moscow district and served on the Mass Media Committee of the Russian Supreme Soviet. Yushenkov played a prominent role in defeating the August 1991 attempted coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, and, according to "Vremya novostei" on 18 April, Yushenkov considered that event one of the highlights of his life. In March-April 1992, Yushenkov was one of the founders of a pro-government legislative faction, and in September of that year he was one of the initiators of a campaign for the resignation of Supreme Soviet Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov.

The year 1993 turned out to be another critical period in Yushenkov's career when he became deputy for Mikhail Poltarinin, who was then head of the Federation Information Center. At the time, Poltarinin was one of the most influential activists in President Boris Yeltsin's circle, and through him Yushenkov became acquainted with a circle of "elite democrats," "Nezavisimaya gazeta -- figury i litsa" reported on 22 February 2001. In 1993, when the pro-government Russia's Choice faction created its party list for the newly created State Duma, Yushenkov had a spot in the top 20 right after Poltarinin. In 1993, Yushenkov's career peaked in terms of political power, when he was given the chairmanship of the Duma's Defense Committee.

However, Yushenkov was unable to use his power as chairman to transform the committee into a real opposition force, not even on issues about which he cared deeply, such as the first war in Chechnya, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" argued. The publication commented that Yushenkov should have tried to make the committee into a kind of alternative to the Defense Ministry for information about what was really going on in the armed forces at the time and that Yushenkov should have been telling President Yeltsin what Defense Minister Pavel Grachev was not telling him. Denis Myuller, the author of a profile of Yushenkov in "Nezavisimaya gazeta," suggested that while Yushenkov might have been a very honest, principled -- and perhaps overly idealistic -- legislator, he wasn't necessarily that effective at the real, and sometimes dirty, work of politics. Yushenkov loudly and publicly declared his opposition to the first Chechen war. He even tendered his resignation but he didn't -- and/or couldn't -- do anything to stop that war.

But after eight more years in the Duma, by October 2001, Yushenkov had apparently learned enough to do battle with tycoon Boris Berezovskii and win. In that month, Yushenkov was able to maneuver the self-exiled Berezovskii out of the Liberal Russia party, which he co-founded and bankrolled to the tune of $1 million. Yushenkov not only expelled Berezovskii, but he also got rid of those regional party heads, who tried to resist Berezovskii's ouster and apparently managed to locate alternative funding for the party. Within days of Berezovskii's departure from the party, the Justice Ministry finally agreed to register it, making it eligible to participate in the December State Duma elections.

The real danger might have been not that Yushenkov wasn't effective, but that Yushenkov was too effective, and this is what cost him his life. Politicians who do not try to make waves -- who accept, rather than trying to extort, cash gifts -- don't get killed. They try to avoid making anyone angry. But from fairly early on in his career, Yushenkov managed to antagonize people -- some of them senior officials. In January 1995, he annoyed Grachev enough to prompt the latter to call him a "vile toad" on national television. Months later, the former deputy chairman of the Russian National Unity party, Aleksei Vedenkin, also declared on television that he would execute Yushenkov and fellow Duma Deputy Sergei Kovalev if he came to power.

The day after Yushenkov was killed, commentator Andrei Cherkizov on Ekho Moskvy identified at least three groups who might have "needed" Yushenkov dead: certain Defense Ministry officials, persons who profit from the continuation of the war in Chechnya, and persons who want to expedite the process of extraditing Berezovskii from Great Britain. Another group that could be added to that list are those Federal Security Service (FSB) officers angered by Yushenkov's well-publicized efforts to prove allegations that the FSB was involved in the apartment-building bombings that killed some 300 people in 1999 and which served to galvanize public support for the second military operation in Chechnya. 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." Perhaps too many people already have.

FOUR MORE SENIOR IRAQI REGIME MEMBERS IN CUSTODY
Coalition forces have detained four more members of the deposed Iraqi regime, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced in a 23 April press release posted on its website (http://www.centcom.mil). Muzahim Sa'b Hassan al-Tikriti, the former Iraqi Air Defense Force commander, is the most senior official to be taken into coalition custody -- he is 10th on CENTCOM's list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis from the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein. The press release also announced the surrender of Zuhayr Talib Abd al-Sattar al-Naqib, who served as Hussein's director of military intelligence. He was 21st on CENTCOM's most-wanted list. Hussein's minister of trade, Muhammad Mahdi al-Salih, was also captured. He was 48th on the list. CENTCOM also announced on 23 April that coalition special-operations forces captured Salim Sa'id Khalaf al-Jumayli, the former chief of the Iraqi Intelligence Service's America Desk. "He is suspected of having knowledge of Iraqi Intelligence Service activities in the United States, including names of persons spying for Iraq," the CENTCOM press release stated. Al-Jumayli was not listed on CENTCOM's 55-most-wanted list. KR

U.S. ADMINISTRATOR HOLDS MEETING IN BAGHDAD
The U.S. postwar administrator in Iraq, Jay Garner, held a town-hall meeting in Baghdad on 24 April with 60 prominent Iraqi academics and leaders, Reuters reported. The meeting brought together "selected Iraqis" who have shown leadership ability, British General Tim Cross told Reuters. He declined to name the meeting's participants. The meeting came one day after Baghdad's self-appointed mayor, Muhammad al-Zubaydi, held his own town-hall meeting with government workers, promising that they will be paid on 30 April and will receive tenfold salary increases, AP reported on 23 April. "We ordered the finance committee to raise wages after hearing about the reserves we have," al-Zubaydi told workers. "We are raising salaries 10 times, both civilian and military." His top aide, General Jawdat al-Obeidi told AP that the general manager of the Iraqi National Bank -- and other banks -- are giving the "local committee" headed by al-Zubaydi access to funds from the deposed regime's accounts. Al-Zubaydi and al-Obeidi both continue to claim they are operating with the consent of coalition forces. The U.S. coordinator for central Iraq, Ambassador Barbara Bodine, has said the United States does not recognize al-Zubaydi (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2003). Neither al-Zubaydi nor Iraqi National Congress (INC) head Ahmad Chalabi attended Garner's meeting. KR

UN STAFFERS ENTER IRAQ
Five officials from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and a representative of the World Food Program (WFP) entered northern Iraq from Turkey on 23 April, Reuters reported. Another team of nearly 30 UN officers is scheduled to enter Iraq on 24 April from a UN base in Larnaca, Cyprus. The workers had been poised to enter Iraq for more than one week but were delayed due to coalition security concerns. "The return of this first wave of international staff paves the way for all staff to eventually return and resume previous functions in northern Iraq," a UN official in Ankara told Reuters. "A senior mission should follow in the second wave." Approximately 700 UN staff members were evacuated from Iraq prior to the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom on 20 March. KR

TERRORIST GROUP CLAIMS IT CARRIED OUT ATTACKS IN IRAQ...
The "Resistance and Liberation Command in the Republic of Iraq" sent a copy of its "Military Communique no. 2" to the Jordanian daily "Al-Arab al-Yawm" on 22 April, claiming responsibility for two attacks against U.S. forces, the paper reported on 23 April. The communique said a suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint manned by U.S. troops on a road between the Mosul Governorate and the city of Rabi'ah, destroying a U.S. military vehicle and killing or wounding more than 21 soldiers. It also claimed another bomber blew himself up at a U.S. military checkpoint on a road connecting the cities of Hayt and Al-Ramadi, killing or wounding about seven individuals. "We warn and warn again all those who collaborate with the criminal invading enemy that they will be punished in accordance with the teachings of our true religion," the communique stated. KR

...AND WARNS IRAQIS
The "Resistance and Liberation Command in the Republic of Iraq" communique on 22 April also claimed that some foreign journalists in Iraq are Israeli spies and alleged collusion between Israeli intelligence and the INC opposition group. "We wish to warn the sons of our great Iraqi people of the consequences of dealing with foreign journalists claiming to be of different nationalities when in fact they are Zionists working for the Israeli intelligence. A number of those accompanied by the traitors from the 'not National Congress' have terrorized our Palestinian brethren who have been residing [in Iraq] for more than 40 years," the communique claimed. The Israeli daily "Ha'aretz" reported on a link between the INC and the U.S.-Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC), a Washington-based lobby, on 6 April (see http://www.haaretzdaily.com). KR

OIL FLOWING IN IRAQ
Coalition forces report that oil is flowing from Iraq's northern and southern fields and that production is ahead of schedule. U.S. Colonel Michael Morrow, adviser to General Tommy Franks at CENTCOM, said on 23 April that oil from four wells in the Rumaylah oil field will be used for power generation and domestic consumption, Reuters reported. "We're pumping much quicker than our six-week target," Morrow said, referring to an initial plan to reactivate the wells within six to nine weeks of 6 April. "We had [a] first pumping of 50,000 barrels yesterday, and repairs will continue until we hit our target of 800,000" barrels per day, Morrow said. In addition, output from wells in northern Iraq is expected to hit 800,000 barrels per day within two to six weeks of 21 April, according to Morrow. He added that the 140,000-barrel-per-day Al-Basrah refinery could be running in one week's time. He noted that many Iraqis have returned to work, including 400 employees of the South Oil Company. KR

MONEY TURNING UP ALL OVER IRAQ...
A team of U.S. soldiers has uncovered $112 million in U.S. currency in an affluent Baghdad neighborhood, AP reported on 23 April. The loot was stashed in seven dog kennels. The find came just days after soldiers discovered an estimated $650 million in four barricaded cottages in the same neighborhood on 18 April. AP cited a "Los Angeles Times" report on 22 April that said the locks on the kennels were signed by Republican Guard General Muhammad Ibrahim and dated 20 March. Twenty-eight boxes held the cash. A note inside one box reportedly reads in Arabic, "Contents 40,000 one-hundred-dollar bills. By order of Saddam Saddam [sic], this currency is sealed on 16 March in the presence of the following five people." Five Ba'ath Party ministers signed the note, AP reported. KR

...AS U.S. SOLDIERS REPORTED TO BE HELPING THEMSELVES
Six U.S. soldiers are reportedly being investigated for helping themselves to cash discovered on 18 April, "The Times" of London website (http://www.timesonline.co.uk) reported on 24 April. Three soldiers are alleged to have hidden $600,000 in a tree, while another soldier who was tasked with driving the found money to Baghdad International Airport reportedly helped himself to $300,000, hiding it in a cooler and the glove compartment of his vehicle. "The Times" also cited a "New York Post" report that said investigators also found three aluminum boxes hidden near the site that contained $4 million each. The original suspects, along with two addition soldiers, were being questioned about the three boxes. All six soldiers were assigned to the same battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division. KR

TEHRAN CLAIMS ANOTHER SHI'A ACTIVIST ATTACKED IN IRAQ
"The occupying forces have attacked the home of Seyyed Muhammad Heidari" in Iraq, Iranian state radio reported on 23 April. Heidari was identified as a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). This has not been independently confirmed. BS

SCIRI SAYS BADR BRIGADES EVERYWHERE
Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim who heads the SCIRI's jihad bureau, said in a 23 April interview with Al-Jazeera television that elements from the Badr Brigades, SCIRI's armed wing, are present throughout Iraq. "They are in most villages and areas," he said, "Nobody can drive them out." Al-Hakim referred to the coalition that liberated his country in three weeks as "the occupation forces" and said that Iraqis oppose occupation. Nevertheless, resistance to the occupation would be peaceful, he said. Al-Hakim described SCIRI's first aim as the return of stability and security in the cities, the provision of essential services, and the establishment of an administration. The second aim is the formation of an independent national government that includes all sectors of Iraqi society. BS

RETURNING ARAB VOLUNTEERS FACE RESTRICTIONS
Arab volunteers who went to fight in Iraq fear that they will receive the same harsh treatment meted out to Arab Afghans and those who fought in Bosnia and Chechnya, the Saudi "Al-Watan" newspaper reported on 22 April. Returning Jordanians' passports reportedly have been confiscated and they have been invited to visit the security services. A Jordanian official confirmed this, "Al-Watan" reported, but said the objective is to learn the fate of Jordanians who went to Iraq and from whom nothing has been heard since. Amman rules out the phenomenon of "Iraqi Arabs," because unlike their Afghan counterparts the volunteers for Iraq were "a motley group of Islamists, Ba'athists, Arab Nationalists, and ordinary citizens who had one thing in common -- fighting the Americans." Nor did the volunteers for Iraq have the same financial and logistical support that the Arab Afghans had, according to the Saudi newspaper. BS

IRGC CONDEMNS HOSTAGE-RESCUE MISSION
The Islamic Revolution Guards Corp (IRGC) in a 23 April communique condemned the United States' failed mission to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980, urged U.S. leaders to learn from their past mistakes, and called on them to stop plotting against Iran, IRNA reported. U.S. forces were trying to rescue 52 U.S. citizens held hostage by individuals acting with the connivance and protection of the Iranian government, and the mission was scrubbed when a sandstorm led to the destruction of U.S. aircraft on a desert airstrip in Tabas, Khorasan Province. The communique commemorated the only Iranian to die in connection with the rescue mission, IRGC commander Mohammad Montazer-Qaem. The communique failed to mention that Montazer-Qaem died the day after the failed mission when the Iranian Air Force bombed the wreckage. The communique also claimed that all the U.S. special operations forces personnel were killed, but in reality eight U.S. servicemen died in the rescue mission, code-named Operation Eagle Claw. BS

TEHRAN, AMMAN COMMUNICATE ABOUT MUJAHEDIN KHALQ ORGANIZATION
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Sadr on 23 April met with Jordan's King Abdullah II and delivered a message from President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami that dealt with ways to improve bilateral relations, Petra-JNA news agency and IRNA reported. Details on the letter were not available, but a possible subject could be the hundreds of Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) members who are seeking asylum in Jordan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2003). Jordan pledged on 22 April not to allow any new refugees from Iraq, including MKO members, to enter the country. Despite this claim, the Jordanian authorities have permitted the octogenarian singer Marzieh, who is an MKO associate, to pass through Jordan en route to France for medical treatment, dpa reported on 23 April. The German news agency added that other MKO members are not being allowed into Jordan. There are approximately 20,000 MKO associates in Iraq, London's "Al-Hayat" newspaper reported on 23 April. BS

IRAN UNEMPLOYMENT EXCEEDS 20 PERCENT...
Iran's Management and Planning Organization announced that it aims to bring down the national unemployment rate to 12.1 percent by March 2005, IRNA reported on 22 April. The organization's plans, outlined at a session of the High Council of Employment, call for creating 900,000 new jobs annually in the next two years. But just how grave the situation is was apparent in a March report released by Iran's Statistical Center, which said the unemployment rate among those with a high-school education or higher stood at 41.4 percent, while the unemployment rate of illiterate and lesser-educated groups stands at 23 percent, IRNA reported. The problem is most acute in Iran's burgeoning youth population, where the Statistical Center reports that 60 percent of men and 72 percent of women between 15-24 years of age are unemployed. SF

...AND PROBABLY WILL GET WORSE
Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Tahmasb Mazaheri, according to IRNA, said that "current economic fundamentals" are insufficient to spur a higher economic-growth rate. Tehran radio on 23 April, reporting on the High Council of Employment's meeting, quoted an analyst as saying that unemployment represents the country's most pressing problem. The problem could get a lot worse if Iranian economist Seyyed Jalal Sadatian is correct in predicting that the U.S. involvement in Iraq will adversely affect Iran's economy. Europeans, he said in a 23 April interview with ISNA, will succumb to U.S. pressures and will "stop supporting Iran." SF

IRAN PLANS 30 NEW TOWNS
The managing director of the New Cities Development Company, Seyyed Mahmud Mirian, announced that 30 new cities will be established throughout Iran by 2020, "Iran Daily" reported on 24 April. He said that construction of 18 new towns has already begun. He said the new towns are necessitated by the mass migration from rural areas to Iran's big cities. More than 8.7 million people migrated to the cities between 1986-96, 25 percent of them to Tehran, according to Mirian. He said that the towns, which are being constructed with both private and public funds, already have a population of 250,000, a figure that will reach 3.5 million by 2021. SF

GOVERNMENT TAKING ITS TIME TO CHOOSE CENTRAL BANK HEAD
Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Tahmasb Mazaheri was quoted by ISNA on 22 April as saying that the government has no need to make decisions "to fit in or meet deadlines." He was being asked as to when the government would get around to picking a new governor of Iran's central bank to replace longtime Governor Mohsen Nurbakhsh, who died last month, but said that "one cannot set deadlines for government decisions." When asked about the credentials needed for a new central bank head, Mazaheri said he would "talk about that after the governor is appointed." In view of President Khatami's slowness in deciding on who would occupy the key post, Mazaheri's equivocating appears to reflect intense political jockeying behind the scenes. SF

AFGHAN CHAIRMAN PROVIDES PAKISTAN WITH A LIST OF WANTED TALIBAN FUGITIVES...
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai said on 23 April that he has provided Pakistan with a list of members of the deposed Taliban regime who are wanted as criminals in Afghanistan, Radio Free Afghanistan reported. During the second and final day of his visit to Pakistan, Karzai warned that both countries face a threat from terrorism and extremism perpetuated by remaining members of the Taliban, some of whom are believed to have fled to Pakistan. In an interview with the "Financial Times" on 23 April, Karzai said this is not the first time that Afghanistan has presented a list of wanted Taliban leaders to Pakistan, and he named Akhtar Mohammad Osmani, Mulla Dadullah, Hafez Majid, and Hafez Abdul Rahim as "terrorists" Afghanistan wants to put on trial. AT

...AS PAKISTANI OFFICIALS DENY THE REPORT
Unidentified officials in Islamabad described the reports that Karzai has presented a list of wanted terrorists to Pakistan "as totally false and baseless," Pakistan TV reported on 23 April. The officials said that no list has been provided by Karzai to his Pakistani hosts, adding that Islamabad is an important player in the antiterrorism campaign and "no terrorist could think of Pakistan as a safe haven," the report added. AT

AFGHANISTAN TO STAY OUT OF INDIAN-PAKISTANI DISPUTES
Chairman Karzai said on 23 April that his country does not want to be involved in disputes between Pakistan and India, Radio Free Afghanistan reported. Pakistan has expressed concerns over the reopening of Indian consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar, near the Pakistani border, but Karzai said Afghanistan will not allow its territory to be used by one friend against another. The Afghan leader added that the Indian consulates were there before and the Indians "simply came to reopen [them]," the "Financial Times" reported on 23 April. Karzai added that "Afghan-India relations should have no bearing whatsoever in a negative manner toward Pakistan," and Islamabad-Kabul ties should have no negative effects on relations with India. During the rule of the Islamabad-backed Taliban regime, Afghanistan did have any official relations with India. One of the objectives of the support provided by Pakistan to the Taliban was to keep Afghanistan at odds with Islamabad's archenemy India. AT

U.S. SPECIAL FORCES REPORTEDLY KILL SUSPECTED ASSASSIN OF RED CROSS WORKER
Colonel Roger King, the spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said on 23 April that U.S. Special Forces believe they have killed the man who was accused of carrying out the execution of Ricardo Munguia, a El Salvadorian water and habitat engineer working for the International Committee of the Red Cross, in Oruzgan Province on 27 March, Radio Free Afghanistan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March 2003). King said the accused murderer was "identified by his accomplices" and by the people in the area between Kandahar and Oruzgan provinces, Hindukosh news agency reported on 23 April. Munguia's execution was apparently an attempt by pro-Taliban militia to discourage the presence of foreign aid workers in Afghanistan. The perpetrator of the killing called someone on his telephone before being ordered to shoot Munguia. AT

KABUL NEWSPAPER EDITOR RECEIVES NUMEROUS DEATH THREATS
Zohur Afghan, the editor in chief of Kabul daily "Erada," has received eight calls threatening him with death if he does not admit publicly that he was wrong in writing an article that criticized the Education Ministry's performance, "Erada" reported on 23 April. Afghan was arrested for a few hours at the orders of Deputy Minister of Education Zabihollah Esmati after the article was published on 17 April, according to "Erada." Three different callers have reportedly threatened Afghan, who has vowed to continue his work despite the threats. Radio Afghanistan on 23 April reported that Hosayn Ma'dawi, editor in chief of "Aftab," said police have warned him that "they could not guarantee his safety in the event of an unexpected incident." It is not clear if that statement was prompted by threats against Ma'dawi. AT

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