Accessibility links

Newsline - June 3, 2003


RUSSIA REPORTEDLY TO HALT NUCLEAR EXPORTS TO IRAN...
President Vladimir Putin told his fellow G-8 leaders at their summit in Evian, France, on 2 June that Russia will halt "all nuclear exports" to Iran until that country signs on to a stricter protocol on nuclear inspections, the BBC and lenta.ru reported, citing an unidentified senior British official. Iran earlier the same day said it will not accede to the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty under which signatories would make their nuclear facilities available for unannounced inspections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2003). Putin's statement came after the G-8 leaders signed a statement that called weapons of mass destruction the "preeminent threat" to international security. The statement also calls on North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program "visibly, verifiably, and irreversibly." Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said in Moscow the same day that Russia believes the protocol "strengthens the nonproliferation mode, and therefore we shall try energetically to persuade all countries to join the protocol. Iran is no exception in this respect," RIA-Novosti reported. VY

...AS RUSSIA, IRAN CLOSE TO AGREEMENT ON NUCLEAR-FUEL SUPPLY
Russian Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev announced on 2 June that Moscow "has reached an agreement in principle" on Iran's return of all spent nuclear fuel to Russia from the first unit of Iran's nuclear-power plant in Bushehr, ITAR-TASS reported. The material would be returned to Russia in special containers by train, he said. An unidentified spokesman for Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry said on 2 June that exports of fresh nuclear fuel to Iran will resume after the document between the countries on the compulsory return of spent nuclear fuel has been legalized, Interfax reported. The spokesman added that future Russian supplies of nuclear fuel to Iran are not contingent on Iran signing the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which would open its nuclear facilities to unannounced inspections. He said Iran is in breach of no law by refusing to sign the additional protocol document. In Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi on 2 June reiterated Tehran's preconditions for joining the Additional Protocol, asking Western companies to lift their sanctions against Iran's nuclear programs, IRNA reported. SF

RUSSIA LEANING TOWARD EURO
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said on 1 June that Russia's draft 2004 budget is based on the presumption that the U.S. dollar will not regain its strength in 2004, RTR reported. He said the draft budget is based on an exchange rate of $1.2 to the euro and 31.9 rubles to $1. The draft budget also presumes that global oil prices will be no less than $20 per barrel. Meanwhile, speaking to journalists after his brief summit in St. Petersburg with leaders of the European Union on 31 May, President Vladimir Putin said the Central Bank has decided to keep part of its reserves in euros, RosBalt reported. He said the euro will account for an increasingly high share of Russia's currency reserves as the EU will soon add 10 new members and thus substantially expand the euro-zone. Putin also said that since he became president in 2000, Russia's gold and currency reserves have grown from $11 billion to more than $61 billion. VY

RUSSIA SEEKS GUARANTEES FROM NATO ON BALTIC STATES
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement on 1 June that Russia continues to be concerned about the military consequences of NATO's eastward expansion and the future membership of the Baltic states, ABNews reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yakovenko said that at the NATO-Russia Council meeting, which was to begin on 3 June in Madrid, Russia will "insist on clear and unambiguous guarantees that arms and armed forces of other countries will not be deployed on the territory of the Baltic states." An Ekho Moskvy opinion poll reported on 2 June showed that 57 percent of 2,815 respondents said they are not concerned about the possible deployment of NATO troops in the Baltics, while 43 percent expressed concern. VY

KREMLIN REGIMENT HAZING CASE BEGINS
The Moscow Military Court on 2 June opened proceedings on a hazing case concerning the elite regiment that guards the Kremlin and President Putin, "Izvestiya" and RTR reported. Kremlin presidential regiment Sergeant Vladimir Shumenko is accused of systematically harassing young soldiers and driving one to attempt suicide. Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov, who has actively campaigned for military reform, has said that after being beaten by Shumenko, the "soldier was found with his veins cut in a rest room just 100 meters from Putin's office." After the soldier was hospitalized, investigators determined that the suicide attempt was prompted by hazing, according to Interfax. Shumenko, 22, faces several years in prison on charges of abuse of power. According to Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, 531 servicemen died in 2002 as a result of crimes or other incidents, "Izvestiya" reported. However, the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers human rights organization estimates that the figure could run as high as 2,000 such deaths per year. VY

NEW CHARGES AGAINST MMM FOUNDER
Viktor Vashchenko, a senior officer of the Interior Ministry's Investigative Committee, announced on 2 June that his committee has filed a new indictment against Sergei Mavrodi, the founder of the MMM investment firm that defrauded thousands of investors in the early 1990s, Russian news agencies reported. Mavrodi, who is already accused of massive fraud (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 5 February 2003), now faces charges of possessing a fake passport, which carries a sentence of up to three years' imprisonment. A fake passport allegedly bearing Mavdori's name was found in his apartment when he was detained in Moscow in January. Vashchenko said Mavrodi could have used the passport to register firms and open bank accounts in Russia and abroad. Vashchenko said investigators have thus far recognized 20,000 "deceived investors," and the number of complaints that have been filed has reached 70,000. It has been estimated that more than 200,000 people became victims of the MMM scheme. The cumulative damage stemming from Mavrodi's actions could amount to more than $100 million. VY

ZHIRINOVSKII SAYS IT IS TIME TO LOOK FOR HIS SUCCESSOR
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii told party activists in Moscow on 1 June that he does not exclude the possibility that another "decent" person could head the LDPR, RTR reported on 2 June. Zhirinovskii reportedly said that it is not good for the party to be headed by one man for decades, and that an alternative candidate should be sought to take over when his term expires. Zhirinovskii also called on his fellow party members to go without vacations and to be "more arrogant and aggressive" in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in December. He also called on LDPR activists to be very vigilant on the night ballots are tallied to "prevent votes from being stolen." VY

INTERIOR MINISTRY FINALLY RELENTS ON HEADSCARF ISSUE...
Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov signed a decree on 2 June allowing Muslim women to wear headscarves for their passport photos, ITAR-TASS reported. Gryzlov said that the decision was prompted by the need to provide for "the further development of Russia as a state with many religions." Last month, the appeals collegium of the Supreme Court approved the petition of 10 women from Tatarstan to be allowed to wear head covering in keeping with Islamic traditions (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 16 May 2003 and "RFE/RL (Un)Civil Societies," 28 May 2003). According to ITAR-TASS, the ministry sent a procedural complaint to the court after last month's ruling asking that it be reversed. JAC

...AS TATARS FORM NATIONAL FRONT IN BASHKORTOSTAN
The Tatarstan National Front was created on 1 June in Ufa, Bashkortostan, at the congress of Tatar organizations, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported. According to the correspondent, the organization will seek to protect Tatar rights in the republic of Bashkortostan and organize Tatar votes for this year's State Duma and republican presidential elections, both of which are scheduled for December. Also discussed at the meeting was the possible re-examination of the results of the census conducted last year, in which a large number of ethnic Tatars were reportedly identified as being Bashkir, "Izvestiya" reported on 2 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October and 6 December 2002). According to the 1989 census, 28.4 percent of Bashkortostan's residents were Tatars and 21.9 percent Bashkirs. JAC

NEW ELECTION BLOC FORMED ON THE RIGHT...
The Liberal Russia party and the Russian Republican Party (RRP) announced on 2 June that they plan to participate in an election bloc in the December State Duma elections with the political organizations Movement for Russian Motorists and Forward, Russia, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. The RRP is led by former Finance Minister Boris Fedorov and State Duma Deputy Vladimir Lysenko, a member of the pro-presidential faction Russian Regions. Fedorov said that about 20 businessmen decide everything in Russia and that the new coalition will work to create equal conditions for all participants in the Russian market. The bureau noted that Fedorov and Liberal Russia hold different views on the conflict in Chechnya, with Fedorov supporting a hard-line policy while Liberal Russia has criticized the current policy there. According to Interfax, Fedorov noted that the appointment of former Gazprom-Media head Alfred Kokh to a senior position in the SPS has ruled out any possibility of the SPS joining the coalition as far he is concerned. JAC

...AS LEADING FIGURE ON THE LEFT DIVERSIFIES
Communist Deputy Sergei Glazev was elected co-chairman of the executive committee of the Russian Regions Party on 30 May, "Vremya novostei" reported on 2 June. According to the daily, Communist Party official Ilya Ponomarev said that Glazev's acceptance of this position is not an indication of any kind of split among the Communists: "Sergei Yurevich simply loves to collect movements." Strana.ru reported the same day that Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov has already made it clear that Glazev will occupy the second spot on the Communist Party list (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2003). The website commented that it is possible that Glazev's new position "will give him more freedom in his relationship with the Communist Party." It also speculated that by attracting someone like Glazev to its leadership ranks, the Russian Regions Party "could win the sympathy not only of the electorate but also of sponsors, ...and financial resources for the election campaign will play [a central] role." JAC

MOSCOW AUTHORITIES TO START PULLING THE PLUG ON TVS
Aleksandr Makhonov, general director of Mostelekom, announced on 2 June that TVS will gradually be disconnected from its cable network "district by district" because of the decision of the TV station's shareholders not to pay its $8 million debt, Russian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 2003). Mostelekom is a monopoly operator of the television cable network that was created nine years ago by the Moscow city government, and all "rules of the game are dictated to it by the Moscow city government," "Vremya MN" wrote the next day. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 3 June, Yevgenii Kiselev, TVS editor in chief, accused "the representatives of Moscow authorities of conducting themselves like bandits and racketeers" and said that as "monopolists," they are demanding "exorbitant prices" for their services. According to Kiselev, members of Media-Sotsium -- a noncommercial partnership that participated in the tender for TV-6's broadcasting license -- including former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Russian Union of Industrialists head Arkadii Volskii, and TVS Chairman Oleg Kiselev -- sent a letter to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov last week asking to discuss the issue. JAC

EXPERT GROUP SPLITS OVER OLIGARCH REPORT
Not all members of the National Strategy Council support the council's recent report asserting that Russia's oligarchs have decided that the "institute of the presidency is no longer a guarantee of stability of privatization" and are therefore seeking "to be directly promoted to key state positions," the website utro.ru reported on 30 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 2003). According to the council's report, printed in "Konservator" the same day, the oligarchs have decided to transform Russia from a presidential republic into a parliamentary one, with Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii the chief "ideologue" supporting this transformation. According to utro.ru, members of the council received a different and much less strongly worded version of the report. One member, Valerii Khomyakov, said that it would be better to state that the threat of a coup d'etat by the oligarchs exists, rather than that the oligarchs will succeed in carrying one out. Another member, Mark Urnov, chairman of the board of the Center for Political Technology, left a recent council session declaring that he will not return unless those guilty of distributing the "incorrect" report are punished and removed from the council. JAC

SOME REGIONS EXPERIENCE DROUGHT DURING FLOOD SEASON
A number of regions are experiencing water shortages because of the lack of snow last winter and of rain for the past two months, RosBalt reported on 2 June, citing Nikolai Tarasov, director of the State Water Service. Many regional water reservoirs are not full; for example, in Karelia the level of the Segozerskii reservoir is 4.65 meters below average. According to Tarasov, the water level of Lake Baikal is also close to an all-time low. Over the past 100 years, the smallest influx to the lake was 1,650 cubic meters per second; this year the level was 1,690 cubic meters per second. JAC

INGUSHETIA'S PRESIDENT DISMISSES GOVERNMENT
Murat Zyazikov fired the entire cabinet on 2 June, ITAR-TASS and ingushetia.ru reported. Zyazikov acknowledged that the outgoing government (formed one year ago after his election as president) has achieved a great deal in terms of liquidating the aftermath of last year's national disasters, creating new enterprises and jobs, and adopting a three-year socioeconomic-development program. But he added that "substantial shortcomings" in the government's work preclude further progress, and that what is needed is a fundamentally new approach to economic reforms and investment policy. LF

CHECHEN BOMBING SUSPECTS APPREHENDED
Three men were arrested in Ingushetia on 1 June on suspicion of involvement in the suicide bombings in Chechnya's Nadterechnyi and Gudermes raions on 12 and 14 May, Chechen Prosecutor Vladimir Kravchenko told Interfax on 2 June. Kravchenko said the suspects were in possession of explosives that are being compared both with those used in the two suicide bombings and with the consignment of explosive intercepted in Ingushetia on 25 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 2003). LF

ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SATISFIED WITH PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION OUTCOME
A spokesman for President Robert Kocharian told RFE/RL on 2 June that Kocharian is content with the results of the 25 May parliamentary election in which parties loyal to the president gained 70 of the 131 seats. He said talks are under way with various political forces, without specifying which ones, and affirmed that "it is possible to form a majority in the National Assembly that will work effectively and for a long time." Also on 2 June, the pro-presidential Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD), whose spokesmen claim it polled significantly more than the 11.4 percent of the vote officially computed, said it is prepared to continue its participation in the government despite the falsification of the poll outcome by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF

ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PREPARES APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT
The opposition Artarutiun election bloc, which claims to have polled over 50 percent of the vote on 25 May rather than the 14 percent shown in the official returns, on 2 June established a working group that will assemble evidence of election fraud for submission to the Constitutional Court, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Artarutiun campaign manager Stepan Zakarian said the bloc views the parliamentary elections as a continuation of the February-March presidential elections, following which opposition challenger Stepan Demirchian appealed his second round defeat to Kocharian to the Constitutional Court, claiming that the vote was falsified (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7, 8, and 17 April 2003). Zakarian said Artarutiun will argue that nothing has been done to implement the Constitutional Court's recommendations that legal proceedings be brought against officials suspected of falsifying the runoff vote. LF

AZERBAIJAN'S RELIGIOUS LEADER CALLS FOR RE-ELECTION OF INCUMBENT PRESIDENT
Speaking in Guba Raion on 2 June, the chairman of the Board of All Muslims of the Caucasus, Sheikh ul-Islam Allakhshukur Pashazade, called on Azerbaijan's believers to vote for incumbent President Heidar Aliev in the presidential ballot due in October, zerkalo.az reported on 3 June. "We have the Almighty, the Prophet, and President Heidar Alirza ogly," the online paper quoted Pashazade as saying. Also on 2 June, President Aliev signed the new election law passed in the third and final reading by parliament last week, zerkalo.az reported. He also signed a related protocol stipulating that the provision of the law regulating the composition of the Central Election Commission will come into force only after the 2005 parliamentary elections, according to Turan on 3 June. Addressing senior officials on 1 June, President Aliev warned them to ensure that the ballot will be free and transparent, especially in the provinces, and that there be no recurrence of "mistakes that occurred in the past," Interfax reported on 2 June. LF

POLICE FORCIBLY PREVENT AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PROTEST
Armed police on 3 June forcibly prevented Azerbaijani oppositionists from congregating outside the parliament building in Baku to protest the provisions of the new election law, Turan reported. Police reportedly beat some demonstrators and arrested several dozen of them. On 2 June, Baku deputy police chief Yashar Aliev warned representatives of opposition parties aligned in the Opposition Coordinating Council (MKM) that organized the demonstration that the municipal authorities had rejected their application for permission to hold the protest outside the parliament building and had proposed an alternative venue, Turan reported. The opposition leaders rejected that proposed alternative. LF

GEORGIAN OPPOSITION STAGES MASS PROTEST...
Some 7,000 people gathered on 3 June outside the parliament building in Tbilisi in a protest convened by five opposition parties: the National Movement, United Democrats, New Rightists, Union of Traditionalists, and the People's Party of Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. They were joined by supporters of deceased President Zviad Gamsakhurdia and the extraparliamentary Georgian Popular Front. The demonstrators are demanding the dismissal of the present Central Election Commission (CEC), the appointment of a new CEC on a parity basis, and the adoption of a new election code that will preclude the authorities falsifying the outcome of the 2 November parliamentary elections in order to retain their control of the legislature. United Democrats leader Zurab Zhvania said the demonstrators will not disperse until their demands are met, Caucasus Press reported, while National Movement leader Mikhail Saakashvili called on them to seize control of the parliament building if the Georgian authorities reject their demands. LF

...AFTER REJECTING NEW GOVERNMENT ELECTION PROPOSALS
Meeting on 2 June with parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze, representatives of the five factions that support the present Georgian leadership unveiled a new blueprint for the composition of the CEC, Caucasus Press reported. Deputies rejected a compromise government proposal on 30 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2003). Under the latest proposal, the CEC would have 24 members: one from each of the 15 parliament factions; one each from the autonomous republics of Abkhazia and Adjaria; one representing supporters of President Gamsakhurdia; one each from the National Democrats and the Labor Party, which polled the largest number of votes in last year's local elections; one named by the Supreme Court, and three appointed by the president. Vitalii Khazaradze, who heads the former majority Union of Citizens of Georgia faction, said that blueprint has the approval of the Council of Europe. LF

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT THREATENS TO BAN INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS THAT SPONSOR 'CHAOS'...
During his regular Monday radio broadcast, President Eduard Shevardnadze warned on 2 June that he will not tolerate attempts by international charity organizations that fund opposition parties to promote "organized chaos" in Georgia, according to Caucasus Press and the website of the independent television station Rustavi-2. He warned that any organizations that engage in such activities will be expelled from Georgia, a warning that observers have construed at directed at U.S. financier George Soros, who some journalists believe funds the opposition youth organization Kmara (Enough!) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 May 2003). Shevardnadze proposed enacting special legislation that would designate any attempt to falsify the outcome of elections a criminal offense. LF

...AND DENIES CONSULTING WITH U.S. ON ATTACK ON IRAN
President Shevardnadze also denied on 2 June that the Georgian authorities have discussed with the United States a hypothetical U.S. military attack on Iran, Caucasus Press reported. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported last week that Washington was trying to secure permission from Georgia and Azerbaijan to use those countries as a base for launching such an offensive (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 and 30 May 2003). Shevardnadze said he believes such an assault is highly unlikely, because "Iran is not Iraq." He also denied that any Georgian specialists are working in Iran on the development of nuclear weapons, and he said the sale to Iran of Georgian-produced fighter aircraft was a "purely commercial" transaction, Caucasus Press reported. LF

GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT EXTENDS BARRISTERS' POWERS
Parliament deputies voted on 2 June to amend the law on barristers to enable barristers to continue practicing until 1 June 2006 even though they have not passed the requisite qualifying examination, Caucasus Press reported. Under the law on barristers passed two years ago, barristers would not have been able to continue practicing after 1 June 2003 unless they had passed such an examination, which has not yet been held (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2003). LF

SOUTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENT ACCUSES OSCE OF BIAS, DOUBLE STANDARDS
Eduard Kokoyty, who is president of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, has accused the OSCE of siding with Georgia in the dispute between the Georgian government and the breakaway republic, Caucasus Press reported on 3 June. He said the OSCE is exceeding its mandate in trying to pressure South Ossetia into accepting the status of an autonomous republic within Georgia. "Why did you not take into account [the paramount need to preserve] territorial integrity when you approved the dismemberment of Yugoslavia and the unification of Germany?" Kokoyty asked. LF

ABKHAZIA ANTICIPATES NEW DESTABILIZATION
The Abkhaz leadership possesses reliable information that the Georgian authorities are planning to instigate unrest in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion in order to create a pretext for introducing a nationwide state of emergency, Caucasus Press on 3 June quoted Abkhaz First Deputy Premier Astamur Tarba as saying. LF

KYRGYZ FOREIGN MINISTRY INSISTS KAZAKHS DON'T NEED PASSPORTS TO ENTER KYRGYZSTAN
The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry has denied assertions in the Kazakh media, particularly an article in the 23 May issue of "Ekspress K," that citizens of Kazakhstan need passports validated for foreign travel in order to enter Kyrgyzstan, akipress.org reported on 2 June. The Foreign Ministry referred to a 30 November 2000 agreement among the member states of the Eurasian Economic Community (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Russia, and Belarus) under which citizens of those countries may travel to or through other member countries using only their national identity cards. The ministry insists that the account of Kazakh citizens being required to produce passports for the Kyrgyz Border Service is simply untrue. BB

KYRGYZ PRIME MINISTER DENIES HE SUGGESTED MINISTERS SUE PARLIAMENTARIANS
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Nikolai Tanaev's press office denied on 31 May that Tanaev had made official statements about suing members of parliament over their criticism of his government and the country's law enforcement agencies, akipress.org reported on 2 June. The nongovernmental organization Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society had distributed a statement on 29 May asserting that Tanaev had told two government ministers that they should look into the possibility of suing individual parliamentarians if they had insulted the "honor and dignity" of the government in public statements (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May 2003). Tanaev's press office denied that the prime minister's remark was an official call for individual lawmakers to be sued for criticisms aired during a discussion of the state of law enforcement in the country. Presumably the NGO's statement was partially motivated by Tanaev's practice of suing publications and journalists that he claims have libeled him and obtaining huge court awards that are effectively restricting the activity of the independent media in Kyrgyzstan. BB

INDEPENDENT KYRGYZ MEDIA MEET WITH SECURITY OFFICIALS
Heads of independent media outlets in Kyrgyzstan attended a seminar in Bishkek along with officials from the National Security Service (SNB) and other law enforcement agencies and members of local governments to discuss freedom of expression and the fight against extremism and terrorism, the official news agency Kabar reported on 2 June. According to the SNB press service, the seminar dealt with the legal basis of independent media and the responsibilities of journalists in reporting on conflict situations. Kyrgyzstan's independent media are frequently quite negative in their assessments of the role of the SNB and other law enforcement agencies in dealing with civil disobedience and other forms of protest. The local officials taking part in the seminar were shown various types of homemade explosive devices and advised on how to recognize preparations for terrorist acts. Although the Kabar report did not specifically say so, the seminar seems to have been an SNB initiative. BB

TAJIK HEALTH MINISTRY EMPLOYEE CAUGHT WITH 5.5 KILOS OF HEROIN
A forensic expert at the Tajik Ministry of Health was detained by customs officials at Dushanbe airport when she tried to smuggle 5.5 kilograms of heroin, Asia-Plus Blitz reported on 2 June. The news agency quoted customs officer Colonel Dusti Sherkhonov as saying that the woman had stuffed the heroin into 52 lemons; her lack of luggage and the large quantity of lemons and vegetables caught the attention of the airport customs officials. Sherkhonov, who heads the customs control department for air transport, added that the number of attempts to smuggle drugs by air is increasing, with eight drug couriers carrying more than 10 kilos of heroin, including the latest haul, having been detained at Dushanbe airport since the beginning of 2003. Four of the couriers were attempting to transport drugs in their stomachs. Sherkhonov noted that 2.5 kilos of drugs were seized at the airport in 2002. BB

TAJIKISTAN, CHINA AGREE TO EXPAND DEFENSE COOPERATION
During recent talks in Moscow, Tajikistan's Defense Minister Colonel General Sherali Khairulloev and his Chinese counterpart Cao Gangchuan agreed on the need to expand military and military-technical cooperation, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 2 June. The two sides will draft a plan for such cooperation over the coming three to five years. LF

UZBEK PRESIDENT ASSESSES SHANGHAI COOPERATION ORGANIZATION SUMMIT
On his way back to Tashkent on 31 May after the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Moscow, Uzbek President Islam Karimov told journalists that some of the summit results came as a pleasant surprise to him, uzreport.com reported on 2 June. Karimov mentioned specifically the unexpected proposal at the summit that Uzbekistan take over the chairmanship of the organization, which would make Karimov the next chairman of the SCO. Prior to the summit, media in SCO member countries had predicted that China would take over the chairmanship. Karimov also said that he had been surprised by the summit proposal that a regional antiterrorism center be established in Tashkent rather than in Bishkek, as had already been agreed. The Uzbek government has been lobbying for several years for the creation of a UN-sponsored antiterrorism center in Tashkent. BB

UZBEKISTAN HOSTS CONFERENCE ON LEGAL PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
An international conference on the legal protection of human rights and access to justice was held in Tashkent on 30 May, organized by the presidential Institute for Strategic and Regional Studies, the Tashkent Law Institute, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and the Uzbek Ombudsman's Office, uzreport.com reported on 3 June. The report noted that constitutionally guaranteed rights -- such as court proceedings conducted in or translated into a language comprehensible to all participants in a case, presumption of innocence, transparency of court proceedings, and independence of the judiciary -- are not being practiced in Uzbekistan to the extent they should be. Particular attention was devoted to factors limiting citizens' access to the courts, including a lack of awareness among the population of the procedures for addressing the court system. The problems of court security and the qualifications of lawyers and judges were also raised, according to UzReport. The conference drew up a set of recommendations for securing access to justice. In recent years there have been a number of conferences on these and related topics, but in Uzbekistan, as human rights activists and ordinary citizens are quick to point out, securing citizens' access to justice and the independence of the judiciary remain intractable problems. BB

ADB APPROVES WATER-MANAGEMENT GRANT
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $150,000 technical assistance grant for the study of water management issues in Central Asia, uzreport.com reported on 2 June, citing an ADB press release. The study is intended to assess past and current efforts by Central Asian countries and international donor organizations to deal with the need for improving the management of shared water resources in the region and define the strategic focus and goals for an ADB initiative on water management. While the need for improved management of shared water resources is widely recognized in Central Asia, some political leaders in the region have been reluctant to accept the participation of international organizations in dealing with the issue. The ADB says it intends to use the findings of the newly funded study as the basis for long-term regional technical assistance that will implement the activities identified by the study. BB

SUSPENDED BELARUSIAN NEWSPAPER TO APPEAR UNDER RIVALS' MASTHEADS
The private "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta," which was recently suspended for three months by the Information Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2003), will continue to appear under the mastheads of other private newspapers, Belapan reported on 2 June, quoting "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" Editor in Chief Svyatlana Kalinkina. On 3 June, the suspended newspaper carried the "Salidarnasts" (Solidarity) newspaper's title. Kalinkina said other private newspapers have also offered their mastheads to enable "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" to appear. JM

BULGARIA TO EASE VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR UKRAINIANS
Bulgarian National Assembly speaker Ognyan Gerdzhikov said in Kyiv on 2 June that Bulgaria will relax visa requirements for Ukrainians, Ukrainian Television reported. "The government decided that collective tourist visas will be free for Ukrainians from 18 April," Gerdzhikov said. "We are also working to introduce a system of electronic visas in order to speed up and simplify procedures for obtaining them. This is important because 39,000 Ukrainians visited Bulgaria last year." Gerdzhikov and Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn signed a cooperation accord between the National Assembly and Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada. JM

DIRECT ELECTION OF ESTONIAN PRESIDENT PROPOSED
The council of the ruling coalition of Res Publica, the Reform Party, and the People's Union agreed on 2 June to suggest amendments to the constitution that would provide for direct popular elections of the country's president, BNS reported. Parliament Constitutional Affairs Committee Chairman Urmas Reinsalu said that the proposed amendments would provide for the election of the president by direct popular vote for a term of six years without the possibility of re-election instead of the current system, under which the president is elected by the parliament or a special electoral assembly for a term of five years with the possibility of serving a second term. The constitutional changes would have to be approved by a referendum, which it was proposed to hold in June 2004 together with elections to the European Parliament. Although there have been various suggestions about changing the powers of the president, the council did not agree on proposing any of them for the referendum. SG

LATVIAN PRESIDENT PARTICIPATES IN CONFERENCE AGAINST CHILD TRAFFICKING
Vaira Vike-Freiberga traveled to Helsinki on 2 June to speak at the conference Stop Child Trafficking: Modern-Day Slavery, organized by the Finnish government in cooperation with the Council of the Baltic Sea States, Sweden, Canada, and the United States, LETA and BNS reported. She noted the importance of adequate legislation and the need for greater cooperation among interior affairs institutions and nongovernmental organizations to halt the practice, which is growing rapidly in the Baltic Sea region. Vike-Freiberga also pointed to the disastrous influence of the Internet in spreading child prostitution and sexual abuse. She also held separate talks with Prime Minister Anneli Jaatteenmaki and President Tarja Halonen about the changes that will take place in the EU as it expands to include Latvia and nine other states next year. SG

LITHUANIAN FARMERS APPEAR LIKELY TO RESUME PROTESTS
Farmers' representatives left a meeting with Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, Agriculture Minister Jeronimas Kraujelis, and Finance Minister Dalia Grybauskaite in Vilnius on 2 June in a pessimistic frame of mind, BNS reported. Although the government will make a final decision about how much additional aid it will seek to direct to agriculture at the next cabinet meeting on 4 June, Brazauskas made it clear that the price paid to farmers for a liter of milk will not reach the 0.6 litas ($.20) he had mentioned in May in a successful effort to halt the blockade of roads (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May 2003). He will, however, try to make sure that dairy farmers will be paid at least as much as last year. Agriculture Chamber Chairman Jonas Ramonas declined to comment, saying that this was "only a verbal decision" and that farmers will decide on further actions only on the basis of written documents. SG

NATO APPROVES SUPPORT FOR POLISH ROLE IN IRAQ
NATO adopted a plan on 2 June for supporting the Polish-led stabilization force in Iraq, Polish and international news agencies reported. NATO will provide Poland with backup intelligence, communications, logistics, and coordination of movement. The North Atlantic Council had approved the request and forwarded it to military planners on 21 May. The same day, Polish Premier Leszek Miller said after talks with his Danish counterpart Anders Fogh Rasmussen that Denmark will contribute staff officers from the Polish-German-Danish NATO corps based in the Polish port of Szczecin. JM

POLL SAYS 57 PERCENT OF POLES WANT TO VOTE IN EU REFERENDUM
The OBOP polling agency found in a 1-12 May poll that 57 percent of respondents want to vote in the 7-8 June referendum on Poland's EU entry, PAP reported. According to the survey, 26 percent of Poles said they are likely to vote, 9 percent were still undecided, and 8 percent of respondents said they will not go to the polls. Seventy-four percent of respondents who said they will take part in the referendum support Poland's integration into the EU, 16 percent said they oppose Poland's EU bid, and 10 percent were still undecided. JM

CZECH OPPOSITION PARTY CALLS FOR PREMIER'S RESIGNATION
Opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) Chairman Miroslav Topolanek said on 2 June that the only way Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla can be of use to the country is by submitting his resignation, CTK reported. In a presumed reference to the coalition's recent replacement of the controversial Czech Radio and Television Broadcasting Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 30 April and 14 May 2003), Topolanek said coalition attempts to control the media are aimed at disguising the government's disastrous economic policy. He was speaking at a meeting of the ODS Executive Council. Topolanek vowed that the ODS will not initiate a motion of no confidence in the cabinet, because it is aware that it lacks the majority to have that motion approved. MS

FORMER CZECH COMMUNIST CHIEF COLLAPSES ON WITNESS STAND
Former Czechoslovak Communist Party General Secretary Milos Jakes fainted in a Prague courtroom while testifying at the trial of another former Communist Party official, CTK and dpa reported on 2 June. Jakes, 81, was taken home in an ambulance and is reportedly in satisfactory condition. He was testifying at the trial of Karel Hoffmann, 78, who headed the Czechoslovak government's media supervision at the time of the country's August 1968 invasion by Warsaw Pact troops. Hoffmann is accused of treason for his role in silencing radio broadcasts during the invasion. Jakes, as well as former Premier Jozef Lenart, were acquitted of similar charges in September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September 2002). Lenart also testified on 2 June in Hoffmann's defense. Both he and Jakes denied that they and Hoffmann proposed forming a pro-Moscow government to Czechoslovak President Ludvik Svoboda after the invasion. MS

FORMER SLOVAK INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR TO BE RELEASED FROM CUSTODY
Former Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) chief Ivan Lexa will be released from pretrial detention on 5 June, TASR reported on 2 June. A Bratislava judge refused to extend Lexa's detention, which began in December in connection with charges of fraud, sabotage, trafficking in illegal weapons, and abuse of office, in addition to allegedly contracting the murder of a former police officer. Prosecutor-General Milan Hanzel said the prosecution will not appeal the decision, adding that his office does not fear that Lexa will again try to flee Slovakia before his trial. Justice Minister Daniel Lipsic expressed fears that Lexa might indeed flee the country, however, adding that he has filed a complaint with the Supreme Court on a technicality that might return Lexa to detention. Lexa was extradited from South Africa in July 2002 after two years of evading Slovak authorities. MS

SLOVAKIA'S HUNGARIAN PARTY RALLIES TO DEPUTY PREMIER'S DEFENSE
The leadership of the junior coalition Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) sees no reason to discuss the possible dismissal of Deputy Premier Pal Csaky, TASR and CTK reported on 2 June. Csaky's ouster was demanded by opposition representatives following the 52 percent turnout in Slovakia's 16-17 May EU referendum and allegations that he has been lax in controlling the use of EU structural funds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 2003). SMK Chairman Bela Bugar said on TV Markiza that Csaky continues to enjoy the full trust of the party. Csaky said the same day that he sees no reason why he should consider resigning. Bugar also said the SMK leadership decided on 2 June that its ministers will meet every week to discuss and resolve problems related to the use of EU funds. MS

SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER IN SPAIN
Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan began a two-day visit to Spain on 2 June, meeting with his Spanish counterpart Ana de Palacio and with parliamentary speaker Luisa Fernanda Rubio, TASR reported. The agency said the two foreign ministers discussed EU enlargement and issues related to the European Convention on the future of Europe. Bilateral relations were also on the agenda. MS

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES DEPLOYMENT TO IRAQ
Hungarian legislators unanimously approved a government-backed resolution on 2 June to send up to 300 troops to aid in the reconstruction of Iraq, "Nepszabadsag" reported. All 313 deputies present voted in favor of the deployment, which the Socialist-led government urged the assembly to approve more than a month ago. The unit will consist of military transport and humanitarian-relief personnel. Under the resolution, Hungarian troops may remain in Iraq until the end of 2004. The initiative, which required two-thirds support in parliament for approval, was twice voted down by opposition parties last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6, 12, and 14 May 2003). Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz said the contingent can be in Iraq by August. Juhasz said he expects the cost of the mission to exceed 6 billion forints ($28.5 million), although in April the costs were calculated at 2 billion-4 billion forints. MSZ

HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION GOES SLOW ON STATUS LAW AMENDMENT
Opposition FIDESZ deputy Zsolt Nemeth said in the plenary session of parliament on 2 June that his party does not support a fast-track procedure to amend the so-called Status Law, suggesting that a vote on the controversial amendments is unlikely to take place before fall, Hungarian media reported. Nemeth argued that the original goals of the law would be curtailed through the planned changes. He vowed that if FIDESZ takes power again in 2006, it will "undo the changes." Victor Orban's FIDESZ government initiated the law's passage in 2001. Opposition Democratic Forum deputy Karoly Herenyi said his party will support a fast-track debate only if the governing coalition votes to approve the Democratic Forum's motions for further amendments. The Democratic Forum objects to the fact that the government's proposed amendments would expunge a reference to a united Hungarian nation, as well as to substantial changes that would reduce the significance of the so-called Hungarian certificate for ethnic Hungarians. MSZ

NEW HUNGARIAN CHANNEL TO BROADCAST PARLIAMENTARY SESSIONS
A new television channel called "Demokracia" that plans live broadcasts of plenary and committee sessions of parliament will debut on 23 October, "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 3 June. The channel's launch and first year of operating costs are expected to total 1 billion forints ($4.7 million), which will be split equally between parliament and Hungarian State Television (MTV). MSZ

WEST BALKAN LEADERS CALL FOR INTEGRATION INTO THE EU
The presidents of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro issued a joint declaration in Ohrid on 2 June calling on the European Union to give them clear membership guidelines at the 21 June EU summit in Thessaloniki, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2003). The five leaders called for "clear perspectives" for their integration into the EU. In return, they promised to combat organized crime and promote regional cooperation, including liberalizing visa requirements. After returning to Zagreb from his short stay in Ohrid, Croatian President Stipe Mesic said that the five presidents agreed that their countries will seek EU membership separately and not expect to move toward that goal as a "regatta or convoy." Croatia hopes to join the Brussels-based bloc in 2007, whereas the expectations of the other four countries are much more modest. PM

CROATIA TO EASE VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR SERBS?
Croatian Justice Minister Ingrid Anticevic-Marinovic told her Serbian counterpart, Vladan Batic, in Zagreb on 2 June that Croatia is prepared to lift visa requirements for Serbian citizens if Belgrade returns Croatian public record books taken by Serbian forces during the 1991-95 conflict, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. After returning to Belgrade, Batic said he expects Croatia to liberalize visa requirements shortly because Serbia has already lifted them for Croats as part of an overall visa-liberalization program affecting citizens of approximately 40 countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March and 4 April 2003). PM

CROATIA AND U.S. BEGIN NAVAL EXERCISES
Units of the navies of Croatia and the United States began 10-day training exercises in the Split region on 2 June, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The program centers on underwater mines and other explosives. PM

SERBIAN TELEVISION STATION TO PRESS CHARGES AGAINST POLITICIAN
Goran Karadzic, who is director of Apolo Television in Novi Sad, said on 2 June that his station will file charges against Cacak Mayor Velimir Ilic and his New Serbia party in conjunction with a recent incident in which Apolo journalist Vladimir Jesic claims that Ilic physically assaulted him, the private Beta news agency reported. Karadzic also called on Serbian media not to report on Ilic and his activities. Jesic claims that Ilic kicked him and swore at him during an interview after Jesic asked the mayor about his brother's business dealings. Ilic argues that the alleged incident was "staged." PM

INDICTED SERBIAN WAR CRIMINAL PLEADS 'NOT GUILTY'
Franko Simatovic "Frenki" told the Hague-based war crimes tribunal on 2 June that he is not guilty of five counts of crimes against humanity during the 1991-95 conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia, Serbian and international media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 30 May 2003). In related news, former Serbian security chief Jovica Stanisic, whose indictment is closely linked to that of Frenki, has been returned to a Belgrade prison from a nearby prison hospital. Serbia and Montenegro's Human and Minority Rights Ministry is expected to rule shortly on whether to extradite him to The Hague as well. PM

KOSOVAR SERBIAN LEADERS DEMAND RESIGNATION OF SERBIAN GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVE
The Serbian National Council of Kosovo and the Serbian National Council of North Kosovo issued a joint statement on 30 May calling for the resignation of Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic as the government's point man for the region, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. Rada Trajkovic and other politicians said Covic has not sufficiently defended the interests of local Serbs. They want him to leave office when chief UN administrator Michel Steiner goes, presumably this summer. In reply, Covic charged that he is an innocent victim of a smear campaign and party politics. He argued that Justice Minister Vladan Batic's Christian Democrats (DHSS) "are responsible" for Trajkovic, and that former Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) is accountable for the actions of Mitrovica Serb leader Marko Jaksic, who also called for Covic's ouster. In related news, the DSS said in Belgrade that it is "deeply upset and confused" by the U.S. decision to include Jaksic and his colleague Milan Ivanovic on Washington's revised blacklist of regional criminals and troublemakers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May and 2 June 2003). PM

KOSOVAR SERBS LAUNCH PROTEST
An unspecified number of Serbs from Kosova began a hunger strike in front of several Western embassies -- including those of the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy -- on 2 June to demand the right to return to their homes in safety, "Vesti" reported. They likened the situation of Serbian enclaves in the province to "Indian reservations." PM

STILL MORE THAN 5,500 DISPLACED PERSONS IN MACEDONIA
Vlado Popovski, who is a minister without portfolio in charge of refugee questions, told the government on 2 June that there are still 5,548 internally displaced persons in the country, MIA news agency reported. In July 2002, the official number of displaced persons was 5,762. According to data collected by the Labor and Social Affair Ministry and the Red Cross, more than 1,400 families cannot return to the homes they left during the 2001 interethnic conflict. Some 3,942 displaced persons found refuge with other families, while 1,606 persons are still living in refugee centers. About 5,000 buildings with minor damage have been reconstructed with the help of the international community. The reconstruction of another 1,500 buildings is still in progress (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2002 and 7 March 2003). UB

SLOVENIA AGAIN REBUFFS U.S. OVER EXTRADITION PACT
The Slovenian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on 2 June that Ljubljana will not sign a bilateral extradition-immunity agreement with the United States prohibiting the handover of each other's citizens to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 29 May 2003). The statement stressed that "regarding this question, Slovenia will act in line with other EU members and EU candidate countries." The ministry refused to elaborate. Patricia McNerney, who heads the U.S. delegation conducting talks in Ljubljana, said, "There is a statute that was passed by the United States Congress that has funding limitations on our foreign assistance should a country not sign the agreement." Members of the delegation told Reuters that Slovenia stands to lose $4 million in U.S. military assistance annually if it does not sign an agreement by 1 July. PM

BOSNIAN DELEGATION TO VISIT GUANTANAMO?
The U.S. authorities have agreed to allow a Bosnian government delegation to visit the U.S. base at Guantanamo, Cuba, following Bosnia's decision to sign a bilateral extradition-immunity agreement with the United States, "Oslobodjenje" reported on 3 June, citing unidentified sources in the Bosnian Foreign Ministry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 29 May 2003). An unspecified number of Bosnian citizens are among the suspected terrorists detained at the base. PM

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT OFFERS WEST A LESSON IN MANNERS, HISTORY
President Ion Iliescu said in Constanta on 2 June that the West often displays a "paternalist, arrogant, stiff-lipped, imperial position" toward the eastern part of the European continent, including Romania, Mediafax reported. Iliescu said such behavior is unjustified. At the same time, he rejected any distinction between "new and old Europe." "The genuine old Europe is us," Iliescu said, adding that what is often regarded as the eastern part of the continent is the very place where the "name Europe was born" and is the cradle of what later became known as "Western civilization." "When Mediterranean civilization...was developing, Western Europe was barbarian; they lived in forests, in conditions of historical backwardness," he said. Iliescu added that the West later had a "chance" to develop its more advanced Renaissance civilization because the eastern part of the continent, including today's Romania, was under the foreign domination of the Turkish, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian empires. MS

ROMANIA EXAMINES POSSIBILITY OF 'CIVILIZING' FOREIGN-INTELLIGENCE SERVICE
Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) Director Gheorghe Fulga said on 2 June that officials are considering transforming the SIE from a military into a civilian institution, Romanian Radio reported. Nastase said it would be "natural" for Romania to extend the reform process to transforming the SIE into a civilian structure within the framework of the country's expected NATO integration. He praised the SIE for its contribution to Romania's national security. MS

ROMANIA CLOSES TWO MORE CHAPTERS IN TALKS WITH EU
Romania provisionally closed two more chapters of the acquis communautaire in negotiations with the EU on 2 June, Romanian Radio reported. Closure of the chapters on the free movement of goods and on taxation means Bucharest has put 19 of 31 chapters behind it. MS

ROMANIAN OFFICIAL ATTENDS HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT'S RATIFICATION OF NATO PROTOCOLS
Gheorghi Prisacaru, chairman of the Romanian Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee, said on 2 June in Budapest that relations between Hungary and Romania have evolved "from a partnership into an alliance," Romanian Radio reported the next day. Prisacaru attended the ratification on 2 June by the Hungarian parliament of the NATO Protocols of Accession. He said that in ratifying the protocols, Hungary has made an important contribution to the "further obliteration of Europe's division at Yalta and to extending the stability and security space in Europe." Relations between the two countries, he added, "have never been so good as now." MS

ROMANIAN SATELLITE PARTY THREATENS TO ABANDON ALLIANCE WITH RULING SOCIAL DEMOCRATS
Humanist Party (PUR) Chairman Dan Voiculescu said on Romanian Radio on 2 June that the PUR might consider entering the next elections in alliance with the opposition National Liberal Party. Voiculescu said relations with the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) are good on a central level but that the 2003 collaboration agreement between the two formations is not being implemented on a local level. The PUR ran in alliance with the PSD in 2000. PSD Deputy Chairman Miron Mitrea countered that negotiations between his party and the PUR are likely to be successfully concluded within two weeks. MS

EU OFFICIAL GIVES MOLDOVA NO CHANCE OF JOINING BLOC IN NEXT DECADE
Diego de Ojeda, a European Commission spokesman on external affairs, said in an interview with RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service on 2 June that Moldova has no chance of joining the union in the next 10-15 years. It is for this reason, he said, that the EU has worked out its initiative on good neighborly relations with states that border the union but have no immediate chance of joining. De Ojeda was commenting on a recent statement by President Vladimir Voronin, who said Moldova can join the EU sometime between 2010 and 2012. MS

MOLDOVAN CENTRAL BANKER CONFIDENT OF NEW AGREEMENT WITH IMF
National Bank Governor Leonid Talmaci said on 2 June that he believes the chances of signing a new cooperation accord with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) later this month are "very high," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Talmaci said a new IMF mission is expected in Chisinau in June, providing a reason for optimism that relations with the international lender will be renewed. He said the Moldovan government has fulfilled all the fund's conditions in the last six months for renewing relations that were frozen last year after Moldova failed to abide by an IMF agreement. According to Talmaci, the IMF is expected to disburse a $25 million tranche of credit that was suspended in the wake of last year's IMF decision. An RFE/RL Chisinau-bureau correspondent, on the other hand, said that IMF missions to Moldova -- including one in March -- have all concluded that the Moldovan government has not yet met the fund's conditions. In related news, the new World Bank representative to Moldova, Edward Brown, arrived in Chisinau on 2 June and was introduced to Premier Vasile Tarlev by Luca Barbone, World Bank regional director for Moldova, Flux reported. MS

BULGARIAN UNIVERSITY TO BE INAUGURATED IN MOLDOVA
A new Bulgarian-language university is to be established in Taraclia, home to many of Moldova's ethnic Bulgarians, novinite.bg reported on 30 May. The university will offer degrees in the social sciences and pedagogy. Both Bulgaria and Moldova will recognize the degrees, according to an agreement reached earlier this year by the two respective governments. In related news, Infotag reported on 2 June that Moldova and Bulgaria will sign a free-trade agreement at the end of 2003. The agency cited Bulgarian Deputy Premier and Economy Minister Nikolay Vasilev as saying at a business forum in Chisinau the same day that Bulgaria will sign a similar accord with Serbia and Montenegro. MS

BULGARIAN JUSTICE MINISTER APPROACHES LIBYAN AUTHORITIES OVER AIDS CASE
Justice Minister Anton Stankov has asked the Libyan authorities to move the trial against the six Bulgarian medical workers charged with deliberately infecting nearly 400 Libyan children with HIV from Benghazi to Tripoli, novinite.bg reported on 3 June. Stankov cited the negative attitude towards the defendants in Benghazi, where the infections had occurred in a local hospital. On 30 May, Stankov said he was convinced of the medical workers' innocence, as a study prepared by the well-known AIDS researchers Luc Montagnier and Vittorio Colizzi has shown that the HIV infections had occurred in the hospital's children's ward before the Bulgarian medics started working there, mediapool.bg reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2002 and 3 February 2003). UB

DEMAND JUMPS FOR BULGARIAN CITIZENSHIP
Vice President Angel Marin said on 2 June that the number of applications for Bulgarian citizenship rose dramatically in the first quarter of 2003, BTA reported. Some 10,000 people applied in January-March, mainly ethnic Bulgarians from Macedonia, Moldova, and Ukraine, according to Marin. Only about 12,000 people requested Bulgarian citizenship in 2002. Many applicants presumably hope to benefit from liberal visa requirements for Bulgarian citizens from EU member states (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 December 2002). UB

BULGARIA'S PRIME MINISTER FACES DIFFICULT TASKS
The past two weeks have not been easy for Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski and his party, the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV). On 29 May, he faced a no-confidence vote moved by the conservative opposition coalition United Democratic Forces (ODS). The ODS charges that Saxecoburggotski's domestic policy has been an utter failure: Canceled large-scale privatization deals, a revival of organized crime, and high-level corruption, the ODS says, have stripped Saxecoburggotski of the moral right to govern the country. And to make matters worse for the premier, some leading members of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), which is the NDSV's junior coalition partner, have used the looming no-confidence vote to demand a government reshuffle.

As could have been expected, Saxecoburggotski's cabinet survived the no-confidence vote -- the fourth since he took office in August 2001. All 129 legislators from the ruling coalition supported the government, while 104 opposition lawmakers from the ODS, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, and a group of NDSV defectors supported the no-confidence motion.

But the basic problems that Saxecoburggotski's government faces persist. These problems are the instability of his own party and, as both a reason for and a result of this instability, Saxecoburggotski's weak leadership. As long as he does not address these two key issues, he will face constant pressure, not only from the opposition but also from his junior coalition partner.

The roots of the NDSV's instability lie in its founding days in early 2001. Back then, none of the traditional parties supported Saxecoburggotski's ambitions to engage in politics. So the country's former king and his aides hastily founded the NDSV, which could only be registered with the courts with the help of two small existing parties -- the Movement for National Revival Oborishte and the Party of Bulgarian Women. The NDSV itself was and is a loose conglomeration of politicians who had left their previous parties to the left and right of the political center, economic lobby groups, and well-known personalities such as actors.

Despite its short existence, and its illusory campaign promises, the NDSV won the June 2001 parliamentary elections -- mainly thanks to voters' discontent with the established political parties and their hopes that the former king was untouched by the evils of corruption and political infighting.

However, the NDSV needed a coalition partner to form a government and found it in the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS). From the outset, observers were predicting that the NDSV's structure (or the absence of it) would soon contribute to its breakup, and that the government would lose its parliamentary majority. Those predictions seemed to be confirmed by the defection of five NDSV deputies in March 2002 and another six in February. The defections did not, however, lead to the predicted fall of the government; they merely strengthened the DPS's position within the coalition.

What makes Saxecoburggotski's situation difficult is his own inability to provide clear leadership to the internally fractioned party. This became obvious when some 20 lawmakers recently founded the so-called New Time (Novoto vreme) discussion club within the NDSV's parliamentary group -- despite Saxecoburggotski's warning not to do so. But where there is weak or incompetent leadership, there are also individuals or groups who stand to gain from it.

In Saxecoburggotski's case, it is clearly Ahmed Dogan's DPS that most profits. It was certainly no coincidence that DPS Deputy Chairwoman Emel Etem demanded a government reshuffle when the no-confidence vote was looming. "Bulgaria does not need early elections in a year or two; and if there is something that we can do to regain the voters' confidence, then we believe it is a cabinet reshuffle," Etem told an ethnic Turkish audience on 18 May. Other high-ranking members of the party followed with more concrete demands, which further revealed DPS intentions. A week later, Deputy DPS Chairman Rosen Vladimorov demanded that the Economy Ministry be carved up, a Tourism Ministry be created (under a DPS member), and the Economy Ministry's department for the food-production sector be returned to the Agriculture Ministry -- which is headed by DPS member Mehmed Dikme.

Thus, the May online edition of the weekly "Kapital" (http://www.capital.bg) alleged, the DPS finally could achieve its goal and gain hold of the Bulgartabac Holding, the country's tobacco monopoly. Virtually all Bulgarian-language media agree that the DPS was responsible for the failure of the Bulgartabac and the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTK) privatization deals, purportedly because it was reluctant to accept conditions that might adversely affect the mostly ethnic Turkish tobacco producers' interests, and because the DPS favored a bidder from Turkey for BTK.

Saxecoburggotski's personal and the NDSV's numerical weakness encouraged more than just the DPS to demand more influence and power: Tosho Peykov, leader of the small Oborishte movement, likewise claimed that he wants a say in any cabinet reshuffle. Should it really come to a restructuring of the government, Saxecoburggotski would face the virtually impossible task of trying to balance the interests of the various groups within his own party and the appetites of his coalition partners. Saxecoburggotski would therefore certainly prefer the status quo, "Kapital" believes. It remains to be seen who will profit from the failure of the no-confidence vote -- Saxecoburggotski or his coalition partners.

CPA FACES PROTESTING EX-SOLDIERS IN IRAQ
Around 3,000 former Iraqi soldiers protested outside the Baghdad headquarters of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) on 2 June, one week after they vowed to take revenge on the United States if it refused to reverse a decision that dissolved the Iraqi military, leaving thousands unemployed (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 30 May 2003), Reuters reported the same day. Some protesters demanded that U.S. and British forces withdraw from Iraq, while others threatened violence unless they receive compensation for their military service. "All of us will become suicide bombers," former officer Khairi Jassim said, adding, "I will turn my six daughters into bombs to kill the Americans." The protesters reportedly dispersed after CPA officials met briefly with former senior officers and agreed to hold talks with them on 3 June, AP reported. KR

U.S. ADMINISTRATOR SAYS NEW MILITARY RECRUITMENT TO BEGIN IN LATE JUNE
U.S. Administrator L. Paul Bremer told a Baghdad press conference on 2 June that recruitment for the "New Iraqi Corps" -- the U.S.-backed replacement for the Iraqi Army -- will begin in late June, AP reported the same day. Bremer also said that in the coming week the U.S. will begin hiring thousands of demobilized enlisted men from the army to assist in cleaning up sites that will be used by the new military. According to AP, Bremer said that he is "fully aware" of the hardship faced by many former members of the Iraq Army who are now out of work, stressing that "The purpose of our policy is not to punish people." Bremer cautioned, however, that the CPA will not be intimidated by the threats of former Iraqi army officers. "We're not going to be blackmailed into producing [job] programs because of threats of terrorism," Reuters quoted him as telling the press conference. He added that the U.S. policy banning senior officers from positions in the new Iraqi government will stand, and that he anticipates only a few exceptions will be made to that ban. KR

MEETING BETWEEN TRIBAL CHIEFS AND CPA ENDS IN FAILURE
A 2 June meeting between the Iraqi Tribal Chiefs Council and a CPA representative ended abruptly when the tribal chiefs walked out, Al-Jazeera reported the same day. According to the news channel, the meeting, which began in a "friendly atmosphere," ended after U.S. representative Ambassador Hume Horan was asked by tribal leaders whether the U.S. presence in Iraq is one of liberators or occupiers, to which Horan reportedly replied that occupation might be too harsh a term, but is the reality. "We committed mistakes and we will commit more mistakes. This cannot be avoided. But I want to tell you frankly and from the heart that the mistakes we commit are not because we have bad intentions," Horan told the group. The tribal chiefs were reportedly angered by Horan's remarks. KR

IRAQI POLITICAL GROUPS DISAPPOINTED OVER U.S. DECISION...
Representatives of the seven major opposition-turned-political groups met in Baghdad on 2 June to discuss a U.S. decision to appoint an interim advisory council rather than allow Iraqis themselves to elect an Iraqi interim administration (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2003), "The Washington Post" reported the same day. The groups expressed their disappointment over the decision but stopped short of issuing a joint condemnation of it. "We had hoped for an Iraqi process to select an interim administration, which would have some clear powers... Now, it does not look like that will happen," Hamid Bayati of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) told the daily, while Entifadh Qanbar of the Iraqi National Congress said, "We are skeptical [that the U.S. plan] is going to work." KR

...AS U.S. ADMINISTRATOR DEFENDS PLAN
At his 2 June press conference (see above), U.S. Administrator in Iraq Bremer defended the decision to appoint an interim advisory council, saying that decision was made in response to Iraqi demands to speed up the reconstruction process in Iraq. "Most of the Iraqis we've talked to have been anxious to move ahead rather quickly to establish an interim administration and we agree with that," "The Washington Post" on 3 June quoted Bremer as saying. "We think it's important for the Iraqi people to be seen to be involved in some very important decisions that are going to have to be made in the weeks and months ahead, and we have felt the best way to get that forward quickly is to broaden our consultations, to step up the pace of our consultations, and to arrive at a decision about the political council rather quickly," he added. He also argued that the decision was in line with the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 1483, which recognizes U.S. and British officials as the governing "Authority" in Iraq. KR

IRAQ NOW TAKES VISA
Visa International transacted the first international credit card payments in Iraq in Baghdad on 1 June, "Gulf News" reported on 2 June. An Iraqi expatriate who paid for a two-night stay in Baghdad's Ard Sumar Hotel made the first transaction. "We have started the acceptance of international Visa cards in a certain number of outlets, including hotels and restaurants," Visa's Middle East General Manager Peter Scriven told the daily. "As foreign visitors enter the country to help with the reconstruction of post-war Iraq, we hope to provide a modern payment method that will facilitate the work of international and humanitarian organizations as well as the development of new business," he said. KR

G-8 LEADERS URGE IRAN TO COMPLY WITH IAEA PROTOCOL
Leaders of the G-8 attending the organization's summit meeting in Evian, France, on 2 June adopted a statement calling on North Korea and Iran to abandon nuclear-weapons development and sign an accord that would allow stepped-up monitoring of nuclear facilities by international inspectors. "We will not ignore the proliferation implications of Iran's advanced nuclear program," the statement read. "We stress the importance of Iran's full compliance with its obligation under the NPT. We urge Iran to sign and implement an IAEA Additional Protocol without delay or conditions. We offer our strongest support to comprehensive IAEA examination of this country's nuclear program." SF

RUSSIA, IRAN CLOSE TO AGREEMENT ON NUCLEAR-FUEL SUPPLY
Russian Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev announced on 2 June that Moscow "has reached an agreement in principle" on Iran's return of all spent nuclear fuel to Russia from the first unit of the nuclear-power plant in Bushehr, ITAR-TASS reported. The material would be returned to Russia in special containers by train, he said. An unidentified spokesman for Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry on 2 June said that exports of fresh nuclear fuel to Iran will resume after the document between the countries on the compulsory return of spent nuclear fuel has been legalized, Interfax reported. The spokesman added that future Russian supplies of nuclear fuel are not contingent on Iran signing the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which would open its nuclear facilities to unannounced inspections. He said Iran is in breach of no law by refusing to sign the additional protocol document. In Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi on 2 June reiterated Tehran's preconditions for joining the Additional Protocol, asking Western companies to lift their sanctions against Iran's nuclear programs, IRNA reported. SF

IRANIAN PRESIDENT WANTS TO AVOID EXPEDIENCY COUNCIL IN LEGISLATIVE DISPUTE
President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami has encouraged a compromise between the parliament and the Guardians Council on two key bills in order to avoid intervention by the Expediency Council, which adjudicates in such cases, Iranian state television and IRNA reported on 1 June. Khatami, in a recent letter to parliament speaker Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi, urged compromise on bills concerning presidential powers and elections. The Guardians Council had rejected the bill on presidential powers on 9 May, and Khatami said in his letter that the differences are minor and can be overcome. Khatami's letter went on to say that the election regulations should respect the Guardians Council's powers to supervise elections while simultaneously guaranteeing the rights of voters and candidates for office. Khatami's desire to circumvent the Expediency Council seems to reflect a struggle for political power between the executive branch, which he heads, and the Expediency Council, of which Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani is chairman. Members of parliament, furthermore, frequently complain about the Expediency Council's involvement in the legislative process. BS

GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF PRESIDENT'S LEGISLATION
Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said during a 31 May press conference in Shiraz that the bills on presidential powers and elections (see item above) would contribute to public activism in all aspects of national life and enhance the system's legitimacy, IRNA reported on 1 June. Ramezanzadeh said some would oppose the bills: "There are, no doubt, certain individuals that cannot be convinced to yield to the real will and vote of the nation, and those are the same people who try their best today to prove that the nation's representatives [elected officials] are ineffective." Ramezanzadeh also warned that public participation in the political process will turn to apathy if people believe their votes are irrelevant: "Naturally, if the people find out that their votes are not going to have any significant effect, the level of their cooperation will decrease drastically." BS

IRANIAN OFFICIALS MEET WITH PALESTINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER...
Palestinian Foreign Minister Faruq Qaddumi had separate meetings on 31 May with Iranian Expediency Council Chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and parliament speaker Karrubi, IRNA reported on 1 June. Rafsanjani called for greater unity among Palestinian groups in light of the "sensitive" regional situation and in order to "defeat the plots of the oppressors." He also said that "psychological warfare" is being waged against Islamic countries. "The continued brutalities against Palestinians in the occupied lands is indicative of the Zionist determination to defy any peace agreement," Rafsanjani added. Karrubi, meanwhile, stressed that Iran will continue to support the Palestinian uprising (intifada), and he explained, "The Palestinian issue was an underlying theme of the Islamic revolution." Qaddumi informed the Iranians about the "roadmap" for a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. BS

...WHO EXPRESSES CONCERN ABOUT IRAN
In an interview that appeared in the 30 May issue of London's daily "Al-Arab al-Alamiyyah," Qaddumi expressed concern that another Islamic country could be exposed to "what Iraq suffered." He said Iran is worried because its newest neighbor is the U.S. Army, and "Iran needs the solidarity of the Islamic countries to support it so that it will not be exposed to what Iraq suffered." Qaddumi rejected the suggestion that Tehran wants to see a pro-Iranian regime in Baghdad. "Iran is interested in Iraq being free, independent, under independent Iraqi leadership, and to some extent away from U.S. influence," he said. BS

EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT CALLS FOR MORE ATTENTION TO AFGHANISTAN
The international war on terrorism could be disrupted if the world does not address the increasing chaos in Afghanistan, European Commission President Romano Prodi said during the G-8 meeting in Evian on 2 June, Reuters reported. Prodi added that the situation in Afghanistan is "very bad.... The central power is weak; drug income is increasing in an incredible way. Money doesn't go to the government." He warned that the world will "never succeed" in its war against terrorism if it does not "have control over everything in Afghanistan." Prodi's warnings have been also echoed recently by Afghan officials, who believe that the U.S. decision to call for an end to the combat phase of the war on terrorism in Afghanistan was premature (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2003). AT

LAST CONSTITUTIONAL-REVIEW OFFICE OPENS IN AFGHANISTAN...
The opening of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) field office in Kandahar on 27 May completed the opening of field offices in Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. The offices will lay the groundwork for public debate on the new Afghan constitution, UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said on 29 May. There are a total of 10 field offices, in Kabul, Konduz, Mazar-e Sharif, Bamiyan, Herat, Gadayz, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Mashhad in Iran, and Quetta in Pakistan. The CRC offices are explaining the importance of the new constitution in the lives of the Afghan people and making people aware of how the new law code can help prevent abuse of power by the government, UNAMA reported. A Loya Jirga is scheduled to approve the new constitution in October (for more on the constitutional process, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 10 April 2003). AT

...AS VIOLENCE OVERSHADOWS CONSTITUTIONAL DEBATE...
UNAMA and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) issued a joint statement on 1 June expressing concern over an "increase in the number of threats, intimidations, physical aggression, and even arbitrary detentions" of people who have expressed political views regarding the new constitution and the future shape of the Afghan state and government, Reuters reported. UNAMA spokesman De Almeida e Silva said that while the violence was not directly targeted at the CRC's work, it had a negative effect on the "environment conducive to free participation of people" in the constitutional process. One of the thorniest points in the debate over the new Afghan constitution is the choice of political system for the country. According to Reuters, some powerful provincial leaders favor a "loose federalist setup," while others want a strong centralized system. An early draft of the new Afghan constitution obtained by RFE/RL (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 24 April 2003) proposed a strong central government; however, the current debate within the CRC has been conducted with little transparency, and it seems that the Afghan people will have little chance of voicing their opinion but will rather face a fait accompli when they see their new constitution. AT

...AND UN CALLS FOR OPEN DEBATE ON THE CONSTITUTION
As the nationwide public debate on the new Afghan constitution began, UNAMA spokesman De Almeida e Silva on 1 June called for all participants in the constitutional process, including "men and women, regardless of their ethnic origin, religious belief, or political affiliation," to be "able to express themselves freely and openly" and voice their opinion regarding the kind of constitution they want for Afghanistan, UNAMA reported. He added that only with the broad and unopposed participation of the Afghan people can the new constitution "reflect the needs and aspirations" of the Afghan nation. De Almeida e Silva called on the Afghan police and security forces to "use their mandate and resources to counter any attempts aimed at disrupting the consultations and to bring those perpetrators to justice." According to the timetable presented by the secretariat of the Constitutional Commission on 10 March (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 10 April 2003), the public consultation process in the constitution was slated to run from 1 May to 30 June, but with the debate starting on 1 June, it seems that the CRC has decided either to shorten the public debate or to push the constitutional process forward by one month. AT

XS
SM
MD
LG