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Newsline - May 5, 2003


PUTIN, BUSH WILL DISCUSS MISSILE DEFENSE
Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 4 May that President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush will "without a doubt" discuss cooperation on missile defense when they meet at St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary celebration later this month, Interfax reported on 4 May. The issue, Yakovenko said, will be discussed in the context of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, which the two presidents signed in May 2002 and which, he predicted, will be ratified by the State Duma this month. Russia, Yakovenko said, is also discussing a potential European missile-defense system with NATO members in the NATO-Russia Council and is seeking a new UN treaty banning weapons in space and at space facilities similar to the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. Russian Space Agency head Yurii Koptev said on 4 May that the United States wants to militarize space, calling such a move a "destabilizing factor" that would force Russia to review its "doctrine and plans...to deal with the potential threat," AP reported on 4 April, citing Interfax. JB

PUTIN, KUCHMA AGREE ON 'A WIDE RANGE OF ISSUES'...
President Putin wound up his five-day visit to Yalta on 4 May, having reached agreement with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on "a wide range of issues," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 May. Putin reiterated Russia's desire to reach an agreement with Ukraine and Germany to repair Ukraine's gas-pipeline system and thereby expand its capacity to export Russian natural gas to Western Europe, Interfax reported on 2 May. He also spoke in favor of continuing joint production with Ukraine of the An-70 transport plane, saying Russia has already invested "quite a bit" in the project and wants to see it through. "Izvestiya" reported on 26 April that Russian military officials are "categorically against" the project. The two presidents discussed relations with the European Union and their two countries' prospects for entering the World Trade Organization (WTO). Kuchma, noting that Ukraine's bid for WTO membership is not going as well as he had hoped, called for greater coordination between Moscow and Kiev in moving toward WTO membership, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 May. JB

...AND GET LISTED AS VIOLATORS OF PRESS FREEDOM...
Presidents Putin and Kuchma made this year's "Predators of Press Freedom" list, issued by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 May. The list, which was released on 3 May to coincide with World Press Freedom Day, includes 42 heads of state. In explaining Putin's inclusion, the group said he has used the pretext of the fight against terrorism to prevent journalists from reporting truthful and objective information and that some Russian media have been punished for broadcasting the operation to free hostages at a Moscow theater last October. The group also noted that the Kremlin controls Russia's main electronic media. Freedom House, a New-York-based nongovernmental organization, also singled out Russia and Ukraine as violators in its annual report on press freedom, released this year on 30 April. The Russian government, it said, has shut down leading independent broadcasters, while Ukrainian and Russian reporters who investigate official corruption "were routinely intimidated and sometimes violently attacked." Three journalists in Russia were killed, Freedom House noted (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2003), and downgraded Russia's overall rating from "Partly Free" to "Not Free." JB

...AS PUTIN PUSHES A SINGLE CIS-EU 'ECONOMIC SPACE'
During his visit to Ukraine, President Putin also commented on issues that were not strictly bilateral. He said he is satisfied with efforts to create a "single economic space" on the basis of the "quartet" of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, Interfax reported on 2 May. Putin also called on the CIS countries to work on creating a "single economic space" with the EU, adding that this will be discussed at the Russia-EU summit set for 31 May in St. Petersburg, to which the CIS leaders have been invited, vesti.ru reported on 4 May. Putin also said that the international community should quickly reach a consensus on rebuilding Iraq, Interfax reported on 2 May. Russia "did not stand on one side or the other -- we were not for the winners or the losers" in the Iraq conflict, Putin added. Iraq's debts, he reiterated, should be discussed on the basis of the Paris Club of international creditors, Interfax reported on 2 May. JB

MEDIA WATCHDOGS GIVE RUSSIA POOR MARKS
Press freedom continued to shrink in Russia during the past year, according to reports issued by several watchdog groups in connection with World Press Freedom Day on 3 May. Russia was among the 10 countries singled out by RSF for governmental limitations on media freedom, which particularly noted the dangers of reporting in and around Chechnya. The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists named Chechnya as one of the 10 worst places in the world to be a journalist, noting that Russian policies have accomplished "the government's goal of preventing journalists from reporting on the [Chechen] war's devastation" (see http://www.cpj.org). LB

PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE OFFERS NON-APOLOGY APOLOGY
The Prosecutor-General's Office has formally responded to Lev Ponomarev, co-chairman of the Democratic Russia movement, who filed suit against that office on 25 April to protect the reputation of slain State Duma Deputy and Liberal Russia co-Chairman Sergei Yushenkov, polit.ru reported on 25 April. The suit was in response to comments made on 23 April to RIA-Novosti by Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnikov (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April 2003). Expressing doubt that Yushenkov's killing was politically motivated, Kolesnikov said: "People are not murdered for politics in Russia. We have the most democratic country in the world; we just need to rob and steal less." Ponomarev demanded that the Prosecutor-General's Office apologize and pay one ruble in damages, polit.ru reported 25 April. Responding to Ponomarev, Prosecutor-General's Office spokesman Leonid Troshin said that Kolesnikov had gone public "almost immediately" after making his comments to say that they had been "misconstrued," that he "in no way" meant to say that Yushenkov's killing was "commercial-criminal," and that he was sorry his words were understood in such a "distorted" way. Prosecutors, Troshin said, are doing everything they can to solve Yushenkov's killing, MK-Novosti reported on 1 May. JB

FORMER FISHERIES HEAD'S NEW JOB SEEN AS VICTORY FOR PRIME MINISTER
Although newly appointed Security Council Deputy Secretary Yevgenii Nazdratenko will formally oversee a broader range of issues in his new job than he did as head of the State Fisheries Committee, Russian commentators do not expect Nazdratenko to wield real power in his new job (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2003). "Izvestiya" on 5 May characterized Nazdratenko's new assignment as the second victory for Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov in a week, following the appointment of Boris Aleshin as deputy prime minister for industrial policy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2003). "Kommersant-Daily" noted on 5 May that the Security Council mainly prepares advisory documents for the president. Nazdratenko will likely be charged with drafting an ecological-security document, but he will not be able to implement it, and it will likely be forgotten, as are many of the Security Council's recommendations. Meanwhile, an Audit Chamber report on the State Fisheries Committee in 2000 and 2001 uncovered numerous inconsistencies and financial irregularities, "Izvestiya" reported on 5 May. LB

CONTROVERSIAL BUSINESSMAN WANTS TO MAKE SPS NO. 3...
Alfred Kokh, whom the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) recently tapped to run its parliamentary campaign, wants to make the SPS third in the December elections to the State Duma. In an interview published in "Kommersant-Daily" on 5 May, Kokh said that "good money and good ideas" are necessary to achieve that goal, because media campaigns cost money and without the media it is impossible to reach voters. In 1999, SPS won some 8 percent of the vote after receiving substantial sympathetic media coverage on major networks and placing many paid commercials on national television. The latest national survey by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) showed SPS tied for fourth place with 6 percent support, behind the Communist Party (28 percent), Unified Russia (21 percent), and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (7 percent), Interfax reported on 30 April. LB

...BUT WILL HE HURT THE PARTY?
"Kommersant-Daily" speculated on 5 May that Kokh does not enjoy a good reputation in the Kremlin and that this will complicate SPS's efforts during the Duma elections. The newspaper recalled that in February 2002, the legislature of Leningrad Oblast selected Kokh to represent the region in the Federation Council, but Kokh declined that job, purportedly under pressure from the Kremlin. An unnamed SPS source characterized Kokh's relations with the Kremlin as irrelevant, telling "Kommersant-Daily" that "it is already obvious that the authorities do not intend to favor SPS" in the elections. The source added that Kokh has a good reputation in business and media circles. SPS television commercials late in the 1999 campaign sought to capitalize on the popularity of then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, showing Putin in a friendly meeting with Sergei Kirienko. LB

DRAFT MEDIA LAW WOULD ELIMINATE REGISTRATION FOR INTERNET PUBLICATIONS
The Media Ministry's website has published a new draft law on the mass media that would lift registration requirements for Internet publications, lenta.ru reported on 2 May. The draft contains a new chapter regulating online media. Russia's current media law was adopted in December 1991, before Internet publications existed in Russia. According to lenta.ru, those wishing to publish online would not have to register with the Media Ministry under the draft law. Instead, they would be required only to inform the Media Ministry when an online media outlet began publication. LB

BELGOROD JOURNALIST WINS GERMAN PRIZE...
Germany's Union of Journalists has awarded its annual Free Press Prize to Olga Kitova, gazeta.ru reported on 4 May, citing Deutsche Welle. As a reporter for "Belgorodskaya pravda" and a deputy in the Belgorod Oblast Duma, Kitova published numerous articles critical of local officials including Governor Yevgenii Savchenko. Although the regional branch of Russia's Union of Journalists had awarded Kitova a prize for investigative reporting and she ostensibly had immunity from criminal prosecution as a member of the regional legislature, she was nonetheless arrested in 2001. Kitova was prosecuted on five criminal charges and eventually convicted of libel. A Belgorod Court gave her a suspended prison sentence of 2 1/2 years (see "RFE/RL Media Matters," 4 January and 12 July 2002). LB

...AS PENZA PUBLISHER FINDS MEANING OF LIFE
Yevgenii Guseinov, general director of the Penzenskaya Pravda publishing house in Penza Oblast, announced on 30 April that he is joining the Unified Russia party, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported on 4 May. Guseinov explained that his "spiritual needs and searches for the meaning of life" drew him to the "party of support for the Russian president." According to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, Guseinov is on good terms with Penza Governor Vasilii Bochkarev, a supporter of Unified Russia. LB

ARMENIAN PRESS CLUB SLAMS PRESIDENT
The Armenian National Press Club (NPC), which comprises mostly opposition journalists, issued a strong condemnation of President Robert Kocharian on 3 May, labeling him an "enemy of the press" and denouncing his increasing restrictions on the media, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. The condemnation, issued on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, criticized the Kocharian government for its closure of the independent A1+ television station, one of the government's harshest critics and, until its April 2002 closure, one of the country's few truly independent media outlets. The larger, more mainstream Yerevan Press Club, while distancing itself from the National Press Club, also noted that press freedom in Armenia has seriously eroded over the past year. In a recent report released by the U.S.-based NGO Freedom House deploring the closure of A1+, the Armenian media was negatively rated as "Not Free" and the Armenian government was criticized for "stifling dissent and intimidating journalists critical of its policies." The Armenian government maintains that A1+ was denied its broadcasting frequency and forced off the air as a result of a fair competitive-bidding process that was in full conformity with the Armenian law on television and radio. RG

ARMENIAN PARTY ADVOCATES STRONGER TIES WITH RUSSIA
Unveiling on 3 May his party's platform for the approaching parliamentary election, Ramkavar Azatakan Party of Armenia (HRAK) Chairman Ruben Mirzakhanian vowed that stronger ties with Russia will be a priority for the party, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Mirzakhanian elaborated on the platform and stressed that "safe borders, a fair solution to Karabakh conflict, international recognition of the Armenian genocide, attraction of foreign investment, and reliable communication routes stretching out from Armenia," are the party's "main foreign-policy priorities." RG

ARMENIA'S PRO-GOVERNMENT PARTIES SHOW SIGNS OF RIFT...
A senior leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) revealed signs of a serious rift within the electoral bloc supporting President Kocharian with a strong statement on 2 May criticizing other unnamed pro-government parties for engaging in "false election techniques" and accusing them of acting "more antigovernment than the opposition itself," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Armenpress reported. The statement by HHK parliamentary faction head Galust Sahakian is widely seen as an attack on the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), which is the other prominent party aligned in support of the president. The other pro-government parties, following the ARF's lead, have been significantly critical of some cabinet policies and have appeared to be distancing themselves from Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party. The main divide within the pro-government camp is linked to electoral politics in the run-up to the parliamentary elections and is mainly between the ARF -- with the presidential chief of staff, Artashes Tumanian, as its leading candidate -- and the Republican Party, with Defense Minister Serzh Sargsian as its most prominent candidate for the new parliament. RG

...AS OPPOSITION VOWS TO RESTART IMPEACHMENT DRIVE
At a campaign rally in Yerevan on 2 May, opposition Artarutiun (Justice) bloc leader Albert Bazeyan promised that if the opposition alliance secures a majority of seats in the parliamentary election, their "first step will be the restoration of constitutional order" by impeaching President Kocharian, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. The Artarutiun bloc consists of a dozen opposition parties unified in support of failed presidential contender Stepan Demirchian. RG

OSCE PRESSURES ARMENIAN CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION ON APPROACHING ELECTION
Reacting to a recent decision by the Armenian Central Election Commission (CEC) not to use transparent ballot boxes in the parliamentary elections, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) election-monitoring chief Robert Barry on 2 May urged the Armenian authorities to reconsider their decision, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Barry stressed that a refusal to do so would be a "step backwards" for Armenian democracy and urged the use of the donated ballot boxes as a necessary measure to ensure a free and fair election. The CEC earlier resolved to revert to the larger, closed wooden boxes, contending that only these boxes have sufficient space to hold all the ballots (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2003). The CEC also rejected an OSCE offer to provide an additional transparent box for each polling station. Ballot-box stuffing was the most widespread form of irregularity reported by observers during the two rounds of the recent presidential election. RG

ARMENIAN DISTRICT COURT REJECTS OPPOSITION CANDIDATE'S MOTION
A Yerevan district court on 2 May ruled against a legal motion by opposition leader and failed presidential candidate Armen Karapetian seeking reinstatement as a candidate in the parliamentary election, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. Karapetian was challenging a recent decision by the CEC denying him official registration as a candidate on the grounds that he failed to meet the five-year residency requirement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April 2003). The CEC refused to explain how it determined that Karapetian failed to meet the requirement of residing in Armenia for at least five years when it had previously certified him as a presidential candidate, which has a 10-year residency requirement. RG

AILING AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT RECEIVING CARE IN TURKEY
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev was flown to Turkey on 3 May for several days of specialized medical care at the Turkish Gulhane Military Medical Academy, according to ANS and AFP. The 79-year-old Azerbaijani president is recovering from his recent collapse during a speech at a military academy in Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2003). Aliev has a history of heart and other health problems and has undergone several operations and treatments in both the United States and Turkey in the past few years. RG

...AS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS IN BAKU DEMONSTRATE AGAINST HIM
With President Aliev in Turkey for medical care, several hundred thousand demonstrators marched through Baku on 4 May, demanding that Aliev resign and calling for new elections, according to AFP and Turan. The demonstrations were organized by a coalition of six major opposition parties. RG

PRESIDENTIAL AMNESTY FOR AZERBAIJANI PRISONERS SUBMITTED TO PARLIAMENT
President Aliev on 3 May submitted a general amnesty to parliament for several thousand prisoners, ANS reported. The new amnesty would release nearly 9,000 inmates and reduce the sentences for another 2,200 convicts. The draft amnesty, which requires parliamentary approval, specifies several preconditions for eligibility, all of which mandate that beneficiaries either be veterans, elderly, or have committed crimes as minors. RG

AZERBAIJANI OFFICIALS MEET WITH INTERPOL CHIEF
Interpol head Ronald Noble met in Baku on 2 May with senior Azerbaijani officials, according to ANS. In a meeting with Justice Minister Fikret Mamedov, Noble discussed the course of legal reforms in the country and reviewed several measures recently adopted by the Azerbaijani government to combat money laundering and organized crime. Azerbaijan has entered into a new cooperative effort with Interpol in recent months, with a planned training program for state prosecutors and judicial officers to be further expanded. RG

EXILED OPPOSITION LEADER DETAINED IN EUROPE
Former Azerbaijani parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev, a leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA), was detained by police on 1 May in Amsterdam on an outstanding Interpol arrest warrant, Eurasianet reported on 2 May. The arrest warrant stems from outstanding charges of corruption and embezzlement pending against Guliev in Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January and 8 April 1998). Guliev served as deputy prime minister in charge of the oil sector and became parliamentary speaker before resigning in 1996. Although Guliev fled Azerbaijan and lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, he continues to lead the opposition DPA and is seen as a possible contender in the October presidential election (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January and 7 April 2003). The former speaker was released on 2 May by the Dutch authorities after spending the night in custody. RG

AZERBAIJAN OPPOSES IRANIAN REGIONAL SECURITY PROPOSAL
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayet Guliev announced his opposition on 2 May to a new Iranian proposal for a regional security organization, AP reported. The proposal, announced during Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi's recent visit to Armenia, would encompass Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Russia, and Turkey (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2003). Guliev explained that although all regional states, including Iran, should be closely involved in security in the South Caucasus, Azerbaijan and Georgia are seeking closer integration with NATO. He said any "serious security system in the region is impossible without the participation of Euro-Atlantic structures." RG

GEORGIAN POLITICAL PARTIES NEARER AGREEMENT ON NEW ELECTION COMMISSION
Representatives of several of Georgian political parties on 3 May concluded a meeting with a preliminary agreement on the composition of the new Central Election Commission, "Civil Georgia" reported. The preliminary agreement allows for detailed negotiations over the commission's membership, as the government backed down from its initial position calling for an 11-member commission with nine members to be appointed directly by the president. The opposition political parties are seeking a more balanced distribution of seats based on the results of the 1999 parliamentary and 2002 local elections. RG

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL VISITS GEORGIA
Georgian officials welcomed U.S. Undersecretary of State for Management Grant Green in Tbilisi on 2 May, according to "Civil Georgia." Green inspected a site in Tbilisi where a new $114 million U.S. Embassy will be built. Construction is to begin in three months and is expected to be completed in 2006. RG

KAZAKH HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST SAYS DRUGS WERE PLANTED
Well-known Kazakh human rights activist Yevgenii Zhovtis, in Tashkent for the annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction And Development's (EBRD) board of governors, told Interfax-Kazakhstan on 4 May that two days earlier he found a packet of what appeared to be marijuana in his car and he suspected that it might have been intended to cause him problems with law enforcement officials because of his public activities. Had the police found the substance, they might have prevented his trip to Tashkent. As head of Kazakhstan's International Bureau for Human Rights and the Observance of Legality, Zhovtis has been one of the most prominent figures on the Kazakh human rights scene for many years. He told Interfax that when he found the suspicious packet, he immediately reported it to the police and to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's adviser on political issues Ermuhamet Ertysbaev. Zhovtis speculated that the apparent provocation was aimed not only against him, but also against Nazarbaev, who is also attending the EBRD meeting. BB

OSCE EXPERTS COMPLETE REPORT ON KAZAKH JOURNALIST'S CASE
A group of Dutch legal experts commissioned by the OSCE have completed a report on the case of independent Kazakh journalist Sergei Duvanov, who was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison after being convicted of statutory rape. The Kazakh opposition is convinced the case was fabricated for political reasons, although the Kazakh government vehemently denies this. In a conversation with Interfax-Kazakhstan on 4 May, activist Zhovtis said that the report of the Dutch experts has been completed and submitted to the OSCE. He said he believes it has also been handed to the Kazakh government. Zhovtis added that he has been told the report is critical of the authorities. Zhovtis, who is one of Duvanov's defense lawyers, was reported as saying that the defense team will appeal Duvanov's conviction to the Kazakh Supreme Court once they have familiarized themselves with the OSCE report. BB

UZBEK-LANGUAGE WEBSITE LAUNCHED IN KYRGYZSTAN
A media firm set up by journalists in Kyrgyzstan has launched an Uzbek-language website (http://www.asrasia.org), centrasia.ru reported on 5 May. The firm, Asrushon Aziya, was set up by 18 Kyrgyz journalists primarily to distribute information about Central Asia via the Internet, according to its acting director, Hakimjan Husanov. BB

PERSONNEL AT COALITION AIR BASE IN BISHKEK TO BE REDEPLOYED, NEWSPAPER SAYS
The personnel and administration of the international antiterrorism coalition air base at Bishkek's Manas Airport are supposed to be redeployed to the village of Mramornoe near the town of Sokuluk, west of Bishkek, the pro-government newspaper "Vechernyi Bishkek" reported on 4 May. There has been speculation in the Kyrgyz media over the significance of a government grant of a 300-hectare parcel near Sokuluk to the country's Defense Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2003). "Vechernyi Bishkek" quoted its sources as saying that coalition aircraft, equipment, and stores are expected to remain at Manas. The Kyrgyz independent media and political figures of various persuasions have long debated the permanence of the coalition military presence -- particularly, the U.S. presence -- in Kyrgyzstan. The move of part of that presence to Sokuluk is bound to fuel further speculation. BB

DRIVERS FORBIDDEN TO SMOKE IN TURKMENISTAN
As of 1 May, new traffic rules have gone into effect in Turkmenistan, turkmenistan.ru reported on 5 May. In addition to standardizing traffic signs in accordance with international practice and setting rules for the precedence of vehicles at intersections, the new rules forbid drivers from smoking, using mobile phones, and listening to loud music. According to the report, the innovations in the traffic rules are intended to improve safety. Traffic-accident statistics are not available, but visual evidence suggests they must be quite high. BB

EBRD MEETING IN TASHKENT OPENS WITH CRITICISM OF HOST...
The annual meeting of the EBRD's board of governors opened on 4 May in Tashkent with sharp criticism of the host country by Human Rights Watch (HRW) acting Director Kenneth Roth, centrasia.ru reported. Many international human rights organizations have criticized the EBRD for choosing Uzbekistan for its meeting, and the grounds for their objections to the venue were set out by Roth in his statement at the opening ceremony. Roth said Uzbekistan has not implemented the political and economic reforms required by the bank. The EBRD mandate requires that countries show progress in these areas in order for the bank to continue its activities with them. According to centrasia.ru, Roth asserted that human rights and the protection of civil liberties have deteriorated in Uzbekistan in the last year, citing specifically the deaths of eight prisoners allegedly by torture, the 6,500 known political prisoners, the harassment of journalists and human rights activists, and the "questionable referendum" that increased President Islam Karimov's presidential prerogatives. According to centrasia.ru, a small group of demonstrators outside the venue demanded an end to the use of torture and the release of political prisoners. The banned political group Birlik issued a statement approving the choice of Tashkent and noting that bank documents have made clear that the institution has no illusions about the situation in Uzbekistan. Centrasia.ru published the statement on 3 May. BB

...AS EBRD PRESIDENT MEETS UZBEK PRESIDENT, CALLS FOR UZBEKISTAN TO MEET REFORM GOALS
At the opening session of the EBRD annual meeting on 4 May, EBRD President Jean Lemierre delivered a statement in which he said that "Uzbekistan has the capacity for far more investment" than it is currently receiving and for greater economic development, uzreport.com reported on 5 May. But in order for the EBRD to invest more in the country, Lemierre said, Uzbekistan will have to take some fundamental steps to improve the investment climate. He noted that the bank has recently set benchmarks against which Uzbekistan's performance will be measured. The political benchmarks are political liberty, freedom for the media and for NGOs, and respect for human rights. The economic benchmarks are reducing trade barriers, ending foreign-currency controls, and developing a private sector. He also stressed the need for greater regional cooperation. Prior to the opening of the two-day meeting, Lemierre met with President Karimov to discuss the bank's cooperation with Uzbekistan, uza.uz reported on 3 May. Karimov was quoted as saying that the EBRD meeting is proof of the bank's confidence in Uzbekistan. Since the EBRD launched its first project in the country in 1993, it has implemented 20 projects worth $1.4 billion, of which $723.8 million was direct investment by the bank. Eight more projects are reported to be under consideration. BB

UZBEK PRESIDENT MEETS WITH VISITING COUNTERPARTS
President Karimov has met with the heads of state of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Georgia, all of whom are attending the annual meeting of the EBRD board of governors in Tashkent, centrasia.ru reported on 4 May, quoting uza.uz. According to the report, the main topics of discussion with each of the visiting presidents was the expansion of trade and economic ties within the region, developments within the CIS, the reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the development of transport in the Central Asian-South Caucasus area. Efforts against international terrorism, religious extremism, and drug trafficking were also mentioned, according to uza.uz. BB

PRESIDENT WANTS 25 MEDALS FOR BELARUS AT 2004 SUMMER OLYMPICS
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told Belarus's newly appointed Deputy Sports Ministers Valery Khatylyou and Halina Zaburyanava that he expects Belarusian athletes to win no fewer than 25 medals at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Greece, Belapan reported. "You should have clear-cut plans regarding these medals," Lukashenka said. "It is unacceptable to win fewer [than 25 medals]." Belarusian athletes took home 17 medals from the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000. JM

UKRAINIAN PARTY ELECTS NEW LEADER, FINGERS YUSHCHENKO FOR PRESIDENCY
The Popular Rukh of Ukraine (NRU) elected lawmaker Borys Tarasyuk as its leader at a congress in Kyiv on 3 May, Ukrainian media reported. Tarasyuk, who was Ukraine's foreign minister in 1998-2000, joined the NRU in March to replace Hennadiy Udovenko, who had led the party since 1999. Tarasyuk's appointment is seen by Ukrainian observers as a move to reinforce the NRU's position within Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc. Yushchenko, who also attended the NRU congress, called on democratic forces in Ukraine to unite to win the presidential election in 2004. The NRU congress formally asked Yushchenko's consent to field him as a presidential candidate on next year's ballot. A relevant document adopted at the congress says that fielding an opposition candidate other than Yushchenko in next year's presidential ballot "will objectively raise the chances of victory for a single candidate proposed by the authorities," Interfax reported. JM

ESTONIA SENDS OBSERVERS TO EUROPARLIAMENT
The credentials of the six parliamentary deputies appointed in April as observers to the European Parliament took effect on 1 May, BNS reported the next day. One observer was chosen from each of the six parties in the Estonian parliament. They will work in the European Parliament not as a national delegation but in factions based on their political views. Thus, in some cases, deputies in the ruling coalition and the opposition in Estonia will be observers in the same faction. Toomas Savi of the Reform Party and Peeter Kreitzberg of the Center Party belong to the Group of the European Liberal, Democratic, and Reformist Party (ELDR). Res Publica deputy Eiki Berg and Mart Laar of the Pro Patria Union will work in the Group of the European People's Party and European Democrats (EPP-ED). Moderate Toomas Hendrik Ilves will join the Group of the Party of European Socialists (PES) and Janno Reiljan of the People's Union will join the Group of the Union for a Europe of Nations (UEN). SG

LATVIA GETS NEW NATIONAL-SECURITY CHIEF
An extraordinary session of parliament voted 55 to 41 on 2 May to appoint retired British Brigadier General Janis Kazocins to a five-year term as director of the Constitutional Protection Bureau (CPB), LETA reported. The 52-year-old Kazocins was born in England and settled in Latvia in 2002, serving as a part-time anticorruption adviser to Prime Minister Einars Repse. His appointment as CPB director required extraordinary measures, including the parliament granting him Latvian citizenship in March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March 2003) and the CPB providing him with security clearance much more quickly than usual. The opposition criticized Kazocins for retaining his British citizenship. Kazocins said the bureau must hire employees to fulfill new duties such as the protection of classified NATO information, but declined further comment on future staff policy until he can discuss it with bureau employees. SG

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT PAYS WORKING VISIT TO DENMARK
President Rolandas Paksas told Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Copenhagen on 2 May that he is pleased with the high level of economic cooperation between Denmark and Lithuania, but urged more intensive ties between the Baltic and Nordic states, ELTA reported. The two men also discussed the problems of Kaliningrad transit, Lithuania's preparation for its upcoming referendum on EU membership, and the future of the European Union. While addressing a later business seminar, Paksas noted that Denmark is the largest foreign investor in Lithuania, accounting for 18 percent of total direct investment. Danish investments in Lithuania are twice as large as the country's investments in Russia, or in Latvia and Estonia combined. Paksas urged Danish businesses to use Lithuania as a springboard to the East. Paksas also met with Queen Margrethe II. SG

LITHUANIA'S SOCIAL DEMOCRATS HOLD CONGRESS
The 26th Congress of the Social Democratic Party (LSDP) was held in Vilnius on 3 May, BNS reported. The 501 delegates re-elected Algirdas Brazauskas as party chairman for two more years, with only two no votes and two abstentions. Three other candidates were nominated but declined to run. The congress reduced the number of deputy chairmen from 12 to seven: Ceslovas Jursenas, Vytenis Andriukaitis, Irena Siauliene, Algirdas Butkevicius, Gediminas Kirkilas, Milda Petrauskiene, and Lione Pikeliene. It failed to re-elect as a deputy chairman former Interior Minister Juozas Bernatonis, who was nominated by Brazauskas. New Union (Social Liberals) Chairman Arturas Paulauskas expressed support for uniting his party with the LSDP, but cautioned that this should be done gradually and be a union of equal partners. The congress also passed a resolution urging people to vote "yes" in the upcoming referendum on EU membership. SG

WILL POLAND TAKE CHARGE OF STABILIZATION ZONE IN IRAQ?
Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski told journalists on 4 May that preliminary plans suggest Iraq will be divided into four military sectors, with Poland "most likely" administering one of them, including commanding a military division there, PAP reported on 5 May. Szmajdzinski said the number of Polish troops in Iraq will depend on the financial support Warsaw can get from international partners. International news agencies quoted Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimerz Cimoszewicz as saying on 3 May that Iraq will be divided into three sectors patrolled by troops from at least 10 countries and led by the United States, Britain, and Poland. "The idea is to have all the countries ready to engage there by the end of this month," Reuters quoted Cimoszewicz as saying in Greece (see also today's "RFE/RL Newsline Part 3"). Aside from the United States, Britain, and Poland, Ukraine, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, and Albania have reportedly offered troops for the policing effort in Iraq. Reuters, however, quoted British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw as saying on 3 May that "no final decisions have been made" regarding the stabilization force in Iraq. JM

ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS URGE POLES TO VOTE IN EU REFERENDUM...
A plenary meeting of the Polish Roman Catholic Church's Episcopate on 3 May adopted a letter urging the faithful to participate in the 7-8 June referendum on Poland's EU membership, Polish media reported. The letter is to be read in every Roman Catholic church in Poland on 1 June. The bishops say in the letter that it is impossible to derive a strict position on the EU referendum from the Catholic faith. Simultaneously, they urge Poles "to rise up above all divisions, prejudices, and mutual hostilities and on a national cause of such great importance as Poland's accession to the European community express a will that will best serve the broadly conceived good of our homeland." Most Polish surveys show that support for EU membership among those wanting to vote is around 70 percent, but the government is worried that turnout might not reach 50 percent, thus casting doubt on the validity of the vote. JM

...AND PRESIDENT WANTS COMPATRIOTS TO SAY 'YES'
President Aleksander Kwasniewski said in a speech to mark the 3 May national holiday and anniversary of the 1791 constitution that a "yes" vote in the EU referendum in June would mean "a 'yes' for Poland, a 'yes' for Europe, a 'yes' for us living now, and a 'yes' for future generations," Polish Television reported. Speaking before farmers and food producers the previous day, Kwasniewski said a "no" vote in the EU referendum "would send Poland into a vacuum," PAP reported. "From the point of view of the best Polish farmers, Poland's non-entry to the European Union would mean degradation and, as a consequence, would lead to layoffs of workers on large farms," he added. JM

FIRE AT POLISH REFINERY KILLS THREE
Some 300 firefighters managed to extinguish a tank filled with 20,000 cubic meters of petrol at the Gdansk Refinery on 4 May after battling the blaze through the night, Polish media reported. Three people died in the fire, while another is reported missing. Normal operations continue at the refinery despite the fire. JM

CZECH OFFICIALS DIFFER OVER POSSIBLE U.S. TROOP PRESENCE
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda on 3 May signaled Czech willingness to host U.S. military troops, contradicting statements by Czech President Vaclav Klaus suggesting Washington should look elsewhere to relocate U.S. forces currently stationed in Western Europe, CTK reported the same day. Svoboda said history shows it is "impossible to guarantee security in Europe without the [United States]," the news agency quoted him as saying during an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Greece. Klaus, who has been publicly feuding with Svoboda over the implications of EU membership, had said in an interview published in the Munich-based "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" of 3 May, "On the basis of our history, we [Czechs] are very sensitive on the issue of foreign military units on our territory." Following the postcommunist withdrawal of Soviet troops from then-Czechoslovakia, Klaus reportedly said, "We can hardly agree to the deployment of the American military [on Czech soil]." Although it is unclear whether Washington is considering request that the Czech Republic house U.S. troops, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said such a request would require careful consideration, according to CTK. AH

CZECHS BRING TEMELIN NUCLEAR PLANT TO FULL POWER
Both units of the Temelin nuclear-power plant in Southern Bohemia were brought up to full power on 3 May, marking the first time the controversial $3 billion plant has operated at full capacity, dpa reported. Protestors, particularly from neighboring Austria, continue to oppose the 2 1/2-year-old plant's operation. A Soviet-designed plant with Western upgrades, the plant will run at full power for a trial period aimed at securing permission to operate commercially. AH

NASCENT SLOVAK CENTRIST PARTY ELECTS LEADER
The People's Union elected parliamentary deputy and former Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) Deputy Chairman Vojtech Tkac to its chairman's seat at the party's constituent congress on 3 May, TASR and CTK reported. The party was established by 11 former HZDS deputies after a high-profile challenge to current HZDS Chairman and former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. Meciar orchestrated their ouster after consolidating his own grip on the party's leadership position. "The People's Union is a political party of centrist orientation that is based on the civic, Christian, national, and social principles," Tkac told journalists after his election atop the opposition party. He added that the party will seek sweeping political reform, including the creation of a bicameral legislature to replace the current, 150-seat chamber. The People's Union congress also urged Slovaks to vote in favor of EU accession in the country's 16-17 May referendum. AH

DOES SLOVAK RIGHT-WING PARTY HAVE A NEW LEADER?
Peter Sulovsky announced to journalists on 3 May that the continuation of the Slovak National Party's (SNS) 11th congress elected him to chair the right-wing party, TASR reported the same day. He stressed that he considers both the congress, convened to continue work begun at a fractious 26 April party meeting (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 April 2003), and his election to be legitimate. Some 232 party delegates attended the meeting, in the city of Detva, TASR reported. The SNS leader ahead of the 26 April meeting, Anna Malikova, rejected the 3 May congress as illegitimate and said she still considers herself the party's chairwoman, according to TASR. Jozef Prokes, who challenged Malikova for the party's leadership at the deadlocked 26 April congress, had called the second congress and attended as a guest, the news agency reported. AH

HUNGARIAN RIGHT-WINGERS DISRUPT MARIJUANA-LEGALIZATION RALLY
Activists from two right-wing groups, the Tiszta Levegoert Polgari Kor (Civic Circle for Clean Air) and Lelkiismeret (Conscience) '88, disrupted a demonstration for the legalization of marijuana organized by the Kendermag Egyesulet (Hempseed Society) in downtown Budapest on 4 May, Hungarian media reported. The police, who issued permits for all three groups to hold rallies on Vorosmarty Square at the same time, said they had no way of keeping the groups separated. Demonstrators pelted pro-legalization speakers on stage with eggs and tomatoes, and prevented film director Miklos Jancso and writer Gyorgy Konrad from addressing the crowd. Police turned up an hour later, and they finally broke up both demonstrations. Jancso told "Nepszabadsag" that it was a mistake for police to allow simultaneous demonstrations. Government spokesman Zoltan Gal said liberalizing laws on soft drugs is not on the cabinet's agenda, Hungarian radio reported. MSZ

HUNGARY WANTS INTO REBUILDING EFFORT IN IRAQ
The Socialist-led government announced in an official communique on 2 May, one day after U.S. President George W. Bush declared the end of major military operations in Iraq, that Hungary is prepared to take part in the reconstruction of Iraq, "Nepszabadsag" reported the next day. The cabinet said it is in Hungary's national interest to participate in joint peacekeeping duties with other democratic countries and thus boost the chances that Hungarian companies might join in the reconstruction of Iraq. The government added that a consensus on the issue is needed among parliamentary parties to secure legislative approval, and to that end it has submitted a draft resolution to the house, the daily reported. Any decision to send peacekeepers must be approved by the Hungarian legislature. MSZ

U.S. PRESIDENT WELCOMES ADRIATIC PACT
George W. Bush said in a statement in Washington on 3 May that he welcomes the U.S.-Adriatic Partnership Charter among the United States, Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia aimed at promoting NATO membership for those three western Balkan countries, Hina reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 November 2002). Bush added that the agreement reflects Washington's determination to integrate the three states into the Euro-Atlantic community and their commitment to NATO values and principles. Secretary of State Colin Powell signed the pact in Tirana the previous day along with his three counterparts. He also signed a bilateral agreement with Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano prohibiting the handing over of each other's citizens to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. PM

NATO CALLS ON BOSNIA TO SET DEADLINE FOR JOINT ARMY
SFOR commander General William Ward urged Bosnian leaders to finalize plans for establishing a joint army and present a draft organizational chart by 1 June, local media reported on 3 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 18 April 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 May 2003). 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. The Bosnian Serb military authorities in particular have opposed creating a single Bosnian Army out of Serbian, Muslim, and Croatian components. PM

SIZE OF KOSOVA PEACEKEEPING FORCE TO BE SLASHED?
KFOR will probably be reduced from 27,000 to 17,000 troops by the end of 2003, Prishtina media reported on 3 May, citing unspecified sources in Brussels. Neither NATO nor KFOR has confirmed the report, which added that KFOR Commander Lieutenant General Fabio Mini will make the final decision. KFOR consisted of 50,000 troops when it came into existence in the summer of 1999. In related news, Finnish Brigadier General Paavo Kiljunen took command of KFOR's central region from British Brigadier General Jonathan Shaw on 30 April, dpa reported. The central region is one of four KFOR districts and has been under British command since 1999. Most of the troops there now are Scandinavians. Kiljunen's appointment marks the first time a general from a non-NATO country has taken command of a KFOR region. PM

PRISHTINA DAILY SAYS SERBIA CONTINUING FORMER POLICY IN KOSOVA
The recent decision by authorities in Belgrade to set up a Serbian state council to deal with Kosovar affairs indicates that Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic intends to continue the activist policies of his late predecessor, Zoran Djindjic, the daily "Zeri" reported on 3 May, citing unspecified diplomatic sources in Belgrade and Prishtina (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 January 2003). The daily added that the move suggests that Belgrade is on a "collision course" with the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2003). PM

ARE 'OBSTACLES' BEING CREATED TO MONTENEGRIN INDEPENDENCE?
Miodrag Zivkovic, who is the pro-independence Liberal Alliance's candidate in the 11 May Montenegrin presidential elections, told the Podgorica daily "Vijesti" of 4 May that a referendum in 2006 on independence is possible but not "automatic." He stressed that the membership of Serbia and Montenegro as a single state in international bodies such as the Council of Europe is an "obstacle" to holding a referendum. In Podgorica the previous day, a spokeswoman for Javier Solana, who is the EU's foreign- and security-policy chief, said the Brussels-based bloc wants to see the "harmonization" of Serbian and Montenegrin economic polices completed before the June EU summit in Thessaloniki, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

MONTENEGRO AND SERBIA DEFEND THEIR RESPECTIVE INTERESTS
Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Economic Relations Minister Branko Lukovac said in Podgorica on 3 May that he is confident his country's membership in international political and economic bodies can be negotiated so as to take account of the sometimes differing interests of each republic, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. In Belgrade, Serbian Economics and Privatization Minister Aleksander Vlahovic said the Serbian government intends to protect its "restructuring" industries through its tariff policy and will make this clear in negotiations with Montenegro. In Podgorica, the Montenegrin government said in a statement that it will not impose any entry tax on foreign tourists, even though Serbia plans to charge each tourist just over $60. Tourism is one of Montenegro's most important foreign-exchange earners. PM

FORMER CROATIAN GENERAL BURIED NEAR BIRTHPLACE
About 25,000 people attended the funeral in Orahovica on 2 May of former General Janko Bobetko, whom the Hague-based war crimes tribunal indicted in 2002, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2003). In accordance with his wishes, songs from the 1991-95 war of independence were played. But Judge Ika Saric refused Bobetko's request that convicted war criminal General Mirko Norac, a former subordinate of Bobetko's, be released from prison to attend the funeral (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 25 March 2003). The judge ruled that prisoners may legally be allowed to attend funerals of relatives only. Prime Minister Ivica Racan and parliament speaker Zlatko Tomcic attended services for Bobetko in Zagreb, but President Stipe Mesic did not, saying he had a previous commitment in eastern Croatia. Mesic, who is on bad terms with organized war veterans, denied that his absence was politically motivated. PM

ROMANIA READY TO CONTRIBUTE TO COMMON EU SECURITY FORCE
Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana on 3 May said in Greece at an informal meeting of foreign ministers of EU member and candidate countries that Romania, Bulgaria, and the other EU candidate countries can contribute to the structuring of a future common EU security force, Mediafax reported. He said these countries, as future NATO and EU members, can offer new perspectives regarding European policies toward East European countries. This is the first time Romania has participated in such a meeting. ZsM

PNL WILL RUN ON OWN TICKET IN ROMANIAN ELECTIONS
National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman Theodor Stolojan said in the northwestern Romanian city of Satu Mare on 4 May that his party will not ally itself with the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), Romanian media reported. He said the PNL wants either to be in the current government and work according to liberal principles or to have a strong word in the future government. Stolojan also pledged to resign if the PNL fails to garner more than 20 percent of the vote in next year's parliamentary elections. The PNL intends to absorb other liberal parties, such as PNL-Campeanu, and wants to finalize talks with the Democratic Party on an alliance by July. Stolojan also said Romanians suffer as a result of corruption and that the PSD does not want to acknowledge "this reality." He also spoke about media freedoms, arguing that the ruling party "tries to limit [them by] using juridical, and also economic means." ZsM

STUDY SHOWS ROMANIA FACES DIFFICULTIES IN JOINING EU
A study published by the Romanian Academic Society (SAR) on 4 May says the Romanian government can be proud of its economic performance but that it fails to respect democratic criteria, Romanian media reported. The study argues that Romania has little chance of joining the EU in 2007, considering its difficulties in adopting and implementing European norms and in distributing EU funds granted through the PHARE program. The study also argues that Romanian media have been threatened in the last two years by political and economic pressure from the government. ZsM

ROMANIAN JOURNALISTS MARK WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY...
Romanian journalists marked World Press Freedom Day on 3 May by engaging in public discussions in downtown Bucharest, Romanian media reported. The Media Monitoring Agency organized an open-air exhibition at which representatives of 25 media outlets discussed current affairs with the public and politicians. ZsM

...AS FREEDOM HOUSE, HELSINKI COMMISSION SAY MEDIA RESTRICTIONS REMAIN
Freedom House, a U.S.-based NGO whose stated aim is to spread democracy, in its "Freedom of the Press 2003" report released on 30 April singled out Romania as the only EU candidate country in which the media is not entirely free, an RFE/RL correspondent in Bucharest reported on 2 May. The Romanian media sector received a ranking of "Partly Free" in the report. Freedom House ranked countries as "Free," "Partly Free," or "Not Free." The report said Romania's ranking came as a result of its recently adopted law on classified information as well as constant political influence on the state-owned media. Freedom House provided as an example the private ProTV station, which owes $50 million to the state budget and depends on the government for its survival. On 3 May, U.S. Representative Christopher Smith (Republican, New Jersey), co-chairman of the U.S. Congressional Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), an independent U.S. government agency that is also known as the United States Helsinki Commission), asked Romania to abrogate laws referring to insults of public officials and defamation. He added that if the Romanian parliament were to show a real effort to reform Romania's Penal Code it would prove the country's commitment to the reform process. ZsM

FREEDOM HOUSE CONSIDERS MOLDOVAN MEDIA PARTLY FREE
Freedom House in its "Freedom of the Press 2003" report released on 30 April ranked Moldova's media sector as "Partly Free." "Independent media in Moldova face obstacles from restrictive libel laws, government pressure, and dependence upon state financing," the group writes. The report also argues that journalists frequently engage in self-censorship, while journalists risk being targets of harassment or physical assault, especially when reporting on corruption issues. ZsM

EBRD EARMARKS $360 MILLION FOR BULGARIA
Economy Minister Nikolay Vasilev said on 5 May that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has earmarked $360 million to Bulgaria for 2003, dpa reported. Vasilev made the announcement upon his return from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where he attended the EBRD's annual board of governors meeting. The EBRD invested $182 million in Bulgaria last year, accounting for 4.7 percent of the bank's portfolio, up from 2.7 in 2001. MES

WHICH FEDERALISM IS THE ANSWER FOR IRAQ?
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), meeting with Iraqi political and religious leaders recently, nailed "Thirteen Points" to the door that Washington wants to open on Iraq's future. Topping the list: build a "democratic federal system." A national conference is planned for next month.

U.S. officials, however, should look beyond the U.S. model for that blueprint. Unfortunately, the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush seems ready to recast Iraq in the image of the United States, with a strong central government dividing powers with mirror-image units arrayed below. The beacon of freedom that the United States wants to light is already blinding its busy planners to problems that could quickly extinguish their hopes -- and the hopes of the Iraqis -- for a prosperous future for Iraq.

Most important for Iraq and the region is a state that holds together its various nationalities and religions. A lecture on U.S.-style federalism has little to teach Iraq about its three most pressing problems: competing ethnic groups, competing religious groups, and a nasty totalitarian legacy. Imagine Graham Greene's "Quiet American" as a political scientist.

The federalism of the United States is not your garden-variety federalism. In fact, there's no such thing. Seven of the world's eight largest states are federal: Russia, Canada, the United States, Brazil, Australia, India, and Argentina. China is the exception. So, too, are some of the smallest, including Switzerland and Belgium, for example.

There are many different federal states for many different reasons. Unlike most federal systems, the U.S. states are not based on pre-existing national or ethnic boundaries -- just ask an American Indian. The United States has also been spared the language politics of Belgium or the religious divisions of India. All that, plus more, confronts Russia, struggling simultaneously with its authoritarian past. For better or worse, these federal states face problems that the United States simply hasn't. Some countries have even tried federal solutions without territorial divisions, according representation to recognizable groups mixed throughout their societies.

Switzerland is so quiet that it is easy to forget the religious, ethnic, and linguistic cleavages that make its union -- and its duration -- astounding in our Age of Nationalism. How that happened is a long story, but it's not the United States' story. U.S. federalism -- imposed, as it were, on a virgin land -- is less likely to provide a model for Iraq than the experiences of divided societies that wrote federal constitutions on the palimpsests of past failures.

Federalism in the United States is complex, expensive, and brimming with redundancies. It's premised on two sets of government, not one, with power balanced and divided and shared.

But would the Iraqis like such a system? It's not a question of whether Iraq is "ready" for federalism. Making the right federal choices will make all the difference. Will Al-Nasiriyah someday be Geneva on the Euphrates...or Grozny? Will the Kurds become the region's Chechens or Swiss?

With the collapse of the USSR, U.S. advisers poured into Moscow to share the wisdom of the winning side. But few Russian politicians could agree about what they were building. Important, but abstract principles like "checks and balances" were lost in the rubble and corruption of the Soviet state that had disintegrated before their eyes. A Soviet state, by the way, that claimed to be federal. Even if its federalism was as much a facade as its democracy, those fault lines sped the Soviet Union's collapse.

The last 10 years of Russian federalism have resulted in two Chechen wars. So many regions refused to send taxes to Moscow or even to acknowledge the supremacy of federal law that Russian President Vladimir Putin was forced to declare a "dictatorship of law." More than 30 of Russia's federation subjects are based on questionably legitimate ethnic borders, some even stacking matroshka-like one within another.

U.S. officials should look less to federal approaches in the United States and more to those of countries confronting ethnic, religious, and historical problems similar to those that Iraq must solve.

Take post-Franco Spain, for example. Ingenious quasi-federal solutions helped muffle Catalonian and Basque secessionism. Inhabitants of these regions were encouraged to think of themselves as a part of Spain first. That didn't happen accidentally. Regional and national elections were cleverly sequenced to take advantage of a Spanish constitution drafted before regional bargains were struck. That led to "rules of the game" that regional leaders not only acknowledged, but allowed to shape their own agendas.

Spain and its autonomous regions still have a long road to travel, but they will probably continue to travel together. No one anticipates Chechnya on the Iberian Peninsula. Even Putin's multiethnic federal Russia is slowly emerging from the spell cast on it by proponents of U.S. federalism -- well worth studying, but so difficult to duplicate.

The lesson is that the United States is not the repository of all federal wisdom. As Iraq rebuilds, the United States must see itself as an exception, not the standard, among federal solutions for multiethnic, multilingual, post-authoritarian societies.

Jeffrey Kahn is the author of "Federalism, Democratization, and the Rule of Law in Russia," Oxford University Press, 2002.

U.S. ADMINISTRATOR IN IRAQ DISCUSSES INTERIM LEADERSHIP...
The head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), Jay Garner, told reporters in Baghdad on 5 May that he envisages an interim Iraqi government comprising up to nine leaders, according to an AP "Pool Report" posted the same day on the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) website (http://www.centcom.mil). Garner spoke to reporters in Baghdad before departing for a one-day trip to the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah. According to AP, five of the leaders will be Ma'sud Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party; Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan; Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress; Iyad Allawi, head of the Iraqi National Accord; and Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, from the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). The remaining members will likely include a leading Sunni and Christian figure, Garner reportedly said. KR

...AND SUGGESTS IT WILL BE RUNNING BY MID-MAY
Garner also told reporters on 5 May that he expects retired State Department official L. Paul Bremer, who is likely to be named the senior U.S. overseer in Iraq, to take over much of the day-to-day management of facilitating the post-Saddam Hussein political process in Iraq. "He will get more involved in the political process. I'm doing all of it and don't want to do all of it," Garner said. "We really need a dedicated effort." Meanwhile, Reuters quoted Garner as telling reporters that the interim government might be up and running in the next two weeks. "By the middle of the month [of May], you'll really see a beginning of a nucleus of an Iraqi government with an Iraqi face on it that is dealing with the [U.S.-led international] coalition," Garner said. KR

MASS GRAVE UNCOVERED NEAR IRAQI HOLY CITY
At least one mass grave has been uncovered 20 kilometers northwest of the holy city of Al-Najaf, AP reported on 5 May. Iraqis began digging at a site on 3 May and have reportedly uncovered 72 bodies from the shallow grave. Bullet casings were found in and near the graves, according to AP. Iraqis at the site told reporters that the grave was filled with men and women executed following a failed Shi'ite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War. "Everybody knew and could see, but they kept quiet," local farmer Kamal al-Tamimi told AP. "We were told [by Iraqi officials] to stay away from this area, not to go near it, that it was a security zone." Another farmer said he had seen blindfolded people with their hands tied behind their backs, shot in the back of the head in 1991. AP reported that U.S. Marines were controlling the site but transferred control to the Iraqi Unity Association, which is headed by U.S.-appointed Governor Abd al-Munim Aboud. Meanwhile, Reuters reported on 4 May that U.S. Marines transferred control of the site to the local Red Crescent Society. Iraqis have also uncovered bodies at another nearby site. KR

INTERIM IRAQI OIL MINISTRY HEAD REPORTEDLY APPOINTED
Thamir Abbas Ghadhban, an Iraqi oil technocrat, has been appointed to run the Iraqi Oil Ministry, an unidentified ministry official told Reuters on 4 May. The source also said the former head of British-Dutch Royal Dutch/Shell, Phillip Carroll, is heading an advisory board to the Iraqi Oil Ministry. Ghadhban now holds the title of "chief executive" of the ministry, according to Reuters. His appointment was announced at a 3 May meeting between officials from the ORHA and the Iraqi oil sector. "You can say he is the minister of oil," an unnamed official said. But the official added, "When we have a new government, we must have a minister of oil. Perhaps Mr. Thamir [Ghadhban] will be the minister, perhaps another person," signaling that the appointment is considered an interim one. Reuters also reported that Carroll is being assisted by Iraqi exile Fadhil Uthman, who served 20 years in the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO). KR

MULTINATIONAL FORCE ANNOUNCED FOR IRAQ
The United States, Britain, and Poland have drawn up plans to establish a 10-country force to police Iraq, Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said on 3 May, Reuters reported the same day. "The idea is to have all the countries ready to engage there by the end of this month," Cimoszewicz told reporters at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Greece. Meanwhile, an unnamed senior U.S. official reportedly told Reuters that Iraq will be divided into three sectors, one patrolled by around 20,000 U.S. troops and the others patrolled by British and Polish forces (see also Polish item in today's "RFE/RL Newsline Part II"). The official added that the stabilization force will be separate from the 135,000 U.S. forces still in Iraq, Reuters reported. KR

BAGHDAD'S POLICE CHIEF RESIGNS
The newly appointed chief of police in Baghdad, Zuhir al-Naimi, has resigned, Reuters reported on 3 May. U.S. forces spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Alan King said al-Naimi stepped aside to open the way for a younger man, according to Reuters. Al-Naimi was appointed on 24 April and was responsible for the recovery of some $380,000 in cash and 100 kilograms of gold in the capital city. KR

FIRST POST-HUSSEIN ELECTION UNDER WAY IN MOSUL
Some 250 delegates gathered in the northern city of Mosul on 5 May to elect an interim mayor and city council in the first post-Hussein election in Iraq, international media reported. The 24-member council will consist of seven Arabs, three Kurds, two Assyrian Christians, one Turkoman, and one Shebak from inside Mosul, along with six Arabs, one Yezidi, and one Assyrian Christian from outside the city and two former Iraqi generals, Reuters reported on 5 May. "By being here today, you are participating in the birth of the democratic process in Iraq," commanding U.S. Major General David Petraeus told delegates at the start of the election, RFE/RL reported. But it appeared that not all delegates were pleased with the proceedings; some participants reportedly walked out of the meeting in apparent protest against the council being designed along ethnic lines. Responding to the walkout, Petraeus said: "There are some individuals, one of whom walked out this morning, who do not believe in representative government. They are essentially radical individuals who believe that the government should only represent one particular group within Iraq.... They have had the right to express that opinion and the right to participate or not to participate in the process," RFE/RL reported. KR

IRAN'S ECONOMIC, LABOR PROBLEMS MOUNT
Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Safdar Husseini has promised that a new series of private labor agencies will be created this year in an effort to boost employment, "Iran Daily" reported on 4 May. Rather than creating jobs, the agencies will offer counseling services to facilitate finding jobs both inside and outside the country, he said. "Different countries can inform us about vacancies in their job markets so that we could dispatch specialized workforce there," Husseini said. That would depend, however, on the quality of Iran's political ties with other countries, he cautioned. Tehran's "Iran Daily" reported on 3 May that a group of workers complained to parliament speaker Mehdi Karrubi that the government fails to enforce existing labor laws, resulting in an increasing lack of job security. Employers are hiring workers only on one, two, or three-month contracts to avoid having to provide heath insurance, pension, and retirement benefits, they claimed. Husseini placed the country's unemployment rate at 12.61 percent, considerably lower than other figures appearing in Iranian media recently. Meanwhile, "Aftab-e Yazd" on 4 May cited Fars News Agency as reporting that on the occasion of Teacher's Week in a number of cities across the country, teachers have held "quiet" protest rallies to complain about their low wages. SF

EXPEDIENCY COUNCIL CHAIRMAN'S SON DENIES FAMILY WEALTH INCREASE
Mehdi Rafsanjani, a son of Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, on 4 May said the financial status of the Rafsanjani family has not improved since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, the "Iran Daily" reported. His remarks to reporters in Tehran were prompted by an unidentified "foreign TV network's" report that the family's land and business assets had increased significantly. Mehdi Rafsanjani denied that his father owns the Persian Gulf island of Kish, hotels in Dubai, villas in France, or the Sanyo Corporation in Iran. The father, who served two terms as president and before that was parliament speaker for several years, remains a powerful figure in Iranian politics, but widespread rumors about his family's lucrative business dealings have long limited his standing among the Iranian public. SF

ONE KILLED IN ATTACK ON DEMINING TEAM IN AFGHANISTAN
One person was killed and another was seriously injured when unidentified individuals on 3 May fired on a vehicle carrying a demining team of the Afghan Development Association (ADA) in Wardak Province, the UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) announced the next day. UNAMA spokesperson David Singh said the driver of the vehicle, an Afghan national, was killed in the attack. "The motive for the attack is yet unknown," Singh said. ADA has been active in demining projects in Afghanistan for more than a decade, as well as in projects related to agriculture, education, and community development. On 27 March, an engineer working for the International Committee of the Red Cross, Ricardo Munguia, was killed in a similar attack (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March 2003). That attack is believed to have been carried out by elements of the Taliban or Al-Qaeda in an effort to keep foreign aid workers out of Afghanistan, thus weakening the Transitional Afghan Administration. AT

SENIOR TALIBAN OFFICIAL SURFACES, RENEWS CALL FOR JIHAD
Mulla Mohammad Hasan Rahmani, former governor of Kandahar Province under the Taliban regime, said in an interview with Reuters from an undisclosed location on 4 May that "the Taliban will continue their jihad and struggle for peace [and the] implementation of Islamic shari'a law, and against America and its agents." Rahmani described Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai as "an American clerk and a toy in the hands of the Northern Alliance." Mulla Dadullah, a senior Taliban commander, said on 28 March that the Taliban are united under the leadership of Mulla Mohammad Omar and will step up attacks on foreigners in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 March 2003). AT

AFGHAN CHAIRMAN APPROVES COMMITTEE FOR JOURNALISTS' RIGHTS
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai has formally approved a commission Afghan journalists set up nine months ago in an effort to defend their rights, Radio Afghanistan reported on 4 May. Officials of the transitional government have recently threatened a number of journalists in Kabul and other areas of Afghanistan, the reported added. Radio Afghanistan commented that it "would be difficult to anticipate the practical performance of a commission formed to support journalists and writers." Afghanistan was ranked as the fourth-worst place in the world to work as a journalist in a report released on 2 May by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 May 2003). AT

COUNCIL ORGANIZED BY AFGHAN SUPREME COURT SAYS SHARI'A IS THE ONLY LAW...
In outlining the decisions of 75 Islamic scholars (ulama) from across Afghanistan who met for a three-day council organized by the Supreme Court, Deputy Chief Justice Fazel Ahmad Manawi said on 2 May that the "only source of legislation in Afghanistan is Islamic shari'a law," AFP reported on 3 May. Manawi said the council decided during its meeting in Kabul that "Islam guarantees women's right to education and participation in political life, but they should dress in an Islamic manner and observe hijab [the veiling of the head and/or body]." Manawi said the media should not publish anything "that is considered a crime under Islamic law," and that anyone doing so "will be considered a criminal and questioned." The recommendations of meeting, which ended on 30 April, are not binding by law. AT

...AND RECOMMENDS STRICT ADHERENCE TO RELIGIOUS RULINGS...
Deputy Chief Justice Manawi said the council decided that "fornicators, sodomites, [and] alcohol and drug consumers will have to be punished," adding that "these are not only the demands of the ulama, but also the Afghan Muslim nation," Reuters reported on 3 May. Manawi said the council recommended that followers of religions other than Islam be free to practice their beliefs. "All forms of discrimination are condemned," he said, according to AFP. "Islam is the basis of national unity." The council meeting took place as the Constitutional Commission debates the draft of the new Afghan constitution, in which the issue of the role of Islamic jurisprudence is expected to be a point of contention (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 16 January and 3, 10, and 24 April 2003). AT

...WHILE CALLING FOR EVENTUAL END TO FOREIGN FM BROADCASTS
Speaking to Iranian state radio's Mashhad-based Dari service on 5 May, Deputy Chief Justice Manawi said the council stressed the importance of the future Afghan constitution, as it will be based on Islam. Manawi added that foreign FM radio broadcasts in Afghanistan violate the provisions of the 1964 Afghan Constitution, and that when Afghan radio and television expands its programming there will be no need to allow such broadcasts. In February 2002, the Afghan Interim Administration implemented a new media law that does not limit the right to publish print media to Afghan citizens nor limit broadcasting rights only to the state. The 1964 Afghan Constitution will be replaced by a new constitution in October 2003 and the preliminary draft has no restrictions on foreign entities' rights to broadcast via FM frequencies or any other broadcast medium in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 13 February, 24 April, and 1 May 2003). AT

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